Rod Birleson

Meet the TCFF moderators for 2016! Rod Birleson is an educator and documentary filmmaker. He earned a degree in secondary education at Eastern Michigan University in 1970 and taught 27 years in Michigan public schools before retiring from teaching in 1997. He began his filmmaking career by being one of the two key field producers for the groundbreaking film, “Roger & Me. Rod went on to work as a producer on “SICKO” and “Capitalism: A Love Story”. He has been active on the film festival from the start, acting as a moderator, panel member and volunteer for the Traverse City Film Festival. He is current TCFF’s newest board member. “I am honored and pleased to have the opportunity to serve as a TCCF Board Member. This film festival is the best example of all the good that can come from a community that works together.”

Recently named to 2013 Indiewire Influencers List, Russ Collins has served as the Executive Director of the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor for 30 years. He founded and directs the Cinetopia International Film Festival and the Art House Convergence – the nation’s largest annual conference of non-profit community-based cinemas. The Michigan Theater is a Sundance Film Festival USA site and was recognized as an Outstanding Historic Theatre in North America by the League of Historic American Theaters. Russ was a NEA Media Arts Fellow and was knighted by Republic of Italy for his promotion of Italian film culture in the United States. He teaches film studies at Eastern Michigan University and is the host of “Cinema Chat,” a weekly radio program that airs on National Public Radio affiliate WEMU and appears in print for He received both a Bachelors and Master’s Degree (in arts administration) from the University of Michigan.

Deborah Collings Cutler’s love of movies began at a very young age, watching classic movies on “Million Dollar Movies” with her dad too late at night. She was hooked! At Emerson College, where she was their first female projectionist and at University of London, Deborah studied photography and theatre arts. In publishing,she was a freelance photographer and a darkroom lab rat. Deborah served as the business manager of the Magic Lantern Theatre (film) in Bridgton, Maine. She was a senior photo researcher for the agency Stock,Boston in Boston,MA. Deborah was active in the early formation of Boston Light & Sound, then a film dailies system supplier for major motion picture studios in the U.S. She served as Business Manager including managing its in house screening room. She has worked in film tech and projection support with the Telluride Film Festival in Telluride,Colorado since 1984. Deborah serves as Film Moderator for the Sedona International Film Festival,Sedona, AZ as well as at The Provincetown International Film Festival on Cape Cod in Provincetown, Massachusetts. She continues to be fascinated by the stories filmmakers tell us on film and in person

Ira Deutchman has been making, marketing and distributing films since 1975, having worked on over 150 films including some of the most successful independent films of all time. He was one of the founders of Cinecom and later created Fine Line Features—two companies that were created from scratch and in their respective times, helped define the independent film business.

Currently, Deutchman is a consultant in marketing and distribution of independent films. Among his clients is Emerging Pictures, a New York-based digital exhibition company that he co-founded in 2002. He is also a Professor of Professional Practice in the School of the Arts at Columbia University, where he was the Chair of the Film Program from 2011-2015.

Among the over 60 films he acquired and released at Fine Line were Jane Campion’s “An Angel at My Table,” Gus van Sant’s “My Own Private Idaho,” Jim Jarmusch’s “Night on Earth,” Robert Altman’s “The Player” and “Short Cuts,” Roman Polanski’s “Bitter Moon” and “Death and the Maiden,” Alan Rudolph’s “Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, ” Mike Leigh’s “Naked,” and the award-winning “Hoop Dreams,” which in its time was the highest grossing non-music documentary in history.

Other films Deutchman has worked on were “Sex, Lies, and Videotape,” ”To Sleep with Anger,” “Metropolitan,” “A Room with a View,” “Stop Making Sense,” “El Norte,” and “The Brother from Another Planet.”

His screen credits include Associate Producer of John Sayles’ “Matewan;” Executive Producer of Jonathan Demme’s “Swimming to Cambodia,” Gary Sinise’s “Miles From Home,” Paul Bartel’s “Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills,” Matty Rich’s “Straight Out of Brooklyn,” Stephen Gyllenhaal’s “Waterland,” Maggie Greenwald’s “The Ballad of Little Jo,” Alan Rudolph’s “Mrs. Parker & the Vicious Circle,” Paul Auster’s “Lulu On the Bridge,” Wayne Wang’s “Center of the World,” Daniel Noah’s “Twelve,” Anthony Jaswinski’s “Killing Time,” Loren-Paul Caplin’s “The Lucky Ones,” Amy Wadell’s “Brothel” and Georgia Lee’s “Red Doors;” and Co-Producer of David Anspaugh’s “The Game of Their Lives.” Deutchman was the Producer of Tony Vitale’s “Kiss Me, Guido,” Sarah Kernochan’s “All I Wanna Do,” Mark Christopher’s “54,” Adam Davidson’s “Way Past Cool,” Bob Gale’s “Interstate 60,” Tanya Wexler’s “Relative Evil,” Ann Hu’s “Beauty Remains” and Ed Radtke’s “Speed of Life.” He was also Consulting Producer on the CBS sitcom “Some of My Best Friends.”

He is a graduate of Northwestern University, with a major in film.

Victor Fanucchi is a writer, filmmaker and educator. He began teaching at the University of Michigan in 2004 after working in Los Angeles for several years, where he made short films “Chekhov’s Gun,” “First Prince” and “Dream House,” and worked a variety of film-related jobs, including editing award-winning trailers for Sony Classics, October Films and Miramax, as well as organizing film series and filmmaker appearances at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Based in Ann Arbor, he continues to make features and shorts that play in film festivals around the country.


Colin Gunkel is an Associate Professor of Screen Arts and Cultures, American Culture and Latina/o Studies at the University of Michigan and the author of Mexico on Main Street: Transnational Film Culture in Los Angeles before World War II (Rutgers University Press, 2015). He has published essays in a number of scholarly journals, including American Quarterly, Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies, Film History and Velvet Light Trap. He also serves as Associate Editor of the A Ver: Revisioning Art History monograph series on individual Latino/a artists.



Troy Hale is a 22-time Emmy Award winner and has been nominated over 50 times for his work as a documentary filmmaker and television journalist. His most recent films: “Spare Parts: Human Organ Trafficking in Bangladesh”, “Missing Moon Rocks”, “Imported from China”, and “Mohammed”, have all won the Emmy for best Documentary. His current humor documentary: “Fart: A Documentary” is available on Amazon, iTunes, Vimeo-On-Demand, and other online platforms. Troy is a Professor of Practice at Michigan State University, teaching film and journalism classes.




Phil Hallman is the Film Studies Field Librarian at the University of Michigan where he is a reference librarian and selector for the cinema studies books and periodicals for the Hatcher Graduate Library. Additionally, he works with the Department of Screen Arts & Cultures and is the Head of the Donald Hall Collection, a unique collection devoted to the study of cinema that includes over 20,000 dvd titles and some 3,000 screenplays. He teaches various library research classes for the department and curates the Projectorhead film series sponsored by SAC. He served as a juror for the 2011 and 2012 TCFF in the American documentary/feature film category. He presented a panel at the 2012 SXSW Film Festival in Austin, TX entitled “Dig Deep: Libraries, Archives and Filmmaking.” He has presented conferences papers at the 2011 , 2012 & 2013 Society of Cinema and Media Studies Conferences and he is a member of the SCMS Media Archives committee. This spring, he co-organized an exhibit based on materials from the U-UM’s Robert Altman archive collection and oversaw a symposium devoted to Altman in June. Currently he is constructing a database for a research project entitled “Mapping the Motor City’s Cinemas.”

Peter Johnston is the Production Manager for Michigan State University’s Film Studies program where he manages the film lab and teaches production courses, and the creative director for video for the MSU College of Arts & Letters Marketing office. He’s also an accomplished fiction and documentary filmmaker, and in his spare time loves to brew beer.





Anders Kelto is a journalist who served as a foreign correspondent for National Public Radio (NPR) and PRI’s The World. Based in Africa for five years, he covered everything from the 2010 World Cup to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Prior to that he was a writer and editor at National Geographic. A native of Traverse City, Anders returns to Northern Michigan every summer to run his ever-popular Mr. Soccer Camp.




Michael Mittelstaedt is the founding director of the Motion Picture Arts Division at Interlochen Center for the Arts. Mittelstaedt worked as producer/director for Broadview Media of Chicago from 2001 – 05, during which he served as producer for the HGTV series New Spaces. Mittelstaedt also served as director, producer and editor of “America in the 20th Century,” a comprehensive series of documentaries, which chronicle the last century U.S. history, released nationally in 2001. From 2003 to 2005 he was lead producer and technology chair of For Global Progress NFP, directing their annual fundraising event in conjunction with UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine/AIDS Institute. Mittelstaedt has worked internationally in film in the Czech Republic and Peru. His independent film works have been featured at The New York Festivals, Seattle Underground Film Festival, Rooftop Films N.Y., Michigan’s Own, and Visions D.C.

Founder and President Michael Moore, winner of an Oscar (“Bowling for Columbine”), an Emmy (“TV Nation”), a Palme d’Or at Cannes (“Fahrenheit 9/11″), and the British Book of the Year award (“Stupid White Men”), was the first 18-year-old elected to public office in Michigan. He operated the art-house film series East Village Cinema in his native Flint, Michigan, for eight years. Moore serves as the board president.




Sheila C.Murphy (PhD., Visual Studies, University of California, Irvine, 2002) is Associate Professor of Screen Arts and Cultures and specializes in Digital Media Studies (Internet cultures, video game history, convergence cultures). She is the author of How Television Invented New Media (Rutgers University Press, 2011) and of essays appeared in The Journal of Visual Culture and such anthologies as The Video Game Theory Reader 2.0 (2008). Her current book project, entitled ReLoad: The Emergence of Internet Visuality, traces the ways the Internet has become host to its own visual cultures and, through a close study of software and hardware development, provides a historical account of the image types and image-making practices found online since the introduction of the world wide web in 1994. She loves watching the amazing and provocative films shown in Traverse City at the Film Festival, whose volunteers, audiences and community remind her how good movies can make the world better.

Justus Nieland is Professor of English at Michigan State University, and teaches in the Film Studies Program. He is co-editor of the celebrated Contemporary Film Directors book series at the University of Illinois Press, whose recent entries include studies of Agnes Varda and John Lasseter. Forthcoming volumes in the CFD series include studies of Kelly Reichardt, Wes Anderson, Jan Svankmajer, P.T. Anderson, Christi Puiu, Lucretia Martel, Adam Curtis, and Michael Bay. He is a scholar of modernist, experimental, and avant-garde cinemas, and his recent books included David Lynch (Illinois 2012), and Film Noir: Hard-Boiled Modernity and the Cultures of Globalization, with Jennifer Fay (Routledge 2010). He is currently writing a book about modern design and filmmaking in the Cold War era titled Happiness by Design: Modernism, Film and Media in the Eames Era, which is under contract from the University of Minnesota Press.

Jesse Pasternack is a rising junior at Indiana University Bloomington, where he is the Co-President of the IU Student Cinema Guild. He reviews film, television, and pop culture for the Indiana Daily Student newspaper, and ushers at the beautiful IU Cinema. He has created two shorts films – Math as a Second Language and Love at Last Bite – for Campus Movie Fest, and is currently writing several scripts with his older brother/writing partner Sam. He is a friend of the Doug Loves Movies podcast, having appeared on the show in Traverse City and New York City several times since meeting Doug Benson at the Festival. Jesse is honored to be participating in the Traverse City Film Festival for his fifth consecutive year.

Thom Powers has been the documentary programmer for the Toronto International Film Festival since 2006. He curates the digital streaming platform SundanceNOW Doc Club; and serves as the Artistic Director of America’s largest documentary festival DOC NYC and the weekly screening series Stranger Than Fiction. He is the co-host of WNYC’s Documentary of the Week. He programs for the Miami International Film Festival and teaches at the School of Visual Arts. On Twitter: @thompowers




V Prasad – A screenwriter and director, Prasad’s produced work includes the theatrical release Ocean of Pearls, which was developed in the Film Independent Screenwriters Lab. Other screenplays include Sid Says, which won the Lawrence Kasdan Scholarship in Creative Writing and Radha’s Prayer, developed in the IFP/West Director’s Lab. Prasad holds an MFA in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute and teaches the craft at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and the UCLA Extension Writer’s Program. Over the years, his students have come from all walks of life, from film students to building contractors, doctors, kindergarten teachers and even a Bond girl. As a story consultant, Prasad has lent his expertise to many companies including Working Title, BET, and Lion’s Gate providing development notes on projects as diverse as The Punisher and State of Play. In addition to his work as a filmmaker, instructor and consultant, Prasad has also served as a programmer for the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles specializing in films from South India and the Indian Diaspora. Currently, Prasad is in post-production on Consideration, his directorial debut.

Rebecca Reynolds is proud to have been part of TCFF since the first committee meetings a mere twelve years ago. She is a co-founder of 8180 Films along with her husband Jim Carpenter and writer/director Larry Brand. The team produced 8180 Films’ four award-winning indie features: the post-World War II drama CHRISTINA (Premiere State Theatre 2010), the noir thriller THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN (TCFF 2013), the comedy documentary THE COEXIST COMEDY TOUR FILM (2013 TC Comedy Arts Festival), and the performance documentary BEYOND GLORY, starring Stephen Lang (AVATAR), to be released Fall 2016. With actor/comedian Robert Wuhl, Reynolds co-wrote two HBO Comedy Specials, Assume the Position with Mr. Wuhl (Writers Guild Award nomination) and Assume the Position 201. She was a writer/producer for Wuhl’s long-running HBO series Arli$$. Screenwriting credits include psychological thrillers BACKFIRE and OVEREXPOSED, both with Larry Brand.

Jack Segal is a retired US diplomat who served overseas in Russia, Israel/Palestine, Greece and Botswana, and as a member of the START arms control negotiating team in Geneva. As a senior diplomat, with his wife Karen, they created the first U.S. Consulate General to central Russia. Jack went on to become a member of the National Security Council under President Clinton and was senior political advisor to the NATO operational commander in Afghanistan. With Karen, he currently co-chairs the local chapter of the World Affairs Council (“The International Affairs Forum of Traverse City” – and he teaches at the local college and to graduate students online. He enjoys political humor, particularly U.S. presidential campaign promises.

Matthew Solomon (PhD, UCLA) is an associate professor in the Department of Screen Arts and Cultures at the University of Michigan, where he teaches film history and film theory. He is the author of a 2015 book about The Gold Rush for the BFI Film Classics series, and the author of Disappearing Tricks: Silent Film, Houdini, and the New Magic of the Twentieth Century, which won the Kraszna-Krausz Award for best moving image book in 2011, as well as the editor of Fantastic Voyages of the Cinematic Imagination: Georges Méliès’s Trip to the Moon, which was published with a critical edition DVD. He is at work on a book prospectively titled “Méliès: Incoherent Glimpses of the Modern World.

Oliver Thornton is an EMMY® Award-winning writer/producer who has worked with broadcast stations and independent production companies to produce a range of projects from PSA campaigns to full-length documentaries and series. He was the co-writer and co-producer of the EMMY® Award-winning Think Squad series on Detroit Public Television as well as the documentaries Blue Ice: The Story of Michigan Hockey and Detroit Titan Court Report: Legends & Traditions broadcast on FSN Detroit. His recent projects include Feel Grand with Jane Seymour, a nationally distributed talk show through American Public Television, as well as pre-production for a documentary on filmmaker John Sayles.

Lesley Alicia Tye is a writer and instructor of screenwriting and film at Interlochen Center for the Arts. She earned her BFA in Screenwriting from the University of Southern California and her MFA in Creative Writing from National University. Lesley has also taught seminars for Michigan Writers and Northwestern Michigan College’s extension program. Previously she worked in Los Angeles in film and television, with credits including casting assistant, below-the-line agent with Casala, Ltd, and Costume Designer for the feature Two Coyotes and short The Millennium. Her flash fiction has been published in the anthology Bite from Trachodon Publishing. She has written several feature length screenplays, and was co-writer for the television pilot Devin’s Chronicles for Caspian Sea Entertainment. Here in Traverse City Lesley is co-creator of the Mash-Up Rock ‘n Roll Musical Troupe and wrote and directed their first two shows How Grinchy Met the Who and Grimm’s Alternative Fairytales.

Joshua Yumibe is an associate professor and director of Film Studies at MSU. He is the author of Moving Color: Early Film, Mass Culture, Modernism (Rutgers University Press, 2012), and co-author with Giovanna Fossati, Tom Gunning, and Jonathon Rosen of Fantasia of Color in Early Cinema (Amsterdam University Press, 2016).




Geri Alumit Zeldes, Ph.D., a tenured associate professor and graduate studies director in MSU’s School of Journalism, has seven best paper awards from international communication associations and more than two dozen honors for her documentary films and other creative scholarship that include an RTDNA Unity award, two Broadcast Education Association Best of Festival Awards, Top 25 Public Vote in ArtPrize, an AAJA award, a Telly, two regional Emmys ®, two SPJ and MAB awards. Zeldes won grants from the Michigan Humanities Council, Ruth Mott Foundation and others, and was invited to speak at two Tedx events. In spring 2015, for her social justice work, she was one of 50 faculty featured on an MSU billboard for the “Spartans Will” campaign.

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