Meet the TCFF Moderators for 2019!

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.”

Doug Benson is an American comedian, marijuana advocate, television host actor and judge who has appeared on Comedy Central Presents, Best Week Ever, Trailer Park Boys and was a contestant on Last Comic Standing in the show’s fifth season. Today, Doug travels the country performing stand-up comedy and recording his live podcast, Doug Loves Movies.

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. He was also a co-founder of Emerging Pictures, the first digital projection network in the United States and a pioneer in delivering live cultural events into movie theaters. Currently Deutchman is an independent producer, and a consultant in marketing and distribution of independent films. 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. In 2017, Deutchman was awarded the Spotlight Lifetime Achievement Award by the Sundance Art House Convergence for his service to independent film marketing and distribution.

Victor Fanucchi has taught production and screenwriting at University of Michigan since 2004. He earned an MFA from Northwestern University. His filmmaking career began with the 1997 20-minute short film Chekhov’s Gun, which screened at dozens of film festivals, including SXSW and Palm Springs. 1998’s First Prince, was commissioned by FXm, a Fox movie channel. His 2007 independent feature, Beyond the Pale, premiered at the Austin Film Festival and played at many others. His 2009 feature, Art House, starred Greta Gerwig and Iggy Pop and played at major festivals. Other works include the 2010 short documentary Meter Man and 2016 short film Hindsight. Most recently Fanucchi is writing a feature comedy called Chatbot, begun during a 2018 fellowship at the University of Michigan’s Institute for the Humanities.

Philip Hallman

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.”

Aademy Award-nominated filmmaker Tia Lessin is the director and producer, with Carl Deal, of Trouble the Water (winner of the Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize, the Gotham Independent Film Award and the Full Frame Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize) and of Citizen Koch which was shortlisted for the 2015 Oscars. Her documentary short Behind the Labels won the Sidney Hillman Award for Broadcast Journalism.

Tia produced Michael Moore’s last film Where To Invade Next (shortlisted for the 2016 Oscars), co-produced Palme d’Orwinning Fahrenheit 9/11, Academy Award-winning Bowling for Columbine, and Capitalism: A Love Story and line produced Martin Scorsese’s Emmy and Grammy winning film No Direction Home: Bob Dylan. Her work producing the series The Awful Truth earned her two Emmy nominations, one arrest, and a lifetime ban from Disneyland. Tia is TCFF board vice president.

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.

V Prasad

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.

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. Today, Jack teaches at the local college and to graduate students online. He enjoys political humor, particularly U.S. presidential campaign promises.

Matthew Solomon is an associate professor in the Department of Film, Television, and Media at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He is 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, and of a monograph on The Gold Rush for the BFI Film Classics series. He edited the anthology Fantastic Voyages of the Cinematic Imagination: Georges Méliès’s Trip to the Moon and is currently finishing a manuscript prospectively entitled “Méliès and the Modern World.”

Lesley Alicia Tye is an instructor in both the Creative Writing and Motion Picture Arts departments at Interlochen Arts Academy. She earned her BFA in Screenwriting from the University of Southern California and her MFA in Creative Writing from National University. Previously she worked in Los Angeles in film and television, and she has performed in theatre in Los Angeles and in Traverse City. She has written several feature length screenplays, was co-writer for the television pilot Devin’s Chronicles for Caspian Sea Entertainment, and her flash fiction has been published in the anthology Bite from Trachodon Publishing. Lesley is the co-creator of the local theatre troupe Mash-Up Rock & Roll Musical and is writer-director of their shows including How Grinchy Met the Who, The Sound of Uzis, and Bromeo vs The Juliettes.

Rebecca Reynolds has worked in film, TV and theatre in New York City and Los Angeles. Most recently Reynolds co-created Wondery’s hit true crime podcast Hollywood and Crime, now playing exclusively on Luminary Media. For 8180 Films she served as Executive Producer for the company’s award-winning first feature, Christina. Along with her husband Jim Carpenter, Reynolds produced 8180 Films’ comedy documentary, The Coexist Comedy Tour, which debuted on Starz. Their noir thriller The Girl on the Train played at the 2013 Traverse City Film Festival, and their most recent film Beyond Glory Starring Stephen Lang is now available on a variety of platforms. For HBO, Reynolds served as writer/producer for Robert Wuhl’s hit comedy series Arli$$ and co-wrote and produced two comedy specials with Wuhl. Screenwriting credits for Reynolds include the psychological thrillers Backfire and Overexposed.

Lauren Cioffi is a documentary film programmer and multifaceted creative producer working in Los Angeles. She was selected to be on the Feature Documentary Programming Team at the Sundance Film Festivalcurating and discovering US and International documentaries.  She also aids in selecting new projects in development for the Sundance Doc Fund. She is a film Programming Consultant at Outfest Film FestivalOutside of programming, she produces feature documentaries, along with developing branded and original nonfiction content for New Media Platforms; the premiering documentary digital series New Deep South (LAFF Audience Award Winner) for The Front and Real American Beauty for i-D Vice.  She is currently developing several feature documentaries.

Carl Deal directed and produced the Academy Award-nominated Trouble the Water with collaborator Tia Lessin. He co-produced Capitalism: A Love Story in 2009, was a producer of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, and has contributed to many other documentary films. Previously, he worked as a freelance journalist and news producer for Worldwide Television News and the European Broadcasting Union and has reported from disasters and conflict zones throughout North America, Latin America and Iraq. Deal has also documented civil and human rights abuses for several NGOs, among them Amnesty International, Greenpeace and Public Citizen. He holds an MS in journalism from Columbia University, which awarded him the Sander Social Justice Award.

Angie Morgan is the co-founder of Lead Star, a leadership development consultancy that works with the world’s best businesses designing and delivering talent development programs. Angie is the New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of SPARK: HOW TO LEAD YOURSELF AND OTHERS TO GREATER SUCCESS and LEADING FROM THE FRONT. She has written numerous articles on leadership and organizational excellence appearing in a wide variety of publications including Forbes, Fast Company, and SUCCESS.  Locally, she’s one of the founders of Battle of the Books – a community program designed to get students reading in Traverse City Michigan. Angie’s leadership expertise formed after she graduated from the University of Michigan and served as an officer in the United States Marine Corps. She also holds an MBA from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.

Leila Hilal is the new Director of NMC’s International Affairs Forum here in Traverse City. Prior to joining IAF, Leila served as Director of the Middle East Task Force at New America in Washington D.C. and Senior Policy Adviser to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Jerusalem. Leila has a J.D. from SUNY Buffalo and an LL.M. from Harvard Law School, where she focused on international human rights law.