Special Guests

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Signe Baumane

Director, My Love Affair with Marriage

Signe Baumane is a Latvian born, Brooklyn-based independent filmmaker, artist, writer, and animator. She has made 17 award-winning animated shorts. Her first animated feature, Rocks in My Pockets, screened at over 130 international festivals and opened theatrically in the U.S. through Zeitgeist Films. Signe's second animated feature, My Love Affair with Marriage (2022), tells the story of a spirited young woman's quest for perfect love and lasting marriage. It premiered at Tribeca Festival and screened at 100 festivals, winning 23 awards. Signe is a Guggenheim Fellow and has a degree in Philosophy from Moscow State University. Join Signe for a Q&A following the screening of My Love Affair with Marriage on Tuesday, Nov 14.

Nellie Rose Gundersen Davis

Textile Artist and Film Subject, O Pioneer

Nellie is a textile artist from Thomas, WV, and is featured in the documentary film, O Pioneer. As a Fulbright Scholar, Nellie studied a traditional Japanese dye method called shibori in Japan at Osaka University of the Arts. With a focus on shibori and hand-painting, the pieces in Nellie's textile collections are one-of- a-kind, handmade in small batches. In O Pioneer, we follow Nellie’s story as she continues to paint, sew, and express sincere empathy for her fellow human even through personal loss when a house-fire destroys her childhood home. Join Nellie for a Q&A following the screening of O Pioneer on Saturday, Nov 11.

Brittany Graham

Costume Designer, Unsinkable

Brittany Graham is a costume designer and technician for both film and theatre, who moved to the Pittsburgh area after receiving her MFA in Costume Design from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her most recent credits include Handyman from Hell, 24 Frames Lalla, and Basic Psych. It is Brittany’s belief that the purpose of costume is to tell a story that an individual character may not know how to put in words, but is their armor; their way of expressing their personal arc. Most people and all characters are telling their truth, even if it is not the truth, and it is her job as designer to find that truth and give it texture, color, and movement. Join Brittany for a Q&A following both screenings of Unsinkable on Opening Night and Sunday, Nov 12.

Daina Griffith

Actor, Unsinkable

Daina has been a proud SAG-AFTRA Member since 2005. Originally from the cornfields of Southern Ohio, she received her BFA from Point Park University. After living in NYC, Pittsburgh has been home for the last fifteen years. Daina has spent two decades on stages across the country, in national voiceovers, print ads and commercials, and recurring in several TV shows and films, including Outsiders, MANHUNT: Lone Wolf, The Dark Knight Rises, Where’d You Go Bernadette, Hollidaysburg, Happiest Season, Tender, Pittsburgh Dad Street Light Stories I & II, and Unsinkable. Daina opened Griffith Coaching Acting Studio in 2017, and was named Performer of the Year by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette in 2014. Join Daina for a Q&A following the screening of Unsinkable on Sunday, Nov 12.

Brian Hartman

Producer, Unsinkable

Brian Hartman is a film producer and screenwriter who has overseen countless productions from the Hollywood studio backlots to the open ocean and the alleys of New York City. He began his career in Pittsburgh working at nearly every capacity on dozens of major studio features before expanding into Los Angeles and beyond with national commercials, television specials and everything in between. Recognized for a very hands-on approach, Brian has produced works that have screened at major festivals and markets such as Toronto and Sundance and have been sold to some of the top studios and distributors in the industry. Brian’s passion for history and his love of period cinema led him to pen the screenplay for Unsinkable. It is his greatest collaboration to date with his son Cody and has cemented the two together as creative partners. Join Brian for a Q&A following both screenings of Unsinkable on Opening Night and Sunday, Nov 12.

Cody Hartman

Director, Unsinkable

Pittsburgh-born director Cody Hartman moved to LA as a child, his family in pursuit of success and creative fulfillment in the movie industry. His film education started young, as he tagged along to the back-lots of Burbank with his father, producer Brian Hartman. Though he might have stood on an apple box to look through the lens, the sight of a scene arranged, from the actors' blocking to the artificial sunset streaming through set windows entranced him and cemented his desire to direct. Returning to Pittsburgh as a teen, Cody began to earn independent film credits. Benefiting from the energy of the region's emerging film industry, and his father's mentorship, Cody gathered technical experience, growing into a well-rounded professional. His formative years in film and passion for exposing the beauty and character of his hometown have led to the enormous privilege of directing the feature Unsinkable in Pittsburgh. Join Cody for a Q&A following both screenings of Unsinkable on Opening Night and Sunday, Nov 12.

Clara Lehmann

Director, Writer, O Pioneer

Clara co-founded the creative studio Coat of Arms in 2010 and serves as its director, producer, and writer. She wrote, directed, and produced her first documentary, Born in a Ballroom, in 2019. Her second feature documentary, O Pioneer, received a Cinequest Film Festival Audience Award. She wrote and directed the multi-award-winning animated series Lullaby Theories. Her work has played at over 50 film festivals worldwide, including Cannes, Doc Edge, DOC NYC, SXSW, and Tribeca. Clara received the West Virginia Beacon Award in 2020 for her community and filmmaking work. She serves as the chair of the WV Community Development Hub and the president of the Helvetia Restoration and Development Organization. Join Clara for a Q&A following the screening of O Pioneer on Saturday, Nov 11.

Jonathan Lacocque

Director, O Pioneer

Jonathan co-founded the creative studio Coat of Arms in 2010 and serves as its creative director, producer, and editor. He produced, filmed and edited the award-winning film A Perfect Soldier, which enjoyed a long festival tour, including screenings at Cinequest, Mountain Film, and The Frontline Club. He directed his first feature-length documentary, Born in a Ballroom, in 2019. Jonathan wrote and directed the multi-award-winning animated series Lullaby Theories. His work has played at over 50 film festivals worldwide, including Cannes, Doc Edge, DOC NYC, SXSW, and Tribeca.  Jonathan is first-generation American (Cuban/Belgian) and was born and raised in Chicago. He currently lives in Helvetia, WV, and serves as the president of the Helvetia Fair Association. He balances his filmmaking work with community serviceJoin Jonathan for a Q&A following the screening of O Pioneer on Saturday, Nov 11.

Sara Sometti Michaels

Producer, Double Down South

Born and raised in Verona, Italy, Sara Sometti Michaels started her career in the entertainment industry as an actress. After relocating to Los Angeles in 2008, Sara started creating and producing her own content starting with short films and webisodes. It wasn't until 2015 that she produced her first script St. Agatha, directed by Master of Horror Darren Lynn Bousman from the Saw franchise. Sara produced a slate of 12 films between 2020 and 2021, and most recently, Double Down South and Walden. She is currently developing a variety of feature films and TV shows with her production company, Benacus Entertainment. Join Sara for a Q&A following both screenings of Double Down South on Saturday, Nov 11 and Sunday, Nov 12.

Seth Michaels

Producer, Double Down South

Seth Michaels has been in the Entertainment industry for over 25 years. He started his career as an actor. After relocating to Atlanta, he opened his own Production company with his Partner Sara Sometti Michaels called Benacus Entertainment where they have been producing both features and TV pilots. In the past 7 years they have produced over 17 projects with 12 more projects on the pipeline. Seth has both American and Italian Citizenship and speaks 4 languages. He has traveled to over 37 countries and counting. Join Seth for a Q&A following both screenings of Double Down South on Saturday, Nov 11 and Sunday, Nov 12.

Tiffany Murray

Cinematographer, Two Lives in Pittsburgh

Tiffany is a NYC-based Cinematographer, Writer, and Director. She attended Middle Tennessee State University and graduated with a degree in film production. Tiffany's DP work includes Emmy-nominated digital series Ctrl Alt Delete, various award-winning short films, ultra-running documentaries Run Your Race and Backbone, and upcoming features Besties and Hey Hun. Join Tiffany for a Q&A following both screenings of Two Lives in Pittsburgh on Thursday, Nov 9 and Friday, Nov 10.

Kaveh Nabatian

Director, Kite Zo A

Kaveh Nabatian is an Iranian-Canadian artist whose evocative filmmaking has brought to life stories from the margins of society and across the world: Cuba, Haiti, Nunavut, India, and beyond. His film work ranges from A Crack in Everything, a feature doc about Leonard Cohen, to masterminding the Rotterdam-premiering, experimental, seven-director anthology feature The Seven Last Words, to his award-winning feature narrative debut, the Cuba-set and shot Sin La Habana. As a composer and trumpet player, he’s toured the world and released several critically-acclaimed albums with his Juno award-winning band Bell Orchestre. Join Kaveh for a Q&A following the screening of Kite Zo A on Thursday, Nov 9.

Emily Nestor

Podcast Host and Film Subject, Citizen Sleuth

Emily Nestor is a loud and proud West Virginia native. After graduating high school in 2010, Emily chose to spend two years in Europe, working as an Au Pair. During that time, she also spent two months solo-hitchhiking the Balkans. In 2011 a fellow WV local, Jaleayah Davis, was killed on I-77 under suspicious circumstances. For several years the case continued to puzzle Nestor's small community. In June 2018, Nestor began an indie podcast (in her closet) which chronicled the suspicious death, and reinvestigated the case in real time for listeners. The podcast, Mile Marker 181, saw almost instant success in the true crime space. Millions of "listens" later, Nestor currently resides in New Orleans with her two scruffy side-kicks. She is currently working on a long form project documenting West Virginia on 35mm film, in an attempt to combat media stereotypes of Appalachia. Join Emily for a Q&A following the screening of Citizen Sleuth on Friday, Nov 10.

Lola Noh

Producer, Actor, Two Lives in Pittsburgh

Lola found her love of performing as a young, competitive gymnast. Her start in film was as the lovable gorilla, Amy, in the movie Congo directed by Frank Marshall. Although she loves being in front of the camera, Lola is also a fan of being behind the camera. She has produced (with a lot of coffee!) numerous award-winning short films, web series, music videos, and features including Emmy-nominated web series Ctrl Alt Delete and feature Love and Baseball (HBO Max). Join Lola for a Q&A following both screenings of Two Lives in Pittsburgh on Thursday, Nov 9 and Friday, Nov 10.

Christian Sander

Producer, Hard Miles

Christian Sander earned his degree in Motion Picture Production from Loyola Marymount University and served as a development intern for prolific producers Neal Moritz and Jerry Bruckheimer. He worked in Sony Pictures' digital marketing, publicity, and international television divisions before joining Pensé Productions. Christian produced the feature length college comedy, Dean Slater: Resident Advisor, currently in distribution through Cinedigm, and created the Bracket Reel series format for Red Bull Media House.  He is an avid skier, backpacker, and fly-fisherman. His writing has been featured in The Ski Journal, and Freeskier. Christian is a mentor through Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters and lives in Los Angeles with his wife, JonnaJoin Christian for a Q&A following the screening of Hard Miles on Wednesday, Nov 15.

Scott Sander

Executive Producer, Hard Miles

Scott Sander is a screenwriter and executive producer based in Pittsburgh. Prior to forming Pensé Productions, he co-founded SightSound Technologies, which negotiated the world’s first internet music distribution agreement and sold the world’s first downloadable music. Sander negotiated the world’s first motion picture internet distribution agreement in 1999 with Artisan Entertainment for Darren Aronofsky’s award-winning feature film Pi, which became the first full-length film sold as a download over the internet. He produced Quantum Project, starring John Cleese and Stephen Dorff, the first fully digital motion picture produced for internet distribution. Scott served as a member of the Board of Advisors of the Pew Internet and American Life Research Project and a member of the Board of Directors of the International Poetry ForumJoin Scott for a Q&A following the screening of Hard Miles on Wednesday, Nov 15.

Tom Schulman

Director, Double Down South

Tom wrote Dead Poets Society for which he received an Academy Award for best original screenplay. He also wrote What About Bob?, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Medicine Man, and Holy Man. He wrote and directed Eight Heads in a Duffel Bag. He was an executive producer on Indecent Proposal and Me, Myself and Irene. He was the writer/producer of Welcome to Mooseport. Tom served on the board of directors and then as vice president of the Writers Guild of America, West. Tom was the president of the Writers Guild Foundation and serves on its board. He studied at USC Graduate School of Cinema, with Jack Garfein at the Actors and Directors Lab, Los Angeles, and with director Joan Darling. He directed the Actors Studio’s first West Coast production, Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker. Join Tom for a Q&A following both screenings of Double Down South on Saturday, Nov 11 and Sunday, Nov 12.

Brian Silverman

Director, Writer, Two Lives in Pittsburgh

Two Lives in Pittsburgh is Brian’s feature directorial debut from his original script. He was the lead actor and a producer for the prize-winning film After We Leave. Other credits include NCIS: Los Angeles, S.W.A.T., Ray Donovan, Grimm, and 24. He holds degrees from Clark University and Harvard and was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Haiti and Guatemala. Brian is grateful for his wife, his son, his family, and his friends. Join Brian for a Q&A following both screenings of Two Lives in Pittsburgh on Thursday, Nov 9 and Friday, Nov 10.

Cotter Smith

Actor, Unsinkable

Cotter Smith has spent the majority of his professional life in New York and Los Angeles, appearing in numerous plays on and off Broadway in NY and as a founding member of the Matrix Theatre Company in LA. His television and film work ranges from his debut in 1982 as Robert Kennedy in the mini-series Blood Feud, to his role as the President in X2: X-Men United and as the prosecutor in the soon-to-be-released Titanic trial film Unsinkable. Over the years he has also appeared in over fifty television shows, from the early days of Hill Street Blues to his more recent roles on Mindhunter, The Americans and Madam Secretary. He has also been teaching acting for 20 years and served as Department Head of the MFA Acting Program at the New School for Drama in NY. Join Cotter for a Q&A following the Opening Night screening Unsinkable on Wednesday, Nov 8.

Rick Wallace

Producer, Double Down South

Emmy award-winning Rick Wallace has produced and directed over 400 hours of primetime hour-long television including Hill Street Blues, LA Law, Doogie Howser MD, The Pretender, NYPD Blue, The Closer, Law & Order: SVU, and Major Crimes. He has won three Emmy Awards for Best Dramatic Series for LA Law, and was nominated twice more for Best Directing. Join Rick for a Q&A following both screenings of Double Down South on Saturday, Nov 11 and Sunday, Nov 12.

Sturgis Warner

Producer, My Love Affair With Marriage

Sturgis Warner has been part of the New York theater scene for many years as an actor, director, and producer. His specialty is new plays and new play development. He started working with Signe Baumane in 2010 bringing theater principles and skills to her animation filmmaking. For her feature film Rocks In My Pockets he was Co-Producer, Script Advisor and he directed her 88-minute voiceover. He was the U.S. Producer for My Love Affair With Marriage and also her dramaturg, casting director, set builder, lighting designer and co-editor. Join Sturgis for a Q&A following the screening of My Love Affair with Marriage on Tuesday, Nov 14.

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