Meet Our Juries 2023

Documentary Features

Walter Middlebrook
Middlebrook joined the Bellisario Dept of Journalism in 2020, where he currently serves as the Foster Professor of Practice and coordinates the annual Foster-Foreman Conference of Distinguished Writers. Middlebrook also spent time at outlets, including the Minneapolis Star, The New York Times, and USA Today, among others. He is a 2023 inductee into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame.

Michelle Rodino-Colocino
An award-winning scholar, Dr. Michelle Rodino-Colocino (she/they) is delighted to support the Centre Film Festival’s wonderful artists by serving on the jury. Associate Professor of Media Studies in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications for the past 16 years, I’m affiliated with Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and the Rock Ethics Institute. I study relationships between media, labor, and social justice. My co-edited book, The Gig Economy: Workers and Media in the Age of Convergence is out now. Inspired to share visions of a better –more socially just—future, I write satire and perform improvisational theatre online with It’s Improv Baby and Highwire Improv. I’ve performed in the local Central PA Theatre and Dance Fest, and with Happy Valley Improv and Sock & Buskin. I performed my original monologue, “My Nose,” at the People’s Improv Theater (The PIT) in New York. Michelle’s alter ego, Aunt Bernadette, performs in person and online, giving advice about life and love; follow her at aunt_bernadette on Instagram. 

Kristian Berg
Kristian Berg’s first independent film experience was as associate producer for Foreclosure (1982) a narrative short produced by a small Minnesota rural community as a statement on the farm crisis. His short documentary Poustinia: The Art of Gendron Jensen (2013) won the jury prize at the 2013 Woodstock Film Festival and the Audience Award at the 2014 Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival. For Twin Cities Public Television he produced the PBS documentaries The Dakota Conflict (1993) and Dakota Exile (1996) on the 1862 U.S.-Dakota War and the diaspora of the Dakota people. For Court TV he produced hour-length episodes on the Scottsboro Boys civil rights trials and the capture and trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. He has written and produced stories for PBS series including NOVA: ScienceNOW, History Detectives, ZOOM!, Newton’s Apple and Finding Your Roots: The Seedlings. Kristian was awarded fellowships from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to the Sundance Film Festival (2002) and the CPB/PBS Producers Academy WGBH workshop (2003). He is currently a senior producer at WPSU Penn State Public Media.

Matt Kohn
Director of films such as Call It Democracy, produced Charlie Victor Romeo, the first 3D feature to premiere at Sundance. Hosted Speakeasy Cinema, an underground screening event for 15 years.

Yermiyahu Ahron Taub
A poet, writer, and Yiddish literary translator. Author of two fiction books, Beloved Comrades: a Novel in Stories (2020) and Prodigal Children in the House of G-d: Stories (2018).

Documentary Shorts

Kirk French
Kirk is an Emmy-nominated filmmaker and assistant professor of anthropology at Penn State University. He spent over 20 years conducting research in Mesoamerica concerning the interplay between humans and their environment. His film projects aim to document the cultural and environmental changes communities are experiencing in our rapidly changing world. Kirk’s documentaries are co-produced with community members to ensure an accurate narrative. Currently he is collaborating with the Inuit of northern Quebec on the film, A Century After Nanook.

Fritz Bitsoie
Aaward-winning Diné/Navajo filmmaker, Fritz Bitsoie is known for his film “The Trails Before Us.” Featured at prestigious festivals nationwide, it explores culturally significant themes in the modern Native American experience. With a love for sci-fi and martial arts films, Fritz infuses his work with elements from genre cinema. His creative vision has earned him recognition, including the Best Artistic Vision award at Big Sky Doc Film Festival. He is also a 2023 4th World Fellow. 

Lisa Hurwitz
Lisa Hurwitz is Director and Producer of The Automat (Centre Film Festival 2021). Lisa self-distributed the film theatrically through her production company A Slice of Pie Productions and was a top grossing documentary in the 2022 U.S. box office. It was nominated for four 2022 Critics Choice Documentary Awards. You can find the film on HBO Max, Turner Classic Movies, Kanopy, Kino Lorber DVD. and many rental sites such as Amazon.

Steven Sherrill
Steven Sherrill has (among other things) 

  • A high school equivalency diploma 
  • A welding certificate from a community college 
  • An MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers Workshop 
  • A National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship in Fiction 
  • Five novels (one of which is a cult classic), a book of poems, and a memoir in the world 
  • Articles in Modern Painters, TATE Magazine, and Art Review 
  • A beautiful redheaded wife and two fierce daughters
  • Too many banjos and not enough synthesizers 
  • One motorcycle at the moment (though he dreams big)  

Narrative Features

Rod Bingaman
Rod Bingaman is co-founder of Ma & Pa Pictures and an Associate Teaching Professor at Penn State Bellisario College of Communication. He’s the Writer/Director of five feature films: A Holiday Affair (2000, Audience Award Brooklyn FF); Hooray for Mister Touchdown (2005, Goliath Arts/Access Media Group); Chasing Butterflies (2009, Anderson Media/Vanguard); Ripped! (2015, Monarch Films); and Spooky Action (2023 Best Feature International NY Film Festival/NoHo Cinefest).

Ann L. Knerr
Chair of the ArtsQuest Cinema Committee and Juror for the Greater Lehigh Valley Filmmaker Festival (GLVFF). Ann is currently co-chair of the “Fem In Film “ArtsQuest series.  She served on ArtsQuest Performing Arts Board for 9 years, and currently on the SouthSide Film Festival Board, and photographer (13 years). She has been an ArtsQuest Volunteer for 28 years, serving on both media/marketing and event committees. Ann served as ArtsQuest’s Female Filmmaker Festival programmer in 2019 and 2017 and has worked as a producer on Daniel Roebuck’s films Getting Grace, Lucky Louie, The Hail Mary under A Channel of Ann was also a producer on In This Moment, production manager for Control and line producer for Tuesday’s Flu, currently in post-production. Ann worked for two years as program and event coordinator, and photographer since 2009 for the Big Apple Film Festival (NYC) and worked in the filmmaker department for the Tribeca Film Festival (NYC) from 2012 to 2018. She currently serves on the (FIFO) Fade In, Fade Out Board – a Lehigh Valley Film Making Consortium. Educational Background/Studies: Bus. Admin, Accounting, Project Mgmt., Computer Graphics, Film, Photography.

Kamran Pasha
Screenwriter, director, and showrunner. He is currently developing a series set in the Ottoman Empire for STARZ, and has sold a drama set in the world of Illuminati conspiracies to Warner Brothers Television. Kamran recently worked as writer-producer on Showtime Network’s drama series set in the American military prison at Guantanamo Bay, directed by Oliver Stone. Previously, Kamran served as a writer and co-producer of Showtime’s Golden Globe and Emmy-nominated series Sleeper Cell, about a Muslim FBI agent who infiltrates a terrorist group. Kamran has also served as a writer and producer on television shows such as Reign, Nikita and Roswell, New Mexico on the CW, and Kings and Bionic Woman on NBC. He also served as head writer for the Tron: Uprising animated series on Disney XD.

Kamran’s movie career launched when he sold his first feature script to Warner Brothers Pictures, an historical epic on the love story behind the building of the Taj Mahal. He is currently developing a movie on the famed Sufi poet Rumi, as well as a feature film about Ibn Battuta, which follows the adventures of an Arab traveler who journeyed from Morocco to China in the 14th century.

Kamran is a published novelist as well. In 2009, Simon & Schuster published Mother of the Believers, a novel showing the rise of Islam from the eyes of Prophet Muhammad’s wife Aisha. His second novel, Shadow of the Swords, follows the conflict between Richard the Lionheart and the Muslim leader Saladin for control of Jerusalem during the Crusades.

Kamran holds a BA and an MBA from Dartmouth College, a JD from Cornell Law School, and is an alumnus of the MFA Producers Program at UCLA Film School.

David Szurmiej
David Szurmiej is a director, producer and actor , a graduate of the London Film School, Polish Music Video Award Winner. David has handled productions ranging from pop promos to campaigns for the likes of Volkswagen, Zain, Sony, Nike, Red Bull, and Pilsner Urquell. He works with a wide variety of clients from across the globe, shooting campaigns for the Asian, European and American markets. One of his campaigns won a Silver Lion at the Cannes Lions while several others have won Effies. David also films documentary work for the likes of Rai and BBC. He is currently in post production of a feature length documentary entitled Theatre on Main Street.

Narrative Shorts

Winter Dunn

an NAACP award-winning director, producer and actress with a passion for depicting universal stories through the lens of BIPOC voices. Her most recent short film, DEAR MAMA… World Premiered at SXSW 2022 and was awarded an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Short Film (Live Action).  DEAR MAMA… is currently streaming on The New Yorker. Her debut short film JUNEBUG premiered at the American Black Film Festival, made its television debut on FOX Soul, and is currently streaming on Tubi and Issa Rae Presents/HOORAE. She produced Numa Perrier’s debut feature film, JEZEBEL, which premiered at SXSW 2019, won Best Narrative Feature at the American Black Film Festival and is currently streaming on Netflix via Ava DuVernay’s ARRAY.   

Dunn has directed multiple digital content formats, including web series and editorial videos. Her celebrity video features for Vanity Fair, Vogue, Architectural Digest, GQ, Allure, and other media brands have garnered a celebrity feature list that includes Viola Davis, Sarah Paulson, Lena Waithe, Kim Kardashian, Billie Eilish and others. 

Deepak Sethi
Deepak Sethi over a decade of experience writing for primetime television, including as a writer on Family Guy, Brickleberry, HBO Max’s Close Enough and Cartoon Network’s Apple & Onion. He recently wrote for Disney Plus’ Monsters at Work, the continuation of the Disney-Pixar franchise, Monsters Inc.

Sethi was nominated for an Annie Award for writing in 2020.

His short film, Coffee Shop Names, was a finalist for the Tribeca X award at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival and was acquired by HBO Max for debut in September 2021.

Patrick Fabian

Best known as “Howard Hamlin” from Better Call Saul, we know him as a PSU alum ‘87—and his mother was an usher at the Rowland Theatre.

Best known as “Howard Hamlin” on AMC’s Peabody Award winning series Better Call Saul,  the veteran actor is also recognized as “Prof Jeremiah Lasky” from Saved By The Bell: The College Years,  “Thantos” from Disney’s Twitches, the “Rev Cotton Marcus” from the Horror Film The Last Exorcism,  the Voice of “Cyborg Superman “ & “Two-Face “ in the DC Animated Films  Death of Superman & “Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham” as well as That Guy Who Did It! on almost every show for the past 30 years, having worked with everyone from Angela Lansbury to Xena.

Laura Nava
Laura Nava is queer, Native American (Caxcan, Chichimeca), was born and raised in Los Angeles, and holds two degrees from UCLA in Political Science and Gender Studies. Though her sights were once set on becoming a lawyer, even going as far as completing the prestigious UCLA Law Fellows Program, the death of her mother sent her traveling for three months across two continents and over twenty-six cities where she discovered her true passion is writing. Armed with a great work ethic and thick skin, she worked her way up from set PA to writer. Laura has worked as a Writers’ Assistant on shows like The CW’s Hart of Dixie and Reign, and the Golden Globe-nominated Hulu show, Casual. She is currently a writer on the upcoming Netflix series, Ransom Canyon.

Other than writing, Laura manages her pug’s wildly successful Instagram account and is an avid archer.

Made in PA

Eric Rusnak
Eric Rusnak is the President of the Philipsburg Revitalization Corporation (PRC), a non-organization focused on the economic redevelopment of the Philipsburg area. Under Eric’s leadership, the PRC has attracted new businesses to town, identified enthusiastic local investors to purchase and renovate blighted properties, and engaged the community in a strategic plan to shape Philipsburg’s future. A trial lawyer by training, Eric has litigated cases in courts across the country. Eric also serves on the boards of directors of the Moshannon Valley Emergency Medical Service, the Happy Valley Adventure Bureau, and the Philipsburg Historical Foundation.

Lori Fisher
Lori Fisher, an artist and life-long central Pennsylvania resident, driven by a passion for art and love for local community joined the Bellefonte Art Museum in 2010. Having fully immersed herself in the museum’s mission Lori was added to the staff in 2013 and currently holds the title of Museum Director. She had worked diligently over the past 10+ years to cultivate a thriving art community and create a destination for artists near and far.

Johntrae Williams
Founded the Film, Arts, Culture & Tourism Specialist (FACTS), a Non-Profit 501(c)(3) dedicated to creating a sustainable space for arts programming that can serve chronically under-resourced communities.

Rebecca Inlow
Member of Board of Directors of the Rowland Theatre, “I have had the privilege of being a part of the amazing story of the historic Philipsburg theatre.” Advisory Board member of the Centre Film Festival since its inception.

Victor Hugo Gonzaga Marques
Victor Hugo is a colorist and filmmaker from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he studied filmmaking and directing. Now living in State College, he likes to appreciate the beauty of Happy Valley and its four stations.

Ezra Nanes
Mayor of State College, PA, is a devoted husband, father, athlete, working professional, and civic leader. Ezra earned his Bachelor of Arts with Distinction in the History of Art from the University of Pennsylvania and his MBA from Penn State, graduating as valedictorian of his class of 2012. Ezra’s high-energy, team-oriented leadership has earned him awards in his professional career. Ezra and his wife, Mieke, owner of Pelvic Shanti Physical Therapy, are passionate about community and making a positive impact. Ezra and Mieke love to spend time with their two amazing daughters, pursuing adventure sports in the beautiful state forests surrounding the Centre Region, enjoying the arts and culture that abound in State College, and traveling to visit family and experience the inspiring cultures and natural wonders of the world. Ezra competed in Happy Valley’s first Ironman 70.3 Triathlon in July of 2023, fulfilling a lifelong dream, and he aims to beat his time in 2024.

Pamela Snyder Etters
Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts’ new Executive Director, she is the founder and a muralist of the Murals Talk Foundation—a program that builds bridges over cultural, social, and economic gaps for youth.

Pride on Screen

Pia Smal
An associate teaching professor in Rehabilitation and Human Services and Counselor Education and Supervision at The Pennsylvania State University. She holds a PhD in Counselor Education, a master’s degree in clinical Mental Health Counseling, and a bachelor’s degree in English and Women’s Studies. Her clinical and research interests include supporting faculty in addressing student’s mental health needs, strength-based approaches to working with clients, and LGBT+ issues in counseling and social justice. She is the current president and founding member of Centre LGBT+, a local nonprofit focused on bringing the community together through LGBT+ education, advocacy, and activities in the Centre county region.

Susan Marshall
An Independent College Advising & Admissions Counselor and owner of College Gateways, LLC. Prior to starting her own business, Susan was employed by the State College Area School District for thirty-four years as a High School Counselor and served as Head Counselor in the State High Counseling Department for many years.

Susan also serves the Centre County region as a founding Board member and Secretary of the Centre LGBT+, a local nonprofit focused on bringing the community together through LGBT+ education, advocacy, and activities.

Susan is a trained Restorative Practitioner and has been a Restorative Conferencing Facilitator since 2013. In this role, she provides training and facilitates conversations aimed at repairing harm and restoring relationships. Susan is a Board member and a volunteer facilitator with the local non-profit Centre County Community Conferencing.

College Student Jury

Colin Connors
PSU, First Year Student

Isabel Isenhower
PSU, First Year Student

Adriana Peterson

Khalil Frazier

Juno Seidel
PSU, First Year Student

Morgan Wolfe
PSU, First Year Student

Ned Riddle
PSU, First Year Student

Sophy Leiva
PSU, Fourth Year Student

High School Student Jury

Maya Dombroskie
State College Area High School, Junior

Ben Sidore
State College Area High School

Ben Kellogg
Delta Program, State College

Ava Krebs
State College Area High School, Junior

My name is Ava Krebs and I am a junior at state high. I am currently enrolled in IB film and spend much of my free time watching, reading about, and listening to podcasts about movies! I specifically enjoy music in movies and am interested in the scoring and musical aspects of film.

Stephen Fowler
State College Area High School, Junior

Ian Jegla
Delta Program, State College

Bryson Christophe
State College Area High School