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FilmNorth 17th Annual Midwest Filmmaker Conference

September 24, 2016 @ 9:30 am - 5:30 pm

The 2016 Midwest Filmmaker Conference was held at the spacious studio facility of our Vandalia Tower neighbor Saint Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN).

The Conference covered timely topics of particular interest to filmmakers working outside the traditional media centers of New York and Los Angeles. Topics included Series Development, Self-Distribution, Production Financing, Marketing and more, along with the opportunity for individual project consultations.


9:00–9:30 am
Registration & Coffee

9:30 –10:45 am
Sponsored by Minnesota Film & TV
Panelists: Remy Auberjonois, Kate Nowlin
Moderator: Lucinda Winter

Director Remy Auberjonois and lead actress Kate Nowlin discuss the development, production, and launch of their independent feature BLOOD STRIPE. Shot in Northern Minnesota, and taking advantage of both the Snowbate and IRRRB film rebate incentives, BLOOD STRIPE had its world premiere at the 2016 Los Angeles Film Festival, where it won the US Fiction Award. It followed this up with an East Coast premiere at the Provincetown Film Festival where it promptly won the John Schlesinger Award for Best First Feature. Can a Film Independent Spirit Award nomination be far behind? Learn from Minnesota’s latest success story!

11:00 am–12:15 pm
Planning & Budgeting for Self-Distribution
Panelists: Brian Dehler, Gary Hustwit, Geoff Sass
Moderator: Jeremy Wilker

You’ve made your film – congratulations! But have you prepared for self-distribution? Whether it’s simply preparing for the film festival circuit or taking your film all the way through every form of exhibition yourself, the time to plan and budget for self-distribution is at the very beginning of the production process. Industry experts will provide case studies, tips, and strategies that will maximize your chances for success – including harnessing the power of social media.

1:15–2:30 pm
Episodic Series Development
Sponsored by SAGindie
Panelists: Julia Rask, Michael Starrbury, Matt Young
Moderator: Andrew Peterson

From the internet to Amazon and Netflix to cable television the number of outlets for scripted series has exploded. This panel will help filmmakers navigate this new and ever-changing landscape.

2:45–4:00 pm
Building & Creating a Diverse Film Culture
Sponsored by SPNN
Panelists: Barkhad Abdirahman, Ifrah Mansour, Musa Syeed, Rhiana Yazzie
Moderator: Robin Hickman

While the Midwest may be best known for films that highlight a predominantly white population, there are so many more stories to tell, as exemplified by director Musa Syeed’s acclaimed new film A STRAY, which premiered at the SXSW Film Festival and enjoyed a spotlight at BAMcinématek. A STRAY, shot entirely in Minneapolis and predominantly in the Somaili-American community of Cedar Riverside, is an example of one of the many culturally diverse and rich stories to be told about life in the Midwest. This panel, which includes A STRAY’S lead actor Barhad Abdirahman (CAPTAIN PHILLIPS), will explore the unique challenges encountered in the production of the film, their collaboration with the local Somali-American community, and highlight the need to cultivate a diverse film community both in front of and behind the camera.

4:15–5:30 pm
Keynote: Effie T. Brown
Sponsored by Macalester College Dept. of Media and Cultural Studies

Veteran indie producer Effie T. Brown, whose credits include DEAR WHITE PEOPLE, IN THE CUT, and BUT I’M A CHEERLEADER, returns to the Midwest Filmmaker Conference to deliver this year’s Keynote Address. Since her last visit to Minnesota, Effie’s industry profile has increased dramatically with a breakout turn on HBO’s “Project Greenlight” and in her new position as Vice President of Production and Development for Lee Daniels Entertainment.


AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 13: Actors Barkhad Abdirahman of 'A Stray' is photographed in the Getty Images SXSW Portrait Studio powered by Samsung at the Samsung Studio on March 13, 2016 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Smallz & Raskind/Getty Images for Samsung)Barkhad Abdirahman was born in 1994 in Nairobi, Kenya. He is an actor, known for CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013), A STRAY (2016, directed by Musa Syeed and nominated for the South by Southwest Film Festival Grand Jury Award and winner of the Best Minnesota-made Narrative feature at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival), and NEIGHBORHOODS (2014).

remy_webRemy Auberjonois is the director/co-writer of BLOOD STRIPE, for which he received the John Schlesinger First Time Filmmaker Award from the Provincetown Film Festival. The film was also honored with the Jury Award for U.S. Fiction in its world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival. He has had a long career as an actor in film, TV, on and off-Broadway and stages around the country. Remy has appeared in the films THE MAID’S ROOM, THE ENGLISH TEACHER, PRICE CHECK, FAIR GAME, THE INTERNATIONAL, MICHAEL CLAYTON, and others.

Extensive work in television series, mini-series, and HBO Films includes recurring roles on MAD MEN, WEEDS, 666 PARK AVENUE, THE GOOD WIFE, and SHOW ME A HERO. Other television work includes BLINDSPOT, BELIEVE, VEEP, INSIDE AMY SCHUMER, ZERO HOUR, HEMINGWAY & GELLHORN, HOMELAND, PAN AM, PERSON OF INTEREST, THE NORMAL HEART, MILDRED PIERCE, 30 ROCK, SOPRANOS, and BOARDWALK EMPIRE. On Broadway, Remy has appeared opposite such talents as Philip Seymour Hoffman, Frances McDormand, Morgan Freeman, and Frank Langella in plays such as DEATH OF A SALESMAN, THE COUNTRY GIRL, FROST/NIXON, and many othersHe has had the privilege of working with creatives as varied and skilled as Mike Nichols, David Simon, Alfonso Cuaron, Jean-Marc Vallee, Ryan Murphy, Paul Haggis, Justin Chadwick, Doug Liman, Phillip Kaufman, Tony Gilroy, and Tom Tykwer.

Remy holds an MFA from the Yale School of Drama, where he was the recipient of the Herschel Williams Award for Excellence (alongside Kate Nowlin). He has a BA from Wesleyan University. A recent transplant to the Twin Cities, Remy is currently appearing as Colonel Brandon in the Guthrie Theater’s production of SENSE AND SENSIBILITY.

effie_bluebkgr_cropped-copyEffie T. Brown is an American film and television producer, known for the highly acclaimed independent feature, DEAR WHITE PEOPLE. The film won multiple awards, including the Special Jury Prize for Breakthrough Talent at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and Best First Screenplay at the 2015 Independent Spirit Awards. She currently serves as Executive Vice President of Development and Production for Lee Daniels Entertainment.

Brown’s career began as a Film Independent fellow in the prestigious Project Involve program. Through her incredible work ethic she became Director of Development for Tim Burton Productions in 1995. Brown has produced several critically acclaimed HBO Films and award-winning projects including, STRANGER INSIDE (directed by Cheryl Dunne, 2001, World Premiere at Sundance Film Festival), REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES (directed by Patricia Cardosa, 2002, winner of Sundance Film Festival’s Audience Award and Special Jury Prize for Ensemble Performance), EVERYDAY PEOPLE (2004, directed by Jim McKay), IN THE CUT (directed by Jane Campion, 2003), and ROCKET SCIENCE (directed by Jeffrey Blitz, 2007, winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Directing at Sundance and recipient of three Independent Spirit Awards nominations). In 2010, her film THE INHERITANCE, starring Golden Brooks, won the Best Actress award at the American Black Film Festival.

With a love of multiple platforms, Brown re-teamed in 2011 with the award-winning producing/directing duo Jon Avnet and Rodrigo Garcia to focus on digital episodic content. Together they produced over 130 episodes of WIGS, an award-winning, original content channel funded by Google/YouTube. HBO recognized Brown’s ability to mold a low budget film into a critically acclaimed success and invited her to join the controversial reboot of PROJECT GREENLIGHT (Executive Produced by Matt Damon & Ben Affleck). The show’s premise is to take an original screenplay and give a first-time filmmaker the opportunity to work with industry professionals to create a feature film. In 2015, she served as producer and mentor to the show’s fresh new director.

Through her company, Duly Noted, Inc., Brown is producing the Lionsgate Entertainment feature film FLYY GIRL (based on the best selling novel by Omar Tyree), and she recently sold THE GOOD HOUSE (by acclaimed novelist Tananarive Due) to Lifetime films. Brown is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University with a degree in Film Production and Theater.

brian_dehler_portraitBrian Dehler is an entrepreneur, video editor, and artist. Since 2007 Brian has been the president and co-owner of Cine-O-Matic, Inc., offering distribution support services for independent filmmakers, studios, and distributers of all sizes. Their services include DVD and Blu-ray authoring, manufacturing, DCP encoding, subtitling and captioning, and digital mastering. To date, Cine-O-Matic has helped support over 3,000 feature films, documentaries, and TV series and has recently begun licensing and producing their own content for distribution.

robin-hickmanRobin Hickman is the CEO and Executive Producer of SoulTouch Productions, a television and film production, youth development programing and community partnership consulting organization. SoulTouch’s mission is to make meaningful media and produce powerful social impact experiences. She is the founder and curriculum developer of the “Lovin’ the Skin I’m In” (Lovin’) Hope & Healing Movement, a SoulTouch partnership initiative for youth, inspired by Sharon G. Flake’s book THE SKIN I’M IN. The movement explores societal standards of beauty and media influences on self-esteem and identity.

Robin’s film work includes the HBO mini-series, LAUREL AVENUE and Emmy and NAACP Image Award-nominated HALF PAST AUTUMN: THE LIFE AND WORK OF GORDON PARKS, a documentary on the life of her great-uncle. In November 2012, SoulTouch, in partnership with numerous community, corporate and philanthropic organizations, hosted a Gordon Parks Centennial Celebration and Film Festival, which was held at the MN History Center and the St. Anthony Main Theater featuring special guest, actor/producer Richard Roundtree (SHAFT).

Robin worked for many years at Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) as Executive Producer of Community Affairs Programming. She developed and managed local and national public affairs programming, documentaries, and community outreach initiatives, including national award-winning DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE (Emmy), HOOP DREAMS REUNION (NAACP Image Award nominee), Hoop Dreams/Chrysler Hoop Dreams Challenge (national educational and community outreach initiative) and FROM CORRECTIONS TO COMMUNITY, a documentary co-produced by residents of Redwing Correctional Facility.

gary-hustwitGary Hustwit is an independent filmmaker and photographer based in New York. He has produced 13 feature documentaries, including the award-winning I AM TRYING TO BREAK YOUR HEART, about the band Wilco; MOOG, the documentary about electronic music pioneer Robert Moog; and an experimental feature film with the band Animal Collective. Gary worked with punk label SST Records in the late-1980s, ran the independent book publishing house Incommunicado Press during the 1990s, was Vice President of the media website Salon.com in 2000, and started the indie DVD label Plexifilm in 2001.

In 2007 Gary made his directorial debut with HELVETICA, a documentary about graphic design and typography that marked the beginning of a design film trilogy, with OBJECTIFIED, about industrial design and product design following in 2009, and URBANIZED, about the design of cities, in 2011. The films have been broadcast on PBS, BBC, HBO and television outlets in 20 countries, and have been screened in over 300 cities worldwide. His most recent project, WORKPLACE, about the future of the office, premiered at the 2016 Venice Biennale of Architecture.

Gary’s films have been featured at the Sundance Film Festival, South by Southwest, and the Toronto International Film Festival, among others. He was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for HELVETICA, and has served on the grand juries of the Sundance Film Festival, the IFP Gotham Awards, and the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. Gary was named one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company. Gary is a member of the Documentary Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

ifrah-mansourIfrah Mansour is a Minnesota-based Somali multimedia artist, performer, and teacher. She uses art to bridge cultures and generations. Media coverage includes “Minneapolis Artist Sews New Somali History that Crosses Generations” by the Star Tribune, “Ifrah Mansour Explores War from a Child’s Perspective” by City Pages, “Performance and Prevention” by Minnesota Daily and “Ten Somali Artists & Entertainers to Watch in 2015” by Okayafrica. She acted in the movie A STRAY and was also part of the community script consulting team. Recent art and performance works include Somalia’s Balloon, Lablaab the Spill, Drones and Fargans, Isug, and Corn for Ayayo.

kate-rtc-83Kate Nowlin is an actor/writer/producer. She is the lead actress in the film, BLOOD STRIPE, which she also co-wrote and produced. She has had recurring roles on various cable and network television shows, most recently the WGN series OUTSIDERS, as well as THE CARRIE DIARIES, RUBICON, and MERCY. Her film work includes ANCHORMAN 2, YOUNG ADULT, and THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU, among others. She has played New York stages such as The Atlantic Theater, Little Shubert, Second Stage, and the Rattlestick. Her regional work includes The Guthrie Theater, Dallas Theater Center, The Huntington, Yale Rep, Westport Country Playhouse, Denver Center, and The Shakespeare Theater in Washington D.C., where she was nominated for a Helen Hayes award. She holds an MFA from Yale where she received the Herschel Williams Acting Prize. Her BFA is from Southern Methodist University, where she was the recipient of the Greer Garson Acting Award.

mem2014artschool_Andrew PetersonMembership, Member Events; Lectures, Talks, Readings; Art School.Portrait of Andrew Peterson, September 10, 2014.For Marketing purposes to promote upcoming event:Art School: How do youmake an indie film? January 11, 2015Part of Art School: What the %#@! Is Contemporary Art?IFP Minnesota executive director Andrew Peterson joins together with a local filmmaker to tackle this question as we launch a month of free screenings of the best indie films of the year, exclusively for Walker and IFP members.Art School demystifies contemporary art by putting it into context—culturally, historically, and personally. Through short, succinct sessions, you’ll come to understand what the fuss is all about—and even feel like a connoisseur yourself.Andrew Peterson is the Executive Director of FilmNorth. He also serves as Director of Programming for the Provincetown International Film Festival, a position he’s held since 2006, and is a Visiting Assistant Professor for Media & Cultural Studies at Macalester College. From 2008-2012 Andrew served as Vice President of Production for Werc Werk Works, an independent film production and finance company based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he co-produced the feature films HOWL, LIFE DURING WARTIME, THIN ICE, and DARLING COMPANION. His other producing credits include WORLD AND TIME ENOUGH, OLDER THAN AMERICA, and the segment “This Car Up” for BOYS LIFE 4: FOUR PLAY. Andrew holds an MFA from New York University Graduate Film School and has made several acclaimed short films, which have screened at numerous film festivals, museums, and on U.S. and British television.

julia-raskJulia Rask left a career in education in 1990 and joined forces with a fledgling film and TV production company, Morrow-Heus Productions, later becoming its head of development and learning first-hand how to bring a project from initial concept to completion. She went on to work in a variety of film, television, and theater arenas, honing additional skills in producing, directing, administration, and budgeting. She is particularly experienced in all aspects of post-production. Over the past 25 years, Rask has worked alongside many entertainment luminaries, including the award-winning actors Annette Bening, Colin Farrell, and Lynn Redgrave. Theatrically, she teamed with actor and impresario Tom Hulce to produce the Obie Award-winning Alan Bennett’s TALKING HEADS, and she was lead producer for the Tom Waits-inspired WARM BEER, COLD WOMEN at the Guthrie Theater.

Rask’s previous feature films include the indie HOME AT THE END OF THE ROAD, and Sony’s RACE THE SUN. In television she has worked on such distinguished shows as EARLY EDITION (Kyle Chandler), THE BIG C (Laura Linney), THE MINDY PROJECT (Mindy Kaling) and most recently worked with Adam McKay and Will Ferrell’s company, Gary Sanchez Productions, on the pilot MISSION CONTROL and the limited TV series BAD JUDGE starring Kate Walsh. Coming full circle and working with her first boss in the business, Rask is currently completing the Barry Morrow-written/directed indie feature film SMITTEN! starring Darren Criss.

gsass_headshotGeoff Sass is the founder of SASS.AGENCY, a marketing services company for independent film and branded content specializing in strategy and alternative distribution. His background includes extensive experience as a brand marketer, film marketer and independent producer. Whether working with giant brands like Target and Nike, traditionally distributed films like HOWL, and LIFE DURING WARTIME, or self distributed films like STAY THEN GO, he brings nimble thinking, agile and lean methodologies, and a passion for progressive content to every project.

michael-starrburyMichael Starrbury discovered his love of cinema after sneaking into a movie theater as a young boy to see the classic Prince film PURPLE RAIN. When Apollonia purified herself in Lake Minnetonka, it was as if God, Allah, Buddha and that Hindu elephant were giving him a sign. From that moment on, he would study the craft of screenwriting. In 2014, he was named one of Variety’s 10 Writers To Watch, and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award and Humanitas Prize for writing THE INEVITABLE DEFEAT OF MISTER & PETE, which premiered at Sundance and sold to Lionsgate. In 2016, his show THE LEGENDS OF CHAMBERLAIN HEIGHTS will premiere at Comedy Central, and he previously developed pilots for ABC, Fox, FX, and has feature films set up at Paramount, Disney, Warner Bros., and New Line.

musaheadshot-copy_cropMusa Syeed‘s first feature VALLEY OF SAINTS won the Audience Award at Sundance in 2012 and was a New York Times Critics Pick. His second feature A STRAY premiered at South by Southwest and won the Best MN-Made Feature Award at MSPIFF in 2016. The film will have theatrical releases in Minneapolis and New York this October. THE BIG HOUSE, a narrative short Syeed shot in Yemen, was a 2014 Sundance selection. His features have been supported in development by the San Francisco Film Society, Tribeca Film Institute, and Torino Film Lab.

Syeed’s previous films include the short documentaries BRONX PRINCESS (Official Selection: Berlinale) and A SON’S SACRIFICE (Best Short Doc, Tribeca Film Festival & International Documentary Awards). Both films had national PBS broadcasts and were co-produced with Yoni Brook. He also co-directed THE CALLING, a documentary miniseries for PBS’ Independent Lens, and contributed several video reports for TIME.com. In the interactive space, Syeed was a co-producer of the transmedia storytelling project #30DaysRamadan, which was developed at a Mozilla Hackathon and supported by ITVS.

Syeed was a teaching artist for the Tribeca Film Institute and an adjunct professor of documentary production at Williams College. As a Fulbright Fellow, Syeed lived in Cairo, Egypt, where he focused on experimental filmmaking. He is an alumnus of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and the Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies Department. Syeed lives in New York with his wife and newborn son.

jeremy-wJeremy Wilker, owner of TWEAK Dig­i­tal, loves mak­ing mov­ing images and has cre­ated works, in doc­u­men­tary, com­mer­cial, nar­ra­tive, and polit­i­cal forms, for busi­nesses and orga­ni­za­tions near (Golden Val­ley) and far (Hong Kong). He has run or assisted with sev­eral suc­cess­ful Kick­starter cam­paigns (for his fea­ture films DEATH TO PROM and TRIUMPH67), con­sults and trains on work­flow, soft­ware, and crowd­fund­ing, and has spent many years in the print and graph­ics world. Jeremy is a long­time mem­ber of FilmNorth and serves on the FilmNorth board, the Pro­fes­sional Advi­sory Board of the Uni­ver­sity of Wis­con­sin Stout, and he vol­un­teers with the Fly­way Film Fes­ti­val. When he isn’t cre­at­ing imagery, Jeremy might be found snow­board­ing or play­ing with his two chil­dren.

lucinda-full-frame-finalLucinda Winter is the former Executive Director of Minnesota Film and TV. She has been active in the Minnesota production community for more than 20 years, first as a freelance writer/producer working in the U.S., Europe and Asia and then in creative and management positions at Blue Earth Pictures, a Twin Cities-based production company. For the last ten years she has led Minnesota Film and TV, Minnesota’s full-service film commission. Minnesota Film and TV is a non-profit public/private partnership dedicated to creating jobs and economic growth by promoting and supporting the state’s production industry. Lucinda has a BA from the Honors College at Michigan State University and completed coursework for her MA in Broadcast Journalism at the University of Minnesota, where she was a Herbert Berridge Elliston Fellow.

rhiana-yazzieRhiana Yazzie is a Navajo playwright, screenwriter, producer, director, and actor based in Minnesota. She is a Playwrights’ Center McKnight Playwriting Fellow this year (2016/2017). She is also a two-time Playwrights’ Center Jerome Fellow (2010/2011 and 2006/2007) and was a Playwrights’ Center Core Member for three years. This fall she will be in residence at the MacDowell Colony where she’ll be working on her next two screenplays. She was a playwright in residence at the William Inge Center in Independence, Kansas, fall 2014.

Rhiana’s most recent projects include a play commission from the William Inge Center and a joint commission from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Public Theater to write a play for American Revolutions: the United States History Cycle. She’s also written plays for young audiences, which include CHILE POD (La Jolla Playhouse) and WILD HORSES (Bonderman National Theatre for Youth Symposium and The Kennedy Center’s New Visions/New Voices).

In 2009 Rhiana created her theatre company, New Native Theatre, an organization based in the Twin Cities: a new way of looking at, thinking about, and staging Native American stories. She holds a Masters of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California where she produced lectures and concerts by Madeleine Albright, Herbie Hancock, Spaulding Grey, and Stephen Hawking among others.

matt-youngMatt Young is a writer, actor, and musician from Los Angeles. He has written scripts for Mar Vista Entertainment and the German-based Rat Pack Filmproduktion, and was a writer on the upcoming Season 2 of the Alan Tudyk/Nathan Fillion-produced episodic web series CON MAN. Matt’s original hourlong drama pilot STILL was included in the Blacklist’s TV Writers Staffing Book and secured him a spot in the inaugural Sundance Episodic Story Lab, where he was mentored by showrunners like Charles “Chic” Eglee (DEXTER), Elwood Reid (THE BRIDGE), and Noah Hawley (FARGO). In conjunction with the Microsoft Lounge, Sundance Labs produced a staged-reading of STILL, which was performed by (among others): Jim Beaver (DEADWOOD), Abigail Spencer (RECTIFY), and Kodi Smit-McPhee (X-MEN: APOCALYPSE). Matt has an MFA in Screenwriting from California State University, Northridge, where he also taught screenwriting as an Associate Instructor. When not writing, Matt plays upright bass and banjo in bluegrass and old-time bands around L.A., and he performs weekly in the improv comedy show Opening Night: the Improvised Musical! at iO West in Hollywood.



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