FilmNorth Master Classes offer the arts community privileged access to an array of film and media innovators impacting the industry and culture. Adding depth to the organization’s professional development programs and furthering its mission to advance a vibrant and diverse community of independent film and media artists, our Master Classes make a significant and meaningful contribution to the Minnesota film community. Upcoming classes will be listed here, on our home page, and on the FilmNorth Facebook page.


Nice Screening and Q&A with Director Naomi Ko and Producer Carolyn Mao
June 29, 2018

FilmNorth presented a special free screening of the TV series pilot Nice, sponsored by Emerging Practitioners of Philanthropy of Minnesota and Thai Cafe. There was a post-screening Q&A moderated by FilmNorth Executive Director Andrew Peterson with creator/writer/star Naomi Ko, producer Carolyn Mao, and Minnesotan-based cast & crew.

Naomi Ko is a Korean American filmmaker, actor, and storyteller. Naomi’s independent pilot Nice was an official selection for the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. Naomi created, wrote, and stars in this half-hour series pilot about Teddy Park, a 20-something Korean American living in Minnesota, who must deal with the consequences of keeping her breast cancer a secret from her friends and family. The pilot was directed by Andrew Ahn writer/director of Spa Night, This Close (Sundance 2016) and produced by Carolyn Mao. Naomi is also a Moth StorySLAM winner, a featured performer for Mortified, and a producer of The Comedy Comedy Festival: A Comedy Festival. She played Sungmi in the 2014 award-winning feature film, Dear White People. Her writing and work has been developed by Warner Bros. and supported by the Knight Foundation, the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, Solidarity MN, Building More Philanthropy with Purpose, and the Council of Asian Pacific Minnesotans. Ko recently received an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board to produce a short film in the summer of 2018. Ko’s writing and performance is featured on The Mortified Guide now on Netflix. Naomi co-founded the APIA MN Film Collective, an initiative to create and opportunities for the APIA filmmaking community in the Twin Cities, supported by the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council.

The Rest I Make Up Screening & Artist Talk with Michelle Memran
May 7, 2018

In partnership with the Playwrights’ Center, FilmNorth presented at the Landmark Lagoon Cinema the Minnesota premiere of the documentary The Rest I Make Up, which had its world premiere in February at The Museum of Modern Art’s Doc Fortnight Festival and then played the Miami Film Festival. The Lagoon screening was free and was followed by an in-depth artist talk with director/producer Michelle Memran. The film follows Maria Irene Fornes, known as “America’s Great Unknown Playwright.” When she stops writing due to dementia, a friendship with a young writer reignites her visionary creative spirit, triggering a film collaboration that picks up where the pen left off.

Michelle Memran is a journalist, artist, and filmmaker. For nearly twenty years she’s worked as a Reporter-Researcher in New York City, primarily for Vanity Fair magazine. She’s also written about theater for Newsweek, The New York Times, The Brooklyn Rail and American Theatre magazine. The Rest I Make Up is her first film, for which she has received funding from the New York State Council on the Arts, Frameline, Astraea, piece by piece productions, and numerous individual donors. After spending two years editing in residencies at Brown University and the MacDowell Colony, Michelle began working with editor Melissa Neidich (Dark Days, Two Towns of Jasper), and together they have just completed a rough cut of this feature-length documentary.

Sundance Institute Short Film Master Class
April 7, 2018 at SPNN

Geared towards both new and experienced directors—as well as writers, producers, actors, crew, and anyone else interested in short film—this was a unique opportunity to hear real-world stories and discuss ideas with industry experts. The guest speakers were Andrew Ahn (Director, Spa Night and Sundance Now’s This Close); Chistina Choe (Director, Nancy and the docuseries Welcome to the DPRK); and Mike Plante, Sundance Film Festival programmer and Short Film Master Class and Shorts on Tour program coordinator.

Lucy Walker at the Walker Art Center
November 8, 2017

Award-winning film and VR director Lucy Walker and film critic Scott Foundas held a conversation about her fascinating career and the art of documentary filmmaking. A master of her craft, Walker captures sublime turning points in people’s lives when they must push past impossibility and “dare to be honest,” conjuring that most humans need to connect. 

Lucy Walker is an Emmy-winning British film director who has twice been nominated for an Academy Award and is renowned for creating riveting, character-driven nonfiction that delivers emotionally and narratively. The Hollywood Reporter has called her “the new Errol Morris” and Variety has praised her unique ability to connect with audiences. Lucy grew up in England and attended Oxford University, where she graduated with top honors in literature, and directed theater and musical theater before winning a Fulbright Scholarship to attend the Graduate Film Program at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. There she earned an MFA and directed award-winning short fiction films. While living in New York, she also enjoyed a successful career as a DJ and musician. She is known for the feature documentaries The Crash Reel (2013), Waste Land (2010) and Blindsight (2006).

Signature Move – Screening & Director Q&A at Twin Cities Film Fest
October 28, 2017

A Q&A with director Jennifer Reeder followed the screening. Jennifer Reeder constructs personal fiction films about relationships, trauma, and coping. Her award-winning narratives are innovative and borrow from a range of forms including after school specials, amateur music videos, and magical realism. These films have shown consistently around the world, including the Sundance Film Festival, The Berlin Film Festival, The Rotterdam Film Festival, The London Film Festival, SXSW, The Venice Biennale, and The Whitney Biennial. Her awards include several that have qualified her films for Oscar nomination. She won a Creative Capital Grant in Moving Image in 2015, short film funding from Rooftop/Adrienne Shelly Foundation in 2016, and short film funding from the Hamburg Film Fund in 2016.

Spa Night Screening at Bryant-Lake Bowl Theater with Director Andrew Ahn
October 14, 2017

FilmNorth presented a special free screening of Spa Night and Q&A with award-winning writer/director Andrew Ahn, a queer Korean-American filmmaker born and raised in Los Angeles. Spa Night premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and won a Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Performance. The film also won the John Cassavetes Award at the 2017 Independent Spirit Awards. Ahn participated in the Sundance Screenwriters Lab, the Film Independent Screenwriting Lab, and the Film Independent Directing Lab for the film. Ahn is an alum of Film Independent’s Project Involve and has promoted diversity in the arts by mentoring youth filmmakers through programs like Pacific Arts Movement’s Reel Voices and Outfest’s OutSet. He is also a board member of Los Angeles Performance Practice. He graduated from Brown University and received an MFA in Film Directing from the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). This event was made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Sundance Creative Distribution Workshop
July 15, 2017 at SPNN

Guest speakers included keynote Michael Starrbury (writer/producer/actor), Remy Auberjonois (actor/producer/director), Jess Fuselier, Chris Horton and Liz Manashil (Sundance Institute’s Creative Distribution Initiative), Laura Ivey (film/TV producer), Evan Morehouse (Manager of Acquisitions, The Orchard), Kate Nowlin (actor/writer/producer), Daniel Laszlo Perlaky (creative director/producer/consultant), Andrew Peterson (Director of Programming, Provincetown Film Festival; Executive Director, FilmNorth; producer).



The James S. and John L. Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more information, visit

Crowdfunding to Build an Audience: Entrepreneurship for Creative Professionals with Erica Anderson of Seed&Spark
December 10, 2014 at the Walker Library in Minneapolis

The only proven path to independence as an artist is a direct connection to your audience. Crowdfunding has become a fundamental piece of most financing plans for independent film. However, many filmmakers miss the opportunity to turn their film funding campaigns into audience-building opportunities that can last an entire career and provide the groundwork for theatrical distribution that you control. Seed&Spark and Tugg combined forces to invest in the future of independent film by offering a comprehensive Crowdfunding to Build Independence master class. This workshop for film-related projects presented by Seed&Spark Co-founder and Head of Crowdfunding & Education Erica Anderson provided the crowdfunding action plan most likely to create a lasting, flourishing, direct relationship with an audience.

Documentary Master Class: A Conversation with Justine Nagan at Twin Cities Film Fest
October 25, 2014, presented in partnership with the Twin Cities Film Fest; moderated by film critic Rob Nelson

Justine Nagan was the Executive Director of Kartemquin Films (Hoop Dreams, Life Itself), one of most successful and prolific documentary production companies in the U.S. This conversation covered much territory with respect to documentary filmmaking, including Kartemquin’s impressive catalog, Justine’s role as Executive Producer, the current state of the documentary market, funding sources, and impact strategies. In addition to having been Kartemquin Films’ Executive Director as well as an Emmy Award-winning Executive Producer on staff, she was responsible for managing day-to-day operations and building a foundation under the historic nonprofit for future sustainability and continued excellence. Kartemquin Films is a 52-year-old media arts nonprofit that creates powerful social issue documentaries and serves as a talent incubator for the Midwest. With Kartemquin, Justine directed Typeface, an award-winning doc on American typography and the short Sacred Transformations, which premiered at the 2010 Big Sky Film Festival. She was Executive Producer on several Kartemquin films, including Life Itself, The Interrupters, The Trials of Muhammad Ali, and Almost There. Formerly, Justine was the organization’s Director of Communications and Distribution, and the Associate Producer on the Peabody Award-winning documentary Mapping Stem Cell Research: Terra Incognita. Justine has a Master’s degree in the Humanities from the University of Chicago, and a Bachelor’s in Journalism and Communication Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Rob Nelson has been a member of the National Society of Film Critics since 1998. He curated Get Real: City Pages Documentary Film Festival for five years in Minneapolis, and has served on festival juries in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Miami, Vancouver, and Miskolc. His writing has appeared in Variety, Film Comment, and The Village Voice. His article about “The Insect Woman” is included in the Smithsonian Institution’s Shohei Imamura booklet, “A Man Vanishes.”

The Making of Kumiko, The Treasure HunterWith David Zellner, Nathan Zellner & Chris Ohlson
September 20, 2014 at Minneapolis Community & Technical College

The event provided a case study of the feature film Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter with writer/director David Zellner, co-writer Nathan Zellner, and producer Chris Ohlson. The team discussed the film’s narrative structure, fiction vs. nonfiction elements, and shooting on a tight budget on two continents. Q&A will follow. This “wonderfully strange and beguiling adventure story ” (Variety) was partially shot in Minnesota and premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. A screening of Kumiko at the Walker Cinema followed discussion, which was moderated by FilmNorth Executive Director Andrew Peterson.

It’s a Brave New (Media) World: A Conversation with Alyce Myatt
July 22, 2014, The Loft Literary Center

Designed to be of interest to artists and arts organizations alike, the discussion addressed the burgeoning use of media as an art form and as a tool to document, promote, and present artists’ work in all disciplines. And who better to discuss the ever-evolving world of media arts than the singular Alyce Myatt? How did media arts change during her tenure at the National Endowment for the Arts? How do foundations and granting organizations like the NEA define and view media arts given its unique relationship between art and commerce? How can artists use media to enhance grant applications and advance their careers? And how can arts organizations that serve non-media artists (ex: dancers, writers, composers, etc.) provide guidance and support to artists about using media? FilmNorth Executive Director Andrew Peterson moderated.

Alyce Myatt is an award-winning consultant whose career reflects the intersection of media and philanthropy. She most recently served as Director, Media Arts at the National Endowment for the Arts, where she introduced the funding of new media forms, including app development and video games, and led the international cultural exchange project Film Forward: Advancing Cultural Dialogue. Prior to joining the NEA, Alyce was the founding Executive Director of Grantmakers in Film + Electronic Media, a media funder network. She also served as a Program Officer for Media at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and as Director of Children’s Programming and later Vice President of Programming at the Public Broadcasting Service. Alyce began her career producing for both adults and children with projects ranging from investigative reports to a children’s science series. She has consulted with large and small foundations, funder networks, and non-profit and for-profit media organizations.

Festival Talk with John Cooper
May 3, 2014, Minneapolis Community & Technical College

Veteran Producer Mary Jane Skalski spoke with Sundance Film Festival Director John Cooper for his first-ever visit to Minnesota. John has been a member of the Sundance Film Festival programming staff since 1989 and assumed the role of Festival Director in April of 2009 after serving as the Sundance Film Festival’s Director of Programming since 2003. Today, as Festival Director, he oversees creative direction of the Festival and has final decision on all films and events. Producer Mary Jane Skalski, whose award-winning films have shown at Sundance and numerous other festivals, will lead a conversation about John Cooper’s career, the changing nature and function of film festivals, recent innovations at Sundance, and tips for applying and attending festivals.

John Cooper has been a member of the Sundance Film Festival programming staff since 1989 and assumed the role of Festival Director in April of 2009 after serving as the Sundance Film Festival’s Director of Programming since 2003. His early work in theater, ranging from performance to design, took him to New York City. By chance, he volunteered at the Institute’s Summer Labs in 1989 and fell in love with the process and energy of Sundance. He returned to California to become part of the Festival programming team, which at that time consisted of two people. In the Festival’s early years, Cooper created the short film program and quickly transitioned into programming documentaries and feature films. In recent years, he took the lead in developing the Institute’s online presence, which has garnered two Webby Awards. As Festival Director, he oversees creative direction of the Festival and has final decision on all films and events. Other work includes guest curator or juror at major film festivals around the world. From 1995-1998 Cooper served as Programming Director of Outfest, a Los Angeles festival held annually in July, and until 2002 served on the Outfest Board of Directors.

Hannah Weyer, Award-winning Filmmaker & Author with Actress Anna Simpson
April 24, 2014, The Loft Literary Center

The first of a six-part Master Class Series made possible by a generous grant from the Knight Foundation. The series was designed to provide members of the local film community with access to industry leaders and innovators. It launched with a reading by filmmaker/author Hannah Weyer from her debut novel, On The Come Up, which was nominated for a 2014 NAACP Image Award and was a 2013 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection. The event will incorporate scenes from the award-winning film, Our Song, an inspiration for the novel, and will be followed by a conversation and Q&A with Weyer and actress/collaborator Anna Simpson. Weyer’s impassioned and propulsive debut novel is based on a true story about a headstrong girl from Far Rockaway, Queens, who is trying to find her place in the world. Weyer will discuss her career and her unique process of creating the novel. Weyer’s narrative and documentary films have been screened at the Human Rights Watch and New York film festivals and have won awards at the Sundance, Locarno, Melbourne, Doubletake, and South by Southwest film festivals. Her screenwriting credits include Life Support (2007), directed by Nelson George, which earned a Golden Globe Award for its lead actress, Queen Latifah. Weyer has worked with teens in the media arts for the past fifteen years and, along with her husband, filmmaker Jim McKay, started an after-school film club at a public high school in Brooklyn.

When Anna Simpson was 15, she auditioned for a part in the award-winning independent film, Our Song, competing against over one hundred other teens. Three callbacks later, Simpson won the heart of the director, Jim McKay, and landed one of the lead roles, acting alongside Kerry Washington. Following the success of her heart-warming performance, Simpson was cast in several other movies, including Everyday People, Sherrybaby, Angel, and Liberty Kid.