2012 Director and Filmmaker Biographies
The directors of the Official Selections of the 2012 Online International Black Film Festival Nashville are…
Ulrich Que developed his passion for film as an acclaimed actor, writer, and director. As an actor, he’s won awards for his performances in Shades of Life and The DL Chronicles. He has also held a recurring role on the soap opera All My Children and a co-starring role in Nollywood’s international blockbuster film UJE: The Journey. Que wrote, directed, and starred in 20 Years Later, hoping to illustrate to aspiring artists the importance of creating work for themselves instead of relying on others to do it for them.
Solomon Onita Jr. is a senior at the University of Texas at Arlington. Astorgos is his student thesis film. Solomon has been interested in filmmaking for about seven years, and intends to work in the film industry as a writer, director, and educator.
Monique Walton was born and raised in Long Island, New York. A 2004 graduate of Yale University, she has directed and produced numerous documentary and narrative films focusing on racial identity and belonging. Her first film, a short documentary entitled Still Black, at Yale, screened at over ten film festivals and at universities across the country. She worked at Viacom for four years producing on-air and web videos for Nickelodeon. The Becoming Box premiered at the Texas Black Film Festival and has also screened at the New Voices in Black Cinema film festival in Brooklyn. Walton is a 2012 recipient of the Texas Filmmakers Production fund grant. She is currently pursuing an MFA degree in film production at UT Austin.
directs The Custom Mary
Randy L. Wilkins
Randy Wilkins is a Bronx-bred director and cinematographer. Befriending legendary filmmaker Spike Lee and by the director’s urging, Randy enrolled in NYU’s esteemed Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Film Program where he earned a chair’s fellowship and a Master of Fine Arts in 2009.
Randy’s most successful film to date, “Osvaldo’s,” earned an exclusive license agreement with HBO for broadcast as well as numerous awards and festival screenings. Professionally, Randy has been raised through Lee’s Forty Acres and A Mule Film Works, Inc. His new film, “Docket 32357,” is playing the festival circuit as he develops his first feature script “The Gunnery.”
William L. Cochran is an Actor/Filmmaker born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. He attended Percy L. Julian high school and took Radio/Television courses. Shortly after leaving Julian high school, he enrolled in Act One Studios, a school for performing arts located in downtown Chicago, and from the reactions of his peers and instructors when he would perform, he knew that he had a talent that needed to be nurtured. In 2009, William started out acting in local short films and performing in local stage plays, but he felt like something was missing.
William L. Cochran represents Forever Foreign Films LLC. Forever Foreign Films LLC is a company that is based on 3 principals. Those 3 principles are Entertainment, Enlightenment and Evolution. Forever Foreign Films goal is to produce films that will entertain, educate, surprise and refresh the spirit of true independent filmmaking through real life experiences. Forever Foreign Films LLC intends to utilize their 3 principals and also convey an immense amount of experience, expertise and professionalism into each production it is involved in.
McMains worked for several years as a photographer-cinematographer in Denver CO, Chicago IL, and settled in Omaha in 1978 where he began a successful business in commercial photography-cinematography. McMains has been self-employed since 1978 with a three year exception when he took the position of V.P. Creative Director with the advertising agency today know as Interpublic Group (New York City), one of the world’s top five advertising agencies.
McMains has produced and directed a variety of award winning film that have included performances by; Dick Cavett, Ken Nordine, Ernie Anderson, Hal Riney, Linda Hunt, James Earl Jones, Martin Sheen, James Gammon, Robert Redford and Keith David
He has circumnavigated the globe three times capturing images of people, places and lives. His passion provides a means of support through his available footage represented worldwide by The Image Bank Film division of Getty Images.
Anthony Michael Salerno has been an active member of the Greater New York City film scene for the past 10 years, working professionally on NYC independents, Hollywood blockbusters, and his own short films and feature scripts working along side his fiance/actor/singer/writer Evie Turner and friend and writer Patrick Stevens. After taking a 3 year short film hiatus to work on blockbusters he decided to get back to his roots, started up Grr-illa Film & Photo in New Jersey and co-wrote and directed Last Call.
Andrea Ashton hails from the San Francisco Bay Area where she began her education at UC Santa Cruz as Creative Writing major. It wasn’t long before her true future beckoned and she transferred to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts to pursue filmmaking. Her senior thesis short, which she produced, wrote, and directed, garnered awards for Best Drama at the Los Angeles International Short Film Festival as well as Best Screenplay and Audience Award for Best Short at the Brooklyn International Film Festival (amongst many others). Currently she makes a living producing, writing, and directing internal, promotional and web videos for Fortune 500 companies like Pfizer, Canon, Dell, Samsung, and LG, but she continues to pursue passion projects and has several feature films in various states of development, including a project which was recently a finalist in the Sundance Film Institute’s Creative Producing Fellowship and Lab.
Rachel Victoria Byrd
Rachel Victoria Byrd is a senior at Harvard (College) studying a minor in African-American studies and a major of her own design called Cinedramatic Arts, a unique combination of film and theater. Rachel’s love for performance art began at an early age when she started acting in various TV and radio commercials.
As the current president of BlackCAST, the Harvard Black Community and Student Theatre Group, Rachel has directed several plays at Harvard and has acted in many more. This fall she hopes to focus on developing a web series about black student life at Harvard.
Rachel’s dream is to attend NYU’s MFA/MBA dual-degree program for aspiring film directors and producers and would like to thank her favorite directors: Darren Aronofsky, David Fincher, and Spike Lee for for providing inspiration for first short film, Mirror 21.
Cheryl Halpern and Mitchell Stuart
Natsanat’ (freedom) documents the heroic stories of young female freedom fighters in Ethiopia during the 20th century. These women left their families and homes to join the struggle to bring freedom, peace and democracy to their country. They serve as role models for leadership and courage for women.
Les grew up in a big family of entertainers in Central IL. Mostly known for their singing and acting skills they followed their parents lead as Holly is a singer and Violet was a piano player who performed at churches, functions, and family events. It wasn’t long before the children followed suit.
Les graduated from Eastern Illinois University in 73 and had performed in supporting roles in Summer Stock. He became a science teacher and coach and has spent the past 25 years in the steel industry. He has developed several product training videos over the years. Les was or is actively involved in Toastmasters International, National Speakers Association, Voice Over and Narration training under Kirk Johnson (KJ) Studios, Elaine Clark, and Harlan Hogan. He also mentors others to overcome their fear of speaking in public.
He has been frequently called upon to not only perform as master of ceremonies at company and association events but also produce and coordinate the presentations The most recent accomplishment is “Our World War II Fathers” documentary. It is Les’s first documentary and was originally intended for the fathers, family, and friends only. It has gone way beyond that and seems to have no end. Using this vehicle Les is hoping to seguey into his next career in the film industry. His voice talent is one of his main strengths.
Dion was born and raised in Chicago, and has been employed as a Probation Officer for the last 18.5 years, where he works with young people ages 9 through 17. He mentors with workshops, outings & motivational speaking. Dion serves on the Black Harvest Community Council at the Gene Siskel Film Center as well as being Vice Chair for the Midwest Christian-Inspirational Indie Film Festival in Chicago.
He made his debut in a supporting role in a production of “Scrooge”, and then he went on to appear in “Jesus of Nazareth” at Family Christian Center.
He received his BA in Liberal Arts from Chicago State University and received his training at The Second City in acting and improv. He has appeared in several independent stage productions and films. Dion also makes an appearance in the upcoming suspense drama “Crave” in theaters later this year. This film is directed by Charles de Lauzirika (Executive Producer: No Time to Lose: The Making of ‘Pelham 123’).
Outside of acting, Dion writes, produces and directs films. His first film “The Concert” was selected into 2 film festivals, The 2010 Black Harvest International Film & Video Festival in Chicago and The Twin Cities Black Film Festival in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Since then, he has written, produced and co-directed “Overcome-2011” as well as “Number 37-2011” & “REDIAL-2012″ where he makes his directorial debut. These films have been accepted to the Black Harvest Film Festival in Chicago, Hollywood Black Film Festival in Hollywood, CA. and the International Black Film Festival in Nashville, TN. Dion is currently working on several screenplays and was an invited panelist in October on ” How To Break Into The Film Business” at the 2012 Englewood Film Festival in Chicago. Dion believes that hard work “ALWAYS” pays off.
Susan has always enjoyed the spotlight and the entertainment industry from quite an early age. She enjoys filmmaking and all the aspects of it. She studied film and acting during her college years at Columbia College in Chicago. She knew then that God had big plans for her, but just didn’t know what they were. She established 9x18ProductionS in 2009, an independent production company with Dion, to create a foundation of positive, uplifting, inspirational independent films that could be relative to anyone’s daily life situation.
Susan has been the Executive Producer for “The Concert”, “Overcome”, “Number 37” & “REDIAL” She currently makes her directorial debut this year in her mini-feature documentary “The Heartbroken Rainbow” to be released in 2013. Susan serves on the Black Harvest Community Council at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago.
In 2011, she founded the Midwest Christian-Inspirational Indie Film Festival to bring Christian and Inspirational films to the Midwest from all over the country and abroad to be screened and premiered to an audience excited about this genre of creative work. Susan sees this film festival as a refreshing change to what Chicago has to offer in the film industry. This year Susan has moved forward with having MCIIFF Incorporated. This awesome event is now a not-for-profit, charitable organization. Through fund-raising efforts, Susan would like MCIIFF to provide scholarship opportunities and other benefits to a community of filmmakers wishing to create Christian-Inspirational film, video, animated stories, web-series and documentaries. She was selected as a panelist in October on ” How To Break Into The Film Business at the 2012 Englewood Film Festival. Susan is now working as a stand-in on the new NBC hit drama “Chicago Fire”.
Rod Putnam and Vando Rogers
Roderic (Rod) Putnam was born in Nashville, Tenn., the oldest of three sons. From an early age, he always had a camera in his hands, initially as a still photographer but with time came video production . He worked as an IT professional for more than 20 years at the urging of his parents, who were certain there was no future in being a full time photographer.
As part of the team at Imagine Development Corporation, he helped create the groundbreaking “Dive South Florida and the Florida Keys,” a first of its kind DVD that included internet connectivity, linking viewers of the DVD with the actual locations.
Later, IDC created the digital lifestyles magazine “Nashville Digital Magazine”.
Now, with the completion of “Rocket Dogs-No Limits,” Putnam has entered the feature documentary world, a destination that for many years he was sure was unattainable. He is already in production of a second documentary, “The Neckbone Tour,” a film about a group of guys’ golfing trip that started more than 30 years ago. Notables sport figures and others come and compete on the tour, yet no one outside of a small circle of avid golfers has heard of it, despite now drawing well over 200 golfers. “The Neckbone Tour” is scheduled for release
Vando L. Rogers Jr. was born on February 8, 1951, in Columbus, Ohio. He initially enrolled at Tennessee (A.&I.) State University, but stayed only a quarter before transferring to nearby Fisk University. He graduated in 1974 with a Bachelor of Music Degree in Performance on French horn. He is a BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.) songwriter, making the Cashbox and Billboard Top Soul 100 Charts as well as composing “Speak to Us of Joy and Sorrow,” a
concert piece for choir and orchestra premiered by the Columbus (Ohio) Community Choir in1976.
He was a studio musician for various albums, such as “Just Enough to Get Me Cool”by Freddie Waters (October Records) and “Nashville Ain’t All Country” by The Syndicate (Piedmont Recording Corporation). He has performed on movie soundtracks for “The Gift of Black Folks” and “We Wear the Mask-The Paul Lawrence Dunbar Story,” and also toured with The Alain Bongo Orchestra to Gabon, Ivory Coast, Sene
Claudio von Planta
Claudio von Planta (born 1962) is a Swiss documentary filmmaker. During
university holidays in 1985 he stumbled into a freelancer career with news reports on
Afghan Mujahedin, who fought against the Russian occupation. Ever since he
worked on many current affairs documentaries. However, Claudio is probably best
known for his role as DOP on “LONG WAY ROUND” and “LONG WAY DOWN”
where he filmed the actors Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman on motorbike
journeys around the world and across Africa.
Sorious Samura (born 1964) is a Sierra Leonean journalist. He is best known for two
CNN documentary films: “CRY FREETOWN” (2000) and “EXODUS FROM AFRICA”
(2001). The self-funded Cry Freetown depicts the most brutal period of the civil war
in Sierra Leone with RUF rebels capturing the capital city (January 1999). The film
won, among other awards, an Emmy Award and a Peabody. “EXODUS FROM
AFRICA” shows the harrowing effort by the best of young African male blood to
break through to Europe via death and danger ridden paths from Sierra Leone and
Nigeria, via Mali, Sahara desert, Algeria and Morocco through the Strait of Gibraltar
Dr. Seuss once wrote, “Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. It’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope.” He sincerely abided by these words and worked to capture the essence of what they imply through his simple yet charmingly subversive method of storytelling. Regardless of the medium, I believe the ambition of storytelling is to create a heightened sense of reality that is at once extraordinary and relatable to its audience.
As a storyteller, I relish that “stopping and smelling the roses” is a part of the job, and, fortunately enough, it doesn’t just end there. It’s not enough to simply smell the roses; I want to see, hear, and taste the roses. I want to feel the roses. I want to adore their colorful beauty. I want to suffer the pain of their thorns. I want to question why the roses are there in the first place. And, even if I never get to the bottom of it, the roses have become a part of my life just as I have become a part of theirs.
As a filmmaker, I strive to intensify my own personal reality on screen through characters, subjects, and environments that illustrate a common thread of a unique slice of life. I want to give the roses justice and entertain the audience while doing so. And, if I’ve done my job properly, the next time someone sees a rose, they’ll have more than just a passing thought.
C’est la vie,
After winning Best Movie made for TV for “RIOT” a Showtime movie examining the civil unrest in L.A. following the Rodney King Verdict, Munoz’s interest is anchored in revalorizing marginalized perspective and giving voice to those excluded from main stream media. Munoz’s works encompasses narrative and documentary films. He recently won Best Sports Doc for ” A DREAM DEFERRED” about Derrick Rose and his brother Reggie. Munoz is Founder of FYI FILMS, a non profit organization which empowers incarcerated youth via personal story telling and filmmaking. Munoz is a USC Alum and Sundance Fellow.
B. J. Winfrey
B. J. WINFREY has an award-winning acting and directing career in stage, film, and television
that spans over 20 years. While still in high school at The Westminster Schools in Atlanta, he won his first Best Supporting Actor award for his portrayal of “Mr. Pignati” in the stage production of “The Pigman”. He also portrayed characters in several other productions, from “The Crucible” to “Amadeus” to Mark Antony in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”. Upon entering college at Emory University, B.J. expanded his love of the theater, writing, and directing his first play, which ended up winning a “Best Student Written Play” award. After this, he decided to start the first multi-cultural, student run theater company at Emory, called AHANA Theater. Through it, he wrote and directed two more plays (which garnered two more awards, as well as an induction into the National Theater Honor Society).
After college, B.J. decided to aim towards film/movie directing, and ended up directing several music videos, commercials, industrial videos and short films. In 2004, the acting bug bit again, and he added professional acting to his resume, having performed in a number of films, television shows and commercials, including commercials for Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Cox Communications, NASCAR, the Professional Actor’s Studio, Publix and Georgia Power; and television shows such as “Good Eats with Alton Brown” and “Somebodies” on BET.
In 2010, B.J. made his film debut in the West African Film industry’s (“Nollywood’s”) production of “Paparazzi: The Eye in the Dark” to critical acclaim. Since then, he has become a sought after actor and screenwriter in Nollywood, and has recently garnered a nomination for “Best Short Film” from the Nollywood & African Film Critics Awards (Also known as “The African Oscars”) for a short film he wrote and directed, featuring a lead actress from Ghana. Awards are announced September 16th. Currently, he can be seen in a billboard campaign for the Girl Scouts of America as a Police Chief, as the demonic presence “Mr. Hood” in the upcoming feature film “Emma”, and in a series of upcoming National University, CNN and NASCAR commercials.
Sarah Kazadi is a multimedia journalist, creator and dreamer. She is a Congo
girl who grew up in the big city. Her heart is known to take two hands
to hold. She still believes that journalism can change the world.
Ultimately, she wants to roam the planet with her camera in hand and
tell the world stories it can feel. Her work has been featured on
various platforms, including ESPN.com, Brooklyn Independent Television
and Newsday. You can reach her at www.sarahmkazadi.com.