Submitted films are initially viewed by tiered screening committees. These committees are comprised of volunteer screeners, each of whom have taken a critical examination and have been hand-selected by Heartland Film staff. Screeners watch each submitted film in its entirety and complete a detailed online review. These reviews help Heartland Film’s programming staff determine the strongest submissions each year. Consisting of film professionals, academics, and critics, Finalist Juries ultimately select the Grand Prize Winner within each category.
Ricky Staub – Narrative Shorts
Ricky Staub is a writer/director who has cultivated a deeply human style of storytelling with astonishing intimacy and stunning cinematic aesthetic. At the heart of his work is a mission to provide the opportunity to the formerly incarcerated. He founded Neighborhood Film Co., with offices in Philadelphia and LA that offers paid apprenticeships and career development to men coming out of incarceration. You can find Ricky sharing his innovative business model on the TEDx stage.
Currently, he has two feature films in development. "Hero Child," an original drama he co-wrote with Dan Walser and is slated to direct. Attached are James McAvoy, Michael K. Williams, John Ortiz, Natalie Martinez and Producer Jeff Waxman ("Mother!," "The Fighter"). Additionally, Ricky is also partnered with Jeff Waxman and Sam Mercer ("The BFG," "Sixth Sense") to adapt the award-winning novel, "Ghetto Cowboy," about the urban horseback riders of North Philly, with Ricky set to direct. Most recently, he garnered critical acclaim for his short film, "The Cage," a gritty drama that tells the story of a young basketball player growing up in North Philly, overcoming the forces of violence and poverty that surround him. The film won the Grand Prize for Best Narrative Short at the Heartland Film Festival, which qualifies it for 2019 Academy Award consideration.
He lives with his wife, Katie, and son, Ollie in Ventura, C
Emily Wheeler – Narrative Shorts
Emily Wheeler is a film critic based in Indianapolis, Indiana. As the Writer’s Coordinator for Film Inquiry, she assists in maintaining a diverse group of international writers tasked with bringing their unique, passionate perspectives to film journalism. In addition to reviewing new releases, she also covers film festivals and provides resource guides for the outlet. Emily is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association and is a co-host of Planet Smallywood for the Film Inquiry Podcast Network.
Saundra Saperstein – Narrative Shorts
During her professional life, Saundra Saperstein was the Media Director for the Sundance Film Festival for almost two decades. During this period the list of journalists, TV and radio commentators and personalities grew from approximately 25 to 900 men and women who covered the festival from all parts of the globe. Following her years as Media Director, Saundra was a consultant for major corporations, film studios and members of the film industry in relation to their sponsorships and participation in the Sundance Film Festival. In addition, she served as a consultant for the Maui Film Festival for many years and has been very involved with the San Diego Jewish Film Festival as chairperson of the festival and film selection committees as well as a member of the executive committee.
Callum Rice – Documentary Shorts
Callum Rice is a BAFTA award-winning director and photographer based in Glasgow, Scotland. In 2016 Callum was awarded the Heartland Film Festival prize for Best Documentary Short for "Mining Poems or Odes."
Katie Stjernholm – Documentary Shorts
Born and raised in Colorado, Katie Stjernholm is a storyteller, strategist, producer, and owner of Balcony Nine Media -- which seeks to elevate and amplify stories that matter. She has had the privilege of creating commercials, documentaries, and impact campaigns for a range of clients including 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, the Hillary for America presidential campaign, the Rockefeller Foundation, Comcast, Chobani, and Noosa Yoghurt. Katie directed and produced a short documentary "Edges," which screened at the Heartland Film Festival (Grand Jury Prize: Short Documentary), Sedona International Film Festival (Audience Choice: Best Documentary Short), Mountainfilm in Telluride, and an additional 40 international and U.S. festivals.
Previously, Katie worked as a digital producer and strategist at the global travel brand Lonely Planet in San Francisco and Melbourne. She first moved to Australia to attend graduate school at the University of Melbourne (M.A.- Executive Master of Arts) through an international fellowship program. She had a brief stint in the feature film world, working in marketing and distribution for screenwriter and director Randall Wallace ("Braveheart," "The Man In The Iron Mask"). Katie received her B.A. in International Studies and Nonprofit Management from Pepperdine University in Los Angeles, CA. While she has lived in many places, the Rocky Mountains are home.
Terri Francis – Documentary Shorts
Terri Francis directs the Black Film Center/Archive at Indiana University, Bloomington. She guest edited a close-up on Afrosurrealism in film and video for the 2013 fall issue of "Black Camera: A International Film Journal." She published her path-breaking study of Jamaican nontheatrical films in “Sounding the Nation: Martin Rennalls and the Jamaica Film Unit, 1951-1961” in "Film History" in 2011. Her book "Josephine Baker’s Oppositional Burlesque," a study of how the entertainer used humor to master her precarity, is forthcoming from Indiana University Press.
Denver Jackson – Animated Shorts
Denver has been a visual effects artist and animator for ten years. He is internationally recognized for his work in digital and visual effects, animation and design and has contributed to many award-winning films such as Connor Gaston’s, “The Devout” and Maureen Bradley’s “ Two 4 One.” He works on both live action and animated films, blending the conventions of both mediums to create his own unique style. Denver is known to often write, direct, film, edit and animate shorts almost entirely on his own.
In 2016-2017 Denver completed two short animated films that he wrote, directed and animated. "The Wishing Jar" (2016) has screened around the world, including at three Academy Qualifying festivals and won 'best animated film' at San Diego Comic Con IIFF and Heartland Film Festival, while his first animated short film Cloudrise (2013) cut through the 400 hours of content uploaded every minute on Vimeo to become a prestigious Vimeo Staff Pick. As well, he animated and directed a science fiction short, "SOS" (2017), for Telus’ storyhive and won 'best animated film' on the Storyhive best animated film competition. Denver’s work leans heavily on the fantastical while still being grounded by real-world characters and situations.
Barbara Ann O'Leary – Animated Shorts
Barbara Ann O’Leary is an activist, filmmaker, and catalyst for transformation. Her love of film inspired her to launch the #DirectedbyWomen Worldwide Film Viewing Party initiative in 2015 to encourage discovery and celebration of work by women directors. She created and curates a list of women who have directed film, which currently includes information for over 11,800 directors. A graduate of Indiana University in Theater and Drama, she later served as IU Cinema’s founding social media and web specialist, and she was the founding editor of A Place for Film, IU Cinema’s blog.
She has served as a member of the Ann Arbor Film Festival’s screening committee for the past three years and previously screened films and served on the World Cinema Jury for Indy Film Fest. Her online activism in support of women’s empowerment and authentic creative expression extends back to the 1990s when she founded Virtual Sisterhood, a global network of women strategizing feminist uses of emerging online technologies. This work followed her groundbreaking implementation of online communication strategies for the UN NGO Women’s Caucus led by Women’s Environment and Development Organization.
Brittany Friesner – Animated Shorts
Brittany D. Friesner is associate director for Indiana University Cinema. She researches and develops film programming, curating ongoing and original series ("Sunday Matinee Classics," "Kids These Days," "Not-Quite Midnights," "CINEkids"), including retrospectives surrounding visiting filmmakers (John Waters, Penelope Spheeris, Cheryl Dunye). Friesner leads IU Cinema’s Creative Collaborations partnership program while also managing the cinema’s marketing and audience-engagement efforts, including donor cultivation and stewardship initiatives. From 2008–2015, Friesner served in theater operations each January at the Sundance Film Festival. She has also worked in programming, marketing, and theater operations for the Tribeca Film Festival, the CMJ Music Marathon and Film Festival, the Bloomington PRIDE Film Festival, and the Seattle and Indianapolis international film festivals. Friesner previously served on Heartland Film Festival Narrative Short Film Jury and on the Grand Jury for the Indy Film Fest.
Sam Miro – High School Film Competition
Sam Miro is an Emmy Award-nominated filmmaker based in the Midwest. His first feature-length film was a documentary on homelessness. The film was screened with President Obama's staff from the Department of Justice and HUD. The nation's first homeless bill of rights at the city level was crafted through inspiration by the film.
Sam's second film, "Little Warriors," has been screened on PBS, as well as being played in festivals across the country. The film took home best Indiana Spotlight Film Award at the Academy-Award qualifying, Heartland Film Festival. Since then, the film has been nominated for a Student Emmy Award for best long form. He just finished editing and producing a new film, "Destination Park," that will be shown in the Indiana Spotlight 1 Program. The film premiered at Robert De Niro's, Tribeca Film Festival in New York.
Carol Nguyen – High School Film Competition
Carol Nguyen is an award-winning 20-year-old filmmaker based in Toronto. Carol has directed 8 short films and has screened them in over 80 festivals around the globe. Carol is a three-time TIFF Jumpcuts winner and a two-time Grand Prize High School Winner at Heartland Film Festival. In 2017, she was named an ambassador for TIFF's Share Her Journey campaign, where she strived to empower diverse voices and women through her own stories and personal experiences in the film industry. Most recently, she was selected as a 2018 Sundance Ignite Fellow. Today, Carol is continuing her passion for filmmaking at Concordia University in Montreal.
Paige Waters – High School Film Competition
Paige Waters is Lecturer in the Department of Telecommunications at Ball State University. She teaches screenwriting in the pre-TCOM core and in the Sales and Promotion concentration. She also teaches the Writing Proficiency Course for Ball State’s Writing Proficiency Program and has taught ENG 310 Introduction to Screenwriting and ENG 410 Advanced Screenwriting for the Ball State Department of English. In 2015, she was recognized by the College of Communication, Information, and Media for Excellence in Teaching. Paige received CCIM’s Dean’s Faculty Award in 2017.
Paige also serves as the TCOM Department’s alumni and communications coordinator. She organizes the annual TCOM Homecoming Alumni Takeover and the March Spring Training alumni events, manages TCOM’s social media presence, and oversees the monthly TCOMemo alumni newsletter. She’s the faculty advisor for three student organizations: TCOM’s Cardinal Filmworks, ABSO Improv Comedy, and the Ball State Anthropomorphic Art Society.
Off-campus Paige has been a member of the Muncie-Delaware County Chamber of Commerce Image Committee since 2010. She served as a 21st Century Scholars Mentor for Project Leadership for several years and has been a board member and grant writer for Eaton Public Library since 2015. In February 2015 she was recognized as WLBC’s BSU Difference Maker of the Month and in June 2018 she was named one of Muncie’s 20 Under 40 by M Magazine and The Start Press.
Tim Taylor – Indiana Spotlight Competition
Tim Taylor is an independent filmmaker based in Indianapolis, Indiana and a two-time winner of the Heartland Film Festival Indiana Spotlight prize. His documentary "Go Get Your Horn" won the 2016 Indiana Spotlight award and was featured at the 2017 New York Jazz Film Festival. His 2015 film, "Citizen Teklit," received the inaugural Indiana Spotlight award and won international acclaim at the MOSTRA Festival of American Film in Soã Paulo, Brazil. With more than 35 years as an advertising writer, producer and director he has created commercials and corporate films for a wide array of national clients.
Matt Socey – Indiana Spotlight Competition
Matthew Socey has been one of the voices of WFYI 90.1 FM since 1999. He has been reviewing films in the Indianapolis market since 2001. His weekly film talk show "Film Soceyology" has been on the WFYI HD-2 channel since 2009. He's also a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association.
Kayla Sprayue – Indiana Spotlight Competition
Kayla Sprayue is a graduate student from Wabash, Indiana, currently studying abroad for her MA in Digital Documentary at the University of Sussex in England. Kayla is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and a 2014 alum of Ball State University's Digital Video Production program. "The Healing Wall," a documentary for which Kayla worked as a Producer and Interviewer for nearly a year, tells the story of the creation of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. The film premiered at the Heartland Film Festival in 2014 and was nominated for 4 Emmys at the 46th NATAS LGL Chapter Emmy® Awards in 2015. In 2014 she was awarded an Emmy for her work on "Legacies of Perfection: The Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg Automobiles" as the film’s Post Production Director. This year she has made two short documentaries and is currently directing another, set to be completed in August 2018. In her free time, she likes to Skype home to her cats and watch K-dramas with her friends.
Teresa Sabatine – Indiana Spotlight Competition
Teresa Sabatine has spent most of her career in television and film in New York, LA and Chicago. The bulk of her work focused on providing project development and production coordination for large-scale productions with a variety of studios, networks and production companies including; Paramount Pictures, Lionsgate, Sony Pictures Television, Nike, 20th Century Fox, CBS, NBC, HGTV, and Boy Wonder Productions; with project budgets ranging from $10M to $250M. In her role as a media consultant, she works with companies and partners to maximize media opportunities, develop projects with potential for large economic impact and generate content around social justice and equality. She currently oversees Film Indy, as the first Film Commissioner for the city of Indianapolis. Film Indy is focused on marketing and growing the current local production talent and recruiting new film and television projects to the area.