Director Biography – Samantha McDanel (PAGEANT PERFECT)

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Samantha McDanel has a Bachelors Degree with honors from University of North Texas in Media Arts. She served as an active member and Social Chair in UNT Short Film Club where she also held different roles in multiple film productions that the club produces each semester. Samantha’s main focus is writing, directing, and video editing, and she is currently working toward her professional certification in AVID Media Composer. Her goal is to be a top film editor for major motion pictures, but her dream in life is to become an established director and woman filmmaker. She also works with makeup and practical FX in film and photography and is well-known in the Denton community for this work. Samantha would like to learn as much as she can about every aspect that goes into making a film to better herself as a director, creator, and leader.

Director Statement

This film was a simple idea at first, but the more I sat and worked on it, it quickly became a much bigger and a true passion project to me. The story and the characters mean so much to me. It’s filled with themes, some that may not be immediately caught, and a complicated relationship between a mother and daughter. I knew that I could bring this story to life with the right team working with me and the perfect cast. I am so proud of how this film turned out.

Director Biography – Danja Politis (ANIMUS PER MACHINA)

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Born 1993 in the Netherlands but lived for 13 years in Austria.
For my bachelor degree i came back to the Netherlands.
Now I am currently doing my Master degree at the Frank Mohr Institute.

Since my childhood I have always been inspired by video games, computer animations, movies and fantasy books, which had led me to do my own 3D animations.

Director Statement

My art is primary digital and interactive, made with the computer, which allows me to discover what is possible in no other medium. My work embraces the unphysical, digital nature of those images and discovering the relationship between technology and humans.

Director Biographies – Amy Mathieson, Premila Puri (ITSY)

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Premila Puri’s involvement in films started as Executive Producer on her first micro-budget feature Delhi Boom! ITSY is Premila’s debut short film as a producer and director. She recently worked as a Line Producer on a feature titled Nine Nights and her development slate includes two high end tv series based on true stories and 6 episode webseries. She was selected to attend The International Rotterdam Film Festival’s (IFFR) prestigious Lab Programme in January 2014 as one of 8 UK emerging producers.

Amy Mathieson is a film director and videographer born & raised in the UK. Her first feature length documentary, BMX Club; 1 Way Up, shot in native 3D was made with Academy Award Winners Shine Global and theatrically released in 3D before airing on MTV and Pivot in the US followed by a Netflix and iTunes release. Amy also works as an audiobook director, most recently directing the Mortal Engines audiobook which Peter Jackson is currently turning into a 200 million dollar movie.


Director Statement

(PP) Premila Puri – Producer/Director
(AM) Amy Mathieson – Director

What was the inspiration behind ITSY?
PP: When my husband narrated his experience with his ‘buddy’ the spider, I was incredibly moved that a tiny spider had stirred something within an adult which eventually stopped him from killing the spider and destroying the web on his wing mirror. The kindness shown towards a tiny vulnerable creature inspired me to share this sweet touching story with the world and produce this as a short film on behalf of my charity Be Kind Movement which my production company, Ariana Ventures, has produced. Ignorance or fearing what we don’t understand can breed prejudice and intolerance. If we can be kind and compassionate to animals, with whom we have little in common, then is it not possible to extend the same courtesy to each other, to overcome strife, violence and war and create a peaceful and kind world.

How did you assemble the team of actors and crew?

AM: I was completely drawn to the fantastic and heart-warming script written by writer, Sameer Puri who took the brief of a man and a spider in a car and reimagined the story with many layers and nuances in introducing the characters of Mustafa, Fatima and Milan. As a director, it was very important to find authentic actors and we have assembled a talented team excellent at improvisation and scripted work but who were equally passionate about the story, it’s message and how we chose to present it. Working with editor, Natasha Westlake, and Sound Designer, Emma Butt, we have used sound and cutting techniques to heighten Alison’s anxiety and illustrate her lonely state of mind whilst gradually building her connection with the spider. The opening of the film is bleak and darker to reflect Alison’s frame of mind however as her relationship with the spider develops, we begin to see a change in her personality and that is reflected in the more vivid colour palette we used to drive the story forward.
Equally as the story progresses, our composer Segun Akinola’s beautiful blend of classical music with Arabic themes has given our spider an authentic and cinematic quality that transcends Alison’s world and that of her neighbours and finally allows them to connect.

What was your approach to shooting ITSY?

AM: I approached the film as though it were under a microscope. Often the truth that is right in front of us is what we are most afraid of addressing. In the case of ITSY our protagonist, Alison, is an anxious hard working and focused career woman who’s ill at ease with her Muslim neighbours, a combination off her biased perception towards them and the noise from their renovations which Alison finds to be a nuisance. Filming on an Alexa, we used the world of extreme close ups and Macro to blend the spider’s world with Alison’s attention to detail. A closeup of her applying lipstick, our spider creeping into her view as she looks into her wing mirror. Its about capturing humanity as we move from focusing on objects to people and emotions.
We film Alison in her car driving to work as she visits sites for client meetings and though she interacts with businesses, she doesn’t have the camaraderie associated with office colleagues so often feels like she doesn’t belong and so is out of place socially. We have shot on the streets of Newham in London (UK) with local actors to reflect the diversity in our story and also in Wandsworth where the story is set. Using a mix of hand held, static and a slider along with dash cam footage of the industrial world along with the CGI images of our spider and it’s web on the wing mirror, our story seeks to not only entertain but most importantly to ask the question Does Kindness Matter? and to serve the craft of filmmaking as an art.

Tell us something about Itsy, the spider?
PP: During Alison’s daily trips to work she encounters a tiny spider in her car who manages somehow to weave a place into her life. Acting as a catalyst, this little creature helps Alison break out of her cocoon and not only appreciate herself but eventually to bridge two cultures and strangers together. Our spider liberates Alison making this a key component of our story and at the same time, we are also able to appreciate the importance of Nature and Man’s relationship with it.
We have worked with a high skilled VFX team out of India who have done a marvellous job in modelling and creating a believable yet magical creature whose warmth has been CGI’d from the colour of the skin tones from all the actors in the piece.

What are you especially proud of?

PP: Proud of many things! The story of ITSY is a celebration of diversity within our community, a ‘coming together’ (as Milan the character voices) that reflects multi-cultural Britain. And I’m proud to be a part of this vibrant city of London for over 20 years as a European Asian. We are also incredibly proud to represent the female voice whether in our lead protagonist, directors or in our heavy centric female crew. As we were keen to encourage women from BAME communities to enter the film industry, we provided practical working opportunity to a talented, young disadvantaged girl who worked with us a runner. She penned a beautiful poetry for the film which we are excited to showcase at our film’s premiere and are super proud of her journey to date. Finally, ITSY would have been impossible without the passionate commitment of the cast and crew who worked with us on humble rates whilst others forego their fee entirely for a good cause. It is humbling and very kind of them and I hope they all are as proud of the final product as I am because without them and the support of our sponsors, donors and partners, ITSY would still just be an inspired idea.

What do you hope to achieve with this film?

PP: The production company’s goal is to showcase ITSY at film festivals and eventually on digital and other distribution platforms globally. Post the festival run, the charity is excited to showcase the film in local boroughs and educational institutions as part of it’s social impact strategy in 2019.

Director Biography – Julia Trofimova (Eulogy for Denis K. )

Director Biography – Julia Trofimova

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Julia Trofimova was born in a Russian town of Kaluga, moved to Moscow when she was sixteen. She studied Economics in the Moscow State University and worked as a strategy consultant for 10 years.
In the middle of her career she decided to change her life completely and started studying first screenwriting and then directing in New York Film Academy and Moscow Film School. Her experience in strategy helped her play both Director and Producer role for her student film “I’m Game” and her debut film “Eulogy for Denis K.”


Director Statement


This film is about acceptance. It is about the learning to accept life as it is, even if it’s not ideal. It is about accepting affairs of your husband, betrayal of your friends and even death. It is an attempt to find the way to treat all of it a bit less seriously.
The sub-theme of the film is the question of the truth or rather a truth. Do we know the whole truth and are we ready for it? Should we aspire to know it all, if it’s never the full picture?
We talk about it in a not too serious tone, without too much drama, via soft warm colours, ironic smiles and jazz.

Director Biography – Sarah Gonyea (A VOICE FOR CHANGE: THE LAURA HILLIER STORY)

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Sarah Gonyea is a Sheridan student studying film. A Voice for Change: The Laura Hillier Story is her Documentary directing debut.

Director Statement

This is a documentary very close to my heart, as Laura and I started this together before she pasted. She was a close friend of mine and when this situation just started to spiral we both knew that this had to be documented. Unfortunately she became too ill to continue working on it. With the help from my peers at school we were able to complete it this year.

Director Biography – Lisa Donato

Director Biography

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Lisa Donato is a writer, director, and activist from Billings, Montana and based in Austin & Los Angeles. The first feature film that she co-wrote, Signature Move, world-premiered at SXSW and won the grand jury prize for Best U.S. Narrative Feature at Outfest (2017). It can be found on Amazon Prime, Google Play, and iTunes. Her short films have won many awards on the festival circuit, including best LGBTQ short at Cannes: Emerging Filmmaker Showcase (Spunkle, 2017) and the Ron Kovic Peace Prize at My Hero (Reclaiming Pakistan, 2017). She was one of 35 short film directors short-listed for the UK Iris Prize (The News Today, 2017).

Her magic-wand wish is to bring queer and marginalized stories to mainstream audiences around the world. Other story and directing credits include shows for National Geographic Wild, Oprah Winfrey Network, PBS, published personal essays in the LA Times, Self Magazine, Curve Magazine, Austin Women, Whole Life Times, 5280 Magazine and multiple short films and music videos.

Director Biography – Isabella Tan (LOLA)

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Isabella Tan is from South East Asia and is now an aspiring director and cinematographer based out of New York. Her work largely includes directing and shooting short films, music videos, fashion films, documentaries and commercials. She also freelances as a notable fashion portrait photographer. As a visual artist, she creates stories with a sense of surrealism, focusing on conveying the complexity of human emotions.

Director Statement

Lola is a coming of age film about a young Asian American teenager living a secret life as a webcam girl. The film explores the complicated dynamics within Asian families, challenges the sexualization of Asian women, portrays the consequences of sexual abuse and the struggle of finding oneself. LOLA encourages the audience to think about the meaning of self-worth and self-acceptance through the eyes of a teenage girl who was forced to grow up too fast.