2021 Directors

Yuan Yuan / China


Yuan Yuan is a Chinese writer and director based in New York. She is an MFA student at New York University, where she is named as an Ang Lee Scholar and Spike Lee Film Production Fellow. After graduating from Shanghai Theatre Academy with a BA in directing, she began working in script development for Oscar-winning producer Bill Kong (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Lust,” “Caution”). In 2017, Yuan entered grad school to follow her dream in storytelling. Yuan’s short films have screened at many festivals worldwide and won awards at DGA Student Film Award, Aspen ShortsFest, and Palm Springs among others. She is developing her first feature film.

Shira Farber / Israel


Shira Farber is an actress, writer, director recipient of the American-Israeli Foundation Excellence in the Arts scholarship and an Israeli Oscar Nominee. Shira served in a military entertainment group, holds a BFA from Tel-Aviv University Film School, and is studying for MFA there. She is also a graduate of the prestigious Nissan Nativ Acting Studio, where she currently teaches. Shira played in all the major Israel theater companies and in many TV productions and short films. As a writer, Shira has created features and pilots for Israeli television. Currently, Shira performs in two monodramas, both at the Cameri (of her own play) and at the “Tzavta” theater.

Sonia Bertotti / Argentina


Sonia Bertotti studied film directing at CIEVYC and professional photography at the Maestro Quinquela School of Photography and Visual Arts. She graduated with a degree in teaching Audiovisual Arts from the National University of San Martín and from the National School of Cinematographic Experimentation and Realization. She has directed more than 14 short films and 30 video clips, for which she received 25 national and international awards. Her short film “La Playita,” winner of the Short Stories contest of the National Institute of Cinema and Audiovisual Arts in 2017 and is in pre-production of her first fiction feature film “El Impenetrable,” winner of the Opera Prima contest, organized by INCAA.

Shoko Hara / Japan


Shoko Hara was born in Okayama, Japan. At the age of 10, her family moved to Lake Constance in Germany. In 2012, she obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Media Design at the DHBW Ravensburg. Her graduation film, “Abita,” receives critical acclaim and is screened at festivals around the world. With her emphasis on experimental works in graphic design and art, Shoko then studied Motion Design at the Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg, where her senior film was selected best student film at Animafest Zagreb 2016. Shoko currently teaches Motion Graphics at the DHBW Ravensburg and works as Freelance Motion Designer and Animation Director for commercial spots and music videos.

Megan Petersen / U.S.


Megan Petersen is best known for her one-line role as “nurse” on House of Cards. Thus, she decided to create films to provide roles for and to tell stories about women. After her first short film, “IF,” found success in festivals, she realized her ability to create meaningful content to shift perspectives. She teamed up with Hannah Black, her best friend, and business partner, to co-create and co-direct their first feature film, “Drought.” In 2017, “Drought” added executive producers Mark and Jay Duplass to the team through the Hometown Heroes Rally. In addition to being a part of the educational team for Seed & Spark, she teaches acting for the camera at Actor’s Arsenal in Wilmington.

Robin Cloud / U.S.


Robin Cloud is a Los Angeles-based comedian, writer, and director. Her first narrative short, “Out Again,” was executive produced by Refinery29 as part of its Shatterbox Anthology and premiered in March 2017, receiving more than 2 million views. It also screened at over 45 film festivals and counting. Her docuseries, “Passing: A Family in Black & White,” executive produced by Topic/First Look Media, premiered in July 2019. She graduated cum laude from Howard University’s School of Communications where she studied film under Haile Gerima. Her production company, Cloud Creative Media, was launched in March of 2016 and focuses on creating independent narrative and documentary films and series.

Melissa Lowery / U.S.


Melissa Lowery graduated from Pacific University in Oregon in the fall of 2009 with a BA in Media. After graduation, she worked on several short independent film projects, commercials, and a web series around the Portland area. “Black Girl In Suburbia” is her first feature documentary based on her own experiences growing up as one of a few African Americans in a predominately white suburb. Melissa is drawn to documentaries because they allow her to tell truthful stories and experiences like the ones in “Black Girl In Suburbia.” She is also currently the Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Jesuit High School Portland.

Lauraine Escaffre / France


Lauriane Escaffre began by writing for the theater having written and directed “Pulsations” in 2007. The same year, she won the script award from the Lutins du Court Métrage, for the short film “A Mère.” She gradually gravitated from theater to writing for film, eventually becoming interested in acting and cinematographic staging. After having assisted other directors affiliated with “le Happy Collectif,” it was therefore natural that she take her turn behind the camera to direct her first short, “Le Bon Mélange pour la Colle.” Her co-director on “Pile-Poil” Yvonnick Muller is also an actor and is known for “By a Hair” (2019), “Le déhanché d’Elvis” and “Mustang Sally” (2014).

Merryl Roche / France


Merryl Roche was born in Annecy, an alpine town in southeastern France, in 1987. She left the Alps for New York where she studied drama at the Atlantic Acting School before settling in Paris. Driven by the desire to tell her stories, in 2014 she directed her first self-produced short fiction film entitled “Rash,” which received laudatory articles in “L’Écran Fantastique” and on the foundfootagecritic.com, as well as being selected for several festivals. In 2017, she presented her new short film project “Nouvelle Saveur” to the competition circuit. She has also directed music videos for cult French avant-garde metal band Wormfood, and rising world-fusion group The Trouble Notes.

Jenn Ravenna Tran / U.S. (Seattle)


Jenn Ravenna Tran is an Asian-American emerging film director and cinematographer based in Seattle. Her goal is to connect people to one another through shared emotional experiences by visual storytelling. Her narrative short, “And Then,” screened at the 2021 Seattle Asian American Film Festival in March. After eight years as a concept artist and illustrator in the entertainment industry, Jenn says she had “fallen in love with cinematography and recently discovered my voice in film. There are many themes that surface in my film work–whirlwind romances, surrealism, memories and past lives, human growth, and acceptance, and being lost then found.”

Liat Glik / Israel


Born in Tel Aviv, Liat Glik, graduated from the prestigious Nissan Nativ Acting Studio where she won several scholarships. In the Cameri Theatre of Tel Aviv she had leading roles in productions (best promising actress award). Her filmography as an actress includes films such as “Kippur” by Amos Gitai. “Love” by Vladan Nikolic, “Under Western Eyes” by Joseph Pitchhadze, “Giraffes” by Tzahi Grad, and many more. In 2011, she graduated with honors from the Minshar School of Art, Film Department, and finished her graduation film “Bright Night,” which was accepted into the Berlin film festival as well as many others. Currently, she’s filming her first feature called “Clinging.”

Hannah Black / U.S.


Hannah Black is an actor, writer, director from Wilmington, North Carolina. After a short career in teaching, she found herself craving a different path and decided to enroll in acting classes at Actor’s Arsenal. During a two-year Meisner program, she met her now business partner, collaborator, and best friend, Megan Petersen. They teamed up to create their first feature, “Drought” and brought in executive producers Mark and Jay Duplass through the Seed & Spark Hometown Heroes Rally in 2017. Along with co-creating, writing, co-directing, and acting in “Drought,” Hannah continues to train at Actor’s Arsenal and works at a local breakfast spot.

Marziyeh Riahi / Iran


Iranian director Marziyeh Riahi is editor-in-chief of Short Film News, Asia’s first website specializing in short films and documentaries. She is a member of The Network for Promotion of Asian & Asia Pacific Cinema (NETPAC). She graduated in Cinema at the University of Applied Science and Technology in Tehran and graduated in Film Directing at the Iranian Youth Cinema Society. “Driving Lessons” is her first short film and was named best short narrative at the 21st Through Women’s Eyes International Film Festival in Sarasota, Florida. It also won awards in three categories, including best direction and best screenplay, at the CineVoyage Film Festival in Mumbai, India.

Julie Herlocker / U.S.


An emerging director for the DGA’s 2019-2020 DDI Mentorship Program, Julie Herlocker learned the art of crafting a story as a post producer on one-hour dramas. She worked her way up in indie films, starting as a set PA, then grip/electric, second AD, and line producer before moving into episodic television. She also knows VFX, as seen in her directing debut of NBC’s “Grimm” (S6 Ep. 6) “Breakfast in Bed.” Drawn to character pieces with an edge, she’s developing a high-tension dramedy feature, a horror short, and is set to direct the pilot for the series “Solanna,” the story of a young woman and her beloved horse.

Chloé Léonil / France


Chloé Léonil comes from Montpellier in the South of France. She studied History and Theater in Paris before joining l’Institut National Supérieur des Arts du Spectacle et des Techniques de Diffusion (INSAS) in Brussels. During her studies, she directed short fiction films and documentaries, always having the heart to deal with social issues on an intimate scale. “Gold Plated/Plaque Or” is her graduation film. She received Young Cineastes Award special mention from the Palm Springs International Film Festival. In June, she is set to shoot a new short film on a West Indies island and she is currently in the process of writing her first feature film.

Bonnie Discepolo / U.S.


Bonnie Discepolo is a director and co-screenwriter of comedy short “GraceLand.” Their El Mariachi-style “Grandma’s House,” screened during the 2018 SXSW Film Festival. El Rey also acquired their award-winning horror short “Three-Legged Dog” (Indie Grits 2018, Best Dark Comedy Short Atlanta Underground Horror Fest 2017). Discepolo is featured in The Wrap’s Oscar Contenders Showcase 2019 for father-daughter connection drama “Real.Live.Girl.” An award-winning actor themselves, they now spend most of their time behind the lens. Audiences may recognize Bonnie as a participant in Robert Rodriguez’s docuseries “Rebel Without a Crew.” They are an alum of Boston University’s College of Fine Arts and the Moscow Art Theater School.

Dima Hamdan / Germany


Dima Hamdan is a Palestinian screenwriter and filmmaker based in Berlin. She spent over 10 years working with the BBC Arabic & World Service as a journalist. The stories she covered during that time inspired many ideas for her short films and feature projects. Her film, “The Bomb,” was produced financial support from the local ministry for culture in Berlin. The story of the film was inspired by the experience of her Syrian friends in Berlin, who were struggling to set up new homes in exile while dealing with their own families. It was also inspired by the experiences of her own family in exile and the fear of repeated displacement.

Larissa Lam / U.S.


A UCLA graduate and native of Diamond Bar, California, Larissa Lam is a director, writer, and producer who previously directed the award-winning short film, “Finding Cleveland.” She has produced TV shows, music videos, and “A Day in the Life of an Engineer” for Intel’s “Stay With It” campaign. She was also selected for the Smithsonian’s History Film Forum Emerging Filmmakers Lab. She also produced and directed a series of PSAs for a national suicide prevention campaign. Prior to making films, Lam carved out a distinguished career in music and has written music for film, TV, and video games. She is also an award-winning singer and co-hosts the podcast, “Love, Discovery and Dim Sum” with her husband, Baldwin Chiu.

Caroline Vignal / France


The daughter of a diplomat, Caroline Vignal spent her childhood in North Africa. She earned her literary baccalaureate in 1989 in Tunisia. Then in 1992, she added a Modern Arts degree in Media Technology and Language from the Sorbonne in France. She then studied at La Fémis, the French state film school, from which she graduated in 1997. Her graduation work would later become the screenplay for her future film “Les Autres Filles” in 2000. She also made the short film “Roule ma poule” in 1999. From 2002 to 2010, Caroline wrote for the theater and for the radio station France Culture, as well as several scripts for television

Cate Carson / U.S.


Cate Carson is a writer/director with award-winning feature screenplays and short films, including the national wildcard-winning Lionsgate/ WIF short “Masque,” which also earned her a directing nod at the Women in Film Crystal + Lucy Awards. As a director selectee for the Alliance of Women Directors Short Film Program grant, her film, “Of Mine,” recently premiered at Disney Animation Studios. Prior to her film work, she served 10 years as a decorated military police officer and instructor and transitioned to Intelligence during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. She has also served as a victim’s advocate and civilian detective, which has provided a bedrock of knowledge about human connection and behavior.

Janire Etxabe / Spain


Janire Etxabe has been climbing “dressed in white” mountains since an early age. Her passions combine big rocks and rope–as she spends most of her time climbing rocks and dancing with her rope. Although for years she studied flamenco and stylized dance, in 2017 she became totally immersed in “vertical dance,” thus combining her two passions into unique performances. She also founded the cultural group Dimegaz that creates artistic endeavors in the natural spaces of Basque Country. She has a degree in Fine Arts, a diploma in early childhood education and therapeutic pedagogy. She can’t stop creating and is always looking for new “air lines” up in the mountains.

Sofia Alaoui / Morocco


Born in Casablanca, Sofia Alaoui was quickly put on a plane to Beijing. Her parents, thirsty for discovering Asia, took her to travel the Silk Road, Mongolia, Petit Tibet, Cambodia, but as a child, she described it as “going around in circles.” A gift from her father–a camera she called her “third arm”–was a welcome distraction. She then added storylines, friends, and props to make a film. She says her “desire for cinema is only growing.” She has directed both documentary and fiction shorts that have been selected for many festivals. She is currently developing her first feature and TV series. She founded the Moroccan production company Jiango Film.

Ewa Lang / Poland


Ewa Lang studied psychology at University of Wroclaw and Universidad di Valencia, Fashion design at Central Saint Martins in London, and graduated from Krzysztof Kieslowski Film School in Film and Stage Directing. She has worked in film as a production manager, second unit assistant director, and camera and electrical. She is also an accomplished photographer and commercial filmmaker. “You Haven’t Seen What I’ve Seen” is her directorial debut, securing a nomination for best short film from the Milan International Film Festival. She is a member of Polish Filmmakers Association and lives and works in Milan

Lisa Jespersen / Denmark


Lisa Jespersen was born in the countryside of Denmark in 1988. Her interest in filmmaking grew as she attended the European Film College and later studied film directing at the National Film School of Denmark. She has made a handful of short films–all with an interest in the comic aspect of people’s existential crises. Her graduation film “September” received much attention for its precise and very emphatic portrait of a woman in her sixties and the difficulties that come with that age. “Persona non Grata” is Lisa’s feature film debut, produced by Hyæne Film.

Aimee Long / U.S.


Aimee Long was raised in Paris, Beijing, and the San Francisco Bay Area. After switching careers from mathematical algorithms to directing films, she went on to attend UCLA film school. In 2016, Aimee co-founded Kings Road Pictures to develop and produce feature-length films with a socially conscious message, reflecting the realities of today with the dream of future possibilities


Loretta Todd / Canada


Zhenia Kazankina / U.S.


Zhenia Kazankina is a writer and director from Moscow whose work revolves around issues of selfperception, comingofage, absurdity, and dreams. She is a Gerasimov Institute of cinematography (VGIK) graduate (2019). “Rio” was her graduation film and she told an interviewer at Orvieto Cinemafest that she worried she might let her film school mentors down, but then she viewed the process not as a student, but as an artist “collecting moments.” Her short films have played at several festivals, including the Palm Springs International FilmFestival, and one was also broadcast on PBS station KCET in Los Angeles. Currently, she works as a writer/ director/ editor on commercials and music videos.

Janna Ji Wonders / Germany


Born in Mill Valley, California to a German mother and an American father, Janna Ji Wonders grew up near Lake Walchensee in Bavaria. She studied at the University of Film and Television in Munich and shot numerous music videos. Her short documentaries “Bling Bling,” about the gangster rap scene in Los Angeles, and “Street Punk Moscow,” about young punks in the suburbs of Moscow, won several awards. Her feature film “I Remember” was selected for the 2015 Perspektive Deutsches Kino of Berlinale.