Past Speakers

2015 Speakers: 

James SteveSteve James is an award winning documentary filmmaker. In addition to his extensive documentary work, he directed the 1997 feature film Prefontaine and the TV movies Passing Glory and Joe and Max. One of his more recent films, The Interrupters, a portrayal of a year inside the lives of former gang members in Chicago who now intervene in violent conflicts, was released in January 2011, after premiering at the Sundance Film Festival. The film is his sixth feature length collaboration with his long-time filmmaking home, the non-profit Chicago production studio Kartemquin Films, and is also his fifth feature to be accepted into the Sundance Film Festival. Most recently Steve James directed the award winning documentary feature, Life Itself, about the film critic, Roger Ebert. He also directed other award winning feature documentaries including Stevie, and Hoop Dreams.


Caitlin BoyleCaitlin Boyle, executive director of Film Sprout, is a pioneer of grassroots distribution for independent films, Caitlin began her career as a journalist, working on staff at NPR affiliates WFIU and WFUV and at New York’s flagship PBS station, WNET. She graduated summa cum laude from Columbia University in 2003, with a degree in American history, and completed a Master’s in journalism from the Indiana University Graduate School of Journalism in 2005. After founding Film Sprout in 2009, she became a leading voice for the nontraditional distribution of documentary films in community settings, and a champion of films’ power to effect grassroots social change. Her presentations on grassroots film distribution have rallied filmmakers at SXSW, Hot Docs, IFP, Sheffield Doc/Fest, RIDM, Los Angeles Film Festival, the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and The New York Foundation for the Arts, among others. She serves on the board of Brooklyn documentary center UnionDocs, and has participated in the advisory board of NYU’s Cinema Research Institute and the documentary advisory committee of the Paley Center for Media.


ellis_curt_lgCurt Ellis is an American filmmaker, social entrepreneur, and advocate for sustainable agriculture and healthy food. He serves as co-founder and Executive Director of the nonprofit organization FoodCorps. He shared a Peabody Award in 2008 for King Corn, which he co-produced and starred in, and in 2011 he won the Heinz Award for his work in the sustainable food movement.





Courtney_explainsCourtney Hermann is an award-winning independent documentary filmmaker and film and video educator from Portland, Oregon. Her most recent independent films include Crying Earth Rise Up (2015), funded by, and aired on PBS nationwide this April; Exotic World and the Burlesque Revival (2012), and Standing Silent Nation (2007), which aired on PBS’s Emmy-award winning documentary series, P.O.V. and featured daily at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. in 2008. She is on the faculty of Portland State University, the Northwest Film Center and NW Documentary Arts & Media. She holds an MFA degree in Film and Video Production from Columbia College Chicago, where she studied with Michael Rabiger and Herb DiGioia.


Greg Snider Blue Chalk editor Greg Snider‘s work includes the HBO documentary feature HOW TO DIE IN OREGON, winner of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival Documentary Grand Jury Award. Greg’s editorial work on this film also won him the prestigious Karen Schmeer Award For Excellence in Documentary Editing. Greg recently edited the feature documentary, THE WINDING STREAM – THE CARTERS, THE CASHES AND THE COURSE OF COUNTRY MUSIC. The film premiered at SXSW and won Best Music Movie at the Cleveland Int’l Film Festival; Best Feature Documentary Awards at the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival and The Chicago Int’l Movie & Music Festival; and the Audience Awards at The Woods Hole Film Festival and The Northwest Filmmakers’ Festival. Greg edited FACING THE STORM, STORY OF THE AMERICAN BISON, a co-production of High Plains Films, ITVS and Montana PBS. The film aired nationally on PBS’ Independent Lens, 2012.

His work also includes editing THE REAL DIRT ON FARMER JOHN, winner of multiple film festival awards including the Audience Award at Slamdance, 2005. The documentary feature received international theatrical distribution and aired nationally on PBS. Greg edited the feature documentary PURVIS OF OVERTOWN, winner of the Best Documentary Award at the Florida Film Festival and the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival. Also RIDIN’ & RHYMIN’, winner of the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival’s Big Sky Award for Best Film about the American West. The film aired on Oregon and Wyoming public television. Greg is currently editing the feature documentary AMERICA’S FIRST FOODIE: THE INCREDIBLE LIFE OF JAMES BEARD – directed by Beth Federici

Greg has edited a number of films for the National Park and Forest Services, including theatrical films on permanent display at Death Valley National Park, the Tongass National Forest, Great Basin National Park, and Gates Of The Arctic National Park.


D.Smallman_GlacierDawn Smallman is a documentary filmmaker and the Festival Director/Programmer of the Portland EcoFilm Festival. The Portland EcoFilm Festival is an annual festival and year-round film series that connects audiences to the best in environmental filmmaking, uses films to engage audiences in environmental advocacy and provides support for filmmakers as they release their films into public view. Dawn was an Associate Programmer at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival from 2010-2014. She has directed and produced many films for museums and public visitor centers, including the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center in Alaska and the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Texas. Dawn’s films have received numerous film festival awards, Telly Awards, Communicator Awards and have aired nationally on PBS WORLD.


Amy Benson is the co-owner of Nonfiction Media, a production company in Seattle. She has shot and edited over 25 short films telling the stories of nonprofits in the Pacific Northwest, Africa and Asia. Her personal documentary short— THREE: IMPRESSIONS FROM THE STRUGGLE FOR GIRLS’ EDUCATION was the centerpiece of the UNIFEM Singapore film festival. Another short, CALLED TO SHINE, about Clarksdale, Mississippi’s only female preacher, premiered at the Langston Hughes film festival. Her very first short about the life in a local homeless encampment won awards from SIFF and The Seattle Times. This is her first feature film.


Scott Squire is a lifelong photographer with a masters in journalism (UC Berkeley). His work on a homeless children living in Bucharest earned him the Dorothea Lange Fellowship and the Susan Meiselas Fellowship from UC Berkeley. Scott’s photo essay on Cairo street café culture was featured on PBS’s Frontline World website. His first book, Edges of Bounty (2009, Heyday Press), is a fine art documentary photo essay on small scale, independent food production in the Central Valley of California. This is his first feature film.