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NARRATIVE GRAND JURY
Senior Vice President, SnagFilms
Damian Benders is a leading digital entertainment executive and an independent producer with over 15 years of experience growing media brands and cultivating passionate audiences. He is currently a Senior Vice President at SnagFilms, an award-winning social video-viewing platform that offers entertainment lovers an extensive library of free independent films available on demand. Prior to SnagFilms, Damian was the Head of Marketing for Cinetic Rights Management (FilmBuff) where he oversaw marketing for the digital release of such films as Exit Through the Gift Shop, The Way, Nice Guy Johnny and PressPausePlay. Damian has designed and launched digital media products on a national and international level in the print, music and film industries. As a successful technology and marketing executive, Damian has held senior digital leadership positions in a number of Fortune 500 companies including Knight Ridder, Inc., American Express and Metro International. Damian earned a BBA in Information Technology Management from The College of William & Mary and an MBA in Marketing and Media Strategy from New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business.
Celebrity Editor, The Huffington Post
Leigh Blickley is the Celebrity Editor of The Huffington Post‘s Entertainment section. She currently resides in New York City, where she conducts interviews with some of Hollywood’s brightest stars and attends events, screenings and red carpets for buzzworthy films that are about to hit the box office. Leigh has also been a panelist on Music Choice’s “Inside Rising Star” and has appeared on shows including “HuffPost Live,” “Entertainment Tonight,” “Inside Edition” and “Fuse News.” Prior to working at HuffPost, she was an Online Editor at OKmagazine.com and began her career at HollywoodLife.com.
Head of Digital Distribution, A24 Films
Rebecca Sosa oversees VOD, DVD and ancillary opportunities as Head of Digital Distribution for A24, the studio that recently released Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring and James Ponsoldt’s The Spectacular Now. Prior to A24, Rebecca worked as the Programming Manager at FilmBuff devising digital release strategies for films and crafting the best approach to maximize exposure and revenue to platforms around the world. She has also held various roles at WE tv, City Lights Pictures, Focus Features, ABC News 20/20 and Seventeen Magazine. Rebecca is originally from the great state of Texas and now resides in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.
DOCUMENTARY GRAND JURY
Manager of Theatrical Sales, IFC Films
Justin DiPietro is the Manager of Theatrical Sales for IFC Films three distribution labels, IFC Films, Sundance Selects and IFC Midnight. In addition to this position, he is also the head of Non-Theatrical Sales for IFC Films, where he supplies films to colleges, universities and museums nationwide. Over the past six years with IFC, he has had the privilege to work on films that include Boyhood, Palme d’Or Winner 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Gomorrah, Sleepwalk With Me and the recent Academy Award ® nominee How to Survive a Plague. Prior to working at IFC Films, he worked in sales with Walt Disney’s Distribution Company, Buena Vista Pictures, which included work on films such as The Sixth Sense, High Fidelity, and Unbreakable. He spent time studying between SUNY Purchase and SUNY New Paltz. He currently resides in Sea Cliff, NY.
Partner, Game 7 Films
Josh is currently a partner in NY based production company Game 7 Films, which produces feature films and short form branded and commercial content. His recent film production credits include: Seasons of Love (Lifetime TV, Producer), a romantic drama starring Gladys Knight, Method Man and Taraji P. Henson; Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey (Cinedigm/Independent Lens, Executive Producer), a documentary on iconic American rock band Journey and their Filipino lead singer discovered on Youtube; I Want My Name Back (Image/BET, Producer), a documentary on hip hop pioneers, the original Sugarhill Gang; and Kassim the Dream (IFC Films/ESPN, Executive Producer), a documentary on Ugandan child soldier turned boxing champion Kassim Ouma. Prior to starting Game 7 in 2010, Josh was VP, Distribution for NY indie distribution/exhibition entity Emerging Pictures where he represented and released more than 50 film titles over a ten plus year period.
Senior Publicist, Allied Integrated Marketing
Liz Owens is a senior publicist with Allied Integrated Marketing where she currently oversees publicity and promotional campaigns in New England for Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Classics, and Roadside Attractions theatrical releases. She began her film career as an intern at Allied while attending Northeastern University, returning to promote films fulltime in 2004. Over the past decade she has had the privilege of working with innumerable filmmakers including documentarians Errol Morris, Malik Bendjelloul, Joe Berlinger and Morgan Spurlock.
NEW HAMPSHIRE JURY
Host, Greg and the Morning Buzz
Greg Kretschmar is the host of popular morning radio show Greg and the Morning Buzz, heard on 100.3 WHEB, Rock 101-WGIR FM, The Hawk- 104.9FM, WWOD-93.9FM and KOOL 96.3FM during weekdays from 5:30 AM – 10 AM. In his own words, “I’m a normal guy, in an abnormal job. I’m a NH guy, born and raised. I have a wife (Valerie) and two kids (Caitlin and Tyler) – and because of them, I’m the luckiest guy in the world. UNH Graduate (84) and proud of it. I was the audio/visual aide in high school – so if you’re overhead projector needed fixin’ – I got the call over the p.a. (Mad props to all my A/V geeks out there!) I’ve been doing mornings since 1987 – and believe it or not – I still really enjoy it. It’s great getting to come in to work everyday- work with the people I do, and talking to and with all of you tuning in! We try to make the show like you were entering into your living room, and all of your friends are there. Its casual, fluid, and sometimes famous people drop in.”
Sophia was raised and home-schooled by hippies in the woods of New Hampshire, where she was given ample freedom to explore nature, storytelling and her own imagination. Sophia studied dance extensively while acting in theater productions and having her writing published, all before entering Smith College at 17 to double major in Film and Theater, where she concentrated on Dramatic Writing and Directing. She graduated with top honors and received the institution’s yearly writing award for a play that was subsequently produced. Sophia continued to star on the stage while living abroad in New Zealand, and came to Los Angeles in 2009 where she spent over three years as a staff writer for Indiewire and Thompson on Hollywood. While learning the industry from this vantage point, she continued training as an actor and produced her directorial debut, Empyrean. The short film, which she also wrote, starred in and co-edited, went on to play the festival circuit and win “NH Short of the Year” at the New Hampshire Film Festival and “Best Director” from the Amsterdam Film Festival. Sophia’s first narrative feature is now in development. She recently shot her first documentary while volunteering in a rural school in Nepal.
Arts Writer, The Hippo Press
Kelly Sennott is is the arts writer for The Hippo Press, New Hampshire’s largest weekly publication that covers news, arts, entertainment, and answers that vexing question of what to do this weekend. For the past three years, she’s written about art, theater, music, books and film for the paper, which covers the better part of Southern New Hampshire and can be found at more than 1,000 locations. She’s also a New Hampshire native and UNH grad.