VWI 2022 Winner and Jurors

Meet Voices With Impact’s 2022 filmmakers and jurors!


Over 300 filmmaking teams submitted proposals for last year’s Voices With Impact program. The faces you see here are the people who demonstrated the artistic vision, creative might, and organizational skills to create exceptional short films on a tight budget, and in a short time period.

1990s Chris

1990s Chris is a queer, working class poet, writer and filmmaker from Hereford, working in the midlands and the south west. Writing primarily for film and audio, Chris has written radio plays for BBC Radio 4 and BBC Arts, as well as working on a number of projects for Channel 4’s Random Acts. His short film, Factory Talk, made in collaboration with Lucie Rachel won best artist film at Aesthetica Film Festival in 2021. Chris has performing across the UK, supporting Sleaford Mods, Billy Nomates, Vlure and Talk Show at venues such as The 100 Club, Tobacco Factories, The Eden Project and the Royal Albert Hall. Recently Chris has had work broadcast on the radio after the Archers and on TV after the Simpsons. His work hopes to start conversations around queer identity, masculinity, mental health and class.

Film: Save the Queen

Synopsis: The lad just likes a pint down the pub, a laugh, a good knees up – nothing wrong with that, is there? Save the Queen is a spoken word film exploring the undertones of British drinking culture through the reality of a young man hovering on the edge of addiction.

Alexander Nystrom

Alexander Nystrom is an Ojibwe writer, producer and director from Minneapolis, Minnesota. He has written and directed several short films including ADDAM, which received the Promising Filmmaker Grant at the Louisiana Film Prize. Alexander currently works as a director’s assistant to Amman Abbasi, director of DAYVEON (Sundance Film Festival ‘17) and the upcoming feature, THE QUENCH. Alex last produced the documentary short, UDAAN (SOAR), for Hindsight Project 2020 via Firelight Media, which premiered at AFI DOCS 2021. Alexander most recently was selected to be a fellow in the 2021 Native American Media Alliance’s TV Writer’s Lab, developing a pilot called BETWEEN, an hour-long supernatural mystery series that follows a headstrong Native man who protects his disappearing island from evil forces beyond his control.

Film: Until Our Spirits Meet Again

Synopsis: A young Ojibwe boy walks with the spirit of his late father on a four night journey to the afterlife as they both reckon with their grief along the way.

Asha Alaji-Sharif

Asha Alaji-Sharif is a recent Howard University Graduate and Visual Artist from Atlanta, Georgia who enjoys telling stories through mediums ranging from paper to film. She released a feature documentary in 2019 titled, The New Black and currently works as a Presentation Designer while dabbling in content creation in her free time.

Film: Bloom

Synopsis: A short documentary that follows the story of Dillon, his experience with substance use disorder and his journey to improve his life and his community.

Athena Russell

With over 30+ credits and awards to her name as a producer, Athena has quickly become one of Vancouver’s most sought-after indie filmmakers. She has produced for the likes of CW Seed, The Harold Greenberg Fund, Creative BC, The National Film Board, Tongal, and Telus Storyhive, with her films having screened and won numerous awards at film festivals around the world including Just For Laughs, Fantasia Film Festival, Palm Springs International Film Festival, Aesthetica Film Festival, Oaxaca International Film Festival, New York Comedy Festival, Atlanta Comedy Festival, Portland Film Festival, and Calgary International Film Festival. Most recently her film FREYA screened and won ‘Audience Choice for Best Short Narrative’ at the Newport Beach Film Festival.

Film: Once Upon a Time…

Synopsis: Through the lens of a fairytale, she presents to her class, a young girl shares the reality of her life living with an alcoholic parent.

David Telles

Mr. Telles is a Chicano filmmaker from Oakland, CA. He began his career working in documentary film and directing music videos for local Bay Area rap artists. Both mediums continue to influence his work today as a writer/director. David believes that stories can be medicine. He strives to make art that challenges the status quo and provides a decolonized perspective on culture, identity and issues of social justice.

Film: The Sunset Special

Synopsis: A young Diné woman struggles with the process of burying her recently deceased father on the reservation. The cultural Diné taboo surrounding death keeps her from properly grieving as it has been overrun by funeral homes and mortuaries preying on the vulnerable. She envisions a newer and ancient way of respectfully laying her father to rest while grappling with the realities of a quick talking casket salesman.

Feyannie Hung

Feyannie Hung was born and raised in Taipei, Taiwan. Fey graduated from the University of British Columbia Film Production. With a strong interest in humanity, culture, and history, she is now working in Netflix’s latest show “Avatar: The Last Airbender” as an Extras Casting Associate. She produced and directed short films, Especially Joy (2019), Midlife (2019), Cheers! (2019), The First Coffee (2020), American Girl (2021), and more. She has been nominated in Leo Awards, Golden Light Film Festival, and Vancouver Short Film Festival. She has acted in Harmony, written and directed by Alejandro Yoshizawa (2018), and was nominated at the Vancouver Asian Film Festival and Seattle Asian American Film Festival in 2019. Feyannie’s previous work includes as a public speaker for her published book: A Different 15: Make Dreams Fly (Taiwan). She was the festival director for the Persistence of Vision Film Festival 30th in 2020.

Film: Coming Home to Myself

Synopsis: A view inside the realities and uniqueness of Substance Use Disorder, a perspective on why people with this disorder often get pushed to the sidelines of society.

Humirah Sultani

Humirah Sultani is a self-taught creative based out of Calgary, Alberta. Inspired by her dual cultural identity, Humirah is working on a photography project to recover and redefine Hazara visual identity in the Afghan diaspora, which has been misused for centuries to persecute the Hazara people. She is also co-developing and facilitating an online competition for Afghan Canadian youth in the spirit of processing intergenerational trauma through creativity. She participated in AAAWA’s Afghan Literary Futures creative writing workshop series alongside Afghan American writers and artists.

With her parents’ encouragement, she took every opportunity to learn, recognizing education as a catalyst for freedom, independence and autonomy. As a career hospital pharmacist in pediatric oncology, she works closely with children and families that have inspired a deep sense of joy and hope, which has been imbued into her work. Her canvas includes traditional illustration, digital painting and animation infused with inspiration from her favourite artists, Yoshitaka Amano and Mahmoud Farshchian. Her poems, stories and stacks of sketches, paintings and paper craft have prepared her for this next challenge, her first animated short film, Paper Planes.

Film: Paper Planes

Synopsis: Vellum’s confidence erodes after losing his father and as sixth-grade graduation approaches, the local bullies try to keep him grounded while his small circle of friends do everything they can to lift him up.

Lane Michael Stanley

Lane Michael Stanley is a filmmaker, playwright, and producer, and the founder of Secretly Famous Productions, along with Lowell Blank. Their debut feature film ADDICT NAMED HAL has shown at Austin Film Festival, Santa Barbara International Film Festival, Dances with Films, Tallgrass Film Festival, and Big Bear Film Summit, where it won Best U.S. Narrative Feature. Lane’s short films have shown at many festivals, including Outfest, aGLIFF / Prism, Toronto Short Film Festival, and Big Apple Film Festival. Lane has been featured in the New York Times, USA Today, and the Austin Chronicle. They have won Best Director from Baltimore City Paper’s Best of Baltimore 2016, DC Metro Theatre Arts, and The Bad Oracle, and received the Mayor’s Individual Artist Award. They are a 2021 Playwriting Fellow with the Lambda Literary Writer’s Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ+ Voices. Their plays have been produced by 19 theaters in 8 states and Australia.


Synopsis: An experimental dance film exploring one person’s abuse of their opioid prescription following the death of their husband, and their eventual attempt to find recovery.

Lucie Rachel

Lucie Rachel is an artist-filmmaker focussing on intimate subject matter through an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach, moving between artist film and documentary genres. Since graduating from DJCAD in 2015 as one of the RSA New Contemporaries, Lucie has directed award winning short films with the Scottish Documentary Institute, Glasgow Film, Channel 4 Random Acts and Art With Impact. Their work has screened internationally at over 70 festivals including MoMA’s Doc Fortnight, Iris Prize, and #fivefilms4freedom selected by BFI and British Council. Alongside their practice, Lucie works on the artistic programme team at Lighthouse, Brighton, is film curator for Queer the Pier project, Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, and is a Shadow Trustee of the Royal Pavilion & Museums Trust.

Film: Save the Queen

Synopsis: The lad just likes a pint down the pub, a laugh, a good knees up – nothing wrong with that, is there? Save the Queen is a spoken word film exploring the undertones of British drinking culture through the reality of a young man hovering on the edge of addiction.

Marlena Robbins

Marlena Robbins is Diné (Navajo) from the Yeii Dine’e Táchii’nii (Giant Red Running into Water People) clan and grew up in Window Rock, AZ. She holds a master’s degree from Arizona State University in American Indian Studies – Indigenous Rights and Social Justice. She has served as the tribal liaison and cultural consultant for projects including Rez Ball, for El Ray Network – a short documentary about the Chinle Wildcats basketball team located on the Navajo reservation. She is the writer, producer and an actor in the short film Sunset Special, which advocates for the return to the traditional Navajo burial practice. Marlena is currently a doctoral student at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health.

Film: The Sunset Special

Synopsis: A young Diné woman struggles with the process of burying her recently deceased father on the reservation. The cultural Diné taboo surrounding death keeps her from properly grieving as it has been overrun by funeral homes and mortuaries preying on the vulnerable. She envisions a newer and ancient way of respectfully laying her father to rest while grappling with the realities of a quick talking casket salesman.

Monty Cole

Monty Cole is an award-winning theatre and film writer-director from Oak Park, IL. He has directed regional theatres across the country. Recently, Cole served as Guest Director and Film Coordinator for Reverb at University of Illinois in Chicago, workshopped his first feature film at the Center for New Performance in California as Artist in Residence. Cole is also a fellow at the Hermitage Artist Retreat and a Research Scholar of the Bridge to Faculty Program at UIC. This past Summer, Cole directed three short films: SIX FEET APART by Isaac Gomez, SONS OF TOLEDO, written by Cole and Matt Foss, and his own short, WHOLE. Coming up, Cole and Gomez will collaborate again on a devised film, La Vuelta. Monty has a BA in Theatre Studies from Emerson College and an MFA Directing degree from the California Institute of the Arts.

Film: Six Feet Apart

Synopsis: A queer Latinx man in a Texas border town remembers, and buries, his father within an unbearable reality.

Natalie Murao

Natalie Murao is a yonsei (fourth generation Japanese Canadian) filmmaker and educator from “Vancouver”. Her work explores themes of generational disconnect, personal memory, and communication. She aims to expand the notion of Asian diasporic cinema by creating an “in-betweenness” of styles that embody the diaspora itself.

Her most recent film, No More Parties (2020), was made with the help of the National Film Board of Canada’s Filmmaker Assistance Program and was selected for Telefilm Canada’s Not Short on Talent program at Clermont-Ferrand. It is now available to watch on digital TIFF Bell Lightbox as part of their Short Films, Big Ideas: Community Impact shelf.

Natalie is also a 2021 Sundance Ignite x Adobe Fellow and a programmer for the Vancouver Asian Film Festival. She is currently developing her first feature.

Film: Blue Garden

Synopsis: Blindness to a Blossom is a 5 minute hybrid/mixed-media film that retells the history of a Japanese Canadian fisherman who was forced to work on a tomato farm during the WW2 internment. The film explores how trauma can fester and family stories can remain unspoken for generations. However, through the participatory nature of filmmaking, the younger generation is able to reconcile their grief and feel empowered to tell their family history.

Nicole Kennedy

Nicole Kennedy is a Therapeutic Recreation student and has three years of honored Psychology degree with University of British Columbia. who is keenly interested in Mental Health advocacy and education. It is of great importance to Nicole Kennedy that the world begins to see and understand people who live with different mental health experiences. Nicole writes and gives speeches with the Schizophrenia Society of Saskatchewan. In addition, she was long-listed for the CBC nonfiction prize in 2020 for her essay “Schizophrenia is not a Swear Word,” which she is currently transforming into a longer piece. She is currently revising a poetry book, which she hopes to publish in 2022.

Film: Coming Home to Myself

Synopsis: A view inside the realities and uniqueness of Substance Use Disorder, a perspective on why people with this disorder often get pushed to the sidelines of society.

Sina Sultani

Sina Sultani is an 80-time award-winning writer, director, producer and member of the PGA and CMPA with recent participations in the Netflix Diversity of Voices initiative, Sony Diversity Mentorship program, New York-based Cinephilia Development Workroom and the Future Visions 21 program out of the Bavarian Film Centre in Munich. He is committed to ensuring equitable representation through cultural collaboration using his unique blend of indie filmmaking combined with his studio-level experience with ILM and Sony on projects such as Terminator: Dark Fate, Space Jam: A New Legacy and the upcoming Spider-Verse sequel. He’s currently in production on his first animated short while developing his first live-action, sci-fi feature.

Film: Paper Planes

Synopsis: Vellum’s confidence erodes after losing his father and as sixth-grade graduation approaches, the local bullies try to keep him grounded while his small circle of friends do everything they can to lift him up.


We relied on a dedicated group of mental health professionals, professional filmmakers, and subject matter experts on grief and resilience and/or substance use disorder to review the film proposals and select the teams whose visions would be funded through this project. The expert humans you see here are the generous and gracious judges who selected the winning filmmakers for this year’s Voices With Impact program.

Ansh Vohra

Ansh is a Toronto-based documentary filmmaker, creative director, and producer. His professional assignments span a wide array of audio-visual campaigns for clients like Google, Whatsapp, Atlas Obscura, and several other global brands and non-profits. He was one of 10 Canadian filmmakers invited to participate in the HotDocs Emerging Filmmakers Lab 2020 supported by Netflix, one of 12 artists from around the world chosen to attend the UnionDocs 2017 Collaborative Studio Fellowship in New York, and is a founder member of the Video Consortium – New Delhi. His work has been screened at the Oscar-qualifying DOCNYC , along with Nitehawk Shorts, Art of Brooklyn, and several other festivals.

Dr. Beverly Wallace

Dr. Wallace holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Welfare, a Masters of Education in Human Development and Family Studies, a Masters of Divinity, and a Ph.D. in Family Social Science from the University of Minnesota. She has authored several works including “Narratives of Grieving African Americans About Racism in the Lives of Deceased Family Members” and “A Womanist Legacy of Trauma, Grief, and Loss: Reframing the Notion of the Strong Black Woman Icon” and is the co-author of the book, “African American Grief”. Her current research includes understanding Community Trauma and End-of-Life Decisions among older African Americans and she’s currently writing her second book, “African American Grief – Revisited”.

Brian Douglas

Brian is a Registered Social Worker with a Masters degree from the University of Toronto and over a decade of experience working with children, youth and families. Drawing from a variety of therapeutic models, he believes that you are the expert on your life and his role is to facilitate conversations; to ask questions that bring out your strengths and that challenge you to get supportively uncomfortable. Brian is a school social worker providing support to children, youth and their families through a variety of struggles in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, and has experience facilitating grief groups for youth.

Campbell X

Campbell X is a writer/director who directed the award-winning queer urban romantic comedy feature film STUD LIFE. His film Stud Life was voted by the Guardian as one of the top 10 Black British feature films ever made. Campbell’s latest film Still We Thrive is a call for Black Joy in the face of trauma affecting our mental health. It is financed by Art With Impact and available free to view. Campbell is the Co-founder with Neelu Bhuman of Wahala Film Fund, a completion fund for short films by and about QTBIPOC people.

Carrie Arnold

Carrie Arnold obtained a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Psychology, a Master of Education (Counselling), both from the University of Western Ontario, and Ph.D. (Psychology) from Saybrook University in the Consciousness, Spirituality and Integrative Health specialization. She works as a counsellor, educator, and researcher, and has authored articles on issues related to the experiences of adolescent girls, attachment and loss, and edited a volume regarding bereaved children and adolescents. Additional research interests include medical assistance in dying (MAID), support following marital separation, and the use of photo narrative with bereaved university students. Carrie is currently an assistant professor, thanatology, and the Coordinator of The Grief and Loss Research Lab at King’s University College at Western University.

Chelsea Kurnick

Chelsea Kurnick (she/her) is a freelance journalist and a film programmer for Alexander Valley Film Festival. She is the chair of Positive Images, an LGBTQIA+ Center of Sonoma County, where she also co-facilitates a weekly peer support group for queer and trans adults. Kurnick received a 2019 Discovered Award for emerging Writers from Creative Sonoma. Mental health and healing justice are deeply important to her. Kurnick completed a 60-hour training program in crisis intervention and volunteered at a 24-hour crisis hotline. She covers Sonoma County’s crisis response in her journalism.

Daksha Arora

Daksha Arora (she/her) is a Licensed Mental Health Therapist and founder of Serene Therapy & Wellness Center located in Maryland. Dr. Arora has over 25 years of experience in mental health services, research, and program development across private, non-profit, government, and corporate sectors. She is passionate about helping others live this one life with peace, purpose, satisfaction, and serenity. She believes that psycho-social, emotional, and cognitive wellness are critical elements of overall well-being. Daksha integrates mindfulness, meditation, and self-compassion principles with professional counseling approaches in providing therapy for individuals, couples, and families seeking to live better, happier, more meaningful lives.

Dolka Michelle Zelaya

Dolka Michelle Zelaya is a Certified Prevention Specialist through the Prevention Credentialing
Consortium of Georgia (PCCG), as Project Coordinator for the National Hispanic and Latino Prevention Technology Transfer Center (PTTC). Zelaya firmly believes in the power of prevention. By unleashing the power of prevention through the extensive use of Evidence-Based Practices, comprehensive policies, we can help our youth, families and communities to become healthy. Her seventeen years of experience working in the prevention field with minorities is a vivid proof that prevention works! Zelaya has provided leadership for prevention programs at local, state
and national levels.

Dylan Dunn

Dylan Dunn, M.S. (he, him, his) currently serves on the SAFE Campuses team at SAFE Project. In his role, Dylan advises over 200 universities across the U.S. seeking to better serve students impacted by substance use disorders and prevent overdose. His work is inspired by experiences navigating the impacts of substance use and the drug trade on family and the role of educators in helping him find a way out. He is an alumnus of The Ohio State University and Colorado State University. Dylan spends free time with his dog Banjo, playing video games, and staying active at his local boxing gym.

Emilie Cheung

Emilie is a 20 year old shorts director based in the UK. After training with the BFI Film Academy in 2016, she made her directorial debut at 17, with a commission from Channel 4’s ‘Random Acts’, for her short film ‘Pas De Deux’. She’s since gone on to direct a variety of projects; from social media commercials for ‘Adolescent Content’, to narrative shorts, including Underwire nominated ‘Walk of Shame’. She is currently working as a Team Assistant at SISTER, an independent production company founded by Elisabeth Murdoch, Jane Featherstone and Stacey Snider.

Hao Zhao

Hao Zhou (he/they) is a filmmaker and photographer from Nanchuan, China. Hao develops work with experimental tendencies, centering LGBTQ+ characters and themes. Hao’s notable creative experiences include making two feature films, writing for Douban.com, and taking part in programs such as Cannes’ Cinéfondation Résidence and Berlinale Talents. Hao’s work has been screened at numerous festivals, including the Berlinale, Hong Kong, NewFest, Black Movie, and others. In 2021, Hao won a Voices With Impact grant to create “Frozen Out,” a short film on the theme of immigration and mental health, which won a Gold Medal at the 48th Student Academy Awards.

Jo Henry

Jo Henry (she/her) is a psychotherapist in Escondido California. She loves working with people who have experienced trauma, and life’s challenges. She have three adult children who have taught me a lot about how to help people through some of the darkest times in life including alcoholism, mental health issues, relationship breakups, and the path to reconciliation. Her passion is to see people grow and change and become the person they want to be. Jo loves seeing the proverbial lightbulb go on when someone gains insight into their person and their situation.

Jonathan Elliott

Jonathan Elliott (he/him) is a Tuscarora filmmaker from the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario. Since attending York University’s Film Production program, he has worked as a director and cinematographer on a variety of projects, including: Even in the Silence (Voices with Impact funded short film, entirely in the Mohawk language), Taken Home (Toronto Arts Council funded film), Her Water Drum (imagineNATIVE commissioned film), Wild Archaeology (APTN TV series), This Wild Season (imagineNATIVE 2017 film festival), Blood Child (Blood in the Snow film festival), Teens 101(CHCH broadcast), Glitch, Two Wolves and Fantome. Jonathan’s award-winning work has been nationally broadcast and screened at various film festivals internationally.

Judith Lavelle

Judy is a science writer at the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the largest supporter of biomedical research on drug use and addiction. She is passionate about providing science-driven, non-stigmatizing information on substance use disorders and substance use research to those who need it most. Prior to NIDA, Judy wrote about HIV and immunology for NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and about chemistry for Chemistry & Engineering News. As someone living in recovery and a huge fan of the arts, Judy is honored to serve as a VWI juror.

Katelyn Bessette

Katelyn Bessette is the Development Director at Bridges to Change, an Oregon based nonprofit aimed to strengthen individuals and families affected by addictions, mental health, poverty and homelessness. This past year, Katelyn launched her organization’s first annual film festival, the PDX Recovery Film Festival, to raise awareness and understanding of addictions, mental health issues and homelessness. She is trained as a licensed therapist and has worked in the field of addictions for 10+ years. She is adjunct faculty at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, OR. In her spare time, she practices acrobatics with a training company and goes on surf/camp adventures with her partner and their two dogs.

Kevin Patrick Allen

Kevin (KP) leverages more than two decades of reporting experience in markets including his hometown of Wichita, Kansas to San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Kansas City. He’s accomplished notable “firsts” like reporting while running the Marine Corps Marathon, being doused by a California Department of Forestry helicopter while covering a Santa Cruz Hills wildfire and making the most mundane of building codes in northern Virginia the focus of an award-winning audio series on firefighter safety. His documentaries have influenced federal legislation, earned praise from mental health professionals and encouraged resilience-building in communities small and large.

Kim Huynh

Kim Huynh is a Hawaiian-grown, California-based filmmaker with a passion for live music, community-building, and social justice. She thrives in dynamic, fast-paced environments as a one-woman crew or with teams of all sizes. Proficient with various stages of production and post-production including concept, development, camera plotting, script writing, video capture, audio/video editing, and social media marketing. Shameless lover of 70’s soft rock.

Kimberly Diggles

Kimberly Diggles (she/her) is a licensed therapist and mental health expert living in Long Beach and working throughout California. Dr. Diggles has over 15 years of experience and specializes in facilitating healing among individuals, families, and communities impacted by trauma. In her roles as a clinical supervisor, private practice therapist, and speaker, Dr. Diggles finds passion through facilitating dialogue centered around dismantling the narratives of white supremacy and empowering people of color to recover from the impacts of racial trauma. By openly talking about mental health, Kimberly hopes we all begin to recognize the potential of our connections–relationships with others–to be the catalysts to our survival.

Kwesi Johnson

Kwesi Johnson (he/him) is an educator and filmmaker from Boston, MA. His work has been screened at the Pan African Film Festival, the Black Star Film Festival, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and more. As a professional editor, he has worked for such organizations as the American Heart and Lung Association, Gunpowder and Sky, and the Oakland Symphony Orchestra. Kwesi is also an educator with over 15 years experience teaching film. A graduate of California Institute of the Arts and Massachusetts College of Art, he currently lives in Whittier, CA with his wife and 2 children.

Lauren Fox

Lauren is Program Manager with Jack.org, a Canadian organization that works to revolutionize the way youth think about mental health. Lauren has spent 12 years working in the non-profit sector and has a passion for dismantling barriers to positive mental health. Lauren also loves the art of film making and studied film in University. She was thrilled to have the opportunity to combine two of the things she loves most as a juror at AWI. In Lauren’s free time, she co-hosts a podcast which highlights the accomplishments of young people who have created their own non-profit organizations.

Ligia Houben

Ligia MA, FT, FAAGC, CPC, CHT, is the founder of My Meaningful Life, LLC and The Center for Transforming Lives in Miami, Fl where she consults with individuals and families; by offering coaching/support, groups and workshops. Ligia is the author of three books on grief: The self-help book Transform Your Loss. Your Guide to Strength and Hope, Counseling Hispanics Through Loss, Grief, and Bereavement. A Guide for Mental Health Professionals, and Transforming Grief and Loss.

Mae Mann

Mae Mann is a director, writer, and editor interested in exploring the depths of the human condition. Growing up queer in a small southern town shaped her into an artist unafraid of exploring the road less traveled while remaining sensitive to both her audience and subjects’ experiences. She’s directed and edited a dynamic collection of films that have played in festivals around the world and hold numerous accolades including a Silver Young Director Award, two Red Dot Design Awards, College Television Award Nominations, and two Gold Addy Awards. She’s passionate about people and telling their stories with simplicity.

Dr. Mark Thomas

Dr. Mark Thomas is a professor of neuroscience at the University of Minnesota. He is director of the Medical Discovery Team on Addiction (https://med.umn.edu/addiction), a group of over sixty faculty in the UMN Medical School that uses cross-disciplinary collaborative research to discover new biology-based treatment options. Dr. Thomas received his PhD in Neuroscience from UCLA in 1998, and completed postdoctoral training in Psychiatry at Stanford and Psychology at the University of Michigan before joining the faculty at the University of Minnesota in 2003. His research examines how addictive drugs alter the brain and how these brain changes can lead to compulsive drug use.

Markie Pasternak

Markie Pasternak is the Manager of Impact and Engagement at Active Minds Inc., the nation’s leading non-profit focusing on young adult mental health. Markie is originally from Green Bay, Wisconsin and received her Bachelor’s in psychology from Marquette University. She went on to receive a Master’s of Science in higher education and student affairs from Indiana University-Bloomington in 2018. After graduate school, Markie worked at Auburn University in Health Promotion and Wellness Services under the Division of Student Affairs focusing on mental health programming and peer health education before joining the Active Minds team full time in the summer of 2021.

Meagan Brown

Meagan Brown (she/her) is a Montreal-based documentary filmmaker and assistant editor. Originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Meagan has worked on a wide variety of productions, from a documentary about women in the prison system to a series about the history of the sitcom. Her most recent work has been co-founding a small media production company, which has been offering short, documentary-style videos to small businesses, in an effort to help them recover from the pandemic. Her heart is in the people-driven stories, and she is a firm believer that everybody has a story worth telling.

Megan Ammer-Barefield

Megan Ammer-Barefield is a Chicago social worker currently working in community mental health with individuals experiencing severe mental illness and/or substance use. Megan’s special interest in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, grief counselling, and strengths-based narrative therapy has helped her support clients in their recovery. Megan’s background also includes a specialization in Women Studies and Gender Studies which she uses in her work with a local Chicago organization, Girls Rock! Chicago, as the Youth Action Committee Coordinator, which aims to promote social justice and music education for Trans, gender-expansive, and girls in the community.

Dr. Michelle Jobes

Dr. Michelle Jobes is a native of NJ, growing up in a small town 45 minutes outside of Philadelphia. She was the first in her family to go to college, attending Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ and earning a Bachelor’s in Biological Sciences and later a PhD in Toxicology from the Joint Graduate Program in Toxicology of Rutgers University and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. In 2008, Michelle landed in Baltimore at the Intramural Research Program (IRP) of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), one of the institutes of the National Institutes of Health. Michelle also leads efforts at NIDA related to diversity, inclusion, and equity.

Olivia DePaul

Olivia DePaul (she/her) is a mental health advocate currently pursuing her clinical doctorate in Occupational Therapy at Washington University in St. Louis. While earning her BA in Psychological Science, Olivia became involved with the mental health community by sharing her story as a student panelist at an AWI screening event. She has since gone on to serve as a founding member of Voices of Hope, a student group that uses oral storytelling to present lived mental health experiences, and as Vice President of CSUSM’s Active Minds, a local chapter of a national organization fighting to break down the barriers of stigma.

Rebecca Soffer

Rebecca Soffer is cofounder of Modern Loss, which offers creative, meaningful and encouraging content and community addressing the long arc of grief and resilience. She is also coauthor of “Modern Loss: Candid Conversation About Grief. Beginners Welcome”, which The Strategist named a best book for a younger generation, author of “The Modern Loss Handbook: An Interactive Guide to Moving Through Grief and Building Your Resilience”, and the Modern Loss Substack newsletter. She has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, NPR, and MSNBC; and spoken at HBO, Capital One, and Amazon. Rebecca is a former producer for The Colbert Report and a Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism alumna.

Dr. Renee Johnson

Renee M. Johnson, PhD, MPH is an Associate Professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Her research addresses the health of adolescents and emerging adults, with a focus on substance use and violence. Much of this work centers on marginalized populations including Black adolescents, LGBT youth, trauma-exposed youth, immigrants, and youth in low-income, urban areas. She has published more than 100 articles in a variety of journals, including Journal of Adolescent Health and Drug & Alcohol Dependence. Dr. Johnson teaches a course on substance use epidemiology, and directs an NIH-funded program that supports graduate students in developing expertise in alcohol and drug research.

Rosie Pidcock

Rosie is an actor and filmmaker living on the Unceded Territories of the Coast Salish Peoples, otherwise known as Vancouver, Canada. She is the recipient of the Voice With Impact 2021 grant on immigration and mental health for her short film “Esther & Sai”, a tender portrait of two immigrant women who meet at Canadian nursing school in 1976. Rosie is of Chinese, Scottish and British ancestry and has lived in Beijing where she became fluent in Mandarin. A passionate environmentalist, Rosie also volunteers her time with the youth climate empowerment organization Student Energy. She loves thrift stores, libraries and swimming in the ocean.

Sean Patrick Leonard

Sean Patrick Leonard is a director/writer from Chicago, IL. Before becoming a filmmaker, he was a professional actor for 25 years. You have seen him in Chicago Med, Chicago Fire and Chicago Justice. He is currently in Range Runners and Alex/October. As a writer, Sean won the Best Short Screenplay award at the Twister Alley Film Fest in 2017 and the Windy City Film Fest in 2018. His short films have been seen around the country and currently his film Love Me Tinder, is currently enjoying its successful run.

Stephanie O’Malley

Stephanie O’Malley, Professor of Psychiatry, focuses her research on the development of more effective treatments for substance use disorders, and supporting effective policies to regulate tobacco. O’Malley’s study on the efficacy of naltrexone for treating alcoholism was pivotal to the approval of this medication by the Food and Drug Administration in 1994. She has continued to study the efficacy of pharmacotherapies and behavioral interventions for treating addictive disorders. O’Malley received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Vanderbilt University. She serves as the deputy chair for clinical research and director of the Division of Substance Abuse Research in the Department of Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine.

Dr. Tam Nguyen

Dr. Tam Nguyen is a clinical psychologist and the Director of Ambulatory Care for the System Mental Health & Addiction Care Team at Sutter Health. She completed her post-doctoral fellowship at the National Center for PTSD at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System and is a graduate of UC Berkeley and Palo Alto University. Her accomplishments include engagement in the development of a mobile application for PTSD for Veterans and their families, integrating behavioral health and substance use treatment into primary care settings, and transforming service delivery for special populations such as the LGBTQ and homeless community.