Meet the Judges

Short. Sweet. Film Fest. Judges

Tiffany Alexander

Tiffany Alexander

Tiffany Alexander is an award-winning journalist and screenwriter. She is also the author of six children's books and a coming-of-age novel.

Her work focuses on social justice issues including prison reform, the education achievement gap, and generational poverty.

Judging: Screenplays

BJ Colangelo

BJ Colangelo

BJ Colangelo is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker and film analyst but cut her teeth making films in Cleveland, OH. She has been writing professionally about film for over a decade, having been published everywhere from Fangoria Magazine, Playboy.com, Autostraddle, Vulture, The Daily Dot, and Shudder. She is currently a voting member of GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics. BJ has contributed to the books “Creepy Bitches,” “When Animals Attack!,” “Hidden Horror 101,” “Evil Seeds: The Ultimate Movie Guide to Villainous Children,” and the upcoming “Haunted Reels” from Dark Matter Ink, and “Sleepaway Camp” from DieDieBooks. BJ is known for her shorts “Labrys,” “Margaret,” her feature film “Powerbomb,” and her contribution to the anthology film “Deathcember.” She also co-hosts the popular podcast, “This Ends at Prom,” with her wife Harmony analyzing movies marketed to teen girl audiences from the cis and transgender lens. She often serves as a jury member for film festivals specializing in horror or queer cinema. BJ Colangelo is currently the Lead Evening News Editor at /Film, meaning her years of training her brain to stay up late watching movies have finally paid off. BJ was a panelist for the San Diego Comic-Con “Queer Fear” legacy panel in 2019, El Rey Network's 'Top 5,' in 2020, and featured in the “Queer for Fear” docuseries on Shudder from Bryan Fuller in 2022. She wrote and produced the series So Far, So Close for the Dekkoo streaming service and serves as a producer on the upcoming documentary, "Mental Health and Horror." BJ has been serving as a judge for the Short. Sweet. Film. Fest. for a few years now, and has sat on the jury for the FearNYC International Film Festival, Reel Love Film Festival, and hosted panels or live podcasts at the Salem Horror Festival, Seattle Queer Film Festival, and Nightstream Film Festival. She's currently attached to a handful of other exciting projects, but she signed NDAs already so they'll have to remain a mystery. 

Judging: Animation, Fan Fiction, Horror, LGBTQ, Local, Student

Alec Greenwald

Alec Greenwald

Alec Greenwald is a graduate of Cleveland State Universities film program and has since worked as a Production Assistant on Netflix’s “Team Kaylie” and “The Big Show Show”. Alec has also reviewed Screenplays for Imagine Entertainment’s “Imagine Impact 2 Program”.

Judging: Screenplays

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Daun Kim

Daun Kim is a layout/visualization artist working in the Film and Animation industry, based in Los Angeles. She is from South Korea and came to the US to study computer animation at Ringling College of Art and Design. Following her graduation, her short film "Don't Croak", which hit more than 50M views on youtube, received huge recognitions at multiple prestigious film festivals including 44th Cleveland International Film Festival and achieved the honor of winning awards. She is a program alumni of Television Academy Foundation and joined the organization as a member in September 2022. Daun has successfully brought her expertise to various live-action and animated feature projects, contributing to notable works like Black Widow (2021), The Suicide Squad (2021), Jungle Cruise (2021), Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023), and Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (2023).

Judging: Animation

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Mohammad Mirvahabi

Mohammad is an animation and live-action director, as well as the founder of Animaykadeh Animation Studio. With an impressive career, he has directed numerous animation series and served as a VFX supervisor for feature films and TV series. Mohammad is also recognized for his exceptional skills in character design for animation, earning him a prestigious award in the field. Additionally, he pursued a diverse educational path, studying graphic design in college, and further enhancing his capabilities in film directing and screenplay writing through master classes led by luminaries such as Asghar Farhadi and Saeed Aghighi.

Judging: Animation, Comedy, International

Cyprian

Cyprian Piroch

Cyprian Piroch is a lifelong Cleveland area resident. He is a graduate of Ash Ra Tempel University. As a film buff, writer and filmmaker, he has been an ardent supporter of independent and world film genres since the early 1970s. In the Fall of 2013, he co-produced the documentary “a Tribute to the Fallen”, which explores a Filipino man’s journey to uncover WWII artifacts from battlegrounds and share them with the world. His future home puts him in Negros Oriental, Philippines, where he will continue to write and produce films, showcasing the rich and vibrant stories and culture.

Judging (Lead Judge): Action/Thriller, Experimental, Fan Fiction, Horror, International, LGBTQ, Music Video, Student

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Roman Sanchez

Roman Sanchez is a Theatre Producer, Director, Educator and M.F.A. Candidate in Yale's Theatre Management program. Past and current affiliations include: Yale CabaretSteppenwolf Theatre Company, California Arts CouncilLime Arts ProductionsTeatro EspejoDell'Arte Inc.California State Summer School for the Arts Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, Theatre Workers Project, and Redwood Curtain Theatre. He is also the author of Preparing For College Theatre: A Guide For Performers, Technicians, and Designers. He is a Kennedy Center National Arts Impact Award recipient, Herb Alpert Theatre recipient, and was one of American Theatre's "6 Theatre Practitioners You Should Know". He is currently a member of ArtEquity's BIPOC Leadership Circle and Theatre Producers of Color Cohort. He has over 90 credits as a Theatre Practitioner and is a proud member of SDC. @romansanchez001

Judging: Documentary, Environmental, Drama

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Mehrdad Sarlak

A graduate of MIT, Mehrdad Sarlak has enjoyed a successful and prolific career in engineering and management at Fortune 100 companies in parallel with being a SAG-AFTRA actor, television host/producer, and film producer.  His films have premiered at world-class Oscar qualifying festivals such as SXSW, Palm Springs ShortFest, HollyShorts, Cleveland International Film Festival, Indy Shorts by Heartland, DocNYC, Urbanworld, and LA SHORTS, during which time he's produced 2 films for an Oscar winning director, Oscar-qualified 2 of his own short films, and secured distribution for his last 3 short films through HBO, Oscilloscope, and Omeleto. While open to different genres, his deepest interest lies in producing narrative films with deep emotional impact and thought-provoking elements that are based on true stories as well as on documentaries that uplift, inspire, and warm the heart.  His areas of passion continue to be science, engineering, filmmaking, and acting, and through all of it, his overarching goal is to use the universal paradigms of understanding and expression to bridge gaps among people and achieve understanding, awareness, and harmony.

Judging: Local

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Alex Sherman

Born and raised in Mentor, Ohio - Alex Sherman has been working in Hollywood for over 10 years. From editing to writing, he’s a jack of all trades. Currently, he’s a Co-EP on HBOMax’s Our Flag Means Death where he gets to play with pirates and blow things up. A graduate of Baldwin Wallace University, before moving to LA, Alex got a job with Current TV producing short documentaries all around the world. He didn’t get to blow things up, but he got to play with snakes in Thailand while filming with the Red Cross. His past credits include Yo Gabba Gabba, The Avengers, People of Earth, Final Space, Upload and Bless This Mess. Find him on Twitter @CapitalWLD.

Judging: Comedy, Documentary, Environmental, Fan Fiction, LGBTQ, Local, Pilot/Series, Student

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David Tarbert

David Tarbert is an Emmy and 8-time Telly Award-winning producer, director, cinematographer, editor and talent who began his career in the visual arts field as editor at WEWS. While there he expanded his role, becoming NewsChannel 5’s ‘Man on Music’, the first feature reporter covering exclusively music and entertainment for a major-market station. He’s still active on Cleveland’s airwaves, most recently as the host/producer for the popular series, ‘Dave’s Big
Fun on a Small Budget’ on WKYC, and host of WOIO’s ‘Cleveland NOW’. As Owner/Executive Producer of his production company, Tarbert Television, David
has created acclaimed digital media projects for MetroHealth, RTA, Ford Motor Company, Key Bank, Cleveland Clinic, LAND Studio, and Ronald McDonald
House, among many others. His most recent project, a documentary film entitled MANY HEARTS – ONE COMMUNITY: The Clark-Fulton Public Arts Project,
garnered a Silver Telly Award (their highest honor) and was screened at the 2023 Chagrin Documentary Film Festival. In his free time, he enjoys photography, tennis, golf, and cheering on the Cavs, Guardians, Browns, and his alma mater’s University of Kentucky Wildcats.

Judging: Action/Thriller, Drama, International, Horror, Pilot/Series, Music Video

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Andrew Aaron Valdez

Andrew Aaron Valdez (he/him/his) is a Chicanx educator, administrator, poet and theatre artist from Donna, Texas. Andrew is a C.A.R.E. Teaching Artist at Cleveland Playhouse, educator for the Indigenous Cultures Institute, Steering Committee Member of the Latinx Theatre Commons, a 2019-2020 Americans for the Arts Arts & Culture Leaders of Color Fellow, a 2019-2020 Cleveland Public Theatre Premiere Fellow, a 2019-2020 Artist in Residence at the Julia De Burgos Cultural Arts Center and a 2021 Baldwin House Urban Writing resident at Twelve Literary Arts.

Andrew is a Terry Foundation Alumni and received his bachelor's degree in Fine Arts - Theatre Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. Find him on Twitter @drewzymandias and online at www.andrewaaronvaldez.com.

Judging: Animation, Experimental

JOHN-VOURLIS

John P. Vourlis

John Vourlis has 25+ years’ experience working in the entertainment industry. He is currently an Instructor in the School Film and Media Arts at Cleveland State University. Before teaching, he was a VP/General Manager at the Academy Award-winning and Emmy Award-winning Hollywood specialty lighting company, Luminys Systems Corp.

Through his company, Hometown Media Productions, John produced and directed the documentary Breaking Balls, about the cultural impact of the game of bocce on the Italian-American community of Northeast Ohio. The film was an official selection of the 2017 Cleveland International and Chagrin Documentary Film Festivals, where it played to sold out crowds.

Vourlis has also served as a judge/jurist for the Western Reserve Historical Society’s National History Day, the Orange Schools PTA Reflections Program, and the Greater Columbus Arts Council Media Fellowship.

John has an M.F.A. in Film Production from the highly acclaimed USC School of Cinematic Arts, as well as an M.A. in English and a B.S. in Engineering from Case Western Reserve University.

Judging: Action/Thriller, Comedy, Drama, Experimental, Pilot/Series, Music Video

Michael-Walters

Michael Walters

Michael Walters graduated from Cleveland State University in 2017 with a degree in Film and Digital Media. Following graduation, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film. After a few years of working as a freelance editor and production assistant, Michael now works as an Associate Producer for Omnia Media, working on a variety of web shows across YouTube, SnapChat, and Facebook. He also writes for a gaming website, and continually works on his own spec scripts in hopes of having one produced some day. Michael comes back to visit Cleveland all the time, and still regularly roots for Cleveland sports teams, for better or worse.

Judging: Screenplays

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Mike Wendt

Mike Wendt is an award-winning director, producer, and location manager/scout. He currently is the Production Coordinator for the Greater Cleveland Film Commission.

His credits include Captain America: Winter Soldier, Fate of the Furious, My Friend Dahmer, and White Boy Rick. His first feature-length documentary The End Of The World As We Knew It was a selection of the 33rd Cleveland International Film Festival and his short film Goodbye, Ohio played numerous film festivals. He is in post production on a second feature-length documentary Robert Banks: We'll Talk About That Later.

Judging: Documentary, Environmental

Short. Sweet. Film Competition. Judges

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Ron George

Ron George is an independent special effects makeup artist that caters towards professional work for the entertainment industry, creating iconic looks for film, television, theater, museums, performance art, music videos and everything in between. He specializes in the darker side like zombies, gore, cuts, & bruises as well as Sci-Fi and cosplay using mainly practical FX. Ron is a huge part of the Zombie Walks in the Greater Cleveland Area each year that are mainly charity events for the Food shelters in northeastern, Ohio.

Ron is also the makeup artist each year for the Zombie Claus another charity event to gather toys at Christmas time for Toys for Tots. He has also done makeup for the Zombie runs raising money for breast cancer and lung cancer awareness In 2017 Ron joined the production team for Horror Hotel TV show as the Assistant Director 2017 – 2019. He was a judge for the final round of the Monster Make-Off Makeup competition. Between 2018 & 2021 he gave several makeup lectures including Wizard World Comic Con, Neo Comic Con, Horror Hotel Film Festival, and The Indie Gathering Film Festival. In January 2020, Ron became the producer for the Cleveland 48 Hour Film festival.  In May, 2020 won a Telly award for the TV show Horror Hotel.

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Obediya Jones-Darrell

Obediya Jones-Darrell is a Canadian Film maker and music composer. He studied writing for animation at the Vancouver Animation School, music composition at Simon Fraser University, and Sound Engineering at Douglas College.

In addition to scoring films for other companies, he has written, directed and produced his own animated & live action shorts, music videos, and a web series under his company, Sound Body Productions.

In 2019 he was selected as one of Canada's 20 emerging diverse filmmakers by Toronto's Reel World Film Festival.

In 2019-2020 Obediya was selected as the Kulas Music Composer Fellow of the Cleveland Public Theatre. During his tenure scoring their professional theatrical productions he wrote and produced a new musical, Speak Easy, which was performed in New Orleans & Cleveland.

He is currently working with the Grammy award winning Czech National Symphony Orchestra to record music he has composed for his upcoming Film and Theatre productions.

Originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Obediya splits his time between Cleveland, and Canada.

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Jessy Leigh

Jessy Leigh is a writer & director born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. Her love for film and television started at a very young age and was heavily influenced by her Dad’s favorite films. She likes to refer to Jurassic Park as her ‘spark’ film, the one that kick started her creative pursuit.

Her first piece written, a comedy sketch, was performed live at the Broadway Comedy Club in New York City.

Since then, she’s written a variety of pilots, shorts, features, and episodic. Her current short films screened at various film festivals across the country. Her most recent short, HOBBY, a proof of concept, is currently being developed into a feature. Her last two films, JULIE THE JURY (written and directed by) and GOODBYE, OHIO (written, starred in) both premiered at the Cleveland International Film Festival.

Her directorial debut, a bio-doc titled, “Letters to R,” screened at multiple festivals and even won an “Audience Choice Award.”

Jessy Leigh is currently adapting a novel for screen and writing a animated pilot, “Flightless Anonymous.”

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Valerie Temple

Valerie Temple is the Director of Continuing Education and Community Outreach at Cleveland Institute of Art, as well as an adjunct professor for Cleveland State University’s School of Film & Media Arts. Previously a staff member at the CSU film school, in charge of their youth and student success programs, Valerie also worked for nine years as the Director of Programming at Bryn Mawr Film Institute in suburban Philadelphia. In addition to an MFA in Film Production from Boston University and dual BAs in Drama (Film Concentration) and Studio Art from Kenyon College, Valerie recently earned a master’s degree in Nonprofit Administration and Leadership from Cleveland State University. Valerie has served on numerous film festival juries and selection committees, as well as judging the Greater Philadelphia Film Commission’s Derek Freese Documentary Fund prize and their Set in Philadelphia Screenplay Competition awards.

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Mike Wendt

Mike Wendt is an award-winning director, producer, and location manager/scout. He currently is the Production Coordinator for the Greater Cleveland Film Commission.

His credits include Captain America: Winter Soldier, Fate of the Furious, My Friend Dahmer, and White Boy Rick. His first feature-length documentary The End Of The World As We Knew It was a selection of the 33rd Cleveland International Film Festival and his short film Goodbye, Ohio played numerous film festivals. He is in post production on a second feature-length documentary Robert Banks: We'll Talk About That Later.

Past Judges

Linda C. Ehrlich

Linda C. Ehrlich—writer, teacher, editor–has published extensively about world cinema and about traditional theatre in such journals as Film Quarterly, Cinema Journal, Senses of Cinema, Film CriticismEthnomusicology, Cinema Scope, Framework and Journal of Religion and Film, among others. Cinematic Landscapes, her first book (co-edited with David Desser), is an anthology of essays on the interface between the visual arts and cinemas of China and Japan (University of Texas Press, 1994; reprint in 2008). Her second edited book, The Cinema of Víctor Erice: An Open Window, appeared in the Scarecrow Press Filmmakers’Series (#72) in 2000 (with an expanded paperback edition in 2007).

Philip J. Skerry

Philip J. Skerry is Professor Emeritus at Lakeland Community College and adjunct instructor at Cleveland State University. He has taught courses in English and film for over forty years. Dr. Skerry is the author of Psycho in the Shower: The History of Cinema’s Most Famous Scene (Continuum Press, 2009); Dark Energy: Hitchcock’s Absolute Camera and the Physics of Cinematic Spacetime (Bloomsbury Press, 2013); and Defining America: Ten Essays on the Western Film (Sidestreeet Press, 2015). He lives with his wife, Amy, a therapist, in Beachwood.

Alberto Zambenedetti

Alberto is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Cinema Studies and an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Cinema Studies at Oberlin College. He is the editor of World Film Locations: Florence and his scholarship has appeared in journals such as Short Film Studies, Studies in European Cinema, and Journal of Adaptation in Film and Performance. Since 2001, he has been writing reviews and essays for Gli Spietati, Italy’s premier online film magazine. Alberto has collaborated, in front and behind the camera, with filmmakers Soren Bailey, Karen Wang, Dan Kinber, and Chiara Armentano.