CONTACT: Angela DeMarta, Deputy Press Director or 845-679-4265
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Woodstock, NY (October, 2014) - The 15th Annual Woodstock Film Festival presents a slate of panels that will entertain and enlighten its film-loving audience. Participants include A-list actors, industry icons, and both veteran and emerging filmmakers who will explore such topics as music in film (with jazz legend Hugh Masekela), the transition of a story from novel to screen (with Angels in America's Tony Kushner), women in the director's chair (including Emmy winner Courteney Cox), the intricacies of landing a role in a film (with Academy Award winner Melissa Leo), and more.

"The Woodstock Film Festival's panels are among my favorite events," said Meira Blaustein, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Woodstock Film Festival, "bringing many of today's most accomplished and talented creative forces in the independent film industry together with our audience for in-depth and frank discussions about their respective areas of expertise, each one can be a fun college crash course on its own."

The panels will take place Friday, October 17 through Sunday, October 19 at the Kleinert James Art Center in Woodstock, NY. Tickets can be purchased online at


Join BMI's Doreen Ringer Ross as she chats with jazz legend and political activist, Hugh Masekela, along with director Michael Lessac about their collaboration on the film A Snake Gives Birth to a Snake as well as Masekela's rich musical career in general at MUSIC IN FILM on Friday 10/17 3pm.

• Join a group of accomplished female feature filmmakers as they share their film's journey and reveal what they are doing to close the gender gap in film. WOMEN IN THE DIRECTOR'S CHAIR, moderated by Thelma Adams with directors Courteney Cox, Debra Granik, Leah Meyerhoff, and Jenna Ricker will take place on Saturday 10/18, 10:00am.

• See some of today's best filmmakers (with a cause) examine when, how, and why the medium can be a tool for social and political change at IMPACT FILMMAKING. Moderated by Robin Bronk, the panel features producer Jedd Wider and directors Joe Berlinger, Jon Bowermaster, and Ali Akbarzadeh on Saturday 10/18, 12:00pm.

• Join writer/producer Ron Nyswaner to discuss the attraction of series television for writers, how the relationships between writers and directors differ in television versus film, and why the writer is the industry's new auteur. LONG AND SHORT STORIES will be hosted by Bradley Jacobs on Saturday 10/18, 2:00pm

• Witness 2014's Honorary Maverick Award winner have an intimate discussion about his work, style, and perspective in A CONVERSATION WITH DARREN ARONOFSKY, hosted by Logan Hill, on Saturday 10/18, 5:00pm.

• Join some of today's most engaging actors as they chat about their work and their lives. ACTORS' DIALOGUE will be moderated by Martha Frankel with special guests Bruce Greenwood and Tim Guinee on Sunday 10/19, 10:00am.

• Explore the advantages and hazards of reworking someone else's original concept for a different medium with these practiced adapters in NOVEL TO SCREEN. Moderated by Thelma Adams, the panel features Tony Kushner, Malia Scotch-Marmo, and Lucy Alibar, and takes place on on Sunday 10/19 12:00pm.

• Watch as the unsung heroes of the film industry discuss the intricacies of the casting process and hear anecdotes about working with today's most exciting actors and directors at CASTING BY. Moderated by Claude dal Farra, the panel features Gayle Keller, Cindy Tolan and Melissa Leo, and takes place on Sunday 10/19, 2:00pm.

PANEL: Music in Film - Music as the Unifying Force Sponsored by BMI

Doreen Ringer-Ross
Hugh Masekela
Hugh Masekela

Michael Lessac

Join BMI's Doreen Ringer Ross as she chats with jazz legend and political activist, Hugh Masekela, along with director Michael Lessac about their collaboration on the film A Snake Gives Birth to a Snake as well as Masekela's rich musical career in general.

Hugh Masekela is a world-renowned flugelhornist, singer and defiant political voice who remains deeply connected at home, while his international career continues to thrive. He was born in the town of Witbank, South Africa in 1939. He first picked up a horn at age 14, and is still blowing strong at 75. He spent much of his life in exile, during which time he released over 40 albums (and is featured on countless more) and worked with legends like Harry Belafonte, Dizzy Gillespie, The Byrds, Miles Davis, Abdullah Ibrahim, Paul Simon and the late Miriam Makeba. Masekela has been honored with a Grammy Award, a Lifetime Achievement Award at WOMEX and had March 18th proclaimed 'Hugh Masekela Day' in the US Virgin Islands. Masekela is now based in Johannesburg, South Africa, while continuing a lively international tour schedule. He recently started his own label: House of Masekela under which he released his latest album Playing @ Work.

Director/producer Michael Lessac wrote and directed the feature film House of Cards starring Tommy Lee Jones and Kathleen Turner. He has directed sixteen pilots and over 200 television episodes, among them Taxi, Newhart, Grace Under Fire, The Drew Carey Show, Just Shoot Me, and Everybody Loves Raymond.

For the stage, Mr. Lessac has directed at the National Theatre of Yugoslavia, The Guthrie Theatre, The Denver Theatre Center, The Arena Stage, The Kennedy Center, The Hartman Stage and The Public Theatre in New York City. He was also founder and artistic director of the Colonnades Theatre Lab in New York where he produced and directed over thirty productions with a company of established actors, playwrights, and composers. He is founder and artistic director of Global Arts Corps, which seeks to develop new theatre pieces around the world highlighting the struggle for justice, basic human dignity, and the possibility of perceptual change.

Friday 10/17, 3:00pm Kleinart James Art Center in Woodstock

PANEL: Women in the Director's Chair

Thelma Adams
Courteney Cox

Debra Granik
Leah Meyerhoff
Jenna Ricker

Women directors are notoriously underrepresented in Hollywood, with recent polls estimating only 2% - 4.4% of all Hollywood directors are female. Women are better represented in independent film, with the percentages jumping when a female screenwriter or director is involved. As filmmakers and audiences increasingly value telling the authentic stories by and about women, female writers and directors are finding more and more ways to collaborate to bring these narratives to the screen.

Join a group of accomplished female feature filmmakers as they share their film's journey and reveal what they are doing to close the gender gap in film.

Thelma Adams is the contributing editor at Yahoo! Movies. St. Martin's Press published her debut novel Playdate, an O magazine pick. She was the film critic at Us Weekly from 2000 - 2011, following six years at the New York Post. She has twice chaired the New York Film Critics Circle, where she has been a member since 1995. She has also written for The New York Times Magazine, O: The Oprah Magazine, The New York Observer, Parade, Variety, Marie Claire, The Huffington Post, More, Interview Magazine, The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune, Cosmopolitan, and Self.

Courteney Cox, best known for her role as Monica in the Emmy® Award winning comedy Friends and for her Golden Globe® nominated role in Cougar Town, made her feature film directorial debut with her dark film Just Before I Go. The film will screen at this year's Woodstock Film Festival. Additional directorial credits include the Lifetime Original Movie, Talhotblond, and the drama Monday Before Thanksgiving for Glamour's Reel Moments Project. In addition, she has directed numerous episodes of Cougar Town. In 2004, Cox established her own production company, Coquette. Projects have included: Cougar Town, Dirt, Mix It Up, Daisy Does America, and The Tripper.

Debra Granik is the Academy Award nominated director and co-writer of Winter's Bone, which was nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture, and won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Granik and co-writer Anne Rosellini were Oscar nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. Her first feature film, Down to the Bone, won Granik the Best Director prize at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. Her documentary feature, Stray Dog, will screen at this year's Woodstock Film Festival.

Leah Meyerhoff's debut feature film I Believe in Unicorns premiered in the narrative competition of SXSW 2014 and is currently traveling the film festival circuit, including the Woodstock Film Festival. Her previous short films have screened in over 200 film festivals and won dozens of awards. Leah is a Tribeca Film Institute mentor and the founder of Film Fatales, a female filmmaker collective based in New York.

Jenna Ricker wrote, directed and produced her first feature film, Ben's Plan, a coming of age drama starring Ben Schnetzer (The Book Thief, Pride) and made on a micro-budget, it was awarded Best Drama at the AOF Festival, Distinguished Debut at the London Independent Film Festival, and was honored with the Mira Nair Award for Rising Female Filmmaker. Her feature film, The American Side, will have its World Premiere at this year's Woodstock Film Festival.

Saturday 10/18, 10:00am Kleinart James Art Center in Woodstock

PANEL: Impact Filmmaking

Robin Bronk
Joe Berlinger
Joe Berlinger
Jedd Wider
Jedd Wider
Jon BowermasterJon Bowermaster
ali akbarzadeh
Ali Akbarzadeh
anne oshea
Anne O'Shea

Independent filmmakers have been known to devote their lives, time, money, work, hearts and souls into issue films with the hope of making an impact and effecting change in others' lives. They may choose to shine a light on a problem in a remote part of the world, or on an environmental concern or social problem, looking to inspire and mobilize. But is there success at the end of all that work? Do their labors of love really change anything? How many films like Supersize Me and An Inconvenient Truth can there be in our world? This panel of dedicated filmmakers (with a cause) will examine these questions as they try to come up with answers for when, how and why some films can be a tool for change.

Moderator Robin Bronk is CEO of The Creative Coalition—the leading national, nonprofit, nonpartisan social and public advocacy organization of the arts and entertainment industry. As CEO, Bronk is dedicated to educating, mobilizing, and activating the entertainment industry and arts community on issues of public importance, particularly the First Amendment, arts advocacy, arts in education, and media literacy. She has published three books, Art & Soul (Hearst Communications) and If You Had Five Minutes With the President (Harper Collins), and the upcoming Art of Discovery (in bookstores October 14th from Rizzoli Publishing).

Academy Award® and seven-time Emmy nominated and Peabody winning filmmaker Joe Berlinger, whose films include the landmark documentaries Brother's Keeper, the Paradise Lost Trilogy and Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster, a film that redefined the rockumentary genre. Crude, about oil pollution in the Amazon Rainforest, won 22 human rights, environmental and film festival awards and Under African Skies, about Paul Simon's seminal album, was nominated for three primetime Emmy awards. Recently, Berlinger completed Hank: 5 Years From The Brink for Netflix and WHITEY: United States of America v. James J. Bulger, which was released by Magnolia Pictures this summer.

Jon Bowermaster's most recent documentaries are Dear Governor Cuomo, a unique look at the controversy surrounding fracking in New York State, and Antarctica 3D: On the Edge. Films in-production include Dear President Obama, Americans Against Fracking In One Voice, Free Swim: Maldives and After the Spill. A six-time grantee of the National Geographic Expeditions Council and award-winning writer and filmmaker Bowermaster was recently named one of a dozen Ocean Heroes by the NGS. Author of twelve books, his companion book to the Jacques Perrin/DisneyNature film Oceans was published alongside the film's U.S. premiere.

Emmy Award winning producer Jedd Wider has produced, along with his brother Todd, numerous critically and commercially successful feature documentary films including King's Point (2012) nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short, the multiple Primetime Emmy Award and Peabody Award winning Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God (2012), the Emmy Award nominated Semper Fi: Always Faithful (2011), the multiple Emmy Award nominated Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer (2010), and Taxi to the Dark Side (2007) the 2008 Academy Award Winner for Best Documentary, a 2008 Peabody Award Winner and 2009 Emmy Award Winner for Best Documentary. He was nominated by the Producers Guild of America for Outstanding Producer of Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures.

Ali Akbarzadeh is an independent filmmaker born in the mountains of Colorado. At some point in the late 90's he made the pilgrimage to California where he studied at the American Film Institute and graduated at the top of his class from California State University of Long Beach. After a brief stint as a Persian music video director, he co-founded Akorn Entertainment, where he directed several award winning commercials and short documentaries. Killswitch is his first feature length documentary.

Prolific producer Anne O'Shea (The Kids Are All Right, What Maisie Knew, Any Day Now, Another Happy Day) is the founder of Minerva Productions, a not-for-profit organization giving women opportunities in theater and film. Additionally she is actively involved in charitable organizations and focuses on the fight against AIDS (particularly AIDS Help) and human trafficking (Keys Coalition).

Saturday 10/18, 12:00pm Kleinart James Art Center in Woodstock

PANEL: Long and Short Stories, A Conversation with Ron Nyswaner hosted by Bradley Jacobs, US Weekly Editor

Ron Nyswaner
Bradley JacobsBradley Jacobs

From Philadelphia to Ray Donovan: writing and producing films and series in television's "second golden age."

Ron Nyswaner's writing and producing career has taken him through the major shifts in the film and television industry, from independent films to breakthrough Hollywood dramas, award winning television movies and, most recently, a hit cable series. In a lively and insightful conversation with US Weekly editor, Bradley Jacobs, Nyswaner will discuss the attraction of series television for writers; the pleasures and challenges of telling a story over several years rather than two hours; how the relationships between writers and directors differs in television versus film; the thrill (and terror) of producing twelve hours of drama that must be written, shot, and edited in a matter of weeks; what really goes on in a writers' room; and why the writer is the industry's new auteur.

Nyswaner's credits include the first independent American film to be selected for Main Competition at the Cannes Film Festival Smithereens; one of the most memorable and influential Hollywood dramas of recent times Philadelphia; a critically acclaimed and controversial cable television film Soldier's Girl; and the first American-Chinese co-production of an independent film The Painted Veil. He has spent the last two years writing and producing Showtime's hit series, Ray Donovan, and his gay-marriage themed Freeheld is currently shooting in New York, with Julianne Moore, Ellen Page, and Michael Shannon. He now lives in Los Angeles but considers Woodstock his real home.

Hosted by: Us Weekly editor Bradley Jacobs (aka BJ) directs film coverage and appears regularly on TV. He lives with his partner Jack and two VIPs: their dog, Dexter, and a son, Lucas, 3.

Saturday 10/18, 2:00pm Kleinart James Art Center in Woodstock

PANEL: A Conversation with Darren Aronofsk hosted by Logan Hill

Logan HillLogan Hill
Darren AronofskyDarren Aronofsky

An intimate conversation with Academy Award® nominated director Darren Aronofsky, the recipient of the 2014 Woodstock Film Festival Honorary Maverick Award.

Moderator: Logan Hill is a freelance journalist and critic who regularly contributes to The New York Times, Rolling Stone, New York Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Mens Journal, This American Life, and others. You can find links to his stories at or follow him on Twitter @loganhill33.

Panelist Academy Award® nominated director Darren Aronofsky's first feature, was made with the actors and crew donating their time for the piece of the Pi. He followed with Requiem For A Dream, which was named to over 150 Top Ten lists, The Fountain, a science-fiction romance starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz, and The Wrestler, which garnered Academy Award® nominations for stars Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei. Aronofsky followed with Black Swan, which won Natalie Portman the Academy Award® for Best Actress and received four other nominations, including one for Best Picture. His most recent film Noah, starring Russell Crowe, Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Connelly and Emma Watson, was released in 2014 to critical acclaim and box office success.

Saturday 10/18, 5:00pm Kleinart James Art Center in Woodstock

PANEL: Actors' Dialogue

Martha FrankelMartha Frankel
Bruce Greenwood
Bruce Greenwood
tim guineeTim Guinee

Grab a cup of coffee and join a conversation with actors Bruce Greenwood and Tim Guinee

Whether she's one-on-one in an intimate talk, or leading a discussion with a variety of actors, Martha Frankel's entertaining panels are one of the festival's highlights. For more, visit

Join some of today's most engaging actors as they chat about their work and their lives.

Bruce Greenwood's rich acting career includes starring roles opposite Denzel Washington in the Oscar nominated drama Flight, opposite Paul Rudd and Steve Carell in Dinner for Schmucks, opposite Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote and opposite Cate Blanchett in I'm Not There. Greenwood recently wrapped production on Queen of the Night for acclaimed Canadian director Atom Egoyan, marking their fifth film together. His previous Egoyan's films include "Devils' Knot" opposite Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth, the lead role in Exotica and a starring role in The Sweet Hereafter as well as the drama Ararat. He will next be seen in the drama-thriller Good Kill opposite Ethan Hawke, premiering September at the Venice Film Festival. He recently wrapped the drama Fathers and Daughters opposite Russell Crowe.

Tim Guinee makes his directorial debut this year with the short "One Armed Man," screening as part of the 2014 Woodstock Film Festival official lineup. As an actor he worked on two plays by Horton Foote as well as the film version of Horton's play Lily Dale (Produced by Hallie Foote). He has also appeared in over two hundred roles on the stage, in television and films. Some of the more recognized work include characters in Sweet Land, Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Personal Velocity, Synecdoche New York, Once Around, How To Make An American Quilt, Ladder 49, and Courage Under Fire. He can currently be seen in the recurring roles of Scott Ryan in Showtime's Homeland, The Good Wife, and Hell on Wheels. Guinee was a series regular in Season one of NBC's Revolution produced by JJ Abrams, was featured in the film Promised Land with Matt Damon directed by Gus Van Sant, and was in visionary French director Rachid Bouchareb's two most recent films Just Like A Woman and Enemy Way. He can soon be seen in director Ramin Bahrani's 99 Homes. As a director, Tim will screen the New York Premiere of his film "One Armed Man" at the 2014 Woodstock Film Festival.

Sunday 10/19, 10:00am Kleinart James Art Center in Woodstock

PANEL: From Novel to Screen/ presented by the WGAE

Thelma Adams
Lucy Alibar
Lucy Alibar
Tony Kushner
Tony Kushner
Malia Scotch-MarmoMalia Scotch-Marmo

The Writers Guild of America, East gathers Lucy Alibar (Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Secret Garden), Tony Kushner (Munich, Lincoln), Malia Scotch-Marmo (Hook, Madeline), and moderator Thelma Adams to discuss the challenge of adapting books for the screen. They will explore the advantages and hazards of reworking someone else's original concept for a different medium, including the issue of responsibility both to the author and the pre-existing audience. They will reveal the most effective innovations, as well as some of the classic pitfalls they've discovered through their own work.

Thelma Adams is the contributing editor at Yahoo! Movies. St. Martin's Press published her debut novel
Playdate, an O magazine pick. She was the film critic at Us Weekly from 2000 - 2011, following six years at the New York Post. She has twice chaired the New York Film Critics Circle, where she has been a member since 1995. She has also written for The New York Times Magazine, O: The Oprah Magazine, The New York Observer, Parade, Variety, Marie Claire, The Huffington Post, More, Interview Magazine, The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune, Cosmopolitan and Self.

Lucy Alibar's work has been published in Zoetrope, the Oxford American, and the Wall Street Journal, and seen at National Theatre Studio, Joe's Pub, Berkeley Rep Williamstown, HERE, Avignon Festival, Women Center Stage/CSC, and the Cherry Lane. Her first movie, Beasts of the Southern Wild (an adaptation with Benh Zeitlin of her stage play, Juicy and Delicious) received the Sundance Grand Jury Prize and the Cannes Film Festival Camera D'Or. For her work on Beasts she was nominated for the Scripter, BAFTA, and Academy Award. Alibar is a Sundance Screenwriting Fellow, two time finalist for the Heideman Award at ATL, and finalist for the O'Neill Playwright's Conference.

Tony Kushner PLAYS: A Bright Room Called Day; Angels in America, Parts One and Two; Slavs!; Homebody/Kabul; Caroline, or Change, with composer Jeanine Tesori; The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide To Capitalism and Socialism With A Key To The Scriptures. OPERA: A Blizzard on Marblehead Neck, with Tesori. ADAPTATIONS/TRANSLATIONS: Corneille's The Illusion, Ansky's The Dybbuk, Brecht's The Good Person of Sezuan and Mother Courage and Her Children; the libretto for Hans Krasa's opera Brundibár. SCREENPLAYS: Mike Nichols' Angels In America; Steven Spielberg's Munich and Lincoln. BOOKS: The Art of Maurice Sendak, 1980 to the Present; Brundibar, illustrations by Sendak; and Wrestling With Zion, co-edited with Alisa Solomon.

Malia Scotch–Marmo wrote Steven Spielberg's fantasy, Hook, and also served as associate producer on the film. Her first produced film was Once Around, directed by Lasse Hallstrom. Scotch-Marmo also received story credit for Madeline. Her uncredited work includes Jurassic Park, Other Sister, Only You, Enchanted, and Polar Express. She has collaborated with many established directors on produced and unproduced material, including Norman Jewison, Alfonso Cuaron, Alfonso Arau, Luis Mandoki, Sabiha Sumar, Garry Marshall, and Rob Reiner. Scotch-Marmo graduated from Columbia University with an MFA in film. She is an adjunct professor at Columbia Graduate Film School, and taught at la FEMIS in Paris.

Sunday 10/19 12:00pm Kleinart James Art Center in Woodstock

PANEL: Casting By

ClaudeClaude dal Farra
Gayle KellerGayle Keller
melissa leoMelissa Leo
Cindy TolanCindy Tolan

Casting Directors, while often the unsung heroes, are among the most instrumental and crucial elements in the success (or failure) of any given film. Sought after by actors and directors alike, they make careers and give the project, on film and/or television, its successful edge. We have assembled some of today's hottest casting directors to shed light on the intricacies of the casting process and share some anecdotes from their experiences working with some of today's most exciting actors and directors.

Claude dal Farra is the president of BCDF and the producer of Bachelorette, Liberal Arts, Peace Love & Misunderstanding, Why Stop Now, Higher Ground, The Last Keepers, and Rhymes with Banana.

Gayle Keller, an independent New York casting director who has worked with Todd Solondz on Life During Wartime and Dark Horse, Cedric Klapisch on Casse-tete Chinois (Chinese Puzzle) and Phil Morrison on All Is Bright. Gayle is currently working on Kelly Reichardt's new feature and the fifth season of the television series, Louie.

Melissa Leo received an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award and a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award for her performance in The Fighter. She can next be seen in The Equalizer with Denzel Washington and in the upcoming FOX series Wayward Pines from director M. Night Shyamalan.

Cindy Tolan is a casting director for film, TV and theatre. Film credits include, This Is Where I Leave You, Winters Tale, Beasts Of The Southern Wild, Go For Sisters, The Place Beyond The Pines, Blue Valentine, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, It's Kind Of A Funny Story, Letters To Juliet, Sugar, The Private Lives Of Pippa Lee, The Darjeeling Limited, The Namesake, Sherrybaby, Kinsey Starting Out In The Evening, The Ballad Of Jack And Rose, Personal Velocity, Loggerheads, Casa De Los Babys, and Angela.

Sunday 10/19, 2:00pm Kleinart James Art Center in Woodstock

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• Click here for full online schedule with ticket info

• Click here for pre-fest PDF


About the Woodstock Film Festival:
Hailed by Indiewire as "A true American Maverick Among Fests," the Woodstock Film Festival premieres exceptional films, hosts the most talented emerging and established professionals in the movie industry, presents A-list concerts, panels and parties, and creates stimulating, innovative programming year-round.

The Woodstock Film Festival is a non-profit, 501c3 organization with a mission to present an annual program and year-round schedule of film, music and art-related activities that promote artists, culture, inspired learning and diversity.

The Woodstock Film Festival will celebrate its 15th Annual Festival October 15-19, 2014, with an extraordinary lineup of fiercely independent films, panels, concerts and special events in Woodstock, NY and the neighboring towns of Rhinebeck, Kingston, Rosendale and Saugerties.

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