Director, Writer, Executive Producer
Gilda Sheppard is an award-winning filmmaker who has screened her documentaries throughout the United States, and internationally in Ghana, West Africa, at the Festival Afrique Cannes Film Festival, and in Germany at the International Black Film Festival in Berlin. Sheppard is a 2017 Hedgebrook Fellow for documentary film and a 2019 recipient of an Artist Trust Fellowship.
Her documentaries include stories of resilience of Liberian women and children refugees in Ghana; stories of three generations of Black families in an urban neighborhood; and a film ethnography of stories from folklore started by Zora Neale Hurston in Alabama's AfricaTown. For over a decade Sheppard has taught sociology classes in Washington State prisons and is a co-founder and faculty for FEPPS- Freedom Education for Puget Sound an organization offering college credited courses at Washington Correctional Center for Women.
Gilda is a member of the faculty at The Evergreen State College Tacoma Campus.
Director Gilda Sheppard is a gifted teacher, incisive scholar, committed activist, and a talented filmmaker who's dedicated her life to the education and liberation of poor and oppressed people -- especially black people in the era of mass incarceration. We all owe her a debt of gratitude for her brilliant work and steadfast commitment to justice.
- Michelle Alexander, Civil Rights Attorney; Author “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness”
David Menschel is a criminal defense attorney and President of Vital Projects Fund, a charitable foundation that seeks to end mass incarceration, with a focus on curtailing cruel and excessive sentences, holding police and prosecutors accountable, ameliorating barbaric prison conditions, and reaffirming the humanity of incarcerated people.
In addition, David has executive produced documentary films about issues related to mass incarceration and civil liberties that have won Oscar and Emmy Awards as well as awards at the Sundance Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, and SXSW, including citizenfour, The Oath, Solitary: Inside Red Onion State Prison, Do Not Resist, Untouchable, the Mind of Mark DeFriest, and Florence, Arizona.
Formerly, David was an attorney at the Innocence Project in New York City and the legal director of the Innocence Project of Florida, where he won cases freeing wrongfully convicted people from prison. He has represented people sentenced to death as well as people serving life without the possibility of parole sentences for crimes they committed as children.
David is the author of the prize-winning piece Abolition Without Deliverance: The Law of Connecticut Slavery, 1784-1848, published in the Yale Law Journal. Before attending law school, he taught American history to high school students. He received a B.A. from Princeton University and a J.D. from Yale Law School. He lives in Portland, Oregon.
Writer, Editor, Producer
Saman Maydani is an award-winning director, editor, and producer of documentary and narrative films.
She is attracted to the power of film as a tool for human connection and healing. Her work explores oppression and our relationships to power, focusing on the stories of women and other cultures at the margins.
Her first film "Even the Walls" won the 2015 Golden Space Needle Award for Best Short Film at the Seattle International Film Festival. In 2016, she was selected to participate in Black Factory Cinema’s final filmmaker workshop with Abbas Kiarostrami at La Escuela Internacional de Cine y TV in Cuba.
June Nho Ivers is a filmmaker from Chicago, educated at Northwestern University, and field-tested in broadcast commercials and music videos in Los Angeles, New York. She now lives in Seattle with her husband and two children.
Director of Photography
Canh Nguyen received his BFA in Photography from Cornish College of the Arts in 2012.
He was director of photography for Even the Walls, a documentary on the redevelopment of Yesler Terrace, the nation's first integrated public housing project. "Even the Walls" won the Award for Best Short Film at the Seattle International Film Festival in 2015.
Producer, Impact & Strategy Consultant
Bonnie Benjamin-Phariss brings decades of experience as an award-winning production executive with a proven track record of using storytelling to change opinions and lead people to action. In addition to working with the film industry’s greatest brands and creative leaders, including Disney, CNN, HBO, PBS, Discovery and National Geographic. Bonnie has vast experience bringing the public and private sectors together to build and implement campaigns - all in the service of amplifying shared value, driving impact and contributing to a more equitable world.
Bonnie’s campaign experience includes multi-platform projects focused on educating girls in the developing world to fight poverty, intimate partner violence, the promise and perils of Big Data, pandemic preparedness, global health, environmental stewardship, destigmatizing nuclear power, gun violence, the high school graduation rate in the U.S., and supporting our veterans and their families.
Bonnie ran the documentary division of the independent media company, Vulcan Productions founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen, noted for telling powerful stories and campaigns to help audiences understand the world around them, respond to challenges and bring about lasting change. Prior to working at Vulcan Productions, Bonnie was Manager of Creative Development and Business Administration at the Disney Institute in Orlando, Florida. She began her career as Director of Research and Development for public affairs programming for WNET in New York.
The population serving life sentences has nearly quintupled since 1984. One in seven people in prison are serving life with parole, life without parole, or virtual life (50 years or more). No correlation between lengthy sentences and public safety benefits has been demonstrated to date.
Carlos Esparza is a composer and multi-instrumentalist from the Rocky Mountains.
He co-founded the orchestral post-rock band Lullabies for Falling Empires with Richard Webb in 2009. Since 2014 he has been composing music for documentaries focusing on the topics of social justice and human rights.
Futsum Tsegai is a filmmaker based out of Seattle, WA. Since 2011, he has worked on shooting and lighting commercial and independent productions.
Tsegai's work has premiered on KCTS's PIE, won "Best Interview" at Hotdocs International Film Festival as well as the Frye Art Museum’s exhibit "Your Feast Has Ended." In 2015 Tsegai helped co-write “Hagereseb" (Directed by Zia Mohajerjasbi), a short film about the community of Yesler Terrace, taking place in the mid 90's.
Tara Muñoz is a native to Washington State and has been recording sound for 20 years, starting with bands, and then for film and television. Muñoz has worked on many films, features, shorts, documentaries, and commercials shot all over the world.