Jamie Babbit has directed four features and produced and directed multiple award winning television shows. Her feature credits include the queer comedy BUT I'M A CHEERLEADER which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 1999. Other features include THE QUIET for Sony Classics starring Edie Falco and THE ITTY BITTY TITTY COMMITTEE which won the grand jury prize at the South By Southwest film festival in 2009.
Babbit's directing television credits include HBO's GIRLS, LOOKING, THE UNITED STATES OF TARA, NIP/TUCK, THE L WORD and MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE. Babbit has been profiled in Out Magazine, Time Out, The Los Angeles Times, Filmmaker Magazine and The Huffington Post and was listed by Variety as a "director to watch."
Babbit began her career as an intern on Martin Scorsese's film THE AGE OF INNOCENCE and worked underneath David Fincher on THE GAME. She directed three shorts that premiered at Sundance and her last short STUCK won a jury prize at the festival in 2002.
Babbit graduated from Columbia University where she was a centennial scholar in foreign studies and grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio.
Patty Jenkins is a writer/director best known for her debut feature MONSTER, based on the life of convicted serial killer Aileen Wuornos, and helming the pilot episode of AMC's hit show THE KILLING. She is an AFI alumna.
Jenkins began her career as a painter at The Cooper Union in New York City. Upon transitioning to filmmaking, she spent eight years as a First Assistant Camera Person/Focus Puller.
Jenkins won Best First Feature at the 2004 Independent Spirit Awards, and MONSTER, a film she wrote and directed, was chosen Best Movie of the Year and ranked #3 film of the decade (2002) by acclaimed film critic Roger Ebert. The movie was voted one of the most outstanding films of the year at the 2003 AFI AWARDS. It also earned star Charlize Theron an Oscar Award®, Golden Globe Award and SAG Award.
Jenkins went on to direct many commercials and television programs including ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, HBO's ENTOURAGE and the pilot of ABC's BETRAYAL. She was nominated for an Emmy Award® for THE KILLING pilot and for the final segment of FIVE — a series of short films about breast cancer for Lifetime she shared with fellow directors Jennifer Aniston, Alicia Keys, Demi Moore and Penelope Spheeris. She won the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Series for THE KILLING pilot.
She recently directed the pilot episode of ABC's EXPOSED and is currently scheduled to begin production on I AM SUPERMAN, a feature film that she also wrote in the summer of 2014.
Kimberly Peirce staked her place as a director of singular vision with her unflinching debut, BOYS DON'T CRY, which earned numerous honors including the Best Actress Oscar® for Hilary Swank. Peirce received the Satyajit Ray Directing Awards from the London Film Festival and Fipresci Prize for the film.
Peirce's next film, STOP-LOSS, starring Channing Tatum, Ryan Phillippe, Joe Gordon Levitt, and Abbie Cornish, was a topical and emotionally penetrating drama inspired by real-life stories of American soldiers, including her own brother, fighting in Iraq and coming home. Peirce received the Andrew Sarris Directing Award for the film. Peirce also directed a modern version of Stephen King's classic CARRIE. Starring Chloe Moretz, Julianne Moore and Judy Greer.
Peirce received her BA from University of Chicago, MFA from Columbia University, is a graduate of the Sundance Institute's Writing and Directing Film Labs, and is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Gina Prince-Bythewood studied at UCLA Film School, where she received the Gene Reynolds Scholarship for Directing and the Ray Stark Memorial Scholarship for Outstanding Undergraduate. Upon her graduation, she was hired as a writer on the television series A DIFFERENT WORLD and continued to write and produce for network television on series such as FELICITY, SOUTH CENTRAL and SWEET JUSTICE before making the transition to directing.
Prince-Bythewood wrote and directed the widely-acclaimed feature film LOVE & BASKETBALL, which premiered at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival. Prince-Bythewood won an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay and a Humanitas Prize for her work on the film. She followed that success with the HBO film DISAPPEARING ACTS.
In 2008, she wrote and directed the celebrated adaptation of the best-selling novel, THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES. The film won two People's Choice Awards and two NAACP Image Awards. Her third feature, BEYOND THE LIGHTS, came in 2014 and garnered an Oscar® nomination for best song.
Her television directorial debut was the CBS Schoolbreak Special WHAT ABOUT YOUR FRIENDS for which she won an NACCP Image Award for Best Children's Special and two Emmy® nominations for writing and directing. She also won a Community Service Emmy® for her work with the Rap-it-Up campaign.
Prince-Bythewood obtained her first feature film producer credit in 2003 on BIKER BOYZ, which was co-written and directed by her husband, Reggie Rock Bythewood.
She is proud to fund a scholarship for African American students in UCLA's film program. She resides in Southern California with her husband Reggie and their amazing sons, Cassius and Toussaint.
Jill Soloway is the creator of Amazon Studios' Emmy®, Golden Globe Award and GLAAD Media Award-winning TRANSPARENT, a dark, deep, silly family television series about boundaries, love and secrets.
Soloway won the U.S. Dramatic Directing Award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival for her first feature, AFTERNOON DELIGHT, which was released by Cinedigm/Film Arcade. She recently founded WIFEY.TV, a channel/brand for women. Soloway is a three-time Emmy® nominee for her work writing and producing SIX FEET UNDER.
She co-created the theater experiences THE REAL LIVE BRADY BUNCH, MISS VAGINA PAGEANT, HOLLYWOOD HELLHOUSE and SIT 'N SPIN, and co-founded the community organization East Side Jews. She lives with her family in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles.
DAISY VON SCHERLER MAYER
Daisy von Scherler Mayer wrote and directed her debut film, PARTY GIRL, starring Parker Posey, which premiered at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival and was an instant indie hit that remains a cult classic today. The film's success led to a FOX television series.
Since then, von Scherler Mayer has directed the successful children's classic MADELINE for Columbia Pictures. For Working Title Films and Universal Pictures, Daisy directed the Bollywood influenced comedy THE GURU, starring Heather Graham, Jimi Mistry and Oscar-winner Marisa Tomei.She has also directed two television movies, MORE OF ME for the Lifetime Network, and FRENEMIES for the Disney Channel.
Von Scherler Mayer has written for television including the pilot PRICELESS for executive producer Lisa Kudrow and Warner Bros. Television. As a director of episodic television, she has worked on a number of critically acclaimed series including, MAD MEN, NURSE JACKIE and SHAMELESS. Before her work in film and television, von Scherler Mayer was a New York theater director and comedy improv performer. Prior to that, she studied both film and theater at Wesleyan University.
Daisy also trained at The Circle in the Square, the Williamstown Theater Festival and Atlantic Theater Company, where she went on to work as a director. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, film composer David Carbonara, and two daughters, Ava and Colette.
Michael Urban is a graduate of the AFI Conservatory Screenwriting program (Class of 2000). His first feature film SAVED!, co-written with Brian Dannelly, starring Macaulay Culkin, Jena Malone and Mandy Moore, was produced by MGM/UA in 2004. He has since completed writing assignments for several major film and television studios including: ABC Television, HBO, Lionsgate, Sony Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox and Warner Brothers Television.
His most recent feature film, WHO'S AFRAID OF VAGINA WOLF, premiered at the 2013 Outfest Los Angeles LGBT Film Festival.
In the web-series realm, Deniese Davis is best known for producing Issa Rae's award-winning web series THE MISADVENTURES OF AWKWARD BLACK GIRL which accumulated over 15 million views with both seasons combined. As a freelance producer for music videos and digital content, she has worked with companies such as All Def Digital, AlrightTV, AwesomenessTV, Pulse Films, Quantasy and Valhalla Entertainment/Universal Cable Productions. She most recently served as executive in charge of production for Marlon Wayans' digital network WhatTheFunny.com (WTF?!). Alongside producing for Issa Rae Productions, she is currently COO of the content diversity initiative ColorCreative.TV.
Davis graduated from CUNY-Brooklyn College in New York with a BA in Film Production. In 2012, she received her MFA in Producing at the AFI Conservatory and was awarded the Debra Hill Fellowship by The Producers Guild of America (PGA).
Marcie Begleiter is the writer/director of the 2016 feature documentary EVA HESSE. She has also been a designer and illustrator for features, television and stage working as art director and storyboard artist with Paul Bogart, Bill Condon, Alex Cox, Jonathon Wacks and Jennifer Warren. Her book "From Word to Image: Storyboarding and the Filmmaking Process" is a bestseller, available in five languages, and she is recipient of numerous grants including an NEA project grant, a Durfee Foundation award and a Foundation for Arts Resources grant.
In academia, Begleiter is one of the founding faculty members of the International Filmschule in Cologne, was the founding director of the Integrated Learning Program at Otis College of Art and recently was the director of Production Design and Pre-Visualization for the Graduate Film Department at Art Center College of Design. More details can been seen at www.marciebegleiter.com.
An AFI Conservatory Directing Workshop for Women alumna, Tessa Blake is an award-winning writer/director whose films have premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and South by Southwest, won awards at the Nantucket Film Festival and the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, and have been honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Her films have also been released theatrically and have aired on DirecTV, Oxygen, PBS and Showtime.She and her husband Ian Williams also work as a writing team for film and television.
Blake has lectured at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Southern California and New York University. She founded the Naked Angels Theater School in New York, where she taught writing and directing. Blake has led workshops for young mothers and at-risk youth on both coasts.
Bruce Block is a producer, director, visual consultant and author. His producing credits include AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS, BABY BOOM, CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS, FATHER OF THE BRIDE, FATHER OF THE BRIDE PART II, THE HOLIDAY, I LOVE TROUBLE, THE PARENT TRAP, SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE and WHAT WOMEN WANT. He was the creative consultant on a variety of films including BACHELOR PARTY, PRETTY IN PINK and STUART LITTLE.
Block has directed second units for feature films, television programs, commercials, documentaries, IMAX films, visual effects, industrial films and corporate presentations. He founded the visual effects company Matte Effects and supervised work on over 100 feature film and television projects.
Block is also a visual consultant and conducts seminars at a wide variety of studios and universities. His clients include: Aardman, AFI, Binger Filmlab, Blizzard Entertainment, Blue Sky Studios, CalArts, College of Creative Studies, DirecTV, DreamWorks, EA, Filmakademie Baden-Wurttemberg, Google, Hasbro, Hewlett- Packard, ILM, Laika, Lucasfilm, Nickelodeon, Nord Media, PDI, Pixar, Relic Entertainment, Screen Training Ireland, Starz Cable Networks & Animation, Troika Design Group, UCLA, Valve Software and Walt Disney Studios. His best-selling book "The Visual Story," a classic modern text on the relationship between story structure and visual structure is available in six languages, and is used all over the world by working professionals and film students.
Block is a tenured professor at USC's School of Cinematic Arts and holds the Sergei Eisenstein Endowed Chair in Cinematic Design.
Joan Darling has been nominated four times for an Emmy®, three times as a director and once as an actress. She won an Emmy® for directing the ABC special, MOM'S ON STRIKE. She has also been nominated for two DGA awards, winning one for directing THE MARY TYLER SHOW episode, "Chuckles Bites the Dust."
In the '70s, she was one of the first women to begin directing film and television. She was the original director of MARY HARTMAN, MARY HARTMAN, and her award wining episode of THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, "Chuckles Bites the Dust" was selected the number one television episode of all time by TV Guide and was called by The New York Times, "The funniest half-hour in television history." She also directed many television pilots including the pilot of the hit show, ONE DAY AT A TIME, as well as such shows as DOC, M*A*S*H, PHYLLIS, RICH MAN POOR MAN and RHODA. She is the only woman to direct MAGNUM PI with Tom Selleck. She also directed two of the highest rated episodes of Steven Spielberg's AMAZING STORIES, winning the Image Award for "The Sitter." Her first feature film, FIRST LOVE starring Susan Dey, was selected one of the year's ten best films by CBS.
Darling is also a well-known actress, having starred on and off Broadway, as well as in London. She starred as Viola in "Twelfth Night" at the American Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Connecticut. She appeared for four years in the hit, award-winning improvisational and political satire show, "The Premise." She is well remembered as a series regular on the hit TV show, OWEN MARSHALL. Her performance as "Dorothy Parker" in WOVEN IN A CRAZY PLAID won her another Emmy® nomination for acting.
Darling is a world-renowned teacher. She has taught at Carnegie Mellon, where she served on the President of the University's advisory board for the Department of Drama, University of North Carolina, University of West Virginia, USC and Cal Arts. She teaches and is a creative advisor at Robert Redford's Sundance Directors Lab, and created the "Directing the Actor Workshop" for the Sundance Institute. She also teaches at Moonstone, the European branch of the Sundance Film Lab.
Jay Floyd earned his BFA in screenwriting and directing from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. His first feature, FORGIVING THE FRANKLINS, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2006. He is the sole proprietor of Now Clear This, a legal clearance company that has served film and television productions since 1998.
Deborah Landis, costume designer and historian, received an MFA in costume design from UCLA and a PhD in the history of design from the Royal College of Art in London. Her distinguished career includes AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, ANIMAL HOUSE, BURKE & HARE, COMING TO AMERICA, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award®, and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. She also created the costumes for Michael Jackson's groundbreaking music video for "Thriller."
Landis is the author of many books including "Screencraft/Costume Design," "Dressed: A Century of Hollywood Costume Design" (Harper Collins, 2007), "Hollywood Sketchbook: A Century of Costume Illustration" (Harper Collins, 2012), "FilmCraft: Costume Design" (Ilex Press, 2012) and the 2012 catalogue for the landmark exhibition, Hollywood Costume, which she curated at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, and is currently on tour at the Phoenix Art Museum. She served as a two-term president from 2001-2007 of the Costume Designer's Guild, Local 892, of which she has been a member for more than 35 years. She is a Governor for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
Professor Landis holds the David C. Copley Chair and is the Founding Director of the David C. Copley Center for Costume Design at UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television.
Heidi Levitt is a Los Angeles-based casting director and producer. Her casting credits include Wim Wender's feature film, EVERY THING WILL BE FINE, starring James Franco; Diego Luna's feature film, CESAR CHAVEZ, starring Rosario Dawson, America Ferrera and Michael Pena; as well as Cynthia Mort's NINA, starring David Oyelowo and Zoe Saldana. She also cast and executive produced GINGER & ROSA, written and directed by Sally Potter.
Levitt's other notable films include THE ARTIST, JFK, THE JOY LUCK CLUB, NATURAL BORN KILLERS and NIXON. Levitt is a graduate of Barnard College and the AFI Conservatory's Producers Program.
In 2010, she created the app, Actor Genie, available on iTunes and Android. Actor Genie tells actors what's casting and who's who, with inspiring quotes and advice from Hollywood actors, directors, writers and acting coaches and more.
Stephen Lighthill is the AFI Conservatory's senior filmmaker-in-residence for cinematography. His documentary film work includes BERKELEY IN THE '60s and GIMME SHELTER. His cinematography credits for independent features include HOT SUMMER WINDS, OVER-UNDER, SIDEWAYS-DOWN and SHIMMER — all for PBS' American Playhouse. Lighthill served as Director of Photography on the TV series VIETNAM WAR STORY for HBO, EARTH 2 and NASH BRIDGES. In 2005, he returned to documentaries with HBO's BOFFO! TINSELTOWN'S BOMBS AND BLOCKBUSTERS and HBO's THE ALZHEIMER'S PROJECT: "Caregivers."
He is on the Board of Governors of the American Society of Cinematographers and the National Executive Board of the International Cinematographers Guild. In 2010, he received the Deluxe Bud Stone award for Outstanding Educational Contributions to the Art and Craft of Cinematography from the ICG and was awarded the 2010 SMPTE Kodak Education Award for Outstanding Contributions in Film Production Education. He served as President of the American Society of Cinematographers from 2012-2013.
Adam Moore is a Los Angeles-based screenwriter, video game writer, comic book writer and writing instructor. He received his BFA in Dramatic Writing and Cinema Studies from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, and received his MFA in screenwriting at AFI, where he was given the Richard Levinson Award for artistic excellence.
One of the writers of RATCHET AND CLANK: TOOLS OF DESTRUCTION, Insomniac Games' blockbuster next-gen follow up to its highly successful PlayStation franchise, he was also the Lead Writer on DIRT 3, Codemasters' sequel to its top-selling off-road racing game. Together with AFI Directing alum Kevin Abrams, Moore co-founded Fairtrade Films, an intellectual property and content creation company based in Los Angeles. Fairtrade is known for innovative and visionary concepts that can live in a variety of media from comic books and video games to film and television. The first project in their IP pipeline, a graphic novel called VENDOR, was published by Viper Comics in 2008, and is currently being developed into a video game and television series. Moore has developed films, television series and comic books for Dark Horse Entertainment, Kapital Entertainment, Landscape Entertainment, Scott Stuber and Julie Yorn, among others.
Issa Rae's content has garnered over 25 million views and close to 200,000 subscribers on YouTube. In addition, Rae made the Forbes 30 Under 30 list twice and won the 2012 Shorty Award for Best Web Show for her hit series THE MISADVENTURES OF AWKWARD BLACK GIRL. She has worked on web content for Tracey Edmonds, Pharrell Williams and numerous others. She developed an ABC TV series with Shonda Rhimes and is currently developing a half-hour comedy, INSECURE, for HBO. Rae is also the New York Times Best Selling author of, "The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl," released by Atria/Simon & Schuster in 2015.
Holding an MA and PhD in Cinema Studies from New York University, Sabath has nearly two decades of feature film development experience. He ran the film division of Marsha and Robin Williams's Blue Wolf Productions, whose productions include JAKOB THE LIAR, PATCH ADAMS and MRS. DOUBTFIRE. At Twentieth Century Fox, he was senior vice president of production for Paul Schiff Productions, where he oversaw MY COUSIN VINNY and was co-producer on GHOST IN THE MACHINE and PCU. He spent four years at Columbia Pictures, as executive story editor and vice president of production, and supervised FLATLINERS and IMMEDIATE FAMILY. Sabath also taught film history and criticism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Illinois State University.
Lisanne Sartor graduated from Yale University with an English degree, and worked for a New Jersey state senator before moving to Los Angeles to be a writer/director. She was admitted to the DGA Assistant Director Training Program and quickly discovered that, although assistant directing doesn't necessarily lead to directing, it's good training for any aspect of filmmaking.
She then received an MFA in Screenwriting from UCLA, where she won numerous screenwriting awards, including the Samuel Goldwyn Award. Her original screenplay, CLEAVERVILLE, was produced by Don Enright of Alexander/Enright, and aired on Lifetime Television. She wrote a telefilm for the DeAngelis Group in Italy, had a script optioned by Hearst Entertainment and developed projects with Roth-Arnold Productions, among other companies.
Sartor wrote and directed the short film SIX LETTER WORD through the AFI Conservatory Directing Workshop for Women. The short film screened at fifty film festivals around the world, including the Telluride Film Festival and the American Pavilion at Cannes. She's written the feature version which she will also direct. Sartor also recently wrote and directed the short film, PRICK, about the three P's — penises, pregnancy and parenthood.
Maya Sigel holds a BA from Brandeis University and is a graduate of the MFA program in Production Design at AFI. She is an accomplished production designer with over ten years experience in feature films, commercials, music videos and web content.
Frequently working in both New York and Los Angeles, her feature film credits include Tribeca Film Festival favorites BEWARE THE GONZO, TIMER and most recently, GLASS CHIN starring Billy Crudup and Corey Stoll. In 2011, GUN HILL ROAD was an official selection at the Sundance Film Festival and was released in theaters across the country. That same year, Sigel designed five commercials for a Google campaign that won the Gold Prize at the Cannes Lions International Festival. Other credits include the SXSW selection SOME GIRL(S), a Neil LaBute script starring Adam Brody, Kristen Bell, Zoe Kazan and Emily Watson, that gave her the opportunity to design and build five unique hotel rooms on a soundstage in Los Angeles. Sigel just wrapped principal photography on Eddie O'Keefe's SHANGRI-LA SUITE, a period film starring Emily Browning, Luke Grimes and Ron Livingston.
Award winning feature film producer Brian Udovich's credits include ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE, A NECESSARY DEATH, THE WACKNESS and WE GOTTA GET OUT OF THIS PLACE, which recently had its world premiere at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.
Udovich earned his MFA in Producing from the AFI Conservatory, and his BA from Illinois Wesleyan University. For his AFI thesis film, THE MONSTER AND THE PEANUT, he was the recipient of a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and won first place at the ATAS Foundation College Television Awards for best dramatic film in 2005. In 2007, he was awarded the Robert M. Montgomery Outstanding Young Alumnus Award from Illinois Wesleyan University. For the last three years, Udovich has served as the committee chair for the selection of the prestigious Piaget Producers Grant for the Film Independent Spirit Awards. He is a co-founder of a film development and production company, Rough & Tumble Films, and co-founder and programmer of the weekly genre screening series, Reel Grit Sundays.
Sandra Valde-Hansen got her start in documentary, working for Emmy® Award winning cinematographer, Tony Foresta, who taught her the beauty of the image is found in simplicity.
After seven years as a camera assistant and operator, Valde-Hansen pursued a full-time career as a cinematographer, earning her MFA in Cinematography at AFI. While at AFI, Sandra honed her craft in the art of visual storytelling, learning from master cinematographers and deepening her knowledge of light and composition. She had the invaluable opportunity to mentor under Stephen Lighthill, ASC, Steven Poster, ASC, Larry Parker and Alan Caso, ASC. Since graduating from AFI, she has been able to take her passion of cinematography throughout all mediums of storytelling.
Valde-Hansen shot the last season of the very popular MUN 2 Reality show, THE CHICAS PROJECT, which brought her across the country. Her camera has allowed her to be part of the political and socially conscience filmmaking of Brave New Films. The newly formed news channel Al Jazeera America will feature Valde-Hansen's documentary camera work for a series titled, THE AMERICAN DREAM PROJECT: DAISY & MAX, directed by Sundance documentary veteran Jennifer Maytorena Taylor. She has traveled the world shooting from Paris, for the relaunched MTV's HOUSE OF STYLE, to Mexico, for PBS' VOCES, "Tales of the Masked Men," co-produced by Latino Public Broadcast and ITVS. Some of her other clients include Mastercard, MAX Films, TED and USC.
Valde-Hansen shot indie guru, Gregg Araki's last two features. KABOOM was an official selection at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, 2011 Sundance Film Festival and released in 40 cities around the U.S. under IFC. Araki's WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD, starring Shailene Woodley, premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Her films ACTS OF MERCY, CHRISTMAS IN COMPTON, FLY AWAY and HELLO HERMAN are in limited release via VOD. Valde-Hansen continues to shoot powerful stories in the realm of independent narrative and documentary and teaches cinematography at AFI.
Writer/director Andrew Wagner graduated from Brown University with degrees in Creative Writing and Psychology. He attended NYU's Graduate Film School where his short, THE HARDEST HIT, won the Francois de Menil Scholarship. He moved to Los Angeles to write WACCABUC, a screenplay for United Artists. He then became a Directing Fellow at AFI where he received a MFA, and his thesis film, THE LAST DAYS OF HOPE AND TIME, won the Franklin J. Shaffner Fellowship for distinction in directing. Andrew adapted THE MAN WHO GAVE UP HIS NAME from Jim Harrison's collection of novellas, "Legends of the Fall," which he developed at the Sundance Screenwriters Lab. He went on to direct the independent shorts, SOUTH MAIN and COUNTING.
Wagner's first feature film, THE TALENT GIVEN US, was an Official Selection at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, Best First Feature at Michael Moore's Traverse City Film Festival, and won the Jury Prize at the CineVegas Film Festival. It went on to play theatrically in over 30 cities and made The New York Times' and other critics' best films of 2005 lists. Wagner was a Breakthrough Director nominee at the 2005 Gotham Awards. STARTING OUT IN THE EVENING, Wagner's second feature, starring Lauren Ambrose, Frank Langella and Lili Taylor, premiered in competition at the Sundance Film Festival in 2007 and was released theatrically by Roadside Attractions. Frank Langella was voted Best Actor of 2007 by the Boston Critics Association and was voted Runner-Up for Best Actor by critics associations in Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas/Ft. Worth. STARTING OUT IN THE EVENING was named one of the Top 10 Independent Films of 2007 by the National Board of Review and made over 30 critics' best films of 2007 lists, including A.O. Scott's and Stephen Holden's of The New York Times, and Roger Ebert's of the Chicago Sun-Times. It was nominated for two Spirit Awards — Best Male Lead and Best Screenplay.
James West was born in Iowa and grew up in Chicago, where he made a living as a professional photographer for almost a decade before dedicating himself entirely to film and video. After working for two years shooting independent films in Chicago, James headed to Los Angeles in 2003 to attend the prestigious American Film Institute Conservatory, where he received a MFA in Cinematography in 2005.
For the past 12 years, James has been shooting independent features, short films, web series, and commercials. West's work has been featured at the MOCA, LACMA, the Hammer Museum of Art, at the South by Southwest Film Festival (SXSW), BFI London Film Festival, Festival de Cannes, Festival of Nations in Austria and the Brooklyn International Film Festival. His most recent projects include a feature film called A WORLD AFTER, filmed on location in Northern Wales and Liverpool; and a 10-part Sci-Fi web series called SWERVE, with his long time collaborator, Zach Horton; and MATTRESSIDE with writer/director Chris Merrill starring Rose McIver and Jennifer Morrison. He just wrapped shooting EASY LIVING, written and directed by Adam Keleman.