Cucalorus Staff

Dan Brawley, Chief Instigating Officer

Dan Brawley is the Chief Instigating Officer of the Cucalorus Festival, an international celebration of filmmaking, performance and technology in Wilmington, North Carolina founded in 1994 by Twinkle Doon. Cucalorus screens more than 300 films with a range of multi-disciplinary programs focusing on dance, social justice, cocktails, entrepreneurship, and performance. Cucalorus was one of the “25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World, 2015” according to MovieMaker Magazine. Brawley is President of the Film Festival Alliance, an independent non-profit organization that develops and fosters collaboration among mission-driven film festivals around the world. Brawley was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, attended New Hanover High School, and graduated cum laude from Duke University, where he was an Academic All-American on the varsity golf team. He is also active as a performing artist, real estate developer and community organizer.


Rachel Taylor, Managing Director

Rachel is the Managing Director of the Cucalorus Film Foundation, overseeing the foundation’s operations and development departments. She was previously the Programming Director, during which time Cucalorus launched the Lumbee Film Festival, expanded the Popup Cinema program to include four NC counties with free screenings of popular children’s films, and rebranded the foundation’s flagship event with the emergence of Cucalorus Connect and Cucalorus Stage. Her nonprofit arts management career began in Boston at Huntington Theatre, Handel and Haydn Society, and Company One. Rachel received her Bachelor of Science in theatre from Skidmore College and her Master of Public Administration from the University of North Carolina. She is a 500-hr registered yoga instructor and currently teaches at Longwave Yoga.

Monica Shepard, Finance Manager

Monica Shepard is the Cucalorus Finance Manager. Monica has over 10 years experience providing Project Management services in the areas of Strategic Planning, Project Development and Community Organizational Services. Monica also has over 11 years experience working in the Wireless Communications Industry in which she provided innovative solutions focusing on the Company’s Vision of going Green.

Megan Petersen, Sponsorship Coordinator

Megan is the Sponsorship Coordinator for the Cucalorus Film Foundation. As a filmmaker and actor, she was introduced to the festival when her first short film was accepted in 2014 and hasn’t missed attending one since. Most recently, Megan was the Volunteer Coordinator for the 25th annual Cucalorus Festival, and she loved being a part of the team. She is also an acting coach at Actor’s Arsenal and educational instructor for Seed&Spark. She is passionate about helping other actors and creators find their way in the industry.

Rifka Roth, Graphics Specialist

Rifka is the Cucalorus Graphics Specialist. She is a freelance designer/illustrator, and UNCW Film & Communication Studies student with a minor in Digital Arts. Rifka designs, illustrates, paints, animates GIFs, and edits films. She most recently designed for the 25th Anniversary Cucalorus Festival, and previously worked for Visions 9 Film Festival & Conference in 2018 as the lead graphic designer. She loves pop-art, loud colors, old motel signs, dry humor, and early 2000s cartoons. When she’s not designing, drawing, or telling you about her adorable cat Toons, you can find Rifka cruising down S College Rd in her snot-colored jeep.

Anna Ray-Smith, Programming Coordinator

Anna is the Programming Coordinator for the Cucalorus Film Foundation.  As a proud Laurinburg native and independent filmmaker, she has a deep-rooted passion for the art of storytelling and the North Carolina film industry.  A former educator, she spent 2.5 years teaching English and North American Culture in public schools in Spain. While there, she produced two short films in Madrid, one of which, “Chueca”, a story documenting the life of trans sex workers, went on to have a successful international film festival run.  Anna holds dual Bachelor’s degrees in Journalism and Hispanic Studies from East Carolina University, and her Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Producing from the School of Filmmaking at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. In her free time you can find her at any coffee shop writing or sharpening her Spanish skills, traveling, or enjoying long walks with her rescued American Dingo mix, Honey. 

Fred Schmidt-Arenales, Technical Director

Fred Schmidt-Arenales is a Philadelphia based artist, filmmaker, and organizer. He has presented performances and experimental video and audio works internationally, at venues including Künstlerhaus Halle für Kunst und Medien, Graz; Links Hall and Ballroom Projects, Chicago; The Darling Foundry, Montreal; Pieter Performance Space and NAVEL, Los Angeles; LightBox and The Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; The Brick Theatre, Abrons Arts Center, and Dixon Place, New York; Kunsthalle, Vienna; and Tokyo Lift-Off Festival, Tokyo. He has also organized workshops, conferences, and classes on collaborative strategies and group dynamics at various arts organizations and schools including the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; Co-Prosperity Sphere, Chicago; and Abrons Arts Center, New York. Fred works as a freelance technical consultant, installer, project manager, and sound recordist across fine art, radio, and film.

Cucalorus Training Institute

The Cucalorus Training Institute is a seasonal staffing program providing on-the-job skill building for creative professionals from a wide range of fields and industries. These seasonal staff members work as independent contractors providing the critical services that make it possible to host one of the largest and most innovative festivals in the country. Filling key positions in every department, the program provides short-term, paid work for as many as 35 people each year.