Cucalorus Film Foundation

Jengo's Playhouse
815 Princess Street
Wilmington, NC 28401

executive director: dan brawley
dan "at"

development director: craig stinson
development "at"
communications manager: ryan jaccard
comm "at"
programming coordinator: natalie lentz
programming "at"
operations manager: james martin
operations "at"
tech coordinator: dalton carter
box office manager: withrow newel
boxoffice "at"
travel coordinator: zoë vanderploeg
travel "at"
volunteer coordinator: thomas van arsdale
volunteer "at"
community engagement director: ashley sparks
engagement "at"
special programs coordinator: lindsay goeldner
specialprograms "at"
social events coordinator: sarah gilliam
socialevents "at" 
social media coordinator: cassie foss
social "at" 
visual/sound/walls curator/coordinator: johnny gray
social media assistant: madeleine tangney
program guide coordinator: sarah bode
website coordinator: amanda taylor
head of screenings: robert redhead
pass printing manager: kayloni wyatt 
residency coordinator: mariah kramer
hospitality coordinator: jake warren
ticket box manager: cathy blake
cucalorus mascot: izzie
izzie "at"

Volunteering Opportunities

Cucalorus Staff

dan brawley, executive director
Dancing to several tunes (mostly offbeat) all at once, Dan Brawley is the multi-media collaborator and curator leading Cucalorus since 1999. A graduate of Duke University and a native of Wilmington, Brawley is busy traveling around the world to find new films and challenging artists and bring them to the festival. Ever restless, Brawley is also the Past Chair of Atlanta-based non-profit Alternate ROOTS, an organization that supports the crossroads between art and activism.
craig stinson, development director
Craig Stinson is a native of Wilmington. He attended UNCW and UNC Chapel Hill and did graduate work at The George Washington University. He has extensive experience in arts administration and development, having worked at institutions including the Smithsonian Institution, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Library of Congress. Stinson believes Wilmington has one of the most amazing arts scenes in the country, so in his spare time he manages
ryan jaccard, communications manager

Ryan Jaccard stepped into the role of Communications Manager in January 2013. Jaccard coordinates with press, reaches out to new media partners, creates marketing materials and the e-newsletter, and passionately oversees an ever-expanding to-do list. Utilizing his background in Finance and Film Studies, Jaccard continues to build a thrilling path towards independent producing and distribution. Oftentimes, you can find Jaccard guzzling iced coffee behind the wheel, basking in physical media, recycling wine bottles, and spending time with "OPP" — other people's pets.



natalie lentz, programming coordinator 

Natalie Lentz returns to Cucalorus for her second year, this time as Programming Coordinator. She blends together enthusiasm for art, film, and people to curate a delicious experience for the Cuc' masses. With a Master's in Interior Architecture and Exhibit Design, she enjoys creating the visual experience. Lentz gravitates toward highly stylized forms and is intrigued by myriad of media forms. Exploring the relationship between image and sound and playing with texture, color, and pattern inspires her never-ending creative work.




james martin, operations manager
James Martin first got mixed up with the festival during Cuc' 18 as an usher at Jengo’s Playhouse, moving up in Summer 2013 as an intern coordinating the Surfalorus Surf Film Festival. Martin decided to stick around Cucalorus (mainly because everyone forgot to tell him to leave) and worked as the Jengo’s Facilities Manger during Cuc' 19. He's excited to help actualize all of the Big Ideas the Cuc' team is developing for the benchmark Cuc' 20. 





zoë vanderploeg, travel coordinator

Zoë Vanderploeg has loved volunteering with Cucalorus over past years, and she is super stoked to be on staff as Travel Coordinator for Cuc' 20. Beyond hanging out at Jengo’s masterminding flight schedules and eating stale popcorn, she is currently finishing her “victory lap” (aka extra semester) at UNCW. She will graduate in December with degrees in Film Studies and Economics. Vanderploeg is a casual collector of fun facts and corny jokes.





t arnsdalethomas van arsdale , volunteer coordinator
Thomas van Arsdale traded his long-time Cucalorus audience seat for a backless desk chair at Jengo's as the Volunteer Coordinator of Cuc' 20. He recruits volunteers with tales of Pegasorus and by blinding audiences with orange. Some Cucalorians refer to him as "Tommy Waffles," although the epithet's origin remains unknown. Other than herding cats for Cuc', Waffles is a multi-instrumentalist, composer and journalist. He is completing a M.A. in English Linguistics from East Carolina University - writing his thesis on the rhetoric and psychology of humor with the hope of one day being able to tell a joke.




ashley sparksashley sparks, community engagement director

Ashley Sparks is a southern theater maker and engagement strategist. Current projects include: Community Partnerships Associate for Cornerstone Theater Company's Bridge Tour of California: The Tempest (a 10-community tour spanning California), dramaturg and engagement strategist for PearlDamour's MILTON (an online and live performance project in 5 towns named Milton across the US), and the Director of Engagement for the Cucalorus Film Festival's social justice documentaries and works-in-progress programming.




ashley sparkslindsay goeldner, special programs coordinator

Lindsay is a passionate cinephile, self-professed film festival hopper and karaoke enthusiast. Since getting her start in the local film circuit in Toronto six years ago, Lindsay has branched out to working in many positions at various film festivals all over North America with a focus on more programming work (industry events and film curation). A few of the fests on her roster are: Toronto International Film Festival, Hot Docs, Sundance, SXSW, Toronto After Dark, Brooklyn Film Fest and now, Cucalorus. She hopes to make moves across the pond soon but until then, catch her at any and every karaoke afterparty.




sarah gilliamsarah gilliam,social events coordinator

Sarah Gilliams's love for Cucalorus was unearthed in 2008, when she bravely took on the role as Jengo's Backyard bartender. A few years of Screenings Coordinating solidified her love for movies and engaging with the creative folks who make this festival quirky and special. This year Sarah is excited to put her event planning and socializing skills to the test as the Social Events Coordinator. Sarah's favorite part of the festival is the wacky and creative juices that flow throughout downtown Wilmington each year.



sarah gilliamcassie foss, social media coordinator

This is Cassie’s second year as Cucalorus’ Social Media Coordinator, which means she has clocked a lot of time wrangling Interweb content, coordinating break-dance videos and photographing Izzie for Instagram. In her pre-Cucalorus life, Cassie worked as a journalist, covering crime in Michigan, small-town politics in South Carolina and the multimillion dollar film industry in North Carolina. Now, she works with filmmakers and businesses to develop social media and content strategy. At Cucalorus, Cassie helps integrate festival initiatives across multiple platforms. When she’s not monitoring Twitter, you can find her writing, DIYing, or boogie boarding at Wrightsville Beach’s north end.


sarah bode cucalorusjohnny gray, visual/sound/walls curator/coordinator

Johnny first hooked up with Cucalorus back in 2006 when he got a spure of the moment call to emcee a documentary screening where he opened with the joke, “Everyone make sure your phones are turned to vibrate, cause you don’t wanna disrupt the movie, and cause it feels good on your crotch areas.” That’s right, he opened with that. Since then he’s emceed many screenings and had many of his short films screened. He’s also been inspired by Cucalorus’s nurturing nature of the arts and the creative process and tries to bring similar sentiments to his performances of stand-up, improv, and sketch comedy, as well as his endeavors with his production company, PARALLELLOGRAM, who’s media wizards make multimedia events such as Visual/Sound/Walls a digital reality.


sarah gilliammadeleine tagney, social media assistant
Madeleine first got accustomed to Cucalorus' wacky ways as an audience member of Cuc' 16 and beyond, though it wasn't until officially joining the staff for Cuc' 20 that she fully understood what a heavy diet of moonshine and waffles will do to you. (Hint: you keep coming back for more.) When she isn't glued to her computer screen dishing out the punniest of puns on our various social media platforms, you can find her lurking the hallways of UNCW as she finishes her victory lap with a double major in Film Studies and Creative Writing, proving yet again that being the voice of a generation depends solely on one's willingness and ability to survive on Ramen noodles.



sarah bode cucalorussarah bode, program guide coordinator

Sarah Bode has enjoyed spelunking through the trenches of the design world. Due to her tenacious gumption, she is self-taught in layout, web, and graphic design. Bode got lost on UNCW's campus for a while--graduating twice with a BFA in Creative Writing and a BA in English, then a MA in Liberal Studies. She is Co-Founder and Contributing Editor of Palaver, an online, academic, interdisciplinary journal. A rare breed, Bode is a local Wilmingtonian and enshrines her first magical Cuc' moments in 2007 and every year since.




amanda tayloramanda taylor, website coordinator

Amanda is a classically trained flutist, having played in over a dozen professional orchestras including the Knoxville Symphony, Panama City POPS, and the Northwest Florida Orchestra. Her fascination with technology has lead her to experiment with other mediums including graphic design, web design & development. Amanda has combined her love for music and technology by performing and lecturing new multidisciplinary works of Kaija Saariaho, David Lang, and JacobTV. She is really excited to join Cucalorus for the 20th anniversary as web coordinator!



t arnsdalerobert redhead , head of screenings
Originally from Wilmington, and now living in Atlanta with his wife and two daughters, Robert started as a Screenings Coordinator for City Stage at Cucalorus 15. As Head of Screenings, he will be in charge of ensuring all the juju comes together for each screening, and leading a small band of volunteers pathologically focused on a magical movie experience for every attendee. In his spare time Robert can be found gorging on horror films, cooking, reading, running, and doing impressions.



t arnsdalekayloni wyatt, pass printing manager

Currently a Program Assistant for a local non profit organization.Her ideal day is sitting back listening to good tunes and reading a great book. She loves reading comic books and trying to cram superhero knowledge into her brain. Kayloni also enjoys going to concerts and interjecting pop culture references in almost every conversation.



t arnsdalemariah kramer , residency coordinator
Mariah Kramer first got bit by the Cucalorus bug when her short film, Nite Lite, screened at Cuc’ 17. Returning again for Cuc’ 18 with her short, A Weekend Grove, she knew she was hooked. Soaking up all things Cucalorus, Mariah participated in the artist residency program and lived in the Pink House this past June…. and this is how she found herself to be the Residency Coordinator for Cucalorus 20. Mariah is thrilled to be a part of this wacky group of Cucalorians!


t arnsdalecathy blake , ticket box manager
A volunteer at the Box Office at Cucalorus '19, Cathy Blake is back for '20 to keep it neat and tidy at the ticket booth. When she's not out chasing her rambunctious Shi-Zu, Tuxedo, around Surf City, she's deep in the trenches keeping everything immaculately organized. The "Queen of Clean," there's no job too big, to small or too dirty for her to tackle. Cathy is thrilled that "Fred: The Town Dog" is screening, and can't wait to see "Flash Gordon" in all its big-screen glory!



izzie, cucalorus mascot
Recently relocated from a no-kill animal resort on the outskirts of Conway, South Carolina, Izzie is a Mini-Pin and Spaniel mix with a few unknown ancestral lines. Izzie works diligently to maintain staff morale by licking hands, faces, and other places.  You can find her chewing sticks, practicing her stunt dog tricks, and looking out the window.    


Board of Trustees 

Beth Steelman, Chair
A Wilmington native, Beth Steelman kept a movie scrapbook when she was growing up. After graduating from Salem College (majoring in psycology and Spanish), Steelman worked as a newspaper reporter, a Girl Scout communications director, a public relations consultant and a fundraiser for various non-profits. She and her husband Ben have traveled to six of the seven continnets. Her family home in Carolina place is available for location shooting, in case anybody's interested.

Dylan Lee, President
Dylan Lee lives in Wilmington with his wife Nicole and two Labradors. He loves Wilmington so much that he has moved here on four separate occasions! His first try was after he finished college at UNCG in 1992. Lee finally stuck in 2000, when he moved to be station manager for TV channel GTV8. Lee works to make WIlmington a better place and wants people to know that Cucalorus weekend is the best weekend of the year in this great city.

Robert Sharp, Past Chair
Robert Sharp has nearly 20 years of entrepreneurial experience, mainly in the digital media industry. Most recently, Sharp acquired Digieffects, a developer of special effects software for film and video. He moved the business to Wilmington, North Carolina in 2007 and since then has become highly involved with the local film community. Sharp grew up in Tokyo, Japan and holds a BA in Asian History from San Francisco State University.


Bo Webb, Treasurer
Bo Webb has been involved with Cucalorus since it began in 1994, and was one of the original members of Twinkle Doon, a group of friends and filmmakers who thought a festival would be a good idea for Wilmington. He's been on the Cucalorus Board for many years in various roles, including Chair. He works in the film business as a camera operator and director.



Sue Meier, Secretary
Sue Meier grew up in Michigan and lived in New York before making Wilmington her home. She's been teaching, dancing, and choreographing with The Dance Cooperative for 10+ years. Meier's been a participant of Dance-a-lorus, working with different filmmakers on a variety of projects. She's also involved in the North Carolina Dance Festival's stop in Wilmington, having produced the event for several years. When she's not at the studio, Meier will likely be found at the beach!
Dan Brawley
Dancing to several tunes (mostly offbeat) all at once, Dan Brawley is the multi-media collaborator and curator leading Cucalorus since 1999. A graduate of Duke University and a native of Wilmington, Brawley is busy traveling around the world to find new films and challenging artists and bring them to the festival. Ever restless, Brawley is also the Past Chair of Atlanta-based non-profit Alternate ROOTS, an organization that supports the crossroads between art and activism.
Rob Hill
Rob Hill majored in Motion Picture and Television Production at the University of Southern Colorado. With a small grant in 1999, he produced, directed, and edited the non-fiction film Live In It To Win It. Hill founded Common Sense Films, the company behind his Emmy-nominated documentary, The Fort Fisher Hermit: The Life and Death of Robert E. Harrill. The film also won Best Documentary Feature at the Hollywood Film Festival and is distributed nationally. The National Academy of Television Science nominated Hill for the prestigious Rising Star Award in 2007. 
Cathy Meriam
Cathy Meriam has been an active part of Cucalorus since its days of small offices and film submissions on VHS tapes. Her work experience includes positions on major motion pictures and in television--most recently wrapping the HBO/Cinemax show Banshee. Meriam has Produced and Directed feature films, short films, and documentaries. She has maintained Magnia Bene catering service, worked as the Director of Marketing and Promotions for local radio, and held various positions in Wilmington's Human Service Community.
Aaron Hillis
Aaron Hillis was recently praised by Brooklyn Magazine as one of "The 100 Most Influential People in Brooklyn Culture." Hillis is a film critic and programmer who has written for The Village Voice, Time Out NY, LA Weekly, Variety, Filmmaker Magazine, Indiewire, Premiere, and Spin. He is also the owner of Video Free Brooklyn, three-time "Best Video Store in NYC" winner. Hillis' co-directorial feature debut, Fish Kill Flea, screened at Cuc' 2007.
Dave Monahan
Dave Monahan is a filmmaker and teacher. He is the co-author of Looking At Movies, an intro to film textbook published by W.W. Norton & Co., and serves as the chair of the Film Studies department at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
Jim O'Brien

Jim O’Brien is an entertainment and business lawyer with Poyner Spruill LLP. O'Brien is the preeminent independent film lawyer in North Carolina and represents clients in many other aspects of the entertainment industry. He also has a significant corporate and general business practice and serves as outside general counsel to many established and emerging growth companies in various industries. O'Brien is serving his second term on the North Carolina Governor’s Film Council and may be reached at, 910.343.3434 in Wilmington or 919.783.1120 in Raleigh.  

Jill Tefft

Originally from a small town in upstate New York, Jill Tefft holds a MA in Theatre from Illinois State University. This is Tefft's fourth year on staff at the festival. As Development Director for Cuc' 19 Tefft will head up a variety of projects, including sponsorships, grants, and youth programs. Most days, she can be found in the office deep in conversation with Izzie. In her free time, Tefft enjoys drinking coffee, auditioning for local film productions, and playing with her miniature dachshund Buddy (sometimes all at the same time!).




Bill Vassar
Bill Vassar is the Executive Vice President of EUE Screen Gems Studios. He manages the company’s facilities in Wilmington and Charleston. Vassar joined EUE Screen Gems in 1997 as the manager of their video facility in New York City. In 2002, he added the responsibility of collaborating with their Wilmington studio management. Vassar serves on the North Carolina Governor’s Film Council and the board of the Wilmington Regional Film Office.

Sheena Vaught

Sheena Vaught is the only person in the world who's name is not spelled like it's pronounced, which is Shayna. A native of Calabash, North Carolina, Sheena is a script supervisor and also a filmmaker--directing documentaries on the Cape Fear Literacy Council and also on North Carolina prolific artist Ivey Hayes.  







Channing Duke

A CFCC graduate and current UNCW film studies student, this will be Channing Duke's second year heading up the tech department for Cucalorus. Duke's tasks include print traffic, tech volunteers, venue equipment rental/installation, overseeing day to day tech prior to and during the festival, and making sure all the films we screen look pretty. A self-proclaimed mad scientist and outer space enthusiast, in her off time, Duke works on local film productions and is designing her own international space station.  


Dan Brawley, Sr.





Omari Fox
Omari Fox is an artist and founder of his own signature visual style. He currently serves as in the leadership of Alternate Roots on the Executive Committee and the Resources for Social Change innovation ensemble, organizing the membership and the communities advocating for the principles of Community Engagement. Since attending the 2010 Cucalorus Film Festival, Fox has hosted a number of events, and supported community engagement work for social justice based films and documentaries formally joining the board in 2012. 


Zoe Gilliam





Thomas Varnum
Thomas Varnum is an intellectual property, film and business lawyer with the Brooks Pierce law firm. He helped Brooks Pierce open its office in downtown Wilmington in 2013. Varnum grew up in Northern California, and attended UNC Chapel Hill before earning his law degree at UC-Davis. Now he lives, works and plays right here in beautiful Wilmington. Call Varnum at 910.444.2022, email him, or visit his website bio page.


Hillary Meinheit
As the Account Specialist for Entertainment Partners Purchasing Service and EP Financial Solutions, Hillary Meinheit works closely with the vast majority of film and television projects that come into the state. As the great-granddaughter of John T Hoggard, Meinheit's roots run deep in Wilmington and she is excited to see the success of the film industry in the region and the expansion of film studies and productions throughout the entire state.  



Dana Cook





Ambassadors Council

Hope Dickson Leach
Hope Dickerson Leach completed her MFA in filmmaking at Columbia University. Her award-winning thesis film The Dawn Chorus was selected for Sundance, Edinburgh, London, and many other festivals. Since her return to the UK she has made further acclaimed short works for Channel 4, Film London, the UKFC, and the National Theatre of Scotland. She is currently developing several feature films about strong crazy women and a cross-media project about celebrity culture.


Geoff Marslett
Geoff Marslett is a native Texan who took a circuitous path to filmmaking, studying mathematics, philosophy, art, science, and languages at St. John’s College before returning to Texas to pursue an MFA in filmmaking at UT (2001). His critically acclaimed Monkey vs. Robot screened at over 25 festivals worldwide, was distributed theatrically, and broadcast on HBO, PBS, and Univision.


Norwood Cheek
Norwood Cheek is a film and television producer, director, actor and writer who has worked behind and in front of the camera for 20 years. He has directed more than 70 music videos including ones for bands Eels, She & Him, Squirrel Nut Zippers, and Superchunk. A small-gauge film enthusiast, Cheek started flicker in Chapel Hill and leads film and music video workshops at film festivals around the world. 

Francesca Talenti
Francesca Talenti is a filmmaker and animator that has exhibited work from Sundance to PBS National. She has won a number of "best of" awards and has received grants from the Independent Television Service, Latino Public Broadcasting, and the Kauffman Foundation. Talenti is also a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she teaches media production. 


Josephine Decker
Josephine Decker is a Brooklyn-based performer and filmmaker. A magical realist at heart, she attempts to navigate the wavering sea-tide between fish-heads and teddy bears--always aiming for the truth. Her performance art has received national  coverage, and her feature doc Bi The Way, exploring the rise of bisexuality in America and available on Logo and Netflix, screened at SXSW, Silverdocs, and about 100 festivals worldwide.


Alfredo Covelli

Based out of Rome, Alfredo Covelli is an Italian screenwriter of features and TV series. During the last three years he has been directing films (any lengths, any genres—comedy, docs, experimental) shot in Italy, Israel, Palestine, Himalayas, and California. These films have been selected in 30 countries, in more than 150 festivals, winning a few awards in the U.S. Covelli is the founder of newborn Meproducodasolo production company, and he's producing films of new valiant and independent talents. 




Ya'Ke Smith

Known for his unflinching and veracious style of storytelling, Ya'ke Smith is a rising voice in independent cinema. His films have received world-wide acclaim, screening and winning awards at over 80 film festivals, including The Cannes International Film Festival, The Austin Film Festival, and The Urbanworld Film Festival. He is the recipient of a Director’s Guild of America Student Film Award, a regional Student Academy Award and an HBO Short Film Award. His short, Katrina’s Son, was eligible for the 2012 Academy Award in short filmmaking.



Adam Donaghey

Adam Donaghey, founder of Zero Trans Fat Prods., is an award-winning independent film producer from Texas. His work has been nominated for both the Independent Spirit and Gotham Awards, and has been showcased at fests including Sundance, Berlinale, SXSW, Sitges, LA Film Festival, AFI Fest, Hamptons Int’l Film Festival and Thessaloniki; and via distributors including IFC Films, Factory 25, XLRator Media, Cinetic Media, Fandor, Gathr, the Lifetime Channel and the Lifetime Movie Network.




Ingrid Veninger

Born in Bratislava and raised in Canada, Ingrid Veninger formed pUNK Films with a ‘nothing is impossible’ manifesto. Veninger has produced six features in the past six years, which have premiered at TIFF and numerous festivals worldwide. Currently, Veninger is a part-time member of the Film Studies Faculty at York University, Screenwriter-in-Residence at the University of Toronto, and she recently initiated the pUNK Films FEMMES LAB to foster feature films written and directed by




Volunteer Opportunities

Cucalorus is made possible by an enormous volunteer staff. Each year hundreds of brilliant and talented people like you devote hours and hours to make the annual festival a truly unique and southern experience. To join the Cucalorus Family of dysfunktional spirits throw your 'deets' into this volunteer application. Our volunteer coordinator, Tommy van Arsdale, can be reached at, or at the Cuc headquarters on 815 Princess Street in downtown Wilmington.