Cucalorus Film Foundation

Jengo's Playhouse
815 Princess Street
Wilmington, NC 28401

executive director: dan brawley
dan "at" cucalorus.org

development director: craig stinson
development "at" cucalorus.org
communications manager: ryan jaccard
comm "at" cucalorus.org
operations manager: james martin
operations "at" cucalorus.org
cucalorus mascot: izzie
izzie "at" cucalorus.org
If you are interested in volunteering, throw your 'deets' into this volunteer application! We also accept e-mails, snail mail, smoke signals, and telepathic messages.

About the Cucalorus Staff

dan brawley, executive director
Dancing to several tunes (mostly off beat) 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 Treasurer 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, though he spent 20 years away working in arts and cultural institutions. Craig 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 the Smithsonian Institution, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Library of Congress, the South Carolina Arts Commission, the Alamo historic site, and the Institute of Texan Cultures. Craig believes Wilmington has one of the most amazing arts scenes in the country, so in his spare time he manages ArtsInWilmington.com. Craig is fluent in Spanish, en caso que quieren hablar en español.
ryan jaccard, communications manager

Having learned his Cuc' ways as Outreach Coordinator in the fall of 2012, Ryan stepped into the role of Communications Manager in January 2013. Ryan's various tasks include coordinating with press, reaching out to new media partners, creating marketing materials, outputting the e-newsletter, compiling audience feedback, and working closely with our box office reporting. Ryan utilizes his background in Finance and Film Studies as he continues to build a thrilling path towards independent producing and distribution. Oftentimes Ryan can be found guzzling iced coffee behind the wheel, shuffling between independent projects, basking in physical media, recycling wine bottles, and spending time with OPP — other people's pets. 



james martin, operations manager
James first got mixed up with the festival industry during Cuc' 18. He was pretty pedestrian back then— just a simple usher at Jengo’s Playhouse—but boy did he get hooked. During summer 2013 James worked as an intern and helped to coordinate the Surfalorus Surf Film Festival, which he thinks is kinda cool, despite what Ryan says. Smear campaigns aside, James 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. While at times chaotic, he felt the hallucinations induced by sleep deprivation provided a valuable experience that allowed for personal growth. Hoping that the vision quests are behind him, he is excited to body slam the challenge of actualizing all of the Big Ideas the Cucalorus team is working on for the festival’s benchmark 20th anniversary. This will be done by implementing the various coordinating, negotiating, compiling, organizing, booking, identifying, and assessing techniques that he has come across in Cucalorus’ numerous gnostic texts. 

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 White Steelman kept a movie scrapbook when she was growing up. After graduating from Salem College (majoring in psycology and Spanish), Beth 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 lives in Wilmington with his wife Nicole and 2 Labrador Retreivers. He loves Wilmington so much that he has moved here on four separate occasions! His first try was the day after he finished college at UNCG in 1992. He kept coming back through the 90's until he settled down in 2000 as the station manager for the city's cable tv channel, GTV8. Dylan 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.

Susi Hamilton, Past Chair
Susi’s roots in New Hanover County run deep, her family has resided in Wilmington for decades. She has a Master’s Degree in Public Administration, from UNC Wilmington, 2004 and a Bachelor of Arts in History, UNC Chapel Hill, 1994. Susi has business friendly values and strong sense of public participation. In addition to Cucalorus, she currently serves on many local boards and commissions. 



Bo Webb





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. She'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, Sue will likely be found at the beach!
Robert Sharp
Robert has nearly 20 years of entrepreneurial experience, mainly in the digital media industry. Most recently, Robert acquired Digieffects, a developer of special effects software for film and video. Robert moved the business to Wilmington, North Carolina in 2007 and since that time has become highly involved with the local film community. Robert grew up in Tokyo, Japan and holds a B.A. in Asian History from San Francisco State University.
Dan Brawley
Dancing to several tunes (mostly off beat) 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, artists and ideas to the festival. Ever restless, Brawley is also the Treasurer of Atlanta-based non-profit Alternate ROOTS, an organization that supports the crossroads between art and activism.
Rob Hill
Rob 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. Rob 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 Rob for the prestigious Rising Star Award in 2007. 
Cathy Meriam
Cathy 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. Cathy's passion, concentration and support have consistently been for our local Independent Film Community. She has Produced and Directed feature films, short films, and documentaries. In areas outside the film industry, Cathy 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 is the NYC-based curator of the reRun Gastropub Theater (Brooklyn, NY), editor ofGreenCine Daily, and an ongoing contributor to The Village VoiceLA WeeklyTime Out NYVariety, andSpin. His co-directorial feature debut, FISH KILL FLEA, screened at Cucalorus '07.

Dave Monahan
Dave 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 UNC Wilmington.
Jim O'Brien

Jim O’Brien is an entertainment and business lawyer with Poyner Spruill LLP. Jim is the preeminent independent film lawyer in North Carolina and represents clients in many other aspects of the entertainment industry. Jim 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. Jim received his undergraduate degree from UNC Chapel Hill and his law degree from UC Berkeley and is serving his second term on the North Carolina Governor’s Film Council. He may be reached at jobrien@poyners.com, 910.343.3434 in Wilmington or 919.783.1120 in Raleigh.  

Jill Tefft

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




Bill Vassar
Bill is the Executive Vice President of EUE Screen Gems Studios. He manages the company’s facilities in Wilmington and Charleston. Bill 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. Bill serves on the North Carolina Governor’s Film Council and the board of the Wilmington Regional Film Office. He also served two terms on the Board of Governors of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Sheena Vaught

Sheena is the only person in the world who's name is not spelled like it's pronounced, which is Shayna.  A native of Calabash, NC 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's second year heading up the tech department for Cucalorus. Channing'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, Channing works on local film productions and is designing her own international space station.  


Dan Brawley, Sr.





Omari Fox
Educator, poet, visual artist and community organizer. Omari Fox is an artist and founder of his own signature visual style he coined “Hop Art” (original artworks predicated on the fusion of the Hip Hop aesthetics of rhyming, tagging, and graffiti), establishing as an outgrowth the New Danger Arts Movement, which is a play on the new or “fresh” ideas of creativity and the old or “dangerous” thinkers and change agents in society. As an art education major at Benedict College in Columbia, SC, he established an on-campus student arts organization known as BCARTI (Benedict College Arts Intelligentsia) providing leadership for the group, completing ongoing, weekly programming efforts that began with studio experimentation of visual arts styles, poetry and open mic, then eventually morphing into a social justice awareness and activism group on campus and the local community. After completing his credentials for art education Fox went on to establish the ‘Artists In Schools’ or more affectionately known “Freestyle Fridays” program , bringing, poets, artists, writers and other creative individuals to Marlboro County High School as a residency and student artistic development program offering a considerable contrast to the areas more preeminent reputation as “the Corridor of Shame,” underserved school districts largely affected by the construction and presence of Interstate 95. 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.  He retired from teaching in South Carolina Public Schools in 2008 and became involved with community engagement as a full time professional praxis.  As an artists and cultural worker he advocates for intergenerational encounters and the transformation of personal passions into daily life professional practice. Since attending the 2010 Cucalorus Film Festival he 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 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. Thomas 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 Thomas 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, helping to obtain requested items not readily available and providing insight on the state’s film tax incentive. Hillary brings more than 20 years of production experience to this position. Her genesis into the entertainment industry was the moment she stepped foot onto the set of Disney’s White Fang II. The evolution from that experience paved her road to Los Angeles, granting her the opportunity to work on the Academy Award winning film, Forrest Gump. Hillary has worked with a variety of respected production companies such as; Momentum Films, George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic, Joni Sighvatsson’s Palomar Pictures, Rhythm and Hues, and Great Guns Productions, where she served as a Producer and Head of Production for the US Commercial Branch. Currently Hillary sits on the board of the Cape Fear Economic Development Council as the Vice Chair and the NC Production Alliance.  As the great-granddaughter of John T Hoggard, Hillary’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. 


Ambassadors Council

Hope Dickson Leach
Hope completed her MFA in filmmaking at Columbia University in New York, during which time she was assistant to Todd Solondz for the making of his film PALINDROMES. Her award-winning short films have played at festivals worldwide and she is currently developing her debut feature ENGLISH ROSE about a teenage girl who hates Princess Diana (a comedy). She lives in Glasgow with her husband and son.

Geoff Marslett
Geoff 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. His short, Bubblecraft, served as a laboratory for developing his own unique animation process and style and later co-wrote an expanded version for Mars.

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 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 is a filmmaker and animator that has exhibited work from Sundance to PBS National, by way of Mumbai, Casablanca, Göteborg, and many others. 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. Francesca is also a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she teaches media production. 


Josephine Decker
Josephine 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.  Her short films-- featuring dancing utensils and child pirates -- have brought her to Cucalorus for the last three years. She aims to shoot her frist narrative feature, "Squeezebox", in the fall of 2012.   

Alfredo Covelli

Based out of Rome, Alfredo 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. (Nashville, Rhode Island and Golden Gate Award in San Francisco). Alfredo 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 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 DC Shorts Film Festival, The Austin Film Festival, The Dallas International Film Festival, The Urbanworld Film Festival and The Little Rock Film Festival, to name a few. 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. His debut-feature film, WOLF, has screened at festivals across North America, winning numerous awards and being named one of the best independent films of 2012 by several film critics. Ya’Ke graduated with a B.A. from the Communication Arts Department at the University of The Incarnate Word and an M.F.A. from the University of Texas at Austin’s film program. He is currently a film professor in the Art Department of the University of Texas at Arlington. 


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. Adam is a Partner and Vice President of Aviation Cinemas, inc., the holding company operating the historic Texas Theatre, an arthouse and national landmark in Dallas, Texas. Financed by Howard Hughes in 1931, the Texas Theatre received national attention after the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald, alleged shooter of President John F. Kennedy. Adam Co-Founded Aviation Cinemas Prods., currently in development on Danny Casolaro Died For You, a feature narrative investigating the unsolved death of the titular writer, who was slated to break a story concerning high-level government corruption in the Reagan Justice Dept. Adam also Co-Founded and programs for the Oak Cliff Film Festival. Adam regularly speaks and judges at universities, film festivals and industry related workshops, conferences and competitions and is a freelance film columnist for D Magazine. Adam is a graduate of the University of North Texas with a B.A. in philosophy. 


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, send an email to development@cucalorus.org or drop by the office at 815 Princess Street in downtown Wilmington.