Cucalorus Film Foundation

Staff / Board / Volunteer / Ambassadors
Jengo's Playhouse
815 Princess Street
Wilmington, NC 28401

executive director: dan brawley
dan "at"
programming coordinator: natalie lentz
programming "at"
development and operations: thomas van arsdale
development "at"
communications coordinator: zoë vanderploeg
comm "at"
cucalorus mascot: izzie
izzie "at"

Volunteering Opportunities

Cucalorus Staff

dan brawley, chief instigating officer
danny boy was born in wilmington and watches too many movies. dan wanders around the world for about 4 months each year - mostly going to film festivals and conferences about social justice and culture. the brawler lives inside of the growing artist village with no name in downtown wilmington - two historic houses, a cabin, and twelve studios - with a micro-cinema, a garden with lots of weeds, and an enchanting collection of strange peoples and things. saint 43 has a dog named izzie. they walk a lot.



natalie lentz, programming coordinator 
Natalie Lentz returns to Cucalorus for her third year, continuing 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.




t arnsdalethomas van arsdale, development and operations director
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.




zoë vanderploeg, communications coordinator

After reigning as travel czar of Cuc’ 20, Zoë returns to the wacky wonderfulness of Cucalorus for her second year on staff.  She recently graduated from UNCW with degrees in Film Studies and Economics and enjoys doing anything that combines business and creativity. When not at Jengo’s, Zoë enjoys people watching, video editing, and eating breakfast foods.






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 Directors

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.

Sue Meier, President
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!

Thomas Varnum, Treasurer
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, Secretary
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.  


Dylan Lee, Past 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.


Bo Webb
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. 


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!).




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.
Dan Brawley has over 40 years of experience in large, complex cases. He concentrates his practice on the areas of construction law, commercial litigation and maritime law, as well as personal injury and property damage claims. His practice has significant concentration in business tort litigation including prosecution and defense of claims for breach of fiduciary duties, unfair and deceptive trade practices, fraud and constructive fraud, among others, and has handled numerous cases before the North Carolina Business Court. 


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. 


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

Summer Archiving Internship

Cucalorus seeks a patient, detail-oriented volunteer to manage a summer archiving project. You would be in charge of labeling, organizing, and storing past festival film submissions and materials. You should also probably have decent handwriting and like to watch movies.

 Interested individuals should email
Please attach a resume (PDF) and tell us a bit about yourself. (Dirty limericks, love poems, and bribes accepted.)


Other 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 Development and Operations guru, Tommy van Arsdale, can be reached at, or at the Cuc headquarters on 815 Princess Street in downtown Wilmington.