BIFF 2017 Panels




Following the screening director Rachel Shuman and the Beacon Independent Film Festival will present CITIES LOST AND FOUND: A NEW CONVERSATION ABOUT URBAN DEVELOPMENT. This panel will use the film as a catalyst to bring together urban planners, developers, writers, and activists to discuss “how to love the places you live and save the places you love.” This timely conversation is very relevant to Hudson Valley citizens who are witnessing their own cities undergo a similar trend of sweeping urban renewal and gentrification. Director Rachel Shuman will take part in the panel along with Jennifer Schwartz Berky, Ben Schulman, and moderator Cassim Shepard.
Jennifer Schwartz Berky is an Ulster County legislator who has worked for more than 30 years as a professional urban planner in environmental protection and economic development. Her focus has been community revitalization and adaptive reuse of historic places, cities and sites, waterfronts, downtowns, and cultural institutions in the United States and abroad, including time as a consultant for the World Bank in Washington, DC. Berky now runs her own community-driven development consulting practice, Hone Strategic, and is a regular lecturer in environmental and urban studies, including 4 years at Bard College.
Ben Schulman is a writer and editor with a focus on architecture, urban planning and policy. His work has appeared in The Atlantic’s CityLab, ARCHITECT Magazine, Belt Magazine, ICON Magazine, Metropolis Magazine, New Geography, Streetsblog, and numerous others. He currently works with Small Change, a real estate equity crowdfunding platform that connects investors to developers dedicated to building better cities. When not writing about cities, Schulman helps head the Contraphonic Sound Series, an attempt to document cities through sound.
Cassim Shepard, an urbanist, filmmaker, and writer, will moderate the panel. Shepard’s film and video work has been screened at the Venice Architecture Biennale, the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, and the United Nations, among others. As the founding editor-in-chief of Urban Omnibus an online publication of The Architectural League of New York, he spent six years researching stories of urban innovation. Shepard teaches in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University and his first book, Citymakers: the Culture and Craft of Practical Urbanism, will be released in October 2017.




WHEN: Saturday, September 16, BREAKFAST from 9AM-12pm/ PANEL 10AM-11:30AM

WHERE: The CineHub, 20 W. Main St., #4, Beacon, NY



Beacon Independent Film Festival (BIFF) and The CineHub will host a Filmmaker’s Breakfast at The CineHub, as part of its 5th annual festival. The breakfast event is open to the public and will feature a panel discussion on Access & Ethics: How documentary filmmakers walk the delicate tightrope of making their art. The panel will feature four prominent documentary filmmakers: Hope Litoff – Director, 32 Pills; Beth Levison – Producer, 32 Pills; Joy Haynes – Director, Voices From Within; and Mike Seely – Director, Exiled. The panel will be moderated by BIFF Committee Member and film and commercial director/producer, Benjamin Ryan Nathan.

The panelists will be introduced with a short clip from their respective films, which demonstrate the issues and challenges surrounding access and ethics that they have wrestled with throughout their creative process.

Following the discussion, the audience will have the opportunity to mingle with the panelists, after which the afternoon film block, entitled “Failed Institutions,” will screen all three films represented by the panelists.


Hope Litoff (Director, 32 Pills) is a 20-year veteran film editor. 32 Pills is her directorial debut. She began her career assisting filmmakers such as Ken Burns and Stephen Ives on The West, as well as Miss America, dir. Lisa Ades (PBS) and Blue Vinyl, dir. Judith Helfand and Dan Gold (HBO). She went on to edit such verite projects as Keeper of the Cohen, dir. David Gaynes, College Boys Live, dir. George O’Donnell, and Seeing Sally, dir. Peter Goodman, all of which played in multiple film festivals. Her television credits include Chasing the Crown (WE), The Well Seasoned Traveler, dir. George Billard (A&E), and Indie Sex, dir. Lisa Ades (IFP). Hope is confident that her many years as an editor will serve the storytelling and narrative challenges that she will inevitably face directing this personal film.


Beth Levison (Producer, 32 Pills) is an independent producer/director and the recipient of two national Emmy Awards and three Peabody Awards. Prior to 32 Pills, she produced The Trials of Spring (2015), a cross-media project including a feature-length documentary (dir. Gini Reticker) and six shorts about women human rights activists in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen. Her independent documentary directorial debut Lemon (2011) about Brooklyn-born poet and performer Lemon Andersen was executive produced by Impact Partners and Russell Simmons, shown at some 40 festivals around the world, selected for U.S. State Department’s 2014 American Film Showcase, and broadcast on PBS stations nationwide. Levison got her start in television working for HBO, PBS, Sundance Channel, and others.  She is on the producing faculty with the MFA program in Social Documentary Film at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) and brings her creative producing expertise to 32 Pills.


Joy Haynes (Director, Voices From Within) was born in Mexico City, Mexico, grew up in Washington, DC and has lived in six states and four countries. With six brothers and sisters ranging in age from 23 to 50, she is neither the oldest nor the youngest. When she was just 12 years old she took herself by city bus to the Kennedy Center to attend her very first audition, which was for the musical Dick Whittington and His Cat. From that experience, she learned she can’t sing. Having been bitten by the acting bug, however, she attended the Duke Ellington High School of the Arts in Washington, DC, where she graduated at age 16, and earned her BFA in Theater from Stephens College at just 19 years old. She earned her law degree cum laude from the Georgetown University Law Center. Currently working both in front of and behind the camera, Joy also practices immigration law, striking a challenging and exciting balance between her entertainment and legal careers.


Mike Seely (Director, Exiled) is a filmmaker and director of photography based in San Francisco. He has produced, directed and photographed several award-winning films, and has experience working on dozens of cross-cultural and international projects. His work has been broadcast in the US and screened at festivals internationally including Slamdance, Tribeca, Toronto International Film Festival, and the San Francisco International Film Festival. As a director of photography, he has worked with various independent directors, as well as non-profit and broadcast clients such as National Geographic, MTV2, Frontline World, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In 2005, he completed his MA in documentary film production at Stanford University, and for 2010 he received a Fulbright grant to work in Lodz, Poland on a project exploring the Polish documentary film tradition.


Benjamin Ryan Nathan (Director/Producer) is the founder of Footage Films, and is an award-winning director and producer, specializing in creating socially-conscious films, commercials, and PSA’s with the aim to inspire direct positive action in their audience. Based in New York, Ben has produced, directed, & edited major commercial campaigns, PSA’s, documentary films, and viral videos, working with brands and organizations including UN Environment, The People’s Climate March, Sesame Workshop, The President’s Committee on the Arts & Humanities, and Oxford University Press. He has collaborated with top creative talent, including Ken Burns, Martin Sheen, Debra Messing, Blythe Danner, and James Cromwell. Ben is currently in post production on his feature documentary film I Can Dance!, about the power of dance to transform children’s lives in NYC public schools, and is in development on a feature documentary film about human and labor trafficking in the United States.


Immediately following our “Failed Institutions” block, San Francisco- based filmmaker and director of Exiled, Mike Seely will host a discussion following the film about the current state of deported veterans issues, and how concerned citizens can do more to help.