home  |  links  |  film submission  |  email sign-up  |  facebook       
Sycamore Film Festival
2012 Filmmakers

james hamptonJames Hampton
From his first film, The Cliff Dwellers, which was nominated for an Academy Award for "Best Short Subject Film" in 1962, to the multi-award winning movie Slingblade, James Hampton's career as an actor, writer and director spans over 40 years. Along the way, he has been nominated for a Golden Globe for his role as "Caretaker" in the original version of The Longest Yard, and has starred in such memorable films as Teen Wolf, Teen Wolf Too, China Syndrome, Hawmps!, Condorman, Pump Up The Volume, and Police Academy V. On television, he was the tone-deaf bugler, Hannibal Dobbs on the classic 60’s sitcom F Troop and appeared in hundreds of TV show favorites like Who's The Boss?, Mama's Family, The Bob Newhart Show and Gunsmoke. James was a regular guest on The Tonight Show, with over 30 appearances. He also worked as a writer/producer/director on Burt Reynolds TV series, Evening Shade, and was a regular director on numerous successful sitcoms such as Hearts of Fire, Sister Sister, Smart Guy, The Tony Danza Show, Linc's, Boston Common, and Grace Under Fire. James recently appeared in The SyFy Channe's Fire From Below with Kevin Sorbo and can currently be seen on cable in Breaking The Press. He's also in the soon-to-be-released films The Last Ride, the story of the last 3 days in the life of Hank Williams and the new horror flick Jacob with Michael Biehn.

Mari Deese HamptonMari Deese Hampton
Beginning her career in Dallas, Texas, Mari has appeared in many local and national television commercials. She can soon be seen in a recurring role on the TNT series, Dallas. In addition, Mari recently appeared in the role of "Judge Wong" in the ABC series The Deep End and as "Harold's Mom, Mrs. Lee" in the hilarious feature film Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. She also co-hosted the television pilot B&B Our Guest and is currently producing a new children's show, When I Grow Up. She can also be seen in the upcoming feature films, In The Land of Fireworks and The Association.

Upon arriving in Los Angeles in the mid-nineties, Mari immediately began working on sitcoms such as Family Matters and Fresh Prince of Bel Air. She also enjoyed working on the award winning soap opera General Hospital in the recurring role of "Port Charles Reporter Kristy Koy" for several years. Some of Mari's other film roles include Dusting Cliff Seven, Spilled, The Wild Rose, and Liquid. In addition to television and film roles, Mari has hosted countless corporate training films for companies such as American Airlines, Neiman Marcus, Radio Shack, Mary Kay, Zales Corporation, Godiva Chocolates and Success Magazine. She and her husband, actor and director James Hampton, are also regular guest hosts on the internet's The Critic Show.

Marie RoweMarie Rowe
Born in England, started acting when she was 13 and performed with local theater companies for 14 years as well as being involved in "Theater in Education" programs in schools. Marie eventually immigrated to Canada where she became Assistant to Theater Director, John Hirsch. She was fortunate to work on Three Sisters with Maggie Smith at the Stratford Festival Theater in Canada and with Anthony Hopkins in The Tempest at The Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. Feeling an affinity to California, she decided to move to Los Angeles, and thus her career in the film industry began.

Marie worked with the Samuel Goldwyn Company as writer, casting director, publicist, producer and actress. Marie has worked primarily with director Barry Levinson on most of his films, including the award winning "Good Morning, Vietnam", "Rain Man" and "Avalon". She has also worked closely with many major Hollywood stars, including: Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise, Warren Beatty, Robert DeNiro, Robin Williams and Al Pacino - all star"ring in Levinson projects.

After a long hiatus from acting, Marie was cast as Mrs. Ross in Levinson’s film "Disclosure"and then went on to perform in various L.A. theatre productions, including Brenda in Yale Cabaret Blue’s “Road” and Julie Tesman in "Hedda Gabler". She has recently performed several roles on the Connecticut stage, including Gertie in "Fuddy Meers" and Dotty/Mrs.Clackett in "Noises Off". She also appeared on the Fox TV series "The Jury" and "Bedford Diaries" for WB TV as well as roles in several independent films, which she also cast.

Marie is a big supporter of up and coming talent and continues to cast Indies as well as projects for Women in Film, the Alliance of Women Directors, AFI, UCLA and USC. In addition, she regularly writes industry articles for International Cinematographers’ Guild magazine (ICG) and has recently entered the world of personal history, helping people write their life stories.

Marie has been a mentor/special friend/big sister to a number of inner-city children for the past 30 years and was Artist in Residence, teaching creative writing and drama, at Hollygrove Children’s Home in Los Angeles. She strongly believes that it is only in giving that we receive.

Tom Tran Tom Tran (Tung T. Tran)
Tom Tran was born and raised in the midst of the Vietnam war in Saigon. In 1979, Tran with his family and close relatives, escaped from communist Vietnam on a boat which his family has built, in hope to reach the United Nation refugee camp in Malaysia. On their journey across the Gulf of Thailand, they survived three robberies on open water by pirates and managed to reach Malaysia. Malaysian coast guards refused their request for entry, and their boat was towed to Indonesia where they finally reached a UN refugee camp. With the help of the UN, Tran and his family made contact with his older brother who left Vietnam earlier. In 1980, Tran and his family were reunited with his brother in Chicago, Illinois.

As a high school student who was completing his senior year in 1987, Tran was working as a part time janitor in a Vietnamese job placement center when he read for a part in "Good Morning, Vietnam" during an open casting call. He was called back and within a few weeks, Tran was on his way to Los Angeles to meet with the director and producers, and eventually Robin Williams in a screen test. Tran won the co-starring role as Tuan, a Vietnamese boy who befriended the radio airman Adrian Cronauer, played by Williams. Tran returned to South East Asia for the first time since his escape, and spent 3 months on location in Thailand to film his part.

After his motion picture debut in "Good Morning, Vietnam", Tran admitted that he was "bitten" by the acting bug. However, putting all acting plan and calls for movie part aside, he went on to college to pursue a degree in Electrical Engineering.

Today, Tran is married, has three children, and lives in a suburb of Chicago. He works in the IT field as an ERP application developer. Being represented by Stewart Talent, Tran continues to pursue acting as well as photography, where his his passion lies.

MitchMitch Markowitz
Mitch Markowitz has written for television and film for 25 years in Hollywood! Mitch wrote the film classic Good Morning Vietnam and the hilariously funny comedy Crazy People. Mitch also wrote episodes for such television classics as Monk, Mash, The Facts of Life, Best of the West, Too Close for Comfort, Benson and Van Dyke & Company. Acting credits include, The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh and Crazy People.

MarshaMarsha Robertson
Director of Communications, Futures Without Violence
Marsha Robertson has 25+ years experience in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles as a creative thinker, seasoned marketing/public relations executive and resourceful communications specialist. Her broad range of expertise in media relations and event planning, as well as extensive contacts with national print, broadcast and digital media have consistently earned positive results. Robertson began her career at MGM/UA Entertainment in Los Angeles and became Vice President of National Publicity at the studio. An avid interest in film production led to years of on-set publicity, working as a press liaison for dozens of major motion pictures including "Jurassic Park," "The Hunt for Red October", "Good Morning Vietnam," and "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," among many others. She worked as Director of Media Relations for HBO’s original movies in New York, later joining the executive team at 42 West, one of the premier agencies in the country representing motion pictures, television and celebrity talent. Following a move to San Francisco, with her husband, the managing editor of Wired Magazine, she worked as Director of Communications and Marketing for the Walt Disney Family Museum, and now handles communications for one of the country’s leading social change organizations working to end violence against women and children.

Ethan Bensinger Ethan Bensinger
Shaped by the trauma of his own family’s experience of being uprooted from Germany in the years preceding the Holocaust, Ethan Bensinger created the film REFUGE: Stories of the Selfhelp Home which Rick Kogan of WGN radio hailed as"One of the most interesting and moving films I have seen in recent memory…a remarkable piece of work."

The film provides eyewitness testimonies and explores the strength, character, perseverance and resiliency of the last generation of victims of Nazi persecution. Selfhelp Home residents share a history of separation from family, place and of loss, but also of rebirth in America—the same story Ethan’s family shares. His family's experience led Ethan to become an immigration lawyer, and for 25 years, Ethan served as the managing director of the Chicago office of a global immigration law firm.

During his immigration law career, Ethan was a frequent guest on a Chicago radio show where he answered callers’ questions on immigration matters. Since retiring from law, Ethan has created voiceovers for commercials and industrial films and was a character in the Israeli film Lemon Tree. Ethan writes the blog, "Sightseeing In Israel. Off The Beaten Track with Ethan Bensinger." and is also involved in volunteer and philanthropic endeavors.

Four years ago, drawing on a love of story telling and a deeply-held belief that these Selfhelp stories must not die with the last survivors, Ethan formed a production company to create REFUGE: Stories of the Selfhelp Home.

KyleKyle Bowe
Kyle Bowe was born in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. He studied screenwriting and film production at Minneapolis Community and Technical College and The University of Minnesota. Kyle directed and edited commercials for Menards home improvement stores, and has gone on to make several short films. He directed and produced APRIL MAY in Minneapolis with local actors. Currently, he lives in Los Angeles where he cowrote, directed and produced MINE IS MINE. He is an Associate at Dreyfuss/James Productions, where he produces trailers and production reels, develops scripts as well as manages the marketing and business of various films.

Ben DreyfussBen Dreyfuss
Ben Dreyfuss is an actor and writer from Los Angeles, California. A graduate of New York University, he has appeared in films such as The Lightkeepers, Mine is Mine and The Wanderers. Ben is currently a writer for the CBS technology website CNET.com and resides in New York City.

james hamptonShela Lahey
Director/Writer/Producer; Shela has created, directed, written, produced and developed projects for television, film, theater and business corporations including her newest film, Wired; the DeKalb Documentary whose world premiere is this year at the Egyptian Theatre. She also created and produced Sycamore, the documentary. Other credits include The Letter, a film recognized at the 2010 Nashville Film Festival; The 6:20, a play produced at the Theater Building in Chicago; Sam Hill, a television pilot produced and shot in Chicago by Chilany Productions; and The Last Time I Saw Molly Rose, a film produced by Delilah/Montgomery productions in Los Angeles. Shela is a proud, long time member of SAG-AFTRA.

adolfoAdolfo R. Mora
Adolfo R. Mora was born in Yahualica, Jalisco, Mexico, but grew up in a rural community called Acasico. In 1998, he immigrated to the United States with his family to settle in Laredo, Texas. Recently, he attained a Master’s degree in Communication at The University of Texas at San Antonio, and now, he pursues a Ph.D. in Media Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. His short-narrative films center on themes of self-acceptance and self-awareness.

Kelley Kelley Katzenmeyer
Kelley Katzenmeyer is a twenty-year-old American filmmaker and visual artist. As a high school senior, she won the 2010 YoungArts Gold Award in Cinema and was nominated as a Presidential Scholar in the Arts, meeting President Obama. During high school, her short film "To Be Remembered" screened at film festivals across America, including the Nashville Film Festival, one of the oldest, longest-running film festivals in the United States. After graduating from the NC School of the Arts High School in 2010, Kelley received a full scholarship from the U.S. Department of State to study abroad in South Korea. It was then, at the age of 18, she began shooting a documentary about the competition and pressure Korean high school students face.

Josh RussellJoshua Russell
Joshua Russell is a multi-award winning filmmaker, and writer/director of the feature film Fancypants. His award-winning short film, OMG, has been adapted into a feature film and is currently in development. Joshua has taught film at several universities and around the world, is a judge and speaker for the Lake County Film Festival, is a film critic for Metatron Magazine, and is currently teaching digital cinema at DePaul University. Having studied for almost a decade under Edward McDougal, a highly-awarded veteran filmmaker and instructor, Joshua entered the independent film scene to immediate success. His upbringing in independent cinema has nourished a passion for process efficiency, excellence in craft, and art that is both honest and beautiful. Joshua lives with his super-hot wife and two genius sons in Berwyn, IL.

Joy JonesJoy K. Jones
Joy is a Senior (Film/ Video major) at Columbia College Chicago. In May 2011, Joy won the Written Image Award for her screenplay, "The Ring". In June 2011, Joy was also awarded the Weisman Award and given $1000 to produce her film, "Heap of Coals". She also received the Merits Award and $500 from the National NFAA Film competition. She was chosen and awarded over $8,000 to participate in a summer screenwriting class in USC Los Angeles, California with Ron Friedman. Joy was also awarded gold and $2000 at the National ACT-SO competition in the film/video competition. From 2011-2012 she became the President and Founder of CFC Filmmakers Club at Columbia College Chicago. In 2010, she became the President of Columbia Connections at Columbia College Chicago. She was chosen out of 1,200 and awarded the National Bill Gates GMSP scholarship. She was chosen to attend the Bill Gates Leadership Conference, SREB Conference, and the ALA Conference. She made the Dean's List her first year at Columbia College along with receiving the Student of the Quarter Award. She also was awarded the Sheriff's award and she has traveled abroad to Italy, Costa Rica, and Australia in order to learn others culture and grow in her filmmaking abilities.

ErrolErrol Magidson
Errol Magidson lives in the Beverly neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer at the Institute of African Studies of Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone, West Africa, 1965-67. In 1971 he accepted a faculty position at the City Colleges of Chicago, eventually ending up teaching psychology at Daley College, one of the City Colleges. During his time as a professor, Magidson edited a special issue of Educational Technology devoted to "Trends in Computer-Assisted Instruction," 1978; received the Socrates Teacher of the Year Award, 1998; and was named Distinguished Professor, 2002-2003. Since retiring in 2004, he has taught part-time at Saint Xavier University and Roosevelt University, and has presented workshops for school teachers on using the computer to develop documentaries. He has given presentations and workshops on developing and using PowerPoint effectively in the classroom to college teachers. Magidson conducted the research for Chicago's Only Castle beginning in December 2009 and produced, co-directed, and wrote the script for the film. He received a $10,000 arts grant for the film from Chicago philanthropist Richard H. Driehaus.

JoshJosh Van Tuyl
Josh Van Tuyl is known for his directorial work on Chicago's Only Castle: The History of Givins' Irish Castle and Its Keepers. Chicago’s Only Castle was awarded a grant from philanthropist Richard H. Driehaus. Josh was also the Assistant Director for Every Drop Counts, a documentary highlighting the critical issues of water pollution and fresh water conservation.

Josh, a Board Member for Terra Nova Films, is attracted to a more classic style in documentary film making, appearing seamless so that the focus is on the content opposed to the context. This diverges with his experimental work where the context is a part of the content "to have the whole video production experience turn inside out connecting the audience with the crew."

Josh began his career in video production at South Suburban College working as a Production Assistant for the Communication Services department which produced video content for internal use and for the cable television station The Educator.

Josh is the Associate Director of Media Service at Saint Xavier University where he oversees video productions, media circulation, and audio visual installations. He has directed and edited numerous lectures and feature programs for the University. He received his Bachelors of Arts in Communication from Purdue University. He now resides in Lansing, IL with his husband and their 21 year old Quaker parrot Brandon.

Michael LaheyMichael Lahey
Michael Lahey is a documentary filmmaker and veteran editor based in Chicago, IL. His first film, Tugs Untied, won top honors at the 2000 Arizona International Film Festival. Michael's next doc, Making Waves, won Best Feature Documentary at the 2004 Newburyport Documentary Film Festival and the 2004 Great Lakes Independent Film Festival.

Michael is currently in production on his third feature doc, Shelf Life. He has edited programs for PBS, Discovery Channel, History Channel and National Geographic Channel, among others.

Michael grew up in the DeKalb/Sycamore area, and holds a Master of Arts degree in Film and Literature from Northern Illinois University. In 2004, he founded his production company, Jump Cut Films.

JamieJamie Marcelle
My name is Jamie Thaddeus Marcelle. I grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago, and have always been fascinated with drawing and creating stories. After I graduated from high school, I decided to turn my interest to traditional animation. I learned a great deal at Columbia College Chicago, and throughout the years I have created short films as class assignments, like "Sky Strife". After recently graduating this year, I continue to pursue a future in animation, and I am in the process of creating more entertaining animated films.

ThadThad Vassmer
A veteran corporate director and independent filmmaker who makes his home north of Sycamore, Thad graduated from Columbia College’s film program with his thesis film "Aphasia Ain't Bad" lensed by Academy Award-winning cinematographer Janusz Kaminski. He has been honored with a variety of writing and directing awards for his work and has also won the Illinois Screenwriting Competition.

He has directed a number of short films with a collective of talented friends who are themselves directors and craftsmen. His favorite review came from author Ray Bradbury, who after viewing his short "Solemates" proclaimed "It scared the hell out of me!"

Edward Heffernan
Edward Heffernan is a 18-year-old filmmaker and a freshman at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Mr. Heffernan began his professional career as a child actor, appearing in dramatic and comedic plays as well as national television commercials. His passion for film began at a very young age and he has shot numerous short films with his siblings prior to making The Letter in 2009 with a professional cast and crew and Pencil in 2011 as a Senior at Northside Prep High School.
View "The Letter" Trailer

Nancy Hays
Nancy Hays is President and CEO of Nancy Hays Entertainment, Inc., a corporation that specializes in producing celebrity talent for private events. NHE also produces CD and DVD dance instructional products that have received critical acclaim in national publications including Billboard, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, theWashington Post and many others. Ms. Hays has also appeared on national network TV shows as a guest and worked as a professional singer in major venues throughout the US and Europe. In the 1980s Ms. Hays also appeared as an actress and singer in a made-for-TV film The Minnesota Connection and worked as a voice-over and commercial talent. Nancy Hays works as a professional speaker for National conferences on the topic of Emerging Trends in the Entertainment business. She also has written articles for American Entertainment Magazine and other publications. She is a founding member of IACEP (International Association of Corporate Entertainment Professionals) and AEP(Association of Entertainment Producers).

The Letter is Nancy Hays Entertainment’s debut film project.

Holden WilsonHolden Wilson
Holden Wilson is from DeKalb, IL, and graduated from Columbia College in 2011 with a degree in Film (Cinematography). He currently manages the rental house Motion Picture Services Chicago, and freelances in the area as a gaffer and cinematographer.

Seth DemingSeth Deming
Seth Deming is a Director of Photography and Lead Compositor for OC Imageworks based out of DeKalb, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago). He has worked on television, commercials, music videos, short films and is currently in production on a documentary. Recently, Seth has finished the short film Dust which is currently in post production. Online, several of Seth's videos have gone viral and he has been building a reputation as an outstanding and up-and-coming film maker in that community. See his work at sethdeming.com

Lee GillentineLee Gillentine
Lee Gillentine (Producer) was born in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia and moved to the US when he was ten years old. At 15 he began working for a software company after school, but fascinated by national and international politics, he moved on to political economy and journalism and was internationally published by the age of 17. Lee attended Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington for two years before moving to NYC to begin a career in film. "...Around" was Lee’s first feature as a producer. He went on to work on several other shorts and features before rejoining with David Spaltro for their 2nd collaboration. He is currently developing several projects with Spaltro for their production company.

David Spaltro David Spaltro
David Spaltro grew up in Jersey City, NJ across the Hudson from NYC and graduated with a BFA in Directing at the School of Visual Arts in 2005. After a few years of traveling abroad and working as an editor he wrote, directed and produced his first feature film "...Around" in 2007. A love-­-letter to NYC and part auto-­-biography of his time at film school, "...Around" toured the festival circuit to much critical acclaim and found release through Cinetic Media online and on Netflix in 2009 as well as it's television debut on PBS CH 13 Reel Indies program on Christmas Day in 2010. “Things I Don't Understand" is Spaltro’s second feature in which he serves as writer, director, producer and editor. He's currently pursuing a few writing projects, developing a third feature “Wake-­-Up In New York” set to shoot next Summer and an Untitled Jack Parsons Biopic (2014) about the tragic rocket science guru and occult figure.

Michael McMillan Michael McMillan
Michael McMillan’s reputation for delivering innovative results is well deserved. Early in his career, Michael founded a visual communication firm that soon attracted a client roster that read like the Who’s Who of Business. Fortune 500 corporations, small entrepreneurial businesses, sports and music legends, non-profit organizations and institutions have sought Michael’s creative guidance to deliver effective solutions with award-winning results. His work has been recognized by major design, marketing, advertising and communication organizations around the world.

An accomplished author, Michael’s books include:
Pink Bat: Turning Problems Into Solutions.
Paper Airplane: A Lesson for Flying Outside the Box.
The Power of Teamwork: Inspired by The Blue Angels

After 20 consecutive years of growth, Michael sold his firm to pursue other interests including public speaking, writing and filmmaking.

Marc Marc Wilkinson
Marc Wilkinson comes from Ottawa, IL, and has written & directed numerous short films over the years, screening at Illinois International among other area film festivals. Marc currently resides in Los Angeles where he works in development for producer Jon Shestack (Air Force One, Bring It On) and is pursuing a career in feature screenwriting and directing. Marc has also directed numerous music videos and online sketches for Chicago area artists and comedy groups, and is an active video blogger. He is currently preparing a new short film, and is taking out multiple feature screenplays for representation/production consideration. Marc’s film and video work is available online at marcwilkinson.com.

RamRam Goetz
Ram Goetz has been establishing himself within the Film and Television industry in Chicago within recent years. Ram strives to dedicate himself to his work. Over his short career, Ram has produced over 10 short films. All of which have been honored nationwide, while also working on a Nike commercial, and a few different TV commercials. Currently, Ram is producing the feature length film, Blame, which films in January.

Cordelaine Kline Cordelaine Kline
Cordelaine Kline is the producer and DP of "Para Mi Hermano". He currently works as a media producer in Austin, Texas, and he instructs technology classes for the Air Force Youth Programs.

Mitchell SpencerMitchell Spencer
Mitchell’s introduction to images was a required photography course for an undergraduate architectural degree. During his military service and after graduate school, he traveled in Asia and Europe studying architecture and taking photographs.

Because of employment, Mitchell drifted away from photography for about 25 years. During fall 2002 and spring 2003, he took a sabbatical to pursue academic interests, study architecture, and travel in the United States and Europe. During this time, he rediscovered the excitement of the capturing and developing images. Several years ago, Mitchell made the transition from film to digital while still using the principles of photography learned from film and the wet darkroom. Recently, his interests in images has been extended to video. One of the major influences has been the cinematography during the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s of Sergei Eisenstien, Leni Riefenstahl, Orson Wells and others. The use of camera angle, lighting, composition, etc, in films of this period have been an influence on his photography and videography.

Don AlbertDon Albert
Producer/Editor and Videographer, Don has worked in Video and Film production for over 25 years. He began his career at a local TV station in Chicago in studio production and editing. Companies worked for include: Deluxe Video services, Prime Cable, Comcast and he is presently with NBC Universal, as a studio cameraman and on-location camera.

He is a Part time Adjunct producing instructor at Columbia College.

He has Produced 4 Independent feature films including "Dog Jack" now in Redbox, short films, behind the scenes features and documentaries.

Chris ColucciChris Colucci
Director - Chris Colucci has worked in the film and television industry for a little over eight years. In that time he's been able to flex his creative muscle in many different roles. He's created motion graphics for national ad campaigns, shoot camera footage for television, and even performed recoloring for independent and major motion pictures. When it comes to his own filmmaking Chris loves to write screenplays, but also has an eye for directing. In his career as a filmmaker Chris has both written and directed two short films, with the plan to eventually break into feature films. With the ability to both write and direct, Chris is able to fully see his vision come to life from paper to screen. Chris also relies on a top notch crew and is adament about working with the same people on each film he does. Although Chris has seen his share of accolades, he prefers to share awards with his crew stating that "I'm only one small piece of making these films, it's really the people behind and in front of the screen who breathe life into these stories."

David BakerDavid M. Baker
Producer - David M. Baker has worked in film and television for about seven years and has established himself as a "Preditor" (Producer/Editor) in the Chicagoland area. During his career his work ranges on a variety of projects from feature motion pictures, to short films, to reality television, to commercials. David truly loves the process of filmmaking in all its stages and takes pride in the never ending process of striving for perfection.

ErinErin Dalian
Erin has been a screenwriter for the past 8 years, with a library of eight full-length feature film scripts. Broken & Beautiful is her directorial debut.

Matt Painter Matthew Davis Painter
I was born September 13th, 1989 (it was not a friday) into a loving family. By the time I was in first grade my father made a decision that would stay hidden for twelve years and eventually alter my families lives forever. Going from a perfect world to a much lesser one is truely an experience in of itself.

Panelists for the Films on War Discussion

Jessika Jessika Savage
Panelist for the War in Film discussion
Jessika Savage is an Army combat veteran who is currently a graphic designer and photographer in Chicago. She has served eight years in the Illinois Army National Guard as a photographer and writer with the 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment. Jessika supported operations of the 2nd Infantry Division in Northern Iraq as an Army Photojournalist for 13 months during Operation Iraqi Freedom II. Her imagery from the Iraq War is a part of the permanent collection in the National Veterans Art Museum and have been published in media outlets worldwide.

Ryan Yantis Ryan Yantis, Lt. Col., US Army (retired)
Panelist for the War in Film discussion
As a survivor of the 9-11 Pentagon Attack who was decorated for his actions on that historic day, Ryan Yantis provides his personal and passionate account of duty, providence and overcoming challenges in the face of danger. In a multimedia presentation, he interacts with the audience fielding a wide range of questions on the events, policies and the history leading up to the 9-11 Attacks, and offers insightful observations related to impact on our country and ongoing conflict. With diversity of personal and professional experience as a veteran, historian and Army Public Affairs Officer, Ryan has led more than 100 presentations for schools, veterans groups, police academies, first responders, and other organization involved in service to our nation.

Ryan is a distinguished alumnus of the University of Missouri-Columbia and graduate of executive communications and public affairs programs. During his 20+ year military career which began in 1984, he served as a cavalry officer in Germany and Korea, and then taught ROTC in Minnesota. He was recruited to become an Army spokesman in 1993, and served in Europe and Africa as a Public Affairs Officer, supporting operations in over a dozen countries. He was selected to be the Director of Army Public Affairs - New York, and was later the Deputy Chief of the Media Relations Division, Department of Army in the Pentagon. In 2003 he came to Chicago and led in the creation of Army Public Affairs - Midwest, a regional outreach office with responsibility for an 11 state area. He retired from the Army in 2006 with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and began five years of leadership service in the non-profit sector, first as the executive director of the Pritzker Military Library and later the Korean War National Museum. In the private sector, he served as Managing Supervisor with Fleishman-Hillard Inc., a leading PR firm, and is now the principal of Yantis Consulting, a full-service public relations firm, specializing in crisis communication and mitigation.

Born and raised in California, Ryan moved his family to Crystal Lake in 2003. He has three great daughters and is active with the Union League Club of Chicago, Operation Homefront-Illinois (Advisory Board), the US Army Public Affairs Alumni Association, American Legion, Association of the United States Army and Navy League. He supports We-Do-Care and USO-Illinois and other worthy military/veteran organizations.

Ryan Yantis is an accomplished and award-winning communications executive with a rich history of delivering dynamic, informative and reflective multimedia presentations. He combines candor, humor and valuable information into customized themes and topics of interest related to motivational leadership, reputation management, crisis communications and personal safety preparedness. His reputation for compelling, engaging communications has positioned Ryan as a sought after speaker to corporations, universities, professional organizations and community groups.