BendFilm has become a regional darling, best known for its warm hospitality and high quality films, set in the beautiful mountain town of Bend. This year’s festival, taking place October 9-12 boasts an all-star line-up of jurors, many of whom hail from the Pacific Northwest.
Todd Looby, director of BendFilm, said, “Some of today’s most exciting and prolific independent filmmakers happen to live in the Northwest – and have been recruited to this year’s jury. We want to celebrate, promote and nurture all of the great filmmaking happening here. Our filmmakers are lucky to have these six talented and accomplished people watching their films and Bend is fortunate to have them interacting with our community.”
This year’s jury panel includes six jurors, two for narrative features – Ben Kasulke and Mel Eslyn, two for documentary features– BeDonna Smith and Erik Henriksen, and two for shorts – Mark Gustafson and Hebe Tabachnik. To determine the Best of Show Award, each jury member will pick their favorite film for the rest of the jury to watch. Then, as a group, they’ll decide the Best of Show winner.
The panel will arrive in Bend on the first day of the festival, Thursday, Octobert 9, and in addition to judging the films, will participate throughout the festival as moderators for various panels.
Ben Kasulke – Narrative Feature Jury
Ben Kasulke is an award winning director and director of photography based in Seattle, Los Angeles and New York. In 2006, he received awards for his cinematography on Lynn Shelton’s We Go Way Back (BendFilm 2007) from the Slamdance and Torun Film Festivals. In 2009 Ben was fortunate enough to lens the Sundance Special Jury Prize winning Humpday which went on to win the John Cassavetes Award at the 2010 Independent Spirit Awards. Ben has served as a director of photography for the Sundance Institute Feature Film Director’s Lab since 2011. Kasulke was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award in 2012 for his work on Megan Griffiths’ The Off Hours. Ben was the recipient of the Seattle Mayor’s Award For Outstanding Achievement In Film at the 2012 Seattle International Film Festival and received the Stranger’s Genius Award in Film in 2013. Ben Kasulke’s work has been screened at multiple film festivals including the Toronto, Berlin, Sundance and Cannes Film Festival Director’s Fortnight. His feature film work has been released by IFC Films, Magnolia Pictures, A24, Film District and The Criterion Collection. Benjamin Kasulke is represented by United Talent Agency.
Mel Eslyn – Narrative Feature Jury
Mel Eslyn is an independent film producer who splits her time between Seattle and Los Angeles. She produced the 2014 Sundance Film Festival hit The One I Love, directed by Charlie McDowell and starring Elisabeth Moss, Mark Duplass and Ted Danson (Radius/TWC theatrical release August 2014). At the 2013 SXSW Film Festival Mel premiered Dayna Hanson’s Improvement Club, which played in competition and is soon to be released on VOD. Her features as co-producer include Treatment, which premiered at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival, and Lynn Shelton’s indie hit Your Sister’s Sister, which was picked up by IFC at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival before screening at Sundance 2012 and garnering a Gotham Award for Best Ensemble Performance. The following year, Mel premiered Shelton’s follow-up film Touchy Feely at Sundance in Dramatic Competition. As a line producer, Mel’s feature credits include Four Minute Mile (starring Richard Jenkins and Kim Basinger) and Deep Burial (starring Dominic Monaghan and Tom Sizemore). Mel is currently in post on her latest feature LAMB, and as the EP on the Seattle-based web series Rocketmen. She is gearing up to shoot her next feature film MotherF**ker this winter.
BeDonna Smith – Documentary Jury
Bedonna Smith is a producer with Stand Up To Cancer – an initiative designed to facilitate accelerated, innovative cancer research to benefit patients rapidly. Since 2008, SU2C has presented four multi-network fundraising specials and has enabled more than 800 scientists from 112 institutions in six countries to work together in its collaborative model. The SU2C model has been adapted in the Netherlands and the U.K. where SU2C specials unique to each territory will air this fall. Smith has been a member of the production teams for four Academy Awards telecasts, including those executive produced by the late film producer Laura Ziskin. Prior to her work with Ziskin, Smith served as director of emerging media at Anonymous Content under David Fincher, launching the premiere BMW Films campaign. Ms. Smith began her career at Wieden + Kennedy. There she helped to establish Wieden + Kenned Entertainment – and served in a multi-disciplinary role for the agency’s work on behalf of The American Indian College Fund.
Erik Henriksen – Documentary Jury
Erik Henriksen is a senior editor at the Portland Mercury, where he has overseen the paper’s film coverage for the better part of a decade. His writing about film, books and television has also appeared on Wired.com and io9.com and in The Stranger. He was once featured on NPR’s All Things Considered, but was not invited back. If you cannot get enough Erik Henriksen, please visit henriksenactual.com or twitter.com/erik_henriksen.
Mark Gustafson – Shorts Jury
Mark Gustafson has received much praise for his wit, comedic timing and a seamless ability to blend stop-motion, CG and live-action. Mark was supervising director of the two-time Emmy® award-winning series, The PJs — produced in partnership with Eddie Murphy and Imagine Entertainment — for which he garnered an Annie Award® for Outstanding Directing in an Animated Television Production. At LAIKA/house, Mark has brought to life many iconic animated characters and directed memorable campaigns including: NFL on Fox, ESPN, Coca-Cola, Planters and Ben & Jerry’s. Recently he collaborated with acclaimed director Wes Anderson on an international stop-motion piece for SONY Made of Imagination. His 1996 Nissan Toys ad set to Van Halen’s You Really Got Me won a Gold Clio at Cannes and was hailed by Entertainment Weekly as among the “50 Greatest Commercials of All Time.” From 2007 through 2009, Gustafson was animation director on the feature film The Fantastic Mr. Fox which was nominated for an Oscar® in the best-animated film category.
Hebe Tabachnik – Shorts Jury
Hebe is currently the feature film iberoamerican programmer for the Palm Springs and Los Angeles Film Festivals, and the short film programmer for the Los Angeles Film Festival. For over a decade, she has been a film curator and has participated as a juror, project evaluator and panelist at film festivals in the United States, Mexico, Chile, Columbia, Cuba, Brazil, Argentina, Spain and China.