AND ESTEEMED JUDGES
PRODUCER | WRITER
Since 2011, Joe Russell has produced more than 100 projects including VR, Feature Films, Tv Pilots, Commercials, Music Videos, and other digital content.
Joe received multiple accolades with his film "Laboratory Conditions" starring an all-star cast of American cinema: Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler, Spiderman, My Cousin Vinny) and Minnie Driver (Good Will Hunting, Will & Grace, Speechless), above all. The short was directed by Harvard alumn Jocelyn Stamat, writer and director of the series Turbo Dates, and written by Terry Rossio (Aladdin, Godzilla vs Kong, The Pirates of the Caribbean series, etc; nominated for the Academy Award for Shrek, and Annie Award - BAFTA winner).
Joe recently produced the Netflix Original film "XOXO" starring Sarah Hyland and Graham Phillips.
Currently producing the feature film "Dashboard Jesus and Hula Girl" written by Terry Rossio and directed by Jocelyn Stamat. Also producing the 10 original songs that will be featured in the film.
DIRECTOR | PRODUCER
For decades, Zach Thomson has directed and produced countless film and video productions. His career in film started as a PA on productions such as “Independence Day”, “Dumb and Dumber”, and “Touched by an Angel”, then later worked alongside James Cameron on the film “Avatar” and the WETA Workshop team in New Zealand.
Mr. Thomson now has a deep understanding of the film industry from initial development, finance, production, and on through to post-production, marketing, distribution, and merchandising.
Mr. Thomson has directed and produced hundreds of commercials and shows, edited thousands of videos and has raised millions in capital for many of his own feature film projects, and has a vast network in the film and finance arenas. Mr. Thomson worked in Marketing and Distribution for 20th Century Fox and has since structured distribution deals throughout North and South America, Europe, and China.
DIRECTOR | WRITER | PRODUCER | ACTOR
Kenny Hotz is a producer and entertainer, former South Park writer, "Kenny" of the Comedy Central television series Kenny vs. Spenny, creator of the FOX series Testees and Triumph of the Will.
He has received numerous awards for his film, television, and digital content.
Hotz is an award-winning Vice contributor; who began his career as a photojournalist and war correspondent.
Google Canada lists Hotz's channel - top ten on YouTube. He is the co-owner of The Hoxton and the Dog & Bear restaurants in Toronto. He is part of the Advisory Board for Vegas Movie Awards™, Chair of the Comedy Advisory Board for Banff World Media Festival, and an executive consultant at Just for Laughs festival in Montreal.
Hotz is the godson of folk singer Joni Mitchell.
Simon Merrells has recently been working on Amazon's new Lord of the Rings series, and before that played Templar Knight Tancrede on HISTORY’s drama series Knightfall. He began his career in theatre, performing in works from The Royal National Theatre and The Royal Shakespeare Company. He garnered attention for his work with Steven Berkoff, namely the title role in Oedipus and as washed up boxer Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront both for which he received a nomination for Acting Excellence from the Stage Awards. Recently, he won a Best Actor award for his role in Stephen King’s I Am the Doorway from the Vegas Movie Awards™. He also worked in films such as The Wolfman with Benicio del Toro, IndeX Zero, Take Down, Lorenzo di Medici in Firenze & the Uffizi gallery for Sky Arts 3D and recently played a recurring role in Neil Gaiman's Good Omens. Perhaps most notably, he played Marcus Licinius Crassus in Starz cult hit Spartacus. His other television roles include guesting on Syfy’s 12 MONKEY’s, DC Legends of Tomorrow, BBC's The Musketeers, as well as recurring roles on SyFy’s Dominion, The CW’s Tomorrow People. He is planning on shooting a new movie in Australia later in the year.
DIRECTOR | PRODUCER
Hashem Al-Ghaili is a filmmaker, video producer, and science communicator who was born in Yemen in 1990. He obtained his master’s degree in Molecular Biotechnology from Jacobs University Bremen in Germany and currently works as a full-time science communicator.
He runs his own Facebook page “Science Nature Page” which has over 32 million followers and reaches around 400 million users per week. His videos on Facebook have garnered nearly 16 billion views. They cover a wide range of subjects: astronomy, physics, biology, medicine, nature, technology, and innovation. His science communication activities extend to YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Hashem also wrote, produced, and directed an award-winning short Sci-Fi film called Simulation, which he is currently writing as a full-length novel.
DIRECTOR | PRODUCER | WRITER
Co-founder of Lunar Door, an independent production company, Michael Schilf is an award-winning writer, director, and producer. A graduate of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, Schilf has worked on dozens of independent film projects and well over 100 advertising campaigns (including Nike, Volvo, Walmart, Ford, Target, Chrysler, Lexus, BMW, and Mercedes Benz).
Schilf's acclaimed crime, thriller The Fixer, starring Jesse C. Boyd and Danny Trejo, has earned scores of international wins and nominations. Currently, Schilf is pitching The Fixer series while in pre-production on his directorial feature film debut, based on his memoir The Sins of My Father, which explores growing up with an absentee, alcoholic, mentally ill father.
FESTIVAL DIRECTOR - VEGAS MOVIE AWARDS™
Founder and Festival Director of Vegas Movie Awards™, Sergio Barbasso is an award-winning director, producer, writer, and animator.
After producing and directing an award-winning animated TV Series called "SuperHillCool™" and other projects he decided to devote himself to changing the Film Festivals industry and offering talented filmmakers a prestigious platform that would really make justice to their hard work.
His entrepreneurial vision and stubbornness, combined with skillful teamwork, allowed him in just two years to make the Vegas Movie Awards™ the most popular Film Festival in Las Vegas and one of the most sought-after Film Festivals worldwide, regularly attended by Oscars®, Emmys®, Golden Globes®, and Bafta® awards.
RONNIE F. LEE
PRESIDENT - VEGAS MOVIE AWARDS™
Ronnie F. Lee is the founder, President, and CEO of several corporations operating within the field of entertainment, currently engaged in the growth and oversight of Vegas Movie Awards™.
After serving his country as a soldier in the US Army, Lee’s experience in the music industry flourished during his 10- year stint in Europe where he was entrenched in every aspect of the entertainment industry including production, publishing, manufacturing, distribution and sales.
He has 29 years of experience managing and promoting artists, as well as developing business strategies, corporate structuring, brand expansion/management, cost savings analysis, risk management strategies, and a host of other business development and management services.
Lee is a dynamic, out-of-the-box thinking business innovator with an in-depth knowledge and understanding of corporate structure, the strategic organization of business entities, and a broad understanding of the business side of art.
ADVISORY BOARD MEMBER (Not a part of the judging team)
Danette Tull is the Film Resource Coordinator for the Nevada Film Office, a division of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED). The Nevada Film Office (NFO) markets the state’s diverse locations and promotes Nevada as a premier destination for productions, including feature films, Television, Documentaries, and many other forms of programming.
At the Nevada Film Office, Ms. Tull’s work focuses primarily on the area of Public and Community relations; however, her passion for the local community keeps her involved in all aspects of the operations. Working closely with major productions, Danette directly has a hand in films, television series, and commercials featuring Las Vegas and Nevada, driving economic benefits, tourism, and promoting our state. She is an Advisory Board Member for the Cordillera International Film Festival and also serves as a Board Member for the Nevada Women’s Film Festival.
DIRECTOR | PRODUCER | WRITER
Valerio Zanoli is the producer and director of the film Not To Forget, with a cast that includes Karen Grassle and 5 Academy Award winners: Louis Gossett Jr., Olympia Dukakis, Cloris Leachman, Tatum O'Neal, and George Chakiris.
Valerio graduated from the prestigious School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, with a Presidential Scholarship and a Dean’s Scholarship.
Valerio's first film was The Minis, starring NBA legend Dennis Rodman. The movie is available in over 18 countries, with an official videogame and several partnerships that span from Yahoo! to McDonald’s. Valerio later produced and directed the film Hopeful Notes, which was awarded the first prize at the International Social Commitment Awards and 5 out of 5 doves by The Dove Foundation. He is also the producer and director of the film All You Can Dream, starring international singer Anastacia. The movie had its world premiere at the Giffoni Film Festival and its U.S. premiere at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. It later received support letters from the Office of the First Lady and UNESCO "Education for Children in Need."
ADVISORY BOARD MEMBER | CEO of DIGITOONZ
Vikas Kumar is the Founder & CEO of Digitoonz, a world-class interactive entertainment and 2D/3D animation production studio with well over 450 animators and global presence from USA, UK, Australia, Japan, and India.
Mr. Kumar and Digitoonz have worked on award-winning animations for some of the most prestigious animation studios in the global industry. Some of their shows have even received Daytime Emmy Award Nominations.
During the initial days of establishment, he was aware that there were no major animation companies in North India. He knew his dream of establishing a leading company was not going to be easy due to the lack of resources. Today Vikas is the face of Digitoonz. He is moving forward very actively with many new business opportunities to grow his company worldwide and also in opening new ventures for Kids' Entertainment and education.
ADVISORY BOARD MEMBER | DISTRIBUTOR
Jeff Porter has spent his years in Los Angeles furthering the ingenuity, creativity, and drive which guided him through his collegiate career at UNLV, during which he founded the non-profit Music and Film Development Center which teaches youth about music and film production, as well as the business behind it. His passion for film, in its myriad facets, has exposed him first hand to the blood sweat, and tears of running a set from the ground up as well as the countless hours spent as an editor for many projects. It is what led him to Los Angeles, working his way up from scouting films to selling them. It was there, in a kind of baptism by fire, which Jeff learned about the distribution and financing side of film, working his way up from film scout to president. In the process; finding distribution and or financing for over fifty-plus films, managing a team of film scouts, as well as a team of acquisitions executives, overseeing the logistics of several theatrical releases, in addition to cultivating relationships with all of the major domestic and international distributors.
Jeff’s drive and focus have been much fed by the unparalleled satisfaction of being able to help filmmakers and producers find distribution and audiences for their opuses.
ADVISORY BOARD MEMBER | WRITER
Nicola Lucchi is an Italian author and screenwriter living in Los Angeles. Winner and finalist of numerous international awards, he has collaborated with both fiction and non-fiction Italian and American production companies. Writer of some docuseries for Discovery Channel including "The Great Popes", Nicola is also an author of adult’s and children’s books.
A great lover of Hollywood history, he writes about cinema and the history of the entertainment industry in various specialized magazines. In Italy, he has edited books and essays on the Golden Age of Hollywood and classic American cinema, including an illustrated monograph entirely dedicated to Theda Bara.
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