2017 Special Guests

Michael Deering

The Ragman/A Hobo’s Story Untold is Michael Deering’s first documentary film credit (as Producer). An avid photographer, music aficionado and storyteller, Michael has parlayed his creative passions into both rewarding and career-defining experiences. By day, Michael runs SuperStarPR™, a boutique PR firm specializing in production and segment development with the likes of NFL on CBS, The Tonight Show, Today Show, GMA, CNN, NBC Nightly News, Late Night w/David Letterman, Rosie O’Donnell Show and more. Ironically, he also hosts an annual music festival on his century-old farm, which ultimately convinced him to tell yet another story that just had to be told.


Cy Dodson

Cy Dodson has been in the storytelling business for over two decades. In 2006, Cy created his company Triumph Pictures, LLC, incorporating his passion of storytelling with documentary style marketing and content branding. Cy keeps busy with his vast array regional and nationally-based clients including McDonald’s, US Army, SAP and Andersen Windows and Doors.. The Ragman – A Hobo’s Story Untold is Cy’s sophomore directorial release. In 2014 Cy completed My Last Breath which screened at several film festivals and also won an Upper Midwest Regional Emmy for Best Documentary.


Sarah Jane Johnson

Sarah Jane Johnson is an Activist and Director/Writer/Producer of Gratus. She’s a risk taker, unafraid of challenging the status quo, as seen through the several years she’s spent travelling the world documenting forgotten injustices, particularly within Africa. Sarah has produced and filmed work for national television including a an exposé on Diseases within Africa in a bid to give voice to some of the most vulnerable people on earth. Sarah has also worked on upcoming feature film “Mary Magdalene” and has won awards for her work with Bus Stop Films in Australia. 

Hanna Loegering

Hanna Loegering (director of Last Tuesday With Grandpa), recently gradated from Minnesota State University Moorhead with a BS in Graphic Communications. Last Tuesday with Grandpa, was her senior final project and she was responsible for almost every aspect of the production. She is currently employed at Serendipitous Films and Video in Dallas/ Fort Worth, TX where Hanna is learning more about the wonderful world of corporate video.

John Fortson

John Fortson is an award winning writer/director/actor living in LA and making his film directing debut with his 20x Award Winner RATED. Starting in theatre, John quickly found himself being pulled to star in many films, TV shows, and commercials. And while working, he always found himself keeping a close eye on the directors with whom he worked with a vision of directing himself. John has written several screenplays, as well as two one person shows based on his own life, that he produced and starred in throughout Los Angeles. His most recent show, Loveswell, received raves from critics and audiences alike and was seen by more than two thousand people during it’s 3 year run in LA. He has also written and performed for Jill Soloway’s Comedy Central show, Sit n Spin, as well as for many other spoken word productions around LA. John has most recently finished the screenplay for the feature version of RATED

Samantha Farinella

Samantha Farinella is a New York City-based filmmaker and founder of One Angry Woman Productions. Samantha is currently an MFA candidate in Integrated Media Arts at Hunter College. She shot, directed and edited May 22, 2012 last spring. Farinella’s last feature length project, Hunting in Wartime, was nationally released on PBS over Memorial Day Weekend 2017. It recently won the Big Sky Award at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival and has screened in over twenty venues over the past year. Her first feature documentary, Left Lane, was featured in over forty festivals including Galway’s International Film Festival, Frameline in San Francisco and Out in Africa.

Chloe Lenihan

Chloe Lenihan is the director of Life, Coached.  She is also writer and producer of How Far She Went, awarded “Best Female Student Filmmaker” by the Director’s Guild of America.  She joined the Screen Actors Guild at age seven and has worked professionally as an actor in LA and New York.  Her work dabbles with genre, but intergenerational female dynamics and family remain consistent themes.  Chloe holds an MFA in Creative Producing from Columbia University. 


Chris Jopp

Chris Jopp (writer/director/editor of MEOW) is a filmmaker based out of Minneapolis. By day he works as a commercial director and editor, and by night he is an independent filmmaker, capturing stories with a taste for the dark and whimsical. He has created award-winning ads and music videos, and his short films have exhibited at The Walker Art Center, as well as numerous film festivals across the world.


Kyja Kristjansson-Nelson

Kyja Kristjansson-Nelson (director of In Our World) is from Moorhead, MN and her films have screened at festivals in Asia, Europe, North America and Australia, at venues including the Walker Art Center, the D.C. National Museum for Women in the Arts, NYC’s Anthology Film Archives & the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art. Her work has received awards, including the ICDOC Kodak Vision Award for Best Cinematography, Ann Arbor Film Festival’s Griot Editorial Best Editing Award, and the UFVA Award of Merit for Documentary Filmmaking.  The Carnegie Foundation named her the 2014 Minnesota CASE Professor of the Year.  K-Nelson is Professor of Film at Minnesota State University Moorhead.

Samuel Sprynczynatyk

Samuel Sprynczynatyk  (director, cinematographer, and editor of “Uncle Albert“) is an award winning documentary filmmaker from North Dakota. He has been working in film for over ten years and has experience in most every style, but telling real stories is his favorite thing to do. He started doing his own independent film work full time in 2016 after he saw the impact his work can have. He created a documentary in 2015 called “A Letter for Steve”. It focused on a  man who was facing 25 years in prison. The film helped raise awareness to his character and was a critical step in Steve’s release from any prison time.

Sean A. Skinner

Sean A. Skinner Directed, Produced & Co-Wrote Tourvall II: Into the Darkness. Sean has been filming, editing, producing and directing news stories, documentaries and short films for more than 20 years. His short films have won numerous awards at film festivals including the South Dakota Film Festival, The Minneapolis St Paul International, St. Louis International and the Canada International Film Festivals. He has earned Associated Press and Emmy awards for his journalism work. Currently in Production on 3 different documentaries, including such topics as a domed city, a failed movie theater and Bob Dylan. Sean lives near Minneapolis, Minnesota, with his wife and 3 kids.

Finn J Harrison

Finn J Harrison is a PSEO student and Film Major at MSUM and is the writer/director/editor of Le Film Français Prétentieux, also known as The Pretentious French Film.

His previous accolades include “Best Anti-Drug Piece” from the Moorhead DARE branch in 2010 for his animated short, “Best Visual Presentation” for his mock infomercial from the FIRST Lego League in 2013, and MSUM’s juried selection in 2017 for The Pretentious French Film. 

Greg Carlson

Greg Carlson, director of On The Wall, Off The Chain lives in Fargo, North Dakota, Greg is an associate professor and the director of film studies at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. He also writes about movies for the High Plains Reader and produces the annual 2-Minute Movie Contest at the Fargo Film Festival. With a team of talented collaborators, Greg has directed four consecutive top-twelve finishers in the Fusion/International Documentary Challenge.

Edward Linder

Edward Linder Co-Producer/Co-Writer/Actor of Tourvall II: Into the Darkness,  is excited to be back at the SDFF.  Some of his past films that have shown at the SDFF were HELP DESK, Dear Daddy, The Negative & A Fistful of Donuts.  He just completed first feature film, Analog Gaming, a documentary about the renaissance of tabletop games. Next up, he is helping put the final touches on The Tower of Birdtown Documentary with Red 23 Films. Please visit www.tmjproductions.com ohttps://www.facebook.com/tmjproductions or follow him on twitter @tmjproductions.  Edward lives in Minneapolis with his wife Stacey and their 3 cats.

Samantha Michele Buchanan

Samantha Michele Buchanan started her career as a classical ballet dancer. After an injury she studied acting while working as a casting assistant in Minneapolis. She then spent a decade working between Chicago & NYC in theater and film. Until Now is based on her family’s story and she is proud to have produced and acted in the film. She can also be seen in two features currently screening at festivals, Bernard and Huey and Shotgun Honey. Samantha is now based in Omaha, Nebraska with her fiancé and two golden retrievers. She continues to act, produce short films and collect airline miles like mad.

Carlos Omar de Leon

While growing up in Nebraska, Carlos Omar de León (director of The Throwaways) gravitated to film and cinema at an early age. While casting his friends and family, at a young age, for his amateur projects, Carlos felt as if his calling resided behind a camera. He attended the University of South Dakota to pursue cinematic arts.

Carlos has Directed, Produced and Edited a wide range of respectable short films and videos that have won a variety of awards including; Addy and Telly awards for his clients.  Carlos’s artistic approach and attention to detail renders

Desire Jansen

After years of experience in front of the camera, acting in various short and feature length productions since the age of 11, Desire` Jansen stepped behind the lens, producing, co-writing, and acting in the short  action-comedy, The Throwaways, which will be shown at this year’s South Dakota Film Festival.  In this tale of two sisters who don’t know each other are spies until they’re given each other’s names to terminate, Desire` clumsily finds her way into rather unfortunate situations, having to rely on her sister to back her up…or kill her…


Steven Warkel

Steven Warkel was born and raised in the Twin Cities area. He is currently a senior at Minnesota State University Moorhead. Since high school, he has acquired a strong passion for film and storytelling. Steven is the writer and director of the student short film “Stanley”.

Aaron Beck

Aaron Beck, writer and director of Jazzy and Mumbo, is for now a freelance filmmaker and student at Minnesota State University Moorhead. With a penchant for passionately pursuing parody and pastiche, he comes up with convoluted crackpot creations continuously.

Tenton Smith

Trenton Smith is a senior film student attending Minnesota State University Moorhead. He’s had a passion for film for as long as he can remember, and has won multiple awards at MSUM’s Juried Film Exhibition. Trenton is the director of photography for the student film Jazzy and Mumbo.