2014 Judges

2014 Judging Panel 

Tommy Beardmore

Tommy Beardmore is a Chicago-based Actor and Filmmaker. An alumnus of Purdue University, The Second City Conservatory, iO Theatre, and Artistic Home, he has been featured in over 500 live performances from New York City to New Ulm, MN. as well as over 100 films, television shows, and commercials. Recent credits include Shameless, Chicago PD, Kill Game, Convergence, and The Life & Death of an Unhappily Married Man. This past year, he created, produced, and starred in the hit dark comedy web series, Greetings! From Prison.Tommy is a SAG/AFTRA member and represented by Paonessa Talent Agency.

Shannon Brown

Shannon Brown started his professional acting career in 1999 in Los Angeles, CA.  He was fortunate to experience success rather quickly, booking an episode of NBC's hit series Friends. Soon after that, he also booked an episode of FOX's sit com Action. 

Although his career was on the upswing, Shannon was forced to move back to Chicago to deal with a family tragedy.  Upon his return to his home market, Shannon put his acting career on hold with the intention of moving back to the west coast to pick up where he left off.  Life happens and seven years later, Shannon was still in Chicago.  In 2010, he couldn't put his passion on the back burner any longer.  He got back into the business and did so with great vigor. Shannon is thrilled to be working consistently in his home market. 

Since his return in 2010, Shannon has added to his resume that now features over 50 SAG projects ranging from TV and commercials to short and feature films. The most recent being a feature film starring Minnie Driver, Frank Grillo, John Leguizamo, Maggie Q among others, titled Conspiracy on Jekyll Island. One of three films that Shannon will be starring in that will be in theaters in 2015.

Robyn Coffin

Robyn Coffin moved back to Chicago in 2009 after living in Seattle. Since then she's worked with Silent Theatre, Infamous Commonwealth, Jackalope, Redmoon, Fine Print Theatre, Collaboraction and is an ensemble member of The Factory Theater. Robyn plays Cindy Herrmann on Chicago Fire and has done many television commercials and short films. Recently she worked on two feature films, Finding Hope and The Life and Death of an Unhappily Married Man. Upcoming films include Unexpected and One Not Taken. Robyn thanks Stewart Talent, Tim and her amazing support system of friends.

Angie Gaffney

Originally from Boulder, Colorado, Angie Gaffney is an award-winning producer with over seven years of experience in film, television, commercials, and theatre. A graduate of DePaul University, Angie formed her own creative development studio and artist management studio in 2010. Through this company, Black Apple Media, Angie has completed over 50 productions, including a variety of narrative television and feature-length content.

Previously, Angie Gaffney worked as the Executive Producer at The Onion. After joining The Onion network in 2011, Angie played a leading role in furthering the development of Onion Media’s latest and greatest business venture, Onion Labs. A full service creative services agency with distribution and production capabilities, Angie has overseen campaign creation for a wide variety of brands and budgets.

Angie currently focuses her efforts on developing original content (for film, theater, TV, & web) and managing musicians, directors, screenwriters, and actors alike. Through Black Apple Media, she oversees all creative development, content acquisition, theatrical production, talent and casting, project budgets, investment opportunities, and financial planning. Clients include screenwriters and directors in both LA and Chicago, as well as a few select musicians.

Julian Grant

Born in London, England, and  emigrating to Canada in the 1970's Julian graduated from York University in 1985 with a BFA in FIlm Production and immediately began working in 'Hollywood North'.  Through the late 80's and early 90's he dedicated himself to independent production, learning the ropes of distribution (with both New World and Disney as employers!) and made my first feature film, "Bust A Move" before I was 30!  This was the picture that started it all introduceing Julian to Lionsgate. HBO came calling and Julian moved even further up the production ladder creating three World Premiere cinema showcases for them and was able to begin the Millenium as the Producer/ Director of the acclaimed mini-series, "Robocop: Prime Directives.

As reality television and production shortfalls continued in Canada, Julian turned to producing US Cable-driven feature films and beginning his academic career. Successful tenures at The Canadian Film Center, Sheridan College and a host of other educational facilities allowed him to transition to the USA and join the full-time faculty at Columbia College Chicago.

Today, Juian is an active working artist and professional educator passing on his 'no-holds-barred' production philosophies and continuing to live the dream. “I make cinema for myself now and am an evangelist for DIY and self-distribution in this new digital age.” 

Susan Kerns

Susan Kerns is an Assistant Professor of Cinema Art + Science at Columbia College Chicago. She is currently producing the documentary Last of the Lawsonomists, wrote the screenplay for Little Red, and has produced or directed numerous short films. Previously, Susan was Education Director at the Milwaukee Film Festival. She holds a PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and a portion of her work on conjoined twins can be found in the anthology Nip/Tuck: Television that Gets Under Your Skin.

Sean Patrick Leonard

Sean Patrick Leonard-Judge/Host
Sean hails from the Windy City and has been a professional actor for 20 years. He is the former Artistic Director of Speaking Ring Theatre Company and has been involved in the film and television scene for the past 5 years. You can check him out in Machine Gun Preacher, Chicago Fire and the Indie hit Sweet Leaf. Look for him next spring in The Life and Death of an Unhappily Married Man, Double Yellow Lines and Finding Hope.

Michael McCracken

Michael McCracken has been in the professional entertainment industry for over 15 years. Before working full time for Vagabond School for the Arts as the administrative director, he was a tv/film, commercial and theatrical talent agent with both Grossman & Jack Talent and Shirley Hamilton Talent here in Chicago. He has also had the pleasure of being a TV commercial session director, actor, improviser, musician and theatrical director.

Grace McPhillips

Grace McPhillips is a leader in Chicago's voiceover and screen acting community, an activist for her industry founding the Chicago Acting in Film Meetup, and is building an impressive slate with her production company, Sterling Rock Productions, most recently completing The Other One making it’s Chicago Premiere at the 50th Chicago International Film Festival.

Grace has danced with the Lyric Opera, sings with Mysteriam, produced/starred/directed award-winning independent films, and has lent her voice to commercials nationwide. She also hosts a podcast called the Producer’s Patio discussing the real work of truly independent film producing.

Rusty Schwimmer

Rusty is very happy to be back in her home town of Chicago after 24 years in Los Angeles without a loyal sports fan base. Her film credits include A Little Princess,Twister, Perfect Storm, Runaway Jury, and North Country,  and she is excited about the release of You Can't Win and The Blood Stripe.  Some of her favorite roles in television include "Louie," "Six Feet Under," "Broken Trail," and "Gilmore GIrls."  She is looking forward to seeing all the wonderful craftsmanship and talent our city has to offer.

George Zwierz

As the founder of Purple Stuff Productions Inc., George Zwierzynski Jr. began his career editing trailers and making featurettes for major studios and renowned directors, such as Oliver Stone. He continues to edit shows for The History Channel, Discovery Channel, and CNBC amongst others. George's producing and directing skills can be seen in his award winning series Guys Book Club. More recently, he's been working on commercial work for clients such as Bud Light and Panera Bread through Onion Labs. George is currently the Vice President of Production at The Onion.

Josh Hope
Gretchen Kelly
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