Western New York F.A.M.E. Judges

Festival Director, Rhonda Parker in an award winning writer/director whose love for the arts led her to form the non profit organization, Beaver Alley Studios Inc. Her goal to bring artists together for the benefit of all, stems from partnering with Rochester band "The Lonely Ones" for the film, Friends Don't Let Friends Date Friends. The talent met through directing that first feature inspired a series of experimental short films, each filmed in one day over the winter lull. Rhonda's second feature, Lonely Bananas was the ultimate in artistic collaboration, with over 30 of the best area actors, writers and entertainers coming together to create a hysterical romantic comedy. She broke out of her comfort zone again for her third feature, Message in a Bottle. The epic adventure starring three adolescents contains elements of comedy, drama, romance, and horror. Rhonda continues to work towards her goal to grow the audience base for local artists so that the paid opportunities will become more prevalent. F.A.M.E. is the first step in working towards that goal.

Shawn Essler is an award-winning writer and director, author, essayist, comedian and character actor. He has worked on over 300 productions, both in front of and behind the camera, since 1987. Currently, Mr. Essler is fundraising for his short film "Cloak." He serves on the executive board for Rochester Movie Makers and Beaver Alley Studios. He actively reviews screenplays and serves to promote awareness of invisible disabilities.

Beaver Alley Studios co-founder, Mark Parker, has been a musician for 30 years in various rock, alternative, rap, blues, and pop bands. He is a versatile musician that can sing, play guitar, harmonica, bass, and drums. Mark also works as a film maker, actor, photographer, webmaster and digital artist. Mark has been the cinematographer and editor on numerous film projects for BAS. He enjoys all types of music and movies and looks forward to being the sound technician for the musicians playing at F.A.M.E.

Vicky L. Neal is a produced screenwriter with two feature films and many shorts. She has been writing screenplays for more than 25 years with over 70 available in a variety of genres and budgets. She also has over 20 options of her screenplays.

Dennis Button has 4 years in commercial art and was honored with a partial scholarship at the Institute of Pittsburg Arts College. He declined it to pursue his passion for music. In the years that followed his band recorded two full length CDs and had a class C recording contract. After his short music career he went on to open his own business utilizing his first talent. Art. He now owns his own business, Digital Ink Arts. Dennis creates custom designs for customers that he screen prints, Turns in to signs and does vehicle graphics.

"The day i broke up with normal was the first day of my magical life." In a relentless search for adventure & fascinating things, Maarit's life has intersected with many amazing people. She has lived on both sides of the Atlantic and been a bi-coastal American for most of her life. Currently residing in western NY, Maarit is inspired by people whose passion for innovation & excellence infuses the world with imagination, goodness, beauty, joy, & hope. Her secret identity is being an opera singer.

Mike Boas has works as an animator, web designer, and editor at Rochester's Animatus Studio. Through Animatus Studio's Animation Workshop, Mike teaches young filmmakers traditional animation techniques and editing.
Under his own banner, Mad Dog Movies, Mike has contributed animation to the documentary features "American Grindhouse," "That Guy Dick Miller," and "21 Years: Quentin Tarantino." Mike's short film "H.P. Lovecraft's The Other Gods" has played at film festivals worldwide and was featured as an Easter egg in the video game "The Darkness II."
Mike is active with Rochester Movie Makers, taking part in short films and helping to educate up-and-coming filmmakers. He is co-runner of the Rochester Movie Makers Writers Workshop

Amelia Favata is a Rochester based actor with experience in Independent Films, Community Theatre, Commercials, and Web series. Amelia has received training in both Film acting, and Theatre. Amelia Favata is best known for her lead role in the award winning feature film, Friends Don’t Let Friends Date Friends directed by Rhonda Parker. Amelia’s passion for film and acting has lead her to work on many different projects in front of the camera and behind the camera as well. Amelia continues to learn and work hard with hopes to develop a versatile and lengthy career in Acting and Film. "

Cecil Battiste lives in Orlando, Florida, with his wife and kids. His day job is teaching principles of accounting at Valencia College. He side gig is writing spec screenplays. He has read hundreds of produced and unproduced screenplays and was, at one time, an active member of a local Meetup group that did table reads. His preferred genres are action/adventure and comedy. When not working or writing he keeps himself busy reading for enjoyment or following college football and the stock markets.

Hello, my name is Mary K. Pleakis. As a child and teenager, I loved to draw and paint. That interest carried on into college where I obtained a BA in Psychology and Minor in Fine Arts. I became involved in the Acting and Film community shortly after discovering my youngest son's interest in theater three years ago. My son and I have become involved and support WNY local film and acting community. We enjoy being a part of the local WNY film projects and helping out behind the scene. We support and enjoy being a part of the many college film projects in our region. In my free time I enjoy photography, reading autobiography books and participating in outdoor sports. I am a Pisces, a dreamer of dreams, a teller of tales who's mystical sight knows that truth prevails.

Ashley Maria is a comedy/horror film and immersive video Writer and Director known for the award winning film FRIDAY NIGHT FRIGHT™, a comedy horror that won the Directors Guild of America (DGA) honor in 2010 (leading to a coveted mentorship with director Wes Craven). She is also known for developing the first ever 360 immersive virtual reality Kickstarter update video! Ashley's first feature, PIONEERS IN SKIRTS™, a documentary focusing on the systemic biases women face in their careers and how to overcome them, is currently in post-production.

Ashley hails from the Tar Heel state, North Carolina, where she received an undergraduate degree in Media Productions from UNC-Chapel Hill. She received her MFA from the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. In 2014, Ashley was proud to be featured by the DGA Women's Steering Committee as a Director who represents “the future of women in film.” And -- more recently, Ashley was awarded the 2016 BPW Hollywood Young Professional title.

When she’s not running her own production, Ashley is a freelancer hired to direct, write, and/or capture location sound for feature & short films, web series, 360 videos, and television commercials. She is also an adjunct professor at USC and UCLA, teaching filmmaking. Find out more about Ashley and peruse her filmmaking credits by visiting her website, www.ashley-maria.com.

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