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Judging Team 2021

As the 7th annual Top Shorts 2021 approaches, we're excited to announce this year's judging team!

Meet the team:


Dave Eichhorn is a multiple Emmy winning film and sound editor. Having worked on many Hollywood blockbusters, Dave has been awarded 3 Primetime Emmys, nominated 11 times, and has over 300 credits for clients like Disney, Netflix, HBO, Amazon, FOX, CBS, NBC, FX Network, Showtime, Hallmark, NatGeo, and more.

His rather unusual but comprehensive skillset as a film editor, supervising sound editor and re-recording mixer has landed him work with a who's who list of top-name Hollywood directors. He also has worked on numerous commercials and trailers for companies like Facebook, Subaru, and Nike.

Dave now owns and operates Post in the Woods in Los Angeles, a full-service post house geared specifically for indie filmmakers. "I just love working with talented new up-and-coming directors and producers, and they love having a one-stop-shop for professional film finishing services. I get to treat every project as if it were my own, while working one-on-one with filmmakers. This is easily the most creative and satisfying part of my career, and it’s a great way to utilize my 32 years of industry experience.”



Casey Ruggieri is an L.A. based actor, writer, and filmmaker. Since graduating from Ithaca film school with a Cinema and Photography degree, Casey has written and worked in various formats, including commercial, tv, film, theater, improv and sketch. Casey released her short film “Drag” this year which has made it into the new horror film fest, Horrors 4 You. Casey's production company, Fernleaf Films, is currently in pre-production on her next two films, both of which, are genre-based.

Some of her onscreen credits include Oscar nominated “Gone Girl” (directed by David Fincher), Golden Globe winner “House of Lies”, “Tales of Halloween”, “Kroll Show”, “S.W.A.T.”, and “Party of Five”, as well as dozens of national commercials that allowed her to work with directors like Rian Johnson.

Casey is very active and passionate about her work with young students in the non-profit sector. She is currently a head mentor with Young Storytellers, an LA based nonprofit that works with elementary students, teaching them the fundamentals of storytelling and screenwriting.



Shaw Jones was born and raised in Memphis, TN. He majored in Psychology and English at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX, and began acting after he landed a talent scholarship at KD Studio Actors Conservatory. Following that, he starred in the feature Dust to Dust alongside Wille Nelson and Robert Vaughn, then continued his journey by relocating to Los Angeles. Shaw has worked on NCIS, Shooter, Criminal Minds, Always Sunny in Philadelphia, 911, Snowfall, All My Children, The Young and the Restless and many others. He can be seen in the upcoming feature film End of Sentence with Academy Award nominee John Hawkes.

Shaw can be seen as a lead in the sci-fi feature Proximity with two-time Emmy winning director Eric Demeusy.



Lisa Roumain is an award winning Actress based in Los Angeles. She was born in Puerto Rico, and grew up in South Florida. She has played a diverse range of characters in TV projects such as Yellowstone, Westworld, Grey’s Anatomy, & Criminal Minds, as well as worked on the core motion capture troupe in Avatar. This year, she can be seen in 8 upcoming films, the new series Blindspotting, and has just wrapped the first season of a new motion capture animated series.



Meet Anup Kulkarni celebrated Hollywood Cinematographer and VFX supervisor, who’s happy to be called a globe trotter. In his career, he has had the opportunity to work in some prestigious and Academy award-winning projects like Life of Pi, Thor 2, Percy Jackson, R.I.P.D, and many more. His work speaks loud, and it is this magic and experience that has won him a total of six Best Cinematography awards and accolades. Anup was also the lead judge for many prestigious film festivals in the US.

Call it perks of the job that he has traveled to various parts of the world and experiences new cultures, meets new people, and learns through life. Over his distinguished career, he has worked on projects in 8 languages – English, Hindi, Spanish, Korean, Lithuanian, Portuguese, Romanian and Mixtec. His cinematography, photography & VFX knowledge has taken him all over the world, working on a variety of formats, like features, TV shows, short films, international documentaries, music videos, etc.



Jolie Lennon is an accomplished actress and action performer. She is known for her lead role in the feature film Codename Venus, playing an Amazonian warrior and a special action performer in DC’s Wonder Woman and Justice League. Jolie won the Top Shorts best actress of the year award for 2019 for her lead role in the Oscar qualifying short film SYLVIA.

Photo by Vanessa Valentine



Rui Yao is a Chinese writer, screenwriter and director. He is a Professor of film at Guangzhou University and has been a Visiting Scholar at UCLA. He received his Ph.D. in Film Studies from Communication University of China and his M.A. degree in Screenwriting from Beijing Film Academy. He has written more than 40 scripts/episodes for film and TV, including feature film Lin Shi Yan Yuan(临时演员)and Angry Kid(愤怒的小孩).

His script The Return of the Magician(逃脱的遭遇) has been elected as the “Youth Screenwriting Plan” project funded by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television of China. He has directed various short films and TV commercials. Many of his short films have been awarded or nominated by international film festivals and international film associations.

Rui has been a fellow of Kyoto Filmmakers Lab at the 2009 Kyoto HISTORICA International Film Festival, fellow of Berlinale Talent Campus at the 2009 Berlin International Film Festival, and fellow of Asian Film Academy at the 2008 Busan International Film Festival.

Rui has published more than 100 research articles in various academic journals, more than 10 academic books credited as author, co-author, or editor in the field of Film Genre, Narration, Adaptation, Business and History. He has also been project leader of two Chinese National Social Science Foundation Projects and core team member in more than 10 government-sponsored research projects.

Rui has also served as jury member at the 2019 Chinese Beijing College Student Film Festival, 2018 Los Angeles Chinese Film Festival, the 2014 Chinese International New Media Short Film Festivals, the 2014 Chinese Beijing College Student Film Festival.

Rui is the Chair of Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Film & TV Institute of Guangzhou University, the Deputy Secretary-general of Guangzhou Film Association, the Deputy Secretary-General of Film History Studies Association, Chinese Collegial Association for Visual Art. Rui is a member of China Film Association, China Screenwriters Association, China Film Critics Association, and Chinese Collegial Association for Visual Art.



Nami Melumad is a Los Angeles based film & tv composer. Recent projects include the HBO Max comedy An American Pickle starring Seth Rogen, the Amazon thriller-drama series Absentia with Stana Katic, and EA's VR video game Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond. Her score for Star Trek: Short Treks: Q&A landed her an upcoming Star Trek series, making her the first female composer for the franchise. Nami also contributed music and arrangements to Amazon’s hit, Borat Subsequent MovieFilmand scored the Oscar-winning short documentary, Colette. Her score to the Star Trek episode, Short Treks: Q&A in 2019, landed her an upcoming Star Trek series, making her the first female composer for the franchise.

Nominated for Breakthrough Composer of the Year (2020) by the International Film Music Critics Association (IFMCA), Nami's works have screened worldwide and claimed multiple international accolades, including the IFMCA Award for Best Score for a Video Game, the IFMCA nomination for Best Score for a Comedy, the Hollywood Music in Media Award (for Passage) and the Short Score award at Fimucite (for Luminarias). Her compositions have been performed by the Hollywood Chamber Orchestra, Haifa Symphony Orchestra, The Israel Sinfonietta Beer Sheva and Helix Collective Ensemble. An alumna of the ASCAP Film-Scoring Workshop, Nami graduated the Scoring for Motion Pictures and TV program at the University of Southern California. She holds a B.A. in multi-style composition from the Jerusalem Academy of Music, where she was admitted directly to sophomore year. She is a board member of the Alliance for Women Film Composers and a voting member at the Television Academy. Nami is represented by Maria Machado at the Gorfaine-Schwartz Agency.



From Oyonnax, France, Hugo Diego Garcia is a French and Spanish actor/director of Italian descent.

Garcia pursued both boxing and law school before his undeniable passion for acting took precipice. He went on to study theater and cinema in Paris and Los Angeles before adding writer and director to his resume. His first short film, TONY, screened at numerous festivals worldwide and garnered several awards. His performance in it was highly praised and the film was named one of the "Best 10 Short Films of 2019" by the UK Film Review, and earned praise from Silver Bear winners, the D’Innocenzo Brothers (Boys Cry). Hugo Diego Garcia won Best Narrative Film, Best Crime Film, Best First Time Director, and Best Actor at Top Shorts 2019.

In 2019, Garcia wrote and directed Cagnolino which is slated for festivals as he continues to develop more projects for 2021.

Photo by James De Pietro



Mor Cohen is a multiple-award-winning Israeli actress and filmmaker. She began her career as a child, taking roles in Israeli television and regional theatre. After graduating from The Academy of Performing Arts in Tel Aviv, Mor relocated to work in Hollywood and later New York, committing herself fully to acting and producing. She is a festival director and lead curator at the New York Film Awards which has been running since 2017.

On screen, Mor can be seen in Natalie Portman’s directorial debut, A Tale of Love and Darkness, Altrac Productions’ The Leshiy, and Kate Espada’s most recent film This Is Our Home. Her producorial credits include the Off-Broadway production Scoop, the German-American co-production Klaviermann, and multiple award-winning short films such as The New Galileos and Over the Wall, both starring her as well.



Jarek Marszewski is a multi-award winning director and screenwriter who has

gained recognition throughout the world for his innovative approach to filmmaking

and unique visual style.

He studied directing at FAMU, Czech Republic’s prestigious Film and TV

Academy in Prague, before graduating from the Kieslowski Film Department at

the Silesian University, Poland. He is also a graduate of the English Department

at the Wroclaw University, Poland.

His short films have been awarded numerous prizes at international festivals,

while his feature debut Tomorrow, Heaven Comes, received the Best First Film

Award at the Festroia Film Festival (Setubal, Portugal), the Best Actor Award at

the Gdynia Film Festival (Poland) and the Critics' Award at the Young Film

Festival (Koszalin, Poland).

His second feature, Bikini Blue, has won over 50 awards at festivals worldwide,

including Best Foreign Film at Beverly Hills Film Festival, as well as Best Picture

at Lost Angeles Film Awards, New York Film Awards, Festigious Film Festival

(Los Angeles), London Eye Film Festival (UK), Fabrique du Cinema Awards

(Italy), Directors Cut IFF (Vancouver) and La Paz International Film Festival

(Bolivia) to name but a few. Bikini Blue is distributed in Europe, USA, Canada,

Latin America and China.

In addition to his work in film Jarek has also directed a number of high-profile

international dramas such as The Conspirators (Poland, 2018/2019) and The

Murder Commission (Poland, 2016) as well as acclaimed operas such as Aida

(Italy/Qatar for Al Arabia TV, 2002), Madame Butterfly (Italy/South Africa for

SABC TV, 2000) and The Magic Flute (Opera Podlaska, Poland, 2014).



Chelsea Nwasike is an award-winning Filmmaker who holds a BA degree in Media Production at Bournemouth University, England, and a Master's degree at New York Film Academy. She first began her directorial journey in England when she shot a 45 mins pilot for the series "Twisted". She was awarded an Arts Award and Co-Creation Award plus a grant to lead and direct the production of. "Genetics for the public" project.

After working on Christopher Nolan’s three-time Academy Award-winning historical drama Dunkirk, Chelsea moved down to LA where she began writing and directing shorts. Some of which have been recognized as official selections and won awards at film festivals; her accolades include "Reaction" awarded as the Best Female Director, Best Sound Designer and Best Sci-Fi, and "Written Words" awarded Best Original Story, Best Narrative Film, Best Thriller, Best Editing. Chelsea's thread of films carries the theme of loneliness whatever genre it may fall under- which is heavily inspired by her experience of living independently from the young age of 10 in boarding school.

She is known for her uncompromising devotion to quality and depiction of true emotions. Chelsea is set to continue building her body of work as a writer director.



Benjamin Schnau is a German-born actor, host and author based in Los Angeles and Berlin, working in the American and European market. Fluent in English and German, Benjamin is known for his critical role in the Netflix production 'Mank' alongside Gary Oldman, in 'The current war' alongside Michael Shannon and 'Megastructures' produced by NatGeo available on Netflix.

On top of that, he is a host for a variety of broadcasts and hosted the red carpet of the American Heart Association in Los Angeles. He won the award for 'Best Actor' for his role of Leon in the movie 'Against All Odds' at the Oniros Film Awards 2019 and New York International Film Awards 2020 and also 'Best Supporting Actor of the Year' at the Top Shorts Film Festival 2020 for his role of Gunther Wolfgang in the movie 'The little picture'. In 2021 he will be starring in the upcoming feature film 'Silent night in Algona' which is based on a true story.

In early 2021 he released his new book 'The Reality of Hollywood' talking about his experience in the film industry and how aspiring actors can establish themselves in Hollywood. It's available here:



Buffy Milner is a multi award winning actress and director from Suffolk, England. Buffy won 6 awards for best actress for her performance in the short film ‘Type’ which premiered in the festival circuit in 2018. Since then she has booked multiple national commercials and tv shows and continues to make a name for herself in the industry.



Maximiliano Hernández was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. He attended a BFA program in Theatre at the Leonard Davis Center for the Performing Arts in Harlem. During this time he began his career as a working actor performing on stage and television. He has appeared in dozens of critically acclaimed television shows, award winning films and some of the biggest blockbusters in the history of cinema. He has enjoyed success as an actor and is pursuing his next career of writing, directing and producing. He founded The Ministry Filmworks in 2018 in order to create original content and produce American films and television shows that highlight the power of diversity on screen, and give a clearer view of what America actually looks like.

Max lives in Charleston, SC and commutes to work all over the country.



Beate Malkus is an award winning German actress. After graduating from theatre school in Hannover, Germany, she ran through a clown education and worked with great teachers like Philipe Gaulier (London) and Pascale Ben (France). Beate performed in theatre-productions all over Germany and then moved to Berlin, Germany, to pursue her career in film acting.

She quickly played lead characters in a lot of films such as the international productions 'One Night in Berlin' by Kivmars Bowling or 'Blissestrasse' by Canadian director Paul Donovan. Fluent in several languages, Beate Malkus recently made her Canadian television debut starring in the TV Series Clay's P.O.V. by Paul Donovan in the permanent role of Cassandra for two seasons (26 episodes) so far.

Beate Malkus won several American acting awards for her lead performances in the Swiss Sci-Fi movie 'Alekto' and the British-German drama 'One Night in Berlin'. She plays her roles with great variety and her characters are often in a way strong and frangible withal. She approaches her roles not only by method acting, but as well works with the Chekhov technique after having taken a masterclass with Lenard Petit of Michael Chekhov Acting Studio NY.

Aside of being actress, Beate devotes herself to human rights due to her pre-acting law studies in Germany, Turkey and the Netherlands. This work brought her to countries like Turkey, India and Iraq.



Richard Prendergast is a Director and DoP with over 10 years experience. He always strives to create new ways of storytelling through moving image, with exceptional results. His background is predominantly broadcast sports documentary and more recently high end branded content and commercials. Clients include Nike, Red Bull, Coca-Cola, BT Sport, Sky Sports to name a few.

Richard's Oscar-qualifying short film, Sylvia, was BAFTA's 2019 Best Short Film Long List (Top20), and was also selected as Top Shorts 2019 Best of Fest runner-up.



Roy Zafrani (MBA, B.Ed) is a screenwriter, director and editor, and alumnus of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

For over 20 years, Roy has written, directed and edited multiple documentaries, sports events, TV series, commercials, and narrative films, including: "The Other Dreamers" (winner of 13 awards, over 100 selections in international film festivals), "Over the Wall" (Best Short Film at the 19th annual Phoenix Film Festival), "On the Edge" (multi-award-winning documentary), "Until the End Amir" (Opening Film at the Oscar Qualifying Festival In the Palace), "Fed Cup", "Davis Cup", "Assi Dayan: Embittered" (Vienna Jewish Film Festival), "On Tiptoes", "European Beach Tennis Championships", the American-Canadian series "The Consulting Offer" (Editor, Season 2) and more.

Some of his producing credits include the American drama "Passage" (Excellence in Producing Award at Idyllwild Film Festival), the British spy-thriller "The Doorman", "Opening Serve", and "Davis Cup: Road to the Finals", as well as tens of sports events for TV.

Some of his screenplays include "Start Over", a television script, "Lenny" (Austin Film Festival), "Jamie's Book" (winner of multiple screenplay awards, including at the 2018 Irvine International Film Festival), the crime comedy "Cursed" (Best Feature Screenplay at the 2020 Portland Comedy Film Festival) and the dramatic fantasy "Mondays with Amy", which recently won Best Screenplay of the Year at the 21st California Independent Film Festival.

Most recently, Roy published the bestselling children's book "The Snail Who Left His House", and directed a fundraiser for "Upstep", which helped the company raise over $2M.


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