2023 Film Festival Jurors

Feature Films

Filmmaker Russell Brown’s body of work includes five narrative features, two full-length documentaries and a number of well-regarded narrative and documentary shorts. His feature films have opened theatrically in select cities to stellar reviews after playing collectively at more than 150 festivals around the world, winning awards nationally and internationally in a vast array of categories including directing, writing, acting and editing. His diverse resume includes Loren & Rose, Search Engines, Annie and the Gypsy, Karen Black: On Acting, The Blue Tooth Virgin, Conversation with a Cigarette, Mama Laura’s Boys, The 44 Scarves of Liza Minnelli, Above the Arroyo: A Dream of the Stairs of Los Angeles, Reality USA, and The Kaleidoscope Guy at the Market.
He is known in particular for directing actresses to critically lauded and award-winning performances, and has worked with Karen Black, Jacqueline Bisset, Cybill Shepherd, Joely Fisher, Amber Benson, Connie Stevens, Gia Carides, Natasha Gregson Wagner, and Daphne Zuniga.

Jaye Pniewski is a film and TV director who brings a unique style and inspiration to every project, telling stories that entertain and engage the audience. A 30 year veteran of the film industry, she has been a producer and director for multiple productions including two award winning short films; Mend in 2019, and Bound in 2023. Jaye was recently named Best Director at the 2023 Southern Shorts Awards for her work on Bound. As the owner of BlueJaye Films, her commercial production company, she has told many award winning stories that have made a difference, one project at a time.
After raising three beautiful daughters, Jaye and wonderfully talented husband, Mike, now live in Woodstock, GA.

Rockell Metcalf is Executive Producer, Co-Director and Writer of the award-winning documentary, “The Contradictions of Fair Hope,” which was featured on STARZ and is currently available on Amazon Prime Video. Mr. Metcalf is also Vice President and Chief Counsel- Marketing at Prudential Financial. He received his LL.M from Columbia Law School and his J.D. from Mitchell Hamline School of Law, where he was Executive Editor of the Law Review. Mr. Metcalf served as law clerk to Chief Judge U.W. Clemon in the Northern District of Alabama (ret.) and received his B.A. in Biology, with high distinction, from Talladega College. He is co-author of “The Practical Guide to Broker-Dealer Regulation,” and he obtained a 2008 U.S. Patent for a “System and Method for Dividing a Remittance and Distributing a Portion of the Funds to Multiple Investment Products.”

Short Films

Jessica Chriesman is a filmmaker based in Birmingham, Alabama. She is the Director of Education and Outreach at Sidewalk Film Center and Cinema where she plans learning opportunities for kids and adults, filmmakers and film fans alike, through the lens of film and media. She has previously served on the jury for the Indie Memphis Film Festival and has read grants for the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. She is the Chair of the Alabama Humanities Alliance’s Young Professionals Board. With a background in nonprofit communications, Jessica uses filmmaking to tell Southern stories through the lenses of food and culture, social justice and history, and nonprofits and the people they serve. She also works with the Jane Goodall Institute on their storytelling strategies. She won the Fairhope Film Festival’s 2022 Best Documentary Short award for her film, Philoxenia.

With over 25 years in the film and video industry, Shaun Conrad has recently relocated to the beautiful Eastern Shore with his wife, Melissa, to raise their 3 kids. Shaun has created everything from music videos to international TV commercials with American Crew, Vidal Sassoon, SportClips, Reebok, Billy Reid, K- Swiss, Hasbro and many more. Shaun Conrad also shot and directed an ADweek Spot of the Month and won the 2000 Cannes Short List Award. In addition to the commercial work, Shaun co-directed the highly acclaimed feature documentary, Purvis of Overtown, with directing partner David Raccuglia. The film has won numerous film festival awards including Best In Show, Best Feature Documentary as well as Audience Awards.

JD Crowe is the statewide cartoonist for Alabama Media Group and AL.com. JD’s cartoons and essays have tickled, infuriated and resonated with readers in Alabama since 2000, when he was first hired by the Press-Register. Despite the pleas of some of Alabama’s goofiest goober politicians he hasn’t been fired yet. A native of Kentucky, Crowe has worked on staff for newspapers in Fort Worth, Texas and San Diego, California. Before moving to the gulf coast, he was a freelance artist/cartoonist and travel writer for the Los Angeles Times. Crowe has published several books of his work including, “Half-thunk Thoughts and Half-fast Drawings,” a collection of off-beat musings, cartoons and awkward moments. He is a frequent public speaker who dabbles in standup comedy. In 2020, Crowe received the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award for Cartoons. He was honored with the Rex Babin Memorial Award for Local and State Cartooning by the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists in 2018. JD lives in Fairhope with his wife, Lori, where he enjoys air guitar, riding his bike and taking photos of Fairhope sunsets.