Filmmaker Advisory Committee

The Filmmaker Advisory Committee is a team of volunteer filmmakers organized to assist with AFS Filmmaker Resources programs through event moderation, direct mentorship, and review of program applications, including Works-In-Progress and Fiscal Sponsorship.


Austin-based filmmaker and television producer Bradley Beesley thrives on documenting the strange, nearly forgotten recesses of Americana. His first documentary experiment was HILL STOMP HOLLAR (SXSW), a homemade collage featuring legendary bluesman R.L Burnside. Beesley’s next film, OKIE NOODLING (PBS), explored the backwoods tradition of catching catfish with your bare hands. He has since directed eight films, including the documentaries THE FEARLESS FREAKS, FEATURING THE FLAMING LIPS, (WB) SUMMERCAMP! (Sundance), THE CREEK RUNS RED (Independent Lens), SWEETHEARTS OF THE PRISON RODEO (HBO), and CALLS TO OKIES (SXSW).


Cameron Bruce Nelson is a 2014 IFP Narrative Labs Fellow whose award-winning first feature, SOME BEASTS, was chosen to participate at the U.S. in Progress-Wroclaw and was the recipient of an Austin Film Society post-production grant. He is a graduate of Black Factory Cinema’s workshop with Abbas Kiarostami and is currently pursuing an MFA in Screenwriting/Directing at Columbia University’s School of the Arts. His producing credits include Frank Mosley’s HER WILDERNESS and Daniel Laabs’ JULES OF LIGHT AND DARK. He lives in New York City.


Clay Liford (writer/director) has written and directed four features to date, including WUSS (SXSW 2011, AFI 2011 Audience Award Winner), EARTHLING (SXSW 2010) and SLASH (SXSW 2016, Edinburgh, Munich). His award-winning comedy short, MY MOM SMOKES WEED, has played over 40 festivals, including the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. As a director of photography, Clay has shot over twenty features, including the award-winning films ST. NICK (SXSW 2009) and GAYBY (SXSW 2012).


Daniel Laabs’s short film work has screened at film festivals around the world, receiving a Grand Jury Prize at SXSW in 2011. His debut feature JULES OF LIGHT AND DARK World Premiered at the New Orleans Film Festival and won the Grand Jury Prize at NewFest in 2018. Daniel has received support from the Biennale di Venezia Cinema College, the Austin Film Society, the Independent Film Project Completion Lab, the San Francisco Film Society & Kenneth Rainin Foundation, US in Progress (Wrocław) and US & French Connection (Paris). Daniel currently lives in Dallas, Texas, where he works as an editor and festival programmer for the Dallas International Film Festival. Prior to DIFF, he programmed the Oak Cliff Film Festival. In 2014 he co-founded Dallas’s first monthly LGBT film series at the historic Texas Theatre. He currently serves on the Austin Film Society Filmmaker Advisory Committee.


Drew Xanthopoulos is the director and cinematographer of the feature documentary, THE SENSITIVES (World Premiere in Competition, Tribeca 2017), which was awarded a Special Jury Mention for the Cinematic Vision Award at the Camden International Film Festival. As a director of photography, he’s most recently completed Travis Mathews’ narrative feature DISCREET (Berlinale, 2017), Kyle Henry’s ROGERS PARK (Chicago IFF, 2017), Mike Mayer’s doc series THE MORTIFIED GUIDE (Sundance, 2018), Dana Shapiro’s feature doc DAUGHTERS OF THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION (SXSW, 2018) and has contributed footage to Terrence Malick’s VOYAGE OF TIME.


Elizabeth Lodge Stepp is an Austin, TX based producer and actress. She is a member of the Department of Motion Pictures production company, headquartered in New Orleans. Elizabeth is a 2016 Sundance Feature Film Creative Producing Fellow with MONSTERS AND MEN, which premiered in Sundance’s 2018 Dramatic Competition line-up and won the festival’s Special Jury Award for Outstanding First Feature. In addition, she produced the documentary BRIMSTONE & GLORY, an immersive exploration of celebration, rituals, danger and the absolute beauty of fireworks, which was named 2017 Top 5 Documentaries by the National Board of Review, was nominated for 4 Cinema Eye Honors awards, and won the Golden Gate at the San Francisco International Film Festival. She also produced the documentary KERRI WALSH JENNINGS: GOLD WITHIN which premiered on NBC in 2016, and co-produced KNIGHT OF CUPS (2015) and SONG TO SONG (SXSW 2017), both directed by Terrence Malick.


Jeffrey Brown has produced a number of award-winning narrative features and feature documentaries in Europe, Africa and the USA, playing international festivals such as Sundance, IDFA, Tribeca, SXSW, Full Frame, Rotterdam, New York FF, Edinburgh, Durban and being released in cinemas internationally as well as on Netflix, HBO, Showtime, PBS, ESPN, AMC, Sundance Global, Sky TV and others. His feature documentaries include: THROUGH THE REPELLENT FENCE on the Native American art collective PostCommodity, NO NO: A DOCKUMENTARY on baseball pitcher Dock Ellis’s legendary no-hitter, PUNK IN AFRICA on the continent’s multi-racial punk movement, PIRATING PIRATES on Somali pirates, YALLAH! UNDERGROUND on the emerging cultural scene in the Middle East and EVERY NIGHT’S A SATURDAY NIGHT on Rolling Stones saxophonist Bobby Keys. Narrative features include MAMAS & PAPAS (Best Film & Best Script — 2010 Hamptons IFF), SHUT UP AND SHOOT (Best Narrative Feature — 2007 AFI Dallas IFF), and Academy Award-winning Czech director Jan Sverak’s KOOKY (Special Jury Prize Winner — 2010 Karlovy Vary IFF). Overall, he has produced over 25 films, and screened in over 100 festivals and 50 countries. Brown also consults on numerous film projects and has extensive experience with foreign markets.


Karen began her career in film as an actress playing Odile in the feature film ODILE AND YVETTE AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, which premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 1995. She has worked as an editor for over 15 years on projects including the celebrated documentary BE HERE TO LOVE ME:THE STORY OF TOWNES VAN ZANDT (dir. Margaret Brown) as well as TAKEN BY STORM (dir. Roddy Bogawa), which outlines the storied career of Hipgnosis album artist Storm Thorgerson and Andrew Bujalski’s narrative feature, SUPPORT THE GIRLS starring Regina Hall and distributed by Magnolia Pictures. She is currently editing Eric Bricker’s documentary, ALUMINATION about the legacy and cultural significance of the Airstream trailer. Karen has edited many other documentary features as well as shows for Jerry Bruckheimer Television, A&E, Discovery, TLC and TNT.


Kelly Daniela Norris cofounded Rasquaché Films in 2008, and her debut feature, the Cuba-set drama SOMBRAS DE AZUL (2013), won the Texas Independents Audience Award at the 2013 Austin Film Festival. Her second feature NAKOM (2016) premiered at Berlinale, and was nominated for the John Cassavetes Award at the 2017 Independent Spirit Awards. Based in Austin, Kelly is a Mexican-American dual citizen and has taught courses on avant-garde cinema, film history, and digital film production at UC Berkeley.


Liz Cardenas is a writer, director, actress and producer from Dallas, Texas. Recent producing and acting credits include Augustine Frizzell’s NEVER GOIN’ BACK (Sundance ’18), starring Maia Mitchell, Cami Morrone and Kyle Mooney; David Lowery’s A GHOST STORY (Sundance ‘17), starring Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck (both of which are A24 Films); and Daniel Laabs’ JULES OF LIGHT & DARK, which received a SFFILM and two Austin Film Society grants and is in post-production. She is currently producing an IFP Narrative Lab Film, the feature KIDS GO FREE TO FUN FUN TIME, which already filmed in Japan and Taiwan and will finish shooting next year in Europe. A 2018 Rotterdam Lab and 2017 Film Independent Lab Fellow, she is a former reporter for The Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She has written and directed two award-winning short films, IMAGO and TREADING WATER, and co-created a series of children’s films sold in the US and internationally. She is represented by Authentic Talent & Literary Management in Los Angeles.


Sandra Guardado has worked as a documentary film editor and occasional producer on several PBS and independent productions. As coordinating producer for The American Experience documentary GEORGE WALLACE: SETTIN’ THE WOODS ON FIRE, Guardado won an Emmy for research. She edited and co-produced the POV documentary LAST MAN STANDING about a contentious local race in Texas. Guardado co-edited WHEN I RISE, an Independent Lens documentary on an African American opera singer’s life and the civil rights struggle in the 1960s at the University of Texas at Austin. It screened at the SXSW Film Festival and Hot Docs and was nominated for an IDA Documentary Award. Recently, Guardado was part of an editing team for two CNN Original Series, HIGH PROFITS and THE RADICAL STORY OF PATTY HEARST. Currently, in between other projects, Guardado has been editing SO IT GOES, a documentary about Leslie Cochran, Austin’s most celebrated homeless man. When she’s not editing, she prefers to spend time with friends and family, knit and sew very badly, read as many novels as possible and watch the Great British Baking Show.


Tim Tsai is an editor and filmmaker. He has directed several short documentaries, including the KLRU series AUSTIN REVEALED: PIONEERS FROM THE EAST which profiles some of the earliest Chinese American families to settle in Central Texas. Editorial work includes YAKONA (SXSW 2014 Audience Award), a non-narrative film about the San Marcos river, available through Sundance Now. He is currently working on his first feature SEADRIFT which examines a shooting incident and its tumultuous aftermath in a small Texas fishing village, set during the early days of Vietnamese refugee arrival in the U.S. He holds a MFA in film and media production from UT Austin, and currently serves as board member and executive director of the Austin Asian American Film Festival.


Ya’Ke Smith is a widely acclaimed filmmaker and current Associate Professor of Film in the RTF Department at the University of Texas at Austin. His films have screened and won awards at over 100 national and international film festivals, and been broadcast on HBO, Showtime, PBS and BET. The Director’s Guild of America, the Student Academy Awards and the City of Buffalo, NY, which proclaimed February 23, 2013 as Ya’Ke Smith Day, have honored him. Ya’Ke has been featured on NPR, CNN, HLN, Ebony Online, Indiewire, Filmmaker Magazine and Shadow & Act.