MKE Film : About Us

Jonathan Jackson, Artistic & Executive Director
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Jonathan Jackson moved to Milwaukee 15 years ago to study filmmaking at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM)-just a week before classes started, and having never stepped foot in Wisconsin before. He previously served as the artistic director for the Milwaukee International Film Festival, and directed film programming there from 2003 to 2007. Jonathan currently serves on the Board of the Creative Alliance Milwaukee and on the Education Committee of the Milwaukee Art Museum. Previously, he worked as a teacher for the UWM Film Department, as a freelance writer for the Shepherd Express, as curator of film programs for the Milwaukee Art Museum, and as program manager of the UWM Union Theatre. In 2011, Jonathan was honored with a Milwaukee Business Journal "40 under 40" Award.

Kyle Heller, Managing Director
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Kyle Heller has worked with Milwaukee Film since its establishment in 2008. Currently, he oversees financial management, human resources, and day-to-day operations. During the festival, he also oversees theatre management, box office management, and the volunteer program. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Kyle previously worked as the Operations Director for Milwaukee Film.

Blyth Meier, Marketing Director
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Blyth Meier is Milwaukee Film's Marketing Director. As a longtime volunteer with the festival, she served on the Features Program Committee and as a writer for the festival program book before joining the staff full time in 2010. She is a filmmaker and photographer who  received her MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Film Department. Originally from North Dakota, Blyth has lived in Milwaukee for the past 13 years and is proud to call Riverwest home.

Kristen Coates, Operations Director
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Kristen Coates has been involved with Milwaukee Film since 2011. She holds an MBA and graduate certificate in Film Studies from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her past festival experience includes working for the Sundance Film Festival, the San Francisco Film Society, the Provincetown Film Festival, and the American Pavilion at the Cannes Film Festival. She has worked on both independent and major motion pictures, and is a contributing writer for The Film Stage, often promoting upcoming projects that expand financial and audience bases through crowdfunding platforms. There are few things Kristen appreciates more than a well-crafted dirty chai and exploring new baseball parks across the country.

Cara Ogburn, Education Director
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Cara Ogburn is the Education Manager at Milwaukee Film. Originally from Seattle, she came to Milwaukee in 2002 to attend graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In 2011, she joined Milwaukee Film in a seasonal capacity as Panels Producer, a role she held for two years. With a background in teaching at the college level, interdisciplinary scholarship, and academic events coordination, she is pleased to oversee the filmmaker services and youth and adult education branches of Milwaukee Film’s programs. She is still working on her dissertation.

Anna Sampers, Grant Writer & Shorts Programmer
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Anna Sampers oversees sponsorship fulfillment, grant writing, and donor cultivation for Milwaukee Film, in addition to coordinating the short film programs. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Anna received her BFA in Film, with a double minor in Film Studies and Spanish. She previously interned for the Milwaukee International Film Festival. Anna is also an accomplished, award-winning filmmaker whose work has screened at the Wisconsin Film Festival and the Ivy Film Festival, among others.

Kristopher Pollard, Membership Manager
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Kristopher Pollard is Milwaukee Film’s Membership Manager.  He studied Literature at Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri, before moving to Milwaukee 10 years ago.  Before coming to Milwaukee Film, Kristopher was an Executive Assistant at Lubavitch of Wisconsin and an assistant manager with the Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops.  He is also an artist and illustrator whose work has been shown in galleries and publications nationwide.

Jaclyn O'Grady, Programming Manager
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Hailing from River Falls, Wisconsin, Jaclyn is very happy to be returning to America’s Dairyland to join the Milwaukee Film team. After studying Cinema and Media Culture at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, she threw herself into the realm of itinerant film festival work and spent seven years on the road. Highlights include roles with Sundance Film Festival, Seattle International Film Festival, Doha Tribeca Film Festival, New York Film Festival, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival, Outfest, and Sound Unseen Duluth. Jaclyn remains a member of the Dinosaur Appreciation Committee (Sundance chapter), and enjoys spending her free time eating cheese, reading '60s sci-fi paperbacks, and listening to '90s movie soundtracks (frequently all at once).

Jessica Bursi, Development Manager
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Jessica Bursi is the Development Manager for Milwaukee Film. Memphis-born and Midwest-raised, Jessica moved to Los Angeles after graduating from Southern Illinois University–Carbondale. She spent her early L.A. years at VH1 Motion Pictures and then transitioned into the nonprofit world with Martin Scorsese's Film Foundation, an organization dedicated to raising awareness for film preservation. There, as she worked her way from assistant to Program Director, she found her professional calling—helping to ensure that films continue to be seen by new and appreciative audiences, preferably in a darkened theater with a bucket of hot popcorn (and an ice-cold beer!). Having returned to the Midwest to be closer to family, Jessica is thrilled to be a part of Milwaukee Film and its efforts to share important and entertaining films with our community.

Megan Benedict, Executive and Programming Assistant
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Megan Benedict is the Executive and Programming Assistant at Milwaukee Film. Originally from Sovereign State of Winneconne, she moved to Milwaukee in 2009 to pursue degrees in Film Studies, Advertising, and LGBT Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. After volunteering at the festival, Megan became Milwaukee Film's Program Book Intern in 2011, Features Programming Intern in 2012, and Marketing Assistant in 2013. Megan also served on Milwaukee Film's street team for two years and on the Features Screening Committee in 2012. In addition, Megan was a Programming Intern for the American Pavilion at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013, and worked as seasonal staff member at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Her favorite activities are talking about Gael García Bernal, reading BuzzFeed, and drinking hard cider.

Ben Balcom - Technical Director

Ben Balcom is an artist, educator, and the Technical Director at Milwaukee Film. Born in Boston and raised in Evanston, IL, Ben moved to Milwaukee in 2011 to pursue an MFA in filmmaking at UWM. He joined the Milwaukee Film seasonal staff in 2011 as a projectionist. Along with his work at the festival, Ben is also an associate lecturer at UWM, and curator of a small neighborhood screening space in Riverwest called Microlights, which specializes in underground and experimental cinema. His own film & video work addresses everything from metaphysics and the moon, to hand massages and household objects. It's pretty weird.

Jeff Kurz - Production Consultant

Jeff Kurz is a Production Consultant for Milwaukee Film, overseeing its Filmmaker-in-Residence program and other production initiatives, as well as a screenwriting mentor and feature selection committee member. He’s a Racine, WI native, a graduate of UW-Madison and a former Miramax Films studio executive (where he worked on movies like The Crying Game, Pulp Fiction and Scream). As a writer/producer through his production company, Belle City Pictures, he has deals with Film 4 in London and Vin Diesel’s One Race Films in Los Angeles. Jeff is also an Associate Lecturer in UW-Milwaukee’s Department of Film, Video, Animation and New Genres.