Current Judges

Thomas Verdi

As Founder and CEO of The Film Fund LLC, filmmaker and producer Thomas Verdi wants to help fellow independent filmmakers secure funding for their projects. He serves as Head of Production at TAV Films and also works as a digital marketer and content strategist. Thomas has been writing and directing films since he was a kid, and his award-winning short film “The Toms” is currently on the festival circuit. He has his Master of Engineering in Technical Entrepreneurship and Bachelor of Arts in English from Lehigh University, where he also studied film studies and creative writing.

Brandon Harrison

Brandon Harrison is a producer, writer and programmer. He is a Feature Documentary Programmer at the Brooklyn Film Festival, served on the review committee for IFP and Tribeca's Pilot Season and has produced multimedia content for a variety of media outlets including Players’ Tribune, Vanity Fair and SLAM magazine. Brandon is a graduate of Morehouse College and received his M.A. in Cinema from UCLA. He loves a good story.


Jason Stefaniak

Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Jason Stefaniak received an MFA in Film/TV Production at New York University. Stefaniak’s work has been recognized by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association; featured on “20/20,” MSNBC, and The Huffington Post; screened at the United Nations; and viewed nearly 1,000,000 times online. He is the producer of the award-winning short film, “A Warm Spell” (World Premiere, Clermont-Ferrand), and feature film, “But Not For Me” (Official Selection, Virginia Film Festival), which co-stars Roger Guenveur Smith. Stefaniak is the Feature Narrative Programmer for the Brooklyn Film Festival and a Production Manager at Freethink. Most recently, as an IFP Made in New York Fellow, Stefaniak created and directed the Topic docuseries, “Distressed Real Estate."


Dawn Keetley

Dawn Keetley is Professor of English and Department Chair at Lehigh University where she teaches horror / gothic literature, film, and television. She has most recently published in the Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, the Journal of Popular Television, the Journal of Film and Video, and Gothic Studies. She has edited a collection of essays on The Walking Dead and co-edited another on plant horror in fiction and film. She writes regularly for a horror website she co-founded at HorrorHomeroom.com


Eli Hess

With a degree in architecture from Lehigh University, Eli Hess works as a digital designer and fabricator of furniture, sculpture, and public art for Hess Industries, LLC in Baltimore, Maryland. The group responds to public calls for artists to design and build monumental, interactive sculpture for public spaces, including airports, public universities and municipalities. Hess has also been featured in galleries in Baltimore and Allentown, Pennsylvania, and he works as an artist in residence at Saint James Academy in Sparks, Maryland.

Previous Judges

avi setton the film fund judge

Avi Setton

Avi Setton received a B.F.A. in Film & Television Production at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts with a minor in Philosophy, and an M.A. in English at Lehigh University. Avi's experience is wide-ranging: he's worked as a filmmaker and project manager at Google, taught documentary filmmaking to graduate students at Lehigh, taught screenwriting at SOCAPA, worked as a story logger on a reality TV show, worked as an editor, script supervisor, and assistant cameraman on films, TV shows, and commercials, among other freelance industry jobs.