Jury

David Bhagat

Editor and Producer, CBS News Sunday Morning

David Bhagat has been in the film and television industry for 23 years.  He holds a degree from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Upon graduating David began his career working for various production companies including Showtime, Unapix, Picture This, and several independent productions.

For the last 20 years, David has worked for CBS News. He started in their documentary production unit working on various cable documentaries for channels like A&E, Discovery, TNN, TLC, and the Food Network. In the summer of 2000, David joined the team at Sunday Morning.

In August of 2011 he was promoted to Supervising Editor for the show. For over a decade now he has been in charge of Sunday Morning’s Moment of Nature segment not only editing and producing the segment but also as an occasional videographer.

David’s work at Sunday Morning has earned several awards including six Emmy awards, a Dupont-Columbia Journalism award and a National Press Club Award. 

Deirdre Brennan

President / Producer, Castletown Productions

Deirdre Brennan is an Emmy award-winning decorator for television, film and theatre. Her passion for wildlife and conservation led her to form Castletown Productions to make films about rare and endangered wildlife. Her first films, Bermuda’s Treasure Island and Sceillig and Bermuda, A Last Refuge, highlight the amazing rediscovery of the once thought extinct Bermuda petrel, or Cahow. Both films won awards at the International Wildlife Film Festival in Missoula. For the past 8 years, she has traveled throughout the North Atlantic with an award-winning team to tell the story of the disappearing wild Atlantic salmon. She partnered with the Atlantic Salmon Federation and other key international salmon organizations, salmon scientists and conservationists to make the film and hopes it will raise awareness and inspire audiences.

Natalie Cash

Executive Producer, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)

Natalie Cash is the Executive Producer in charge of video production at Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), an international conservation organization with more than 3,000 field staff in 65 countries.

WCS also operates the largest system of urban wildlife parks in the world – Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo and Queens Zoo and NY Aquarium on Coney Island – educating four million visitors each year about the importance of conservation.

With two decades of experience in the industry, Natalie produces short-form programming about WCS projects and stories for multiple platforms. Her films have won awards at the International Wildlife Film Festival and New York WILD Film Festival and selected as finalists at Wildscreen and the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival. Prior to joining WCS, she was a series producer and writer at the Emmy Award-winning documentary production company Pangolin Pictures.

Holly Morris

Filmmaker, Author and Presenter

Holly’s recent film, The Babushkas of Chernobyl, premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival, where it won the Jury Award for Directing. The film has gone on to win more than a dozen awards on the festival circuit, and has broadcast around the world. The film’s story – of a defiant community of grandmothers who live inside Ukraine’s radioactive “Exclusion Zone” – also forms the basis of her popular TED Talk, and her award-winning and widely syndicated essay on which the film is based (“The Babushkas of Chernobyl” 2011).

Her new film, Exposure, due to release in 2018, documents an extraordinary polar expedition.

She has written and directed several other documentaries that explore the lives of unlikely icons, including, Behind Closed Chadors (Iran), Holy Cow (India), Mana Wahines (New Zealand) and Paradox Found (Cuba) – all broadcast nationally on PBS and in more than 30 countries worldwide as part of the Adventure Divas series.

She is the author of Adventure Divas: Searching the Globe for a New Kind of Heroine (Random House), a New York Times Editor’s Choice, and contributes to many publications, including “O,” The New York Times, The Week and The Independent.  Her  story about a subculture of illegal ‘Stalkers’ inside the Chernobyl’s Dead Zone appeared in SLATE.

Morris is a longtime host of several television documentary series’ including the PBS’s Globe Trekker, for which she has filmed in dozens of countries including Zambia, Malawi, Niger, Syria, Peru Bangladesh, Paraguay, Gabon, Uruguay, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Borneo, & Georgia.

Morris is the former Editorial Director of the book publishing company Seal Press, where she edited the Adventura series – groundbreaking books about women explorers and travelers.

Anton Seimon

Interdisciplinary Environmental Scientist

Anton Seimon leads research programs on a diverse range of themes in the Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences. For 25 spring seasons Seimon has chased storms across Tornado Alley of the central US. With National Geographic funding he led the El Reno Survey, a crowd-sourcing project to study the 2013 El Reno, Oklahoma tornado, the largest and among the most intense ever documented. His team compiled video footage from scores of storm chasers in an online visualization tool, the Tornado Environment Display.

This database became the basis for Inside the Mega Twister, a documentary produced by National Geographic Studios. The tornado project has now extended to a field program, supercomputing simulations and visual investigations into the tornado formation process.

Seimon is Research Assistant Professor at Appalachian State University, Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute and teaches climate science at the Center for Environmental Policy at Bard College. When not roaming the plains seeking out elusive columns of rotating water vapor with his wife Tracie and their two hounds, he researches climate change impacts in alpine watersheds in the Peruvian Andes; studies present-day and past tropical Andean climates; and works with conservationists to plan for climate change in tropical Africa using high-resolution Earth System models. His research has been featured in National Geographic’s Magazine, website and several television documentaries.

Tracie Seimon

Molecular Scientist, Wildlife Conservation Society

Tracie Seimon is Lead Scientist for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Molecular Diagnostics Program, based at the Bronx Zoo. At WCS she directs the development and implementation of smartphone-based molecular diagnostic technologies to search for endangered species using environmental DNA (eDNA) approaches, identify species in the wildlife trade, and diagnose infectious diseases in wildlife. She has also conducted molecular lab field deployments to monitor wildlife disease and develop molecular diagnostic capacity in the Russian Far East, Uganda, Rwanda, Peru, Myanmar, and Vietnam.

An experienced mountaineer, Tracie also leads a long-term monitoring initiative focused in the high alpine regions of the Peruvian Andes to reveal how amphibians are adapting to climate change and infectious disease. She loves to photograph all life forms and natural phenomena, and travels with her family to tornado alley in the US Great Plains every year to study and document severe storms.

Pegi Vail

Anthropologist / Filmmaker & Co-Director, NYU Center for Media, Culture and History

Pegi Vail is an anthropologist, filmmaker, and Co-Director at New York University’s Center for Media, Culture and History. She teaches documentary filmmaking through NYU Department of Anthropology’s Program in Culture & Media. Her award-winning film Gringo Trails explores the cultural and environmental impact of global tourism. As a programmer, she collaborates with colleagues at NYC arts and cultural institutions such as the National Museum of the American Indian, American Museum of Natural History, MoMA, and through organizations such as the The Moth, the storytelling collective she was a founding board member and curator for. Vail serves as a judge for the International Documentary Association and National Geographic’s World Legacy Awards.


Pre-screeners


Sarah Alford
Pearl Basinski
Jay Bauer
Nickole Brown
Constance Bruce
Tessa Cafritz
Jamie Bruce
Jaye Callahan
Karin Cooper

Maryanne Culpepper
Margot DeFrance
Katie Dumke
Karen Gibbs
Liz Grady
Nofar Hamrany
Lindsay Hanig
Julie Harris
Mary Jo Kinser

Lisa Kovitz
Nik Makharadze
Erica Matson
Natasha Milne
Clare Neville
Samuel Ridgeway
Brianna Rowe
Michelle Sanders
Allyson Schultz

Sandy Sidey
Jackie Swensen
Christina Thirkell
Natalie Torres
Nicci Wiese
Lacy Wittman
Cella Wright
Bonnie Wyper
Page Zekonis