Alison Marek 

Alison Marek, MFA

Alison Marek (MFA, New York University) started telling stories with words and images on paper:  She wrote and illustrated a graphic novel called “Desert Streams,” which was published by Piranha Press, an imprint of DC Comics. A second book, "Sparrow," followed the next year. She wrote and illustrated a comic strip, "Fido Kaplan,"  that was published by Fairchild Publications in "Travel Today!" At Hunter College in New York City, Alison studied writing with the playwright Tina Howe and memoirist Louise DeSalvo, and was her class Valedictorian. She then went on to New York University's prestigious film directing program. Alison's short films, web series and PSAs have been broadcast, become festival favorites and have won grants and awards, including a Showtime Networks Inc. production grant, Sloan Foundation grant, a local Emmy nomination, and a Gold Aurora. Alison has worked as an associate field producer at Magical Elves and PivotTV, where she helped shape stories during development and post-production.

Lily AlexanderLily Alexander, Ph.D.

Dr. Lily Alexander is the author of the book on film and screenwriting, Fictional Worlds. She completed two doctoral programs at the University of Alberta, Canada in “Modern Languages and Comparative Cultural Studies: Emphasis on Film Narratology, Visual Semiotics, Theories of Culture” and “Anthropology: Emphasis on Communication, Storytelling and Performance.” A recipient of international academic fellowships and awards, she has been teaching screenwriting, film, literature, folklore, media, and communication for fifteen years, including the last ten years at New York University and City University of New York. She has been a Visiting Research Scholar at University of California, Los Angeles and Hebrew University in Jerusalem, a visiting scholar at Columbia University, and an Adjunct Professor at the New School University in New York. She has lectured at universities across the United States, Canada, UK and Israel, and she has given presentations in France, Netherlands, Russia, Italy and Spain. Dr. Alexander’s diverse experiences have included traveling and studying narrative cultures in thirty countries on four continents; experimenting with directing; writing for the media; and conducting research in the fields of symbolic anthropology and international media. Her website is:

Billy BuddVermillionBilly Budd Vermillion, Ph.D.

Billy Budd Vermillion earned his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2011. His dissertation examines the influence of Marxist humanist thought and the legacy of Socialist Realism on art films produced in East-Central Europe between 1956 and 1981. He has also published articles on silent romantic comedy and on the nature documentary “Microcosmos.” He has taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Ripon College, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Northwestern University.

David DesserDavid Desser, Ph.D.

Dean of the Akira Kurosawa School of Film

Dr. David Desser has taught at the University of Southern California (USC), University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), University of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan, Kansai University in Japan, Hong Kong Baptist University and the University of Illinois where he is Professor Emeritus of Cinema Studies. He received his Ph.D. from USC in the Cinema program with a minor in Japanese. As Dean of the Anaheim University Akira Kurosawa School of Film, Dr. Desser oversees the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Digital Filmmaking.

Ryan McKinneyRyan Daniel McKinney, MFA

Ryan Daniel McKinney is an award-winning director and producer based out of Los Angeles, CA. His narrative films have screened at festivals in New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Kansas City, Orlando and Melbourne. He has directed numerous music videos in multiple genres and languages, as well as fashion lifestyle and brand videos and product commercials. Ryan graduated with distinction from National University’s Master of Fine Arts in Digital Cinema program.