Class of 2017 Bios

LivLiv Dubendorf

I grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but left the north to attend college at Elon University where I discovered my passion for film and ultimately received my BA in Media Arts and Entertainment. Since graduating, I’ve had the opportunity to see my work play at a few film festivals and win some exciting honors, including the bronze Student Academy Award.  I began my professional career by moving to Los Angeles to work at a production company specializing in reality television. I first worked in the office as an associate producer, but soon ventured out into the field. Television production has taken me to some fun places, like a knife warehouse in Tennessee, a pirate ship in Louisiana, and a swamp in Florida. I worked up the ladder on set to become an audio supervisor. As a filmmaker, I want to raise questions about social inequality and explore the human experience.

Tara1Tara Foster 

If you were offered an adventure of a lifetime without any guarantees, would you take it?

Hi!  I’m Tara and in 2005, I did just that!  While inflight somewhere between Hawaii and Sydney, Australia, the person sitting next to me offered me a job that would change my life!   Since that fateful day, I have been working as a National On-air Promotions Producer for both the Seven and the Nine Network, meaning I write, edit and produce TV advertisements and movie trailers for two of Australia’s major television networks.

Before my life-changing Aussie adventure, I attended American University in Washington, DC and received a bachelors in visual media with a minor in political science.  I worked for NBC, Discovery Channel and CBS as an Avid editor.  I have discovered though my travels that life is one big adventure; everyone has a story to tell. I am interested in producing documentaries highlighting social and environmental issues but also the things in our world that are wild and wonderful!   I hold dual Aussie-American citizenship, but instead I consider myself a “citizen of the world” armed with a backpack and camera who doesn’t mind getting a little bit dirty…

John GallenJohn Gallen

I received my Bachelor of Arts in Government from Georgetown University in 2013.  At Georgetown I was introduced to documentary filmmaking in an elective, “The Music Documentary.” I immediately fell in love with filmmaking.  After the semester ended I continued making documentaries.  As a lifelong sports fan, I naturally gravitated towards making sports documentaries.  After college, I moved to Los Angeles where I worked as a Production Assistant on CBS’s The Crazy Ones.  During this time I founded a small production company- JocDocs. JocDocs’ mission is to provide affordable highlight tapes to aspiring athletes, coaches, and trainers. I’m drawn to documentaries ability to raise the awareness needed to advance social justice.  In the future I hope to transform JocDocs into a full-fledged production company that uses sports documentary as a medium for promoting social justice.

Brian1Brian Gersten

As a high school basketball player in suburban Chicago, I had a fateful viewing of Hoop Dreams, a film co-directed by DFP faculty member Peter Gilbert, which made a life-altering impact. It changed the way I looked at the world around me as well as the way I looked at documentaries. I went on to receive a B.A. in journalism from the University of Colorado, and I later graduated from the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. After several years in the service industry and the marketing world, I managed to get an internship at Kartemquin Films in Chicago (the production company for Hoop Dreams). From there, I worked as the outreach coordinator for the KTQ documentary The Trials Of Muhammad Ali. At Wake, I hope to make the kinds of films that inspired me to pursue this line of work: sympathetic character-driven stories that reveal the complexity of the human condition.

Geoff1Geoff Groberg

I received my B.A. degree from Brigham Young University in 1997 with a major in Film (documentary emphasis) and a minor in Music. Since that time I’ve worked in various film and media arts related jobs, including several years of freelance work and a few creative projects of my own. Before coming to Wake Forest University I worked at BYU’s Lee Library as a web developer. I love the world of non-fiction media, in all its forms, and especially the rich and unique capabilities of cinema. I’m a computer nerd and I enjoy tinkering with digital media. I also love creative projects and exploring ideas, people, and places. I hope to produce engaging stories about interesting people.

Schimmel1Scott Shimmel

I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Georgia where I majored in Water and Soil resources. After completing my bachelors, I traveled to New Zealand and Guam where I studied physical geography and environmental science, respectively. On Guam, I also worked as an environmental scientist for a local consulting firm. It was there that I heard my creative calling. Sitting in the office one day, swamped with several projects, I had an epiphany.  It struck me that I can have a bigger impact on environmental issues with documentary film than I can through consulting. Documentary film has the ability to raise awareness of critical issues and to act as a catalyst for change.  With my new found calling I hope to address environmental issues such as the growing scarcity of access to clean water and social issues such as the plight of climate refugees. The world is full of important stories that need to be told; I hope to discover and tell them.

KristySmithKristy Smith

Peace happens through conversations, through connections, through relationships, and through cultivated understanding.  This was one of many meaningful lessons I learned participating in an experiential peace-building conference for SAARC nations in December 2013 in Kathmandu, Nepal.  Prior to this experience, I had earned my BA from Northeastern University in media communications and worked for CBS News including war coverage during the War in Iraq.  I left TV news and pursued more authentic living in Vermont working for a non-profit agency, Youth Services.  I also was teaching martial arts, teaching yoga and a full time graduate student at Marlboro College.

However, it was my experience in Kathmandu that reunited me with a lost aspect of self; with my belief in the power of the visual message and it’s ability to do good in the world.  This inspired me to complete my master’s program in managing mission driven organizations and pair these skills with documentary film studies at Wake Forest University to create films focused on harmonious living across borders, cultures and belief systems by telling the story of humanity, divergent belief constructs and the importance of a diverse ehtnosphere.

Wei Ying1Wei Ying

For years I have been in search of a perfect way to get at the truth and tell it to the world: I chose history as my major in Renmin University of China, trying to discover the truth of who we are and where we are from; I joined the debate team of the school, attempting to elucidate facts through debating; and I established my own band, Lynxes, sharing my most earnest feelings with my audience. The optional course called “Appreciation of Documentaries” I took gradually confirmed my interest in documentary. I did an internship at Dongyang Radio & TV station as a journalist in the summer of 2011 and also in the spring of 2012. I also did a summer internship in 2012 at Beijing A&A Hang Seng Culture & Media Company and worked as an assistant producer intern for  a large documentary series called History of China scheduled to be broadcast by CCTV6. I am strongly convinced that documentary is a powerful tool to reveal both the beauty and strength of the truth. China, a country ridden with grave social problems, yet charging ahead with astonishing speed, is a fertile ground for documentary projects. It would be an admirable endeavor to present those conflicts on screen and I am thrilled at the idea of giving voice to the unheard and unmasking the truth behind the façade.

Alex Zaller1Alex Zaller

I received a BA in History and American Studies from Rutgers University in 2014. While attending Rutgers, I worked on a number of short films with topics ranging from an Independent Production/Distribution Company to an essay film analyzing and critiquing the notion of American Exceptionalism as a reaction to American idealist notions of intervention. In early 2014, I worked on a small “Neo-Noir” production in Philadelphia, indulging in my love for and fascination with early to mid-century gangster flicks (both American and French). I n this same period of time, I interned at the Rutgers Film Bureau, editing material for “Combat to Campus”, a production which followed veterans into the classroom and attempted to understand their difficult transition back to civilian life.

Yet, my pursuit of documentary filmmaking is much more a product of my expanding interests since graduation (of course supplementing the material I learned while in school). Topics such as evolutionary psychology, sociobiology, ecological anarchist philosophy, French atheist existentialism, and the mathematics involved in political and social research have provided me with a larger scope of interests and a more extensive bank of knowledge with which to work from. Ultimately, my aspiration is to observe, comprehend and evolve, to help others exceed institutional and authoritative limitations, and to incessantly learn via the social/cultural necessity that is documentary filmmaking.