Meet the Judges

Diane Strand

Diane Strand is the majority owner of the multi-award winning JDS Video & Media Productions, Inc. The Producer at JDS Actors Studio and Founder of the nonprofit 501c3 JDS Creative Academy – PrDiane Strand-JDSCAoducer of DigiFest Temecula. In addition, Diane is the Creator and Executive Producer of the Award Winning show Spirit of Innovation news and information for Riverside and Digifest Temecula.

JDS Video & Media Productions, Inc.  was established with her partner in both life and business, Scott Strand. Their multi award winning corporate video company was built mostly on word of mouth; some of their local clients include Abbott Vascular, City of Temecula, Temecula Chamber, MSJC, Cal State San Marcos and Temecula Valley Hospital.

In January 2010, Diane started a Drama Club program with Scott, which launched in the Temecula Unified School District. There was such a huge response that they decided to create an Actors Studio for all ages to learn the technique and craft of Acting, which is now known as JDS Actors Studio. JDS Actors Studio has launch well over 100 actors into mainstream Film, Television, Commercial and Theater acting careers and provided well over 700 students in the Temecula Valley creative enrichment, self-confidence and leadership skills through acting classes.

In 2014, Diane founded and launched the nonprofit 501c3 JDS Creative Academy (JDSCA), which offers education, training & apprenticeship, programs in all disciplines of visual, performing and digital arts. JDS Creative Academy located at JDS Studios, services the entire Temecula Valley and surrounding regions with a mission to inspire, educate, and enhance achievement in video production and workforce development by providing job skills and hands-on training in the visual, performing and digital arts. JDSCA works with foster and at-risk youth, autistic young adults, developmentally disabled adults and mainstream populations both youth and adults, creating cross- collaborative enrichment, workforce training, and a creative safe environment for all. Diane founded the Digifest Temecula Event in 2017, and created and launched the web series program Spectrum of Innovation in 2018 through JDS Creative Academy.


Carl Willat

Visual Effects | Director | Animation Department | Writer | Teacher

From Marin County, CA, now living in Oakland. Carl’s work has Carl Willat Animatorbeen seen in many feature films (Twice Upon A Time, Return to Oz, Flubber, Across the Universe), TV shows (The PJs) and countless commercials, including the iconic Hershey’s Christmas Kisses spot, after 30 years the longest-running national commercial in history. Studied art and film at UC Santa Cruz, and has taught animation and directing classes at UCSC, De Anza College, The Academy of Art University and California College of the Arts. Currently working on his own projects.

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Rachel Nee-Hall

Rachel Nee

Emmy nominated Director and Producer, and member of the Directors Guild of America for nearly 20 years. Rachel has directed and produced countless television shows, including Dr. Phil, Entertainment Tonight, The New Ricki Lake Show, The Doctors, and Iyanla; Fix My Life for The Oprah Winfrey Network.

In addition to directing, Rachel is a skilled cinematographer and editor.

In 2016, Rachel produced, shot, and edited a full-length documentary on child trafficking in Nigeria, The Boy They Called Bizarre, an official selection of the Faith and Family International Film Festival. Before that, she produced and shot The award-winning documentary short The Final Cut, shot in Senegal on abolishing female genital cutting.
Rachel also spent a decade in front of the camera as an Emmy nominated news anchor, reporter, and producer for CBS owned and operated news stations across the country.

Today she wears many hats, including Director of Media for Win This Fight, an anti-human trafficking non-profit founded by philanthropist Mitzi Perdue. Rachel is co-founder and Executive Producer of Silky Pants Productions, Inc.®, a full-service media production company. During her tenure, Rachel has had the honor of working with hundreds of celebrities, including Oscar winners; Charlton Heston, Oprah Winfrey, the late Cicely Tyson, and Paul McCartney, as well as revered directors; Tyler Perry and the late John Singleton.


Mario Ortiz

Mario Ortiz CinematographerMario Ortiz is a multiple Emmy award winning director of photography with over 20 years of commercial, corporate and motion picture production experience. He has a passion for camera movement that is evident in the body of his work. As a certified Steadicam/Glidecam operator and Jib owner operator, Mario has much to offer his clients.

 

 

 

 


James Crowley

A fifteen year television animation veteran. James Crowley James has worked on productions for Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Disney, Fox, and Netflix.  He has worked as a designer, animator, and storyboard Artist on various television shows, video games, and teaches painting classes from time to time.  James was born and raised in Southern California, loves tacos, baseball and most of all, his son.  🙂

 

 

 


Roger C. Memos

Roger C. MemosRoger has worked in the television industry as a producer and archival researcher for over 33 years.  He started his career at Entertainment Tonight and went on to produce on talk shows and variety specials. In 2005, he won a Daytime Emmy for producing on the reality series “Starting Over”.  He was associate producer on the feature documentary “AKA Tommy Chong” which wowed audiences at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival. In 2010, Roger had the pleasure of doing archival research for the feature documentary Jean- Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child and most recently on the feature documentary “Rock Camp”.

Roger directed and co-produced his first feature documentary “Marsha Hunt’s Sweet Adversity” .  The documentary won “Best Documentary Feature” at the Burbank International Film Festival, The Studio City International Film Festival and the Sherman Oaks Film Festival. The documentary recently had its’ broadcast premiere on Turner Classic Movies.

 

 


Bob Saenz

A screenwriter and actor, whose 16 produced films Actor Bob Saenzas writer include Help for the Holidays, Sound of Christmas, Rescuing Madison, The Right Girl, Extracurricular Activities, 2020’s The Farmer & the Belle and The Christmas Yule Blog, and 2021’s “Church People”, a comedy, plus rewrites for Producers and production companies.  Bob’s Acting roles include: six seasons on “Nash Bridges”, Hallmark’s “Valley of Light”, Coppola’s “Jack”, “Zodiac”,  “Unleashed”, among dozens of others.

 

 


Jay Will

Producer Jay WillJay Will is a well-established record producer and songwriter. His credits range from Michael Jackson and, Brandy to new upcoming domestic and international artist. He is also the owner of iRize International, an artist development and management company. His company helps singers all over the world reach their goal of musical stardom through the digital music world. He has helped hundreds of singers turn their musical dreams into a career. His production and songwriting credits cover just about every style of music. He has gotten recording artists charted in country, R&B, dance, etc.  Jay has a strong passion for what he does and believes no dream is impossible with the right executed plan.

 

 


Sheridan Wood

As the co-host of Flick Chicks, a Phoenix based horror film reviewSheridan Wood Film Critique podcast that examines all aspects of the genre and its films, Sheridan is fast becoming the go-to critic in the genre. Each week listeners can tune in and journey with  Flick Chicks to learn fun facts and more about their favorite horror films in a fun and casual environment. Want to learn more about the horror genre? Check out their podcast!

 

 

 


Andrew Farago

Author and curator of San Francisco’s Cartoon Art Museum. Andrew Farago AuthorHe has written several books on pop culture, cartoons, and animation, including Batman: The Definitive History of The Dark Knight, The Looney Tunes Treasury, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Don Smith

Since his graduation from California Institute of the Arts, Don has enjoyed a varied career producing visuals for the entertainment industry.

As a senior designer for Digital Productions and Whitney-Demos, Don helped
to create over 50 commercials for such clients as TRW, Rockwell, Mercedes
Benz and Samsung. Don also worked on a Mick Jagger music video and feature films such as Lorimar’s ‘The Last Starfighter’, MGM/UA’s ‘2010’ and Tri-Star’s ‘Labyrinth’. While at Digital Productions, the company received a Special Achievement Academy Award for its work in Special Effects and his work received numerous film festival awards and a Clio for Outstanding Commercial.

In his twenty-six year career, Don has been an animator, art director, fine artist, scenic designer and playwright. For the last sixteen years, he has also been a teacher of animation and multimedia at many Southern California colleges, before settling down as a full-time instructor and department Chair of Multimedia at Mt. San Jacinto College.


Keith Hanz

Keith began teaching at Mt. San Jacinto College in 1998 in Photography, Art, and Digital Media. As AssociateKeith Hanz-photography-judge Professor, Director, and Department Chair of MSJC Photography since 2004 and 2006 respectively, he transitioned the program from traditional to the digital paradigm. While teaching at MSJC, Keith designed and built the state-of-the-art Pixel River studio. In that purpose-built space he is able to create his photographs and paintings, and is now ready to share that space with other professionals. 

Keith established the Pixel River Group (PRG), which is a constructive critique community of practice devoted to photographers honing their craft. Keith earned a BFA and MFA from the University of Illinois, has worked as a Professional studio & assignment photographer and painter since the early 1980’s, and has been active in training photography faculty through out the state of California. He has recently completed his second master’s degree (MET) in educational technology at Boise State University.


 

Lillian Vasquez

Lillian Vasquez KVCRLillian hosts Lifestyles with Lillian Vasquez on KVCR, the public radio and television station serving the Inland Empire. She reports, produces and hosts a variety of programs for both radio and television. She has hosted the TV program, A Conversation With where she has the opportunity to talk with new and established artists featured on PBS like violinist and conductor Andre Rieu, writer & composer David Foster, singer and dancer Mitzi Gaynor, actor Jamie Farr, and Public Radio host and reporter Robert Siegal and Joe Palca. Lillian has produced/hosted/reported over 450 programs, interstitials, and PSAs. 

Lillian is a wife and the mother of two a daughter, Lindsey, 29, and a son Grant, 28, who has autism which she feels is her most important role. She has one grandson, Max and another one on the way.

 


Laura Berendsen Hughes

Laura Berendsen Hughes is a graphic designer and fine artist. Laura Hughes ArtistShe has a BFA in sculpture from UNC-Chapel Hill and a demonstrated history of working in the Marketing and Design industry.  Her original Illustrations appear in digital and traditional media, and while her work as a graphic artist and illustrator has always been about communication, she has recently returned to working in fine art where the goal is original creativity.


Alex Patrick Merrill

Alex Patrick Merrill is an artist and visual media designer. He has been actively involved in creative work and study for over fourteen years, painting portraits and movie posters, designing characters for digital and tabletop games, editing and compositing effects for film and video, photographing people and events, and designing visual identities for an eclectic range of individuals and brands.

Alex has been a staff member at JDS Creative Academy since 2019, serving as the organization’s lead post-production and photography instructor. He is also the current head editor for Spirit of Innovation and lead graphic designer for DigiFest® 2020.

 


Cathy Stevenson

DigiFest judge Cathy StevensonBorn and raised in New York City sparked Cathy’s life-long passion for theater.  After traveling extensively she moved to Southern California where she produced art shows, fashion shows and taught improv to teens and adults.  She was the director of the Summer Camp plays at JDS for four years and then moved to Mexico, where she has a successful podcast about life, travels, theater, art and Baja California living.  

 

 

 

 


Jamie Kimble

The artist behind the lens.Photographer Jamie Kimble

Her love of photography stems back to her childhood having a natural obsession with photographing her pets, family and friends in their natural environment. Today, her passion continues to thrive as she explores nature and natural light with her two young daughters in search of finding the perfect location for her clients. Jamie utilizes minimal posing and editing techniques to ensure your quality time together is fun while capturing those raw candid moments.

 


Hannah Warner

As the owner and director of Temecula Music Teacher, LLC, Hannah Warren Music TeacherHannah takes on the role of creating programs, mentoring, creating music curriculum, supporting teachers, and aiding them in coming up with educational goals and tools for each student. She is a highly experienced performing pianist and teacher with 20+ years of experience performing and working with beginners to college preparatory music students and has many more years of experience accompanying and composing music.

Hannah has a Bachelors of Music, Piano Performance degree from Wheaton College Conservatory of Music where she studied under Daniel Paul Horn. At Wheaton Hannah received intense classical training, studied theory, music history and composition. In addition to piano, she has taught music theory classes, theater, vocal coaching, band and choir, and is a highly motivated and energetic mentor to both students and teachers.

She has been operating a music business in Temecula since 2001. As a transplant from Minnesota years ago, she has now adopted the fact that she loves being a California girl.  Hannah and her wife Anna have four boys who are the joys of their lives. Kaden is 17,  Elijah is 17 and Gabriel and Jonas are 14.