2020 George Sidney Independent Film Competition

George Sidney and the Festival's co-founder, Mary Harris
George Sidney and Festival co-founder, Mary Harris

Our annual film competition continues to attract exciting new independent films from around the world. Named for director George Sidney, the Festival’s first recipient of the King Vidor Award, Sidney was a Central Coast resident and a passionate supporter of independent filmmaking.

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A panel of 50 screeners evaluated the 1000+ entries and then made some difficult decisions, resulting in the Official Selections listed here.

The finalists in competition are juried by a panel of film and media professionals. View the 2020 winners here.


Sky BergmanFilmmaker, Cal Poly Photography Professor
Sky Bergman is an award-winning photographer, filmmaker and professor at Cal Poly. Her first feature-length film “Lives Well Lived“ which screened at the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival is currently certified as 100% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. 
To see more of Sky Bergman’s work and learn about other projects she is working on visit skybergmanproductions.com.

Dan BrawleyCucalorus Fest Director
Dan Brawley is the Chief Instigating Officer of the Cucalorus Festival, an international celebration of filmmaking, performance and technology in Wilmington, North Carolina founded in 1994 by Twinkle Doon. Cucalorus screens more than 300 films with a range of multi-disciplinary programs focusing on dance, social justice, cocktails, entrepreneurship, and performance. Cucalorus was one of the “25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World, 2015” according to MovieMaker Magazine. Brawley is Past-President of the Film Festival Alliance, an independent non-profit organization that develops and fosters collaboration among mission-driven film festivals around the world. Brawley was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, attended New Hanover High School, and graduated cum laude from Duke University, where he was an Academic All-American on the varsity golf team. He is also active as a performing artist and community organizer.

Victoria Condor-WilliamsFormer Gainesville Latino Film Festival Director

Michael FloresFilmmaker / Film Studies Professor DePaul University, Chicago
Michael X. Flores studied biology at Cal Poly, before moving to Los Angeles to work as a production assistant on a Wes Craven film. After working as a PA for a few years, Michael was accepted to USC, where he received a Master of Fine Arts in Cinema-Television Production. In 2011, Michael edited Nick Broomfield’s documentary SARAH PALIN: YOU BETCHA!(2011), which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. He has since edited several films including Tommy O’Haver’s Netflix Original biopic THE MOST HATED WOMAN IN AMERICA (2017), which premiered at SXSW, and Jason Kohn’s Showtime documentary LOVE MEANS ZERO (2017), which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Michael is currently teaching film at DePaul University in Chicago and working on a feature-length documentary.

Colette Freedman – Novelist/Playwright/Screenwriter
An internationally produced novelist, playwright and screenwriter, Colette Freedman was voted “One of 50 to Watch” by The Dramatist’s Guild. Her play “Sister Cities” was the hit of the Edinburgh Fringe and earned five star reviews. It has been produced around the country and internationally, 32 times including Paris (Une Ville, Une Soeur) and Rome (Le Quattro Sorelle) and Melbourne. The film version (Michelle Trachtenberg, Stana Katic, Jess Weixler, Troian Bellisario) is on Netflix. Her musical “Serial Killer Barbie” finished a sold out run in Los Angeles and was mounted in New Zealand last fall. She has published nine novels including The Thirteen Hallows (Tor/Macmillan), co-written, The New York Times best selling author Michael Scott.  Her bestselling novel The Affair (Kensington), came out in 2013. The play of the novel earned both critical and commercial success as it toured Italy and Belgium. She co-wrote and co-produced the feature AND THEN THERE WAS EVE (Breaking Glass Pictures). She co-wrote and co-produced the feature MILES UNDERWATER which is currently in post production. She has co-written nine produced thrillers for Lifetime with her writing partner Brooke Purdy. She has written THE MYSTERY OF CASA MATUSITA (with Malcolm McDowell and Skeet Ulrich) which is in pre-production. Other producing credits include QUALITY PROBLEMS, an indie critically acclaimed comedy distributed by Freestyle and available on Amazon. A prolific script doctor and ghostwriter, Colette also teaches screenwriting at Antioch University, Studio Arts and NYFA. www.colettefreedman.com

Jon GannFormer DCShorts Fest Director
Jon Gann is the a force in the film festival world, having created, consulted with and fostered dozens of events around the globe. In the past year, he has worked on AFI Docs, Key West FF, DC Environmental FF, Bermuda International FF, Port Townsend FF, SF IndieFest and the Woods Hole FF. He is a founding Board Member of the Film Festival Alliance, the first organization to professionalize the festival space, and sits on the Advisory Board at George Mason University’s School of Film & Video Studies.
His book “Behind the Screens: Programmers Reveal How Film Festivals Really Work” examines how programmers and organizers curate, collect, watch and select films for their festivals, with frank insights reveal the inner-workings of an industry that is often misunderstood. Published in 2015, his second book “So You Wanna Start a Film Festival,” explores the trials and tribulations of starting a new event, with lessons from both for- and non-profit festivals. Jon is the Founder of DC Shorts, a non-profit organization championing short filmmaking, and the creator of the DC Shorts Film Festival, one of the country’s premier short film showcases. He has also served as the Executive Director of CINE, a 60-year old organization that honors the best in film, TV and digital media with the prestigious CINE Golden Eagle Award.

Kirk Honeycutt – Author/Film Critic/Journalist
Kirk Honeycutt is a longtime journalist, film critic, teacher and author of “John Hughes: A Life in Film” and the forthcoming novel “Page One.” He served as a senior reporter and later chief film critic for The Hollywood Reporter for 20 years. He has written two produced screenplays including “Final Judgment” (1992) starring Brad Dourif, Isaac Hayes and Karen Black. He has reported for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Newsday, the Christian Science Monitor and American Film and Cosmopolitan magazines.

Jenelle Riley – Journalist/Celebrity Host
Jenelle RIley is a screenwriter, actress, journalist, and producer who wrote the 2015 short film Warning Labels, directed by Jennifer Morrison and the award-winning Crazy Love. As the host of PBS’ Actors on Actors, she won a Daytime Emmy Award and two Los Angeles Emmy Awards. She is also an editor for Variety and contributor to The Huffington Post. She wrote and directed the award-winning play “A Kind of Love Story” which had its world premiere at Sacred Fools Theater Company in Los Angeles and for which she was named best director by the LA Weekly Awards. Other plays include “Comfortably Numb” and “Jane Austen’s Emma Frankenstin.” She is the regular host of career conversations for the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, where she has conducted lengthy interviews with various actors from Leonardo DiCaprio to VIola Davis. 

Pamela SeggerLunenburg Doc Fest Director, Nova Scotia
Pamela Segger has been executive director and lead programmer of Lunenburg Doc Fest (LDF) since 2014.  LDF is a 4-day documentary festival, 3-day conference, and 2-day industry market in UNESCO Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada.  Pamela came to film through through her passion for screenwriting, completing the UCLA Feature Film Writing program. She serves as a board member and co-programmer of Women in Film and Television Atlantic and leads the LDF Atlantic Canada Delegation, a year-round initiative that promotes and creates opportunities internationally for up to 35 Atlantic Canadian film producers and directors. Pamela is currently producing a one-hour documentary and a narrative feature. She is a member of the Documentary Organization of Canada, Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative, and Centre For Arts Tapes. Pamela frequently serves as a panelist, host, presenter, juror and programmer across a variety organizations and festivals.

Cameron SwanagonOscilloscope Pictures
Cameron is has been an Oscilloscope Laboratories loyalist since his days slinging DVDs at a video rental shop, and as an employee for the last six years, most recently coordinating with festivals. He sustains mainly on top-ramen and drinks his coffee black. 

Sarah LinnLocal News + Arts Editor, Tribune, SLO
Sarah Linn is the local/entertainment editor of The Tribune, covering movies and more on California’s Central Coast. She has served as a judge for the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival for several years. She derives daily inspiration from her husband, filmmaker and artist Chris Daly, and her son, Dashiell. Stay updated by reading Sarah’s articles at www.sanluisobispo.com and following Sarah on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SheLikestoWatch and Twitter at www.twitter.com/shelikestowatch.