Our annual film competitions continues to attract exciting new independent films from around the world. Named after 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.


A panel of more than 100 screeners evaluated over 1,200 submissions, helping us make some very difficult decisions to finalize our Official Selections. The finalists in competition are juried by a panel of film and media professionals, and cash prizes will be awarded at the Fremont Theater during our Awards Night Gala on Saturday, April 29. 


narrative feature films


AMC Networks SVOD / Sr. Manager, Marketing

Kristin Bauer is a senior marketing manager at AMC Networks. Having worked with RLJE Films (fka Image Entertainment), a business unit of AMC Networks, for nearly 8 years on award-winning and critically acclaimed feature film releases such as cult classics Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy, Craig Zahler’s Bone Tomahawk, and the intergalactic gorefest PG: Psycho Goreman, Kristin now works with IFC Films (also owned by AMC Networks). She has previously participated on the Narrative Feature Film jury panel for 2022 Newport Beach Film Festival. Kristin is an avid film and TV enthusiast with a soft spot for all things horror.


Alumni Filmmaker, BLEEDING AUDIO

Originally from a horse ranch in Colorado, Chelsea Christer moved to San Francisco for film school in 2007. After graduating with a BFA in Directing from the Academy of Art, she worked as a producer/director and editor for a variety of corporate and commercial production agencies in the Bay Area. Chelsea has traveled the world, producing and directing brand documentaries and commercials for companies like Google, Adobe, and Dolby. These productions have taken her all across the US and abroad to places like Japan, Europe, Australia, and rural India.

Chelsea’s first feature-length film, the multi-award winning music documentary Bleeding Audio screened at over 17 film festivals worldwide including Slamdance, Dances With Films, SF DocFest, and Cinequest. Bleeding Audio secured distribution and was released on May 27, 2023 to critical acclaim. The film continues to hold a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Chelsea has also directed three fiction short films. We’re Just Like You (2010), Sierra (2012), and the upcoming Holding on Forever (2023) is currently in post production. Her short films have screened at multiple festivals domestic to the US and internationally.

Chelsea relocated to Los Angeles in 2021 to pursue film and television directing full time (though her heart will always be in San Francisco). She currently lives in Eagle Rock with her husband and their German Shepherd, Sagan.


Film Festival Programmer/Film Critic

Herb Stratford is a film critic, filmmaker and festival programmer for several film festivals including; Mendocino, California, Vero Beach, Florida, Long Beach New York and Tucson, Arizona. His most recent documentary, “Gustav Stickley: American Craftsman” was released in 2021 by First Run Features. Herb is a member of the Critics Choice Association, which is the largest professional body of film critics in North America.



Professor Emeritus of Photography and Video, Cal Poly / Filmmaker

Sky Bergman is an accomplished, award-winning photographer. Lives Well Lived is Sky’s directorial debut. Her fine art work is included in permanent collections at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, Seattle Art Museum, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Her commercial work has appeared on book covers for Random House and Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc., and magazine spreads in Smithsonian, Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel, Reader’s Digest, and Archaeology Odyssey.

Sky Bergman is a Professor Emeritus of Photography and Video at Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo, CA. She has two short films about intergenerational connections currently on the film festival circuit and is working on a feature-length film that is a celebration of love.


Sky was recently named a CoGenerate Innovation Fellow, joining an impressive group of 14 other social entrepreneurs with cogenerational solutions to today’s biggest problems. These 15 inspiring social entrepreneurs bring older & younger people together to address racial inequality, climate change, social isolation and more.


Alumni Filmmaker, HAVANA LIBRE


Bio and more information to follow.

narrative SHORT FILMS


Alumni Filmmaker, AT LAST

Lorena Gordon is an award-winning writer/director hailing from Queens, New York. Lorena began her journey in film working as a production assistant on sets at the age of 18 with directors such as Martin Scorsese, Sam Mendes, and Ben Stiller. She then made her way to the director’s chair after feeling inspired and determined to tell her stories. As someone who was born and raised in one of the melting pots in the world, Queens, New York, Lorena is committed to telling character-driven stories that are authentic and personal.

The stories Lorena feels most passionate about telling are about the human condition and giving a platform for the Latinx, queer, and disability communities. Lorena feels it’s her responsibility to give a voice to the communities who’s stories often don’t get told. Lorena has directed, written, and produced the short films Times Like These and At Last. Her short films have been picked up for distribution. Most recently, Lorena wrote and directed the short film At Last, starring Zack Gottsagen and George Lopez. At Last has played at over 30 Oscar-qualifying film festivals: HollyShorts, Cleveland International Film Festival, and Indy Shorts. The film has garnered her awards for Best Director and Best Short Film throughout its festival run. At Last was picked up and is now streaming HBO Max. She was recently a Semi-Finalist for the New Voices Filmmaker Grant in partnership with Netflix as well as a finalist in the MTV First Time Directors Initiative. Currently, Lorena is in development for her first feature film.


Alumni Filmmaker, AT LAST

A.J. was born and raised in Queens, New York. He has been producing short films and music videos since 2012. Some of his producing credits include “Times Like These,” “Lessons In Romantics,” “The Cure” and “My Inspired World.” Most recently the short film he produced, AT LAST, is now streaming on HBO Max. In addition to producing films, A.J. is also an accomplished musician under the name Saturn ‘til June. He has toured across the country and his music can be found on all streaming services.



Documentary Journalist

Renee Whalen is a multimedia journalist and documentary filmmaker originally from the central coast. As a recent graduate of USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, she’s directed and produced short documentaries and podcasts on topics relating to art, culture and identity. For her master’s thesis, she produced a short documentary on the effects of standardized education as it relates to teenage self-discovery. As a journalist, Renee’s interested in stories that push viewers’ expectations and unveil less seen aspects of humanity. Today, she works as a freelance journalist and film production assistant in both Los Angeles and on the Central Coast.


Alumni Filmmaker, BRING THEM HOME (Award Winner, 2022)

Rob Young is an award-winning filmmaker, music artist, performer, social entrepreneur, and humanitarian. As the founder of Excuse My Accent, Dream Roots Creative, and CEO of Young World Media, he focuses on creating platforms that invoke change through music and film, while spearheading inner cultural non-profit initiatives.

Through his commitment to spreading awareness of social issues, Rob is the producer of “Bring Them Home,” an award-winning film shedding light on the plight of deported veterans. Rob has also been a formative speaker on DE&I and a creative visionary for many organizations including ACLU, NAMI, and the Washington State Department of Equity, the first ever in United States government history.



Alumni Filmmaker, THE SKY BELONGS TO NO ONE (Award Winner, 2022)

Manuel Del Valle is a film director, writer, and producer born and raised in San Luis Potosi, México, and currently based in Los Angeles, CA. Del Valle’s focus is in the narrative form, where genre-blending takes center stage. His early but intensive education includes ArtCenter College of Design, California College of the Arts, and HBO’s sponsored workshop Tomorrow’s Filmmakers Today. With his fable-like short films Nahjum (2019) & El Triste (2020), Manuel has won recognition and awards at HBO’s Urbanworld, ShortsMexico, Icaro Film Festival, Havana Film Festival, Hollyshorts, and has been showcased multiple times at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences hosted event titled Latinx & Hispanic Cinema- Generational Echoes. 


Filmmaker / VFX Artist

Working with legendary effects wizard Doug Trumbull (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Bladerunner, Star Trek – The Motion Picture, Brainstorm) and at Industrial Light & Magic (Return of the Jedi, Star Trek II – Wrath of Khan, Willow) David’s film career has spanned several decades in visual effects. He switched to the live action world working as an assistant cameraman on television shows, feature films and several of Trumbull’s ShowScan projects.

David re-entered visual effects after getting a call, while in French Guyana, to work on The Hunt For Red October as a motion control operator for Boss Film and continued doing miniatures as a DP for Digital Domain (Dante’s Peak), 3 Foot Six (Lord of the Rings) and a variety of other visual effects houses including the renowned Skotak Brothers. After returning from New Zealand, David decided to move, again, into live action working as a 2 nd unit director of photography on some features, several documentaries and as a unit manager on two TV movies. He is pursuing his interest in writing, which has been a hidden passion since he was a teen. He lives on the Central Coast of California near San Luis Obispo with his wife and two cats.


Visual Artist / Experimental Painter

Ernesto A. Rivera is in his 2nd year as a screener and jury member for Music Videos with the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival. He is an artist who works in experimental painting techniques and is a dancer and choreographer. Ernesto has just completed work on his first feature film screenplay, Images, Sounds, and Feelings, which begins production summer 2023 in New York.



Producer / Educator at Nelson Films

Santa Barbara filmmaker, Jody Nelson brings 30 years of teaching and 17 years of media experience to her filmmaking.  Nelson specializes in documentaries and short narrative films. She has produced three award winning short films about children and sports, which screened at numerous film festivals including the Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo International Film festivals.

Nelson hopes her films inspire viewers to follow their dreams and know that they can reach them and feel good about accomplishing their goals. As a Film Production Educator she has designed and lead film production workshops for children and teenagers and directed a youth film festival. She received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and an Associates of Arts Degree in Film Production from Santa Barbara City College and is a credentialed teacher.


Filmmaker / Editor

Randi Barros is a screenwriter, film editor, and instructor. Her screenplay, THE CHICKEN FESTIVAL was a CineStory finalist and her screenplay, OLI & OMI, was a second-rounder at the Austin Film Festival. Her pilot, SPRING IN SEPTEMBER, was a finalist for the Athena Writers Lab, a semifinalist for the Filmmatic TV Pilot Award and several other competitions and was produced as a podcast.

Randi’s film editing work includes HEAVEN STOOD STILL: THE INCARNATIONS OF WILLY DEVILLE, which premiered at London’s Doc’N Roll Film Festival last November and is currently playing at festivals around Europe, LIVES WELL LIVED, a multi award-winning documentary which was featured in festivals worldwide and premiered on PBS in September 2021, and the short comedy, TRUSTING CHLOE, which was nominated for Best Editing at the Paris Film Festival, where it won Best Comedy. Randi co-edited the documentary, BOTSO: THE TEACHER FROM TBLISI, which was the winner of 5 Audience Awards at festivals worldwide and was a New York Times critics pick. Randi teaches Screenwriting and Film Production at Cal Poly, where she received the Learn by Doing Scholar Award in 2022. She attended the MFA Film program at Columbia University School of the Arts and recently completed her MFA in Screen and Television Writing at Stephens College. 


Alumni Filmmaker, CANDLE AND THE CURSE

Anuja Ganpule-Sheorey – a Central Coast native – is a  filmmaker and Showrunner-in-Training whose family-friendly fantasy feature The Candle & The Curse was selected for the SLO Film Festival’s 2022 Central Coast Filmmaker Showcase. She holds an MFA in Filmmaking from the New York Film Academy, Los Angeles and a BS in Microbiology from the University of California, Davis. In 2022, she was selected for and participated in UCLA’s Showrunner Fellowship. She is currently in development on several yet-to-be-announced film and television projects.