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 Closing on Tuesday, April 30. 




Actor, (Dune, Outer Range, No Country for Old Men), Writer

2017 King Vidor Recipient

Academy Award® nominated actor Josh Brolin is one of Hollywood’s top leading men who continues to balance challenging roles in both mainstream studio productions as well as thought-provoking independents.

Brolin recently reprised his role as Gurney Halleck in Denis Villeneuve’s DUNE: PART TWO, the sequel to the six-time Academy Award-winning film DUNE, Villeneuve’s relaunch of one of the most celebrated science fiction properties of all time. Co-starring Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya and Javier Bardem, the two films have garnered more than $1 billion at the worldwide box office. 

This May, Brolin will return to Amazon Prime Video’s acclaimed sci-fi western series, OUTER RANGE, on which he also serves as an executive producer and director for the second season. The series centers on rancher Royal Abbott (Brolin) fighting for his territory and grappling with the unknown after discovering a mystery on his land.

Later this year, Brolin’s memoir FROM UNDER THE TRUCK will be released by Harper Collins. He will also star alongside Peter Dinklage in the upcoming Legendary Pictures film BROTHERS. 

As an integral part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Brolin starred as super-villain ‘Thanos’ in the blockbusters AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and its sequel, AVENGERS: ENDGAME, the finale of all three phases of the MCU, which opened to rave reviews and became the second-highest grossing movie of all time.

In 2009, Brolin was nominated for an Academy Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and received awards from the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review for his portrayal of ‘Dan White’ in Gus Van Sant’s acclaimed biopic, MILK. His additional ‘Best Picture’ Oscar-nominated films include Denis Villeneuve’s DUNE, the Coen Brothers’ TRUE GRIT, which was nominated for 10 Academy Awards in 2011, and 2007’s NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, also from the Coen Brothers, which won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. Other highly acclaimed performances include his portrayal of George W. Bush in Oliver Stone’s biopic, W., Ridley Scott’s blockbuster, AMERICAN GANGSTER, for which he was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award as part of the ensemble, and Denis Villeneuve’s SICARIO, which was nominated for three Academy Awards. 

Other film credits include: Oliver Stone’s WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS opposite Shia LaBeouf and Michael Douglas; Joseph Kosinski’s ONLY THE BRAVE; Joel and Ethan Coen’s comedy HAIL, CAESAR! opposite George Clooney, Channing Tatum, and Tilda Swinton; LEGACY OF A WHITETAIL DEER HUNTER opposite Danny McBride and Carrie Coon; EVEREST opposite Jake Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, and John Hawkes; Paul Thomas Anderson’s INHERENT VICE, an adaptation of the Thomas Pynchon detective novel of the same name alongside an all-star cast including Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, and Owen Wilson; Sean Penn’s FLAG DAY; Colin Broderick’s A BEND IN THE RIVER, which Brolin executive produced; LABOR DAY directed by Jason Reitman; Spike Lee’s OLD BOY; MEN IN BLACK 3; Paul Verhoeven’s blockbuster hit, HOLLOW MAN; and David O. Russell’s FLIRTING WITH DISASTER. Brolin made his feature film debut starring in the action-comedy classic GOONIES, directed by Richard Donner for producer Steven Spielberg.

On television, Brolin made his mark as a series regular in the popular ABC series THE YOUNG RIDERS, as well as PRIVATE EYE for NBC and WINNETKA ROAD for CBS. Brolin also received critical praise in the TNT epic miniseries INTO THE WEST, opposite Beau Bridges, Gary Busey and Jessica Capshaw. In addition, Brolin starred in the title role of NBC’s acclaimed political drama, MR. STERLING.

As a producer, Brolin joined Matt Damon, Chris Moore, Anthony Arnove, and Howard Zinn, in a documentary entitled THE PEOPLE SPEAK, based on Zinn’s influential 1980 book A People’s History of the United States. The film, which aired on the History Channel in 2009, looked at America’s struggles with war, class, race, and women’s rights, and featured readings by Viggo Mortensen, Sean Penn, and David Strathairn, among others. Brolin made his directing debut in 2008 with a short-entitled X, which he also wrote and produced. It premiered at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival before screening at such festivals as South by Southwest and the AFI Dallas Film Festival.


Production Finance Executive – Netflix

Chris joined Netflix in 2015 and has held various roles within Production Finance across multiple locations worldwide. He has worked on a diverse range of productions, from big-budget studio to small independent films, and includes both English language and foreign language projects. He is currently serving as the Project Manager for Production Finance Outreach & Training.


President of the Geena Davis Bentonville Film Festival & Foundation

Wendy Guerrero, co-founder of Publicly Private Productions alongside Oscar-nominated actor Bruce Dern, is committed to championing diversity in the entertainment industry. As a Producer, some of Wendy’s credits include A COUNTRY CALLED HOME, starring Ryan Bingham, Imogen Poots, Mackenzie Davis, and June Squibb.

Independent feature film COAST, featuring an inclusive ensemble including Cristela Alonza, Melissa Leo, Ciara Bravo, Mia Rose Frampton, and Fatima Ptacek. Through her work, Wendy aims to amplify the narratives of underrepresented communities, paving the way for inclusivity and equity in the industry. In addition to her filmography, Wendy serves as the President of the Bentonville Film Festival, a groundbreaking initiative founded by Oscar-winning actor Geena Davis. For the past 10 years, she has spearheaded the festival and its foundation, cultivating a global network of diverse creators spanning gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and ability.


Writer, Director, Actor, Alumni Filmmaker – LAND OF GOLD

Nardeep is a South Asian American filmmaker hailing from the suburbs of Philly by way of Switzerland. His debut feature, Land of Gold, which he wrote, directed, produced, and starred in, had its world premiere at the 2022 Tribeca Festival. After winning a slew of awards at international film festivals, Land of Gold was acquired by HBO and can be streamed on Max.

A graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and the FAMU International in Prague, Czech Republic, he is the recipient of the 2021 AT&T Untold Stories program, the ScreenCraft Film Fund, is an alumnus of the Salon, and is a PAGE Screenplay winner. His work spotlights underrepresented communities, generational trauma, and the binding forces of human connection. Nardeep is also an accomplished actor, with recent credits including Chicago Fire, Ghee Happy, Rebel, SWAT, Why Women Kill, Jane the Virgin, Orbital Redux, Dance Dads, Safe Spaceand Mira, Royal Detective, where he voices over 35 characters.



Theatrical Sales & Exhibitor Relations Manager – IFC Films

Check back soon to learn more about Tatiana. 


Director, Producer, Alumni Filmmaker – PASANG: IN THE SHADOW OF EVEREST

A passionate storyteller since her childhood in rural Iowa, Nancy Svendsen recently turned from the healthcare field to filmmaking. Her first feature documentary tells the story of Pasang Lhamu Sherpa – the first Nepali woman to summit Mt. Everest. Related to Pasang by marriage, Nancy brings nuance and depth to a moving and inspiring story.


Documentary Filmmaker, Editor

Alumni, 2023 Audience Award Winner – DUSTY AND STONES

Jesse Rudoy is a documentary filmmaker and editor based in New York City. His debut feature, Dusty & Stones, premiered at DOC NYC, won the audience award for Best Documentary at the 2023 San Luis Obispo International Film Festival, and will be released later this year by First Run Features.

Jesse is an alumnus of the Gotham Documentary Lab, a former Film Independent Fast Track fellow, and the co-founder of White Label Yerba Mate Soda, an energy drink served in nightclubs and raves throughout New York.



Manager and Executive Producer – Disney Launchpad

Lissa Khoshbakhti is an Iranian-Floridian producer living in Los Angeles, CA; she is currently the Manager of Disney’s “LAUNCHPAD” short film program. Lissa has been with the company for five years and has executive produced ten short films. Prior to her current role, she worked in production and post at ABC Studios focusing on safely re-starting production during covid for Grey’s Anatomy and Black-ish.

Throughout her time there, she also helped spearhead diversity and inclusion efforts across the television brands. Lissa interned at the Disneyland College Program, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, CNN and Late Night with Seth Meyers. When she is not working, she can be found playing soccer, drinking a quad espresso, or rewatching Wayne’s World.


Filmmaker, Alumni, 2023 Best Narrative Short Winner – THE VAN

Bernard Badion is an acclaimed Filipino-American creator with work spanning TV, film, and theater. Known for combining emotional storytelling with humor, he has credits including Nickelodeon’s “Transformers: Earthspark” and has developed with Disney, Imagine Entertainment, Amazon, and more.

A recognized talent through NBC’s Writers On The Verge and Loyola Marymount University, Bernard has also earned accolades as a playwright for “Monkeys,” which garnered awards and was lauded for its “sharp, focused storytelling executed with grace and humor”. Furthermore, his recent achievements include an award-winning short film titled “The Van” (2023 San Luis Obispo International Film Festival Best Narrative Short Film). Bernard calls Los Angeles home, where he lives with his family.


Founder, TruJuLo Productions

Award-winning playwright, performer, producer & educator, Fanshen Cox is the Founder of TruJuLo Productions and the former SVP Development and Impact at Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s Pearl Street Films. Her company TruJuLo uplifts stories that speak truth in pursuit of justice in service of love. Fanshen served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Cape Verde, West Africa.

She holds a BA in Spanish & Education from the University of Michigan, an MA in TESOL from Teachers College, Columbia University, an MFA in TV, Film & Theatre in Acting and Performance from CSULA, and an honorary MFA in Producing from New York Film Academy. She has been honored with Distinguished Alumni Awards from CSULA and from Teachers College. Fanshen is also a co-author of the Inclusion Rider which was announced at the 2018 Oscar awards by Frances McDormand and the co-creator, producer and host of the Webby nominated podcast Sista Brunch – highlighting Black women and gender expansive people thriving in entertainment and media.




Alejandro Miranda, an Indigenous Latine filmmaker based in Madison, WI, draws on his ancestral roots of Huichol and Taíno to fuel his passion for authentic storytelling. As the Co-Founder of Bravebird, an Indigenous-led film production company, he is dedicated to producing films from a Native perspective.


Festival Programmer, Filmmaker

Natalie programs for the Academy Award Qualifying Santa Barbara International Film Festival, is an Associate Programmer for the Hamptons International Film Festival & programs for the BAFTA-Qualifying Aesthetica Short Film Festival. Natalie has curated feminist film nights for the Brooklyn Museum and is a recipient of an artist grant from the Jerome Foundation for her most recent short film Buried and is also in development on her debut feature.


Filmmaker, Alumni

2023 Best Short Documentary Winner – UNTIL THE RAIN COMES BACK

Lauren is an award-winning director, producer, and editor from New York. After graduating from Emerson College with a BA in film directing, writing, and producing, she took a one-way ticket from New York to Los Angeles, where she found herself sliding into the world of commercials and advertising. Within her growing repertoire of work, Lauren has directed, produced, and edited numerous projects in the commercial world for various national and international brands.

After premiering at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, her documentary “Until the Rain Comes Back” (2023) screened at festivals around the nation, taking home the “Best Short Documentary” award at the SLO Film Festival. Lauren brings creative originality and integrity to every project she commences, with the goal of telling stories that are both emotionally charged and visually compelling. Lauren aspires to tell stories that inspire, incite, and influence viewers around the world. She currently resides in Los Angeles, where she has co-founded the commercial and film production company, Wicked Grit.



Writer, Director, Alumni, 2023 Best Music Video Winner

Jill Sachs is a Fil-Am filmmaker, interested in the ways we weave ourselves into mythologies and navigate obsolescence. She loves horror, period pieces and tales unbound by genre. Jill earned her MFA in Directing from AFI, and is a recent Finalist for the Disney-AFI Storytellers Initiative and CAPE Short Film award.

Her films have played at festivals like BendFilm, Cinequest, Mallorca, Newport Beach, and won awards at SLO, Filmquest and more. In the commercial/ music video world, Jill has worked with some of the greatest storytellers including Alejandro Iñárritu, Chloé Zhao and Mark Romanek. She currently works at Psyop, and enjoys backpacking, art and emerging tech.


On-air Personality, Radio DJ

Central Coast native with more than a decade of being an on-air personality/radio DJ on fm radio & featured on a variety of podcasts & music streaming services. Musical taste ranges from genres like R&B, Hip-Hop, Reggae to Corridos and anything in between.


General Manager – Wav Zine

Lyle is a 4th-year business marketing student at Cal Poly from San Rafael, California who serves as General Manager for Wavzine, a SLO-based music, arts, and culture magazine and production company.

Beyond Wavzine, Lyle works for a number of different music industry organizations working as a talent buyer for Ineffable Music, Shabang Music Productions, and Jeffrey Presents. In addition to talent buying, Lyle has gained experience working in management at Red Light Management. His favorite SLO breakfast burrito is Lincoln Deli and his favorite meal is the “Chuncho” at Mistura.




Meet Alyssa Toledo, an award-winning queer Latina writer, director, and editor from California’s central coast. After studying film at Allan Hancock and CSUF, she dove into the industry, spending several years assisting on Netflix’s hit series ‘Outer Banks.’ This experience quickly sparked a close-knit collaboration with the show’s cast.


San Luis Obispo High School Film Production, Graphic Design
& Digital Photography Teacher

Zach Roper teaches Digital Media and Film Production at San Luis Obispo High School, as well as Animation, Prop-Making, Illustration and Graphic Design. He previously taught at schools in Phoenix, London and Milan before returning to California with his wife Eliza.


San Luis Obispo County Film Commissioner

Matt Halvorson currently serves as the Film Commissioner of San Luis Obispo County California for Film SLO CAL, a division of Visit SLO CAL, the destination marketing and management organization that oversees tourism for the county where he also serves as Associate Director of Marketing. Before relocating to the Central Coast from Los Angeles, Matt spent 15 years in the film industry serving in marketing and production capacities, first rising to Vice President of International Marketing at Lakeshore Entertainment where he started his career, followed by a five-year stint at Lionsgate.

His time spanned over 100 theatrical releases from big-budget franchises such as John Wick, Hunger Games, and Underworld, to award-winning fare such as La La Land, Green Book and Knives Out. Matt grew up in Crete, Illinois and graduated from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana before moving out to California.