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A LETTER FROM

The Executive Director

As we reflect back on the eighth year of this festival it is with complete and utter joy, as we recognize that we have finally emerged from the challenges of the Covid years. Our audience came back in droves and we truly felt their love and appreciation. Over the course of our nine days, countless audience members and filmmakers came up to me after a film, with words of appreciation, and I humbly accepted them on behalf of the incredible team that puts this festival together. I may have started it nine years ago, but its success today is a collaborative effort, a testament to the dedication of numerous individuals who pull together for the benefit of London regional audiences and Southwestern Ontario filmmakers.

The foundation of our organization lies in its knowledgable and generous board of directors, skillfully led by Nancy Branscombe. The Managing Director, Jacqueline Demendeev, and Youth Festivals Manager, Mike Sheriff have worked alongside me all year to bring together the efforts of an outstanding staff group. Each member of this team is deeply committed to elevating this festival into something that both London and the surrounding region can take immense pride in and they all contributed to the extraordinary experiences our audience had this year.

We have three core reasons for being here. We believe that we have an abundance of talent in this region. We are here to show off that talent and build pride in our regional audiences for these incredible people who come from among us. We are here to support our filmmakers in their path into the industry and that is why we run our Ontario Screen Creators Conference and give away $120,000 in pitch prizes. We are also here to inspire future filmmakers, so that one day people from across Canada and the world will look at our region as a hotbed of incredible film talent. This year we were thrilled to see three of our winning youth festival alumni come back during their film school years, with shorts that made the final cut into the main festival. This achievement stands as a powerful testament to the effectiveness of our efforts, signaling a significant impact on the careers of emerging filmmakers. I want to thank all of the talented filmmakers for giving us the pleasure of helping their talents shine, thereby brightening the cultural landscape here in this region.

I extend my deepest gratitude to our sponsors and donors. Their unwavering support, especially through challenging times, is deeply appreciated. To our fantastic audience, whose enthusiastic return increased by an impressive 30% over 2022, you played an instrumental role in making 2023 a year we will forever cherish.

With great anticipation, we look forward to the possibilities that 2024 holds.

Dorothy Downs
Founder & Executive Director, Forest City Film Festival

Forest City Film Festival Board Members

Nancy Branscombe

Chair

Nord Mensah

Treasurer
Maria Alexopoulos

Maria Alexopoulos

Director

John Brennan

Director

Megan Fowler

Director

Mark Vogelsang

Director

Ethan Hickey

Director

Janice Zolf

Director

Lamise Kablawi

Director

Andrew Dodd

Director

Our Advisory Council

Emma Donoghue

Paul Haggis

John Kapelos

Victor Garber

David Shore

Nancy Branscombe

Chair

Former City Councillor in London and Peterborough ON, Nancy’s committee work included Chair of Arts, Culture and Heritage, Public Library Trustee and Community Funding in Peterborough and Chair of Planning, Trustee for the Public Library Board and Convention Centre Board in London.  Nancy is mom to 3 teenagers, one of whom, Connor Kalopsis, has been an actor working in LA since 2009.  She currently serves as the Vice Chair for the Board of Trustees at Westmark School which specializes in serving children with learning differences and ADHD.  Nancy also serves on the London Police Services Board.

Norman DeBono

Past Chair

Has more than 25 years experience as a journalist researching, writing and editing in both print and online media. Having won multiple awards for a wide array of stories, from breaking news to business and labour, De Bono has a comprehensive knowledge developing content in the news industry and is instrumental in managing our media and connecting us to the business community. 

Maria Alexopoulos

Maria Alexopoulos

Director

A London, ON native Maria has over 15 years of film and video experience. Having studied filmmaking in the UK, she went on to produce three independent feature films and directed an award-winning documentary in Nepal. For the past 8 years she has worked in the social media space having launched the video division for Diply. She currently works for Hive Media Group where she directs the production of multiple Snapchat shows.

John Brennan

Director

A partner at Lerners LLP, John is an experienced Associate Lawyer with a demonstrated history of working in the law practice industry. John is a Commercial Litigator with expertise in shareholder and partnership litigation, liquor license regulatory work, economic torts, dispute resolution and corporate governance. He is a lifelong film enthusiast with particular interest in documentary film and is a supporter of the arts community in Southwestern Ontario. 

Megan Fowler

Director

A native of London and a Western grad, Megan has had a highly successful marketing career in Toronto. She was instrumental in the initiation and cross Canadian development of Run For The Cure, a fundraiser at the Canadian Olympic Committee, a senior marketer at Coca-Cola and subsequently Director of Marketing at CBC Television. Her love of film resulted in her volunteer chairmanship of Film Crew at TIFF and her ex-officio membership of the TIFF board. After returning to London in 2014 she has actively volunteered for a number of organizations. 

Mark Vogelsang

Director

Supervising Sound Editor, Gemini Award winner – For the past 22 years, Mark’s sound design has been heard at every major film festival around the globe, earning him a Gemini Award, as well as the Award of Distinction in Sound Design at the Wild Rose Film Festival in the United States. An active volunteer in the local sound community as both a technical and creative engineer, Mark currently holds the positions of Supervising Sound Editor at Farmhouse Creative Labs in Toronto, and Director of Sound Design at the Ontario Institute of Audio Recording Technology in London, Ontario. 

Nord Mensah

Director

Nord is very involved in the London community, including being a member of the Mayor’s Strategic Advisory Committee, the Global Business Opportunities Committee, and the Government Affairs Committee for the London Chamber of Commerce. Nord is also the Chairperson of the Board for the Black Entrepreneurship Program. He is passionate about creative expression, and excellence in teaching and learning. 

Janice Zolf

Director

Before winning prizes and international acclaim with her documentaries on art, music, and design; film director and writer Janice Zolf worked as an arts and entertainment
journalist for CTV News in London. Her award winning films have screened on CBC’s Documentary Channel, Air Canada, and played at film festivals in Italy, Belgium, and the UK. Her current documentary film, Into the Light with Cité Mémoire, about the immersive projections that reimagine history on the walls of Old
Montreal, was broadcast on CBC Doc Channel and is currently streaming on GEM. It continues to tour festivals worldwide and won the Audience choice award at the Forest City Film Festival in London. Janice’s documentaries include Michael Bublé: Audacious, a short film for the NFB, profiling the artist behind the superstar and Revealing Marie Saint Pierre, about the influence of artist Jean-Paul Riopelle on a renowned Canadian fashion designer. Janice is an experienced storyteller, motivated to give audiences insight into the creative process.

Lamise Kablawi

Director

14 years of political experience at the municipal, provincial and federal level, managing the interactions of elected officials and the community. She has sat on multiple local boards as Secretary, Treasurer and Vice President. A high-performing, results-driven individual with extensive experience in executive administrative support, business management, and talent management. Lamise is known for her ability to grasp complex concepts in fast-paced environments and effortlessly insert herself into any project to deliver results. A great film buff, and along with her political experience, Lamise also carries with her over 5 years of involvement on multiple movie and TV show sets in Hollywood. She has experienced everything from auditions, charity events and live tapings. 

Susan Carlyle

Director

A long-time resident of London, Ontario and has a long affiliation with the University of Western Ontario. Susan graduated from the Faculty of Law at The University of Western Ontario in 1982 and was called to the Alberta Bar in 1984 and the Ontario Bar in 1986. Her firm Carlyle Peterson Lawyers LLP has been in existence since 1994; it is a solicitor’s practice consisting of real estate, estates and corporate work primarily. Susan was formerly the President of the Middlesex Law Association, and as such participated extensively in the failed merger attempts between CDLPA, the Toronto Lawyers’ Association and the OBA.. She has served on many charitable boards including: Women’s Community House (Now Anova) , the Kidney Foundation, the Learning Disability Association of London, the Learning Disability Association of Ontario, London Health Science Foundation, and a lay member of the Professional Geoscientists of Ontario She is currently a proud Board member of the Blyth Festival. 

Andrew Dodd

Director

Andrew is a self-proclaimed cinephile and passionate about film. Being a film graduate himself, Andrew knows first-hand what it’s like to try and break into the film industry, especially for those hoping to stay in London. As Manager, Film London, Andrew is grateful for the opportunity to support, incubate, and be a part of the local film community, including the Ontario Screen Creators Conference and the Forest City Film Festival.