Meet the Judges

Current Judges

BJ Colangelo

BJ Colangelo

BJ Colangelo is a Cleveland-based film journalist and actress turned filmmaker, co-founding the production company Sickening Pictures. Known for her provocative real-life storytelling and hot-take analyses on gender and LGBTQ+ representation in horror films, BJ's work has been featured in numerous trades including, Fangoria Magazine, Bloody Disgusting, Vulture, Medium, Birth.Movies.Death. and Playboy, in addition to speaking on the topic at San Diego Comic-Con. A lifelong cinephile, she refers to herself as the lovechild of Christopher Sarandon in FRIGHT NIGHT and Susan Sarandon in THE HUNGER. Her feature film debut is currently in distribution development and her film LABRYS is currently playing festivals across the country, as is her and co-director, Zach Shildwachter's contribution to the international horror anthology DEATHCEMBER. Most recently, BJ sat on the jury for the FearNYC International Film Festival.

Alec Greenwald

Alec Greenwald

Alec Greenwald is a graduate of Cleveland State Universities film program and has since worked as a Production Assistant on Netflix’s “Team Kaylie” and “The Big Show Show”. Alec has also reviewed Screenplays for Imagine Entertainment’s “Imagine Impact 2 Program”.


Cyprian Piroch

Cyprian Piroch is a lifelong Cleveland area resident. He is a graduate of Ash Ra Tempel University. As a film buff, writer and filmmaker, he has been an ardent supporter of independent and world film genres since the early 1970s. In the Fall of 2013, he co-produced the documentary “a Tribute to the Fallen”, which explores a Filipino man’s journey to uncover WWII artifacts from battlegrounds and share them with the world. His future home puts him in Negros Oriental, Philippines, where he will continue to write and produce films, showcasing the rich and vibrant stories and culture.

Alex Sherman

Alex Sherman

Born and raised in Mentor, Ohio – Alex discovered Cheers in high school and he’s been writing and studying comedy and storytelling ever since. After four years at Baldwin-Wallace University, Alex landed a job with Current TV producing short documentaries all around the world. There’s a tiny bar in Thailand where everybody knows his name. From there he moved to LA and worked in post-production on Yo Gabba Gabba, Real Husbands of Hollywood and The Avengers. Eventually he made his way into a writer’s room and has written for the shows People of Earth, Final Space, Upload and is currently working on ABC’s Bless This Mess.

David Tarbert

David Tarbert

Dave Tarbert is an Emmy Award and 8-time Telly Award-winning producer/director/cinematographer/editor/talent who began his television broadcasting career as Channel 5’s Man on Music, the first feature reporter covering exclusively music and entertainment for a major-market TV station. He’s still active on Cleveland’s airwaves, most recently as the host/producer for the popular series, Dave’s Big Fun on a Small Budget on FOX 8. As Executive Producer of new-media production company, Tarbert Television, Dave has created acclaimed digital video projects for the MetroHealth System, RTA, Ford Motor Company, Key Bank, Cleveland Clinic, and Ronald McDonald House among others. He’s currently a Family Room Coordinator for the Ronald McDonald House at Cleveland Clinic Children’s and Adjunct Professor at CSU’s new School of Film & Media Arts. In his free time, he enjoys tennis, golf, traveling and cheering on the Indians, Cavs, Browns and his alma mater’s University of Kentucky Wildcats.


John P. Vourlis

John Vourlis has 25+ years’ experience working in the entertainment industry. He is currently an Instructor in the School Film and Media Arts at Cleveland State University. Before teaching, he was a VP/General Manager at the Academy Award-winning and Emmy Award-winning Hollywood specialty lighting company, Luminys Systems Corp.

Through his company, Hometown Media Productions, John produced and directed the documentary Breaking Balls, about the cultural impact of the game of bocce on the Italian-American community of Northeast Ohio. The film was an official selection of the 2017 Cleveland International and Chagrin Documentary Film Festivals, where it played to sold out crowds.

Vourlis has also served as a judge/jurist for the Western Reserve Historical Society’s National History Day, the Orange Schools PTA Reflections Program, and the Greater Columbus Arts Council Media Fellowship.

John has an M.F.A. in Film Production from the highly acclaimed USC School of Cinematic Arts, as well as an M.A. in English and a B.S. in Engineering from Case Western Reserve University.


Michael Walters

Michael Walters graduated from Cleveland State University in 2017 with a degree in Film and Digital Media. Following graduation, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film. After a few years of working as a freelance editor and production assistant, Michael accepted a position as a writer and editor for Omnia Media, working on a variety of web shows across YouTube, SnapChat, and Facebook. He also writes for a gaming website, and continually works on his own spec scripts in hopes of having one produced some day. Michael comes back to visit Cleveland all the time, and still regularly roots for Cleveland sports teams, for better or worse.

Past Judges

Linda C. Ehrlich

Linda C. Ehrlich—writer, teacher, editor–has published extensively about world cinema and about traditional theatre in such journals as Film Quarterly, Cinema Journal, Senses of Cinema, Film CriticismEthnomusicology, Cinema Scope, Framework and Journal of Religion and Film, among others. Cinematic Landscapes, her first book (co-edited with David Desser), is an anthology of essays on the interface between the visual arts and cinemas of China and Japan (University of Texas Press, 1994; reprint in 2008). Her second edited book, The Cinema of Víctor Erice: An Open Window, appeared in the Scarecrow Press Filmmakers’Series (#72) in 2000 (with an expanded paperback edition in 2007).

Philip J. Skerry

Philip J. Skerry is Professor Emeritus at Lakeland Community College and adjunct instructor at Cleveland State University. He has taught courses in English and film for over forty years. Dr. Skerry is the author of Psycho in the Shower: The History of Cinema’s Most Famous Scene (Continuum Press, 2009); Dark Energy: Hitchcock’s Absolute Camera and the Physics of Cinematic Spacetime (Bloomsbury Press, 2013); and Defining America: Ten Essays on the Western Film (Sidestreeet Press, 2015). He lives with his wife, Amy, a therapist, in Beachwood.

Alberto Zambenedetti

Alberto is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Cinema Studies and an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Cinema Studies at Oberlin College. He is the editor of World Film Locations: Florence and his scholarship has appeared in journals such as Short Film Studies, Studies in European Cinema, and Journal of Adaptation in Film and Performance. Since 2001, he has been writing reviews and essays for Gli Spietati, Italy’s premier online film magazine. Alberto has collaborated, in front and behind the camera, with filmmakers Soren Bailey, Karen Wang, Dan Kinber, and Chiara Armentano.