Short Film Committee

Michelle Benham

Michelle holds a Masters of Fine Arts in Film and Electronic Media from the Center for Environmental Filmmaking at American University, where she produced several environmental documentaries including her two-part thesis project Restoring Dyke Marsh and Cutting-Edge Conservation: Science at the Smithsonian. An undergraduate degree in Ecology from the University of Georgia contributes to Michelle's passion for environmental filmmaking - a passion she continues to pursue and learn more about every day. She strives to tell the exciting stories of the natural world through film, and fervently believes in portraying the science in accurate and innovative ways. Michelle currently serves as Earth Science Producer at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, where she is lucky enough to blend her background in science and filmmaking to produce cutting-edge videos for the media and general public.

Sara Beresford

Sara is the Festival Director and Programmer for EcoFocus. Sara grew up in the Seattle area and came to Athens in 1997 to earn a master's degree in Conservation Ecology and Sustainable Development. After graduation she moved to Washington DC to work for an international environmental non-profit organization. While traveling to remote corners of the globe, she had some time to gaze at her navel, and - among other things - decided that she didn't have to be directly involved in science to make an impact. She and her young family moved back to Athens, GA, where she disappeared into the fog of early parenthood for a couple of years until the EcoFocus idea took shape in 2007. Sara believes that film is a fantastic way to inform and inspire people about important issues, and loves the community that has come together around the festival. In the meantime, Sara has become a documentary geek.

Misha Boyd

For close to a decade Misha has nurtured undergraduate students throughout their major studies in the Odum School of Ecology, taking delight in sharing her love for the natural world as an Academic Advisor. Possessing a long-time affinity for visual arts, serving on the EcoFocus Board provides Misha with a meaningful opportunity to blend interests and take part in the cultivation of an environmental film series, one which she hopes will deepen Georgia's sense of stewardship for its precious outdoor resources, both locally and worldwide. Misha's care-taking instincts and farm roots have induced her to enliven her office with animals, a roster which has previously included a genteel skink named Pancho and an outgoing fish named Mr. Meany, and now, at a popular bird feeder outside her large window, a collection of birds yet to be named.

Larry Engel

Larry Engel is an Emmy® award-winning producer, writer, director, and cinematographer with more than thirty-five years of filmmaking experience spanning all seven continents. He began his career in photography and studied with Walker Evans. He then moved to film. Currently, Engel is an associate professor in American University's School of Communication, associate director of the Center for Environmental Filmmaking, and filmmaker-in-residence with the Investigative Reporting Workshop. He teaches several courses with field components including "The Practice of Environmentalism: Galapagos" and a summer session Classroom-in-the-Wild™ "Extreme HD: Alaska." Engel is co-author of "The Code of Best Practices in Sustainable Filmmaking." ( He is a member of the Writers Guild of America East (WGAE) and the Directors Guild of America (DGA). A three-part series that he directed and shot, "The Human Spark" hosted by Alan Alda, premiered on PBS nationally and won the 2010 AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Award for In-Depth Journalism (longer than 20 minutes). To see some of his work in photography and film, and writings on HDSLRs please visit

Keith Leslie Johnson

Keith Leslie Johnson is an assistant professor of English at Augusta State University where he regularly teaches courses on modernism, world literature, and film. He is currently writing a book about Czech animator Jan Svankmajer and a second book about the interface of literature, ethics, and materialist ecology. A native of Ojai, California, he has never felt more at home than in Athens, Georgia.

Jennifer Smith

Jennifer is a filmmaker and an Assistant Professor of Telecommunications at the University of Georgia, where she teaches narrative and documentary production. Her work has garnered numerous awards, screened at U.S. and international film festivals, and broadcast on cable networks such as HBO, Showtime Australia, The Sundance Channel, and BSkyB. Smith worked for Dreamchaser Productions in Dublin, Ireland on such projects as U2's Zooropa Tour, and with Caravan Pictures, now Spyglass Entertainment, on feature films such as Rush Hour. Smith is Executive Producer on the soon to be released feature, The Secret of Moonacre, starring Dakota Blue Richards, Ioan Gruffudd, and Tim Curry. She is a member of The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, and is a strong supporter of non-profit human rights and environmental organizations.