EDU Alumni
11:20 - 12:10 Showplace Conference Room

Dakota Laden...

...was a 2014 Best-in-Fest and Best Experimental award winner for his short film ExperiMENTAL. He also took home the Best Comedy and Best Experimental awards in 2013.  He has been running a popular Youtube channel since high school, the site currently has 65,000 dedicated followers and his shorts have accumulated over 15 million views.

Since high school, Dakota has been working as a Production Assistant for Lionsgate films on projects like ALLEGIANT 1 and The Last Witch Hunter (starring Vin Diesel, Elijah Wood, and Michael Caine).  

This last year, Dakota has been traveling across the US with his camera, visiting the country's scariest, most haunted places. The resulting feature documentary, Trail to Terror, is currently in post-production.

Abby Thomson...

... is completing her first year as a Digital Media Arts student at Hamline University. She is an EDU Film Festival Best Narrative award winner in 2014 for her film Special is Just a Word. As a high school student, Abby’s short films have screened all over the world, but most notably at the 2014 Austin International Film Festival where she took home the Grand Jury Prize for the Young Filmmaker’s Competition with Special is Just a Word.

As a filmmaker and storyteller, Abby loves to explore the complexities of the human experience, particular during times of vulnerability. Outside of school and filmmaking, Abby’s interests include reading, writing the outdoors, and DIY projects.

Ben Kohler...

... is a talented film maker currently living in Los Angeles California and studying at Relativity School (a film school in association with Relativity Media). He was the winner at the 2014 EDU Film Festival for Best Cinematography, and took home the Best Narrative and Best-in-Fest in 2015 for his short film Circulate. Circulate also screened at both Twin Cities Film Fest and Duluth Superior Film Festival.

Ben has a keen eye for cinematography and directing alike. Always looking for new ways to get involved, Ben has dozens of short films, music videos, and experimental pieces and continues to produce work through school and independently. 

Women in Film and Television (WIFT) 

Cassie Wentlandt...

... was the original inspiration for the Cake tune “Short Skirt, Long Jacket”. Rumors of her death have been greatly exaggerated, though she plans to transfer her consciousness into a sentient Cassbot by the year 2027. Keep an eye out for the Kickstarter campaign.

When she’s not making up biographical information on the internet, you can find her in the Edit Department at Splice, a full service Post Production facility based in Minneapolis. Splitting time between both Offline and Online editing, she’s worked on things like trailers, commercials, television series, and the 2013 independent feature film Death to Prom

Amber Johnson... a freelance video producer who creates web video and television content for companies ranging from sports venues to law firms. She works to communicate clearly to a company's target audience.

Amber also helps run a filmmaking group called Persistence of Vision that meets monthly to provide support and community for local film artists and technicians. In her free time, she makes the occasional film and directs photography on short films and the Theater People web series.

Grace Merchant... a freelance director and camera operator for commercial, corporate, and nonprofit storytelling. Her experience includes camera and assistant work for Netflix, Target, ABC, NBC, CBS, History, Travel Channel and more.

Mim Epstein... a broadcast producer for the Minneapolis based advertising agency, Olson. She has produced TV, radio and web content for clients such as General Mills, Popeye's Chicken, Country Inns & Suites, and Belize Tourism. In 2013, Mim was named one of the "32 under 32" by the Advertising Federation of Minnesota for being a rockstar in the industry. In 2012, she proudly organized "Project Know", a grassroots campaign to support gay marriage in Minnesota and produced their PSA.

Mim is the executive producer for an entirely female-led independent feature film called Dragonfly that is currently touring at various film festivals across the country.

Past Panelists:

  • 2010: Robyn Robinson: (former) Anchor/Reporter, FOX9 News 
  • 2015: Jack Reher: Screenwriter, Into the Grizzly Maze 
  • 2009: Euan Kerr: News Editor, Minnesota Public Radio 
  • 2009: Melody Gilbert: Minnesota Documentarian. Director, Fritz, Married at the Mall, The Summer Help
  • 2015: Towle Neu: Director Heart of Wilderness  
  • 2014: Patrick Lilja, Director of Digital Integration, Tunheim 
  • 2012: Justin Staggs, Director, Writer 
  • 2009: Colin Covert: Film Editor, Minneapolis Star and Tribune 
  • 2009: Michael Starburry: Screenwriter, Legends of Chamberlain Heights, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete, Black Jack