Meet the influential women who give us guidance and direction.
MINDY RAYMOND BENSON, ADVISORY COMMITTEE CHAIR
Mindy Raymond Benson has been involved in every aspect of the filmmaking process. Her acting career, which was her first passion, took her to New York City to study at the prestigious Michael Howard Studios. She originated the improv troupe, Stilted on Stage, which performed all over NY including the famous Carolines on Broadway. Mindy was bi-coastal (NY & LA) for a few years before returning to Austin, her soul city.
She has accomplished over 200 acting projects including leads in feature films, TV shows, commercials, hosting infomercials, and voiceover work. Her latest film was just accepted into the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival.
When her role takes her on the other side of the camera, Mindy is actively involved in the entertainment industry in Texas as the Communications Director for the Texas Motion Picture Alliance, which lobbies for a healthy rebate incentive program. As the former President of New Republic Studios, Mindy earned her place at the table as one of the go-to connectors within the industry throughout the Lone Star State.
SANDRA ADAIR, ADVISORY COMMITTEE MEMBER
Academy Award nominee, Sandra Adair, A.C.E., has enjoyed an ongoing artistic collaboration with film director Richard Linklater, having edited 24 films for him over the past 28 years. Some of their collaborative work includes the cult classic Dazed and Confused, the 2012 comedy Bernie, and the critically acclaimed ‘Before” trilogy, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight.
In 2014, Linklater’s Boyhood premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews and went on to win numerous awards, including 3 Golden Globes for Best Picture, Drama, and 3 BAFTAs. Boyhood also earned 6 Academy Award nominations, including Best Editing for Sandra Adair. Adair also won the American Cinema Editor’s Eddie Award for Best Editing, Drama, for Boyhood in 2015.
Adair was nominated for an Eddie Award for Best Editing of a Musical or Comedy by the American Cinema Editors in 2003 for School of Rock, and won the Best Edited Documentary at the Woodstock Film Festival in 2012 for the feature doc Shepard and Dark, for director Treva Wurmfeld. Some of Adair’s other credits with other directors include Everything Must Go, starring Will Ferrell, and the award winning documentary Sushi: The Global Catch.
In 2016, Adair made her directorial debut on The Secret Life of Lance Letscher, a feature length documentary, which premiered at SXSW in 2017. She is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and American Cinema Editors, and now serves on the Advisory Board for WIFT Austin.
JULIET BLAKE, ADVISORY COMMITTEE MEMBER
Juliet Blake is Head of Television at TED. Most recently, she executive produced the second series of TED Talks India Nayi Baat, a major prime-time Hindi-language television series featuring TED Talks from some of India’s most brilliant minds for the largest TV network in India, STAR PLUS, hosted by Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan and broadcast across India.
Juliet also produced TED Talks Live on Broadway, a PBS television series of one-hour specials shot at New York’s The Town Hall Theater. These programs focused on the future of education, veterans coming home, and the wonders of science. In 2014, Juliet took a break from TED to join Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey to produce The Hundred Foot Journey, a film shot in France and India starring Academy Award® winner Helen Mirren and the late Om Puri. Blake optioned the book and supervised production on set through to the movies release. It was this film and working with the late Om Puri that awakened her love for India. Juliet has worked in every genre of television and built successful TV franchises in both the US and UK.
As a senior executive at the National Geographic Channel she oversaw the development and production of National Geographic's in-house production company, where she was responsible for the production of 125 hours of content each year, including the channel’s multi-Emmy award winning series Explorer, the longest-running documentary series on cable TV. She also supervised the development and production of the critically acclaimed series Border Wars. Earlier in her career, she was President of Jim Henson Television in Los Angeles, where she was responsible for all prime time and children's television, including global oversight of the Muppet franchise and production of the Muppets’ first TV movie. A native of England, Juliet lives with her husband Mark Shepherd in Austin, Texas. Their two daughters Sophie and Lily live in Austin and Los Angeles. In June 2018, Juliet was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Savannah College of Art and Design for her work in film and television.
Juliet recently closed a deal to produce another film with Steven Spielberg’s company Amblin Partners. STOLEN TIME is based on the book of Sonia “Sunny” Jacobs, who was in her 20’s when she and her husband, Jesse Tafero, were convicted of the fatal shooting of two law enforcement officers based on the false testimony of the man who actually committed the murders.
In 1992, nearly 17 years after her arrest, Jacobs’ case was reversed on appeal and she was released on time served after taking an Alford plea for second-degree murder, in which she did not admit guilt. She has since gone on to create The Sunny Center – a sanctuary, providing exonerees with support and assisting them with overcoming the trauma, isolation, and disconnection resulting from wrongful incarceration – and maintains a regular speaking schedule to share her story. She entered prison as a “28-year-old vegetarian hippie,” Jacobs said, and exited as “a 45-year-old orphan, widow and grandmother.” Amblin and Blake are currently meeting with writers on the project.
MICHELE MARTELL, ADVISORY COMMITTEE MEMBER
Michele Martell has 30+ years of being an entertainment, media & technology attorney, working in LA and Austin, representing clients across a spectrum of industries- from film & TV to toys & games to technology. She has helped develop, finance, market, and distribute thousands of hours of entertainment and was a pioneer in using digital theatrical distribution to showcase Event Cinema in movie theaters around the globe. She is a co-founder of UT Austin’s Immersive Media Program, and works with live action, animation, XR and gaming clients.
Currently, Michele is working with the Walton Family of Walmart fame, handling marketing and programming for BlakeSt, their social club focused on wellness. She has designed and produced over 150 holistic events founded on all forms of wellness.
Michele is the Board President for Austin’s unique Forklift Danceworks, the Programming Chair for Women in Toys (Entertainment & Licensing), and serves as a mentor at The Capital Factory and DivInc.
HEATHER PAGE, ADVISORY COMMITTEE MEMBER
Originally intent on a career as a sound effects editor in New York, Heather Page was quickly captivated by the workings of the camera during a back-up stint as a camera P.A. early in her career. Not formally trained in cinematography, she learned her craft from the bottom up, becoming a highly in-demand focus puller, especially for her Steadicam work, and camera operator at a time when women in the camera department were few, especially on big budget studio projects.
In 2012, Heather was appointed by Texas Governor Rick Perry as Director of the Texas Film Commission. Re-appointed by Governor Greg Abbott in 2015, she used her platform to promote Texas as a geographically diverse, talent rich, and economically friendly filming destination until September 2017, when she resigned to attend to her ailing father. Under her tenure, Texas built a more attractive incentive program, and increased its incentivized production and job creation by more than 250% as the Texas Film Commission improved its programming, marketing and recruiting efforts.
Since 2018, Heather has worked as a consultant for the film, television and video game industries, helping productions large and small navigate production challenges, state and local governments, locations and facilities, incentive programs, a global pandemic, and creative content issues. She has also served as Consultant to Austin Film Society and Interim Studios Director to Austin Studios during the final stages of the facility's recent growth and expansion.
She still picks up a camera every now and then because she can't get it out of her blood.