Running the festival circuit with Midwest Film Festival

Join The Midwest Film Festival exclusively on Facebook Live on Tuesday, February 9th from 6 PM – 7 PM CST for a panel conversation led by industry pros. They’ll share their vast knowledge and experience in running the festival circuit and the success they’ve had.

All attendees who register via Eventbrite will automatically be entered to win a Two-Year Shared Workspace at Independent Film Alliance Chicago. The winner will be drawn at random and announced during the Facebook live!


Born and raised on Chicago’s south side, SAG-AFTRA Chicago local president Charles Andrew Gardner is an actor, producer, and arts educator with a passion for illuminating the stories of the underrepresented.Charles is a company member with TimeLine Theatre Compan. He received his BFA in Acting from Northern Illinois University, and is a proud member of SAG-AFTRA and Actors’ Equity Association. In addition to his work on stage and in front of the camera, Charles is a faculty member at The Acting Studio Chicago as well as a teaching artist with TimeLine Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre and Goodman Theatre. Charles sits on the Associate Producer board at Gene Siskel Theatre and is Vice President of Creative Cypher.⁠

Layne Marie has logged over a dozen credits, everything from writing and directing award-winning shorts to developing web series to producing internationally acclaimed features. Layne Marie Williams founded the non-profit film organization Women of The Now and cofounding of The Women’s Film Festival. She recently started her own production company as well, entitled Legacy Marie Pictures. No matter what her endeavor, whether it’s making films on her own, or supporting other filmmakers, Layne Marie cultivates the world of film with brave storytelling choices and enthralling characters and images you’ll never forget. ⁠

Named one of Diversity in Cannes’ Top 10 Filmmakers of the Decade, Zanah Thirus is an actress, producer, writer, and director from Chicago, IL. After being homeschooled until she was 14 years old, she began her college career. Her love for filmmaking sparked after years of acting in her church’s drama team and various independent films. She earned her master’s degree in cinema production from DePaul University at the age of 22, and began her career in independent filmmaking and content production in 2015. In 2016, she directed her first film, Hourglass, which landed her Best Female Director at the Cineplay Film Awards. Zanah is currently focusing on merging arts and activism through documentary and narrative storytelling.⁠


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