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Hanna Sawka|President, Programming Co-Chair

Hanna is a Hudson Valley-based filmmaker. Her film directing started with 4 short films, ranging between 10 and 30 minutes and that were selected, nominated and/or awarded at 14 international film festivals, including FIAPF accredited festivals (DOK Leipzig, Cine Jove and others). Some of these shorts have been or are currently in broadcast. Her most recent completed film is a full-length documentary titled “Beyond Iconic: Photographer Dennis Stock,” which she directed and produced in the Hudson Valley. “Beyond Iconic” had a festival run that included being a finalist at the Sao Paolo International Film Festival (Brazil) and selections at DOC NYC, Starz Denver, FilmColumbia, and Hot Springs. It is currently in educational Distribution through the Alexander Street Press and has been sold to television networks in Europe and Australia. She is currently working on a second feature-length documentary. Hanna’s television directing experience includes directing nearly 40 crime reenactments for TVP 2 (Channel 2 of Polish National Television). She graduated cum laude from Smith College and she holds an MFA in Film, Television and Theater Directing from the Polish Film School in Lodz, Poland, which is listed among the top 15 film schools in the world. Hanna has also directed professionally in the theater. Hanna teaches film studies and practice, most recently teaching film studies courses at SUNY New Paltz and SUNY Ulster.

Jillian Fisher | Vice President of Marketing, Public Relations, Programming Co-Chair

Jillian Fisher began her career with the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival. Returning to her native New York, she joined the Board of Directors of the Hudson Valley Film Festival and went on to help establish the Woodstock Film Festival. In 2009, Jillian founded Jillian Fisher Public Relations. Clients have included The City of Kingston, the O+ Festival, Kingston Farmers’ Market, Woodstock Golf Club, the One Billion Rising Ulster County series against domestic violence, and Natalie Merchant’s Shelter concert, among others. As a location scout, Jillian has brought numerous films to the Hudson Valley and has secured the locations for such films as: King Jack, Growing Up Smith, Super Dark Times, Love After Love, Shotgun, Green Dolphin, A Vigilante, and others. Jillian will be producing her first feature film based on the short story, “The Traveler,” with Anjul Nigam of Brittany House Pictures as her producing partner. Jillian is a proud member of the Board of Directors of Upstate Women in Film and Television.

Sunny Edelman |Vice President of Membership

Classically trained, Sunny has directed and performed roles from Shakespeare to Clare Boothe Luce, working in regional, Off Broadway theatres, as well as in an Emmy winning television program and numerous Indie films. Recently, Sunny played the part of the narrator in Discovery Investigations Emmy award winning drama, “A Crime to Remember.” She received a B.A. in Theatre Arts from S.U.N.Y New Paltz and studied with Iza Itkin, Robert Castle, Bob Luke and Peter Sklar. Sunny also took classes at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. She is the events coordinator and host for The Hudson Valley International Film Festival. The Hudson Valley International Film Festival is held in Monroe, NY and focuses on providing lots of networking events for filmmakers. Sunny also teaches sixth grade science and directs the drama productions at Twin Towers Middle School in Middletown, NY. She’s looking forward to working on the next Emmy awarded series or in any feature opposite Colin Firth.

Gaby Allen | Treasurer


Gaby Allen is an upstate NY native whose lifelong passion for film and television has led her to a promising career in the industry. First interning towards the end of college on television documentaries produced for the History Channel and Biography Channel including the News Documentary Emmy award-winning miniseries WWII in HD, she then went overseas for a year which included a traineeship in computer graphics where she learned rotoscoping in After Effects for a student film and volunteer work with the New Zealand Film Festival Trust helping with publicity. Upon returning to the States, she returned to the Capital Region and began her upstate film career by volunteering on independent narrative projects including the features The Place Beyond The Pines and Fighting for Freedom before starting to focus on becoming a DIT/media manager as a way to combine her new interest of being on set with her long term goal of working in post production.


Her credits as DIT/media manager and/or assistant editor include web series (Super Knocked Up seasons 1 and 2 and Far From the Heart season 1), short films (The Perfect Color and Mr. Lamb), independent features (Home Owner of Parksville Flats, Bumpin Uglies, and Marcy), and a day of pickup interviews for Broke, the season 2 premiere episode for ESPNs documentary series 30 for 30. Through her connections, she edited the short film Infatuation written and directed by Osaretin Omorodion, 2nd edited an informecial for the Simple 3 behavior modification program produced by Personae Entertainment, and managed special post-production projects for the short film Her Telling Heart written by, directed by, and starring UPWIFT president and founder Heidi Philipsen-Meissner.


Currently, Gaby is working in Manhattan as an assistant editor, primarily working on reality-documentary series airing on the Travel Channel.

Lori Ponder | Secretary

Lori began her foray in the film arts as an actor. She studied at the Studio Conservatory in Washington DC before moving to New York City where she acted in a dozen independent films. Concurrently she studied screenwriting and later completed the year-long intensive at Writers Boot Camp (NYC).

She worked with the Free Film School of New Paltz through most of 2016, and served as both the producer and UPM on the production class’s first short film project (now entered into the 2017 Woodstock Film Festival). Additionally, she has worked on eight independent or low-budget features and shorts in a wide variety of crew positions. She put together a team and completed the 48 Hour Film Project challenge this past June, is currently working on a web series.

Lori is also the organizer of The Production Club here in the Hudson Valley, where filmmakers collaborate on short film projects in their down-time on weekends.

Advisory Board Members

  • Heidi Philipsen-Meissner, Founder & President Emeritus
  • Meira Blaustein
  • Nora Brown
  • Jane Cottrell
  • Heidi Eklund
  • Debby Goedeke
  • Amy Hutchings
  • Terry Lawler