Past Keynote Speakers



Visions 8 Keynote Speaker:

Shaofu Zhang

Shaofu Zhang has been inspired by film and animation from an early age. From post-it note doodles to Play-Doh stop-motion to Lego short films, Shaofu grew up with a passion for telling stories. As his passion grew from dream to reality, Shaofu built a career as a character animator at Walt Disney Animation and Sony Imageworks. In addition, his student short film “Dragonboy” won the gold medal at the 38th Student Academy Awards in 2011. Currently, Shaofu heads TAIKO Studios as CEO and Founder with a team of Disney veterans. TAIKO has just finished their debut short film “One Small Step” about a young Chinese American girl who dreams of being an astronaut.


Visions 7 Keynote Speaker:

Felix Thompson

Thompson’s film Bedford Park Boulevard won the Excellence in Narrative Award at the first ever Visions event circa 2011 and is back to speak about his feature, King Jack (2016), and give insight to working in the professional film industry post-graduation.

Recognized at the 2016 Film Independent Spirit Awards as “Someone To Watch”, Felix Thompson is a graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and received his MA in Screenwriting from the Royal Holloway University of London. His previous short films have been screened at festivals such as SXSW, Tribeca and the BFI’s London Film Festival. It was selected for the Sundance Creative Producing Labs and won the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2015 and currently lives in Los Angeles. Felix is working as a writer and director in Los Angeles and is currently working on his second feature film.

During our Keynote Address, Thompson will be sharing his experiences as an independent director navigating the film world. Thompson, along with other industry professionals, will be available to network throughout the entire festival. Join us in Lumina Theater for an all day film celebration on Friday, March 31st, 2017.

King Jack Website

Felix Thompson Indiewire Interview


Visions 6 Keynote Speaker:

Jaclyn Gramigna

Director/Writer, “Badass Woman,” and Cannes Film Festival Selection

Visions Film Festival & Conference is dedicated to celebrating the success of past alumni both regionally and nationally. This year, Visions has selected Jaclyn Gramigna to deliver our keynote address. In 2011, Gramigna won the first ever Visionary Award, our festival’s highest honor, for her film “Infallible” (2011).

Since then, Gramigna has graduated from NYU with a BFA in Film & Television Production (2010) and is the Founder/Director of Whippersnapper Films. She has written, directed, and produced eight short films and several music videos which have screened in a variety of film festivals (including the Festival de Cannes Short Film Corner, Palm Beach International Film Festival, Brooklyn Short Film Festival and others). In 2013, she was featured as an "emerging filmmaker to watch" in Miramax’s blog. Jaclyn directs theater, as well, and won first place in the 2013 Take Ten 1 Act Festival and the 2014 New York New Works Theatre Festival. She is represented by “badass female driven studio,” X-Factor Films, as a Director/Writer and is working as such on their upcoming original series, “Tansylvania.” Gramigna is on the verge of starting funding for her first feature film endeavor, a romantic mystery/thriller currently titled, “Control Freak.” In addition, Jaclyn has received quite a few awards for her work in sound design and is a proud member of the Film Fatales and The Filmshop. She strives to make visceral films that use humor to challenge people’s comfort zones and turn reality on its head. She is also an avid home cook and musician who lets her freak flag fly!

Working in New York City, continually selected for film festivals around the world, and eager to share the challenges of transitioning from student to professional, Jaclyn Gramigna’s keynote speech is sure to launch Visions Film Festival & Conference with a bang.  


Visions 5 Keynote Speaker:

Caroline Roberts

Caroline Roberts Graduated from the UNCW Film Studies Department in 2008 and is excited to return to the campus where she explored her various interests in film. While in school, Caroline studied everything from film theory and screenwriting to producing and directing. A self-proclaimed “jack of all trades,” her passion for film has allowed her to evolve from a film student to a film industry professional with a diverse repertoire of experience under her belt.

Roberts has found success working in New York alongside producer John Dulaca and director Rob Marshall as the executive assistant of Lucamar productions. She has had the opportunity to work on several productions, including Nine (2009). Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides(2011), and the Oscar nominated Into the woods (2014).


Visions 4 Keynote Speaker:

Kiva Reardon

Reardon is a bilingual (English, French) arts, film and television professional with experience in arts administration, communications, writing, editing, production, and social media. She also serves as an active member of the Toronto Film Critics Association and Alliance of Women Film Journalists.

With an inextinguishable interest in critical theory, cinema, and feminism, Reardon first attended McGill University in Montreal as an undergraduate, earning her B.A. in Cultural Studies in 2009. In 2012, she received her M.A. in Cinema Studies from the University of Toronto, where she also held a Teaching Assistant position throughout her graduate study (responsible for teaching a class of 40 students). Considering an obvious dedication to her extended education in cinema and cultural studies, one may assume that an equal, high-level of related work experience doubtful, at least until her formal study had been completed. Think so? You don’t know Kiva Reardon. So stop, take a few deep breaths, and prepare yourself for the highly effective scholar and writer that is Ms. Reardon. I have not even begun to express the true ambitious fire that seems to have engulfed her life and aspirations--a fire fueled primarily by a passion for the cinema, writing, and feminist theory.  

What is most impressive is Reardon’s creation of her very own film journal. She is founder and editor of Cleo Journal (April 2013– Present), a quarterly digital journal of film and film culture informed by feminist perspectives. She also holds the position of Staff Film Writer for The at Bell Media (May 2012–Present) and has worked as a freelance writer for the past five years (March 2009–Present), serving as an on-going contributor to Cinema Scope and NOW Magazine, with work published in the National Post, Reverse Shot, Ms. Magazine, Torontoist, Cinephile Journal, AV Club Toronto, and Rue Morgue.

In regards to production experience, Reardon was the Business Affairs Coordinator for Shaftesbury Films Inc. (May 2008 – August 2008), and held the Publicity Coordinator position for Insight Production Company from August to November in 2009. Reardon also worked as a Production Assistant for John Greyson Film (Greyzone Production Co.) from February to April in 2012.  

Her work with the Toronto Irish Film Festival as Public Relations Manager (February 2011– November 2011) was a very pleasant surprise not only for our staff, but myself as well, as I’m  holding her identical position on the Visions4 staff. I may have to squeeze in a few more of my own questions, as I would be a fool not to pick her PR brain for my own benefit! Although, the fact that Reardon does have festival staff experience is amazing and that will be a huge benefit for both the staff and herself regarding communication.

At Visions Film Festival and Conference, the same kind of emotion and ardor is present in our undergraduate filmmakers, scholars, and staff, along with professors and event guests. As keynote speaker of Visions4, Reardon will nurture these passions for film and writing inside of everyone--and perhaps create a few new ones as well. Established by the variety and sheer amount of successful work she has done this early in her surely long career, Reardon will have the ability to immediately invigorate the spirit of the undergraduate filmmakers and scholars in attendance, allowing their future aspirations to take form in reality, not from the point-of-view of starved dreams, but from a real-world perspective that has been rid of excuses and doubt. This of course accomplishes a primary responsibility of Visions: to help securely bridge the imposing transition between film school and film career.

Kiva Reardon is a true visionary with a well rounded range of experience in both the film and media industry, and she has extensive scholarly writing/editor knowledge as well, founding her own film publication. She is certainly a near-perfect rendering of the Visions4 mission as a whole, and her accomplishments and future aspirations are much more than intimidating--they are inspiring.


Visions 3 Keynote Speaker:

Gina Papabeis

Gina Papabeis is a graduate of Florida State University’s College of Motion Picture Arts, where she worked on over thirty short films and completed FSU’s Torchlight Program. She has worked at Red Hills Releasing as an executive assistant, contributing to the online and grassroots promotion of a dozen independent films, including The English Surgeon, The end of America, In a Dream, and JCVD.

In addition, she contributed to the outreach campaign for the Academy-Award winning documentary The Cove, which exposed the secret mass-murdering of dolphins in Japan. She also managed the day-to-day operations for the non-profit organization behind the film, the Oceanic Preservation Society (OPS).

Gina continues her work at OPS as the associate producer of their next feature film, The Heist, in which the OPS team returns to call attention to the planets’s current mass extinction.


Visions 2 Keynote Speaker:

Javi Zubizarreta

Javi Zubizarreta is a Basque native of Boise, Idaho. Growing up, he was immersed in the tales, the tastes, and the language of Euskadi —splitting time between the vibrant Basque community in Boise and the overseas. As a filmmaker, he strives to communicate this Basque heritage into films that are not only unique but uniquely Basque. An under graduate at the University of Notre Dame, his films have dealt with Basque themes and have primarily been filmed in other native Basque language, Euskera. His documentary on Basque and South American Sheepherders in Idaho, Artzainak: Shepherds and Sheep, aired on the Basque television station, EiTB, in addition to festivals in France, Ireland, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, among others. In addition to films, Javi has conducted research on the political and social ramifications fof Basque Cinema through travel Grants from the Nanovic Institute for European Studies and the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program. In the summer of 2010, he traveled to Ireland and the Basque Country to study the depiction of nationalism, terrorism, and violence in film by Basque and Irish filmmakers in hopes of finding constructive means of national expression. Additionally, his research has been published in the UNCW-run journal Film Matters.


Visions 1 Keynote Speaker:

Isiah Powers

A graduate from the Kansas City Art Institute, Isiah Powers, co-director of the Student Academy Award-winning animation, “Dried Up”, will kick off the inaugural Visions Film Festival & Conference at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Powers will share his personal experiences as an undergraduate filmmaker, and talk about his current path as a filmmaker post graduation. A screening of Powers’; artistically triumphant animated film will follow his address.