RODNEY PIATT – ASSOCIATE PROGRAMMER, SARASOTA FILM FESTIVAL
Rodney Piatt has cumulatively lived in the greater Sarasota area for over a quarter of a century. After graduating from Venice High School and then returning from a year of college in Chicago, Rodney has been an involved member of the Sarasota arts community (from writing his film-criticism blog “Rodney&Roger”, to appearing as a regular musical guest in the long-running “Beneva Fruitville’s Drag Queen Bingo Bonanza: The Show”, to his starring role as “Sweaty Eddie” in The Players’ production of “Sister Act”, to his voice work on the locally-produced comedic adventure podcast “We’re So Bad At Adventuring”). He evolved from being an avid attendee of the Sarasota Film Festival (for well over a decade) into being a part of SFF’s screening committee (for multiple years) into his latest role at the festival as a member of the programming team (which he began working as a part of during SFF’s 2019/2020 festival season). His 15 years of working professionally in customer relations allow him to easily interact and correspond with filmmakers and agents, and Rodney loves utilizing his skill-sets in support of an organization he deeply believes in. Film critic Roger Ebert once said, “...movies are like a machine that generates empathy”, a sentiment that echoes in the chambers of Rodney’s heart and motivates his work as a programmer for the Sarasota Film Festival.
SHANE ENGSTROM – FESTIVAL EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR/CO-DIRECTOR, OUT FILM, CT CONNECTICUT LGBTQ FILM FESTIVAL
Shane has volunteered with Out Film CT and the Connecticut LGBTQ Film Festival for the past 21 years, with this year marking his 14th year as festival Executive Director/Co-director. The festival is Connecticut’s longest-running film festival, now entering its 35th season. Out Film CT also partners with Cinestudio theater to host a year-round monthly LGBTQ film series in Hartford, CT. Shane is a member of the North American Queer Festival Alliance. He is a past recipient of the State of Connecticut Governor’s Award for “Distinguished Advocate” in recognition of his volunteer work at the festival. Shane has had the honor of serving as a jury member for other film festivals in the past, including the Wicked Queer Film Festival (Boston) and ImageOut: Rochester LGBT Film Festival, and he is thrilled to be taking part in this year’s OUTshine Film Festival.
SHAWN COTTER – EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WICKED QUEER, BOSTON LGBTQ+ FILM FESTIVAL
Shawn Cotter has been part of the film festival experience for over two decades as both an experimental filmmaker and as part of a festival team. He graduated in 1993 from the University of Massachusetts with a BA in Comparative Literature/Film Studies and was one of the first graduates to receive a certificate in Film Studies from the university’s Amherst campus. It was during his freshman year that he picked up a Super 8 mm camera at the urging of a trusted professor and his love of filmmaking took off. Shawn joined the merry band of queer propagandists and storytellers at Wicked Queer: Boston’s LGBTQ+ Film Festival in 2011, where he has held many roles and worn lots of hats. He has served as Operations Manager for his first 6 years and helped bring the festival’s operations into a digital age allowing programming opportunities to expand. He took on the role as Director of Programming for 4 years before taking over the Executive Directorship in 2018. His belief that film festivals are platforms to celebrate underrepresented stories and communities has lead him to lend his operational skill set to colleague festivals such as Boston Women’s Film Festival, Melanin Pride FF and the Shenandoah Film Collaborative. He has also worked in the retail sector for 30 years as a manager for Urban Outfitters, Primark and several small boutiques. Shawn currently lives in Malden, MA and is a proud cat dad. He counts among his favorite filmmakers: Doris Wishman, Maya Deren, Stan Brakhage, R.W. Fassbinder, Douglas Sirk, Kenneth Anger, Wong Kar-Wai, Jess Franco and Dario Argento. His favorite film is IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE by Wong Kar-Wai.
SHANNON FORTNER - PRESIDENT & FOUNDER, FABULOUS ARTS FOUNDATION
From a young age, Shannon Fortner (they/she) has fervently dedicated herself to the causes of justice and equality— timelessly inspired by their motto, “Community Focused, Community Driven.” In 2009, Shannon attended an Equality March in Washington D.C. where activist Cleve Jones put forth a rallying cry to the crowd to start organizing in their communities—inspired, she immediately went to work. The Equal Civil Rights Rally, which Shannon put together later that year, quickly evolved into the Harvey Milk Festival—not only to celebrate one of the nation’s first openly gay politicians, but to advance his ideals of equality, diversity, and LGBTQ+ rights. Over the past decade this Sarasota-based festival—which now operates under Shannon’s nonprofit the Fabulous Arts Foundation—has evolved into a multifaceted celebration of art, expression, queer identity and education. When they’re not planning multiple festivals, the Fabulous Arts Foundation (also known as FabAF), also conducts diversity training for local businesses, oversees a LGBTQ+ scholarship program, and continues the perpetual mission of queer advocacy. Besides organizing, Shannon also commands the audience in synth-rock band Meteoreyes, or arranges what will be on stage as talent buyer and event coordinator for both the Ringling Underground and her own arts management company, Moxie Productions SRQ. The community that Shannon diligently serves has recognized her efforts over the years, having received accolades such as the ‘Unity Award’ from Sarasota Magazine and the ‘Icon Award’ and ‘Favorite LGBTQ Community Leader & Activist’ from SarasotaOut.com. No matter what type of work they’re engaging in, the creation of an inclusive and visible platform for the queer community is always at the forefront of Shannon’s mission.