Friday Film Talkback 

Storytelling and Reproductive Choice

Date: April 20th, 2019
Time: 8:30 pm

The opening night film presentation consists of three short films all with the theme of reproductive choice. After the film screenings will be a panel discussion with the filmmakers and festival sponsor Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest. The panel discussion will dive into the scope of reproductive choice, and the importance of women feeling to make all of those choices, from starting a family, to prevention.

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Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest

Nora Vargas

Nora E. Vargas serves as the vice president of community & government relations for Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest. In her role, she is responsible for leading the development and implementation of the vision and strategy for the agency’s Community and Government Relations department. In addition, she oversees the day-to-day operation of the agency’s political organization, Planned Parenthood Action Fund of the Pacific Southwest, including its Issues Campaigns and Political Action Committee. At Planned Parenthood, Nora and her team work to increase access to safe, quality healthcare, and education for women and families across California. 


A product of South Bay public schools, Nora has spent her life working to remove barriers for underserved communities through civic engagement, public policy, and community organizing. Nora’s passion to serve is driven by her desire to improve people’s lives in her community. Vargas was appointed and later elected to the Southwestern Community College District Governing Board, currently the only institution of higher education in the San Diego County’s South Bay.


In 2015, Governor Jerry Brown appointed her to serve on the 12-member California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) making her the first Latina to be appointed in the board’s history. Ms. Vargas serves as Vice Chair of the Board Governance Committee, and as a member of the Investment, Audit & Risk Management and Compensation Committees. There she is charged with securing the financial future of California’s educators, providing retirement, disability and survivor benefits for California’s 933,410 prekindergarten through community college educators and their families.


Committed to community service, Vargas also serves as a champion of Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE) and as a boardmember for the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO). Nora is passionate about ensuring that marginalized voices are included in the public dialogue regarding important issues like health access, energy, technology, consumer protection, the environment, civic engagement, pensions and education. For over two decades Nora has worked to foster the next generation of young leaders by providing them the skills and resources they need to advocate for and build power in their communities. 


Full Moon and High Tide in the Ladies Room

Ashton Clay 

Wardrobe stylist, actor, writer , and film producer. Ashton Clay is known for her work on Lizzy on Leroy Street (2019), Misty Button (2019) and Dalia and Natalia

The Status of Women in the Film Industry 

Date: April 20th, 2019
Time: 1:00 pm

Our annual keynote panel discussion for our film festival invites activists and filmmakers to lead a discussion on the film industry's systemic discrimination of female filmmakers, representation in film (including roles for women both in front of and behind the camera), how the industry is (or is not) changing, the influence of Time's Up and #MeToo, and how movie audience can support women in the industry.


Morgan Dameron

Writer, Director, Producer

Morgan Dameron is a writer and director from Kansas City, Missouri. Her feature film, DIFFERENT FLOWERS, starring and produced by Emmy-Award-winner Shelley Long, won “BEST FEATURE” at the KC Film Festival, received rave during its national theatrical release with AMC Theatres, and can currently be seen on Showtime, iTunes, and Amazon.


Her script MONKEY GIRL placed on the 2019 Bitch List, the film industry’s favorite scripts that pass the Bechdel Test. Dameron participated in Ryan Murphy’s HALF Initiative, Paul Feig’s FUSE mentorship, and has been supported by prestigious programs such as the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and The Caucus for Producers.


Dameron directs engaging, colorful, and dynamic branded content for clients including Nickelodeon, MTV, Crypt TV, Fox’s Empire, Halo Top Ice Cream, RevryTV, and Canadamark Diamonds.


Recently, Kansas City Women in Film and Television awarded her with the “Spirit of Kansas City” award, and Duke University’s Talent Identification Program honored her with their Early Achievement Award.


She graduated summa cum laude from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. She lives in Los Angeles and is represented by Lit Entertainment.

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Michelle Gritzer


Award winning director Michelle Gritzer is a proud member of the DGA and has been working in the industry since 2003. She has directed, produced, and written a variety of comedy web series, sketches, and short films. Her web series 00:24 won best comedy, best actor, and best actress at ITV Fest, and her most recent short film, Nose Job, was featured in several female forward festivals, and was honored to be one of the short films selected to play at the San Diego International Women's Film festival in 2018.


Michelle tells stories about real women battling their own insecurities in order to succeed. She endeavors to portray women in a funny, engaging, and authentic way, and loves working in comedy. She truly believes that humor has the power to bridge divides and change hearts and minds. 


When not creating short films, Michelle works as an assistant director for television and film. She is one of the first ADs on the hit Netflix show GLOW, and has been there all 3 seasons. She was also a member of the DGA award winning director's teams for the shows Barry (2019) and Veep (2015, 2016). Other credits include House, Banshee, American Princess, The Last Tycoon, and Shut Eye. She grew up outside Cleveland, Ohio, and graduated from Ohio University Honors Tutorial College. 

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Tonya Mantooth

CEO, San Diego International Film Festival

A ten time Regional Emmy award winner with over 60 International Telly and ADDY awards, Tonya is perhaps the most highly regarded film producer based in San Diego.  She began her career as an Executive Producer when she became the Director of Acquisitions for CRM Films. Tonya co-founded and was President of The Dakota Group, a highly regarded film and post production company in Southern California.   Tonya has produced National TV Campaigns and award winning documentaries for Fortune 500 companies.  


In 2007, Tonya launched Mantooth Studios and expanded her production scope to include Computer Generated (CGI) projects and Entertainment Projects.  Under Mantooth Films, Tonya Executive Produced 4 feature films, including GRAVE SECRETS which became the pilot to the Nickelodeon Series, Dead Time Stories. 


In 2012, Tonya and several colleagues took over the San Diego International Film Festival with a two-fold vision:  To bring international cinema to San Diego and grow the San Diego International Film Festival as a significant contributor to San Diego’s economy.  Today the San Diego International Film Festival has grown over 500%.  The spectacular six-day Festival features 120+ film screenings, parties and a red carpet Celebrity Tribute honoring actors such as Annette Bening, Adrian Brody, Geena Davis, Sir Patrick Stewart and countless others.  She is steadfast in her belief that, in our increasingly complex and divisive world, cinematic storytelling gives us the opportunity to find common ground through our shared human experiences.


Tonya is a current Board member and past Board chair for SDX (San Diego Ad Club), a member of Patrons of the Prado and recently won the prestigious Advertising Community’s top SDX Brandiego Award, voted North County Empowered Women to Watch and received the Philanthrophy Award from The Ten Best.  Tonya graduated from San Diego State University with degrees in Business and Music.

Elevate Q&A

Date: April 20th, 2019
Time: 8:30 pm