Meet the festival team

Cofounder of Freep Film Festival

Steve Byrne

Executive Director

A cofounder of Freep Film Festival, Steve Byrne is the arts & entertainment editor at the Free Press, where he has been editing entertainment content for more than 20 years. A nearly lifelong metro Detroiter, he went to Fraser High School and studied journalism at Michigan State University. He was an associate producer on the Detroit ’67 documentary “12th & Clairmount” and is now part of a team working on a feature-length documentary on writer-outdoorsman-libertine Jim Harrison.

Cofounder and artistic director for Freep Film Festival

Kathy Kieliszewski

Artistic Director

Kathy Kieliszewski is the photo and video director at the Detroit Free Press and a four-time National Emmy Award-winning journalist and documentary filmmaker. She is co-founder and artistic director for Freep Film Festival. As the photo and video director, she directs a team of talented videographers, photographers, and editors who create long-form and short documentaries, as well as, distinctive photojournalism for the Free Press and freep.com. She has also worked as producer and writer on a number of documentary films including “Packard, The Last Shift,” “Accidental Activists” and the highly acclaimed “12th and Clairmount” and most recently, she produced  a film with the USA Today Network about President Trump’s proposed border wall called “The Wall.”

Former editor Free Press Opinion department

Jewel Gopwani

Engagement Director

Jewel Gopwani is the Freep Film Festival’s engagement director, a role that includes putting together many of the post-film discussions during the festival.  At the Free Press, Jewel is senior editor engagement and events, a new role that includes managing many of the Detroit Free Press’ in-person engagement activities and other audience outreach strategies.  She previously was an editor with the Free Press opinion section, where she ran day-to-day operations, working with the Editorial Board’s columnists and handling guest columns and reader feedback. She has been part of the Detroit Free Press Editorial Board since 2010, when she was named as an assistant editor for community engagement. Jewel joined opinion after five years on the Free Press’ business section, covering airlines, technology and the automotive industry. She joined the Free Press in 2003 to cover suburban communities.

Brian has helped shape the look of the Festival website

Brian McNamara

Web Director

Brian McNamara is a Web Director for freepfilmfestival.com. Brian was instrumental in the festival website redesign in 2014, and continues to try to improve the festival website’s functionality and overall presentation. Brian is a 20-year visual journalist and currently an Assistant Editor at the Detroit Free Press. His daily focus is data visualizations and graphics for freep.com.

This is Inney's second year working with the festival

Inney Prakash

Screening Committee and Intern

This is Inney Prakash’s second year working with the Freep Film Festival. He has previously programmed for Hell’s Half Mile Film & Music Festival in Bay City, MI, and is a recent graduate of Wayne State University. He is also a performer and has worked with several theaters in the area, including Hamtramck’s Planet Ant. Catch him in the upcoming independent feature “Skippers” or on the VOD platform of your choosing in “Real Steel”, which earned him a dramatic several second close-up and a bonus for stunt services rendered.

Veteran producer and documentary filmmaker

Juanita Anderson

Screening Committee

Juanita Anderson is a veteran producer and documentary filmmaker who was born and raised in Detroit. As an executive producer, she has guided the work of nearly 40 independent producers across the nation, and launched more than 25 documentary and non-fiction projects into the national public television schedule.  A seven-time regional Emmy Award winner, her work has also garnered numerous national awards including a George Foster Peabody Award and a DuPont Columbia Silver Baton for excellence in broadcast journalism. Anderson is the director of Media Arts and Studies programs in the Department of Communication at Wayne State University.

Rob is an award-winning journalist, author, and filmmaker

Rob St. Mary

Screening Committee

Born and raised in Macomb County, Rob St. Mary is an award-winning journalist, author, and filmmaker. Best known to local ears for his work at WDET (2008-2013) and the Free Press podcast “Detours” (2015-2016), Rob is also the author of the Michigan Notable Book Award winner (2016) “The Orbit Magazine Anthology”. While Rob’s film work has screened in festivals internationally, he has also assisted on screening committees for the Aspen Shorts Fest as well as this year’s Freep Film Festival.

Writer and co-author of Canvas Detroit

Nichole Christian

Engagement Specialist

Whether on a page  or a screen, Nichole Christian loves a great story. She is a writer, co-author of Canvas Detroit, an award-winning look at some of city’s top public artists, a Detroit native and a confessed popcorn snob who sneaks off to the movies as often as she can, which is code for never enough. She’s also old enough to remember when downtown Detroit was lined with enough independent movie theaters to host the Detroit Free Press Film Festival.

Amy is the author of the memoir, ``Detroit Hustle

Amy Haimerl

Engagement Specialist

Amy Haimerl is a professor of journalism at Michigan State University, the author of the memoir, “Detroit Hustle,” and founder of Shady Ladies Literary Society. She loves going to the movies by herself, thinks Real Steel is underrated, and founded Red Hook Flicks, a summer movies series in Brooklyn. She lives in Detroit with her husband and their dog, Hank the Tank, and cat, The Overlord.

Paul is completing his degree in Film Studies at Wayne State University

Paul Attard

Intern

Paul Attard is a returning intern to the Freep Film Festival who’s completing his degree in Film Studies at Wayne State University by the end of this year. Paul’s passion for film has followed him throughout his whole life and he’s grateful he can bring this to help make the festival this year better than ever. He really hopes this year he can finally achieve his dream of programming a retrospective of Adam Sandler’s films (even as none of them currently pertain to Detroit).

Rachel is currently a Cinema Studies student at Oakland University

Rachel Sarasin

Intern

This is Rachel Sarasin’s first year working with the Freep Film Festival. She is currently a Cinema Studies student at Oakland University. Rachel hopes to pursue a career in production management in the film industry. Her friends love to take advantage of her passion for planning and organizing, but she doesn’t mind. If you’re one of the lucky people that receives the OUTV channel, you may spot her as the host of “OUt and AbOUt,” a monthly series documenting events happening around Oakland University. She’s also a Yooper, so if you see her around, feel free to ask her about the many mysteries and histories of the Upper Peninsula.