The Millburn Education Foundation and the Millburn Film Fest Committee have announced the judges for the Ninth Annual Millburn Film Fest. The Red Carpet Premiere is scheduled for Friday April 24th at 7:30 p.m. at Millburn High School, and the winning films will be shown again at an encore performance at Millburn Bow Tie Cinema on Wednesday April 29th at 11 a.m.

The judging panel is comprised of industry professionals and artists who contribute their time to support the efforts of young Milburn filmmakers. For the 2020 film fest, they are Jessica Mester; John Murphy; former Film Fest winner Amanda Prager; and members of the Millburn Art Advisory Committee Laraine Brennan Barach, Tanya Nirielle Barach, Donna Davis, Amy McGovern, Victoria Plummer, Pamela Polifron, and Michelle San Filippo. This year the Film Fest is pleased to honor Millburn High School English teacher Jessica Siegel with the Krueger-Rhodes Award for her dedication to art education in the community.

New this year is the “Smartphone Shorts” category, for two-minute films shot entirely on a smartphone or tablet. Open to K-12 students, “Smartphone Shorts” emphasizes how accessible filmmaking can be and gives younger students an opportunity to showcase their work. Film Fest Co-Chair Lauri Palomaki says, “Our mission is to encourage creativity among all students, and we’re so happy to give elementary-age kids a chance to show what they can do.” Regular entries will continue to be accepted from middle and high school students.

District students may submit their films until Monday, February 24th at www.millburnfilmfest.com/.

Tickets and sponsorships are available now at www.millburnfilmfest.com. The Millburn Film Fest is grateful to New York Film Academy, Investors Bank Foundation, Coldwell Banker Realty, and Jon Lamkin/Guaranteed Rate for their continued sponsorship.


Jessica Louise Mester, trained at The Hartt School of Music and The Julliard School, has worked professionally in opera, musical theatre, film, and television. Some of her engagements include The Politician (Netflix), Billions (Showtime), Phantom of the Opera (National Tour), Pilgrim (New York and Los Angeles premiers), H.M.S. Pinafore and Pirates of Penzance (N.Y. Gilbert and Sullivan Players), Sid the Serpent Who Wanted to Sing (State Repertory Opera of New Jersey), Macy’s New York Annual Flower Show, the all-female cabaret group Broads’way, and Carrie The Musical (Vanguard Theater Company).
John Murphy, a native of Millburn and an MHS alumnus, found his passion for filmmaking at an early age. Starting with his walks home from Millburn Middle School, messing around with his friends and camcorder on his front lawn making short films, he knew he wanted to create stories that could one day be shared on the big screen. When John got to high school, professor and alumnus Gabe Rhodes was a very big influence and mentor in helping John take his filmmaking passion to the next level. From there John attended the University of Tampa, where he worked on several large-scale productions and earned a BA in Film and Media. John has since been directing sports documentaries with a social impact, as well as working in the industry for multiple production companies as an editor and videographer. He is very thrilled to be judging this year’s Milburn Film Fest submissions.
Amanda Prager is a writer, director, and producer from Millburn, New Jersey, currently living in Los Angeles. She is a United States Presidential Scholar in the Arts, YoungArts National Scholar, and graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania, where she won the Judy Lee Award for Dramatic Writing. Her dark comedies and science fiction shorts have screened at NYC Indie Film Festival, FilmQuest, Heartland Film Festival, and the Smithsonian. Amanda has worked on ABC’s The Kids Are Alright, Showtime’s Billions, Netflix’s Locke & Key, and HBO, and is currently a writer at Parcast. She loves trapeze, Korean BBQ, and stand-up comedy.

The Millburn-Short Hills Art Advisory Committee’s mission is to enhance and advance the arts in Millburn Township. The AAC is composed of recognized leaders in the art community, professional artists, sculptors, television and film producers, art directors, set decorators, and gallery owners. Under the guidance of Laraine Brennan Barach, the Committee sponsors the prestigious Millburn/Short Hills AP Art Scholarship for Millburn High School students. Laraine Brennan Barach, Donna Davis, Amy McGovern, Victoria Plummer, Pamela Polifron, and Michelle San Filippo will represent the Art Advisory Committee as judges for the 2020 Film Fest.

Laraine Brennan Barach, AAC Chairwoman, has lived with her family and volunteered in Millburn-Short Hills for 40+ years. After careers in film and television production in New York, she relocated to Millburn and became active in many volunteer positions: Millburn PTOs, the Maplewood Board of Education, Seton Hall University’s Theater in the Round. Laraine established the Millburn-Short Hills AP Art Scholarship with AAC member support 15 years ago. She is a past member of SAG, AFTRA, and Actors Equity and has worked with Martin Scorsese and Cathy Scorsese on industry projects, as well as the New York Art Students League and the Morris Museum. Currently, she operates her own curating service and artists’ consulting company.
Tanya Nirielle Barach is a dual-citizen of the US and Ireland. Born in New York City, she was raised in Millburn and now lives in San Diego. She attended Rutgers University and the American Repertory Theater program at Harvard University. She was a founding member of the theater group The Cosmic Joke Collective in New York City with French actress Audrey Dana and Grammy-winner Jesse Harris and performed in many NYC venues, including the Knitting Factory and Cornelia Street Cafe. Her short film Don’t Be Such a Girl won Best Director of a Short at the New York International Independent Film Festival, and her short film Mercy has screened at multiple festivals. She is married to Bill Carrasco, and they have two children, Sofia and Nico. Tanya is honored to be a judge for the Millburn Film Festival and thanks all the participants for their courage and creative vision.
Donna Davis has been a resident of Millburn Township for the past 40 years. She has taken both active and leadership roles in the past, in the South Mountain School PTO/PTA and local Civic Association. Donna’s personal interest in art has recently led her to work in pottery and photography. The Art Advisory Committee’s many activities focused on expanding the arts in Millburn fostered her move to offer her service to the Committee. She has participated in the Committee’s appraisal events and supported young township artists through the AP Art Scholarship program.
Amy McGovern is currently the AAC Vice Chair. While working as a public defender, Amy worked as a mosaic artist and studied photography and painting in various media including oils, pastels, and watercolors. Her recent passion is urban sketching after taking a class in Porto, Portugal. She has been a member of the Art Advisory Committee since 2007 and a township resident for 25 years.
Victoria Plummer has an MFA in Film and Media Arts from Temple University and previously worked as an editor for television and in the editing department for feature films. She also has a great love of film festivals, helping to start the UFVA International Student Film Festival (now called NextFrame) while in graduate school and, more recently, bringing the Six Week Film Festival to the Millburn Library. Victoria serves as AAC Publicity Chair and Webmaster.
Pamela Cohen Polifron, Esq., a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Law Foundation, has been practicing estate law in Millburn-Short Hills for the past 20 years. After working as an attorney for the Office of District Counsel of the Internal Revenue Service in New York City, where she was assigned to oversee a task force of the entertainment industry, Pamela started her career in private practice for the firm Selesner & Polifron, P.A., in Millburn. She specializes in estate and trust planning, estate administration and elder law. Since Pamela was young, she has always had an interest in the arts. As a teenager she painted oils and won several first place awards in local art shows. At Rutgers College she minored in Art History. During her college years, Pamela worked at Sotheby’s International in New York City in the client development business office. In addition to a Juris Doctorate in law from Rutgers-Camden Law School, Pamela holds a Masters Degree in tax law from New York University School of Law. For the past several years, she has volunteered with the AAC AP Art Scholarship and Gala and also provided post-production assistance on the film about the artist Edward Dufner, “Leaving An Impression.”
Michelle San Filippo, a Columbia High School Graduate, is native to New Jersey. She and her husband settled in Millburn in 1984 and are proud to have lived and raised their family in such a lovely community for more than 25 years. She continues to serve the township as a volunteer on the Art Advisory Committee. During her tenure in Millburn-Short Hills, she was most well known for her service to Girl Scouts, for which she served as troop leader, trainer, cookie unit service manager, and community service director for 25 years. In 2002, she was honored as a Patriot Award winner for her service to the community on behalf of Girl Scouting. She has enjoyed getting to know many wonderful families in the township and continues to admire the strong values that she witnesses among residents, including strong leadership, community service, commitment to academics and the arts, and support for inclusion and diversity.