Board of Directors

SHARON ZUREK, President

Editor and Producer, Black Cat Productions
Associate Professor of Instruction, Columbia College Chicago

Sharon Zurek is the owner of Black Cat Productions in Chicago and enjoys working on independent features and social issue documentaries, especially those focusing on strong women and queer content. She is an award-winning filmmaker and has an extensive background in film production and post production. She most recently produced and edited, A MIND IN QUICKSAND - LIFE WITH HUNTINGTON'S, a feature documentary that examines what it is like to be diagnosed with a life-changing disease that impacts a person’s cognitive, emotional, and physical abilities in the prime of their life. The program will be airing nationally on public broadcasting stations until 2019. Sharon is an Associate Professor of Instruction in Cinema and Television Arts at Columbia College Chicago. Her primary interest is working with students during the postproduction phase of filmmaking where the final story is told. Her strengths are in preparing her students for a professional career in the film industry by mentoring them as their skills and talents evolve.

JESSIE EWING, Vice President

Documentary Filmmaker and Photographer

Jessie Ewing received her B.A. in American History from Boston University and took classes at Maine Photographic Workshops. She worked as a staff photographer for The Illinois Times, a downstate alterative weekly, and The Quad City Times, a mid-size daily, based in Davenport, Iowa. She also freelanced as a photographer for The Chicago Reader, The Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post and trade and professional magazines, including Inland Steel and American Planning. Jessie taught photography at The Art Farm Foundation summer camp for Quad City children and The McCormick Boys & Girls Club of Chicago. She received a Masters in Special Education from the University of Illinois, after which she worked in Special Ed in the Chicago Public Schools for eight years. She is Executive Producer and co-cinematographer for the documentary film A Mind in Quicksand: Life with Huntington’s, which won a Cine Golden Eagle and the Best Documentary Feature award at the Illinois International Film Festival; the film will be broadcast nationally on multiple PBS stations this year.

MARY FISHMAN

Documentary Filmmaker

Mary Fishman produced, directed, and is self-distributing her first feature documentary, Band of Sisters, about Catholic nuns and their work for social justice, currently showing at several venues across the U.S. In her previous career Mary was an architect and urban planner. She graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in architecture and French, and practiced architecture in Chicago, in southern California, and in Strasbourg, France. While in California she attended UCLA and received a master's degree in urban planning. After a two-year stint in France, she returned home, specializing in historic preservation and zoning for the City of Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development. She began work on Band of Sisters after taking film courses at Columbia College and at Chicago Filmmakers.

RICHARD NEWMAN

Rich Newman Associates

Rich Newman founded and operated a film production talent agency, pairing content producers and advertising agencies with directors and production companies. He has represented over 30 national and international award-winning production companies, securing work for them on hundreds of commercials for the world’s biggest advertisers.

LAURA PATRELL, Treasurer

Strategic Marketing

Laura brings her strategic marketing and project management experience to Chicago Filmmakers. An avid arts supporter, Laura was a founding member of the Dayton Arts Alliance-Young Professionals organization in Dayton, Ohio.  Her most recent position as marketing and sales manager was with topVOX Corporation, with responsibility for target marketing campaigns, account base expansion, web analytics and partnership opportunities.  Previously, she had spent more than ten years in the computer industry, marketing and analytics, both in the United States and Germany.  She received her BA in International Business and German from Alma College and her MBA education from the University of Dayton.

NINA PUGLIA, Parliamentarian

Administrative Judge, U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board

Nina Puglia has been a federal Administrative Judge for over 20 years. Formerly, she was an Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of Chicago, where she specialized in civil appeals and police misconduct cases. She received a B.A. from Vassar College, an M.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a J.D. from Northwestern University Law School. As an art student, she made her own experimental films.

CAROL SCHAFFNER, Secretary

Freelance Post Production Supervisor
Post-Production Instructor, Columbia College Chicago

Carol Schaffner is a freelance Post Production Supervisor for independent films. She teaches post-production at Columbia College Chicago and is currently editing her first documentary, A Life By Accident. Previously she worked as Digital Intermediate Coordinator at Filmworkers/Astro Lab and Post Producer/Account Executive at i^3. Prior to that she worked for the video distributor MS Distributing and for the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research. Carol received her BFA at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

BRENDA WEBB

Executive Director, Chicago Filmmakers

Brenda Webb has been with Chicago Filmmakers since July 1978. She began as Program Director and became Executive Director in 1985. Prior to that she worked as an educational film editor at Treeflower Films in Chicago and taught in the Film Dept. at Columbia College Chicago. She has served on the Board of the National Alliance of Media Arts and Culture and the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers, and was a founding board member for the Chicago chapter of Women in Film. She has served as a grants panelist for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting as well as for several foundations and government funding agencies. She is founder of Reeling: The Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival. She has a B.A. in Psychology from Indiana University.