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Meet the Writers of Women Writers Week 2020

In honor of International Women's Day (Sunday, March 8), and Women's History Month, I am happy to present the dynamic women writers and filmmakers for #WWW2020. You will be reading their articles and reviews March 6-13, and you won't be disappointed! You may even get a chuckle when you read the biographies of Carrie Rickey, Sherin Nicole, Jana Monji, Olivia Collette and Kristy Puchko in particular. But all of our writers bring much needed insight.

(in alphabetical order except for our Assistant Editor, Nell Minow, and yours truly)...

CHAZ EBERT, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of RogerEbert.com

Chaz Ebert also produces television and movies at Ebert Productions and Black Leopard Productions, and appears in the film "Life Itself" about her late husband, Roger Ebert. She heads the Ebertfest Film Festival now in it's 22nd year.  She awards the Golden Thumb and Ebert Humanitarian Awards at Ebertfest, and the Toronto and Chicago International Film Festivals to filmmakers who exhibit an unusually compassionate view of the world. Her civic interests include programs to help break the glass ceiling for women and people of color, and to provide education and arts for women, children and families. 

She is the president of the Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation where she supports programs with a global interest in encouraging empathy, kindness, compassion and forgiveness. She has provided grants to support films with strong social justice themes, and also encourages and supports emerging writers, filmmakers, and technologists with her endowment of scholarships, internships or awards at the Sundance Film Festival,  Film Independent Spirit Awards -Project Involve, the University of Illinois Ebert Fellowships,  the Hawaii International Film Festival-Young Critics Program, the Telluride Ebert/TFF University Seminars, the Chicago International Film Festival- Ebert Director Awards, and the Columbia College Links Journalism Awards in conjunction with the Chicago Urban League.

She was honored as the 2019 Laureate of the Beethoven Spirit Award by the International Beethoven Project (IBP) which awards a person who has lived a humanistic life of action connected to the arts. 

 Previously as an attorney she was named Lawyer of the Year by the Constitutional Rights Foundation and has also practiced as a litigator in various fields of law including environmental, civil rights and family law, and employment, antitrust and intellectual property law. She is a life trustee of the Art Institute and serves on the boards of the Lyric Opera, the Abraham Lincoln Library Foundation, the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab (previously the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago), After School Matters, and the Honorary Board of Family Focus.  Some of her professional affiliations include the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, the Chicago Film Critics Association and the African-American Film Critics Association.  Besides lecturing on film-related matters, she has lectured on Caregiving, and Patient Advocacy with topics such as "Sometimes Hope is a Strategy." 


NELL MINOW, Assistant Editor of RogerEbert.com

Nell Minow reviews movies and DVDs each week as The Movie Mom online and on radio stations across the US. She is the author of The Movie Mom's Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments.

Her articles have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Kansas City Star, USA Today, Family Fun, Daughters, Parents, and three editions of The Practical Guide to Practically Everything. She has been profiled in the New York Times, the Economist, Forbes, the Chicago Tribune, Working Woman, CFO Magazine, the Ladies Home Journal, Washingtonian Magazine, and the Chicago Sun Times, and has appeared as The Movie Mom on CBS This Morning, Fox Morning News, NPR, and CNN. She is the founder of Miniver Press, a publishing company specializing in non-fiction ebooks and print books about the arts, music, sports, history, and culture. She is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and the University of Chicago Law School and her wonderful husband allows her to have a "10 best movie" list with 20 movies on it.


SARAH KNIGHT ADAMSON

Sarah Knight Adamson is an entertainment and film freelance writer, and the weekly radio film critic for the nationally syndicated radio show Hollywood 360 Radio Network; she’s heard on 80 Salem Radio Network News/Talk stations, including WNYM-New York, KRLA-Los Angeles, and WWRC-Washington DC. As the former weekly Regional Arts and Entertainment columnist for the TribLocal newspaper, a Chicago Tribune subsidiary, her interview with Roger Ebert appeared in print. She’s also written for Chicago magazines. You can find additional information on her website: www.SarahsBackstagePass.com

As a former teacher, Sarah’s taught a film criticism class in Chicago at Facets Cinémathèque for children and has served two years on the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival jury; and has served on other Film Festival juries in California and Tenn. Community interests include serving as a Chicago Public Library film panel participant, serving on the Executive Board for Variety Children’s Charity of Illinois, and conducting monthly film Q&As at local cinemas. 

Member of the Chicago Film Critics Assoc., Alliance of Women Film Journalists, NY, and the Critics’ Choice Assoc., LA. Twitter: @SarahsBackstage  Facebook: @SarahsBackstage

ABBEY BENDER

Abbey Bender is a New York-based writer with bylines in The Washington Post, The Village Voice, Nylon, Sight & Sound, and other publications." (My site can be found here).

ARIELLE BERNSTEIN

Arielle Bernstein is a writer and cultural critic whose work has been published in The Guardian, The Atlantic, The Week, AV Club and other publications. She teaches writing at American University where she is also the co-director of the M.A. in Literature, Culture, and Technology.

MONICA CASTILLO

Monica Castillo is a freelance writer and University of Southern California Annenberg graduate film critic fellow. Although she originally went to Boston University for biochemistry and molecular biology before landing in the sociology department, she went on to review films for The Boston Phoenix, WBUR, Dig Boston, The Boston Globe, and co-hosted the podcast “Cinema Fix.” 

After a stint as an Entertainment Reporter for International Business Times, she’s back to freelancing for RogerEbert.com, NPR, Village Voice, Tribeca Film, Paste Magazine, Remezcla, among others. She is a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Women Film Critics Circle, and served as a co-chair of the Boston Online Film Critics Association. Monica has traveled to a few film festivals, met a couple of living legends, and has some great stories about hitchhiking to red carpet premieres. She can usually be found online talking about the film she just watched.

OLIVIA COLLETTE

Olivia Collette has been deconstructing movies since she realized some of her friends were willing to humor her. She has a thing for Laxmi Chhaya dance routines, a crush on Fellini, and a non-negotiable fear of zombie flicks. Based in Montreal, Olivia has written for various print and online publications, including the Montreal Gazette, World Film Locations: San Francisco, Sparksheet, Indiewire’s Press Play blog and the Spectator Arts Blog. She discusses pop culture at Livvy Jams and dissects our inconsistent obsession with body image on The Scrawn. If you see Olivia at Ebertfest, make sure to have your song ready, because she’s totally dragging you to Karaoke.

CHERRYL S. ESPINOZA

Cherryl S. Espinoza is an award winning Producer and Line Producer with a successful track record working in film, television, commercials, music video, and PSAs.  Her credits include production managing works for directors Hype Williams, Eric Haywood and Spike Lee, PSAs for the National Institute for Health, line producing two indie features and producing several short films and music videos.  Her work has screened on Showtime, HBO, WTFX-Fox, WLNY-TV/CBS and at numerous film festivals including two times at the AMPV-Cannes showcase. Espinoza began exploring 360°/VR in 2016 and directed her first interactive, immersive music documentary titled "T&T Carnival360°" in 2018.  She is an Oculus Start fellow, a two time Oculus’ Launch Pad Bootcamp fellow, an IFP Project Involve fellow, a taught 360°video/VR production at NIFFTY 2018.

A Trinidad and Tobago national, based in Los Angeles, she has a BA from Brooklyn College/CUNY, and a MFA from the American Film Institute, MFA Producing program.  She is currently the COO of Making XR, an immersive media collective based in Los Angeles.  Espinoza is currently shopping a feature film "Summer of 70", a documentary series "Proof" and the episodic "SoTru" based on Sojourner Truth's life.

ROXANA HADADI

Roxana Hadadi is a pop culture writer and film critic with particular interests in feminism, labor and class, and Middle Eastern representation. Her work can be found at Pajiba, The A.V. Club, Chesapeake Family, Bright Wall/Dark Room, and other publications. 

She is a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association, the Online Film Critics Society, and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, and is a Tomatometer-approved critic on Rotten Tomatoes. She holds an MA in literature and lives outside Baltimore, Md. You can follow her on Twitter at @roxana_hadadi. 

VALERIE KALFRIN

Valerie Kalfrin is a film and culture writer and RottenTomatoes-approved critic living in Florida. A New Jersey native and former Brooklynite, she was an award-winning crime journalist for a decade before dissecting film and entertainment. Her work has appeared in The Hollywood Reporter, Bright Wall/Dark Room, The Guardian, Script, The Script Lab, ScreenCraft, Film Racket, In Their Own League, and Hazlitt. An emerging screenwriter and script consultant, she's vetted scripts for screenwriting contests and co-moderates the monthly meetings of Screenwriters of Tomorrow, a Tampa Bay-area group founded in 2009. She's passionate about thrillers, sci-fi, and challenging stereotypes about gender and disability. Let's tell better stories and tell stories better. 

JOYCE KULHAWIK

Joyce Kulhawik, best known as the Emmy Award-winning Arts & Entertainment Critic for CBS-Boston (WBZ-TV 1981-2008), has covered local and national events from Boston and Broadway to Hollywood, reporting live from the Oscars, the Emmys, and The Grammys. Kulhawik is currently President of the Boston Theater Critics Association, a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics, and the Boston Online Film Critics Association.

Nationally, Kulhawik has co-hosted syndicated movie review programs with Roger Ebert and Leonard Maltin. She regularly lectures on film, and annually judges the “48 Hour Film Fest” in Boston. Look for her reviews at JoycesChoices.com.

TOMRIS LAFFLY

Tomris Laffly is a freelance film writer and film critic based in New York. She regularly contributes to Time Out New York, Film Journal International, Film School Rejects and RogerEbert.com, and her byline has appeared in Indiewire, Variety and Vulture, among other outlets. 

She has a special interest in the awards season and women in film, covers various film festivals throughout the year including New York Film Festival, Sundance and Telluride and tweets from @TomiLaffly.

CHRISTY LEMIRE

Christy Lemire is a longtime film critic who is proud to have her work appear at RogerEbert.com. She co-hosts the podcast "Breakfast All Day" and is a regular critic for shows on both of Los Angeles' NPR stations: KPCC's "FilmWeek" and KCRW's "Press Play With Madeleine Brand." She's also a correspondent for the arts and entertainment show "The SoCal Scene" on Spectrum News 1. 

A third-generation Los Angeles native, she is a member of the LA Film Critics Association and the Broadcast Film Critics Association. You can find Christy's writing at ChristyLemire.com. She's also on Twitter @christylemire and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/christy.lemire2. Read her answers to our Movie Love Questionnaire here.

YOLANDA MACHADO

Yolanda is a Los Angeles-based freelance film journalist who has written for The Los Angeles Times, Remezcla, TheWrap, GQ, Elle Magazine and other publications. She the host of the podcast “Latinx Factor with Yolanda Machado” and has an obsession for musicals, Disney and Peruvian food.

MARY MAZZIO

Mary Mazzio, an award-winning documentary film writer/director; Olympic athlete; and former law firm partner, is Founder and CEO of 50 Eggs, Inc., an independent film production company dedicated to social impact. “A Most Beautiful Thing” is Mary’s 10th feature film. 

She previously she wrote, directed, and produced the highly acclaimed award-winning films “Underwater Dreams,” “The Apple Pushers,” “TEN9EIGHT,” “A Hero for Daisy,” “Apple Pie,” “We are Blackrock,” “Lemonade Stories,” and “Contrarian.” Her last film, “I Am Jane Doe,” narrated by Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain, is now on Netflix. The film catalyzed bipartisan federal legislation signed by the President in 2018.

MARY BETH MCANDREWS

Mary Beth McAndrews is currently a Digital and Communications Specialist for the Humane Rescue Alliance, Washington, D.C.'s only open access shelter. She creates video content that highlights adoptable animals, as well as HRA's various community programs. She is also the senior editor for Much Ado About Cinema, a senior contributor for Nightmare on Film Street, and co-host of the Scarred For Life podcast. She has bylines online and in print for outlets such as Polygon, Bloody Disgusting, Bitch Mag, Daily Grindhouse, Grim Magazine, and Girls on Tops. 

Previously, she worked for National Geographic and Discovery Communications in social and digital media. She received her Master's of Arts degree from the University of Chicago in 2019. While there, she focused on cinema and media studies and gender studies. When she's not writing, she's scouring the Internet for the next weird horror movie to watch or bothering her cat, Zucchini. 

CANDICE MCMILLAN

Candice has been writing about film for over a decade, covering red carpets, junkets and film festivals. A graduate of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and Annenberg School for Journalism, she is currently the film critic for Seattle Refined and makes regular appearances on air at Seattle’s ABC affiliate, KOMO News. 

She spent three years in the entertainment department of KTLA 5 The CW in Los Angeles and has written for Orange County Register, Campus Circle and University Link Magazine. Candice lives in Seattle with her husband, two daughters and one dog-daughter. 

JANA MONJI

Jana Monji, made in San Diego, California, lost in Japan several times, has written about theater and movies for the LA WeeklyLA Times, and currently, Examiner.com and the Pasadena Weekly

Currently living in LA, she has found her inner Latina dancing Argentine tango. Her short fiction has been published in the Asian American Literary Review.

SHERIN NICOLE

Sherin Nicole might be a covert agent. Word on the street says the CIA offered her a scholarship (but that's classified). By day, she's an agent provocateur as chief creative officer at idobi Network. By night, she writes for idobi.com and produces content for geeks and nerds alike on the Geek Girl Riot radio show, as well as for publications like Blcklst.com, RogerEbert.com, and for the Alliance of Women Film Journalist (AWFJ)

Culturally, Sherin is half American, half British, and very southern; right down to the accent and love of grits. Government reports show a residence in DC but Sherin spends most of her time on the astral plane and hopes to meet you there.

SHEILA O'MALLEY

Sheila O'Malley received a BFA in Theatre from the University of Rhode Island and a Master's in Acting from the Actors Studio MFA Program. Along with Rogerebert.com, her work has also appeared in Film Comment, The Dissolve, Masters of Cinema, Movie Mezzanine, Flavorwire, Capital New York, Fandor, Press Play, and Bright Wall/Dark Room.  She has contributed video and print essays for various releases from The Criterion Collection. O’Malley wrote the narration (read by Angelina Jolie) for the Governors Awards Lifetime Achievement tribute reel to legendary actress Gena Rowlands. O’Malley also wrote the narration for the Governors Awards tribute to editor Anne Coates’, played at the 2016 Governors Awards. O’Malley writes about actors, movies, and Elvis Presley at her personal site, The Sheila Variations. A short film she wrote, "July and Half of August,” premiered at the 2016 Albuquerque Film and Music Experience.

Read her answers to our Movie Love Questionnaire here.

KRISTY PUCHKO

Kristy Puchko is a New York-based film critic whose work has appeared on Vanity Fair, The Guardian, Vulture, and Pajiba. Born in a small Pennsylvania town known for flooding (and being the filming location of Slap Shot), Kristy showed a deep love of cinema from an early age. She earned her B.A. in Film Studies at Macaulay Honors College's Brooklyn branch. Then, she spent some time on Sesame Street (as an intern) before moving into post-production, editing music videos, commercials, and films. 

From there, Kristy branched out into blogging and quickly realized her true passion was in writing about film in a way that engaged and challenged audiences. Since then, she's traveled the world on assignment, covered a variety of film festivals, co-hosted movie-focused podcasts, and taught a film criticism course at FIT. 

CARLA RENATA

Howard University graduate and St. Louis native Carla Renata has made history by becoming the ONLY African-American actress to appear on FOUR network television shows simultaneously.

Other guest star and/or recurring roles on Superstore (NBC), Living Biblically (CBS), Mr. Box Office (BET/Centric), Hart of Dixie (CW), Shake It Up! (Disney), Bones and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

No stranger to Broadway, Carla received a NAACP Theatre Award Best Actress nomination her portrayal of SHENZI (the wise cracking hyena) in Disney’s Original Los Angeles Company of “The Lion King” with Oscar nominated director Julie Taymor. Other Broadway credits include “Avenue Q”, “The Who’s Tommy”, “How To Succeed In Business” “Smokey Joe’s Café” & “The Life” and “We Will Rock You.”

As an esteemed member of the African-American Film Critics Association (African American Film Critics Association), Broadcast Film TV and Film Critics Association (BFCA), Online Association of Female Film Critics (OAFFC) and Los Angeles Online Film Critics Association (LAOFCS), Carla has become a force to be reckoned with.

Being quoted on major feature films from ‘Joker’ to ‘Teen Titans GO’, The Curvy Film Critic host her own show at Black Hollywood Live – The Curvy Critic with Carla Renata.  Her reviews and commentary can also be seen on Fox 11- LA, Ebert.com, Maltin on Movies, Turner Classic Movies, Ebony.com, AAFCA.com website.

CARRIE RICKEY

Carrie Rickey was born in Los Angeles during the widescreen era of movies and bagged a couple degrees from the University of California, San Diego in the years surfers traded longboards for short. She moved to New York just in time to read the headline Ford to City: Drop Dead and decamped as tabloids thus immortalized the passing of Andy Warhol: Platinum Prince of Pop Dies. During her New York years she wrote art criticism for Artforum and Art in America, film criticism for the Village Voice and Film Comment and was a columnist for Mademoiselle. 

For 25 years she was film critic of The Philadelphia Inquirer where she reviewed everything from Room With a View to Shame, interviewed celebrities from Lillian Gish to Will Smith, and reported on technological breakthroughs from the rise of video to the introduction of movies on-demand. She has taught at various institutions including School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania, is a popular speaker and has appeared frequently on NPR’s Talk of the Nation, MSNBC and CNN.

JEN SHELBY

Jen Shelby made a name for herself as one of the few women in the car dealership world (it is estimated that less than 11% of dealerships in the US are owned by women), but after selling her successful dealership in 2015 she set her sights on the film industry and started Shatterglass Films with Luke Boyce and Brett Hays. Her vast experience in the auto industry was the perfect spring board for navigating the equally tight-knit and male-dominated world of film producing and she quickly made a name for herself, helping to secure the film rights to a major comic book title, Revival, for which she has raised significant investments. 

She has also produced successful shorts like The Pooka, which starred Chris Sullivan (This is Us, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2) and was named one of the Top 10 Best Shorts of 2018 by Film Shortage, and an as-yet unannounced project with Simon Hatt, the producer for Brightburn and James Gunn’s upcoming The Suicide Squad, which saw her not only helping bring financing, but a hands-on role in the production itself. 

ALLISON SHOEMAKER

Allison Shoemaker is a freelance film and television critic based in Chicago. A member of the Chicago Film Critics Association, Allison's work can be found at The AV ClubComic Book Resources, and at Consequence of Sound, where she's a Senior Film and Television Writer. 

You can hear her on the podcasts TV PartyDebating Doctor Who, and Podlander Drunkcast: an Outlander Podcast, and you can heckle her on Twitter @allisonshoe.

JUSTINE SMITH

Justine Smith is a freelance writer based in Montreal, QC. Aside from Roger Ebert, she's contributed to The National Post, Hyperallergic, Cult MTL and Little White Lies. She is the Vice-President of the Quebec Critic's Association (AQCC).

WHITNEY SPENCER

Whitney Spencer is a native of Louisville, Kentucky but has called Chicago home for the last six years. She is a writer, educator, and visual storyteller who believes deeply in the power of story to engage and organize communities. As the current Marketing and Distribution Associate for the documentary powerhouse Kartemquin Films, Whitney lives for the process of discovery that brings both narrative and documentary film to life. 

In her work, she enjoys the creative action needed to translate that into strategy and insight. Whitney was a 2019 Roger Ebert Sundance Fellow, a 2018 TEDxDePaul University speaker, and a timeless lover of healthy debate on the best television series of all-time.

KATHERINE TULICH

Katherine Tulich began her career in Australia, writing film reviews and features for the country’s leading newspapers and was the Australian correspondent for the Hollywood Reporter and Entertainment Weekly. She is a well known radio and TV personality working for the Seven Network Australia and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). Based in the US for the past ten years she has contributed regularly to Los Angeles Times, Variety and Washington Post. 

Appearing on the renowned “At the Movies” TV show as a guest host filling in for Roger Ebert, she is now a contributor for his ongoing site, rogerebert.com. She has served as a judge on numerous film festivals around the world including Toronto, Chicago, Seattle and Palm Springs. Katherine is a member of the Film Critics Circle of Australia (FCCA), the prestigious FIPRESCI (International board of film critics) and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) as a voting member of the Golden Globes.

SHEA VASSAR

Shea Vassar is a Cherokee Nation film journalist who is currently based out of Brooklyn. She writes about Native American representation in media and has been featured in Zora Magazine, Nylon and Film School Rejects. 

WENDY WOLVERTON

Wendy Wolverton is a director and screenwriter. Her story is about horses, stagecoaches, and movies. She was ranch raised in Oregon and Arizona and as a child an unusual family adventure shaped her life. During America’s Bicentennial, she rode horseback across 7 states with her family driving a stagecoach from Missouri to California. This sparked her imagination for a lifetime, and inspired important themes for family, tolerance, and standing up for beliefs.  

After graduating from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in film, she worked in the family movie livestock business as a wrangler, and later worked in the art department, props, and camera. She initiated her lifelong dream and began directing, including a number of short film projects.  Having experienced first hand the story of the West, Wendy was empowered to write screenplays that give voice to characters silenced by history. She has recently written and directed a live action/animated female short western entitled ‘Miss Happy’, which has won several film festival awards, and is currently being produced as a feature with her husband William Brown.   

Chaz Ebert

Chaz is the CEO of several Ebert enterprises, including the President of The Ebert Company Ltd, and of Ebert Digital LLC, Publisher of RogerEbert.com, President of Ebert Productions and Chairman of the Board of The Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation, and Co-Founder and Producer of Ebertfest, the film festival now in its 18th year.

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