Ben Arredondo / Founder/Executive Director

Ben Arredondo Founder/Executive Director

Producer, director and writer Ben Arredondo has been promoting the careers of emerging filmmakers since 2009 with the NYC PictureStart Film Festival. Under Arredondo’s leadership, this annual festival, started in 2002, has grown from a local one-night only event to an internationally recognized festival. In 2013, NYCPSFF launched its visiting series in South Africa.

In addition to his work with PictureStart, Arredondo has written, directed and produced several short films and web videos. He also produced and directed over 40 nationally broadcast commercials with the media company Cellfish, and he independently directed five downtown theatre productions in New York City. Arredondo has a keen eye for talent and a strong commitment to bring that talent to new audiences, whether it’s through films, commercials, or theatre.

Prior to his career in the entertainment industry, Arredondo worked in publishing where he held production positions for magazines such as Teen People, Biography, and Sports Illustrated. 

Arredondo founded the Tulsa American Film Festival in 2015. He is producing a documentary feature film, If Wishes Were Horses in 2017 and he is also writing a travel/film history book. He received a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Houston and has lived the past 20 years in New York City, though born and raised in San Antonio, Texas.


Colleen Thurston / Director of Programming

Colleen ThurstonDirector of Programming

Colleen Thurston is a nonfiction media producer, educator, and film programmer. Colleen holds a degree from the University of Arizona in Media Arts and Anthropology, and earned her Masters of Fine Arts from Montana State University's one-of-a-kind program in Science and Natural History Filmmaking, where she also completed a graduate certificate in Native American Studies. Specializing in short form documentary production, her film interests explore the relationships between humans and the natural world, history and natural history, and science and culture. She has worked for the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, the Smithsonian Channel, and is currently employed by the Cherokee Nation as a producer on the Emmy Award-winning television show, "Osiyo, Voices of the Cherokee People." A member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and seventh generation Okie-American, Colleen is proud to be involved in the growth of her hometown's arts and culture scene through the Tulsa American Film Festival.

Adam O'Connor / Production Director

Adam O'ConnorProduction Director

Adam O'Connor has been a resident Tulsan for over 20 years, and holds a degree in Film Studies from the University of Tulsa. At TU, he was responsible for coordinating the Annual TU Film Festival, and was involved in a number of projects, including the short film The Great American Flea Market. After graduation, he has continued to pursue other arts projects in the Tulsa area, including writing and producing the film Sherman and Pacifico, starring Academy Award-winning actor Javier Bardem (Winner, Best Oklahoma Short, Deadcenter Film Festival 2013).  Currently, Adam works for Apple as a Creative, facilitating training and development for both customers and employees. Adam and his wife, Brittany, welcomed their first child, Hal, into their family in August of 2015.

Michelle Lee Svenson / Event Manager

Michelle Lee Svenson / Event Manager

Michelle Lee Svenson is a freelance film programmer and independent film distributor. Having studied filmmaking at Boston University’s College of Communications in the early 1990s, she has since become an advocate for minority filmmakers getting their images and voices seen and heard. She served as the festival producer, programmer, film consultant and A/V specialist for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian for ten years until 2010, during which she produced over fifteen film festivals, consulted on numerous film productions such as PBS’s “We Shall Remain” series, to independent productions by filmmakers Albert Maysles, John Sayles and  Donald Ranvaud. She has  served on several granting and board committees for Native film initiatives, particularly the Tribeca Film Institute’s All Access program and IFP’s Feature Film project. Since 2010, she has dedicated herself to working directly with artists and filmmakers in producing, distributing and marketing their films, through both internet distribution sales and through initiatives such as the International Sámi Film Institute’s Indigenous Film Grant.  Currently, Michelle is working on a documentary film series about the history of Scandinavian Americans.

Photo credit: Johan Mathis Gaup


Chris Galegar / Technical Director

Chris Galegar / Technical Director

Chris Galegar is a filmmaker, educator, podcaster, and GIF-making fanatic. He’s Senior Video Editor at Brothers & Company, and teaches film production and post-production at The University of Tulsa. In 2015 Chris launched War Starts at Midnight, a Tulsa-based podcast dedicated to film, pop culture, and craft beer. Buster Keaton is his spirit animal.

Maggie Brooks / Ticketing Coordinator

Maggie Brooks / Ticketing Coordinator

Maggie Brooks has lived in Tulsa all her life and now attends the University of Tulsa for a double major in Film Studies and Communication.


Marcus Young / Director's Assistant

Marcus Young / Director's Assistant

Marcus Young is a Communication and Graphic Design student at Rogers State University. Marcus is a movie lover, especially horror and sci-fi. The Chicago native is looking forward to pursuing directing and screen writing after graduation. 

Clark Hoefling / Production Assistant

Clark Hoefling / Production Assistant

Clark Hoefling studies History and Film Studies at the University of Tulsa. This is his second year volunteering at the Tulsa American Film Festival. He enjoys catching independent and foreign films at Circle Cinema, as well as the occasional B-Horror flick.

Amairani Perez / Programming Assistant

Amairani Perez / Programming Assistant

Amairani Perez is a American Studies student at Oklahoma State University. She received her associate’s degree in Film from Tulsa Community College, and is the former president of the Student Film Association. Amairani plans to pursue a master’s degree in Film Production and continue working on directing and screenwriting.