Category Archives: Festival staff

Meet Associate Director Ryan Cannon

Recently, the Show Me Justice Film Festival gained its newest member. We sat down with Professor Ryan Cannon to speak with him about his new position as Associate Director of the festival.

“I’m excited and honored to help produce the Film Festival now in its fourth year, continuing its fine tradition of showcasing social justice films, underrepresented narratives, and the work of independent film artists,” said Ryan Cannon. 


We had the pleasure to speak with Ryan a little more about his relationship with the festival. 

1) What is SMJFF about?

 “Like other film festivals, Show Me Justice Film Festival is a place to watch, talk about, and to celebrate film. Unlike other film festivals, SMJFF is specifically interested in films that deal with issues of social justice. To this end, we gather to watch films. We talk about those films. We talk about making films. We talk about the things those films are talking about. We talk about why film, why social justice, is important. The virtue of these kinds of dialogues is that they bring to the forefront things we don’t often talk about, but should talk about more: social issues, economic disparity, gender and racial inequality, marginalized populations, war, avarice, etc. The core of any

film festival is stories. The core of our festival is stories that aren’t often told, underrepresented narratives, bringing unpopular and oft-overlooked issues into the light. This isn’t to say we’re interested in dwelling excessively on social ills, but before there are solutions, there are always conversations, and we’re interested in promoting those conversations.”

2) What does Social injustice mean to you?

 “I’m a humanist, and I think, at heart, no matter how we articulate the semantics, most of us are. This means that we believe the problems to our solutions lie within ourselves, within our societies, though recent political/social events pointing to the contrary always seem close at hand. Not to be too reductive, but social injustice occurs when we, humans, treat other humans as though they aren’t humans, or at least not humans equal in standing to us. It sounds like common sense, but unfortunately this equation of inequality and injustice oft-times describes the human condition.”

3) What is your role in the SMJFF program?

 “I’m the associate director of the festival this year. That’s a fairly ambiguous title to mean that I’m helping Dr. Mark von Schlemmer, the festival director, organize and curate the film festival, now in its fourth year.”

4) I understand that you are in charge of the submission process, what is different about the submissions thus far compared to those from last year?

 “In the past, SMJFF has used Withoutabox, a film submission system that connects filmmakers with festivals. It’s a very widely used system that can generate a lot of submissions for a festival. Withoutabox, I might mention tangentially, is owned by, which is in turn owned by Amazon. Big players, all.

 Due to an issue with how Withoutabox accepts submission fees from filmmakers, and University of Central Missouri liability requirements, we cannot use Withoutabox this year. This is unfortunate in terms of promoting our festival to filmmakers, and generating submissions. So, working in conjunction with the UCM accounting department, we’ve designed and implemented a submission site whereby filmmakers can submit their films to the festival. It’s definitely a challenge trying to promote the festival through other channels, and generate interest and submissions for the festival. Thus far, our submission numbers look promising, and hopefully word will continue to get out.

 Filmmakers can submit their work to SMJFF here:”

5) What are some of the films that you have shot?

 “I’ve worked on a good number of films, some fairly bad, many mediocre, and only a small number that were very good. I’m quite fond of a short film, Shale, I photographed last year. We had grants from Panavision and HBO and so were able to shoot on Super-16mm film, a luxury in our digital age. It premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival this year and also played at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas. I did the lighting (read: gaffed) for a holiday-themed feature film, Christmas for a Dollar, that is premiering in LA this November. The Adventures of Food Boy, a Nickelodeon-style feature film that I photographed on 35mm film in 2008, probably has the widest distribution. It’s available on Netflix and other streaming/rental services. I photographed another short that year, The Loss of a Wrestling Match, that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. I think that film was quite good.”

6) What do you look forward to the most at SMJFF?

 “Filmmaker Q&As. I love watching the films, but I think a good deal of the festival magic happens afterward, when the filmmakers talk about their work and the audience responds to it. I’ll never forget a panel discussion at the Sundance Film Festival where the great filmmakers Werner Herzog and Frederick Wiseman talked with the audience about their varied approaches to documentary film, what the art form meant to them, what stories meant to them. It was quite wonderful.”

7) How would you encourage students to participate in this year’s festival?

 “There are many ways to get involved with the film festival this year. Students can help in the screening/selection process, having a very real impact on what films/filmmakers we bring to the festival this year. There are also opportunities to get involved organizationally prior to the festival in April, and volunteer opportunities during the festival. Above all, though, I would encourage students to attend. Very few are the university campuses that host their own international film festival. SMJFF is a real boon to our university, our faculty, and our students.”


Interview with Show Me Justice Film Festival Director

So we got a chance to interview Dr. Mark von Schlemmer who is Show Me Justice Film Festival Director the other day. Dr. von Schlemmer is a Regional-Emmy award winning television producer, filmmaker, and professor. 

He completed work on his Ph.D. at the University of Kansas in Film & Media Studies in the summer of 2010 and now teaches full-time at the University of Central Missouri in the Department of Communications. 


(Dr. von Schlemmer (left) during SMJFF 2012)

“What is the most difficult part of the Festival organization process?”

 Dr. von Schlemmer: The most difficult aspect of organizing the SMJFF is enlisting the energies of volunteers. It takes a lot of help to produce a three day film festival and I know there are people out there who will volunteer their time, but coordinating that effort is not easy, especially in the months before then event itself – whether it is contacting them, getting them signed up to screen films, or help find sponsors, or hang posters. At the event itself the challenge is getting them to the event to work the info table, help transport the visiting filmmakers, usher, and teaching them their duties if the task is more involved. The logistics of such an event takes a lot of coordination and relies heavily on volunteers.


“So what is the most fun part of the Festival organization process?”

Dr. von Schlemmer: The most fun part is seeing the audience interact with a filmmaker after a film. It is the truly unique aspect that a film festival has to offer an audience – not just a chance to see films that they may not see anywhere else, but to talk with the creators of the films – to ask them about how they made it and why they made it or other questions that they come up with that I would never have thought of. It’s fascinating and usually very enlightening for the audience.


“Please tell us about progresses that SMJFF achieved through the past years?”

 Dr. von Schlemmer: The thing we strive for the most each year is to involve more people – as volunteers and as audience members. The size of the festival is not as important as helping it to reach more people. These films are fantastic works of art that can change people’s lives – I’ve heard of students changing their lives and making new choices because of a film they watched at our festival. And we can only do that if we get the word out and get more people to attend and volunteer. We’ve grown that aspect each year and we hope to continue that growth in the future.


“So why Social Justice theme?”

 Dr. von Schlemmer: We chose the social justice theme because it encompasses a powerful and unique aspect of our festival – there are very few other festivals with such a theme. And what it means is that these films are all about people striving to improve their world or facing serious struggles that we can all relate to – sometimes that means through showcasing volunteer efforts or work in communities around the world, sometimes it means a unique perspective on a social ill that is plaguing society. And the filmmakers who make such films are great advocates for these causes – so we get very impassioned artists who are telling inspiring stories.

 “Thank you very much Dr. von Schlemmer, I am really looking forward to SMJFF 2014 and wish you all the best!”

 P/S: Please leave comments or ask questions if you have any, we’d be happy to answer. Thanks!