Artistic director / Director
Alan began his career as an actor and his debut was at the Abbey Theatre (The National Theatre of Ireland). His directorial debut was with Muted Cupid Theatre Company at Andrew’s Lane Theatre, Dublin, where he then directed French Company, 2B’s world premier of the musical Creatures. He went on to direct over one hundred productions in Ireland, notably Gary Duggan’s Dedalus Lounge and TransEuro Express and Spike Productions awarding winning production of Steven Berkoff’s Decadence. In 2009 Alan directed his first off Broadway show Lunch. In 2013 he moved to Canada and his Toronto debut was The Woman in Black at The Lower Ossington Theatre. Toronto credits include Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Beauty and the Beast, Hairspray, Joseph, The Little Mermaid, Legally Blonde, Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, Anne of Green Gables, Newsies and Priscilla Queen of the Dessert at Lower Ossington Theatre, Al Green Theatre and The Randolph Theatre. His production of Mary Poppins won the Broadway World award for Best Musical in 2015. He also directed Blithe Spirit for the Watermark Theatre in P.E.I. Alan has written many family shows that have toured China, Jamaica, Qatar, Singapore, Oman and Sharjah. In 2017 he directed productions of Aladdin and Fame at the Madinat Theatre Dubai and he currently has four shows he wrote playing in Turks and Caicos.
He is the resident director with Toronto Youth Theatre where he recently directed the New Canadian musical One Small Step. Alan is artistic director of Markham theatre’s discovery program.
Elana Dunkelman is a Toronto based film, tv and voice actor. Recent credits include Star Trek (CBS), Feel the Beat (Netflix), Transplant (Sphere media/CTV) and a secret video game project for Ubisoft. She is also the Canadian campaign voice for Subway Restaurants. She owns and operates the self tape studio Sumach Studios in downtown Toronto. She is always honoured to be entrusted with coaching and filming an actors performance for their auditions. Elana is thrilled to be part of this panel and is excited to see the supremely talented rising stars.
filmmaker / Director
Eric Bizzarri is an award-winning filmmaker residing in Toronto, Ontario. His short film The Shallow End received the Best Fiction Film and Best Editing Awards at York University’s Cinesiege 2016. The film also received Best Film at The 2016 Hamilton Music and Film Festival and was a semi-finalist at The 2016 Los Angeles Cinefest. His latest film, Cold Hands, was an Official Selection of The 2017 Hamilton Film Festival and was nominated for Best Student Short Film. The film was also an Official Selection of the 2018 Canada Independent Film Festival in Montreal, where it took home the Special Jury Prize for Best Canadian Short Film. In addition to festivals, Cold Hands has screened at several high schools and universities in Canada to promote awareness and facilitate conversation in support of victims and survivors of sexual assault. Cold Hands has received distribution and is now streaming on Revry, an online streaming service showcasing LGBTQ Content and Content made by LGBTQ Filmmakers. With a passion to empower fellow young filmmakers, in 2014 Eric Co-Founded and became the Artistic Director of the Future of Film Showcase (fofs.ca), a film festival based in Toronto that screens short films by Canadian filmmakers aged 30 and younger. The festival is sponsored by Cineplex Entertainment and hosted at The ScotiaBank Theatre Toronto in May of each year. Eric Bizzarri is a graduate of York University with a Bachelors Degree of Fine Arts in Film Production with Honours.
In 1992 Janice Mendes began a career as a Child and Youth Worker; on this path, Janice worked with a wide variety of kids that required an even wider variety of needs.
Her career as a CYW commenced in a group home setting for adolescent women at risk and eventually led to her provide counselling and support to young offenders and transitional youth. Years later Janice moved on to providing support for children at the elementary level with behavioral and cognitive challenges. In between all of that, she also organized and ran a weekly drop in program for children in her community that focused on sports, music, cooking and homework support.After over a decade of working with children, Janice decided to pursue a career of personal interest – a career in Film and Television. At the Trebas Institute she completed an accelerated course in Film and Television Production. She went on to work on some familiar projects like, This is Daniel Cook, The Jungle Room as well as a number of MOWs, music videos and commercials.
For the last 11 year Janice has called the Discovery Channel her home…but she’s not slowing down just yet. Last September Janice decided to take a step into the world in front of the camera – she has now appeared in over 30 commercials, 2 made for television movies and an episode of a series.
She is a very proud mum to her 21 year old son, Quincy and their sweet doggo Nala.
Having never lost her passion for working with children and adolescents, Janice is thrilled to be a part of the Nova Award Judges panel.
Originally from St. John’s, Newfoundland, James Hawksley is an actor of stage and screen, and has been an internationally represented professional in the entertainment industry for twenty years. As a performance artist, he is also an accomplished magician/illusionist, and martial artist. James started young in the industry, at 14 years of age. He is thrilled to be a part of the Nova Star Awards, to continue supporting outstanding young performers.
Currently based in Toronto, James has travelled across the globe, working and living in markets such as New York, L.A., London (U.K.), Miami, to name a few, and has been featured in work for such clients as International Male Catalogue, Arena Homme+, Attitude magazine, Surface magazine, Cosmo, Versace, Kenneth Cole, Gucci, plus many more. After his studies at Toronto Film School and through his work in the industry, he has had opportunities to not only scout and judge, but also train, individuals for many showcase opportunities, focusing on categories like Feature Film/TV (Drama/Sitcom, scene study/performance), Commercials (script study/performance), and Monologue for Film/Theatre. In years past, he has attended The ARTS! International Talent Showcase, in Orlando, Florida, which gives performing artists a warm and family-oriented international platform to launch their careers. With his former agent, he became a preliminary scout and judge for the showcase, helping others from the East Coast of Canada find a road to international discovery. As an actor himself, he has had many supporting, co-star, guest-star, and lead roles in theatre, film, and TV.
actor, designer and director
An award winning actor, designer and director JP has been both on and off the stage all over the world. He is currently the Artistic Director for StoryBook Theatre which under his leadership has grown to be Canada’s largest volunteer driven Theatre for Young Audiences. He works closely with playwright and composer Joe Slabe to create many world premiere musicals, including Lest We Forget (Lunchbox Theatre), Naughty But Nice (Forte Musical Theatre), Urban Jungle Book (2017 Tom Hendry Award Shortlisted New Musical), Twas the Night Before Christmas (StoryBook Theatre) and the multi-award winning Touch Me: songs for a disconnected age (Theatre Calgary). Most recently JP worked with Queen as the director of the all Canadian North American tour of their musical We Will Rock You (Annerin Productions). Over his career JP has directed musicals of all sizes and has is a driving force in the fostering and development of emerging musical theatre artists in Calgary and across the country. He is the recipient of the Greg Bond Memorial Award for his outstanding contribution to Musical Theatre, a two time shortlisted nominee of the Rozsa Award, multiple Critter Awards and several Betty Mitchell Award Nominations. Other credits both on and off the stage include: Crossing Swords (Forté), As You Like It, Romeo & Juliet (The Shakespeare Co.), Reasons to Be Happy (Ground Zero), Annie Davidson, The Magic Flute (Cowtown Opera), Legally Blonde, Young Frankenstein (Stage West), Epiphany, Dads In Bondage, If I Weren’t With You (Lunchbox Theatre), The Last 5 Years, Avenue Q, Mary Poppings, The Little Mermaid (StoryBook Theatre), Sweeney Todd, Filumena, Dead Man Walking (Calgary Opera). JP holds a bachelor degree in Theatre Arts and Drama in Education and although plenty of his life is spent living and breathing theatre he always makes time for his incredible wife Tara and their sons, Evan Xander and Isaac Tanner, they make the endless hours and demands of theatre worthwhile.
producer, writer, casting director and director
For the last 12 years, Rennata López has specialized as a producer, writer, casting director and director for television with an emphasis on lifestyle/factual and childrens’ programming. She has worked on many great children series including the award-winning Giver (TVO Kids), It’s My Party (TVOKids), What’s Inside ? (TVOKids), Scare-Tactics (MTV), and Pick a Puppy (YTV). Rennata was nominated twice for a Canadian Screen Award in 2015 & 2016 and a Youth Media Alliance Award in 2019. In 2018 won the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Education or Informational Series for her work on Giver. Aside from producing, Rennata has also directed branded content intersitionals for YTV’s The Zone. and interviews/testimonials for the shows Accessibility in Action, and It’s My Party. She has also written for shows Outlaw In-Laws and Property Brothers. In 2017, Rennata co-founded Lopii Productions with her partner/sister Georgina López. Their unscripted kids’ series ‘My Home, My Life will air on TVOKids in Spring 2020. They just completed a film that will be apart of Sesame Street’s 50th season on HBO Kids.
Robinne Fanfair is a Television, film and stage actor who has over 30 acting credits. She was introduced to the Indie circuit with her lead role in the film STRONGER. The film premiered at the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival. STRONGER made its American debut at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival which met with rave reviews. Robinne made her professional theatre debut in the Pulitzer Prize winning play by David Mamet Glengarry Glen Ross as Detective Baylen in April 2015. She followed up with her lead role as Claudette in Trey Anthony’s How Black Mothers say I Love you at the Factory Theatre in May 2016 with critical acclaim and a sold out run. Her acting career has continued to grow with numerous roles on the small screen which include the CBS series Ransom, Hallmark’s Pride Prejudice and Mistletoe and the upcoming Netflix movie “Feel the Beat” in 2020.
Sarah Sheps is Casting Director at Mann Casting. She is a proud member of the Casting Director’s Society of Canada and has been in the business for over 10 years. She is a graduate of Sheridan College’s Music Theatre program and spent time touring Canada, the US and Europe with many children’s shows including Strawberry Shortcake Live, Dora the Explorer and Franklin the Turtle. She is extremely passionate about Toronto’s talent and hopes to be casting them forever. Her greatest accomplishment to date is the birth of her sweet little boy Henry!
writer / director
Shadab Khan began his professional journey as an assistant editor to renowned editor Mr.M.S.Shinde (‘Sholay’ fame), moving onto working as an assistant director and also gaining first hand experience in production in various fields of the audio-visual -visual medium from 1996 to 2000. There onwards, his career turned a new leaf and he established himself as a highly successful model, associating himself with leading national and international brands (Raymond, Gillete, Mach 3, Brylcreem, Reid and Taylor, Siyaram, Royal Challenge, Kingfisher, Denim soap and more), working with some of the topmost Indian and International ad film makers, and also walking the ramp for top fashion designers. Shadab Khan made his debut as a main lead actor in the Hindi film “THE UNSOUND’ in 2013 which is streaming on EROS NOW. He takes another leap by establishing himself as a writer-director of a highly appreciated hindi feature films as a writer /director ‘B.A.Pass 2’ (currently streaming on (NETFLIX) which was released in 2017 and ‘DELHI 47km’. It was released in 2018.. one Canadian film RABIA AND OLIVIA (english) has already won 14 international awards and soon its soon going to be release worldwide.
The Porter Group has been establishing itself in the entertainment industry since 2003. The agency is owned and operated by Stephanie Porter. Stephanie began her career in talent management as a background agent and principal talent agent assistant in 2001. Through hands-on experience, she learned the ropes and was promoted to junior agent after one year. From there, her path was forged.
More than a decade later, Stephanie has helped actors from all walks of life to lay the foundation to march toward a successful career.
The Porter Group Talent Agency is a member of EIC and is in good standing with ACTRA.
THEATRE ARTS PROFESSIONAL
Charlene Cook studied Theatre at York University and is a drama specialist with the Peel District School Board. She co-created the Freedom Writers drama program to give At Risk students the opportunity to express themselves through Theatre Arts. Charlene has been collaborating with young people and theatre professionals for the last 12 years to devise original theatre for young audiences in schools. Directing credits include Dear Grade 8 Grad, Flaky Lips, Crazytown, Selfie, Somewhere Nowhere, Drop Dead Juliet, and The Brother’s Grimm Spectaculathon. Charlene is currently a full time drama teacher with the Peel District School Board.
JONATHAN ELLIOTT is a Tuscarora filmmaker from the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario. Since attending York University’s Film Production program, he has worked as a director and cinematographer on a variety of projects, including: Along the Water’s Edge (Taking it Global funded film) Wild Archaeology (APTN TV series), Even in the Silence (Voices with Impact funded short film, entirely in the Mohawk language), Taken Home (Toronto Arts Council funded film), Her Water Drum (imagineNATIVE commissioned film), This Wild Season (imagineNATIVE 2017 film festival), and Blood Child (Blood in the Snow film festival).
Jonathan’s award-winning work has been nationally broadcast on TV and screened at various film festivals internationally in New Zealand, Italy, Germany, Denmark, London, the United States and Canada. Some of these festivals include: imagineNATIVE, LA Skins Festival, Red Nation International Film Festival, Maoriland Film Festival, Art With Impact, etc. His body of work focuses on telling contemporary Indigenous stories that explore individuals’ complex relationships to their cultural identity, families and communities.
Jonathan was the 2018 artist-in-residence for the imagineNATIVE/CSV development program. He was selected as one of the Emerging 20 artists at the 2018 Reel World Film Festival and has been the recipient of grants through the Toronto Arts Council, imagineNATIVE, Taking it Global and Art With Impact, William F. White’s and AstroLab Studios to produce his work.
Currently, Jonathan is in development on several projects, including his first feature film.
Marcus is a Vietnamese Canadian Actor from Toronto, Ontario and fell in love with acting when he took his first drama class as an elective high school. Marcus was fortunate enough to be discovered by a casting director and started his career modelling and doing commercials.
Marcus has been on shows such as Designated survivor, Workin’ Moms, 12 Monkeys and recently landed a recurring role on the Netflix series ‘Spinning Out’
Marcus works full time as a realtor in the Greater Toronto Area in addition to working as a professional actor.
For leisure Marcus plays hockey, training martial arts and weight lifting at the gym.
PERFORMING ARTS PROFESSIONAL
Marisa Rocha studied Theatre, Kinesiology and Dance at York University. She has been teaching drama and dance to high school students for 23 years. Before becoming a teacher, Marisa was employed as a theatre and dance co-ordinator with the St. Jude’s Academy of the Arts Inclusive Arts Program. While there, she thoroughly enjoyed working collaboratively with differently abled teens and young adults in creating and performing various dance and drama pieces. She was also involved in the Portuguese community’s traditional “Dancas do Carnaval” as a lead actress. While teaching for the Dufferin Peel and Waterloo Catholic District School Boards, Marisa has directed, choreographed, produced, and written more shows than she can remember! Some of her favourites to work on were Our Town, The Diary of Anne Frank, Juvie and The Passion Play. She is also known to put on some pretty awesome dance shows! She is very passionate about social justice issues and often uses the performing arts as a tool for teaching and spreading awareness. Marisa continued to perform while she was teaching full time by involving herself in community theatre. Some of her most memorable roles include the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland, various animals in Animal Farm, Blue Fairy in Pinocchio and Honey in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.
Recently, Marisa decided to reduce her teaching schedule to part-time which has allowed her to focus on the beginnings of her film and television career. It’s an exciting time in her life and she’s looking forward to what the future holds!
Nicole Hilliard-Forde is an Emmy-nominated, Toronto-based casting director, talent development programmer and producer with a background in performance. Nicole has worked in casting for over 20 years and is known for her work internationally as an industry programmer at Toronto International Film Festival in her previous role of Producer, TIFF Rising Stars, a talent accelerator which identifies six actors annually who are poised to break out. Alumnae include Charlie Carrick (Reign), Megan Park (The F Word), Evelyne Brochu (Orphan Black), Johnathan Sousa (Kidnap Capital), Cara Gee (The Expanse), Alexandre Landry (Gabrielle), Julia Sarah Stone (A Worthy Companion), Shannon Kook (The Conjuring), Sophie Desmarais (Sarah Prefers to Run), Aliocha Schneider (Ville Marie), Deragh Campbell (I Used to be Darker), Karelle Tremblay (Les Etres Chers), Stephan James (If Beale Street Could Talk, Race, Selma), Jared Abrahamson (Travelers), Sophie Nelisse (The Book Thief), Somkele Iyaham-Idhalama (93 Days), Grace Glowicki (Her Friend Adam), Mylene McKay (Nelly), and OC Ukeje (The Arbitration).
Her driving force is to increase opportunities for inclusion and diversity on-screen in media. To that end, she is always on the look out for fresh faces and up-and-coming talent. Nicole is part of the generation of children born to one African Canadian parent and one Caucasian parent just before — and after — the Supreme Court’s 1967 Loving vs. Virginia decision, which overturned all remaining anti-miscegenation laws in the United States, dubbed the “Loving Generation”.
Nicole is an Honours, BA graduate of Trinity College, University of Toronto and alumna of Norman Jewison’s CFC Producer’s Residency. Nicole is a member of the Casting Society of America, Television Academy of Arts & Sciences, and sits on various talent juries. For a full list of casting credits, please visit her IMDb page.
Originally born and raised in Toronto, Canada. Aaron has spent the last 15 years living in and around the US. His journey began with an opportunity to study and play soccer at the collegiate level (Div.1) for the University of Maryland where he graduated with a BSc. In Kinesiology and eventually added the prestigious titles of Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Tournament Champion and NCAA National Champion to his list of achievements. After graduating, Aaron moved to Los Angeles after signing a modeling contract with the renowned LA Models agency. Over the years he established and developed long-lasting relationships with clients in Print and TV/Commercial world. Some of his most loyal clients have included upscale department stores Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdales as well as luxury boutique fashion houses like Dolce and Gabbana, Chanel, Etro, and John Varvatos to name a few. Over the years, Aaron had developed a newfound passion for being in front of the camera and committed himself to develop and hone his acting skills by participating in intensive acting programs in LA. Aaron is currently represented by LA Models + LA Talent / Los Angeles, Kim Dawson Agency / Dallas, Richards / Vancouver, Plutino / Toronto and has most recently shot the BEHR Premium Paint TV Commercial, ‘Outdone Yourself’
Rusty Cundieff is a writer-director with credits in film and television. Fear of A Black Hat was Rusty’s first writing/directing effort. The mockumentary, dubbed “Spinal Rap” by some, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Rusty’s 2nd feature Tales From the Hood was a horror anthology, executive-produced by Spike Lee. Other directing work includes: directing on all three seasons of Comedy Central’s Chappelle’s Show, directing White Water, a film about a young black boy’s quest to drink from a “whites only” water fountain in 1963 which premiered at Disney’s El Capitan theater and working as season 3 show-runner on the Adult Swim series Black Jesus. Rusty’s career began as a stand-up comedian and actor, including a stint as a regular on Days of Our Lives. Rusty lives in Burbank with his wife and 3 kids. Though he enjoys working in indie film and cable TV, he desires to expand to network directing assignments. He returned to co-write and direct Tales From the Hood 2, released 2018, with Spike returning as EP. Tales From the Hood 3 began production October 2019 and is set to release October 2020.