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Meet the team who made the film happen either on-screen or off-screen.
Marisa Miller Wolfson, Writer/Director/Editor
As a full-time food activist, Marisa has organized roughly 70 grassroots workshops and screenings of award-winning documentaries about healthy, humane, eco-friendly eating all across North America. She decided to tell a story that hadn’t been told on film before and completed Vegucated with the help of colleagues at the FilmShop and the Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective. She borrowed heavily from her experience as a sketch comedian who has performed at the Chicago Improv Festival, Caroline’s on Broadway, and the March for Women’s Lives, where she shared a stage with Gloria Steinem. She has starred in award-winning short films and edited the documentary short I [broken heart] NYC, which screened at the Bushwick Film Festival and the Last Supper Film Festival. Her letters and articles have been published in USA Today Magazine, The New York Times, and The Chicago Tribune, and her PSAs on environmental and animal protection issues have been viewed by thousands. She has enjoyed vegucating the 1,600+ members of her free online coaching program Vegan at Heart, which was featured on Oprah.com. She’s a founding member of the Sustainable Leadership Council of NYC and the NYC Foodprint Alliance and is the honored recipient of Farm Sanctuary’s Farm Animal Friend Award.
Mary Max, Executive Producer
Mary is the founder and executive director of Kind Green Planet, the nonprofit animal and environmental protection organization that produced Vegucated. A longtime fan of film as an agent of change, she has helped bring such films as The Witness and Peaceable Kingdom to mainstream theaters in New York City. In addition to maintaining her popular email action alert service, Mary stays busy working to implement a New York State resolution that allows plant-based meals in all New York State schools. She relishes her role as an active board member of The Humane Society of the U.S., Humane USA-PAC, The New York Coalition for Healthy School Food, and The Community Fund for Manhattan, an initiative of the Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer. She also enjoys serving on the advisory board for Vote Humane as well as on the advisory council of Farm Sanctuary.
Frank Mataska, Producer
While earning his Bachelor of Fine Arts in film at NYU Tisch, Frank worked in production at environmental documentary company Pangolin Pictures and the PBS news syndicate “In the Life.” Upon graduation, Frank took his passion for environmental education to Jamaica as a Peace Corps volunteer, where he designed primary school curricula; empowered at-risk youth through eco-friendly, business ventures; and organized subsistence farmers around educational opportunities. Frank recently graduated from Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing with a Bachelor of Science in nursing, where he was given the school’s Community Service Award.
Demetrius Bagley, Producer
Demetrius organizes and leads New York City Vegan EatUP, one of Meetup.com’s Biggest 100 groups, promoting vegan community and cuisine. EatUP’s history spans over eight years, 380+ events and more than 1,500 members. He actively works on NYC’s Veggie Pride Parades, the NYC Vegetarian Food Festival and Sustainable Leadership Council NYC. He godfathered Veggie Conquest, an amateur vegan cooking competition akin to Iron Chef, plus produced the politically and financially successful New York League of Humane Voters’ Gala 2009. He received the Committee for Effective Leadership’s 2010 Award, plus New York State, New York City and US Senate accolades.
Sara Leavitt, Editor
Sara currently works at Pilot NYC, a production company that specializes in promos and web content. Previously she has been an assistant editor on television shows including The First 48 and No Reservations, and documentaries for National Geographic. She also has edited programming at mtvU and various public television stations.
Ellen Goldwasser, Editing Consultant
Ellen Goldwasser has edited two Academy Award nominated films, including Artists and Orphans and Speaking in Strings, which was a Grand Jury nominee at the Sundance Film Festival. She also edited the acclaimed documentary Mule Skinner Blues, which was the first theatrical release for The Sundance Channel. Currently receiving distribution is Standing Silent, a documentary she edited, co-wrote, and co-produced that chronicles the story of an Orthodox Jewish reporter who uncovers a sexual abuse scandal in his community. She’s now in the process of finishing the supernatural thriller Playback and the restorative justice documentary In Our Son’s Name. Other films Ellen has edited include Lives For Sale (PBS), Just Peck (Showtime, 2011), The Anatomy of Hate, and A Warrior’s Heart. She has also edited programs for HBO, Bravo, The Discovery Channel, Cinemax, CBS, NBC, TBS, Cartoon Network, Women’s Entertainment, and Showtime.
John Pierce, Director of Photography
Richard O’Connor, Animation Director/Producer, co-founder of Asterisk Animation.
Brian O’Connell, Animation Director/Producer
Asterisk founding partner Brian O’Connell is an animation and live action director/producer whose work includes feature films, television series, documentaries, and web series. His productions have earned Emmys, Clios and Broadcast Design Awards as well as screenings at The Museum of Modern Art, The Art Director’s Club of New York and the Ottawa International Animation Festival. Most recently he designed, produced and directed animation for an Emmy nominated two-hour special, ‘The Buddha’ on PBS. He’s currently working on animation for a new PBS documentary about the co-existence of three diverse religions in medieval Spain.
Christina Capozzi Riley, Animator
Christina is a 2005 graduate from SVA with a BFA in traditional animation and has been working in the animation field professionally ever since. She has experience in everything from Traditional Animation, Design, Illustration, Story-boarding, Flash Animation, After Effects Compositing and more. As a side project in 2007, she and her husband combined both of their talents and created PetKaboodle.com, an online retail pet supplies store. You can learn more about Christina and follow all of her creative endeavors on her Pozzitoonsblog.
Jonathan Ackerman, Animator
Dave Fischoff, Composer
Dave Fischoff’s love of sound first kicked in around age 8, with a cassette recorder and a young documentarian’s desire to capture the highest quality recordings of flushing toilets, ringing telephones and screams of a taunted sister in his Indiana home. Now based in Brooklyn, Fischoff has composed music for documentaries, short films and web-based media, running the stylistic gamut from acoustic Americana to ambient electronic, classical piano to hip-hop, and indie rock to found sound audio collage. He’s also released three solo albums on the acclaimed indie-label Secretly Canadian and been known to DJ a dance party or two.
His website: http://fischoffmusic.com
Featuring Film Subjects
Tesla Lobo, a 22-year-old college student who lives with her family in Queens, NY. Her Honduran mom thinks people will say Tesla is crazy if she doesn’t eat meat. Tesla also doesn’t like vegetables or beans, but she does like a challenge.
Brian Flegel, a bacon-loving, bartending bachelor from California who eats out most of the time and lives in Harlem. He thinks his German mother’s cooking is the best and jokes that vegans are from outer space.
Ellen Mausner, a psychiatrist/stand-up comic who is raising daughter Debbie and son Mark as a single mom and rarely has time to cook. She loves kosher hot dogs but not the cholesterol they contain since she has heart disease in her family.
Also Featuring (in Order of Appearance):
Marisa Miller Wolfson, the narrator/vegan tour guide who leads Tesla, Brian, and Ellen down the vegan rabbit hole into a whole new plant-powered world.
Joel Fuhrman, M.D., a board-certified family physician who has helped thousands of patients prevent and reverse disease in his 20+ years of practice. His bestselling signature book Eat to Live has been reprinted more than 20 times and was recently revised and updated in 2011. Other books include Fasting and Eating Your Health, Disease-Proof Your Child, and Eat for Health. He gives the Vegucated film subjects a Healthy Eating 101 crash course and conducts medical tests on them before and after the six weeks to see how a vegan diet affects their blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight.
Julia Spagnoli, a former patient of Dr. Fuhrman’s and triple heart attack victim who lost 80 pounds and regained her health on a nutrient-rich vegan diet. She tells Brian, Ellen, and Tesla about how she began a love affair with kale and other heart-healthy vegetables.
Kenneth Williams, a bodybuilder who bulks up on beans, tofu, seitan, tempeh, and other muscle-building plant foods for natural bodybuilding competitions. He shows Brian what a plant-powered athlete can do.
Jason Tracy, co-founder of OohMahNee Farm Animal Sanctuary, a haven for rescued farm animals in Pennsylvania. He introduces the subjects to some of the personalities on the farm, including Babe the rescued pig and Devlin the rescued sheep.
Cayce Mell, also a co-founder of OohMahNee Farm Animal Sanctuary. She shares some of the perks of raising a vegan child and takes Brian and Tesla on a tour they will never forget.
T. Colin Campbell, professor emeritus of nutritional biochemistry at Cornell University and co-author of The China Study, the bestselling book that sums up his research on the China Project, which is considered the most comprehensive study of health and nutrition ever conducted. What he discovered during the course of this 20-year-plus project challenged everything he thought about nutrition growing up on a dairy farm. He presents some of his findings and the findings of others that don’t get as much attention from press or from policy makers who sit on committees that determine government nutrition recommendations. Having sat on some of these committees himself, he has special insight into some of the controversial reasons why this might be.
Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Chair of the Christian Vegetarian Association, is well-equipped to answer practicing Christian Tesla’s questions about his interpretation of the Bible as it relates to eating and to a larger vision of a more compassionate world.
Howard Lyman, director of the documentary Mad Cowboy, the book under the same title, and a more recent book, No More Bull, was a fourth generation cattle rancher/feedlot operator from Montana who turned his family’s small organic farm into a giant feedlot operation. He witnessed firsthand how factory farming destroyed his land and, over time, became a vegan advocate. He explains how our increasing global appetite for animal foods is “forking” the environment.
Milton Mills, M.D., Associate Director of Preventative Medicine, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, sits down with Brian and Tesla to answer the inevitable question, “If animal foods are bad for us, why did we evolve to eat them?”
Jasmin Singer, vegan blogger from Our Hen House, and animal advocate Moni Woweries offer a shoulder to cry on and words of advice when Tesla struggles with the biggest challenge new vegans face.