Meet some of our esteemed judges!
Juanita Anderson is Lecturer and Area Head of Media Arts and Studies in the Department of Communication at Wayne State University.
A native Detroiter, she is a producer/director, executive producer and documentary filmmaker who has amassed a significant body of work in public television and independent media. Anderson holds seven Emmy Awards for her work on the groundbreaking African American television series Detroit Black Journal and Say Brother. She was executive producer of the 1988 Academy Award-nominated documentary feature film Who Killed Vincent Chin? (a film by Renee Tajima and Christine Choy) which was awarded a Columbia Silver Baton, a George Foster Peabody Award and the Wade McCree Award of Justice from the Michigan Bar Association. Anderson was also executive producer of the Favorite Poem Project Video Anthology, (2000, 2003, 2006, 2014), originally conceived and commissioned by U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky for the bicentennial of the Library of Congress.
A long-standing advocate for diversity in media, Anderson co-founded the National Black Programming Consortium in 1978 (now Black Public Media), and has served on the board of directors of the Independent Television Service. She is also a past president of the National Conference of Artists, the nation's oldest African American arts organization. She is currently a board member of the Michigan Chapter of the National Conference of Artists, and is an active member of Final Girls, a Detroit-based organization that supports the work of women media makers.
In 2019 she became a recipient of the Murray Jackson Award which will advance Anderson's work as producer/director of Hastings Street Blues, a documentary film that will explore Detroit's mid-20th Century African American life, its pre-Motown musical legacy, and the city's transformation amidst unprecedented migration, racial turmoil, urban renewal, civil rights progress, and urban unrest. Anderson is collaborating with writer/performance artist Marsha Music whose father, pioneering blues and gospel record producer Joe Von Battle, emerges as a central character in the film.
Elizabeth Ann Atkins
Elizabeth Ann Atkins is a best-selling author, award-winning TV host, actress, and journalist who teaches how to unlock one’s infinite potential to live and love in peace and purpose.
This mission inspired her new “how-to” memoir — God’s Answer Is Know: Lessons From a Spiritual Life. In it, Elizabeth chronicles her life story and shares her spiritual awakening, along with tools anyone can use to deepen their connection to the Divine and live a more joyous, healthy, peaceful, prosperous, and influential life.
She teaches meditation, journaling, and other tools for spiritual empowerment on her YouTube channel and live events for her program, Ascend 8 Steps to an Infinite You.
Elizabeth co-hosts the award-winning MI Healthy Mind, a weekly TV show that aims to shatter stigmas around mental illness and addiction.
The Oprah Winfrey Show featured Elizabeth as a guest to celebrate her 100-pound weight loss and lifestyle as a health and fitness enthusiast.
The Oprah Winfrey Show featured Elizabeth as a guest to celebrate her 100-pound weight loss and lifestyle as a health and fitness enthusiast. Elizabeth and her sister Catherine M. Greenspan co-created two companies: Atkins & Greenspan Writing, which provides ghostwriting, publishing, and book coaching services; and Two Sisters Writing & Publishing,which publishes their books, hosts monthly writing contests and the Two Sisters Writing Club, and showcases their blog, A Tale of Two Sisters.
They also teach people how to unleash their power through meditation and a writing technique Elizabeth invented and trademarked called PowerJournal that they created and share in workbooks and an online community called PowerJournal.Life. Elizabeth and Catherine have written and published dozens of books and we're proud to publish their mother’s book, The Triumph of Rosemary: A Memoir, by Judge Marylin E. Atkins. Their mother wrote the book herself, chronicling her controversial, interracial marriage to former Roman Catholic Priest Thomas Lee Atkins, a native of West Branch, Michigan. The book also showcases the family’s summer experiences at their cottage in historic Idlewild, Michigan.
Charles F. Cirgenski
Charles F. Cirgenski is a Michigan Emmy award-winning producer, director, and screenwriter, who began his career in filmmaking in 1967 when at the age of 11, he purchased a Super 8 camera and projector with S&H Green Stamps and made his first opus, The Rubicon Extension.
Charles has co-produced, written and directed two feature films, One Room Castle in 1993 and Stardust (AKA "Hoover") in 1998. In 2000, Stardust was acquired by HBO for domestic television release and was available on DVD through MTI Artist View. Both films were in worldwide distribution but are no longer available.
His award-winning, six films, documentary series, Artists in America, for the Archives of American Art is in the Smithsonian Institute's permanent collection. In 1984, he co-produced, wrote and directed a documentary, In Celebration: The Fours Project, for the Smithsonian, which took him on a journey around the world to West Irian Jaya, Indonesia, where he was the first filmmaker in over twenty years to gain access to the remote jungle of the Punjak Jaya mountain range.
Two of his sixteen feature screenplays have won major awards, including the prestigious Malcolm Vincent first place script award for Hoover (AKA Stardust) and a Christopher Columbus Society Discovery screenwriting award for the unproduced The Tontine.
Cirgenski received his BFA in photography and design at The Center for Creative Studies (Detroit) in 1978. He continued his education in filmmaking at School of Visual Arts' (NYC) abroad studies program at the Irish National Film Studios in Ireland under the tutelage of both Academy Award-winning producer, director Robert Wise (Sound of Music, West Side Story, Star Trek) and screenwriter, producer Earnest Lehman (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Sabrina, North By Northwest).
In 2001, Charles was both an executive producer and the assistant director on the highly acclaimed, direct to video feature, TimeQuest, starring Bruce Campbell, Victor Slezak, Vince Grant, Barry Corbin, and Larry Drake.
The documentary, Making Genes Dance, which he produced for PBS affiliate WFUM won him a local Michigan EMMY in 2006 in the Cultural Documentary category.
In 2007 and 2008, he began producing (but did not complete), Blood Phantasies: Tales From The Barren Earth, a science fiction feature film, and the unreleased web series "New Directions."
For the last few years, Charles has been teaching screenwriting at The Actors Loft in Royal Oak, Michigan.
Toni Cunningham is a local screenwriter and filmmaker and former Kresge Arts in Detroit fellow. She has worked as a script analyst for screenwriting competitions and production companies, including The Writers Lab, BlueCat Screenplay Competition, and Goldcrest Films Production Company.
She has written 7 shorts, 2 pilots and a feature. She directed her first short film in 2019. Toni is a mentee with the #StartWith8Hollywood mentorship program and is currently working with her industry mentors on polishing her second feature screenplay while completing her Master’s Degree in Media Arts and Studies at Wayne State University.
Malcolm X Johnson
Malcolm X. Johnson, a Detroit native, who currently resides in Dallas, TX is a Writer, Producer, and award-winning Director. He is the founder and CEO of New Harlem Renaissance Productions.