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Advisory Committee

The Advisory Committee consists of community leaders and organizations who have a passion for public media, cinema, storytelling, the military, and veterans.

Committee members provide meaningful support during the planning of the festival, including promotions, speaker recommendations, media relations and film selection. They also judge submissions to the local film showcase and vote on the award finalists.

The 2021 Advisory Committee Members (as of 2/3/21)

Derek Abbey, Ph.D.
, President & CEO of Project Recover; Major, USMC (Ret.) 

Derek Abbey HeadshotDr. Derek Abbey is the President and CEO of Project Recover. Project Recover is a collaborative effort to enlist twenty-first-century science and technology in a quest to find and repatriate Americans missing in action since World War II, to provide recognition and closure for families and the nation. Dr. Abbey served 23 years in the Marine Corps and extensively in higher education prior to his current position.


Linda Ball, Grant Writer, KPBS

Linda Ball is a grant writer at KPBS. She researches, writes and submits grant proposals, as well as conducts all follow-up requirements for grants awarded. She is involved in KPBS community engagement projects including Community Conversations, a program designed to explore issues important to the region with a goal of inspiring community dialogue around them.


Jodi Cilley, Founder & President, Film Consortium San Diego

Jodi Cilley lowres

Jodi Cilley is a long time filmmaker, entrepreneur, and educator. She has been teaching video production since 2004 and has taught video and editing at multiple facilities. Jodi has produced over a hundred projects, including web series, short films, TV specials, documentaries, and commercial projects. Recently, Jodi produced Film Indiego, a 6-Part TV series for KPBS. In her roles as the founder and current president of the Film Consortium San Diego, and the founder and producer of both San Diego Film Awards and San Diego Film Week, Jodi hopes to build a strong local film industry and to increase exhibition, distribution, funding and employment opportunities for local up and coming film talent.


Rik Deskin, Actor & SAG-AFTRA Seattle President; USAF Veteran

Rik Deskin is an actor and the SAG-AFTRA Seattle local president. He is a proud SAG-AFTRA and Equity member, and a longtime advocate for the film industry. Rik is the current chair of the SAG-AFTRA Military Personnel and Families Support Committee. Rik has a BFA in acting from Cornish College of the Arts and is a USAF veteran. His most recent work can be seen in The Devil is in the Details, B U M, and The Scottish Play. Rik’s next project is the Cold War documentary, Cold Warriors.


Bradley Garner, MBA, Talent Acquisition Manager; MSgt, USAF (Ret.)  

As a Talent Acquisition Manager Brad’s scope of leadership encompasses support of General Atomics Corporate Services, Energy and Electromagnetic Systems. Prior to General Atomics Brad worked for Scripps Healthcare following completion of over 20 years of military experience in the U.S. Air Force. Brad considers anyone in the service community as his family and he strives to support and create positive outcomes in their search for the next career. 


Keshia Javis-Jones, Administrative Director of Education Programs, Workshops for Warriors, USMC Veteran

Keshia Javis-Jones is the Administrative Director of Education Programs at Workshops for Warriors (WFW), a nonprofit that trains, certifies, and places veterans into advanced manufacturing careers. Keshia is a 10-year U.S. Marine Corps combat veteran who is honored to have held the titles of Funeral Honors Coordinator, Female Search Team Advisor, and USMC Toys for Tots Coordinator. She is proud of her current work with WFW where she helps lead fellow veterans to meaningful advanced manufacturing careers. 


Tony Johnson, Military and Veteran Advocate; Force Master Chief, US Navy  (Ret.)

Tony Johnson enlisted in the Navy and served 40 years on active duty and in the naval reserves, retiring in November 2015. Along with serving on board eight ships and nine deployments, Tony had overseas tours in Europe as well as Japan.  During his eleven years as a Senior Enlisted Advisor, Tony served in London England, two tours in Japan, also in a Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron, with his final tour as the Force Master Chief of Naval Air Force Pacific, Coronado, CA where he led 60,000 Sailors within naval aviation including the world-renowned Blue Angels.  After retiring from the Navy, he worked for Veterans United Home Loans of San Diego as their Military Liaison from September 2015 until May of 2017 still supporting military members and their families. He also sits on numerous non-profit boards and committees.


Heather Kelly, West Region Program Manager, Travis Manion Foundation; Gold Star Spouse

Heather Kelly is the West Region Program Manager for the Travis Manion Foundation. While managing programming in the West, her responsibilities run the gamut of what TMF offers – working closely with veterans returning to civilian life, the surviving family members of those who make the ultimate sacrifice, and fostering America’s next generation of leaders. In addition to her work at the Travis Manion Foundation, Heather is co-author of The Knock at the Door: Three Gold Star Families Bonded by Grief and Purpose with Ryan Manion and Amy Looney Heffernan, published November 2019. Heather, Ryan, and Amy, three Gold Star family members linked forever by unimaginable loss, share their inspiring and unlikely journey that began on the worst day of their lives. In addition to her daily duties as Program Manager, Heather continues to serve the community through TMF initiatives including Operation Legacy projects and Survivor Expeditions for other families of the fallen. She is honored to work in the company of like-minded individuals, all seeking to strengthen America’s national character.


Todd Kennedy, Interim Director, Military & Veterans Program at SDSU; First Sergeant, USMC (Ret.)

Todd Kennedy lowresTodd Kennedy oversees the development and implementation of several Barron Veterans Center programs at San Diego State University. He represents the university at various regional, state, and national venues and is an advocate, adviser, and troubleshooter for administrative and transition challenges faced by the military student body. He completed a 22-year career in the United States Marine Corps and earned his undergraduate degree in History in 2016. Todd maintains involvement in several volunteer ventures and is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Anthropology where his research focus is on military and veteran identity.


Bob Lawrence, Former Broadcast Military Reporter; Staff Sergeant Air Force Reserves (Ret.)

Bob Lawrence lowres

Bob Lawrence aimed to fulfill his goal of trying to make a difference in someone’s life in his more than 30 years of experience at Channel 10. Now retired as of June 2015, that is still his goal. Having served in the military as a staff sergeant in the Air Force Reserves, Bob found his calling as the military reporter at Channel 10 exposing the work and commitment of our young men and women in uniform. Currently, Bob still hopes to make a difference in his position on the board of directors for the USS Midway Museum, a member of KPBS’s GI Film Festival Advisory Committee, and as an emcee for other veteran and military events.


Sheldon Margolis, Former Executive Director, The Veterans Museum at Balboa Park; Captain, USN (Ret.)

Sheldon Margolis is a combat veteran of the US Navy. His 30 year Navy career included serving as an executive officer in Vietnam and as a commanding officer of the USS Lynde McCormick (DDG-8). He holds an MSEE from the Naval Postgraduate School and an MBA from Mary Washington University. Throughout his military career, and continuing still, he is active with the Boy Scouts, Jewish War Veterans, Military Order of the World Wars, and on the board serving as treasurer of the San Diego Chapter of the United States Navy League. He is the immediate past president and CEO of the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park.


Lisa Marcolongo, Public Relations Manager, Elizabeth Hospice

Lisa Marcolongo lowresLisa Marcolongo is the media relations and veterans specialist at The Elizabeth Hospice. She is an active member of the Family Life Affinity Group (FLAG) with the San Diego Veterans Coalition and is the chair of the San Diego County Hospice-Veteran Partnership (SDCHVP). Lisa is currently a member of the Coordinating Council of the San Diego Military Family Collaborative. The Marcolongo family was featured as one of four families in Sesame Street’s prime time show, “Coming Home: Military Families Coping with Change.” The TV segment and support materials help children and their families cope with injuries, visible and invisible.


Nico Marcolongo, Senior Manager, Operation Rebound, Challenged Athletes Foundation; Officer, USMC (Ret.)

Nico Marcolongo lowresNico Marcolongo is a veteran of the Iraq conflict who served 14 years as a marine officer. He leads the CAF Operation Rebound program for injured veterans and first responders and is also the founder of the Buddy Bowl Charity Flag Football Tournament Series. Nico is an original member of the GI Film Festival San Diego Advisory Committee.


Maggie Meza, Chapter Director, Blue Star Families San Diego

Maggie has over twenty five years of experience volunteering, advising, holding numerous executive board member positions, and fundraising for numerous organizations that advocate for military families. As a Military spouse, Maggie understands the needs and concerns that affect military families. She recognizes how important it is for military families to be connected not only within their installation but also the outside communities. Maggie has served as an Advisor to the Exceptional Family Member Program and Navy Marine Corps Relief Society facilitating positive changes and experiences for families stationed to Camp Pendleton. Prior to working for BSF, Maggie was the President of a nonprofit raising money for scholarships for military dependants and grants for local nonprofits that aide military families.


RanDee McLain, LCSW, Program Director – Mental Health Systems; 2014 San Diego County Veteran of the Year; USN Veteran

RanDee McLain headshotRanDee McLain is a proud US Navy veteran that spent time in Iraq, Kuwait and Spain. After being medically separated in 2009, RanDee went on to earn her undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice and her Master’s degree in Social Work with a concentration in Military and Veteran’s programs. Her passions include serving post-9-11 veterans, specifically those that are justice-involved and/or those who have difficulty transitioning. She is currently a director for Mental Health Systems and continues to be active in the veteran community and the greater San Diego community. In 2014, RanDee was named the San Diego County Veteran of the Year.


Patricia Nieswiadomy, Community Volunteer; Military Spouse

Patricia Nieswiadomy is a military spouse with over two decades worth of experience traveling both the country and world while enriching the lives of countless people through a career of extensive volunteer work. In San Diego, she has previously worked with the American Red Cross and various animal rescue organizations and currently volunteers for a local homeless shelter while also aiding with home construction through Habitat for Humanity. In Patricia’s spare time she enjoys reading a good book, gardening, and spending time with her two rescue dogs.


Martha Rañón, Executive Vice President, Southern Caregiver Resource Center

Martha Rañón is the Executive Vice President at Southern Caregiver Resource Center.  As the leading provider in San Diego County for caregiver services including programs for military and veteran families, Martha is proud to lead the education and outreach team at SCRC.  Her first-hand knowledge of being a caregiver coupled with her passion to connect under-represented communities with vital health care services is what has motivated her to be an advocate for family caregivers.  She can be seen at public speaking events conducting presentations, workshops, conferences, including recording podcasts, videos, and live stream classes with the hopes of empowering family caregivers everywhere.  


Amber Robinson, Vice President & Communications Director, American History Theatre; US Army Veteran

Amber Robinson is an Army Combat Veteran, non-profit leader, and writer. She served ten years in the Army as a journalist and public affairs soldier and leader, completed three combat tours to Afghanistan and is the recipient of the coveted Bronze Star. She is a co-founder and the Vice President of Marketing and Communications for The American History Theater started in 2014. Through this unique organization, she advocates for her fellow veterans hosting workshops and special projects which use theater and creative movement to pave new pathways in healing Post Traumatic Stress and  PTS associated with Military Sexual Trauma. She is a contributing writer to the San Diego Veterans Magazine and a published poet. She is proud to be a part of the GI Film Festival’s Advisory Committee for 2020.


Daniel Romero, San Diego Military Family Collaborative Director at SAY San Diego

Danny Romero lowresDanny Romero has worked within the nonprofit sector in San Diego for well over a decade.  Serving as an AmeriCorps member, he supported low-income neighborhoods across San Diego initiating community-focused programs to address neighborhood needs. In time, Danny expanded his work into diverse communities across San Diego utilizing education and technology to support upward mobility of community members. Currently, Danny serves as SAY San Diego’s senior program director overseeing all military-focused programs including the San Diego Military Family Collaborative.


Phillip Sammuli, Director of Corporate Relations, Armed Services YMCA San Diego

Phillip Samulli photoPhillip Sammuli is the Vice President of Legacy and Corporate Relations for Armed Services YMCA San Diego, an organization that exclusively serves 66,000+ San Diego active duty military service members and their families each year. Phillip is native to San Diego with military connections through his father’s service in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War. Phillip has been a member of the G.I. Film Festival San Diego Advisory Committee since its inception in 2015. Phillip holds a B.A. from San Diego State University, Graduate work from National University and is currently enrolled at UCSD’s CFRE program.


Jennifer Santis, Community Liaison, Mental Health Systems & Courage to Call

Jennifer has been a part of the Courage to Call team for five years. She currently serves as co-chair of the San Diego Military Family Collaborative (SDMFC) and formerly served as Communications Chair with the San Diego Women Veterans Network. Jennifer is also involved with the Domestic Violence Council, and Alcohol Policy Panel, as she is   truly committed to delivering caring service to veterans, military families, and community partners.


Denise Scatena, Founding Partner and Public Relations Professional, Scatena Daniels Communications

As founding partner of Scatena Daniels Communications, Denise Scatena has nearly 25 of strategic communications experience. She has the ear of the top media powerhouses and community influencers in San Diego County and beyond. Denise has won multiple awards from the San Diego Press Club, and is the PRSA SD/IC 2020 Deborah Baker PR Professional of the Year.


Holly Shaffner, Public Relations Professional; Lieutenant Commander, USCG (Ret.)

Holly Shaffner lowresHolly Shaffner has been a member of the Advisory Committee since it began in 2015. She served 24 years in the United States Coast Guard. Post-military, she attended SDSU and received her degree in Public Relations and now manages her own Public Relations consulting business. She is very active in the San Diego military community serving on several boards and advisory committees. She is a contributing writer for San Diego Veterans Magazine and volunteers with Honor Flight San Diego, the nonprofit that flies San Diego’s senior veteran to Washington, D.C.


Nancy Worlie, Interim General Manager, KPBS

Nancy Worlie lowresNancy Worlie is the associate general manager for content & communications at KPBS. She manages news, programming, public and media relations, marketing, events, government relations, and strategic planning. Before joining KPBS in 2003, Nancy was the managing editor of Las Vegas ONE, where she helped renovate its hour-long evening newscast and launched a new morning show as well as a political interview program. Nancy has also served as broadcast director for U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, in Washington, D.C., where she worked with the national, state and local media.