Director Jesse Gustafson in Bosnia, 1997

Director Jesse Gustafson in Bosnia, 1997

JESSE GUSTAFSON, Writer & Director

Originally from Clearwater/St Petersburg, Florida Jesse enlisted in the US Army at age 17 and was deployed on a peacekeeping mission to Bosnia-Herzegovina. After the military he attended the University of Florida, majoring in scenic design. He transferred to the University of California Santa Barbara where he graduated with a BFA in Theater Performance and a BA Equivalent in Stage Directing.

After graduating college he moved to Bangkok, Thailand where he performed and directed for an English-speaking theater company at The British Club’s Theater. He left Thailand and moved to San Francisco where he worked at the Magic Theater and was the production manager for the 2003-2004 season, which included the world premier of Dr. Faustus, written and directed by David Mamet. Jesse then moved to New York where he was awarded one of two directing residencies at the prestigious Off Broadway Theater, Playwrights Horizons. He has directed and performed in over 40 theatrical productions across the world.

He began working in the art and visual effects departments on feature films such as Cold Souls and Asylum Seekers. He went on to work as an account producer at the advertising agency, Digitas, working on national commercials and web spots for various brands. In 2010 he decided to pursue his love of storytelling and enrolled in the Masters of Fine Arts Film Program at Columbia University in New York City.

In 2013 his short film, Double Header, won the IFP Audience Choice Award and his television script Killing Time won the screenwriting award for Best Television Pilot at the Columbia Film Festival. In the 2014 Festival his feature script Ace of Spades was a Faculty Select in the screenwriting competition and he was awarded the Ezra Litwak Award for Distinction in Screenwriting. Ace of Spades would go on to be a Semi-Finalist in the 2014 Nicholls competition and a Finalist at the 2014 Austin Film Festival script competition.

His short film DAY 39 premiered at the 2015 Columbia Film Festival at Lincoln Center in New York City where the film won Faculty Honors as well as Jesse's second IFP Audience Choice Award. Prior to the festival the film was awarded development awards by Light Iron and the Tribeca Film Institute and participated in the ASCAP Columbia University Composer Workshop. DAY 39 is currently a finalist at the 42nd Annual Student Academy Awards.



Joshua is an MFA Creative Producer at Columbia University. He is from upstate New York, and studied film and business at American University in Washington, DC. In fall 2007, he spent a semester abroad studying film production at the prestigious FAMU film school in Prague, Czech Republic. Joshua has written, directed, and produced short films across the United States and internationally, in both the Czech Republic and Russia. 

He currently works at Big Beach Films in New York City. 


CHRIS COLE, Co-Producer

Chris is a producer currently pursuing an MFA at Columbia University.  Prior to enrolling, Chris co-produced "Black Tulip", Afghanistan's official entry for Best Foreign Language Film award at the 83rd Academy Awards. Before joining the film industry, Mr. Cole was an investment banking analyst at Bear Stearns, JPMorgan, among others. 

In addition to his work in film, Mr. Cole has been involved with a variety of philanthropic endeavors with the Afghanistan World Foundation (AWF), including the development of a microfinance platform for housing facilities, and fundraising for hospital construction. his undergraduate thesis examined sustained economic development and poverty reduction strategies in rebuilding Afghanistan. 



Laurence is currently enrolled in the MFA film program at Columbia University where he won the Best Director Award in 2012. His short films have played at the Screen Actors Guild special showcase, BAMcinemaTEK, and won the Fine Arts Award at Brown University. 


SARAH SULLIVAN, Associate Produce

Sarah graduated from Columbia College in 2012 with a major in US History and a concentration in Film Studies. She has worked at HBO and Focus Features, and now holds a position at the acclaimed international production company, SMUGGLER.

VALERIE MARTINEZ, Associate Producer

Valerie is pursuing her MFA in Creative Producing at Columbia University. She served in the US Air Force as a systems analyst, completed her MBA and worked in the financial industry prior to crossing over to film. She has written, directed and produced several short films in the US and the Philippines. She was an intern for Tribeca Film Institute for the Alfred Sloan Foundation Fund and Greenbox Films for Marketing and Distribution.

DAVID M. BARBER, Production Designer

David M. Barber is a scenic and costume designer based in Brooklyn, New York whose work has been seen nationally and internationally for more than a decade.

David’s professional honors include the American Theater Wing's Henry Hewes Design Award and a special Drama Desk Award for excellence for the team of The Orphans' Home Cycle(2010), a Connecticut Critics Circle Award for Best Set Design for The Orphans' Home Cycle(2010), Westword's "Best of Denver" award for The Taming of the Shrew (2012), a Denver Ovation Award (Richard iii, 2009), the Denver Drama Critics’ Circle Award (Richard II, 1998), Denver Ovation nomination (Othello, 2005), participation in the Prague Quadrennial International Exhibition of Theatre Design (1999). Some of his recent productions include co-scene design for the critically acclaimed off-Broadway and Hartford Stage productions of the 9 play cycle, The Orphans' Home Cycle, the world premiere of the lauded and extended The Vandal at the Flea Theater, scenery and costumes for the hit downtown attraction Conni's Avant Garde Restaurant, the critically acclaimed off-Broadway revival of Women Beware Women and the world premiere of The Best of Enemies, by Mark St. Germain.

David’s work in other fields includes art direction for Football Night In America and The Today Show at NBC, production design for the television broadcast Woodstock ’99 (FOX and Metropolitan Entertainment), production design for the films Also LiesGood Wife, Double Header and Soundstage 116, graphic design for the film Alone and art direction for the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus (134th Blue tour). He has also served as the resident event designer for Red Carpet Media Partners, designing environments for events such as the American Diabetes Association annual gala and the CD release party for Hip Hop is Dead by Def Jam recording artist Nas. He is currently E! Entertainment's New York Art Director.

DAN SOULE, Art Director

Daniel Soule is a Manhattan-based set designer/art director.  Recent film includes Body of Crime (L. Vanicelli), One Trick Dieter (Z. Kerschberg), & A Little Picture Show (A. Brennan).  Recent theater includes This Blessed Plot (Weston Playhouse), Lady From the Sea (EgoPo), & The Corsair (3LD/Columbia).  Education: NYU-Tisch, Dartmouth College.

EMIL DAUBON, Military Adviser

Emil Daubon has been with US Army Special Forces since 2005. He has deployed around the world in support of various missions, including Operation Enduring Freedom- Afghanistan and Operation Enduring Freedom- Philippines and continues to serve with 19th Special Forces Group as he pursues full time studies at Columbia University's School of General Studies.

ERIC NELSON, Military Adviser

Eric Nelson was an platoon leader from Afghanistan from 2005-2006. He led a 40-man platoon of the 173rd Airborne fighting against Taliban groups and working with villagers in remote districts of Kandahar Province with international development. Eric is currently enrolled in Columbia University's School of General Studies in the pre-med program.