School of Film & Media Arts

Faculty and Staff

School of Film & Media Arts at Playhouse Square

Meet the award-winning, accomplished faculty and staff.

The School of Film & Media Arts has attracted a range of diverse faculty members and support staff who share a track record of industry accomplishments and significant teaching experience.

Full-time Faculty and Staff

Anita Gabrosek, Assistant Professor in Post-Production, graduated from Ohio University with dual MFA’s in Film Production and Playwriting. She worked as a professional editor in New York for over a decade on narratives, documentaries and short-form television; some of her credits include the feature documentaries Cropsey and Borderline, and the television shows Impractical Jokers and MTV’s Made. In addition, she also worked at New Dramatists, one of the country’s leading playwriting centers. She has taught editing, documentary and writing courses at The Edit Center, The New School for Social Research, New York University, and most recently at Penn State where she received the Dean’s Excellence in Teaching award. Her own work includes the short film This May Pose A Continuing Threat (2019) and the full-length play Disengaged.

Assistant Professor of Practice Maria Gigante earned her Master of Fine Arts in Film from Columbia College Chicago. Her short films, including the award-winning Girls Room (2007), have screened at more than 60 festivals around the world, including Berlin International, Tribeca, Montreal World and Cannes. She was the runner up for the 2007 MTV Movie Award “Best Filmmaker on Campus” and was listed as one of the “Top 10 Emerging Talents in Chicago” by Boards Magazine in 2008. For more than a decade, Gigante has taught film courses at the college level while writing, directing and producing narrative film, documentaries, music videos and web content. She is the marketing and media hub manager for the Cleveland International Film Festival.

The school was founded by former Director Frederic Lahey, a prominent scholar, writer, director and producer. Formerly the head of the Colorado Film School, Lahey built that program from the ground up, transforming it into one of the most respected film schools in the nation. The Hollywood Reporter named it among the Top 25 Film Schools for four consecutive years (2011-2015). Lahey's film and video company, Oneiric Films, has been honored by multiple Telly Awards, an International Business Stevie Award and a Platinum Pixie for excellence in animation.

Evan Lieberman has a Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute’s Center for Advanced Film and Television Studies and a PhD from Emory University’s Institute for the Liberal Arts in Film Studies/Cultural Studies. He has written, produced, directed, and/or served as director of photography on four feature films and dozens of shorts, commercials, music videos, and promotional videos. His publications span topics ranging from Mexican wrestling films to the conceptual dynamics of internet surfing with an emphasis on the history and theory of cinematography.

Rich nova Milne, Visiting Assistant Lecturer in Postproduction, is an accomplished artist with a strong exhibition record. He brings a wealth of experience in various aspects of post-production such as visual effects, motion graphics and sound design. Rich received the New York Foundation for The Arts Fellowship in Digital/Electronic Arts category in 2020. He is also the recipient of numerous awards, grants and artists' residencies internationally and the US, including a New Project Grant from ​the Australia Council for the Arts in 2018.

Director of Engineering Rick Pitchford is a licensed and certified senior broadcast engineer with over 40 years of radio and TV production experience. He has worked as the chief engineer for a public educational radio station, contract engineer for several commercial radio stations, video production engineer for educational television facilities and technical consultant for corporate and commercial production companies in Wisconsin and Ohio.

Richard Sherman is an Associate Professor of Film who graduated with an MFA from Ohio University. He is an award-winning cinematographer and director, having shot six feature narrative films, four feature documentary films, and more than 20 short films. His work has been screened at numerous festivals including the Cannes Film Festival Doc Corner (2014), the Lucerne International Film Festival in Switzerland (2014), and he won the Grand Prize, Best Feature Documentary, Rhode Island International Film Festival (2009). As an artist with a background in photography and printmaking, his films could best be described as expressionist nonfiction. He has taught classes in Cinematography and Lighting, and Narrative, Documentary and Experimental Production at Pittsburgh Filmmakers, Ohio University School of Film, and The Pennsylvania State University. While at Penn State, he co-developed a Documentary Abroad program in which he took students to Iceland, Amsterdam, Ireland, Hungary and Portugal to make short documentary films.

Interim Director Cigdem Slankard oversees operations, strategy and academic development for the school. Born and raised in Turkey, Slankard came to the United States to study film and video after earning a Bachelor of Arts in Translation and Interpreting from Turkey’s Bogazici University. She earned a Master of Fine Arts in filmmaking from Ohio University and has written and directed several short film and video projects including Fresh Start (2017), Cultivation (2016) and Comfortable (2013). Her work has been featured in several exhibitions and film festivals including Istanbul International Short Film Festival in Turkey; Ohio Short Film and Video Showcase; INVIDEO, an annual international video art festival in Milan, Italy; and Exhibition 280, a national juried exhibition hosted in the Huntington Museum of Art in West Virginia.

Workflow Coordinator Dave Tarbert is an Emmy Award-winning and 8-time Telly Award-winning producer/director/cinematographer/editor/talent who began his television broadcasting career as Special Projects Editor for NewsChannel 5. In front of the camera, Dave was their Man on Music, the first feature reporter covering exclusively music and entertainment for a major-market TV station. As Executive Producer of his new-media production company, Tarbert Television, Dave has created acclaimed digital video content for RTA, Moen, Cleveland Clinic and many other public and private institutions looking to inspire and inform. He loves sharing his passion for the medium of visual arts as a true expression of individual creativity and expressive artistic freedom via cinematic storytelling.

Adjunct Faculty

Tiffany Alexander has a BA from Hampton University, and a recent MFA in Narrative Media Writing from the University of Georgia.  She has worked as a Copy Editor at the Orlando Sentinel, Reporter and Assistant Metropolitan Editor for the Plain Dealer, Adjunct Professor at Metro State University in Denver, Assistant City Editor at the Denver Post, as an Editor at CNN Digital, and as an Adjunct Professor at Kent State. Outside of her journalistic past she has written children’s books and TV Pilots.

John Ban brings 40+ years of professional TV, broadcasting and cable experience to the classroom, where he teaches media production and post production. Ban’s work has been recognized for local Emmy, Addy, Telly, Nacaa, Itva, Oiff and W.E.B awards of excellence. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Telecommunications from Kent State University and a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Cleveland State University.

Allan Byrne has 25 years of experience in acting, directing, and teaching. Allan’s recent roles include Lucky in Waiting for Godot at the Beck Center, Ames in Ages Of The Moon at Ensemble Theatre, and Max in Dobama’s production of Superior Donuts. He performed for two seasons in CPT/Playhouse Square’s The Santaland Diaries as Crumpet. He was one of early members of Charenton Theatre where he appeared in True West, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Caretaker, and Oleanna. Other local productions include: The Exonerated and The Laramie Project for Dobama, Broken Glass and Awake and Sing for the Halle Theatre, Teddy in Pinter’s The Homecoming for Ensemble, and Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night Henry IV and The Foreigner for Porthouse Theatre. He has performed with The Cleveland Playhouse (resident company for three seasons), Great Lakes Theatre Festival, Stage West (where he did Suzuki training and was Polonius in Hamlet), Yale Repertory Theatre and Pittsburgh Public Theatre. Film work includes General Wolfe in the PBS film The War That Made America. He has been honored with a Community Partnership for Arts and Culture Fellowship for his work as a director with productions of Richard III, The Trojan Women, Twelfth Night, and The Birthday Party. He is a certified Meisner Acting teacher and teaches this method at Cleveland State University where he also teaches Eastern Movement/Voice Training, Film, and Directing. CSU directing credits include Marat/Sade, The Oresteia, The Tempest (four American College Theatre Festival certificates), Equus, and Lysistrata.

Salvatore Cardoni earned his first screenplay credit for 2008's Gnomes and Trolls: The Forest Trials, a children's animated feature that was sold to more than 80 countries and played at a dozen film festivals worldwide. He also co-wrote the 2015 award-winning documentary, Traficant: The Congressman from Crimetown. As a professional story analyst, Cardoni has "covered" more than 7,500 screenplays since 2003 for companies like ICM, United Artists and Participant Media. He holds a Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting from Loyola Marymount University.

James Denny has been teaching film history and analysis courses at Cleveland State University since 2006. He earned his Master of Arts in Applied Communication Theory and Methodology from CSU, writing on the difference between black-and-white and color film footage in terms of the effects on audience emotion. James has co-authored various papers on film and television including those exploring character movement in film, the effects of the laugh track in sitcoms, the parallel history of film and video games, and the effects of modern 3-D movies on the audience.

jimi izrael, MFA is a writer and filmmaker from Cleveland, Ohio. His memoir, The Denzel Principle, was published on St. Martin’s Press and optioned for the screen.  He’s written and directed two shorts: #popcorn(apotheosis) and The New Binky Show. As a journalist and culture critic, his work has appeared in the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Times-Picayune and other print and online outlets. He’s appeared on CNN, CSPAN, MSNBC, Fox News, NPR and Al Jazeera. Widowed father of three, izrael resides on Cleveland's East Side.

Jennifer Poland has her BA from Kent State and her MA from CSU. She has taught film for the Center for Arts Inspired Learning and the Cleveland High School for Digital Arts, and for CSU. She has worked as producer, director, writer, cinematographer and/or editor on dozens of freelance projects and music videos particularly for Invasion Films and North Coast Films in Cleveland. Her films have been screened at the Houston Comedy Film Festival, Barebones International Film Festival, Austin Spotlight Film Festival, and the University Film Video Association Conference.

Eric Siler has produced and directed numerous television programs in New York, Philadelphia and Cleveland. He has taught film and video production, editing, studio directing, and African film at John Carroll University, Rowan College and the famed Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts. Siler earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Elizabethtown College, a Master of Fine Arts in Television Production from Brooklyn College and his Master of Education in English/Communication from Cabrini College.

Cleveland native Michael Suglio is the creator and director of the “Short. Sweet. Film Fest.” Suglio earned a Master of Business Administration from Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management. He has produced and directed a feature film and several short films and music videos, and he serves on the Board of Directors of Independent Pictures, which hosts the Ohio Independent Film Festival.

Gabriel Allan Tolliver is writer/producer/director across media platforms. He is a graduate of UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and Long Island University's TV Writing and Producing Program. He has a BFA in Film/TV Production and a Masters of Professional Studies in Interactive Telecommunications from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.  Gabriel is also a decorated US Army Veteran who served as a video journalist (46R) from 2007-2011 which included deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (09-10).  Gabriel’s range of interests and expertise have led to a diverse portfolio. He also co-wrote and directed, "FLEECING LED ZEPPELIN", a short crime caper film based on true events involving one of Rock's greatest unsolved heists. The film has been added to the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame's media archives and screened at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Harlem International Film Festival.  He co-authored the definitive pop culture book on trendy, ostentatious jewelry called BLING: THE HIP-HOP JEWELRY BOOK by Bloomsbury Press and wrote and co-produced MONDO BLACK,  an artful 8 part documentary web series for PBS affiliate; Black Public Media.  He directed behind the scenes and wrote show copy for the YO! MTV RAPS 30th Anniversary Experience at Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY in June 2018.  Gabriel was also a 2018-2019 Writers Guild Foundation fellow in their Veterans Writers Workshop. Gabriel is also a freelance producer for Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts’ digital series; ## ThriverThursday for which he received a 2019 Telly Award. 

Kevin Vaughan has a BA in Film and Digital Media Studies from CSU and an MFA in Film and Television Production, Screen Writing and Directing Concentration from the USC School of Cinematic Arts. He worked as the Film and Photography Artist-In-Residence at Cleveland School of the Arts, and was a Teaching Assistant for undergraduate film classes at USC. He also worked as the Facilities and Operations Management Coordinator for the USC School of Cinematic Arts.  Kevin is actively engaged in developing original scripts and projects in the film industry.

With more than 25 years of experience in the entertainment industry, John Vourlis holds a Master of Fine Arts in Film Production from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. Vourlis was nominated for best director for his short film Rocket from the Grave at the 2013 Ohio Independent Film Festival. He most recently produced and directed Breaking Balls, a documentary about the game of bocce, which was an Official Selection of the 2017 Cleveland International Film Festival and the 2017 Chagrin Documentary Film Festival.