Dallas Film Reveals Finalist Judges for DIFF’s Screenplay Competition

Johnathan Brownlee, Teresa Cheng, Ken Estin, Lisa Furfine and Jana Memel

Dallas Film and the Dallas International Film Festival (DIFF), powered by Capital One, announced today the all-star judge lineup for its “Broaden Your Horizons” screenplay competition. 

Three-time Oscar winner Jana Memel, three-time Emmy winner Ken Estin, animation visionary Teresa Cheng, strategic partnerships expert Lisa Furfine and Dallas Film’s Johnathan Brownlee will leverage their combined industry experiences to select the winning screenplays and provide professional consolation to each top writer.

Johnathan Brownlee is an award-winning director, producer, writer and actor, best known for Three Days In August, The Standoff at Sparrow Creek and Decoding Annie Parker. He is a highly respected producer who has worked in more than 20 countries with Academy Award-winning, Golden Globe-winning and Emmy-winning talent. Brownlee’s feature films, documentaries, television programs and digital content collectively have been viewed in more than 100 countries in 14 languages. After more than two decades overseeing directors and writers, along with every other aspect of film and television production, Brownlee founded Torfoot Films to personally direct and write films. He is signed on to direct/write several upcoming feature-length films, including The Eyes of Jefferson, Montserrat, Hallmark’s An Island LightThe Devil’s Country and Twisted Retribution. Brownlee currently serves as chief executive officer and president of the non-profit Dallas Film, which produces the internationally recognized Dallas International Film Festival, powered by Capital One.  He recently created the Veterans Institute for Film & Media (VIFM), a training program for military veterans.  Brownlee earned a Master of Fine Arts at Brandeis University. He received his bachelor’s from Hofstra University and studied film at New York University.


Johnathan Brownlee

Teresa Cheng is an animation producer, best known for Shrek Forever After, Madagascar, Batman & Robin and True Lies. She has more than 30 years of experience in animation and visual effects. Currently, Cheng is Chair of Animation and Digital Arts for the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles since 2017. She also worked as a creative strategy consultant at Walt Disney Imagineering in Glendale, Calif., and was General Manager for Lucasfilm in Singapore for two years. Prior to that, Cheng spent 17 years at DreamWorks Animation in Glendale, Calif., and in Shanghai, China, working her way up to Senior Production Executive. She started her Hollywood career in visual effects production at Warner Brothers Studios, Rhythm & Hues and Digital Domain. Cheng earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the University of Washington in Seattle.

Teresa Cheng

Ken Estin is an Emmy winning screenwriter and producer, best known for Taxi, Cheers, The Tracey Ullman Show and Beverly Hills Cop. He created seven network pilots and ran several award-winning series, which eared him 11 Emmy nominations, nine Writers Guild Award nominations and two Writers Guild Awards. Currently, Estin is Executive Producer for The Estin Company in Los Angeles, and a professor for the school of writing for film, television and digital media at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco since 2014. He started his 40-year career working two years as a showrunner for Taxi, and then a showrunner for Cheers. Estin earned a bachelor’s for English language and literature from the University of California in Davis, Calif.

Ken Estin

Lisa Furfine is a mover and shaker in the industry securing corporate partnerships and promotional activations for The New Celebrity Apprentice. As chief executive officer of the Furfine Network, headquartered in Malibu, she has built a vast network of connections in the sports and entertainment industries. Previously, she was associate publisher of SportsTravel magazine in Los Angeles for 17 years and show manager for the annual TEAMS Conference & Expo. Her background also includes strategic business development work for the Bermuda Tourist Authority, San Francisco Travel Association and Maritz Global Events, as well as advertising work for clients, including Carnival Corporation, Walt Disney Pictures, Anheuser-Busch, Inc., and the San Diego Padres. Furfine earned a duel master’s degree for media communications and management, as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing, from Webster University in St. Louis.


Lisa Furfine

Jana Memel is a multiple Oscar winning producer, writer and director, best known for the shorts, Ray’s Male Heterosexual Dance Hall and Lieberman in Love, as well as the feature, So I married an Axe Murder. She has 30 years of experience shepherding more than 90 features, cable movies, shorts, documentaries and other videos. Films she produced have won the Writers Guild and Director Guild Awards, several Emmys, three Oscars and 8 other Academy Award nominations. She has written or co-written features for numerous studios, production companies and cable networks. Currently, Memel is Executive Director of the Schools of Entertainment at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, and the founder of The HollywoodWay in Los Angeles. Earlier in her career, she was a literary agent working at the Gersh Agency, and at ICM. Memel graduated from the University of Southern California Gould School of Law in Los Angeles. She earned a bachelor’s of sociology and history from Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif.

Jana Memel

The Dallas International Film Festival, powered by Capital One, runs April 16, 2020, to April 23, 2020, at West Village in Uptown Dallas. Writers may submit scripts for feature films, television pilots and short films to the DIFF “Broaden Your Horizons” screenwriting competition, sponsored by Carnival Corporation, now through midnight on March 31. Winners will be announced during the DIFF Filmmakers Brunch, Sunday, April 19. They will receive DIFF Star Passes, professional consultations, up to $1,000 prize money and a writer’s enrichment retreat on Carnival Cruise Line. 

For more information on the Dallas International Film Festival, powered by Capital One, visit, or contact Information can also be found on: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Details on the screenplay competition are also available at

About Dallas Film  
Dallas Film (, established as Dallas Film Society in 2006, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that exists to celebrate the past, present and future of film in our community. The organization provides leadership in screen education and the recognition and celebration of excellence in the art of film, television, and digital media. Through year round screenings, festivals and a variety of educational programs including The Veterans Institute of Film & Media and the Mercury One High School Film Labs, Dallas Film raises awareness of the world’s most approachable and inclusive art form. #WeAreDallasFilm

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Dallas International Film Festival

Through curation of the broadest range of expression through film, the Dallas International Film Festival (DIFF) is the region’s most powerfully inclusive and equitable platform for diverse, emerging and underrepresented voices. Since its founding, DIFF has screened more than 2,500 widely diverse new films from 50 countries, provided more than $1.1 million in awards and hosted more than 100,000 filmgoers and filmmakers. The Dallas International Film Festival (DIFF) is the signature program of our organization, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit established as Dallas Film Society, Inc. in 2006 by people who believe passionately in the magic of film.

We exist to celebrate films and their impact on society, honor filmmakers and recognize their contribution enhancing both the creative community and the city of Dallas, provide leadership in film education, and celebrate excellence in the art of film. Through a variety of year-round screenings, educational programs, community partnerships, and festivals, we raise awareness of the world’s most approachable and inclusive art form. More information is available at