Dana DeKoven - President
A Founding Director of Reel Causes, Dana DeKoven is passionate about connecting people and communities to create positive change. Through her work with Reel Causes, she is excited to help bring together community members, independent film-makers, and local charities which address issues that affect us locally, regionally and globally. For her, Reel Causes is about using the power of film and community to influence positive social change — engaging and empowering us all to take action, expand our horizons, and build connections and friendships.
Dana is a professional grant writer and fund development specialist, working with arts, environmental and social justice organizations. She is also founder and director of Award Access, where she assists predominantly lower-income, under-represented students in accessing financial support for post-secondary education.
She has served on the board of directors of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, the Washington Native Plants Society, the Environmental Educators of BC (Founding Director) and the Environmental Educators Professional Services Association. She holds a BSc (Environmental Biology) from McGill University and a MS (Animal Science) from the University of California, Davis.
Ian Merkel - Co-Vice President/Secretary
An avid and passionate film goer, Ian Merkel has curated and run film festivals in BC for more than 25 years. In addition, he has helped non-profit organizations with financial, database and membership /donor systems, marketing and fundraising both through the private and public sectors. Ian believes that exposing social injustices, health and poverty issues through the media of film is one of the most effective forms of creating awareness for the public to address these many issues that affect our ever changing world today.
Born in South Africa, Ian is a Chartered Accountant and when not running film festivals and film events, he markets financial software systems. He was involved with the Vancouver Jewish Film Festival (www.vjff.org) from 1996 to 2009 and filled many roles including Board Treasurer, Film Curating, Director of Development and Executive Director. In 2011 and 2012 he curated and event-planned a new South African Film Festival to benefit a local charity: Education without Borders (EWB) www.educationwithoutborders.ca) that funds educational programs in the poorer townships of South Africa and also focuses on educational programs within aboriginal communities.
Ian joined the board of Reel Causes in 2011, first as Treasurer (2011-2016) and now as Co-Vice President. He also assists in marketing and planning Reel Causes’ events.
Bob Christie - Co-Vice President
Bob Christie is a filmmaker from Vancouver, Canada whose work explores the interesting spaces where documentary film meets popular entertainment and social justice. He produced and directed the 2009 feature Beyond Gay: The Politics of Pride that won ten best documentary awards and many other honours, including being featured as the opening film of the Boston LGBT Film Festival, and the Canadian Gala at the Victoria International Film Festival. Beyond Gay also involved substantial on the streets activism working with organizers from Poland, Russia, Sri Lanka, the United States and Canada. In addition to extensive television commercial credits, Bob’s previous work includes The Royal Eight a documentary about his family, short films, music videos and web content. It received completion funding from the National Film Board of Canada and paints a touching portrait of Bob’s aging father and his seven siblings, their unusual traditions, and the remarkable camaraderie of these eight feisty seniors and their tight knit clan.
Bob is an active community volunteer, having served on the Vancouver Pride Society’s outreach committee, The Vancouver Queer Film Festival’s Queer History Project advisory committee, and Winter Pride Whistler Film Society. Bob has a BFA in film and an MA in Comparative Media Arts from Simon Fraser University where his studies focus on LGBT media and activism.
Jessica Somers - Treasurer
Jessica has been a film buff as long as she can remember! Growing up in repertory cinema and midnight movie screenings, she can’t imagine life without films that make you think. Jessica loves working with Reel Causes because it’s an opportunity to take her passion one step further – to be inspired by socially-aware films and take “reel” action in life by supporting organizations making a difference in the areas of social justice, environment and health.
As an accountant and cross-border tax advisor, Jessica works with clients to provide business strategy and tax planning advice as well as financial statement preparation and support for clients going through audits, (re)financing, and due diligence processes. She enjoys working with non-profit organizations to ensure financial stability and long-term sustainability. Over the years, Jessica has provided her financial expertise and on-going support to the Vancouver Latin American Film Festival, the Yoga Outreach Society, the Queer Film Festival’s “Out on Screen”, the Vancouver Latin American Cultural Centre and the Manhattan Housing Cooperative.
Julia Brunzell - Director
Julia is looking forward to working with Reel Causes and using her energy and expertise to bring together talented people to create inspiring experiences. As a creative leader, Julia’s career has taken her from small architecture firms to giant retailers such as Starbucks and Lululemon (where she quickly became addicted to coffee and stretchy black pants.) She has also been a business owner, part-time theatre actor, volunteer and jam-maker. She finds balance through her yoga practice, rearing teenagers, and enjoying some of the finer things in life like poutine and kombucha.
Julia is very excited and honoured to be part of Reel Causes and become more involved in the Arts and social justice in Vancouver. She hopes to contribute her skills in a meaningful way to create positive change in the world.
Shikhar Chatrath - Director
Jennifer Foden - Director
Jennifer Foden, a freelance writer and editor originally from Toronto, is excited to be on the board of Reel Causes in order to give back to the community she now calls home. With an undergraduate degree in Criminology and Justice Studies and a post-grad in Publishing, Reel Causes is a way for Jen to combine two of her passions: social justice and media. She also brings a wealth of experience in writing, editing, digital marketing, media relations and social media as part of Reel Causes’ marketing team.
Melissa James - Director
Melissa’s professional background spans several areas including marketing, communications, video production and interactive media. She began her career as an entertainment publicist in London for high profile clients such as Shania Twain and the The Brit Awards. This propelled her to various roles in PR and marketing in New York, Toronto and Montreal. In 2007 she moved to Vancouver and switched her focus to film and TV. After graduating with honours from BCIT in Broadcast Communications, she began a passionate career in documentary film production at Make Believe Media, working on a variety of shows for the CBC, Investigation Discovery and OWN. In 2010 Melissa directed and co-produced the critically acclaimed feature documentary, No Fun City, about Vancouver’s music underground which premiered at DOXA, screened at festivals worldwide, won Best Documentary at the Victoria Film Festival, and was aired on Superchannel.
Currently Melissa is an associate producer and interactive producer at Flying Cloud Productions, a human rights-oriented production company whose recent film, Human Harvest, won a Peabody Awards for documentary. She is a firm believer that the power of film can create positive change in the world, and is excited to channel her enthusiasm into Reel Causes.
Lisa Rasmussen - Director
Lisa is passionate about the power of film and its ability to connect people and create benevolent change. She feels the greatest sense of enrichment and enjoyment – as an audience member and as an organizer – supporting film events that engage the community. She is thus thrilled to be on the Reel Causes’ board and help vision and shape its future. Lisa also brings her experience and energy to the areas of event planning, public relations, and membership development.
Lisa has worked as a development professional in the Arts for several years with organizations such as the Vancouver International Film Festival, the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company, and the Luminato Festival in Toronto. She has been a member of VIFF’s International Screening Committee since 2014. She is currently representing a Canadian filmmaker on two of his independent documentary films in the capacity of Director of Marketing and Distribution.
Arjun Shankar - Director
As a lawyer and musician, Arjun brings a unique set of skills and experience to the Reel Causes team. He completed law school at the University of Saskatchewan, articled with Legal Aid Manitoba’s Child Protection Law Office, worked as a Crown Prosecutor with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice, and has been in private practice since 2012. His primary practices include Administrative Law & Judicial Review, Non Profits & Charities work, Immigration & Refugee Law, Family Law and anything related to social welfare and seniors.
Outside of law, Arjun is also an accomplished vocalist, guitarist and songwriter, and has been involved in writing, performing, and recording music for almost 30 years. These days, he is keenly interested in songwriting, as well as the business/legal aspects of the music industry.
Arjun is also an active volunteer and currently involved with Access Pro Bono’s Solicitor Program for nonprofits and charities, Coast Mental Health as a guitar teacher, and the 411 Seniors Centre Society as an Information and Referrals volunteer. In his free time, when there is any, you’ll catch Arjun either practicing guitar, doing yoga, running or biking in crazy weather. He’s tremendously proud to be a part of the Reel Causes team!