Founders & Senior Staff
JOHANNA BENNETT, Co-Founder
Johanna began her entertainment career singing on stage with her father, Tony Bennett, at the age of ten. After years oftraining at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, Johanna made her film debut in Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas, and continued to appear in independent films, television, and numerous Off-Broadway plays. In 1994 she started her own decorative painting company called “The Mock Turtle,” designing custom finishes for walls, ceilings, and floors for private homes and restaurants in New York. In 2000 Johanna segued into real estate, dealing in high-end international realty with Sothebys. Johanna serves on the Board of Governors for Nile Rodgers’ We Are Family Foundation, and is an active advisor and fundraiser for The Shang Shung Institute in America, MusiCares, The American Cancer Society, and Urban Farming.
MANDY WARD, Co-Founder
After graduating from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2002, with degrees in FILM/VIDEO PRODUCTION and MEDIA AND PERFORMING ARTS, Ward moved to NYC to dive head first into the production resurgence triggered by the New York City and State Film / Video tax incentive legislation. From 2003 to 2010 Mandy worked at Radioaktivefilm, producing independent documentaries addressing social and political issues in modern society. Notable titles from her time at Radioaktive include the documentaries We Will Not Die Like Dogs, Palestine Blues and Pennhurst. While navigating New York City's independent film waters, Mandy saw a need for a centralized and intimate event catering to up and coming feature film and documentary talent to gain more exposure in the worldwide marketplace. When she isn't navigating the demands of First Time Fest, Mandy works in various capacities on the physical production of feature films, scripted television series, reality and recreational tv series as well as documentaries, commercials and corporate promos. In between the festival and her production gigs she works tirelessly finding and developing intellectual materials in the feature film, documentary and tv spaces. Mandy lives in New York City and, after a long run on the Emmy Award winning recreational crime show A CRIME TO REMEMBER, she is currently producing First Time Fest for its third year.
DAVID SCHWARTZ, Director of Programming
As Chief Curator of the Museum of the Moving Image, David is responsible for organizing and overseeing the Museum's wide-ranging film and video programs, which include independent and Hollywood films from the silent era to the present, experimental films, documentaries, animation, and other forms of the moving image. He is the regular host and moderator of the Museum's ongoing series, Pinewood Dialogues, conversations with key creative figures in film and television, and is Editor-at-Large of Moving Image Source, the Museum's online publication. Schwartz was formerly the Director of Programming for the Hamptons International Film Festival. He is the host of the Westchester Cinema Club, the country's longest-running word-of-mouth film club, and a Visiting Assistant Professor in cinema studies at Purchase College.