The Creative Team

Dani Milton

WRITER   DIRECTOR   PRODUCER

A CPA-turned-screenwriter, Dani always had a passion for writing. Growing up in Kansas City, Missouri, her first story in elementary school was about magic books that whisked a young girl wherever her imagination desired. But Dani studied accounting in college and became a corporate CPA, having little exposure to the arts growing up. It was only as an adult that she learned how TV and movies are made: they start with writers. This discovery of screenwriting was a perfect pairing of her love of film and writing.

Dani completed NYU’s screenwriting certificate program at Tisch, and has written several screenplays, pilots and short scripts while working in corporate accounting. Her scripts have placed in numerous competitions, including her historical drama-romance, DEVIL’S MOUTH, which was a 2022 Academy Nicholl Fellowship Semifinalist. Dani is also a two-time Athena Film Festival Writers Lab selectee; her diverse, medieval fantasy pilot based on King Arthur IP, MORIEN AND THE BLACK KNIGHTS, was selected for the 2021 Lab, and her female-driven, action-thriller, TRINN BEGINS, was selected for the 2019 NYC Lab. Most recently, Dani was a 2022 Hedgebrook Writer in Residence.

THE FIRST MARTIAN was a 2020 WeScreenplay Diverse Voices Finalist and was also awarded the 2021 Best Short Screenplay Award by Women of Color Filmmakers.

Dani centers Black women in stories across space and time because, growing up, she never saw herself represented in the genres she loves.

Landi Maduro

PRODUCER

Landi Maduro worked as a professional model and actress before transitioning to photography and filmmaking. Landi is an awarding winning writer, director, and producer. She has directed and produced short films, features, music videos, small business commercials, business tutorials, and documentaries since launching her production company, Bluechild Entertainment, in 2012. Her award-winning documentary, The Silent Killer: Prostate Cancer In The African American Community screened for the Congressional Black Caucus and has been used by healthcare professionals and scholars to educate on the health disparities African American men face dealing with prostate cancer. Landi recently worked on the faith-based film Driving Force and the female boxing franchise Lola 2 available on AMC/AllBlk network. She is also the proud Founder & President of Women of Color Filmmakers; a 501c3 nonprofit organization that garners support, skill-building, and networking for female filmmakers as they pursue careers in film and television.

Jen Cheng

ASSOCIATE   PRODUCER

Jen Cheng is a multi-disciplinary storyteller, weaving her skills as a writer, poet, musician, improvisor, and artist. She helps amplify under-represented stories. As writer, director, and producer, her film projects center on stories that root for the underdog, shine on intercultural relationships, and cheer on big dreams. 

With a background in social justice activism and community building, Jen’s vision is that storytelling can connect people and grow new conversations. The short film she worked on as writer and co-producer, Shadow of Love, is a queer Asian family drama centered on a young gay Burmese man in search of his estranged immigrant mother. A recent narrative music video she wrote, directed, and produced has surrealist tones with a nod to Magritte’s Golconda. Themes of belonging and displacement are part of her stories from Jen's experience as the eldest daughter of Chinese immigrant parents.

Jen’s community building efforts started early as a high school journalist and she joined as a youth activist with the ACLU-Northern California, organizing conferences and facilitating workshops. She is currently an active member of Women of Color Unite, Strong Asian Lead, and a part of the speakers bureau of Youth Business Alliance. As an Associate Producer for The First Martian, Jen’s multidisciplinary perspective provides community connection across groups of scientists, academics, women’s health advocates, tech leaders, and fans of women of color stories.

Kemi Ayoko

ASSISTANT DIRECTOR

Kemi was born and raised in California and is a long-standing native of Oakland. She uses her Nigerian roots to impact the quality of feature films, commercials, documentaries and public service announcements by tapping into the spirit of community. By seeking out qualified and diverse crew members to train and hire, she constantly creates new career opportunities for women and minorities.

Kemi's ability to galvanize women and minorities in film has sparked interest from industry leaders and motivated young people to pursue a career in film. Her on-set demeanor brings a unique energy the cast and crew find motivating, captivating and inspiring.  Kemi's passion for excellence, knack for teamwork, and her willingness to communicate the value of each cast and crew member, contributes to the success of production. She brings magic to the industry.  

Having recently worked on critically acclaimed feature films such as “Fremont” (2022) and “Earth Mama” (2022) and the new “Donna & Ally” plus “The Moon is in Aquarius” in 2023, she continues to make a huge impact on the industry.

Mariscela Méndez

DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY

Mariscela Beatríz Méndez is a Chicana Director of Photography from San Antonio, Texas. Her clients include Vanity Fair, Google, Slamdance, and Tubi. Mariscela was selected to participate in the Women in Film INSIGHT Fellowship, Film Independent’s Project Involve, and The American Society of Cinematographer’s Vision Mentor Program. She is also the recipient of 2022 The Peregrine Collective Cinematographer’s Grant for her project “Mal de Amores”. Currently, she is one of four DPs selected to participate in Women in Film and Sundance Institute’s ReFrame Rise 2022-2024 Cohort which is also sponsored by Netflix.

Mariscela has a deep connection to her Mexican-American roots and often works on projects involving LatinX identity, female driven films, and magical realism. Ms. Méndez is a member of ICG Local 600, is based in Los Angeles and works worldwide.

Amber Loudermilk

HAIR & MAKE-UP ARTIST

Amber Loudermilk is a Union Artist with 20+ years of experience in the field of Makeup and Hair. Amber has worked across numerous mediums including television, film and theatre, on projects such as Boots Riley's tv show, I'm a Virgo; the indie feature film Earth Mama; and several productions for both the San Francisco Opera and Ballet. In Amber's words, "my hands have touched all forms of artistry." 

Medge Ross

CASTING DIRECTOR

Medgeen Ross is a NY/LA bicoastal casting director. As a very fun-loving and extroverted person, Medge wanted a career where she could meet new people and learn new things every day. At the moment, The First Martian is her ninth short film, and other projects she's casted for can be seen on Netflix and other streaming platforms. Others have won awards at prestigious film festivals. 

Siani Johnson

EDITOR

Siani Johnson is a multi-award winning editor. Hailing from Kalamazoo, MI, her love of film began when she was assigned a documentary film project in high school and continued into her education with a MFA in Film and Digital Technology from Chatham University.  Her most recent work has been officially selected in the Golden State Film Festival. When Siani isn't editing you can find her relaxing next to her dogs with a good book.

Karen Martin

COMPOSER

A native of Los Angeles,  composer Karen Martin studied classical piano and orchestration in London, subsequently performing her compositions in concert in England, Austria and Italy.  She returned to Los Angeles, receiving an MFA in Music at CalArts where she was mentored by the founder of their Music program and Pulitzer Prize winner Mel Powell. 

Karen was subsequently invited to the Sundance Composers Lab and is a Sundance Fellow.  Her stage work includes composing and producing multimedia productions at the Los Angeles Theatre Center.

Karen has scored a number of independent films which have screened on Showtime and Sci-Fi Channel, one of which won the Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Film Award at Comic-Con.  Two of the scores were finalist at the Moondance film competition. Her most recent film "Charlie and the Hunt", screened at this year's Cannes Film Festival Emerging Filmmaker Showcase and was just accepted into competition at the 2023 Slamdance film festival.

She is a member of Ava DuVernay's ARRAY Crew.