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Meet the Team

Programming | Education

Nick Pope

Director of Programming & Education

A graduate of the University of Kansas, Nick has spent his life in Wichita and has been with the Tallgrass Film Festival since the beginning, when he started as print traffic assistant. In 2015, Nick was upped to full time staff. His passion for film grew in the 90's with indie auteurs such as Wes Anderson, The Coen Brothers, and Paul Thomas Anderson. His programming team wades through close to 2,000 submissions a year. Fortunately, for him, the festival is in October so he can still make time for March Madness.

Gretchen Mitchell

Co-Director of Programming

Gretchen has an addictive personality. Fortunately her obsessive outlet manifests itself, not in crack or meth, but in watching and organizing the films submissions and programming committee for the festival. Since she began volunteering for the festival in 2005, she has fallen crazy for the international narratives and the raw, edgy domestic indies. When she is not driving the rest of the staff crazy with it, her OCD is perfect for working at Tallgrass. Also, she knows all the best late night taco joints in town.

Shan Jabara

Director of Acquisitions & Community Engagement

Shan has been with Tallgrass since its start, joining the first programming committee in 2003, followed by various leadership positions in programming throughout the years. Currently, as Director of Acquisitions, Shan's focus is on researching, reviewing and booking films for the annual festival and year-round screenings and working with various community groups in conjunction with particular films and events. She's famous for her hummus and baba ghanoush and don't forget to ask her about her ex-pat days in Vietnam.

Creative | Communications

Erin Patten

Director of Production

Erin likes to make things. All sorts of bizarre and wonderful things out of silver, glass, yarn, fabric, wood, pixels, video... whatever is handy. She's been making things for Tallgrass since 2005, when Tom asked her to do floral centerpieces for the galas, and hasn't stopped yet. She's plays a major role in the making of event artwork, slides, and several of the Tallgrass trailers over the years. When not busy with all of that, she enjoys trashy B-movies, German Weimar cinema, costume dramas, and Xanadu.

Events | Logistics

Tom Mittlestadt

Director of Events & Logistics

When he's not covered in glitter, Tom can usually be found backstage, propping on set, or at home watching a film from his Southern women collection. Tom has been designing Tallgrass' legendary parties since 2003 when he turned a parking garage into an extravaganza that people are still talking about. Despite constant heckling from his fellow staff members, he remains a PC.

Mary Ann Hollander

Events & Logistics Manager

No one can quite recall how long Mary Ann has been with Tallgrass but Tom has been more organized since the day they met. By day, this creative, who holds a degree in Arts Administration from the Savannah College of Art and Design, runs events in the admissions office at Wichita State University; and in her spare time, she lends her talents - and keen fashion sense- to Tallgrass.

Byron Love

Entertainment Coordinator

Many things can be said about Byron and most of them would be correct. A man of many hats, Byron J. Love is a Tallgrass Cinderella story. Starting in 2012 as a volunteer in the production department, he soon blossomed into the Entertainment Coordinator whose focus is booking and setting up the musical acts for Gala, VIP Lounge and Reception events. Though Byron is NOT A MEMBER OF THE RUDY LOVE FAMILY, he is a songwriter and performer in his own right. He’s spent 2 decades involved in the North Texas and Wichita/MidWest Music scenes in various projects with various aliases, so he gets why his identity is often confusing. Aaaaaah! That’s why he looks familiar.    


Thane Chastain

Technical Director

Thane can best be described by his initials: TEC. If it plugs in, turns on, makes noise, shows pretty colors on the wall, well, that makes him happy. He connects equipment, ideas and people - and not always in that order. Allow him to tell you all about his trip to Chicago to scout all the shooting locations for the original Blues Brother's movie (not that horrible remake in 2000!). He speaks geek, but heck, someone on staff has to.

Food | Beverage

Anne Bowman

Food & Beverage Director

If it doesn’t sparkle, it had better be pink and fluffy or designed to be worn with stiletto heels.  When she isn’t locating a donor for a cool cuisine for a Tallgrass party or reception, Anne, a consummate closer, stays busy with several other non-profit organizations ….all the while, her tiara intact.


Arietta Austin

Hospitality Director

Arietta is the hostess with the mostess. Hospitality Director for fourteen years, this California girl has witnessed it all, and only done half of it (she says with a wink.) Ari can always be counted on for her fierce earrings and contagious laughter. From the moment they touch down in Wichita, every visiting filmmaker at Tallgrass is treated like a VIP thanks to this lady.

Blaire Birdsong

Hospitality Coordinator

Starting her 5th season with Tallgrass, Blaire is excited to be a part of this crazy, creative, funky, film family.  When Blaire is not working on Tallgrass festivities, she is busy being drooled on by her one-year old daughter, Neeli.  She enjoys cheering on the KC Royals, watching reruns of The Lawrence Welk Show, and planning trips to Vegas.  Blaire looks forward to hosting you at a future festival!

Box Office

Francine Fairweather
Box Office Director Francine is the best Box Office Director that Tallgrass has ever had. The girl can count, sort and organize like nobody’s business and we always call on her when we just need to get things done. Francine has a knack for remaining drama-free amongst her hot-headed colleagues. When she's not selling tickets or counting money, you can usually find her adding to her shoe collection or singing her signature song “Killing Me Softly,” on the karaoke circuit.
Mark Rodriguez
Assistant Box Office Director When not locking eyes with Harrison Ford in downtown Wichita, Mark works with Francine and Brian to help ensure TFA patrons experience a smooth and enjoyable ticketing process. Prior to the festival, Mark also helps train our wonderful volunteers in the art of box office and preaches smiling until it hurts. Working for Tallgrass has become a welcomed passion in his life as he enjoys being around talented filmmakers and the rush of late festival nights. He is a passionate patron of movies and would live in the Lord of the Rings universe if given the opportunity.
Brian Gray

Box Office Manager

Brian works in box office, but let it be know, he hates pickles with a serious passion and wants to make that very clear. What he loves, well that’s easy. It’s all about music, sports and most importantly, film and everything film related. Moving from hometown Wichita to Manhattan (NYC) for film school and an internship with Pressman Films was quite a culture shock, but he loved learning more about the industry. A competitive spirit is alive and well within Brian - whether on the basketball court or in the box office - he expects to win. So let Brian watch What About Bob for the 800th time and he will be a happy guy. But whatever you do, don’t give him a pickle


Gray Brand
Volunteer Director Gray is a dedicated pop culture fanatic with a heart that beats for TV and movies. Originally from the Bay Area, she moved to Kansas in 2008 and stuck around after graduating from Wichita State University with a degree in Integrated Marketing and English Literature. Gray joined the Tallgrass team in 2015 after years of involvement as a festival volunteer. When she’s not rewatching Arrested Development for the hundredth time, you can find her inside a nice, cold movie theater formulating her Oscar picks.

Assistants & Interns

Amber Brown
Production Assistant Amber loves Tallgrass the way Dorothy loves Toto. Where else in Wichita could she make phone calls to Hollywood, take orders from fabulous ladies or seek out fellow movie-lovers? Before Tallgrass people rolled their eyes at her endless soliloquies about pop culture, now she's experienced everything from being kissed on the head by Dog the Bounty Hunter to trying to convince people she worked on The Voice (people who still don't care.) Amber is attempting to make herself more awesome by studying as a film student at KU and by volunteering at the Sundance Film Festival. Outside of film, Amber's other unhealthy obsessions include Harry Potter and her cat.

This organization received funding for general operational support from the City of Wichita