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Meet the Team

Paul Melroy

Executive Director

Paul comes to the Tallgrass Film Association with significant not-for-profit arts administration experience and a particularly strong financial background, as he started his career as a commercial banker. He spent the better part of two decades with Atlanta Opera, starting off as the organization’s business manager and rising to become it’s Managing Director. He then went on to manage Conspirare, where the organization received multiple Grammy nominations during his tenure and won a Grammy in 2015 for Best Choral Performance. Most recently he was the Executive Director of Tropic Cinema in Key West, a unique art house cinema.

He is passionate about the arts in general with strong interests in music, performing arts, literature and cinema. Paul is excited by all the tremendous things happening in downtown Wichita and looks forward to helping the Festival grow as well as increasing the level of community activity outside of it.

Contact: paulm@tallgrassfilmfest.com


Nick Pope

Director of Programming 

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.

Hannah Bothner
Shorts Program Manager When Hannah isn't watching TV and movies and listening to podcasts she doesn't know what to do with herself. Born and raised in Wichita, she graduated from Wichita State University in 2017 and is currently the Development and Marketing Assistant at The Orpheum Theatre when she isn't coordinating shorts for Tallgrass. She will watch anything that David Wain has anything to do with and has seen Wet Hot American Summer too many times to count at this point. At 5'2" she is the perfect height to be the Shorts Coordinator.

Creative | Communications

Gray Brand

Director of Marketing & Communications 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.

Erin Patten

Creative Manager

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

Experience & Logistics Manager

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.

Hugo Phan
Born and raised in Wichita, Hugo joins the Tallgrass Film Festival team after five years of being a volunteer for the organization. In his spare time, he likes to watch movies, read comic books, participate in laughter and attend live performances of any variety.
Thane Chastain

Education Manager

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


Arietta Austin

Filmmaker Hospitality Manager

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

Filmmaker Hospitality Coordinator

Starting her 6th 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!

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