Leslie Foster

Programming Team

1 - Input 2 - Empathy 3 - Connectedness 4 - Intellection 5 - Learner

H. Leslie Foster II is an LA-based filmmaker and founding member of the Nomad Solstice art collective. Having grown up and worked all around the world, Leslie thinks of himself as an urban nomad and fantasizes about joining a roving band of vagabond artists. With over ten years spent in the film industry, he strives to make work that is beautiful and uncomfortable. 

Leslie serves as the current Artist-in-Residence at the Level Ground film festival and is the social media guru/resident "Mr." for Ms. In the Biz, a company that creates community and wisdom-sharing among women in the film industry.

Westley Garcia

Festival TEAM

Westley does not believe in personality tests. 

Raised in the humble city of San Diego, Westley is overjoyed to be living in the Los Angeles area after spending time in Iowa obtaining his B.A. in Religion from Northwestern College and working as an admissions professional. In addition to his professional work in higher education, he volunteers his time as a lay leader for the Loft and as the COO of Mary Lee Kitchen, two organizations that have sponsored the Level Ground Film and Art Festival. His work at Level Ground as part of the Festival Team will center around organizing and running all festival logistics.

Lauren Furutani

Events TEAM

Lauren is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist practicing in Los Angeles.  Because of her heart for service, she has spent several years working and volunteering for various non-profits.  Lauren loves the way food and drink facilitate conversation and creativity, so you can generally find her behind the bar or preparing and serving meals at Level Ground events. Lauren also enjoys commuting on foot through the beautiful neighborhoods of LA.

A.C. Neel

PROGRAMMING TEAM

1 - Ideation 2 - Input 3 - Positivity 4 - Intellection 5 - Developer

A.C. Neel is a screenwriter and independent film producer from Indiana. While living in Chicago, A.C. co-wrote and produced the feature film We Grew Up Here (2014), which premiered at the Chicago International Movies & Music Festival. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary, where he completed an M.A. in Theology and Art and produced the short thesis film Mothers of the Desert. As the Director of Film Programming for Level Ground, he uses his knowledge of film to curate art from around the world that can be used to foster dialogue at Level Ground events.

Rebekah Neel

Festival TEAM

1 - Empathy 2 - Maximizer 3 - Individualization 4 - Developer 5 - Adaptability

Rebekah Neel is an artist, art educator and massage therapist from Thailand by way of China, Hong Kong, Italy, India, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Chicago. She currently calls Southern California home. Growing up with one foot in the East and one foot in the West has given Rebekah a love for the similarities in human experience and an appreciation for the unusual. She loves being around the dialogue about identity, faith, gender, and sexuality which showcases this beautiful depth of difference. Her love of Wes Anderson and David Bowie is rivaled only by her love of personality tests. Her Myers-Briggs is ESFP, her Enneagram is 9, and her top 5 Strengths are Empathy, Maximizer, Individualization, Developer, and Adaptability. She would drop just about anything to chat with you about your personality.

Morgan Shoup

Operations TEAM

1 - Includer 2 - Woo 3 - Developer 4 - Focus 5 - Futuristic

Hailing from the great state of Colorado and equally lovely state of Oregon. Morgan completed her undergraduate studies at George Fox University in Religion and Christian Ministries and her graduate studies at Fuller Theological Seminary in Intercultural Studies. Morgan has a passion for people/people groups who are underprivileged, whether by choice, accident, or due systems that oppress them. In her free time, Morgan plays first base on two Pasadena softball leagues. Morgan can also be found building something in her backyard (she’s quite the crafty woman), playing with her dog Griffin, cheering on the Denver Broncos, trying a new beer, or planning her next vacation (Norway is a favorite of hers).

Jason Ippolito

PROGRAMMING TEAM

1 - Communication 2 - Context 3 - Strategic 4 - Woo 5 - Activator

A fascination with visual expression first surfaced through doodles and sketches, and continued to develop with the family camcorder, ultimately unleashing a career. This passion unlocked the pursuit of education and training at both the undergraduate (Temple University | BA Film) and graduate levels (Fuller Seminary | MA Theology & Art).

Jason enjoys bantering on various topics of theory; the boundaries between sacred and secular art, “Christian” art, and modern day parables. Currently, he works as a steadicam/camera operator based in Los Angeles. Away from “office” Jason weekends as a triathlete, enjoys unpretentious wine tasting, and persistently attempts to conquer the world of Catan.

Marcy Meija

Community TEAM

Marcy Mejia is Level Ground’s Director of Membership, resident DJ, and unofficial mascot. Originally from Silverlake, Marcy is currently getting her B.A. in Musical Performance with an emphasis in Bass Guitar at the L.A. College of Music. Marcy mentors youth in Los Angeles to empower and support them through unique challenges of urban life. Marcy brings energy and a musician’s lens to Level Ground’s work.

Avril Speaks

PROGRAMMING TEAM

1 - Adaptability 2 - Intellection 3 - Empathy 4 - Connectedness 5 - Input

Avril is an artist and a scholar from New Jersey by way of Atlanta, GA. As a film producer and director, her artistic work focuses on people and institutions that comprise a community--the women, the men, children, the extended family, the school, the church, etc.—and the various ways in which those relationships shape humanity. Avril loves watching diverse films that spark dialogue and reflection, and serving on the Programming Team allows her to do just that. Currently based in LA, Avril holds two master’s degrees and is a professor at University of La Verne. For more information, visit http://www.azuspeak.com.

Jessi Knippel

Outreach TEAM

1 - Input 2 - Empathy 3 - Developer 4 - Communication 5 - Connectedness

Jessi is a artist who hails from the Pacific Northwest. She holds several degrees, with a focus in the intersections of art, faith, sexuality, gender and social justice. She is a features writer/podcast participant with a passion for culture and media.

Christian Brown

Communications TEAM

Christian Brown is an award-winning journalist, specializing in topics of politics, faith, and minority communities. Since earning his master's degree in journalism from the University of Southern California, he now serves as editor of The Norwalk Patriot newspaper and a freelance reporter for NPR-station KPCC.

Kim Barker

PROGRAMMING TEAM

1 - Intellection 2 - Input 3 - Responsibility 4 - Futuristic 5 - Connectedness

Kim graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary in 2014 with a Master’s of Arts in Theology with an emphasis in Theology and the Arts, which is arguably the most redundant degree title ever. Kim uses her interests in film and spirituality as a member of the Level Ground Programming Team, which scours film festivals and the internet at large to find and screen movies that will potentially foster dialogue surrounding the themes of faith, gender, and sexuality at Level Ground festivals.  The Jamie Babbit classic “But I’m a Cheerleader” really helped answer a lot of questions she had in her formative years.

Kristi Scott

Communications TEAM

1 - Empathy 2 - Connectedness 3 - Developer 4 - Strategic 5 - Includer

Born and raised in the LA area, most of my childhood was spent in church, AWANA, and evangelical church camp. I went so far as to attend a Christian college, Azusa Pacific University, where I studied Political Science. After several non-profit jobs, a year volunteering in Peru, and multiple quarter-life crises, I currently live in Redondo Beach working as a nanny. I originally discovered Level Ground via Twitter and it brings me joy to be a part of this wonderful group of passionate people. I blog at www.kristipaula.com.

Niko Palacios

Community TEAM

1 - Connectedness 2 - Empathy 3 - Woo 4 - Individualization 5 - Input

Originally from Seattle, with extended pit stops in Nashville, New York City and most recently Pasadena, Niko Palacios is a nomad at his core. As a former New York fashion stylist, Niko loves to use fashion and aesthetics as a catalyst to create real dialogue around identity and community. He has a B.A. in Business Administration from Belmont University and an M.A. in Theology from Fuller Seminary.  Having worked as a suicide counselor for the Trevor Project, Niko brings fresh perspective to the importance of helping all voices be heard. With his “free” time, Niko drinks copious amounts of wine, camps in the woods, and spends hours on Spotify looking for new music.

Alexander Richard

Festival TEAM

1 - Communication 2 - Woo 3 - Positivity 4 - Ideation 5 - Empathy

Alexander is a sexually progressive, God-fearing, aspiring comedian.  He currently holds no academic degree but loves to read the New York Times and watches Anderson Cooper 360 on a semi-regular basis.  According to Alexander, the Holy Trinity consists of: Oprah Winfrey (Father), Beyoncé (Son), and Shonda Rhimes (Holy Spirit: Because Shonda coordinates things behind the scenes as a writer and you never really see her).

Alexander believes that one should never underestimate the power of sleep and laughter.  The two aforementioned items should be a priority and not hard to come by.  Get a good night's sleep on a consistent basis and laugh uncontrollably, frequently.  It will add peace to your life.

Jonathan Stoner

Community TEAM

1 - Connectedness 2 - Empathy 3 - Input 4 - Adaptability 5 - Includer

Jonathan has a wide-ranging background in both the areas of communication and ministry, from working in graphic design, theater, filmmaking, photography, journalism, and social media, to several years working overseas in Africa, Europe, and the Pacific Islands with YWAM. He is currently preparing for a vocation in arts-based pastoral ministry as a MDiv student at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena. As a lifelong film lover, he is passionate about utilizing media to capture stories that need to be told.

Andy Motz

PROGRAMMING TEAM

1 - Intellection 2 - Input 3 - Restorative 4 - Empathy 5 - Connectedness

Ever since he watched Vertigo at age eight Andy Motz has wanted to be a filmmaker. Andy has completed bachelor and masters degrees in film production/film studies. During this time he made two short films and is pre-production for his third. Influenced by feminist and queer theory, European Cinema, and fine art photography Andy is dedicated to both sharing and creating immersive thought-provoking films.

Bianca Luna

Outreach TEAM

1 - Woo 2 - Communication 3 - Includer  4 - Ideation 5 - Competition

Bianca Luna is a student at Fuller Theological Seminary pursuing a Masters of Divinity with the anticipation of graduating June 2017. Bianca holds a BA in Pastoral Studies from North Central University in Minneapolis, MN.  Bianca is proudly from Northern California, raised in Sacramento, and then spent some years in Santa Cruz where she claims as home. Most of Bianca's expertise falls under Children, Youth, and Prayer Ministries but wants to focus in on being an advocate for gender equality and justice for the LGBTQ community; she feels that the best place to find her voice in these places is Level Ground. Most of Bianca's church background has been deeply conservative backgrounds, although she may not agree with all their teachings and theology, she wants to honor and respect them because she has a desire to be a bridge person with non-affirming and affirming communities. Bianca is a firm believer in love, as God continues to pursue and love us; we know how to love others.

Kristen Spencer

Operations TEAM

1 - Restorative 2 - Developer 3 - Relator 4 - Harmony 5 - Intellection

Spence lives in Pasadena and has watched Level Ground grow from a one day festival into an organization that holds monthly events in Pasadena. Spence has a passion for good food, community and camping. Spence gets to do life with Morgan and their dog Griffin.

Cameron Gaebler

Outreach TEAM

1 - Harmony 2 - Input 3 - Responsibility 4 - Restorative 5 - Intellection

I am a queer Christian and a student at Fuller Seminary. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, but I now live in Van Nuys with my spouse, Leif. He and I met in college, where I majored in physics, became a Christian, and came out for the first time. Leif and I are part of Christ Church Parish, an Episcopal church in Ontario. I enjoy cooking for people, crocheting, and binging on Netflix shows.

Elizabeth Villa Ippolito

Communications TEAM

1 - Futuristic 2 - Strategic 3 - Responsibility 4 - Individualization 5 - Positivity

Elizabeth is an LA-native, sun worshipper and entrepreneur who has spent her career creating meaningful content for businesses and brands she believes in. She is the founder of Do The Good Stuff — an online space where exercise meets self-discovery and self-love – and a proud participant of the Level Ground Communications Team. She spends her days working at LG HQ, so come say hi!