Advisory Council

We wouldn't be where we are without our awesome team!

Our Advisory Council is responsible for planning and facilitating events that allows CFC to flourish. 

Photos are courtesy of Glenn Roberson Photography


Juli Emmons — Founder/President | Juli Emmons is a film actor, director, casting director, and mother of three. But, mostly she’s a pioneer. Juli is pioneering film advocacy and creation in Charlotte, and she provides a place for filmmakers in the Carolinas to network, learn, grow, and create. She created the first film community of its kind in the Carolinas, the Carolina Film Community.

A lifelong lover of film, and dramatic arts, Juli got her start in the industry acting in stage plays and progressing into film acting. Over the years, she worked on several aspects of filmmaking and now works primarily in extras casting with more than 30 projects on her resume, including Tammy, The Longest RideSpongeBob SquarePants 2, You Are Here, and The Taking of Deborah Logan (for which the CFC hosted a Premiere and Red Carpet event). She has worn writer and producer hats for the last two years producing award-winning short films. She is a recipient of the 2016 50 Most Influential Women in Charlotte Award and was also voted Sexiest Local Woman of 2016 by Elevate Magazine in Charlotte.

Juli’s strong passion for film is what drove her to found the CFC in April 2009. Since its inception, the CFC has provided education, fellowship, and advocacy for filmmakers in the Carolinas as well as providing incentives to create films, a screenwriters’ workshop, a podcast series, and a platform for screening film and television productions. Juli has sat on the board of the NC Production Alliance(Secretary) since 6/2014.
Since 2015, the Charlotte Film Festival honored the CFC by allowing the CFC to host and create one of the evenings–“A Night with Carolina Filmmakers” where the CFC showcased works from Directors and Producers from the Carolinas followed by panel discussion and meet and greet.

Juli’s work and the momentum of the group has been featured in several media outlets including Fox News Rising, Empire Entertainment Magazine,Carolina Kid News TV ShowToday’s Charlotte Woman MagazineMy Carolina TownFox 46 CarolinasClose Up – with Patti Mercer, Charlotte Talks, WBTV News Morning Show, and more!

Rachel M. Payne — Vice President | Rachel M. Payne learned Spanish while living in Bolivia, South America during high school. She returned to the US to study theatre and business at a small university in Mississippi, where she tried her hand at all aspects of creating theatre and trained in classical singing. She focused her studies in acting in a conservatory style training program under Kathryn Gately, a first generation student of Sanford Meisner, and at the Moscow Art Theatre School in Russia.

Rachel began working as an actress in Chicago, performing in theatre, short films, streaming series and radio. Interested in creating content, she began writing with an international startup on series and features, and reviewing films and live performances for an online magazine.

Rachel moved into coordinating film production and assisting a talent agency while continuing to develop content, including songwriting. Leaving Chicago, she went to Boston to produce spots for a lifestyle and entertainment African television channel, and began directing digital marketing campaigns for African talent.

As her family began migrating from Chicago to sunny Charlotte, Rachel joined them in December of 2016–and aren’t we lucky!? She continues to work in film and marketing, and has begun volunteering her time for the Charlotte Film Festival. She has served as the media coordinator for the Carolina Film Community since early 2017, and is excited to be asked to join the Advisory Board for 2018!

Photo by: Blythe Spirit Photography

Kirsten Barrington-Hughes — Secretary / Director of Marketing | Kirsten Barrington-Hughes has been writing since the 2nd grade when she authored a book about bunnies. She writes poetry and pieces on people, places, and things that interest her and is published monthly. Kirsten also runs a successful photography business and is rarely seen without her camera. Through the lens, she captures the details of life and those living it, as well as headshots for most of the areas talent agencies. A 16 year marketing and sales professional during working hours, Kirsten is bringing her business acumen to the Carolina Film Community evangelizing the community’s good work and opportunities for fellowship, education, and advocacy. Kirsten enjoys being with family, cooking, reading, walking, traveling, and early morning boating on Lake Wylie.

Christie Luke —  Board Member | Christie is an NC Rostered, Trauma-Focused – Cognitive Behavioral Therapist who specializes in working with kids and teenagers. She is the author of the children’s book The Adventures of Pep the Pup, a story that focuses on dealing with the epidemic of bullying among children.

She is also a licensed counselor and a professional model.

She has been serving as an active board member of Carolina Film Community since 2015


Adam Franklin —  Board Member | Adam is an Entertainment Creative & President of Creative Chops Studios, based in Charlotte, NC. Originally from Virginia, Franklin graduated with a B.S in Digital Media (Art Minor) from East Tennessee State, then moved to LA and began working in feature film advertising. He spent the better part of a decade as a Motion Graphic Artist for clients such as Warner Bros., Universal, Fox, Lionsgate, and ESPN, before launching Creative Chops Studios in 2010.

He and his team now pursue storytelling through commercials, trailers, music videos, and film. His emphasis is to become a feature film director.

“Film is an extremely powerful medium that can intimately affect strangers, expand new and different paths of thought, and touch us all on different emotional levels. My passion for directing comes from the hope of affecting and influences others in some positive way, through storytelling.”

–Adam Franklin 


Alicia Fusting — Publicist / Advisory Council Member | Actress Alicia Fusting just moved back to Charlotte after 17 years in Los Angeles where she was a busy actress and was Head of Admissions at the The Aquila Morong Acting Studio. Over the last decade, she has also been working closely with veteran filmmaker John Putch on the production of his Independent films.


She spent 4 years TA’ing with the prestigious Casting Director Deb Aquila at Cal Institute of the Arts, an MFA Program and 8 Years Teaching as the Head of the Hollywood High Drama Volunteer Program.


Currently Alicia is Acting, Coaching, and Self Taping actors in the Charlotte area. She works part time for Corrigan and Johnston Casting locally & is excited for her lead in a Hallmark Film to debut soon. TV credits include: CSI, Castle, Scrubs, & many more. Upon moving to Charlotte she won Best Actress at The Made In Carolina Film Contest.


Keema Mingo — Advisory Council Member 

HBCU Grad and Filmmaker, Keema Mingo, has done scripted and unscripted productions for 20+ years. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications from Norfolk State University and her Master’s Degree in Film from Regent. She has worked in TV news; sports; public television; EP’d and hosted a radio show; wrote for an award-winning online magazine as well as wrote/produced/directed a variety of projects, music videos, commercials and interviews.

Moving to Charlotte in 2006, Keema has made a name for herself in the film industry. She does Hollywood productions and independent projects. She won Best Female Director in the Made in Carolina’s Film Festival for her short film, Fed Up. She cast extras for Fox’s Shots Fired, Oprah’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Netflix’s Mindhunter, TLC’s Married by Mom and Dad, The 24th, Obamaland, Goodbye Butterfly among other union and non-union shoots. Keema also produces/writes/directs/casts feature films, series and shorts.

Keema’s very first scripted web series, Repercussions the Show, is now on Youtube. Touting over 15,000 organic views, this series is another one of Keema’s great accomplishments. She also has films in various stages of production right now.

As a former collegiate film school professor, Keema has created film-based courses called The Mingo Masterclass which offers ‘film school content without the film school price’. Keema teaches The Secrets of a Casting Director, Screenwriting Building Blocks, Scriptwriting Techniques and Secrets to Making a Successful Film.

Taylor Montalto — Advisory Council Member | Taylor grew up obsessed with movies and was inspired to study film by her idol, Nora Ephron. She ended up graduating with honors from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington with a Bachelor’s degree in Film Studies and Journalism. Originally from Charlotte, North Carolina, Taylor’s passion for all things film and photography-related has driven her to work on various projects in both documentary and narrative mediums.

Taylor’s proudest accomplishment to date is having been part of the post-production phase of a documentary feature, Jewish American Soldiers: Stories from WWII. Since its official premiere in Charlotte, it has aired on PBS stations nationwide, become available for rental and purchase on Amazon Prime Video, been selected to screen at the 9th Charlotte Film Festival, and been included for historical preservation in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. It also recently received an Emmy nomination in the Musical Composition/ Arrangement category. 

Taylor previously worked as a Production Assistant at Full Scale Productions in Charlotte and is now looking for other opportunities in the film industry, specifically within the documentary field. She continues to play an active role in the Charlotte cultural arts scene.  Apart from serving as an Advisory Council Member for the Carolina Film Community, she is also Programming Director for the Charlotte Film Festival, an usher for Blumenthal Performing Arts, and a volunteer for the Charlotte Film Society.

In her free time, Taylor enjoys watching movies, taking photographs, traveling, hiking, and baking. 

Check out her work at

Cat Lellie — Advisory Council Member

“Being on set is my happy place”!


Cat Lellie loves nothing more than collaborative storytelling. A SC native, she received degrees in Media Communications and Theater prior to immersing herself in the NC film scene.


Cat began her career in front of the camera, acting in dozens of commercials, short films, and TV projects. In 2020, she had the honor of attending Sundance for the World Premiere of the THE EVENING HOUR, where she shares the screen with Philip Ettinger (HBO’s I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE).


Cat has also played roles behind the camera, including casting projects for local filmmakers, which is how she realized she wanted to be in a position to hire and bring talented artists together. Presently, she’s attending UNC School of the Arts, earning an MFA in Creative Producing.


What kind of work can you expect to see from Cat in the future? “My style is a blend of the Coen Brothers and Tarantino with the sentimentality of James L. Brooks”.  

Melanie Lech — Advisory Council Member | Melanie is a many hats kind of gal—she’s a writer, a photographer/videographer, a wannabe actor, and a lazy musician, but definitely not a dancer.

She’s responsible for our new website!

Melanie is a firm believer in making your own opportunities. After graduating from Appalachian State with a rag-tag double-major in December 2016, she and a pal started their own business, Mean Bean Productions: a one-stop shop for multimedia, especially stuff that’s silly, and moreover, an original content hub for comedic sketches, parodies, short films, and more.

In 2019, Melanie split her photography away from Mean Bean into a separate entity, Melanie Lech Multimedia, and it’s since brought home the bacon, which essentially all goes into Mean Bean Productions.

Photo by: Blythe Spirit Photography

Asha Chai-Chang — Advisory Council Member | Walt Disney once said, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”
And Asha Chai Chang continues to prove him right.

Stagnancy is not an option for her dynamic nature. Her analytical mind earned Asha Chai-Chang a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with Honors – Concentration in Finance, Insurance, Economics, and Actuarial Science paired with a Minor in Cinema. As well as an Honors Diploma in Political Science and Pre-Law from Yale University, she collected all ingredients needed for success.

A decade of experiences later, her path includes many milestones: Asha Chai-Chang is an Award-winning Director, Writer, and Producer. As CEO of Love My
Productions, she creates comedic shorts, thrillers, family-friendly content, and episodic delights such as “AshaDorable” to entertain diverse audiences on a global scale. She oversees most projects she works on from conception to completion.

As a member of Women in Film & TV Atlanta (WIFTA), Premier member of Black Businesses of Charlotte, Women in Media, Black Girl Gamers, and sought-after film panelist and motivational speaker, Ms. Chai-Chang assists and leads productions ranging from commercial and shorts to two feature-length films in pre-production. She encourages film enthusiasts, actors/actresses, and crew to connect with her through and via media platforms.

Named Best Director for the Top Indie Film Awards, taking home numerous other awards for her films, and continuing to receive nominations regularly, Asha is grateful to create the world she wants to see through film and explore subcultures with her audiences. Since her award-winning films, “Cruise Control” and “Spoiler Alert,” critics have noted her ability to shine light on the fact our outer appearance does not dictate our interests on a human level. Ultimately,
we share a key attribute: we all enjoy being entertained. Ms. Chai-Chang also works as a Market Manager for Fortune 500 Companies. Asha volunteers as a Motivational Speaker for the YES Institute, is a frequent panelist for Comic Conventions, and is a member of the Queen City Game Club, teaching children the benefits of learning strategy and collaboration through gaming. 

In addition to her plethora of talents, Asha never ceases to strive for knowledge and education. She implements new skills and expands her repertoire in each of her many fields. Her life is a testimony that once again it’s kind of fun to do the impossible.

William Fowler — Advisory Council Member

William Fowler is a certified graphic designer from CAL Arts with a BFA in Animation from SCAD. 

He specializes in designing advertisements with special skills including the creation of posters, brochures, pamphlets, and logos. 

He branded a new software called Telecommunication for Carolina Digestive Health Associates and that design raised Telecommunication’s popularity to 300 new patients a day.

His passion for art led to creating powerful designs using visual storytelling as a method for improving the connections between the people and the products they use.

In William’s free time, he likes building LEGO sets.

D Manning — Advisory Council Member

D Manning is a graduate of Full Sail University with an Associate of Science in Digital Media. He is the owner of Luxpoint, Inc. which provides 3D measurement services through drone and laser scanning technology. D appreciates hiking, black and white photography, and inappropriately timed jokes.