The Team

Reel Stories would not be possible without the dedicated and passionate hard work of our staff, boards, and volunteers. Want to join us in achieving equity in the media industry?


Esther Pearl - Executive Director



Esther Pearl is the founder of Reel Stories. She received her Bachelor’s in Visual Arts from the University of California, San Diego and her M.B.A. in Sustainable Management from The Presidio Graduate School. She spent 15 years working in Production Management in the entertainment industry. The majority of Esther’s film career was spent at Pixar Animation Studios where her feature film credits include Academy Award winning films The Incredibles, Wall-e, and Monsters, Inc. Her other credits include Titanic, Starship Troopers, Armageddon, and What Dreams May Come. Esther has been honored for her contributions to Bay Area Women in Film, Television, and Media by the San Francisco Women’s Film Institute. She was a semi-finalist for the Echoing Green Fellowship awarded to a social entrepreneur addressing urgent issues in society today. In 2018, she received the Distinguished Leadership Award from the Advanced Imaging Society. Esther believes in the power of great storytelling to create social change.


Director of Youth and Emerging Maker Programs

Dawn Valadez is a queer, Xicana, social worker, filmmaker, activist, fundraiser, and impact strategist. Her award-winning first film, Going On 13, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Dawn is the Producer/ Co-director on the 2018 documentary THE PUSHOUTS with Katie Galloway (Director/ Producer). The Pushouts won the 2019 Imagen Best Documentary award and is a Sundance Stories of Change project.

Dawn is a 2020 recipient of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media - See It, Be It Development Fellow. She is in pre-production on two series - one scripted and one documentary style. She is a consulting producer on a number of projects including Vivien's Wild Ride and Manzanar, Diverted.

Dawn is an alumni of the CPB Producers Academy, BAVC National MediaMaker Fellowship, NALIP’s Latino Producers Academy and Media Market and the Women of Color Filmmakers’ Residency. Dawn is fund development consultant with a number of racial and social justice organizations in the SF Bay Area.


Development Associate

Vera is an arts administrator originally from Brooklyn, New York. She is an avid reader, hiker, and movie-lover. In addition to working with Reel Stories, Vera currently works with KPFA Community Radio. In the past she has worked with Bay Area media organizations including Making Contact and The Freedom Archives. She is passionate about supporting artists and organizers create and challenge the world around them.


She/Her Operations and Media Producing Associate

Grace Patterson is a 23 year old queer filmmaker from the San Francisco Bay Area. Since 2015 she has been directing, editing, and producing short films with Reel Stories. The film she is most proud of creating at Reel Stories is “After The Storm”, which had its audio mixed at Dolby Laboratories in San Francisco. She graduated from Mills College in Spring 2021 with a BA in Art & Technology and a BA in Communication.


She/Her Media Teacher

Yasaman Ford is a graduate from the University of California, Los Angeles with a bachelor's degree in Film and Television with a concentration in Documentary and Digital Media. Yasaman attended the very first Camp Reel Stories in 2013 and returned in 2014 and 2015 as a camper. After graduating high school Yasaman attended camp for three more years as a volunteer "producer" and in 2020 as a staff member after graduating college. Being introduced to the film world through Reel Stories, filmmaking and feminism has always gone hand in hand for Yasaman and she aims to educate others, from toddlers to teenagers, on the importance of representation in the media. Yasaman's own work as a filmmaker includes narrative production design to directing documentaries to freelance motion graphics and editing.


She/Her Media Teacher

Heidi is the founder and former director of the School of Digital Media at Oakland School for the Arts (OSA), and former co-chair of OSA's School of Visual Art. She has B.F.A in Film from Virginia Commonwealth University and an M.F.A. in Visual Effects Programming from Savannah College of Art and Design. Heidi formerly served on our Board of Directors in the Bay Area and now is the Media Teacher of various virtual programs for Reel Stories online!


She/Her Reel Stories Instructor

Morgan Lewis (she/her) is an African American woman filmmaker born and raised in the Bay Area. Morgan has been a Reel stories instructor for 3 years where she teaches documentary filmmaking using different techniques to incorporate found footage. She is a senior undergrad at CCA where she studies found footage and documentary filmmaking. As a young girl she loved entertainment! Morgan enjoyed watching Michael Jackson music videos and seeing representation of people who looked like her on screen. As she got older she became passionate about equality and social justice. In her college years she found herself drawn to documentary filmmaking. Being able to use her art to bring about different perspectives/representations that audiences may not be aware of helped her to voice a change to the systems of oppression and underrepresentation in main media.


They/Them Reel Stories Instructor

Sarah Bryant-Cole (they/them) is a Reel Stories Instructor and Co-Teacher for the Reel Stories Student Board. They attended the very first Reel Stories summer program in 2013, returned many times as a camper, and ended up volunteering as a Producer after aging out of the programs. Reel Stories has been a staple in Sarah’s life for years and they are incredibly excited to be able to take their role even further within the organization. They have been interested in filmmaking since they were a young child, falling in love with visual storytelling. Since then, they have graduated with a degree in Textile Design from the Rhode Island School of Design and have a strong interest in interdisciplinary textile work. Because of this, they are well-versed with costume design and are excited to bring their knowledge to the table. Their filmmaking experience has mostly been through Reel Stories, however they have gotten the opportunity to take many other film and photography classes at various institutions in order to become more acquainted with the camera, and, as such, they also have a love for photography. Additionally, they were on the stage tech crew in high school where they worked as a lighting designer, and would love to be able to bring that knowledge into future classes as well.


Reel Stories Narrative Filmmaking Intern

Luna Ekundayo is an artist, poet and youth organizer born and raised in Oakland, California. As a current senior at MetWest High School she has participated in year long internships where she can explore her interests. As a former participant of the Reel Stories Camp, she is now interning with the Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC). Luna’s personal experiences and those of her peer group inform her desire to portray their lived realities through film in order to provide alternatives to the status quo. In her participation in the fight for the collective liberation of all peoples, she has engaged in many community and youth-centered endeavors, some of which include:

Creation of Kanju, a Black Femme-lead safe space and support network for people who’ve experienced challenges specific to the intersections of race, gender, and social structures. She strives to create art through all mediums that reflects this intention.
Black youth for the people's liberation (BY4PL) a Black, youth-lead and founded organizing space created to address the harms of the carceral state and its affiliations on youth and society as a whole.
Reparations for Black Students in the Oakland Unified School District -

Her goal during this internship is to create media that carries the same revolutionary energy.


Reel Stories Intern

Grace Kelly is our Reel Stories Intern. She has been with Reel Stories for the past four to five years, and has been a member of the Reel Stories Student Board for the past three years. Grace has made four to five films with Reel Stories, and four more on her own. She works in live broadcasting as well as in traditional filmmaking, and she loves both of them! Grace is excited to write blog posts for the website and feature more amazing films in them!

Board of Directors

Thrilled that these former Reel Stories board members will be serving on the BAVC board as of February 2021 following our merger! Meet the Rest of the Board


BAVC Board Member

Penny Krueger is a film and video editor. She is the senior editor at Eleven Inc. in San Francisco. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in film and in recreation administration. Penny has been editing for the past 12 years prior to editing, she worked for several youth programs including summer camps and year round science camp.


BAVC Board Member

Kia Simon, an award-winning filmmaker, started Sneaky Little Sister Films in 2004 in Oakland, California, with a focus on motion graphics and narrative storytelling. Kia says “The design we create should always be telling the story, not distracting from it. It’s always about the ideas that are being communicated.” In addition to mastering new design tools and methods, Kia enjoys learning about new topics and fields through her work. Kia recruits and cultivates artists with diverse design styles and sensibilities, helping them to improve and grow their skills.

Kia’s narrative films, music videos and documentaries have played in festivals all over the world. Her documentary Looking for Sly won awards for Best Short Doc at SXSW, LA International Short, and Tortured Artist Film Festival. Her music videos have been in rotation on MTV, and won awards from Zoie Fest and Berkeley Film Festival. The Pacific Pioneer Fund awarded her the Emerging Filmmaker Grant. Both PBS’s video i and Varnish Art Gallery in San Francisco have presented retrospectives of her work. She participated in AFI’s Women Director’s Workshop and in Film Independent’s Director’s Lab and Fast Track Program.


BAVC Board Member

Crystal Williams is a multidisciplinary artist from Oakland, CA who doubles as an Accounting/Finance professional. She’s a proud HBCU alum with a passion for Women’s Health, Filmmaking and mentoring the next generation of creative girls/non binary youth.

Thanks in large part to Reel Stories’ Women’s Filmmaking Weekend, her passion for filmmaking and acting was reignited and her film resume now includes Acting, Writing, Editing and Music Direction credits.

Student Board of Directors

Jenna Miller

Olive Reed

VJ Spencer

Anna Van Riesen

Maddie Wilson

Grace Kelly

Change the Statistics

Want to see women represented behind the camera and on screen? Join Reel Stories in making that happen. We’re always looking for people to volunteer, companies to partner with, and projects to help turn into reality.