LEVEL GROUND EXISTS BECAUSE OF THE DIVERSITY AND PASSION OF OUR LOYAL LEADERS, MENTORS, AND ADVISORS.
the level ground leadership team
Samantha's life was forever changed when a mentor asked her to watch the film Donnie Darko as a ministry assignment fifteen years ago. A Chicago native (Lou Malnati's deep dish anyone?), she worked for Young Life for four years between college and moving to Los Angeles. She has a degree in Human Communication Sciences from Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and a Master's of Theology and the Arts from Fuller Seminary (Pasadena, CA). When not innovating ideas, returning emails, and making lists at Level Ground, Samantha is busy working in project management, creative strategy, and program directing. She enjoys all things related to the kitchen!
Chelsea spends most of her time at Level Ground designing the production aspects of the festivals - from lighting the red carpet to designing the sound and screen for the films. When not knee deep in projectors and HDMI cords, she enjoys keeping the peace and dreaming about the future of Level Ground. She is also the Owner of Granfalloon, a gathering place and watering hole for creatives in Chattanooga. Born in Maryland, she now resides in the South by way of Los Angeles. She has film production and studio experience and finds joy in creating immersive experiences for people through art, film, and music. When not working, you might find her eating Chick-fil-A or playing with her cat, Miller.
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.
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 currently resides in California where he is studying Theology and Art at Fuller Theological Seminary. As the Director of Film Programming for Level Ground, he uses his knowledge of film to help curate art from around the world that can be used to foster dialogue at Level Ground events.
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 Europe and Africa with YWAM. He is currently studying the various intersections between theology and the arts 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 needto be told. You can connect with him via Facebook and Twitter.
Jessi is a sometimes artist who hails from the Pacific Northwest and was raised in the paradoxical environment of art and conservative evangelical Christianity. She holds degrees from Seattle Pacific University (BAs in Theater and Christian Education), The Seattle School of Psychology and Theology (MA in Christian Studies with a focus on Culture & Art), and Fuller Theological Seminary (MA in Theology and Art with a focus on Film & Media). Jessi is a featured writer/podcast participant with a passion for justice, feminism, and issues of sexuality and gender.
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.
Chelsea Casey recently completed a Master's degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from USC. Born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, she currently works as a therapist at a counseling center in North Hollywood. At Level Ground, she brings her therapeutic knowledge, social consciousness, and passion for community to help create and foster honesty and safety at events and festivals.
H. Leslie Foster II is an LA-based filmmaker and a co-founder of Traveling Muse Pictures, a non-profit film collective. He is also a 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. He strives to make work that is both beautiful and uncomfortable. With over ten years spent in the film industry, Leslie is happiest when he's applying his knowledge and creativity in collaboration with other artists in order to tell unique stories.
THE LEVEL GROUND board of directors
Kristyn Komarnicki is the Director of Communications at Evangelicals For Social Action. Kristyn writes and speaks about both sexual justice and sexual exploitation. She created and facilitates ESA’s Oriented to Love dialogues about sexual diversity in the church. These help Christians of different sexual and theological orientations come together to get to know, understand, and love each other, unified by the love of Christ.
A xenophile who loves to travel and swap stories with people from around the world, Kristyn studied English literature–earning a BA from Wheaton College and an MA from the University of Toronto–and French language, literature, and culture in Aix-en-Provence and Paris. She began her journalism career in Hong Kong, where she lived on a small fisherfolk island for eight years (boats only – no cars!). She lives in Philadelphia with her husband of 25 years and the youngest of their three sons (ages 14-21).
Jeff is an editor at Fast Company and the author of Does Jesus Really Love Me?: A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America—a fantastic book that is part-memoir, part investigative analysis. He’s spent time at Princeton, The London School of Economics, Time Magazine, and the New York Times, writing extensively on religion. The nephew and grandson of Baptist preachers, he’s a California native who now lives in New York where he is an elder at Old First Reformed Church in Brooklyn.
For the past 6 years Kyle has lived in Los Angeles and worked in production for film & television studios such as Lionsgate and CBS. Prior to his work at the studios Kyle was based in Nashville where he was involved in tour production for a number of established musical artists. Kyle is a graduate of Florida State University where he studied music and business. Having attended and served in traditional and multi-cultural congregations over the last decade Kyle has developed a passion for facilitating the conversation around faith issues within the contemporary cultural.
...Photos coming soon!