Meet the Team

paul-portrait_112Paul Wagner
Paul Wagner is an Academy Award-winning independent filmmaker who has produced and directed more than forty documentary and dramatic films over his career. The Stone Carvers broadcast on PBS in 1985 was honored with an Emmy Award and Academy Award. Boom & Bust – American’s Journey on the Erie Canal, co-produced with Steve Zeitlin of CityLore and the Erie Canal Museum, was broadcast on public television stations across the country for Labor Day, 2016. Good Work – Masters of the Building Arts, co-produced by Marjorie Hunt of the Smithsonian Institution, will be broadcast on PBS in late 2016. Other recent productions include Thoroughbred and Absolutely Irish. His narrative Windhorse is a story about cultural conflict filmed secretly on location in Tibet and Nepal.

He resides in Charlottesville, Virginia with his wife Ellen Casey Wagner.

Paul and Ellen are the principal officers in Paul Wagner Productions, Inc. and in American Focus, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to the creation of independent films about subjects in American culture.

image002_112Stephen Wade
Stephen Wade, musician, researcher, and writer, has spent his life studying American folklore and folklife, uniting scholarship and the creative arts.

Stephen created Banjo Dancing, a theatrical performance that combines storytelling, traditional music, and percussive dance. The show became one of the longest-running, off-Broadway shows in the country.

Stephen Wade’s book, The Beautiful Music All Around Us: Field Recordings and the American Experience (University of Illinois Press, 2012), received the 2013 ASCAP Deems Taylor award and the Association for Recorded Sound Collections award for Best History. In 2016 the Society for Ethnomusicology recognized this work, making him the first-ever individual recipient of the Judith McCulloh Public Sector award.

His 2013 Grammy-nominated Banjo Diary: Lessons from Tradition on Smithsonian Folkways explores musical knowledge passed across the generations. In 2017, the label released his all-solo Across the Amerikee: Showpieces from Coal Camp to Cattle Trail, and early 2018 saw the release on the Patuxent Music label of Americana Concert: Alan Jabbour and Stephen Wade at the Library of Congress.

Stephen directs the American Roots Music Program at the Rocky Ridge Music Center, Estes Park, Colorado.

He resides with his wife, Michaelle LaFond Wade, just outside Washington, D.C.

ellenpic_112Ellen Casey Wagner
Ellen Casey Wagner is the president of American Focus, Inc. formed in 1989 with husband, Paul Wagner. Their first collaboration was Out of Ireland, a documentary on the history of Irish emigration to America. Current productions include a film on masters of the building arts, entitled Good Work, in collaboration with Marjorie Hunt and the Smithsonian Institution, and Boom and Bust: America’s Journey on the Erie Canal, in partnership with CityLore, New York’s center on urban folklore, and the Erie Canal Museum to be released in the fall of 2016, and The Tunnel: The Creation and Re-creation of the Blue Ridge Railroad Tunnel.

Ellen began her career at WETA-TV, in Washington, D.C. where she worked on a number of productions, including To Paint my People, the story of African American artist William H. Johnson, co-produced with Danish Television, and The Howard Theatre: A Class Act about the historic theatre at 7th and T Sts. NW in Washington.

sayers_112Robert H. Sayers
Robert H. Sayers is a cultural anthropologist and folklife studies scholar who, until his retirement in 2015, was a Senior Program Officer at the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in Washington, D.C. During his 22 years at NEH, Bob counseled potential applicants in crafting competitive grant applications. Prior to NEH, Dr. Sayers held research, curatorial, and teaching positions at the Smithsonian Institution, the California Academy of Sciences, and the University of Michigan. Early in his career, he was awarded a Fulbright Research Fellowship to document traditional onggi potters in the Republic of Korea. As a scholar and writer, Bob combines research interests in 19th-century American popular music and culture, and East Asian studies. He resides in Arlington, Virginia.

dgkbestphotouofc_112Danette (Dani) Gentile Kauffman
Danette (Dani) Gentile Kauffman assists corporations and other organizations with strategic and tactical communications. She has made fundraising and event planning lifelong philanthropic work. Danette has developed and managed communications programs and events at global high-tech companies, financial services firms, and universities to inform and engage employees, students, alumni, and donors. Her current work serves university clients in the humanities and graduate career development.



Gene Morrill
Gene Morrill is a professional director and actor and a national and international media communications consultant. He held the position of Senior Staff Associate Emeritus and Coordinator of Performing Arts at the National Labor College outside of Washington, D.C., where he taught all oral communication and media courses. He coaches and trains corporate, educational, and union leaders in personal, face-to-face communications and effective use of electronic media.


melford_112Michael Melford
Attorney Michael Melford advises clients throughout the world in the fields of entertainment, publishing, advertising, and the arts. He concentrates on protection of intellectual property rights, including copyrights and trademarks, and on transactions involving the exploitation of creative works. He has written music for motion picture soundtracks and produced record albums, winning a Grammy.