Variety is pleased to announce the return of PURPOSE: The Family Entertainment & Faith-Based Summit. PURPOSE will feature innovative and pioneering leaders at studios, networks, digital media, and brands who are succeeding in family and faith-based entertainment across platforms. Creative talent, spanning directors, producers and actors, will also share what family and faith-based content is best connecting with today’s audiences.
Ticket quantities are limited at each price level and are subject to change.
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9:00 to 9:15 Opening Remarks
9:15 to 10 a.m. Faith and Culture in Mainstream Entertainment
An exploration into the executives and creatives portraying religion in film and TV projects – spanning spiritual characters, faith-based storylines and more. What are the artistic and commercial goals of these projects? What types of content are proving especially engaging with audiences? Top film and TV chiefs will explain their vision for religion in entertainment.
DeVon Franklin, President and CEO, Franklin Entertainment and Producer (Miracles from Heaven, The Star)
Quinn Taylor, EVP, Movies, Miniseries & International Co-Productions, NBC Entertainment
Tara Montgomery, EVP Programming, Development and Production, OWN
Michael Van Dyck, Agent, Paradigm
Mike Miller, Executive Producer, (The Story of God with Morgan Freeman)
10:00 a.m. to 10:10 a.m. How to Win An Audience and Make Money
Ted Baehr, Founder and Publisher, Movieguide
10:10 a.m. to 10:40 a.m. Keynote Conversation with Multiple Grammy Award Winner Michael W. Smith and Star of The Passion
Interviewed by Andrew Barker, Senior Features Writer, Variety
10:40 a.m. to 11:25 a.m. Show Me the Money – Succeeding in Family Entertainment and Faith-Based Finance and Production
Who are the major financial backers of today’s family entertainment faith-based film and TV projects? Why are people who are strong in their faith working on mainstream film and TV rather than niche faith-based topics? What are the criteria – cast/script/distribution model– producers and financiers are looking for before greenlighting a film? Top production companies, producers and financial entities will talk about the nuts and bolts about the production of family and faith-based entertainment.
Jack Hafer, Assistant Professor and Chairman of the Biola University’s Cinema and Media Arts department
Steve Wegner, Producer, (Dolphin Tale franchise, Joyful Noise)
Patrick Aiello, Producer, (Risen, Burn Your Maps)
Michael Carney, Director, Producer, Writer (Paramount’s Same Kind of Different As Me)
Matthew Malek, Producer (Martin Scorsese’s Silence)
11:25 to 11:40 a.m. Networking Break
11:40 to 12:25 Mentoring Hollywood – Religious and Spiritual Leaders and Creative Inspiration
A look at the powerful bond between religious leaders and the Hollywood community. How might religion and faith community leaders impact current pop culture and entertainment storytelling? Can religious figures inspire entertainment execs and creatives in their decision making? What are current community forums, events and platforms where religious leaders and Hollywood can collaborate? Top religious community leaders talk about their connection with Hollywood.
Malina Saval, Associate Features Editor, Variety
Rabbi Jason Sobel, Founder & CEO, Fusion Global
Pastor Touré Roberts, One Church L.A.
Esther Kustanowitz, Writer, Digital Influencer & Jewish Community Consultant
Dan Rupple, CEO, Mastermedia International
Suhad Obeidi, Director of Operations & Director of the Hollywood Bureau, Muslim Public Affairs Council
12:25 to 1:10 p.m. Multiplatform Family Entertainment and Faith-Based Storytelling
What family and faith-based programming is engaging audience across platforms, spanning TV, publishing, video games, online and more? Are there more opportunities for this genre to be seen by increasingly connected audiences? What are the top sites and apps for family and faith-based content? Top execs and their partners will talk about how technology is opening new creative doors.
Lesley Burbridge, EVP, Rogers & Cowan
Jonathan Merkh, Publisher, Howard Books, Simon & Schuster
Rick Rekedal, Global Franchise, DreamWorks Animation
Lesli Rotenberg, SVP of Children’s Media and Education for PBS
Angela Molloy, VP Development, WEtv
Bill Sondheim, President, Cinedigm
1:10 p.m. to 2:25 p.m. Lunch
2:25 p.m. 3:10 First Look! Family Entertainment and Faith-Based Projects Revealed
Top upcoming family entertainment and faith-based projects in various stages of development will be previewed. What will be tomorrow’s hits? Producers, studio and network chiefs will share stories about the inspiration behind projects and explain why they think they’ll connect with audiences.
Matthew Faraci, Founder, Inspire Buzz
Stuart Krasnow, Executive Vice President of Creative Affairs, Telepictures Productions, Warner Bros. Television
Angela Jollivette, Head of Visual Media (TV/Film Soundtrack Music) & Gospel Music, National Association of Recording Arts & Sciences and Senior Project Manager, GRAMMY® Awards
Beau Swazye, Talent Manager, Management 360
Cary Solomon, Writer (God’s Not Dead, God’s Not Dead 2)
3:10 to 3:30 Networking Break
3:30 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. Engaging Audiences for Family Entertainment and Faith-Based Projects
What are the latest strategies to rally audiences to family entertainment and faith-based projects? What media plans– online video, social platforms, TV – are the most successful in promoting family entertainment? How might advancing technologies improve the targeting of desired audiences for family and faith-based content? Top entertainment execs will talk about success in marketing family and faith-based works.
Lesley Burbridge, EVP, Rogers & Cowan
Catherine Paura, Co-Head Marketing, Alcon Entertainment
Nikkole Denson-Randolph, Special & Alternative Content at AMC Theatres/Entertainment – AMC Theatres
Marissa Nance, Director, Multicultural Content Marketing & Strategic Partnerships, OMD USA
Brian Bird, Executive Producer & Showrunner, Hallmark Channel’s When Calls the Heart
4:15 to 5:00 p.m. Creative Trendsetters
Top producers, directors, actors and writers will converge to speak about their recent, current and upcoming projects in family and faith-based entertainment. How are they influencing what projects get made in the space? How does talent assess opportunity in family and faith-based entertainment? Leading creatives discuss what drives their decision making.
Malina Saval, Associate Features Editor, Variety
Joan Scheckel, Producer, Transparent
Reza Aslan, CEO BoomGen Studios and Executive Producer and Host (Rough Draft, Believer, Of Kings and Prophets) and Consulting Producer, The Leftovers
Jennie Snyder Urman, Creator and Executive Producer, Jane the Virgin
DeVon Franklin, CEO, Franklin Entertainment, Producer (Miracles from Heaven, The Star)
Arturo Navarro, Managing Partner, Echo Park Films, LLC [From Heaven: Fatima’s Secret]
5:00 p.m. Cocktail Reception
Who Is Speaking?
- Michael W. SmithGRAMMY Award Winner
Michael W. Smith is an acclaimed singer, songwriter and musician who has sold more than 15 million albums, achieved 32 No. 1 songs, received 2x RIAA Multi Platinum, 6 Platinum and 16 Gold certified albums, earned three GRAMMY® Awards, one American Music Award and 45 Dove Awards.
Amassing an in-depth catalog of achievements, Smith was honored at ASCAP’s 100th Anniversary for his groundbreaking career and significant influence in music. He performed at Former First Lady Barbara Bush’s 90th birthday celebration and also had the privilege to join Former President Clinton, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and others in remembering victims in the 20th Anniversary of the Oklahoma City attacks.
Smith was appointed by the White House as Vice Chair for the President’s Council on service and civic participation and, most recently, was the featured performer at the 2015 USO Gala and recognized as a USO veteran.
In addition to the international impact he has had through multiple global tours, he has written and composed various scored film projects, has authored 12 books, has acted in assorted motion pictures and has been featured by numerous national media outlets. Smith’s latest project Hymns II: Shine On Us, released on January 29. Following the hugely successful Hymns album, exclusively released by Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Michael W. Smith announces his second installation infusing gospel roots and beautifully, captivating arrangements on of some of the most popular hymns we know and love.
He founded, and actively supports, the teen club Rocketown – a nonprofit outreach for teens, providing opportunities in arts, music, sports and mentoring programs. This year also marks the 25th anniversary in partnership with Compassion International, seeing more than seventy thousand families’ and children’s lives changed, around the world. For more information, visit http://www.michaelwsmith.com.
- Nikkole Denson-RandolphAMC Theatres
Nikkole Denson-Randolph joined AMC Theatres in September 2009 after accumulating more than a decade of business development experience in the entertainment arena. In her current position, Denson-Randolph oversees the strategic development and implementation of AMC’s special programming efforts and initiatives, as well as alternative content programming, which includes overseeing AMC’s relationship with Fathom Events. She also settles film rent with independent distributors.
In 2010, Denson-Randolph orchestrated the launch of AMC independent, a highly popular film program designed to provide AMC Theatres’ guests with diverse, creative, on-screen storytelling from around the world, as well as socially and culturally relevant stories that represent their interests.
Denson-Randolph led negotiations for the AMC-exclusive release of the Kevin Hart stand-up comedy film KEVIN HART: LAUGH AT MY PAIN. The film’s success and its theatrically-exclusive distribution model were noted by major industry publications as one of the independent film success stories of 2011. She’s also led negotiations on successful releases of MINDLESS BEHAVIOR: ALL AROUND THE WORLD, which opened at more than 100 AMC locations nationwide, and MOOZLUM, which initially opened on just 11 AMC screens and through its success played at 50 AMC locations nationwide. During her tenure at AMC, she has been a featured panelist at the Sundance Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Variety Film Marketing Summit and other notable industry events.
Before coming to AMC, Denson-Randolph served as the Director of Business Development for the Starbucks Coffee Company from August 2004 until February 2009, where she fielded, developed, and negotiated music, film and literary offerings for Starbucks Entertainment. Key initiatives included introducing three books which then appeared on the New York Times top 10 Best Sellers list, as well as a partnership with Lionsgate, in which Starbucks was involved with the marketing and promotion of AKEELAH AND THE BEE.
Prior to her work at Starbucks Entertainment, she served as President of Magic Johnson Entertainment and Magic Hallway Pictures, where she was instrumental in building the corporate infrastructure and promoting the Magic brand to unparalleled heights. As a result of Denson-Randolph’s accomplishments at MJE, Mr. Johnson entrusted her with the responsibility of rebuilding and revitalizing MJE’s entertainment division. In less than two years at the helm, she created a development slate of film and television products that solidified MJE as a player within the entertainment industry. Her savvy, creative management efforts spawned an internal surge straight to the divisions’ bottom line, which grew more than 100 percent from its initial capital investment.
Denson-Randolph earned her bachelor’s from the University of California at Davis. In 1995, she obtained a Doctorate of Jurisprudence from The University of San Francisco, and has been a member of the California State Bar since 1996. She, her husband, John, and their dogs, Doodle and Koko, currently live in Los Angeles, California. When not working, she enjoys supporting film diversity as an Advisory Board Member of the Bentonville Film Festival, as well as serving as a Member of EmpowHer.org, and Everychild Foundation.
- Jack HaferBiola University
- Reza AslanBoomGen Studios
Reza Aslan is an internationally renowned writer and scholar of religions. His books, including his #1 New York Times Bestseller Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, have been translated into dozens of languages around the world. Zealot has been optioned by Lionsgate and producer David Heyman with a script penned by Oscar nominated screenwriter, James Schamus.
In addition to his continuing role as a Consulting Producer on the acclaimed HBO series The Leftovers, Aslan is also the host and Executive Producer of two other original television programs: Ovation’s Rough Draft with Reza Aslan, and CNN’s upcoming documentary series, Believer. He served as an Executive Producer on the ABC drama, Of Kings and Prophets.
In 2006, Aslan co-founded BoomGen Studios – the premiere entertainment brand for creative content from and about the Middle East – which has provided an array of targeted services ranging from strategic messaging to grassroots marketing to publicity and social media outreach, to producers, studios, and filmmakers, including Jon Stewart’s Rosewater, Netflix’s The Square, Disney’s Aladdin on Broadway and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, The Weinstein Company’s Miral, Discovery and TLC’s All American Muslim and National Geographic’s Amreeka.
Aslan’s first book, the International Bestseller, No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, has been translated into seventeen languages, and was named one of the 100 most important books of the last decade by Blackwell Publishers. He is also the author of Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in a Globalized Age (originally titled How to Win a Cosmic War), as well as editor of two volumes: Tablet and Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East, and Muslims and Jews in America: Commonalties, Contentions, and Complexities.
Aslan’s degrees include a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies from Santa Clara University (Major focus: New Testament; Minor: Greek), a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard University (Major focus: History of Religions), a PhD in the Sociology of Religions from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa, where he was named the Truman Capote Fellow in Fiction. An Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, he is also a member of the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities and the Pacific Council on International Policy. He serves on the board of directors of the Ploughshares Fund, which gives grants for peace and security issues; Narrative Four, which connects people through the exchange of stories; PEN USA, which champions the rights of writers under siege around the world; the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Levantine Cultural Center, which builds bridges between Americans and the Arab/Muslim world through the arts.
Aslan is a tenured Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside and serves on the board of trustees for the Chicago Theological Seminary and The Yale Humanist Community, which supports atheists, agnostics, and humanists at home and abroad. A member of the American Academy of Religions, the Society of Biblical Literature, and the International Qur’anic Studies Association, Aslan’s previous academic positions include the Wallerstein Distinguished Professor of Religion, Community and Conflict at Drew University in New Jersey (2012-2013), and Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion at the University of Iowa (2000-2003).
Born in Iran, he lives in Los Angeles with his wife, author and entrepreneur, Jessica Jackley and their three sons.
- Bill SondheimCinedigm
- Rick RekedalDreamWorks Animation
Rick Rekedal is in his 20th year with DreamWorks Animation, currently serving as the global franchise director of Trolls. Past roles include global head of licensing, global head of interactive, and head of online production, including franchise work on Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, How To Train Your Dragon, Spirit and The Prince of Egypt. Prior to that Rick worked in the toy business on such brands as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; The Lost World: Jurassic Park; and Star Trek: The Next Generation. He serves as film industry liaison for the Wedgwood Circle; on the board of directors for the Michael W. Smith Group and Seabourne Pictures in Franklin, TN; and is a frequent guest lecturer with Belmont University’s film school.
Rick lives in Pasadena with his wife Vicki of 23 years and their three daughters.
- Arturo NavarroEcho Park Films, LLC
Arturo Navarro is a Los Angeles-based writer and
former Music Production Executive at Paramount
Pictures Corporation. He is founding partner with
Patrick Buckley of Echo Park Films, LLC, most recently
responsible for co-writing From Heaven: Fatima’s
Secret. Arturo is actively involved in several non-profit
organizations including serving as Co-chair of Latin
American Best Practices Forums at the United Nations,
advisor to USC Department of Economics and Naval
War College Center on Irregular Warfare and Armed
Groups. He holds degrees from USC and Harvard
- Brian BirdEP & Showrunner
During his 30-year career in Hollywood, Brian Bird’s writing and producing work comprises nearly two-dozen films and 250 episodes of network television. He is founding partner with Michael Landon Jr. of Believe Pictures, most recently responsible for the hit original TV series When Calls the Heart, now prepping its fourth season, and premiering on the Hallmark Channel in December 2016.
Bird’s film writing and producing credits include the upcoming films The Case for Christ for Pure Flix Entertainment and Touchdown on the Tundra for Cinevantage Entertainment, the 2015 Paramount Pictures feature film Captive, starring David Oyelowo and Kate Mara, The Ultimate Life for 20th Century Fox (2013), Not Easily Broken for Sony/Screen Gems (2009), The Last Sin Eater for 20th Century Fox (2007) and the Morgan Freeman-directed Bopha! for Paramount Pictures (1993).
In television, he has written or produced such shows as Touched By An Angel, Step By Step and Evening Shade, in addition to the award-winning TV films Captive Heart, Call Me Claus (the highest-rated cable film of 2003), and The Shunning, The Confession, The Reckoning, and Saving Sarah Cain, all based on the novels of New York Times’ best-selling author Beverly Lewis.
Bird is considered a leading voice in the exploding faith-based media marketplace, and has spoken widely on the role of faith in the arts, including lectures at Pepperdine, Chapman, Biola and Palm Beach Atlantic Universities, along with being a keynote speaker at the Blue Ridge and Florida Christian Writers Conferences. He is on the founding faculty of the Act One Writing for Hollywood program, and has served as a jury member for the Heartland, 168 and City of Angel Film Festivals. He is also on the faculty of the Stephens College Screenwriting MFA.
His own films have garnered awards from the New York Independent Film Festival, New York Festivals, Heartland Film Festival, the Black Reel Awards, the Movie Guide Awards, the Camie Awards, the Telly Awards and the Christopher Awards. And his widely read professional blog, BrianBird.net serves as a lively exchange on the art and craft of story-telling.
But beyond Bird’s professional achievements, he considers his top productions to date to be his 35-year marriage to wife, Patty, and his five children.
- Mike MillerExecutive Producer
- Rabbi Jason SobelFusion Global
As the Founder and CEO of Fusion Global, Rabbi Jason is at the forefront of a movement to ignite cultural and spiritual transformation by breaking down barriers between Christians and Jews. He seeks to unite them by re-focusing them on their common, biblical foundations. Through sharing life-changing Scriptural truths and teachings that empower and equip people of diverse backgrounds, Rabbi Jason lives out his calling, daily empowering people to go deeper with their faith and to have a greater impact in their sphere of influence.
Rabbi Jason has a special love for and is personally walking and working with a number of those who are influential in the creative and entertainment communities, as well as collaborating with many spiritual and marketplace leaders. He continuously sees his spiritual work bring about greater personal and professional growth, tangible success and increased blessing, for those he advises, as he leads in numerous, distinct arenas. He is a regular speaker at many influential events and travels across the world to share a unique message that unites ancient biblical and contemporary wisdom to diversified audiences and congregations. He actively works to re-establish the Jewish foundations of the faith across the globe and envisions a future in which a deep-rooted, brotherly relationship is restored among Jews and Gentiles, Israel and the Nations, modeling the Messianic kingdom to come! No longer will there be division, but shalom, which means “nothing missing, nothing broken.”
Rabbi Jason was raised in a Jewish home in New Jersey. After years of seeking, studying, and experiencing several supernatural encounters, Jason found his calling as a follower of Yeshua. This culminated in his Rabbinic ordination granted by the UMJC (Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations) in 2005. He also has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Jewish Studies and a Master of Arts in Intercultural Studies.
Rabbi Jason is married to his best freind and Fusion Global co-founder, Stephanie since 1999 and is the father of two sons. They live in Los Angeles CA. His first book is being published in late 2016.
- DeVon FranklinFranklin Entertainment
As a producer, published author, preacher and media personality, DeVon Franklin is using the power of entertainment to bring inspiration and motivation to the masses. “Ebony Magazine” named him one of the “Top 100 Influential African-Americans in America” and Beliefnet named him one of the “Most Influential Christians Under 40.”
Franklin serves as the President/CEO of Franklin Entertainment, a new first-look production company with Sony Pictures Entertainment. Earlier this year, Franklin released the first film under the Franklin Entertainment banner, MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN. The film, which stars Jennifer Garner and Queen Latifah, was made for a modest $13 million and has earned over $72 million at the box office to date.
Additionally, Franklin is currently in production on the animated feature film, THE STAR, which is slated for a December 2017 release. He is also in development on a number of high-profile projects, including the reboot of HE-MAN and the MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE franchise. Also in the works is the inspirational biopic 44, starring Kevin James. Based on the incredible true story of Joey Williams, the film follows a 44 year old father of four from Tennessee as he goes back to college to complete his degree and, in the hopes of fulfilling a lifelong dream of playing college football and bonding with his son, finds himself competing alongside his son at the same university.
As the former Senior Vice President of Columbia Pictures, Franklin was one of the highest ranking African-American creative executives in the industry. During his 10 year tenure at the studio, he championed box-office hits like THE PURSUIT of HAPPYNESS, THE KARATE KID, JUMPING THE BROOM and HEAVEN IS FOR REAL, resulting in almost $700 million in total worldwide box office sales.
This year Franklin also released his highly-anticipated second book, “The Wait: A Powerful Practice to Finding the Love of Your Life and the Life You Love.” Co-written with his wife, Meagan Good, the book remained on The New York Times Bestsellers list for 6 consecutive weeks and has sold over 100,000 copies to date. Previously, while at Columbia Pictures, Franklin simultaneously wrote the best-selling book “Produced By Faith”, a how-to guide about finding success without compromising your faith.
Along with his work in films, Franklin is an in-demand speaker and television personality due to his unique perspective on success, love and faith. Along with speaking engagments across the country, he has made appearances on The Dr. Phil Show, Dr. Oz, CBS This Morning, Entertainment Tonight, The Meredith Vieira Show, The Real, CNN, FOX News, OWN’s Super Soul Sunday Show, Oprah’s LifeClass and OWN’s Help Desk Show.
Franklin began his career as an intern for Will Smith and James Lassiter at Overbrook Entertainment. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a minor in Cinema-Television from the University of Southern California.
- Angela JollivetteGRAMMY Awards
Angela Jollivette, Senior Project Manager with The Recording Academy Awards Department is heading in to her 10th Awards season. Angela oversees the Visual Media (TV/Film Soundtrack Music) & Gospel Music GRAMMY® Awards fields. She is responsible for managing the Gospel/Visual Media entries submitted for GRAMMY® consideration & the committees related to the awards & nominations process.
In addition, Angela is a Content Producer & on-camera Host of GRAMMY® Pro’s Buzzin’ music series. Angela aka DJ Moonbaby has interviewed and showcased some of the brightest stars in music. Exclusive interviews & LIVE performances with GRAMMY® Winning & Nominated artists, along with breaking talent you need to know before they ever hit the GRAMMY® stage.
- Matthew FaraciInspire Buzz
Matthew Faraci is Founder and President of Inspire Buzz, a full service entertainment marketing agency specializing in the values audience. A serial innovator, Faraci has spent his career delivering for clients by combining the very latest tactics with proven, time-tested methods to achieve success.
Faraci is a former political strategist who has served on more than 35 campaigns and on Capitol Hill, held leadership roles with three D.C. public policy groups, and was appointed by President George W Bush to serve as a spokesman at the U.S. Department of Labor. Beginning his Washington career as a journalist—where he produced award-winning TV talk shows and documentaries— Faraci developed a passion for creating messages that resonate with target audiences.
Following his D.C. career, Faraci played a leading role in creating three new ventures with a focus on deploying highly-targeted grassroots voter strategies to reach the core audience for family and faith entertainment. During this time, he promoted several projects including SON OF GOD, HEAVEN IS FOR REAL, RISEN, WAR ROOM, GOD’S NOT DEAD, HOLY GHOST, MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN, and the first-of-its kind, special edition UNBROKEN: LEGACY OF FAITH DVD. Faraci then returned to Los Angeles—where he had started his career years earlier as a standup comedian, writer, and producer—and founded Inspire Buzz with a singular focus on delivering the values audience.
Faraci has spoken at Variety’s Purpose Summit and written for the magazine. His work has been profiled in The Wall Street Journal, The Christian Science Monitor, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Times, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, Deadline, The Washington Examiner, The Blaze, Entertainment Weekly, BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, and on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, Bloomberg, and other media outlets.
He is a husband and father of four children, and is passionate about his family, his faith, and about showcasing inspiring entertainment.
- Jennie Synder Urmann Jane the Virgin
Jennie Snyder Urman developed and Executive Produces the CW’s Golden-Globe nominated “Jane the Virgin.” The show has been honored with a Peabody Award, 3 TCA nominations, 6 Critics Choice nominations, 3 NAACP Image Award nominations, as well as multiple Teen Choice nominations, a People’s Choice Award for “Favorite New TV Comedy,” the Planned Parenthood “Maggie Award for Television,” and an IMAGEN Award for best Primetime Comedy. Additionally, the show was named one of AFI’s Top Television Programs of the Year. Prior to “Jane the Virgin”, Urman created “Emily Owens, MD,” also for the CW. Other credits include “Reign” “Gilmore Girls,” “Men in Trees,” “Lipstick Jungle,” “90210,” and “Hope and Faith.” She was also named one of Variety’s “10 TV Writer’s to Watch” in 2012. Additionally, she wrote the screenplay for the feature film “Something Borrowed” based on the Emily Giffin novel.
Jennie Snyder Urman grew up in Rye, New York and graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University. She is married to Jamie Urman, a cinematographer, and is the proud (and tired) mommy to Theo and Poppy.
- Ted BaehrMovieguide
- Marissa NanceOMD USA
Marissa Nance is the Director of Strategic Partnerships and Multicultural Marketing at OMD. She has been with Omnicom for over two decades and with OMD since it’s inception. Marissa brings her twenty+ years of advertising, marketing and branded entertainment experience to every opportunity she touches. She has a proven track record of successfully creating engaging consumer content that pulls an audience directly into a brand’s DNA while also leading to a positive impact on brand sales and/or awareness levels. Her innovative work has been recognized throughout her career with industry acknowledgments and her original ideals have been published and distributed worldwide.
Her expertise includes original content development & production, storyline & product integrations, promotional extensions and custom 360 media platforms. She has established herself by guiding strategic client relationships within an iconic list of content including “Survivor”, “The Apprentice”, “Castaway” (with Tom Hanks), “The Biggest Loser”, MTV’s “Rock n’ Jock”, “Top Chef”, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, MTV’s “The VMAs”, “Entre Amigas”, “House of Lies” and “The Essence Awards”. Marissa’s experience is often in demand to represent client’s interests with high-profile media partners including Viacom, TVOne, Univision, Disney, Televisa, NBCUniversal/Comcast, Mark Burnett Productions/One Three Media, TV Azteca and the Time Warner Company. During her tenure, she has leveraged her knowledge base to support a wide range of clients including McDonald’s, Intel, Clorox, State Farm, JCP, Lowes, Showtime, Visa, Nissan and Biersdorf.
Prior to helping establish the Branded Entertainment division at OMD, Marissa was Manager of Entertainment for Omnicom advertising agency BBDO. Marissa segued into BBDO’s Entertainment group after spending several years in the company’s media buying division.
Marissa continues to be recognized by both her peers and the advertising industry. Some of the more memorial events within her resume include elections to the Board of Directors of GLAAD and The Harlem YMCA. She was named one of the top Women Executives in Advertising by Black Enterprise in 2013 and 2016, received a “Black Achievers in Industry Award” in 1997 and was included in the 2003 Essence Magazine “Power Women” issue. Marissa is also a founding member of CUP LA. A published writer, Marissa has work in the anthologies “International Sponsorships” and “What I Know is Me”. Personally, Marissa lives in Los Angeles with her husband Sean. They support several non-profit organizations, including Autism Speaks and The National Humane Society.
- Beau SwayzeManagement 360
- Dan RuppleMastermedia International
- Suhad ObeidiMuslim Public Affairs Council
- Quinn TaylorNBC Entertainment
Quinn Taylor was named Executive Vice President, Movies, Miniseries and International Co-Productions, NBC Entertainment in 2013. He reports to Jennifer Salke, President, NBC Entertainment.
Taylor oversees all development and programming of original movies and miniseries, as well as longform acquisitions. He is also a key programming executive of series that have an international co-production element, either in concert with the NBC International division or with outside suppliers.
Previous or current NBC series under Taylor’s purview include “The Slap,” “A.D. The Bible Continues”, “Aquarius”, and “You Me and the Apocalypse”. Upcoming series include “Taken”, “The Reaper”, and “Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love”.
Beginning in 2009, Taylor was Senior Vice President, Movies, Miniseries and Acquisitions, ABC Entertainment Group, where he oversaw all made-for-TV movies, miniseries and acquisitions. Prior to that, Taylor had been Senior Vice President, Movies and Miniseries, ABC Entertainment, having first joined ABC’s telefilm department in 1996.
Taylor’s credits at ABC include the series “Rookie Blue,” the Hallmark Hall of Fame franchise and all of the highly successful miniseries from master of horror Stephen King, including 2002’s “Stephen King’s Rose Red.” Among his past credits are the critically acclaimed movie “A Raisin in the Sun,” which aired in 2008; the Julian Fellows miniseries “Titanic”; and “The Path to 9/11,” an adaptation of the 9/11 commission report starring Harvey Keitel, Patricia Heaton, Donnie Wahlberg, Frank John Hughes and Dan Lauria, which aired in 2006.
Among the Emmy-nominated projects he oversaw at ABC were “Stephen King’s Desperation,” Robert Halmi Sr.’s miniseries “The Ten Commandments,” and “Once Upon a Mattress,” the fractured telling of the classic fairytale, “The Princess and the Pea.”
He also oversaw the adaptation of “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” by bestselling author Mitch Albom, and brought back, after a four-year hiatus, Oprah Winfrey’s telefilm franchise with “Oprah Winfrey Presents: Their Eyes Were Watching God,” starring Academy Award winner Halle Berry. As part of ABC’s “Wonderful World of Disney,” he spearheaded the development and production on the six-hour miniseries “Little House on the Prairie,” a true return to the books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder and brought the classic children’s books “Eloise” to the screen for the first time in “Eloise at the Plaza” and “Eloise at Christmastime,” both starring the legendary Julie Andrews.
- Pastor Touré RobertsOne Church L.A.
Touré is a widely sought after speaker who’s voice has graced a variety of platforms including conferences and festivals as well as prestigious universities such as Yale. He is greatly respected in Hollywood and was invited to moderate a Faith and Family panel at Variety Magazine’s annual conference. He’s been featured on several local and national television programs, news outlets and online periodicals and was listed among the top 100 African-American influencers under 45 in the nation.
Touré is also a published author whose first book Purpose Awakening received distinguishable reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and peaked on the Amazon.com bestseller’s list.
- Tara MontgomeryOWN
Tara Montgomery serves as creative executive vice president of Programming, Production and Development for OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. Prior to her work for OWN, Montgomery served as executive producer of OWN’s popular flagship series “Super Soul Sunday,” the Emmy award-winning series that features conversations between Oprah Winfrey and top thinkers, authors, visionaries and spiritual leaders exploring themes and issues including happiness, personal fulfillment, spirituality, conscious living and what it means to be alive in today’s world.
Montgomery also served as executive producer for “Oprah’s Next Chapter”, a weekly, primetime series that ran on the network and featured some of the most highly-rated and important conversations including Oprah’s exclusive interviews with Whitney Houston’s daughter Bobbi Kristina, Lance Armstrong, David Letterman and Joel Osteen.
Prior to this position, she was supervising producer of “The Oprah Winfrey Show”, the number one daytime talk show for 25 seasons. During her 16-year tenure, she produced some of the show’s most high profile interviews and highly rated large scale productions (Oprah’s After Oscar Party, Oprah & Whitney Houston, Oprah & Barack Obama, Oprah’s Australian Adventure).
Prior to joining Harpo, she was an associate producer for “Evening Magazine” at KING TV in Seattle, and a News Intern for ABC News “Nightline” and “Prime Time Live.”
Montgomery resides in Los Angeles with her husband and five children.
- Michael Van DyckParadigm
- Lesli RotenbergPBS
As Senior Vice President and General Manager, Children’s Media and Education at PBS, Lesli Rotenberg is responsible for the strategic direction of an innovative, dynamic media service that meets the needs of America’s children, parents and teachers, helping to prepare the next generation for success in school and in life.
Ms. Rotenberg leads a cross-disciplinary team charged with content production, digital development, multi-platform asset distribution, education resources, educational product creation, marketing and communications for PBS KIDS, the #1 children’s media brand. Inspired by her experiences raising her two daughters, Ms. Rotenberg has led the development and distribution of top-rated PBS KIDS media properties that help children ages 2-8 build science, literacy, math, critical thinking, social-emotional skills and more – including DANIEL TIGER’S NEIGHBORHOOD, WILD KRATTS and ODD SQUAD. PBS KIDS is also a trusted partner for parents, who rank PBS KIDS as their most trusted and relied upon brand for school readiness. PBS KIDS provides resources to support parents, including content, digital tools and community outreach through PBS stations.
Under Ms. Rotenberg’s leadership, PBS has transformed from a broadcast organization to a multi-platform leader that opens worlds of possibilities for children through educational television, apps, the web, streaming video and an award-winning line of toys. Seventy-one percent of all children ages 2 to 8 watch PBS KIDS, PBS KIDS ranks first in the kids’ category for streaming video and each month pbskids.org attracts more than 11 million unique visitors. Later this year, PBS KIDS will extend its reach through the launch of new 24/7 services. Provided by local stations, the free services will include a new TV channel and live stream on digital platforms.
Ms. Rotenberg also oversees PBS Education, which develops digital education services for PBS member stations, teachers and students. She leads the team responsible for PBS’ strategic partnerships, digital media production, professional development and other emerging products and services that support educators from preschool through college levels. These innovative services include PBS LearningMedia, an award-winning, trusted digital resource that aggregates the best of public media for classroom use. A top destination for teachers, PBS LearningMedia serves more than 1.8 million users with registered access to more than 100,000 digital resources.
A media expert and frequent speaker on the topic, Ms. Rotenberg was named one of the nation’s top 15 “Women to Watch” by Advertising Age, and invited to participate in the prestigious FORTUNE Most Powerful Women in Business Forum. Ms. Rotenberg has received numerous advertising and promotion honors including six Emmy awards.
- Jonathan MerkhPublisher
- Patrick AielloProducer
PATRICK AIELLO is a seasoned film producer, production executive and screenwriter with extensive experience in creative affairs, film financing, legal oversight, packaging and production, and the global theatrical distribution and marketing of internationally driven, U.S. studio focused productions that hybridize studio and independent finance models.
A former long term Executive Vice President of Creative Affairs and Head of Production at Hyde Park Entertainment Group, an established financing and producing entity, Patrick oversaw a diverse slate of mainstream content for the company’s co-production distribution partnerships at Fox, Sony, Disney and MGM.
Films produced during his tenor were PREMONITION, GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE, DEATH SENTENCE, STREET FIGHTER: THE LEGEND OF CHUN LI, ASYLUM, THE OTHER END OF THE LINE, THE DARK COUNTRY, LEONIE, DYLAN DOG: DEAD OF NIGHT and THE DOUBLE.
Independently, Patrick has recently produced AS ABOVE SO BELOW for Legendary Pictures, RISEN for Columbia Pictures and BURN YOUR MAPS for Warner Brothers.
As a writer, Patrick created THE THREE TENORS for Lionsgate, BUMPER TO BUMPER: THE SECRET LIVES OF CARS for Fox, MARINE MAMMALS for Disney and SCHOOLING SANTA for LD Entertainment.
A native of Southern California, Mr. Aiello currently resides in Los Angeles.
- Michael CarneyProducer
Michael moved to Los Angeles in 1998 from Nashville, TN and formed a full service production and management company. Over the next several years he produced and secured recording deals for his artists with major record labels such as Warner Brothers, MCA, Sony, Arista, RCA and Wind Up Records, eventually landing his own label deal with Universal/Interscope/Geffen Records.
Even though his career in music had taken off he never forgot about his first and true love — the marriage of both Film and Music. Surrounded by aspiring musicians, he found himself drawn to shooting and editing their music videos. The very beautiful and cinematic videos he directed began getting played on MTV, VH1 and all major video channels and outlets.
This helped him transition from music executive to filmmaker. He began directing and producing commercials and corporate spots for clients ranging from Tiger Woods to Crystal Geyser. He also directed his first feature length documentary film about an orphanage in Brazil.
Michael was committed to breaking into the feature film and television world with his pen and partnered with friend and writer Alexander Foard to form Inception Films. Soon after, they were hired to adapt and write several screenplays, including 2 New York Times bestsellers.
The duo sold their adaptation of the New York Times bestselling book SAME KIND OF DIFFERENT AS ME to Paramount Pictures and Michael made his feature directorial debut with the film. He and Foard executive produced the pic with Mary Parent and Cale Boyter producing for Paramount. The film stars Academy Award winners, Renee Zellwegger and Jon Voight, along with Academy Award nominees Greg Kinnear and Djimon Hounsou.
Michael’s faith and eye for detail drive his passion as a filmmaker. He lives in Arcadia, CA with his beautiful wife Jewl and their son Shine.
Michael is represented by Paradigm and Management 360.
- Matthew MalekProducer
- Steven WegnerProducer
Former Executive Vice President for Alcon Entertainment, where he oversaw the company’s entire production slate, which included a wide range of film projects in a variety of genres. Wegner had been heading motion picture development at Alcon for 16 years before recently signing a first-look producing deal with the company.
Upcoming projects include the sequel to Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner”, starring Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford, the feature film version of “Chicken Soup for the Soul”, the family action comedy, “Hong Kong Phooey”, and a fully CGI-animated reboot of the beloved comic strip character, “Garfield”.
His first set-up project that went into production at Alcon was the Christopher Nolan-directed film “Insomnia,” starring Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hilary Swank, on which Wegner was an associate producer, marking his producing debut.
He later served as executive producer on the family film “Racing Stripes,” which merged live action and computer animation. Wegner also received story credit on the film about an orphaned zebra that dreams of becoming a racehorse.
More recently, Wegner was a producer on the critically acclaimed “Dolphin Tale” and its sequel, “Dolphin Tale 2”, directed by Charles Martin Smith and starring Harry Connick, Jr. Ashley Judd & Morgan Freeman.
He has also co-produced or executive produced such Alcon releases as the critical favorite “Prisoners”, starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” and its sequel, “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2”; the romantic drama “P.S. I Love You,” starring Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler; the breakout hit “The Blind Side,” starring Sandra Bullock, which was Oscar-nominated for Best Picture; “The Book of Eli,” starring Denzel Washington; the comedy “Lottery Ticket” starring Ice Cube; and the romantic comedy “Something Borrowed,” starring Kate Hudson.
Wegner is a graduate of the Critical Studies Film Program at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. He currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.
- Joan ScheckelTransparent
Joan Scheckel is a producer, director, writer, photographer and teacher. She is the founder of JSFL and the creator of “The Technique”, the most influential craft to be developed since Strasberg’s “The Method”. “The Technique” is a groundbreaking approach to writing, directing and acting craft known throughout Hollywood and the international film world as the crucial force behind the most iconic and groundbreaking film and television being made today. Joan’s Filmmaking Labs have fostered 80 released projects, 71 of which came to the Labs without financing or finished scripts. To date, they have earned over 700 award nominations and over 400 wins, including major nods at the Emmys and Oscars.
As a master of film and episodic craft, Scheckel believes passionately in the power of story. “I believe human beings crave authentic connection to themselves and others – and find it in stories that are daring, real, and true to the heart. From this root, I am compelled to bring about movies that inspire life.”
Credits include: Jill Soloway’s Emmy Award Winning “Transparent” (Consulting Producer); Mike Mills Academy Award Winning “Beginners” (Executive Producer); Niki Caro’s “The Vintner’s Luck” (Co-Writer); Sarah Gertrude Shapiro’s Peabody Award Winning “UnREAL”; Niki Caro’s Academy Award Nominated “Whale Rider”, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’ Academy Award winning “Little Miss Sunshine”; Rupert Sanders Academy Award Nominated “Snow White and the Huntsman”; Alison Maclean’s Venice Little Golden Lion Winner”Jesus’ Son”; Miranda July’s Golden Berlin Bear Nominated “The Future”; Richard Press’ Spirit Award Nominated “Bill Cunningham NY”; Sacha Gervasi’s Spirit Award Winning “Anvil:The Story of Anvil”; Mark Ruffalo’s Sundance Award Winning “Sympathy For Delicious”; Jill Soloway’s Sundance Award Winning “Afternoon Delight”; Nick Jarecki’s Golden Globe Nominated “Arbitrage”; Mark Romanek’s “One Hour Photo” and many more.
- Stuart KrasnowWarner Bros. Television
Stuart Krasnow currently serves as EVP Creative Affairs for Telepictures Productions, a division of Warner Bros. Television. Stuart has developed and produced series in almost every genre of unscripted television for broadcast and cable networks, including The Weakest Link, Average Joe, Dog Eat Dog and The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency. Stuart produced Ricki Lake’s original syndicated talk show as well as King World’s The Martin Short Show. He was an Executive Consultant for ABC’s The View and held the post of Senior Producer on both NBC’s Deadline and the TODAY show.
- Angela MolloyWEtv
Angela Molloy is a well-rounded creative executive with experience that encompasses development, production and acquisitions from both the sales and buying side, having worked at both cable networks and major production companies.
Angela is WE tv’s newly minted vice president of development, based in the network’s Los Angeles office. Having joined WE tv just a few months ago, she is already making an impact on the newly rebranded network. Most notably, she is refreshing WE tv’s hit show L.A. Hair in conjunction with its production company, 3Ball Productions, to draw even more viewers to the popular series featuring stylist-to-the-stars, Kim Kimble.
Angela is WE tv’s first-ever VP of development based in LA. Joining the network at a critical time, Angela is responsible for working with west coast based production partners and agencies to find fresh new unscripted programming for WE tv. And she’s working with some of the biggest production outfits around — 495 Productions, World of Wonder and Fishbowl Worldwide, to name a few, developing new series and concepts and discovering new talent to help drive WE tv into the future.
Prior to WE tv, Angela worked as a production, development and acquisitions executive. She was a freelance showrunner with co-executive producer credits on Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles for Bravo and A Sale of Two Cities for HGTV, and served as the executive producer for Mansion Hunters on Reelz Channel.
She also produced a number of pilots and series for a variety of networks including OWN (Life with La Toya), TLC (Maria and Courtney’s Wedding Fiesta), Esquire, A&E, and HGTV (Room Crashers).
Prior to her freelance work, Angela held programming and acquisitions and development positions at TLC where she took pitches and helped oversee production on a number of new series and event specials including The Miss America Pageant.
Angela also served as the vice president of international at 3Ball Productions. In just over two years, she helped develop and produce Scott Baio is 45…And Single, The Pick Up Artist, and I Know My Kid’s a Star for VH1; and multiple pilots and development projects for Fox, Syfy, HGTV, Bravo, Comedy Central, E!, and syndicated shows. She was also the primary liaison with Eyeworks International. Traveling to MIP and other markets, she handled all US development of Eyeworks’ international formats – adapting them for US pitches. She also pitched 3Ball’s US projects in development to Eyeworks territories all over the world.
Angela began her career with WETA-TV, the PBS affiliate and third largest producer of all national PBS programs. Molloy scheduled WETA’s daytime and acquired programming from other PBS stations and independent producers. She also worked at PBS’ headquarters in Alexandria, VA to help launch PBS Online’s Station Relations group. As the senior associate, she created and marketed online integration opportunities to all 349 PBS member stations.
- Esther KustanowitzWriter
Esther D. Kustanowitz is a Los Angeles-based writer and consultant specializing in social media, pop culture, and Jewish community conversation. In August 2015, Esther became Editorial Director at GrokNation.com, a blog and web community founded by actress, neuroscientist and mom Mayim Bialik. Esther is also Contributing Writer at the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, where she writes on topics ranging from comedy to grief, from women in Jewish leadership to social media culture.
Esther is frequently sought-out as a source on social media engagement and culture, and is known as one of the Jewish nonprofit world’s social influencers. Most recently, she was named to JTA’s list of influencers on “Jewish Twitter.”