Naima Abed joined Memento Films International and La Cinéfacture in 2013, after ten years in the film industry in Paris, Toronto and London. She focuses on expanding and developing the companies’ activities in the English-speaking world. Over the years, she has designed the acquisition and investment strategy for an ambitious slates of English-language projects, shifting the company’s role from traditional sales agent to a more innovative and effective role as executive producer. She is also responsible for building and overseeing the development slate in London, building director/producers relationships as well as providing input and supervision of the creative process for all Memento properties.
Sam Bailey is a writer and director from Chicago, currently residing in Los Angeles. She is the creator of the Gotham-nominated webseries You’re So Talented and co-creator of the Emmy-nominated webseries Brown Girls.
Sam is currently developing the film Sabrina with Bron Studios and is a producer on Netflix’s Dear White People. Sam directed the Powderkeg digital series East of La Brea and has directed episodes of television including Grown-ish, Loosely Exactly Nicole, Mixed-ish, The Chi, and Dear White People. She is the Digital Art Director of VAM STUDIO.
Garrett Bates is an NYC based Producer. He received his first “break” as Production Coordinator for Netflix’s Emmy nominated series “It’s Bruno” and started to UPM shortly thereafter.
Dori Begley currently serves as the Executive Vice President of Magnolia Pictures. Joining the company as Director of Acquisitions in 2007, she has overseen more than a decade of buys for Magnolia Pictures, Magnet Releasing, Magnolia Home Entertainment and Magnolia International Sales. Begley’s current role was expanded to include the management of strategic partnerships and oversight of theatrical marketing and distribution strategies. Notable recent releases include the Oscar-nominated documentary RBG; Oscar-nominated and Palme d’Or-winning Shoplifters; Oscar-nominated documentary I Am Not Your Negro, and Dawn Porter’s John Lewis: Good Trouble and Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman, and Eli Despres’ ACLU documentary The Fight. Begley began her career in 2000 with Sony Pictures Classics working on an eclectic slate of award-winning titles from renowned filmmakers around the globe. She is an Executive Branch member of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Vassar College graduate and resident of Ft. Greene, Brooklyn.
Nicole Bernardi-Reis A producer and director, Nicole Bernardi-Reis’s work spans narrative shorts and feature film, documentary features, and television series. She has produced two documentaries that screened at the Chicago International Film Festival: Michael Caplan’s Algren (2014) and Radical Grace (2015). Under her leadership at IFP Chicago, the organization launched innovative artists services and development programs. She is a co-creator of The Pitch at Industry Days.
Terence Blanchard Oscar nominee, six-time Grammy-winner and 2018 USA Fellow trumpeter/composer Terence Blanchard has been a consistent artistic force for making powerful musical statements concerning painful American tragedies – past and present.
Blanchard received an Oscar nomination for his original score for Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman. He was also BAFTA nominated for his original music for the film. He won a Grammy for Best Instrumental Composition for writing “Blut Und Boden (Blood and Soil)” a track from BlacKkKlansman.
From his expansive work composing the scores for Spike Lee films ranging from the documentary When the Levees Broke, about Blanchard’s hometown of New Orleans during the devastation from Hurricane Katrina to the epic Malcolm X; and the latest Lee film, Da 5 Bloods which was released by Netflix, Blanchard has interwoven melodies that created strong backdrops to human stories. Other projects include One Night in Miami which marks Regina King’s feature directorial debut and the feature film Bruised which is the directorial debut for Halle Berry who also stars.
Tiffany Boyle is the President of Packaging & Sales at Ramo Law PC, joining in 2009. She is an adviser to foreign production companies all over the world, such as Backup Media (France), Upper Street (UK), and Media Fund Management (Australia). She has been a successful financial consultant, bringing in financing or leading foreign sales, on films such as Ashes in the Snow, which premiered at the 2018 LA Film Festival; upcoming The Card Counter, from writer/director Paul Schrader, starring Oscar Isaac and Tiffany Haddish with EPs including Tiffany Boyle and Martin Scorsese; and Die in a Gunfight, in post. Tiffany also is a partner with production company Vested Interest, and has served as an EP for films including Better Start Running, which premiered at the 2018 Newport Beach Film Festival; After Midnight, which premiered at Tribeca in 2019; Line of Duty, starring Aaron Eckhart; Arkansas, starring Liam Hemsworth, which recently released on VOD as the top new movie of the week; Rollers, currently in post; and Chick Fight, starring Malin Akerman, Alec Baldwin, and Bella Thorne, currently in post.
Effie T. Brown is the CEO of Gamechanger, which launched in 2013 as the first film financing fund by and for women and now under Brown’s leadership includes projects by and about people of color, LGBTQ+ and people with disabilities as well as its expansion into television and digital content. Brown is also an award-winning film, television, and digital producer known for her highly acclaimed, multi-platform repertoire as well as championing inclusion and diversity in Hollywood, both behind and in front of the camera. Brown has produced several critically acclaimed films and award-winning projects including Real Women Have Curves (directed by Patricia Cardosa) Dear White People (2015 Independent Spirit Awards Best First Screenplay), HBO’s Project Greenlight (Executive Produced by Matt Damon & Ben Affleck), among several others. Brown also served as an executive producer on Lee Daniels’ STAR on FOX and Disney Channel’s Zombies. Prior to Gamechanger, Brown founded Duly Noted Inc., a company dedicated to ground-breaking narratives that use genre to challenge and advance our culture in a disruptive way. Brown’s dream is to change the world through film and TV – celebrating our differences while bringing us all closer together.
Bronwyn Cornelius is a Sundance and SXSW Grand Jury Award-winning producer, and Independent Spirit Award nominee for Best Feature. Her independently produced features include awards’ contender and 2019 Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner Clemency (NEON/Focus), SXSW Grand Jury Award winner Made In China (IFC), festival winner Greencard Warriors (AMC/HBO + over 3 million online views), as well as other narrative features, shorts, and socially-minded documentaries.
An ardent supporter of female content creators, and empowering diverse voices behind and in front of the camera, Bronwyn is currently developing a slate of female-driven film and television projects. Bronwyn remains an advisor for US and international media entities and entertainment financiers, is Board Chair Emerita and remains actively involved with the international non-profit GlobalGirl Media, and is a member of BAFTA, SAG-AFTRA and the Producers Guild of America.
Aymar Jean “AJ” Christian is a scholar, media producer, and social practice artist exploring the convergence of television, video art, and creative R&D (research and development). Currently an associate professor of communication at Northwestern University, Dr. Christian uses artistic development as a tool for community-building, cultural critique and experimentation.
Dr. Christian started OTV | Open Television, a platform Chicago-based intersectional television. OTV produces and exhibits indie TV and video art both online and in Chicago. OTV advances organic, sustainable, local, digital, artist- and community-driven TV through research and development.
Dr. Christian has served as a curator and judge of leading award shows and festivals, including the Peabody Awards, Gotham Awards, Project Greenlight Digital Studios, Tribeca Film Festival, Outfest, Streamy Awards, IAWTV Awards, and Satellite Awards. During his doctoral studies Christian worked as an education fellow for the Philadelphia Museum of Art, running the Film@Perelman short film series and lecturing on film as part of its education programming.
Liesl Copland is a Partner at Endeavor Content where she heads up the Non-Scripted Advisory practice, overseeing feature documentaries and premium non-fiction series and providing strategic advice to the studio’s growing production partners. A 20-year entertainment industry veteran, Copland has worked in the specialty film sector for most of her career with the goal of democratizing distribution for unique, independently produced projects.
Prior to joining Endeavor in 2008, Liesl acted as the Head of Red Envelope Entertainment, the former original content division of Netflix, where she oversaw the acquisition, marketing and distribution of close to 100 films a year during their three years in existence. Prior to Red Envelope, Liesl worked at New York-based film financing and sales consultancy firm Cinetic Media, where she concentrated primarily on film and documentary sales and the launch of their US ancillary business. Her previous entertainment industry experience includes years as an independent producer as well as posts at the Tribeca Film Festival and IFP. Across her entire career, Liesl has built in a double bottom line approach to her practice and has a deeper focus on social justice reform and impact focused content.
Nausheen Dadabhoy is a Pakistani-American director and cinematographer from California. As a cinematographer Nausheen has lensed a number of narrative and documentary films: The Remix: Hip Hop X Fashion (2019), which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and is currently streaming on Netflix; La Femme et Le TGV (2016), a live-action short Oscar nominee; the Emmy Award winning Armed with Faith (2018, additional cinematographer); Girl Unbound: War to Be Her (2016), which premiered at TIFF and aired on POV; Conscience Point (2019), which aired on Independent Lens, and J’adore Nawal a short for HBO Documentaries (2018), which premiered at Sundance.
The Ground Beneath Their Feet (2014) — her directorial debut following two Pakistani women after the 2005 earthquake — premiered at IDFA in the first appearance competition. She is currently directing her second feature film, An Act of Worship, about the last 20 years of Muslim life in America.
In addition to her work as a filmmaker Nausheen also works as an educator. She is currently a lecturer at the University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Recently she’s been a cinematography mentor for the Re-Present Media and Chicken & Egg Pictures. She received her MFA in Cinematography from the American Film Institute Conservatory.
Deniese Davis is a Television and Film Producer who got her start in the industry as a line producer for indie low-budget projects including music videos, short films and digital content. In the web-series realm she is best known for producing Issa Rae’s award-winning web series The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl. She is currently a Supervising Producer on the HBO critically-acclaimed and Emmy-nominated comedy series Insecure and a producer on Robin Thede’s Emmy-nominated HBO series A Black Lady Sketch Show. In addition to producing projects for Issa Rae Productions, she also serves as COO of the management company ColorCreative which provides access and opportunities for diverse and emerging writers. Originally from Las Vegas NV, Deniese is an alum of CUNY-Brooklyn College and the American Film Institute Conservatory.
Erica Duffy Since moving to Chicago six years ago, entrepreneur and production powerhouse, Erica Duffy has founded and grown Camera Ambassador. They are known for being one of the most reliable and artist-friendly camera, grip, and electric rental companies in the country. Operating out of a self build, 6,000sq ft industrial loft space adjacent to CineSpace that features automated prep bays, a client snack bar, a podcast booth, video editing suites, an event space, and co-working offices. Erica also keeps herself busy producing for clients that range from independent artists in music and film to global advertisements and commercials. Her newest passion is leading as the executive director of the Midwest Film Festival. She has a strong adoration for growing and supporting the local film community and feels fortunate to be able to immerse herself in this everyday.
Joshua A. Foster is a graduate of the prestigious NYU Tisch MFA graduate film program. Joshua produced or directed sixteen short films while at NYU Tisch. He has over twenty years of experience in the financial sector trading futures contracts, M&A and managing high net worth clients’ assets. Currently, he resides in New York City working as an executive for Cinetic Media in the film finance and production department. He most recently represented Cinetic Media on the Ethan Hawke directed film, Blaze, and he was the UPM for the feature, Lost Holiday.
Angie Gaffney, Executive Director, IFA Chicago, Producer + Life Coach. Angie champions leadership and well-being in creatives, artists, and entrepreneurs. As a community leader, Angie’s latest initiative is The Independent Film Alliance Chicago, a result of the recent merger between IFP Chicago and Stage 18 Chicago. As a life and leadership coach, Angie specializes in working with creatives, leaders, executives, and organizations to help them channel their power, manifest financial stability, and take their future into their own hands. As a producer, Angie develops authentic independent film and television content, and is an expert on the growing Chicago film scene. Her production company, Black Apple Media, has been active since 2010. Angie was born and raised in Boulder, Colorado and is a proud graduate of DePaul University, and an adjunct professor at The Harold Ramis Film School. Shout outs go to her family, her man, her dog, and her high school softball coach.
Dede Gardner is an Academy Award-winning producer and Co-President of Brad Pitt’s production company, Plan B Entertainment. Throughout her career, she has produced many Academy Award and Golden Globe-nominated and winning films including: Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk and Moonlight, Adam McKay’s The Big Short and Vice, Ava DuVernay’s Selma, Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, and Terrence Malick’s Palme d’Or-winning The Tree of Life.
Recently, she released James Gray’s Ad Astra and David Michôd’s The King – Plan B’s second feature with both directors. In TV, she is in production on Barry Jenkins’ Underground Railroad, Dennis Kelly’s Third Day starring Jude Law and Naomie Harris, Americanah created by Danai Gurira and starring Lupita Nyong’o, and Lego Masters hosted by Will Arnett. She is also producing Andrew Dominik’s upcoming feature Blonde, Jon Stewart’s feature Irresistible, and Miranda July’s Kajillionaire which premiered at Sundance.
Makiah Green is a life-loving entrepreneur and entertainment activist. Makiah currently works creatively as a Manager of Original Series at Netflix, where she has worked on a number of hit shows including Dead to Me, Master of None, Dear White People and Gentefied. Through her work, she aims to inform and empower communities through media, tech, and community organizing. She previously worked as a Creative Executive at MACRO, where she developed films including Judas and the Black Messiah, Sorry to Bother You and Really Love. She is also the Founder of Black Book LA, a thriving community of over 20,000 people that connects Black millennials to the best events and Black-owned businesses in the Greater Los Angeles area. Makiah is a double graduate of the University of Southern California with a Master’s degree in Professional Writing and a B.A. in English-Creative Writing.
Tim Grierson is the senior U.S. critic for Screen International and a contributing editor at MEL. He writes about film and popular culture for Rolling Stone, Vulture and the Los Angeles Times, and is the author of seven books, including Martin Scorsese in Ten Scenes. Tim currently serves as the vice president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and is a member of the National Society of Film Critics.
Eugene Hernandez is Director of the New York Film Festival and Publisher of Film Comment at Film at Lincoln Center where he serves as Deputy Executive Director. His duties include strategic leadership, programming special events, and managing emerging artist, industry, and education initiatives. He joined Film at Lincoln Center in 2010 as Director of Digital Strategy to develop digital platforms and content. In 1996, Hernandez co-founded IndieWire, which he built over 15 years as it became the leading editorial publication for independent and international films, filmmakers, industry, and audiences. He was named on Out magazine’s OUT100 list in 2015 and has served as a juror at Sundance, SXSW, and the Film Independent Spirit Awards. He has also worked extensively as a consultant for several nonprofits, including the Creative Capital Foundation; written for major print and online publications; serves on the board of advisors for SXSW, SeriesFest, and Art House Convergence; and is a programming consultant for the Key West Film Festival.
Darcy Heusel is VP of Audience Engagement and Impact at NEON. She also co-heads SUPER LTD, NEON’s boutique distribution division. She has worked on the acquisitions, distribution, and traditional and social impact marketing for independent films across the last decade. Before joining NEON, Darcy was Senior Vice President of Impact at Picture Motion, a marketing and advocacy firm for social issue films. In this role, she built and executed national social action campaigns for narrative and documentary projects including Lion, America Divided, Fed Up, Fruitvale Station, and Bully. Prior to Picture Motion, Darcy served as the Director of Programming and Marketing at Constellation.tv and the Director of Acquisitions and Marketing at Screen Media Films.
Nate Hurtsellers is a commercial and narrative cinematographer based in NYC. He received his Bachelor’s degree from New York University and his Masters in Cinematography at the American Film Institute. His work has played at festivals around the world, including Camerimage, Tribeca, SXSW, Cannes and Sundance.
Tilane Jones has worked with award-winning filmmaker Ava DuVernay for over ten years. Beginning with the public relations and promotional company, The DuVernay Agency as well as production entity Forward Movement, then leading DuVernay’s grass-roots film distribution collective ARRAY Releasing as Vice President. In 2019, she was appointed President of ARRAY. Jones now leads Array Alliance, the non-profit dedicated to social impact and education, as well as The Array Creative Campus, a three-building compound for production and public programming focused on marginalized filmmakers. She will continue to oversee Array Releasing, the company’s film distribution arm, where she has been responsible for the acquisition, booking and marketing of the collective 25+ films. Array Releasing has distributed feature films since 2011 including Andrew Dosunmu’s Restless City and Haile Gerima’s Ashes and Embers. Working as Manager of Production for Forward Movement, Jones served as a producer for all of the company’s visual product. Her film credits include: Oscar nominated and four-time EMMY winner 13th, Middle of Nowhere, This Is the Life, I Will Follow, August 28: A Day in the Life of a People, Family Fued and Oscar nominated Selma as well as acclaimed fashion and beauty films for Prada and Fashion Fair, The Door and Say Yes, respectively. Her television credits include: BET’s Black Girls Rock, My Mic Sounds Nice, John Legend Interludes Live, Essence Music Festival 2010, and ESPN Films’ Venus Vs.
Ian Keiser began his career in film at 18 when he cast a young Jack McBrayer (Emmy Nominated) in his first feature role. Since then he has produced movies starring such talent as Ruby Dee (Oscar Nominated) and Christopher Lloyd (Emmy Winner). He has produced films that won audience and jury awards at festivals such as SXSW and Tribeca. Those films have gone on to find success showing on platforms like Showtime and Netflix.
Aijah Keith serves as the Acquisitions Manager at IFC Films. During her tenure, she has aided in securing over 180 titles for the company’s three film labels: IFC Films, Sundance Selects and IFC Midnight.
Yvonne Huff Lee is Co-CEO of Lagralane Group. She is a producer, actor, philanthropist and mother to three with her husband and co-founder, Jason Delane Lee. Yvonne is inspired by the female experience and seeks to elevate both female-driven narratives and women’s perspectives. Recent producing credits include EP G.O.D., EP The Blood Is At The Doorstep, EP The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open, Co-EP Icarus, Co-EP This is Home, AP Night Comes On, AP Unrest, EP Served Like a Girl. She is a founding member of the Los Angeles-based Lower Depth Theatre and has appeared on stage in both LA and Chicago. Her film and television credits include G.O.D. (Best Screenplay at ABFF), Lucky, Beyond the Pretty Door, Barry Munday, NCIS: Los Angeles, Rake, Parenthood, Bones, Strong Medicine, Eli Stone, Without a Trace, The Young and The Restless, Monk and Boston Legal.
John Logan received the Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critic Circle and Drama League awards for his play Red. This play has had more than 400 productions across the US and over 160 foreign productions in 25 languages. He is the author of more than a dozen other plays including Peter and Alice, I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers and Never the Sinner. Musical theatre work includes Moulin Rouge, The Last Ship, Superhero and Swept Away. He is the proud recipient of the O’Neill Theater Center’s 2019 Monte Cristo award. As a screenwriter, Logan has been three times nominated for the Oscar and has received Golden Globe, BAFTA, WGA, Edgar, and PEN Center awards. His film work includes Skyfall, Spectre, Hugo, The Aviator, Gladiator, Rango, Alien: Covenant, Genius, Coriolanus, Sweeney Todd, The Last Samurai, Any Given Sunday and RKO 281. He created and produced the television series Penny Dreadful and Penny Dreadful: City of Angels for Showtime.
Mynette Louie is an Emmy-nominated, Spirit Award-winning producer. Credits include I Carry You With Me (Sundance 2020, Sony Pictures Classics), Swallow (Tribeca 2019, IFC Films), The Tale (Sundance 2018, HBO), Gemini (SXSW 2017, NEON/Sony), The Invitation (SXSW 2015, Drafthouse/Netflix), Land Ho! (Sundance 2014, Sony Pictures Classics), Children of Invention (Sundance 2009), and Mutual Appreciation (SXSW 2006). Mynette is on Film Independent’s Board of Directors and advises Sundance Institute, SXSW, Tribeca, and IFP. She was named one of Business Insider’s “12 Movie Producers at the Top of Their Game to Watch in 2020 and Beyond,” Ted Hope’s “21 Brave Thinkers of Truly Free Film,” and Indiewire’s “100 Filmmakers to Follow on Twitter.” She won the 2013 Independent Spirit Piaget Producers Award and is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. A native New Yorker, Mynette graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard, concentrating in Chinese literature and film.
Scott Macaulay is the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Filmmaker Magazine as well as an independent film producer who heads the New York-based company Forensic Films. Among his feature producing credits are Kitty Green’s The Assistant and Casting JonBenet, Elisabeth Subrin’s A Woman, A Part, Peter Sollett’s Raising Victor Vargas, Harmony Korine’s julien donkey-boy and Tom Noonan’s What Happened Was…
Ilyse McKimmie is the Deputy Director for Sundance Institute’s Feature Film Program. She oversees the Directors and Screenwriters Labs and the Screenwriters Intensive, provides year-round creative and strategic support to alumni filmmakers, and plays a key role in the Creative Producing Program and Episodic Labs. Films developed at the Labs during her tenure include The 40-Year-Old Version, Miss Juneteenth, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, The Farewell, Sorry to Bother You, We the Animals, Beach Rats, Swiss Army Man, Diary of a Teenage Girl, Fruitvale Station, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Pariah, Sin Nombre, Red Road, Me and You and Everyone We Know, Paradise Now, and Maria Full of Grace, among many others. Before joining Sundance over 20 years ago, she held positions at ICM and Red Wagon Entertainment. She is a graduate of UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television.
Leonardo Nam Award-nominated actor Leonardo Nam can currently be seen reprising his fan-favorite role as Felix Lutz for season three of the critically acclaimed, award-winning HBO series Westworld. Recent notable credits for Nam include the DC Universe series Swamp Thing, Amazon’s Sneaky Pete, and the Arthouse film Hummingbird. He has also recurred on titles such as the Amazon series Betas, and has appeared on The Flash, Disjointed, Hawaii 5-0, Royal Pains, Bones, Franklin & Bash, and Stalker.
Brian Newman, founder of Sub-Genre, consults on content development, distribution and marketing to help connect brands with filmmakers with audiences. Clients include: Patagonia, REI, IBM, Yeti Coolers, New York Times, Shopify Studios, Stripe, Unilever, and Zero Point Zero. Brian is the producer of The Outside Story (Tribeca Film Festival, 2020), and Love & Taxes, and executive producer of Shored Up. Brian has served as CEO of the Tribeca Film Institute, and is the founder of the Brand/Foundation Alliance.
Ryan Oestreich is a veteran of film exhibition. For the past 15 years, Ryan has worked in not-for-profit film societies, large-scale movies, theater chains, nationally and internationally known film festivals, as well as independently-owned movie houses. Ryan is currently the General Manager of the historic Music Box Theatre. Ryan also works with Music Box Films distribution company on a number of film releases, as well as other business management needs for the company.
Nick Ogiony is a CAA Media Finance Agent at leading entertainment and sports agency Creative Artists Agency (CAA). Ogiony is based in the Los Angeles office and represents many of the world’s leading producers, directors, and independent films. Following his passion for independent and international cinema, he became the assistant for the co-heads of William Morris Independent, Cassian Elwes and Rena Ronson. He joined CAA in 2009. Ogiony graduated from Boston University with a degree in Film.
Kelly O’Sullivan is a writer and actor originally from North Little Rock, Arkansas. Her first feature screenplay, Saint Frances, premiered at South by Southwest, where it won a Special Jury Recognition for “Breakthrough Voice” and the Audience Award for Narrative Feature. The film was released theatrically by Oscilloscope Laboratories in 2020. Kelly was named one of Filmmaker Magazine‘s “25 New Faces of Independent Film” and was a member of Film at Lincoln Center’s 2019 Artist Academy. She is proudly represented by William Morris Endeavor and currently resides in Chicago.
Ross Putnam After graduating from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, Ross Putman started his career as a development executive before transitioning to independent film production. The company he co-founded, PSH Collective, went on to produce the Sundance award winning drama First Girl I Loved and the Emma Roberts rom-com In a Relationship. His latest film, Plus One, won the audience award at the Tribeca Film Festival. Ross recently transitioned to a job at the literary and talent agency Verve, working in their independent film sales and finance division.
Elsa Ramo, Managing Partner, Ramo Law PC. Recently named to Variety’s “2020 Legal Impact Report” and 2019 “Dealmakers List,” Elsa Ramo represented over 100 films and 50 television scripted and unscripted series in 2019 alone, providing comprehensive legal services to producers, financiers, creators and owners of film, television and digital content and projects across a range of budgets and production levels. Her clients include Imagine Entertainment, Fox, Balboa Productions (Sylvester Stallone’s production company), Scout Productions (creators and EPs of Queer Eye), Boardwalk Pictures (EPs for Chefs Table), LOL (Kevin Hart’s production company), The Jim Henson Company, and Skydance. Elsa dedicates substantial time to mentoring women through various organizations; and she has become a go-to commentator and instructor on legal issues related to film financing and on the future of the industry.
Gil L. Robertson IV knows firsthand how words and images enlighten, uplift and empower. As an entertainment journalist, the one-time political organizer excelled, penning over 50 national magazine covers, contributing bylines to a wide range of publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Billboard, Fortune, Essence and Ebony, as well as launching his own nationally syndicated arts and lifestyle column, The Robertson Treatment, with a reach of nearly two million. His many books, including the resource guide Writing As A Tool of Empowerment, the anthologies Not In My Family: AIDS in the African American Community, Family Affair: What It Means to Be African American Today, Where Did Our Love Go: Love and Relationships in the African American Community and Book of Black Heroes: Political Leaders Past & Present, raise issues of critical importance to the Black community. In his critical role leading the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA), the largest collection of Black film critics in North America known for its diversity and inclusion advocacy work within the industry as well as the AAFCA Awards and other programs celebrating Black excellence, the Cal State alum continues his successful track record as both a change agent and thought leader. As a public ambassador for diversity within the industry, Robertson appears on television regularly and lectures nationally on such issues as fostering diverse representation in the entertainment industry.
Brenda Robinson is an entertainment attorney whose law practice focuses on intellectual property and entertainment matters on behalf of clients in the film, television and music industries. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan and obtained her law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Brenda is a partner in Gamechanger Films, an equity fund that finances feature films and television series by women and diverse storytellers. She is also active in the Sundance Institute as a member of the Women at Sundance Leadership Council and separately serves as an advisor to The Redford Center. As a dedicated philanthropist in the arts and entertainment community and advocate on behalf of creative artists, Brenda currently serves on the boards of Film Independent, The Representation Project and the International Documentary Association (IDA). She is a founding advisory board member of the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. She is also a proud board member of Cinema/Chicago and the Chicago International Film Festival and currently serves as legal counsel to the festival, known as the longest running international competitive film festival in North America. Brenda was most recently a financier on the Academy Award-winning documentary Icarus as well as Won’t You Be My Neighbor and Step. She is an executive producer on numerous projects including United Skates, alongside executive producer John Legend; The Great American Lie by director Jennifer Siebel Newsom; Jump Shot: The Kenny Sailors Story, alongside executive producer Steph Curry and Marian Anderson: The Whole World In Her Hands for PBS’ American Masters series.
Dan Rybicky is a filmmaker and professor at Columbia College Chicago whose short documentary about healthcare Accident, MD won Vimeo’s “Best of the Year” Award in January 2020 after receiving a favorable review in The New Yorker and being broadcast nationally on PBS/Independent Lens in 2019. Dan produced and co-directed Kartemquin Films’ critically-acclaimed feature documentary ALMOST THERE, which was distributed theatrically, digitally, and on public television in 2016. Be on the lookout for his latest short documentaries Larry from Gary (about a dedicated dance teacher in Gary, Indiana) and Stormy and the Admirals (about a group of elderly feminists in Chicago who go see Stormy Daniels strip) in 2020-2021.
Betsy Steinberg is a media consultant advising organizations and film projects on fundraising, financing, marketing and creative development. She was instrumental in the creation of the Independent Film Alliance, Chicago, where she serves as Director of Strategic Initiatives. From 2015-2018, she was Executive Director of Kartemquin Films, where she served as executive producer on Academy Award nominated documentaries Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, Edith+Eddie, and Minding the Gap as well as nine other projects including Steve James’ epic series America to Me. Prior to her time at Kartemquin, Steinberg was the Director of the Illinois Film office from 2007-2015, where she was integral to unprecedented growth for Chicago’s film industry by launching the state’s 30% film tax credit and helping to guide the development of Cinespace Chicago Film Studios. Earlier in her career, Steinberg developed, produced, directed and wrote television projects for History, A&E, National Geographic and the Discovery Networks. She was named Chicagoan of the Year in Film by the Chicago Tribune in 2015 and has served on the boards of the Chicago Media Project, Free Spirit Media and The Midwest Independent Film Festival. She has been a member of World Business Chicago’s ChicagoMade Advisory Committee, The Chicago Community Trust’s Collaboratory, and the Governor’s Roundtable on the Creative Arts. She is passionate about independent storytelling originating in her adopted hometown, Chicago.
Roxanne Avent Taylor is a leading producer and executive, who, alongside director Deon Taylor, formed the film company Hidden Empire Film Group (HEFG) to bring fresh content to different media platforms. Taylor has developed, packaged and produced an impressive slate of films. Recent projects include: The Intruder; the thriller Traffik, which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Independent Motion Picture as well as 2019 AMAA for Best Dispora Narrative Feature; and 2019’s Black and Blue starring Academy Award Nominee Naomi Harris, Frank Grillo, Tyrese Gibson and Mike Colter. Taylor’s next project is Lionsgate’s highly anticipated Fatale starring two-time Academy Award®-winner Hilary Swank with Michael Ealy and Mike Colter, which is set for release on October 30, 2020.
Roxanne served as CEO of Avent Productions, a successful independent film production company specializing in the production of film, television, video, as well as staging and concert promotions. Taylor received the 2018 WIN (Women in NAACP) Leadership Award from the NAACP and the 2019 Baron Jay Foundation Trailblazer Award. Additionally, Taylor and HEFG received the 2019 Location Manager Guild International (LMGI) Humanitarian of the Year Award.
Philanthropic interests are important to Taylor, her non-profit organization CLIMB was announced in 2019 at the Stellar awards. C.L.I.M.B. Network, is a charitable initiative to help today’s disadvantaged youth achieve success.
Alex Thompson is a Chicago-based director whose debut feature, Saint Frances, won the Audience Award and the Special Jury Prize for Breakthrough Voice at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival. It’s currently being distributed domestically by Oscilloscope Laboratories and opened in the UK this month with Vertigo Releasing. He is one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film” and teaches at DePaul and DePauw University.
Lisa Trifone A Chicago native, Trifone has always known she’d work in movies. To date, that work includes film festival management, programming and marketing (Heartland Film; Indy Film Fest); publicity management and logistics (Sundance Film Festival); arthouse distribution strategy, marketing and national publicity (Film Movement; Music Box Films) and now several years at the helm of the agency she founded in 2017. Notable and recent clients include Flannery, the first ever winner of the Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film; Working Man (Brainstorm Media), starring Peter Gerety, Talia Shire and Billy Brown; and Once Upon a River (Film Movement), the critically acclaimed adaptation of the popular young adult novel. Trifone has worked with some of the most acclaimed arthouse distributors in the industry, including Music Box Films, Cohen Media Group, American Masters and IFC Films. In addition to her agency work, Trifone is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and serves as a project & program consultant with Full Spectrum Features.
Yvonne Welbon is a Senior Creative Consultant at Chicken & Egg Pictures. She is an award-winning filmmaker and founder and CEO of the Chicago-based non-profit Sisters in Cinema. She has produced and distributed dozens of films including Living With Pride: Ruth Ellis @100, winner of ten best documentary awards and Sisters in Cinema, a documentary on the history of black women feature film directors. Her work has been broadcast on PBS, Starz/Encore, TV-ONE, IFC, Bravo, the Sundance Channel, BET, HBO, Netflix, iTunes and screened in over one hundred film festivals around the world. Projects in development include The Spies Who Loved Me, a thrilling exposé on surveillance which focuses on the six-years she lived in Taipei, Taiwan and American Pride, a Black lesbian coming-of-age series set on the south-side of Chicago. She has taught at the University of Chicago, Northwestern University and chaired the Journalism & Media Studies Department at Bennett College. Raised in an Afro-Latinx Honduran household on the South Side of Chicago, Welbon holds a B.A from Vassar College, a MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, a Ph.D. from Northwestern University, and is a graduate of the American Film Institute’s Directing Workshop for Women. In 2020 she became a member of the Documentary branch of the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences.
Ariane Wu is an Executive for Original Documentary Features and Limited Series at Netflix. She also leads programming for their documentary shorts.
Joe Yanick is a film professional specializing in sales, distribution, production, and film festivals. In 2018 he co-founded Yellow Veil Pictures, a worldwide sales company focusing on boundary-pushing genre cinema, with Hugues Barbier and Justin Timms.