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Speaker Bios

Alessandra, Pilar

Pilar Alessandra

PILAR ALESSANDRA started her career as Senior Story Analyst at DreamWorks SKG. In 2001, she opened the Los Angeles-based On the Page Writers’ Studio, dedicated to teaching and consulting with screenwriters and TV writers at all levels. She’s the author of the top-selling scriptwriting book, “The Coffee Break Screenwriter,” and host of the popular “On the Page Podcast.” An in-demand speaker, she’s taught at Disney Animation, ABC, CBS and MTV, and traveled the world coaching writers and producers in the UK, China, Poland, Vietnam, Colombia, Portugal and South Africa. Pilar’s greatest accomplishment is the success of her students, many of whom have won top competitions like the Nicholl Fellowship, are working on TV shows such as “The 100,” “Silicon Valley” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” and have sold scripts and pitches to studios including DreamWorks, Warner Bros. and Disney. For more information about Pilar, her classes, consultations, book and podcast, go to

Armbrust, Tobin

Tobin Armbrust

Tobin Armbrust is currently COO and President, Production at Virgin Produced. Virgin Produced is the film, television and digital entertainment arm of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. Armbrust is building a slate of content over multiple platforms that is disruptive, high concept and youth oriented.


Armbrust is an Executive Producer on the upcoming thriller “Winchester” from CBS Films, starring Hellen Mirren and Jason Clarke. He is also an Executive Producer on a documentary in production featuring the Los Angeles Lakers and their iconic owner Jerry Buss. Recently, Armbrust has produced digital pilots for EKO and West Fly and is overseeing development projects with JJ Abrams’s Bad Robot, Nickelodeon, Netflix, IM Global and Pete Berg’s Film44.


Virgin Produced also distributes original and acquired digital content through its airline, mobile, airport and hotel partners. Taken together, Virgin Produced and its strategic partners can reach well over 100 million viewers per month with its content.


Prior to joining Virgin Produced, Armbrust held the same position at Exclusive Media where he produced the romantic music comedy “Begin Again” starring Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Adam Levine and Hailee Steinfeld from writer/director John Carney. Previously, he executive produced Ron Howard’s epic action thriller “Rush,” starring Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl, “Parkland” starring Paul Giamatti, Billy Bob Thornton, and Zac Efron, the box office hit “End of Watch” starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña, the fast paced thriller “Snitch” starring action superstar Dwayne Johnson and Susan Sarandon, and the action romantic comedy “Hit and Run” starring Dax Shepard, Kristen Bell and Bradley Cooper.


Additional films from Exclusive Media produced and/or executive produced by Armbrust include “A Walk Among the Tombstones” starring Liam Neeson, “Dark Places” starring Charlize Theron, and the follow up to The Woman in Black, “The Woman in Black: Angel of Death.” Other films Armbrust has produced include “The Quiet Ones,” starring Jared Harris and Sam Claflin, “The Woman in Black” starring Daniel Radcliffe, Matt Reeves’ “Let Me In”, “The Resident” starring Hilary Swank, “So Undercover” starring Miley Cyrus and Peter Weir’s “The Way Back” with Saiorse Ronan and Ed Harris. For Exclusive Media’s documentary feature label, Spitfire Pictures, Armbrust produced “Amazing Journey: The Story of the Who”, “Billy Joel: Last Play at Shea” and “Guys and Divas: Battle of the High School Musicals.”


In his capacity as Head of Production and Acquisitions, Tobin oversaw several films for the company in an executive role. He served as the key creative member on the green light committee that determined which films were financed and was ultimately responsible for the scripts, casts and budgets. In this role he oversaw George Clooney’s “Ides of March”, and the Academy Award winning documentary Undefeated”.


Prior to joining Exclusive Media, Armbrust served as a producer at Thunder Road, a production company with a first look deal at Warner Bros. Armbrust oversaw over thirty projects in various stages of development, and Co-Produced “Firewall” starring Harrison Ford and Paul Bettany. During his time at Thunder Road he helped develop “Clash of the Titans”, “We Are Marshall” and “Seventh Son”, all of which went on to be made. Before joining Thunder Road, Armbrust spent seven years at Intermedia serving under Co-Founders Nigel Sinclair and Guy East. At Intermedia he held positions as both a VP of
Business Development as well as a VP of Production. During his tenure, he helped oversee several feature films including “K-19” starring Harrison Ford, “Basic” starring John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson, “The Wedding Planner” starring Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey, “Adaptation” starring Nicolas Cage, “National Security” starring Martin Lawrence, “Terminator 3” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, “Welcome to Mooseport” starring Gene Hackman and Ray Romano, and “K-PAX” starring Kevin Spacey.


Armbrust began his career in the film industry as Head of Acquisitions at The Steel Company, a Los Angeles based agency that represented some of the largest film distributors in the world, including France’s Canal Plus, South Korea’s Samsung, and Japan’s Pony Canyon.


Armbrust received his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science at UCSB and a Rotary Scholarship to study Business at the University of Munich, Germany. He has been a panelist and guest speaker at the USC School of Film, The American Film Market, Loyola Marymount, California State University, Los Angeles and several other industry events. He has been profiled in multiple newspapers and magazines, including, most recently, the Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Screen Daily and Deadline Hollywood.

Paul Bales

Paul is a partner and the Chief Operating Officer at The Asylum, a production and distribution company based in Burbank, California. The Asylum finances, produces and releases 25 films per year through its direct pipeline to its network of domestic and international partners. Since its founding in 1997, The Asylum has released more than 500 films and built a library of over 200 original productions, including the top-rated “Sharknado” films and the series “Z Nation.”


Prior to joining The Asylum, Paul was National Director of SAGIndie, the Screen Actors Guild outreach program for independent producers.

Robert Bernacchi

Robert began working in film at Dino De Laurentiis’ studio in Wilmington, North Carolina as assistant to producer Dino Constantine Conte, after which he moved to Italy where he was very active in the Italian television and film industry.


In 1999 Robert returned to the international arena as Associate Producer on Julie Taymor’s debut feature film “Titus” starring Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange. Soon after, Robert went on to produce for New Line Cinema, Miramax Films, Metro Goldwyn Mayer, Sony Screen Gems, Lakeshore Entertainment and HBO on such films as Guillermo Del Toro’s ”Blade 2″, “Highlander 4: Endgame”, “Blood and Chocolate”, “Madhouse”, “The Cave” and “Underworld”, of which many were shot in Romania.


“Snowpiercer”, the English-language debut of Korean director Joon-ho Bong is one of Robert’s last features, starring Chris Evans, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Ed Harris, Allison Pill and Octavia Spencer. It was  released in Korea where it quickly became the biggest box-office success of all time for a Korean film and has won many awards. Miramax released the film in the US.


Robert’s career as a producer took him to many European capitals. He worked in Rome, Budapest, Paris, Bucharest, Prague with directors Joel Schumacher, Agnieska Holland, Todd Phillips, Executive Producers Ridley and Tony Scott, Mark Walhberg,  Fred Ross, and many other great filmmakers.. His work garnished multiple nominations, including Golden Globes for Warner Bros’ “War Dogs”, and Sony Television/TNT’s mini series “The Company”.


Currently, Robert is VP of Production at Skydance Media where he oversees a slate of television productions for various networks including Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, AMC, ABC and others.

Andrei Boncea

Andrei is a highly experienced producer and production manager, known for Alexandre Aja’s “High Tension”, the Oscar nominated “Joyeux Noel”, directed by Christian Carion, and for “An American Haunting”, starring Sissy Spacek and Donald Sutherland. For many years Andrei was the General Manager of Media Pro Entertainment and Media Pro Pictures in Romania, and VP of Content for Ronald Lauder/Time Warner’s CME. He has been involved in numerous international productions filmed in Romania at Media Pro Studios, such as Costa Gavras’ “Amen”, Zeffirelli’s “Callas Forever”, Andi Garcia’s “Modigliani”, directed by Mick Davis, Terry Gilliam’s “The Zero Theorem”, or Claude Lelouch’s “Les Amours La”( a Media Pro Pictures co-production with Film 13).


Andrei has also produced award winning Romanian films such as “California Dreamin’(Endless)” ( winner “Un Certain Regard – Cannes 2007), and many successful television series for CME’s local market leaders PRO TV and Acasa TV.


In 2017 Andrei co-produced the English language movie “The Wanderers”, starring Armando Asante and a cast of Romanian, South Korean, and Israeli actors. The movie was entirely shot in Romania and post-produced in both Romania and the US.


Richard Botto

Richard “RB” Botto is the Founder and CEO of Stage 32, the world’s largest platform for connecting and educating film creatives. Called “LinkedIn meets Lynda for film creatives” by Forbes, Stage 32 boasts a member base of over 500,000 and features over 1000 hours of film craft and business related education taught by over 500 industry executives across the globe.


RB is also a working actor, producer and screenwriter. As a producer, his films have played at dozens of festivals including Sundance and include the award winning feature, Another Happy Day, and short, All Things Hidden. His latest screenplay, THE END GAME was purchased and is in development at Covert Media.


RB was also commissioned to write the very first book on film crowdsourcing by Focal Press under the American Film Market (AFM) imprint. The book will be published in early 2017.


A sought after speaker and mentor, RB has been a keynote speaker and panelist at such festivals and conferences as Cannes, Venice, AFM, Tribeca, Raindance, SXSW and Winston Baker, and has taught at institutions such as Harvard and Columbia University on the subjects of filmmaking, producing, film finance, screenwriting, social media, crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, entrepreneurship and business.


Wendy Calhoun

Wendy Calhoun is a writer and executive producer currently developing a true crime cable miniseries for FX, as well as a broadcast family soap for Fox. Her credits include Co-Executive Producing and writing the historic first season of Fox’s hit series EMPIRE. In addition, she’s written and produced for ABC’S NASHVILLE, FX’s JUSTIFIED, ABC’s REVENGE, and NBC’s LIFE. Calhoun wrote and directed the virtual reality short, LEFT BEHIND, sponsored by Google and honored as “Best in VR” at Digital Hollywood 2016. She was the Narrative Consultant for Electronic Arts’ BATTLEFIELD HARDLINE video game. She received a 2010 Peabody Award for JUSTIFIED. Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Calhoun studied film and television at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Steve Chan

Up and coming Hong Kong film director Steve Chan graduated from the Academy of Film of Hong Kong Baptist University, majoring in Cinema and Television. His directorial debut in feature film “Weeds on Fire” was critically acclaimed and the film received nominations in eight categories in the 36th Hong Kong Film Awards, including Best Picture and Best New Director. It won Best New Performer and New Best Original Song in the Awards.


The film was also selected in the 53rd Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival, Hong Kong International Film Festival, Udine Far East Film Festival and New York Asian Film Festival. Apart from film, Steve was invited to direct and produce ViuTV drama “My Very Short Marriage”, starring Eason Chan. His other works include commercials, music videos and stage visual effects.

Chianese, Joe

Joe Chianese

Joseph D. Chianese is the Executive Vice President at EP Financial Solutions, a subsidiary of Entertainment Partners. He provides administrative, financial, tax and other consulting services for domestic and international film, television, and commercial productions. Mr. Chianese has almost 30 years of accounting, tax, and production experience, and has held positions at Sony Pictures Entertainment, The Walt Disney Company, The American Broadcasting Company, Paramount Pictures, and Ernst & Young.


Throughout his career, Mr. Chianese has been responsible for the tax, finance, and production structures for film and television productions in excess of $5 billion. He is also regarded as one of the leading experts in worldwide production incentives and other government subsidies.


Mr. Chianese is a CPA with a BBA in Accounting, a Masters in Tax, and an MBA.

Mark Damon

Mark Damon, credited with having invented the foreign sales business as we know it today, and considered one of the world’s leading authorities on international distribution, has played a successful role in various facets of the entertainment industry for over 50 years.


He first entered the world of independent sales and production in the 1970’s while living and working in Italy where he saw a huge market of independent international distributors eager for top American movies. When Mark returned to the U.S. in 1977 he founded Producer Sales Organization (PSO). His goal was to sell important American pictures to international distributors, the first such company to compete with the major studios.


Mark Damon’s subsequent success with PSO led to his reputation as the inventor of the foreign sales business and the brains behind independent film production. His early visionary contributions to the international distribution of independently produced films are widely recognized, and he has developed a reputation in the entertainment industry as one of the leading producers and distributors of independent films. Over the past 25 years, Mark Damon’s productions have grossed over $2 billion in theatrical box office worldwide.


Mr. Damon has produced or executive produced over 70 films, and his films have received 10 Oscar nominations including the 2005 Oscar winner, Monster, starring Charlize Theron, the critically acclaimed, multi-Oscar nominated World War II drama, Das Boot, directed by Wolfgang Petersen, and The NeverEnding Story, also directed by Wolfgang Petersen. Other acclaimed films include The Upside of Anger, starring Oscar nominee Joan Allen and Kevin Costner; 9 1/2 Weeks, directed by Adrian Lyne; 8 Million Ways to Die, directed by Hal Ashby; Short Circuit, directed by John Badham; High Spirits directed by Neil Jordan; Choirboys directed by Robert Aldrich; The Lost Boys, directed by Joel Schumacher; Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, directed by Stephen Sommers; Hurricane Heist directed by Rob Cohen; The Last Full Measure, starring Sebastian Stan, Christopher Plummer, William Hurt, Ed Harris, Samuel L. Jackson, and Peter Fonda, plus, the releases of 2 Guns, starring Denzel Washington and Mark Walhberg; and Lone Survivor, starring Mark Wahlberg and directed by Peter Berg.


Mr. Damon has been directly involved in the international licensing of over 300 feature length pictures, including such noteworthy box-office titles as the James Bond film Never Say Never Again, directed by Irvin Kershner and starring Sean Connery; Prizzi’s Honor, directed by John Huston and featuring Jack Nicholson and Angelica Huston; Once Upon A Time In America, directed by Sergio Leone and featuring Robert DeNiro and James Wood; Cotton Club, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and featuring Richard Gere; and The Final Countdown, starring Kirk Douglas.


Today, he is the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Foresight Unlimited, a company he founded in October of 2004. Mr. Damon is one of the original founding members of AFMA now known as the Independent Film and Television Alliance. His biography, From Cowboy To Mogul To Monster, was published in May 2008, chronicling his 50 years in the entertainment industry. Mark received his M.B.A. and B.A. degrees from the University of California, Los Angeles and resides with his wife in Beverly Hills.

Dennis Dreith

In addition to a career as an active film, television and jingle composer (The Punisher, Mobsters, The Shadow, Columbo), Dennis Dreith has orchestrated and /or conducted scores for such pictures as Misery, Addams Family, Heart and Souls and A League of Their Own providing services for John Williams, Lalo Schrifrin, Dominick Frontiere, Marc Shaiman, Hans Zimmer, Eliott Goldenthal, Mark Ishm and Clif Eidleman. In addition Mr. Dreith has served as Music Supervisor on several major motion pictures as well as Music Consultant on the legendary Barbra Streisand New Year’s Las Vegas Concert. Mr. Dreith also has composed numerous works for the concert stage.


Dreith served as International President of the Recording Musicians’ Association (RMA), in excess of 15 years, and served as a consultant and member of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) Negotiating Committee. Dreith also addressed the U.S. Congress House Sub-committee on Intellectual Properties and worked with Congress in support of numerous IP issues.


Mr. Dreith was previously the Executive Director of the Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund, and just recently retired as Executive Director of the AFM & SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund.


Bruce Eisen

Bruce David Eisen is a veteran entertainment attorney and media executive. Eisen’s legal practice focuses on the intersection of new and traditional media whose clients include Shout! Factory, RLJ Entertainment, Brainstorm Media, Rubicon Entertainment, Random Media, Hollywood Media Bridge and the Entertainment Merchants Association, as well as individual writers and producers, among others.


Eisen’s services include structuring and drafting various development agreements including option, writer, and JV agreements, providing production legal services, negotiation and drafting content acquisition and distribution agreements, negotiating film finance agreements, both domestic and foreign, and providing general legal/business affairs services for film, television and new media clients. Other recent activities include M&A legal work representing the seller of an entertainment company as well as the seller of a music library, each of which sold for seven figures.


Individuals and companies that Eisen has recently negotiated with on behalf of his clients include Bret Easton Ellis, James Franco, Cross Creek Pictures, Palm Star Media, Grindstone Entertainment, Voltage Pictures, Hulu, Redbox, iN DEMAND, Amazon, PlayStation Network, Showtime, HBO and Vimeo.


From 2009 through 2012 Eisen was the Vice President Online Content Development & Strategy for DISH Network where he negotiated agreements with most of the major television networks on behalf of DISH, licensing over 20,000 television shows for distribution and acquiring on-demand rights from the major Hollywood studios including VOD/EST/SVOD rights for distribution of their content across multiple platforms including set-top boxes,, iPad, iPhone and Android devices.


Eisen was one of the principals who started CinemaNow in 1999 and, as the company’s general counsel, negotiated financing for the company in excess of $40 million, negotiated CinemaNow’s agreements with over 200 content licensors including all of the major Hollywood studios as well as agreements with local ISPs, portals and film distributors to bring CinemaNow to the U.K., the Netherlands, Taiwan, Philippines, Latin America, and Singapore. In addition, Eisen was instrumental in creating CinemaNow Japan, Inc., an affiliated entity that raised over $15 million in funding.


Eisen structured the strategy and business aspects of CinemaNow’s technology requirements to enable the efficient, cost-effective distribution of content on a worldwide, video-on-demand basis and, in that regard, licensed all required technology including agreements for content delivery network services, data services, data hosting, geo-targeting, recommendation engines, web analytics, network storage and customer relation management with companies such as Akamai, Limelight, Savvis, Intel, Microsoft, EchoStar, Qwest, RightNow Technologies and WebSideStory.


Eisen started his career as the head of Legal and Business Affairs for Trimark Pictures where his responsibilities included negotiating the company’s distribution agreements with companies including the Walt Disney Company, Miramax, The Samuel Goldwyn Company, Columbia Pictures, HBO and others. Eisen also negotiated and drafted Trimark’s development agreements as well as its production legal agreements including those with such talent as Samuel L. Jackson, Renee Zelweger, Peter Jackson and Jim Belushi. In addition, Eisen structured the company’s relationships with the Screen Actors Guild, the Directors Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America and was instrumental in negotiating Trimark’s $25 million line of credit with Bank of America and Trimark’s $75 million line of credit with The Chase Manhattan Bank as well as numerous production financing agreements with various lenders and bond companies.


Eisen received his J.D. from the University of Southern California in 1991 and his B.A. cum laude with high honors in Philosophy from Clark University in 1984.

Elwes, Cassian

Cassian Elwes

Elwes began his producing career with 1983’s “Oxford Blues” starring Rob Lowe and Ally Sheedy and quickly went on to make another 29 films, including “Men At Work,” with Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen, and “The Chase” with Sheen.


In 1994, Elwes joined William Morris and headed William Morris Independent for 15 years. He financed such indie hits as “Slingblade” and “The Apostle,” both of which were nominated for multiple Oscars. “Monster’s Ball” was their follow up, which won the “Best Actress” Oscar for Halle Berry, the first African American woman to do so.


Wikipedia calls Cassian Elwes one of the most important figures in independent cinema and an expert in the field of arranging financing and distribution for independent films, having done so for 283 films during his tenure at William Morris Independent.


Since leaving William Morris Independent 5 years ago, Elwes has either produced or executive produced 40 films including John Hillcoat’s “Lawless,” Lee Daniels’ “The Paperboy,” and David Lowery’s “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”, which was nominated for a Gotham Independent Film Award for “Best Feature.”


Recently, Elwes produced the hit period drama “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” which featured an all-star cast headed by Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey. He also executive produced J.C. Chandor’s “All Is Lost” starring Robert Redford and executive produced and arranged financing for the Oscar winning hit “Dallas Buyers Club” directed by Jean-Marc Vallee, starring Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto and Jennifer Garner.


Elwes executive produced the Kevin Costner release “Black and White”, directed by Mike Binder, and has produced both Werner Herzog’s “Queen of the Desert” and Eli Roth’s “Knock Knock”. His most current release was “Elvis & Nixon” starring Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey. Cassian is in post on the 1980’s Los Angeles-set thriller “The Billionaire Boy’s Club”, starring Ansel Elgort, Taron Egerton, and Kevin Spacey.


Elwes most recently finished “Mudbound”, which was directed by Dee Rees, starring Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell, Mary J. Blige and Garrett Hedlund and premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

Epstein, Clay

Clay Epstein

Clay Epstein is the President of Film Mode Entertainment, a leading worldwide sales agent and production entity, focusing on commercially driven feature films of all genres and budget sizes. Film Mode represents projects at all stages of the film-making process, often as Executive Producer, with the aim of helping our producers and distributors achieve maximum exposure for their films. Film Mode’s recent successes include SUGAR MOUNTAIN starring Jason Momoa, LITTLE PINK HOUSE starring two time Academy Award nominee, Catherine Keener and the SXSW official entry, THE GOOD NEIGHBOR starring the legendary James Caan. Upcoming productions include VIKING DESTINY starring Academy Award nominee Terence Stamp. In 2017, Film Mode launched DocMode to focus on award winning Documentaries that impact the world. Film Mode is based in Beverly Hills, CA. with a satellite office in New York City.

Mihai Fulger

Mihai Fulger is the Director of Romanian National Film Archives, and an active member of the Board of the Romanian National Film Centre (CNC), which manages the funds allocated on an yearly basis to film production, co-productions, festivals and other type of film related events. He is a member of the Film Critics’ Association within the Romanian Filmmakers’ Union (UCIN) and of the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI). As a programmer he has collaborated with various film festivals in Romania, and served on FIPRESCI Jury in several major international film festivals. He is one of the founding editors of the “Film” quarterly magazine, published by UCIN.