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Speaker Bios

Gipson, Darrien

Darrien Michele Gipson

Darrien Michele Gipson is the National Director of SAGindie, an educational program that teaches independent filmmakers with limited budgets how to hire professional actors for their films. Darrien is an M.F.A. recipient from the Peter Stark Producer’s Program at USC and was formerly the Vice President of Production for DEF Pictures. As National Director of SAGindie, Darrien is responsible for the strategic planning and oversight of the organization and acts as a liaison between filmmakers and SAG-AFTRA, the actors union.

Hertzberg, Paul

Paul Hertzberg

Paul Hertzberg is the President and Chief Executive Officer of CineTel Films, Inc. Under his auspices and direct involvement since its founding thirty years ago, CineTel has become one of the leading independent production and distribution companies in the entertainment industry. In addition to theatrical features, the firm has been highly successful in the production of pay television specials for HBO, Lifetime and the SyFy Channel. New Line, Warner Bros., Lions Gate, Miramax, MGM, Anchor Bay and Columbia/Tri-Star have distributed much of the CineTel product, 16 of which have been released theatrically.


“Seven years ago, there seemed to be a sizable number of independent film companies that on the surface appeared to be doing quite well,” noted Mr. Hertzberg, who has been duly recognized for his contribution to the entertainment industry by his inclusion in Who’s Who in America. Mr. Hertzberg is also a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences-Producers Division, the Screen Actors Guild, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Independent Film and Television Alliance (I.F.T.A.). “Then, one by one, they began to disappear. Now there are only a handful of us left. CineTel’s strength has always been to remain on target with a certain philosophy: to produce, acquire and distribute motion pictures that appeal to a wide variety of audiences, yet are economically feasible for continued success.”


Mr. Hertzberg’s most recent theatrical productions include, A Rumor of Angels, starring Vanessa Redgrave, Ray Liotta and Catherine McCormick, was distributed by MGM/UA. The action film KILLING MACHINE, starring and directed by Dolph Lundgren and the remake of the 1978 classic film I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE.


CineTel was founded in his home state of Illinois by Mr. Hertzberg in 1980 and was originally known as Chicago Teleproductions. During its early days, Mr. Hertzberg and Chicago Teleproductions produced comedy and musical programming for HBO, Showtime, ON-TV, and RCA/Columbia Home Video. Among their programming was The Four Tops in Concert, An Evening at La Cage, and Well…It Seemed Funny at the Time starring Martin Mull. In 1982, the company was awarded a regional Emmy for the show Terminal Laughter, which starred Robert Klein, Tim Reid and Bruce Baum.


Changing the company’s name to CineTel Films, Mr. Hertzberg moved the corporate offices to Los Angeles in 1983. After arriving on the West Coast, CineTel had continued success with television productions, which included a special starring Jayne Kennedy and two 30-minute HBO specials entitled And If I’m Elected…, hosted by the Smothers Brothers. Other titles include The Monterey Jazz Festival, and Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul.


In 1985, Mr. Hertzberg began to direct his focus on the production of feature films and that year, CineTel produced The Tomb, starring John Carradine and Sybil Danning. Since then, among the 100 features CineTel has produced and distributed under Mr. Hertzberg’s charge are Armed Response, Cyclone, Cold Steel, Bulletproof, Tripwire, Hit List, 976-Evil, Out of the Dark, Fear, Far Out Man, Masters of Menace, Robert Downey’s Too Much Sun, Fast Getaway and Relentless, a psychological thriller starring Judd Nelson, Robert Loggia, Leo Rossi and Meg Foster. It became the company’s highest grossing feature to date, and spawned three sequels.


CineTel and Mr. Hertzberg have also produced the following feature films: Serious Money, starring Dennis Farina, Leo Rossi and Fran Drescher; Past Midnight, starring Rutger Hauer, Natasha Richardson and Clancy Brown; Where the Day Takes You, a gritty drama about homelessness that stars Dermot Mulroney, Lara Flynn Boyle, Will Smith and Sean Astin, directed by Marc Rocco; and Teresa’s Tattoo, starring Lou Diamond Phillips, Jonathan Silverman and C. Thomas Howell.


Mr. Hertzberg produced Carried Away, a romantic drama starring Dennis Hopper, Amy Irving, Gary Busey and Hal Holbrook. Directed by Bruno Baretto and based on the Jim Harrison novel “Farmer”, Carried Away was released by Fine Line Features.


Mr. Hertzberg also completed Below Utopia, starring Alyssa Milano and Ice-T, directed by Kurt Voss and released domestically by Artisan.


“We’ve now finished our thirtieth year,” says Mr. Hertzberg, “and it’s been an exciting, tremendously rewarding experience for all of us. In November of 2003 we sold our 100 film library and in 2010 we plan to produce and distribute twelve new films as we continue to build a new library which now totals 72 films.”

Ken LaZebnik

Ken LaZebnik writes for television, film, and the theatre. He shares story credit with Garrison Keillor for director Robert Altman’s last film: A Prairie Home Companion. LaZebnik wrote the Lionsgate film Thomas Kinkade’s Christmas Cottage, starring Peter O’Toole. He has written for television for twenty-five years, including seven years as a writer/producer for Touched by An Angel. He also has written for Army Wives, Providence, Star Trek: Enterprise, and the new series When Calls The Heart on the Hallmark Channel.


His many plays have been performed across America. Three of his plays have focused on autism, including On The Spectrum, which was awarded a Steinberg Citation from the American Theatre Critics Association, and had a successful run in Los Angeles at the Fountain Theatre.


He is the Director of the Stephens College Low-Residency M.F.A. in Television and Screenwriting. Its a new M.F.A. based in Los Angeles, with a mission to increase the number of women writing for film and TV. It features two ten-day workshops each year, held at the Jim Henson Studios in Hollywood.