November 5 - 10, 2024 • Las Vegas

Speaker Bios

2019 Speaker Bios R-T

Heather Rae

Heather Rae produced Academy Award nominated Frozen River. She received the Piaget Producers Award and has been recognized as one of Variety’s Producer to Watch.  Rae also produced Netflix Originals Tallulah starring Ellen Page and Allison Janney and Dude from Blacklist script by Olivia Milch, Sundance highlights The Dry Land starring America Ferrera, feminist comedy Ass Backwards and festival darling I Believe in Unicorns from director Leah Meyerhoff. Rae produced Un Certain Regard film Bull, written and directed by Annie Silverstein.  As a director Rae made the acclaimed documentary Trudell, which tells the story of Native American movement leader and poet, John Trudell. Formerly Rae ran the Native Program at the Sundance Institute. And recently Rae began an overall producing deal with Amazon Studios.  As a speaker and social critic Rae is working from both her settler and indigenous heritage to deepen the dialogue of reconciliation and responsibility in the Americas.
Kim Roberts

Kim Roberts

Kim Roberts Hedgpeth is the Executive Director of the Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund (FMSMF), a 501(c)(6) non-profit that collects and distributes musicians’ residual payments from exhibition of films and television programs in “supplemental” markets as defined by the AFM-AMPTP collective bargaining agreements. From 2005-2012, Hedpgeth led the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) as its National Executive Director. During her 31-year association with AFTRA, Hedgpeth’s responsibilities included leading negotiations covering all areas of entertainment, news and information programming and sound recordings. She was a key leader in the successful merger of AFTRA with the Screen Actors Guild. Hedgpeth received her B.A. from Harvard University and J.D. from Georgetown University, and has served as a Vice President of the Associated Actors and Artistes of America; Trustee of the AFTRA Health and Retirement Funds, and Trustee of the AFM-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund. Her other board memberships have included the Alliance of Artists and Recording Companies, SoundExchange, and as a member of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco’s Twelfth District Economic Advisory Council. She is currently Chair of FilmL.A., Inc., the 501(c)4 not-for-profit public benefit organization and the official film office of the City and County of Los Angeles, as well as increasing roster of local municipalities, which provides streamlined permit processing and production planning services to filmmakers and comprehensive community relations, marketing services, film policy analysis and more to local governments in the Greater Los Angeles area.

Robson, Karen

Karen Robson

Karen Robson is a partner in the Media + Entertainment practice at Pryor Cashman, a 175-attorney law firm based in New York, Miami and Los Angeles.  She spent many years in NYC but moved west to found the LA office for Pryor Cashman over ten years ago. She is a transactional entertainment lawyer focusing on film, TV and all forms of audiovisual content. She represents a broad array of stakeholders in the entertainment arena, including television writers, screenwriters, producers, financiers, and distributors. Years ago and in another galaxy she was brought up in Australia and  as a teenage actress, even appeared in Peter Weir’s cult favorite Picnic at Hanging Rock. She is married to a writer/director and her daughter is a cinematographer, enabling her to pursue her passion for the arts with her loved ones nearly every waking hour of the day.

Alexander Rodnyansky

Alexander Rodnyansky

Alexander Rodnyansky is one of Russia’s most important and prolific film producers having produced over 30 television series and 40 feature films including key works by some of the most acclaimed filmmakers in Russian history.

His involvement in the Russian auteur’s cinema is extensive, over the course of his career he worked with the best Russian independent directors:

Beanpole by Kantemir Balagov (Best Directing at Un Certain Regard and FIPRESCI prize at Cannes Film Festival in 2019); three latest films of Andrey Zvyagintsev: Loveless (Jury prize at the 70th Cannes Film Festival; an Academy Award and BAFTA nominee for Best Foreign Language Film in 2018); Leviathan (Best Script at Cannes Film Festival, Golden Globe Award, An Academy Award and BAFTA nominee for the Best Film not in the English language), Elena (Special prize in the Un Certain Regard program at the Cannes Film Festival);

The Russian genre films produced by Rodnyansky have become box-office champions:

Stalingrad (the highest grossing Russian film of the decade and the first ever Russian film in IMAX 3D),9th Company and Inhabited Island by Fyodor Bondarchuk; The Duelist by Alexey Mizgirev, as well as two high grossing romantic comedies – Piter FM by Oksana Bychkova and The Heat by Rezo Gigineishvili.

While he has continued to produce a blend of acclaimed Russian arthouse cinema and big budget fare, Rodyansky has also moved into American productions. He produced Jayne Mansfield’s Car for director Billy Bob Thornton, as well as Robert Rodriguez’ Sin City: A Dame to Kill For and Machete Kills. He was also a co-producer on the adaptation of Cloud Atlas by the Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer.

In 2019 Alexander Rodnyansky launched a Moscow-LA based development company AR Content designed to deliver premium quality content for film and television on an international scale.  With a focus on true stories, around global events or spotlighting relevant and diverse cultural situations, the company will also delve into fictional drama and genre films. AR Content is a hub for filmmakers and screenwriters to develop their passion projects and partner with producers and distributors, in order to foster a cohesive creative vision. AR Content recently announced Debriefing the President, a firsthand account of the interrogation of Saddam Hussein, to be directed by Oscar nominated director Ziad Doueiri, Everybody’s Woman, a drama series centering on a woman working in the porn industry directed by Kornel Mundruczo as well as a Oscar-winning director Kevin Macdonald-produced documentary about the refugee crisis in Europe that preceded the Holocaust and World War II.

Vanessa Roman

Vanessa Roman is an attorney at Akin Gump Staruss Hauer & Feld LLP.  She advises a variety of clients in the entertainment industry, including financial institutions, borrowers, distributors and independent production companies. She provides counsel in various aspects of the production, financing and distribution of film and television projects. Vanessa helps clients address issues related to the rapidly-changing landscape of the entertainment industry, including the proliferation of streaming services and the rise of virtual reality.

Joanelle Romero

Joanelle Romero

Joanelle Romero is the founder, president and CEO of the longest standing Native Arts & Culture nonprofit in the City of LA, the Red Nation Celebration Institute, the largest Native Film Festival in the country, Red Nation International Film Festival, and the first online Native content steaming company, Red Nation Television Network including Native Women in FILM & Television.  All programs are targeted to advancing American Indian & Indigenous creatives across all media platforms.

As an actress, award-winning director, and producer, Joanelle is best known for the first produced contemporary Native Woman’s story, “The Girl Called Hatter Fox” (1977), which marked the first time a Native actress carried a leading role in a contemporary movie. Other credits include “Powwow Highway” (1989), the contemporary feature film that changed the Native narrative forever, and ”American Holocaust: When Its All Over I’ll Still Be Indian” (2000). To date, Joanelle is the only Native filmmaker to be short-listed for an Academy Award in the Documentary Short Branch.  She’s a member of The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences.

Scott Roxborough

Scott Roxborough is the European Bureau Chief for The Hollywood Reporter and has been reporting on the international film industry for nearly 20 years. He is based in Germany and regularly appears on German television as a pundit and commentator for film and entertainment issues.

Vanessa Saal

Vanessa Saal was born in Chicago, USA and grew up in New York, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, and Milan. She graduated from Brown University in 2003 with a Bachelor of Arts in Classics with Honours. She began her career at Focus Features International in 2005 based in New York. In 2008, she moved to Paris to work at Kinology when it first launched as an international sales and acquisitions executive. Vanessa Saal then joined Studiocanal in 2010 as VP of International Sales, was promoted to SVP in 2012 and represented titles such as Tomas Alfredson’s TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER SPY, the Coen brothers’ INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, Jaume Collet-Serra’s worldwide box office hit NON-STOP, and David Heyman’s production, PADDINGTON during her time there. Vanessa Saal joined London-based Protagonist as Head of Worldwide Sales in 2014 where she oversaw sales on Cannes Jury Prize winners Yorgos Lanthamos’ THE LOBSTER and Andrea Arnold’s AMERICAN HONEY, Pawel Pawlikowski’s Academy nominated and Cannes Best Director award winner, COLD WAR, and Whit Stillman’s hit film, LOVE & FRIENDSHIP. In 2017, she was promoted to her current position of Managing Director, Sales & Distribution.

Suzy Sammons

Suzy Sammons

Suzy Sammons is Executive Editor at Giving Company and its four media brands, including,, iDisciple (and iDisciple Publishing) and Christian Cinema. She is an award winning creative strategist, a writer and a skilled marketer, having managed top accounts at famous advertising agencies. Suzy has studied the currency of influence through 20+ years serving TBWA\Chiat\Day, 180LA, Saatchi & Saatchi and BBDO, managing high profile teams and agency businesses including Toyota, Infiniti, University of Phoenix and Mattel.

With decades of defining audiences, honing messaging and media strategies, Sammons understands the connectivity between our culture, our families and the media we consume, and the two-way flow of power.

Today she moderates the cultural conversation through this global faith and family media network, igniting fun and thoughtful conversations around leading our families amidst the clutter. Suzy and her husband Steve lead a blended family of six children, three miraculous daughters-in-law, 2 grandchildren and one English retriever. The family headquarters in Lake Oswego, Oregon

Alan S

Alan Siegel

Alan Siegel has worked in the entertainment industry as both a talent manager and producer. His client list includes well-known actors who perform in feature films, television series, and theater.

Alan’s feature, Them That Follow premiered and sold at Sundance in US Dramatic Competition and stars Alice Englert and Olivia Colman. This marked his 13th feature film since he partnered with client, Gerard Butler, to form their production company, G-BASE, in 2008. His first film, Law Abiding Citizen directed by F. Gary Gray, became a huge success earning over $127 million at the box office. Alan’s second feature, Machine Gun Preacher, directed by Marc Forster, premiered at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival to critical acclaim.

Septembers of Shiraz, had its official premiere at the Toronto Film Festival. The film stars Oscar winner Adrien Brody and Oscar nominees, Salma Hayek and Shohreh Aghdashloo and has made several top ten lists of best films of 2016. It was selected by The Museum of Tolerance in Beverly Hills for its Los Angeles premiere in July 2016. Also premiering at The Toronto Film Festival was A Family Man starring Gerard Butler, Willem DaFoe, and Alfred Molina and was released nationwide Summer, 2017.

Alan’s other recent box office successes films include: Olympus Has Fallen, London Has Fallen and Angel Has Fallen, which was number one at the box office for two weeks. His heist film Den of Thieves is the latest hit in a string of box office successes. Den of Thieves 2 is in development.

Greenland, Alan’s next production with Thunder Road and Anton Corp, completed filming in August and was directed by Ric Roman Waugh. His latest film, which will shoot in 2020, is the action thriller Plane which he is producing with Di Bonaventura Pictures and MadRiver Pictures.

Outside of his work in the entertainment business, Alan is on the board of Kids Kicking Cancer. The nonprofit organization helps children with cancer manage the stress and pain of their disease and treatments through personalized coaching sessions instructed by black belt martial artists. In addition to his Masters degree in theater from New York University, he also holds a Masters in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University. Alan lives in Los Angeles with his partner of twenty-six years, famed fashion designer, David Meister and in his spare time is studying Hebrew.

Jacques Stroweis

Jacques Stroweis

Jacques Stroweis is an Oscar-nominated VFX Supervisor/2nd Unit DGA Director with expertise in CG and advanced imaging technologies. He has worked on film sets across the globe and collaborated with Hollywood’s top directors —James Cameron, John Woo, and James Wan among them.

Stroweis’ most recent endeavors have taken him to China where he supervised several mainstream, big budget VFX-driven films and episodic TV series, including the Chinese epic The Monkey King 2, an acclaimed top-grossing feature film that won the Hong Kong Film Award for Best Visual Effects (2017). Stroweis’ most recent projects include the animated feature film, The First Super Hero: Monkey King, a Sino-US co-production directed by Disney veterans Ralph and Dick Zondag; and Director Li Yu’s highly stylized upcoming comedy Sunshine Robbers (2020).

Known for his pioneering work in CG, Stroweis contributed to groundbreaking CGI technical and artistic achievements at the New York Institute of Technology Computer Graphics Lab, regarded at the time as the top computer animation research and development group in the world. He also ranks among the trailblazers who founded Hollywood’s VFX powerhouses, snagging the first Oscar VFX nomination for Digital Domain. Stroweis co-founded and helmed Creative Visual Effects (CVE) for Sony Pictures where he served as VFX supervisor, CTO, and executive producer for a decade. Today, Stroweis works as a freelance VFX supervisor/producer for the Studios as well as for independent producers, both on-set and post-production.
Stroweis holds an Oscar and Bafta nomination for Best Visual Effects on James Cameron’s True Lies. He is a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences (AMPAS), the Directors Guild of America (DGA), the Visual Effects Society (VES), and the Advanced Imaging Society (AIS).

Saxon, Evan

Evan Saxon

Evan is one of a select few executives that have successfully navigated both the music and film worlds. While working in the music space he marketed concert tours for iconic artists including Sting, Ramones, B.B. King, Pantera, Lucinda Williams, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, and more. Due to his trusted relationships in the music business Evan was contacted by a major record label to represent them in discussions with a tech company about bringing music content to cinemas. From there he was entrusted to distribute films from The Beatles, Tom Petty, Rush, Iron Maiden, Bob Marley, and many others. At Abramorama Evan is our Head of West Coast Acquistions and Business Development while overseeing our International Theatrical Distribution and Marketing where he spearheaded our release of films by Pearl Jam, Green Day, Paul McCartney, Jimi Hendrix, John Lydon and Above & Beyond in cinemas around the world.

Ted Schilowitz

Ted spends his time and pursues his passion in a unique role in the motion picture entertainment industry. As the Futurist at Paramount Pictures, Ted works with studio leadership and the technology teams at Paramount / Viacom, exploring forms of new and emerging technologies, with an emphasis on Virtual and Mixed Reality.

Prior to joining Paramount, Ted was the Futurist at 20th Century Fox, where he worked on the evolving art, science and technology of advanced interactive visual storytelling.  He was part of the creation team for the Martian VR and Wild VR experiences, which premiered at CES and Sundance as groundbreaking projects that pushed the envelope of Virtual Reality storytelling.

Ted was an integral part of the product development and launch team at Red Digital Cinema as the company’s first employee.  The Red One and Epic cameras have made a significant impact on the Motion Picture Industry, winning a scientific and technical academy award. Many of the world’s biggest movies are now being shot with these ultra high resolution digital movie cameras.

Ted is one of the founders and creators of the G-Tech product line of advanced hard drive storage products.  As one of the most recognized brands in that industry, they are implemented worldwide at the highest levels on cinema, episodic television, sports and news production.

In his role as Chief Creative Officer at Barco Escape,  he spearheaded an experimental immersive cinema project for movie theaters worldwide.  Titles include Paramount Pictures Star Trek Beyond and 20th Century Fox Maze Runner & Maze Runner 2.

Before being part of the founding teams at Red Digital Cinema and G-Tech, Ted was on the team that developed and launched the Macintosh desktop video division of AJA Video Systems, creating professional video products in tandem with Apple.  These products are used on a massive scale worldwide for video production and post at the highest levels, on many of the world’s biggest movies, TV series and sporting events.

Ted has presented worldwide at numerous conferences on the advancements in next generation visual experiences for the movie, television and, interactive entertainment industries.  He’s been featured in Wired, Variety, NY Times, LA Times, Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, The Hollywood Reporter, NBC, CNET, Studio Daily, Videography, Film and Video, DV Magazine, TV Technology, HD Video Pro, Engadget, Gizmodo, Millimeter, American Cinematographer, MacWorld, Post Magazine, Popular Science, and countless other publications discussing his areas of passion and exploration.

Michael Schneider

Michael Schneider is the Senior Editor, TV Awards, at Variety, and a contributor to Los Angeles public radio station KCRW, where he hosts “Screengrab,” a weekly segment about the TV industry, and contributes to “The Business.” At Variety he oversees Emmy coverage and special issues, in addition to writing about television programming and the entertainment industry for the publication. He also hosts the podcast “My Favorite Episode.”
Prior to that he was Executive Editor at IndieWire and an Editor-At-Large for Variety, and before that the Chief Content Officer for TV Guide Magazine, where he helped launch the website TV Insider. During his original tenure at Variety and Daily Variety, Schneider spent 12 years as TV editor.

With more than 20 years of experience covering TV business, Schneider regularly moderates industry panels with execs, showrunners and talent at events including San Diego Comic-Con, PaleyFest, the HRTS, NATPE, PromaxBDA, and countless other events. He has appeared on ABC “World News Tonight” and “Primetime Live,” NBC’s “Today” show and “Dateline NBC,” CBS’ “Early Show,” G4’s “Attack of the Show,” E! News Daily, CNN, MSNBC, “Entertainment Tonight,” “The Insider,” “Access Hollywood,” NPR and many other programs and outlets. He also served as a reality show judge on a Fox Reality Channel show you probably didn’t see.

Michael Schneider has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years — most of that time at Variety. He also hosts “Screengrab,” a weekly segment about the TV industry, for KCRW. He was previously Executive Editor at IndieWire; the Chief Content Officer for TV Guide Magazine; and TV Editor at Variety and Daily Variety. Mike regularly moderates industry and TV show panels at events including Comic-Con, PaleyFest, HRTS, NATPE and others, and once won a staring contest with Jon Hamm on the Dolby Theatre stage.

Schwartz, Russell

Russell Schwartz

Russell Schwartz has been President of Pandemic Marketing Corp since its inception in 2008. Pandemic Marketing provides strategic marketing, theatrical distribution, ancillary placement solutions and digital execution for the motion picture industry. Among the movies he most recently worked on were Chappaquiddick and the jazz movie, Bolden.

He is also currently the lead marketing professor in the Creative Producing Program at the Dodge College of Film and New Media at Chapman University.

From 2013-2014, he was President of Worldwide Marketing at Relativity Media and was responsible for the entire slate including The Family, Don Jon and Beyond the Lights.

From 2001-2008, Schwartz was President of Theatrical Marketing at New Line Cinema where he oversaw all of the company’s marketing efforts which resulted in over 44 Academy Award nominations and extraordinary success at the domestic box office. Included in this list: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Hairspray, Wedding Crashers, Elf, RushHour 2 and 3, The Notebook, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, About Schmidt and Little Children.

Prior to that he was President of USA Films and released such films as Traffic, Nurse Betty, Topsy Turvey, Being John Malkovich and Pitch Black.

From 1992-1999, Schwartz was President of Gramercy Pictures and oversaw the marketing of Four Weddings and a Funeral, Fargo, The Usual Suspects, Elizabeth, The Big Lebowski, Dazed and Confused, Dead Man Walking and many others.

Russell’s new book, co-written with Katherine MacDonald, The Marketing Edge for Filmmakers: Developing a Marketing Mindset from Concept through Release has just been published by Focal Press. The book is an American Film Market presentation.

Schwenk, Gregg

Gregg Schwenk

Gregg Schwenk is a writer, educator and entrepreneur. He reports on a number of subjects including: film, art, technology and politics. Mr. Schwenk is an adjunct faculty member at California State University Fullerton in Orange County, California. He is also a consultant and advisor to several entertainment and technology firms. He is the co-founder of the Newport Beach Film Festival and Orange County Film Society.

Mr. Schwenk is an extremely active member of his community. He is the CEO of the Newport Beach Film Festival and President of the Orange County Film Society. The Newport Beach Film Festival is the largest film and entertainment event in coastal Southern California – screening over 360 films from 55 countries and attracting an audience of 58,000 in 2019. The Orange County Film Society has become a key destination for award-worthy films – since 2006 films such as: The King’s Speech, The Artist, 12 Years a Slave, The Theory of Everything, The Imitation Game, La La Land, I, Daniel Blake, Manchester by the Sea, Darkest Hour, Call Me By Your Name, The Big Sick, Ford v Ferrari, Parasite, The Two Popes and Knives Out all made major preview screenings with this prestigious cinematic organization.

Mr. Schwenk is a director of the British American Business Council in Orange County and member of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. He is also a member of: the International Animated Film Association, Film Independent, International Documentary Association and the American Film Institute.

Mr. Schwenk was a Presidential Fellow at the University of California at Berkley, where he received his degree in Political Economics with high honors. He has completed the Advanced Managed Development Program at The University of Southern California.

Eunice Shin

Eunice Shin is a Digital Strategy Partner at Prophet, a customer growth and transformation consulting firm. Eunice provides strategy consulting across the media and entertainment landscape, focused on the disruption and opportunities of technology innovations improving the overall brand and customer experience. Understanding the speed and trajectory of change that has impacted the business of content, Eunice provides customer-focused strategies for direct-to-consumer businesses including content streaming services, digital native products and platforms, and immersive experiences.

Before joining Prophet, she was the managing director and head of Manatt Digital in Los Angeles, leading digital strategy and business development services for entrepreneurs and senior executives. With more than two decades of consulting experience, including key positions at Cognizant Business Consulting, Strategic Vision Consulting and Accenture, she’s helped such clients as Disney, Warner Bros, NBC Universal, the Los Angeles Summer Olympics 2028 Bid Committee, and AT&T on various direct-to-consumer initiatives. Eunice is an established leader and mentor in women’s diversity initiatives in the industry, including the VR/AR community and Asian-American women leaders in entertainment.

Jeff Shultz

In his role as Chief Business Officer, Jeff Shultz is responsible for growing and managing Pluto TV’s portfolio of partnerships, strategically positioning the company to achieve its audience and revenue objectives and identifying and executing key growth initiatives. Shultz has spent nearly his entire 20+ year career at the intersection of media and technology. He has held senior digital business development roles at major broadcast media companies including NBC and most recently as SVP of Business Development for CBS. He has also held top roles at Internet TV startups including Clicker and Concert TV, which he co-founded. He began his career as a lawyer for Linklaters in London after receiving his law degree from Georgetown University Law Center.

Emma Slade

Emma is currently shooting her feature THE JUSTICE OF BUNNY KING starring Essie Davis (The Babadook) and Thomasin McKenzie (Leave No Trace). Her film COME TO DADDY, an NZ/Irish/Canadian co-production starring Elijah Wood premiered earlier this year at Tribecca. In 2017, her young adult thriller THE CHANGEOVER starring Timothy Spall (Mr Turner) and Melanie Lynskey (The Intervention), was in competition at the Alice Nella Citta.  Earlier that year, INTO THE RAINBOW was the first Chinese/NZ co-production, starring Willow Shields (Hunger Games) and the Brazilian/NZ feature LITTLE SECRET, which was nominated as Brazil’s Oscar entry for Best Foreign Film 2017. Other titles include the Netflix original LETTER FOR THE KING, RAGE, the UK/NZ co-production TRACKER, SEPARATION CITY and BRIDE FLIGHT.

Nick Spicer

Spicer started XYZ in 2008 with partners Nate Bolotin and Aram Tertzakian. From 2006 – 2008 he was a partner in Idiomatic Entertainment, an unscripted television company, where he developed series for Animal Planet, Comedy Central, and VH1. During that time he independently produced a Spanish-language feature film in Mexico with the involvement of both Bolotin and Tertzakian, an experience that helped shape the international nature of XYZ’s production business today.

Spicer received an MFA from the UCLA Producers Program in 2006. He majored in English, History and French at Rice University, where he was a National Merit Scholar. He graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2004. Spicer was born in Seattle, Washington.

Stadler, Valerie

Valerie Stadler

Valerie Stadler is a filmmaker and co-founder of Big Swing Productions with partners Kyra Sedgwick and Meredith Bagby. She is a Fellow for the 2019 Sundance Episodic Lab along with co-writer Henry Alberto for their project Marimbero. Prior to Big Swing, Valerie was the head of Production and Development for Fluency, a multiplatform studio under NBCU Hispanic Enterprises. She co-directed Fallen Star: Finding Home which screened at the Whitney Museum and co-wrote Sunset Stories which premiered at SXSW. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of Outfest.
Chris Stelly

Chris Stelly

A lifelong Louisiana resident and native, Chris joined Louisiana Economic Development’s entertainment office in 2004. Louisiana quickly became one of the top location destinations under Stelly’s direction and the exponential growth lead the state to being a powerhouse in the film industry. By the time Stelly was appointed Director of Film and Television in 2007, Louisiana’s motion picture tax incentive program was showing signs of growth. He was instrumental in increasing the activity in the program exponentially and each successive year of his tenure, motion picture production continued to exceed the preceding year.  In addition to administering Louisiana’s progressive and innovative tax credit program, he has become an invaluable technical asset to entertainment companies seeking to produce and to establish new businesses in the state. He constantly promotes Louisiana as the best state in the nation for entertainment industry development.

He was named interim Executive Director of Louisiana Entertainment, a division of Louisiana Economic Development, in July 2011 and was appointed in February of 2012 to the position permanently.  He currently leads a team of 7 business development and entertainment industry professionals promoting Louisiana as a holistic place to do business. Overseeing four unique statutory programs – motion picture, sound recording, live performance and digital interactive media & software development, Stelly is committed to educating community leaders and citizens about entertainment development opportunities.  He also is committed to working closely with industry allies and economic development partners throughout the state to attract and nurture entertainment businesses.

“I am very proud of the work our office has done. We have poured the foundation for these industries to become major economic forces in Louisiana. Over the past few years, Louisiana has seen increased growth in all of these sectors and now boasts an industry which impacts the economy at over $1 billion a year.  The excitement of the ever-evolving nature of this business drives me to work even harder to ensure the success and longevity of the entertainment industry in Louisiana,” says Chris, adding, “To compete in today’s ever-changing world, you have to be innovative and on the cutting edge. Through my work here in the entertainment sector, I feel like I’m doing my small part to ensure that Louisiana becomes a major leader in the industry, not only within the United States, but around the world.  Louisiana is poised to become an entertainment industry engine for years to come.”

Stelly’s tireless stewardship of Louisiana’s incentive programs and his business development efforts led to tremendous growth in motion picture infrastructure statewide. State-of-the-art facilities such as Celtic Media Centre in Baton Rouge; Stageworks & Millennium Studios in Shreveport;  Second Line Stages, the NIMS Center, Starlight Studios & Deep South Studios in New Orleans;  and  The Ranch in St. Bernard Parish opened under his tenure. Louisiana now boasts over half a million square feet of pre-production and production space in six sound stage facilities around the state, along with nearly every other ancillary service a production could require – from high-end makeup and prop houses to business and payroll services to state-of-the-art special effects studios and more.

Prior to joining the staff of Louisiana Entertainment, Stelly served for six years in the Office of then-Governor Mike Foster. He holds a joint bachelor’s degree in English Literature and Political Science from Louisiana State University and makes his home in Baton Rouge with his wife Lindsey, three children, Alexander, Isabella, Sophia, their dog, Chewbacca (also known as Chewy, a Scottish Terrier that was rescued from a local pound) and recently added Oreo and Jenny (guinea pigs).

Mike Stiller

Mike Stiller is Vice President, Development and Programming for History. During his time at History, Stiller has developed and commissioned a slate of hits and critically acclaimed documentaries. He developed The Curse of Oak Island, currently the highest-rated hit series on History, and the #1 rated cable series on Tuesday nights, and world-wide hits Ancient Aliens, MonsterQuest, and Only in America with Larry the Cable Guy. Stiller oversaw development at H2 where he guided the hit series Brad Meltzer’s Lost History. Most recently, Stiller developed Lost Gold of WW2, one of the highest-rated new nonfiction series of 2019, Unidentified: Inside America’s UFO Investigation, and Truck Night in America.. He has also shepherded a slate of critically acclaimed documentaries, including America’s War on Drugs, the Emmy-nominated Third Reich: Rise and Fall, WWII in HD, Vietnam in HD, Road to 9/11, America’s War on Drugs, America Promised Land, and the theatrical documentary film Watergate, directed by Academy Award winner Charles Ferguson.

Prior to joining HISTORY, Stiller was a writer for MTV, Nickelodeon, and Noggin. In the 1990s, he developed video games and children’s edutainment software.

Illya Szilak

Dr. Illya Szilak is a writer, director, interactive story-teller, artist and physician. Her longtime artistic partner Cyril Tsiboulski. Their online works Reconstructing Mayakovsky and Queerskins: a novel were selected for the Electronic Literature Collection, and continue to be taught on a university level as important examples of digital literature and narrative game. Queerskins: a love story (2018), their first VR work, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival  and has been shown in commissioned site specific interactive installations around the world, most recently at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Queerskins: a love story was awarded a Peabody Futures of Media Award in transmedia, and the 2019 Breakthroughs in Storytelling Special Jury Prize by The Columbia University School of the Arts. Their second cinematic VR experience Queerskins: ark is being co-produced by Intel Studios and is expected early 2020. They are recipients of grants from the Tribeca Institute and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Sundance Institute/Arcus Foundation, and the Peter Reed Foundation. She currently teaches narrative design at the Independent Film Producers’ Made in NY Center and practices medicine at Rikers Island Correctional Facility.

Cynthia Tollett

Cynthia Tollett

As Assistant Executive Director, Tollett oversees the DGA’s Signatories department and aids in the enforcement of the Guild’s contracts. Tollett joined the DGA in 2009, where she previously served as Associate General Counsel and Assistant General Counsel in the Legal Department until her promotion to Assistant Executive Director in 2017. Prior to the DGA, Tollett was an attorney at Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, where she focused on mergers and acquisitions and corporate governance issues. She received a B.A. from the University of Texas, an M.A. from Rice University, and a J.D. from the UCLA School of Law.

Tanel Toom

Tanel Toom

Tanel Toom is an Oscar-nominated director with more than a decade of directing experience.  Toom’s debut feature “Truth and Justice”, which he shot in his native country Estonia, has been selected for the best international feature film category at the 2020 Oscars. A graduate in Fiction Direction of the Baltic Film and Media School, he has directed both short films and commercials. His shorts have won 17 awards, including winning Best Foreign Film at the 37th Student Academy Awards for “The Confession”. He was also nominated for an Oscar for the Best Live Action Short at the 83rd Academy Awards. Toom is currently in pre-production on his second feature, a sci-fi thriller “Gateway 6”.