Understanding Diversity: A Two-Part Panel

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Thursday, June 29, 5:45pm -
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Join us for an engaging two part-panel focusing on diversity from all angles with entertainment professionals both on and off the screen. 

Diversity and Inclusion in the Industry
Presented in partnership with NAMIC-Denver

Panelists
Teresa Vargas Wyatt, Head of Diversity, El Rey Network
Ali LeRoi, Writer & Director, STARZ’s Survivor’s Remorse, Everybody Hates Chris
Rahman Dukes, Vice President, REVOLT
Mark Kang, Senior Vice President Worldwide Distribution INSP (Moderator)

In response to the lack of diversity found in the 2016 Academy Award nominations, #OscarsSoWhite became a rallying hashtag of protest and admission, shaking not only the film industry, but entertainment as a whole. Fueled by a community-driven viral campaign, and backed by notable names within the industry, this trending hashtag brought to the forefront the crisis of inclusion within Hollywood. 

SeriesFest, in partnership with the Denver Chapter of the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity In Communications (NAMIC) and with support from the El Rey Network, STARZ, and REVOLT will address this important topic. With a focus on how to bridge the diversity gap in episodic storytelling, panel participants will discuss how shows appeal to diverse audiences through both content and marketing; how popular and niche entertainment is written, produced and cast; how to identify the challenges that still need to be overcome; and, looking ahead, how to successfully integrate diverse talent in the growing medium. 

 

 

Beyond Diversity:  How to Launch and Sustain Your TV Creative Career
Presented in partnership with SAG-AFTRA

Panelists
Kelly Edwards, Head of Talent Development and Programming, HBO
Dr. Stacy Smith, Founder, University of Southern California’s Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative 
Fanshen DiGiovanni Cox, Head of Strategic Outreach, Pearl Street Films
Mike Page, Director of Casting, TNT & TBS
 
This panel discussion with industry experts will focus on the current state of diversity in television, from behind and in-front of the camera, and give creators, writers, directors, producers and actors tips on getting into Network diversity programs and how to navigate the television landscape. Hear real success stories from the popular series Project Greenlight, HBO’s Writing & Directing Fellowships, and upcoming TBS and TNT television pilots and series.

Panel attendees are invited to a cocktail reception hosted by NAMIC-Denver in the Sie FilmCenter festival lounge following the event.


Panelists

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Theresa Vargas Wyatt, Vice President Corporate and Brand Development

As the VP of Corporate and Brand Development and member of the El Rey senior executive team, Theresa manages the execution of internal and external business and communications, devising strategies to open new markets and opportunities. She oversees all corporate partnerships, social responsibility and community outreach programs and is the founder of the El Rey Network Diversity Council.

Previously Theresa was a partner at Muñoz & Company, an integrated design and construction company.

Theresa has advised Fortune 100 brands, including Google, Target and AT&T, on go to market strategies for new platforms targeted at the US English speaking Latino consumer. In 2014, she coordinated efforts between Mark Zuckerberg, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Google, Yahoo, and Don Graham to establish a $100M scholarship fund for undocumented youth.

Theresa was a National Co-Chair of Latino Outreach for the Committee to Elect Hilary Clinton and a Founding Member of the Latino Outreach effort of the 2012 reelection campaign of Barack Obama. She is on the Board of Directors for her son's school and a member of the Women's Guild at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church.

In 2016 she was included in Multichannel News’ 40 under 40 and was named a 2016 NAMIC Visionary.

Theresa has JD and MBA degrees from St. Mary's University and a Bachelors of Arts from Texas A&M University. She resides in San Antonio, Texas, with her husband and two boys.

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Rahman Dukes, Head of News and Programming at REVOLT, Head of Social Media, Digital content for REVOLT.TV. Responsible for daily news hits on linear/digital, produced over 30 long form specials for the network as well Executive Producer of franchise show "The Gate."

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Mark Kang currently serves as a Senior Vice President of Worldwide Distribution at INSP, a leading family-friendly cable TV network with over 80 million subscribers.  Prior to INSP, he served as a Senior Vice President of Affiliate Relations at Sportsman Channel, now part of Outdoor Sportsman Group, to lead their Content Distribution and Affiliate Marketing efforts.  Mark started his media career at Court TV, now TruTV, as a Vice President of Affiliate Relations where he helped the network become the #1 Nielsen rated network in subscriber growth during his tenure. 

Mark began his career in finance at Morgan Stanley as a financial advisor.  He then moved to Tiedemann Investment Group, serving as an analyst in their Risk Arbitrage division.  He also brief stint as a talent agent at International Artist Agency, specializing in Grammy Award winning Hip Hop artists.   

Mark received several recognitions and served on various industry boards including Top 100 executives in Cable Television, Top Minorities in Cable, Rising Stars of Cable TV Executives, Top Affiliate Team, Advisory Board of Cable Center Hall of Fame, Director at Large for NYC WICT Chapter and National Board of Directors for NAMIC.

Mark attended Bronx HS of Science in NY and received his BA from Wheaton College in Illinois Mark was born in South Korea, and raised in New York City, where he currently resides with his wife and 3 daughters.

 

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As the Head of Talent Development for HBO Kelly Edwards oversees all above and below the line program initiatives for series, films, Cinemax and miniseries. 

Edwards brought an innovative new approach to HBO when developing their writing and directing fellowships that has become an industry best practice. By marrying the two programs, material created by the writers is shot by the directors with a fully inclusive crew for air on the HBO digital platforms. To date seven digital pilots have been produced, screened at Tribeca, the Nashville Film Festival, the LA Asian Pacific Film Festival, and will have a home on HBOGo, HBONow, and On Demand. 

Prior to HBO, Edwards was a key corporate diversity executive at Comcast/NBCUniversal for over five years where she oversaw over 20 divisions, launched employee resource groups, and introduced diverse creative talent to NBC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and Telemundo. 

Edwards’ career has spanned both television and film having produced the movie of the week A CHRISTMAS DETOUR for Hallmark, the one hour series SEX, LOVE, AND SECRETS for UPN, serving as a network executive for UPN and Fox, and as a creative executive in features. As an executive she helped to develop series such as GIRLFRIENDS, THE PARKERS, MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE, CLUELESS, and THE WILD THORNBERRYS. 

In 2000, Edwards co-founded Colour Entertainment, a networking group for diverse creative executives in TV, Film, Digital, as well as assistants, all designed to connect current and future industry executives with one another. 

Edwards graduated from Vassar College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theater and serves on the Project Greenlight advisory board, a member of of NAMIC and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences having served for two years on the Academy Diversity Committee. She is also a former member of the Board of Trustees for NALIP, and served on the Los Angeles leadership council for the United Negro College Fund. 

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Dr. Stacy L. Smith is the Founder and Director of the Media, Diversity, and Social Change Initiative at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism where she is also a Professor. Dr. Smith's work examines gender, race, LGBT status, disability, and age on screen and gender and race/ethnicity behind the camera in cinematic content as well as barriers and opportunities facing women and people of color in the entertainment industry. She also conducts economic analyses related to diversity and the financial performance of films. Dr. Smith is a world leader, with speaking engagements ranging from the TED Women stage to the United Nations. Her research sets the global standard for data on employment diversity in entertainment, and she is a trusted source to the entertainment industry. Dr. Smith’s work is cited widely by both corporate and educational audiences. 

Dr. Smith has written more than 100 journal articles, book chapters, and reports on content patterns and effects of the media. In terms of the popular press, Dr. Smith’s research has been written about in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, fivethirtyeight.com, The Atlantic, The Huffington Post, Newsweek, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Wired, and USA Today, to name a few. She has a co-edited essay in Maria Shriver’s book, A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything (2009). Dr. Smith’s most recent research reports include the Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity (CARD), multiple landmark studies with Sundance Institute and Women in Film Los Angeles and a study of 800 top-grossing films conducted at USC Annenberg. Her work is also generously supported by The Annenberg Foundation, The Harnisch Foundation, EPiX, Humana, LUNAFEST, The Jacquelyn and Gregory Zehner Foundation, and other individuals. In 2015, LA Weekly named Dr. Smith the #1 Most Influential People in Los Angeles.

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An award-winning playwright, actor, producer and educator, Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni is currently touring the one-woman show she wrote and performs in: One Drop of Love. One Drop travels near and far, in the past and present to explore the intersections of race, class and gender in pursuit of truth, justice and love. The show is produced by Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Cox DiGiovanni.

Fanshen is Head of Strategic Outreach at Pearl Street Films. She has also been featured in the New York Timesand on NPR as a spokesperson on using the arts to explore racial identity. She served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Cape Verde, West Africa, and has designed curricula for and taught English as a Second Language to students from all over the world. She has been honored with the Peace Corps’ Franklin H. Williams Award, and with Peace Corps Fellows and Hollywood Foreign Press Association scholarships. She holds a BA in Spanish and Education, an MA in TESOL, and an MFA in Acting and Performance in Film, TV and Theater.  She serves on the boards of the non-profit Mixed Roots Stories and of Project Greenlight Digital Studios. Fanshen is also a Teaching Artist for A Broaderway. Her play, One Drop of Love, was awarded Best Non-Fiction Script by the United Solo Theatre Festival, and the film version won Best Documentary Film at the Roxbury International Film Festival.

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Ellen Huang is Director of EEO & Diversity for SAG-AFTRA. She is responsible for supporting the union’s diversity committees--Asian Pacific American Media, Ethnic Employment Opportunities, LGBT, Native Americans, Performers With Disabilities, Seniors, and Women's Committees—and implementing the department’s national action plans to achieve accurate representation of those groups historically excluded from the entertainment and news media.

Prior to joining the Screen Actors Guild in 2010, she was Executive Director and founder of Queer Lounge, a networking space at Sundance and Toronto International film festivals promoting LGBT film.  She is a former feature film executive for the production companies of Helen Hunt as well as Hans Zimmer and has an MFA in Film Production from USC School of Cinematic Arts.

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Originally from Boulder, CO, Mike has been working in Hollywood since 2004. Prior to working in casting, he gained additional experience working in production on ABC's Brothers & Sisters and in pre-production for the feature film Twilight. Casting credits include working on hit shows such as Weeds, Community, Arrow, Raising Hope, My Name is Earl, Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior, The Defenders, The Ex List, Alcatraz & Fringe. He has also worked on several short films and independent productions that have gone on to win numerous awards at various film festivals. In January, 2014, he began work at TBS & TNT and currently serves as Director of Casting. Since being at Turner, Page has overseen casting for series including Angie Tribeca (from Steve and Nancy Carell),  The Detour (from Jason Jones), Good Behavior (from Chad Hodge, starring Michelle Dockery) and Animal Kingdom (from John Levey, starring Ellen Barkin and Scott Speedman). In addition, he has overseen pilots including Claws (from Rashida Jones, Will McCormack and Eliot Laurence starring Niecy Nash, Carrie Preston and Dean Norris) and Snowpiercer (from Josh Friedman, starring Daveed Diggs).

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Ali LeRoi is the Emmy Award-winning executive producer/director of the hit television series “Everybody Hates Chris”, a series inspired by the childhood experiences of comedian Chris Rock. Ali co-created the series along with Rock, and was nominated for a Golden Globe, as well as winning two NAACP Image Awards and the 2007 AFI TV Program of the Year Award.

He followed that success by partnering with Ice Cube and developing for television the hit TBS series “Are We There Yet?” (based on the film of the same name) which was picked up by the network for an astounding 100 episodes in the groundbreaking 10/90 deal pioneered by Tyler Perry.

Ali served as a producer and writer on HBO’s “The Chris Rock Show,” for which he won an Emmy, a Cable Ace Award, and received five Emmy Award nominations. Major motion picture credits include producing and co-writing “Head of State” and “Down to Earth,” as well as producing cult-favorite, “Pootie Tang.”

Ali is currently an Executive Producer/ director/producer for the NAACP Image Award nominated show,“Survivor’s Remorse”, produced by NBA star Lebron James for the Starz premium cable network.

In what spare time he has, Ali devotes his energy to his pet project, the podcast “Alias Smith and LeRoi” where he teams with comedian Owen Smith to interview celebrities from various facets of show business including John Ridley, Debbie Allen, and producer/director Reginald Hudlin.

Ali has also served on the Board of the Producer’s Guild of America, as well as holding the current chair as President of The Humanitas Prize, a non-profit organization that awards and promotes the craft of television and film writers.

Originally from Chicago, Ali LeRoi currently lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two sons.