2021 Featured Speakers

Lineup subject to change

Rabia Abedin
Manager, Early Career Programs & Diversity Outreach, DreamWorks

Rabia Abedin is an experienced Talent Acquisition professional and DEI activist. Currently, she is the Manager of Early Career Programs & Diversity Outreach at DreamWorks Animation, the animation arm under NBCUniversal's Filmed Entertainment Group.

For the last three years at DWA she has been responsible for developing and implementing early career programs, increasing BIPOC representation across the studio and executing immersive experiences for students and junior BIPOC artists. Formerly, she was at The Walt Disney Company for six years in human resources and talent acquisition, focusing on hiring, employer branding, and talent development.

Rabia holds a Bachelor's in English and Business Management from the University of California Irvine and as well as a Master's in Public Administration from the University of Southern California and currently resides in Oceanside, CA.

Cris Abrego
Chairman, Banijay America Group,
President and CEO, Endemol Shine Holdings
Chair, Television Academy Foundation

Cris Abrego was named Chairman of the Americas, Banijay and President and CEO, Endemol Shine Holdings, in November 2020. In his new role, Abrego oversees both the North American and Latin American divisions of Banijay, the world’s largest international content producer and distributor.

In North America, Abrego now leads a stable of award-winning unscripted and scripted production studios that includes Bunim/Murray Productions, Authentic Entertainment, Truly Original, 51 Minds Entertainment and Stephen David Entertainment.

Additionally, Abrego has oversight of Endemol Shine Latino, the company’s Spanish-language sales and development arm that leads all original programming initiatives across Latin America, including Mexico City-based studio Endemol Shine Boomdog, Banijay Mexico & US Hispanic and Endemol Shine Brasil.

Hit series under Abrego’s purview in the U.S. include Big Brother (CBS), MasterChef (FOX), LEGO Masters (FOX), Wipeout (TBS), The Real Housewives of Atlanta (Bravo), Keeping Up With the Kardashians (E!), Ink Masters (Paramount Network) and the upcoming launches of Foodtastic (Disney+), Pride & Prejudice: An Experiment in Romance (Peacock), The Surreal Life (VH1) and Ripley (Showtime). Spanish-language series include Mira Quién Baila (Univision), LOL: Last One Laughing (Amazon), ¿Quién Es La Máscara? (Televisa), MasterChef Mexico (Azteca), Tu Cara Me Suena (Univison) and Súbete a Mi Moto (Amazon), as well as Brazilian hit series MasterChef Brasil (Bandeirantes/Discovery), All Together Now (Teen) (Record), Extreme Makeover Home Edition (GNT/Globo) and Game of Clones (Amazon/Record).

The former co-founder and chief executive of Endemol Shine-owned studio 51 Minds Entertainment, Abrego is one of the leading creators and producers of reality television in the U.S., recognized globally for pioneering the celeb-reality genre. Abrego previously served as CEO, Endemol Shine North America and Chairman, Endemol Shine Americas, positions he held from November 2016 through Banijay’s 2020 acquisition of Endemol Shine Group.

Abrego, who sold 51 Minds Entertainment to Endemol in 2008, helped create the celeb-reality genre with the 2003 launch of “The Surreal Life” on The WB Network. He followed the success of “The Surreal Life” with a string of celeb-reality series for VH-1, including “Flavor of Love,” "Rock of Love with Bret Michaels” and numerous other hit series. At its height, 51 Minds Entertainment was producing more than 150 hours of programming a year for VH1 alone.

He began his career at Bunim/Murray, where he worked in production on original unscripted hits “The Real World” and “Road Rules.”

As one of the highest-ranking Latinos in television, Abrego has made inclusion a top priority for his team at Endemol Shine and within the entertainment industry, as well. He recently led Endemol Shine North America’s launch of the company’s first Diversity and Inclusion committee.

Abrego was also recently elected Chairman of the Television Academy Foundation, making him the organization’s first-ever Latino chair. And he is helping spearhead the TV Academy Foundation's unscripted diversity internship program with leaders from across the reality TV industry.

In 2013, Abrego started a scholarship fund at his alma mater, Mountain View High School in El Monte, Ca., which provides college tuition and additional resources for student athletes. The program, led by Abrego’s mother Tina, has helped more than 25 student-athletes attend four-year universities nationally.

Abrego released his first book in 2016, “Make It Reality: Create Your Opportunity, Own Your Success.” He currently resides in Los Angeles, California with his wife and three children.

John Aoshima
Sequence Director, Maya and the Three

John Aoshima is an Emmy and Annies nominated Television Director known for Disney’s Gravity Falls, Ducktales, and Fox’s primetime animated comedy, American Dad!. John turned his passion for art and film into earning his BFA degree at CalArts. After a long career in television animation, he shifted his focus towards feature films and has worked on Laika’s Oscar nominated feature, Kubo and the Two Strings as Head of Story. Since joining Netflix Animation in 2018, John has taken a role as Sequence Director for CG-Animated Epic Series, Maya and the Three created by Jorge R. Gutiérrez and is now Co-Directing on CG-Animated feature with Shannon Tindle on Ultraman.

Kristal Babich
Story Artist, Maya and the Three

Kristal Babich is a story artist currently working on an unannounced feature at Netflix animation. She is originally from Miami, Florida, where she grew up watching anime and drawing comics. Through many detours, and winding career paths, Kristal eventually ended up in Los Angeles to pursue storyboarding for animation. Her past projects include Tumble Leaf, The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, Pantheon, We the People, and Maya and the Three.

Bob Boden
Producer, Funny You Should Ask

Emmy Nominee Bob Boden's career in all forms of non-fiction and unscripted/alternative TV programming has included senior management and production functions for a variety of television studios, networks, and production companies. He is frequently acknowledged as an industry leader in the game and reality genres. In 2008 he was named to the top 50 Reality TV Power List by the Hollywood Reporter.

He is currently Executive Vice President, Production and Development for Byron Allen's ENTERTAINMENT STUDIOS, a global media company. He also serves as Executive Producer of the nationally syndicated comedy celebrity game show Funny You Should Ask.

Gloria Calderón Kellett
Executive Producer, Co-creator, Co-showrunner, Director, and Actress, One Day at a Time

Gloria Calderón Kellett is the executive producer, co-creator, co-showrunner, director, and actress on the critically acclaimed sitcom One Day at a Time. Coming later this year, her new Amazon Original series, With Love, is the first series coming out of an overall deal between her company and Amazon Studios.

The proud daughter of Cuban immigrants, Calderón Kellett graduated from Loyola Marymount University and went on to earn a Masters degree in Theatre from the University of London. She spent her early years as a writer/producer on numerous shows including Devious Maids, Rules of Engagement, and How I Met Your Mother. Her acting credits include Jane The Virgin, Angie Tribeca, Dead To Me, How I Met Your Mother, and One Day at a Time. She also appeared as a narrator on Drunk History (New Orleans). In directing, Calderón Kellett has worked on episodes of One Day at a Time, Mr. Iglesias, Merry Happy Whatever, United We Fall, and the Mad About You revival.

She is an ambassador for the non-profit ReFrame and launched a “Hollywood 101” web series with Buzzfeed’s PeroLike. The series offers free advice to new artists at the beginning of their entertainment careers.

Awards for her work include The Television Academy Honors, The Geffen TrailBlazer Award, Mental Health America Media Award, ALMA Award, Imagen Award, Vanguard Award, NHMC Award, Sentinel Award, and The Voice Award. She has been honored as an industry leader by The Hollywood Reporter in their Top Women in Entertainment issue, the THR100 list issue, and their 50 Agents of Change issue.

Monica Castillo
Executive Producer

Monica Castillo is the arts and culture reporter for Colorado Public Radio. Her work has also appeared in NPR, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, NBC News, RogerEbert.com, The Wrap, Remezcla, Elle Magazine, Marie Claire, and New York Magazine among others. Monica formerly served as the region 2 director and the New York City chapter president for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. She is a member of NAHJ and the Critics Choice Association. 

James Pearse Connelly
Production Designer

James Pearse Connelly is an Emmy-winning production designer acclaimed for his work on iconic shows such as NBC’s The Voice and The Kelly Clarkson Show, Bravo’s Top Chef, Netflix’s Nailed It! and more.

Connelly was honored with his first Primetime Emmy Award for his work on the MTV Video Music Awards in 2009 and his second Daytime Emmy Award for his work on The Kelly Clarkson Show in 2020. In the years following, he has been recognized for his bold production design with sixteen additional Emmy nominations and nine Art Directors Guild Award nominations for shows including The Masked Singer, The Voice, and Netflix's Bill Nye Saves The World.

Well-versed in the medium of TV, Connelly has made a name for himself designing for an array of television genres - from reality competition to variety to late night to live spectacle. Additional
credits include Foodtastic, Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, America’s Most Wanted, Global Citizen Live: Los Angeles, Fox’s New Years Eve, Teen Choice Awards, World of Dance, Making It with Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman, History of Swear Words, Craftopia, and The Kids Tonight Show. Connelly also served as principal art director on the 2010 Oscar-nominated feature film The Kids Are All Right.

Additionally, Connelly’s creative design company JPConnelly specializes in production design for special events and experiential activations for companies like Fifa, Supercell, Twitter, Twitch, Activision, and LinkedIn. JPConnelly prides itself on its use of experiential production design and storytelling techniques to create innovative, immersive environments.

A dedicated member of the Television Academy since 2007, Connelly has served an active role on the Peer Group Executive Committee for Production Design and is currently serving as Governor and two years Chairman of the Primetime Show Committee.

Sandra Equihua
Creative Consultant, Maya and the Three

Sandra Equihua is a painter, voice actress, character designer and creator from Tijuana, Mexico. She designed most of the female characters in the animated feature The Book of Life for which earned her an Annie award for best feature animation character design. She collaborates, voices and designs for all of Jorge R. Gutierrez's animation projects including most recently the Emmy nominated Son of Jaguar VR short for Google. Along with her husband Jorge, they created the multiple Annie and Emmy Award­–winning animated television series El Tigre, The Adventures of Manny Rivera for Nickelodeon for which she won both an Emmy and Annie for her character designs. Equihua is currently consulting and designing characters for Gutierrez's animated event limited series Maya and the Three for Netflix Animation. 

Adrienne Faillace
Producer, Television Academy Foundation

Adrienne Faillace is the Producer for the Television Academy Foundation’s The Interviews: An Oral History of Television. She produces and conducts interviews, oversees the cataloging and research for the oral history collection, edits interviews for Emmy magazine, and serves as a co-editor of The Interviews’ website. 

Prior to joining the Foundation, Adrienne assisted with the Paley Center for Media’s television festivals and public programs, produced events for the American Red Cross, Bay Area Chapter, and wrote scripts and researched content for KMTP-TV in San Francisco.

Adrienne studied television history at the post-graduate level in Northwestern University’s Department of Radio, Television and Film, received a Master of Arts in Television, Radio and Film from Syracuse University, and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Princeton University.

Kevin Fortson
Executive Vice President, Production, Warner Brothers Entertainment

Kevin E. Fortson currently serves as Executive Vice President of Production & Administration for Warner Bros. Unscripted Television, the #1 provider of primetime unscripted programming in the industry, overseeing more than 50 productions worldwide on broadcast television, cable television and streaming platforms.

Most recently, Fortson served as Executive Vice President, Production for Warner Horizon Television, overseeing both scripted and non-scripted production, post- production and general administrative operations, having joined the unit as Senior Vice President at the division’s founding in 2006. In his current capacity, Fortson presides over all aspects of physical production, post-production and general administration for all projects and series which emanate from the studio’s non-scripted entities, including Warner Horizon Unscripted Television, Shed Media and Telepictures.

Included among the broadcast network projects for which Fortson has responsibility are the long-running “Bachelor” Franchise, the Emmy® winning series “The Voice,” the primetime family-favorites “Ellen’s Game of Games” and “Family Game Fight” and the upcoming NBC game celebrity game offering, “The Wheel.” Warner Horizon Unscripted Television’s signature documentary division has recently distributed the GLAAD® nominated “Equal” for HBO Max and “Helter Skelter” for EPIX, both produced by Greg Berlanti, while “One Perfect Shot,” from internationally acclaimed filmmaker Ava DuVernay and the highly praised “Friends Reunion” are marquee programming events for HBO Max. Rounding out the impressive and diverse slate under Fortson’s purview are such legendary and long-running projects as “The “Ellen DeGeneres Show,” “Extra,” “The People’s Court,” and “Judge Mathis” in first-run syndication and “The Bradshaw Bunch,” “Fast Foodies,” “The Real Housewives of New York” and “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City for various basic cable networks.

In addition to his ongoing responsibilities, Fortson serves as a member of the Warner Bros./WarnerMedia Return To Work (RTW) leadership team, a group of senior executives across WarnerMedia, charged with charting the course of productions through the COVID shutdown and returning them safely to production as the industry reopened.

Prior to joining Warner Horizon in 2006, Fortson served as Senior Vice President, Studio Operations, Warner Bros. Studio Facilities, a position to which he was named in 2004. In that capacity, he was charged with directing the operational activities for all in-house and independent television and feature film production on Warner Bros. Studios’ 110-acre lot and adjacent 32-acre Ranch facility. This included scheduling for all 34 soundstages and numerous exterior sets (including New York Street, Brownstone Street/Ashley Boulevard,
Midwest Street, Hennesy Street, French Street and The Jungle), as well as audience coordination, stage and back lot maintenance and special projects.

Fortson originally joined Warner Bros. in 1993, entering the company as Vice President of Production for Telepictures, before being elevated to Senior Vice President, Production and Administration in 1997. Included in his responsibilities were oversight of the day-to- day production and financial operations for what was then industry’s most prolific producer of first-run syndicated and non-scripted network television series, including “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” “The Rosie O’Donnell Show,” “The Bachelor” and “Extra,” to name a few. During his tenure, he supervised the design and construction of the Company’s Glendale, Calif. production and post-production facility. The 45,000 square foot complex boasted two soundstages, 30 digital editing suites, a newsroom, production support space and production office space. This facility served as the headquarters for first 25 seasons of the long-running daily entertainment news program “Extra” and housed multiple productions including “Street Smarts,” “Change Of Heart,” “Celebrity Justice” and numerous others during its years of operation.

Prior to joining Telepictures Productions, Fortson was with Investigative News Group for five years, lastly serving as Senior Vice President/Chief Operating Officer/Chief Financial Officer and executive in charge of production, overseeing “Geraldo,” “The Geraldo Rivera Specials” and “Now It Can Be Told.” He left Investigative News Group in May 1992 for a brief stint as Vice President, Development & Production at Genesis Entertainment, overseeing “The Whoopi Goldberg Show,” among other programs. Having begun his career as an audience page in 1978 at KTLA Studios, Fortson’s early employment assignments also included positions at Metromedia, Fox and Group W Productions, where he supervised various productions and served for two years as Executive In Charge of Production on “Hour Magazine.”

Fortson attended UCLA and is a 1983 Graduate of California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, with a degree in Specialized Mass Communication. He currently lives in Calabasas, California with his wife, Rikki. They are the parents of triplets – Noah, Avery (Zel) and Khristian, who completed their undergraduate college degrees in 2020 and have embarked upon their respective career paths. He enjoys spending his free time with his family and on the golf course, a game he freely and proudly admits he stinks at, but loves anyway.

Harry Friedman
Executive Producer, Jeopardy!, Wheel of Fortune

Harry Friedman is television’s most prolific game show producer of all time. In his current position as Executive Producer of the two most lasting and successful syndicated programs ever, Wheel of Fortune and JEOPARDY!, he has produced more than 9,500 episodes of the iconic shows to date. His decades-spanning career is marked by his unique ability to honor the traditions of the past while keeping an eye towards the future, tweaking both programs just enough to keep them current and on the cutting edge. Under his stewardship, Wheel of Fortune and JEOPARDY! have transcended the game show category and are among the most buzzworthy programs of any type on television today.

Friedman is a multiple Emmy® Award winner, a Peabody Award winner, and a three-time Guinness World Record® holder; he also has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and has been inducted into the NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

A member of the Writers Guild of America-West and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Friedman lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Judy. Together, they are champions of philanthropy. The pair supports Omaha’s Children’s Hospital and Medical Center, the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, and multiple scholarship funds for deserving college students. Friedman is also a co-founder and board member of the Marlene F. Landy Cancer Foundation, which provides support to cancer patients while undergoing treatment. To date, more than 400 families have received assistance.

Additionally, the Friedmans have established The Harry and Judy Friedman Family Foundation, a private foundation supporting programs that aim to assist children by reducing hunger and increasing educational opportunities. The foundation also supports veterans of the U.S. Armed Services and programs dedicated to the rescue and humane treatment of animals.

Jorge R. Gutierrez
Creator/Director, Maya and the Three

Jorge R. Gutierrez is a Mexican animator, painter, voice actor, writer, and director. Born in Mexico City and raised in Tijuana, Gutierrez has completed various films, cartoons, illustrations, and paintings exploring his love with Mexican pop and folk culture. He was the director & co-writer of the Guillermo Del Toro produced animated feature The Book of Life for Fox which earned him a 2014 Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Animated Feature Film. He was also the writer & director of the Emmy nominated Son of Jaguar VR short for Google. Along with his wife and muse, Sandra Equihua, they created the multiple Emmy Award–winning animated television series El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera for Nickelodeon. Gutierrez  most recently wrote and directed his animated event Maya and the Three for Netflix.

Ivana Kirkbride
Global Director of Content Strategy and Programming, Facebook Inc.

Ivana Kirkbride is the global director of content strategy and programming for Facebook Inc. where she oversees content investment and strategy, content acquisition programs, development, and programming across the Facebook family of apps including Facebook Watch, Instagram Video and Messenger Watch Together.

Prior to joining Facebook, Kirkbride served as general manager for OTT Entertainment at Verizon Media. As chief content officer for Verizon's video service go90, she executed a focus on premium content. Under her leadership, go90 earned over 90 major award nominations including an Oscar for best animated short film Dear Basketball—the first for an ad-supported video platform. She also served as head of content for Vessel and held several executive roles at YouTube.

Kirkbride is a 2018 Henry Crown fellow with the Aspen Institute and is a member of the Producers Guild of America and International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. She also serves on board councils for the Consumer Technology Association and VidCon.

Albert Lawrence
Media Entrepreneur and TV Personality

A Virginia native, Yale University graduate, and Coca-Cola Scholar, Albert Lawrence is a media entrepreneur and TV personality with 12+ years of journalism and production experience. He currently serves as a host for the National Geographic series Explorer Academy Adventures, technology correspondent for CBS' Emmy-winning educational program Innovation Nation, a producer/host for the Amazon Live talk-show Night Light with Albert Lawrence, a film/TV correspondent for IMDb’s video series, and a producer/host for the BL Perspectives digital series that explores the relationship between pop culture and social issues. He created/hosts a series about diverse career opportunities for The Walt Disney Company called Working With, and he's contributed to specials for the Oscars, Emmys, and Comic-Con. As an actor/filmmaker, his short film Theo's Trade received honors at the National Black Film Festival and the Chicago Independent Film Festival.

Albert works with the Television Academy Foundation, the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, and the United Negro College Fund to support students as they construct their dream careers and contribute to the goals of others. He also enjoys emceeing national fundraising events for organizations like UNICEF, AVON 39: The Walk to End Breast Cancer, and Equinox’s Cycle for Survival.

Nicholas Levan
Manager, University Relations,  WarnerMedia

Nick LeVan is a 17-year veteran of WarnerMedia.  Getting his start as a tour guide for CNN, we moved into Government Affairs and protocol, where he met many of the most influential leaders on the planet, while also learning the inside details on what makes the company run.  After a stint in management in his former division, he made the shift to recruiting, where he lead the Intern and Early Careers recruitment for CNN.  When the company reformed as WarnerMedia, Nick accepted the role as University Relations Manager for the larger University Recruitment function.  Nick lives south of Atlanta, GA, with his wife and 3 children, where he enjoys helping students realize their dreams in the media industry.

Ben Lopez
Executive Director, National Association of Latino Independent Producers

Ben Lopez is responsible for the overall design, strategic vision and execution of all domestic and global endeavors for the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP). Ben serves as the year-round industry liaison for executives and content creators in the Latino Lens Incubator programs, working with the top agencies in the world to curate and match these creators with key industry professionals who can move their careers forward.

Ben’s passion for data-driven initiatives, roots in content creation, and inclusive storytelling led to contributions to industry reports and his role as the Executive Producer of the Latino Lens Incubator brand.An advocate and champion of #Diversity, #Inclusion, and #Belonging, Ben has been quoted on domestic and global publications and outlets, such as Variety, Hollywood Reporter, NYT, LA Times, Elle Magazine, and Slate France.

Over the last six years, Ben's role has expanded to SPLATAM content expert, curator of US-based Latinx and LatAm talent, and consultant to major Hollywood studios, networks, and production companies as well as the partnership with Goldhouse and the launch of the #LatinxGoldOpen movement, to amplify Latino-centric projects for financial success on opening weekend.

Michele Loud
Co-Head Writer

Growing up in Studio City, California, Michele didn’t even know that game show writer was a job. Journalism seemed like the best option after stints on her high school and college newspapers, but fate intervened in the form of a classified ad that led to Michele’s being hired as a researcher for the show. Michele considers herself the luckiest of the writers – not only has she won a slew of Emmy awards, but she also met her husband at Jeopardy!

Jaeson Ma
Media Executive, Artist, Investor and Entrepreneur

Jaeson Ma is a media executive, artist, investor and serial entrepreneur. He is a strategic advisor & financier of popular social music video app Triller, co-founded premium production studio Stampede Ventures, digital music label 88rising, ZASH Global Media a publicly Nasdaq traded media & technology conglomerate and east-west brand strategy & investment firm East West Ventures. Jaeson is considered one of the leading financiers to companies, institutions, and individuals investing in Asian media, entertainment, & tech. His investments include Musical.ly (TikTok), Grab, Coinbase, Triller, Slock.it, Brain, CAA Caravan, Oursong, Kind Heaven, NanoTech Energy, XiaoPeng, & MAUM (2 Star Michelin).

Jenni Matz
Director, Television Academy Foundation

Jenni Matz is the Director of the Television Academy Foundations’ Interviews: An Oral History of Television. With her guidance the program launched its award-winning website, which contains cross-referenced access to our 900+ long-format, oral history interviews with television pioneers from Betty White to Larry Wilmore. Jenni started working at the Foundation in 2008 as its first digital archivist, supervising the entire digitization project of over 3,500 hours of video, and working with colleagues in the archival and information technology fields to create a fully indexed, time-based content management system. Along with producing The Interviews and managing its online presence, Jenni works to enhance use and access of the Interviews, including licensing the footage to third parties.

Previously, Jenni was the manager and producer of the American Comedy Archives at Emerson College, a collection of in-depth interviews with comedians spearheaded by comedy legend Bill Dana. She worked for over 20 years in documentary television production as a producer, editor, and researcher, including work on the award-winning American Experience documentary Hoover Dam, a 16-part series on American Literature for Annenberg CPB, and as a Line Producer for Diane Sawyer. She is also an award-winning documentary filmmaker. She is Chair of the Moving Image Craft Documentation Alliance (MIC’D) comprised of colleagues from practitioners of visual oral histories in L.A. including SAG, DGA, WGF, and the Motion Picture Academy.

Jenni has a J.D from Southwestern Law School, a Masters in Library and Information Sciences from Simmons College, and a B.A. in Philosophy from Bates College.

Jenelle Riley
Deputy Awards and Features Editor, Variety

As the host and producer of PBS’ Actors on Actors, she has won three Emmy Awards. She wrote the short film Warning Labels, starring Karen Gillan, and wrote and directed the plays A Kind of Love Story and Jane Austen’s Emma Frankenstein. She regularly hosts Q&As for the SAG-AFTRA Foundation YouTube channel.

Julian Sarmiento
Global Director of Virtual Production and Real-time

Julian Sarmiento is a leading award-winning innovator in the VFX, VR, Location Based Entertainment and Virtual Production space and is the Global Director of Virtual Production/Real-Time. Julian is responsible for conceptualizing, creating, and directing in multiple platforms, from story to technology to final execution, while working very closely with clients and partners to create and execute unparalleled experiences.

Julian’s eclectic career in virtual production originated while working under the direction of iconic film director Robert Zemeckis, Julian was part of the team who helped revolutionize Hollywood by pioneering virtual production, digital humans, facial action coding system and on-set real-time performance on The Polar Express, Beowulf, and Steven Spielberg’s Monster House. His work on David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button earned his team a VES Award.

As VFX Supervisor at Guillermo del Toro's visual effect and creative house, Mirada, He worked on Pacific Rim and other award-winning projects in film, music videos, and advertisement.

Other projects include I, Robot, Terminator Salvation, Pirates of the Caribbean, National Treasure the Book of Secrets, Disney’s The Sorcerer's Apprentice, The Twilight Saga, and over 25 more blockbuster films.

As Executive Creative Director at Digital Domain. Julian created, wrote and directed a series of global 360 experiences and IPs. He conceived the first bio-directional simulator followed by the first immersive motion control cinema with over 60 physical locations that awarded him the patent for the six degrees of freedom of omnidirectional motion platform. He also developed multiple experiences for the World Cup, Olympics, Expo 2020 Dubai, Hasbro, DreamWorks, and immersive platforms and ecosystems for T-Mobile, NBA, and Google.

His track record at Digital Domain led him to his C-level role as Chief Creative Officer at XR centric, Iconic Engine powered by Digital Domain. He developed his 2nd and 3rd generation motion control platform with embedded logic for a series of new media locations with 180 degrees screens and ambisonic audio.

Under his own company, Fuse Engine, Julian introduced the concept of real-time virtual holographic influencers to Hollywood at the iconic Saturn Awards. He created and directed the first real-time live virtual host at Comic-Con, with legendary film and tv stars. Directed and produced for LED-Based Virtual Productions. He also deployed creative content for Toyota, Mattel, EA’s NBA Jam, NFL Blitz, The Sims and Vizio. Advised and designed LED virtual production sound stages volumes and pipelines across the globe.

His comprehensive knowledge of VFX, Real-Time, Digital Humans, Motion Capture, Facial Action Coding System, Virtual Productions, VR/AR/MR, Location Based Entertainment, Spatial Manipulation, Volumetric, IoT, Computer Vision, and Multifaceted Artificial Intelligence serve as the foundation for all his interactive and real-time work. Julian’s expertise positions him to lead and create a dynamic department making FuseFX a leader in Virtual Production/Real-Time space.

Lauren Schutte
Head of Entertainment, Instagram

As the Head of Entertainment at Instagram, Lauren works with actors, actresses and studios/networks to develop their Instagram strategy. A Mizzou J-School grad, she is a former entertainment journalist and communications director. She has produced a ’30 for 30’ with ESPN and written for the likes of The Hollywood Reporter, Today Show, NBC, Us Weekly and Yahoo! among others. She lives in LA with her husband and 18-month-old daughter.


Matt Strauss
Chairman, Direct-to-Consumer and International, NBC Universal

Matt Strauss was named Chairman, Direct-to-Consumer and International in August of 2020. In this role, Strauss is responsible for all aspects of Peacock, NBCUniversal’s streaming service; Fandango, a global digital network serving more than 67 million monthly visitors with best-in- class movie information, ticketing, trailers, home entertainment, and fan merchandise; and International Networks, a division that delivers quality content and compelling brands to over 176 territories across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and Asia Pacific. He reports to Mark Lazarus, Chairman, NBCUniversal Television and Streaming.

Prior to joining NBCUniversal in 2019 to lead Peacock and NBCUniversal Digital Enterprises, Strauss was Executive Vice President, Xfinity Services for Comcast Cable, where he led the strategy and development of best-in-class products and services that served more than 30 million customers across Comcast’s residential lines of business - including Xfinity TV, one of the nation’s largest pay-TV distributors of video and entertainment services; Xfinity Internet, the nation’s largest gig provider; Xfinity Home and Xfinity Voice.

Under Strauss’ leadership, Comcast transformed its video and Internet services with industry- leading experiences on the TV and across devices, including the Emmy Award-winning Xfinity X1 guide and voice remote, Xfinity Stream, Xfinity Flex, Xfinity xFi, ultra-fast gigabit speeds, the nation’s largest and fastest Wi-Fi network, home security and digital home automation features and controls.

He previously served as Executive Vice President, Video and Entertainment Services for Comcast Cable. In that role, Strauss led the video business through a period of unprecedented results and in 2016 alone, helped the company reach positive video subscriber growth for the first time in a decade. With a focus on innovation, personalization, and seamless access to the best entertainment experiences across platforms, he helped redefine the entertainment viewing experience for Xfinity TV customers with Xfinity X1, Xfinity Stream, cloud DVR, live in-home streaming across devices, the industry’s first talking guide, and the Emmy-Award-winning voice remote.

Strauss joined the senior management team at Comcast in 2004 as the Senior Vice President, New Media, where he led content acquisition and strategic development of all on demand and cross platform programming properties and services.

Prior to Comcast, he served as the Executive Vice President and General Manager of Rainbow Media’s on demand service Mag Rack, where he pioneered the video on demand model with one of the first national on demand networks. Prior to this, he served as Vice President of Business Development for Rainbow Media, where he led the organization’s acquisition strategy for new and traditional media. He also held several management positions with Disney-ABC, including serving in the Strategic Planning department for the ABC Television Network.

Matt holds a B.S. from New York University’s Stern School of Business and resides in Cherry Hill, NJ with his wife and four children.

Rob Swartz
Senior Vice President, Development & Production, REELZ

Rob Swartz is Sr. Vice President of Development and Production at REELZ, a leading independent cable and satellite general entertainment network focused on celebrity culture with poignant stories about Hollywood in revealing documentaries and character profiles of the famous and infamous. Swartz leads creative execution of the network’s development and production slate including documentaries and series such as Charles Manson: The Final Words, Casey Anthony: Her Friends Speak, Price of Fame, and Murder Made Me Famous.

Prior to joining REELZ, Swartz served as President of production company Venn Media, developing programming for cable, broadcast, syndication and digital platforms. Previously, he served as Vice President of Original Series for Cartoon Network, where he oversaw development and current programming for all of the network's original animated, live action and alternative series, including Adventure Time and Regular Show. Before joining Cartoon Network, Swartz was Vice President of Alternative Programming at Syfy, where he developed and launched Destination Truth, Who Wants to be a Superhero? and was responsible for overseeing the successful Ghost Hunters franchise.

Swartz has held positions at NBC Entertainment, Walt Disney/Touchstone Television, digital media company MXG, and Chris Craft/United Television. In addition to serving as Secretary of the Television Academy, he has served as Governor of the Television Executives Peer Group, as Governors’ appointee to the Executive Committee, as Chair of the Digital Strategy Committee and on the Academy's Membership Committee.

A frequent speaker on the business of television, Swartz has taught in the Cinema and Television Arts department at Cal State-Northridge. A graduate of Brown University and Harvard Business School, Swartz lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.

Lilly Zhang
Senior Director, Recruiting, Endeavor

Lilly co-leads the North America Recruiting function at Endeavor. She started her career as an assistant in the Motion Picture Literary and Music Crossover department at WME before a short stint working in Film Sales.

Following her time in the Independent Film space, she spent four years at CAA where she worked in Entertainment Marketing, the Foundation department and Human Resources, respectively, focusing on innovating Early Career programming and recruitment as well as developing internal talent from the floating assistant level to Agent trainees on their path to promotion. She then transitioned to the buyer side of the business, at NBCUniversal as a Campus Programs & Initiatives Recruiter across several entertainment and corporate verticals prior to overseeing sales and marketing recruiting for NBC’s owned & operated stations and content distribution. Most recently she led the People & Culture department at 3BLACKDOT, a digital entertainment studio at the intersection of all things creator, community and brand innovation.

Being at Endeavor is a homecoming for Lilly and she’s so thrilled to be able to leverage her rich experience from working across agencies, a Fortune 100 and the startup space toward seeking best in class talent.  

Michael Zinman
Creator & Executive Producer, Lulu AR

Zinman knew from the womb that theatrical lighting design was in his DNA. Ten months later, he was born and then raised alongside a twin brother in NYC. By his early teens, he'd taken up smoking and booked it to Hollywood by rail to light shows for the Pasadena Playhouse. He has stage directed scores of artists, written award-winning iphone apps, and produced and designed visuals for hundreds of televised specials including the Grammys, iHeart Radio Music Awards and Emmys, while also designing whimsical visuals for Dancing with the Stars and the wacky augmented reality visuals for the Masked Singer. In 2021, Zinman developed and produced the first ever avatar singing competition show, Alter Ego. He is a savant in air crash disaster history and is currently building a wooden dollhouse for his three year old, Lulu.


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