IPDF 2015 Meet The Experts


Niccolò Bello is a writer, director, producer and actor based in Los Angeles. His work in Italy and the US spans from TV to commercial to web content. He collaborates with creative agencies such as Armando Testa, Leo Burnett, Saatchi & Saatchi for international brands such as Nestlè, Samsung, Toyota. Nic’s web series CINZIA, YOUR SKIN FRIEND won 12 awards, and since August 2013 he runs the NIC AND PANCHO YouTube comedy channel, with more than 8 millions of views.


Steven Bernstein is an award winning cinematographer, writer, director and producer. He is a member of the American Society of Cinematographers, and wrote a major textbook titled Film Production. Past films as a cinematographer include LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE and MONSTER as well as another 60 major film projects. Bernstein produced, wrote and directed the award-winning DECODING ANNIE PARKER starring Helen Hunt, Samantha Morton and Aaron Paul, and DOMINION (currently in post-production) starring John Malkovich, Rhys Ifansand Rodrigo Santoro. His screenplay WICKED CITY in being made into a major science fiction film that shoots next year. Bernstein also acts as a creative consultant to producers, writers and filmmakers.


Pau Brunet, co-founder of LA-based La Panda Productions, is a producer with over 10 years of experience in development, international sales and production. Pau is executive producer on OPEN WINDOWS, 10,000KM and upcoming PEOPLE YOU MAY KNOW. With LA Panda, he’s developing the thriller, A TEXAS STORY, a fantastic/horror film, THE TURNED and the dramedy DON’T FUCK AROUND WITH LOVE. Pau also works as a box-office, marketing and development analyst in Spain and the States. Since 2007 Pau has overseen the marketing of more than 15 movies. He also manages the website boxoffice.es


Called “Hollywood’s Developer to the Stars” by the Discovery Channel, the “Face to Watch in New Media” by the Los Angeles Times and “A Cyber-Whiz” by USA Today, Charles Como, CEO and Founder of Underground Network, previously founded Hollywood’s first comprehensive Internet solutions company, BoxTop Interactive, which merged with iXL and went public with a valuation hitting $3.5 billion. His clients included such names as Capital Records, Warner Brothers Records, Fox Entertainment, Fox Television & Fox Kids, UPN, A&M Records, Guess?, Mattel’s Barbie and Hot Wheels, Major League Soccer, Van Halen, Kid Rock, and Sting, just to name a few. Como later founded HotForWords, which created one of the first YouTube channels to hit 500 million video views and over a $1 million a year in ad revenue. Currently Como is building a mobile app and TV show designed to get people more active in politics and to actually have an impact on their government’s decisions at all times.


With 14 years of experience in distribution, James Eowan has overseen fiction and non-fiction films from as early as post production through festivals, theatrical, non-theatrical, broadcast and home video at 7th Art which has been distributing films for over 20 years. He has planned and executed campaigns that saw films receive multiple awards including Academy Award nominations, Emmy Awards, and Independent Spirit Awards among others. The company is known for such films as the Academy Award® winner, THE LONG WAY HOME and the Academy Award® nominees: THE FARM, ANGOLA USA, SPEAKING IN STRINGS, LONG NIGHT’S JOURNEY INTO DAY and BALSEROS: CUBAN RAFTERS. THE WILDEST SHOW IN THE SOUTH: THE ANGOLA PRISON RODEO, EYEWITNESS: THE LEGACY OF DEATH CAMP ART and INCIDENT IN NEW BAGDAD were nominated for Best Documentary Short Subject at the Academy Awards®. The festival favorite, 45365, received the Truer Than Fiction Independent Spirit Award. James is currently in post production on a feature length documentary to be completed in 2015.


Since founding the Burton Theatre in Detroit MI, Nathan Faustyn has worked in programming festivals throughout the country. He currently works as the Director of Non-Theatrical Sales and Acquisitions for Strand Releasing in Culver City, as well as a member of the experimental video collective Loose Meat.


Paul Federbush joined the Sundance Institute in 2013 with 17 years experience as an acquisitions and distribution executive, spanning both the independent and studio film communities. Federbush worked hands-on with exhibitors and media outlets to market and distribute nine independent documentary and feature films while partnered in distribution company Red Flag Releasing, as well as serving as Senior Vice President of Production and Acquisitions at Warner Bros’ specialized division, Warner Independent Pictures (WIP).


Ernesto M. Foronda is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker and screenwriter, who has written both independent and studio features. Currently, Ernesto is writing an adaptation of Scott Heim’s (Mysterious Skin) latest novel, WE DISAPPEAR and ELEVEN MISSING DAYS, about Agatha Christie’s brief disappearance in her thirties, to be produced by Thick As Thieves Productions (WRISTCUTTERS:A LOVE STORY, THE WORDS, LOVELACE) and Fortitude. Ernesto also wrote and produced BETTER LUCK TOMORROW which premiered at Sundance 2002 and had a theatrical release by Paramount Classics and MTV. Ernesto has written on studio features for Fox, Fox 2000, Universal, Focus, Rogue, WB, and Sony. Ernesto’s directorial debut SUNSET STORIES, which he also co-wrote, premiered at SXSW 2012. In addition, Ernesto is a shorts film programmer for Sundance, LAFF and Outfest Los Angeles.


Michael Frost Beckner launched his writing career in the early 1990’s with three record-making “spec” script sales. Today, with dozens of screenplays and rewrites for major studios and ten pilots for commercial and cable networks, Beckner has, from his first film, SNIPER, built a reputation as a film and television writer of realistic, character-based military and espionage dramas. Beckner’s most recent big-screen success came with the Universal Pictures, Tony Scott directed, SPY GAME (2001) starring Robert Redford and Brad Pitt. The release of that film coincided with the debut Beckner’s CBS series, THE AGENCY (Creator, Executive Producer, Writer; 2001-2003) that holds the distinction of being the only dramatic series ever allowed to film at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Beckner has also developed a working profile in European television writing the miniseries THE PLAN (UK; Purecom Entertainment and Freemantle) based on Alex Dryden’s bestsellers Red to Black and Moscow Sting, Beckner is currently working on CITY OF LIES which continues his creative partnership with director Wolfgang Petersen they began with THE AGENCY (Endemol-Shine/Radiant Pictures/ZDF Network). As a personality and commentator on American espionage he has appeared on CNN, Fox New, TF1 in France, and was a featured guest on Bill Maher’s “Politically Incorrect.” As a Civil War speaker, he has spoken at universities and to private organizations on the history behind his upcoming Civil War Event Mini-Series, TO APPOMATTOX. Recent credits also include CSI (LAS VEGAS) and MUIR’S GAMBIT.


Jonathan Grant (Open Floor Pitch Host) is a writer and performer from Los Angeles. He can currently be seen performing at iO West with “It’s the Cops!” on the second Sunday of every month.


Ernest Marrero began his career as an avant-garde filmmaker in New York City where he studied experimental filmmaking at the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program. His film, ONE DAY FRANZ BROUGHT ME TO HIS HOUSE is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. BEFORE THE RISE OF THE PREMONITION was exhibited at the 1987 Whitney Biennial. He studied film and visual arts at the State University of New York, College at Purchase, and directing and screenwriting in the graduate film program at UCLA. He is a produced screenwriter, member of the WGA, and co-wrote (un-credited) the final produced version of THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES staring Richard Gere and Laura Linney. Ernest currently serves on the faculty in the graduate film directing program at CALARTS, where he teaches screenwriting.


Salil Mehta is the President of Content Management at Fox Filmed Entertainment, where he is responsible for coordinating the studio’s content distribution in all media. Mehta oversees the company’s strategic planning and business development, as well as the digital media division, Fox’s technology and engineering activities, and the studio’s worldwide television distribution activities. Prior to Fox, Salil served as COO and CFO for NBCUniversal’s Entertainment & Digital Networks and Integrated Media Devision following his role as President of Business Operations, Strategy and Development. Before NBCUniversal, Mehta was the EVP of ESPN Enterprises, and served as the EVP of Corporate Business Development and Strategic Planning at the Walt Disney Company.


Born in Granada (Spain), Rocio Mesa graduated as a journalist from the University of Seville. She worked for several Spanish production companies and TV networks as producer and video director. After graduating from the New York Film academy in Los Angeles, Mesa has been the video producer for the International Documentary Association and has worked as post-production producer for advertising. In 2013 Rocio Mesa premiered ORENSANZ, her first documentary feature film as a director, nominated for Best Andalusian Documentary and screened on international film festivals (SEFF, BAFICI, Alcances) and independent theaters. Mesa is currently the director of L.A. OLA, the Spanish Contemporary Cinema Exhibition in Los Angeles, and she is working on her next film project as a director.


Athena Nash works in International Sales and Distribution for Nu Image/Millennium Films. Athena first served as Director of Digital Marketing for a number of select independent films, where she was responsible for the development and execution of a variety of successful online campaigns. She then accepted a position in International Sales and Acquisitions for Arclight Films before transitioning to her current role with Nu Image.


Beverly Neufeld holds an MFA from UCLA in Screenwriting. Her indie script, BROWN WIDOW won the Samuel Goldwyn Award. She has also won competitions and awards for her TV writing such as Slamdance’s TV competition for her one hour drama, THE CLAYTONS. She did a rewrite of the indie film, WAJDA, the first film by a female Saudi American filmmaker and is currently rewriting the script A GIRL THING for Lucky 13 Productions. As a writing consultant Beverly has read and given notes on more than 4000 scripts for such companies as: CAA, Showtime, IFP West/FIND, Granada Entertainment, Fox TV Studios, Slamdance Screenplay Competition, Angel Ark Prods, Avnet Kerner, PAGE Writing Competition and Quality Artists Agency, as well as for independent writers and producers. Beverly was a Development Executive for Blackbird Fly Productions helping a producer find and develop multiple projects, and most recently was the Director of Development for Juntobox Films under Nina Yang and Forest Whitaker.


Orly Ravid has a 15-year background in the film industry. In 2009 she founded The Film Collaborative (“TFC”), the first non-profit to focus on film distribution without taking filmmakers’ rights. At TFC, Orly co-authored and published the multi-format book Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul (I & II) and distributed Oscar-nominated and top festival-winning documentaries and narrative feature films. Previously, Orly was a Programming Associate at Sundance and a Programming Consultant at Palm Springs International (PSIFF) and the Middle East International Film Festival (MEIFF). Other past affiliations include Senator Entertainment (VP Acquisitions and Distribution); Wolfe Releasing (Director: Acquisitions, Theatrical, Non-Theatrical/Festivals, Business Affairs and Digital Distribution); Maxmedia (Development); and Outfest (Board of Directors).


Srdjan Stakic (Final Presentation panelist) was born in former Yugoslavia. He moved to the US at age of 16. After earning an MFA in Film Producingfrom USC, he joined Justin Lin‘s YOMYOMF, where he served as the in-house line producer/producer, overseeing production on 40 web series each year. Stakic also executive produced YELLOW FACE (2013), a feature film based on a Pulitzer Prize-nominated play by Tony Award®-winning playwright David Henry Hwang. After leaving YOMYOMF, Srdjan produced NEWCOMER starring Anthony LaPaglia (currently in last stages of post-production) and has recently wrapped on a feature documentary film shot in Syrian refugee camps in Jordan. He has recently partnered with Allison Abbate (THE LEGO MOVIE, CORPSE BRIDE, FRANKENWEENIE, TALENTED MR. FOX) to produce her directorial debut entitled TWO TOES: THE COUOTE LEGEND OF GREEN RIVER.


George Strompolos is Fullscreen’s Chief Executive Officer and Founder. Prior to founding Fullscreen, he served as strategic partnerships manager at YouTube and was responsible for establishing distribution channels with new media companies and content producers. In 2007, Strompolos co-created the YouTube Partner Program, which provided new monetization opportunities for a new class of online content producers around the world. He also led YouTube’s first multimillion-dollar programming fund and spearheaded key initiatives, including Seth MacFarlane’s Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy. He began his career in various business development roles at WIRED Magazine, CNET Networks, and Google. To date, Strompolos has been named one of Advertising Age’s “40 under 40” in 2013 and one of The Hollywood Reporter’s “Top 35 Executives Under Age 35” in 2008.


Matthew Takata is the Manager for the Feature Film Program’s international work at Sundance Institute. His focus is on international outreach and selection for the Institute’s Screenwriters and Directors Labs, and the annual Sundance Institute Mahindra Global Filmmaking Award.


Kelly Thomas has more than 10 years of experience producing independent features and is VP of JuntoBox Films’ Incubator Initiative. Prior to JuntoBox, she was the Producer in Residence for Film Independent’s Artist Development programs and in that capacity managed and curated labs for writers, directors, producers, and documentary filmmakers. Kelly has worked with acclaimed directors Rodrigo Garcia, Phedon Papamichael, Robin Swicord, and Brad Silberling.


Oscar Torres is a writer/producer of INNOCENT VOICES a film that went out to win over 70 National and International top honors including Mexico’s official submission to the 77th Academy Awards and the Berlin FF Best Picture Award. Amongst his latest work as writer/producer are the films BRAVETOWN which was released in theaters and OnDemand. Starring Josh Duhamel, Laura Dern, Maria Bello and Lucas Till, the film is currently being sold worldwide; PULLING STRINGS starring Mexican leading man Jaime Camil, Laura Ramsey and Tom Arnold, produced by Pantelion Films (Lionsgate and Televisa), became one of the top three most successful Mexican films releases of 2013 in the U.S. and Mexico. In the same year, Oscar was a Creative and Script Consultant on the runaway hit INSTRUCTIONS NOT INCLUDED starring Eugenio Derbez, which became the most successful Spanish Speaking film of all time grossing over $44 Million in the U.S. alone. To date, its worldwide cume exceeds the $100 Million mark. Oscar’s latest films to hit DVD are VIENTO EN CONTRA starring Mexican leading lady Barbara Mori and Sundance’s Official Entry MANCORA, helmed by Peruvian director Ricardo de Montreuil. And most recently completed in Santiago, Chile is TIERRA DE SANGRE (The Vineyard) starring Mexican star Aislinn Derbez. His company Goldtower Entertainment is currently developing several films with a Latin DNA with business partners Jeff Goldberg and Cuban-born actor William Levy.


Alesia Weston was appointed Executive Director of the Jerusalem Film Festival, Jerusalem Cinematheque and Israel Film Archives where she oversaw the 2012 and 2013 annual programs and festivals. Prior to that, she spent a decade at Sundance Institute, in charge of the international Feature Film Program. There she spearheaded the Sundance-modeled Screenwriters and Directors labs in the Middle East as well as in India, Israel and Turkey. Through the labs, the Sundance/NHK Award and Mahindra International Filmmakers Awards, she shepherded films and filmmakers from over 40 countries. Now an independent consultant, she serves as an advisor to independent and international filmmakers, film festivals and training programs around the world.