2017 Creator’s Conference Speakers

The 2017 Creator’s Conference, presented by NashFilm, includes robust tracks for filmmakers, screenwriters, musicians, and all kinds of creators. Come hear about the latest industry trends, paths that have led to success, ways to hone your craft, and meet others in the community!

Creator's Conference Speakers

Jake Basden
Vice President, Publicity & Corporate Communications
Big Machine Label Group

Jake oversees publicity and corporate communications for the Big Machine Label Group (BMLG) in Nashville, TN. BMLG is the #1 independent record label in the world home to global superstars Taylor Swift, Steven Tyler, Tim McGraw, Reba and more.

Jake was previously a Media Relations Director in the Sports & Entertainment division of Edelman New York, the largest global PR firm.

He was awarded “Young PR Professional of the Year” by PRWeek magazine and in 2015 led the media relations campaign for the critically-acclaimed documentary GLEN CAMPBELL…I’LL BE ME which earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song and won four GRAMMY awards.
Aaron Bleyaert
Emmy-Award Winner & Resident Web Guy
Conan O’Brien

Aaron Bleyaert is best known for his “Clueless Gamer” series. The series, which began as a part of Conan’s online streaming platform and was later incorporated into the late night show, features Aaron leading Conan & guest celebrities through the newest finds in the video game industry. The series has become a beloved part of the show and a long-lasting online hit.

Aaron is a four-time Emmy nominee – with two nominations for “Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media” and two in the “Outstanding Interactive Program” category. In 2012, Aaron won the Primetime Emmy Award for “Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media – Enhancement to a Television Program or Series” for the Team Coco Sync App.

Aaron also attended the 2016 Nashville Film Festival with his viral short film, “How to Lose Weight in 4 Easy Steps” (written by Bleyaert and directed by Benjamin Berman).
Wendy Calhoun
Writer, Series Creator, and Executive Producer

Wendy Calhoun is a writer, series creator, and executive producer with content currently in development at multiple digital and cable studios. Her credits include Co-Executive Producing and writing the historic first season of Fox’s hit series EMPIRE. In addition, she’s written and produced for ABC’S NASHVILLE, FX’s JUSTIFIED, ABC’s REVENGE, and NBC’s LIFE. Last summer, Calhoun wrote and directed the virtual reality short, LEFT BEHIND, sponsored by Google and honored as “Best in VR” at Digital Hollywood 2016. In addition, she served as the Narrative Consultant for Electronic Arts’ BATTLEFIELD HARDLINE video game. She received a 2010 Peabody Award and WGA Best New Series Nomination for JUSTIFIED. She received her second WGA Best New Series Nomination in 2012 for NASHVILLE. Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Calhoun studied film and television at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Naia Cucukov
Senior Vice President of Development and Production
Walden Media

As Senior Vice President of Development and Production at Walden Media, Naia Cucukov has a passion for identifying inspiring projects and helping them grow into movie magic. A native of southern New Jersey, she grew up loving film and ultimately discovered her passion for production while receiving her B.A. in Modern Culture and Media from Brown University. Like many entertainment executives before her, Naia started in Hollywood as an assistant at CAA followed by a post at Legendary Pictures. She then made the transition into the role of Creative Executive at Bold Films followed by the opportunity to work with Sir Richard Branson as the Director of Development at Virgin Produced. While at Virgin, Naia oversaw all creative programing for the Virgin Produced Channel onboard Virgin Airlines and co-produced the award-winning short film Departure Date, the first film shot on a plane and edited while 35,000 feet in the air. Since her start at Walden Media in 2013, Naia has hit the ground running, cultivating a diverse slate of films. On behalf of Walden she has overseen production for: The Giver, based on the bestselling book by Lois Lowry; Universal and Working Title’s Everest, based on the true story of the 1996 Everest disaster; Disney’s The BFG, a Steven Spielberg-directed adaptation of Roald Dahl’s beloved novel; and A Dog’s Purpose, directed by Lasse Hallstrom and based on the bestselling novel. Upcoming projects include: Lionsgate’s Wonder, based on the bestselling middle grade novel, directed by Stephen Chbosky; and Sony Animation’s The Star, told from the perspective of the animals in the manger.

Additionally, Naia volunteers with Reading to Kids and the Brown University Alumni Organization, sits on the Templeton Foundations Film Steering Committee and is an active member of Women in Film and CAPE (Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment). She spends her free time with her Miniature Dachshund, Sharky.
Babacar Diene
Vice President, Acquisitions and Development
Voltage Pictures

Babacar Diene is currently Vice President, Acquisitions & Development, at international finance, production and distribution company Voltage Pictures (The Hurt Locker, Dallas Buyers Club). Since joining Voltage in 2012, Diene has been closely involved in several exciting projects, including the feature films Fathers & Daughters starring Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried and Aaron Paul; Pay The Ghost starring Nicolas Cage; I.T starring Pierce Brosnan and Good Kids among others. Previously, Diene was Vice President, Acquisitions & Apsara Distribution at IM Global, as well as holding positions at Icon Entertainment International and GreenseStreet Films International.

Before moving to Los Angeles, Diene graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in International Relations.
Patrick Ewald
Epic Pictures Group

Patrick Ewald became the CEO of Epic Pictures Group, Inc. in 2007 with the goal of bringing original and visionary storytelling to a global audience. Patrick’s career in the film business spans over 20 years as a senior level executive and has been involved in the development, financing, production and marketing of over 100 films.

Patrick has produced/executive produced over 35 films which include: “TURBO KID,” “SPACE DOGS,” “WHO GETS THE DOG,” “TALES OF HALLOWEEN,” ENTERTAINMENT,” “JERUZALEM,” “ENTERTAINMENT,” “THE DEVIL’S CHAIR,” “11-11- 11” and is currently producing/executive producing “THE LODGERS,” “REDCON-1,” “THE NANNY,” and “RADIUS.” You might find Patrick vanquishing man-eating spiders or orbiting space in the company of the first interstellar canines.

You might find him quelling a zombie uprising or navigating an apocalyptic future with superheroes by his side. You might find him at any of the former, but more likely you'll find him at home with his wife, three daughters, and dog, Lola, curled up on the couch engrossed in a film.

A New York City native, Mr. Ewald is a two-time Saturn Award winner and an active member of the Producers Guild of America. He graduated from Duke University with a degree in film studies.
Daisy Hamilton
Acquisitions & Business Development
TriCoast Worldwide

Daisy Hamilton, a Los Angeles native, grew up working in the film industry. Since graduating from NYU with a major in the business of Film, she has spearheaded development and acquisitions for TriCoast Worldwide. Her career in film and television is driven by a strong and passionate commitment to truth, the proliferation of knowledge, and raising the bar on content and its function for audiences. She has acquired over 15+ titles for TriCoast; some of her favorites include: festival darlings, ARE WE NOT CATS (2016) and INUK (2014), controversial documentaries SHADOW WORLD (2016) and SIRIUS (2015), animated favorite,THE STONE BOY (2017) and the highly successful animated feature based on the Sony Playstation Video Game HEAVENLY SWORD (2015).
Andrew Hunt
Founding Partner
Raven Banner

One of the founding partners of Raven Banner, Andrew T Hunt is a Writer/Producer/Director with over 20 years experience. Andrew’s feature length debut Sweet Karma premiered at the 2009 Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal, garnering praise and kudos from press and industry alike. Sweet Karma was also the catalyst for the formation of Raven Banner Entertainment - a worldwide sales company specializing in genre films. In 2012 Raven Banner Releasing was formed as the Canadian distribution arm for RBE, releasing such notable titles as Turbo Kid, Wolfcop, Deathgasm and Black Mountain Side. 2015 saw the creation of Northern Banner Releasing, a Canadian distribution company that focuses on non-genre titles such as Academy Award Nominated Embrace of the Serpent, Borealis, The Happiest Day In The Life of Olli Maki, and How To Plan An Orgy In A Small Town. In 2016 Raven Banner increased its focus on original productions, having formed key partnerships with like-minded producers. Within Raven Banner Andrew plays a key role supervising the review, development and packaging of feature projects from script to screen, as well as overseeing the branding, marketing and distribution of select titles.
Melissa Lummus
Screenplay Competitions Manager
Nashville Film Festival

Melissa joined the Nashville Film Festival staff in 2012. She currently serves as the Film Competitions Manager, in addition to organizing panels and workshops during the festival.
Melissa studied Film & Digital Media at Baylor University before transferring to Belmont University and receiving a B.S. in Video Production and a Minor in Theater. She is also an alumni of the Second City Training Center and iO Theater, both located in Chicago, where she wrote and performed sketch comedy and improvisation.
She previously worked at Third Man Records and on numerous production jobs, including the Travel Channel’s “Man v. Food Nation”. She has served on the Awards Jury for several other film competitions and festivals, including SoHo International Film Festival.
When she’s not watching her never-ending wishlist of movies and eating queso, Melissa is usually found playing pool, looking up pictures of snails, or planning her next trip. She will also challenge anyone to a game of MarioKart.
Michael Meyer
Wig & Hair Design Artist

Michael Meyer worked in his profession at the Hannover State Theater where an average of 40 productions, equaling approximately 250+ shows a year were performed. In ‘98, he and his wife came to the USA where he accepted a position as a wig maker at the San Francisco Opera. He was quickly promoted to 1st assistant wig maker where his responsibilities included custom wig making, and prosthetic work. He has worked as a special effects artist with the local film industry, as well as a wig and makeup designer for theatrical companies around the world. He has worked closely with the medical communities creating medical task trainers, and has built animatronics that are currently being enjoyed by children’s museums. Michael most recently held the position of Head of Department at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where he taught all levels of makeup, wig making and styling, prosthetic work, and animatronics.
Melanie Miller
Executive Vice President
Samuel Goldwyn Films

Melanie Miller has over two decades of experience in the entertainment industry. During her tenure at Gravitas Ventures as Vice President of Acquisitions & Marketing, she played an integral role in the growth of the new paradigm of independent distribution. Prior to Gravitas, Miller was the Artistic Director at the Jackson Hole Film Institute and in 2009 co-founded Fishbowl Films with Diane Becker. The company’s first feature, DETOUR by William Dickerson received a domestic day & date theatrical release. Fishbowl Films' next feature is Shaz Bennett’s directorial debut ALASKA IS A DRAG, a IFP Narrative Lab fellow. Their latest collaboration is a feature length documentary with the working title BRAINIACS. This Sundance Institute 2016 Catalyst Initiative project recently began production with Laura Nix at the helm.
Currently the Executive Vice President at Samuel Goldwyn Films, Melanie is responsible for the company’s distribution, marketing and PR strategy for their slate. In addition, she works closely with Co-Owners Peter Goldwyn and Ben Feingold on ways to expand the Goldwyn footprint, in both long form and episodic content with existing and new partners. Melanie has been a guest speaker at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s Sloan Summit, the Sundance Institute, the Produced By Conference, and more. She is a member of Film Independent, IFP and the Producers Guild.
Travis Nicholson
Still the King

Travis Nicholson is an accomplished actor and producer, originally from Garland, Texas. His acting credits span over 20 film and television projects, while his producing credits include three feature films, a television pilot, short films, commercials and countless music videos. Working alongside diverse directors such as Clint Eastwood, Joel and Ethan Coen, and Harmony Korine has given Travis exposure to a broad range of styles and techniques over the years, helping him develop as both an actor and filmmaker.

Travis’ father, a talented songwriter and guitar player, moved the family to Nashville in 1981. Surrounded by music, Travis began writing songs and playing guitar. One of his bands, “The Swindlers,” included frontman Justin Townes Earle (son of Steve Earle) and experienced success in the Nashville music scene and on small tours. Although music continues to be a passion, it was always filmmaking that had the strongest pull, and in 1999 Travis enrolled in the film program at the local “Watkins Film School,” with a focus on writing and directing.

After two years in the program, he secured an internship on the set of the Coen Brothers’ “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” and soon after Travis moved to Los Angeles to work on “The Man Who Wasn’t There” and “Intolerable Cruelty.” In addition to the Coen Brothers, he has also worked with legendary filmmakers D.A. Pennebaker (“Don’t Look Back”), Walter Salles (“The Motorcycle Diaries”) and William Monahan (“The Departed”).

In 2012, a short film he produced entitled “The Arm” was awarded “Best Comedic Short” at the Sundance Film Festival. That same year, “Super Zeroes,” which Travis wrote, produced and starred in, won the “Audience Award” at the Nashville Film Festival. His latest producorial effort, “Listening,” received glowing reviews from The Hollywood Reporter and Moviemaker magazine.

Travis is currently writing, producing, and starring in “Still the King”, a comedic series he co-created with Billy Ray Cyrus and Potsy Ponciroli, currently shooting it's second season for CMT.
Andreas Olavarria
President and CEO
Level 33 Entertainment

Andreas Olavarria currently serves as President and CEO of Level 33 Entertainment (“Level 33”) an independent film distribution company based in Los Angeles. Level 33 has distributed a diverse slate of successful independent features including films such as 1 NIGHT starring Anna Camp & Justin Chatwin, MOUNTAIN MEN starring Chace Crawford & Tyler Labine, THE DEBT starring Stephen Dorff & Academy Award® Nominee David Straithairn, COPENHAGEN starring Gethin Anthony, THE WEDDING VIDEO with Lucy Punch, AFTER WORDS starring Academy Award® Winner Marcia Gay Harden & Oscar Jaenada, MONTANA starring Lars Mikkelsen & Michelle Fairley, and MANHATTAN ROMANCE starring Katherine Waterston, Gaby Hoffmann & Caitlin FitzGerald.

Andreas has over 20 years experience in the field of motion picture production and distribution. Serving as a creative and production executive at motion picture studios such as The Walt Disney Company and 20th Century Fox, as well as an independent film producer, Andreas has demonstrated a track record of success in identifying quality feature film projects and overseeing all facets of production & distribution for both major studios and independent film companies. He is a member of the Producers Guild of America and holds an Honors Degree in Communication Studies from UCLA.
Leslie Pirritano
Your Best Friend

Leslie Pirritano has been in various gamer and VR-related roles over the past 15 years, is a key influencer in gaming and immersive tech and is Your Best Friend at AMD. She actively works to promote diversity within the gaming and VR communities. In her spare time, she builds her own PC’s for her gaming and VR experiences.
Robin Prybil
Director of Studio Relations, Content and Alliances/AMD
Radeon Technologies Group

Robin is Director of Studio Relations, Content and Alliances for AMD/RTG. She began her entertainment career at Creative Artists Agency (CAA) in 1987, where she formalized American Federation of Musicians (AFM) contracts for the agency's musical clients. She crossed over into feature film development at Columbia Pictures before moving over to Paramount Picture for 10 years as Executive Vice-President for producer Robert Evans - which culminated in an Associate Producer credit for How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days. Robin joined Weta Digital in 2003 where she worked with top tier film directors on such films as AVATAR, The Hobbit series, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The BFG, and Jungle Book. Robin is a member of the PGA, BAFTA, VES, ASIFA, and WiVR. A complete list of Robin’s work history can be found at http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1311073/
Bob Raines
Executive Director
TN Entertainment Commission

Appointed by the Office of the Governor to represent the State of Tennessee's entertainment industry. Raines is responsible for advancing the strategic goals of the Tennessee Entertainment Commission ; representing Tennessee's key industry assets and competitive advantages both statewide and abroad; strategic advisor to senior government officials; providing State Legislators’ with analysis of the State's entertainment sector.

Raines works to establish and advance relationships across a spectrum of sects within the State's entertainment industry. Manages and implements the State's production incentives program for film, music, television and commercials. Collaborates with government and private industry leadership to cultivate policy and strategy that reflect best practices for program management and industry development. Promotes and encourages the use of the State's entertainment resources to companies nationwide. Allocates sponsorships and grants to organizations advancing the State's local entertainment industry. Engages with stakeholders and industry professionals through public speaking and community outreach. Actively collaborates on Tennessee Entertainment Commission marketing materials and branding strategies for the State.

Raines is a Leadership Music Class of 2016 Alumni and current Co-Chair of the Nashville Music City Music Council. He is active on several entertainment based boards and maintains strategic partnerships with city and county alliances in Memphis, Knoxville & Chattanooga. He oversees the Governor’s Entertainment Commission board which is a Statewide board composed of leaders from Tennessee base companies like Scripps, Google, Sony and CAA.

Raines holds a degree in Business Administration from East Tennessee State University and an accreditation with the International Association for Management Education.
Ben Rittenhouse
Emmy Award Winning Makeup Artist

Ben Rittenhouse is an Emmy Award winning makeup artist (The Pacific, 2010). Ben specializes in special effects makeup, prop making, prosthetics and has cultivated a successful and tenured career in the entertainment industry. Some of his recent projects include: Star Trek, Hunger Games, Avatar, Anchorman, Hangover 3, CSI, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch & the Wardrobe, Kill Bill: Vol 1&2, Hulk, RIPD, Grey’s Anatomy, The Mist, Hostel, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Hills Have Eyes, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning and Sin City.
Sarah Holbrook (fiddle, guitar, bass), Hannah Holbrook (piano, concertina, accordion), Eva Holbrook (mandolin), Liza Holbrook (drums, djembe, beatboxing)

SHEL is touring and creating relentlessly in the hothouse environment of the 21st century music business. "We've always made our living playing music,' says Sarah Holbrook, "I dropped out of two different colleges, before it finally sank in that I was supposed to be playing music with my sisters full time.

SHEL music is many things sonically, but its coherence and distinctiveness comes from the sisters’ commitment to making every song an honest four-way collaboration. That said, every artist profits from outside perspective, and circumstances aligned in recent years to work with Eurythmics co-founder Dave Stewart, whose production credits include albums with Stevie Nicks, Joss Stone and Ringo Starr. SHEL arranged and recorded tracks in Nashville with long-time producer Brent Maher. Then Stewart, in his Los Angeles studio, added sounds and beats to complement each track. The mandate was to uphold the soul of the songs, the acoustic musicality of the sisters as players, the subtlety of SHEL’s vocals and the colors of their harmonies.

SHEL has been featured on TV & in commercials such as the current Toys R Us holiday commercial and “Search Party”on TBS. Other series include The Fosters, Eye Candy, Guilt, and more. They recently opened for Amos Lee on his fall tour, and have spent the last year touring the US & Europe in appearances ranging from clubs to festivals to concerts with orchestras.
Dawn Solér
Senior Vice President, TV Music
ABC Studios

Dawn Solér is Senior Vice President, TV Music, at ABC Studios where she is responsible for all music at ABC Studios and oversees the music content for shows such as “Nashville,” “Blackish,” “Once Upon a Time,” “Scandal,” and “Quantico.” She worked closely with composer Alan Menken and executive producer Dan Fogelman as the music supervisor on the musical series, “Galavant.” She is founder of the ABC Music Lounge and has produced the on-air music specials, “Nashville: On The Record I, II and III.”

Before ABC, Ms. Solér had her own company, Working Music, where she created several hit soundtracks for New Line Cinema, including “Now And Then,” “Dumb and Dumber” and “Don Juan De Marco,” which garnered both Academy Award and Grammy Award nominations.

Other projects she completed include “Being John Malkovich,” “Princess Diaries I & II,” “Sweet Home Alabama”, “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” and Disney’s “Enchanted,” which garnered three Academy Award and one Grammy nominations, before making her leap from features to television.

In 2015, Ms. Solér was on Billboard’s list of TV’s Top Music Power Players as well as on their Women in Music list (2015 & 2010). Also in 2015, she was honored in Variety’s Women in Power issue, and was on Imagen’s Most Powerful & Influential Latinos list. In 2014, ABC’s music department was named Best Music Department by the Music Supervisor’s Guild.

Ms. Solér writes a blog about empowerment on her The 40 Plus Girl site, is completing a book “The Be A Girl Principals” with her partner Anastasia Brown, and also does speaking engagements on the subject.

Ms. Solér lives in Thousand Oaks with her husband, Sterling of 19 years, their eleven-year-old daughter, Irene, three dogs and 23 chickens and thrives on gardening, cooking, entertaining.
Dominick Spina
Sr. Manager of Market Development, Media & Entertainment

Dominick is Sr. Manager of Market Development, Media & Entertainment for AMD and is based in Los Angeles, CA. He has more than 25 years of experience in the high-technology industry with an emphasis on electronics product design, computer graphics, and software development. His work experience includes establishing GPU rendering development projects at major studios around the world including ILM, Imageworks, Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, Weta and countless others.
Beau W. Stapleton, Esq.
Rosen Law Group

Beau W. Stapleton, Esq. is an entertainment attorney with extensive experience in film, television, music and digital industries. Beau currently represents a diverse collection of companies and creators including producers, composers, writers, directors, production companies and financiers.

Beau has provided legal representation for an array of film and television projects (The Public, Springbreakers, Cooties, War on Everyone, The Clapper, Still the King) and production legal services for companies such as HBO, Viacom, Discovery, Scripts Networks and National Geographic. Beau’s music practice includes award-winning composers (Johann Johannsson - Theory of Everything, Sicario, Blade Runner 2049; Dustin O’Halloran – Transparent, Lion) as well as international music touring companies, music licensing companies, artists, record labels and managers.

Prior to obtaining his law degree, Beau worked for over ten years in the music industry both as an entrepreneur, artist and composer. As an artist, he toured globally and was represented by CAA, Red Light Management, Island Def Jam Records and Universal Music Publishing Group.

Beau has frequently lectured on issues pertaining to copyright and content creation and has been a guest contributor for the music and technology blog Hypebot.com. He is well versed in copyright law and was honored by the Los Angeles Copyrights Society with the Paul Miller Scholarship Award for excellence in the field.

Beau is a partner at Rosen Law Group, a premiere boutiques entertainment law firm in Los Angeles, California. He received his JD from Loyola Law School, is a member of the California State Bar, and a YouTube certified professional.
Luke Taylor
Co-Founder and COO
BondIt Media Capital and Buffalo 8 Productions

Luke Taylor is the co-founder and COO of Buffalo 8 Productions and BondIt Media Capital. Taylor has managed multi-million-dollar film productions, overseen high-level film finance transactions, and served as Executive Producer on multiple award-winning films that have premiered at Sundance, Berlin, and South by Southwest film festivals. In it’s three years of existence, BondIt Media Capital has provided financing for 150 feature films and has established itself as a premiere media financier in the industry, while Buffalo 8 continues to produce high quality content including Indie Spirit Award Nominee, Little Men, Sundance Special Jury Winner, As You Are and most recently the Netflix original Rodney King, premiering in May 2017. Taylor graduated from the University of Southern California and enjoys playing music in his free time.

Please Note: All Creator’s Conference events & speakers are subject to change. All sales are final.