Panelists & Speakers
Catalyst hosts panels, seminars & workshops throughout the year (virtually and in-person) through our Storieroad Institute and annual Content Festival. Check back often for updates!
Recent & upcoming speakers include:
Chaotic Neutral Entertainment
Adam Fratto is an award-winning executive producer with an international track record in TV development, programming, and production, as well as feature films and new media. He recently ran the scripted department for History, overseeing shows like PROJECT BLUE BOOK and VIKINGS, and has produced shows including CLEVERMAN, HAVEN and GREEK.
President and CEO
National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences
Adam Sharp has forged a distinctive career of more than twenty years at the intersection of media, politics and technology. He currently serves as the President and CEO of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. From 2010 through 2016, Sharp was Head of News, Government and Elections at Twitter, advising journalists, news organizations, candidates and government officials in more than 20 nations. He has held leadership roles at NBC News and C-SPAN; is a former President of the bipartisan U.S. Senate Press Secretaries Association and Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations; and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the National Press Foundation, the Advisory Board of the Centre for Responsible Leadership, and the Advisory Board of the Millennium Alliance. An alumnus of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management, and of the Hotchkiss and Greenwich Country Day schools, Sharp lives in his childhood hometown of Stamford, CT, with his wife and young daughter.
Clear Talent Group
Brianna Ancel is Vice President of bi-coastal talent agency Clear Talent Group and a 20+ year veteran of the talent representation business. Her clients can be seen all over TV and streaming as well as in major motion pictures. In addition, Brianna is also the author of the Amazon Best Selling book "10 Top 10s From A 10 Percenter: Over 100 Acting Career Tips From A Hollywood Agent".
Twin Cities Local Board Member & Film Festivals Committee Chair
Casey recently relocated back to the Twin Cities from Los Angeles, where he lived for fifteen years. During that time he worked on USA Network's "Colony," Showtime's "Masters of Sex," "Transparent" on Amazon, and YouTube Red's "Do You Want To See A Dead Body?," as well as multiple independent short films and features, including Princess of the Row. Since returning to Minnesota he has worked on the features Christmas Break-In, Sold Out, and Kendra and Beth. As a member of the SAG-AFTRA Twin Cities Local Board, Casey was an influential team member in the effort to pass the Minnesota Film Production Tax Credit. Casey also chairs the Twin Cities Local Film Festivals Committee, which he helped create, and works in partnership with Catalyst Content Festival.
Actress & Television Writer
Christina Pumariega acts and writes. Her plays “Lei Chiede” and “Her Math Play” have been developed and performed with Joe's Pub, the Lark, Ammunition Theatre Company, Hartford Stage & New Georges. Television writing credits include Turner & Hooch and Bluff City Law. As an actress, Pumariega has cross examined Coach Taylor, made out with The Fly and set a Cuban pharmacy ablaze in a corset. MFA, NYU Graduate Acting Program.
Dinh Thai is a writer/director based in Los Angeles. Born in Vietnam, fled to France, and finally settled in Los Angeles. Dinh’s work blends visual style with realism, focusing on comedy and drama with strong musical influences. His commercial clients include Adidas, Beachbody, T-Mobile, Toyota, and the US Navy. Dinh’s short film, MONDAY, aired on HBO and Cinemax. It has garnered 50+ festival awards, including first place in the inaugural HBO Asian Pacific American Visionaries competition. Along with being an alumnus of the Disney TV Director Program and NBC’s Emerging Director Program, Dinh has shadowed on AMERICAN HORROR STORY (Ryan Murphy's Half-Initiative), and MAYANS M.C. (Touchstone TV). He recently directed an episode of WU-TANG: AN AMERICAN SAGA (205 Visionz) for Hulu as well as season 2’s final episode of NEW AMSTERDAM (218 ‘A Matter of Seconds”). Dinh has co-written an Asian American pilot for Freeform and is actively developing his short film into a TV series while pursuing directing assignments
ERICA A. HART, CSA has appeared in THR as a rising artist and has cast films that have screened at many festivals. THE SURROGATE earned Erica her first Artios win in 2021. TV: THAT DAMN MICHAEL CHE(HBO MAX), BLACK DON'T CRACK (ABC), BUST DOWN (PEACOCK). BWAY: CHICKEN AND BISCUITS & PASS OVER.
Jackie Decembly (Penn)
Born and raised in the Midwest, Jackie graduated from The Ohio State University and attended the University of Cincinnati for graduate school. After several years as a Spanish teacher, Jackie left teaching to pursue a career as a TV writer. Now an LA based 1hr dramedy/drama writer, Jackie’s writing focuses primarily on female-driven stories that explore complicated family dynamics, female friendship and the idea of being a fish out of water. Jackie has worked as a set production assistant, a line producer’s assistant and writers’ production assistant. She was a writers’ assistant on Netflix's Ginny & Georgia and was a staff writer on Disney +’s upcoming show Turner & Hooch. She is currently a story editor for 4400 on the CW.
Creative Team Executive/Producer
Jennifer Plotzke is an award winning actress and producer, a Creative Team Executive at IFT Network and founder of Poor Monster Productions. Appearing in THE SEX LIVES OF COLLEGE GIRLS this fall on HBO Max and also currently appearing in the film FIZZLE opposite Peter Friedman and Geoffrey Owens.
Born and Raised in East Harlem, New York. Josy Rodriguez is a New York native through and through. Starting her career for Bowling Miscia Casting in 2013, she began as an intern where she worked on "Hostages" (CBS) and "Blue Bloods" Season 3, where she moved up to Casting Assistant during season 4 & 5, becoming an Associate for Season 6 - 10 and Eventually, becoming Casting Director in Season 10. Other bodies of work include Gotham (FOX) Season 1-5, Hightown Season 1 and Pilot casting for "Difficult People" (Hulu) with Ann Goulder. She is currently working on Season 12 of Blue Bloods and just wrapped the anticipated Amazon series "Harlem".
Writer / Showrunner
Big Sun Productions
Writer showrunner. The King's Man, His Only Living Boy (Ben Affleck) Courage. Salvation Day. Oblivion (Tom Cruise), The November Man (Pierce Brosnan) Trespass. Showrunner (S1) Stranger Things. Co-creator Last Resort with Shawn Ryan. Riverview with Daren Aronofsky. Dead Like Me.
Katie Locke O'Brien
Actor & Director
Katie Locke O’Brien hails from New Hampshire and got her start as an actress appearing on “Justified,” “Weeds,” “Community,” “Chuck,” “Cooper Barrett’s Guide to Surviving Life” and Showtime’s “I’m Dying Up Here.” She was recruited to direct pilot presentations for “Bryan Callen Saves the World” starring Bryan Callen (“The Goldbergs”) and for “Clean State” starring comedian Ismo Leikola. Katie was selected for the 2018 inaugural class of NBC’s Female Forward Initiative for female episodic directors and has directed multiple episodes of NBC’s A.P. Bio and Perfect Harmony, and will be directing three single-camera comedy episodes in the spring of 2019. She is repped by Gersh and Echo Lake Entertainment.
Prior to co-founding TheMachine, Kevin was a top agent leading the charge into digital markets at The Gersh Agency. Starting January 1, 2016 Kevin left his position at Gersh to found a management firm focused on digital stars and showrunners with the goal of guiding them through the ever changing landscape of digital entertainment. Since he has produced RHINO with Gunpowder and Sky, co-executive produced and showran WeAreCVNT5 for Complex.
Executive Assistant//Showrunner's Assistant to Krista Vernoff
ABC // Disney (Grey's Anatomy, Station 19)
Currently, MaryLynn is the showrunners’ assistant to Krista Vernoff (Grey’s Anatomy, Station 19). A bi-coastal writer/producer based in LA, she spent the previous eight years of her career in NYC. MaryLynn produced an award-winning web series, Catalyst Content Festival, performed in several Off-Broadway shows, and other streaming content during her time in NYC. Since moving to LA, MaryLynn produced three short films, production coordinated a feature with Lynda Carter, Shelly Long and Luke Wilson, and UPM’d on various sets.
Walter Masterson Network
Maximilian Clark has been coming to Catalyst since 2014 as a writer and director, winning best short at the 2019 fest with his horror film Lose It. Since the pandemic, he has collaborated with over 30 Catalyst alumni to create a 13 episode audio drama Superhuman Public Radio. Currently he works through his depression by trolling anti-vaxxers and Qanon cultists with Walter Masterson. You can find him on TikTok @logicmax
Melodie Bahan was appointed Executive Director of MN Film & TV in June 2017. Previously, she served as the Director of Communications for the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, overseeing all media relations, publications and online content. During her 10 years at the Guthrie, she supervised press relations for all aspects of the Theater, including the work on the stage as well as the construction and opening of the new Jean Nouvel-designed Guthrie on the banks of the Mississippi River.
Prior to joining the Guthrie, Melodie spent 10 years in New York, where she served as the president of the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women. She worked in community relations for New York City Comptroller Elizabeth Holtzman as well as on several political campaigns.
Brand Ambassador, Investment and Tourism
Country of Namibia
29 years of experience in media, Michelle is an internationally recognized model, television personality, emcee, speaker, entrepreneur and philanthropist. She started her international modeling career at 13 and went on to win the Miss Universe title in 1992 at the age of 19 for Namibia. While living in Los Angeles from 1992 to 1995 she studied acting in Hollywood. As a television host and producer for 26 years, she did many shows ranging from a reality model search program, showcasing celebrity homes, fashion, sports and travel documentaries. Her clients include among others; The World Economic Forum, Puma, Revlon, Levi Strauss, Volvo, Nike, Ford Motor Company, YouTube, MTV, Fortune Magazine, Louis Vuitton and the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
The Willing Collective (Production Company)
Nikki is an actor, writer, producer & popcorn addict. Named "Best Creator in a Comedy" by Asia Web Awards for her award-winning series, AWKWARDLY, she is the founder of The Willing Collective production company & the host of the industry interview series, SCRIBBLE & POINT. Trained at Syracuse University, The PIT in NYC & London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, she's played a number of Shakespeare's ladies, a host of British twits, and originated the role of Hannah in the dark comedy, WINDFALL, directed by Jason Alexander. With a background in stand-up comedy, sketch & improv, she found her niche... and extra snacks... creating orignal series with her favorite humans, and has several projects currently in development. Nikki is repped by Goodman, Genow, Schenkman, Smelkinson & Christopher, LLP and KMR & WSM Talent, commercially.
Head of Multimedia
United Nations Population Fund
At UNICEF, Priyanka's work involves the development and production of original video content that aims to generate and maintain public interest in children’s rights. She oversees all aspects of the production process and works on video strategy across platforms.
Priyanka has been instrumental in transforming the substantive and stylistic ways in which UNICEF uses visual storytelling to convey its message, drive advocacy, reach new audiences and deepen engagement with existing audiences. Priyanka develops creative guidance for video crews as well as production companies involved in content creation. She has been UNICEF's creative lead for award-winning videos produced with global agencies including McCann, 180 LA and Grey.
Chief Production Officer
Upper Midwest Film Office
McManus was part of a group that formed the first MN film commission, MN Film and TV Board. She was past President of the Board as well as Interim Director. She then went on to open MN first casting company, Riki Wuolle Casting Company and her first Feature Film Casting was Purple Rain. After moving to Duluth she started the Upper MN Film Office. The office was just recently changed to a full time non profit office with the birth of the St. Louis County Incentive and also changing the name to the Upper Midwest Film Office with the intent of serving a larger geographic area.
Actor, Writer, Director
Repped by WME & Management 360
Sonja O’Hara is the Emmy nominated creator and star of DOOMSDAY. She was chosen as one of the “10 Filmmakers To Watch” by Independent Magazine, past recipients include MOONLIGHT’s Barry Jenkins. She is currently in post-production on her third feature and is represented by WME & Management 360.
Head of Content and Creative Development
Thom Woodley is the Head of Creative Development at Rizzle, the fastest growing vertical video app. Previously he was known for his work for CollegeHumor, many of the first webseries ever made and some of the “most interesting” commercials you’ve ever seen.
Three Point Capital
Viviana began her career in the entertainment industry working in production accounting at Millennium Films and Bold Films. She then spent 5 years at Lionsgate, where she started working in the accounting department and segued into the finance division, specifically, profit participation. In 2013, she joined Three Point Capital, a boutique firm that specializes in senior lending on film and television projects. While at Three Point Capital, Viviana has been involved in the financing of over 120 independent films, and worked with such producers as Cassian Elwes, Robert Barnum, Anthony Bregman, James Schamus, Aaron Gilbert, Kimberly Steward, Nicolas Chartier, and Kevin Frakes, among others. As Vice President, Viviana closes the financing on every film that the company is involved in, as well as manages the company's operations in its satellite offices (Ohio and Louisiana). Viviana has received over 30 Executive Producers credits on titles she has financed. Viviana is a member of the Producers Guild Association, Film Independent, and Women In Film.
Caissie St. Onge
Caissie is an Emmy nominated writer & producer who has worked with David Letterman, Rosie O’Donnell, Joan Rivers, Graham Norton, Bette Midler, Andy Cohen, Tina Fey, Busy Philipps & many of your favorite comedians. She co-hosts the Podcast Busy Philipps Is Doing Her Best.
Chris Pfaff Tech Media LLC
Chris Pfaff is a leading new media and technology producer and strategist. He is renowned for integrating leading-edge technology into the media and entertainment community. He served on the Board of Directors of the PGA for 5 years, and is vice chair of the VR/AR Association.
Daniel Willis is a writer/director from Chicago. His short films and television projects have screened at festivals including The HBO Short Film Competition, The Chicago International Television Festival, ITVFest and The New York Television Festival. Wednesday, Daniel’s latest short film, has been licensed by HBO. Daniel’s TV directing credits include Freeform/Hulu’s Cruel Summer, ABC’s The Rookie, NBC’s The Blacklist, and ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy. On the writing front, Daniel recently served as Writer/Producer for the Lena Waithe produced comedy series: Twenties.
Highs and Lohs Productions
Elaine Loh spent a decade as a working actor before becoming a writer on The CW’s Dynasty and HBO Max’s Gossip Girl. Her short form series, Doxxed, won a Telly Award, Best Achievement at Raindance, and Best Short Comedy at the Catalyst Film Festival. She is a Silver Prize winner of the prestigious PAGE Awards and an HBO Writing Fellow.
Goodman, Genow, Schenkman, Smelkinson & Christopher
Hannah Mulderink represents writers, directors, producers and actors in connection with their film and television deals. She has been in private practice for 8 years and was previously a business affairs executive at Lionsgate Television.
Jacob Krueger Studios
The founder of Jacob Krueger Studio, Jacob has worked with thousands of writers, from Academy and Tony Award Winners, to beginning writers picking up the pen for the first time. Jacob is a WGA Paul Selvin Award Winning screenwriter, playwright, producer and director.
Jacob’s first produced movie, the Emmy Award Winning “The Matthew Shepard Story” (2002) won him the Writers Guild of America Paul Selvin Award and a Gemini Nomination for Best Screenplay.
Creators Writing Room
In 2019, Jason started at CBS as the Manager of Development under the production deal of Glenn Geller (former President of CBS Studios). Glenn and Jason then went on to run Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa’s production company (Creators of HOMELAND and 24) under their overall deal with Sony Pictures TV. Currently, Jason works directly with Sony Studios, helping manage all of their TV Drama projects in development. He’s Co-Founder of The Creators Writing Room with Lee Aronsohn (Co-Creator TWO AND A HALF MEN, Exec. Producer BIG BANG THEORY) where they teach TV pitch classes and hold free zoom shows to help up-and-coming Creators looking to break into the business.
Refuge Productions, Inc.
Jessica Goldberg started her career as a playwright. Her play REFUGE won the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, and she went on to adapt and direct it as a feature film starring Krysten Ritter. Jessica’s television work includes NBC’s Parenthood. She created and executive produced critically acclaimed THE PATH, with Aaron Paul, Michelle Monaghan and Hugh Dancy that ran for three seasons on Hulu. She served as Executive Producer and Showrunner of AWAY for Netflix starring Hillary Swank. Jessica’s work on Away won her a Gracie Award for Showrunner, and a Media Access Award. Jessica’s film work includes ALEX OF VENICE directed by Chris Messina, and the recent Apple original movie CHERRY directed by the Russo Brothers starring Tom Holland. She is currently writing a movie about The Golden Record with director Sebastian Leilo; and adapting the novel STILL LIVES by Maria Hummel for Hulu.
Jordan Elizabeth Gelber
CEO & Founder
Aperteur Network /Starbaby Enterprises
Jordan Elizabeth Gelber is an award-winning actress, producer, creative business strategist, and the CEO of Starbaby Enterprises, a marketing and production firm specializing in creating and curating content at a grassroots level. In 2021, Jordan launched the exclusive Content Pipeline and OTT platform - "Aperteur Network" for Content Creators to showcase their work internationally while having a professional team behind them pitching their unique IP to big box distributors.
Passionate television, comedy and podcast executive that successfully blends experience working on all sides of the industry – network, production company, talent agency and podcast producer/talent booker – with a keen eye for emerging talent, IP and a deep list of contacts. For over a decade Justine thrived at top companies such as Avalon Television, AMC Networks, Creative Artists Agency, Tina Brown Live Media and Don Buchwald and Associates.
Kat and Peter Hargrave
Kat- Senior Agent // Peter- Actor
Kat's an agent. Peter's an actor. Together, they're passionate about helping each facet of the industry understand each other better. From drafting a pitch email to curating a lifelong business relationship, Kat and Peter discuss effective ways to increase agency at your agency and ensure your representation authentically represents you.
Catalyst Content Festival
Kimberley is a filmmaker based in LA and is a Senior Programmer for Catalyst Content Festival. She also is an Associate Short Film Programmer at Tribeca Film Festival. She has been the Executive Producer of HBO ACCESS since 2015, and is now part of the new WarnerMedia ACCESS Programs team.
Sennott, Williams, Rogers
Matthew Valentinas advises an array of clients covering all transactional entertainment matters including authors, screenwriters, directors, producers, production companies, publishers, life-story rights, estate rights, comedians, broadcasters, actors, podcasters, and radio and television personalities. Matthew has also held business affairs positions for a major studio, an international sales agency, and two independent film and television distributors. In his role as production counsel for projects Matthew handles everything from loan-out company formation and production financing through development, pre-production, production, post-production, sales and exhibition. Matthew also serves as an Executive Producer on numerous film and television and digital media productions through Mom’s Basement Media Inc. which packages and produces projects based on rights acquired or represented by Matthew. Matthew received his BFA in film and television production from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and earned his JD from Suffolk University Law School. He is admitted to practice in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts.
Melanie Marnich is an award-winning television writer-producer and playwright. She currently serves as executive producer and co-showrunner for the upcoming Amazon series, The Expatriates. She’s written for Big Love on HBO; Showtime’s The Big C and The Affair (as co-executive producer); and for AMC’s Low Winter Sun. She also served as co-executive producer on The OA for Netflix. Her episode, “Come, Ye Saints” for Big Love earned her a Writers’ Guild award nomination for best drama episode. It was also named Best Television Episode of 2009 by Entertainment Weekly, rated third in TIME Magazine’s list of 10 Best TV episodes of 2009, and ranked in TV Guide’s 100 Best Episodes of All Time. She received a Golden Globe for her work on The Affair. She’s developed work with HBO, AMC, Joel Silver’s Silver Pictures, Amblin, Scott Free and TNT. Her plays have been produced at Manhattan Theatre Club, The Kennedy Center, Dallas Theater Center, Baltimore Center Stage, Steppenwolf Theatre Company and The Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Humana Festival. She is a member of The Playwrights’ Center and an alum of New Dramatists. She also serves on the board of trustees for the Humanitas Foundation.
A Little Bit of Good Productions
Michelle’s career has has a circuitous path from her Broadway bound days as a singer and an actor, founding and fundraising multiple arts-driven non-profits, to her work on Cannes and Netflix featured documentaries as a consultant, or her Emmy nominated work on an adventure sports series she produced and shot. Michelle just recently finished her MFA in writing for stage and screen and her documentary play on reuniting families separated at the border, To Welcome the Stranger, is in talks for publication and production in the hopes it sparks much needed conversation. Whether it is singing with the Boston Pops, teaching in India with the Shanti Bhavan School, at her core Michelle is a storyteller and activist.
Founder & President
Beast of the East Productions
Ramfis Myrthil is a founding partner and the current President of Beast of the East Productions. Applying an East Coast ethic to the world of film and media, Ramfis produces stories that uplift unheard voices and reflect the best parts of his community.
Seitu Jemel Hart
Seitu is the first and former CEO of Careers in Entertainment (CIE) founded by the Will & Jada Smith Family Foundation. CIE a premier social impact initiative powered by WJSFF was founded to expose aspirational youth and their families to the plethora of jobs available in the entertainment industry. Today Seitu continues to work to provide more access, opportunity, and inclusion in the entertainment industry with a particular lens on film & television. His work is largely in two buckets: seeding and developing narrative change/storytelling while exposing secondary and post-secondary students and their families to careers in front of and behind the camera.
Sofia Monroe is an Entrepreneur, Producer, Director and Community Strategist.She is a part of several teams and owns Daymaker Productions which develops programs, consults and creates quality content for social and community impact, commercial and entertainment purposes.
Alta Global Media
Award winning Manager/Producer Steven Adams is a Founding Partner at Alta Global Media where he represents international media companies and talent. Adams is a producer on the Netflix Original adaptation of Roger Guenveur Smith’s solo performance piece RODNEY KING and the Peabody Award winning A HUEY P NEWTON STORY for Starz, both directed by Academy Award winner Spike Lee. Adams recently collaborated on the marketing of 2 seasons Spike Lee’s hit series Netflix SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT, and the Academy Award winning BLACKKKLANSMAN.
National Chair, Sponsorships & Partnerships
National Academy TV Arts & Sciences
Tim is a specialist in broadcast and web based video content services for a marketing and media affairs advisory, practicing in New England & Canada. He has two New England Emmy Awards as Writer/Director/Producer, among his 28 Emmy Nominations during his 25 plus year career in New England. He is a Part-Time Professor at sister schools in the Vermont Sate College System: since January 2014 teaching in the Visual Arts, English/Philosophy/Film and Business Departments at NVU-Lyndon; since Spring of 2016 teaching in the Business department at NVU-Johnson and in 2016 named Co-Director of NVU’s incubator Without Walls, that supports small business development with experienced student labor. With a nod to media industry development, in 2012 he was named inaugural Marketing Chairman for the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences until 2018 when it was incorporated into his new role: Co-Chair of Strategic Planning. He served as National Trustee in 2010-2012, after two terms as President of the New England Chapter and Founding Co-Chair of Presidents Council for NATAS, from 2006 to 2010. In 2018 he was elected to the NH House of Representatives for Grafton District #2.