by | Sep 18, 2012 | 2012 Seminar Panels

SUNDAY OCTOBER 14, 10am-12noon

Panel 4

Venue: The Gallery Conference Room: 1125 N McCadden Place Los Angeles, CA 90038

Finance and Distribution: Getting Money in a down economy!

We explore all the possibilities of getting money for your film. We have an expert panel of entertainment professionals that will give you all the possible ways you can access financing and distribution venues or at least get you started. Q & A to follow.


Deborah Gilels

Deborah Gilels

Deborah Gilels currently is a media consultant representing screenwriters, directors, actors, production companies and book authors.  Consulting duties include project development and packaging, public relations and marketing.
From January 2002 – August 2004, Deborah was an executive/consultant for Media Design Institute, a Japanese/American media company where she was instrumental in the creation of a video-on-demand/satellite network financed by NTT-Data, the content coming from the Lion’s Gate and Echelon Entertainment, as well as acquired film/television product for the Japanese territory (Television, Video/DVD).
Deborah also created and produced MAJESTIC STUDIO, an entertainment talk show for Japan television. Covering all aspects of the movie business and Hollywood, past participants include: actors Rachel Leigh Cook, Sean Astin, Charlize Theron, Diane Lane, Will Yun Lee and Lainie Kazan, A-List directors Paul Verhoeven, Peter Jackson and Jay Russell, Oscar winning producers Barrie Osborne, Lawrence Turman and Mark Johnson, and esteemed writer/director Nicholas Meyer. MAJESTIC STUDIO premiered in Japan October 2003, and is now being shown on SkyPerfect TV and Coming Soon TV, as well on several networks in Korea.
After attending both the University of Miami and Harvard University, Deborah moved to New York to work in the talent management office of famed musician Lionel Hampton.  She went on to work in the literary and audience development departments at several top theater companies in Manhattan including: the Second Stage, American Place Theater, Theater of the Open Eye and Prism Theater.  She also served as the Producing Director of Prism Theater’s 1985 Season and produced a slate of plays including ROCK ISLAND, which was nominated for an Oppenheimer Award.
In 1986, Deborah relocated to Los Angeles, where she worked in motion picture and television development for producers Kent Bateman and David Permut, studios such as Tri Star and Twentieth Century Fox, as well as The Agency, Innovative Artists and Leading Artists (UTA).  In 1988, she was a producer on NBC’s CROSSING THE MOB, which starred Jason Bateman.

In 1990, Deborah became Vice President of Production at Blue Ribbon Films, supervising the company’s television deal at Warner Brothers and feature film distribution deal at foreign sales company PFG Entertainment.  While at Blue Ribbon she also developed film projects for JVC, LIVE Entertainment (Artisan), Disney/Hollywood Pictures and Republic Pictures, as well as for actors Jean Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren and the late Brandon Lee.  Among the projects she produced and developed are: SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO (Warner Brothers/1992), PENTATHLON (LIVE/1994) and SPECTRE (Hollywood Pictures), a WWII action drama written by the late Donald Stewart.
In 1995, Deborah founded Torch Productions and currently has several projects in various stages of development and production.  Among her collaborators past and present are actors Robert Duvall, Reese Witherspoon, Rachel Leigh Cook and Bill Pullman; writers and directors Hossein Amini, A. Scott Berg,  Allan Scott, Gail Gilchriest, John Bishop, Michael Hirst, Nicholas Meyer, Jay Russell and Paul Verhoeven.

Companies and producers she has been in business include Lucas Foster/Warp Films, Touchstone/Hollywood Pictures, Hearst Entertainment, ESPN, Phoenix Pictures, Baltimore/Spring Creek, Wind Dancer Films, DIC, Talent Entertainment Group, Alive Entertainment, First Look International and New Line Cinema.
In 1999, Deborah joined New Line based Kahn-Power Pictures as a creative consultant where she developed feature films, MOW’s and series with producer Ilene Kahn Power (GIA, STALIN).

An avid sports enthusiast, Deborah created and executive produced a documentary for ESPN in association with Hearst Entertainment entitled BEARING THE TORCH: A HISTORY OF POLITICS & THE GAMES, which aired as the network’s Olympic special in June of 1996.  The show featured celebrities such as Henry Kissinger, Mark Spitz and David Wolper.

She is currently a Consulting Producer for 2 features slated for production, TARANTULA, starring Danny Trejo and A DOLL’S HOUSE, starring Ben Kingsley, Julian Sands and Michele Martin.

Deborah has also lead seminars for the USC Film School Writer’s Program and been a guest lecturer at UCLA Extension School and LA Film School.
Deborah loves to develop companies and projects- from promotion through fruition.


Tracy Byrd

Tracy Byrd

Jumping the Broom, Notorious and Stomp the Yard casting director, Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd worked her magic again with the upcoming film Sparkle set for an August 10th nationwide release starring the late Whitney Houston, Mike Epps (The Hangover, Next Friday), Cee-Lo Green (The Voice, Kang Fu Panda soundtrack) and the acting debut of season 6 American Idol winner, Jordin Sparks.

Today, Byrd is known as the “diamond finder of new talent” for bringing such now known actors as Michael Kenneth Williams (Boardwalk Empire), Naturi Naughton (Notorious, The Playboy Club), Columbus Short (The Girl is in Trouble, Scandal, Stomp the Yard), Laz Alonso (Jumping the Broom, Avatar) and too many other Diamond’s to name with security not being present!

The Sparkle casting director has been busy as ever in 2012.  Most recently, Byrd was a panelist at the African Black Film Festival (ABFF) in Miami, FL as part of the Beyond the Barriers and Biases – Black Women in Hollywood panel.  Byrd’s upcoming projects include the feature film Filly Brown, BET’s new hour-long dramatic series Being Mary Jane starring Gabrielle Union (Think Like A Man, Good Deeds), created by husband-and-wife producing duo Mara Brock Akil (Sparkle, Cougar Town, The Game, Girlfriends, Jumping the Broom) and Salim Akil (Sparkle, Jumping the Broom, The Game, Girlfriends). Byrd is currently casting Fruitvale with Octavia Spencer, Michael B. Jordan and Tristan Wilds for the Sundance Lab 2013 and casting an untitled show starring rapper Diggy Simmons (son of RUN of RUN DMC).

Byrd’s career started over a decade ago with casting music videos for Madonna, Black Eyed Peas, Outkast, Fall Out Boy and Blink 182.  Byrd then set her sights on feature films both theatrical and television and has never looked back.  With Byrd’s unparalleled success in music, television, and film, she is rightfully considered one of the best casting directors in the business.

Byrd’s knack for casting the hottest and most talented entertainers continues to make her stand out from her peers and is no more apparent then Jordin Sparks and Cee-Lo Green making their big screen debut in Sparkle.  Her genius showed in Jumping the Broom by casting Paula Patton and Laz Alonso who went on to win the 2012 NAACP Image Award for the Leading Man in a Movie.  Byrd became “notorious” after casting Jamal Woolard, Angela Basset, Derek Luke and Anthony Mackie for the Fox Searchlight film Notorious.  Her eye for spotting talent was crucial for casting Stomp the Yard and Stomp The Yard: Homecoming, and she didn’t disappoint with Grammy award winner Chris Brown, Grammy nominated artist Ne-Yo, Harry Lennix, Laz Alonso and Colombus Short.

Melody Djavadi

Melody Djavadi

Melody Djavadi is a graduate from Chapman University, where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Business Marketing & Film Studies. She arrived at Shoreline with managerial experience at a renowned five-star hotel. Since coming on board she has attended festivals and markets including Cannes, American Film Market, Sundance, Berlin and Australia. She now heads the acquisitions department.


Megan O’Brien

Megan Obrian

Megan O’Brien is Senior Vice President, Business Affairs for Fox Searchlight, which she joined as head of business affairs in July 2008.  Ms. O’Brien oversees all production, acquisition, finance, distribution, rights and talent negotiations and agreements for the division and has worked on such films as HITCHCOCK, BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, THE SESSIONS, THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL, THE TREE OF LIFE, THE DESCENDANTS, BLACK SWAN, 127 HOURS, NEVER LET ME GO, CYRUS, CRAZY HEART, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE and THE WRESTLER.  Prior to joining Fox Searchlight, Ms. O’Brien headed up business affairs for Fox Atomic where she was Vice President of Business Affairs.  Prior to Fox Atomic, Ms. O’Brien was Senior Counsel at Twentieth Century Fox Theatrical Legal Affairs. She began her career at Fox with Fox Interactive in 1999, where she handled production, distribution, rights, and talent agreements for the video game division.  Prior to joining Fox, Ms. O’Brien began her legal career at Kulik, Gottesman & Mouton focusing on intellectual property rights litigation.  Ms. O’Brien received her law degree from Southwestern Law School and is a graduate of USC.

Susan Simms

Susan Simms is the Los Angeles Liaison for the Florida Governor’s Office of Film & Entertainment. She is responsible for all aspects of the operation of the LA office and has worked on over 6000 motion picture, television, commercial, documentary and still photography projects since relocating to Los Angeles in January of 1994. Her office acts as the primary liaison between West Coast clients, state government and the network of 54 local film offices throughout the State of Florida.

Prior to moving to LA, Susan was President of Multi-Media Marketing in Orlando, FL, a full-service entertainment marketing company specializing in motion picture and television development, promotion and packaging. Her clients included independent motion picture and television producers and production companies, large format production companies, toy designers and manufacturers and international still photographers and videographers.

Before that she was a partner in Chameleon Entertainment Group, specializing in co-productions with Latin American partners and, prior to that was Director of Marketing for Storer Entertainment Group, where her duties included assisting in the opening of six large format theaters in China. Preceding, she was the Vice President of Land and Leisure Advertising and was responsible for all major clients along the Eastern seaboard. She began her career working for Bob Hope, packaging his quarterly television specials and promoting his signature Bob Hope Desert Classic in Palm Springs.

Susan is a founder of the Florida Chapter of Women in Film, a member of Women in Film/Los Angeles, and an Advocate member of the American Film Institute. She was the co-founder of thpe Central Florida Film Institute, co-founder of the Central Florida Film Council and a board member of the Florida Entertainment Commission.

Tony Safford

Tony Safford

Tony Safford is head of Worldwide Acquisitions for Twentieth Century Fox, a position which combines both creative and business skills to acquire film projects for all Fox divisions, domestic and international, including Fox Searchlight. Recent film acquisitions include Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Tree of Life, Shame, Martha Marcy May Marlene and the upcoming The Sessions. 

Prior to joining Fox in 1996, he was Senior VP of Acquisitions at Miramax. Before this, he was an acquisitions executive with New Line Cinema. Between 1985 and 1990, Tony was the Program Director of the Sundance Film Festival. He also worked at the American Film Institute (Washington, D.C.) and Walker Art Center (Minneapolis).

He has a B.A. and M.A., respectively, from U.C.S.B. and the University of Iowa.

Julia Verdin

Julia Verdin

British Producer JULIA VERDIN has established herself as one of Hollywood’s leading independent Producers having produced to date 30 feature films. Julia has produced several critically acclaimed theatrical releases such as the Newmarket release STANDER, starring Tom Jane, Deborah Unger, Dexter Fletcher and David O’Hara directed by Bronwen Hughes, Sony Classics release MERCHANT OF VENICE, directed by Michael Radford, starring Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons and Joseph Fiennes December, and RIDING THE BULLET based on a Steven King story directed by Mick Garris starring David Arquette, Jonathan Jackson, Erica Christensen and Barbara Hershey, released theatrically autumn 2004.  Her faith based film THE LEAST AMONG YOU starring Lou Gossett Jnr, Lauren Holly and William Devane was in several major festivals including The Palm Springs International festival  released by Lionsgate and recently premiering on Showtime, it was  nominated for  the 2012 NAACP awards for outstanding Television movie  and best lead actor.

Just finished and starting the festival circuit is TWO JACKS  based on Leo Tolstoy short story “Two Hussars” directed by Bernard Rose starring Danny Huston, Jack Huston, Sienna Miller ,Jacqueline Bisset, and Billy Zane.  She has also just Executive produced BORN OF WAR directed by Vicky Jewson starring James Frain and Sophia Black D’Elia.  Next up is Julia will be Executive producing ELSA AND FRED – a remake of the one of the top grossing Mexican films  and SURVIVING CHRISTMAS written and to be directed by Oscar nominated film maker James Dearden and will be also be a co-producer on William Gibson’s NEUROMANCER to be direct by Vincenzo Natali.
Projects in development include family film RILEY PARKS to be directed by Jeffrey Obrow, comedy THE HOMECOMING QUEEN GOES DOWN, ,ROMEO SPY, a Spy story to be directed by Bronwen Hughes (Stander), AN INVISIBLE ARMY to be directed by Eva Gardos, a powerful story about a single mother taking a high paying but dangerous job as a military supplies driver to support her kids.  CURTAINS written by Cynthia Riddle – a wonderful drama about the colourful and flamboyant famous french actress Sarah Bernhardt.
Some of the films she produced earlier in her career include  I WITNESS directed by Rowdy Harrington, starring Jeff Daniels and James Spader, GREEN MAIL starring Steven Baldwin and Tom Skerritt, THE SHIPMENT starring Mathew Modine and Nick Turturro and Elisabeth Berkley, THE CONTAMINATED MAN starring William Hurt, Peter Weller and Natascha McElhone and STYX starring Peter Weller, Angus MacFayden and Brian Brown, directed by Alex Wright and all for Promark. BALLAD OF THE NIGHTINGALE with Virginia Madsen, Maria Cuccinota (Il Postino) Seymour Cassell, Michael Madsen and Harry Dean Stanton and LONE HERO directed by Ken Sanzel starring Lou Diamond Philips, Sean Patrick Flanery and Robert Forester, SLIPSTREAM starring Sean Astin and Vinnie Jones, and THE SET UP, a bank heist thriller based on a James Hadley Chase best-selling novel, which stars Billy Zane, James Coburn, Mia Sara and James Russo for MGM/Showtime and TEMPTATION, an action-packed revenge thriller for Dino De Laurentiis Communications starring Jeff Fahey, David Keith and Alison Doody both directed by Strathford Hamilton.
Julia started in the entertainment business as an actress and appeared in several British films and popular British TV series and  worked regularly as a TV presenter on various  international TV shows such as  HOLLYWOOD UPDATE and  the British entertainment series INVITATIONS on which she as well as hosting, co–produced the LA segments.  Whilst utilizing her literary skills doing story reports on various director and producer friends scripts, she landed a job running the development section of a new British film financing entity WASA films. Quickly impressing her employees with her initiative and talent relationships she was soon promoted to Head of Production.  During her four years at WASA, Julia was involved in setting up THE FOURTH PROTOCOL, based on Frederick Forsythe’s best seller, starring Michael Caine, Pierce Brosnan and Joanna Cassidy. Julia then went on to produce SPYTRAP, a comedy directed by Arthur Sherman and released in the U.S. by Hemdale. Following this, she produced THE OPEN WINDOW, directed by Rupert Wainwright for Chanticleer, which premiered on Showtime.  Before leaving WASA, Julia also developed two projects, A WITCH IN NEW YORK and JUNK JOHNSON, which were picked up by Orion and Pathe/MGM studios.  When the film division of the company closed down Julia was kept on for a year as a consultant, supervising the continued development of the studio optioned properties at the same time as moving to Los Angeles to start her own company.

One of Julia’s many strengths is her excellent talent connections and knowing how to acquire the talent and structure a stellar cast around a great script and get amazing production value for a very reasonable budget. She has strong story sense and great development skills in working with writers. She has a great passion for film and excellent industry knowledge. She is also very experienced in on set producing, great people skills and has managed to bring in all the films she has hands on produced on time and on budget. She has good knowledge of tax incentive deals and has shot films in many different locations worldwide.  Julia also recently served for 3 years on the board of Seven Arts Pictures PLC a public film production and foreign sales company – this experience gave her good insight into the workings of the foreign sales and distribution side of the business as well as the corporate side of the business.  She also has extensive talent packaging knowledge and has cast many feature films for others as well as acquiring the name talent for her own productions herself. Julia has also served as a director on the board of BAFTA for 6 years.  As well as owning and  running her own film production company – Rough Diamond Productions in Los Angeles for the last 18 years.  She also owns a management company Rough Diamond Management representing many talented actors witch has been in business for 17 years. Julia likes to find a good balance in the films she produces of main stream commercial fare, interesting films that highlight important social issues and intelligent eclectic films that she believes in. She is very passionate about the business and over the years has spoken on many panels, is in demand as a consultant for other indie producers and production companies and has also helped up and coming talent get their foot in the door. She is based in Los Angeles and still maintains a base in London.