Business Symposium Speakers

Joe Alter, Principal, Joe Alter Inc
Joe Alter has been working in CG since 1985 at studios like ILM, DreamWorks, and Film Roman in various  roles as artist, developer, and director. In 1998, he created an innovative hair rendering/simulation product on his own called Shave and a Haircut which has received a US patent and has been licensed into 3ds Max and Softimage XSI and is still sold as a plugin for Maya. Still operating off his web site, he and his team are also known for LipService, a set of animation/sculpting/rigging tools that boils down a large chunk of the high-end multi-res character animation pipelines that you find in the larger studios into a single, tightly integrated and easy-to-use Maya plugin and is sold around the world. No stranger to licensing, he has signed licensing deals with Autodesk, Avid, Maxon, and several large and well known studios.

Meredith Amdur, VP Digital Strategy, DirecTV
Meredith Amdur focuses on identifying, evaluating, and driving the launch of new online-based products, features, and services within DirecTV's recently created Digital Entertainment Products Group. Prior to joining DirecTV in 2013, she served as General Manager of Strategy/M&A for Microsoft's Online Services Division, responsible for strategic planning and development for Bing, MSN, and Microsoft Advertising. Before joining Microsoft, she served as a management consultant with Deloitte Consulting's Technology, Media and Telecoms practice in New York. She spent 15 years in business-information publishing, covering the film, television, and digital media industries in the US, Europe, and Asia, serving as the New York bureau chief of VARIETY and before that as Editorial Director and EVP of Informa Telecoms & Media. She is a member of the board of directors of Wanted Technologies. She holds an MBA from Cornell University, an MSc from the London School of Economics, and a BA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

 

Phil Ashcroft, Independent Producer
Phil Ashcroft has over 14 years of global media experience in major markets, including delivery of productions on television, online, and mobile, and most recently the launch of a YouTube network. As general manager of Participant Media’s YouTube business, Phil was responsible for the launch and operation of TakePart TV, part of the YouTube Originals program. He commissioned pioneering shows including a series with Kobe Bryant, where he spent a night in a shelter on skid row, highlighting the plight of the homeless. In the lead-up to the recent US election, he worked with Henry Rollins on his "Capitalism" tour, a 50-dates-in-50-states series of live events about the issues that matter, which culminated in a live broadcast on the eve of the election in DC. Following on from Dan Savage’s "It Gets Better: campaign, Phil commissioned Dan to produce short-form programming on sexuality and partnered on a Google+ hangout on national "It Gets Better" day. Prior to Participant, he worked for over 10 years at BBC Worldwide in a number of different roles. As CEO of Island Nation Media, he produced, licensed, and financed several award-winning digital shows. He is currently consulting with a number of production companies and technology firms.

 

Robert C. Berger
Bob Berger is an organizational development and leadership consultant. He served in the US Air Force as a pilot and as a faculty member in the Behavioral Sciences and Leadership Department at the US Air Force Academy. Following his Air Force career, he was a leadership consultant and research analyst at USAA, a financial services company in San Antonio. He also worked at The SCOOTER Store, the nation’s largest provider of power mobility devices for the elderly and disabled. He served in a variety of roles at The SCOOTER Store, including as Dean of the Corporate University and as the Chief Marketing Officer. He has consulted with SIGGRAPH as part of the annual conference planning process since 2000. He has a DPhil in experimental psychology from Oxford University, where his dissertation research integrated theories of visual perception with brain science.

 

Farchad Bidgolirad, R&D Supervisor, Ubisoft Motion Pictures
Farchad Bidgolirad is R&D supervisor at Ubisoft Motion Pictures, where he is responsible for creating tools and implementing software for film, television and web-series projects. Ubisoft is a major producer, publisher, and distributor of video games and the third-largest independent game publisher worldwide. Ubisoft Motion Pictures, created in 2011, is focused on bringing Ubisoft’s successful video game brands to cinema and television. With 20 years of experience, he benefits from insights into both sides of the production process. Starting his career as a software engineer, he worked for six years at Alias|Wavefront before moving to post-production at Medialab and Duran-Duboi. He joined Ubisoft in 2009 and now explores the ever-growing synergies between video games and movies.

 

Mark Bolas, Associate Director, USC Institute for Creative Technologies
Mark Bolas is a researcher exploring perception, agency, and intelligence. His work focuses on creating virtual environments and transducers that fully engage one's perception and cognition, and create a visceral memory of the experience. He is the associate director for mixed reality research and development at ICT. He is also an associate professor of interactive media in the Interactive Media Division of the USC School of Cinematic Arts. In addition, he is the chairman of Fakespace Labs in Mountain View, California, which Bolas co-founded to build instrumentation for research labs to explore virtual reality. He has been a professor at Stanford University and Keio University, exploring tangible interfaces, augmented reality, and computational illumination. His work has been exhibited in many venues, including six Emerging Technologies exhibits at the annual SIGGRAPH conference, starting in 1991 with Flatlands, which used the illusion of perspective to transform a sculpture into Mondrian's Composition with Line, 1918. He majored in physics and minored in music at the University of California, San Diego. He holds an MS in mechanical engineering from Stanford University. His 1988-89 thesis work, Design and Virtual Environments, was done under the direction of Rolf Faste in Stanford’s design program and Scott Fisher at NASA Ames Research Center. It was among the first efforts to map the breadth of virtual reality as a new medium. This effort led Bolas toward a basic model for immersive experience design, and he concluded that the medium’s power to deeply transport a user is closely tied to finding an appropriate balance between realism and abstraction.

 

Capt. Thomas Chaby, Executive Officer, Naval Special Warfare Center
Captain Thomas Chaby is from New Jersey, and he graduated from University of Delaware in 1986 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Finance. After working in the civilian sector for a few years, he completed Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Newport, Rhode Island. Following OCS, he was selected for and graduated with Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) Class 168. 
His first assignment after graduating was with SEAL Team THREE, where he served in four platoons between 1990 and 1996; two as Assistant Platoon Commander and two as a Platoon Commander. During these tours he was responsible for leading operations in Asia and the Middle East. Next he was an Assistant Operations Officer for a Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) project developing a classified Special Operations capability. Between 1996 and 1998 he was assigned to the Naval Special Warfare Center where he served as the Diving Officer and a SEAL Instructor for BUD/S Training. During this assignment he attended night school, receiving a Masters of Arts Degree in Management from National University. He then was transferred to Naval Special Warfare Unit FOUR in Roosevelt Roads Naval Base, Puerto Rico, where he served as the Operations Officer from 1998 through 2000. Following this tour, he led a Joint Planning and Assistance Team in Bogotá, Colombia. His primary focus during both these assignments was anti-drug-trafficking throughout South America and the Caribbean. Next, he was selected as a task unit commander leading forces in Afghanistan during the initial stages of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). Later, he was assigned as the Executive Officer of Naval Special Warfare Unit ONE in Guam from 2002 to 2004. He was then assigned to the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) from 2004 to 2006, where he was assigned as Aide-de-Camp to the Commander, USSOCOM and Chief of Current Operations for a task force supporting OEF in Afghanistan. In June of 2006, he reported as Commanding Officer, SEAL Team FIVE Coronado, California. During this tour, he led a Task Force of over 500 personnel conducting full-spectrum combat operations in Iraq. After completing his commanding officer tour, he was assigned as the Naval Special Warfare Group ONE Chief Staff Officer, then as the Naval Special Warfare Center Executive Officer. He is currently assigned to USSOCOM as the Director of the Preservation of the Force and Family Task Force (POTFF). Here he looks for ways to build and maintain resilience for the entire force of over 60,000 personnel and their families.

 

Richard Chuang, CEO and Founder, Cloudpic
Richard Chuang is the CEO and founder of Cloudpic, a startup looking at capturing the creativities of the next generation of talents in the new world of digital content creation and multi-channel deliveries. Cloudpic has created state-of-the-art distributed-production technology to facilitate collaboration of artists and studio. Cloudpic has also consulted on multi-studios worldwide for project and business development. The team was responsible for assisting and directing studios into new markets like mobile and games, and improving studio capacity, quality enhancement, and talent development. As a co-founder of PDI (PDI/DreamWorks) over 30 years ago, he pioneered the studio’s proprietary animation system, which received an Academy Technical Achievement Award in 1998. His expertise is in computer animation and visual effects for both animated and live action films. His credits range from directing commercials to winning an Emmy Award for graphic design. He has 16 live-action film credits as visual effects supervisor. Besides the feature-length animated film at PDI/DreamWorks, he also planned and guided the CG production for DreamWorks' first all-computer-animated primetime TV show. He was the executive responsible for developing production capacity worldwide for DreamWorks Animation, including multi-national productions in Asia and Europe.

 

Matthew Cohen, Director of Business Development, Machinima

Matt Cohen is the Director of Business Development at Machinima. In this position, he focuses on premium programming with game-publisher partners and publisher relations generally, other premium-scripted content deals, and other strategic business-development initiatives in content and digital games. He joined Machinima from Digital Development Management (DDM), where he served as the lead agent in Los Angeles for the world’s leading business and talent agencies for video games and digital entertainment. At DDM, he represented top developers around the world like Zombie Studios, sourcing opportunities for cross-platform intellectual properties. Prior to his tenure at DDM, he spent four years working for Los Angeles-based film and television production company Temple Hill Entertainment. While at Temple Hill, he worked with the producers of the Twilight series, where he helped develop adaptations of Gears of War and Dead Space as film projects. He also served as COO of startup game developer Killspace Entertainment, shipping titles for Atari and Ubisoft. He received his BA from Cornell University and his MFA in production from the University of Southern California.

 

Scott Cronce, VP Technology, Electronic Arts
Scott Cronce has been with Electronic Arts forever (since 24 October 1988) and will probably die there. In the past 24 years, he has been a Technical Director, Manager of Tools & Technical Direction, Director of Technology, Vice President of Technology, and Chief Technology Officer for the Redwood Shores Studio, and CTO for World Wide Studios. Not bad for a trained gourmet chef with no formal software engineering degree.

 

Chris Edwards, CEO & Creative Director, The Third Floor, Inc.
After five years as a layout artist and character animator at Walt Disney Feature Animation, Chris Edwards joined a team of digital artists at Lucasfilm tasked with previsualizing "Star Wars: Episode III" from the "third floor" of George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch mansion. In October 2004, he spearheaded the creation of The Third Floor, Inc. in Los Angeles, which has become the world’s largest international previs company. As CEO and Creative Director, he has helped design many feature films, commercials, and video game cinematics. Theatrical credits include "Avatar", "Alice in Wonderland", "War Horse", "Iron Man 2", "Thor", and "The Avengers". Cinematic credits include Resident Evil 5, Lost Planet 2 and several Command & Conquer titles. He has established a branch of The Third Floor in London, and he is one of the founders of the Previsualization Society, an international non-profit dedicated to promoting the art form of previs.

 

Steve Goldstein, Partner, Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP
Steve Goldstein is Chair of the Interactive Entertainment and Video Games practice group at Stubbs Alderton & Markiles. His practice concentrates on advising clients within the video game industry on legal issues in all aspects of their business, including negotiation of video game publishing agreements, merchandizing agreements, co-marketing agreements, and other inbound and outbound licenses regarding the exploitation of video game intellectual property, internet best practices, drafting of online game privacy policies and terms of use, alternative financing, global corporate structuring, and legal issues related to the use and trade of virtual goods. His clients include independent video game developers and publishers in the console, social, casual and massively multiplayer markets; online game operators; and media and technology companies related to the video game industry.

 

Scott Greenberg, Co-Founder & CEO of Bento Box Entertainment & Bento Box Interactive
Bento Box is a leading producer of primetime animation for broadcast and cable networks, home entertainment, and multimedia platforms. Scott Greenberg oversees the development, production, and distribution of original content across the media spectrum. Prior to Bento Box, he was President & Chief Operating Officer of Film Roman and Executive Vice President of Production at Starz Media. Under his supervision, Film Roman produced “The Simpsons” (Fox), “King of The Hill” (Fox), “X-Men Evolution” (Marvel Entertainment), and numerous other projects for networks and distribution outlets. BBE’s animation studios are currently in production on the following series: the Emmy-nominated “Bob’s Burgers” (FOX), “Brickleberry” (Comedy Central), "Murder Police" (FOX), “Out There” (IFC) and “The Awesomes” (HULU). BBE also produces an original YouTube series, "Glove & Boots", a weekly puppet blog series with over 100,000 subscribers. Most recently, BBE produced Bob’s Burgers Live, a live tour with the Bob’s Burgers cast. BBI is focused on building a digital platform to distribute educational and entertainment properties via social and mobile media. Using this strategy, BBI develops, publishes and markets immersive storytelling experiences for tablets, mobile, and other digital content devices. BBI projects include the following titles: a collaboration with Alicia Keys, “Mama Mae & LeeLee"; a children’s e-book series, “Sweet Pickles”; and “The Paper Fox.”

 

Joleen Winther Hughes, Founder and Principal, Hughes Media Law Group
As founder of Hughes Media Law Group in Seattle, Joleen Winther Hughes has assembled a world-class team of veteran media, technology, and entertainment attorneys to provide holistic and customized in-house general counsel services. She was one of the first attorneys in the world to bring traditional media into the digital age and has been responsible for providing company guidance and developing licensing strategies at the intersection of entertainment and technology in music, games, apps, motion pictures, and sports since the advent of media on the internet and devices. Prior to her legal career, she was an entrepreneur who owned a successful artist management, talent booking, concert production, and special event business during the height of the Seattle music explosion, representing RKCNDY nightclub, Susan Silver and Kelly Curtis Management (Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Screaming Trees), and many music production companies. Her first "real" jobs in the media industry were as the marketing assistant at KING Broadcasting (radio/TV) and as a PR assistant responsible for publicizing films from Disney, Paramount Pictures, and Warner Brothers in the Seattle market. She also is the proud co-owner of her husband's authentic Irish pub, the Celtic Swell, on Alki Beach in West Seattle.

 

Justine Kasznica, Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP
Justine M. Kasznica is an attorney in Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis’s Pittsburgh office and chair of the firm’s Innovation Practice Group. She represents clients who are in the business of creating novel, better, or more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas in industries with high-growth and high-impact potential. These industries include, but are not limited to: energy and sustainable innovation, robotics and advanced manufacturing, software and entertainment technology, and social innovation. Clients served by the Innovation Practice Group include technology and high-growth-potential start-ups, universities, and research institutions seeking to commercialize new technologies, later-stage companies developing innovative products and services, and investors. She is a founding member of ReefBot, a collaborative partnership among Carnegie Mellon's Robotic Institute, the Pittsburgh Zoo, and PPG Aquarium to develop autonomous underwater vehicles for oceanographic exploration and coral reef conversation.

 

Lorne Lanning, Oddworld Inhabitants
For nearly three decades, Lorne Lanning has been focused on integration of high technology, global awareness, eco-literacy, and interactive myth making in an effort to brew a unique blend of odd entertainment he refers to as “semi-conscious Trojan Horse pop”. After co-founding Oddworld Inhabitants with his partner, Sherry McKenna, in 1994, his Oddworld games, based in a universe where the dark side of globalization meets the consumer funny bone, have sold nearly seven million units and garnered dozens of awards, not only from the game industry, but also from the music, television, film, and animation industries , as well as illustration and design annuals. In 2008, Oddworld re-emerged as a self-published independent study, bringing its library of titles to various digitally distributed networks in over 20 languages. Their latest in-the-making title was showcased by Sony as an iconic representative of their support of the increasingly relevant self-published indie development communities. He holds a BFA in Motion Graphics & Visual Effects from the California Institute of the Arts and an honorary doctorate from the San Francisco Academy of Art University, and he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Entertainment Consumers Association. His first love is fly fishing.

 

Don McGowan, General Counsel, The Pokémon Company International
Since August 2008, Don McGowan has been the General Counsel of The Pokémon Company International. His responsibilities have included all legal work for every game the company has produced during that time, many of which have sold over 10 million units worldwide and include titles produced for the Nintendo DS and Nintendo Wii, as well as a free-to-play PC title based on the Pokémon trading card game. He has also handled all TV and movie deals for the Pokémon property outside of Asia, as well as all merchandise licensing in that same geography, and was instrumental in creating Pokémon’s recent Pokémon TV app for iOS and Android (over 1 million downloads in the first week). Before Pokémon, he was the head attorney for Microsoft Game Studios where he had sole responsibility for all games published by Microsoft or licensed using Microsoft IP for the Xbox 360, PC, Nintendo DS, and mobile platforms. The games he worked on included Halo, Mass Effect, Project Gotham Racing and Forza Motorsport, and Flight Simulator. Each of those was a multi-million-unit seller. He also worked in Microsoft’s government affairs department where his responsibilities included briefing Congressional and state legislative representatives and officials on technology-related issues. Prior to that, Don worked as a litigator in Montréal for two of Canada’s largest law firms. He speaks English and French fluently, and some German and Spanish. His outside interests include teaching his Entertainment Law class at the University of Washington, as well as Kung Fu, rugby, and marathon running.

 

Russ Nissen, Ease Entertainment Services
Russ Nissen joined Ease Entertainment Services as Director of Film Incentives in October of 2012. Prior to joining Ease, Russ spent 15 years at Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., starting in the Physical Production Estimation Department and eventually becoming Executive Director of Theatrical Film Incentives. During his tenure at Fox, he secured US and International film incentives for projects such as “X-Men: First Class”, “Unstoppable”, “Bride Wars”, and “Rise of The Planet of The Apes”. He also provided testimony in support of film-incentive legislation in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Utah. Before the entered the entertainment industry, he was Vice President, Director of Taxes for National Medical Enterprises (now Tenet Healthcare). He is a CPA (inactive) and holds a Master of Business Taxation from the University of Southern California.

 

Carl Rosendahl, Founder Pacific Data Images, Venture Capitalist, Co-Director, Carnegie Mellon University's Entertainment Technology Center-Silicon Valley
As an inventor and a visionary, Carl Rosendahl's kaleidoscopic journey has taken him from studio owner to venture capitalist to inspiring educator. In 1980, soon after earning his BSEE at Stanford University, Carl Rosendahl founded Pacific Data Images, which continues to be one of the pioneering and most highly innovative creators of computer animation for film and television. During his 20 years of leading the organization, PDI produced over 700 commercials, worked on visual effects for over 70 feature films and, in partnership with DreamWorks SKG, produced the hit animated film "Antz" and the Academy Award-winning "Shrek". He has received multiple Emmy Awards and in 1998 was recognized with a Technical Achievement Academy Award for PDI’s contributions to modern filmmaking. In early 2000, he sold PDI to DreamWorks SKG, and the company continues to develop and produce animated feature films, including the "Shrek" series and "Madagascar". As a Carnegie Mellon professor, he mentors and advises students working on their masters degrees in entertainment technology and teaches a course on entrepreneurship. Prior to joining Carnegie Mellon, he was the CEO and founder of Uth TV, a television and web outlet tapping into the exploding power of youth voice and digital storytelling. From 2000 through 2002, he was a managing director at Mobius Venture Capital (formerly Softbank Venture Capital), where he focused on investments in the technology and media space.

 

Lincoln Wallen CTO, DreamWorks Animation SKG
Lincoln Wallen is responsible for the design, implementation, successful operation, and overall technical direction of DreamWorks Animation. He leads the company’s wide range of technological initiatives and is responsible for leveraging new areas of technological IP that will come to define the company alongside its high-quality animated content. He joined DreamWorks Animation in 2008 as Head of Research and Development, where he was oversaw the strategic vision, creation, and deployment of the studio’s CG production platform and software tools. Prior to joining DreamWorks Animation, he was Chief Technology Officer for Online and Mobile Services at Electronic Arts, where he led the company’s technical approach to publishing and videogame development for mobile phones. He previously served as Vice President at Criterion Software and as Chief Technology Officer for MathEngine. Before joining the entertainment industry, he enjoyed a distinguished academic career at Oxford University and was the first director for the multidisciplinary Smith Institute for Industrial Mathematics and Systems Engineering. He holds a BS in mathematics and physics from the University of Durham and a PhD in artificial intelligence from the University of Edinburgh.