The Digital Hollywood Experience

The Digital Hollywood Experience

PDF - 2016 May Agenda - Click Here


Thursday, May 5th, 2016

4:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Session I: Ahmanson Hall

Innovating in VR-AR-Immersive Production - The Amazing Journey of Imagination, Gear and Innovation

Dan Ferguson, EVP Digital Interactive, Groove Jones

Sandy Smolan, Film & Television Director

Matt Johnson, EVP of Innovation, Bottle Rocket & GM of Thruster

Alex Barder, Co-Managing Partner, VRWERX

Keram Malicki Sanchez, founder, FIVARS, the Festival of International Virtual and Augmented REALITY Stories (Toronto)

Jacob Carlson, Digital Media Strategist and Consulting Manager, Manatt Digital Media, Moderator


Jacob Carlson is a digital media strategist and consulting manager for Manatt Digital Media, a fully integrated business consulting and legal services firm. Mr. Carlson’s passion lies in all things digital, especially disruptive technology, emerging digital distribution platforms, and the future of content creation and consumption, including eSports and VR/AR. Before joining MDM, Mr. Carlson was a media and entertainment consulting manager for Cognizant Business

Consulting, focusing on major studio and broadcasting clients. He provided strategic expertise on projects across the industry such as OTT strategy, data analytics, tailored customer segmentation, predictive modeling, and Agile software development. Prior to his career in media and entertainment consulting, Mr. Carlson received his MBA from USC’s Marshall School of Business, where he focused in entrepreneurship and obtained a Business of Entertainment Certificate from the renowned School of Cinematic Arts. He attended Boston College as an undergraduate before becoming a producer in New York, working on multiple international feature film, TV, and commercial products.


Keram Malicki Sanchez, founder, FIVARS, the Festival of International Virtual and Augmented REALITY Stories (Toronto): Founded VRTO May, 2015. He is the editor-in-chief of since 2008 and founder of FIVARS – the Festival of International Virtual and Augmented Reality Stories. A graduate of UCLA’s certification programs in Cinematography, Producing and Digital Media, respectively, Malicki-Sanchez is also an alumnus of Werner Herzog’s Rogue Film School – Los Angeles chapter. He has been asked to speak about the intersection of technology and the arts at NXNE, Cinegear Expo (Los Angeles), the Toronto Star and NAB (Vegas). He is also the founder of Transportive Technology – a virtual reality production company and Constant Change Media Group – a 360 media company and disruptive media consultation firm.


Dan Ferguson, EVP Digital Interactive Strategy @ Groove Jones: Dan is the EVP of Digital Interactive Strategy for Groove Jones, a studio focused on creating VR solutions for brands and advertisers. Groove Jones has developed GrooveTech™, a software platform that provides analytics, user acquisition, social share and distribution for VR campaigns. Dan is responsible for creating high-end digital experiences for some of the most recognized brands in the world, which include American Airlines, CarMax, LEGO, McDonalds, Microsoft, Nestle, Universal Pictures and Visa. Brandweek Magazine named Dan “Marketer of the Next Generation" for his work with brand engagement. He is an early adopter of new technologies and is a Virtual Reality subject matter expert.


Alex Barder, Co-Managing Partner, VRWERX: Alex Barder, with over 20 years experience in the Film and Media Businesses is the Co-Managing Partner of Beast Media Group, a multi-platform content distribution, finance and production company focused on innovation in cross-platform content targeted at a global audience.    Mr. Barder co-manages several verticals including Film, Television, Digital and Branded Entertainment.   Additionally, Mr. Barder co-manages Beast Media Group subsidiary VRwerx, a company focused on creating gaming and other innovative content in the explosive Virtual Reality space. Most recently, Mr. Barder served as President and co-founding Partner of Inception Film Partners, a global film distribution company where he oversaw all aspects of day to day operations, including acquisitions, sales, distribution, business development, finance and strategic planning. Prior to that, he was CEO of Strategic Film Partners, a global film distribution, finance and production company, which he co-founded in 2004.  During his tenure, Mr. Barder oversaw the distribution, finance or production of over 100 films or projects structuring deals with partners ranging from Studios, Independent distributors, TV networks and digital platforms.  Some of his partners include, but are not limited to Warner Bros., Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures, New Line Cinema, Lionsgate, Starz/Anchor Bay, Showtime Networks, MTV Networks, Gaiam Vivendi, Endemol Worldwide and many more. Prior to forming Strategic Film Partners, Mr. Barder amassed a wide array of studio and independent experience ranging from creative development, sales, finance, strategic planning, marketing, and deal experience, having held positions at various leading companies, such as Universal Pictures based Lobell/Bergman Productions, The Gersh Agency, UBS, Merrill Lynch, and MTV Networks. Mr. Barder is a graduate of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts Film School, and NYU's Stern School of Business.


Sandy Smolan, Producer/Director: Mr. Smolan is an award-winning director whose work spans features, documentaries, television, commercials and VR films   His critically acclaimed debut feature film “Rachel River," was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at The Sundance Film Festival and took awards for Best Cinematography and a Special Jury Prize for Actress Viveca Lindfors. He recently directed the VR film “The Click Effect” which previewed at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and will be launched in April by The New York Times, Vrse and Annapurna Pictures. His documentary, “The Human Face of Big Data” won the Jury Prize for Best Cinematography at the Boston International Film Festival, was just selected by the US State Department to be part of the American Film Showcase, and is being released in the spring of 2016. His television movies include "The Last Soldier" for HBO, the mini-series “Beach Girls” with Rob Lowe and Julia Ormond for Lifetime, "A Place To Be" for CBS and "Taking A Stand," an Emmy Award-winning film with Betty Buckley for ABC, for which he was also nominated for Best Director. As a television director his credits include the acclaimed pilot for the series "Middle Ages," as well as over 50 network series including “Brothers & Sisters,” “Ally Mcbeal,” "Everwood," “ED,” “The O.C.,” “Dawson’s Creek,” “Greek,” “LA LAW,” “Dangerous Minds,” “Chicago Hope” and "Northern Exposure".  In original programming for the Internet, he directed the ten-part web series “In Gayle We Trust” for and the web series “First Dance” and “First Day” for Alloy Entertainment, winner of the Advertising Age Media Vanguard Award. Smolan's documentary “12 Stones,” about the transformation of a group of illiterate women in southern Nepal won the jury prize for Best Short Documentary at the Tallahassee and Newport Beach Film Festivals. He was the recipient of a 2015 James Beard Award for his short film, “Wall of Fire”. He also produced and directed films in East Africa for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, four short films about sustainable development in India, Georgia, Peru and Rwanda and a series of films about technology, innovation and social responsibility sponsored by Intel, Microsoft, Applied Materials, BD Biosciences and Nokia. Mr. Smolan was also the associate producer of two network documentaries for CBS News; "The Cowboy, The Craftsman and The Ballerina" with Morley Safer and "Juilliard: A Life in Music", narrated by Charles Kuralt and winner of the Peabody Award. He was a featured speaker at the EG Conference in Monterey, California and The INK Conference in association with TED. Conference


Russell Naftal, Co-Managing Partner, Beast Media: Award winning producer and executive Russell Naftal, has over 18 years experience in the Digital, Television and New Media Businesses and is the Co-Managing Partner of Beast Media Group, a multi-platform content distribution, finance and production company focused on innovation in cross-platform content targeted at a global audience.    Mr. Naftal co-manages several verticals including Film, Television, Digital and Branded Entertainment.   Additionally, Russell co-manages Beast Media Group subsidiary VRWERX, a company focused on creating gaming and other innovative content in the explosive Virtual Reality space.  Most recently, Mr. Naftal served as co-founding Partner of Texo Entertainment, Inc. a leading multimedia entertainment studio with a full range of vertically integrated services including content development, production, digital distribution and branded entertainment. At Texo Russell produced content for all platforms and most recently created and produced a reality competition series with NASCAR for The World Fishing Network. Prior to Texo Russell has worked for some of the largest production companies and distributors in the world. Including, head of Digital development and Distribution at Endemol USA, where he co-created the award winning branded series for Major League Baseball MLB Fan Cave as well Kobe Bryant’s Dream Makers, James Hyde Steals the Show and the XARM Event series” for online gamer network Machinima. He also crafted a $25 million film fund for developing original content for multiplatform distribution. Russell’s other successes include him serving as SVP of Development and Programming at RipeDigital a leading innovator in digital distribution where he produced and programmed over 30 hours a month of original digital content for distribution on Cable VOD, Broadband and mobile.  Russell was strategic in programming RipeDigital on YouTube making RipeDigital one of the very first MCN’s on YouTube. At Mandalay Entertainment, Russell managed his own division where he created and produced the award winning game show for ABC Family “GoForIt TV”, the feature documentary “Joe Kid on a Stingray”, Warner Brothers award winning “WCW” wrestling video series and Peter Guber’s “Shoot Out Online” for Yahoo! In 1998 Simultaneously to producing, Russell founded a digital distribution company FuelNetworks, which was a pioneer in the unique implementation of video on demand, and had supporting partners such as Sun Micro Systems, Oracle, Exodus and Excite at Home. Russell currently sits on the board of XARM (a new fighting sport created by UFC founder Art Davie) In addition, Russell has ties the youth oriented motorsport of Drifting where his team Lateral G Racing is documented as the first USA champion. Russell has ownership in PollPals a patented social media platform connecting users via polls.