Allison Abbate is an executive vice president at Warner Animation Group (WAG), a division of Warner Bros. Entertainment. Prior to assuming her post at WAG, Abbate was an executive producer on the global blockbuster The LEGO® Movie, written and directed by Christopher Miller and Phil Lord; and a producer on Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie and Corpse Bride, Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Brad Bird’s directorial debut, Iron Giant.
The many honors earned by The LEGO Movie include a BAFTA Award, New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC) Award for Best Animated Feature, a Golden Globe nomination, and placing second in the balloting from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA). Corpse Bride was nominated for an Oscar and BAFTA Award; Fantastic Mr. Fox earned Oscar, BAFTA Award and Golden Globe nominations, and won the NYFCC’s and LAFCA’s Awards for Best Animated Feature; and Abbate earned a BAFTA Award for The Iron Giant.
Her additional credits include producing the animation for Looney Tunes: Back in Action, co-producing the Academy Award-nominated Mickey Mouse short Runaway Brain, and co-producing Space Jam, which broke new ground by combining classic animated Warner Bros. characters with live action sequences.
Abbate began her career working on several of Disney’s most beloved animated films, including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, The Rescuers Down Under and Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Suzanne Buirgy has created an impressive roster of credits in her 20-year career in Animation and Visual Effects. Suzanne began her career at Digital Domain, one of the premiere VFX houses in the country, where she spent nine years serving as DPM on a variety of films including How the Grinch Stole Christmas, XXX, The
Italian Job and Peter Pan.
After arriving at DreamWorks Animation in 2005, Suzanne jumped into the role of Production Executive and worked on a number of films in that capacity including Over the Hedge,Kung Fu Panda, and Shrek the Third before moving into the role of Producer.
Suzanne was an Associate Producer on How to Train Your Dragonand acted as Co-Producer on Kung Fu Panda 2, which garnered an Academy Award® nomination for DreamWorks in 2012. She also produced Homewhich was
released in March of 2015 and starred Jim Parsons, Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez and Steve Martin.
Currently, Suzanne is serving as producer on Abominable, a co-production between DreamWorks Animation and China’s Pearl Studio. Directed by Jill Culton and Co-directed by Todd Wilderman, it is slated for release in the fall of 2019.
Additionally, this native Californian spent a number of years on the road as a touring singer-songwriter.
As a member of the all-girl band The Riveters, Suzanne played extensively in Los Angeles. She began her touring career after winning the prestigious “New Folk” award at the Kerrville Folk Festival and co-produced three records as a solo artist. Her beginnings as an actress in the long-running musical revue, A 5-6-7-8 as well as a principal role in the first national touring company of The New York Shakespeare Festival’s The Pirates of Penzance round out her eclectic career.
Suzanne draws upon her creative background and a degree from the University of Hard Knocks, adding her practiced understanding of both entertainment and production to the success of DreamWorks Animation
Justin Chang is a film critic for the Los Angeles Times and for NPR’s “Fresh Air”,” and a regular contributor to KPCC’s “FilmWeek.” Before joining The Times, he was chief film critic at Variety. He is the author of the book “FilmCraft: Editing” and serves as chair of the National Society of Film Critics and secretary of the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. In 2014 he received the inaugural Roger Ebert Award from the African-American Film Critics Assn. A Southern California native and USC graduate, he lives with his wife and daughter in Pasadena.
Matthew A. Cherry
Chicago native Matthew A. Cherry is a former NFL wide receiver turned filmmaker who played for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers and the Baltimore Ravens.
In 2007 he retired and moved to LA to pursue a career in entertainment landing work as a production assistant on over 40 commercials and as a director for over 20 music videos. Matthew received his first credit in 2008 when directed a music video for R&B artist Terry Dexter. Since then he has gone on to direct music videos for Michelle Williams featuring Beyonce & Kelly Rowland, Tweet, Jazmine Sullivan, Lalah Hathaway, Kindred The Family Soul, Snoop Dogg, The Foreign Exchange, Bilal, N’Dambi, Maysa Leak, Dwele, Najee, K’Jon and Chloe X Halle. In addition to directing music videos Matthew directed the short film entitled This Time starring Reagan Gomez-Preston & Terri J. Vaughn and recently released a new short film entitled Forward which premiered on Ebony.com. Matthew also writes & directs web series like the award
winning series “Almost 30” and “Almost Home”.
Matthew is also a feature filmmaker and first feature film The Last Fall starred Lance Gross, Nicole Beharie, Vanessa Bell Calloway Keith David, Harry Lennix and Darrin Dewitt Henson. The Last Fall made its world premiere at SXSW Film Festival and received awards at the African American Film Festival (ABFF) for Best Screenplay and Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival (MVAFF) for the HBO Best Feature Film Award. After a limited theatrical release The Last Fall was acquired by Image Entertainment in Fall 2012 and made itstelevision premiere on BET in December 2012 and is currently streaming on Netflix and Hulu.
Matthew’s latest feature film 9 Rides premiered at SXSW 2016 in the Narrative Spotlight category and stars Dorian Missick, Omar Dorsey, Robinne Lee, Xosha Roquemore, Amin Joseph, Skye P. Marshall, Thomas Q. Jones & Tracie Thoms and is about a Uber driver who gets life changing news on New Years Eve. It was shot on the iPhone 6s.
Most recently Matthew directed upcoming episodes of the TBS series ‘The Last OG’ with Tracy Morgan and Tiffany Haddish, the CBS drama event series ‘The Red Line’ executive produced by Ava Duvernay & Greg
Berlanti and the hit new ABC action comedy series ‘Whiskey’ Cavalier which stars Scott Foley & Laura Cohan. Matthew was also an executive producer on the Academy Award nominated film BlackKklansman from Spike Lee and is a Co-Producer on the TBS series The Last OG. His current project is titled Hair Love and it is an animated short film about an African American father trying to do his daughters hair for the first time and he recently partnered with Sony Pictures Animation on the project.
Matthew works at Jordan Peele’s production Company Monkeypaw (Us, Get Out, Twilight Zone) as a film and television executive.
Melissa Cobb is Vice President, Kids and Family at Netflix, the world’s leading internet entertainment service. Cobb leads the content team responsible for bringing kids and family titles, both live-action and animated, to Netflix members in 190 countries around the world. Prior to Netflix, Cobb was Chief Creative Officer for Oriental DreamWorks, where she oversaw development and production, business strategy, production strategy and more for a slate of high-quality animated feature films targeted to a global audience. She also served as a producer at DreamWorks Animation, responsible for animated feature films, including the Academy Award-nominated Kung Fu Panda trilogy. Before joining DreamWorks, Cobb was at 20th Century Fox Feature Animation (Titan A.E. and Ever After) and Walt Disney Pictures, where she was responsible for discovering and developing live-action titles. Cobb earned an M.B.A. from the Anderson Graduate School of Management at UCLA and a Bachelor of Science from Stanford University.
Golden Globe® winner and two-time Academy Award® nominee Dean DeBlois is best known for writing, directing, and executive producing 2010’s How To Train Your Dragon and its 2014 sequel. He is currently reprising those roles on How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019), the final installment of the trilogy and culmination of one of the most popular animated franchises in film history. Prior to collaborating on the original How to Train Your Dragon with Chris Sanders, the pair wrote and directed Walt Disney Animation Studios’ beloved Lilo & Stitch (2002), after first serving as co-heads of story on Mulan (1998).
In addition to his animation work, Dean has also written and sold various live action feature film projects to Disney and Universal Studios. He has also directed several music films and documentaries, most notably 2007’s indie critical darling Sigur Rós: Heima. Dean’s continued collaboration with Sigur Rós frontman Jónsi has lead to the singer-songwriter’s contributions to the How to Train Your Dragon soundtracks.
Born and raised in Canada, Dean’s career began at Hinton Animation Studios in his hometown of Ottawa. In 1990, he joined the Don Bluth Studios in Ireland before heading to the US to begin work for Walt Disney Feature Animation in 1994. He joined DreamWorks Animation in 2008. He is a graduate of Sheridan College’s animation program and was awarded an honorary degree in 2016. Dean is a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, The Writers Guild, and ASIFA.
Peter Debruge is Variety’s Chief International Film Critic. He first joined the Variety team in 2005 as a features editor, compiling the magazine’s annual 10 Actors, Directors and Screenwriters to Watch lists as well as overseeing a range of special editorial sections, including those tied to the magazine’s philanthropy-driven Power of Youth and Power of Comedy events. In 2014, Peter relocated to Paris to head up Variety’s team of international critics, both on the ground in France and on the road at more than a dozen film festivals worldwide.
A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin’s film studies program, Peter wrote his honors thesis on the history and aesthetics of movie trailers (previews, not Airstreams) and taught the graduate-level “Evolution of Film Language” course at Chapman University. Prior to Variety, he spent four years working as an editor for AOL Moviefone, first in New York and then L.A. In addition to hundreds of reviews for the Austin Chronicle, Miami Herald and Premiere, his writing on film has appeared in Entertainment Weekly, Life, Creative Screenwriting, Backstory and IndieWire. Peter also contributed to the book Variety’s The Movie That Changed My Life.
Carolyn Giardina is Tech Editor at The Hollywood Reporter and writes its Behind the Screen blog. Her work as an editor, reporter or columnist has also appeared in titles such as CinemaEditor, SHOOT, British Cinematographer and SMPTE Motion Imaging Journal . She’s co-author of Exploring 3D: The New Grammar of Stereoscopic Filmmaking (Focal Press, 2012). In 2015, Carolyn was presented American Cinema Editors’ Robert Wise Award, which recognizes a journalist for contributions to film editing. She was the 2011 recipient of the International Cinematographers Guild’s Technicolor William A. Fraker Award for journalistic contributions to cinematography.
Jorge R. Gutiérrez
Jorge R. Gutiérrez is a painter, writer and director born in Mexico City and raised in Tijuana. Gutierrez has completed various films, cartoons, and paintings exploring his love of Mexican pop and folk culture. He and his wife Sandra Equihua created the multiple Emmy Award-winning animated television series, “El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera” for Nickelodeon, and he most recently co-wrote and directed “The Book of Life” for Reel FX and 20th Century Fox, which was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film
Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Jennifer Yuh Nelson made her feature film directorial debut with Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011), which earned more than $665 million at the worldwide box-office. She continued on to direct the franchise’s successful follow-up Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016). Nelson has lent her talents to a variety of DreamWorks Animation pictures, including as head of story for Kung Fu Panda (2008), and story artist on Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002) and Madagascar (2005). Prior to joining DreamWorks Animation, Nelson worked at HBO Animation and served as director, story artist and character designer for HBO’s animated series Spawn, which won an Emmy Award in 1999 for Outstanding Animated Program. She also worked as an illustrator and story artist for the live action film Dark City (1998) for Mystery Clock Productions. She made her live action directing debut with The Darkest Minds (2018), for Twentieth Century Fox. She is currently developing properties both in animation and live action.
Henry Selick is best known as the writer/director of the Oscar-nominated stop-motion animated feature Coraline, as well as the director of James and the Giant Peach and The Nightmare Before Christmas. While he has made films using hand-drawn, cut-out and C.G. animation and live-action, his favorite medium is stop-motion where he has collaborated with some of the best animators, designers, story artists, fabricators, lighters and musicians in the world. Selick was the first to shoot a stop-motion feature in 3D, the first to use rapid prototype/3D printers to create facial expressions, and, with Tim Burton, the first to make stop-motion feature filmmaking a viable enterprise. He is currently writing and directing a new stop-motion feature with acclaimed filmmaker Jordan Peele called Wendell & Wild. Many have begged Selick to retire from showbiz but Selick continues to press on.
An internationally respected critic and historian of animation, Charles Solomon has written on the subject for the New York Times, Newsweek (Japan), Rolling Stone, the Los Angeles Times, The International Herald Tribune, Variety, the Manchester Guardian, and National Public Radio. His books include “The Art of Frozen,” “The Art of the Disney Golden Books,” “The Toy Story Films: An Animated Journey,” “Tale as Old as Time: The Art and Making of Disney’s Animated Classic Beauty and the Beast,” “The Art of Toy Story 3,” “Enchanted Drawings: The History of Animation,” which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and the first film book to be nominated for a National Book Critics’Circle Award. In 2008, he received the LA Press Club Award for radio feature reporting. In 2015, AISFA/Hollywood’s June Foray for service to the art of animation.
Mabel Tam is VP/Head Film Buyer of LANDMARK THEATRES. Landmark Theatres is the nation’s largest theatre chain dedicated to exhibiting and marketing independent film. A 16 year veteran of the entertainment industry, she is a graduate of UCLA and resides in LA with her family.
Born and raised in New York, IndieWire Editor at Large Anne Thompson has been a contributor to the New York Times, Washington Post, The Observer, and Wired. She has served as film columnist at Variety, and deputy editor of Variety.com, where her daily blog, “Thompson on Hollywood,” launched in March 2007. Anne was the Deputy Film Editor at The Hollywood Reporter, the West Coast Editor of Premiere, a Senior Writer at Entertainment Weekly, and West Coast Editor for Film Comment. She wrote the film industry column “Risky Business” for L.A. Weekly and the Los Angeles Times syndicate. A graduate of the Department of Cinema Studies at New York University, she has taught film criticism at USC and hosts the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.