J.J. Abrams P ’22 is a writer, director and producer, and the founder of Bad Robot Productions. Abrams wrote or co-wrote films such as Regarding Henry, Forever Young, Joy Ride and Armageddon before co-creating the Golden Globe-nominated television show Felicity with Matt Reeves. He followed that with Alias and the Emmy Award-winning series Lost (which he created with Damon Lindelof). In 2006, Abrams directed his first feature film, Mission: Impossible III, and followed that with the critically-praised hit films Star Trek, Super 8 and Star Trek Into Darkness. In 2015, Abrams directed Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which he also produced and co-wrote with Lawrence Kasdan. He is currently producing, directing and co-writing with Chris Terrio, Star Wars: Episode IX. Abrams and his wife, Katie McGrath, co-CEO of Bad Robot, live in Los Angeles and have three children.
Julie Parker Benello ’92 co-founded Chicken & Egg Pictures in 2005. Films of note include 2012 Academy Award winner Saving Face, After Tiller, The Invisible War, and Pariah. Benello served as an Executive Producer of Jill Soloway’s Sundance 2013 award-winning debut feature Afternoon Delight. Recently, she executive produced The Invitation and Hot Girls Wanted. Most recently, Benello served as a co-founder and co-managing director of Gamechanger Films which invested in independent narrative films by women directors. She is a proud Barnard graduate.
Debra Martin Chase is an Emmy-nominated and Peabody Award-winning television and motion picture producer whose company, Martin Chase Productions, is affiliated with Universal Television, a division of NBCUniversal Television Group. Her producing credits include The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, The Princess Diaries, The Cheetah Girls, the American Girl movie franchises and many others. The first African-American woman to have her own producing deal at a major studio and a Harvard-trained lawyer, Chase ran Denzel Washington’s Mundy Lane Entertainment from 1992 to 1995 and Whitney Houston’s Brown House Productions from 1995 to 2000. Her latest film Harriet, based on the life of Harriet Tubman, will be released in 2019.
Geralyn Dreyfous is the Founder and Board Chair of the Utah Film Center. In 2007, she co-founded Impact Partners with Dan Cogan and, in 2013, she co-founded Gamechanger Films, which invested in narrative features directed by women. Geralyn’s independent executive producing and producing credits include the Academy Award-winning Born Into Brothels; the Emmy nominated The Day My God Died; Academy Award-nominated films: The Square and The Invisible War and such film festival winners as Miss Representation, Connected, Anita, The Crash Reel, The Hunting Ground, Dreamcatcher and Alive Inside.
Nominated for the Academy Award and winner of four EMMYs as well as BAFTA and Peabody Awards, Ava DuVernay‘s 13TH was one of the most critically-acclaimed films of 2016. In 2015, DuVernay directed the historical drama Selma, which garnered four Golden Globe nominations and two Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. Her current work includes the critically-acclaimed drama series Queen Sugar, the Disney fantasy epic A Wrinke in Time, and a film adaptation chronicling the notorious Central Park Five case. Winner of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival’s Best Director prize for her previous feature Middle of Nowhere, DuVernay’s early directorial work includes I Will Follow, Venus Vs. and This Is The Life. In 2017, DuVernay was named one of Fortune Magazine’s 50 Greatest World Leaders and TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. She also distributes and amplifies the work of people of color and women directors through her film collective ARRAY, named one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies. DuVernay sits on the boards of both Sundance Institute and Film Independent.
Paul Feig is a director, producer, screenwriter, and actor. Best known for directing the 2011 film Bridesmaids, Feig has been supportive of women in the industry throughout his career, casting female leads in his successful directorial efforts, including Spy, The Heat, Ghostbusters, and A Simple Favor. A three-time Emmy nominated writer/director and DGA Award winner, Feig is the creator of the television series Freaks and Geeks and a director and co-executive producer of The Office. Feig was the recipient of Athena’s inaugural Leading Man Award in 2016.
Greta Gerwig ’06 is an American actress and filmmaker. She was born in Sacramento, California, and graduated from Barnard College, where she studied English and philosophy. She worked with directors such as Ti West, Whit Stillman. She co-wrote Frances Ha with Noah Baumbach. Gerwig made her solo directorial debut with the critically acclaimed comedy-drama film Lady Bird, which she also wrote, and has had starring roles in the films Damsels in Distress, Jackie, and 20th Century Women. She just wrapped production on her second feature, Little Women, based on the book by Louisa May Alcott and starring Meryl Streep and Emma Watson.
Sherry Lansing is a philanthropist, former Chair and CEO of Paramount Pictures and former President of 20th Century Fox, where she was the first woman to head a major film studio. During almost 30 years in the motion picture business, Lansing was involved in the production, marketing, and distribution of more than 200 films, including Academy Award-winners Forrest Gump, Braveheart, and Titanic.
Jon Levin P ’13 runs the film/TV production and literary department at Fourward. He was previously a motion picture literary agent at Creative Artists Agency (CAA). Levin has worked on behalf of such agency clients as actors Brad Pitt, Will Smith, Robert Downey, Jr., Tom Hanks, Cate Blanchett, and Natalie Portman; and directors Ron Howard, Robert Zemeckis, and Spike Jonze. Levin also represents Neil Gaiman, Eric Roth, Overbrook, Playtone, James Ellroy, Russell Banks, Imagine Films, DreamWorks, Digital Domain, and Plan B. He sits on the Board of the City of Hope Film Division and is a member of the Tufts Alumni Council and the Tufts Media Studies Board.
Katie McGrath P ’22 is co-CEO of Bad Robot Productions. She oversees the company’s corporate culture, philanthropy, communications and ancillary businesses. Prior to joining Bad Robot, Katie was a founding partner at First Tuesday Media, a political media firm based in Los Angeles. Earlier, she served as Director of Communications at MTV Networks and Vice President at the strategic communications consulting firm Robinson Lerer Sawyer Miller. Katie began her professional career in Washington, D.C. as a legislative assistant to Senator Edward M. Kennedy and currently serves on the boards of Pro Publica and Time’s Up. Katie and her husband, JJ Abrams, and their three children live in Los Angeles.
Sheila Nevins ‘60 is an Academy Award, Emmy, and Peabody award winner and the former president of HBO Documentary Films. She was responsible for overseeing the development and production of all documentaries for HBO, HBO2, and Cinemax. As an executive producer or producer, she has received 32 Primetime Emmy Awards, 34 News and Documentary Emmys, and 42 George Foster Peabody Awards. During her tenure, HBO’s critically acclaimed documentaries have gone on to win 26 Academy Awards, the most recent of which was A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness in 2016. Nevins has been honored with several prestigious career achievement awards including, most recently, the 2009 Governors Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. She has supervised the production of more than 1,000 documentary programs for HBO. Nevins is the bestselling author of You Don’t Look Your Age… and Other Fairy Tales, published by Flatiron Books.
David Oyelowo has consistently worked with and championed female directors throughout his career. His work with Ava DuVernay in Selma earned him Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice Award nominations and the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture. In 2016 he starred in Mira Nair’s Queen of Katwe and in 2017 he starred opposite Rosamund Pike in A United Kingdom for director Amma Assante. Additional credits include Nightingale (for which he won the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Actor), A Most Violent Year, Lee Daniels’ The Butler and Middle of Nowhere, among others. Oyelowo was the recipient of Athena’s Leading Man Award in 2017.
Gina Prince-Bythewood wrote and directed the feature film Love & Basketball, which won an Independent Spirit Award and a Humanitas Prize, as well as the HBO film Disappearing Acts. In 2008, she wrote and directed the award-winning adaptation of The Secret Life of Bees. Her third feature, Beyond the Lights, was released in 2014 to critical acclaim. Her television directorial debut was the CBS Schoolbreak Special What About Your Friends, which won an NAACP Image Award and two Emmy nominations. Her new series Shots Fired premiered in 2017. She has signed on to direct The Old Guard for Skydance.
Susan Rovner ’91 has served as Executive VP, Development, at Warner Bros. Television (WBTV) since March 2010. In March 2014, she was named Co-President of Warner Horizon Scripted Television. For the 2016–17 network television season, WBTV’s development team — under Rovner’s direction — scored scripted series orders for the drama series Time After Time for ABC, Training Day for CBS, Lethal Weapon for FOX, and Frequency and Riverdale for The CW, as well as the comedies Powerless and Trial & Error for NBC. Additionally, WBTV’s highly anticipated drama series Westworld set viewership records on HBO, and dramedy phenomenon Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life premiered on Netflix.
Regina K. Scully has executive produced over 100 social justice films and is the Emmy Award-winning and Academy Award-nominated executive producer of The Invisible War. She has also executive produced films including The Eagle Huntress, Anita Hill: Speaking Truth to Power, The Hunting Ground, Newtown, Fed Up, Miss Representation and Dreamcatcher among many others. She is the Founder and CEO of Artemis Rising Foundation, a philanthropic organization dedicated to developing and promoting media, education and the arts that transform our culture.
Rachel Weisz is an Academy Award-winning actress best known for portraying women of spirit and intelligence. The winner of an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, Screen Actors Guild Award, and Golden Globe for her performance in Fernando Meirelles’ The Constant Gardener, Weisz has also received a Golden Globe for Best Actress for her performance in The Deep Blue Sea. Other recent and TV credits include The Lobster, Denial, The Bourne Legacy, The Whistleblower, and The Favourite, among others.