• Monday, Nov. 30, 2020
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to leave telecom agency on January 20
In this June 24, 2020 file photo, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai testifies during a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation committee hearing to examine the Federal Communications Commission on Capitol Hill in Washington. Pai, a Republican, says he is leaving the telecommunications regulator on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2021. President-elect Joe Biden will choose a new Democratic head for the agency. A new administration typically picks a new chairman. (Alex Wong/Pool via AP, File)

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, says he is leaving the telecommunications regulator on Inauguration Day.

President-elect Joe Biden will choose a new Democratic head for the agency. A new administration typically picks a new chairman.

Pai has presided over a contentious FCC over the last four years. He undid net neutrality rules that barred internet service providers like Comcast and AT&T from favoring some types of online traffic over others in 2017 and championed other deregulatory efforts. He has also worked to free up spectrum for cellphone companies so they can roll out 5G, the next-generation wireless standard that promises faster speeds, and cracked down on Chinese telecom companies as national security threats.

The incoming FCC is likely to try to reinstate net neutrality rules and focus on closing the "digital divide," getting internet service to Americans who don't have it because it's not available or they can't afford it. 

It's likely not to act on a  recent directive from the Trump administration to look at Section 230 in an effort to regulate social media companies like Facebook and Twitter. Section 230 shields internet companies from lawsuits about posts by users. The Trump administration has gone after the law, alleging with no evidence that social networks censor conservatives.

The FCC has three commissioners of the majority party and two in the minority party. It currently has two Democratic commissioners, Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks, one of whom Biden could choose to elevate to chairman or choose someone from outside the agency.

Pai and another Republican commissioner, Michael O'Rielly, are leaving the agency. O'Rielly is leaving because the White House pulled his nomination after he said he wasn't sure the agency had authority on Section 230. Congress is weighing the nomination of another Republican, Nathan Simington.

"It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve at the Federal Communications Commission," Pai said in a statement. "To be the first Asian-American to chair the FCC has been a particular privilege. As I often say: only in America."

  • Monday, Nov. 30, 2020
Cinesite hires Hank Driskill as group head of CG for feature animation, promotes 3
Hank Driskill (l) and Holger Voss
LONDON -- 

Cinesite has reshaped its production and technology leadership with one new appointment and three key promotions.

Hank Driskill has been hired as group head of CG for feature animation. He comes over from Blue Sky Studios. In his new role he will be responsible for leading the CG supervisors as well as shaping the workflow and working practices for Cinesite’s feature animation teams. Driskill has over three decades of experience, with 20-plus years in senior technology positions. Prior to Blue Sky Studios, he spent 20 years at Walt Disney Animation Studios as part of the studio’s leadership, serving as technical supervisor on films such as Bolt, Big Hero 6 and Moana. He embarked on his professional career at Digital Domain, where he helped bring films such as Apollo 13, Dante’s Peak, Fifth Element and Titanic to life. 

Additionally Cinesite has promoted Holger Voss to group head of CG for visual effects, Alexander Savenko to group head of production technology, and Danny Smith to group head of infrastructure technology.

Voss will focus on leading the VFX workflow and tailoring Cinesite’s pipeline to meet the needs of VFX production.  Emmy Award-winner Voss has been a pivotal member of Cinesite’s team for 17 years; his technical knowledge is integral to Cinesite creating innovative, made to measure visual effects for every production it works on.

Having initially studied computer media science in Stuttgart in 1998, Voss gained valuable industry experience in motion capture and technical direction, progressing through the ranks to become lead TD and visual effects supervisor for productions including Rocketman, Lost in Space (season 2), Independence Day: Resurgence and most recently MGM’s forthcoming Aretha Franklin biopic Respect

Savenko will be leading pipeline development strategies across the production technology group. He began his VFX career with Cinesite as a talented young developer in 2003, having completed his doctorate in computer science at Moscow University the previous year. He went on to progress through the pipeline department working as a 3D technical director, a senior technical director before becoming head of CG pipeline. In 2013 he joined MPC as a software lead for rendering, helping teams to deliver award-winning blockbusters like Jungle Book, Guardians of the Galaxy and Maleficent. Savenko re-joined Cinesite in 2015 and has been a key player in software development and systems architecture across Cinesite’s expanding studio footprint.

Smith is a specialist in systems infrastructure technologies within the VFX industry. He joined Cinesite in 1996 and has worked for the studio periodically for many years while co-owning an independent support business working for a wide range of TV and film VFX houses. Smith returned to Cinesite in 2017 having previously been head of systems technology at Cinesite London. In his new group wide position as head of infrastructure technology, he will be responsible for spearheading a unified approach to core infrastructure design and deployment in VFX and feature animation divisions across the Cinesite Group. Smith will be providing technical leadership, supervision and mentoring to the senior technical members of the systems group and the systems development team. Prior to re-joining Cinesite, Smith was head of technical operations at Framestore London.

Over the past five years Cinesite has emerged as a leading independent entertainment service studio, expanding to include the Image Engine and Trixter brands. These three promotions and the hiring of Driskill reflect the company’s growing maturity and its endeavors to consolidate expertise across the group.

“I am very excited to welcome Hank to the Cinesite team and to announce the well-deserved promotions of Holger, Alexander and Danny, who have made major contributions to Cinesite over several years through their dedication, vision and teamwork,” commented Cinesite CTO Michele Sciolette. “In recent years we have been working to integrate our studios to give our clients the ability to tap into integrated global capacity, technology and talent anywhere in the world, while offering a high-quality local experience. As Cinesite continues to expand, we are eager to accelerate this effort and to take our VFX and feature animation global pipeline and infrastructure to the next level, consolidating our efforts across our studios, connecting as one company, and growing our global strategy together. This new group-focused leadership team will shape and implement our strategy in collaboration with the exceptional talent in each one of our studios.”

Cinesite, Image Engine and Trixter are currently in production on the Warner Bros. live-action features Fantastic Beasts 3, Space Jam: A New Legacy and The Suicide Squad, The Witcher (season 2) and a yet to be announced feature film for Netflix as well as The Addams Family 2 and Respect for MGM, The North Water for BBC Films, Blazing Samurai and Hitpig for Aniventure, and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings for Marvel to name a few.

  • Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020
Gareth Spensley joins Company 3 as sr. colorist
Gareth Spensley
LONDON -- 

Gareth Spensley has joined Company 3’s London team as sr. colorist. He comes over from Molinare where he established a reputation as a versatile colorist across both episodic television and feature films.

Spensley has colored some of the UK’s biggest name episodic dramas including Doctor Who, The Durrells, and the critically acclaimed Killing Eve and Bodyguard.

He has also applied his talents to features. He recently colored Florian Zeller’s critically acclaimed debut The Father and Wes Anderson’s eagerly anticipated The French Dispatch. Spensley also graded Tom Hooper’s Oscar and BAFTA-winning The King’s Speech and Ken Loach’s BAFTA and Palme d’Or-winning I, Daniel Blake.

Spensley’s passion for color science and innovation in combining compositing techniques with color grading has seen him recognized across a number of industry award competitions including a 2018 RTS nomination for the BBC2 adaptation of King Lear and the 2020 BAFTA craft nomination for his work on David Tenant/Michael Sheen-starring series Good Omens from BBC Worldwide and Amazon Studios.

Company 3 London’s director of operations Claire McGrane said, “Gareth’s artistry and passion are the clear drivers of his success.”

Company 3 CEO and founder Stefan Sonnenfeld added, “We are so excited to see Gareth bring his knowledge, experience and craft to the Company 3 family and further bolster our global roster of talented artists.”

  • Friday, Nov. 20, 2020
Preymaker adds Jasper Kidd, Alan McSeveney and Jamie Scott 
Jasper Kidd
NEW YORK -- 

On the heels of its launch last month by Angus Kneale, Melanie Wickham and Verity Grantham, creative and technology studio Preymaker has made three key hires--Jasper Kidd, Alan McSeveney and Jamie Scott. They bring a broad range of experience which includes collaborations with leading directors on high-profile awarding winning work. 
 
“Preymaker is built on three key pillars: technology, creativity and most importantly, our people,” said Kneale. “We’re building on that foundation by taking on three extremely talented individuals. Jamie and Jasper are exceptional creative forces and Alan is a brilliant technical mind. They are all best-in-class with skills and a body of work that reflect a dynamic between creativity and technology, integral to what we do at Preymaker.” 

Kidd is a cinefile whom Kneale described as “a rare breed of artist adept across live action and highly technical CGI disciplines.” His most recent work is as a VFX supervisor on the fantasy drama film Wendy with Oscar-nominated Beasts of the Southern Wild director, Benh Zeitlin. Prior to this, Kidd was on staff at Absolute Post, Rainmaker and The Mill, with experience as an animator, compositor, designer and director. His advertising credits include Hennessey’s “The Piccards” and “Major,” along with Sony PlayStation's “The King” and “Star Wars Battlefront.” He’s pushed the bar working with directors such as Daniel Wolfe, Martin De Thurah, Wayne McClammy and Chris Cunningham. 
 
“What I’m most excited about at Preymaker is to keep my inner polymath alive and to grow in all the incredible areas evolving in our industry,” Kidd said. “From crafting exceptional work, and exploring the incredible opportunities of the cloud, to all the exciting possibilities of real-time. While the advantages of our new model are innumerable, I also relish the challenges of being on the bleeding edge in that we are having to invent all the things that must exist to live in this new paradigm.” 
 
McSeveney brings vast technical expertise to Preymaker cultivated from over a decade-long tenure at The Mill as sr. systems engineer, IT manager and most recently, head of technology at the New York studio. The opportunity to help build a brand new future-facing startup with long-time now former Mill NY colleagues Kneale, Wickham and Grantham motivated McSeveney to join Preymaker. 
 
“At Preymaker we are implementing cutting-edge technology and a scalable structure, allowing us to grow and collaborate globally, and give everybody the latest tool-sets they need to stay one step ahead,” McSeveney said. “I’m responsible for everything from remote setups for our staff to designing cloud architecture and the entire workflow, ensuring the work flows as cohesively and efficiently as possible. I also manage security to assure confidentiality for our clients and their campaigns. All this presents stimulating challenges; the more simple we want our operations, the more complex things have to be on the backend to make it simple for everybody else.” 
 
For Scott, who has worked on staff at Psyop, Method and The Mill as a VFX supervisor and compositor, Preymaker offers the opportunity to continue crafting great work using the latest advances in cloud technology. Scott’s experience includes collaborations with directors such as Rupert Sanders, Tom Kuntz, Ringan Ledwidge, Daniel Wolfe and Michel Gondry, and he has also met success himself as an experimental filmmaker. His work has been commissioned by Chanel, Spotify and Dell, and includes a series of acclaimed time-lapse films of seasons in Central Park that went viral and generated global media coverage. 
 
Scott said. “There are so many advantages to the advances in cloud-based technology that Preymaker is pioneering, which enable us to collaborate seamlessly with other artists around the globe. Preymaker also has the capability to dynamically expand on demand with access to unlimited amounts of render power. All of these advantages help make creativity flow and creative culture thrive.”

Utilizing an advanced custom cloud-based platform created in collaboration with Amazon Web Services, Preymaker is one of the first cloud native creative studios that creates content entirely in the cloud. Preymaker has already kicked off projects collaborating with McCann, BBDO, 72andSunny and Johannes Leonardo, and directors Peter Thwaites, Daniel Wolfe, Lance Acord and David Gordon Green.

Kidd, McSeveney and Scott do not have titles at their new roost. Kneale explained that Preymaker has made a conscious decision to go sans titles for its talent, contending that “titles can be highly restrictive for a creative technology company; we purposefully don’t want people to stay in their lanes. Creative ideas come from anywhere at all levels and lateral technical thinking comes from places you least expect. The environment that we are building encourages experimentation, innovation and learning. We recruit the talented people with areas of expertise but push them into adjacent disciplines that gives them wider context. Corporate hierarchy and rigid org charts stifle and kill creativity and innovation.”

Kidd and Scott are focusing on creative while McSeveney is primarily involved in technology. But Kneale noted that all three are highly skilled in both creative and technology.

  • Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020
A LVLY addition: editor Emily Spiegelman-Noel
Emily Spiegelman-Noel
NEW YORK -- 

Editor Emily Spiegelman-Noel is joining the roster of the creative editorial division at content and creative studio LVLY. Spiegelman-Noel’s most recent work includes Banana Republic’s return to television advertising after a 15 year absence, with their “Love the Present” Holiday ‘20 Campaign, as well as Tom Petty’s “Leave Virginia Alone” music video, directed by Adria Petty and Mark Seliger. Spiegelman-Noel has worked with brands including Dior, YSL, Chaos, Express, Kohl’s, Revlon and Target.

Wendy Brovetto, executive VP and managing director of LVLY, described Spiegelman-Noel as “a great fit for us, particularly given our legacy in the world of beauty where aesthetic and precision are so important.”

Spiegelman-Noel has been working on projects with LVLY since leaving Modern Post in late 2019. She was born and raised in California and studied politics and filmmaking at the University of California, Santa Cruz and Los Angeles. Prior to joining LVLY, she was rostered at Consulate, Exile Edit and Modern Post.

  • Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020
VMLY&R bolsters Seattle presence with ECD Scott, group CD Wille
Glen Scott (l) and Kathleen Wille
SEATTLE -- 

VMLY&R West is expanding its presence with two key hires: executive creative director Glen Scott and group creative director Kathleen Wille. 

Scott becomes lead creative for VMLY&R West, based in Seattle. In this new role, Scott will work across key clients, including Intel, Microsoft, Mazda, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Zespri Kiwifruit, and Driscoll’s Berries. He will report to John Godsey, North American chief creative officer.

Prior to relocating, Scott led creative teams at VMLY&R Kansas City to multiple new business wins and buzzworthy campaigns for Gatorade. As a 15-year ad vet, he has worked across a variety of clients, including Sonic Drive-In, 24 Hour Fitness and Las Vegas tourism, where he developed creative on the city’s iconic “What Happens Here, Stays Here” campaign. His work has been recognized by Cannes, Clios, Communication Arts, One Show, Webby People’s Choice, Project Isaac, Effies, and more.

Wille has joined VMLY&R as group creative director. Based in Seattle, she will work as one of the agency’s creative leads for Intel. Wille brings more than 20 years’ experience, spending the majority of her career in Chicago--most recently at FCB Chicago. She has helped build brands including Skittles, Michelob ULTRA, State Farm and McDonald’s. Prior to FCB, Wille was creative director at DDB Chicago. Her work has been recognized by D&AD, Cannes and the London International Awards, among others. 

Both Scott and Wille join a Seattle team, which has grown its employee base over 22% in the past months. Eric Baumgartner is executive lead, VMLY&R West.

  • Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020
IFTA elects board members, including first-timers Beaufils, Machin and Spicer
J.D. Beaufils
LOS ANGELES -- 

The Independent Film & Television Alliance® (IFTA®) has announced the results of its annual elections to select the board of directors. 

The following individuals have been elected to serve on IFTA’s 15-person board: J.D. Beaufils (VMI Worldwide), Scott Bedno (Myriad Pictures), Jody Cipriano (MarVista Entertainment), Patrick Ewald (Epic Pictures Group), Will Machin (Metro International Entertainment), Wendy Reeds (Lionsgate), Lise Romanoff (Vision Films), and Nick Spicer (XYZ Films). 

Michael Ryan (GFM Films) continues as chairperson of the  oard. These newly-elected executives join those currently serving the second year of their two-year term as IFTA board members: Caroline Couret-Delegue (Film Seekers Limited), Clay Epstein (Film Mode Entertainment), Jeffrey Greenstein (Millennium Media), Jay Joyce (Cardinal XD), Jeannine Tang (Participant Media), and Adam Wright (Voltage Pictures). 

Ryan commented, “Our new Board members are taking their seats at a time when our industry is beset by challenges and we, at IFTA, are working every day to clear a path that will get us back to reliable and safe ways to finance, produce and distribute films. Their unique perspectives and expertise provide strength to our association’s mission of supporting independents worldwide.” 

This marks the first time Beaufils, Machin, and Spicer will serve on the IFTA Board.   

IFTA produces the annual American Film Market. Its 41st edition, AFM 2020 Online, concluded Friday, November 13. 

  • Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020
Syreeta N. Greene named AFI’s director of diversity, equity & inclusion
Syreeta N. Greene
LOS ANGELES -- 

The American Film Institute (AFI) has appointed Syreeta N. Greene, Ed.D. as its new director of diversity, equity & inclusion. Greene holds a Doctor of Education with an emphasis in education psychology and Master of Social Work with an emphasis in community organizing, planning and administration, both from the University of Southern California. Her previous roles include director of the MOSAIC Cross Cultural Center at Midwestern State University and assistant director at USC’s Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs. Greene will oversee diversity and inclusion for all of AFI’s programs.

“AFI’s community grows with the stellar addition of Syreeta Greene,” said Bob Gazzale, AFI president and CEO. “As a person and as a professional, she embodies the culture we have been working toward and will catalyze change for an even stronger AFI.” 

“I am excited for this unique opportunity and look forward to collaborating with the entire AFI community to develop a place and space for all who belong to the AFI family,” said Greene.

Greene is a higher education professional with 20 years of experience. She is committed to removing barriers to educational and career opportunities, as well as improving the overall engagement, success and experiences of under-represented and historically marginalized student populations. As a diversity, equity and inclusion educator, she has designed research-based curriculums on a range of diversity, equity and inclusion topics; produced guides, accompanying audio visual aids, and participant materials; and developed organization-wide assessment tools to engage stakeholders concerning organizational climate, experience and observations. Most recently, Greene was Dean, Division of Student Affairs at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU). Founded in 1966, CDU is a minority-serving institution and a Historically Black Graduate Institute located in South Los Angeles with a student population of 900. Prior to CDU, Greene served as the director of MOSAIC Cross Cultural Center (formerly Office of Equity, Inclusion & Multicultural Affairs) at Midwestern State University, assistant director for the Transfer and Veteran Student Program at University of Southern California (USC) and assistant director at USC’s Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs. Greene has been a member of National Association of Diversity Officers of Higher Education (NADOHE) since 2016.

  • Monday, Nov. 16, 2020
The Mill NY promotes Jeff Lopez and Kevin Ives to heads of 3D
Jeff Lopez
NEW YORK -- 

The Mill has made a creative change within its New York sr. management team, promoting Jeff Lopez and Kevin Ives to serve as its two new heads of 3D.

Lopez and Ives will join forces in leading the New York studio’s award-winning CGI offering, from hand-drawn animation to photo-real creatures and characters. 

Lopez has been with the creative studio for a number of years as an animation supervisor, where he has played a key role in managing and mentoring the animation team, as well as bringing The Mill’s highest quality animated characters and creatures to life. Lopez has won accolades for his work with brands such as Norfolk Southern, Electronic Arts and PlayStation. 

Ives is a multi-award-winning visual effects supervisor and 3D artist who is credited for his groundbreaking photo-real creatures for PETA, Hallmark and Coca Cola. As an expert in his field, Ives is often paired with high profile directors and big-name brands, who trust him to deliver impeccable character work. 

The two creative leads will continue to drive The Mill’s focus and growth in developing world-class visual effects and CGI imagery for brands, agencies and directors. 

The Mill’s New York managing director Barry Parkhill commented, “VFX sits at the heart of The Mill, and in appointing Kevin and Jeff to lead our CG team, I am excited by their expansive and ambitious ideas around the rapidly evolving CG landscape.  As the profile of creative projects we produce continues to diversify, there has never been a better time to challenge ourselves to set new creative benchmarks, to embrace cutting-edge toolsets, and to explore how we can continue to drive creative and technical innovation in all areas of what we do. As highly regarded artists who champion the talent around them, Jeff and Kevin have earned the respect of their teams and the industry at large and are the perfect duo to take our CG offering to the next level.” 

  • Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020
Paul Salvini named global chief technology officer at DNEG
Paul Salvini
VANCOUVER, B.C. -- 

Visual effects and animation house DNEG--with studios in London, Vancouver, Mumbai, Los Angeles, Chennai, Montréal and Chandigarh--has appointed Paul Salvini as global chief technology officer.

DNEG has expanded substantially in recent years, adding several new business lines, new facilities in North America and India, and growing to over 7,000 employees across its global offices.

In his new role, Salvini will be responsible for developing a new and innovative technology vision for the company, managing its global technology and R&D teams and overseeing technology initiatives across all of its key offerings: visual effects for film and episodic content, feature animation, stereo conversion, virtual production and its ReDefine division, which serves expanding international markets and independent filmmakers.

Outgoing CTO Graham Jack, who has been with the company since 2002, is assisting with the smooth transition of responsibilities.

Based in Canada, Salvini has more than 25 years of experience in C-Suite roles, including 15 years as CTO at SideFX, where he oversaw and guided the development of industry-standard visual effects and animation software tool Houdini from beta onwards. He also spent several years as CTO of audiovisual technology leader Christie Digital, where he was a key member of the global executive team, providing strategic and technical direction to the company’s 1,500 employees across 18 countries as well as conducting fundamental research into display systems in order to secure early IP for the company.

Most recently, Salvini was CEO of The Accelerator Centre, a not-for-profit business accelerator that provides guidance, mentorship and support for technology start-ups, ranked in the Top 5 for companies of its type worldwide and number one in Canada. The company has helped launch and support over 120 technology-based businesses in the last few years, working in a wide range of areas from data science, AI, computer vision and robotics to autonomous vehicles.

Salvini said: “Technology and science is playing an ever-more important role in the art and creativity of storytelling. I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a hand in many firsts during my career in the entertainment industry--from enabling collaboration for a newly emerging global talent-base of artists and technicians, to the development of software and processes that have fundamentally changed what is possible to achieve digitally. I feel that we are on the cusp of the next big change in our industry, and it is an honor for me to have the opportunity to explore the possibilities with a global leader of the caliber of DNEG.”  

In addition to his extensive professional experience, Salvini also has a strong academic research background. He served as associate VP of research commercialization at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. 

DNEG CEO Namit Malhotra said: “Paul has a huge breadth of technical, academic and managerial experience and an entrepreneurial edge which makes him the perfect addition to our senior team as we begin the next phase of DNEG’s journey.”

Malhotra added, “If 2020 has done anything, it has proven the need for more innovation, more flexibility and new ways of thinking in order to continue offering the highest levels of quality and support to our filmmaking clients. With Paul’s strategic vision and direction, and our aspiration to be the very best in everything that we do, we are building a spirit of innovation that will rewrite ‘what’s next’ for our industry.”

MySHOOT Company Profiles