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Re-Drawing the Gender Landscape in Animation

Attended by Leading Entertainment Industry and Corporate Influencers

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Re-Drawing the Gender Landscape in Animation

Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Arclight Cinema Hollywood

6360 Sunset Blvd, Theater #9, Los Angeles, CA 90028

Film throughout history has tended to portray women through the lens of unconscious gender bias, including at times, animation. The panel will discuss the work underway to overcome this bias and take a look at the steps going forward we can take to create a more balanced gender landscape.

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Tessa Blake, Moderator

Filmmaker & Television Director

Tessa Blake is an award-winning filmmaker and television director (NCIS: New Orleans, iZombie). An AFI Directing Workshop for Women alumna, Tessa’s films have premiered at Cannes and SXSW, have won awards at Nantucket Film Festival and the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, have been honored by the Academy, been released theatrically, and have played on Showtime, CBS, CW & Oxygen, PBS & DirecTV. She and her husband Ian Williams also work as a writing team for film and television and have enjoyed script deals with ABC, NBC, FOX and Warner Brothers. As Executive Director of the Directing Workshop for Women, Tessa has advanced several dynamic programs to increase the representation of women in the industry, including an ongoing partnership with Google to change the face of technology in media, and the recently-announced the FOX Bridge Program, which give alumnae the opportunity to create work in the traditionally male-dominated world of franchise film.

Brendan Burch

CEO & Executive Producer, Six Point Harness

Brendan Burch is the CEO and Executive Producer of Six Point Harness. Before co founding Six Point, he graduated from Cal Art’s Character Animation program in 2000. In 2009, after years of producing a high volume of work-for-hire projects, Brendan initiated an original content development program that begat Dick Figures, a wildly-successful, adult, animated, digital comedy series featuring two stick figure buddies. To date, Dick Figures has been viewed over 600 million times on Mondo Media’s YouTube channel. With the help of a record-setting Kickstarter campaign, Six Point Harness produced Dick Figures: The Movie, which launched in the top 20 films on iTunes.
Brendan also spearheaded the effort to develop and sell Apollo Gauntlet, an original series, to Adult Swim, which begins airing in 2017. Additionally, Burch and his team landed an original R-rated feature, The Last Christmas, into development at Sony Pictures Animation. Throughout the years, Brendan has made a point of retaining a loyal, creative crew and together they fiercely maintain studio independence

Soha El-Sabaawi

Manager of Diversity & Inclusion Programs, Riot Games

Soha El-Sabaawi is a Manager of Diversity and Inclusion Programs at Riot Games. She also sits on the Board of Directors for Dames Making Games in Toronto, Canada and is a former video game critic and academic.

Melissa Schneider

EVP, Originals and Development, New Form

Melissa Schneider leads all development and creative for New Form. With an extensive background in both digital and traditional media, Schneider seeks out and cultivates emerging digital talent, working with them to make burgeoning ideas a reality. These visions come to life in the form of pilots and series for the social media generation. Her creative approach to development and production deliver engaging scripted-stories that are unique to New Form.

Since joining New Form in 2014, she has developed and launched 43 pilots, with 22 series orders. She executive produced Oscar’s Hotel for Fantastical Creatures, a co-production with The Jim Henson Creature Shop, featuring Chris Kendall, Grace Helbig, Mamrie Hart, Hannah Hart, PewdiePie, Patrick Stewart and Alfred Molina. And Schneider oversees the studio’s Incubator Series, where she discovers and mentors talent concepts to pilot; the latest Incubator Series will launch this spring. Schneider is a member of the Producers Guild, a judge for the Austin Film Festival and the Vancouver Web Fest and an industry speaker, with recent leadership roles at Women in the West and Digital Hollywood.  

Prior to joining New Form, Schneider was SVP of creative development at the Collective Digital Studios (CDS) and spearheaded the strategy and programming for Mashable’s YouTube channel, in addition to working closely with CDS’s top digital talent (Hannah Hart, Lilly Singh, Elliott Morgan) to create original scripted IP.  Before that, Schneider worked for Jeffery Katzenberg and Charles Segars as the executive in charge of production at Dreamworks Animation’s YouTube Nation, an exclusive series with YouTube. While there, Schneider built a top-of-the-line studio and oversaw daily production operations for over 40 full time employees and worked closely with the DreamWorks and YouTube creative teams to execute the project’s vision.

Previously, Schneider was the director of development and production at My Damn Channel, where she created and oversaw the first daily live comedy show on YouTube, My Damn Channel Live, hosted by Grace Helbig, with over 200 episodes. And as the director of production at Digital Broadcasting Group, Schneider specialized in branded entertainment for the digital space, working with top tier brands such as McDonald’s, Toyota, Heineken, Dentine, and Dell. Schneider has been developing and producing content for the digital space since 2009 and her work has been nominated and won Streamys, Webbys and IAWTV awards. She started her career as a writer’s assistant for The Sopranos, working for David Chase, Terence Winter, Matthew Weiner and Ilene Landress.

Schneider is an alum of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and is based in LA.

Osnat Shurer


Osnat Shurer joined Walt Disney Animation Studios in 2012 as vice president of development, working with filmmakers to move features and shorts through the creative process. As producer of Moana, Shurer helps manage the film through story, script, music, casting and throughout production, as well as overseeing publicity, marketing and consumer products efforts. Part of her role includes ensuring the team is able to access the locations, people and other resources necessary to create an authentic and believable film. “I learned about the amazing people of the Pacific Islands—their incredible history and achievements, their gorgeous home islands and their love of the sea,” she says. “But most importantly, I met wonderful people who turned from advisors to good friends!”

Previously, Shurer served as the executive producer of the shorts group at Pixar Animation Studios, responsible for Pixar’s short films. While at Pixar, Shurer produced or executive produced a host of hit shorts, including the Oscar®-nominated Lifted (2006), One Man Band (2005) and Boundin (2003). Her credits at Pixar also include video shorts like Jack-Jack Attack and The Adventures of Mr. Incredible.

Shurer’s duties at Pixar also included training production management, creating and supervising an in-house documentary department to produce DVD bonus material content and other archival materials, as well as overseeing the development of commercials and theme park attractions.  For The Incredibles, Shurer produced and directed Vowellet: An Essay by Sara VowelL and executive produced The Making of The Incredibles.  She also produced Exploring the Reef with Jean-Michael Costeau for director Andrew Stanton, in conjunction with the release of Finding Nemo.

At Pixar, Shurer was also responsible for helping to create several cutting edge multi-media shows, including MoMA’s impressive Pixar: 20 Years of Animation, which opened in 2006 and went on travel the world.  The exhibit featured "Artscape," a widescreen projection space that provided viewers with a unique digital artistic experience, and Zoetrope, a dynamic 3D installation, modeled on pre-cinema technology, which used dimensional character sculptures to simulate continuous motion.

Shurer was consulting producer on the 2011 Golden Globe®-nominated feature Arthur Christmas.

Prior to joining Pixar in 2002, Shurer produced and directed film and television in various mediums – live action, animation, live television, and various interactive presentations for museums. She worked on documentaries and narrative films throughout the world, in such places as India, China, Tibet, Japan, Africa and Europe, with directors ranging from Michelangelo Antonioni to Alfonso Cuarón.

Shurer was born in Israel, and as the child of an airline executive, she grew up in many parts of the world. She received a degree in film from New York University in 1983. She resides in Los Angeles, Calif.

Mark Osborne


Two-time Academy Award-nominated director Mark Osborne most recently directed and Executive Produced the first-ever animated feature film adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s beloved classic, The Little Prince.  Mixing stop-motion animation and CGI, the film features an impressive cast of voice talents led by Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams and Mackenzie Foy. Premiering Out of Competition at the Cannes Film Festival, the film grossed more than $100 million dollars globally at the box office and garnered remarkable worldwide acclaim including winning the 2016 French Cesar Film Award for Best Animated Feature.

Osborne’s breakout was DreamWorks’ critically acclaimed animated blockbuster, Kung Fu Panda, which premiered Out of Competition at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival going on to receive an Academy Award-nomination for Best Animated Feature. Osborne’s other credits include the stop-motion animation short film, MORE which received an Academy Award-nomination for Best Animated Short Film, a Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, and dozens of other distinctions.  Osborne has also worked in live-action directing the live-action sequences for the first The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie, as well as live-action sequences in the first three seasons of the popular TV series.

Osborne and Kline are currently co-writing the screenplay for BONE, based on Jeff Smith’s worldwide hit graphic novel series, for Warner Bros. and Lin Pictures. Osborne will also serve as an Executive Producer.