Symposium | Penn Film and Media Pioneers VII, 2018

Saturday, October 20, 2018 - 9:30am

Penn Film and Media Pioneers VII, 2018

— Alumni talk about their careers as novelists, directors, producers, and media lawyers.
— Faculty talk about new books.
— Students talk about internships and clubs.

The symposium is free and open to the public. No registration required.


9:30-10am | Breakfast | English Faculty Lounge, 135 Fisher-Bennett Hall

10-11:15am | New Writing from the Cinema & Media Studies Faculty | Joseph Coppola, Moderator

Kathy DeMarco Van Cleve is a novelist, screenwriter, film producer and teacher. Her most recent work is the Young Readers adaptation of the 2017 National Book finalist
Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar for Aladdin Books / Simon & Schuster, due to be published in 2019. She is also working on a film adaptation of the Wesley Stace novel Charles Jessold: Considered as a Murderer and her own young adult book series, Hurricane Ike. Kathy's previous novels are Drizzle, Cranberry Queen and The Difference Between You and Me. She worked in the film business for many years and graduated from Penn with a dual degree from the Wharton School & the College.

Nili Gold is Professor of Modern Hebrew Literature in the department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (NELC) at the University of Pennsylvania. Her most recent book, Haifa, City of Steps (Brandeis, 2017), an homage to her hometown, is a hybrid work of urban studies, architecture, literature and memory. Gold’s spring 2019 course: “The Image of Haifa, Literature, Architecture and Film” was selected to be a Penn Global Seminar: Led by Gold, all its participants will travel to Haifa, Israel, during spring break using her book as a study/tour guide. Gold, an expert on Yehuda Amichai, the world renowned Hebrew poet, dedicated two books to him: Yehuda Amichai: The Making of Israel's National Poet (Brandeis University Press/University Press of New England, 2008) and  Lo kabrosh (Not Like a Cypress) (Schocken, 1994). Indeed, the focus of Gold’s teaching is Hebrew and Israeli culture, but she often includes American, European and Middle-Eastern literature and cinema to gain a comparative perspective. Gold has also published dozens of articles in American, Asian, European and Israeli academic journals as well as in the Literary Supplement of the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz.

Rahul Mukherjee has been researching and teaching about environmental media and global media at University of Pennsylvania. He has been part of two collaborative projects, one concerned with circulation of local music videos through memory cards in India and the other dealing with ICT (platform jumping) practices in Zambia. He is presently working on two book projects: one concerned with mediations of radiation emitting technologies and their environmental impact titled "Radiant Infrastructures: Media, Environment, and Cultures of Uncertainty" (under contract with Duke University Press) and the other about aspirational mobilities unleashed by mobile media technologies called "(Un)Limited Mobilities: Memory Card, WhatsApp, and Jio." During 2017-18, Rahul was at Cornell University's Society for the Humanities as the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future Fellow. He is part of the editorial board of the Journal of Visual Culture.

11:15am-12:30pm | Learning by Doing: CIMS Internships and FilmAid Club | Peter Decherney, Moderator

Jennifer Chen is a junior from Saratoga, CA pursuing a dual degree in Cinema & Media Studies and Finance. In summer 2017, she traveled to the Kalobeyei Settlement along with the Penn-in-Kenya crew to make a series of informative films that orient incoming refugees to the ways of life at the settlement. This eye-opening experience made her more avid about using art as a medium for social change, and now she is the treasurer of the Penn FilmAid Club and striving to help refugee filmmakers garner a wider audience in international film festivals.

Sonari Chidi is a UN & MCN Millennium Fellow and a Robert A. Fox Leadership & Service Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, studying Cinema & Media Studies and Africana Studies. He is a Sol Feinstone Ivy Day Award winner, as the co-founder and president of Penn FilmAid, a student organization that harnesses the power of media to advocate for refugees and immigrants. He is a SAG-AFTRA producer and actor, and has appeared on shows including Modern Family, The Mindy Project, The Thundermans, and Instant Mom. His producing work includes the short films Grimshaw and Let’s Just Be Friends, as well as the viral hits, African Time and African Booty Scratcher. Sonari is the director of the award winning documentary, Shattering Refuge.

Laurel Jaffe
is a Junior in the College majoring in Cinema & Media Studies. For past summers Laurel has worked with National Geographic Student Expeditions on a variety of documentary projects in Bali, Switzerland, and Iceland. It was on these trips that she discovered her interest in cameras, knack for filmmaking, and love for hearing people’s stories. Working on a documentary with Prof. Decherney and FilmAid’s team in Kenya opened her up to the world of cinema and opportunities at Penn. The Penn-in-Kenya program was an incredible experience for her to learn how to create Virtual Reality videos that tell the stories of the individuals she met and capture the different environments she was in. Laurel is very excited to pursue a career in the Entertainment Industry and hopes she can one day create content that inspires and moves people to emphasize with others and act on pressing social issues

Melisande McLaughlin is a junior studying Cinema & Media Studies and Sociology. She has long been passionate about humanitarianism, having organised emergency-aid to flooded villages neglected by larger NGOs and establishing fishing ventures after the 2004 Tsunami while growing up in Thailand. She began bridging this with her passion for the arts while attending United World College of the Atlantic in Wales, where she volunteered with Student Action for Refugees; performed Musical Therapy; and co-organized an Amnesty Street Theatre troop, among other projects. As a college student, she taught film and physical-theatre as a mean for cross-cultural communication at the Mostar Summer Youth Program in Bosnia, worked with FilmAid International and created a Virtual Reality (VR) film about the Kalobeyei Refugee Settlement in Kenya, and created a VR film on the response of artists to Hurricane Maria with Professor Decherney in Puerto Rico. She is currently developing a VR experience on gender discrimination with the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Paris and Tsinghua University in Beijing. She is a co-founder and vice-president of Penn FilmAid. After graduation, she intends to work as a writer, and filmmaker as well in academia, harnessing the power of the arts and education to express, humanize, and understand contemporary social and rights-based issues.

Serena Miniter
is a Junior in the College majoring in Cinema & Media Studies. Serena grew up in New York City and attended the all-girls school Spence. Growing up, Serena studied acting at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute and HB Studios. She attended programs at UCLA for filmmaking and acting for television and film. Serena was the founder, producer, and on-camera presenter of News 91, a video news show. At Penn, Serena is Head of Recruitment and lead Producer for Nexo Productions, a company founded by Penn students that produces commercials and films for local start-ups, brands, and the university itself. Through the CIMS internship program, this past summer Serena interned at the Gersh Agency in Los Angeles. She also attended the Penn-in-Cannes program, partaking in the Cannes Film Festival in France. Serena aims to pursue a career in television, film, and broadcast journalism upon graduation.

Adelaide Powell is a senior from Washington D.C. majoring in Communication and Cinema & Media Studies. This summer she worked at PBS as the Children’s Programming and Development intern. On campus, she is the Vice President of Penn Cinema Initiative, a writer for The Moviegoer, a Wexler Studio Staffer at the Kelly Writers House and a member of Kinoki Senior Society. Upon graduation she hopes to enter the fields of media and entertainment, travel, and be a force for good.

Andrew Ravaschiere is a senior from New York City majoring in Biology and minoring in Cinema & Media Studies.  On the scientific front, he has conducted original cellular research through both the Lisman Laboratories and also the Lee Lab at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. His work has been published twice in peer-reviewed scientific journals as a first and fourth author, respectively. Andrew is also the Chairman of the Wharton Undergraduate Healthcare Club’s Career Development Committee. On the media side, Andrew has served as a TIME for Kids Kid Reporter, in which capacity he interviewed actor/writer/director/producer Tom Hanks, former Vice President Al Gore, author/cartoonist Jeff Kinney, and People Magazine founder Richard Stolley, among others.  He has also been awarded 1st and 3rd Place in the Brooklyn Public Library’s 2013 and 2014 Teen Writing Contest in the Longer Works and Prose Category.  Recently, his original television pilot earned Semi-Finalist recognition in Stage 32’s 3rd Annual Comedy Writing Contest. This past summer, he served as a production intern at Jigsaw Productions for an upcoming full-feature documentary on Theranos, a Silicon Valley fraudulent medical startup, and its founder Elizabeth Holmes. He is the Alumni Outreach Chair of the Kinoki Senior Society, a UPenn organization for undergraduates interested in media and entertainment careers.

Peter Trismen is a Senior from Darien, CT majoring in Economics and Cinema & Media Studies. Around campus, he is the Vice President of Kappa Sigma, the Vice President of the Kinoki Senior Society, and a member of the Order of Omega. This past summer, Peter spent eight weeks interning at Caribbean Cinemas in San Juan, Puerto Rico. An avid movie watcher, Peter can often be found perusing Netflix for an obscure title to stream. After graduation, he hopes to pursue a career in the entertainment industry.

12:30-1:30pm | Lunch | English Faculty Lounge, 135 Fisher-Bennett Hall

1:30-2:45pm | Telling Real Stories | Anat Dan, Moderator

Mohammed (Mo) Naqvi's latest documentaries are Insha'Allah Democracy (STARZ, BBC), featuring fly-on-wall access to notorious military dictator General Pervez Musharraf, and Among the Believers (Netflix, PBS World) an up-close and personal chronicle of ISIS supporter & Taliban ally Abdul Aziz Ghazi. Both films have been banned in Mo's home country Pakistan. Other documentary credits include Pakistan’s Hidden Shame (Channel 4 UK, ABC Australia), Shabeena’s Quest (Al-Jazeera World), Terror's Children (Discovery) and Shame (Paramount / Showtime) profiling sexual violence survivor and international human rights icon Mukhtaran Mai. In addition, Mo has produced fiction feature films including Big River and I Will Avenge You Iago, starring Giancarlo Esposito and Larry Pine. An alumnus of festivals including Sundance, Toronto, Tribeca, and Berlin, Mo is also the recipient of the Television Academy Honor, Amnesty International Human Rights Award, and a Grand Prix from the United Nations Association Festival. Mo has been nominated for an Emmy, an Independent Spirit Award, a Cinema Eye Honor, and the UNESCO-FELLINI Prize.

Ansley Sawyer is a nomadic film producer. Her and director Brandon Li's collaborations "Nomads of Mongolia" and "Hong Kong Strong" were Vimeo Staff Picks, and have been featured on BBC, National Geographic, TEDx, Smithsonian, Sony Alpha Universe, and Upworthy. She is an avid traveler, singer, sailor, and storyteller.

Sosena Solomon
is an award winning social documentary film and multimedia visual artist from Ethiopia. Intuitively selecting subjects and stories, she is particularly interested in spaces of transition and change, acting as a cultural preservationist. Her work, whether presented as a film or an immersive 3-dimensional experience, explores cross sections of various subcultures and communities in flux, carefully teasing out cultural nuances and capturing personal narratives via arresting visual storytelling and cinéma vérité stylings. Sosena has worked for many years in the commercial and nonprofit sectors and has worked as a Director and Cinematographer on many short film projects. Sosena earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in Social Documentary Film from The School of Visual Arts and a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Television Production from Temple University. Sosena is a freelancer currently lecturing in the Fine Arts Department at University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design.

3-4:15pm | The Cycle of Production | Eleni Palis, Moderator

Michael Gold is a reporter and social media editor at The New York Times, where he writes about viral stories and pop culture, including movie trailers, as well as breaking news and bizarre happenings in the New York area. He previously wrote about film, TV and LGBT culture at The Baltimore Sun and The Philadelphia City Paper.

Caren Lissner helped see her humorous first novel, Carrie Pilby, become an independent film, a five-year process that culminated in its debut at the Toronto Independent Film Festival in 2016. Carrie Pilby is presently showing on Netflix and stars Nathan Lane, Bel Powley, and Vanessa Bayer. Lissner is currently finishing up another novel called
In for the Winter. In the last two years she has also written screenplays, essays, investigative journalism, and humor pieces, which were published in venues from the Washington Post to to (most recently) a satire of tax forms that appeared in the New York Times. Her essay about the book-to-film adaptation process, and her other writings and photographs, can be found at She lives and writes in Hoboken, N.J.

Logan Steinhardt is the founder of Wandering Bard, an independent production company committed to growing new voices in the spaces of webseries, television and feature films. Recently he produced BRAID, starring Madeline Brewer, Sarah Hay, and Imogen Waterhouse, which premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. While at Killer Films, he worked on such films as WHITE GIRL, GOAT, WIENER-DOG, LEMON, WHERE IS KYRA? and WONDERSTRUCK. He also served as Associate Producer on the 2017 film MY DAYS OF MERCY, starring Kate Mara and Ellen Page.

Heidi Howard Tandy
graduated Penn with majors in History and Communications in 1992, and took her law degree at American University's Washington College of Law in 1995; she's a Miami-based attorney, and a Board Certified Specialist in Intellectual Property law, who is the chair of the IP and Tech practice at the Penn-alumni-filled DC law firm Price Benowitz. While her daily practice areas cover a wide swath of business issues including trademark selection and copyright registration, her side hustle has been the developing field of Fandom Law, which she's been involved with since 2000, as an early Harry Potter fandomer. Since then, she's presented at South By Southwest and at least ten comic-cons, last month's Congress on IP and the public interest, virtual and IRL ABA courses, and a groundbreaking Social Media Law class at Whittier Law School where guest speakers from DeviantArt, Google's AR department and the Organization for Transformative Works presented with her to her class. She's been on the vanguard of protecting fan rights, supporting transformative works as a member of the OTW Legal Committee and founder of FictionAlley, worked with Wattpad, Archivos, MuggleNet, The Leaky Cauldron, the HP Alliance, Hogwarts Running Club, a slew of wizard rock bands, fan films, Puffs and podcasters. She blogs at F Yeah Copyright on tumblr.


Penn Film & Media Pioneers VII  is made possible through the generous sponsorship and support of Mrs. Lorraine Carrady Quinn, CW'73, to the Cinema & Media Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania.

Cinema Studies Program
209A Fisher-Bennett Hall ⋅ 3340 Walnut Street ⋅ Philadelphia, PA 19104 ⋅ (215) 898-8782