Women of the West :: 2016 Speakers


Melva BenoitBridget -2
Founder and President, The Marian Dupree Group, Inc

As founder and president of The Marian Dupree Group, Melva leads initiatives that solve problems and help her clients grow their businesses.  She advises senior management of start-ups and Fortune 500 companies.  Melva is highly regarded for being both intellectually curious and realistically pragmatic; cultivating and maintaining key stakeholder relationships; identifying talent, empowering teams; and driving a high-performance culture.


Bridget CarpenterBridget -2
Executive Producer/Showrunner,“11.22.63” on Hulu

A television writer, producer and playwright, Bridget Carpenter created the event series “11.22.63,” based on Stephen King’s bestselling novel, which debuted on Hulu on President’s Day, 2016.

Prior to “11.22.63,” Carpenter wrote and co-executive produced all five seasons of the Emmy-nominated and Peabody Award-winning series “Friday Night Lights.” She also was a co-executive producer on “Parenthood,” and most recently, was executive producer/showrunner of Sundance Channel’s drama series “The Red Road.”


Heather Cochran Heather-Cochran-450x600
Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President of Business Operations, Television Academy

Heather Cochran is Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President of Business Operations at the Television Academy.

A senior management professional with more than 15 years’ experience in strategic planning and project management, Cochran previously oversaw planning and operations for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ $400MM film museum, including the project’s master planning, economic feasibility, public approvals and strategic communications, as well as most operational functions.


Ashley CrowderAshley_Crowder
CEO, Co-Founder, VNTANA

Ashley Crowder leverages her engineering background to guide VNTANA’s overall direction and technology development. She co-founded VNTANA in 2012 with the goal of allowing people to be in multiple venues at the same time. Since then VNTANA has created the first scalable and interactive hologram system, which has been used by major brands including Microsoft, Mercedes-Benz and Pepsi. Prior to co-founding VNTANA she graduated from USC with a bachelors and masters in engineering and gained valuable manufacturing experience at Gulfstream, Northrop Grumman and BP. She also gained experience in event production at MTV Networks in Los Angeles and INCA Productions in London, planning events to be executed in multiple countries.


Bonnie E. Eskenazi
Partner, Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger LLP

Bonnie Eskenazi is one of the foremost entertainment litigators in Los Angeles. Recently recognized by Variety as one of its “Women of Impact” within the Entertainment Industry, and by The Recorder as California’s Entertainment Lawyer of the Year, Ms. Eskenazi represents plaintiffs and defendants in a variety of litigation matters, including entertainment, copyright, defamation and general business disputes.


Natascha French

VNTANA – Natascha is a driven marketing and communications executive with a depth of experience developing strategies for both B2B and B2C clients in the emerging technology, consumer electronics, mobile and SaaS industries. As Chief Marketing Officer of VNTANA, the world’s only scalable and interactive hologram system, Natascha develops and oversees the company’s branding, marketing and communications strategy. 


Melissa GregoMelissa
Founder, Melinc.com and Keynotes & Cocktails: Women of the West and Women of NY

Melissa Grego is a journalist, editor and conference producer with expertise in TV, media and entertainment and a keen interest in connecting and empowering professional women.

She was the first female Editor-in- Chief of TV industry publication Broadcasting & Cable. While at B&C, she created, launched and produced the off-the- record Keynotes & CocktailsWomen of NY and Women of the West conferences, which she acquired from B&C in 2015 and is now presenting through her company Melinc (mel-link).  


Sarah HardenBridget -2
President,Otter Media

Sarah Harden is President of Otter Media, The Chernin Group’s (TCG) venture with AT&T which manages, invests in and operates businesses in the media, entertainment and consumer internet industries. Prior to Otter Media, Harden joined TCG as Executive Vice President in September 2013 where she played key roles in TCG’s majority stake acquisition of Crunchyroll, a leading global subscription and ad-supported video platform for Japanese anime; the formation of Otter Media with AT&T; and Otter Media’s acquisition of a controlling stake in Fullscreen, a leading global youth media company.


Jacqueline HernandezMelissa
Chief Marketing Officer, NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises

Jacqueline Hernández was appointed Chief Marketing Officer, NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises, in May 2014. In this role, she works across the NBCUniversal portfolio to integrate Telemundo and NBC UNIVERSO. In addition, Hernández is responsible for leading strategic partnerships across all NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises platforms.


Amy Hill AmyHill

Amy Hill is half of the award winning directing duo known as Riess | Hill, based in Los Angeles. Amy has a strong vision and focus on documentary style commercial directing and production and has created traditional spots and integrated campaigns for such noted brands as Chase, Pepsi, Keybank, Partnership for a Drug-Free America, The Salvation Army, and Eharmony. Amy is known to create content that highlights a prowess for capturing emotions that ring true, stir the soul and attain touching poignancy.


Lisa HolmeLisa_LA
VP, Content Acquisition, Hulu

Lisa serves as the Vice President of Content Acquisition for Hulu where she is responsible for content strategy, content licensing, and business development. Since joining Hulu, Lisa has been instrumental in bringing exclusive programming to Hulu from studios and networks including FX, AMC, Viacom, Turner, CW, CBS, Sony, Lionsgate, and others. She has led acquisition efforts that have made Hulu the exclusive home to top U.S. series such as Seinfeld, EmpireBlindspotFear the Walking Dead, Fargo, South Park, The Strain, CSI, and Inside Amy Schumer. Her team also handles licensing of film (including Hulu’s deals with EPIX and IFC Films) and kids content (Adventuretime, Doc McStuffins, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and many more).


Emma Isaacs 
Founder and Global CEO, Business Chicks

At just 36, international entrepreneur Emma Isaacs has achieved more than most people twice her age.  She’s the global CEO of Business Chicks, Australia’s largest community for women, and the newest and brightest network of its kind to launch in the USA.  She has raised over $12 million for a variety of charities; is a serial property investor, and has still found time to become a mother to four children under six.


Marcy G. Kaplanwww.MarisaQPhotography.com
Senior VP of TV Production, Lionsgate

As Senior Vice President of Television Production, Marcy G. Kaplan works closely with numerous broadcast, pay and basic cable networks, and streaming services to bring to life a variety of programs, including the Emmy-nominated series Orange Is the New Black for Netflix, the Golden Globe-nominated Nurse Jackie for Showtime, as well as Feed the Beast for AMC, Sex, Lies and Handwriting for ABC, and the highly-anticipated Dear White People for Netflix.


Suzanne Kolb
Executive VP & General Manager, Discovery Digital Networks

As Executive Vice President & General Manager of Discovery Digital Networks at Discovery Communications, Suzanne Kolb oversees the company’s award-winning portfolio of 70+ web-native series under the Seeker and SourceFed brands, original digital development, Discovery VR and social partnerships.


Deb McDermott
Senior VP & COO, Media General

Deborah McDermott, Senior Vice President & Chief Operating Officer for Media General, Inc. is one of the most prominent, experienced and well respected broadcasting professionals in the television industry. What makes Ms. McDermott so effective as a senior executive is the fact that she has been involved in literally all aspects of the broadcasting business and has played a leading role in some of the biggest mergers and acquisitions in the history of the industry.

Today, Ms. McDermott oversees all Broadcasting and Station Digital for Media General, one of the nation’s largest multimedia companies with a $2.2 B market cap that covers 23% of U.S. households and 43% of the U.S. Internet audience and operates or services 71 television stations in 48 markets. She also has responsibility for Bitesize Studio, a cutting edge digital enterprise based in Hollywood, California that produces and owns the national entertainment program “Hollywood Today Live.”


Erica Messer
Showrunner/Executive Producer, “Criminal Minds” and “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders”

Erica Messer is the showrunner and executive producer of CBS’ long-running hit drama “Criminal Minds,” along with “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders,” which she created. Both series will be returning to CBS for the 2016-17 season.

Messer has been with “Criminal Minds” since the show premiered in 2005, and rose through the ranks to showrunner. Prior to that, she served as a writer on such series as “Alias,” “The OC,” and “Charmed.”


Ann Mugglebee
Owner / President / Executive Producer, Vibe Creative

Ann began her entertainment career in film and commercial production prior to entering the marketing world. She started her marketing career at Trailer Park, Inc., joining the company at its inception and growing with them through their first five years in the business.Ann then joined Intralink where she spent eight years producing on some of the biggest campaigns in movie marketing history before launching Vibe Creative in 2008.


Christina Norman
CEO, Media Storm

Christina Norman serves as CEO of the Water Cooler Group (WCG), an integrated marketing holding company. The Company’s portfolio of agencies include Media Storm, the second largest independent media agency in the US as well as Juba+ , 3Degrees and Ninety9X providing strategy and ideation, content development and syndication, data analytics and social media from offices in New York, Connecticut and Los Angeles. Water Cooler Group currently partners with entertainment brands STARZ, WGN America, WeTV, Freeform and CMT and counts industry leaders Celebrity Cruises, Memorial Sloan Kettering, Mohegan Sun and others among their client roster. 


Shannon Olivas Shannon Olivas Headshot Cropped
Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications

Shannon Olivas, SVP of Corporate Communications, is responsible for devising and implementing the communications strategies and overseeing domestic and international public relations efforts on behalf of Skydance Media and its properties. Before joining Skydance Media, Olivas served as Vice President of Corporate Communications for The Honest Company, prior to which she spent seven years in Corporate Communications and Investor Relations at DreamWorks Animation. She previously worked at leading strategic corporate and financial communications firm, Sard Verbinnen & Co, where DreamWorks Animation was her client. Olivas holds a B.A. degree with honors from Syracuse University.


Francesca OrsiOrsi Headshot
Co-Head of Drama, HBO Drama Series

Francesca Orsi is co-head, HBO Drama Series, for Home Box Office, responsible for developing and overseeing the production of original drama series. She was named to this position in June 2016.

Orsi currently oversees the series Vinyl and The Leftovers along with the upcoming HBO miniseries Big Little Lies. Her recent projects include Terence Winter’s Emmy®-winning Boardwalk Empire, Emmy® and Golden Globe® nominated drama Big Love and the acclaimed comedy Getting On. In the past, she was involved with the Emmy® and Golden Globe®-winning dramas True Blood, In Treatment and Tell Me You Love Me.


Julie PlecJulie Plec Headshot Middlesworth[1]
Executive Producer, The Vampire Diaries and The Originals on The CW

Julie Plec skillfully juggles multiple series, as a writer, producer and director. In addition to executive producing “The Vampire Diaries,” which she co-developed, she created and executive produces “The Originals,” which was inspired by and features characters from “The Vampire Diaries.” Both series have been picked up by the CW for additional seasons next year. Plec also developed and executive produced “Containment,” which aired as a limited series on the CW last season.


Simone ReyesMelissa
Animal Rights Activist and Director of TV Development, All Def Pictures

Simone Reyes was the breakout star of Oxygen’s reality tv show “Running Russell Simmons” and became an overnight hero in the animal rights community. She has been entertainment mogul Russell Simmons right hand woman since high school and has often been affectionately referred to as the “Boss” by Simmons himself. Simone boldly shed her clothes for PETA’s “Rather Go Naked” demonstrations and Stray Cat Alliance and has used her voice in countless media outlets to speak out in support of animal liberation. Vegan Lifestyle Magazine put Simone of their cover, calling her The Gloria Steinem of the Animal Rights Movement. She is a well known speaker on animal rights at events such as TedX, The Seed in NYC, WorldFest and the National Animal Rights Conference along side the founding leaders in the animal rights movement. Simone is a 20+ year vegan and has been a grassroots animal rights activist for most of her adult life.


Shaun Robinson
Emmy Award-Winning Journalist, TV Host, Author, Producer and Philanthropist





Melissa SchneiderMelissa
SVP Development and Production, New Form Digital

Melissa Schneider is the head of series and current scripted development, while overseeing all aspects of series and pilot production for New Form Digital. With an extensive background in both digital and traditional media, Schneider bridges the gap by working closely with digital and established talent to develop episodic and serialized stories that will resonate with audiences on emerging digital platforms.


Gretchen Stockdale
Chief Operating Officer & General Counsel, Pilgrim Media Group

As Chief Operating Officer & General Counsel for Pilgrim Media Group, Gretchen Stockdale oversees all legal needs of the company, particularly those related to the development and production of its programs. In addition, she supervises the company’s operational, employment, intellectual property, litigation and corporate matters.


Nina Tassler
Advisor and Former Chairman, CBS Entertainment

Nina Tassler was named Chairman, CBS Entertainment, in February 2014. After leading CBS Entertainment to great heights since 2004, Tassler announced in September she will step down at the end of 2015, and continue in an advisory role through at least 2017.


Nancy Tellem 
Executive Chairman and Chief Media Officer, Interlude

Nancy Tellem is the Executive Chairman and Chief Media Officer of Interlude, a media and technology company at the forefront of interactive online video storytelling. Interlude is reimagining video for a generation that wants to do more than just watch passively by creating amazing experiences that are both playful and thought provoking.

Until October of 2014, Tellem was President of Xbox Entertainment Studios where she oversaw Microsoft’s TV strategy and created a studio focused on the development and production of interactive programming.


Betty Tran
Executive Vice President of Marketing, DanceOn

Betty Tran is an award-winning marketing leader with 10 years of experience in the rapidly expanding world of digital and mobile entertainment.

Most recently, Betty served as Executive Vice President of Marketing and Media for Insomniac Events, a division of Live Nation Entertainment, Inc. Betty was responsible for the buying and creation of all media, spearheaded the development of the company’s online presence, leading to a 25 percent increase in ticket sales, and overseeing internal and external corporate communications.


Lisa Wiegand LisaWiegand (1)
ASC – Director of Photography

Lisa Wiegand, ASC is a Detroit native, LA-based, Director of Photography working in dramatic series, features and documentaries.

Most recently, Lisa lensed the second season of John Ridley’s Emmy Award winning, “American Crime” for ABC starring Timothy Hutton, Felicity Huffman, Lily Taylor, Regina King, and Andre Benjamin.  Shot in Austin, TX in 2015, season two has been highly critically acclaimed and aired its controversial finale in March of 2016.


Vivi Zigler
President, Digital, Brand & Audience Development,
Endemol Shine North America

Vivi Zigler serves as President, Digital, Brand & Audience Development, Endemol Shine North America, since March 2015. Zigler originally joined Shine America in August 2012 as President, Shine 360° & Digital.

Zigler now oversees all brand, marketing, research and digital activity for Endemol Shine North America, including its premium content network Endemol Shine Beyond USA. Under Zigler, six different disciplines unite to define and enhance the brands of Endemol Shine TV series and the premium content of Endemol Shine Beyond.