The Digital Hollywood Experience

The Digital Hollywood Experience


Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

1:15 PM - 2:15 PM, Haas Conference Center, Room 171

“Hollywood & Space: Honoring the Greatest in Creativity”

Hollywood, Space Science and Entertainment ThinkTank: Writers, Directors, Producers

Ben West, Creative Director, Framestore

Z. Nagin Cox, Tactical Mission Lead : Curiosity Rover Flight Team, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Kieran Dickson, Editorial Director , Comet TV (Home of Classics: Star Gate, Mystery Science Theater, Invasion of the Body Snatchers)

John Alan Simon, Writer - Director - Producer, "“Radio Free Albemuth”, "The Getaway"

Dr. Armin T. Ellis, Founder, Exploration Institute, Inventor of i2i Method™, Moderator


Nagin Cox has been exploring since she decided as a teenager that she wanted to work at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She was born in Bangalore, India, and grew up in Kansas City, Kansas, and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Her experiences as a child in a Muslim household showed her how easily we separate ourselves based on gender, race or nationality, and it inspired her to do something that brings people together instead of dividing them. The Space

Program helps the world "look up" and remember that we are one world. Thus, she has known from the time she was 14 years old that she wanted to work on  missions of robotic space exploration. Cox realized her childhood dream and has been a spacecraft operations engineer at NASA/JPL for over 20 years. She has held leadership and system engineering positions on interplanetary robotic missions including the Galileo mission to Jupiter, the Mars Exploration Rovers, the Kepler exoplanet hunter, InSight and the Mars Curiosity Rover. In 2015, Cox was honored as the namesake for Asteroid 14061 by its discovers. She has also received the NASA Exceptional Service Medal and two NASA Exceptional Achievement Medals. She is a U.S. Department of State STEM Speaker and has spoken to audiences around the world on the stories of the people behind the missions. She has also served on Cornell University’s President's Council for Cornell Women. Before her time at JPL, Cox served for 6 years in the US Air Force including duty as a Space Operations Officer at NORAD/US Space Command. She holds engineering degrees from Cornell University and the Air Force Institute of Technology as well as a psychology degree from Cornell. (Sometimes she is not sure which one she uses more: the engineering degree or the psychology degree.) Cox is currently a Tactical Mission Lead on the Curiosity Rover, and every day at NASA/JPL exploring space is as rewarding as the first.


Ben West is an award winning filmmaker and creative director. He holds a Masters in directing, over 15 years experience in film, visual effects and design, and has worked on hundreds of commercials, television, features and virtual reality projects. Ben started his career as an Architect, studying at University of Technology Australia. As a designer with Cox Architects Ben developed advanced techniques for filmmaking and architectural design on many international projects including the 2000 Sydney Olympics. In 2015, Ben was featured by UNCUBE, CHAOS and the BBC as an expert in architecture and filmmaking. He is also a studio advisor at University of California, Los Angeles, for the Suprastudio Architecural Masters programme. His most recent work, a collaboration with architect Greg Lynn, is featured at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016. Ben is currently Creative Director at Framestore in Los Angeles.


Kieran Dickson is Editorial Director at Comet TV, a partnership between Sinclair Television and MGM Television and the first – ever 24/7 science fiction digital broadcast network. Featuring more than 1,500 hours of premium MGM content, the network is in over 100 markets and growing. Kieran creats digital content and commentary in the entertainment/pop-culture industries, and has helped to launch several popular editorial platforms covering verticals that run the gamut from sci-fi and horror, to hard science. Kieran regularly appears at comic conventions across the country where he sits on and hosts panels including The Psychology of Game of Thrones, How to Make a Nerdy Living, and the popular The Science of Star Wars panel series which he started in 2014. Most recently, he appeared at San Diego Comic-Con where it was revealed that he is consulting on MGM's new premium digital series, Stargate Origins.


John Alan Simon: Simon’s directorial feature film debut – “Radio Free Albemuth” - which he adapted from the novel by science fiction writer Philip K. Dick (“Blade Runner,””Minority Report,” “A Scanner Darkly”) was distributed in a limited theatrical major ten-city U.S. release. and selected to screen at the prestigious Indie Night Series at Lincoln Center Film Society in New York. “Radio Free Albemuth” recently began its exclusive SVOD two-year run on Netflix. From Variety: “Engrossing adaptation" "Well-performed." “"Consistently absorbing." “Operates successfully as a study of enlightenment and a straight-ahead conspiracy thriller.” Simon also served as post-production supervisor on the film. Simon also developed and produced the Roger Donaldson-directed version of "The Getaway," starring Alec Baldwin, Kim Basinger and Philip Seymour Hoffman for Largo Entertainment, financed by JVC corporation, which was theatrically wide-released nationally by Universal Pictures. As president of Discovery Productions, Simon has been involved with the production, financing, sales, and marketing of more than a hundred independent features including the original version of "The Wicker Man" (starring Edward Woodward); "The Haunting of Julia" (with Mia Farrow and Tom Conti); "Basket Case," and "Out of the Blue" (starring and directed by Dennis Hopper), which was screened in fall 2009 at the Cinematheque Francaise as the opening night gala film in a month-long Dennis Hopper retrospective. Discovery is actively developing film rights to other novels by science-fiction writer, Philip K. Dick in partnership with Rosenbloom Entertainment, and also works by award winning sci-fi writers Lucius Shepard and Ian Watson. Also on Discovery’s schedule is the English-language film version of Jim Thompson's "Pop.1280" (from which Bertrand Tavernier’s Academy Award nominated film, "Coup de Torchon," was also adapted) with Gerard Butler attached to star and partner in production. Simon’s next film as a director will be the noir thriller “Nothing More than Murder”, which he adapted from the novel by Jim Thompson (“The Grifters,” “The Getaway,” “The Killer Inside Me”). As president and co-founder of Film-Rep with distribution/production executive David Blake, (former president of Cinema Shares), Simon served as sales consultant and strategic adviser to a wide array of producers and distribution/film services companies, including Roger Corman/New World Pictures, United Artists Theatres, Introvision, UK based Home Video Holdings, and Japanese based post-production/vfx company Lightshade Productions. Prior to his entry in the film industry, Simon was a journalist and film critic as staff writer for the New Orleans Times Picayune and later editor-in-chief of New Orleans magazine. He has also written film and music reviews and feature articles for various publications, including the Chicago Sun-Times, and Downbeat Magazine, on which he was a contributing editor. During this period, Simon also taught courses in film and writing at Tulane University, Loyola University, and the University of Illinois. More recently, he taught a course on micro-budget filmmaking at UCLA extension. In recent years, he produced and moderated annual seminars for the American Film Market, on such topics as British filmmaking tax-incentives and new strategies for U.S. theatrical distribution. Also for the British Academy of Film & Television Arts, Los Angeles, he has moderated seminars and screening Q&A’s with directors Danny Boyle, Darren Aronofsky, Julian Schnabel and evening-length career spanning sessions with directors Jason Reitman, actor-director Ben Affleck. David O. Russell, Richard Linklater, and earlier this year with Sir Ridley Scott. Simon graduated from Harvard College with honors in History & Literature and served as an editor of the Harvard Crimson. He received his Master Degree in the U. of Illinois Writer’s Workshop program and designed and taught undergraduate courses on Film and Rhetoric and the discipline of futurology. As a directing member of Classical Theatre Lab he staged its critically acclaimed coproduction of Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband as Victorian noir” and Wilde’s A Woman of No Importance. Simon was elected and served on the Board of Directors of the British Academy of Film & Television Arts, Los Angeles. He is also a long-time member of the Writer’s Guild of America-West.


Dr. Armin T. Ellis, Founder, Exploration Institute, Inventor of i2i Method™: Accomplished scientist, engineer, and explorer, Dr. Armin Ellis spearheaded and architected missions at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for eight years ranging from Mars missions to those bound for the International Space Station. Parlaying all of his vast and innovative experiences, wisdom, and passion, Dr. Ellis has created Exploration Institute, featuring his i2i Method™, a proven methodology to turn challenges and aspirations into actionable and tangible plans. The results of this methodology and process are limitless providing companies, non-profits and global leaders with uniquely efficient results with applications ranging from cost management and mitigation, product development, and strategy planning. A Ph.D. graduate of Dartmouth College, Dr. Ellis has created several entrepreneurial ventures in both the US and his native UK including a space engineering company, Astropioneer (which he started at age 22 and was acquired after 3 years), VentureKits (a non-profit organization with high altitude balloon kits to help inspire high school students with the possibilities of science), and ultimately today, Exploration Institute.