The Digital Hollywood Experience

The Digital Hollywood Experience


Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

4:00 PM – 5:00 PM - The VR - AR - Immersive Track

Session I: The Guerin A, in Herscher Hall, Live Webcast

The Power of VR-AR: A New Language of Artistry - A Unique Moment of Commercial Possibility and Marketplace

Tanna Frederick, Producer/actor, Defrost (VR Narrative Film)

Jen Dennis, Head of VR, RSA Films

Peter Oberdorfer, President, Tactic

Michael Conelly, founder, Blackthorn Media

Clay Weishaar, creative director at Tool of North America

Cathy Twigg, Co-Founder/Chief Content and Production Officer, The Rogue Initiative

Anna Marie Piersimoni, Instructor, Department of Cinema and Television Arts, California State University, Northridge, Moderator


Tanna Frederick is a producer, director, actress, and activist. In her decade plus collaboration with indie film icon Henry Jaglom, she has starred in and helped produce six of his feature films, including the recently released, The “M” Word, the highly anticipated, Ovation, and three of his plays, including Train to Zakopane, which just completed a  run at the Edgemar Theatre in Santa Monica. Frederick — who got her start performing at the Steben’s Children’s Theatre

and then the University of Iowa — is also a mainstay of the Los Angeles theatre community.  She has starred in successful productions of A.R. Gurney’s Sylvia, Richard Nash’s The Rainmaker — which was a Los Angeles Times Critic’s Pick — and Claire Chafee’s Why Why Have a Body, which also marked Frederick’s directing debut. She and Jaglom also collaborated on the stage adaptation of his film, Always… But Not Forever and the yearlong run of his original play Just 45 from Broadway, which was later adapted to the 2012 film of the same name. An Iowan by birth and a Californian by choice, actress Frederick is passionate about both of her home states. She is also the cofounder of the Iowa Independent Film Festival and of Project Cornlight, an initiative aimed at bringing film productions to the Hawkeye State and through which she produced her upcoming film Garner, Iowa. Project Cornlight currently has two other films are currently in development. Frederick has been hard at work producing the series, DEFROST in collaboration with Randal Kleiser, a revolutionary virtual reality experience using the Oculus Rift. She has a great skill for seeking out talented and dedicated individuals for her team. In California, Frederick fell in love with surfing and in 2007, she founded Project Save Our Surf, which is dedicated to ocean conservation, the improved availability of freshwater to those in need and exposing a wide range of people to the joys of the ocean through surfing. Since 2012, Project Save Our Surf Camp has reached thousands of underserved children and teens in Southern California and Mexico, educating them on environmental issues and giving them hands-on instruction in yoga and surfing. She has been instrumental in coordinating fundraising events, camps, beach clean-ups, and carrying out the mission of Project Save Our Surf. For her work on an off stage, Frederick has received numerous awards, including Broadway World Best Actress Award for Rainmaker, Best Actress awards from the Wild Rose Film Festival, Worldfest Houston, the Fargo Film Festival and the Montana Independent Film Festival. She has been named “One to Watch” by MethodFest and received the CineCause Award, the University of Iowa’s Distinguished Alumni Award, Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival’s Maverick Award.


Jen Dennis is Head of RSA VR, RSA Films’ immersive media division. With RSA Films’ co-founder Ridley Scott, Jen recently executive produced ALIEN: COVENANT In Utero for Scott’s new sci-fi blockbuster, Alien: Covenant. In Utero, directed by David Karlak, is a 360-degree virtual reality journey into a living  nightmare that offers a terrifyingly close and personal encounter as an alien Neomorph at the time of its birth. This comes on the heels of the groundbreaking The Martian VR Experience, which Jen also executive produced with Scott. Winner of a Cannes Silver Lion and an AICP honor in VR, The Martian VR Experience is an unprecedented 25-minute immersive entertainment experience directed by Robert Stromberg that enables viewers to navigate the 360-degree landscape of Mars in the very capable spacesuit of stranded astronaut Mark Watney. Since joining RSA in 2014, Jen has executive produced highly praised branded content, as well—Nike’s first-ever scripted YouTube series, the viral blockbuster “Margot vs Lily,” via Wieden + Kennedy. Winner of a Cannes Gold Lion and a Webby, the eight-episode original series directed by Tricia Brock follows the adventures of two sisters who challenge each other to go beyond their comfort zones with some very creative New Year’s resolutions. Jen brings over 20 years global production experience to RSA. She began her career in her native New York as an agency producer at MVBMS (now RSCG) before moving to California. There she embarked upon a prolific 15-year freelance career that included many years in a fixed role with Wieden + Kennedy, producing all the Asia-Pac Nike business and eventually Nike Global work through the Portland office. The work took her around the world collaborating closely with celebrated athletes and icons such as LeBron James, Tiger Woods, Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Rick Ross, Samuel L. Jackson, Kobe Bryant, Spike Lee and many others. And many of those commercials garnered the industry’s top honors at Cannes, D&AD, AICP and the One Show. In addition to her long relationship with W + K, Jen worked at other top shops such as Crispin Porter & Bogusky, 72andSunny, 180 and GSD&M, as well as on the production side as a line producer and executive producer. In 2013, Jen was tapped to partner with the ECD of Samsung’s global business to open a boutique division of Leo Burnett in Los Angeles where she acted as SVP, creative content production. In that role she culled together her expertise in traditional advertising to broker strategic partnerships with celebrities and brands and develop innovative campaigns utilizing emerging technologies. Jen lives in West Hollywood and when she’s not knee deep in projects as a creative producer, she spends her time walking Georgie Girl, her rescue dog, in Runyon Canyon.


Cathy Twigg began her career at MTV Films where she was responsible for discovering new talent and adding projects to the development slate. Over her industry tenure, Twigg has served at Dreamworks Television Animation, Sony Pictures Television, Bandeira Entertainment and Dreamworks Animation working on several live-action television series and notable projects including Toonsylvania, Invasion America, KUNG FU PANDA, MONSTERS VS ALIENS, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, SHREK THE HALLS, MADAGASCAR, MADAGASCAR 2, PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR, TIGERLAND, SLAP HER, SHE’S FRENCH and THE LOVE LETTER. Using her well-rounded film, animation, television and worldwide product distribution experience, she has produced, directed and written several short films and web series and is currently developing the company’s IP for VR, interactive, feature and television projects.


Peter Oberdorfer, President, Tactic: Peter is a 20 year veteran in digital entertainment and CGI. Peter has co-founded several well regarded digital post-production firms, including the interactive/UX firm Float Hybrid Entertainment, the Academy Award and Emmy Award-winning visual effects studio Giant Killer Robots, as well as Hollywood's original previsualization firm, Pixel Liberation Front. With Tactic, Peter has joined forces with several other seasoned digital artists, combining his past experience in as a visual effects artist and supervisor with interactive visualization and storytelling through involvement in interactive projects, interactive experiences and products centered around new digital formats: virtual Reality (both stereoscopic video capture and 3d CGI), gesture tech, mobile apps, augmented reality, visual effects, as well as real-time 3d environments and experiences made with game and visualization engines.


Michael Conelly is the President & Creative Director of Blackthorn Media: A former Digital FX Supervisor, his characters have grossed over two billion dollars at the world-wide box office. Michael’s last film was nominated for a VFX Oscar. A prolific author, designer, and inventor and the creator of the VR sensation The Abbot’s Book. The future of The Abbot’s Book is now very exciting for Award-winning VFX artist Michael Connelly and his team at Blackthorn Media.  The Abbot's Book was selected as a participant at the New Frontier program at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. The original VR offering hints at a massive gothic fantasy to come, with episodes planned from 2016-2019. The serial tells the tale of four generations of an Italian noble family, cursed by the corrupting power of an ancient book unearthed from the catacombs beneath their estate. Rich with traditional gothic-inspired mythology, the story follows a scion of this cursed family attempting to shield his heirs from inevitable darkness. British stage actor and multi-talented Hollywood thespian, JB Blanc voices multiple roles As VR will be finding its legs as a mass market medium is confident that they are on the ground floor of the next phenomena in Film. Fantastic image quality will be possible in fully head-mounted displays, with no wires running everywhere.  The image quality will improve dramatically - we'll see light field technology which brings organic depth of field to the VR experience - we'll see a melding of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality - we'll see some wonderful examples of VR as a sustained entertainment experience, adopted by the mass market.  We hope to be leading that charge with The Abbot’s Book. Michael Connelly wrote the original story of the Abbot's Book back in 1989 and have been working on it here and there ever since.  He's designed the world, and expanded the concepts into an episodic format and written the treatment for that expansion, and he’s overseeing every aspect of the project's development.  He ordered the original development kit from Oculus when it first shipped back in 2013 and he has working with the technology ever since.  When he founded Blackthorn back in 2013 it was immediately clear that VR was going to play a huge role in the company's future.  Connelly is also largely responsible for the look of the finished product, lighting the environments, and making sure the game engine runs smoothly while displaying the highest quality imagery that the filmmakers can put into it. Prior to founding Blackthorn, Connelly was the Digital Effects Supervisor for the movie Snow White and the Huntsman, where his work garnered an Oscar nomination.


Clay Weishaar is a creative director at Tool of North America. His work has been honored by Cannes Lions, the One Show, D&AD, and the FWA. He serves on the judging panel for the CSS design awards.  His work has been featured on the Creators Project, Fast Company, Creative Applications, Mashable, and many others. Brands he has worked with include Nike, Apple, Google, Netflix, and Airbnb  Most recently he has creative directed a variety of VR projects these include IBM, Ford, and Adidas.


Anna Marie Piersimoni specializes in the creation and marketing of media content across a broad range of digital platforms. She is currently instructor of the course, New Directions in Electronic (Digital) Media at California State University, Northridge. Previously, as Director of Internet Communications for the American Film Institute (AFI) in Los Angeles, she managed institutional web sites and blogs, as well as e-news and online marketing campaigns. At AFI, she was a founding Director of AFI’s Digital Content Lab, an acclaimed R&D program for the production of interactive digital media and also managed development of the Institute’s K-12 Screen Education program. A former producer with Los Angeles public television station, KCET, she supervised web content development and social media for a companion website to the Emmy award-winning KCETLink program, “Your Turn to Care” and for a PBS series on America's food rebels, "Food Forward," winner of a James Beard media award. A regular speaker at industry events, such as Digital Hollywood, she began her career as a film and video artist and later, as a writer/producer of video content and on-air promotions, working for ABC Entertainment, E! Entertainment, and KCET Television, among others. She holds a BFA from the Hartford Art School, University of Hartford in Connecticut and is a candidate for a Master’s degree in Media Psychology through Fielding Graduate University, Santa Barbara, CA.