The Digital Hollywood Experience

The Digital Hollywood Experience


Wednesday, May 24th, 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

Johannes Saam, Senior Creative Developer, Framestore

Peter Akemann, President of Skydance Interactive

Maureen Fan, Chief Executive Officer, Baobab Studios

Neil Mandt, founder and CEO, Mandt Bros Productions & Mandt VR.

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


Johannes Saam, Senior Creative Developer, Framestore: Senior Software Developer, Johannes Saam had an early interest in 3D and began by teaching himself at home. While in studying at SAE Institute, Johannes began his career interning at Scanline VFX in Munich. Johannes continued his education at Bournemouth University where he earned his Masters in Computer Animation. Following his time at Scanline, Johannes moved to Rising Sun Pictures where he continued to work on a variety of feature films. His Film Credits include: Legend

of the Guardians, Mad Max 4, Thor, Captain America - The First Avenger, Prometheus, 300 Rise of an Empire, Exodus: God and Kings. Among many achievements and honors, Johannes has a Technical Achievement Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his development, prototyping and promotion of technologies and workflows for Deep Compositing, six Siggraph showcases and three animago AWARDs. While at Framestore he produced the 'Eyes on Gigi' 360 app for BMW, Time, Inc.'s LUMEN for LIFE VR and Intel's most recent VR partnership with the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Johannes is constantly looking for opportunities to improve efficiency, better workflow and creating solutions to creative problems.


Sandy Smolan, Producer/Director: Mr. Smolan is an award-winning director whose work spans features, documentaries, television, commercials and VR films   His critically acclaimed debut feature film “Rachel River," was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at The Sundance Film Festival and took awards for Best Cinematography and a Special Jury Prize for Actress Viveca Lindfors. He recently directed the VR film “The Click Effect” which previewed at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and will be launched in April by The New York Times, Vrse and Annapurna Pictures. His documentary, “The Human Face of Big Data” won the Jury Prize for Best Cinematography at the Boston International Film Festival, was just selected by the US State Department to be part of the American Film Showcase, and is being released in the spring of 2016. His television movies include "The Last Soldier" for HBO, the mini-series “Beach Girls” with Rob Lowe and Julia Ormond for Lifetime, "A Place To Be" for CBS and "Taking A Stand," an Emmy Award-winning film with Betty Buckley for ABC, for which he was also nominated for Best Director. As a television director his credits include the acclaimed pilot for the series "Middle Ages," as well as over 50 network series including “Brothers & Sisters,” “Ally Mcbeal,” "Everwood," “ED,” “The O.C.,” “Dawson’s Creek,” “Greek,” “LA LAW,” “Dangerous Minds,” “Chicago Hope” and "Northern Exposure".  In original programming for the Internet, he directed the ten-part web series “In Gayle We Trust” for and the web series “First Dance” and “First Day” for Alloy Entertainment, winner of the Advertising Age Media Vanguard Award. Smolan's documentary “12 Stones,” about the transformation of a group of illiterate women in southern Nepal won the jury prize for Best Short Documentary at the Tallahassee and Newport Beach Film Festivals. He was the recipient of a 2015 James Beard Award for his short film, “Wall of Fire”. He also produced and directed films in East Africa for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, four short films about sustainable development in India, Georgia, Peru and Rwanda and a series of films about technology, innovation and social responsibility sponsored by Intel, Microsoft, Applied Materials, BD Biosciences and Nokia. Mr. Smolan was also the associate producer of two network documentaries for CBS News; "The Cowboy, The Craftsman and The Ballerina" with Morley Safer and "Juilliard: A Life in Music", narrated by Charles Kuralt and winner of the Peabody Award. He was a featured speaker at the EG Conference in Monterey, California and The INK Conference in association with TED. Conference


Neil Mandt, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, MANDT VR: Neil Mandt is an Emmy Award-winning producer, and the CEO and founder of both Los Angeles-based production companies, Mandt Bros. Productions and MANDT VR. Neil has a wealth of experience delivering award-winning content to television, film, internet and mobile audiences, and is now parlaying his expertise in the field to immersive digital content. In addition to creating over 3,000 television episodes, Neil owns and operates a turn-key production facility in the heart of Hollywood. Neil’s notable credits include the development and creation of the hit ESPN series “Jim Rome Is Burning,” ABC’s “Frozen Christmas Parade,” the Syfy Channel’s hit series “Destination Truth,” Food Network’s “The Shed,” Speed’s “The Car Show with Adam Carolla,” Versus’ “Sports Jobs with Junior Seau” and daily coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial for ABC News. In 2014, Neil was a co-producer and developer of the Walt Disney Pictures feature film “Million Dollar Arm,” starring Jon Hamm and Alan Arkin. Neil has also produced and directed a number of award-winning short films starring Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Matthew Perry, Justin Timberlake, John Hamm, Seth Meyers, Jamie Foxx and Will Ferrell, among many others.


Peter Akemann, President of Skydance Interactive: As President of Skydance Interactive, a dedicated subsidiary of Skydance Media that creates and publishes original virtual reality experiences and video games, Peter Akemann oversees and executes the strategic vision for the group. Skydance Interactive was formed in April of 2016 when Skydance acquired leading game developer The Workshop Entertainment, of which Akemann was President and Co-Founder. Akemann launched The Workshop in 2008 alongside the other original members of Treyarch, which sold to Activision in 2001 and now leads the Call of Duty franchise. He co-founded Treyarch in 1995, where he oversaw the development of the company’s cross-platform graphics engine. Akemann has shipped over 20 titles across first, second and next-generation platforms and built the Treyarch team from three to over 200 employees. He has over 20 years of experience in gaming and his experience span a wide breadth of acclaimed franchise games, including The Evil Within, Armored Warfare, Free Realms, Medal of Honor, Spiderman, Spiderman II and Die By The Sword, among others. He holds a PhD from University of California Berkeley and BA in mathematics from the University of California San Diego.


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.


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.


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.