U.S. Producers Panel
The U.S. Producers Panel brings together three executives from leading production companies south of the border to discuss their current projects, what type of projects they look for, and share their personal insights on the development process. This panel will examine the business as well as the creative side of working in the U.S. market. The panel features Mark Ceryak (Gran Via Productions), Alex Foster (The Middleton Media Group), and Allison Friedman (Color Force). Moderated by Christina Jennings, Chairman & CEO of Shaftesbury.
Vice President of Film and Television Production, Gran Via Productions
Mark Ceryak has worked at Gran Via Productions for the past 10 years as an influential collaborator with veteran producer Mark Johnson. As the Vice President of Film and Television Production and in conjunction with his Gran Via colleagues, he’s helped develop a variety of television programming including the AMC series HALT AND CATCH FIRE and the Hulu series SHUT EYE and a number of films including the THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA franchise and the STX film THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES. Prior to Gran Via Productions, he attended Florida State University Film School (BFA 2003) and worked at the Broder Webb Chervin Silbermann and ICM agencies.
President of Production, The Middleton Media Group
A graduate of the Berklee College of Music, Alex began his career in the music industry working in business and legal affairs for Bertelsmann Music Group in NYC. After transitioning to film, he served as Line Producer, Production Manager, and Second Assistant Director on numerous New York based independent films including STARTING OUT IN THE EVENING, LOST REVOLUTION, and DESCENT. After moving to Los Angeles in 2009 and attending the USC School of Cinematic Arts – Peter Stark Producing Program, Alex worked as a Finance & Development Executive at Mandalay Vision, where he Co-Produced Lionsgate’s THE VOICES (2014). Alex joined Vertigo Entertainment as Vice President at the beginning of 2014, and Executive Produced the Open Road/Vertigo Entertainment film SLEEPLESS starring Jamie Foxx & Michelle Monaghan. Most recently Alex was named President of Production at The Middleton Media Group, the central production and finance company of financier and producer John Powers Middleton (THE LEGO MOVIE, BATES MOTEL, RINGS, DEATH NOTE).
Director of Development, Color Force
Allison Friedman grew up in Las Vegas and attended The University of Pennsylvania before getting her MFA through the Stark Producing Program at USC. While at USC, she produced an award winning short film and found her passion for story. She started her entertainment career at MGM in the features department, then worked at Simon Kinberg’s production company, Genre Films, helping develop projects like X-MEN and THE MARTIAN. She left Genre to join Nina Jacobson over at Color Force where she’s working in both film and television. Color Force is best known for producing THE HUNGER GAMES movies and most recently, AMERICAN CRIME STORY: THE PEOPLE VS. O.J. SIMPSON for FX. Allison is currently developing projects of all genres and sizes. She recently produced SUNSPRING, a short film written entirely by an artificial intelligence starring Thomas Middleditch.
Chairman & CEO, Shaftesbury
One of the media industry’s most accomplished producers, Christina Jennings founded Shaftesbury in 1987 as a feature film company, producing such acclaimed titles as CARMILLA, starring Jessica Tandy and Bridget Fonda, and LONG LIFE, HAPPINESS, AND PROSPERITY, starring Sandra Oh. Since then, Jennings has evolved Shaftesbury into a diversified, global business spanning the production of scripted drama, kids and digital content sold in 120 countries worldwide.
Shaftesbury is known for its innovative international co-production, financing and distribution partnerships as well as award-winning storytelling. Shaftesbury’s current slate includes 11 seasons of MURDOCH MYSTERIES for CBC, UKTV and ITV; detective drama FRANKIE DRAKE for CBC; HOUDINI & DOYLE for Corus Entertainment, Fox, ITV and Sony; thriller series SLASHER for NBCUniversal’s Chiller and Netflix; and hit Kids’ CBC series THE MOBLEES.
With a view to evolving media consumption habits and the impact of technology on traditional media, Jennings acquired groundbreaking digital studio Smokebomb Entertainment in 2008, which produces convergent experiences for television and original projects including branded entertainment. Smokebomb was named Playback’s Digital Producer of the Year in 2015.
In June 2014, Shaftesbury partner with Youth Culture to launch shift2, an innovative agency that helps brands harness the power of video content on YouTube and explore their millennial voice using scripted series and social media to drive measurable results. With 82 million views and counting on the company's KindaTV channel, the largest scripted YouTube channel for millennials in Canada, branded entertainment projects include the hit U by Kotex®-funded drama series CARMILLA and mystery series V MORGAN IS DEAD, brought to life by RBC.
Jennings is a graduate of the Canadian Film Centre and serves as Chair of the Centre’s Board of Directors.
Named to Maclean’s Power List of Canada’s 50 Most Powerful People, Jennings was recognized as Playback’s Producer of the Decade in 2010 and was honored with the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television’s prestigious Academy Achievement Award at the 26th Annual Gemini Awards. Jennings was a finalist in the 2011 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards and received the PROFIT Award for Excellence in Entrepreneurship at RBC’s Canadian Woman Entrepreneur Awards in 2008 and the Innovative Producer Award at the 2009 Banff World Television Festival.