NFMLA Panel - Walt Disney Television Creative Talent Development & Inclusion: Opportunities in Directing
Join Walt Disney Television Creative Talent Development & Inclusion (CTDI) program Managers Kristi Shuton and Liz Kelly, along with CTDI program participant and Film + TV Director Dinh Thai (NBC’s New Amsterdam) for an insightful discussion on best practices for a career in TV Directing and how to prepare yourself for a network driven director development program such as CTDI.
Panelist: Kristi Shuton | Manager, Walt Disney Television Creative Talent Development & Inclusion
A long-time Walt Disney Television cast member, Kristi Shuton has spent time working in various positions at ESPN and ABC, joining the Creative Talent Development & Inclusion (CTDI) team in 2006. In her current role as Manager, Shuton partners with network/studio programming and casting executives to connect professionals at all levels to opportunities at WDT and beyond. She also helps guide the WDT Writing and Directing Programs, contributing to identifying and cultivating talent, providing creative guidance and professional development. Shuton’s extensive knowledge of diversity trends positions her as a key contributor, engaging with the creative community, diverse national partners and advocacy groups, as well as entertainment industry guilds. She has served as a panelist at the annual Comic-Con International: San Diego as well as various film and comedy festivals. A Colorado native, Shuton is an avid supporter/volunteer for the Adopt the Arts Organization and mentoring creative young minds through volunteering at school campuses and workshops. Additionally, she also serves on a non-profit Board of Directors with Hollywood music producers in support of efforts to end human trafficking. She received her Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering from Cal State Northridge.
Panelist: Liz Kelly | Manager, Walt Disney Television Creative Talent Development & Inclusion
Liz Kelly is Manager of Creative Talent Development & Inclusion at Walt Disney Television. In this role, she works with the network and studio to staff writers, producers, directors, and BTL crew across ABC, Freeform, Disney Channel, FX, Fox 21, Nat Geo, and Fox 21’s scripted television shows. She manages Walt Disney Television Group’s pipeline programs for diverse writers and directors. Prior to Disney, Kelly worked for six years at Fox, most recently as Associate Director of Production and Development Labs – Film & TV, for 21CF Global Inclusion. Kelly staffed writers and directors on FOX’s scripted television shows, including THE GIFTED, THE COOL KIDS, LUCIFER, LAST MAN ON EARTH, THE EXORCIST, GOTHAM, and LETHAL WEAPON, among others. She managed the Fox Writers Lab, Fox Directors Lab, Fox DP Lab, and Fox Filmmakers Lab, tracked and maintained network diversity statistics regarding on-air and behind-the-camera creative talent, and managed the department’s partnerships and sponsorships with non-profits and film and TV festivals.
Panelist: Dinh Thai | Filmmaker and TV Director (ABC’s New Amsterdam) + CDTI Program Participant
Dinh Thai is an Asian-American writer/director by way of commercial directing based in Los Angeles. Born in Vietnam, fled to France, and finally settling in Los Angeles, the 80s and 90s nurtured a fascinating cultural mix that strongly informs Dinh’s filmic approach and aesthetic. He brings a youthful, multi-cultural viewpoint to his creative and energetic productions. His work blends visual style with realism, focusing on social media influencers, dialogue, comedy, celebrities, and storytelling — all with strong musical influences. His commercial clients include Adidas, T-Mobile, Toyota, and the US Navy.
Dinh’s narrative work has aired on HBO and Cinemax. Specifically, MONDAY, a short film he wrote and directed has garnished over 50 festival awards and nominations, including first place in the inaugural HBO Asian Pacific American Visionaries competition, Outstanding Director, Outstanding Actor and Next Generation Filmmaker Award at the prestigious NBCU Shorts Festival, Best Direction at the New York Television Festival and The One Screen Festival, Best Short Film at CATALYST, and Best New Filmmaker of the Year at NFMLA.
Along with being in the Disney|ABC Director Program, Dinh has shadowed on American Horror Story (Ryan Murphy’s Half-Initiative), MAYANS M.C. (Fox 21 TV), and directed an episode of New Amsterdam (218 ‘Matter of Seconds”) through NBC’s Emerging Director Program. he is also actively pursuing film and TV directing assignments as well as developing a show based on his short film and other multicultural ideas.
Co-Moderator: Varda Bar-Kar | NFMLA Board Member and Film + TV Director (Ryan Murphy’s 9-1-1, Big Voice)
Award-winning director Varda Bar-Kar has directed over forty productions, including documentaries, episodic television, web series, short films, branded content, and viral videos. Varda was born in London, England, and had lived on three different continents by the time she was ten years old. Her international upbringing provides her with a truly global perspective. She is an activist filmmaker focusing her lens on meaningful stories exploring the breadth and diversity of the human condition. She faces society’s challenges with an uplifting approach that speaks into possibility.
Varda developed her directing voice creating short films, including the festival-winning Window starring Louis Gossett, Jr. Window garnered the Crystal Heart Award at the Heartland Film Festival, screened at Cannes and aired across the United States on local affiliate stations including ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, in honor of Black History Month.
Shoot Magazine selected Varda for their prestigious New Director Showcase; Lincoln Mercury’s Rising Stars Campaign awarded her music video Race to the Sky the Grand Prize and aired it during the Grammy Awards. Varda was also selected to participate in Ryan Murphy’s HALF Director Mentorship Program, and then directed for the hit FOX show 9-1-1.
Varda has just completed the two-year production of Fandango at the Wall an exuberant music documentary celebrating the lives and music of the masters a mystical three-hundred-year-old Mexican folk music tradition called son jarocho. The film follows the son jarocho masters to the United States-Mexico border where they join renowned New York Maestro Arturo O’Farrill and his Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra for a transformational music festival taking place on both sides of the border. Quincy Jones, Andrew Young, Carlos Santana, and Kabir Sehgal serve as the film’s Executive Producers. It was funded in part by the Ford Foundation & Miranda Foundation. Sony music serves as the project’s sales agent.
Varda’s feature documentary Big Voice received the “Best Documentary Award” from the Heartland Film Festival, NewFilmmakers LA and The South Dakota Film Festival. Big Voice chronicles a challenging year in the life of a determined high school choir director and his most advanced ensemble. The documentary was picked up by Netflix, Hulu, & Amazon, and was broadcast on PBS winning a Bronze Telly Award.
Varda’s viral videos have amassed tens of millions of views for non-profits including The Humane Farming Association, Feeding America, MZA Events, The Chopra Center, and Unify among others. YouTube honored Varda’s viral video What Kind of Planet Are We On with their Most Innovative Non-profit Video Award and featured it on their homepage. What Kind of Planet Are We On was screened for the United States Congress as part of a campaign for Social Security equality for same-sex couples.
Varda is on the board of NFMLA and a member of the Directors Guild of America (DGA), the International Documentary Association & Film Fatales.
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