Miguel J. Soliman is a writer, director and producer from Jersey City. His films have been recognized nationally and featured worldwide. His 2017 short film, Desde el principio, is currently streaming on HBO. When not filming, Miguel enjoys screenwriting and old fashions from home (sans pandemics and curfews). He holds a Bachelor of the Arts degree in Film Directing from Fairleigh Dickinson University and a Master of Professional Studies degree in Directing from the School of Visual Arts. Miguel presently serves as the Lead U.S. Features Programmer for New York Latino Film Festival; a position he has held since 2018.
Monica Santis is a director, producer & screenwriter of Peruvian and Chilean descent based in her hometown of Austin, Texas. After earning her M.A. in Latin American & Hemispheric Studies from George Washington University, she enrolled at the London Film School where she received her M.A. in filmmaking with a specialization in directing. She was selected for ‘Austin Film Festival's 25 Screenwriters to Watch in 2018’ list presented by MovieMaker Magazine. Her award-winning short film, Hacia el Sol (Towards the Sun), premiered at Palm Springs International ShortFest and was included in Remezcla's 'The 10 Best Short Films By US Latino Directors of 2018' list. She is currently developing her first feature film.
Vanessa Taylor Sands is currently a Vice President of Television Development for DreamWorks Animation. Vanessa is charged with the creative development of a slate of television projects including originals and book based properties and properties based off of DreamWorks iconic movie franchises. Vanessa began her TV career at Nickelodeon Preschool Television in New York where she worked her way up from Assistant to Director over her 11 year tenure. During her time at the company, Vanessa worked on award-winning series such as Bubble Guppies, Fresh Beat Band, PAW Patrol, Dino Dan, and Wallykazam!. She was also the Senior Director of Development for Girls & Preschool Entertainment at Spin Master where she worked on Rusty Rivets and Abby Hatcher Monster Catcher. With a passion for creating compelling content for kids that has the power to educate and entertain both kids and caregivers, Vanessa strives to bring out the best in all series that she touches. She strives to find a way to make shows unique, exciting and engaging. Vanessa is also dedicated to finding and developing new talent. Vanessa received a B.A. from University of Wisconsin - Madison. She currently lives in Los Angeles, with her husband and 2 cats.
Born and raised in Southern California, Christine Simmons is a true California girl. In January of 2019, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences named Christine Simmons to the position of Chief Operating Officer, reporting directly to CEO Dawn Hudson. Simmons is responsible for the day-to-day management and enhancement of the Academy’s internal organization and infrastructure, and is leading the Academy’s first Office of Representation, Inclusion and Equity. Most recently Simmons was a key member of the team that created Aperture 2025, an Academy initiative designed to expand diversity and inclusion standards within the organization.
A proud UCLA graduate, she is completing her final year as an Alumni Regent on the UC Board of Regents. She is the immediate Past President and current Director on the Board of the UCLA Alumni Association, and is also a member of the UCLA Foundation Board of Directors and Treasurer of the Alumni Associations of the UC. She is on the Advisory Council for Next Play Capital, Shared Harvest Fund, and Women in Sports and Events.
Her dedication to excellence and passion for giving back has earned her a number of honors. Simmons was honored by the YMCA with their 2019 Brotherhood Award and by WISE LA with their 2017 Woman of Inspiration Award. She was named to the 2018 Ebony Power 100 list, the University of California President’s list of 2017 Remarkable Women of UC, and the LA Business Journal’s 2016, 2017 & 2018 list of 500 most influential people in Los Angeles. She also volunteers for Better Futures for Thomazeau, a small, grassroots nonprofit that provides aid and is currently building a vocational school in Haiti.
Born in Brazil, Ana Souza now lives in Los Angeles. She works at Sundance as the Manager of the Programming department and an Associate Programmer on the features team. She is also the Head Programmer for the Sun Valley Film Festival, and an Associate Programmer for the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles. She programmed shorts and features for the LA Film Festival for several years before becoming Head Programmer of World Fiction for their last edition in 2018, and she was an Associate Programmer of Short Films for AFI FEST for four editions. Her work has ranged from programming to filmmaker/industry relations and event production in festivals including Outfest, the LA Latino International Film Festival, Ambulante California, and NALIP’s Latino Media Fest, among others. She has been a programming fellow for Film Independent’s Project Involve and the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Industry Academy. She holds a BA from Warwick and an MA from USC.
Tanya Saracho is a playwright and television writer who serves as creator, showrunner, and executive producer of the critically-acclaimed series “Vida” on Starz, which earned 100% critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes for its first, second and third seasons. The show, which returned for a third and final season April 26th on Starz, featured all Latina directors in seasons one and two, including Saracho, who made her television directorial debut last year. The series had an all-Latinx writers room for seasons one and two, and in season three, the room was comprised of all Latina writers.
Named one of “TV Scribes to Watch” by Variety in 2018, Saracho most recently received the Rising Star award at the Outfest Legacy Awards, and was also awarded the New Voice Award by Final Draft. “Vida” won the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comedy Series and was nominated for a second year in a row for season two, and was honored by the National Hispanic Media Coalition with the 2019 Impact Award. The series won the Audience Award at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival, and made its season two premiere as an Official Selection of the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival.
Saracho is currently under an overall deal with Starz, and is developing a new series, “Brujas,” with Big Beach. Her television credits include “How to Get Away with Murder,” HBO's “Looking,” and “Devious Maids.”
Saracho was named “Best New Playwright" by Chicago Magazine, and has had plays produced at New York City’s Primary Stages and 2nd Stage, as well as Victory Gardens Theatre, The Denver Theatre Center, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The Goodman Theater, Steppenwolf Theater, Teatro Vista, Teatro Luna, Fountain Theater, Clubbed Thumb, NEXT Theater and 16th Street Theater.
Saracho was also named one of nine national Latino "Luminarios" by Café Magazine, and received the first "Revolucionario" Award in Theater by the National Museum of Mexican Art. She is the founder of Teatro Luna (the first all-Latina Theatre Company in the nation, now defunct) as well as the founder of ALTA (Alliance of Latino Theatre Artists). She is currently in development with South Coast Repertory and Two River Theatre.
Saracho was born in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, México, and raised along the Texas border, spending the better part of her adult life in Chicago. She currently resides in Los Angeles.