Film and Entertainment Industry Career Panel and Q&A
Thursday, June 17, 2021
Noon PDT \ 3:00 PM EDT
Live Streamed on Zoom
Open only to current UVA students or recent graduates
The Virginia Film Festival invites current students and recent graduates from the University of Virginia to join a panel of UVA alumni, industry experts, and members of the VAFF Advisory Board for a live streamed conversation and Q&A around their experience and insights on working in the film and entertainment industry. Panelists will include Janet Graham Borba (Vice President, Productions at HBO Films), Dave Koplan (Head of Film, Gloria Sanchez Productions), Steven J. Kung (writer/director, Dear White People), and Marshall Persinger (Producer, Fresh Produce Pictures). The conversation will be moderated by Scot Safon (Marketing, Media, Branding Consultant).
Bios for each panelist can be found below.
This virtual panel is presented by the Virginia Film Festival with support from the UVA Career Center’s Creative Arts, Media, & Design Career Community. For more information on the UVA Career Center’s Creative Arts, Media, & Design Career Community, visit career.virginia.edu/camd.
The Virginia Film Festival is a program of the University of Virginia and the Office of the Provost and Vice Provost for the Arts.Register Here
Panelist: Janet Graham Borba
Janet Graham Borba has worked in Production for HBO since 1995, where she started as their Director of Production, then moved up the ranks, where she started as their Director of Production, then moved up the ranks. She is now EVP of Production for HBO and HBO Max. Along the way, she has been responsible for supervision of multiple films, mini-series, and series in 18 countries, budgeted from $1- to $200 million, including: Game of Thrones – Northern Ireland, Croatia, Malta, Morocco; The Pacific – 10 hour mini-series, Australia; Lackawanna Blues – directed by George Wolfe; John Adams – 7 hour mini-series, Virginia and Hungary – 13 Emmys including Best Miniseries; Angles in America – directed by Mike Nichols, Golden Globes & Emmys including Best Miniseries; Something the Lord Made – Best Picture Emmy; Sometimes in April – Rwanda; Path to War – Directed by John Frankenheimer; Gathering Storm – Directed by Richard Loncraine – Best Picture Emmy; and WIT – Directed by Mike Nichols – Best Picture Emmy. Prior to that, Ms. Borba co-produced several films, including: Still Breathing, directed by James F. Robinson, Hackers, directed by Iain Softley, and Camp Nowhere, directed by Jonathan Prince. Janet Graham Borba received her M.F.A. in 1989 from the University of Southern California as a student of the Peter Stark Motion Picture Producing Program, and sometimes serves as an Adjunct Professor. Ms. Borba is also an alumna of the University of Virginia and was an Echols Scholar.
Panelist: Dave Koplan
David Koplan is an American Film Producer. Koplan currently works at Gloria Sanchez Productions and is serving as Producer on Spirited starring Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds that is currently in production for Apple TV+. Koplan served as an Executive Producer on Josh and Benny Safdies’ Uncut Gems for A24 starring Adam Sandler. He previously served as a Producer on the feature film entitled Papillon starring Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek. He also served as an Executive Producer on the huge hit entitled Daddy’s Home directed by Sean Anders and written by Sean Anders, John Morris (We’re The Millers, Mr. Popper’s Penguins) and Brian Burns (Blue Bloods, Entourage). The film was released by Paramount Pictures and stars Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg and Linda Cardellini. Koplan also served as Executive Producer on the successful, Dumb and Dumber To written and directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly. The film was released by Universal Pictures and starred Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels.
Koplan has served as either Producer or Executive Producer on a wide range of award winning independent films over the years, including: Stuart Blumberg’s Thanks for Sharing starring Mark Ruffalo and Gwyneth Paltrow; Marc Lawrence’s The Rewrite starring Hugh Grant and Marisa Tomei; Tim Blake Nelson’s festival favorite Leaves of Grass, which starred Nelson, Edward Norton and Susan Sarandon, Keri Russell and Richard Dreyfuss; Ray McKinnon’s Chrystal starring Billy Bob Thornton; and Adam Rapp’s Winter Passing, which starred Ed Harris, Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel.
Koplan is a graduate from the University of Virginia, a member of the PGA and serves on the board of the Virginia Film Festival.
Panelist: Steven J. Kung
Steven J. Kung is a gay Taiwanese-American writer-director who has written episodes of Dear White People and Falling for Angels, and recently directed an episode of Fresh Off the Boat. He’s been telling Asian American, minority, and female-forward stories for his entire career, starting with A Leading Man, his feature film about Asian American representation in entertainment. Steven cut his teeth as Matthew Weiner’s assistant on Mad Men. He graduated from the Disney ABC Directing Program, the DGA Mentorship Program, and the Ryan Murphy Half Initiative. He also serves as co-chair emeritus of the DGA Asian American Committee. A native of Virginia Beach, Steven holds an MFA from the USC School of Cinematic Arts and a BA with High Distinction in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia. Steven was a special guest at the 2019 Virginia Film Festival. He was part of a discussion entitled Queer Love on Screen.
Panelist: Marshall Persinger
Marshall Persinger, through her company, Fresh Produce Pictures, has gravitated toward creatively challenging and innovative projects. She has produced films, documentaries and television that are usually unique and/or edgy, utilizing both proven and/or newly discovered talent.
Persinger recently executive produced The Good Lord Bird in Richmond, VA, the 2020 limited series for Blumhouse Television and Showtime, starring Ethan Hawke as the extraordinary abolitionist John Brown. The series has been nominated for multiple awards, including the Peabody for Limited Series. Other television credits include Hulu’s Into the Dark series, the TNT/PTV’s Emmy nominated series The Alienist, AMC/SundanceTV’s Peabody Award winning Rectify created by Ray McKinnon (exec produced along with VAFF Advisory Board Chairman Mark Johnson) and ABC Studios/Lifetime’s hit series Army Wives.
Her documentary Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession directed by Xan Cassavetes for IFC, was an Official Selection at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival and subsequently screened at film festivals all over the world. Past projects also include: Showtime’s Wild Iris, starring film legend Gena Rowlands and Oscar® nominee Laura Linney (both nominated for Best Actress Emmys® with Linney winning the award); Cherry Falls, starring Brittany Murphy and Jay Mohr (USA Films); the Polish brothers’ Twin Falls Idaho (Sony Classics).
Persinger began her entertainment career in New York in 1986 under the mentorship of Academy Award®-winning producer/director Jonathan Demme. She worked with Errol Morris (on his groundbreaking documentary The Thin Blue Line), George Armitage (Miami Blues with Alec Baldwin and Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Demme (Married to the Mob with Michelle Pfeiffer, Matthew Modine, Oliver Platt and the multiple Academy Award-winning feature film The Silence of the Lambs starring Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins). Persinger also produced E. Max Frye’s social satire Amos & Andrew, starring Nicolas Cage and Samuel L. Jackson.
Persinger is a native of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee and graduated from the University of Virginia with a B.A. in rhetoric and communications. She now resides in Los Angeles and served for ten years as co-chair of the Independent Film Producers Committee for the Producers Guild of America.
Moderator: Scot M. Safon
Scot M. Safon is a consultant for Marketing, Media, and Branding, whose corporate clients include Civic Entertainment Group, Facebook, and FairHealth. Previously, he served as Executive Vice President and chief marketing officer for The Weather Channel (2013-14) and Executive Vice President and General Manager of HLN (2010-13), where he was responsible for the management of the HLN television network. HLN is the former CNN Headline News network and is home to some of the fastest-growing news and information programming on television, including Morning Express with Robin Meade, Nancy Grace, Dr. Drew, and The Joy Behar Show. Safon earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and history from the University of Virginia and his MBA from Cornell University. Prior to running HLN, Safon served as CNN Worldwide’s Chief Marketing Officer, overseeing marketing, promotion and branding campaigns on behalf of all CNN US, CNN International, CNN.com and HLN content and news coverage. His teams marketed and promoted the brand during CNN’s award-winning coverage of the 2008 and 2004 Presidential Elections, Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, the war in Iraq, and the Southeast Asia Tsunami disaster. The group’s promotional campaign for the top-rated God’s Warriors was awarded the first-ever national Emmy Award for news tune-in promotion in 2007. Promax/BDA has honored Safon and his team for campaigns including Black in America, America Votes 2008, and Planet in Peril. Safon has also served as senior vice president of marketing for Turner Network Television (TNT), and before joining TNT, Safon was in the ad agency world, handling campaigns for the CBS Television Network, working on campaigns for CBS Sports, CBS News and CBS International. He began his career as an account executive with D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, Inc., developing advertising campaigns for national consumer brands, including Pampers, Pepto-Bismol and Kal Kan Foods.