tia a. smith

CEO, Executive Producer and Director
talentedSOL Productions
Award-winning executive producer and consultant, Tia A. Smith is one of the most sought- after creatives in the industry, continually developing culturally shifting projects that leave lasting imprints.  Known for spearheading and identifying commercially marketable projects, Smith is a rare creative whose work spans digital, independent, corporate, scripted/unscripted television, film, development/current production, and live events.  Most recently, she received the Trail Blazer Award from the African American Women in Cinema (AAWIC), a Proclamation from the City of New York and a “Day of Recognition” honoring her artistic contributions.  Ms. Smith is a National Member-At-Large within the Producers Guild of America, and was selected to represent the guild as a speaker at the United Nations’ “Commission on the Status of Women: The Role of the Producer” Summit.  As a leading value agent, she serves as a judge for the Emmy’s, New York Film Festivals, NAACP Image Awards; and sits on the national board of directors for the Gospel Music Association and Grammy Recording Academy, respectively.  Smith is the owner of talentedSOL Productions which specializes in developing and producing compelling, cultural content to studios, streaming services, and networks domestically and internationally.  

For six years, Smith served as Network Executive at TVOne, LLC., and has launched some of its' most successful and record-breaking programming. The wide range of shows consist of the Emmy nominated "A Ray Charles Tribute: In Performance at the White House", "The Gospel Tradition: In Performance at the White House", The "47th, 48th, 49th &50th  NAACP Image Awards"; sitcoms "Born Again Virgin", "The Rickey Smiley Show"; movies "Hear No Evil", "For The Love Of Ruth", "To Hell & Back", "Girlfriend's Getaway 2"; and true crime franchises "Fatal Attraction"(Cablefax Award), "For My Man", and "Find Our Missing with S. Epatha Merkerson" (Best Practices Award). After Smith's success in developing the network's Monday night true crime block, she was tasked to procure and executive produce one the network's most controversial stories into the biopic, "When Love Kills: The Falicia Blakely Story." Under her leadership, this movie ranks as the networks #1 telecast of all time amongst key demos while reaching 2 million unique viewers increasing the company's profile as "one to watch" in the scripted arena.

Prior to her post at TVOne, Ms. Smith founded talentedSOL Productions in 2006. From script to screen the company traveled the world to create and ensure the best visual representation for its clients. talentedSOL Productions was chosen by The Bill Gates Foundation to document the results of malaria vaccine trials conducted in Africa to reduce the inequities and improve lives around the world. The company produced and consulted on projects for MTV, VH1, BET, TVOne, Lifetime Networks, Burrell, Uniworld, Verizon, Coke, RCA Records, SONY Music Group and many more. talentedSOL produced/directed successful commercials for FORD Motors campaigns, and directed the critically acclaimed documentary “NAACP-Women of the Movement.”

Ms. Smith's career began at Black Entertainment Television (BET), where she became the youngest Music Director to program the billion-dollar network which had over 80 million viewers. Smith continuously proved herself at the network, serving as Executive Producer for the highly rated and longest running show in cable history, "Bobby Jones Gospel." Smith also co-created a myriad of programs such as "Lift Every Voice", "Jam Zone", "Top 25 Countdown", "BET New Year's Countdown", and the network's first "All Access Granted" shows. In addition, Smith also created innovative, specialty programs for the network on Mariah Carey, Usher, Alicia Keys, Jay Z and the highly rated special --"A Conversation with The Queen" featuring Queen Latifah, and "Faithfully Yours: 10 Years of Celebration of Gospel" tribute special.

Smith also produced several prime-time documentaries for conglomerates such as VH1's"Black in the 80's: Color in Film" (critically acclaimed), "All Access: Rock Star Makeovers featuring Kevyn Aucoin", "Save the Music Foundation with Lenny Kravitz", "Hard Rock Live Presents", "Fairway to Heaven: Celebrity Golf with Will Smith", and Lifetime Network's "One in Three" and "Silence" PSA's raising awareness for Women's Abuse Campaigns.

karen bailey

Executive Vice President
Starz Original Programming
Karen Bailey is Executive Vice President of Original Programming for Starz.

Based in the company’s Santa Monica office, Bailey recently expanded her leadership role as EVP within the originals team while continuing to spearhead the network’s inclusion initiatives across the slate with a focus on narratives by, about and for women and underrepresented audiences. She continues to expand the drive toward adequate and authentic representation programming, overseeing new development and current productions for the network including the critically-acclaimed “Outlander” and “P-Valley,” as well the upcoming series “Dangerous Liaisons” and “Becoming Elizabeth.”

Bailey joined Starz in 2006 as an executive producer, overseeing development, production and post-production for the company’s studio slate of television movies and mini-series. She was promoted to Vice President of Production in2007, overseeing the physical production for the company’s newly launched original programming department. Bailey spent the next few years building the internal production department and focusing on the networks’ new slate of original series, including fan favorite “Party Down,” “Crash,” “Boss” and Starz's first international series “Spartacus” and “Camelot.”  

In 2011 she transitioned to creative development and was promoted to Senior Vice President of Original Programming in 2012. Since then she has worked on a number of international co-productions including Golden Globe® and Emmy®-nominated STARZ Original Miniseries “The White Queen” and the critically acclaimed STARZ Original Limited Series “The White Princess;” Golden Globe® and Emmy®-nominated limited series “The Missing” and its sequel; “Howard’s End,” a 4-part TV adaptation written by Academy Award®-winner Kenneth Lonergan; and Starz’s first movie for television, “The Dresser”  starring Ian McKellen and Anthony Hopkins.  

Bailey has been invited to speak at several events and conferences including BAFTA Women Director’s Panel in London, Create and Cultivate Panel in Los Angeles and the College TV Summit at the TV Academy of Arts and Science in North Hollywood.

Among her honors and awards, Bailey has been recognized as one of Cablefax’s “Most Powerful Women” and “Top Women in Cable” many times over.  

In 2018, Bailey mentored a UCLA student seeking a master’s degree in Film and Television Studies, working with her throughout the year in preparation for her thesis, which went on to be chosen as one of the top three in the graduating class.

jess wu calder

Executive Producer
One Night in Miami & Blindspotting
Jess Wu Calder co-founded Snoot Entertainment in 2004 to develop, finance and produce film and television across all genres and media. Most recently, Wu Calder produced the feature film adaption of Kemp Powers’ Olivier-nominated play “One Night in Miami,” which was released theatrically on December 25, 2020 and premiered on Amazon Prime on January 15, 2021. This powerful story finds Cassius Clay, Malcolm X, singer Sam Cooke, and football star Jim Brown spending time together at a Miami motel, a meeting that would change the course of history. Oscar® winner Regina King has made her directorial debut with this film that stars Leslie Odom Jr., Aldis Hodge, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, and Lance Reddick. One Night in Miami made festival rounds at Venice Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival, among others, and has been honored as a Top 10 Movie of the Year at the 2020 American Film Institute Awards and received the 2021 Independent Spirit Awards Robert Altman Award. The film has since been nominated at the 2021 Academy® Awards, Producer Guilds of American Award, Golden Globe® Awards, BAFTA Awards, SAG Awards, DGA Awards, NAACP Image Awards and WGA Awards, among others.  

Under the Snoot Entertainment banner, Wu Calder recently premiered the Charli XCX documentary Alone Together, which was fully conceived, recorded and released during the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine. The documentary had its world premiere as the closing night headliner at the SXSW in 2021. Additionally, Wu Calder is developing a feature film adaptation of the critically acclaimed video game, Firewatch, as well as adapting the Christopher Paolini novel To Sleep in a Sea of Stars.  

Wu Calder’s additional production credits include Little Monsters and Corporate Animals, which both premiered in the “Midnight Category” at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Little Monsters, starring Lupita Nyong'o, Josh Gad and Alexander England, is a zombie comedy-horror crossover about a washed-up musician Dave (Alexander England) whose fondness for his nephew’s teacher, Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong'o) motivates him to volunteer to chaperone his nephew’s kindergarten field trip. A sudden zombie outbreak then throws the trip into chaos, and Dave and Miss Caroline must protect the children. Little Monsters was picked up for joint distribution by Neon and Hulu in a bidding war shortly after its Sundance premiere and was later released on October 11,2019. In the comedy Corporate Animals starring Jessica Williams, Demi Moore and Ed Helms, Moore plays the egotistical CEO of Incredible Edible Cutlery, America’s premier provider of edible cutlery. During a mandatory team-building caving trip in New Mexico, disaster suddenly strikes, trapping them underground. Corporate Animals was quickly acquired by Screen Media Films and released on September 20, 2019.  

In 2018, Wu Calder produced the award-winning, timely film Blindspotting which premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival in the “U.S. Dramatic Competition” section and was later released via Lionsgate in July 2018. This dramatic comedy, featuring Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal, explores the realities of gentrification, police brutality and race relations in Oakland, California. Blindspotting hit the pulse of the cultural zeitgeist and received rave reviews, including from former President Barack Obama who named it one of his top films of 2018, and Variety’s Chief Film Critic Peter Debruge who declared this the best film of the year. Wu Calder is currently in post-production for the upcoming “Blindspotting” spin-off television series for STARZ, which will premiere summer 2021. Centered on Ashley (played by Jasmine Cephas Jones) who was nipping at the heels of a middle-class life in Oakland until Miles, her partner of 12 years and father of their son, is suddenly incarcerated, leaving her to navigate a chaotic and humorous existential crisis when she’s forced to move in with Miles’ mother and half-sister. Calder also previously produced Charlie Kaufman’s Academy Award®-nominated animated film Anomalisa.

Wu Calder previously experienced success in Sundance’s “Midnight Category” with Adam Wingard's critically praised film The Guest. Additional Adam Wingard features produced by Calder include the award-winning You’re Next; the horror-thriller Blair Witch and the NAACP Image Award-nominated documentary Thunder Soul.  

Wu Calder is a graduate of the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. She currently resides in Los Angeles.

Katori Hall

Creator, Showrunner and Executive Producer
Katori Hall,  showrunner of P-VALLEY, a Starz drama based on her play Pussy Valley is the recent recipient of the 2021Pulitzer Prize for her latest play “The Hot Wing King,” which premiered in Spring of 2020 at the Signature Theatre.  The Memphis-native was also awarded the Olivier Award for best new play in 2010 “The Mountain Top” which fictionalizes the last night in Martin Luther King’s life.  She is the book writer and co-producer of the West End and the Broadway hit, “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, “ that was nominated for 12 Tony Awards in2020.

Katori’s other works include the award-winning Hurt Village, Hoodoo Love, SaturdayNight/Sunday Morning, Our Lady of Kibeho and The Blood Quilt. She is also the director of the award-winning short, ARKABUTLA.

Katori is an alumna of Columbia University, ART at Harvard University and Juilliard. She’s also a graduate of the Sundance Episodic Lab's inaugural class, the Sundance Screenwriting Lab and Ryan Murphy’s Half FoundationDirecting Program. Katori has been published in publications such as The Boston Globe, The Guardian, and The New York Times. She is a proud member of the Ron Brown Scholar Program and the Coca-Cola Scholar Program.

In addition to her Laurence Olivier Award, Katori’s other awards include a Susan Smith Blackburn Award, Lark Play Development Center Playwrights of New York (PONY) Fellowship, two Lecompte du Nouy Prizes from Lincoln Center, Fellowship of Southern Writers Bryan Family Award in Drama, NYFA Fellowship, the Columbia University John Jay Award for Distinguished Professional Achievement, National Black Theatre's August Wilson Playwriting Award, and the Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award.

maikik0 james

Director of Programs
Women in Film
Maikiko is Director of Programs of WIF, overseeing member programs including the Emerging Producer Program, Mentoring, the Financing Strategy Intensive with Sundance Institute, the WIF/Black List Episodic and Feature Labs, and the Film Finishing Fund, among others. She co-founded INSIGHT, a WIF community for women of color in entertainment, in 2018. She previously produced impact campaigns with Active Voice, including those for Food Inc., Welcome to Shelbyville, Gideon’s Army, and Kids for Cash, and was a Special Project Advisor on the WIF-supported documentary Seeking Asian Female. Maikiko holds a BFA in Dramatic Writing from Tisch School of the Arts at NYU.

ben lopez

Executive Director
Ben Lopez (@vientofuego )is responsible for the overall design, strategic vision and execution of all domestic and global endeavors for the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP). Ben serves as the year-round industry liaison for executives and content creators in the Latino Lens Incubator programs, working with the top agencies in the world to curate and match these creators with key industry professionals who can move their careers forward. Ben has been quoted on domestic and global publications and outlets, such as Variety and Slate France, and has delivered keynotes, led workshops and participated in the world's leading festivals and markets including Telluride, Sundance, Toronto, SXSW, Tribeca, FICG & Morelia.

amber stevens west

Whitney Greene
Run the World
Amber was most recently seen in CBS’s comedy “Happy Together” where she co-starred alongside Damon Wayans Jr. Previously she starred on FOX’s supernatural sitcom “Ghosted” opposite Adam Scott and Craig Robinson. Immediately prior to landing the lead female role on “Ghosted,” Amber played Jerrod Carmichael’s on-screen love interest on NBC’s sitcom “The Carmichael Show.” Amber also recently starred in the feature Love Jacked directed by Alfons Adetuyi as well as co-starring alongside Mike Tyson in Lionsgate’s Janoskians comedy Public Disturbance. Previously she starred opposite Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill in the 2014 hit comedy 22 Jump Street for Sony and directors Chris Lord and Phil Miller. Amber has recurred on “New Girl” at FOX and “Criminal Minds” at CBS. For four years, Amber starred on ABC Family’s hit series “Greek” and also co-starred in Jessabelle for Lionsgate and opposite Laura Prepon and Bryan Greenberg in the independent film The Kitchen.

Amber was raised in Los Angeles and is married to fellow actor Andrew West.

Starz #TakeTheLead Transparency Talk:
Producing for Television and Building Inclusivity

July 29th, 2021

Starz President & CEO Jeffrey Hirsch, in partnership with Alliance of Women Directors, welcomes five inspiring women who are taking the lead in breaking down barriers for women and underrepresented groups to kick off Starz’s #TakeTheLead “Transparency Talks” series. The discussion will include a look at findings from Starz’s inclusion study with UCLA’s Center for Scholars & Storytellers which revealed that 49.3% of its directors are people of color43.7% are women and over 18.31% are women of color; and examine the important measures that need to be taken to continue increasing access and opportunity for more women and people of color to direct. 

In Partnership With:

Full Talk Available Here

STARZ, in partnership with the Producers Guild of America (PGA) hosts a conversation with creators that will focus on the efforts to be more inclusive in all aspects of producing for television. The discussion will also include how ratings affect the decisions of networks and studios and the race to attract audiences in this new television landscape.

In Partnership With:

AnnaLea Arnold

Executive Director
Alliance of Women Directors

Mignon Clyburn

Former FCC Commissioner,
Diversity Champion and
Lionsgate Board Member

Jeffrey A. Hirsch

President and CEO

Liz Hilton Segel

Managing Partner,
North America

McKinsey & Company

Tasha Smith

Actress, Director and Acting Coach

Andrea Bordeaux

Ella McFair
Run The World

Alison Hoffman

President, Domestic Networks

Corbin Reid

Sondi Hill
Run the World

Yalda T. Uhls,

Founder of the Center for Scholars & Storytellers

Bresha Webb

Renee Ross
Run The World

Amber Stevens West

Whitney Green
Run The World

Tia A. Smith

CEO, Executive Producer and Director
talentedSOL Productions

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