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Sessions: Scriptwriting 101

Denise J. Hart, a Professor at Howard University, currently serves as the area coordinator of playwriting advising playwriting and TV/film students.  

She has previously held academic positions at St. Mary's College as the 2019 Visiting Professor, where she taught in the Department of Theatre, Film and Media Studies. She's also taught at American University and Duke Ellington School of the Arts. 


Her specialties include Playwriting, African American Theatre, TV Scriptwriting, Dramaturgy, Contemporary Trends in Theatre, Aesthetics of Black Television Drama and Theatre Criticism. 

Recipient of the 2021 Provost's Distinguished Service Award and the 2018 Outstanding Associate Professor, Denise holds an MFA in Playwriting from Sarah Lawrence College where she was awarded the Lipkin Prize for Playwriting. She acquired her BFA in Acting from Howard University where she was the president (95/96) of the historic Howard Players drama organization. 

Her training in TV scriptwriting was completed at Script Anatomy in Los Angeles CA; and comedy writing at Second City Chicago and Upright Citizens Brigade NYC.

One of the highlights of Hart's career has been serving as a faculty-fellow in the innovative partnership program between Howard University and Amazon Studios, Howard Entertainment. The program has the goal of diversifying the entertainment industry. 

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A writer and actor from the Pacific Northwest, Kalen Feeney grew up with a love of the outdoors.  Kalen recently worked as a Staff Writer on the Untitled Josh & Lauren Starz Project.  She also wrote for Moonbug’s second season of “MyGo!” and has taught writing workshops to deaf/hard-of-hearing students in the USA, Canada, and England.  Kalen has been awarded fellowships through Inevitable Foundation, Sundance’s Episodic Intensive, Project Involve (Film Independent), and the Anderson Center’s Deaf Artists Residency—and is involved with the WGA’s Disabled Writers Committee.  She has a Certificate in Television Writing (UCLA Extension) and Masters in Screenwriting from Leeds Beckett University in England. 

Session:  How to Develop Conflicts

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Sessions: Character Development: What We Can Learn from Dallas Buyers Club

Alessandra Bautze is Assistant Professor of Screenwriting at Georgia State University. She holds an M.F.A. in Screenwriting from The University of Texas at Austin, as well as a B.A. in The Writing Seminars and Film & Media Studies from The Johns Hopkins University. Her work seeks to reflect the diversity of the American experience while also embracing a socially-conscious, realist approach to narrative. Her screenplay RACING THE WOLF GOD won Best Screenplay at the 2021 Anchorage International Film Festival. She has received residencies from the Nanjing International Writers’ Residency Program (November 2021, via Zoom), the Storyknife Writers Residency Program (July 2022, Homer, Alaska), and the Mountain Words Writer-in-Residence Program (May 2023, Crested Butte, Colorado). She was named the Tangerine Entertainment Fellow for Stowe Story Labs’ 2023 Narrative Lab (Stowe, Vermont.) In addition to her work as a writer, she also works as a script consultant, most recently for SignWorld Studios, a Deaf-owned production company focusing on producing authentic media in American Sign Language and English. She believes in the power of language to connect communities. 

Founder of Deaf Talent® Casting and
Deaf Talent® Creative Lab™
Sessions:  48 Hour Film Production, Director's Session, and Acting Improv

Jade Bryan is an award-winning filmmaker and activist. She is the first Black Deaf woman filmmaker in America. Jade has been producing, directing, and writing films for over 25 years. She is a member of the ARRAYCrew, New York Women in Film and Television, and Women of Color United.

Jade is a multi-hyphenated artist and entrepreneur with a BFA degree in film production from one of the world's top film schools at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. Jade founded DeafVision Filmworks, Inc. and Jade Films and Entertainment, LLC in 1991 to produce her own work. In 2021, she founded Deaf Talent® Media & Entertainment Consulting (DTMEC) with the goal of collaborating with producers, writers, directors, and executives to ensure that our cultural representations with Deaf and Disabled characters, that their cultural representations, unique insights, storylines, and distinct points of view are multi-dimensional and authentic.


On July 1, 2021, Jade launched Deaf Talent® Casting (DTC), a database and talent resources for industry and casting professionals. As of today, the list has more than 150 deaf actors/creatives. DTC also manages deaf actors. The goal of DTC is “to push for more BIPOC Deaf actors cast in roles in Hollywood film and TV and amplify Black Deaf Stories.”


Jade has produced over 30 projects such as feature films, documentaries, shorts, music videos, and TV pilots. ”The Shattered Mind” is a feature film she completed in 2014 and toured 47 film festivals around the globe from 2015-2017. “The Shattered Mind” won 17 awards; included Best Sound, Audience Award, Special Jury Prize, Best Exhibition Film and Best Narrative Feature and Short. Her production company is working on an eight- part documentary series, “Black and Deaf in America”, about various issues regarding deaf (African-Americans) who were impacted by police brutality, racism, black erasure, rape, immigration and deportation, and oppression in the educational system. Jade has a TV series in the works with Hollywood executives, which is a coming-of-age story loosely based on her life. This year in 2023, Jade produced a new TV pilot, “What Somalia Wants” which she wrote, produced, and directed.


Jade believes in promoting inclusion and representation of BIPOC Deaf Talent® in front of and behind the camera. She is the creator of the #DeafTalent® Movement, to amplify BIPOC voices and creators.


Vice President, Development & Original Production


Session:  NETWORKING: Why It's Important

As Vice President of Development & Original Production for WE tv and AllBlk.Tv, Ashley McFarlin oversees new and developing projects for the network and serves as an Executive Producer on the popular series Grown & Gospel, Brat Loves Judy, A La Carte and 50 Cent’s Hip Hop Homicides. 


With over twenty years’ experience in the industry, McFarlin has garnered a strong reputation for crafting layered, elevated stories of larger-than-life characters that are relatable, real and wildly entertaining. McFarlin began her career as a production assistant at CNN in Atlanta, Ga.

In 2006, she founded Bird’s Eye Entertainment, Inc., and over the years, has worked on a multitude of shows with various television networks including Bravo, Discovery, OWN, Oxygen, CNN, MTV, The Travel Channel, and VH1-- producing popular series such as, Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Potomac and Southern Charm New Orleans, as well as, VH1’s Girls Cruise, starring Lil’ Kim, Chilli, and Mya. 


McFarlin has served as an Adjunct Professor at Montclair State University, a guest lecturer at Yale and Clark Atlanta Universities; and facilitates annual production bootcamps throughout the country’s top HBCU campuses.  Additionally, as Co-Director of the non-profit teen empowerment group, The Power of You Teens, Inc., she has launched a new chapter servicing young girls in the Atlanta metropolitan area.  Her most cherished accomplishment was the publication of a book of daily devotionals, The Truth: Wrapped In Love, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. 


McFarlin received her B.A. in Mass Communications from Howard University, where she graduated Summa Cum Laude.

SVP Development & Production - ALLBLK
(an AMC SVOD Network)
Session: How to Pitch a Concept

Nikki Love is a skilled producer and line producer specializing in the physical production of filmmaking from development to post production. She has produced festival and award winning feature films, short films, web series and music videos. She creates tight budgets and has great crew and equipment at her disposal. Her specialty is making quality projects at reasonable costs.

She produced/line produced the indie film that swept the festivals, THE LAST FALL, directed by Matthew Cherry. She also wrote and produced the hard hitting short film POST LIFE, starring Erica Ash and directed by Salli Richardson-Whitfield. The film has been used to shed light on postpartum psychosis and is currently being used in perinatal health groups.

She has produced the rarely been done before 'one take film' entitled A BOY. A GIRL. A DREAM. that was a Sundance selection in 2018 starring Omari Hardwick and Meagan Good. The ChloexHalle music video for the sound track WRINKLE IN TIME and multiple films for BETher & BET that were a huge hit with audiences.

Putting her skills to use, she most recently signed on as VP of Development & Production for UMC, the first black film & television streaming service. Since joining the company she has executive produced hit shows such as A House Divided (Demetria McKinney, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs and Lisa Raye McCoy), Double Cross (Ashley Williams, Jeff Logan and Darrin Henson) and Behind Her Faith (Essence Atkins, Aisha Hinds and Niecy Nash).

As the landscape continues to change for filmmakers, she continues to seek to push the envelope in producing innovative and creative content!


Sessions:  Sign Mime

Luane Davis Haggerty, Ph.D. (Director, Actor, Professor, interpreter) has a Ph.D. in Leadership and change through the arts; focused on Deaf theater.  She was nominated for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for her play “Windows of the Soul”. She is a Principal Lecturer at RIT/NTID and was an original co-founder of the IRT theater in New York City. She has received many awards for her direction which blend Deaf and hearing actors for over 25 years including “Emperor Jones “ which won the NYC Off Off Broadway Review Award, ”A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and  “Little Shop Of Horrors” which won Rochester CITY newspaper’s “Most Popular Local Theatrical Production” award. Her recent production for the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) “Fences” won the Kennedy Center College Theater Festival award for Excellence in Ensemble and three of the actors won nominations for the Irene Ryan acting award. Most recently she received the Essie Calhoun diversity in the arts Award. She was recently featured in the Avant Guard production at IRT in New York’s Greenwich Village titled YOVOs. She is honored to have been the first post Covid production of Rochester’s Shakespeare in the Park with “The Tempest”, nominated for the Broadway World Central New York category for innovative production.

Intimacy Coordinator for Film & Stage


Teniece Divya Johnson, (they/them) is an Intimacy Director, Fight Director, Stunt Performer, and Movement Storyteller working across television, film and stage. The first Black and first non-binary Intimacy Director on Broadway with SLAVE PLAY and first Black Intimacy Coordinator working on TV/Film, Teniece serves as a resolute advocate for a decolonized collaborative approach to art, Black intimacy, Kink, and Queer representation. They are also the founder, a community based organization around Black intimacy, consent, and wellness. Some of Johnson's credits: HBO's Succession, FX's POSE, RAMY, The Underground Railroad, West Side Story, Gotham, Blackkklansman, Richard III at the Public Theater, MJ the Musical on Broadway, and RAQI on Power Book II: Ghost. 

SAG/AFTRA Stunt Performer 



Listed on IStunt, Stuntphone, Stunt Listing, CMG Talent & Siverio Stunt Directory, IMDB

Session: Combat Class
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CSA (VP, Advocacy)

Session:  Acting Audition 

Danielle Pretsfelder Demchick, CSA (she/her/hers) is an advocate manifesting change in how the real world is reflected in today’s media. Her focus is on elevating underrepresented and misrepresented communities.


An active member of the New York casting community since 2004, Nickelodeon was her casting home for over 14 years. 


Since opening her own casting office in 2022, some of her favorite credits include RespectAbility's Disabled Children's Content Creator's Lab (sponsored by Netflix), American Girl: Corinne Tan,, Matt Rogers: Have You Heard of Christmas? and You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah for Happy Madison Productions.


She continues to cast Viacom Kids & Family content, and is currently working with PBS, Disney Junior, and Sony Pictures Television-Kids as well as theatre and film, including the deaf led feature film, The Flash Before the Bang.


Prior to Nickelodeon, she worked in independent film casting and spent a year at Innovative Artists learning the agency side of the business.


The co-VP of Advocacy for the Casting Society of America, her work elevating underrepresented communities has been barrier breaking. She has led open calls for Performers with Disabilities, MENASA (Middle Eastern, North African, South Asian), Veterans, Senior, Native American, Indigenous, Trans & Non-Binary, Black, Asian, and Latine actors.


In addition to being on the board of the Casting Society of America and Casting Society Cares, she serves as a faculty advisor for RespectAbility and talent and casting consultant for GAMUT management, which works exclusively with talent with disabilities. She is also on the Actor's Fund's Looking Ahead Advisory Board. Currently she is pursuing a master's degree in Disabilities Studies at the City University of New York.                                                                                                                                                                      She prides herself on being an ally to artists and aspiring talent of all abilities. 

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Member of Deaf Talent® Casting
Session:  How to Grove to the Beats and Signdance

My name is Briana Johnson and I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia.  At the tender age of four, my mother was told by my pediatrician at Scottish Rite Hospital that I was deaf and that I was born that way.  This was devastating news to most of my family but not to my mother.  She was amazed that I could talk with her, my family, friends, and teachers for four years and she did not know that I was deaf.  My mother was the only person who did not cry or exhibit any pity towards me.  She instead told me that being deaf was a "Beautiful" thing and that I was created in the image of God and that all things are possible for me and she also told me that I was her "Beautiful" blessed baby girl who can be and do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.  That's where my stage name "Beautiful" comes from.  The name was inspired by my mother's encouraging words and support and since then, I have lived by those words every day.  


My mother formed a children's gospel group called "Dear Children" where she taught children to sing, dance, and the Word of God.  I assisted in the choreography of some of our performance routines. "Dear Children" was a local children's gospel singing group that performed throughout Georgia. This is where music, dancing, and performing became a strong passion of mine.  I began writing my own music and even recorded my music in the studio.  There was a time when I was the only deaf student in my class and I was severely picked on and bullied.  This inspired me to prove that just because I am deaf did not mean I could not succeed or that being deaf was ugly.  I studied, over articulated, and accepted being deaf so that I or other deaf children would not be overlooked and misunderstood.  I was a straight "A" honor student, an Honor Society member, a cheerleader captain, and on the Dance/Step Team.  


I earned a full academic scholarship and earned a BA degree in Government/Law from Gallaudet University.  I was crowned Miss Black Deaf America 2009-2011 and I use my platform to advocate for my "Beautiful" deaf culture. I have been blessed with the opportunity to travel to several states to perform for DeafNation Expo events, Apollo in NYC, National Black Advocates Banquet and much more.  I want the world to know about the deaf community and to learn sign language so that we all can be included in every conversation and activities as well.  This is how the birth of my company Signdance was formed.  In 2018, I formed a dance company called Signdance with the motto that states "Let's Groove to the Beat and Learn Sign Language."  It's through my music and my dance company that I continue to spread awareness about the deaf community as well as bridge any gaps between the hearing and deaf community as well.


Dawn graduated from Film School at Boston University in 1995 with an MFA in Film Production. She worked as a PA and camera assistant on independent and feature films. She made her own short films. Someone She Loved won awards nationally and internationally. She lives in Decatur, GA with her family and works as a web developer as her day job.

Member of Deaf Talent® Casting
Session:  Director's Session
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