Los Angeles Committee
PEN America is grateful to the following supporters who are members of the PEN America Los Angeles Committee.
Co-Chairs: David Francis, Moira Griffin, and Rob Perrin
Leslie Belzberg currently oversees all television and theatrical productions for Gaumont as Senior Vice President, Production. Prior to Gaumont, she was a consultant for Blumhouse Television and head of production at Miramax and Endemol-Shine North America. Before moving into high-level executive roles at major studios, Belzberg was an independent producer, most well-known for her storied collaboration with director John Landis. Together, they co-created St. Clare Entertainment, a TV production company. She also produced many of his films including Coming to America, Three Amigos, Blues Brothers 2000, Beverly Hills Cop III, Susan’s Plan, The Stupids, Oscar, Spies Like Us, and Into the Night. Belzberg has also produced Academy Award winning films such as Crazy Heart, which earned Jeff Bridges a Best Actor win, and the documentary Genocide, also produced by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, now the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. She earned an MBA from Fordham University in New York and a BA in English Literature and Contemporary Drama from York University in Toronto.
Laura Bickford is an award-winning independent film and TV producer based in Los Angeles and London. She has produced films such as Traffic, directed by Steven Soderbergh, which won four Academy Awards, and Che Part 1 and Part 2, which won Benicio del Toro Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival. Other films include Arbitrage with Richard Gere, which earned him a Golden Globe nomination and remains one of the most successful day and date releases of all time, Netflix’s first theatrical release Beasts of No Nation, director Cary Joji Fukunaga’s war drama starring Idris Elba, Duplicity with Julia Roberts and Clive Owen, Fur with Nicole Kidman and Robert Downey, and her first film Citizen X for HBO, which won Donald Sutherland the Emmy for Best Actor. She is currently in post on Sweetness in the Belly based on the novel by Camilla Gibb starring Dakota Fanning and directed by Ethiopian director Zeresenay Mehari. Born and raised in New York City, she started her career in London working for Jeremy Thomas and Luc Roeg’s Vivid Productions and produced over 50 music videos in Europe and the United States. Laura is a member of the Producers Guild and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, where she sits on the UK Events Committee. She is a former board member of PEN Center USA.
Jade Chang is the author of The Wangs vs. the World, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The Wangs has been named a New York Times Editors’ Choice as well as a Best Book of the Year by Amazon, Buzzfeed, Elle, and NPR, and was awarded the VCU/Cabell First Novelist prize. The novel will be published in 12 countries. “Her book is unrelentingly fun, but it is also raw and profane—a story of fierce pride, fierce anger, and even fiercer love.” —NPR
David A. Ebershoff is a retired partner and former Los Angeles office managing partner of the international law firm of Norton Rose Fulbright where he represented both public and privately held companies in various corporate, securities, financings, and governance matters. These included mergers and acquisitions, contests for corporate control, going-private transactions, and private financings for start-up and emerging companies. Ebershoff holds a BA from Duke and a JD from the University of Michigan Law School. Before entering private practice, he served as a law clerk for the Honorable F. Ryan Duffy of the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Ebershoff and his wife Becky have lived in Pasadena, California, for over 40 years and they currently divide their time between Pasadena and Durham, North Carolina. They have four adult children spread across the United States—New York, Chicago, St. Louis, and Pasadena—and seven grandchildren (five boys and two girls). Their son is an author and former executive editor at Random House. Ebershoff serves as a director and vide president of the Sahm Family Foundation, located in Rancho Santa Fe, California, which focuses on support for the arts and disadvantaged children, and is also a member of the Friends Board of the Nasher Museum at Duke Museum, and a director of the Wheeler Foundation, Los Angeles, California.
David Francis is an Australian lawyer and novelist based in Los Angeles. He is the author of The Great Inland Sea, published to acclaim in seven countries; Stray Dog Winter, Book of the Year in The Advocate and winner of the American Library Association Barbara Gittings Prize for Literature; and Wedding Bush Road, released in the United States and Australia in 2017. Francis has taught creative writing at University of California, Los Angeles; Occidental College; and in the Masters of Professional Writing program at University of Southern California. His short fiction and articles have appeared in publications including Harvard Review, The Sydney Morning Herald, Southern California Review, Best Australian Stories 2012 and 2014, Australian Love Stories, Los Angeles Times, and The Rattling Wall. He was vice president of PEN Center USA from 2011 through 2017 and is co-chair of PEN America’s Los Angeles Committee. He spends part of each year on his family farm back in Australia and most of his days at Norton Rose Fulbright law firm in Los Angeles. For more information see www.davidfranciswriter.com
Moira Griffin is a producer and strategist based in Los Angeles for New Bumper and Paint Productions. As the former Executive Director of Production & Creative Labs for 21st Century Fox, she was charged with furthering Fox’s goals to create content that reflects the company’s global audience, attracts diverse storytellers, and positions the film, television studios and the networks as the home for innovative storytelling. Previously, she was the head of Diversity Initiatives at the Sundance Institute where she focused on developing diverse artists while by helping them gain access to the programs within the institute, as well as introducing them to the international marketplace, finance and emerging technologies. As a strategist she has worked with organizations such as TED Conferences and the Blackhouse Foundation. Moira has numerous projects under her belt including music videos, short films, features, documentaries and webseries for a variety of companies, including PBS, YouTube, and NBC Universal. With award-winning projects such as “Cap” (HBO), “Night Shift” (exec Produced by Viola Davis), “The New Black” (PBS), “Black Folk Don’t” (PBS/YouTube), “Hug”, and “The Contest” (Cartoon Network) premiering at festivals including Sundance Film Festival, SXSW, AFI Docs, Mill Valley Film Festival, and Human Rights Watch Film Festival, she is consistently focused on helping directors move their projects from development through post. Her next feature documentary “Alabamaland” will premiere in 2020 on PBS. Previously, she worked as VP of Production/Development with Pipedream Productions in New York. A founding director of Rooftop Films, she has curated film programs for multiple organizations from Ocularis (New York, NY) to the Global Peace Film Festival (Bali). In addition, she developed the Ethiopia Film Initiative as a consultant with the IETFF in Monaco, which supports Ethiopian filmmakers and the development of an Ethiopian film industry. Originally from the border cities of Windsor (Ontario) and Detroit (Michigan), she holds degrees in Media Studies and Japanese Studies from the University of Windsor.
Miranda Cowley Heller was born and raised in New York City. She began her career as a magazine editor in New York. In 1997 she moved to Los Angeles with her family to work as a television executive. She was senior vice president and head of the Drama Series Department at HBO, where she developed and oversaw such shows as The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Wire, Deadwood, and Big Love, among others.
Dana Johnson is the author of the short story collection In the Not Quite Dark. She is also the author of Break Any Woman Down, winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, and the novel Elsewhere, California. Both books were nominees for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. Her work has appeared in The Paris Review, Callaloo, The Iowa Review, and Huizache, among others, and anthologized in Watchlist: 32 Stories by Persons of Interest, Shaking the Tree: A Collection of New Fiction and Memoir by Black Women, and California Uncovered: Stories for the 21st Century. Born and raised in and around Los Angeles, she is a professor of English at the University of Southern California.
David Kaye is a professor of law at the University of California, Irvine, and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. Appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2014, he has addressed, among other topics, growing repression of freedom of expression globally, encryption and anonymity as promoters of freedom of expression, the protection of whistleblowers and journalistic sources, the roles and responsibilities of private internet companies, and the regulation of online content by social media and search companies. Early in his career he was a lawyer in the U.S. State Department, handling issues such as the applicability of the Geneva Conventions in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001. His academic research and writing have focused on accountability for serious human rights abuses, international humanitarian law, and the international law governing use of force. A member of the Council on Foreign Relations and former member of the Executive Council of the American Society of International Law, he has also published essays in such publications as Foreign Affairs, The New York Times, Foreign Policy, Just Security, and Los Angeles Times. He did his undergraduate and graduate work at the University of California, Berkeley.
Christine La Monte, director/producer/writer, is the founder/president of La Monte Productions. She is also a former film marketing executive at Universal, Disney, and Orion Pictures. Her most recent producing effort is VIVA VERDI!, a feature documentary about the home that Giuseppe Verdi built in Milan for retired opera singers. The documentary is currently in post-production. Also in development/production are JUSTICE DEFERRED, based on the critically-acclaimed legal thriller by Len Williams; and THE OTHER SIDE OF 90, a feature documentary that she is directing. Previously, La Monte produced the award-winning short film, DANDELION DHARMA; the Gary Goldstein-scripted play, “Three Grooms & A Bride;” and the syndicated television talk show, Marilu— starring Marilu Henner. Her directing credits include the Screen Actors Guild’s “A Heart United” with Sharon Lawrence and Jo Beth Williams, and “The Angina Monologues” with Brenda Strong and Eric Close. As a marketing executive, she spent over 20 years in New York and Los Angeles at studios, and at Rogers & Cowan as executive vice president of the Motion Picture Group—where she played a key role in numerous Academy-award winning films. She has worked internationally launching TV3 in Auckland, New Zealand; in marketing at the historic film studio CineCittà while living in Rome; and in Kyoto, Japan where she taught French as a second language. As a past faculty member of New York’s School of Visual Arts, she initiated the Dusty Awards, an ongoing film festival/award ceremony for student films; has guest lectured at UCLA and USC; and has been a juror on festivals including most recently the Red Nation Film Festival. A longtime member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, where she serves on the Executive Committee of the Student Academy Awards, La Monte is also a member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, and the Alliance of Women Directors. For years, she has been a contributing editor of the avant-garde photography magazine Musée, and on the Dean’s Advisory Board at the University at Buffalo. A former board member of the LA Ballet, La Monte divides her time between Los Angeles and Rome with her author husband, Len Williams.
Franklin Leonard is a film producer, cultural commentator, professor, and entrepreneur. He is the founder and CEO of the Black List, the company that celebrates and supports great screenwriting and the writers who do it via film production, its annual survey of best unproduced screenplays, online marketplace, live staged script readings, screenwriter labs, and film culture publications. More than 400 scripts from the annual Black List survey have been produced as feature films earning 250 Academy Award nominations and 50 wins including four of the last ten Best Pictures and ten of the last twenty-two screenwriting Oscars. Franklin has worked in feature film development at Universal Pictures and the production companies of Will Smith, Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella, and Leonardo DiCaprio. He has been a juror at the Sundance, Toronto, and Guanajuato Film Festivals and for the PEN Center Literary Awards. He was also a delegate and speaker at the White House’s 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi, Kenya. He’s been one of Hollywood Reporter’s 35 Under 35, Black Enterprise magazine’s “40 Emerging Leaders for Our Future,” The Root’s 100 Most Influential African-Americans, and Fast Company’s “100 Most Creative People in Business,” and was awarded the 2015 African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA)’s Special Achievement Award for career excellence and the 2019 WGAE (Writers Guild of America, East) Evelyn Burkey award for elevating the honor and dignity of screenwriters. He is an occasional commentator on the BBC and MSNBC on matters of culture, politics, and race, an associate professor at the American Film institute, a trustee of PEN America, an advisor to Glitch, Inc., and a member of the Associates Branch of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. His TED Talk was viewed more than one million times in its first two months of release.
M.G. Lord is the author of The Accidental Feminist: How Elizabeth Taylor Raised Our Consciousness and We Were Too Distracted by Her Beauty to Notice, which won the Los Angeles Press Club Award for best book on entertainment in 2012. Her other books include Astro Turf, a family memoir about aerospace culture during the Cold War, and Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll. She participated in two recent documentaries about the doll, The Toys that Made Us (Netflix) and Tiny Shoulders (Hulu). She also contributed to Blue Sky Metropolis, a four-part PBS documentary on the Southern California aerospace industry. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times Book Review, Discover, Travel + Leisure, Vogue, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times Book Review, The Hollywood Reporter, and The New Yorker. Before becoming a freelance writer, Lord was for 12 years a syndicated political cartoonist based at Newsday. A graduate of Yale University, she has been awarded an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation science-writing grant, as well as artistic residencies at Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony. She is an assistant professor of the practice of English at the University of Southern California.
Rob Perrin is a litigator practicing with the international firm Latham & Watkins LLP, and is currently co-chair of the firm’s Los Angeles Litigation Department. He specializes in complex commercial and securities litigation, and has been named a “Super Lawyer” in a survey conducted by Law & Politics Media, Inc., as published in Los Angeles Magazine. Perrin joined Latham following his graduation from Yale Law School in 1996 and his clerkship with Judge Harry Hupp of the United States District Court for the Central District of California. Alongside of his legal career, Perrin has pursued his passion for literature. After graduating with honors as an English major from Dartmouth College, Perrin went on to receive his MA in English literature from the University of California, Los Angeles. He is currently a member of the Board of Visitors of the UCLA English Department, and also serves on the boards of Street Poets, Inc. (a nonprofit organization conducting poetry and music workshops at Los Angeles County juvenile detention facilities and schools), and of the Inner City Law Center.
Marvin Putnam is a trial lawyer who offers clients an exceptional combination of litigation experience and keen insight into the entertainment industry. He has successfully represented clients ranging from individual authors and producers to leading entertainment companies and investment banks. His accomplishments at trial and appellate courts, both state and federal as well as internationally, have earned Putnam a reputation as a market-leading entertainment litigator. Putnam has been recognized by Chambers USA as a leading lawyer in Media & Entertainment Litigation; Variety “Legal Impact Report;” The Hollywood Reporter “Power Lawyers;” and The Daily Journal “Top 100 California Lawyers” and “Top Entertainment Lawyers.” In 2014, he was named one of National Law Journal’s “Winning Trial Lawyers” and Trial Lawyer of the Year by the Century City Bar Association. In 2018, Putnam joined the PEN America Board.
Howard A. Rodman wrote Savage Grace, with Julianne Moore and Eddie Redmayne, nominated for Best Screenplay at the 2009 Spirit Awards, and August, starring Josh Hartnett and David Bowie. He also wrote Joe Gould’s Secret, the opening night film of the Sundance Film Festival, based on the memoir by iconic New Yorker writer Joseph Mitchell. His novel Destiny Express, set in the pre-War German filmmaking community, was published by Atheneum and was blurbed by Thomas Pynchon, who called it “daringly imagined, darkly romantic—a moral thriller.” He is a professor of screenwriting at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, an artistic director of the Sundance Screenwriting Labs, a member of the National Film Preservation Board, and the past president of the Writers Guild of America West. Working with the Library Foundation of Los Angeles and USC, Rodman has conducted public conversations with writers Tom Wolfe, Walter Mosley, Ricky Jay, Geoff Dyer, Robert Polito, Lena Dunham, Spike Jonze, Vince Gilligan, Matthew Weiner, Paul Thomas Anderson, Jean-Claude Carrière, Robert Towne, John Sayles, Mark Z. Danielewski, John McWhorter, Jeannette Seaver, Joan Schenkar, and Lady Antonia Fraser. In 2013, in recognition of his contributions, he was named a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres [Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters] by the government of France. He was also the 2018 inductee to the Final Draft Screenwriters Hall of Fame.
Seth Schachner is Managing Director of Strat Americas, a Los Angeles-based consultancy that provides strategic guidance and helps clients with media and technology partnerships. Strat Americas has worked with clients in digital and social music, live entertainment, artificial intelligence, and enterprise software. Recent clients include Microsoft and Smule, a social music community. Seth is an experienced business development executive who spent 11 years with Sony Music, where he held senior digital leadership roles in Latin America and for Sony’s Jive Records label in North America. At Sony Music Latin America, Seth created mobile partnerships for Sony’s artists, including Shakira and Ricky Martin. Previously, Schachner held business development roles with Microsoft, Liberty Media, Viacom, and Universal Music. Seth was one of AOL’s first business development executives, leading AOL’s first partnerships with the American music industry. A two-time graduate of Columbia University in New York, Seth has also served as chairman of Florida’s Film & Entertainment Advisory Council, which helped guide Florida on state film and entertainment growth strategies. Seth’s articles and posts have appeared in publications like Venture Beat and The Guardian. He is a frequent public speaker, and he has commented on Fox Business News, Cheddar TV, and Newsy.
Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s debut novel The Nest spent more than six months on the New York Times Bestseller list. The book was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writer’s pick, a best fiction finalist for the Goodreads Choice Award, and was named one of the best books of 2016 by People, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, Amazon, Refinery 29, and others. The Nest has been translated into more than 25 languages and optioned for film by Amazon Studios with Jill Soloway’s Topple Productions producing. Sweeney holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two sons.
Nicole A. Tetreault, PhD, is a neuroscientist, author, meditation teacher, and international speaker on topics of neurodiversity, neurodevelopment, creativity, mental health, and wellness. Dr. Tetreault received her PhD from California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in biology specializing in neurodevelopment and neurodegenerative disorders. As the founder of Awesome Neuroscience, she is dedicated to translating the most promising neuroscience and positive psychology for individuals to live their best life. Dr. Tetreault has authored and co-authored numerous academic papers on intelligence, autism, brain evolution, neuroanatomy, neuroinflammation, brain development, and behavior in journals such as Trends in Cognitive Neuroscience, Annals in New York Academy of Sciences, European Journal of Neuroscience, and Intelligence. Her science writings can be found in 2e Newsletter, Variations Magazine, SENG Newsletter, Gifted Unlimited, and Great Potential Press. Television credits include guest appearances on Addiction Unplugged on A&E and 100 Humans, a Netflix Original Series. As a Milton and Rosalind Chang Career Exploration Prize recipient from Caltech, Dr. Tetreault is creating Beyond the Cell, a transformative program to rehabilitate incarcerated women through teaching guided meditation, neuroscience, literature, and expressive writing to cultivate positive neural, mental, and behavioral patterns for healing. Beyond the Cell was inspired by PEN America’s free expression mission, and the organization’s work with incarcerated people. She is completing her first book, Insight into a Bright Mind, which explores groundbreaking research examining the experiences of unique, creative, and intense brains through interviews, storytelling, and literary science, while advocating for new directions and dialogue of human and neurodiversity. For more about Nicole, please visit nicoletetreault.com.
David L. Ulin is the author or editor of 10 books, including Sidewalking: Coming to Terms with Los Angeles, shortlisted for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay, and the Library of America’s Writing Los Angeles: A Literary Anthology, which won a California Book Award. His other books include The Myth of Solid Ground: Earthquakes, Prediction, and the Fault Line Between Reason and Faith, selected as a best book of the year by the Chicago Tribune and the San Francisco Chronicle; the novel Ear to the Ground; and The Lost Art of Reading: Books and Resistance in a Troubled Time. The former book editor and book critic of the Los Angeles Times, he has written for The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, The Nation, The New York Times, Bookforum, 4 Columns, The Paris Review, Black Clock, Virginia Quarterly Review, AGNI, Zyzzyva, Columbia Journalism Review, and on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” He teaches at the University of Southern California and has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation; Black Mountain Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas; and the Lannan Foundation.
Maya Windholz has worked as a media lawyer and First Amendment advocate for over 25 years in both the news business and the entertainment industry. Most recently, in executive roles at Paramount Television and at NBCUniversal, Windholz’s legal practice has included both scripted and unscripted television content, from project and script development through production, advertising and marketing. Windholz has worked on television shows as diverse as 13 Reasons Why (Netflix), Keeping Up With The Kardashians (E!), and The Real Housewives (Bravo), as well as Suits, 30 Rock, The Office, and the Law & Order franchise. Previously, Windholz worked for 10 years as a senior attorney for NBC in New York, working with journalists and news producers across all of NBC’s news operations. She currently serves as a volunteer mediator with the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs. Windholz is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and also received her BA summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania. Windholz grew up in Westfield, New Jersey. She lives in Studio City, California, with her husband Steven Weinstein and their two sons.
Jamie Wolf is a journalist, editor, photographer, and film producer. For many years, until its unification with PEN America, she served as PEN Center USA’s Vice President of the Board, as well as chair of the center’s annual Literary Awards Festival. One of the original group of editors at Washington Monthly, she has written about politics and other subjects for that magazine as well as for Harper’s; The New Yorker; New West; American Film; Los Angeles Times Magazine; Los Angeles magazine, for which she was a contributing writer; LA Weekly, for which she covered the Howard Dean campaign; MotherJones.com; and the Los Angeles Review of Books, of which she was a founding board member. Her essay on parenthood and grown children, “The Shoes in the Hall,” appeared in the anthology The Empty Nest, published in 2007. Wolf’s photographs of urban landscapes have been published in DoubleTake magazine and exhibited in Washington, D.C., and in Los Angeles. A graduate of Radcliffe College, she joined the PEN America Board in 2018.
Sholeh Wolpé is an Iranian-born poet, writer, and playwright. About Wolpé’s latest collection of poems, Keeping Time with Blue Hyacinths, Shelf Awareness Magazine writes, “A gifted Iranian-American poet beautifully explores love and the loss of love, beauty and war and the ghosts of the past.” Wolpé’s modern translation of The Conference of the Birds (W. W. Norton, 2017) by the 12th century Iranian mystic poet, Attar, has been hailed by Reza Aslan as a translation that “is sure to be as timeless as the masterpiece itself.” The inaugural 2018 Writer-in-Residence at UCLA, Wolpé is the recipient of the 2014 PEN/Heim, 2013 Midwest Book Award, and 2010 Lois Roth Persian Translation prize. Wolpé’s literary work includes five collections of poetry, three plays, four books of translations, and three anthologies. Wolpé’s writings have been translated into many languages and included in numerous American and international anthologies and journals of poetry and fiction. She has lived in the UK and Trinidad, and is presently based in Los Angeles. More information: www.sholehwolpe.com
After becoming a movie critic for the Chicago Tribune at age 16, KK Wootton received her BFA in dramatic writing from New York University and a Master’s degree in writing from USC. She has taught writing at USC and at Northwestern University’s School of Professional Studies. Wootton has published short fiction in the Grove Press anthology They’re At It Again and creative nonfiction in the Houghton Mifflin collection, Personals. In his column “On Language,” William Safire attributed to her the first media appearance of the phrase “get a life.” For more information, see kkwootton.com.
Tom Zoellner is an associate professor of English at Chapman University and the politics editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books. He is the author of five books, including the forthcoming Island on Fire: The Revolt that Ended Slavery in the British Empire (Harvard University Press, 2019). His work has appeared in The Atlantic, Harper’s, Men’s Health, The New York Times, Scientific American, The Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, The Maine Review, The Washington Post, World Literature Today, The American Scholar, and many other places.