Top 10 Innovative Minds Disrupting The Entertainment Space

Damien Blanco

1 – Damien Bianco

Damien Bianco, an influential figure in the film industry, has left an indelible mark on movie enthusiasts worldwide. Born in France and with an insatiable passion for storytelling, Damien embarked on a journey to Los Angeles, where he strived to redefine filmmaking’s boundaries. In collaboration with Samy Ferrenbach, who serves as co-producer and lead actor, he established Acknowledge Pictures, a production company that acted as a driving force for his groundbreaking ventures as filmmaker. As the director of the film ‘Whatever It Takes,’ he capitalized on his creative vision to bring the project to life.

Throughout Damien’s career, numerous highlights have illuminated his path to cinematic greatness, such as studying at prestigious drama schools during 4 years in Paris, where he was able to further master his skills. During his initial years as a production assistant in Los Angeles with Emmy Award-winning producer and director Greg Yaitanes, he gained invaluable insight into the craft. As an individual of diverse talent, he has also demonstrated his versatility as a cinematographer and colorist for compelling music videos and independent films. But it is his ambitious independent short film ‘Whatever It Takes’ that most exemplifies his commitment to the craft. This 32-minute cinematic has recently embarked on its festival journey, garnering significant recognition. Incredibly, the film has achieved worldwide distribution—a remarkable achievement, especially for the duration of a short film. With its captivating performances from the cast and impeccable pictures, this film stands as a testament to Damien and his team’s ability to transcend limitations and create an extraordinary work of art, regardless of the budget.

Damien’s story, intertwined with resilience and tenacity, serves as a guiding light for those navigating their own creative paths. Through “Whatever It Takes,” he shares a resounding message of hope, offering a lifeline to struggling artists and encouraging them to persevere. Looking ahead, he envisions a future where his creative brilliance shines. He aspires to write, produce, and direct films that deepen audiences’ connection to the subject matter. With a documentary project and a feature screenplay on the horizon, Damien’s dreams know no bounds.

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2 – Dana Shaviv & Santiago Ceballos

Esteemed Creative Director and Producer, Dana Shaviv, along with Director and 3D Generalist Santiago Ceballos, are the driving force behind RAW, a worldbuilding-based production house co-founded with Directors Luis García Grech and Orin Torati. The two are speculative worldbuilders passionate about creating a sense of identity between the viewer and the stories they present. In their stories, they weave a global perspective on real-world problems as a group of four founding members from four countries: Belgium, Colombia, Israel, and Spain.

Together, Dana and Santiago employ narrative worldbuilding as a holistic approach to visualizing complex ideas and converting them into engaging products. A noteworthy accomplishment is their involvement in producing an art film, “No Evil,” directed by Jennifer Chen, that was showcased in a prestigious gallery exhibition. By combining evocative visions of future machines and themes of global geoengineering and mythology, they crafted a compelling visual and narrative experience that captured the essence of the future machine artifact. Through the use of emerging 3D animation tools, they could create stories about technology developed by technology.

Leading the avant-garde in animation, visual effects, and visualization tools allows the team to produce projects in-house, making RAW a “one-stop-shop.” Their end-to-end approach seamlessly integrates the design and production phases, enabling them to swiftly bring to life the visions of writers, producers, brands, musicians, advertising agencies, and entrepreneurs. By developing and producing feature films, music videos, and brand experiences as they foster interdisciplinary collaborations, they plan to explore and manifest fictional futures. Dana and Santiago introduce a fusion of design and storytelling through RAW. Harnessing their expertise as provocateurs they craft engaging worlds and embark on visual journeys into the landscapes of ideas.

Nikki Yep Event Solutions Amanda Masick

3 – Nikki Yep

Event Solutions‘ Chief Operating Officer and Partner, Nikki Yep, is a striking force in the event industry, making waves with her achievements and contributions. Born and raised in Hawaii, Nikki’s journey to success has been characterized by determination and resilience. Leaving her island behind, she ventured into Los Angeles, armed with her fierce spirit and profound love of nature. As a partner at Event Solutions, her influence in the industry extends well outside of her position in the company. Aware of the significant carbon footprint attributed to the event industry, she embarked on a mission to redefine the norm. From simple yet impactful actions like faithfully carrying a reusable water bottle to working to incorporate sustainable practices throughout the company’s events, she has led a remarkable eco-conscious movement.

Nikki’s influence, however, extends well beyond the field of sustainability. Event Solutions has been established as a leader in the event planning industry due to the expertise she brings to the table. The company’s extensive experience orchestrating large-scale corporate events sets them apart, and her knowledge in marketing, branding, leadership and employee engagement further enhances their success. Nikki’s achievements have been well-recognized by industry leaders. She has been nominated for three prestigious BizBash Awards for outstanding contributions, including Best Conference, Best Product Launch, and Best Activation Event. Collaborating with Nike, Amazon, Red Bull, Samsung, and numerous other industry giants, her portfolio boasts a variety of partnerships with globally renowned brands. Her unmatched expertise and artistic vision consistently propel her clients to new heights, solidifying her reputation as a trusted partner in creating extraordinary experiences.

Throughout her career, Nikki encourages others to pursue their passions with courage, embrace the unknown, and share knowledge and experiences to foster individual growth and connection. Looking towards the future, she envisions Event Solutions expanding internationally, hosting even more extensive and more diverse events in various locations worldwide. She dreams of bridging cultures and breaking language barriers through extraordinary experiences that unite people around the globe. With her aspirations for sustainable efforts, Nikki intends to achieve zero waste and leave the world a better place than she found it.

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4 – Sid Patwa

Sid Patwa, a self-made screenwriter from Dayton, Ohio, has been making an impact in the industry with his exceptional storytelling abilities that draw attention to minority communities’ struggles and similarities, often through comedy and often with a heavy backdrop of music, food, and culture. After spending a decade working in the real estate finance industry, Sid took a leap of faith to pursue his lifelong passion of screenwriting, despite never having any prior experience or connections. He sought to create narratives that reflect the experiences and challenges faced by marginalized groups with hopes of inspiring, educating, and taking others on memorable journeys. In the last five years, he devoted his heart and soul to his craft, writing over a dozen scripts and making two short films. These stories and films earned him a number of prestigious accolades, from The Academy Nicholl, Sundance, Austin Film Fest, and many others, which all played a role in his recent success.

With this dedication and hard work, he recently earned his “dream job” as a Creative Executive at Westbrook Studios, where he works closely both with the film division and with Will Smith, one of his favorite creatives of all time.

Sid humbly believes that it’s not “the best” that prevail, but those that work, learn, and practice relentlessly, and persistently “plant seeds and nurture them”. To him, success is inevitable for aspiring artists if they outlast those that don’t want it as bad and if they are daring enough to share their art in as many places as possible. Sid believes heavily in karma, treating everyone with kindness, love, and a genuine concern for the greater good. “Do these things and I promise the things you seek will find you” he stated. As Sid looks to the future, he hopes to provide support and contribution to Westbrook Film’s creative endeavors while pursuing his lifelong dream of writing a film starring Will.

Deborah Debby

5 – Debby Gerber

Debby Gerber, a Swiss-born Actress, has established herself in the entertainment industry through sheer determination and hard work. When she arrived in Los Angeles in 2009, she planned to study English for 4 months and take Acting classes for 2 months, to challenge herself and come out of her comfort zone, before pursuing a social work degree back in Switzerland. But Debby’s love for acting blossomed while at the Stella Adler Academy. Her teachers quickly noticed her exceptional talent and encouraged her to pursue it further, eventually leading her to a successful career in the industry. Embarking on her journey without connections or prior industry knowledge, the dedicated actress embraced a trial-and-error approach. Fearlessly, she ventured into unpaid acting gigs, delved into literature on the craft, and sought guidance from peers in the field. Her breakthrough in the film industry arrived with her featured role alongside Ryan Gosling in “Gangster Squad.” This pivotal opportunity provided her with invaluable insights into the workings of the industry, including her experience in Background, Stand-In and Photo Double work which eventually led to leading Roles and major Supporting Roles in Film and TV.

Debby’s career in the film industry has been nothing short of exceptional, with numerous achievements to her credit. Not only has she played prominent roles in movies such as “The End of the World” and teamed up with Adrien Brody in Charlie Day’s “Fool’s Paradise,” but she has also portrayed the lead character Hannah in the thrilling film “Loved,” earning widespread recognition for her remarkable performance. Debby has also demonstrated exceptional talent in her recent supporting role in Ricky Borba’s “Hope for the Holidays” film. In this role, she portrays the younger version of the character played by Oscar nominee and Golden Globe winner Sally Kirkland, demonstrating her range in her performances. For her exceptional performances, Debby has received several prestigious awards and nominations, including the esteemed New Jersey Film Award for Best Supporting Actress and the Rome International Movie Award for Best Actress, demonstrating her incredible talent and potential in the industry.

Looking ahead, Debby envisions a future that transcends her personal accomplishments as she strives to address significant societal matters and to narrate stories that resonate deeply with people; her dreams and aspirations go beyond fame and fortune. By crafting narratives that resonate deeply with audiences, she aspires to evoke emotions, spur conversations, and foster positive transformations. Whether on or off camera, Debby’s ultimate goal is to make a lasting impact by shedding light on overlooked issues and inspiring others.

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6 – Liz Spano & Rosie Ortiz

Liz Spano and Rosie Ortiz, the dynamic duo in the entertainment industry who have etched their names in history, are a force to be reckoned with. From humble beginnings as production assistants in the early 2000s, these East Coast Latina women rose to become the owners of Travel Buddies Productions and the presidents of Gopherhire. In 2022, Liz and Rosie launched, a company that revolutionizes hiring processes by providing a central location for production personnel and their resources. This platform, meticulously curated by the two partners, testifies to their unwavering commitment to excellence. With verified members and licensed vendors from Los Angeles but working towards expanding across the country, the platform streamlines the process of assembling a top-notch crew, thus eliminating the need to depend on colleagues for recommendations.

Liz and Rosie’s impact extends far beyond their website. Liz, who recently completed her work on FX’s “Welcome to Wrexham”, and Rosie, a proud Producers Guild of America member, has worked on Emmy-nominated shows and award-winning films. They, however, have a vision that extends beyond their professional achievements. Travel Buddies Productions and Gopherhire organized their first Mental Health Day Fundraiser in 2023, supporting The Kindness Campaign. Through various charitable initiatives, they intend to continue giving back to their community as they embark on their philanthropic journey.

The duo’s wisdom resonates as profoundly as their impressive achievements. A key component of their advice is encouraging individuals to take life one day at a time, assuring that all pieces will fall into place in due course. They advocate self-assertion, zero tolerance for disrespect, and embracing boldness and audacity. In the future, Liz and Rosie envision Gopherhire as the premier resource hub for the entertainment industry, a platform offering verified crews, high-quality equipment, sought-after locations, indispensable production tips, and valuable tax incentive information. At the same time, their vision for Travel Buddies Productions is to shape it into a beacon of philanthropy, hosting many charitable events to support causes they are deeply passionate about.

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7 – Armando Kirwin

Armando Kirwin is an experimental filmmaker and entrepreneur whose work is characterized by a continual pursuit of innovation. Born in New Mexico, Armando started his career as a visual effects and independent film producer before embarking on a journey into the emerging world of virtual reality. He has collaborated with numerous esteemed directors, creating inspiring virtual reality experiences that push the boundaries of storytelling. Among them, Academy Award nominees, Luca Guadagnino and Lucy Walker, and Independent Spirit Award winner Gina Prince-Bythewood. These works successfully blend technology and traditional narrative, taking audiences on journeys that are equally immersive and entertaining.

As a writer and director, Armando’s work aims to illuminate the human experience with an openness to all mediums – at times incorporating 360-degree documentary footage with animated 3D dream sequences, at others exploring themes of life and death with conversational artificial intelligence. His works have been exhibited at prominent festivals and venues, including Tribeca, SXSW, Cannes, and the Venice Biennale.

Armando’s pursuit of innovation extends beyond filmmaking. He is also the co-founder of Artie, a video game platform backed by nearly $40 million in venture capital, including notable investments from industry giants like Warner Music Group and Youtube founder Chad Hurley, Artie has emerged as a unique venture exploring new frontiers in the industry’s landscape.

As a creative, Armando stands as a genuine leader in his field and has maintained a decisive stride ahead of the curve in his quest for new ways to tell stories.

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8 – Tysen Knight

Tysen Knight, a true embodiment of passion, dedication, and resilience, is a multifaceted artist who has broken barriers and inspired countless individuals. Born in Florida and raised in New Jersey, Knight faced challenges from an early age but refused to let them define his future. Instead, he pursued his passion for art and acting relentlessly, finding solace and expression in his creative endeavors. Knight’s perseverance serves as an inspiration to anyone facing adversity.

As a graffiti artist, Knight’s talent knows no bounds. His stunning murals, blending street art with traditional techniques, have captivated local and international audiences. Transitioning into filmmaking, Knight’s critically acclaimed documentary, “The Art of Hustle: Street Art Documentary,” showcases the world of street art and the dedication required to succeed. This film highlights his versatility and commitment to his craft, earning him multiple awards and international recognition.

Beyond his artistic pursuits, Knight is a talented actor with a growing list of credits that showcase his range and depth as a performer. However, his unwavering commitment to giving back truly sets him apart. Recognizing the power of art to change lives, Knight established a scholarship fund for art students in collaboration with the Desert Art Center. This initiative reflects his belief in nurturing young talent and demonstrates his generosity and dedication to his community. Tysen Knight’s journey is a testament to the transformative power of art and the importance of giving back. His passion, perseverance, and talent continue to inspire aspiring artists and serve as a source of motivation for all.

la weekly picture edit Scott McCullough

9 – Scott McCullough

Scott McCullough, an extraordinary director and filmmaker hailing from Minnesota, has etched his name into the history of cinema. Known for his unmatched talent and unwavering dedication, Scott has achieved considerable success, amassing an impressive collection of over 190 film and advertising awards. Notably, his creative genius found its height through his collaboration with music icon Prince during the pinnacle of the artist’s career. His extensive directorial skills elevated Prince’s videos to new heights of visual excellence, including “Gett Off,” “Diamonds and Pearls,” “3 Chains o’ Gold,” and “Sexy M.F..”

Scott’s expertise extends beyond music videos, directing commercials for prestigious brands such as NASCAR, Ford, Budweiser, Pepsi, Target, General Motors, and E.A. Sports. One of the defining moments of Scott’s illustrious career came when screen legend Paul Newman requested Scott to direct his final filmed appearance, a poignant tribute to the Champ Car racing team. Additionally, demonstrating his multifaceted abilities, he was responsible for creating, writing, directing, and cinematography of Thunder Theater’s groundbreaking 70mm NASCAR experience films, “100%” and “No Bull.” These pioneering productions, showcased in the world’s largest mobile theatre, introduced cutting-edge effects that laid the foundation for the immersive 4-D experiences of the present.

Building on his past achievements, Scott has ventured into the realm of directing major motion pictures, delving into compelling narratives that address issues like racial inequality in the upcoming film “No Right Way”, shedding light on previously untold discoveries regarding PTSD during the Vietnam War era in “Captain for Dark Mornings” based on the critically acclaimed book by Shad Meshad and an effects-driven action/horror feature “26 Floors.” This shift in focus allows him to explore profound themes and tackle societal issues with his characteristic passion and artistic vision.

Beyond the glamour of the film industry, Scott’s wisdom and experience have led him to an exciting venture: the creation of Rosa Vodka, an organic rose-infused vodka brand. With 25 medals in three years, this ultra-premium spirit triumphs over established brands, embodying his dedication to quality and innovation. In the near future, Scott looks forward to not only continuing directing motion pictures but also TV shows and series projects blending drama, action, and comedy that transcend commercial expectations and offers audiences a compelling and lasting experience. [Photo credit to Paul Papanek].

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10 – Maxx Maulion

Maxx Maulion, a name synonymous with Hollywood, has made an indelible mark on the entertainment industry with his unwavering passion, remarkable accomplishments, and invaluable contributions. His path, from actor to producer to talent manager, is a testament to his unyielding determination, navigating through countless struggles and hardships.

Maxx’s illustrious career speaks volumes about his unwavering talent and relentless spirit. His journey in the entertainment industry has been marked by remarkable milestones that showcase his multifaceted abilities. During his early days as an actor, he established a lasting relationship with renowned director Peter Farrelly while working on a Dodge commercial, as the two shared a familial connection to Farrelly’s films. As a producer, Maxx’s film “Tony Tango” garnered widespread acclaim, earning prestigious awards such as Best Comedy at the esteemed Chicago Comedy Film Festival and the coveted Audience Award at the renowned San Diego Film Festival. It was his role as a talent manager, however, where he truly excelled, helping aspiring actors attract their breakthrough roles on top-rated shows across all networks, from NBC to HBO and FX to studio films.

In addition to his remarkable accomplishments, Maxx’s insights and teachings are also invaluable. He emphasizes the importance of living a life beyond acting, encouraging individuals to embrace diverse experiences that contribute to the authenticity and depth of their characters. In his philosophy, failure is embraced as an opportunity to grow and learn rather than resisted. In the near future, he envisions scaling new heights, engaging in direct negotiations with esteemed studios and directors, and nurturing the dreams of aspiring actors throughout the industry. Through his unwavering support, passion, and dedication to his clients, Maxx has emerged as an outstanding talent manager, a true visionary, and an irrefutable force shaping the entertainment industry.

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