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Vanessa McMahon

Vanessa is a novel writer, screenwriter, rep and a film producer. She shares her discoveries and film surprises. :-)



Interview with "Production Without Borders” Panel Speakers, Hosted by Cloud21 International and Kultura PR International

Cloud21 International and Kultura PR International Host "Production Without Borders” Panel alongside 2018 AFM

Cloud21 International ( and Kultura PR International ( host a "Production Without Borders” panel alongside the 2018 American Film Market on November 5, 2018 at 2 p.m. at the Laemmle Film Center in Santa Monica, CA (1332 2nd St, Santa Monica, CA 90401).

Speakers at the panel include industry powerhouse professionals: founder of International Film Trust Michael Benaroya, Roskino Moscow Film Commission CEO Katya Mtsitouridze, E! founder and president Larry Namer, CEO and founder of Nantosuelta Entertainment Shari O’Donnell, president and founder of Double 4 Studios Andrei Zinca and award-winning British filmmaker Kate Rees Davies.


In a group interview with each of them before the panel, here is what they had to say:


When did you know you wanted to be a producer and, it being a challenging and unpredictable path, how did you get into doing it?


KATYA: I first started thinking of producing six or seven years ago. I have been working in the film industry for my whole life, dealing with all kinds of professionals. I am the host of This is Cinema, a TV1 morning show where I review all the new releases and talk to celebrity actors, directors and producers. All of these things combined have gradually led me to the idea of a new adventure, and I decided to try my hand in producing. This is different from Roskino, which is focused on promotion and marketing of Russian films at international markets and festivals.


LARRY: I was working in the cable business but on the operations side when I moved to LA. I got jealous of all the “producers” in my neighborhood going to all these fancy parties and premieres. After watching the rash of new cable networks started in the 80s I said to myself. “I can do better than that.”


SHARI: I was a broke actor working as an assistant to a private wealthy individual between Dublin and London in my early twenties  (circa 2006). Part of my work as an assistant was to arrange phone calls and meetings with producers and financiers to break down investment structures for my boss. I had only previously dabbled in producing theater shows for the sake of acting. So when given the opportunity, I absolutely loved listening in and understanding the finance model. I would always make suggestions to my boss on how to minimize risk and create stronger revenue streams. Before I knew it I was studying film finance in London and I was quickly promoted to brokering film deals on a global scale. My job was intense because here I was this young 20 something year old, female, working along some of the world’s esteemed producers and financiers, always having to represent my bosses interests. It wasn’t easy. I quickly learned the A - Z of film production. I started to branch out and find several other wealthy individuals just like my boss - so I had a small handful of people who trusted me with their investments in film. If you would have told me back in the day that I would have been doing anything other than being an actor, I would have never believed you. I totally fell in love with producing and never looked back.


ANDREI: Crazy people do crazy things. Better become a producer than a mass shooter, I guess... I started in the business as a Director of Photography, and then moved to directing. To follow my dreams, the ones I felt passionate about bring to life on screen, I needed to either find the producer who believed in them, or become one myself. Or both. When you build something hoping they would come, you automatically become a producer. There is no way back after that.


KATE: I always wanted to be a director but as there are only between 4 to 15% of women being hired to be a director in Hollywood,  so I had to take on the role of Producer to create my own directing work. I also got asked to co-produce some independent movies by a start up production company. Working for this company led to me really learning everything about producing from what happens in pre-production to what happens in post. It also led me getting hired to direct one of the company's feature films.



What was your first producing experience and what film are you most proud of until now?


MICHAEL: First one was ‘New York, I Love You,” Most proud of “Margin Call.”


KATYA: I had my first experience in 2013 when I executive produced Alexei Uchitel’s Break Loose. I carried on with Matilda in 2015 but had to quit before the start of principal photography. The director and I had serious disagreements about the storyline and the future of the film. Then I co-produced Sergey Mokritskiy’s fantasy A Rough Draft, an adaptation of a novel by Sergey Lukyanenko, the man who had written the sensational Night Watch and Day Watch. The film never became a box office hit, but the reviews were good. Finally, I was the associate producer of Ayka by Sergey Dvortsevoy, a project that took seven years to complete and proved worthy of all the efforts. Ayka premiered in the main competition of the 2018 Cannes festival, and Samal Yeslyamova received the Best Actress Award.


LARRY: Oddly my first producing experience was during the 1977 NYC Marathon. Manhattan Cable was producing it and while I was in charge of operations, not programming. They needed to borrow a bunch of my technicians to help with production. So I go thrust into the role of a low level producer.


SHARI: My first production experience was actually when I was studying to be an actor around 2004. I set up a theater production company called Organic Productions to focus on new original content for the stage. I felt that theater was the best thing in the world and I was sad that people my age weren’t going. I think I convinced myself that I was going to single handedly change this by bringing new interesting material to the stage. I was very ambitious. My first theater production was "Stoker." It was based on the life of Bram Stoker, the writer, while he was writing the greatest novel of all time, Dracula. The production cost around 4,000EUR and the show was sold out every night to 100 seats. We had a cast of about 15 people and work shopped the script. We luckily found an awesome costume designer to bring us to life. We had two directors because I couldn’t choose between them. That goes to show you how inexperienced I was. The film that I’m most proud of to date is obviously my latest one, “Penance.” It's an Irish language film starring Peter Coonan, It’s a story of a priest who stirs up violent feelings in his parishioners in the run-up to the 1916 Rising. But the one that will always remain close to my heart is Obama’s Irish Roots (2009). I was part of the production team that found Obama’s ancestral tomb in Ireland and the media coverage was insane. Then, Obama visited Ireland during his reelection campaign and when he took to the stage he said ‘There's always been a little green behind the red, white and blue'’ and the crowd went wild. He visited his ancestors home town in Ireland and had a pint of Guinness with his wife, Michelle while there. I remember feeling really proud of the work we were doing when I watched him on the podium in Dublin. It was a magical moment.


ANDREI: The first serious one was in Lima, Peru. It was a six hour miniseries, a period piece about the first saint of the Americas, Santa Rosa de Lima. It was not a religious piece, but rather a love story. It was probably one of the first major productions in Peru, as we were recreating the 15th Century Lima. That and a travel documentary series I shot and produced while still living in Communist Romania, for which at that time I received an award from the Association of Romanian Filmmakers. 


KATE: My first producing experience was a short 30 second commercial for a removals company. As an actress, I went in to audition for a part in the spec commercial. The owner offered me a chance to produce and direct it and he had a small budget. The only part of me as an actress to end up in the spot was my feet, as I missed a cut away shot and had to double for the actress who was cast. The piece I am most proud of is my first short film in America, called ‘Sticks and Stones,’ which I wrote, produced and directed. It tells the story of a 12 year old boy who is bullied at school. It went on to play at the Cannes Short Film Corner.



If you could say one thing to aspiring artists, storytellers and filmmakers out there, what is the most sound piece advice you would give?


MICHAEL: Be open to accepting notes/critiques from people who have been successful.  Even if you’re successful, you never want to stop accepting good feedback. It can only make your story better, and nobody can see an idea from all sides.


KATYA: My advice is don’t be afraid. Stay true to your mission, have faith in yourself. Challenges only mean that you are following the right path.


LARRY: Follow your dream no matter what the naysayers tell you. However, every week have a realistic conversation with yourself and assess if the dream is still worth pursuing or you are still chasing it more out of habit than passion.


SHARI: I have to be honest and say I always feel irresponsible when answering this question because I really don’t believe in advice. I think my life motto speaks for itself; "Just because something is impossible for one person, does not mean that it’s impossible for you". Some helpful guidelines I like to offer: If you haven’t already, find clever ways of separating the business and creative mind. In my experience, the business side requires a true professional who can communicate context, break down numbers and evidence, methodically and factually. I find it’s this kind of homework that will set you apart from the rest when getting off the ground. Think of it as a Feng Shui thing! Most importantly; don’t pay any attention to people who don’t believe in you. Be bold and be brave because the right people at the top will recognize themselves in you, always.


ANDREI: It's repetitive, it's not original, it might sound even cheesy, but that was, is and will be my guiding light and I thank Kevin Costner for that: "Build it, and they will come." No questions asked, no "yes, but", no "what if?", no fear, no doubt. Just build what you believe in...They will surely come.


KATE: Keep creating content and collaborating on projects even if they are unpaid. You will become a better filmmaker and you never know who you will meet! 




About Michael Benaroya Founder, International Film Trust:

Michael Benaroya is a producer and founder of International Film Trust (IFT) (, an international sales company, and Eclipse Films. As a producer, Benaroya has been responsible for critically acclaimed films such as “Lawless,” “Kill Your Darlings,” “The Words,” and the Academy Award-nominated “Margin Call.” Benaroya has produced 20 theatrical feature films and won an Indie Spirit Award for “Best First Feature” (first feature by director JC Chandor), as well as a National Board of Review Award for “Top 10 Independent Film,” and an AACTA award for Best Picture. Benaroya has had films in competition at Sundance, Toronto, Berlin, and Cannes, among other major festivals. In 2012, he had the #2 and #3 films in the box office, simultaneously with “Lawless” and “The Words,” films he both produced and for which he provided all the production “equity” financing.NIFT represents theatrical feature film productions from third-party productions, as well as Benaroya’s films, and has helped contribute funds to production for over a dozen films since its inception. Most recently, Benaroya launched Eclipse Films in order to create original content for film and television, with TV series having been optioned by major networks. He has also created four comic series, including one in development, co-created by Stan Lee.


Katya Mtsitouridze, CEO, ROSKINO | Moscow Film Commission

Leading ROSKINO (, the state funded body responsible for promoting Russian films and filmmakers internationally, since 2011, Ms. Mtsitouridze is one of the most accomplished executives in the global film industry today. She is the creator and TV-host of the TV-show «This Is Cinema» and film expert for Russia’s Channel One, and previously served as Variety Russia’s editor-in-chief. In 2008, she founded the Russian Pavilion at the Cannes Film Festival, which she heads to this day, and in 2014 she created and produced the first edition of the Saint Petersburg International Media Forum. In 2016, she received the First National Business Communication Award in the «Breakthrough of the Year» category for ROSKINO’s partnership with Le Marché du Film in Cannes. Ms. Mtsitouridze is frequently asked to serve on the juries of major world film festivals, including Moscow International Film Festival and Cannes International Film Festival. She is a member of FIPRESCI, Russian Filmmakers’ Union and National Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of Russia. In 2017, in conjunction with the City of Moscow, Ms. Mtsitouridze initiated the Moscow Film Commission, an institution created to promote the city as a unique shooting location and to provide assistance to international film and TV production companies wishing to shoot there. During the event, Ms. Mtsitouridze will explain how the creation of a film commission in a city like Moscow will help to overcome borders in film production. In May 2018, Ms. Mtsitouridze was named associate producer of Sergei Dvortsevoy’s feature film “Ayka,” the Palme d’Or nominated film for which Samal Yeslyamova was awarded the best female actress award at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.


About Larry Namer, E! Founder and President/CEO, Metan Global:

An entertainment industry veteran with over 45 years professional experience in cable television, live events and new media, Larry Namer is a founding partner of Metan Global Entertainment Group (, a venture created to develop and distribute entertainment content and media specifically for Chinese speaking audiences in China and abroad. MGEG recently launched the inspirational competition series The Bruce Lee Project in China, in conjunction with Company Films (co-owned by Keanu Reeves and Stephen Hamel), Bruce Lee Entertainment, LLC (Shannon Lee’s production company) and Benaroya Pictures. Mr. Namer was involved in creating the series’ original format and currently oversees sales and development for the project. The company recently launched the MGEG Film Fund I and serves as managing partner. Recipient of many industry awards, Mr. Namer is the co-founder of E! Entertainment Television, a company now valued at over $3.5 billion USD, and the creator of several successful companies in the United States and overseas. Among those companies are Comspan Communications that pioneered Western forms of entertainment in the former Soviet Union and Steeplechase Media that served as the primary consultant to Microsoft’s MiTV for developing interactive TV applications.


About Shari O’Donnell, CEO/Founder, Nantosuelta Entertainment:

Shari O’Donnell is a producer, private equity broker and the founder of Nantosuelta Entertainment ( Her company offers the world's leading film incentive package for filming in Ireland. With over a decade of experience as head of production at leading production companies such as Zanzibar Films and Olympia Films, she has produced and sold several film slates. She holds a BA in law from Dublin Business School and an MA in film finance. Since 2009, she has been brokering film deals on behalf of high net worth individuals. Ms. O’Donnell set up Nantosuelta Entertainment in 2017 to offer Ireland’s film incentive (32% of up to EUR 70 million per film), in advance to any filmmaker who shoots in Ireland, making her company one of the only companies in the world offering this service. Her company also offers additional private equity with its current production slate primarily focused on Irish historical and folklore storytelling.

Ms. O’Donnell recently produced “Penance,” an Irish language feature film starring Peter Coonan and in 2009, she was part of the team of producers who found former president Barack Obama’s ancestral roots in Ireland, leading to the documentary and presidential visit on their findings. The same year, she won the Golden Palm Award for “The Lost World of the Crystal Skull,” a feature documentary film based on the lost city of Atlantis. She is based in LA and frequents Ireland regularly with her productions. She is currently in production with “Lara’s Home” alongside Thierry Potok (The Bourne Supremacy, Casino Royal, Mission Impossible) and Hemnen, a Norwegian co-production directed by Nils Gaup (Pathfinder).


About Andrei Zinca, President/Founder, Double 4 Studios:

Andrei Zinca has worked, and successfully worn many hats, within the film industry over the last 40 years, from director to CEO of several field-related companies, including the Miami and Los Angeles based Double 4 Studios ( He has thoroughly sown his creative industrial oats, making him highly knowledgeable and well connected with many pioneers and tastemakers in the global film and television industries. Mr. Zinca is a native of Romania, where he graduated from the Institute for Film and Theater Studies. Once in the United States, he completed his graduate studies at USC in Los Angeles. As a director and producer, he was one of the pioneers of scripted production in the US Hispanic television market and was nominated for several regional Emmy Awards. In 2005, he reconnected with the Romanian film and TV industry and since then, he directed and/or co-produced in Romania one TV series, two features, and served as line producer for a major US production. For a few years now, he's been working in partnership with The Romanian Film Fund (C.N.C.), and the Romanian Filmmakers Association ( U.C.I.N.) to promote cooperation between creative and financial forces in the entertainment industries in the US and Romania. His work as a director and producer was awarded in international film festivals in the US, and in Romania by The Filmmakers Association, The TV Professionals Association and The Producers Guild.


About Award-winning British filmmaker Kate Rees Davies:

Award-winning British filmmaker Kate Rees Davies will moderate the hour-long panel. Six of her shorts have screened at Cannes and her feature film “Altered Perception” recently was released theatrically in the USA and is now available on DVD, Amazon and iTunes. She was the first independent filmmaker to shoot on 4K with the Sony F65 and as a result, has had her work distributed on the Sony 4K TV. She has several projects in various stages of development and pre-production and is currently exploring the world of VR. Her next project in development is a documentary about women in rock and roll. She also serves on the board of Women In Media, The Alliance of Women Directors and NAMIC, and is a strong advocate for creating more opportunities for women and underrepresented communities within the entertainment industry. She organized and moderated the 2017 AFM panel “The Future is Female,” featuring Geena Davis.

Media and industry executives will have the chance to meet and mingle with the panelists at an exclusive VIP reception, presented by Enjoy European Quality (E.E.Q.). E.E.Q. is a project co-funded by the European Community designed to increase the awareness and recognition of European quality products in the food and wine sectors, promoted by the Consorzio per la Tutela dell’ASTI Docg, Istituto Valorizzazione Salumi Italiani – IVSI (Institute for the valorization of Italian deli meats) and the Consorzio Tutela Provolone Valpadana.


About Cloud 21 International and Kultura PR International:

Cloud 21 International and Kultura PR International have produced events at Cannes and Sundance Film Festivals, including most recently the “Indie Film Showcase at Park City,” and “A Salute to Akira Kurosawa” with China’s Jinke Entertainment at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. The companies have co-produced events and worked with top entertainment and technology brands, including E! Entertainment Television, Eurocinema, Metan Global Entertainment Group, 8K Miles Media Group, Maverick Entertainment, Sony Interactive, Oculus, Cinando, Euromed, ECU Film Festival, Creative
Coalition, plus many others. 


Media and industry executives will have the chance to meet and mingle with the panelists at an exclusive VIP reception, presented by Enjoy European Quality (E.E.Q.). E.E.Q. is a project co-funded by the European Community designed to increase the awareness and recognition of European quality products in the food and wine sectors, promoted by the Consorzio per la Tutela dell’ASTI Docg, Istituto Valorizzazione Salumi Italiani – IVSI (Institute for the valorization of Italian deli meats) and the Consorzio Tutela Provolone Valpadana.


Interview by Vanessa McMahon 


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