Born Michal Shalom Leamer, to gypsy artist Christian hippies, Michal Sinnott was gifted her love for travel that would later shape her writing, living in six different US states by the age of five. As a SAG-AFTRA & Equity member, Michal has appeared in dozens of plays and over fifty principal/starring roles for radio, television, & film. She is the voice, likeness, & performance capture artist for Tracey De Santa, one of seven main characters out of a cast of a 1000, in the billion-dollar phenomena Grand Theft Auto V. Her starring role in the LA Premiere of ‘White Hot’ at Hollywood Fringe earned her a Best Actress Award, and her Ovation nominated theatre company, The Vagrancy, a Best Ensemble Award with knock-out reviews in ‘LA Weekly’ and ‘The Examiner.’ Performance highlights: roles in Spike Lee’s Inside Man, Quid Pro Quo with Vera Farmiga, three separate characters for Law & Order: CI and a solo performance art piece for The Whitney Museum of American Art. She hosts The Women’s Independent Film Festival and is the co-creator and co-host of the Bechdel inspired podcast The Test through the female filmmaking non-profit Cinefemme. In June, she co-directed her first feature, There You Are, a female ensemble dark comedy shot within the wellness industry world of Bali about white women self-imploding in their own first world problems. She has visited over 35 countries on six continents and splits her time between LA and NYC with her husband Joseph and their warbling puggle Jasper.
Kristen Murtha is a producer whose work has been seen on large and small screens around the globe, receiving recognition at over seventy film festivals, including Sundance 2017, as well as millions of views online. Her projects span all mediums: live-action feature, animated feature, documentary, short film, web series, branded content and more. Kristen’s recent releases include Sundance favorite Band Aid (IFC and Sony Worldwide), The Lego Ninjago Movie, and Ike Barinholtz’s feature directorial debut The Oath, (Roadside Attractions), starring Tiffany Haddish and John Cho. She is also currently serving as a Production Executive for Warner Bros. Theatrical Animation Division. Kristen’s passions are compelling stories and unique experiences.
Stokes directed the feature comedy Boy Genius, starring Miles Brown (Blackish) and Rita Wilson, which had a theatrical release in September 2019. Boy Genius won the Audience Award for “Best Family Film” at Newport Beach Film Festival and the Jury Award for “Best Family Film” at Bentonville Film Festival and Stokes received the “Mira Nair Award for Rising Female Filmmaker” from the Harlem Film Festival. Stokes directed and produced the short film, Think Fast, which won awards for “Best Unstoppable Creator” in Sydney and “Best Short Film” at Moondance. Prior to that, Stokes wrote, directed and produced the feature film Herman & Shelly, which was distributed by Cinetic, and re-released by Seed & Spark. She has been shadowing director on Fox’s The Mick, CW’s Jane The Virgin, Amazon’s Transparent, ABC’s The Goldbergs and CBS’s Scorpion. In addition to directing, Stokes produced The Lost Husband starring Leslie Bibb and Josh Duhamel, Netflix documentary, The Rachel Divide and The Volunteer, which won “Best Narrative Feature” at Urbanworld Film Festival. Stokes graduated from Brown University with a degree in Art Semiotics and Africana Studies and currently resides in L.A with her husband and two children.
Emma Berdie Donson grew up in Ossining, NY and graduated with a BFA in Acting (High Honors) from the University of Michigan. Her recent experiences in production have led her to pursue a career in that field. She is the Executive Producer for the indie horror feature, The Last Room, featuring her casting choice Jacqueline Toboni (Trubel on Grimm – NBC). She is also the Executive Producer for Dating & Auditioning: the Web Series, 2014-2015, which she also directed and cast, featuring actor Zach Booth (Damages – FX) and Ron (2012 Tony nom Follies, 3x Emmy nom Guiding Light – CBS). While living in NYC, and now in LA, she was/is responsible for a bi-weekly play/screenplay reading that facilitates the creation of new projects and artistic relationships. These prestigious readings became a staple for many of NYC’s young creators, most of whom had been cast on Broadway, in National tours, film, TV, etc. She has had the good fortune to work with Christine Lahti (Chicago Hope, L&O SVU), Mark Cendrowski (Big Bang Theory, Rules of Engagement), Gregory Doran (RSC), Charles Haid (Hill Street Blues, Breaking Bad, ER), and Yuri Sardarov (Chicago Fire, Argo, Ides of March). She loves spending sunny days outside with her Fox Terrier, Winnie.
Mary has spent much of the last decade working to help others heal through her art, writing, healing practice, & bread baking. Much of it began with the creation of Born That Way, the feature she co-wrote with her best friend Michal Sinnott during her first cross country move west after college. She and Michal met studying drama together at Catholic University. In addition to writing a feature that emphasizes the need for social justice & spark towards hope for humanity, Mary extended her healing mission into practicing holistic medicine. In 2015 she became a Physician of Chinese Medicine, graduating magna cum laude & as valedictorian of her cohort. She’s in private practice in South Pasadena, CA. While completing her graduate studies degree, she found another way to excite her community towards a more holistic lifestyle by starting her company, Bread Culture. She teaches dough to loaf bread classes to kids & adults all over Southern California.
Rob Travalino // Co-Executive Producer
Rob brings two decades of experience in producing, strategizing, story-forming, managing, writing & marketing entertainment & gaming properties, for major clients like Dreamworks, Disney, Lucasfilm, Warner Brothers, Sega of America, Coca-Cola, Hasbro Inc & more. Rob is writer & producer on the upcoming feature On The Wings Of The Phoenix, the amazing true story of Dr. Feng Shan Ho (China’s Oskar Schindler), a man who in pre-war Vienna, saved thousands of Jews from the coming Holocaust. Chow Yun Fat has committed to the project which is out for packaging. In the publishing space, Rob just finished his manuscript for The Snowman, a remarkable look into the personal life and musings of boxing great Muhammad Ali as told by one of his closest confidants. The book is repped by NY lit agent Linda Langton and will be developed for TV next year. Earlier in his career, Rob was a key development force behind helping G.I. Joe & Transformers become feature film franchises for Hasbro Entertainment. Rob also worked as story consultant on How To Train Your Dragon for DreamWorks & has done the same work for the Star Wars, Batman, and Harry Potter franchises. In the kids’ tv space, Rob cocreated & story edited Dragon Booster for Disney & co-created “Growing Up Creepy” for Discovery Kids. Winner of the Emmy, Gemini & Telly Awards, Rob has written & produced nearly 50 half-hours of tv, coauthored several YA novels & created gaming & publishing programs for many of the world’s biggest brands. Rob has produced & directed over 200 TV commercials & is a member of the Directors Guild of America.
Michelle Kantor co-founded Cinefemme, an organization dedicated to female filmmakers, as a graduate student at San Francisco State University & has served as Executive Director since 2007. She is an award-winning director, producer, writer & editor dedicated to advancing women in the professional ranks of cinema. Michelle’s industry credits include work for advertising agency BBDO, Logo’s “Gay for Play Starring RuPaul,” HBO, FYI, OWN, World of Wonder, The History Channel, Sony, Universal, MJA Advertising, & NASA. Michelle’s distinctions include Best Music Video at LA Femme Film Festival, Goldfarb Award for Best Student Film, & Thunen Memorial Scholarship from the Illuminating Engineers Society. She holds an MFA in Cinema from SFSU, & BFA in Film Production from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Michelle is also a certified paralegal, artist, mother & writer. The youngest daughter of political refugees who fled Communist Czechoslovakia in the 1960s, she is producing two projects about her family’s historic escapes: Red Star documents her father’s return on the 50th anniversary of his escape, & The Rebel, a narrative feature film in development.
An ADC Young Gun and Emmy Award nominee, artist and filmmaker Jordan Bruner (b. 1984) has been drawing since before most of us could do long division. She has designed, animated and directed rich and beautiful music videos for bands like Hem and Paramore commercials for Eve Ensler, Paul McCartney, Google, Yakult, Travelbird, JetBlue and more, mythical independent films, animation for long documentaries like Waiting For Superman. She’s created Clio award-winning illustration and worked as an animation director for clients such as the NYTimes, Google, Eve Ensler, Amazon, and This American Life. Her films have shown at festivals worldwide including Pictoplasma and the LA Film Festival, and her illustration work has been honored by the Society of Illustrators and American Illustration. Jordan currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with her boyfriend Zack and a cat named Pablo, and is studying ceramics, and working on a children’s book.
Nwaka Onwusa // Music Coordinator
Nwaka Ngozi Onwusa is the Curatorial Director of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Prior to that she served as the Curator of the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles. Born in Compton & raised in Fontana, CA, Onwusa began her career at the Grammy Museum in the box office following a degree in Sociology at UC Riverside. With experience in education & in theater & the arts, Onwusa was offered the opportunity to advance as the Education Coordinator. Onwusa immediately became active in this department writing curricula, teaching workshops, booking & interviewing talent for education workshops, & more. She facilitated educational events & programs for inner-city youth, oversaw the Grammy Museum’s summer camp, Summer Sessions, & Music Industry Photography workshop for students, providing exposure to students who would have otherwise never held a camera. She worked at the Museum for a total of 10 years & curated some 20+ exhibitions before moving to The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in January of 2019. Passionate about music, education, & history, she is committed to working in her community & inspiring youth to become involved in the arts & museum studies. She holds a Masters Degree from USC Sol Price School of Public Policy.
David Sevuri, who brings decades of experience, heads TRUE VISION PRODUCTION (T) LTD. He joined the film industry in 1995 with his sharp skill of building up the media industry with a keen eye towards film production & a know-how of the business of Tanzania & International Cinema. He holds a degree in Mass Communication & brings a very acute judgment of what works in a particular market. He has often been a consultant to various projects related to audio / visual productions where his role has been to make projects viable for international markets or commercial success in Tanzania & beyond. Add to that, a wonderful circle of friends & networks he has in various film festivals, & broadcasters, which makes him a valuable asset in the African film market. He excels in managing multiple projects from concept development through execution & delivery while meeting all budget & schedule requirements. He’s lauded in establishing win-win relationships with people of diverse cultures, with a proven ability to multitask in a fastpaced environment. David works mainly on directing documentaries, short/experimental films, & corporate films while delivering quality services to clients in the Government, the private sector, NGO’s & International Agencies in Tanzania, Zambia, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda & Burundi.
Katherin is a documentary filmmaker, cinematographer, and photographer based in Brooklyn, NY. Her work tends to blur the borders of narrative and experimental documentary and is deeply inspired by sound and technology. In May 2014, she released her first feature documentary, CLIM8, at the Altitudes Festival in Switzerland. Katherin was a fellow at the UnionDocs Collaborative Studioin 2014-15 where she co-directed and shot, Animal Landlords and I Was Here First. The latter premiered at the DOC NYC Film Festival in November 2015. Katherin also contributed to the Sisters of the Wicked Wig, a documentary on Brooklyn drag culture, which premiered at the LA Indie Film Festival in March 2016. Born That Way is her first narrative feature film.
Digital Marketing Team
Jordan is a bookworm and live music lover from Pennsylvania. She currently works as the music writer for alt-weekly, Pittsburgh City Paper. After receiving her Bachelor’s degree Communications Media in 3 years, she went on to intern and freelance as a writer (D.C. Music Download, Femme and Fortune,) and social media marketer (Jewel and Lotus, Star Pittsburgh/Y108 Pittsburgh). Her various experience includes social media marketing, music journalism, and fashion blogging. When she’s not working she can be found traveling, hula-hooping or watching Netflix with the subtitles on.
Alana believes art is a powerful medium to change conversation & change the world. After working at Goldman Sachs for 3 years, her brain was STARVING for creative work. She quit her finance job & started helping tech startups & CEOs tell their stories through videos & social media strategy. When Alana started producing & directing digital commercials, she witnessed how powerful videos can impact an audience to change, to see issues in a new light, & find solutions that improve their lives. As a marketing & video consultant to the band The Killers (Mr, Brightside), entertainment/tech Blue Fever, & BI startup Grow, Alana crafts creative & manages strategy aimed at impacting audiences to believe & engage with powerful stories.
A freelance editor and award-winning filmmaker, Claire has been a storyteller all of her life. Her two short films, Fat Ass (2013) and Never Been Sicker (2015), were official selections at several festivals across the country, where Never Been Sicker won Best Director & Best Actor Awards in several fests. Her music video, Hair Lockets (2014), won the Best New Media Award at the 2014 Trenton Film Festival and the Best Student Experimental Award at the 2015 Brightside Tavern Film Festival. As a writer, she is drawn towards stories about young people battling with themselves, and how they find hope in their situations. She is absolutely thrilled to be a part of the Born That Way team.
Dyna Drones, LLC is an FAA approved aerial cinematography company that captures stunning shots from the air using state of the art technology. As experts in the field, their pilots have over 15 years of experience with remote-controlled aircraft. As one of Born That Way’s Partners, Dyna Drones accompanied the Born That Way Team to Tanzania in July & August 2017 for the African portion of production.
GRAY KRAUSS STRATFORD SANDLER DES ROCHERS LLP // Legal Counsel
GRAY KRAUSS STRATFORD SANDLER DES ROCHERS LLP, ORIGINALLY FOUNDED IN 1998, IS A FULL-SERVICE ENTERTAINMENT LAW FIRM CONCENTRATING IN FILM, TELEVISION, MUSIC AND INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY. THE FIRM HAS SERVED AS PRODUCTION COUNSEL FOR HUNDREDS OF FILMS AND TELEVISION SERIES, GUIDING CLIENTS THROUGH RIGHTS ACQUISITION, FINANCIAL STRUCTURING, CONTRACT NEGOTIATION, PHYSICAL PRODUCTION, AND DISTRIBUTION. THE FIRM ALSO REPRESENTS INSTITUTIONAL AND PRIVATE LENDERS IN ALL ASPECTS OF MOTION PICTURE LENDING. THE FIRM’S MUSIC PRACTICE COUNSELS CLIENTS ON A WIDE VARIETY OF TRANSACTIONS, FROM REPRESENTATION OF MAJOR LABEL RECORDING ARTISTS AND PROMINENT PUBLISHERS TO INDEPENDENT RECORD AND PUBLISHING DEALS. THE FIRM’S TALENT PRACTICE COUNSELS PERFORMERS, COMEDIANS, WRITERS, DIRECTORS, AND PRODUCERS ON A WIDE VARIETY OF TRANSACTIONS WITH LEADING FILM STUDIOS, TELEVISION NETWORKS, AND PRODUCTION COMPANIES.
Ganderson Des Rochers LLP (GDR) is one of the premier entertainment law firms
focusing on independent film. Bianca has provided legal services on a wide array of titles
including Life Animated, Cutie and the Boxer, Certain Women, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Skeleton Twins, Listen Up Philip, and more.
Born That Way is a recipient of Big Vision Empty Wallet’s Kickstart Diversity Program. The program encourages diversity in storytelling at the independent level by supporting projects written, directed, and/or produced by Women, People of Color and Members of the LGBTQ Community.
Through the program, Born That Way will receive 15-75% discounts from vendors nationwide for everything from camera rentals to sound design to deliverables to marketing, saving money through all stages of production, and giving the investor more bang for your buck. The program also offers exclusive access to education and distribution opportunities, that will aid Born That Way in building and activating its audience.