Shine Board Member Profile: Don Melnick

Shine Board Member Profile: Don Melnick

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Shine Board Member Profile: Don Melnick

 

As part of an ongoing series, we want to introduce you to the Shine Global family and especially our outstanding and hard working board members who help move Shine forward.

Don MelnickName: Don Melnick
Joined Shine Board of Directors: 2005
Title: Thomas Hunt Morgan Professor of Conservation Biology and Director of the Center for Environment, Economy, and Society, Columbia University
Current Role at Shine: Chair of the Board of Directors, Member of the Governance and Nominations Committee

Currently, I am the Thomas Hunt Morgan Professor of Conservation Biology at Columbia University.  While I live only three blocks away from where I was born, I have spent most of my adult life traveling, working and living around the world. For the past 40 years, I’ve used molecular genetics to explain aspects of the ecology, behavior, evolution and conservation of animals. This research has spanned organisms from frogs to elephants, and continents from Central and South America to Asia and Africa. For the past 15 years, I have also been involved in environmental policy, co-chairing the UN Millennium Task Force on Environmental Sustainability, and providing strategic advice to many countries on environmental issues.  But perhaps most rewarding has been my work in education from developing an integrated ecology curriculum for middle schools in Brooklyn, to a STEM high school program in Indonesia, to new BA, MA, and PhD programs at Columbia in ecology, evolution and environmental biology – eventually leading to the first new department in the Arts and Sciences since WWII.

Why did you join Shine’s board and why have you stayed on for several years?
Whether in a megacity or a rural village, a highly industrialized nation or a developing country, a university or a primary school, throughout my travels and work, it has become clear that children form the foundation of every society.  I joined Shine for three critical reasons, the importance of children and the challenges they face, the value of bringing those to light through the use of documentary filmmaking, and an abiding faith that the founders of Shine, Susan MacLaury and Albie Hecht, will do everything in their power to bring the challenges and triumphs of children to a worldwide audience.  I have been with Shine from its beginning and the commitment to the Board that I have made, including being its Chair, reflects the importance I attach to its mission.

What’s a favorite Shine moment for you?
My favorite Shine moment came very early on in the organization’s history.  We were previewing War Dance at MOMA.  I was concerned that the audience would be too jaded to truly appreciate the film’s message, and too self-conscious to react in an emotional way to its uplifting ending.  I was wrong. The audience was on its feet for the last five minutes of the movie, cheering, crying, and hugging.  It was a very moving moment, one I will never forget.

How do you use your specific skill set in your work as a Shine board member?
I have led many large scale, complex projects in many countries.  I have also been a member of a number of boards of non-profit organizations.  I try to bring the skills I have gained in both of these capacities to the issues we face in Shine as we grow and work hard to stay true to our mission.

What is a Shine challenge that you feel supporters should know about?
Shine faces multiple challenges, as do all organizations of its type.  Foremost among these is raising the funds necessary to finance its growing number of projects.  But beyond the finances, Shine must adapt its work to the rapidly changing platforms of communication. This is not trivial.  Similarly, Shine must highlight the new challenges children face in a fast changing world.  Issues that most of us never dreamed we would confront as children.  In all three of these areas, Shine is poised to excel, which is why Shine is such an exciting organization.

See the full list of Shine’s Board of Directors Members and Board of Governors Members here and read the first fiveprofiles of board members Dario Spina here, Keith Brown here, Kay Sarlin Wright here, Marilyn DeLuca here, Al Cattabiani here, and Bill MacArthur here.

Shine Board Member Profile: Kay Sarlin Wright

As part of a new series, we want to introduce you to the Shine Global family and especially our outstanding and hard working board members who help move Shine forward.


Kay Sarlin WrightName:
 Kay Sarlin Wright
Joined Shine Board of Directors: November 2011 (previously on Advisory Board)
Title: Executive Vice President of Public Affairs & Strategic Initiatives at Empire State Development
Current Role at Shine: Member of the Board of Directors, Member of the Marketing Committee

Kay Sarlin Wright is the Executive Vice President of Public Affairs & Strategic Initiatives at Empire State Development, New York State’s chief economic development agency, where she oversees public affairs and the Global NY division. Prior to joining the Cuomo administration she served as Associate Commissioner of the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) and senior advisor for marketing, creative services and communications, and provided strategic advice on political and policy matters on the City, State, and Federal levels. Before DCA she was a Vice President of the Glover Park Group, where she was a communications advisor to major national corporations, non-profits, and political campaigns. She has also served as a Congressional Chief of Staff and Assistant Commissioner at the New York City Department of Transportation.

Why did you join Shine’s board and why have you stayed on for several years?
Shine was started by my parents in 2005.

In January 2005, my mother and I had lunch with an executive director of a non-profit focused on providing health and human services and we discussed the war in Northern Uganda. We learned how thousands of children walked hundreds of miles each night to sleep in the fortified city of Gulu. We couldn’t believe how little we knew and after lunch we found out that we weren’t alone — this was the UN’s number one most under-reported story of the year. And then the question became how could more people learn about stories like this and the answer was originally we could raise money to make one documentary. This lunch was a seminal moment in the creation of Shine and it’s hard to believe all that Shine has accomplished since then.

What’s a favorite Shine moment for you?
When we travelled to Africa to visit families who were living in IDP camps we met with many children, some of whom were featured in Shine’s first film War/Dance and we were very inspired by their strength. We quickly understood that whatever the mechanism would be for telling their story, at its core, the film would be about the incredible resilience of children.

How do you use your specific skill set in your work as a Shine board member?
My background is in communications and marketing and it’s exciting to work with the talented members of the Shine marketing committee to find new ways to forge partnerships and effectively communicate Shine’s mission of hope. It’s never easy convincing people to see films that focus on troubling topics, often without easy solutions, but Shine’s films create awareness and allow us to start discussions that can lead to real change.

What is a Shine challenge that you feel supporters should know about?
In the last ten years securing funding for documentaries has become increasingly difficult and every donation is very important to us.

See the full list of Shine’s Board of Directors Members and Board of Governors Members here and read the first two profiles of board members Dario Spina here and Keith Brown here.

The Eagle Huntress Opening in Select Theaters Oct. 28

The Eagle Huntress, directed by Otto Bell and produced in association with Shine Global, is set to open in select US theaters on October 28th followed by additional cities.  The documentary premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January where it was bought by Sony Pictures Classics and features narration by Star Wars star Daisy Ridley and an original song by Sia.

The film follows Aisholpan, a 13-year-old girl, as she trains to become the first female in twelve generations of her Kazakh family to become an eagle hunter, and rises to the pinnacle of a tradition that has been handed down from father to son for centuries.

Set against the breathtaking expanse of the Mongolian steppe, The Eagle Huntress features some of the most awe-inspiring cinematography ever captured in a documentary, giving this intimate tale of a young girl’s quest the dramatic force of an epic narrative film.  Director Otto Bell told National Geographic “it’s rich in a lot of universal themes we can all appreciate, like female empowerment, the relationship between a father and his daughter, coming of age, and the natural world.”

 

THE EAGLE HUNTRESS RELEASE PLAN

10/28

NEW YORK • LOS ANGELES

11/4

SAN FRANCISCO • CHICAGO • WASHINGTON, DC

11/11

SAN DIEGO • DALLAS • HOUSTON • MINNEAPOLIS • PHILADELPHIA • BOSTON • PHOENIX

11/18

SEATTLE • PORTLAND • DENVER • MILWAUKEE • MIAMI •FT. LAUDERDALE • BOCA RATON • WEST PALM • BALTIMORE • ATLANTA • ST. LOUIS • HONOLULU • AUSTIN • NEW YORK AREA• LOS ANGELES AREA

11/23

NATIONWIDE • DETROIT • INDIANAPOLIS • SAN ANTONIO • MADISON • PITTSBURGH • CHARLOTTE • RALEIGH-DURHAM • NEW ORLEANS • CLEVELAND • CINCINNATI • COLUMBUS • DAYTON • KANSAS CITY • SALT LAKE CITY • NAPLES • FT. MYERS • ORLANDO • SARASOTA

Shine Global Announces Attachment to Upcoming Film Liyana

LIYANA-photo-01

Shine Global, a non-profit media company, is pleased to announce its involvement in the highly anticipated animated/documentary film, Liyana, directed by first time feature filmmakers Aaron Kopp and Amanda Kopp. Shine Global co-founders Susan MacLaury and longtime television executive Albie Hecht join as executive producers, bringing a wealth of expertise to an incredible team supporting the film.

This is the third major announcement for Shine Global in recent weeks. In late June, distributor Cinema Guild announced it acquired Shine Global’s award-winning documentary feature The Wrong Light and will release the film in theaters this fall. Previously, Sundance hit documentary The Eagle Huntress, produced in association with Shine Global with executive producer Susan MacLaury, was acquired by Sony Pictures Classics and will have a major release later this year.

Set in a home for orphans in Swaziland, Liyana focuses on 5 children aged 10 to 13 as they participate in a workshop led by acclaimed storyteller Gcina Mhlophe. The children collage together an original character, a young girl named Liyana. The world that they imagine is brought to life in the film in a unique style of animation. Drawing from painful memories, the children describe a violent attack at Liyana’s home. In the aftermath of this terrible night, Liyana must embark on a dangerous quest into the wilderness. Profound insight is revealed as the children shape their heroine’s mythic journey, and parallels are drawn between Liyana’s fate, and that of the young storytellers.

Liyana aims to encourage young people to make their voices heard, and to unite their communities as they look for world-changing solutions within themselves.

Co-Director Aaron Kopp grew up in Swaziland and had been looking for a way to do a film with the children at this orphan home as he and Amanda have traveled back and forth between the United States and Swaziland during the last 13 years.

When they began filming, the filmmakers reached out to prominent South African activist and storyteller Gcina Mhlophe who immediately joined the project.

This is the first feature for Aaron and Amanda as directors though they both have significant experience working as co-producers and cinematographers on such films as the Oscar®-winning documentary Saving Face and the recent Sundance film The Hunting Ground.

Other team members include Oscar® winner Daniel Junge as a producer and editor Davis Coombe who has edited Emmy®- and Oscar®-winning documentaries, including Saving Face and Chasing Ice. British/Zimbabwean actress Thandie Newton (Crash, Mission Impossible II, The Slap) has also joined the project as Executive Producer.

“As filmmakers, we’ve been fans of Shine Global’s films for years. Meeting Susan MacLaury and Alexandra Blaney it was immediately clear to us that our hearts and goals aligned,” said Amanda Kopp. “We knew it would be a perfect fit, and we are honored to work with Shine.”

Ultimately the filmmakers’ goal is to use the power of storytelling to dispel misconceptions about vulnerable African populations from the outside, as well as improve the confidence in their own potential to help others and to make the world a better place. This shift in perspective will also apply to key players in the NGO world as they examine their own practices and help to increase respect and reduce stigma about the people they serve.

“We immediately fell in love with this project,” says Shine’s Executive Director Susan MacLaury. “The focus on the transformational power of storytelling for these children is a clear fit with our mission. Combine that with the beautiful cinematography and outstanding animation from rising talent Shofela Coker and we couldn’t wait to be involved.”

Liyana is currently in post-production.


AaronKopp_LiyanaAaron Kopp – Co-director, Producer, Cinematographer

Aaron Kopp is an award-winning filmmaker and Emmy-nominated cinematographer who grew up in Swaziland. Kopp shot and co-produced the Oscar-winning documentary about acid attacks in Pakistan, Saving Face. He was also cinematographer for the Sundance 2015 premiered film, The Hunting Ground, about sexual assault on college campuses. For his short film, Likhaya, he was awarded People’s Choice and Best Documentary awards at international festivals. He has worked on films around the world for HBO, National Geographic, Discovery, UK Channel 4, CBS, CNN, and PBS. Kopp was awarded grants from the MacArthur Foundation and the Doha Film Institute for his upcoming feature directorial debut, Liyana.

AmandaKopp_Liyana

Amanda Kopp – Co-director, Producer, Camera

Amanda Kopp is an award-winning photographer and artist. She was producer and cinematographer for the short film Likhaya, which won a Golden Palm, People’s Choice, and Best Documentary awards at international festivals. She also filmed for the Sundance 2015 premiered film, The Hunting Ground. Kopp’s photographic work has been published in the UK, US, Sweden, Germany, Russia, Pakistan, and Italy. Her photographs won the Grand Prize in the Photo District News Top Knots photography competition. She has traveled to Swaziland regularly over the past 13 years and is now directing her first feature length documentary, Liyana, with funds from the MacArthur Foundation and the Doha Film Institute.


ShineGlobalLogo 300x300About Shine Global

Shine Global, a non-profit media company, gives voice to children by telling stories of their resilience to raise awareness, promote action, and inspire change. The organization’s films have won more than 50 major awards including an Academy Award® for Best Documentary Short Subject for Inocente and an Academy Award®-nomination for War/Dance.  Shine Global is attached the 2016 Sundance hit The Eagle Huntress while its most recent production, The Wrong Light, recently premiered at the Cleveland Film Festival.

Shine Board Member Profile: Keith Brown

As part of a new series, we want to introduce you to the Shine Global family and especially our outstanding and hard working board members who help move Shine forward.


Keith BrownName:
 Keith Brown
Joined Shine Board: August 2005 (Founding Board Member)
Title: Senior Vice President, HLN Programming
Current Role at Shine: Member of the Board of Directors, Member of the New Projects Committee
I am currently senior vice president of programming for HLN, the cable news network formerly known as CNN Headline News.  I have been working in news and documentaries since graduating from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 1991.  I’ve worked as a broadcast journalist for many news organizations and networks including CBS, NBC and PBS,  as well as with Viacom as vice president of news and documentaries at Spike TV and senior vice president of news and public affairs at BET respectively.  Early in my career I spent 2-years in Central Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon.  There I worked with women’s groups on issues that impact their children, families and communities.

I like to say I grew up in the most famous small town in America… Freehold, New Jersey, the hometown of Bruce Springsteen.  So I’ve gone from a small rural town to now as I also like to say the most famous urban community in the world… Harlem in New York City with my wife Maria Perez-Brown and our 8-year-old daughter Azuri.

Why did you join Shine’s board and why have you stayed on for several years?
I joined Shine as one of the founding board members when asked by Susan MacLaury and Albie Hecht to work on its first film, War/Dance.   I have been involved ever since.  The deep commitment Susan and Albie have to bringing to light the complex issues children face around the world and the hope their work inspires makes working on the board truly a remarkable experience.

What’s a favorite Shine moment for you?
One of my favorite Shine moments is when we received word that War/Dance was nominated for an Academy Award.  It was the culmination of all of the hard work Susan and Albie put into making the film and validation not only of the film, but their vision for the organization.  The organization going on to actually win an Academy Award (for Inocente) was a close second.  It helped us all realize the power of telling children’s stories in their own voice from their own perspective.

How do you use your specific skill set in your work as a Shine board member?
I work on the new projects committee which uses my background as a broadcast journalist in producing documentaries and as a development executive in selecting appropriate projects to fulfill the mission of Shine.   It also brings together my love for documentary filmmaking, my strong connection to Africa, and my work with children over the years.

What is a Shine challenge that you feel supporters should know about?
Even with the tremendous success of its films, Shine continues to need to let more people know of the work it does on behalf of children.  There are so many stories to be told that can have a tremendous impact on the lives of children everywhere.  So we need the involvement of people who share the mission of the organization to ensure these stories are told.

See the full list of Shine’s Board of Directors Members and Board of Governors Members here and read the first profile of board member Dario Spina here.

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