Visual Effects Society Names Founder and CEO of Illumination Entertainment Chris Meledandri as Keynote Speaker at 2013 VES Summit


Andrew Merkin, Head of Special Projects and Transmedia at Mirada Studios and Max Michael, Head of Business Development, Asia at UTA Among Highlighted Speakers

Last Updated: October 18, 2013 7:55 pm GMT
(Los Angeles, California--October 18, 2013) Today, the Visual Effects Society (VES), the industry’s professional honorary society, announced Chris Meledandri, Founder, CEO, Producer at Illumination Entertainment as Keynote Speaker at its 5th annual Summit, “A New Reality: Content Creation and Distribution.” The daylong interactive forum on October 26th will bring together top creatives, executives, thought leaders and visionaries from diverse disciplines to illustrate new pathways to creativity and problem solving in a TED Talks-like atmosphere.

Meledandri is the founder and CEO of Illumination Entertainment, which has an exclusive financing and distribution partnership with Universal Pictures. In July 2010, Illumination released its first film under this agreement, “Despicable Me,” which starred Steve Carell and earned more than $540 million worldwide. Illumination subsequently released critical and box-office successes “Hop” in 2011, which became the No. 1 film in North America for two consecutive weeks; “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” in 2012, which had the highest three-day opening for an animated film that year and the eighth-highest domestic opening for an animated film of all time; and “Despicable Me 2” in 2013, which became the 5th highest-grossing animated film of all time worldwide, earning more than $885 million. Meledandri was previously an executive at 20th Century Fox for 13 years, including serving as founding president of 20th Century Fox Animation. During his tenure, he helped 20th Century Fox become a major player in the world of animated feature films and oversaw the creative and business operations of Blue Sky Studios, now 20th Century Fox’s wholly owned CGI studio.

Additional highlighted speakers include:
  • Agency Viewpoint: New Opportunities with Max Michael. Michael is Head of Business Development, Asia at UTA and is in charge of pursuing the agency’s ventures in China and the region. Michael is also an agent in the motion picture literary department, representing both established and emerging feature writers and directors. His clients include Michael Katleman, executive producer of basic cable’s most-watched scripted series “Rizzoli and Isles,” and Robert Stromberg, director of Disney’s upcoming film “Maleficent,” starring Angelina Jolie.

  • The Immersive Future with Andrew Merkin. Merkin is the Head of Special Projects and Transmedia at Mirada Studios. Overseeing cross-platform and nontraditional storytelling projects, Merkin develops narrative for traditional and digital media and production management for the complete pipeline. Since joining Mirada in 2011, his production credits include the interactive music video,; the THINK exhibit and mobile apps for IBM's Centennial, the site for “The Strain” trilogy and “MirrorWorld by Cornelia Funke” on iOS.

Already announced are these prominent speakers sharing insights into success in the new VFX landscape:
  • Center Square: AMPAS Presidents Excusive - Current and former Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Presidents (AMPAS) Cheryl Boone Issacs, Sid Ganis and Hawk Koch will provide an intimate glimpse into life at the center of the changing entertainment industry.

  • Mission: Possible - Interplanetary robotics expert Nagin Cox will share her frontline perspectives on exploring new frontiers as a systems engineer and manager on multiple missions including NASA/JPL’s Galileo mission to Jupiter, the Mars Exploration Rover Missions and the Kepler telescope mission to search for earth-like planets around other stars.

  • In the Black: New Strategies for VFX Profitability - Building on the VES’ July 2013 whitepaper, “The State of the Global VFX Industry,” Carnegie Mellon Professor Carl Rosendahl will lead a discussion with top-tier studio and facility experts on new formulas for financial success in the dynamic global marketplace. Distinguished panelists include: Chris DeFaria, President, Digital Production, Animation and Visual Effects, Warner Bros.; Christian Kubsch, President, Method Studios; Tim Sarnoff, President, Digital Productions, Technicolor; and Ed Ulbrich, producer and former CEO, Digital Domain.

  • Interactive Business Roundtables with moderators: Richard Crudo, ASC, Cinematographer, President ASC; Stacy Burstin, Founder and President, Eevolver Inc.; Gregory Chou, COO FilmEngine Entertainment; Jason Garber Production/Effects Agent, Paradigm; Robin Aggarwal, Founder & CEO Scarecrow Visual Effects; Annie Chang, VP Post Production Technology, Walt Disney Studios; David Danesi, Founder, Digital District; Payam Shohadal, Co-Founder Luma Pictures; Writer/director Jacqui Barcos; Bill Kroyer, Director of Digital Arts, Chapman University; Chris Edwards, CEO & Creative Director, The Third Floor, Inc.; and Patrick Davenport, SVP Global Operations, Method Studios.

Sessions include:
  • Women in VFX
- Getting women involved as artists, managers and technologists in visual effects.

  • The Art of the Deal in Content Creation
- Working within the agency world to get the best project deal.

  • Tapping into the Investor Community
- Strategies for finding the right investor for any project.

  • VFX Facilities of the Future
- A look at how visual effects facilities will evolve to remain competitive.

  • The New Frontiers for VFX
- Exploring new markets beyond feature films, commercials and video gaming.

  • Crowd Sourcing Funds: Kickstarter Successes
- Tapping alternative finance streams for project funding.

  • Operating Multiple Offices Around the World
- Pros and cons of a workforce that straddles the globe.

  • Strategic Partnerships Between Companies
- Symbiotic affiliations between specialized providers to stay competitive - 
what can they bring to the competitive equation?

  • Virtual Studios: The New Reality -
Using crowd-sourced talent, cloud rendering and online bidding.

  • Shooting VFX
- The latest advancements in cameras, production techniques and technology.

  • Collaboration with the Art Directors Guild
- Building new realities.

  • VFX for Commercials
- Challenges for VFX production in the fiercely competitive commercial market.

THE 2013 VES Summit takes place on Saturday, October 26th at the W Hotel in Hollywood. Programming begins at 8:30 am. For more information on The Summit visit

About the Visual Effects Society
The Visual Effects Society is a professional honorary society dedicated to advancing the arts, sciences and applications of visual effects and to upholding the highest standards and procedures for the visual effects profession. It is the entertainment industry's only official organization representing the extended global community of visual effects practitioners, including supervisors, artists, producers, technology developers, educators and studio executives. VES’ almost 3,000 members in 31 countries worldwide contribute to all areas of entertainment – film, television, commercials, animation, music videos, games and new media. To learn more about the VES, visit


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