Showrunner and Screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg headlines 7th Annual USC-UCLA Conference focused on diversifying entertainment

Transforming Hollywood will be held Friday, Oct. 21 at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism 

The USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television (UCLA TFT) announced today that Melissa Rosenberg, Series Creator/Showrunner of Marvel’s Jessica Jones will be the keynote speaker at Transforming Hollywood 7: Diversifying Entertainment.

The conference will be hosted Oct. 21 at USC Annenberg and will be sponsored by the AJK Foundation, Fusion/Univision, the George Foster Peabody Foundation, USC Annenberg and Havas Media.

Transforming Hollywood is a unique cooperative venture between USC and UCLA, with the goal of fostering a serious conversation about some of the core trends impacting the entertainment industry. This year’s event has been organized by Henry Jenkins and Stacy Smith, faculty at USC Annenberg, and Denise Mann, professor in the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.

The seventh installment of the annual conference focuses on struggles within the American entertainment industry around issues of diversity, inclusion and representation.

Jenkins, one of the event’s organizers, explained, “Diversifying Entertainment will explore the intersection between two noteworthy hashtags that sum up our current moment: #oscarssowhite and #blacklivesmatter. We want to consider the ways film, television, comics, music, and the web have responded -- or failed to respond -- to cries for greater inclusiveness and diversity. And above all, we want to explore why diversity matters. We want to consider how embracing diversity requires changing the script -- telling new kinds of stories or reimagining existing entertainment genres -- and moving away from stereotypes. We want to compare notes to see how different media sectors are responding to these challenges, and we want to bring together speakers from diverse backgrounds and communities who are struggling to be heard in the contemporary media landscape. ”

The conference brings together key figures in film (Effie Brown, producer of Dear White People), television (Javier Grillo-Marxuach, writer and co-executive producer of The 100; Prentice Penny, showrunner of HBO’s Insecure based on Issa Rae’s webseries, The Misadventures of An Awkward Black Girl; and YouTube celebrity and creator Freddie Wong), along with activists and bloggers (Angry Asian Man’s Phil Yu, Women and Hollywood’s Melissa Silverstein), journalists (Variety’s Maureen Ryan and Fusion’s Dodai Stewart), and academics (Bambi Haggins, author of Laughing Mad: Post-Soul Stand-Up Comedy and Evelyn Alsutany, author of Arabs and Muslims in the Media).

Denise Mann (UCLA) explains, “Social influencers, working closely with talent managers aligned with tech startups, have the capacity to spread messages of diversity and inclusion to millions using social media’s connectivity and community-building.”

Stacy Smith (USC) said, “One way to kick-start change in our creative industries is to bring notable thinkers, activists, and practitioners together to discuss innovation and transformation. This conference is an opportunity to continue and expand the conversation on inclusion.”

Other scheduled speakers include Troy Carter, Entrepreneur & Investor, Founder / Atom Factory & Global Head of Creator Services for Spotify; Bertila Damas, the SAG-AFTRA National Chair of the Ethnic Employment Opportunities Committee; Grace Dillon, editor of Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction; Robeson Taj Frazier, USC Professor and author of The East Is Black: Cold War China in the Black Radical Imagination; Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni, Head of Strategic Outreach at Pearl Street Films; Melissa Goodman, director of the LGBTQ, Gender and Reproductive Justice Project at the ACLU of Southern California; Kathy Le Backes, the Vice President of Research and Development at Wise Entertainment; Nakul Dev Mahajan, choreographer for So You Think You Can Dance; Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education; Danny Woodburn, Chair of the Screen Actors Guild’s Performers with Disabilities Group; and Jeff Yang, Vice President of Cultural Strategy for Sparks & Honey.

Admission is $40 for a full-day pass. For details on the event schedule, or to purchase tickets, visit:

About the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television
The vision of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television is to serve as a premiere global interdisciplinary professional school that develops outstanding humanistic storytellers, industry leaders and scholars whose diverse, innovative voices enlighten, engage and inspire change for a better world. Consistently ranked as one of the top entertainment and performing arts institutions in the world, UCLA TFT offers an innovative curriculum that integrates the study and creation of live performance, film, television and the digital arts. The distinguished graduate and undergraduate programs at UCLA TFT include acting, directing, writing, producing, animation, cinematography, lighting design, set design, costume design, sound design, moving image archive studies, and the school offers doctoral degrees in theater and performance studies and cinema and media studies.

About the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
Located in Los Angeles at the University of Southern California, the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism is a national leader in education and scholarship in the fields of communication, journalism, public diplomacy and public relations. With an enrollment of more than 2,200 students, USC Annenberg offers doctoral, master's and bachelor's degree programs, as well as continuing development programs for working professionals across a broad scope of academic inquiry. The school's comprehensive curriculum emphasizes the core skills of leadership, innovation, service and entrepreneurship and draws upon the resources of a networked university located in the media capital of the world.

About the Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative at USC Annenberg
The Media Diversity & Social Change Initiative (MDSCI) at USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism is a leading think tank studying diversity in entertainment through original and sponsored research. MDSCI findings create valuable and sought after research based solutions that advance equality in entertainment. Dr. Stacy L. Smith is the Founder and Director of the MDSCI. Dr. Smith and the MDSCI examine gender, race/ethnicity, LGBT status and disability on screen and gender and race/ethnicity behind the camera in cinematic content as well as barriers and opportunities facing women and people of color in the entertainment industry. The MDSCI also conducts economic analyses related to diversity and the financial performance of films. In 2015, Dr. Smith was named the #1 Most Influential Person in Los Angeles by LA Weekly. Dr. Smith has written more than 100 journal articles, book chapters, and reports on content patterns and effects of the media. In terms of the popular press, Dr. Smith’s research has been written about in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, Newsweek, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, and NPR. She has a co-edited essay in Maria Shriver’s book, A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything (2009). Dr. Smith and the MDSCI’s most recent research reports include a study of 800 popular films, the Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity in Entertainment (CARD) and a series of landmark studies with Sundance Institute and Women in Film Los Angeles.  To learn more, visit or follow on Twitter @MDSCInitiative.