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Hearthside Salons

Talks and conversations to feed your creative fire.

The exchange of creative, thought-provoking ideas sparks inspiration. Talks may take the form of a lecture or an interview, and are sometimes recorded with a live audience. Archived podcasts are available for download below, on Podbean, or by finding “Hearthside Salons” on Apple Podcasts.

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Listen to Season 2 Episodes:

  • September 23, 2021 – Joan Burney Keatings, MBE
    Producer, Executive Director of Cinemagic & Force of Nature
    Growing up in Northern Ireland, the Troubles were part of Joan Burney Keatings’ world. Having sparked a career at the BBC in London, Joan wondered how she could give back and bring people from opposite sides together. Her work with Cinemagic has had an international impact. We’ll talk about the power of film and the value of being braver sooner.
  • September 6, 2021 – Emma Ferreira
    Visual Artist
    Visual artist Emma Ferriera has always been a traveler. Born in a small town in England, her wanderlust and a curiosity about perception fueled a layered approach to her art and brought her to LA. The threads of freedom, choice, and desire run through her work, which is now coveted by notable private and celebrity collectors. We’ll talk about the fearless pursuit of creativity and the possibility of marrying joy and work.
  • June 22, 2021 – Ghizal Hasan
    Writer, Sportscaster – “Eye on the Curve Ball”
    What do philosophy and comedy have to do with baseball? For writer Ghizal Hasan, they’re links on his circuitous path to becoming a popular a play-by-play sportscaster. We’ll talk about being a first-generation American, the importance of college radio, and the art of making Jon Stewart laugh.
  • June 15, 2021 – Carla Renata
    Actress, Singer, The Curvy Critic – “Listen for What’s Good”
    Carla Renata grew up with a passion for the stage and voice to match that landed her on Broadway with the likes of Queen and Matthew Broderick. She parlayed her insider understanding of story and her love of movies into a second career as The Curvy Critic. We’ll talk about critiquing film, rocking the red carpet, and the importance of inclusion in the stories being told today.
  • June 8, 2021 – Clarissa Jacobson
    Writer, Actor, Producer – “You’ve Made a Short Film, WTF Do You Do With It?”
    Figuring out the craft of filmmaking is a lot. Figuring out how to take the thing you poured your heart and soul into and get it out to an adoring public can be even harder. For filmmaker Clarissa Jacobson, a successful festival run gave her an idea: write a book about everything she learned to make it easier for others. Join us for a chat on all things film and festival and for a chance to win a copy of her book: I Made a Short Film Now WTF Do I Do With It.
  • June 1, 2021 – Asdru Sierra
    Musician, Composer, Ambassador – Ozomatli
    The grandson of a renowned bolero and mambo vocalist from Tabasco, Mexico, Asdru grew up in LA with music in his veins. His pursuit of jazz and world music has led to amazing pieces that get to the heart, address social justice issues, and get folks up on the dance floor. It’s also led to Grammys, a cultural ambassadorship for the US State Department, and performances for the Obamas. We’ll talk about his creative journey and the stories he conveys through music.
  • May 25, 2021 – Samantha Pestana-Markey
    Cuban-American Queer Filmmaker and Costume Designer – “I’m [Not] OK”
    Filmmaker and costume designer Samantha Pestana-Markey grew up with a passion for texture and story. As a queer storyteller, they’re driven to share a different point of view from the heteronormative stories dominating the airwaves. Their new autobiographical short film, I’m [Not] OK, deals with the complex relationships between mothers and daughters, as well as first love between two queer high school students.
  • May 18, 2021 – Lynn Ferguson
    Writer, Mentor, Storyteller – “The Story Is the Connection”
    Since there have been humans living together in groups there has been story. Stories are how we understand the world around us and our place in it. Most importantly, according to Lynn Ferguson, it’s how we connect. As a writer and long-time story coach, Lynn is an expert in making our stories resonate with those who hear them. As an actor and hilarious force of nature, she’s accumulated her fair share of Hollywood tales. We’ll talk BBC, Chicken Run, and how to survive and thrive as a Scot in LA shepherding storytellers.

Listen to Season 1 Episodes:

  • February 13, 2021 – Katy Haber
    Production Executive – “Making Legends”
    It’s hard to know where to begin when talking about a legend. Or to a legend. British production executive Katy Haber has an MBE from the Queen; she’s a founding member of BAFTA; she worked with Sam Peckinpah on eight of his films; and she was instrumental in a little film called Blade Runner. Not enough? Her family fled the Nazis, and in the middle of great success here in LA, Katy took a left turn in her career and became the Executive Director of an innovative homeless shelter on Skid Row called The Dome Village, creating some amazing charity and outreach programs including The Compton Cricket Club. Her life deserves a movie of its own. I talk with her about life, movies, and real family.
    Part 1: Katy and her family’s harrowing WW2 story
    Part 2: Katy’s incredible film career
    Part 3: Katy’s inspiring charity work
  • February 9, 2021 – Liberty Worth
    Textile Designer, Artist – “Story Threads

    When words fail, images and colors can reach our hearts like nothing else. Images we can wrap around us can be just the comfort our aching hearts need. As fiber artist Liberty Worth says, “Textiles have an amazing ability to hold memory.” Part of her creative output is the work she does with families to create stunning memory quilts from the clothes of a lost loved one. While we reel from a pandemic, Liberty works to help us grieve our losses. We talk about the power of family, story, and using your talents for good.
  • January 27, 2021 – Leslie Carrara-Rudolph
    Writer, Puppeteer, “Abby Cadabby” – Creating Magic in Character and Story
    Do you ever watch a kid reacting to life with joy and think, “Man, I wish I could still be moved like that.” Some creators never lose their wonder in looking at the world. Some of those people become puppeteers. I talk with Leslie Carrara-Rudolph, a.k.a. Sesame Street’s Abby Cadabby, who says that if you believe enough in your stuff, you suck people into your world.
  • January 19, 2021 – Robin Russin
    Writer & Professor – “The Reinvention of the Modern Writer”
    In this most unpredictable of industries, success often doesn’t look the way we think it will. To make it as a screenwriter, you have to be in it for the long haul. Screenwriter and professor Robin Russin talks about his path from “America’s Most Wanted,” through Steven Seagal and UCLA, to finally directing his own features.
  • January 12, 2021 – Jessica Burgess & John Schindler
    Filmmakers – “Fatima: Indie Film in a Plague”
    For some the pandemic has been a time of creative output and inspiration. But for indie filmmakers, all the usual obstacles remain and then some. Producers Jessica Burgess and John Schindler talk with us about their short film, FATIMA, which tells the tale of an ancient warrior who leaves her village to seek a life of freedom in the desert. As they dig into fundraising and get set to shoot, we’ll talk about how indie film production looks now.
  • January 5, 2021 – Suzanne Lyons
    Indie Producer/Author – “The Craft of Low Budget Filmmaking”
    In 1999 Suzanne Lyons launched her production company, Snowfall Films. Since then she’s produced features with names like Naomi Watts, Christopher Walken, and Wynona Ryder; she’s won BAFTAs, gotten major festival love, and distributed through biggies like Screengems and Lionsgate. She decided to codify what she knew into a course and a book, and she has been helping indie filmmakers build their craft ever since. We’ll talk about the art, craft, and business of low budget filmmaking.
    Podcast Link Part 1 Here
    Podcast Link Part 2 Here
  • December 22, 2020 – Nicholas Griffin
    Screenwriter, UCLA Instructor – “Breaking In: The Strange Truth of What Hollywood Success Looks Like”
    Screenwriting success is not a static thing. It’s something that has to keep happening in many different ways. Screenwriter Nicholas Griffin broke out early with his script, Matchstick Men, written with his brother Ted. The film was directed by Ridley Scott and starred Nicholas Cage. He and Ted went on to write the FX drama, Terriers, and Nick has worked with most of the major studios in town. He’s also taught graduate-level screenwriting at UCLA. We’ll talk about the strange, circuitous routes to screenwriting success, script doctoring, major studio notes, and how to keep your wits in a pitch meeting.
  • December 15 – Lindsay Lanzillotta
    Producer, Distributor – “Shouting into the Void: Cracking Distribution for Indie Filmmakers”
    For indie filmmakers, nothing is more heartbreaking than pouring your soul into a film that no one sees. Producer Lindsay Lanzillotta has worked on films that made it to Sundance, garnered Film Independent noms, and opened SXSW. She knows how much work it takes. Now, she’s working on a new avenue to help filmmakers reach audiences. We’ll talk about indie film producing and cracking the distribution nut.
  • December 1 – Christina Kotlar
    Writer/Director – “Film Town 1910: When Hollywood was in Jersey and the studio owner was a woman”
    Hollywood didn’t start out as a boy’s club, nor did it start in Hollywood. Alice Guy Blache was the industry’s first woman director and the co-owner of Solax, a film studio built in Fort Lee, New Jersey in 1910. Writer/Director Christina Kotlar has been celebrating Alice and working to bring her forgotten story to the world. We’ll talk about Alice’s groundbreaking life and career before there were barriers to inclusion, including directing the first film with an all African American cast.
  • November 24 – Drea Clark
    Producer, Festival Programmer – “Laurels: Pursuing Film Festival Success”
    Trying to figure out how to wow the powers that be and get past the Hollywood gatekeepers is a full-time job. One way for your film to fly is to impress Drea Clark. Formerly a teacher of music video production at USC, Drea has curated for film festivals like Slamdance, Sundance, LA Film Fest, and Geena Davis’ Bentonville Film Festival. Drea produces too, so she knows firsthand what it takes from both sides. We’ll talk about what she looks for, what makes for a great festival run, and what makes a film a winner.
  • November 17 – Sarah Moshman
    Documentary Filmmaker, Author, Mother – “Empowered Filmmaking”
    Emmy-winning documentarian Sarah Moshman is drawn to stories of women overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles. We’ll talk about her three docs: “The Empowerment Project: Ordinary Women Doing Extraordinary Things”; “Losing Sight of Shore,” about four women rowing to Australia; and “Nevertheless,” following seven people grappling with sexual harassment claims in work or school. We’ll also talk about what’s next for her and how her new book, Empowered Filmmaking: How to Make a Documentary on Your Own Terms, can help with what’s next for you.
  • October 27 – Voices of Persistence: Filmmakers Behind Pieces on the American Suffrage Movement
    In 1916 suffragist Inez Milholland went up against President Woodrow Wilson who, like many men of the time, saw the possibility of women voting as a threat. With one of the most important voting days in our lifetime right around the corner, I talk with filmmakers who’ve made both narrative and documentary films about Inez and her fight to make sure every American has the right to vote. Join me, Amy Walker, Jessica Graham, Martha Wheelock, and Jessica Martin.
  • October 20 – Rebecca Field
    Actor – “A Star Is Made: Just Do the Work”
    When Rebecca Field left her small town in the Berkshires for Hollywood, she knew one thing: she was going to be an actor no matter what. After more than a decade of working steadily in your favorite films and shows, she appeared Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper in A Star Is Born. NBD. Just another job on the track of a woman focused on her goal. We’ll talk balance, craft, and stardom.
  • October 13 – Sara Nesson
    Oscar-Nominated Writer, Director & Producer
    Filmmaker Sara Nesson knows something about succeeding in a man’s world. Her recent documentary Women Who Score covers 20 female composers in changing Hollywood. Her documentary Poster Girl, about the first female gunner in the Iraq war, garnered her Oscar and Emmy nominations. Her quest to bring the story to the screen as a narrative feature continues to be a roller-coaster. We’ll talk about representation and what it means to be a woman who persists.
  • October 6 – Jeff Rona
    Composer, Solo Artist – “Storytelling in Music: the Art and Tech of the Film Score”
    Composer Jeff Rona has always been curious about what moves people. His curiosity has served him well. He’s got a list of film, TV, and videogame credits a mile long. He’s scored projects for names like Spielberg, Altman, and Soderbergh. He composed music for the 2008 Beijing Olympic games. Heavily involved in music technology, his innovations have touched your life in ways you don’t know. We’ll talk about the intersection of creativity and technology and how music creates emotion.
  • September 29 – Lauren Over
    Visual Artist – “Taking the Commercial into the Fantastical”
    Visual artist and illustrator Lauren Over has always been interested in synchronicity, connection, and in the Rorschach Test-like effect an image can have on a viewer. Working steadily on movie posters and commercial client work, she’s mixed pen and ink and watercolor to produce an astro-botanical deck of tarot cards that reinterpret traditional symbology with birds, animals, traditional herb use, and historical figures. We will talk about finding a path with art.
  • September 15 – Meg Gifford
    Writer, Chemistry Professor – “The scientific and creative mind: working with Lew Hunter”
    It’s usual for a writer to have another gig. Writer Meg Gifford is not usual in that her other gig is: chemistry professor. She’s skilled at understanding how things come together and what causes reactions. She worked with legendary UCLA screenwriting teacher Lew Hunter on his new book. We’ll talk about the art and science of screenwriting.
  • September 8 – Peres Owino
    Writer, Actor, Director, Producer – “Voices of the African Diaspora”
    Born in Kenya, Peres Owino is a storyteller of two cultures. From a script she co-wrote being produced by Taraji P Henson and being nominated for an NAACP image award, to her International Screenwriting Association Fast Track Fellowship for another script, Peres’ work focuses powerfully on the experience of the African Diaspora. She’s proven she’s an artist with something to say and the means to say it. We’ll talk about what inspires her and what she’s saying next.
  • September 1 – Zaki Rubenstein
    Writer, Director, Producer – “Turning Real Life into Screen Gold”
    Zaki Rubenstein is a director in television. Her creativity, knack for story, and no nonsense approach has kept her in steady employment on serious shows for years. Since the pandemic shut down production, she’s turned back to writing and is flexing her comedy chops to look at the absurdity of life, love, and family. We’ll talk about how she got here and what inspires her now.
  • August 25 – No Actor Parking
    A conversation with the creators and stars of the new comedy pilot
    Three actors meet waiting tables in Hollywood. You know the story: finding work is hard. Breaking in is hard. So they say they’ll make their own luck. A lot of people say that. But then they actually do it. I talk with the creators of the new pilot No Actor Parking on how they pulled it off and what comes next.
  • July 28 – Josh Greenberg
    Writer – “Comedy Beyond Corona”
    Writer Josh Greenberg was always the funniest guy in the room. I know, I was there. He grew up in Northern California, moved to LA, and parlayed his observational skills into a consistent, growing writing career, being staffed on multiple network shows. We’ll talk about what it takes to be a comedy writer and what’s next for Hollywood after quarantine.
  • July 21 – Wanjiru Njendu
    Writer/Director/2020 Film Academy Inductee – “What Do You Stand For? Risk and Reward in Films”
    Wanjiru Njendu is a story teller by nature and a filmmaker who takes a stand. She grew up in Kenya where her documentary was used to provide evidence against the British Government by the MAU MAU colonial war survivors. Her latest short, BOXED, tells the true story of an enslaved African American who mailed himself to freedom in 1849. And this is just a part of what earned Wanjiru membership in the 2020 class of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. We’ll talk about film, race, and responsibility and risk in storytelling.
  • July 14 – Tricia Nelson
    Writer – “Black Films Matter: Essential viewing – the Watchlist and Why”
    Writer Tricia Nelson knows there are more black stories that need to be told than narratives of suffering or criminality. She’s written several pieces offering both classic and current black stories that you may have missed, or should watch again. We’ll talk about the importance of representation, the issue of the Magical Negro, and what makes a worthwhile love story.
  • July 7 – Ellen Gerstein
    Writer, Actor – “How to say ‘I’m An Artist’ out loud without imploding”
    Ellen Gerstein is everyone’s aunt. She’s played supporting characters in many of your favorite things. She startled her family by coming to acting later in life and going against the grain. As a student in 1960s Georgia, she also dealt with anti-semitism and helped form Georgia Students for Human Rights, a Black and white student alliance to address racism there. We’ll talk about creating your life by imagining a more perfect world.
  • July 2 – Paul Goodenough
    Emmy-nominated Writer/Producer, Eco Entrepreneur – “Freaks, Heroes, and Future Shift”
    Paul’s life is driven by “projects of worth.” This double Emmy-nominated writer and producer delivers projects for the BBC, Channel 4, Nickelodeon & more with his company Aerian, but he’s also a passionate comic book collector and creator with The Chimeran, featuring a future where humanity’s mass-production needs are served by a purpose-bred race. Now he’s helping save the world with a green new initiative poised for a major shift.
  • June 30 – Monia Ayachi
    Actress, Producer, Writer, Singer – “Between Worlds
    Monia Ayachi understands being between worlds. This Belgian-Tunisian actress, singer, writer grew up in Brussels working in English, Dutch, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, and French. She moved to LA chasing a dream like so many of us, and landed recurring roles on “Days of our Lives” and “General Hospital.” She’s best known as Anais Fontaine in “Wolfenstein Youngblood.” Her work as a writer/director challenges cultural, religious, gender, and generational stereotypes and invites us to open our eyes.
  • June 23 – Michael Mack
    Writer, Actor, Director – “Euripides, Cervantes, Jim Crow”
    Beside breaking boundaries as the first black Romulan in Star Trek history, Michael Mack has led a life of service and craft. From a family with preacher roots, Michael grew up ministering to the less fortunate. When he returned to the DC area, he became renowned for his work with at-risk youth in communities of color. His method was using theater training to allow kids access to speak their truths. He talks about theater from the ancient Greeks onward as social policy and how many historical atrocities were not based in difference but in sameness. He shares how the Man of La Mancha unlocks the central truth: the way forward is not to think of life as it is, but life as it should be.
  • June 16 – Durga McBroom
    Singer, Songwriter, Actress – “Pandemic, Riots, and Murder Hornets – The Perfect Cradle for Creativity!”
    Durga McBroom has performed backing vocals for Pink Floyd and is a member of the house music band Blue Pearl, best known for their hit single “Naked in the Rain“. She’s also a badass and activist who speaks out against racism around the world. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Durga finds this unrest a good time to be a passionate creative.
  • June 9 – Nagin Cox
    Mars Exploration Engineer – “Mars Needs Women”
    Nagin has been exploring since she decided as a teenager that she wanted to work at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She was born in Bangalore, India, and grew up in Kansas City, Kansas, and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Her experiences as a girl in a multicultural household showed her how easily we separate ourselves based on gender, race, or nationality, and inspired her to do something that brings people together instead of dividing them. Now as a Tactical Mission Lead on the Mars Curiosity Rover, and international and TedTalk speaker, Nagin loves to share the wonders of space with the world. She even has an asteroid named after her!
  • June 2 – Michael Mack
    Writer, Actor, Director – “Boldly going where no (black) man has gone before: Star Trek, spirituality, creativity”
    Michael was the first black Romulan in (all of) Star Trek history. He was the first writing intern (of ANY hue) to also act on-camera for the Star Trek franchise. Then, the Shakespearean-trained actor left the bright lights to pursue a life in the clergy. Now, he’s a writer putting all his experience to work.
  • May 26 – Rob Latimer
    Mental Performance Consultant and Historian – “Hunter, Gatherer, Accountant, Nurse: The psychology of Stress and Mental Performance in the Modern World”
    If stress is such a common experience, why does our stress response often prevent us from performing at our best? The short answer is because it’s suited for a very different type of stress than we usually face in the modern world. As we collectively face a global pandemic, many people are experiencing extremely high levels of chronic stress in their lives brought about by uncertainty and change. Rob discusses the historical, biological, and psychological dimensions of the human stress response and provides practical instruction on several different techniques we can use to reduce and manage our anxiety in response.
  • May 19 – Heidi Harris
    M.A. in Applied Behavioral Science – “The Emotionality of Polarization”
    How do we get through this when we’re all so angry and sure we’re right? What’s coming next? The ability to create understanding between people is crucial for relationships. It’s especially important in today’s heightened environment of polarization. Our emotional reactions can lead to defensiveness, anger, and divisiveness, or to deeper human connectedness, dialogue, and collaboration. The choice is ours. Heidi provides insights and tools for coming out of this with relationships intact.
  • May 12 – Molly Sweeney
    Author – “The Black Flag of ISIS: Living Within the World’s Best Organized Terrorist State”
    Molly Sweeney is a researcher and author who specializes in the Middle East. Her upcoming non-fiction book, You Must Understand, tells the story of the Islamic State through the eyes of civilians in Iraq and Syria. History and culture sections frame the narratives of the interviews of those most impacted by ISIS. Analyzing the socio-political factors that led to the emergence and proliferation of the Islamic State, Ms. Sweeney invites readers into a nuanced understanding of stories of resilience, courage, and heartbreak.
  • May 5 – Paul Whitehead
    Legendary British Visual Artist – “Playing with Perceptions: The Art of Creating Identity”
    The artist Paul Whitehead came of age in Swinging Sixties Britain and was on the front lines of massive cultural shifts. He’s the founding art director of Time Out London and is known for creating album covers for the band Genesis. Never comfortable being defined as just one thing, Paul developed an alter ego as the artist Tricia Van Cleef, who creates works in a style all her own. Join us as we talk about gender, art, creative spirit, and playing with perceptions.
  • April 28 – Valerie Hager
    Actor, Writer & Director

    A conversation with Valerie Hager, whose award-winning solo show “Naked In Alaska” (about her childhood and her escape into the world of exotic dancing) unlocked her creative voice. We’ll talk about her journey to becoming a writer, director, and a workshop leader who empowers others to find their own creative voices.
  • April 21 – Sarah Yeomans & Rob Latimer
    A roundtable chat: How do plagues and collective trauma impact the nature of storytelling? Join Sarah Yeomans (Professor, Archeologist & Research Specialist in Ancient Medicine) and Rob Latimer (Historian & Writer) as they examine how storytelling changed after past pandemics and what might happen after Covid-19.
  • April 7 – Sarah Yeomans
    Professor and Archeologist specializing in medicine and healthcare in the ancient world – “What historical pandemics can teach us about our present crisis.”
  • March 31 – Liz Hara
    Emmy winner and Sesame Street puppeteer, builder & writer –”Pursuing your passion and the necessity of failure.”
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