Jane Sasseen (Co-Chair)

Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY

Jane Sasseen is an award-winning journalist with more than 30 years’ experience covering the global economy from senior editorial posts in New York, Washington D.C. and Paris. She is the founding executive director of the McGraw Center for Business Journalism at the Newmark Graduate School of Journalism in New York. The Center provides grants and editorial support to journalists working on investigative and enterprise stories that delve into critical economic and business issues.

Previously, Jane was the Senior Editor for News and the Washington bureau chief for BusinessWeek magazine, editor-in-chief of politics for Yahoo News, and the Paris bureau chief of London-based International Management magazine. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Newsweek, and on the public radio station WYNC, among other outlets. She has also done extensive work on digital media and the future of journalism for the Pew Research Center’s annual State of the News Media report, and is the author of The Video Revolution and A Clash of Cultures: Hate Speech, Taboos, Blasphemy and the Role of the News Media, for the Center for International Media Assistance. She is a recipient of the Gerald Loeb Award, the top prize for financial journalism in America, and a former visiting professor in the Global Business Journalism program at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Ellery Washington (Co-Chair)

Pratt Institute

Ellery Washington is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing, Humanities and Media Studies at the Pratt Institute and a 2022 recipient of the Baldwin Center/Emerson Collective “I See My Light Shining” Fellowship in Oral History. He is the author of Buffalo, a novel forthcoming with Creston Books in Fall 2024. His essays, reviews and short fiction have appeared in The New York Times, Ploughshares, The International Review, Out Magazine and numerous literary anthologies, including the New York Times Bestsellers State by State, A Panoramic Portrait of America. He’s worked as a story development and script consultant on over 150 projects for companies that include Pixar, Disney, Paramount Pictures, Tristar, and Sony Entertainment, as well as for numerous independent film productions.

His previous board service includes the Finance Committee for Pratt Institute and Vice President of The Lambda Literary Foundation.

Josh Schiowitz (Treasurer)

Schiowitz Artists Management

Josh Schiowitz is a talent manager and former talent agent/partner who has represented actors since 1987. He has also worked as a theatre producer and general manager, mostly in Los Angeles. He was a producer for Los Angeles premieres of The Normal Heart with Richard Dreyfus and Kathy Bates; Sister Mary Ignatious
 with Elizabeth Huddle, then Lynn Redgrave; Wrestlers with Mark Harmon, then George Clooney; Cloud 9 and many others. He also produced three Charity Parodies of Broadway musicals, such as Fiddler on the West Hollywood Roof.

Josh has written, directed, acted and produced a variety of mostly shorter plays, and wrote the short film Even Stephen, which played the LGBTQ+ film festival circuit. He has also served on various non-profit Boards in the Los Angeles entertainment community, including LA Fringe Festival and the Alliance for Gays and Lesbians in the Entertainment Industry (AGLA), for which he co-produced several awards shows honoring LGBTQ+ film, TV and stage achievements. Besides the entertainment industry, Josh works for WeightWatchers as a Coach.

Adam Natale (Secretary)

SVA Theatre, School of Visual Arts

Adam Natale joined the School of Visual Arts in late 2012 to lead its iconic SVA Theatre in Chelsea. Since then, he has worked closely with a variety of film and media organizations, including AMPAS, SAG-AFTRA Foundation, Sundance Institute, and Visual Effects Society. In addition, he is the founding producer of a variety of events, including SVA’s After School Special (its annual alumni film and animation festival), SVA Premieres (its Hollywood-industry showcase of student work), and an annual Pride Week film series.

Prior to SVA, Adam worked with the nonprofit arts service organization Fractured Atlas and helped grow its membership from 2,000 to 25,000 during his tenure. He has been a featured speaker at several major arts events, including those held by South By Southwest, National Performing Arts Convention, Theatre Communications Group, NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and Sundance Film Festival, among others. Adam has worked for the National Endowment for the Arts and New York Musical Theatre Festival, was a board member of Red Bull Theater and the Association of Teaching Artists, serves as a grants’ panelist for a variety of arts organizations, is a former member and chair of Americans for the Arts’ Emerging Leader Council, and was awarded the American Express Emerging Leader Award in 2012.

Mike Balaban

Balaban Associates

Mike Balaban spent twenty years on Wall Street in Asian corporate finance and capital markets, then served as an independent consultant helping corporations penetrate foreign markets, working largely between the US and China, for another 15 years. Simultaneously, he’s been an avid LGBTQ+ activist and philanthropist for the last three decades, serving on the founding board of GLSEN from 1996 to 2005 and subsequently on multiple other non-profit boards.

Now in retirement, he’s become an “accidental” gay historian, creating content about the queer community’s history over the last 50 years as seen through his own coming out process and subsequent journey. His site, www.BAMMER.co, also recounts stories submitted from LGBTQ contributors around the world. His series of interviews with extraordinary queers he’s gotten to know, Bammer and Me, is available on all major podcast venues. Mike firmly believes that we can forge stronger LGBTQ+ community through storytelling.

Bill Berman

Independent Consultant

Bill Berman is a marketing and communications professional with more than twenty years’ experience developing integrated communications for some of the world’s most iconic brands, including IBM, Cisco, UPS, Time Warner Cable, GE Capital and BP. While working at Ogilvy, he and his team created the globally recognized, award-winning Type with Pride campaign, which introduced the world to ‘GILBERT,’ a free font honoring the late Gilbert Baker and his iconic rainbow flag. He also helped shepherd the Flag in the Map campaign, which was recently named Best Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Global Awareness Campaign at the 2nd Annual Anthem Awards.

Bill is a native New Yorker and avid pop culture and music fan. In addition to NewFest, he sits on the Board of Directors for the Gilbert Baker Foundation.

Ann Bradstreet Brown

The Estée Lauder Companies

Ann Bradstreet Brown is a director of the Global Brand Value Chain Organization (GBVCO) for the Estee Lauder Companies. With over 30 years of experience in advertising, account and supply chain management, she has worked on major advertising campaigns in the fashion, beverage and pharmaceutical sectors. At present, Ann is a leader in the GBVCO Compliance team managing the execution of Global Regulatory Repackaging and Reformulation Initiatives, with a focus on fragrance brands in Paris and London, including Frederic Malle, By Kilian, and Jo Malone. Ann served as a co-chair of wELCome, EstĂ©e Lauder’s Employee Resource Group for LGBTQ+ employees from 2017 to 2019.

Ann has dabbled in burlesque performance as well as modeling for the annual DapperQ Queer Fashion show in both 2018 and 2019. She is a trained voice over talent.

Thomas Dima

UniWorld Group

Michael Dinwiddie

NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study

Michael Dinwiddie is a creative entrepreneur whose projects span film, theatre and music. In Hollywood, he worked as a staff writer on ABC-Lorimar TV’s hit series Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper and was an inaugural Fellow at Touchstone Pictures in the Walt Disney Writers Program, His current project, a documentary based on the life of Maxine Powell, the founder of Motown’s artist development, is in post-production. Michael is the founder of Kris Lynn Music Publishing and a partner in Go Tell It! Productions.

An associate professor of dramatic writing at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, Michael’s plays have been produced in New York theatres, and commissioned for regional and educational theatres as well. In addition to NewFest, he serves on the Board of the August Wilson Society and the Black Theatre Network. His past board experience includes the New Federal Theatre, the Classical Theatre of Harlem, the Duke Ellington Center for the Arts, and the Black Gotham Experience. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild, Writers Guild of America, Association of Theatre in Higher Education, ASCAP and BMI.

Lisa Alexis Jones

Leech Tishman Fuscaldo & Lampl

Lisa Jones is a Partner with the law firm of Leech Tishman Fuscaldo & Lampl and Vice Chair of the firm’s Employment & Labor Practice Group.

With a long-standing commitment to civil rights and liberties, Lisa has been a member of the United States Commission on Civil Rights (DC Advisory Committee) and a Board Member of the ACLU. Lisa’s love of the arts and theater has led her to serve on numerous arts-related boards and organizations prior to NewFest, including as President of the Historic Lincoln Theatre in Washington, D.C., a producer of Broadway theater, and an officer of the D.C. Bar’s Steering Committee on Arts and Entertainment.

Afua Kafi-Akua

The International Center of Photography

Afua Kafi-Akua has worked for over three decades at many cutting-edge media and arts organizations, including Women Make Movies, The Cinema Guild, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The International Center of Photography and Third World Newsreel. She is currently a media and communications professor at The New York City College of Technology.

Afua has been a poet, writer, musician and mixed media artist for over 30 years. She began her artistic career in New York as a percussionist performing with many innovative performers and groups and was a founding member of the all-female funk/rock band IBIS. Her poetry and writing have been published in national publications including the Spelman College Journal of Women’s Studies, SAGE. In 2006 & 2010 her interviews with music legends Betty Carter & Nona Hendryx were published in the avant-garde arts anthology Encyclopedia. She co-produced an award-winning documentary about violence against lesbians, Just Because of Who We Are, which aired on PBS. Stating in 2005, she began experimenting with digital photography and creating mixed media installations of photographs, video, music and spoken word about various socially relevant and personal topics, including being the grandchild of immigrants, muses, gender identity, and our political future. Her artwork has been exhibited on both coasts.

Mathew Lasky

Delta Air Lines

Mathew Lasky is the GM of Purpose Communications for Delta Air Lines where he leads Sustainability and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Communications for the brand. Previously, Mathew helped lead the Social Impact team at Spotify, and before, was the Director of Communications for GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQ+ media advocacy organization. Mathew started his career as a communications consultant for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Maputo, Mozambique where he focused on HIV prevention within the MSM community, before taking a role at MTV Networks where he oversaw Social Impact campaigns for key shows and tentpole events including RuPaul’s Drag Race, the VMAs, and more.

Mathew has always believed in the power of film and television in changing hearts and minds.

Ron Lense

Douglas Elliman Real Estate

Ron Lense is a New York City residential real estate broker and founder of the Ron Lense Team, with over 35 years of experience selling cooperatives, condominiums, townhomes and new development property city wide. Ron has been awarded as a top producing broker – including many years as a “Top Ten” producing broker — throughout the majority of his career. He also leads seminars teaching new agents how the develop best negotiation skills, identify market trends, valuation and marketing of property, and the secrets behind becoming and staying a top broker. Having successfully maintained a top broker status through the peaks and valleys of NYC real estate over the last 3 decades, Ron has a complete understanding how to expertly guide his clients to their optimum outcome with the utmost of attention, dedication, and professionalism.

Ron is also a competitive tennis player; he captained the Douglas Elliman Tennis Team to multiple winning seasons in the Corporate Tennis League and is a captain of his USTA Tennis Team. He also sits on the Board of Directors in the cooperative building where he lives.

Sandy Markman

Independent Consultant/ Executive Creative Director

Sandy Markman spent 30+ years leading a creative team at The Estée Lauder Companies and is now working as a creative consultant. Sandy believes that great creative ideas can be universal and have the power to transcend cultures, markets and technologies. Sandy is continuing to challenge herself in her work as a creative leader in multiple markets and across the advertising landscape of PR, Brand, Digital, Product and Traditional, with the goal of bringing storytelling, products and platforms together.

Sandy studied film/TV at Emerson College where she found her love for storytelling through media of all types and a passion for exploring new ways an idea can spark, connect and resonate with people. She is dedicated to the NewFest mission of bringing together filmmakers and audiences to build a community that passionately supports queer cinema and storytelling.

Aviva Michelman-Dumas

Stout Thomas & Johnson

Aviva Michelman-Dumas is an arts and entertainment attorney at Stout Thomas & Johnson. She represents visual artists, arts organizations, artists’ estates, and others with respect to legal and business matters in the areas of fine art, film, television, design, and publishing. Her work includes structuring and revising exhibition, commission, loan, editioning, licensing, and similar agreements, and advising on governance and compliance issues for arts foundations, museums, and other charitable organizations. She has broad experience negotiating production and rights agreements for television and film and advising on intellectual property and First Amendment issues.

She is a member of the NYSBA Entertainment Arts & Sports Law Fine Arts Committee and The Copyright Society.

Isabel Sandoval


US-based, Philippine-born Isabel Sandoval has emerged as “one of the most exciting and multitalented filmmakers on the indie scene with a bold approach to cinematic style,” according to The Criterion Collection. The Museum of Modern Art has also recognized her as a “rarity among the young generation of Filipino filmmakers.” She has directed three feature films. Her debut, Señorita, premiered at the Locarno Film Festival. Her critically acclaimed third feature, Lingua Franca, premiered in Venice and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. She starred in the CĂ©sar Award-winning short film Maria Schneider 1983 (Cannes Film Festival ‘22) directed by Elisabeth Subrin.

She has directed for television, including the acclaimed limited series Under The Banner of Heaven starring Andrew Garfield and Sam Worthington. Isabel is developing her fourth feature, Tropical Gothic, which won a development prize at the 2021 Berlinale. In 2022, having “demonstrated exceptional accomplishments in the field of theatrical motion pictures,” she was invited to join the prestigious Academy of Motion Picture Arts Sciences. She is a member of the DGA and WGA.

Ron Simons

SimonSays Entertainment

Dr. Ron Simons is a six-time Tony Award-nominated and four-time Tony Award-winning producer. He is CEO of SimonSays Entertainment. Broadway credits include the runaway hit Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations, as well as the Tony winning productions of Jitney, Porgy & Bess, A Gentleman’s Guide and Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike
 Other Broadway credits include The Gin Game, Hughie, and A Streetcar Named Desire as well as the Off-Broadway hit Turn Me Loose. Ron is the highest African-American Tony Award winning producer of all time, cementing him as the leading Broadway producer working today bringing diversity to the stage. He was awarded an honorary Doctorate of the Arts from the University of Washington.

As CEO of SimonSays Entertainment, Ron leads the strategic planning and development of theatre, film and television projects including the critically acclaimed Sundance films Night Catches Us with Kerry Washington, Anthony Mackie and Wendell Pierce, Gun Hill Road with Esai Morales and Judy Reyes, Blue Caprice with Isaiah Washington and Tequan Richmond and Mother of George with Danai Gurira – three of which premiered in competition. His first documentary, 25 to Life, premiered at the American Black Film Festival where it won Best Documentary.

RamĂłn Torres

Warner Brothers Discovery

Ramón Torres is a Director of Enterprise Inclusion for North America at Warner Brothers Discovery, where he supports the company’s ongoing strategic initiatives to increase inclusive storytelling on and off camera, specifically through new technology and accountability tools. Prior to joining the group, Ramón held several positions supporting corporate senior leaders including two former CEOs and former General Manager for the streaming service Max (formerly HBO Max). Ramón started his professional career with Barclays Capital in the investment banking division focusing on media and telecom.

In 2019, NewFest premiered Last Ferry, a movie RamĂłn wrote, produced, and acted in, which was acquired by Netflix in 2020. He is currently in postproduction for his second independent feature. As an actor, RamĂłn has performed on Gotham, Blacklist, The Punisher, and SMASH. He has created other content through the production company Emblematic Pictures, of which he is a founding member. After 12 years in New York City, he moved back to Los Angeles in 2021.

Andrew Uriarte

NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts

Andrew Uriarte is the Senior Associate Dean for External Affairs at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. He oversees external affairs, development, and alumni relations and has been responsible for the school’s institutional advancement efforts since 2006. He is charged with developing and finding the necessary resources to maintain the school’s position as one of the world’s premier arts training institutions, building and strengthening relationships with donors and cultural, business, and arts leaders, and leading stewardship efforts of the school’s dynamic community of almost 45,000 alumni. Andrew has been recognized by the University for his leadership in guiding NYU Tisch to record-breaking fundraising years.
Andrew has been at NYU for over 27 years in various executive positions, including head of admissions for the College of Arts and Science (CAS) and as the director of recruitment and student affairs for Tisch, where he improved relationships with community-based organizations, arts schools, and not-for-profits working with young artists across the United States to increase, strengthen, and diversify the undergraduate application pool.