Meet our Speakers

Senior VP, Feature Films, A+E Networks and Founder of A&E IndieFilms (Moderator)

Molly Thompson is the founder and head of A&E IndieFilms, the feature documentary production arm of A+E Networks. With nearly three decades in the film and television industry under her belt, Thompson has led the company with a hands-on, conscientious approach to production, working side by side with some of today’s most celebrated documentary filmmakers to gain unprecedented access to subjects and tell remarkable, daring stories.

Since the inception of A&E IndieFilms in 2005, Thompson has played a central role in helping the company build a prestigious track record with commercial audiences, major film festivals and critics awards alike. Her track record at A&E IndieFilms includes several guild awards, Emmy nominations and wins, and multiple-category Sundance wins, as well as an impressive four Academy Award® nominations for Roger Ross Willams’ Life, Animated, Matthew Heineman’s Cartel Land, Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro’s Murderball, and Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s Jesus Camp. Other acclaimed A&E IndieFilms titles include Amir Bar-Lev’s My Kid Could Paint That as well as his 2012 Emmy Award®-winning The Tillman Story; Alex Gibney’s 2011 PGA Award and DGA Award nominee Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer; and Bart Layton’s BAFTA Award-winning The Imposter.

Current A&E IndieFilms titles which Thompson executive produced include the critically-acclaimed City of Ghosts from Oscar nominated director Matthew Heineman (Cartel Land) and A Gray State, directed by Erik Nelson and executive produced by iconic filmmaker Werner Herzog.

Thompson also serves as executive producer on all feature films produced under the HISTORY Films banner, including Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Janet Tobias’ No Place on Earth and Errol Morris’ The Unknown Known: The Life and Times of Donald Rumsfeld.  Other HISTORY Films productions include Douglas Tirola’s Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon and the Johnny Knoxville-produced Being Evel, both of which premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. She has also executive produced two narrative features for Lifetime Films — 2015’s Lila & Eve, starring Viola Davis and Jennifer Lopez, and Paris Can Wait, starring Diane Lane and Alec Baldwin.

Filmmaker (Panelist)

Director Alex Gibney has been called “the most important documentarian of our time” (Esquire) and “one of America’s most successful and prolific documentary filmmakers” (The NY Times T Magazine).

Known for his cinematic, gripping, and deeply insightful documentaries, the filmmaker has won the Academy Award®, multiple Emmy Awards, the Grammy Award, several Peabody Awards, the DuPont-Columbia, The Independent Spirit, The Writers Guild of America Awards, and more. Gibney was honored with the International Documentary Association’s Career Achievement Award in 2013 and the first ever Christopher Hitchens Prize in 2015.

Films: Taxi to the Dark Side (2008 Oscar); Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (Oscar nominated 2006); Triple Emmy Award winning and Peabody Award Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God (HBO); Emmy winning The History of the Eagles (Showtime); and 2015 Peabody Award and Grammy nominated Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown; The Armstrong Lie (2013), which was short-listed for the 2014 Academy Award and nominated for the 2014 BAFTA Award, along with his film We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks (2013); Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer (2010), which was nominated for three Emmys.

Gibney’s Jigsaw Productions TV series: The New Yorker Presents, a series which brings to life the award-winning The New Yorker magazine: Cooked, a four part docu-series based on Michael Pollan’s book: Death Row Stories, a popular CNN series executive produced by Gibney and Robert Redford; Edge of Eighteen, a groundbreaking series for Al Jazeera America where Jigsaw mentored high school seniors as they filmed their lives on the brink of adulthood, and Parched, a four part investigative docu-series about the water crisis, which will aired on Nat Geo in early 2017. Jigsaw’s latest series Dirty Money – executive produced by Gibney – unveils corruption and scandal in some of the most influential companies and industries, will air on Netflix in January of 2018.

Gibney’s latest films include: the triple Emmy and Peabody award-winning Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, the most-watched HBO documentary in a decade; Sinatra: All or Nothing at All, a two-part special on legendary entertainer Frank Sinatra (HBO), Steve Jobs: The Man in The Machine, an evocative portrait that re-examines the legacy of Steve Jobs and our relationship with the computer; Zero Days which was released by Magnolia Pictures in July of 2016 and had its broadcast premiere on Showtime in November 2016 ; No Stone Unturned which premiered at the New York Film Festival in September of 2017; and HBO’s Rolling Stone: Stories from the Edge (2017), co-directed by Blair Foster.

Gibney is set to direct his first narrative feature film, The Action, for Lionsgate, based on Betty Medsger’s book “The Burglary: The Discovery of J Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI”. He is developing a drama series for HBO, with Laura Dern starring and executive producing, as well as a drama series based on his documentary Zero Days. He executive produced The Looming Tower, a drama series based on Lawrence Wright’s bestseller “The Looming Tower” that will air on Hulu in February 2018.

Director and Producer (Panelist)

Dawn Porter is an award-winning filmmaker documentary filmmaker whose work has appeared on HBO, PBS, Discovery, and Netflix among others.  Her most recent work is a four-part archive based documentary Bobby Kennedy for President, which airs on Netflix in 2018.

A two-time Sundance festival Director, her film Trapped exploring laws regulating abortion clinics in the South won a special jury social-impact prize at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, as well as a Peabody and numerous other awards.

Her 2013 documentary Gideon’s Army premiered on HBO and won awards Sundance and other festivals.  Gideon’s Army was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award and an Emmy, and is part of the U.S. Department of State’s American Film Showcase.

Dawn also directed and produced Spies of Mississippi, a critically-acclaimed historical documentary that was part of the Independent Lens series on PBS; Rise: The Promise of My Brother’s Keeper, a film for The Discovery Channel chronicling President Obama’s program to help young men of color succeed. She interviewed Obama for the film.

Dawn has been commissioned to create films for the Center for Investigative Reporting, Time and Essence Magazines, The New York Times Op Docs, and Amazon.  Her work has received generous support from the MacArthur Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Tribeca Film Institute, Sundance Film Institute, Chicken & Egg Pictures and other esteemed organizations. She is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Directors Guild of America.

Senior VP, Documentaries, Unscripted and Sports Programming, Showtime Networks Inc. (Panelist)

Vinnie Malhotra serves as Senior Vice President, Documentaries, Unscripted and Sports Programming for Showtime Networks Inc. An Emmy® and Peabody Award-winning executive, Malhotra oversees the development and production of the network’s growing slate of original unscripted and documentary programming, as well as all future documentary theatrical releases. As SHOWTIME has become a competitive player in the documentary world and a creative haven for award-winning filmmakers, Malhotra is charged with expanding the network’s ambitious documentary and docu-series slate.   Most recently, Malhotra has overseen the production of the network’s real-time documentary series, The Circus: Inside The Greatest Political Show on Earth and has been instrumental in bringing two critically-acclaimed documentaries, Weiner and Zero Days to the network, both of which will premiere in 2016.

Previously, Malhotra served as senior vice president for development and acquisitions at CNN Worldwide. He joined CNN in March 2012, where he was responsible for leading development and co-production opportunities for CNN’s platforms. In this role, he created and spearheaded the launch of CNN Films, a production unit created to produce and acquire documentary films, and to leverage distribution opportunities for those films at film festivals and in theaters. Malhotra managed the day-to-day operation of CNN Films, and worked directly with filmmakers to develop original projects. His efforts have led to successful partnerships with multiple award-winning filmmakers including Steve James and Alex Gibney, as well as the acquisition, co-production, or commission of more than two dozen films for broadcast on CNN and distribution via its digital platforms. Those films included Blackfish, Our Nixon, Life Itself, Ivory Tower, Dinosaur 13, Whitey: The United States v. James J. Bulger, The Hunting Ground, Fresh Dressed, and STEVE JOBS: The Man in the Machine, among others.

Malhotra also handled the development and production of CNN original series, including the three time Primetime Emmy award-winning Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown, Morgan Spurlock: Inside ManThis is Life with Lisa Ling, High Profits, Finding Jesus, Somebody’s Gotta Do It with Mike Rowe, Chicagoland and Death Row Stories from Sundance Productions and Robert Redford, The Sixties and The Seventies, from Playtone and Tom Hanks, and the upcoming series, Race for the White House with Kevin Spacey. In 2015, Malhotra launched a partnership with CNN Digital Studios to acquire and stream documentary shorts. The premium short-form films were created by new and emerging filmmakers and acquired at prominent film festivals prior to streaming via the network’s digital platforms, including and CNNgo.

A former program development executive at ESPN and ABC News producer, Malhotra began his career with ABC News in 1997. There, he worked on several of the news organization’s signature programs including Nightline and World News Tonight, and served as a producer for Peter Jennings for three years. Malhotra later worked with co-anchors Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff and was part of the convoy in Iraq when Woodruff and a cameraman were hit by an IED in January 2006. He was uninjured. During his 13 years at ABC News, he covered major global events including the Iraq War and the inauguration of President Barack Obama. From 2007 to 2010, Malhotra was executive producer of ABC News’ weekend news content, including World News Saturday and World News Sunday, and oversaw the weekend editorial content and production for and ABC News Now, among other ABC News digital platforms.

In 2010, Malhotra joined ESPN as vice president and executive producer for content development.  In this position, he was responsible for the development of films that include Everything in Between: The Tim Tebow Story, The Color Orange, The Brady 6, and The Marinovich Project. He also developed scripted and non-scripted series for the network, and was part of the development team that created the new ESPN Quarterback rating “Total QBR” that is now being used in association with all NFL coverage on ESPN.

Malhotra has received numerous industry honors for excellence in journalism including three Primetime Emmy Awards, six News and Documentary Emmy Awards, a Peabody and an Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia Award.

Malhotra is based in the SHOWTIME offices in Los Angeles.

Partner, Endeavor Content (Panelist)

Liesl Copland is a Partner at Endeavor Content, where she oversees the non-fiction division while also focusing on corporate advisory work for  EC’s film fund investments and content fund clients. A 20-year entertainment industry veteran, Copland has worked in the specialty film sector for most of her career with the goal of broadening audience reach for purpose-driven and impactful stories and on democratizing distribution for unique, independently produced projects.

Prior to joining WME in 2008, Liesl acted as the Head of Red Envelope Entertainment, the former original content division of Netflix, where she oversaw the acquisition, marketing and distribution of close to 100 films a year during their three years in existence. She developed a reputation for successfully pioneering new distribution models and forging innovative partnerships with studios and mini-majors, boutique distribution labels and more non-traditional, new media-focused outlets.

Prior to Red Envelope, Liesl worked at New York-based film financing and sales consultancy firm Cinetic Media, where she concentrated primarily on film sales and the launch of their US ancillary business. Her previous entertainment industry experience includes years as an independent producer as well as posts at the Tribeca Film Festival and IFP. Before entering the film world, Copland worked in merchandising and design for Gap, Inc. and as an editor for Hearst Magazines.

Copland is a graduate of University of California, Berkeley with degrees in both English Literature and Art History.