Dan Mirvish – Director, Co-Screenwriter, Producer
Dan is an award-winning director, screenwriter, producer and critically-acclaimed
author as well as being the co-founder of the Slamdance Film Festival.
In the feature film world, Mirvish directed, co-wrote and produced the real estate
musical Open House, starring Sally Kellerman and Anthony Rapp (The Weinstein
Company). The Academy Awards® literally rewrote their rules in response to
Mirvish’s controversial Oscar® campaign to revive the dormant Original Musical
category. In order for the Academy® to recognize the requisite number of films
eligible for the Original Musical category, Mirvish went so far as to write, produce
and shoot yet another feature musical, Half Empty which was shot in ten days in
Germany and France.
Mentored by Robert Altman, Mirvish wrote, directed and produced (with Dana
Altman) his first feature Omaha (The Movie) on 35mm for $38,0000. On the heels of
the Slamdance Film Festival – which Dan and Dana co-founded – the film went on to
play at over 30 other film festivals. Mirvish then self-distributed the film to 32 cities
in the U.S. – including an 11-week run at Laemmle’s Theaters in Los Angeles.
Mirvish found a unique way to distribute 350,000 units of the DVD by getting them
stuffed into every Pioneer DVD player sold in North America.
Mirvish made headlines around the world in 2008 as the co-creator (with Eitan
Gorlin) of the faux McCain adviser and pundit Martin Eisenstadt who was the self-
admitted leak for the story that Sarah Palin didn’t know Africa was a continent. In
the wake of the international publicity, Mirvish and Gorlin got a book deal from
Farrar, Straus, Giroux (Faber & Faber) and wrote the novel I Am Martin Eisenstadt:
One Man’s (Wildly Inappropriate) Adventures with the Last Republicans which
received rave reviews landing on The Washington Monthly’s list of the Top 8 Books
of the 2009. A quintessential “transmedia” project that started as a series of short
films, webisodes, blogs and tweets, the Eisenstadt character is currently being
developed as a TV series by Mirvish and Gorlin.
In the TV realm, Mirvish directed the controversial comedy, A Message from the
President of Iran which was broadcast on Al Gore’s CurrentTV. His short pilots
Sheldon and The Few & The Proud have screened at the Montreal Just for Laughs
Festival and the HBO Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen. Mirvish also consulted on the
Steven Spielberg Fox-TV show On the Lot, and on American Idol.
Mirvish remains actively involved with Slamdance, frequently serving as master of
ceremonies and mentor to the incoming crop of filmmakers each year. The festival
has served as a launching pad for such filmmakers as Christopher Nolan (The Dark
Knight, Inception), Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace), Jared Hess (Napoleon
Dynamite) and Oren Peli (Paranormal Activity).
Prior to getting an M.A. from USC’s graduate film production program, Mirvish was
a DC-based speech writer for U.S. Senator Tom Harkin and a freelance journalist
for such publications as The New York Times and The Washington Monthly. He’s
also written for such film magazines and books as Film Threat, Filmmaker, The
Independent Film & Video Monthly, British Savvy, and Chris Gore’s Ultimate Film
Festival Survival Guide. Mirvish wrote the introduction to Bret Stern’s How to Make
a Film for Under $10,000 and Not Go to Jail published by HarperCollins. Dan is
represented by both ICM (film & TV) and William Morris Endeavor (books). He
currently lives in Culver City, California, with his wife and three children.
Joe Hortua – Co-Screenwriter, Playwright
Joe Hortua is a successful playwright and television writer. Most recently, he was a
writer on the critically-acclaimed NBC drama Life and the CBS series Cane, starring
Jimmy Smits. Joe also wrote the dramatic series pilot for The CW Network and
Warner Brothers Television titled 11 Mercy Street, which is based on the south-
Boston upbringing of actor/performer Donnie Wahlberg.
In 2007, he wrote a pilot titled The Border for Paramount Television and Showtime,
about the mass migration of undocumented workers across the US/Mexico border.
Approaching the assignment as a reporter, he weaved his way through Arizona,
Southern California, and Sonora, Mexico, interviewing over 30 different sources,
including a Tucson coroner who rents refrigerated trucks to store the bodies of
migrants who die in the desert, a Mexican-American human trafficker, and the
former mayor of a Mexican desert town who detailed the way his neighbors make
livings in the migrant trade.
In 2005 Joe returned from Kevin Spacey’s Old Vic Theatre in London, where his play
World Thrown Tizzy was part of their New Voices Festival. This play was originally
commissioned by the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. It was further developed
in the summer of 2005 by the Sundance Institute, the Cape Cod Theatre Project and
the Hartford Stage New Works Festival. Kyra Sedgewick recently optioned his play
Burning for an upcoming New York City premiere.
In 2004, New York City’s Manhattan Theatre Club world-premiered his play
Between Us, which opened to rave reviews and noteworthy Off-Broadway attention.
New York magazine compared Hortua and his play to Harold Pinter and David
Mamet. The play was subsequently translated into Hebrew at the Be’er Theatre in
Israel and into Spanish at The Met Theatre in Los Angeles.
In 2002, he wrote for the Fox television series Septuplets, under show-runner
Michael Nankin. His first play, Making It, received its world premiere in 2002 at the
prestigious South Coast Repertory theatre after being developed at the Sundance
Institute’s Theatre Lab.
Born and raised in Chicago to a Colombian father and a Spanish mother, Joe was
the first member of his extended family to receive a college degree. At the
University of Iowa, Joe received a bachelor’s degree in Journalism. There, he met
the playwright Naomi Wallace (Lawn Dogs), who mentored and encouraged him to
pursue the theatre. He then moved to Europe and wrote a series of plays that
garnered him attention on both sides of the Atlantic and consequently entry to
NYU’s prestigious MFA program in playwriting and screenwriting. There he
studied under the wing of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner (Angels
in America, Munich) who chose Hortua as one of his Top 10 favorite young
playwrights in a New York Times article. Joe lives with his wife and two boys.
Hans Ritter – Producer (Los Angeles)
Hans has produced many films including the critically acclaimed Hard Candy
starring Ellen Page and Patrick Wilson and Mysterious Skin directed by Gregg
Araki, which was named one of the top 10 films of 2004 by A.O. Scott of the New
York Times. He also produced Araki’s next film Smiley Face with Anna Faris as well
as An American Crime, which also starred Ellen Page and garnered an Emmy
nomination for Katherine Keener. Hans went on to head the production arm of
First Look Studios before setting up shop at Stillwater Films to produce Larry
Clark’s latest, as yet untitled, film.
Barry Hennessey – Producer (Los Angeles)
3-time Emmy Winner Barry Hennessey has worked in both feature films and
television production since graduating the University of Southern California’s
School of Film Production in 1999. He has produced network series for ABC, CBS,
NBC, FOX, UPN, TLC, MTV, VH1 and ABC Family, totaling over 500 hours of
primetime programming. Barry has won his Primetime Emmy Awards for his
Producing on CBS’s The Amazing Race.
Along with his Television work, Barry has worked on every level of feature film
production. Starting out being mentored for famed directors Richard Donner
(Superman, The Omen, Lethal Weapon franchise) and Barry Levinson (Rain Man,
Good Morning Vietnam) as well as Producer Lauren Shuler-Donner (St. Elmos’s
Fire, Any Given Sunday, X-Men franchise) he eventually moved into line producing
by the age of 25. He went on to production manage and line produce numerous
feature films, including The Reckoning, Directed by Dustin Rikert and distributed by
Silverline Pictures. In 2004 Barry met Dan Mirvish and Line Produced Dan’s feature
film Open House.
Mike S. Ryan – Producer (New York)
Mike S. Ryan is an Independent Spirit “Producer of the Year Award” Nominee, one
of Variety’s 2007 “10 Producers to Watch” and an IFP advisory board member. His
films have garnered nominations and prizes from the Academy Awards,
Independent Spirit Awards, Gotham Awards and many more. Junebug made its
international premiere at Cannes in 2005 and went on to be the lowest-budgeted
feature film ever nominated for an Oscar (Best Supporting Actress, Amy Adams.)
Todd Solondz’s Life During Wartime premiered at the Venice, New York and
Toronto film festivals. Other credits include Todd Solondz’s Palindromes, Clark
Gregg’s Choke, Kelly Reichardt’s Old Joy (winner, Rotterdam International Film
Festival 2006) Ira Sach’s 40 Shades of Blue (winner, Sundance Film Festival 06), Hal
Hartley’s Fay Grim, starring Parker Posey and Jeff Goldblum; Lake City, starring
Sissy Spacek and Ilya Chaiken’s Liberty City.
Mike is a New York City native and NYU Tisch School of the Arts graduate with a
background as a location manager on films like Far from Heaven, The Ice Storm,
Meet Joe Black and Ride with the Devil – primarily working with legendary
independent producer Ted Hope.
Dana Altman – Producer (Omaha)
Grandson of legendary film director Robert Altman, Dana began his motion picture
career working on the set of Popeye in 1981. After graduating with a degree in
Television and Film production from Wayne State College, Altman moved to Los
Angeles where he began working with Propaganda Films and The Company in
music video production. Later moving to Universal Pictures, he worked for two
years as an assistant to the producer on Columbo. While vowing to continue
working in the field of entertainment, Altman left Hollywood and returned to
Omaha, Nebraska, to marry and raise a family in the Midwest. In the early 90s,
Dana collaborated with Dan Mirvish to produce the award-winning film Omaha (the
Altman is founder and chairman of North Sea Films, Inc., an entertainment
development production company now in its twentieth year of operations. North
Sea Films, Inc. has produced eight feature films, coordinated two network concert
specials and produced and directed numerous television spots for regional and
national clients. The company has also won many awards, producing two award-
winning half-hour dramas on AIDS and AIDS awareness in conjunction with the
Center for Disease Control (CDC). Altman served as executive producer for a PBS
television pilot and produced and directed David Crosby & CPR: Though the Music, a
90-minute Public Television program that aired in more than 90% of the country.
Altman is actively working on several features as well as tracking the national
theatrical release of his award winning film, Lovely, Still and is in pre-production on
Alison Buck – Casting Director Having lived in New Zealand, England and America – Alison spent a couple years in
commercial casting with Kris Nicolau, then felt the urge to move to the talent
management company, Bohemia Group, where she began to manage actors. It was
here where the casting bug bit her again. She was asked to cast the film Big Heart
City. Working with actors (and more than a few lines of dialogue), made her realize
that casting films was a whole new world and she wanted to be a part of it.
Since this realization, Alison has built up a diverse resume. She has cast both non-
union and union films, traditional format and new media, small and larger budget
films and she has a knack for being able to attach professional and skilled talent no
matter what the budget of a film. She only has one caveat – a passion for the script
she is casting and something that she can be proud of.