is the founder of the Change Making Media Lab, as well as an international and Emmy award-winning director, writer, and producer of feature films, documentaries, and television and a tenured professor at the School of Cinematic Arts at USC. During his work as the director and producer on the award winning 10-part series Freedom Files which focused on contemporary civil liberty issues and critical citizen-led campaigns, Mr. Kagan gained a deeper appreciation for the important role of citizen-based and grassroots movements in affecting social change. He was also able to experiment with a variety of cinematic elements and techniques in an effort to increase viewer awareness and action. Inspired by this formative experience, his vision for CMML emerged. In 2008, Mr. Kagan began to actively pursue this vision formalizing CMML as a sponsored entity within the legal and physical structures of the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Since then CMML has been involved in research and production of numerous social relevant media.
Some of Professor Kagan’s feature credits include the box-office hits HEROES, the political thriller THE BIG FIX, THE CHOSEN (2 time Grand Prize winner) from Chaim Potok’s classic novel, and THE JOURNEY OF NATTY GANN (first U.S. film to win a Gold Prize at the Moscow Film Festival). Among his many television shows are KATHERINE: the Making of an American Revolutionary and HBO’s CONSPIRACY: THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 8 (ACE Award for Best Dramatic Special). His film ROSWELL, THE UFO CONSPIRACY garnered a Golden Globe nomination and he directed the pilot for the hit series DR. QUINN: MEDICINE WOMAN. Other television films include DESCENDING ANGEL for HBO about former Nazi criminals disguising themselves in the US and for Showtime COLOR OF JUSTICE about racism. Mr. Kagan has won an EMMY for Dramatic Series Directing and directed “West Wing” and Spielberg’s “Taken.” His movie BOBBIE’S GIRL about a lesbian couple was one of the highest rated films on Showtime and CROWN HEIGHTS won the Humanitas Award for “affirming the dignity of every person.” This film also received an NACCP Award and the Directors Guild Nomination for best family film. His latest “hybrid” movie was GOLDA’S BALCONY shot all against green screen. He has made short films about threats to civil liberties covering issues from the Supreme Court, and the Patriot Act, to Dissent, Gay and Lesbian Rights, and the racial profiling. He has also created videos for The Doe Fund which is the most successful program in America helping the homeless and for The Bioneers which organizes leaders in ecology and social justice. Professor Kagan has served as the Artistic Director of Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute and has been on the National Board of the Directors Guild and is Chairperson of its Special Projects that provides cultural and technological information for the 15,000 members. His books DIRECTORS CLOSE UP are published by Scarecrow Press. He is a Graduate Fellow of the American Film Institute, and has an M.F.A. from NYU and a B.A. from Harvard University. He has taught master seminars on filmmaking in Hong Kong, Hamburg, Jerusalem, Hanoi, France, Lebanon, Ireland and India.
Dave O’Brien has produced hundreds of social-media campaigns and documentary and fiction feature films.
IN THE MOMENT, the innovative HIV prevention transmedia campaign Dave created with LA Gay & Lesbian Center and the City of West Hollywood was honored with the Paul Starke Warrior Award for work in HIV prevention. His feature documentary, EQUALITY U received the OutstandingEmerging Talent award at Outfest as well as several Best Documentary and Best Feature awards, was broadcast nationally on Logo TV and is available on DVD and streaming. He produced the indie feature THE MAN WHO SHOOK THE HAND OF VICENTE FERNANDEZ, starring Academy-Award winner Ernest Borgnine as a man who overcomes his deep seated racism and comes to value his own life and is about to start pre-production on SHOT, an indie feature addressing gun violence to be directed by Emmy-Winner Jeremy Kagan.
O’Brien teaches producing at University of Southern California where he is Associate Director of their Change Making Media Lab, producing cinematic content to study social and health behavior change. In a recent collaboration with the Keck School of Medicine and Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at USC, O’Brien produced two shorts comparing narrative storytelling to an informational, non-narrative approach. The films were designed to encourage behavior change around cervical cancer prevention and HPV vaccine promotion. The National Cancer Institute funded study was recently honored with the 2013 APHA Public Health Education and Health Promotion Multi-Media Materials Award.
CMML Advisory Council:
- Ed Zwick, Award winning producer/director (Glory, Traffic)
- Thomas Schlamme, Co-executive producer and director of The West Wing
- Kenny Ausubel, Founder and Co-President of Bioneers
- Steve Anderson, Professor at USC Institute for Multimedia
- John Raatz, Founder and CEO of The Visionary Group and Gate
- Kim Spencer, CEO of Link TV
- Doe Mayer, teacher, filmmaker, USC Pickford Chair
- Paul Stekler, Emmy award winning documentarian and public affairs professor at the University of Texas
- Michael Renov, Professor and Associate Dean of USC School of Cinematic Arts
- Nancy Lutkehaus, Chair of Anthropology at USC
- Belden Hull Daniels, CEO of Economic Innovation International, Inc.