2016 Gala Honorees

Women in Film & Television Atlanta (WIFTA) announces the final slate of honorees for its 2016 Annual WIFTA Gala.  Walt Disney Studios’ Vice President of Film and Television Production Planning MaryAnn Hughes, Georgia Office for Film, Television and Digital Entertainment Deputy Commissioner Lee Thomas, Turner Entertainment Networks’ Vice President of Content Acquisition Valerie Meraz, The Vampire Diaries’ Line Producer Trish Stanard and Actress/Stuntwoman Jwaundace “JC” Candece will be recognized for their contributions to building a strong, diverse film industry within the state of Georgia

These talented and accomplished women will be recognized at the “Gatsby”-themed event, which will take place on Friday, November 11, 2016 at the Wimbish House in midtown Atlanta. The event honors those whose talent and services have made a significant impact on the industry and celebrates the women in film and television of Atlanta.

maryann-hughes-smMaryAnn Hughes will be honored with WIFTA’s Outstanding Contribution Award for her leadership, professionalism, and her commitment to bringing many of Disney’s top projects to Georgia.

MaryAnn Hughes is a 28 year veteran with Disney.  She has held a number of positions during her tenure at Disney ranging from a Senior Tax Analyst to Vice President, Film and Television Production Planning.

As a result of the growth and focus on production incentives and film finance opportunities, MaryAnn transferred from Corporate Tax to the Studio Finance Group in 2006 as Vice President, Film and Television Production Planning.  She now devotes 100% of her time looking for opportunities to reduce production costs through film and television production incentives and structured film financing deals.  She supports Disney’s feature film groups (Walt Disney Pictures, Lucas Films and Marvel) as well as Disney’s television groups (ABC Studios and ABC Cable Network).

lee-thomas-smLee Thomas will receive the Georgian Award for her tireless devotion and success in attracting top-level film productions to the state and creating jobs for skilled Georgians.

Lee Thomas is a Deputy Commissioner at the Georgia Department of Economic Development, and division director of the Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Office. A native Atlantan, Lee received a Bachelor of the Arts in Radio -TV-Film from UGA, and returned to Atlanta to earn Master’s Degree in Film Studies from Georgia State University. In 1992, she entered the Tisch School of the Arts Doctoral Program in Cinema Studies at New York University, then began a job at the Brooklyn Arts Council. She returned to Atlanta in 1996 to work for the Georgia Film and Videotape Office as a project manager, and then became a location specialist for the office in 1998. After finding locations for film and television projects for 12 years, Lee became director of the film division in 2010. Films that Lee has worked with include “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” “The Blind Side,” “Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil,” “Footloose,” “Fast 5,” “The Conspirator,” and “Zombieland.”

valerie-meraz-cropWIFTA is proud to present the inaugural Power BrokHer Award to Valerie Meraz.

Valerie Meraz is vice president of content acquisitions for Turner’s entertainment networks. She negotiates deals for films and off-network television series for use on TNT, tbs, Turner Classic Movies and truTV, as well as Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and Boomerang. The content she and her colleagues acquire supports original programming and re-branding efforts for both TNT and tbs, and currently accounts for approximately 90% of the programming on those networks.

Valerie recently negotiated deals for rights on major Warner Brothers releases including The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies, the NBC series Brooklyn Nine-Nine, an output deal for Marvel films including Avengers: Age of Ultron, and current films in the Hunger Games and Divergent franchises. This summer her team closed a deal to make TNT & tbs the basic cable home for the entire Star Wars franchise, which includes 6 classic films and the newest films in the franchise beginning with Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

Meraz joined Turner after serving as vice president of content acquisitions for Showtime Networks, Inc., where she oversaw the evaluation and acquisition of content for Showtime, The Movie Channel, and Flix (including on-demand and digital platforms). While at Showtime, Meraz negotiated deals for the acquisition of feature films, documentaries, short films, acquired series, and stand-up comedy specials.

Prior to joining Showtime in 2000, Valerie worked in feature film development at Disney’s Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group.  She began her career at 20th Century Fox in the exhibitor services group as a sales trainee and was soon promoted to a position in international theatrical promotions where she helped develop media and retail promotions for such films as TitanicThe Full Monty and Romeo + Juliet.

A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Valerie holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from the University of California, Los Angeles and a master’s degree in motion picture producing from the Peter Stark Producing Program at the University of Southern California.


Another talented woman who plays a leading role on the production side of episodic television will be presented with  A Woman to Watch Award –Production  Trish Stanard.  A film and television industry veteran with more than 20 years of production experience, Trish Stanard serves as the line producer on the hit Warner Bros. Television/The CW drama series The Vampire Diaries, which is currently in the midst of its eighth and final season. She joined the series at its inception and has helped start the careers of dozens of production assistants (PA), developing their talent and mentoring them into larger roles in the industry.

Since its inception in 2015, Stanard has been a member of the selection committee for the Sarah Jones Film Foundation and Scholarship Opportunity, an annual internship and job training program in television production dedicated to the memory of the late camera assistant Sarah Jones.

Stanard began her entertainment career as an on-set PA on location in Seattle during the production of the theatrical motion picture Practical Magic. She subsequently worked as an assistant director (AD) on 3:10 to Yuma, Employee of the Month and Green Lantern, among other films.

A graduate of UCLA with a bachelor of arts degree in anthropology, Stanard calls Los Angeles her hometown. She currently resides in Atlanta, where The Vampire Diaries is produced, and where she is a passionate supporter of PAWS Atlanta, a no-kill, not-for-profit animal welfare organization founded in 1966.


In addition, WIFTA’ will recognize Jwaundace “JC” Candece veteran stuntwoman and actor as A Woman to Watch on the other side of the camera. Jwaundace has been working in the film and television industry for over 15 years. She began her career when she secured a spot on the TV show, Women of Wrestling (WOW) becoming a household name in the wrestling field under the name Delta Lotta Pain — one of the members of the notorious trio “Caged Heat” who dominated the ring along with sidekicks, Loca and Vendetta, becoming WOW’s first Tag Team Champions in 2001.

Recognition for her talents in wrestling got her the spot as Queen Latifah’s stunt double, in “Bringing Down the House.” That fight scene was nominated for an MTV Movie Award for “Best Fight.” From there, Queen Latifah requested her to perform her stunts in “Scary Movie 3”, “Taxi”, “Last Holiday”, and “Bessie”. Jwaundace has also doubled for Academy Award winners in their movies — Mo’Nique (“Precious”), Jennifer Hudson (“DreamGirls”), Whoopi Goldberg (“The Cleaner”) and Emmy Winner Viola Davis (“The Help”, “Won’t Back Down”, “Beautiful Creatures” ,“Lila and Eve” and “Blackhat” ), Taraji P. Henson in “No Good Deed” and Oprah Winfrey in “Selma”, and other top entertainers such Tyra Banks, Patricia Belcher, Gabrielle Union, Hayley Marie Norman and Kym Whitley.

Her work now focuses on expanding her career as an actress while still continuing to perform her loves of stunts. She can be seen in 21st Century Fox’s “Let’s Be Cops” feature, BET’s “Let’s Stay Together”, Cinemax’s “Banshee” and had a recurring role in ABC’s “Resurrection”. She will also be in the upcoming “Barbershop 3”, a role in Lee Daniels pilot, “Star”, in IFC’s new horror comedy “Stan Against Evil” and in a thriller starring Nicolas Cage called “Vengeance: A Love Story”. She is currently filming for “Naked”, a comedy starring Marlon Wayans in Charleston.

“We are so excited and proud to honor these women who have each been champions of women in film in Atlanta,” said Cheryl Jenkins, WIFTA President.  “They exemplify the WIFTA mission of advancing the portrayal of women in the industry.  We look forward to celebrating their achievements.”


For sponsorship information: executivedirector@wifta.org

Web Series – Apply as Mentor or Mentee


WIFTA is doing something new! This year through the mentorship program, we are partnering with Kiss the Limit Productions, Inc., to develop and produce a narrative web series about the epidemic of sex trafficking in Atlanta. The web series will provide experienced creators/mentors an opportunity to expand their portfolios while giving mentees a chance to work alongside professionals in the field.


The crew call for the following positions is now open:

  • Writers
  • Director
  • Producers
  • Line Producers/Production Manager
  • Production Coordinators
  •  Production Assistants
  • Camera Operators
  • Assistant Camera Operators,
  • Audio Mixers
  • Grips
  • Gaffers/Electricians
  • Hair/Makeup
  • Wardrobe
  • Production Designers

To apply:

– Send your resume & cover letter to webseries@WIFTA.org

– Put “Web Series” in the subject line.

* * * * * * * * *


Mentorship opportunities are now available. Areas in which mentorships are available are:

Writing, Directing, Producing, Cinematography (DP), Art Department, Hair/Makeup, and Wardrobe

To apply:

– Send your resume & cover letter to webseries@WIFTA.org. In the letter, briefly explain (1) why you want to be a mentor to an industry professional, (2) how this position will benefit you and (3) how your experiences can impact the video.

– Put “Web Series” – [Specific Mentee Area]” in the subject line.

NOTE: You must be an active WIFTA member to participate as a crew member or to be a mentor.

DEADLINE: October 14, 2016

Oct 6th – WIFTA Mixer

Meet new collaborators, catch up with familiar faces, build better relationships.  The WIFTA Mixer is good for all of that and more.  See you there!

Fado Midtown – 933 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta, GA 30309

Thursday, Oct. 6th, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

Sept. Meeting – Understanding Your SAG-AFTRA Contracts

Melissa Goodman, SAG-AFTRA                 Cheryl Jenkins, WIFTA president                keisha-perry

          Melissa Goodman                                 Cheryl Jenkins                                   Keisha R. Perry Walker

A good producer knows knowledge is power when it comes to Understanding Your Union Contracts so we continue this topic at our September meeting.  Entertainment attorney Keisha R. Perry Walker, Esq.,  production accountant Cheryl Jenkins and Melissa Goodman, Executive Director of SAG-AFTRA, will take you through the contracts covering professional actors on everything from audio-books to big budget feature films, pre-production through post.  Above-the-line and below-the-line both will want to learn this important information.

Wednesday, Sept. 28th, 7:00 – 9:30 p.m.


Hosted by:


   750 Ralph McGill Blvd. Atlanta, GA 30312

Meet Legal Clinic Panelist – Liz Wheeler, Uptv

Panel – Intellectual Property & Other Proprietary Rights in the Digital Age:  Best Practices and Creative Approaches

Liz Wheeler

Bio: Liz Wheeler is an attorney at UP Entertainment, LLC who is primarily responsible for supporting the development and production of original scripted series and the licensing of content for the UP and ASPiRE networks. In addition, she works extensively with the network’s digital and marketing teams, and handles litigation matters and UP’s domestic and international trademark portfolio. Previously counsel at Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., Liz began her legal career as an associate with The Moore Firm, LLC, an Atlanta-based entertainment and intellectual property boutique, counseling clients on general copyright and trademark matters, as well as recording contracts, literary publishing agreements, film and television production deals, consignment and commission agreements for visual artists, and pre-publication clearance.

Andrew Pequignotpequignot

Andrew Pequignot is a member of The Moore Firm, LLC, an entertainment and intellectual property boutique firm in Atlanta, Georgia, where he focuses his practice on copyright, trademark, and entertainment matters. He has litigation, transactional, and counseling experience in diverse areas, including fair use and the First Amendment. He is a frequent writer and speaker and has lectured at Emory University and Georgia State University. He served on the committee that drafted the pattern jury instructions for copyright cases in the Eleventh Circuit and currently is on the editorial board of the Journal of The Copyright Society of the U.S.A. (“CSUSA”). He also formerly co-chaired the Southeast Chapter of CSUSA and chaired the copyright committee of the IP Section of the State Bar of Georgia. He has been recognized as a “Rising Star” in Intellectual Property by Super Lawyers magazine each year since 2012. Before joining The Moore Firm, LLC, Andrew was an attorney with the law firm Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP.

Publications and Speaking Engagements

  • Copyright/Entertainment Case Law Update, 27th Annual North American Entertainment, Sports and IP Law Summit, November 14, 2015
  • Appropriation Art, Art Papers event, November 5, 2015
  • Blurred Lines of Copyright, A3C Festival, October 9, 2015 Copyright Law Update, Atlanta Bar IP SpringPosium, April 10, 2015
  • Fair Use in Music: Sampling, Rights Clearance and More, Journal of Intellectual Property Law Music and Technology Conference, March 27, 2015
  • Visual Works and the Elusive Exclusive Right to Display, CSUSA Mid-Winter Meeting, February 13, 2015
  • Aftermath of the GSU Decision: Practical Realities, Possible Future Impacts, ASERL Fall Membership Meeting, November 19, 2014
  • Copyright/Entertainment Case Law Update, 26th Annual North American Entertainment, Sports and IP Law Summit, November 15, 2014
  • Oracle v. Google: Copyright and APIs, Association of Corporate Counsel Legal Quick Hit, October 8, 2014
  • Cartoon Network, Aereo, and the Public Performance Right, In-House Presentation, July 10, 2014
  • Ct. Resolves ‘Raging’ Debate Over the Use of the Laches Defense, Intellectual Property Strategist, July 1, 2014
  • Practicing Copyright Law In-House: An Insider’s Perspective, IP Section of the Georgia Bar and SE Chapter of CSUSA, April 30, 2014
  • Music Licensing, In-House Presentation, April 15, 2014
  • The Evolution of Fair Use and the Transformative Use Doctrine, Association of Corporate Counsel Legal Quick Hit, April 9, 2014
  • A Tale of Two Consent Decrees: Can Music Publishers (Safely) Partially Withdraw from ASCAP and BMI to Directly License Digital Services?, CSUSA Mid-Winter Meeting, February 8, 2014
  • Best Practices for Intellectual Property Licensing: Addressing the Rights Granted and Assets Covered in Patent, Copyright, Trade Secret, and Trademark Licenses, Association of Corporate Counsel, August 16, 2013
  • DMCA Update, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP, June 6, 2013
  • The Digital Millennium Copyright Act and Implications of the New Six Strikes Anti-Piracy Program, State Bar of Georgia, May 29, 2013
  • Appropriation Art, Fair Use, and the Intersection of the First Amendment and the U.S. Copyright Act, Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation, May 3, 2013
  • Supreme Court’s Kirtsaeng Decision Fuels ‘First Sale’ Debate, Intellectual Property Strategist, May 1, 2013
  • Internet and Social Media Issues, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP, October 25, 2012
  • Copyright Law for Trademark Lawyers: U.S. Copyright Protection for Logos Packaging and Products, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP, April 2, 2012
  • The End of the Road: Terminations of Transfer Under the U.S. Copyright Act, IP Section of the Georgia Bar, March 9, 2012
  • How Social Media Tools Enable Companies to Enhance the User Experience and Improve their Brand, Technology Association of Georgia Entertainment, February 22, 2012
  • Internet Issues (Trademark & Copyright), Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP, January 18, 2012
  • Digital Music Locker in Safe Harbour?, IP Update: Preferred Firms, December 1, 2011
  • Media Digital Distribution Issues, Entertainment, Sports & Intellectual Property Law Conference, November 12, 2011
  • Copyright Issues for Bloggers, In-House Presentation, October 27, 2011
  • Online Publication Subjects Foreign Author to U.S. Copyright Registration Requirement, Cyberspace Lawyer, July 1, 2011
  • How Three Strikes Is Working, Managing IP Magazine, May 3, 2011
  • The Impact of Offers of Judgment in Copyright Cases, ABA Intellectual Property Litigation Newsletter, May 1, 2011
  • Copyright Termination: Canary in a Coal Mine or Much Ado About Nothing, Entertainment Law Basics Boot Camp, March 29, 2011
  • Music Licensing in a Digital World: Recent Rate Proceedings and the Controversy Over License vs. Sale, 8th Annual Entertainment Law Institute, November 19, 2010
  • S. Copyright Protection for Logos, Packaging and Products, Intellectual Property Magazine, October 1, 2010
  • Advanced Copyright Topics, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP, April 15, 2010
  • Preview This: Music Licensing in a Mobile World, 7th Annual Entertainment Law Institute, October 30, 2009
  • Actionable Trademark Infringement, The Intellectual Property Strategist, September 1, 2009
  • Online Copyright Issues for Websites Offering User-Generated Content, Intellectual Property Desk Reference, January 1, 2009
  • Copyright Questions and Answers, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP Intellectual Property Desk Reference, January 1, 2009
  • Harry Potter Decision Provides Guidance on Fair Use, The Intellectual Property Strategist, December 1, 2008
  • What You Can (and Can’t) Do to Protect Your Logo, Sports Law Half Day Seminar, May 14, 2008
  • Mix It Up: The Briggs Case, Preemption and the DJ Drama, 6th Annual Entertainment Law Institute, September 21, 2007
  • From Ringtones to Downloads, Copyright World, June 1, 2007
  • A Question of Cost: Recent Decisions on the Copyright Act, Copyright World, May 3, 2007
  • Valid and Correct: A Recent US Case Which Challenged the Validity of a Statute, Copyright World, March 1, 2007
  • Professional & Community Activities Eleventh Circuit Pattern Jury Instructions for Copyright Cases, Drafting Committee (2011-2012)
  • State Bar of Georgia, Intellectual Property Law Section, Chair of Copyright Committee (20122014)
  • Copyright Society of the U.S.A., Southeast Chapter, Co-Chair (2011-2015)
  • Journal of the Copyright Society of the U.S.A., Editorial Board (2013-2015)
  • Bleckley Inn of Court, Barrister (2012-2014)


  • Georgia State University, College of Law, J.D. (2006)
  • Georgia State University, J. Mack Robinson College of Business, M.B.A. (2006)
  • Tennessee Technological University, College of Engineering, B.S., Mechanical Engineering (2000)

Bar Admission:  Georgia

Court Admissions:

  • S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
  • S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
  • S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia
  • Georgia Supreme Court
  • Georgia Court of Appeals
  • Superior Court of Fulton County

WIFTA Legal Clinic – This Saturday 9/24


Women, men, film/content makers, students, professionals, attorneys, financiers – everyone is welcome to attend the day packed with useful information!

While much of the fun, fantasy and entertainment in film, television and digital media is based on creativity, the framework that holds projects together and makes them successful is based on LEGAL and FINANCIAL guidelines.  WIFTA gives you access to the best minds in law, negotiation and financing in our weekend Legal Clinic.

  • Day 1 features an expansive keynote address by John Cones, the nation’s preeminent authority in film financing. In addition, three panels of leading lawyers and business experts will cover topics of interest to anyone seriously pursuing success in the industry.
  • Day 2 is a chance for WIFTA members to get their pre-submitted questions answered by highly qualified lawyers in free 30 minute one-on-one sessions. More