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Working Above the Line: Biographies 2019

Deborah Aquila
After graduating from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and The Stella Adler Conservatory, Deborah Aquila worked on the first two seasons of Miami Vice and several feature films including Michael Mann's Man Hunter and The Pope of Greenwich Village, as an associate. Her independent casting director career began with Steven Soderbergh's Sex, Lies and Videotape and Uli Edel's The Last Exit to Brooklyn. Before moving to Los Angeles in 1993 to cast Frank Darabont's The Shawshank Redemption, Deborah had completed over 18 independent films in New York. In 1993, she was named Senior Vice-President of Features Casting for Paramount Pictures. The more notable films Deborah cast at Paramount were: Primal Fear, Mission Impossible Ii, Double Jeopardy, Varsity Blues, The Brady Bunch, Kiss the Girls, Mother and What Women Want. After departing Paramount Pictures in 1999, Deborah returned to the independent casting world with Sam Raimi's The Gift. Her most recent film credits include Ghostdraft, La La Land, Wonder, Stronger, Deep Water Horizon, Woman in Gold, Age of Adaline, and American Pastoral. Deborah’s most notable television credits include the critically acclaimed Showtime Series Dexter, FX’s The Shield, And TNT’s Mob City. Deborah is a proud member of the CSA and has been nominated eighteen times by the Casting Society of America, for their Artios Award, winning for the features Red, My Week with Marilyn, which honored Michelle Williams with an Oscar Nomination, and La La Land.  In 2003, Deborah was recognized by the Hollywood community with the Hollywood Film Festival Career Achievement Award. Deborah has been a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since 1994.

Steven Caple, Jr.
First-generation college graduate and Cleveland, Ohio native Steven Caple Jr. has quickly become one of Hollywood’s most sought-after filmmakers. Directing both film and television, his signature touch and artistic lens has landed him multiple directorial awards as well as a name on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2018. Most recently, Steven helmed Creed II starring Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone and Tessa Thompson. MGM released the feature in November 2018 and the film has grossed over $200 million at the worldwide box office to date. Upcoming, Steven is set to direct and produce Byall, written by Juel Taylor and Tony Rettenmaier. His debut feature film The Land premiered at Sundance 2016. Produced by Macro Ventures, Priority Pictures and Mass Appeal (Nas), the film was picked up by IFC Films and released theatrically in summer 2016. In staying true to his native Cleveland roots, his work in capturing the city’s vivacious spirit lead Cleveland Magazine to acknowledge Steven as one of Cleveland’s Most Interesting Persons in 2017 with “his push for honest and raw stories.” Previously, Steven directed multiple episodes of the Black-ish spinoff Grown-ish for Freeform, as well as the mini docu-series Rapture for Netflix. His short films have also won awards at the Director's Guild of America, NBC Shortcuts, American Black Film Festival, and more.  Furthering his pursuit of excellence, Steven also entered the world of commercial directing, collaborating with clients ranging from Google, Delta, to the NFL. With Steven’s passion for humanity at the forefront, he tackles issues beyond the camera lens and within his community. Steven co-founded Engage the Vision, a non-profit organization that mentors youth in his community and helps foster the new generation of creative minds.

Bronwyn Cornelius
Bronwyn Cornelius is a Sundance and SXSW award-winning producer, and ardent supporter of female content creators and diverse voices behind and in front of the camera.  Her independently produced features have screened at notable festivals around the world, receiving theatrical releases and critical acclaim.  She most recently developed and produced Clemency, starring Academy Award-nominated Alfre Woodard, which won the 2019 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize in the US Dramatic Feature competition. The film is being released theatrically by NEON in the US, and by Focus Features internationally. Bronwyn's other independently produced features include SXSW Jury Award-winner Made in China, LA-based immigrant drama Greencard Warriors, and Never Here.  She has also produced several socially-minded documentaries, as well as executive produced short film Distortion, which was chosen to be part of Joe Biden’s White House initiative "It’s On Us," as part of their campus outreach to stop sexual assault. She is currently developing a slate of film and television projects including a comedy series about the history of misogyny; a female-driven, satirical comedy series inspired by her time working on Wall Street (in conjunction with Ed Burns); a dating comedy series written by Kit Steinkellner (Sorry For Your Loss), and coming-of-age comedy feature The Bang Bang Girls, starring Rosa Salazar. Her other professional experience comprises several years on Wall Street as an institutional equities sales trader, and in global public relations and communications in Hong Kong, New York and Los Angeles. 

Terry Crews
Action-movie hero, sitcom star, advertising pitchman, playable video game character, high-end furniture designer, and human rights activist all describe the man that is Terry Crews. If it feels as if Terry is everywhere, that’s because he is: as the host of the #1 competition shows America’s Got Talent and America’s Got Talent: Champions on NBC, star of the Golden Globe-winning NBC series Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and the upcoming film John Henry and the animated Paramount feature, Rumble. Terry is also the face (and muscles) of Old Spice, a playable character in Microsoft’s Xbox One game “Crackdown 3”, and a force in the design and art world where his high-end furniture collection, in partnership with iconic Bernhardt Designs, has been picking up awards across the country. Terry was also named one of TIME Magazine’s “Person of the Year” as one of the “Silence Breakers,” speaking out against sexual harassment following the #MeToo movement. Terry’s no-holds-barred approach to working has made him a force to be reckoned with as his career continues to evolve.

Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith has been saying silly cinematic stuff since his first film Clerks, released way back in 1994. He had a heart attack and almost died last year but survived solely so he could direct his magnum opus, Jay and Silent Bob Reboot. A polygamist, he’s married to both his wife, Jen, and podcasting.

Virgil Williams
A veteran television writer and producer, Virgil Williams’ extensive credits include the ground-breaking dramas ER and 24, as well as Fox’s the Chicago Code and six seasons of CBS’s long-running procedural drama, Criminal Minds. In November of 2017, Virgil celebrated the release of his feature film debut, Mudbound. He also served as Executive Producer and originally adapted the script from the novel by Hilary Jordan. The critically acclaimed film was named the ‘Best Film of 2017’ by the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post and has earned numerous awards and accolades, including an Academy Award Nomination for Virgil and cowriter/director, Dee Rees for Best Adapted Screenplay. Currently, Virgil is developing two TV series. One with producers Courtney Kemp and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, for the Starz network inspired by the modern world of professional boxing. The other is alongside screenwriter, Billy Ray, Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment and the Mark Canton Company and it’s a modern retelling of the Kurosawa film Rashomon. On the big screen, Virgil’s adaptation’ of Pulitzer Prize Winner, Dana Candedy’s bestselling memoir, A Journal for Jordan, is set to be directed by Denzel Washington with Michael B. Jordan attached to star. Virgil was born and raised in Chicago, and his scripts often draw from his experiences growing up as a bi-racial kid in a city with a long history of racial tension. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California.

Moderator/Host: Mike Muse
Mike Muse a former Music Label Co-Founder, Pop Culture Expert, Political Expert, and Change Agent. By intersecting politics and pop culture, Mike uses his platform to create social change. As an industrial engineer turned media entrepreneur. Mike is host of SiriusXM’s award winning show, “The Mike Muse Show,” Co-host of “Sway in the Morning,” Co-Host of ABC previous talk show “Real Live,” now an ABC Contributor. He leverages his platform to show policy as lifestyle, the topic of his first of two TED Talks. As a guest lecturer on various topics dealing with the business of music and politics at Columbia University, Wharton School of Business, Clive Davis School of Recorded Music at New York University, and the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan to name a few; Mike enjoys helping shape discussion, debate, and future thought leaders. While serving as a member of President Barack Obama’s National Finance Committee, Mike was recognized as one of the youngest persons in America to raise over $1 million dollars for any American President in one year. Most recently he was appointed to serve as the Unites States Small Business Administration, My Brother’s Keeper, Millennial Entrepreneurial Champion-designed to support President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative. As well as the United States Small Business Administration Federal Commission for the Council of Underserved Communities as the Millennials in Business Representative. Mike is a Google NextGen Tech Policy Fellow, co-creator of the Careers in Film Summit with the Academy of Motion Picture Art and Sciences, appointed by New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio, to serve on the Board of Advisors for the Mayors Fund to Advance New York City and The Board of Visitors for Howard University School of Divinity, respectively through 2018. Black Millennial Convention awardee as a "Pioneer in Media and Politics, honoring the innovative concept of The Mike Muse Show." He is a Cadillac Trailblazer Award recipient, A North Star Social Justice Awardee, a Brightpoint Excellence in the Arts Honoree, a Network Journal 40 Under 40 awardee, Links Organization National Trends and Service Award recipient, and recipient of the 100 Black Men of America Achievement Award.