Feature Story

A different kind of Hollywood creative

by Mary Gorges

women in hollywood tech

Coming soon to a theater near you: Business in Hollywood driven as much by tech savvy thinking as by old-line acting, directing and producing.

Ginny Davis, CIO, CSO at Technicolor. Michelle Munson, President, CEO and co-founder of Aspera. Wendy Aylsworth, President of Walden Pond Consulting (formerly at Warner Bros. and Disney). Darcy Antonellis, CEO of Vubiquity. 

The four women pictured here share a special kinship of bringing old-fashioned technical know-how to an industry known more for creativity and story telling. In April, the four came together at the National Association of Broadcasters conference in Las Vegas for a panel called “Women in Technology Hollywood – Cloud and a Changing World”.

Indeed, entertainment today is a changing industry – moving from the old creative silos of Hollywood to decisions driven by technology and data. Automated business processes, real-time supply chains and multi-platform monetization engines are already delivering Hollywood’s stories to a growing global audience. The four trans-media technologists below are helping to create a valuable and direct connection between the creator, the enterprise and data.

Ginny Davis, CIO, CSO at Technicolor

Ginny Davis’ career path to Technicolor was hardly black and white. Davis started her career by working as a computer operator at a bank in her home state of Michigan, followed by a four-year stint at consulting firm McKesson, before being recruited by Technicolor. She is now its CIO and Chief Security Officer.

See also: Incident response goes to Hollywood

Filling both roles, Davis’s job underscores the importance of security issues for entertainment companies, for everything from data breaches to piracy of movies. But while technology can create challenges, Davis says it allows filmmakers to do more than ever.

Says Davis, “What really excites me is how the cloud is giving us the ability to store more and more data. We now have that extra shot to do a flash back and can have the storytellers do more takes. Even a year ago, we wouldn’t have had that opportunity. This has been a huge leap forward.”

Michelle Munson, President, CEO and co-founder of Aspera

Michelle Munson was a software engineer in research and startup companies, including the IBM Almaden Research Center, before co-founding the software company Aspera 12 years ago. Aspera’s software enables high-speed data transfer (which in Hollywood, can mean huge, compressed data files of video, sound and visual effects).

“A big challenge, and opportunity, today is using algorithms for search, but the problem is getting the data processed fast enough to scale. While the area of artificial intelligence (AI) is of high interest to attack these problems, it’s still a challenge to process all the data.”

When asked about the pressure of being a woman - in science - in Hollywood, Munson says, “(For men and women), there’s a funny tension between management and creative innovation which must be balanced to be successful. You need to have great innovators who can lead companies. If one only innovates and there’s no leadership, nothing scales.”

Wendy Aylsworth, President of Walden Pond Consulting (formerly at Warner Bros. and Disney)

Wendy Aylsworth brought years of experience to her Hollywood jobs at Warner Bros. and Disney – 15 years in aerospace. Aylsworth started at Lockheed working on anti-submarine warfare then moved to Honeywell to work on simulators and training devices. She then literally moved down the road in Los Angeles to Disney, and then to Warner Bros.

See also: The virtual reality revolution

As she tells it, she didn’t see it coming. "Coming out of engineering, you just don’t think of Hollywood. A friend at Disney called me about a job. For me, the move worked well because I’m more of a communicator. When I first got out of engineering, I worried if I’d like the career. I thought it could be boring. But then I realized companies need a good communicator to express technology language to people who aren’t technical. I learned I didn't have to be trapped in a computer room.”

Aylsworth now runs her own company called Walden Pond Consulting. She has undergraduate degrees in computer science and electrical engineering as well as an MBA.

Darcy Antonellis, CEO of Vubiquity

Darcy Antonellis is CEO of Vubiquity, a global provider of premium content, managed services and technical solutions. Prior to Vubiquity, she was President of Technical Operations and CTO at Warner Bros. Entertainment, and prior to that, worked for CBS News including stints in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait during the Gulf War.

Antonellis says a radical shift happening today is companies founded in Silicon Valley are forming extensive media roots in LA. “At one time, there was a serious divide between Silicon Valley and Hollywood, but good business and the desire to succeed spawned a number of relationships between north and south.”

As the divide between media and technology blurs as well, these women will be at the forefront of helping to drive the shift to more technology-driven models, collaborating daily with their corporate customers to imagine, design and build the visual entertainment business of tomorrow.

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