SEP 9, 2019 1:45 PM
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Inclusion and diversity in the media industry will be the focus of the second annual Chaz and Roger Ebert Symposium, coming Sept. 27 to the University of Illinois campus.
The symposium, named in part for the late film critic Roger Ebert, will feature academics, journalists and media experts addressing the present and future of diversity in film, journalism, advertising and communication.
This year’s topic grew out of Ebert’s vision of movies as a tool for generating empathy among those of different genders, races, ages, classes or other circumstances. Fostering empathy “is the most noble thing that good movies can do,” he said.
The keynote speaker will be Stacy Smith, the founder and director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California, a global think tank studying inequality in entertainment. Smith’s research has examined inclusion connected with gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability across film, TV, digital platforms, the music industry and film criticism.
LA Weekly named Smith the most influential person in Los Angeles in 2015 and The Hollywood Reporter named her one of 50 Agents of Change in 2019. She discussed her research on women and girls in film in a 2016 TED Talk.
The symposium, titled “Creating an Inclusive Media and Cinema Ecosystem,” opens at 9 a.m. at the I-Hotel and Conference Center, 1900 S. First St., Champaign. The all-day event is free and open to the public, though online registration is highly encouraged to reserve a spot for select panel discussions.
The Ebert Symposium is a collaboration between the U. of I. College of Media and Chaz Ebert, Roger’s widow, who with him founded Roger Ebert’s Film Festival and established the endowment for the college’s Ebert Center. Chaz and Ebert Festival director Nate Kohn are the event’s organizers.
Participants in the day’s panel discussions (full bios here):
– Abrar Al-Heeti, a staff reporter for CNET’s culture team, as well as a Champaign native and Illinois journalism alumna.
– Janice Marie Collins, an Illinois professor of journalism.
– Allyson Nadia Field, a professor of cinema and media studies at the University of Chicago and interim director of its Karla Scherer Center for the Study of American Culture.
– Ben Holden, an Illinois professor of journalism.
– Cáel M. Keegan, a professor of women, gender and sexuality studies and of integrative, religious and intercultural studies at Grand Valley State University.
– Shazzia Khan, the global chief of staff and chief talent officer for Havas Health and You, a public relations and marketing company.
– Gordon Quinn, a documentary filmmaker and the artistic director and a founding member of Kartemquin Films.
– Ericka Riggs, the foundation and inclusion manager for the Advertising Club of New York.
– Samantha N. Sheppard, a professor of performing and media arts at Cornell University.
– Adrianne Smith, the founder of the Cannes Can: Diversity Collective, a non-profit created to address the lack of diversity in the advertising and marketing industries.
– Lincoln Stephens, founder of the Marcus Graham Project, an organization focused on bringing more diversity to the advertising industry.
Moderating the discussions will be Illinois professors Jason Chambers, advertising; Brian K. Johnson, journalism; and Julie Turnock, media and cinema studies.
The symposium also will feature a virtual reality headset demonstration during a midday break.
Roger Ebert, who died in 2013, was an Urbana native, U. of I. journalism alumnus, Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times and founder of RogerEbert.com. His namesake film festival, otherwise known as “Ebertfest,” comes to Champaign-Urbana every April.