Chaz Ebert and Nate Kohn during a reception at Grady College in February 2014. Ebert and Kohn will co-host a virtual Ebert Symposium discussion debuting on Oct. 8 about the current state of the film industry. (Photo: Sarah E. Freeman)

Nate Kohn co-hosts virtual Ebert Symposium discussion about the film industry during COVID-19 and social justice reform

Nate Kohn, professor in the Department of Entertainment and Media Studies at Grady College, will co-host the first discussion of the Ebert Symposium on Oct. 8, talking about how the film industry is facing new realities because of COVID-19 and the recent focus in social justice reform.

Kohn also directs Roger Ebert’s Film Festival.

The Symposium brings together esteemed filmmakers, studio executives, media luminaries, entertainment attorneys and academics to contextualize the media’s change amid the backdrop of a global pandemic, social unrest over the killings of Black Americans by police and efforts to dismantle systemic racism in the United States.

“The entertainment industry is at an inflection point,” said Kohn, who also teaches in the new MFA in Film, Television and Digital Media program at UGA. “How will the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement change how we make and see movies? It feels as if things will never be the same, even after the pandemic ends. Is that feeling valid? We hope to find out.”

The first session, which was pre-recorded so video and stills could be added to enhance the discussion, will be streamed Oct. 8 on both the Ebertfest YouTube channel and Facebook page at 6 p.m. EST.

In addition to Kohn, the discussion will be co-hosted by Chaz Ebert, CEO of Ebert Digital and publisher of the film review website

“Roger was always curious about change and experimented early with new technologies, embracing most of them, helping to shape his world view,” Kohn said of the film critic who died in 2013. “We are privileged to be able to deploy his wisdom to engage contemporary challenges.”=

The series premiere, “Movies in a Time of Change,” will examine production challenges, the impact of cinemas closing, how movies get made, our stories and who gets to tell them, how films are exhibited and the push for more inclusion and equitable representation.

Panelists will include:

  • Melissa Haizlip, writer and producer, (“Mr. SOUL!”)
  • Malcolm Lee, director, producer and screenwriter (“Girls Trip,” “The Best Man”)
  • Mary Mazzio, founder and CEO of 50 Eggs Inc., an independent film production company dedicated to making socially impactful films (“I AM JANE DOE and “A Most Beautiful Thing”)
  • Christine Swanson, writer and director of award-winning film and TV shows (“Chicago PD”; “The Clark Sisters: The First Ladies of Gospel”)
  • Michael Barker, co-founder and co-president, Sony Pictures Classics
  • Neil Block, head of distribution and marketing with Magnolia Pictures
  • Darrien Michele Gipson, executive director of SAGindie, which connects actors with independent filmmakers
  • Nina Shaw, and entertainment lawyer

The symposium is produced by University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, College of Media.

Part two of the Symposium is Oct. 22 and will look at “Documentary Film and Social Change.” The series concludes Nov. 5 with “Representation in Media,” a look at the biases that creep into film portrayals of people from certain communities, the importance of balanced representation and the need to challenge stereotypes and eliminate bias.

Roger Ebert’s Film Festival is an annual event celebrating films that haven’t received the recognition they deserved during their original runs and remembering the life and work of Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic, Roger Ebert.



Date: October 6, 2020
Author:  Sarah Freeman,