Meet Our 2015 Judges

Jessica Rotondi

Jessica loves creative, honest expressions of all kinds and genres, but has always had a special place in her heart for comedy. Since she was a young girl Jessica has always had an interest in writing, directing, and acting. She went to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts where she studied acting and directing for theater. After graduating she directed for several up and coming theater companies, including three plays in the NY Fringe Festival. Around that time she developed a strong passion for improv and sketch comedy, and has since trained and performed at a variety of theaters, including Upright Citizens Brigade. She then obtained her Masters Degree at Columbia University’s Grad Film program, where she wrote, directed, and produced a strong body of film and TV projects.

Jessica believes that working in the different disciplines she has, has made her an overall stronger artist and collaborator. Since graduating from Columbia she’s divided her time between writing, directing, and acting for film, TV, web series, commercials, and music videos. She’s also developed a strong passion for teaching and consulting acting, writing, and filmmaking.

Recently one of the web series she is a staff writer for was optioned by a major TV network. She is currently working on several projects, including a feature script she’s co-writing with a known, indie actress, a web series she co-created that she’s starring in, and a feature script she will be directing. She is always on the lookout for innovative work she can bring her experience and passion to. Jessica’s films and scripts have been shown at a variety of festivals, as well as honored in contests.

Some career highlights include: Semi-Finals in The Sundance Screenwriters Lab, a Student Academy Award Nomination, and a Finalist in The New York TV Festival.


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Lucia Cottone

For over 20 years Lucia Cottone flourished in the US and International Television business working in Hollywood as a Television Development and Programming Executive. Some of the successful shows developed and supervised throughout her career include hits and award winning shows such as: Hannibal, Army Wives, Eureka, Monk and Oz, to name a few. Her last corporate engagement was as Senior Vice Present of Original Programing for the global Sony Television Network Group.

In 2013 an inner calling led Cottone to take a hiatus from her career to pursue a Masters Degree in Spiritual Psychology. After years nourishing the business and artistic process of writers, actors, directors and other talented individuals by overseeing the scripted development and current programming slates at various companies- Lifetime Television Networks, NBC Universal Television Studio supporting USA Network and SYFY Channel, among others – Lucia felt that to better serve individuals, she needed to deepen her own creative accessibility and acquire even greater tools to support others in their growth and exploration of their own ingenious abilities and endeavors.

In early 2014 her entrepreneurial spirit lead her to launch KNACK TALENT where she has become a one of a kind Creative Consultant. Her vast experience in development and programming combined with her studies in Spiritual Psychology gives her the unique ability to guide and support her clients in achieving optimal creative experiences that result in highly productive practices that balance their careers, creative desires and personal lives.

Other companies that benefited from Cottone’s dedication to creativity are Grupo Prisa Internacional, Telemundo Network Group, United Paramount Network (UPN) and Rysher Entertainment.

Lucia holds a Masters in Spiritual Psychology from University of Santa Monica, a Bachelors of Science in Public Speaking and Television Production from Emerson College in Boston, where she was honored with an Achievement Award in 2007. She also holds a degree in Professional Photography from the New England School of Photography in Boston. Throughout her career she has been named one of the Top Latino influencers in the Entertainment Industry and was named one of the 20 under 40 Latinos shaping the future of the US by Poder Magazine. Lucia is a founding member of the Hispanic Media Advisory Board for The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, a Media and Development Consultant for Taylor’s Gift Foundation and an Ambassador for World Adoption Day celebrated every year on November 9th. She was born and raised in Guatemala and now lives in Los Angeles, California where, in addition to KNACK TALENT, she is developing various creative ventures in the entertainment space.

If you want to reach Lucia, please visit www.knacktalent.com.


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Pete Goldfinger

Pete Goldfinger has written and produced multiple scripts for multiple studios (Sorority Row, Piranha, 3D, Piranha 3DD). Most recently, he wrote a draft of Halloween: Asylum for Dimension and is presently rebooting another franchise at Lionsgate.


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Sean Maher

Sean Maher is well known to television and film audiences for his role as ‘Dr. Simon Tam’ in Joss Whedon’s feature “Serenity”. The film was based on the critically acclaimed series “Firefly”.

Maher was born and raised in New York where he attended the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. He moved to Los Angeles after landing the coveted title role in the FOX drama “Ryan
Caufield: Year One.” Upon the cancellation of that series Maher secured a holding deal with FOX and collaborated with the network on the well loved series “Party Of Five” as well as Darren Star’s “The $treet”.

Additional TV credits include “The Mentalist”, ”Human Target,” and “Warehouse 13”.

In 2011 while playing closeted gay man ‘Sean Beasely’ in 1960s Chicago on NBC’s provocative “The Playboy Club” Maher used the role as a platform to come out publicly as a gay man himself. Entertainment Weekly graciously covered the story and Maher regards that decision as one of the highlights of his professional career.

Sean most recently appeared in the Season 2 finale of “Looking” for HBO, directed by Andrew Haigh. Additionally, he was seen recurring as Mark Scheffer¹ (aka Shrapnel) on the hit series “Arrow” for The CW. Maher won praise for his portrayal of ‘Don John’ in Joss Whedon’s feature film adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” and can be seen starring in the upcoming indie sci-fi feature “ISRA-88.” He is also the voice of ‘Nightwing’ for the Warner Bros / DC Comics animated universe.

Maher is a yoga enthusiast and LGBT advocate. He currently lives in Los Angeles with his partner and their two children.


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Vanessa Mizzone

Vanessa Mizzone’s short film “Just One Of The Guys” was the Grand Prize winner of last year’s Tiny Film Festival. She hails from New Jersey and regularly performs in Los Angeles as an actor and comedienne. Most recently, Vanessa can be seen recurring on the CW’s JANE THE VIRGIN, as Lois on FX’s AMERICAN HORROR STORY-ASYLUM, and on last season’s GLEE. She is an acting member of L.A.’s theatre company The Actors’ Gang, headed by Tim Robbins, where she performed in Embedded (National Tour), Tartuffe (National Tour), as the Queen in Gulliver’s Travels, and Emily in Our Town to name a few. She has her MFA in Acting from UCLA and is Theatre Arts Faculty at East Los Angeles College and Santa Monica College. To learn more about Vanessa, check out her website: www.vanessamizzone.com.

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