Lightspark Media Summit Focused on Improving Entertainment Media


Keynote speaker, Maria Bello. Photo courtesy of Jared M. Ruga.

By Lauren Gutierrez

Making its debut, the Lightspark Media Summit was hosted at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law last Friday, March 3. The all-day event consisted of guest speakers and panels of professionals from all backgrounds in the film, TV and music industries.

The Lightspark Foundation is a non-profit organization whose mission is to raise awareness of social issues and create progress through empathy and storytelling. The proceeds from the summit will enhance and create new U programs related to entertainment media.

The theme “Stewards of Story” ran throughout the discussions about social relations and innovation in their respective fields. Dr. Jeffrey Cole of the University of Southern California started the day with an industry survey on trends in entertainment media and where it’s headed. Professor Doug Lichtman from University of California Los Angeles later presented on media, entertainment law and relevant case studies.

The keynote speaker was Maria Bello, featured above, who is known for her acting roles in “ER”, “Coyote Ugly” and “Goliath” to name a few. She is also a producer and an activist who recently spoke at the Women’s March on Main during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City. Bello’s piece was focused on furthering representation for women in the media and telling the stories that will lead to compassion and consciousness.

The film and television panels began with “Docuserious Business,” which discussed the popularity of documentaries and the success of episodic documentary projects. Later panels looked at developing scripts in the segment called “Development Heaven” and in “Diversion Immersion” industry professionals spoke on innovations in immersive technologies like AR/VR.

L-R: Rick McMurtry, Derek Julio, Amy Jo Martin and frontman Chad Wolf of the band The Federal Empire. Photo courtesy of Jared M. Ruga.

“Me-Marketing” was the first music panel of the day on helping musicians broadcast themselves online and making livings off it. During “Streams and Lakes” industry leaders — including U graduate and world renowned DJ Kaskade — explored the emergence of subscription streaming models and music festivals.

“Touring Glory” was joined by bassist Branden Campbell of the band Neon Trees from Provo and discussed live music events, the importance of touring and the components that make it come together.

Finally, the audience got a musical performance from the band The Federal Empire, hailing from Los Angeles, who played a few songs from their debut album titled “The American Dream.” A reception was held afterward for those who wanted to have a drink and do some networking.

The Lightspark Foundation plans to continue events like these in the future that promote their mission statement of “media literacy education, storyteller discovery and development, community-building and grant-making.” More information is available on their website,

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