Ya'Ke Smith, Monika Watkins, James Martin, Whitney Davis, Kim Clemons
Ya’Ke Smith, known for his unflinching and veracious style of storytelling, is a rising voice in independent cinema.
His films have received world-wide acclaim, screening and winning awards at over 90 film festivals. The Director’s Guild of America, the Student Academy Awards, HBO, Showtime, and the City of Buffalo, NY, which proclaimed February 23, 2013 as Ya’Ke Smith Day, have honored him. His short, Katrina’s Son, screened at over 40-film festivals and won 14 awards. The film was also eligible for the 2012 Academy Award in short filmmaking. His debut feature, WOLF, which NPR called “an impressive piece by a young director,” premiered at the SXSW Film Festival and has gone on to screen and win awards at festivals across North America. The film is now available for download via several Video-on-Demand outlets. His short film, dawn., made its television premiere on HBO in February of 2015, and screened on the network for two years. The film was also streamed as part of Issa Rae's Short Film Sunday series on her YouTube channel. His multi award-winning digital series, The Beginning and Ending of Everything, is now streaming on facebook and youtube.
Ya’Ke has been featured on NPR, CNN, HLN, Ebony Online, Indiewire, Filmmaker Magazine and Shadow&Act.
Ya’Ke graduated with his B.A. from the Communication Arts Department at the University of The Incarnate Word, where he later became the youngest recipient of the Alumni of Distinction for Professional Achievement award. He received his M.F.A. from the University of Texas at Austin’s film program, where he is currently an Associate Professor of film. He was previously the Morgan Woodward Distinguished Professor of Film at the University of Texas at Arlington.
Monika Watkins is a Dallas based writer, director and producer, the owner of Bird Set Free Films, and an instructor at Media Tech Institute. She has contributed to the production of a number of award-winning documentaries on black history and several television shows for networks such as PBS, HGTV, Reelz, WE tv, ASPiRe, and Showtime. She is currently in post-production on an animated short film about civil rights activist, Dabney Montgomery, and in pre-production on a supernatural, short film titled, Chrysalis, which she wrote and will direct and produce.
She is delighted to return to Denton where she graduated from UNT with an RTVF degree. Find Monika on social media: @monikawatkins
Whitney Davis is the founder of Whitney Davis Literary, a boutique literary consultancy offering editorial/career consulting services for writers at large.
After receiving her BA in Literature and Creative Writing, Whitney moved to Los Angeles where she started out as a TV writer, getting signed to the William Morris Agency (now WME) at the age of 26. During the writers strike, Whitney began her career as a freelance script consultant and developmental story editor for aspiring screenwriters and novelists. Over the past 10 years, Whitney has worked with award winning novelists and optioned/produced screenwriters.
In 2015, after being nudged by many of her existing clients, Whitney started her own literary firm where she works with novelists and screenwriters as a developmental story editor and publishing consultant.
Whitney is a sought after panelist and conference speaker, participating at events all over the country. In the last year, she has spoken at The Great American Pitchfest, the Greater Los Angeles Writers Conference, The Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Conference, The Genre LA Conference, and has paneled at events such as the AWP’s 50th Anniversary Conference in Washington D.C, the Downtown Los Angeles Film Festival and was selected as a guest of honor for an International Screenwriting Association event this past summer. You can find her at several more events in 2017.
She currently splits her time between Los Angeles and Dallas, where she is on faculty at Writing Workshops Dallas.
Kim studied Radio, Television, and Film at San Jose State University and then quickly moved to Texas for more opportunities. While in Dallas, Kim wrote, hosted, reported and produced for local television and syndicated radio shows, including No Cover!, Positively Texas, Doug Banks in the Morning, KRNB and Good Morning Texas.
In 1999, Kim moved to New York to produce NBC’s The Ainsley Harriott Show – executive produced by Merv Griffin and Michael Gelman of Regis & Kelly fame. After Ainsley, Kim produced the syndicated show, Crossing Over with John Edward for four years and later, A&E’s hit reality show, Growing Up Gotti.
When Kim grew weary of the harsh New York winters, she relocated back to Dallas to freelance on Whose Wedding is it Anyway? for E!, Cross Country with John Edward and Bridezillas for WEtv.
Since joining AMS in 2006, Kim has had the opportunity to produce many television shows, including:
Girl Meets Gown for WEtv
Ma’s Roadhouse for TRUtv
Home Strange Home , Cool Pools and Amazing Water Homes for HGTV
Two Documentaries - A Colored Life and Full Court: The Spencer Haywood Story
Kim is currently the Showrunner for Murder Made Me Famous, Scandal Made Me Famous and The Price of Fame for the Reelz Channel.
Kim is married and has a 13 year-old son, Jaden.