Formerly the Center for Entertainment and Civic Health

Leadership

Sandra de Castro Buffington

Executive Director

Sandra de Castro Buffington, Executive Director of Bridge Entertainment Labs, is a leader, executive and producer of social impact entertainment aimed at bringing diverse voices and perspectives into storytelling to unite and uplift audiences across divides. 

As Founder and President of StoryAction, LLC, Sandra worked with film, television and emerging media professionals to accurately and consciously reflect the most important topics of our time. Sandra is Co-Producer of an important new film entitled, BRAINWASHED which premiered at Sundance, Berlin International Film Festival and CPH: DOX Copenhagen in 2022. 

As Founder and former Director of UCLA’s Global Media Center for Social Impact, Sandra created a multi-year series of panels and Story Tours, in partnership with the Writers Guild of America West, to inspire stories on the most critical social issues of our time. She has led groundbreaking research to measure the impact of prosocial storylines on viewers’ knowledge, attitudes and behavior, and has published in numerous peer-reviewed journals.

As the former Director of USC’s Hollywood, Health & Society, Sandra provided resources to Hollywood’s creative community to improve the accuracy of health-related storylines on top television programs and films, resulting in 565 storylines that aired on 91 television shows from 2009-2012. For her work, Sandra was named by PODER Hispanic Magazine as one of “The Nation’s 100 Most Influential Hispanics” in 2012. Brazilian-American, she is fluent in English, Portuguese and Spanish.

Advisory Council

Eric K. Ward

Executive Director, Western States Center

Eric K. Ward

A nationally-recognized expert on the relationship between authoritarian movements, hate violence, and preserving inclusive democracy, Eric brings over 30 years of leadership in community organizing and philanthropy to his roles as Western States Center’s Executive Director and Senior Fellow with Southern Poverty Law Center and Race Forward. Since Eric took the helm in 2017, Western States Center has become a national hub for innovative responses to white nationalism, antisemitism, and structural inequality, towards a world where everyone can live, love, work, and worship free from bigotry and fear.

In his 30+ year civil rights career, Eric has worked with community groups, government and business leaders, human rights advocates, and philanthropy as an organizer, director, program officer, consultant, and board member. Currently Co-Chair for The Proteus Fund, Eric is a member of the Pop Culture Collaborative’s Pluralist Visionaries Program​ ​and the recipient of the Peabody-Facebook Futures Media Award. Eric is in high demand as a speaker and media source, and is the author of multiple written works credited with key narrative shifts, including ​“Skin in the Game: How Antisemitism Animates White Nationalism.” ​He has been quoted in ​The New Yorker, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, ESPN, NPR, BBC, Rolling Stone​ and numerous other media outlets, and regularly publishes on Medium​ and ​The Oregon Way​ blog. Eric is working on a forthcoming documentary about whiteness and race in America and is an aspiring singer-songwriter under the name of Bulldog Shadow.

Betsy Levy Paluck

Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs, Princeton University, Macarthur “Genius Award” winner

Betsy Levy Paluck

Betsy Levy Paluck is a Professor and Acting Chair in the Department of Psychology and in the Policy School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. Her research is concerned with the reduction of prejudice and conflict, including ethnic and political conflict, youth conflict in schools, and violence against women. She uses large-scale field experiments to test interventions that target individuals’ perceived norms and behavior about conflict and tolerance, including mass media and peer-to-peer interventions. Professor Paluck is a 2017 Macarthur Fellow, and has been the recipient of the Princeton University Graduate Mentor award and the Cialdini Award for field research.

Dr. Dave Caplan

Writer & Executive Producer of ABC’s “The Conners”

Dr. Dave Caplan

Writer and Executive Producer Dave Caplan has enjoyed a career in network prime-time television and feature films that spans more than 30 years. He is currently writer/Executive Producer and co-showrunner of ABC’s “The Conners,” and previously served as writer and Co-Executive Producer on the acclaimed “Roseanne” revival. That show was the highest-rated scripted show in a decade.

Among ABC’s other shows that Caplan has written and executive produced are “George Lopez,” “The Drew Carey Show” (showrunner), “Norm,” starring Norm MacDonald, and the ‘90s cult hit “Dinosaurs.” He was also writer/Executive Producer/co-showrunner of the FX series “Anger Management.” His other notable shows include “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose” and TNT’s police/medical drama “Rizzoli and Isles.” Caplan has been signed to several exclusive talent deals with major studios, where he developed new shows and consulted on numerous others. He has won numerous awards, including the Humanitas certificate and Environmental Media Award. Caplan has been quoted in many national publications and blogs, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Forbes, Entertainment Tonight Online, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, CinemaBlend, The Wrap, Refinery 29 and several others.

Caplan holds a PhD in Psychology, focusing on media-related issues, from Fielding Graduate University. Having conducted original research into story’s influence on audience empathy, he regularly speaks at schools and universities on topics ranging from media and news literacy to audience psychology and narrative persuasion. Caplan is an advisor to the Civic Health Project, which aims to decrease toxic partisanship and polarization.

Caplan is represented by management agency Odenkirk-Provissiero Entertainment.

Jo Jensen

President of Iron Light Labs

Jo Jensen

Jo Jensen is the president of Iron Light Labs. As a serial entrepreneur, Jo has created three successful companies, led non-profits, produced award-winning films, and designed high-profile marketing campaigns. An invited speaker at the White House, Jo’s work has been featured in national news outlets including the Wall Street Journal, Good Morning America, IndieWire, and People Magazine. Jo specializes in impact production for documentaries and earned a Guinness World Record in 2012 for organizing the world’s largest movie premiere with 28,442 people in attendance.

Rob Long

Writer & Producer, “Cheers”; Co-Founder, Ricochet

Rob Long

Rob Long is a writer and producer in Hollywood. He began his career writing and producing TV’s long-running “Cheers,” and served as co-executive producer in its final season. During his time on the series, “Cheers” received two Emmy Awards, and two Golden Globe awards. Mr. Long has been twice nominated for an Emmy Award, and has received a Writers Guild of America award. He continues to work in film and television in Los Angeles and New York.

He is the co-founder of the podcast network Ricochet. Along with a series of podcasts that garner four to five million downloads per month, it’s alsonan online community for discussion and conversation from the center/right perspective.

His weekly podcast, Martini Shot, is available here and all podcast platforms. He writes regularly for The Washington Examiner and Commentary Magazine, and had been a Contributing Editor at National Review since 1993.

In recent years, he has been a columnist at The Spectator (London), The National (Abu Dhabi’s English-language newspaper), and The Observer.

His first book, Conversations with My Agent, chronicled his early career in television. It was published in the UK by Faber & Faber, in the US by Dutton, and in France by Actes Sud. His second book, Set Up, Joke, Set Up, Joke, was published in November 2005 by Bloomsbury.

His most recent book is Bigly: Donald Trump in Verse, published in October 2017 by Regnery.

Mr. Long graduated from Yale University, and spent two years at UCLA School of Film, Theater and Television, where he occasionally serves as an Adjunct Professor of Screenwriting. He serves as co-president on the Board of Directors of My Friend’s Place, an agency for homeless teens in Hollywood and is on the board of the American Cinema Foundation. He’s also an active and passionate member of the Southern Foodways Alliance.

On Twitter and Instagram, he’s rcbl.

Shamil Idriss

Chief Executive Officer, Search for Common Ground

Shamil Idriss

Shamil Idriss is CEO of Search for Common Ground (Search), an international non-profit organization whose mission is to transform the way the world deals with conflict, away from adversarial approaches toward cooperative solutions. With over 1,000 staff working in 30 countries, Search is the largest dedicated peacebuilding NGO and was nominated by the Quakers for the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize. Understanding the power of media and narrative to amplify excluded perspectives and to influence social norms, Search produces hundreds of hours of dramatic and “reality” media programs through TV, radio and digital platforms each year, reaching tens of millions of people in conflict-affected societies. Prior to his current role, Idriss was the CEO of Soliya where he led a public-private sector coalition to establish the field of virtual exchanges. In 2005, he was appointed by then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as Deputy Director of the UN Alliance of Civilizations. He served on the Steering Committee of the World Economic Forum’s Council of 100 Leaders and is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders and recipient of the 2015 Open Society Foundation’s New Executive Award.

Riaz Patel

Executive Producer, Two-time Emmy and NAACP Image Award Nominee

Riaz Patel

Riaz Patel is an Executive Producer/Director of TV series & media projects that create ‘perspectiveshifting’ experiences for real people. He has been nominated for Two Emmy-Awards, an NAACP Image Award, a Women’s Image Network (WIN) Award for creatively leading shows like HOW DO I LOOK? forNBC/Universal, HOW TO LOOK GOOD NAKED for Lifetime, FAMILY SOS WITH JO FROST for TLC, RACE TO ESCAPE for Discovery and many others. His shows have been filmed in twenty-one countries and distributed worldwide by companies like Discovery, A&E, MTV, NBC/Universal, Hulu, & Netflix. His most recent project, “The RAD Impact Awards” featured Priyanka Chopra, Margot Robbie, Charlize Theron, Laverne Cox & Travis Scott and earned 138.4 million impressions online. He is represented worldwide by ICM Partners.

Beyond the “screen world,” Riaz has also created entertainment-based solutions for real world problems: immersive “perspective-shifting” experiences that can catalyze change very quickly with a completely unconventional approach.

The first of those projects is a ten-year collaboration with The Jenesse Center, a domestic violence shelter in Los Angeles, to offer authentic ‘Self-Esteem Makeovers’ for victims of domestic violence. For his creation of ‘The Style Center at Jenesse’ – a physical boutique/salon within the shelter itself, Riaz was awarded the Silver Rose Award from Halle Berry, a special commendation from the City of Los Angeles, and the project was recently featured in a pivotal scene of the hit Netflix scripted series, MAID, about domestic violence.

Working directly with HRH Princess Reema of Saudi Arabia (currently the Saudi Ambassador to the US), Riaz creates tv programs and interactive workshops for millions of women in her nation. His work is specifically focused on helping women develop their personal identity and sense of self as they begin pursuing new rights, opportunities, careers, and dreams as equal citizens.

In reaction to the growing “divide” in America – and our social media-induced communication crisis – Riaz created The EPIC System, a new framework that changes HOW we talk about divisive issues. Forbes describes EPIC as: “Refreshingly elegant and simple, but under-girded by sound behavioral science, The EPIC System is a game changer for those working to build bridges while breaking down walls.” Riaz & his EPIC System have been mentioned in Forbes, The Washington Post, CNN, The Blaze, The Daily Beast, and The Huffington Post. EPIC is currently taught at universities, high schools, companies, and places of worship.

After seven years of testing, in 2022 Riaz will launch ConnectEffect, a 60-minute in-person experience, that will take large groups of total strangers – from all sides – and quickly emotionally connect them to each other. Once “connected” the audience will have desperately-needed conversations with each other about the real issues that are dividing them – but with real connection, compassion & understanding.

S.J. Murray

Emmy-nominated Writer and Producer

S.J. Murray

SJ MURRAY (Ph.D., Princeton) is an Irish-born EMMY®-nominated writer and producer (IMDb), award-winning director, and author. She is known for Primary Concern (2013, for which she was nominated for an EMMY for writing and producing), the Netflix hit Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution(2017), The Need to Grow (2018), executive-produced with Rosario Dawson, Five Years North (2020, an intimate portrayal of U.S. immigration that won Grand Jury Prizes at the Academy-qualifying Rhode Island International Film Festival and DocNYC), and Palliative (“Dying in Her Mother’s Arms”), a viral NYT OpDoc that was nominated for a 2021 News & Documentary EMMY. Her writing, producing, and directing for short-form content has also been recognized with numerous international creative awards, including the Silver TELLY® for excellence in video and television, and Communicator Awards® of Excellence and Distinction from the Academy of Interactive & Visual Arts. In 2018, she was selected as one of the #50Women[who]Can change the media & entertainment industries, and in 2020 she was awarded the “Film in Action” achievement award from the Ouray International Film Festival. She is a tenured faculty member at Baylor University and lives in Austin, TX.


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Of Americans believe that other Americans are the biggest threat to the country

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Of Americans report having “too little” or “far too little” trust in each other

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Of Americans say political polarization is a threat to America