Berkeley Haas - Dean's Speaker Series | Vanessa Morrison, BA, President of Streaming, Walt Disney Studios

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  • Good afternoon everybody, I’m Ann Harrison.

I’m the Dean at the Haas School of Business.

Welcome everyone to the first Dean’s Speaker Series

of our spring semester.

I’m really excited and honored to introduce today’s speaker

and Berkeley alum, Vanessa Morrison.

Vanessa graduated with a bachelor’s in rhetoric

from UC Berkeley class of ‘90.

Today, Vanessa serves as president streaming

for Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production.

In this role, she has the responsibility

for oversight of all Walt Disney Studios

motion picture projects for Disney+.

Current projects of hers include “Cheaper by the Dozen”.

That was one of my favorite books that I read

as a young adult and a series of projects based on content

from “Ice Age”, “Night at the Museum”

and another one of my younger daughter’s favorites,

“Diary of a Wimpy Kid”.

Vanessa has held numerous leadership positions

throughout her illustrious career

in the entertainment industry,

including as president of Fox Family

and a decade long tenure as president

of 20th Century Fox Animation.

Her list of accolades includes

overseeing the film “Ferdinand”, another book that I loved,

which was nominated for both an Academy Award

and a Golden Globe for best animated feature.

Vanessa is a leader who consistently goes beyond herself,

being named to the Women in Film Board of Directors,

and she’s currently serving on the UC Berkeley Chancellor’s

Board of Visitors and the Women in Animation Advisory Board.

Vanessa thank you so much for taking the time

to speak with us today.

We are extremely grateful and we really look forward

to a lively and informative discussion.

Today’s conversation will be led

by Mukundha Sastry, MBA ‘22.

Now, if you have questions for Vanessa while she’s speaking,

please put them in the YouTube chat

so we can try to get to all of them

after the initial conversation,

Mukundha, take it away.

  • Thanks Dean Harrison,

really excited to be here with you all today

and to have the opportunity to speak with Vanessa.

As Dean Harrison mentioned, my name is Mukundha.

I’m a second year MBA at Haas and I serve

as the co president of the Entertainment Media Club here.

Vanessa, we’re so excited to have you here.

It’s such an honor to have someone like you

at Haas with us.

We rarely get to have such incredible visionaries

in the entertainment industry here.

And so we’re really grateful that you’re able

to make the time to speak with us.

So we first wanted to start off just by hearing

a little bit about your Berkeley roots.

Would you mind reflecting back in sharing with us

some of your favorite takeaways from your time at Cal?

  • Sure and thank you for having me.

I wish I could be there in person.

I wish we could all be there in person,

but I will be one day.

So as you know I graduated from undergrad at Berkeley,

but my roots run deep in Berkeley.

I grew up in Berkeley in the city, went to Berkeley High

and my father taught at Berkeley.

My father was a physics professor at Berkeley

and an assistant Dean in Letters and Science at Berkeley.

And my mother actually got her master’s degree

at Berkeley as well.

So Berkeley was ingrained in my soul

from a very, very young age.

And I think both of my parents valued

and really believed in the UC system.

And when I was coming out of high school,

I think I only applied to UC.

So I think I applied to four UCs, Berkeley, UCLA, Davis.

And there was one other, I can’t remember now,

but I only applied to UCs because my family

so believed in the value of the University of California

and Berkeley was our favorite.

So I really grew up on the Berkeley campus as a kid

and as a young person.

And so when I went to Cal I majored in rhetoric

and rhetoric for me was a way of finding a discipline

that kind of braided all the things

that I was interested in together.

It had an emphasis on literature, which I was interested in,

but it also was kind of open enough that I could weave in

my interest in film and my interest in other things

into that discipline.

So I was able to really kind of get through rhetoric

and also through my affiliation

with the Pacific Film Archive which I loved.

I was able to kind of really get a education in film

at Berkeley through classes I put together on my own

and different experiences I had through the PFA.

So Berkeley means a lot to me.

It means a lot to me personally.

It means a lot to me in the sense that my parents came here

in the ’60s with the spirit of really being a part

of what Berkeley meant both academically

and also in terms of what the social fabric

of Berkeley meant and means.

And it also professionally was where I really got

a background in film and writing and some of the things

that I really love.

So Berkeley means a lot.

  • I love that, I love how much passion

you have for this school.

And it’s so inspiring to see that you took the initiative

to major in film, even in the undergrad level.

I think it’s something that at Haas,

it’s just so inspiring to see someone take

their personal passion and manifest that into a career.

Before we move on from Berkeley, I’m curious to know though

your passion for Berkeley has even extended

to now as an executive, you still serve

at the Office of Chancellor.

I’d love to hear sort of about how Berkeley’s

that fabric has continued even now.

  • Well I think people that have gone to Berkeley

or it’s my experience that people that have gone to Berkeley

have this kind of rabid dedication to the school.

It’s our pleasure to still stay connected to the school

in any way that we can.

So I’ve been serving on the Board of Visitors,

which has been fantastic and help out in any way

that I can at Berkeley.

I’m very interested in just informally and formally

providing any sort of advice or mentorship or connection

to any students or any organization that is

curious about life outside of Berkeley.

And some of the things, the pathways leading

out of the Berkeley education

into kind of professional life.

I think there’s a lot of opportunity I think,

for people that have kind of made those transitions,

whether it’s undergraduate, graduate level, MBA programs,

in terms of kind of what those pathways can be

once you have that all powerful Berkeley degree.

And so I always leap at the opportunity to kind of

participate in anything that I can as an alumni

that’s connected to Berkeley.

  • I love that, it’s really inspiring.

And it’s a good note for all of us also

to sort of take that passion with us wherever we go,

and mentorship is huge.

And I love that you’re able to offer that

to future students, so thank you for that.

  • And I said, there’s one other thing I’ll say too,

which is that I think I’ve learned so much

from my interactions as a professional person

with Berkeley students and Berkeley faculty

and the administration.

I feel like Berkeley’s such a dynamic institution.

Every time I come up there, I feel like I learn something

that blows my mind in one way or another.

So I’m very jealous of you guys that get the opportunity

just to be in this environment all the time.

  • I mean, we’re learning from each other

and we’re also learning from the undergrads too.

So I feel that also (laughing).

So I guess, like thinking about your career in film

and also you’re at the earliest level in undergrad majoring,

I’m curious what was that earliest moment

you can remember in your life where you realized

you wanted to be in film,

you wanted to manifest your career in this industry.

Is there a particular time that you can think of

that really sparked that interest for you?

  • It’s interesting, I think I’ve always been interested

in storytelling.

I think people in my family have always been good,

kind of natural storytellers.

And also I’ve always been interested in literature,

but visual storytelling.

All of those things were always really important to me.

But when I was a kid,

my mother was a part of an organization

that was based out of the Oakland Museum

called Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame.

And it was an organization that was started

out of different…

It was a community organization,

although it was kind of housed and based in Oakland

and in Berkeley and had an affiliation with the art museum.

So as a kid, I would see my mother participating

in this organization which held a yearly event

at the Paramount Theater in Oakland.

And what they would do would be,

they would honor African-American filmmakers

and black filmmakers whose contributions

hadn’t been acknowledged necessarily in mainstream media.

So through that organization,

I really kind of got both an education

and a spark for film I believe,

and got to meet and see, up close and personal,

all these amazing filmmakers and really kind of got

a deep dive into the history of cinema

from a different perspective.

And so in some ways, I always like to think that it was

that experience had kind of a profound impact on me

in terms of really being able to see myself

as a black woman, as someone who could really

get into the film industry and have a story

with a perspective and get to meet filmmakers

from all around the world.

So that had a huge impact I think on my interest

in film specifically.

As I went to Berkeley, I mentioned it before,

another really impactful thing was the Pacific Film Archive.

And at this time, I don’t know if they still have it,

but there was a student committee that was affiliated

with both the art museum and the Pacific Film Archives.

And I was the head of that art museum committee

for a couple of years.

So I was able to kind of really do a deep dive

in terms of film and really kind of got a whole nother

education in film through the marvelous things

that you’re able to see through that amazing organization.

So that was a big part of my understanding and my education

in film and film history as well.

And another person that I will mention

who used to be a fixture in Berkeley,

there was a professor named Albert Johnson

who taught African-American cinema.

  • [Mukundha] Ah, very coo.

  • Through the African-American studies department.

And he was a really important figure I think,

in my understanding of the breadth,

again of motion pictures and television

from a specific perspective.

So all those experiences kind of came together

to really kind of prepare me, I think.

It provided the foundation and still provides the foundation

for the breadth of what I know storytelling to be in film.

  • And there’s so many wonderful themes that you’ve outlined

of storytelling, of just the intersection of representation,

of professional interests, artistic interests.

So it’s really fascinating that you’re able to weave

all of that into sort of manifesting a career for yourself,

but also having such a really young experience,

as if it was like your playground,

sort of seeing these filmmakers

and discovering your own passion.

Thank you for that.

That was really interesting to sort of hear about

how passions kind of translate to career.

And then I guess from a film perspective,

you watch thousands of films as an executive.

What is that one stand out film for you

that’s inspired you or that has made you smile?

Many people would say just a favorite film,

but I guess I’d like to know a film that sort of changed

the trajectory of your life.

  • Wow, that’s a big question for someone like me

that loves film.

I think it would be, they’re just a kaleidoscope of films

that I think would.

  • [Mukundha] Let’s do three, yeah your top three.

  • Oh, I can’t stop with three.


Let’s see, “She’s Gotta Have It”.

And I would say “She’s Gotta Have It” as being kind of

the first of those, of the career of Spike Lee

that really kind of provided a whole different lens

on film and filmmaking for me.

And I think the interesting thing about that film is

it was the beginning of starting for a whole generation

of people who hadn’t been a part

of the film industry necessarily.

It really kind of started the careers

of many different people.

So I think I would say that film for the film

and for the contribution,

but I would also cite it as an example of how

one person came into the film industry

and opened it up for a whole community of people

across the board that may not have seen themselves

doing film or being a part of the film industry

from every level.

My husband works at HBO and his first job

was working for Spike Lee.

  • [Mukundha] Wow.

  • And when you go through the credits of a Spike Lee film,

you can see a number of people that have gone on

in their own kind of ways to do really interesting things.

So that’s an important one for me.

I love French movies.

I love “Jules and Jim” and “400 Blows”.

And as a child, the film I remember the most

was “The Red Balloon”, which was a real kind of

important film for me ‘cause I remember it so vividly.

I mean I still love it to this day,

but part of the reason why I think it was so important

was because it’s an exercise in visual storytelling

and just the power of visual storytelling

and the power of film to transport you to a different place.

And so that remains one of my favorite, favorite movies.

“Sleeping Beauty” is one of my favorite movies

for the beauty of the art direction.

And it’s certainly one of my favorite animated movies,

but it’s one of my favorite movies in general.

The drama of it and the (laughing).

  • [Mukundha] Totally, there is a lot of drama there yeah.

  • Yes and how the visuals kind of support

the dramatic filmmaking is really interesting to me.

“Apocalypse Now” is one of my favorite movies

just for the scope of it and the ambition of it.

And so it’s very hard for me to name one.

  • These are good, we’re gonna make a playlist

and share with everyone so thank you for these.


So now switching gears sort of,

from early days of Vanessa

to corporate executive leader Vanessa.

You most recently served as the president of Fox Family,

and you served as the president of Fox Animation,

where you oversaw development and production

of several films, several films

that Dean Harrison just outlined.

How has that transition been

from that traditional films model

to the world we live in now where everything is on demand

and everything is on streaming.

How has that sort of created an impact on your choices

as an executive, as a developer, and also as someone

who just is interested in this space?

  • I think the common thread through each of the things

that I’ve done.

So I’ll go through a little bit of history

in terms of those various jobs and experiences.

First I always think it’s important to say that

when I started in the film industry,

I didn’t know anybody in the film industry.

So I went from Berkeley to getting a master’s degree,

an MFA at UCLA.

And through UCLA I wound up as an intern at Fox

in the feature group and worked as an intern

and through being an intern became embedded

in the feature film group.

So my first kind of tour of executive work

was in live action.

So when I first started at Fox, I worked primarily

on family movies actually in live action.

So I worked on movies like “Cheaper by the Dozen”,

which it’s interesting cause we did

Steve Martin in “Cheaper by the Dozen” in the ’90s.

And then now we’re doing it from another perspective,

Kenya Barris is producing a “Cheaper by the Dozen”

for this generation on Disney+.

So that was like a full circle moment.

But when I initially started, I started in live action

working on family movies primarily.

And then I worked in live action for 10, some odd years,

I would say, probably give or take.

And then I work and shifted to animation.

And when Chris Meledandri left Fox to go run Illumination,

they asked me if I was interested

in running the animation feature business and I was.

So I learned and grew in that business for 10 years.

And then as you said, wanted to do something

that had a combination of the two,

which is what I started prior to coming to Disney.

And the thing that I think connects my experience

with all the work that I’ve done in those various arenas,

first of all, I always loved family movies.

The notion of kind of creating all audience entertainment

was something that always kind of drove me,

whether it was my initial run in live action

or the animated movies it was all kind of my interest

in all audience family movies.

And I guess what I would say is whether it’s streaming

or theatrical and that interest in that kind of

dogged pursuit of what the audience wants.

What audience are you trying to serve

I think is an important question that really kind of

services both streaming and theatrical.

So in this case, it’s all audience movies.

And I actually think, because I’m on the content side,

the things that we looked for

in a successful theatrical movie before streaming,

are still the things that we look for

in a successful movie for streaming.

You look for ideas that are clear, that can be executed

to a high level of quality.

You look for things that appeal,

again I mentioned all audience.

The way I think about things,

you look for things that even if they appeal to kids,

they’re also of interest to adults as well.

Again, in the animated movies,

you have to have an all audience model

to able to make those movies.

So I really do believe that as we think about kind of,

what content we create, the basic questions are the same.

Where there’s huge opportunity though I think,

is just because everyone is making so much more content.

So the increase in volume allows you to do,

you just get more kind of opportunities.

And that’s been exciting because while

you’re looking for many of the same things,

you’re looking for things that can break out,

you’re looking for stories that can connect

with wide audiences.

But at the same time, they’re opportunities due to volume

where I think filmmakers and people that create content

have such a huge opportunity to tell stories

and to get their voice out there

in a way that we’ve never seen before.

So I think it’s just an exciting time to kind of be

in this business because of that.

But I also think it’s that kind of attentiveness to quality,

attentiveness to consumer,

attentiveness to what audience are you trying to reach

and attentiveness to originality.

All of those things I think are just as important

in streaming as they are in theatrical.

  • Makes total sense because at the end of the day,

we’re reaching the same people.

It’s just in a different format.

So totally. - Exactly.

  • Makes total sense.

  • But one of the things for people that (coughs) excuse me,

are interested in content.

I look at kind of the slate of things

that I’ve worked on recently.

And one exciting thing is the number of first-time directors

that we’ve been able to kind of give a shot to recently.

And that is something that I think

is a important development.

The fact that I see a lot of new voices

and a lot of first-time directors

and a lot of first-time writers getting an opportunity

on a big stage due to the need for content.

So I think in this evolutionary process

in terms of streaming, we’re able to see the growth

of new filmmakers and new voices.

  • And I think that’s one of the most beautiful parts

about streaming is to your point opportunity,

that opportunity may not have existed before.

And now we have a tremendous time and space

to give new filmmakers, new writers a chance

to explore something that they wouldn’t have had

the opportunity to have before.

And it’s really great that someone like you

is behind the decision power to sort bestow that onto them.

I guess, like dealing with these types

of emerging filmmakers, what are some of the things

that you’re so excited about when you see them

come into the room to present a pitch to you or a concept?

Are there moments that you sometimes mentor them

or perhaps shared tidbits

of your industry experience with them?

  • Yes I mean, I think it’s a back and forth.

I think one of the important things is just to acknowledge.

Certainly I hope I have things to share with people

that are going through making movies on a studio scale

for the first time.

But the other thing is, I think we have things to learn

from new voices, always.

Whether it’s a story that we haven’t heard before,

whether it’s a writer that may have written something

in another kind of…

A novelist writing a screenplay for the first time,

whatever it is.

The exciting thing about this job

and I think about the industry

and especially right now with streaming is just

these new connections that you’re able to make

with again, fresh new voices.

And hopefully I’m able to kind of provide

some new pathways and mentorship, but it goes both ways.

  • Really important, thank you for sharing that.

So you are at Haas, you’re talking to a bunch

of business nerds and strategy nerds in the audience.

And you were a part of a very historical merger

a few years ago with Disney’s acquisition of Fox.

For those folks in the room and in the audience

that have never experienced an M and A before,

what advice do you have from them from a cultural standpoint

or perhaps just a workforce standpoint?

It’s obviously a massive shift in leadership

and strategy and vision.

What was it like for you on the inside?

And what advice do you have for those

who may have to undergo something similar

in the world we live in right now?

  • That’s an interesting question.

My advice that I gave myself (laughing)

that I also gave the people around me

while we were going through that

was really to focus on your work.

You’re there for a reason.

If your mission is clear as far as why you’re in your job

or why you’re doing the work you’re doing,

my advice to them was that there are many things

that are gonna come and that are going to be a part

of something like that, that transition.

But the thing that you have control over

is your passion for your work and your passion

for your projects and your passion for discovering

new talent and bringing new talent in,

your interest in the world and going out and continuing

to meet with new filmmakers and meet with new writers.

And that is what I did and what I focused on.

And I’ve always believed that there’s a lot of things

in the universe that just ebb and flow,

but the things that you’re really, truly passionate about,

is what you have to kind of stay connected to.

So I love movies, I’ve always loved movies.

The movies that I talked to you about, I still watch today.

And so I think whether it’s going through

an experience like that,

or going through trying to figure out what your path is,

the thing that I have found most helpful for myself

is just to really stay connected to the root

and essential things that you feel strongly about

and passionate about that you love and enjoy.

And what are the reasons that you get into different fields

and to stay curious about those things

and keep discovering new things in whatever the arena is

that you’re interested in.

And that will be valuable both personally and professionally

and staying true to yourself is important too.

I think people

lead and people kind of grow in different ways,

but really figuring out what’s important to you

and figuring out kind of what it is

that you bring to something.

Definitely in terms of the skills level,

but also in terms of kind of an intuitive level,

like what are the strengths that you bring

to an organization or you bring to a job

or you bring as a human being, those things are valuable.

And so acknowledging your value, staying curious,

staying connected to the things that you’re passionate about

and really immersing yourselves in those things.

Really, that to me is just an important part

of whatever transitions one goes through

during the course of a professional career.

It’s interesting because one of the transitions

that was most interesting for me in my profession

was going from live action to animation.

So when I decided to do that,

I had actually never made an animated movie before.

I had made family movies that had CG characters

and really were CG heavy.

So I knew that process in a different way

through live action, but I had actually never made

an animated movie before.

But what I did know was I knew how to tell

those types of stories.

And not only did I know how to tell those types of stories

but I love telling stories that appeal to kids,

but also adults liked.

And some of the stories that I was able to tell in animation

were stories that I had always grown up loving

and wanted to tell myself.

So that was an example of a transition that I went through

that could have been fraught with anxiety.

But I kinda leaned on the things

that I felt strongly about, that I loved.

And equally important and it’s another aspect of

going to a new company is I also realized

I needed to learn what I didn’t know.

If there were parts of the animation process

that I was unfamiliar with,

the most important thing that I did when I hit the ground

was to go to every single department

and get to know what they did and not be embarrassed

or self-conscious about learning.

And the notion of being able to learn,

learning while you lead, I think is something that

is a really exciting thing to be able to do.

Because it allows you to grow in different ways,

but you have to be confident that that’s okay.

So entering into a new organization is just the same,

whether it’s learning a new structure

or learning new strategy or learning whatever it is.

Going through that process and allowing yourself

to go through that process is really important.

And really understanding and valuing the people

that are there to get to know.

  • I love that.

I think there was a lot that you touched on

that is really relevant to sort of us

being the next business leaders of tomorrow,

just in terms of identity, connection, commitment, purpose.

So it’s really nice that you were able to sort of show us

how those are all intricately connected

and sort of taking a part of your own leadership style.

There’s a really popular course here at Haas

called Power in Politics, where we really think about

both the topics and sort of how they’re closely correlated.

And one of the strong things that we’ve learned

is in the principles of persuasion and influence,

there’s liking, authority, commitment, social proof,

reciprocity and scarcity.

These are sort of the core tenants

that we’ve learned about persuasion.

I’m curious as a leader of yourself

where you’re managing large complex teams,

sort of executing on a really interesting,

get creative outcome, what are some of the styles

of influence that you like to lead

in these types of organizations

and what has worked for you in your career?

  • Well, I think curiosity is certainly a big one.

And I touched upon that in the last question.

But I also think remembering that organizations

are made up of people and that sounds kind of obvious,

but for me really the value of kind of understanding people

and connecting with people and listening to people

is really, really critical.

And I think that places can be complex

in terms of how they’re structured

or strategy can be complex.

But it always starts with me from people

and listening to people and understanding what they do,

what they value, what they think their job is,

what their passion is, what their strengths are,

what their weaknesses are.

So being really focused on the people

within an organization, I think is really important.

The other side to that I think is just the notion

that you have to keep learning and you have to keep growing

and you have to keep learning from the people

who are around you.

And creating structures and creating opportunities

for people to connect and learn from each other

and creating environments where that’s not only okay,

but it’s an important part of how organizations grow

and stay relevant, I think is really important.

I would say admitting what you don’t know is important,

asking questions is important.

And I think because we’re in such

a dynamic environment right now,

the notion of learning being a constant thing I think,

is really important to acknowledge

and being able to really kind of wrap your arms

around things very quickly,

that you need to figure out and understand.

So I think one of the interesting parts

about the environment that we’re in,

that you guys will go out and lead

is just how dynamic it is.

And to me, that’s very exciting.

I think throughout the course of one’s life,

they will do so many different things,

so many more things than generations have done before now

until just kind of staying nimble and being able

to kind of react to things with curiosity and passion

in real time is both exciting and can be very daunting.

But I think for me staying curious and

trying to stay centered also,

I think is really important.

  • And I guess even thinking about staying centered,

there’s a lot of appreciation for sort of bringing

your whole self to work and that sort of

keeps people grounded.

And as a black female and a leader at a massive company,

I’m curious to hear how you sort of bring

that whole core identity to work every day.

And what sort of elements do you look for to make sure

you feel supported in every room

and every position that you assume.

What are the factors that make you feel supported

and how do you sort of navigate that intricacy

while bringing your whole self to work.

  • Well it’s interesting because I really thank my parents

(laughing) first and foremost.

  • [Mukundha] (indistinct) yeah.

  • My father was I think one of the first African-American

tenured physics professor at Cal.

  • [Mukundha] Wow.

  • And so all throughout growing up,

I learned what it meant to kind of often

be the only one in a professional environment

in terms of somebody that looked like us.

And the thing that I learned from him from a very early age

was the importance of just your own self worth,

of acknowledging your own self-worth

and acknowledging your own value and never doubting that.

And never letting an experience or a room

or a person shake that.

And so that is something that I really try to impart

to people that I really try to live by.

And I just think it’s important to kind of recognize

what your own value is and what your own self worth is.

When you are able to kind of do that,

and I was blessed with someone for whom

that was very, very important

and important for reason.

I mean my father had come from segregated Virginia

to get a PhD at Catholic University

because it was the only place at that time in his area

that allowed black students to study really.

From him making that journey to being a professor at Cal,

it’s like there wasn’t anything I did as far as

things that I might have worried about

or felt self-conscious about, just paled in comparison.

So the thing that I learned and listened to

from that experience that he had had

was just the value of being able to know your own value

to education as being a bedrock and a backbone for things.

And preparation so that when you lead or walk into a room,

there’s a foundation that you have for yourself

that you always can rely upon.

And so when I talk to other people about,

maybe being underrepresented in different workplaces

or communities, I think that’s where I start.

I don’t know if that answers the que…

Then the other thing I just think is

when you come to something with a different perspective

or a unique perspective, all of us have unique perspectives,

whatever that is.

But when you come to, you talk about being your whole self,

like being your whole self has value,

it has value in companies.

It has value in terms of consumer facing companies,

because you bring a perspective that people need to hear.

  • Totally.

  • So for me, it’s always been important to,

especially if I’m the only one in a room,

I feel that it’s important for me to speak up

and I’ve always felt that way.

And it’s not always been easy as I think,

I started at Fox as an intern, like as a real intern.


And I was able early on in the program that I was in

to sit at the table with the chairman and the president

and all those people.

But very early on I realized that it was,

even as a intern that my voice had meaning,

and that it was important for me to find ways

to express myself or else why was I there?

And I continue to kind of operate from that perspective.

  • Thank you for that affirmation and that encouragement

to just be core to your identity and to yourself,

and to have that confidence in any space you occupy.

So we really appreciate that.

Thank you, Vanessa.

I know we’re very close to time so I wanted to

pass it back to Dean Harrison for some audience Q and A.

  • Thank you, thank you so much.

That was such an amazing conversation

and I’m just so struck by the importance of

some of the principles that we really support at Haas

in particular one of our defining leadership principles

is confidence without attitude.

And another one is students always,

and you’ve really emphasized the importance

of always learning and being open and curious.

And that really resonates, I’m sure,

with many who are listening.

The first audience question,

if you’re okay with that Vanessa is from Kalil.

The question is what would you recommend for someone

who wants to work at Walt Disney Studio someday?

  • Well, I would say if you’re where you are

at this tremendous business school,

I mean (laughing) you’ve got a leg up.

I think the first thing is identifying

and learning about what part of the company

someone would be interested in.

Companies like Disney or Netflix or whatever company,

there’s such a broad range of arenas to choose from

in terms of what you’re interested in.

So the first thing I recommend is for people

to really nail down what they’re interested in.

Even if it’s what they think it is now

and it may change later, knowing what department

or what arena or even what person

you might wanna work with,

provides like a specificity of path,

which I think is really important for the film industry.

And then the second thing I would say is learning

all you can about whatever department that is.

When I first started working in the film industry,

one of the things that I did was I really researched

the companies that I was interested in

and that research encompassed all the different divisions,

but also the different executives themselves.

And being able to try to kind of research the executives

and then try to figure out who it was

that I would like to most be connected with,

even coming out of film school.

At the time, I did not end up directly working for her,

but there was a executive named Stephanie Elaine at Columbia

who had been responsible for a number of movies

that I loved, like “Boyz n the Hood”

and a number of films that had really

groundbreaking first-time filmmakers.

And through my just research,

I found a path to her as out of film school.

And that path actually led me

to be able to work at Columbia,

which then was kind of another piece in the entree

into becoming an intern later at Fox.

So just doing that research to really, really

kind of micro focus on where you want to be

so that you can then figure out who you need to get to

and how to put it together, I think is really important.

  • Thank you for that.

I’m so struck by how important self knowledge

and understanding where your passions are

and where you wanna direct those,

how important that’s been for you.

We have another question here from Mark.

The question is four-quadrant movies

are the most financially viable option for theaters

yet various (indistinct) perform well via streaming.

Has that been influencing content strategy at Disney+.

  • Can you repeat the question?

‘Cause I could hear the beginning,

but I couldn’t hear the second part.

  • Yeah, so the question it said,

four quadrant movies are the most financially

viable options for theaters yet various types

perform well in streaming.

Has that been influencing content strategy at Disney+?

  • Yes, I think one of the things that we kind of alluded to

was just how volume can impact content

and content selection.

And so when I look at the slate at least for my group

that I have, it’s very diverse in all ways.

And part of that diversity is in the types of movies

that we have made.

So for a big kind of temple all audience movie,

that’s one in which I would consider an all audience play,

where you wanna try to get from one to a hundred.

But then because there’s such a ability to connect

with the audience in different ways via streaming,

you can take chances on smaller films as well

and on midsize movies also.

So strategically because of the volume,

because of the just demographic diversity in all ways

of your audience, it allows you to make broader

kind of content selections.

  • Thank you.

So here we have a really interesting question from Andy.

What’s your prediction for the media industry

in the next five years?


  • I have no prediction.


The thing I can tell you is I think we are living

in a very exciting dynamic evolutionary kind of time.

And I think for people that are coming out

of business school or film school or whatever it is

and have the opportunity to work in the media business,

I actually think the opportunities are unlimited.

And I think they’re gonna be, certainly my arena is content.

And certainly in content there going to be

so many different opportunities as there are right now.

But also in terms of expertise in terms of distribution

and marketing and audience analysis.

All of those things are going to have growth

as they are now.

But in terms of predicting exactly

what the media landscape looks like,

that would be crazy for me.


  • Well thank you so much, Vanessa.

I think we’re at time and I really, really wanna thank you

for taking this time to speak to us.

I wanna thank Mukundha who’s played such an important role

in making it possible for us to have you at Berkeley.

We are just so thrilled that such an incredible role model

like you has come to Haas and is a Berkeley Cal grad.

So thank you again and go Bears.

  • No, thank you and I appreciate it.

And yes, you will see me in person one day.

  • Sounds wonderful, thank you.