Drop Shadow

Walden Media specializes in entertainment for the whole family, creating movies, books and television series that spark the imagination and delight all generations. A subsidiary of the Anschutz Film Group, Walden Media projects include adaptations of notable books, compelling biographies, thrilling accounts of historical events, moving family dramas and fantastical adventures. The company’s properties are entertaining and commercial, while also telling stories that are inspirational, explorational, and aspirational.

Notable films include the upcoming Finch on Apple TV +, WonderEverestDora and the Lost City of Gold, A Dog’s Purpose, the “Journey to the Center of the Earth” franchise, Charlotte’s WebBridge to Terabithia, “The Chronicles of Narnia” franchise, and Holes. Walden has also created the critically acclaimed series, The Baby-Sitters Club, for Netflix. Award-winning books co-published by Walden Media include National Book Award nominees Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder and The Real Boy by Anne Ursu, as well as the Newbery Honor winner Savvy by Ingrid Law.

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Frank Smith

President & CEO | Anschutz Film Group and Walden Media

Frank Smith is President and Chief Executive Officer of Anschutz Film Group (AFG) and Walden Media. Smith has been with AFG since 2003, and currently oversees all aspects of AFG’s operations (development, physical production, publishing, marketing and outreach, finance, legal and business affairs). Smith has been an executive producer for Walden Media on film and streaming projects since 2013. His most recent credits include the Netflix original series The Baby-Sitters Club Seasons 1 and 2, as well as feature films including the recent Finch on Apple TV+, Rumble on Paramount Plus, as well as theatrical releases Everest, A Dog’s Purpose, The BFG, and Wonder. He also works directly with The Anschutz Corporation on strategic planning and general operational issues. During his tenure with AFG, Smith has been lead counsel overseeing large budget motion picture franchise projects, co-production finance and distribution deals with major studios, as well as structuring foreign corporations for multijurisdictional film production tax incentives. In the past, Smith has overseen business and legal affairs for AFG and Walden Media on numerous films including the Academy Award® winner The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, along with Journey to the Center of the Earth and the second and third “Narnia” films, Prince Caspian and Voyage of the Dawn Treader, as well as Parental Guidance, and others.

Prior to joining AFG in 2003, Smith was Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs at New Line Cinema/ Fine Line Features, in charge of legal acquisitions of motion picture content, as well as overseeing business affairs for development, production, financing, and distribution of motion pictures.

Smith received his J.D. from New England Law and earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from Pepperdine University. Smith is a noted published author in the area of copyright law.

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Ryan Jones

Chief Operating Officer | Anschutz Film Group and Walden Media

Ryan Jones has worked at Anschutz Film Group (AFG) and Walden Media since 2006 and has been responsible for financial planning & analysis and structuring talent deals and co-financing agreements on numerous films, including The BFG, Everest, and the “Chronicles of Narnia” franchise. Jones was responsible for overseeing the asset sale and disposition of large scale library content for AFG. Currently Jones oversees corporate finance and strategic planning.

Prior to AFG, Jones was Executive Director of Finance at Lionsgate as well as MGM Entertainment, overseeing deal analysis and FP&A.

Jones received his MBA from UCLA and a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Pepperdine University.

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Balazs Laszlo

Executive Vice President | Business Affairs & Strategic Planning

During his entertainment industry career, Balazs Laszlo has held positions at Anschutz Film Group (AFG) and Walden Media, Universal Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, and DreamWorks.
Laszlo joined Walden in 2006, where he plays an integral role in heading all business and legal affairs for the company, including negotiating individual talent agreements, overseeing motion picture and television production activities and managing co-financing arrangements with studios and distribution partners.

Since becoming Executive Vice President in 2018, he has advised the management team on creative, business and financial strategy. He has helped to structure complex asset deals and guide the company through a changing entertainment landscape as Walden continues to grow.

Before joining Walden, Lazslo was counsel in Universal Pictures’ motion picture legal department for five years, where he was responsible for legal support for a wide range of business units, including development projects, productions at various stages, management of term deals and support for corporate legal matters.

Prior to that, he worked for two years at Twentieth Century Fox as counsel overseeing domestic and international licensing and merchandising activities for the television and motion picture divisions, including management of international licensing agents and directing litigation matters related to infringement and piracy.

Laszlo’s first studio position was at DreamWorks in 1999 working with Laura Fox, then head of motion picture business and legal affairs for the company founded by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen.

Laszlo began his legal career working for famed independent producer Roger Corman, who mentored and gave a start to many young film directors such as Francis Ford Coppola, Ron Howard, and James Cameron, and who has been producing, financing and distributing independent film and television projects since the 1950s.

Laszlo holds a law degree from Whittier Law School and a joint BA degree in History and English from University of California, Riverside.

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Benjamin Tappan

President of Production

Benjamin Tappan is President of Production for Walden Media where he leads all television and film development and production. Tappan has spent more than 20 years as a senior executive in programming development, production and talent management. Tappan was hired by EPIX (now MGM+) in 2015 as the premium cable network’s first dedicated scripted programming executive and was charged with managing and launching EPIX’s first three straight-to-series productions. During his four-year tenure at EPIX, Tappan oversaw the day-to-day development and production operations for EPIX’s $150M scripted original programming slate, which included Get Shorty, starring Ray Romano and Chris O’Dowd; Berlin Station, starring Ashley Judd and Richard Jenkins; Graves, starring Nick Nolte; Godfather of Harlem, starring Forrest Whitaker; and others.

Prior to EPIX Tappan served as Senior Vice President of two production companies servicing three separate overall studio deals, including overseeing scripted series for Landscape Entertainment at eOne, overseeing limited services for Landscape Entertainment at Fox Network, and overseeing an exclusive feature film deal for Giant Pictures at 20th Century Fox. Tappan spent more than 10 years as a literary and talent manager at firms including The Bauer Company, Marsala/Tappan Management and ROAR. Tappan most recently served as a consultant specializing in scripted development and production at his firm Tap/In Entertainment.

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Deborah Kovacs

Executive Vice President | Publishing, Marketing & Outreach

Deborah Kovacs is responsible for Anschutz Film Group (AFG) and Walden Media’s activities in book publishing and acts as liaison between authors, studios, publishing, and educational partners creating initiatives to promote awareness of Walden’s film, television and book projects, maintaining and underscoring the company’s longstanding commitment to education and literacy. Kovacs is also responsible for Walden’s social media and web presences. She has been a member of the Walden team since 2001.

Kovacs initiated Walden’s involvement in publishing by producing companion books based on James Cameron’s Ghosts of the Abyss (2003). From there, she went to on establish and manage Walden’s two co-publishing partnerships. The first, with Penguin Books for Young Readers from 2004-2008, resulted most notably in the New York Times bestselling, Newbery Honor-winner Savvy by Ingrid Law. Since 2008, Kovacs has been responsible for Walden’s collaboration with the HarperCollins Children’s Books middle-grade imprint Walden Pond Press. Walden Pond Press has published more than sixty books, including National Book Award nominees The Real Boy by Anne Ursu and Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder as well as the Global World Read Aloud selection A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold and the acclaimed, multi-award winning Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson.

Kovacs began her career at Children’s Television Workshop, now Sesame Workshop, where she was editor of Sesame Street Magazine. She was also an editor in Scholastic Inc.’s magazine group and later spearheaded that company’s entrance into interactive media.

Just prior to joining Walden, Kovacs was Editor-in-Chief of Turnstone Publishing Group, producers and publishers of documentary-style children’s books, educational materials and websites created in partnership with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and others. She is also author of more than thirty children’s books, both fiction and non-fiction.

Kovacs enjoys mentoring new writers at Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program, at Simmons University’s MFA in Writing for Children program, and at the Highlights Foundation. She also serves as a volunteer grant writer for Our Sisters’ School, a middle school in New Bedford, Massachusetts that provides an impactful, experience-based education to a diverse community of girls from underserved families.

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Cher Hawrysh

Senior Vice President | Physical Production

As Senior VP Physical Production of Anschutz Film Group (AFG) and Walden Media, Cher Hawrysh brings over fifteen years industry experience overseeing film and television productions from conception through delivery.

Prior to joining Walden Media, Hawrysh oversaw legal delivery for Netflix Studio Features. Projects included Red Notice, The Harder They Fall, Don’t Look Up, tick, tick…BOOM!, and more. She earlier served as Head of Production for finance and production company Los Angeles Media Fund (LAMF) from the company’s inception in 2014 through 2018. At LAMF, Hawrysh shepherded several documentaries and features through production, and was an executive producer of the Sundance Special Jury Award winner Shirley staring Elisabeth Moss and Michael Stuhlbarg.

Before joining LAMF, Hawrysh was an award-winning producer focused on content for the global marketplace. She played key roles in the development and production of independent film and television in the U.S. and Canada, garnered expertise in international co-productions and shot on location in more than a dozen countries around the world. She has regularly attended international festivals and markets since 2001 and her work has screened theatrically, at major festivals, and aired on television around the globe.

An alumnus of the UCLA Professional Program in Producing, the Canadian Film Centre, and the Schulich School of Business Media Leadership Program, Hawrysh is committed to bringing high quality entertainment to the screen. Hawrysh is a proud Canadian, formerly based in Vancouver and Toronto, and now calls Los Angeles home.

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Andy Rackauskas

Senior Vice President | Controller

Andy Rackauskas has worked at Anschutz Film Group (AFG) and Walden Media since 2007 and has been responsible for financial reporting and analysis including budgeting and enforcing company policies and procedures. Rackauskas controls treasury functions, domestic and foreign production funding, government compliance, and audits.

Prior to AFG, Rackauskas was Assistant Controller at AEG Presents (Formerly AEG Live/ Goldenvoice/ Concerts West) as well as Where International and Ticketmaster Publications, overseeing accounting activities.

Rackauskas received his Bachelor of Science in Accounting/ Business Administration from California Polytechnic University at San Luis Obispo.

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Julia Friley

Vice President of Development

Julia Friley is the Director of Development at Anschutz Film Group (AFG) and Walden Media, where she works to create and develop film and television projects that explore humanity’s complexity while being addictively entertaining – and always with a dash of hope thrown in.

Since joining AFG in 2020, she has been involved in the creative development and production of Netflix’s beloved series The Baby-Sitter’s Club, the animated underdog adventure Rumble on Paramount Plus, AppleTV+’s record breaking sci-fi feature Finch, and the girl power spooks of A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting at Netflix.

Julia grew up with a passion for literature and as a rabid theatre kid in Calgary, Alberta, chasing down any theatrical production that would allow her to sweep the stage. She fell in love with film studying abroad in Prague while pursuing her BFA at Boston University in Theatre Arts. After graduating, she moved to Los Angeles and solidified her love of well-told stories by working at an independent bookstore where she specialized in young adult, adult and children’s fiction. Prior to joining AFG, Julia worked in development at Paramount Animation, Fox Family, Columbia Pictures and Sony’s International Film Group.

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CONTACT

10201 West Pico Blvd, Building 52

Los Angeles, CA 90064

 

Email | info@walden.com