Big Heart Small Film is proud to host an esteemed panel of nine judges to share their knowledge and critique the works of our young filmmakers.  They hail from a multitude of backgrounds from producing, directing, screenwriting, and acting, to leading some of the most prestigious entertainment organizations.

DJ Caruso

D.J. Caruso

D.J. Caruso most recently directed XXX The Return of Xander Cage, an action thriller starring Vin Diesel that was a global smash grossing $347 million. He wrote and directed Standing Up, a coming-of-age drama based on the beloved novel The Goats by Brock Cole.  Prior he directed the popular Sci-Fi action film I Am Number 4 based on the Young Adult novel.  Teaming with producer Steven Spielberg, DJ directed the hit action thriller Eagle Eye starring Shia LaBeouf and Michelle Monaghan, which debuted at #1. His suspense thriller Disturbia spent 3 consecutive weeks at #1 in the Box Office. DJ directed Two for the Money, teaming Oscar®-winners Al Pacino and Matthew McConaughey. The film followed his hit Taking Lives, which starred Angelina Jolie. His critically acclaimed, directorial debut film The Salton Sea put him on a list of directors to tap. D.J. Caruso was born in Norwalk, Connecticut and graduated from Pepperdine University. Mr. Caruso lives in Pasadena with his family.

Don Hahn

Don Hahn

Don Hahn is producer of the worldwide phenomenon The Lion King and the classic Beauty and the Beast, the first animated film nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. He also Executive Produced this years blockbuster Beauty and the Beast starring Emma Watson. Hahn began his producing career on the landmark hit Who Framed Roger Rabbit. He was a founder and Executive Producer of the acclaimed Disneynature Films Earth, Oceans, African Cats and Chimpanzee. As an author Hahn’s books on animation, art and creativity include the best seller Brain Storm, and his upcoming book Yesterday’s Tomorrow. Hahn also serves on the Advisory Board for the Walt Disney Family Museum, and is on the Board of Directors of PBS SoCal.

John Lee Hancock

John Lee Hancock, Jr. is an American screenwriter, film director, and producer. He is best known for writing and directing the The Blind Side, the 2009 feature film about an American football player, which received an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture and several other awards. More recently, he directed the historical comedy-drama films Saving Mr. Banks, a film about the life of P.L. Travers and her negotiations with Walt Disney over adapting her novel, Mary Poppins into a feature film. In 2016, he directed The Founder, which followed the story of Ray Kroc, who founded McDonald’s fast food chain. Hancock lives in Pasadena with his family. 

Denise Mann

Denise Mann

Denise Mann has been the head of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television’s Producers Program since 1994 and is a professor in the Department of Film, Television and Digital Media. In that capacity, she teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on contemporary entertainment industry practices as well as critical studies seminars on film and television history and theory. She is the author of Hollywood Independents: The Postwar Talent Takeover (2008) and the editor of Wired TV (2014). Mann received her B.A. in English Literature at U.C. Berkeley; and her M.F.A. in production/directing and Ph.D. in Cinema and Media Studies at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. Mann has lived in Pasadena for over 20 years. 

Dominic Ng

Dominic Ng

Dominic Ng is Chairman and CEO of East West Bank. Headquartered in California, East West Bank is a top performing commercial bank with exclusive focus on the U.S. and Greater China markets. East West Bank has been ranked among the 25 largest publicly traded banks in the U.S. by market capitalization, and has been selected in the top 15 of “America’s 100 Best Banks” by Forbes since 2010. East West Bank stands out as a premier lender in the entertainment industry, one of the few banks with an active presence in both the U.S. and Greater China, and the only U.S.-based bank financing film and television production in China. Mr. Ng currently serves on the board of Mattel, Inc., and STX Entertainment.

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Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg, one of the industry’s most successful and influential filmmakers, is Chairman of Amblin Partners. Formed in 2015, Spielberg leads the content creation company in partnership with Participant Media, Reliance Entertainment, Entertainment One, Alibaba Pictures and Universal Pictures.

Spielberg is also, collectively, the top-grossing director of all time, having helmed such blockbusters as “Jaws,” “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial,” the “Indiana Jones” franchise, and “Jurassic Park.” Among his myriad honors, he is a three-time Academy Award® winner for Best Director for “Saving Private Ryan” and “Schindler’s List” and Best Picture for “Schindler’s List.” He has also earned Academy Award® nominations for Best Director for “Lincoln,” “Munich,” “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” In 2000, he received the DGA’s Lifetime Achievement Award.  He is also the recipient of the Irving G. Thalberg Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Hollywood Foreign Press’s Cecil B. DeMille Award, the Kennedy Center Honor, and numerous other career tributes.

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Billy Zane

Billy Zane is best known for starring in some of the highest grossing films of all time, as well as some of the most watched cult television experiences ever. Titanic, Twin Peaks and The Back To The Future Franchise, are among The over 120 titles to his credit. On stage, Zane has appeared on Broadway at The Shubert Theater, in The London West End at The Royal Haymarket Theater and Chicago’s Lyric Opera. An accomplished painter and photographer, he has had exhibitions at Art Basel Miami, in London, Los Angles, Budapest and Milan. 

Billy is also the founder and Chairman of the Convergence Lab, a media-tech, research lab and fund, in partnership with Caltech's office of Tech Transfer. 


Wei Zhang

Wei Zhang

Ms. Wei Zhang is President of Alibaba Pictures and Senior Vice President of Alibaba Group.  She joined Alibaba Group in 2008 as the head of Corporate Development to lead the Group's investment and acquisition activities.  She has also worked in the Group's strategy department and led Alibaba corporate social responsibility efforts.  Currently she is in charge of Alibaba Pictures' international business and operations.

From 2005 to 2008, Ms. Zhang was the Chief Operating Officer of News Corporation STAR China, responsible for managing China operations, revenue, new media, and business development.  From 2002 to 2005, Ms. Zhang was Managing Director of CNBC China, a division of General Electric Company, overseeing CNBC’s operations in China.  She worked at News Corporation China from 2000 to 2002 in the role of Director of Business Development.  Prior to that, Ms. Zhang was a Strategic Consultant at Bain & Company, and a Finance Specialist at General Electric Company and GE Capital. 

Ms. Zhang holds a MBA degree from Harvard Business School and a BA degree in International Organization Management and Finance from Seton Hill College, Pennsylvania.