Founded in 2009 by Ron Simons, SimonSays Entertainment is a Film & Theatre production company with a mission to Tell Every Story™. With a focus on narratives that dig deeply into the outsider’s struggle for dignity and acceptance, SimonSays Entertainment tells stories that examine the unheard voices of the American Tapestry.
SimonSays Entertainment’s most recent films premiered at Sundance 2013: Blue Caprice in NEXT for Innovative Storytelling and was sold to Sundance Selects/IFC. Blue Caprice opened Lincoln Film Society’s New Directors/New Films at MoMA in March and is nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Picture and nominated for the NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Independent Motion Picture. Director Alexandre Moors is nominated for the Gotham Awards Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award and Isaiah Washington for the Gotham Best Actor Award Mother of George was a Grand Jury nominee in the Sundance U.S. Dramatic Competition earning Bradford Young an award for Best Cinematograpy. Mother of George sold to Ossilloscope Labs and was given the Best World Cinema honor by the African American Film Critics Association. Both films open in theatres nationwide in 2013.
SimonSays debut film project Night Catches Us, premiered in dramatic competition at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and was screened as part of the 2010 Film Society of Lincoln Center’s New Directors/New Films Festival at MoMA . The film was released in the U.S. in December 2010 through Magnolia Pictures and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature.
The company’s second feature, Gun Hill Road, stars Esai Morales and Judy Reyes and was a Sundance Grand Jury nominee and had 2011 theatrical release in 2011. Both Gun Hill Road and Night Catches Us are available on Amazon & iTunes.
Recent Broadway projects include the 2012 Tony-winning Broadway production of Porgy & Bess as well as the all-black Broadway production of A Street Car Named Desire.
Ron Simons’ Biography
Founder and President: Ron Simons, is a three-time Tony Award-winning producer and actor. Ron leads the strategic planning/development of Theatre and Film projects including the critically acclaimed films: Night Catches Us, Gun Hill Road, Blue Caprice and Mother of George (all premiered at Sundance). His first documentary 25 to Life premiered at the American Black Film Festival where it won Best Documentary. He also produced the Broadway productions of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder (Tony Award for Best Musical), Porgy & Bess (Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical), Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (Tony Award for Best Play, Drama Desk, New Drama Critics and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Best Play, Drama League Award for Outstanding Production of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Play), A Streetcar Named Desire (AEA’s Extraordinary Excellence in Diversity on Broadway Award). Off-Broadway projects include Bedlam’s St. Joan and Bedlam’s Hamlet Awards (Off Broadway Alliance Award – Best Revival (for Saint Joan). He also produced the Chicago production of 5 Lesbians Eating Quiche (FringeNYC – Outstanding Production Award).
Awards his films have garnered include: FIPRESCI Award for Best American Feature; African-American Film Critics Association – Best Picture; African-American Film Critics Association – Best World Cinema; Black Reel Awards – Best Independent Film (2 Wins); Black Reel Awards – Best Screenplay, Adapted or Original; Philadelphia QFest – Audience Award, Best Film; Dallas QFest – Best Overall Feature; Outflix of Memphis – Audience Favorite, Best Domestic Feature; IMAGEN Award – Best Film; Independent Spirit Award – Best Picture (2 Nominations); Sundance Film Festival – U.S. Dramatic Competition – Best Feature (3 Nominations); Sundance Film Festival – U.S. Dramatic Competition – Best Cinematography.
As an actor, Ron has appeared on stage, in film and television. He and fellow cast members won the London Stage Award for Acting Excellence for the play Boy Steals Train which he co-developed. He has performed in numerous regional theaters including Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Utah Shakespeare Featival and the Classical Theatre of Harlem. Film and television credits include Blue Caprice, Night Catches Us, 27 Dresses, Mystery Team , Phoebe in Wonderland, Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, As the World Turns and Nowhere Man.
Ron’s corporate experience includes positions as Software Engineer having developed systems at Hewlett-Packard, IBM and later, as a Knowledge Engineer, he developed Artificial Intelligence systems for F500 companies such as GM, Chrysler and Morton Thiokol. He is a former Marketing Executive at the Microsoft Corporation having managed multi-million dollar marketing campaigns for the Microsoft Mail family of products.
Ron is a recipient of the Heritage Award from Columbia College’s Black Alumni Council, 150 Distinguished Alumni Award from University of Washington, and is a Johnson & Johnson Leadership Award Fellow, IFP Cannes’ Producer’s Network Fellow and a Sundance Producers’ Summit Fellow. He holds a BA from Columbia College, an MBA from Columbia Business School and an MFA from the University of Washington’s Professional Actor Training Program.
April Yvette Thompson’s Biography
Director of Development: April Yvette Thompson, is a Tony-award winning producer/actor/writer working across media. April Yvette Thompson is involved in strategic planning/development of film and theatre projects including the critically acclaimed Night Catches Us starring Kerry Washington & Anthony Mackie; Gun Hill Road starring Esai Morales & Judy Reyes; Blue Caprice starring Isaiah Washington as well as the Tony Award-winning Broadway production of Porgy & Bess starring Audra McDonald.
April began interning at The Children’s Defense Fund as a sophomore at Vassar. From summer intern to child advocate, CDF developed her community organizing skills and fine-tuned her strategic planning skills. Upon graduation, April became Founder/Director of CDF’s Freedom Schools in Washington, D.C. where she managed a 15 member staff, created arts-in-education programming/curricula, devised strategic planning models, grant writing/fundraising, community mapping/building with other community-based organizations and coordinated Child Watch Campaigns.
April is a New York-based actor/writer/producer with numerous Broadway, Off-Broadway, Film & TV credits. Recent credits include star turns in the smash Broadway hit, Clybourne Park (Tony Award) and the off-broadway revival of The Exonerated w/Stockard Channing and Brooke Shields. After the New York Theatre Workshop premiere of her critically acclaimed solo play Liberty City (co-written by April Yvette Thompson & Jessica Blank), she was nominated for Lucille Lortel, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Broadway.com Audience and AUDELCO awards. April has produced/performed Liberty City at New York Theatre Workshop, The Arsht Center, Williamstown, Seattle Rep, Hartford Stage, The Daryl Roth Theatre and The Center Theatre Group. In Film & TV, April co-starred in The Exonerated with Danny Glover, Aidan Quinn, Delroy Lindo; Phoebe in Wonderland with Felicity Huffman; Accidental Husband with Uma Thurman; Bernard & Doris with Ralph Fiennes & Susan Sarandon; Third Watch, Law & Order: Criminal Intent and The Dave Chappelle Show. April is developing her second play Good Bread Alley with the support of New York Stage & Film, 651 Arts, New York Theatre Workshop, Harlem Stage and The Arsht. April has a BA from Vassar College and a MFA from Rutgers University.
Nora Davis’s Biography
Chief Operating Officer: Nora Davis, has an extensive background in business, legal and finance administration working for companies such as Microsoft, T-Mobile, and Getty Images in many different capacities. She also is an experienced non-profit Executive and Board member, assisting several Seattle-area non-profits with their business operations. She is the former President of the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center Advisory Council and a former and founding Board member of the Technology Access Foundation (TAF) in Seattle, Washington.
Shawlini Manjunath’s Biography
Producing Associate: Shawlini Manjunath, initially worked as an assistant to the founder and president, Ron Simons, at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival where his feature film Gun Hill Road premiered. In June of 2013, Shawlini began working as a Producing Associate.
As an actress, Shawlini has appeared in FX’s Louie, Wolf of Wall Street, Nickelodeon’s Team Umizoomi, Lifetime’s Sherri, and various national commercials. Her corporate background includes work in publishing and human resources for Random House and as a publicist for an entertainment and fashion PR firm, Laforce and Stevens.
Shawlini received her BA in Journalism (specifically Public Relations) from the University of Georgia. She is a member of New York Women in Film and Television and the New York Junior League. She also runs an after-school performing arts program at the Beacon Center in East Harlem.