Since founding Straight Up Films with her partner Marisa Polvino in 2008, Kate has produced films with major studios and worked with Hollywood’s elite players, including Johnny Depp, Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Morgan Freeman, Christopher Nolan, and Gavin O’Connor.
Kate is a lifelong advocate for children and a mentor to countless young girls. She is grateful to have a platform to help others through the power of exemplary storytelling. As part of her mission to create commercial films that move audiences to enact social changes co-founded Straight Up Impact, a subdivision of Straight Up Films.
She oversees much of the company’s creative and business development. She is about to start pre-production on “Joseph Merrick,” based on the life of the Elephant Man and directed by award-winning filmmaker Kornél Mundruczó and produced by 7 time Academy Award winner Mike Medavoy and David Dobkin; a film adaptation of Viktor Frankl’s bestselling book “Man’s Search for Meaning,” chronicling his experiences in Nazi concentration camps and the power of his life-affirming, meaning-based therapy, produced with Tony Robbins; and the compelling short film series “Meaning in Madness” addressing root causes of a mental health crisis that has led to record anxiety, depression, and suicide among youth.
Kate lives in LA with her husband and 9-year-old son. They are on a collective mission to help kids have a better future.
With a career spanning over two decades, Marisa Polvino is a prolific producer and entrepreneur with a skill for identifying, packaging, and producing quality, star-driven entertainment across all genres and budget levels. Presently, Marisa is Partner and Co-CEO straight UP FILMS a fully integrated multimedia production company that has worked alongside top-name Hollywood talent, including Natalie Portman, Rosario Dawson, Jesse Eisenberg, Gina Rodriguez, and Johnny Depp.
Polvino is responsible for identifying and shaping projects that align with the Straight Up Impact ethos. Presently, she oversees a top-flight feature slate which includes Merrickdirected by Kornel Mundruczo, How to Set a Fire and Why, directed by award-winning director/actress Lisa Edelstein, Dissonance, a YA love story set in the multiverse directed by Catherine Hardwicke and Viktor Frankl’s iconic memoir Man’s Search for Meaning.
Recognizing the profound effect cinema can have on culture Polvino launched Straight Up Impact with long-time business partner Kate Cohen and strategist and advocate Pam Roy. The companies mission is to create, produce and finance thought-provoking content that can appeal to human emotions, shift perspectives and inspire positive social change.
At Straight Up Impact, Polvino uses her entrepreneurial spirit and know-how and focuses on forging relationships with like-minded partners while also overseeing much of the company’s business strategy, development, marketing, and operational structure. In 2019, she created the “Power On” series for Google’s computer science in media division which was a five-part, short-film series directed by leading actresses and designed to promote greater gender and racial diversity in STEAM fields. Polvino currently producing the “Meaning in Madness” film series which centers around the systemic issues contributing to the suicide epidemic facing young adults and teens today and the importance of meaning and purpose in their lives.
Marisa is perpetually inspired by her two children and encourages them to follow their passions and pay attention to what matters most in life. And, to work hard and always be nice to people.
Straight Up Impact who have created a groundbreaking short-film series, Meaning in Madness, which explores the systemic issues contributing to record-high levels of anxiety and depression among teens and young adults. I would be happy to connect you with producers Kate Cohen and Marisa Polvino to hear more about the first film of the series, “Mackenzie” which is releasing on April 8th.
In the first of a four-part documentary series, the filmmakers shine a light on the shortcomings of the industrialized educational system, highlighting the story of Mackenzie, a 17-year-old high school student who feels like she has been reduced to a number and a test score.
While Mackenzie’s story is personal, it is by no means unique. Around the country, students are struggling to find their purpose in a system bent on conformity—and the problem has only gotten worse since COVID-19. For nearly a year, millions of children have been locked out of their classrooms, without access to high-quality education. Meanwhile, parents have tried to step in and fill a void that, until now, has put the onus of education squarely on schools.
Until 125 years ago, learning took place in the world, not solely in the classroom. That changed with the industrial revolution. With or without a global pandemic, the currency of the modern world is innovative, creative thinking—not rote memorization—and most public-school systems simply aren’t equipped to provide this type of human-centered learning. We need to drastically rethink our societal approach to education.
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