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About Us

Stephen D. Smith
Co-founder & Chairman
Stephen D. Smith is an immersive storytelling and content distribution entrepreneur.
His recent breakthroughs in content-led technologies include the interactive holographic biography project "Dimensions in Testimony" and the groundbreaking VR piece "The Last Goodbye". Stephen has served for a dozen years as the Executive Director of USC Shoah Foundation, the archival institute founded by filmmaker Steven Spielberg. There he was responsible for leading platform development projects to distribute the world's largest audio-visual archive in 44 languages across over 100 territories, building strategic partnerships with Discovery Channel, ProQuest and Ancestry, for the distribution of aggregated content across multiple platforms. He was the developer of IWitness, a multi-media education platform with 175k registered teachers and single sign-on with Discovery Education.
Heather Maio-Smith
Co-founder & CEO
Heather Maio-Smith is an award-winning interactive storytelling pioneer and technology visionary who brings over a decade of immersive storytelling leadership to StoryFile.
In 2010, Heather developed the first 3D interactive conversation with Holocaust Survivor Rose Schindler through her creative agency Conscience Display. At the time, she was creating physical video installations at the United Nations, USC, and in Havana, Cuba, but she understood that the future of storytelling lay at the intersection of digital media and 'natural conversation' and decided to create it.
As a leader in content based technology, she has spoken about Natural Conversation at Microsoft (2017), US Holocaust Museum (2017), Dartmouth College (2018), FoST (2018), SXSW (2019), SXSW (2019), The LA Times Festival of Books (2019), M.I.T. (2020), and AI Summit (2020). Heather's work has been featured in Fast Company, NBC's The Today Show, The New Yorker, Reuters and BBC. She was also featured on 60 Minutes in 2020.
Sam Gustman
Co-Founder & Founding CTO
For the last 29 years Sam Gustman has engineered technologies for government, education, commercial studios and non-profit organizations. With 16 patents in the area of digital asset management and security technologies, Sam has been working with video and complex media since the early days of the World Wide Web.
Sam has worked for the Army Corps of Engineers, Library of Congress, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Dreamworks, Sega Gameworks, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, TASER International, PBS/WNET, the USC Libraries and the USC Shoah Foundation.
Sam oversees all aspects of StoryFile's technical development supporting the CTO and Product teams with experience drawn from implementing big ideas and creating the infrastructure and teams to bring them into practice.
Andrew Jones
Chief Technology Officer
Andrew Jones comes to StoryFile with 20 years experience in developing technology for real-world applications in entertainment, military applications and intelligent software solutions.
In 2002, Andrew began working in cultural heritage at the University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies, using 3D scanning techniques to virtually reunite the Parthenon and its sculptures. The resulting depictions of the Parthenon were featured in the Louvre Museum, the 2004 Olympics, PBS's NOVA, National Geographic, and the IMAX film "Greece: Secrets of the Past".
As part of his Ph.D., Andrew designed new display devices that can show 3D imagery to multiple viewers without the need for stereo glasses, winning "Best Emerging Technology" at SIGGRAPH 2007. Andrew applied his volumetric capture and systems-building experience to build the capture hardware and software for Dimensions in Testimony, creating the world's first interactive holographic interview. He led the effort to recreate video based Holocaust survivors using holographic technology for museums around the country. Andrew was one of the first employees at Raxium, a microLED startup, where he assembled an R&D lab for 3D capture and display prototypes. He is named as an author on 22 academic publications and 5 patents covering 3D rendering, displays, and interactive video.
Julia Campbell
SVP Tech Strategy & Innovation
Julia Campell has over 16 years of experience developing innovative training applications. She received her Master's Degree from USC in Communication Management in 2007, and her Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) from USC in 2010. Her expertise includes Cognitive Task Analysis (CTA) interview techniques, and instructional design methodologies to improve human performance and inform system design. Her thesis explored how to use CTA to turn expert knowledge into successful educational frameworks for medical procedures.
She has led development efforts to support military training applications in a variety of educational technology mediums to include: online courseware, blended classroom experiences, mixed reality, and virtual reality platforms.
At StoryFile, Julia leads high-profile client projects that seek to push the boundaries of StoryFile technology. She helped build and train the AI processing team, and oversees the creative content team to author more advanced interactive narratives and scenarios. She is excited to continue developing StoryFile's processes, tools and technologies to help bring interactive storytelling to the masses.
Ari Palitz
SVP Studio and Creative
Ari Palitz brings to StoryFile 20 years of film production and creative experience, while traversing multiple narrative forms and media as both producer and director.
Story has always been at the center of Ari's work, and with the advent of new technologies, he pivoted his career to producing and creating some of the most innovative and immersive media of the last 6 years. He began with the award-winning VR film "Clouds Over Sidra" shown during the General Assembly at the UN, the first mass audience VR event. Ari would continue on to produce the rest of the UNVR series and co-direct "My Mother's Wing" and "The Ground Beneath Her", which have premiered at major film festivals, including Cannes, Sundance and Tribeca, featured at the World Economic Forum in Davos, screened at the White House, and have exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art's inaugural program on immersive storytelling.
Sara Shuman
Head of Product Design
Sara Shuman is a digital creative director with over 15 years of agency experience specializing in building, mentoring, and inspiring high-performing digital creative teams.
Sara brings a balance of technical, analytical, and design thinking expertise to any interactive B2B or B2C product design project. She has a strong background in agile, collaborative, and transformational environments, and relishes in using new technology for successfully solving complex creative business problems.
Sara is not only an accomplished product design leader, but can also jump in as a hands-on individual contributor in every stage of the design and UX process. Finally, Sara enjoys solving creative business problems, and strives to create fun, engaging team experiences.
Alana Weiner
Senior Director of Media and Communications
Alana Weiner has worked in the media, communications and branding arena for over 12 years, with experience in government, for-profit and nonprofit organizations, and entrepreneurial/start-up industries. She is passionate about storytelling across traditional, digital, and social media platforms, and is constantly exploring innovative ways to develop brand strategies. She approaches media in an integrative manner across traditional, social, digital, and new media platforms.
Most recently, to explore more entrepreneurial ventures she launched her own company AW MEDIA to work with companies to develop their media and business strategies. Prior to that, she was the Senior Vice President of Media & Strategy at The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. In this role, she implemented media and communications strategies, encompassing public relations, traditional, social, and new media, as well as all messaging and branding. She launched, created, and produced the Federation's first and only weekly podcast with over 83 thought leaders from around the world. This innovative platform and podcast was the stepping stone for numerous other companies and organizations across the country. Prior to this role, she served as the Director of Strategic Communications at Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. She also served as the Director of Media Affairs at the Consulate General of Israel in New York.
Jesse Lehrhoff
Head of Post Production
Jesse Lehrhoff is a producer specializing in Post Production with over 17 years of experience in the entertainment industry. He has a BFA in Film from RISD (Rhode Island School of Design). He has focused on emerging tech for the last 5 years. Prior to this, he worked in production offices, post-production offices, and on set. He has worked in Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Commercials, Music Videos, Documentary, and Branded Content.
He has a great deal of experience working closely with creatives, directors, and clients in order to see a project through, from conception until completion, and is well versed in overseeing budgets, calendars, and teams. Jesse really enjoys working with emerging tech, especially the challenges and problem solving that come along with accommodating the ever-changing technology. He is inspired to be able to help create new ways of storytelling.