Michael Skolnik

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Michael Skolnik
Born (1978-08-15) August 15, 1978 (age 44)
Mount Kisco, New York, United States
🏡 ResidenceNew York, New York, United States
🏳️ NationalityAmerican
💼 Occupation
CEO of The Soze Agency

Michael Skolnik (born August 15, 1978) is an entrepreneur, film producer, news commentator, civil rights activist and motivational speaker.

Skolnik is a partner and co-founder of The Soze Agency. Previously, Skolnik was the president of GlobalGrind.com. Prior to this, Skolnik spent twelve years as a film director and producer.

Early life and education[edit]

Skolnik was born in Mount Kisco, New York and grew up in Katonah, New York. He graduated from John Jay High School in Westchester County, New York in 1996.

Skolnik's mother, Martha, after running a lunch café and bakery for 16 years, embarked on a film career, serving as Skolnik's editor on many of his films.[1] Skolnik's father, Simon, is chairman of the Conservation Board of Bedford, New York in the Town of Bedford and is the vice president of the New York State Association of Conservation Commissions.[citation needed]

His brother, Max Skolnik, is the founder of Kid Power DC[2] and currently is the Director of National Programs at the My Brother's Keeper Alliance.[3]

He graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2000, where he majored in theater.[4]


The Soze Agency[edit]

The Soze Agency is a social impact creative agency that works with companies, non-profits, foundations and movements. The company is based in New York City and is a worker owned cooperative.


In early 2009, Skolnik was hired by Russell Simmons to serve as the political editor for GlobalGrind.com, an online destination founded by Simmons and Accel Partners.

Quickly moving up through the ranks, Skolnik was named the Editor-In-Chief and the co-President of the company in early 2011. During this time, Skolnik grew the company from 200,000 unique visitors a month to over nine million in 2015.

During his tenure at GlobalGrind, Skolnik also served as political director to Simmons, overseeing Simmons' social justice and political activities.

Skolnik and Simmons, in 2009, worked with grassroots organizers to drastically reform the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Former New York Governor David Paterson signed a new bill reforming this 36-year-old law.

In 2009, after the violent death of Chicago teenager, Derrion Albert, Skolnik began a campaign bringing attention to the youth violence epidemic of America. Writing thousands of articles on GlobalGrind about the deaths of young people, Skolnik became a leading voice around the issue of violence.[5] On February 26, 2012, Skolnik reported on the death of Trayvon Martin as part of his series.

On March 19, 2012, Skolnik published an op-ed, entitled, "White People, You Will Never Look Suspicious Like Trayvon Martin."[6] Following this release, Skolnik appeared on numerous national broadcasts discussing the complicated issues surrounding the death of the teenager.

Skolnik worked with the Obama administration on various issues and actions. In 2011, Skolnik co-led an effort organizing the first Urban Entrepreneur Summit sponsored by the White House. He also served on Vice President Joseph Biden's task force on gun violence.[7] And in 2012, Skolnik joined the Obama re-election campaign as an official surrogate.[8]

Skolnik worked on federal legislation, working with and advocating on behalf of young people for bills like: repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell,[9] Youth PROMISE Act,[10] Green Jobs initiative,[11] G.I. Bill 2.0, National Criminal Justice Commission Act[12] and the DREAM Act.[13]

Skolnik campaigned to legalize same-sex marriage in New York and Maryland with Brendon Ayanbadejo.[14]


In 1998, at the age of 20, Skolnik began his film career as Executive Producer of Danny Hoch's Jails, Hospitals and Hip-Hop.[15]

Skolnik's directorial debut was the award-winning La Esquina Caliente,[16] a documentary about the baseball games between the Baltimore Orioles and the Cuban National Team that took place in 1999. The film premiered on the Sundance Channel.

His next film would be Hooked: The Legend of Demetrius "Hook" Mitchell,[17] a documentary film about one of the greatest playground basketball legends to ever play the game. Hooked made its world premiere at the 2003 Tribeca Film Festival and premiered on NBA-TV and MTV.

In 2004, Skolnik co-produced and associate produced two documentaries for HBO: America Undercover series: Back in the Hood: Gang War II[18] directed by Marc Levin (Slam, Thug Life) and Heir to an Execution: A Granddaughter's Story,[19] which made its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.

Also in that year, Skolnik made his feature film directorial debut with the award-winning, On the Outs, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. He was nominated for a Gotham Breakthrough Director Award and an IFP Indie Spirit Award for Best Feature.[20] On the Outs played theatrically around the United States and in France, and had a televised broadcast on the Showtime Network.[21]

Filmmaker magazine named him 25 filmmakers to watch in 2005.[22]

In 2005, Skolnik began a film project about Grammy Award winning artist, Wyclef Jean's quest to bring peace to his homeland, Haiti.[23] He filmed for over 4 years, however the film is still incomplete.

In 2006, Skolnik co-directed Lockdown, USA, a documentary film about Russell Simmons and his quest to end New York State's Rockefeller Drug Laws, that premiered at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival and aired on the IFC Channel.[24]

Also in that year, Skolnik directed Without the King, financed by Netflix, a documentary film about the last ruling monarch in Africa, King Mswati III of Swaziland.

In 2007, Skolnik signed a development deal with Universal Studios and was working on a film for Imagine, produced by Brian Grazer, about the last four days of President Jean-Betrande Aristide's time in Haiti.

In 2008, Skolnik produced the indie-feature, Entre Nos, starring Paola Mendoza and co-directed by Gloria La Morte and Paola Mendoza, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.[25]

Inspired by the 2008 election of Barack Obama, Skolnik decided to leave the film business to pursue a new career in social justice and new media.

Television personality[edit]

Skolnik appears regularly on MSNBC,[26] CNN[27] and Fox News[28] discussing and analyzing current political topics of the day.

Skolnik has delivered keynote addresses and participated in panel discussions at Princeton University, Yale University, UCLA, NYU, Georgetown University, University of Michigan, Harvard University, Howard University, American University and Southern University.


In 2009, Skolnik co-founded Dot2Dot, a community of young leaders from around the country who discuss the challenges that their generation faces. Throughout the year they convene to discuss how their generation can more effectively work together on multiple issues.[citation needed]

Fundraising & Non-Profit Work[edit]

Skolnik has been involved in creative fundraising efforts dating back to 2000 when he raised $250,000 to bring 24 young people to Cuba for a cultural exchange.[29] Since that time he has raised money to finance movies, books, social justice, political campaigns and non-profit organizations. In October 2013, Skolnik raised $165,000 to support a violence intervention program in New York, which was on the verge of closing its doors.[30]

In 2017, Skolnik raised $182,000 for three-year-old Jordyn Grace, who lost her mother during Hurricane Harvey.

Skolnik serves on the Board of Directors for Rock the Vote, The Trayvon Martin Foundation, Policy Link, The Gathering For Justice and The Young Partners Board of The Public Theater.

Personal life[edit]

Skolnik's long-time girlfriend and mother of his son, Mateo Ali, is Paola Mendoza.[citation needed]


Year Film Producer Director
1999 La Esquina Caliente YES YES
2000 Jails, Hospitals & Hip-Hop YES
2003 Hooked: The Legend of Demetrius Hook Mitchell YES YES
2004 Heir to an Execution YES
2004 On the Outs YES YES
2004 Back in the Hood: Gang War 2 YES
2005 Protocols of Zion YES
2006 Autumn's Eyes YES
2006 Still Standing YES
2006 Lockdown, USA YES YES
2007 Without the King YES YES
2009 Entre nos YES


  1. "Martha Skolnik". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  2. Kid Power DC http://www.kidpowerdc.org. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. My Brother's Keeper Alliance http://www.mbkalliance.org. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. http://articles.latimes.com/2001/jul/27/local/me-27253
  5. "He has a name". Global Grind. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  6. "White People, You Will Never Look Suspicious Like Trayvon Martin by Michael Skolnik". Global Grind. 2012-03-19. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  7. Victoria, Lauren (2013-01-16). "Youth PROMISE Act: Will Violence Prevention Bill Be in Obama Gun Violence Plan?". Politic365. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  8. Patten, Dominic. "Hollywood For Obama & Romney: Star Surrogates Out On Final Campaign Day". Deadline.com. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  9. "Russell Simmons: Stop the Lying: Repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'". Huffingtonpost.com. 2010-09-10. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  10. "Matthew Albracht: Prominent Public Leaders and Entertainers Write Pres. Obama Urging Criminal Justice Reform". Huffingtonpost.com. 2013-04-17. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  11. "Russell Simmons: Dear Sen. Feinstein & Sen. Hatch, Let's Stop Sending Our Kids to Prison!". Huffingtonpost.com. 2010-09-16. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  12. [1][dead link]
  13. "Twitter / UncleRUSH: Proud of President @BarackObama's". Twitter.com. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  14. "Carrying a Cause to the Super Bowl". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  15. "Jails, Hospitals & Hip-Hop (2000)". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  16. "La-Esquina-Caliente - Trailer - Cast - Showtimes". NYTimes.com. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  17. "Hooked: The Legend of Demetrius Hook Mitchell (2003)". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  18. "Back in the Hood: Gang War 2 (2004)". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  19. "Heir to an Execution (2004)". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  20. "On the Outs (2004)". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  21. Holden, Stephen (2005-07-13). "On-the-Outs - Trailer - Cast - Showtimes". NYTimes.com. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  22. "25 NEW FACES OF INDEPENDENT FILM 2005 - Filmmaker Magazine - Summer 2005". Filmmaker Magazine. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  23. "Wyclef Jean "Sou Sou" Music Video". YouTube. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  24. "Lockdown, USA (2006)". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  25. "Entre nos | Tribeca Film Festival". Tribecafilm.com. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  26. "Obama's surprising record on pardons". MSNBC. 2013-10-15. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  27. "CNN Video - Breaking News Videos from". CNN.com. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  28. "Michael Skolnik and Laura Ingraham Debate Rapper Jay Z's HBO Comments on the Middle Class". Fox News Insider. 2013-08-06. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  29. "Kids Study Theater, Share Culture in Cuba" UCLA Today. Retrieved 2013-3-12.
  30. "Give life to LIFE Camp! No More Bullets in the Hood!" Crowdtilt.com. Retrieved 2014-3-12.

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