Executive Director Courtney Pledger
Courtney Pledger is the Arkansas Educational Television Network Executive Director. She has been with the network since 2017, previously serving as executive director of the Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute/Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival.
As AETN executive director, Pledger is responsible for policy implementation, strategic planning, budget preparation, and operations and management of the statewide educational network and its private foundation, among other duties.
Pledger has worked for more than three decades in the film and television industry, immersed in management, story development and production. An Arkansas native, her first job was as an intern at a public television station while attending Millsaps College. She then spent many years in Los Angeles, London and New York before returning to Arkansas in 2012 to revitalize and reinvent the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival. Under Pledger's leadership, HSDFF was designated an Oscar-qualifying festival in the category of Documentary Short Subject by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
From 2011-2014, Pledger served as a creative consultant to award-winning Aardman Animations in the UK ("Chicken Run," "Wallace and Gromit," "Arthur Christmas").
From 2009-2011, she held the position of senior vice president of production for Los Angeles-based Radical Pictures/Radical Studios where she helped build the company's publishing and film brands, forging partnerships with major film studios including DreamWorks, Disney, New Regency, Fox, Warner Brothers and MGM. Among the industry elements engaged to create book-to-film properties were screenwriter Terry Rossio, actor Vince Vaughn's Wild West Picture Show, director McG's Wonderland Sound and Vision, director Gore Verbinski's Blind Wink, actor Dwayne Johnson, producer Mark Gordon and screenwriter Paul Tamasy. Pledger was instrumental in developing and packaging the underlying properties for Radical features "Oblivion" with Tom Cruise for Universal and MGM's "Hercules."
Prior to joining Radical, Pledger was a producer with Illumination Entertainment/Universal Studios where she specialized in identifying book material for family-friendly films from both the U.S. and U.K.
From 2000-2004, she partnered with British producer and former Working Title Films co-founder Sarah Radclyffe in London-based Jigsaw Films, under the Miramax umbrella. "The Vampire's Assistant", based on the best-selling book series "The Saga of Darren Shan," was released by Universal in 2009 starring Academy Award Nominee John C. Reilly. Development continues on Jigsaw's adaptation of the classic children's book "Kensuke's Kingdom" by "War Horse" author Michael Morpurgo.
Pledger began her career at Hearst Entertainment. She was vice president of development and production at the IndieProd Company and Rastar/IndieProd where she worked for noted producers Ray Stark and Dan Melnick, and was involved in a range of projects including "Roxanne," "L.A. Story" and "Air America." During those years, she produced a number of significant television dramas for CBS, ABC and NBC, including: "Lois Gibbs and The Love Canal," starring Academy Award-winner Marsha Mason; "Evidence of Love (aka A Killing in a Small Town)," starring Brian Dennehy and Barbara Hershey, for which Hershey won a Best Actress Emmy; and the Christopher Award-winning miniseries "The Challenger," revealing the struggle by NASA engineer Roger Boisjoly to bar the faulty space shuttle from its launch. She produced the international series "A Fine Romance" from ABC/London Weekend Television/Television France and was responsible for other series pilots starring actors Anthony Perkins and Ian McShane.
She is a recipient of Women in Film's Lillian Gish Producing Award and has been nominated for a primetime Emmy. Most importantly, she is the proud mother of three children, Miranda, Liam and India.Courtney Pledger
Deputy Director Tony Brooks
Tony Brooks is the Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN) deputy director. He has been with the network since 2001, having previously served as a volunteer member of the AETN Commission.
As deputy director, Brooks oversees the day-to-day operations of the network. He also has a keen interest in history, political science and Arkansas outdoors which has helped him broaden AETN's scope of services to Arkansas. With that focus, Brooks helped develop and serves as host of the award-winning "Agri Arkansas," a monthly series that celebrates agriculture in Arkasas and features experts, innovators and challenges all present in the state's largest industry. The series was nominated in 2015 for a Regional Emmy award for Outstanding Interview/Discussion program by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Brooks is also an educator at heart. He taught United States Government as a graduate assistant at Arkansas State University and was a high school teacher for 9 years with Paragould Public Schools. He served as adjunct faculty at the Bootheel Education Center of Southeast Missouri State University, where he taught government and U.S. History. In addition to his full time role at AETN, Brooks is currently an adjunct professor of communications at the University of Central Arkansas, where he teaches senior level courses in broadcast journalism production and electronic media applications. He also serves as an advisor for the student-produced evening newscasts for UCA's local cable access channel.
Brooks spent more than 16 years at KAIT-8 television, the ABC affiliate in Jonesboro, Arkansas, working as a field reporter, photographer, chief news anchor for the two evening newscasts and managing editor. During those years, he became an award-winning television journalist, receiving recognition for his work in documentaries and news reporting. He was also a former legislative aide to Missouri Eighth District Congressman Bill Emerson.
Brooks earned his Associate of Arts from Mississippi County Community College, followed by his Bachelor of Science in Education in History and Political Science and Master of Arts in Public Personnel Administration from Arkansas State University. In 1997, Brooks was recognized as a Distinguished Alumni by the Arkansas Association of Two-year Colleges.
At home in Conway, Brooks is the proud father of two daughters and even prouder grandfather of two grandchildren. He is also an avid outdoorsman who loves to fish, hunt and spend time with nature.Tony Brooks