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Publicis Sapient and NBA all-star & social justice advocate Karl-Anthony Towns join director Ben Proudfoot to launch short film ‘forgiving johnny,’ shining spotlight on nation’s largest public defender’s office

‘Forgiving Johnny,’ created by Proudfoot’s Breakwater Studios, follows the journey of an LA public defender who leveraged a new digital record system, developed by the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office and Publicis Sapient, to successfully defend a client with developmental disabilities

‘Forgiving Johnny’ is now available to general audiences on TIME and is supported by a wide-reaching campaign this fall


NEW YORK, NY, September 12, 2023 - Publicis Sapient, a digital business transformation company, today announced the launch of the short film ‘Forgiving Johnny,’ which is a firsthand account of forgiveness and the life-changing impact that digitization within the justice system had on an individual. ‘Forgiving Johnny’ was created by Academy Award®-winning director Ben Proudfoot (‘The Queen of Basketball’) and his company, Breakwater Studios.

‘Forgiving Johnny’ highlights the positive impact of digital business transformation on the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office (LACPDO) and the residents of LA by following the journey of LACPDO public defender Noah Cox and the case of his client, Johnny, an individual with developmental disabilities who faced a 20-year prison sentence after an altercation with his brother-in law.  Cox was able to digitally access the documentation he needed quickly through a cutting-edge client case management system (CCMS), created by LACPDO and Publicis Sapient, to seek diversion and treatment for Johnny rather than incarceration. The film shows how digital and technology aided Cox in navigating the complex legal and archival system, making a material impact in the outcome of Johnny’s case.

“As a purpose-driven organization with a decades-long history of transforming established businesses and government institutions, we’ve always believed in the power of digital to create positive impact in the world.  Our collaboration with the LA County Public Defender’s Office stands out because of the powerful human impact. It transcends operational efficiency by creating more effective public defenders, measurably reducing unjust incarceration and the collateral consequences of contact with the criminal justice system,” said Nigel Vaz, CEO of Publicis Sapient.

‘Forgiving Johnny’ is now available to general audiences across TIME’s online video platforms. Viewers can see the film here. Publicis Sapient is launching a multifaceted campaign featuring support from three-time NBA All-Star and social justice advocate Karl-Anthony Towns, who serves as Executive Producer of ‘Forgiving Johnny.’

“Through our short films, we aim to humanize digital business transformation, shedding light on real stories of people whose lives were positively impacted by technology,” said Teresa Barreira, Global Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Publicis Sapient. "Our latest film, 'Forgiving Johnny,' is a testament to how digital can be a catalyst for positive change, enabling the LA County Public Defender’s Office to defend its clients more effectively to ensure that proper justice is accessible.”

“I am grateful to Teresa and her team at Publicis Sapient for their generosity and vision in underwriting ‘Forgiving Johnny,’” said Oscar-winning filmmaker and entrepreneur Ben Proudfoot. “The heart-wrenching and, ultimately, inspiring story of Noah, Johnny and Johnny’s family is one that all Americans should experience and understand firsthand. When I came across the story, I was deeply moved by lawyers like Noah and families like Johnny’s who are dedicated to sowing seeds of forgiveness and compassion into the justice system, and heartened that new technology was beginning to actually enable that to happen.”

“I am very committed to the advancement of equality and social justice and ‘Forgiving Johnny’ is a film that touches on many issues that I care about,” said three-time NBA All-Star and social justice advocate Karl-Anthony Towns, who serves as Executive Producer of ‘Forgiving Johnny.’  “I am honored to help bring more awareness to Johnny and Noah’s journey and to make changes to level the playing field.”

Prior to the development of the CCMS, the over 100,000 cases that are assigned to public defenders each year were tracked manually, mostly on paper. Now, all current and past cases are assigned, managed and tracked digitally via the CCMS, including more than 160 million court records which are now accessible through the CCMS. This digital solution has transformed and accelerated the way LACPDO public defenders can access critical information, aiding the LACPDO in its effort to measurably reduce incarceration, mitigate the collateral consequences of contact with the criminal justice system, and, ultimately, change lives for the better.

“Our attorneys are now receiving client information digitally often before the proceedings. They’re able to get a head start looking at the case, which has allowed our attorneys to more effectively counsel clients,” said Ricardo Garcia, LA County Public Defender.  “We’re shifting the narrative from a case-centric to a people-centric view, which has enabled us to objectively illustrate the benefits of holistic representation, diversion and alternatives to incarceration models and the tangible benefits of decarceration.”

Publicis Sapient is collaborating with the National Association for Public Defense to bring attention to the important work of public defenders and the challenges they face in their work. 

“At the National Association for Public Defense, we’re committed to improving the quality and delivery of public defense services, which includes helping public defenders leverage technology to be more effective in how they defend their clients,” said Lori James-Townes, Executive Director at the National Association for Public Defense. “We celebrate the life-changing work of LA County public defender Noah Cox featured in the short film ‘Forgiving Johnny’ and the significant impact that all public defenders make on our society and the world.” 

Social impact pioneer Meredith Blake is also Executive Producer of ‘Forgiving Johnny.’ 

‘Forgiving Johnny’ is the second film in a three-part short film series, known as Impact Films, led by Publicis Sapient’s Global Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Teresa Barreira. Impact Films brings to life the incredible power of digital business transformation and the profound impact it can have on major societal issues, through stories told by a person whose life has been positively impacted by technology.  ‘Forgiving Johnny’ follows the 2022 release of short film ‘Never Done,’ which showcased how a digital platform built by Publicis Sapient delivered rental assistance funds quickly to North Carolinians during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘Forgiving Johnny’ was accepted by and has screened at several Oscar-qualifying film festivals, including LA Shorts International Film Festival, Indy Shorts International Film Festival and HollyShorts Film Festival. It will also be screened at the San Diego Film Festival in the fall.  Publicis Sapient is partnering for a series of live events that include film screenings and panel discussions.  Upcoming events include:

  • September 13 - Salesforces’ Dreamforce Conference with Teresa Barreira, Ben Proudfoot and Meghan Gendelman (Salesforce)
  • September 15 - National Association for Public Defense’s Virtual Women’s Conference with James Kessler (Publicis Sapient), Stephanie Gore (Publicis Sapient), Justine Esack (LACPDO) and Melissa Mammenga (LACPDO)
  • September 21 - Fast Company Innovation Festival with Nigel Vaz, Teresa Barreira and Ben Proudfoot
  • October 6 - The Nantucket Project with Teresa Barreira 
  • October 8-10 - IDC CIO Xchange with Teresa Barreira and Phil Carter (IDC)
  • November 28-December 1 - National Association for Public Defense’s Leadership Institute 

For more information on Publicis Sapient’s Impact Films, please visit



Publicis Sapient’s Impact Films is a three-part short film series that underscores the power of digital business transformation through real stories about the positive impact digital can have on major societal issues. These stories are told from the perspective of a person who experiences positive change due to technology. The Impact Films initiative is brought to life in partnership with Academy-Award® winning director Ben Proudfoot and his company Breakwater Studios.



Publicis Sapient is a digital business transformation company. We partner with global organizations to help them create and sustain competitive advantage in a world that is increasingly digital. We operate through our expert SPEED – Strategy, Product, Experience, Engineering and Data & AI – capabilities which, combined with our culture of curiosity and deep industry knowledge, enable us to deliver meaningful impact to our clients’ businesses through reimagining the products and experiences their customers truly value. Our agile, data-driven approach equips our clients’ businesses for change, making digital the core of how they think and what they do. Publicis Sapient is the digital business transformation hub of Publicis Groupe with 20,000 people and over 50 offices worldwide. For more information, visit



Breakwater Studios is an Academy Award®-winning, vertically integrated entertainment company specializing in humanist short-form documentaries and brand partnerships. Founded in 2012 by filmmaker and entrepreneur Ben Proudfoot, the craft-first company is rooted in the principle of housing all creative departments on the same physical campus, which is currently spread between three locations in the historic Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, including Walt Disney’s original studio. Since 2014, Breakwater Studios has partnered directly with sophisticated brands to conceive and create short documentary series as a more effective and affordable alternative to traditional interruptive advertising. With a dedicated full-time staff, and a growing family of in-residence artists, Breakwater has emerged as a leader in the traditionally unprofitable short documentary space. With noteworthy and award-winning collaborations with The New York Times, Charles Schwab, UNICEF, Amazon, Publicis Sapient and different original projects selected at HotDocs, Sundance, Tribeca, SXSW, and Telluride Breakwater is poised to continue to establish itself as an industry leader and innovator.


Media Contact

Mia Carbonell