Why he matters: He's been representing Microsoft for years, but recently he set up the software behemoth in the content production business, with Microsoft Xbox Entertainment Studios, a new company run by former CBS exec Nancy Tellem.
Biggest Hollywood tantrum he's witnessed: "I was in a conference room negotiating a deal and a colleague tried to throw a chair across the table at the other side."
John P. Burke
Why he matters: Burke helped his client RatPac-Dune -- a partnership made up of Dune's Steven Mnuchin, filmmaker Brett Ratner and Australian billionaire James Packer -- sign a reported $450 million deal with Warner Bros. to co-finance and co-produce 75 new Warner Bros. and New Line titles over four years. He also was involved in Content Partners' reported $400 million purchase of Goldman Sachs' half interest in the TV franchise CSI.
What he wanted to be growing up: "Mick Jagger."
Why he matters: He advised Legendary Entertainment on the launch of its television division and acquisition of Asylum Entertainment, helping to turn it into a full-fledged independent media company. Then he helped Legendary settle its co-finance, co-production deal with Warner Bros. and transition to a similar one with Universal Studios.
Biggest Hollywood tantrum he's witnessed: "I did have the pleasure of breaking up a fistfight in a conference room over the acquisition of a film company. My client went across the table accusing the other side of lying to him."
Why he matters: The New York attorney, who has been working with Comcast since 2006, was essential in helping the cable giant's acquisition of NBCUniversal. Caplan now is helping to orchestrate Comcast's proposed $45.2 billion merger with Time Warner Cable, which would boost Comcast's subscriber total to a whopping 30 million.
What he wanted to be growing up: "My father was a lawyer, so I suppose I always thought I'd be a lawyer."
Why he matters: The co-chair of his firm's entertainment group, he helped put together Sony's $200 million co-financing pact with Citigroup and LStar Capital and represented Sony in its $200 million Hemisphere film slate deal, which will help finance four of its tentpoles. He also assisted MichaelEisner in a deal with Netflix for the animated comedy BoJack Horseman (which goes online this summer).
What he wanted to be growing up: "President of the United States, a network anchorman or owner of a baseball team."
Why he matters: An expert in independent film finance, Darwell was involved in some big American movies last year -- he repped Focus on the Dallas Buyers Club acquisition and assisted Megan Ellison's Annapurna with distribution deals for American Hustle and Her -- but he's also one of the few on this list savvy enough to see a growing market south of the border. He recently helped Mexican filmmaker Gaz Alazraki (whose Nosotros los Nobles was Mexico's biggest domestic hit ever) set up his own company, Alazraki Films, already a major player in Spanish-language production.
Why she matters: It's hard to say what was her most impressive achievement of the last year. Perhaps the $8.2 billion deal she structured for Vivendi to sell its stake in video game giant Activision Blizzard. Or maybe repping Universal in its partnership with Legendary, which will invest hundreds of millions in Universal movies (the first being a Dracula movie). But it's easy to pinpoint her most intriguing: That initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange for a Bollywood film company called Eros International.
What she wanted to be growing up: "President of a small liberal arts college."
Why he matters: He made it possible for Harvey and Bob Weinstein to make Miramax movies again, or at least partner with the studio they left back in 2005 to start The Weinstein Co. Grode ironed out a 20-year deal that will see Miramax and TWC collaborate on projects for film, TV and live stage productions, including some that may draw on Miramax's library (how about Reservoir Dogs: The Musical?).
Mentor: "My mom." (She's Matt Groening's lawyer.)
Why he matters: He specializes in getting old media to shake hands with the new. Most recently, he spear-headed DreamWorks Animation's $150 million acquisition of YouTube phenom AwesomenessTV, represented the gaming and media-streaming web company Machinima in its investment pact with Warner Bros. and coaxed such clients as Relativity Media and Paradigm to wade a little deeper into the digital realm.
What he wanted to be growing up: "Owner of several McDonald's franchises."
Why he matters: He co-chairs his firm's film financing division, one of the busiest in Hollywood, working with banks like City National and Bank of America. Most recently, he helped arrange financing for WesAnderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel and structured the deal for Warren Beatty's HowardHughes feature.
How he unwinds:Listening to courses on tape while commuting. "Instead of rolling calls during that half hour, like a lot of my colleagues do, I shut down and I listen to a college course. It just gets me ready for work."
Schuyler 'Sky' Moore
Why he matters:He's well-known for his knowledge of the tax code, but he doesn't spend all his time arguing with the IRS. He handled the departure of Nigel Sinclair and Guy East from Exclusive Media and helped with the formation of their new company, White Horse Pictures. He also handled all the complex financing and distribution on Lee Daniels' The Butler, which involved no fewer than 42 producers.
How he unwinds: Puttering around Hollywood on one of his nine motorcycles.
Why he matters: Assisting client Peter Schlessel start his new gig as Focus Films CEO (and wind down his old job as CEO of FilmDistrict) has been atop Scharf’s to-do list. But he’s also helping Western film companies find footholds in China, South Korea, India and Indonesia (setting up Legendary’s Legendary East, for example).
Mentor: Former OMM partner and U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher.
Why he matters:He helped Mark Burnett and RomaDowney sell Son of God to Fox, even though they made the movie out of footage from their miniseries The Bible (it’s grossed $60 million anyway). He also negotiated a joint venture with Hearst, Burnett’s One Three Media and Luca Libre FMV to bring Mexican wrestling to most of the world and handled Relativity’s reported $300 million recapitalization last year.
Biggest Hollywood tantrum he’s witnessed:A legal meeting that got so heated one of the attendees took off a shoe and threw it at a lawyer. “Luckily, he missed.”
Why he matters: When he’s not teaching law at his alma mater, he’s advocating for more L.A. film shoots as the city’s film czar. He advised Intel Media on its sale to Verizon, helped Starz become a newly independent public company, negotiated feature rights for Jersey Boys with Warner Bros. and drew up a movie deal with Fox for the heirs of Charles M. Schulz that will put a 3D Charlie Brown (good grief!) in theaters in 2015.
Best argument he’s made:“Bringing the AMPTP and WGA strike to an end in 1988.”
Susan Zuckerman Williams
Why she matters:She works closely with Loeb’s MickeyMayerson, specializing in acquisitions, distribution and movie finance. She’s also been busy helping Netflix expand its original programming (she worked on Orange Is the New Black and Hemlock Grove as well as the new comedy series Grace and Frankie).
Best career moment:“Winning the March Madness pool and having bragging rights over the guys in my department.”