Hollywood's Most Powerful Women: When My Work Matters Most (and Least)

9:07 AM 12/21/2016

by THR Staff

When asked when they felt their work mattered the least as part of THR's Women in Entertainment Power 100 list, 'Girls' co-creators Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner answered, "The day after the election."

From left: Nina Jacobson, Shonda Rhimes and Laura Wasser
From left: Nina Jacobson, Shonda Rhimes and Laura Wasser
Getty Images

The Hollywood Reporter's annual Women in Entertainment Power 100 list this year included the powerhouses behind networks, studios and the year's biggest shows, from NBCUniversal's Bonnie Hammer to Oprah Winfrey to Ellen DeGeneres to ABC Entertainment's Channing Dungey.

As part of the annual feature, THR asked the women a series of questions about  career, role models and the best thing about working in Hollywood.

Below, 27 of the women who made the list share the times when they feel their work matters most — and when it matters least. Whether it's finding inspiration when audience members identify with their show's characters or coping with frustration when behind-the-scenes drama outshines the action onscreen, their honest (and, in some cases, surprising) responses reveal the intense ups and downs of working in Hollywood. — Farnoush Amiri

 

  • Kristine Belson

    President, Sony Pictures Animation

    Courtesy of Subject

    When I feel my work matters most “When I am able to provide filmmakers with the support and the freedom that they need to do their best work.”

    When I feel my work matters least “If I micromanage people! The key to success is surrounding yourself with the best people and then getting out of their way.”

  • Suzan Bymel

    Partner, Management 360

    Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images

    When I feel my work matters most “When I am involved either as a manager or a producer in telling stories that have the potential to enlighten, educate and inspire people. Mentoring is one of my greatest joys and I'm very proud that we have a culture at 360 that emphasizes training and promoting from within — three of my partners and numerous execs at my company all started out as my assistants!!

  • Maha Dakhil

    Motion picture agent, CAA

    Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for YouTube Space LA

    When I feel my work matters most “When I have identified a new voice or new project that I champion against all adversity all the way to the finish.”

    When I feel my work matters least “When I have spent countless hours on imaginary films.”

  • Ellen DeGeneres

    Todd Williamson/Getty Images

    When I feel my work matters most “I wanna spread kindness and make people happy and I can’t think of a time when people needed it more.”

    When I feel my work matters least “You know, I do some woodcarving on the side and I don't always feel it gets the attention it deserves.”

  • Nancy Dubuc

    President and CEO, A+E Television Networks

    Laura Cavanaugh/FilmMagic/Getty Images

    When I feel my work matters most “When a viewer reached out to tell us how a program changed their life. We've experienced that many times especially with Intervention. To say it's humbling is an understatement.”

  • Channing Dungey

    President, ABC Entertainment

    David Livingston/Getty Images

    When I feel my work matters most “When I overhear people in line at the store or at an adjacent table in a restaurant talking about a storyline from one of our shows that engaged, entertained or inspired them — particularly if it’s a story that made them think about the world in a different way.”

  • Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner

    Creators and executive producers, 'Girls'; co-founders, Lenny

    D Dipasupil/FilmMagic; Larry Busacca/Getty Images

    When I feel my work matters most “When people tell us it made them feel more comfortable being themselves.”

    When I feel my work matters least “The day after the election.”

  • Bonnie Hammer

    Chairman, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Group

    Courtesy of Mary Rozzi/NBCUniversal

    When I feel my work matters most “Getting to a point where it's less about ratings and more about creating great quality content and working as a team and being able to have those great debates with your team.”

  • Cindy Holland

    VP original content, Netflix

    Courtesy of Subject

    When I feel my work matters most “When members tell me how much our programming means to them, and when it moves the needle on issues.”

    When I feel my work matters least “When someone says, ‘don’t worry your little head.’”

  • Gale Anne Hurd

    Executive producer, 'The Walking Dead'

    Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

    When I feel my work matters most “If I can advocate for someone who might otherwise have been overlooked, or open people's minds to different ways of seeing the world, then I feel like I'm making a difference.”

  • Nina Jacobson

    Producer, 'The People v. O.J. Simpson'

    Michael Stewart/WireImage

    When I feel my work matters most “When you challenge the status quo.”

    When I feel my work matters least “When you get bogged down in the minutia. When drama behind the scenes, supersedes the drama onscreen.”

  • Megyn Kelly

    Host, Fox News' 'The Kelly File'

    When I feel my work matters most “Every night. On each show we have the responsibility of informing people of the news that affects their lives and holding leaders to account for their misrepresentations, misdeeds and broken promises ... which keeps us very busy.”

  • Kathleen Kennedy

    President, Lucasfilm

    Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

    When I feel my work matters most “When it really affects people. I can’t wait to sit and watch not so much the movie, but the audience.”

  • Jenji Kohan

    Showrunner, 'Orange Is the New Black'

    Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

    When I feel my work matters most “When people are able to identify and empathize with characters who are totally unlike them on the surface.”

    When I feel my work matters least “After people have binged for three days straight, then move on to something else.”

  • Debra Lee

    Chairman and CEO, BET Networks

    Courtesy of Bennett Raglin/BET/Getty Images

    When I feel my work matters most “When I am able to work and tell stories from a different perspective. I was very proud of our first miniseries The Book of Negroes, which shed a light on African slaves that won their freedom during the Revolutionary War. Now, we are working on a three-night mini-series Madiba, which will be the first telling of Nelson Mandela’s story by an African American director, Kevin Hooks and we are very excited about the upcoming The New Edition Story, which will shed a light on one of America’s first popular boy bands.”

    When I feel my work matters least “When I am spending time with my family.”

  • Lori McCreary

    President, Producers Guild of America; CEO, Revelations Entertainment

    Craig Barritt/Getty Images

    When I feel my work matters most “When someone’s mind is opened to another’s circumstances and decides to reach out to someone they would not have otherwise.”

    When I feel my work matters least “Sometimes when I’m in the room with real politicians and policy makers, I think — wow — I work in the fake State Department and they’re the ones who are actually doing it!”

  • Hannah Minghella

    President, TriStar Pictures

    Courtesy of Subject

    When I feel my work matters most “When you work on a movie that feels as though it has something to say that is relevant to the world we’re living in, where you can intersect with a cultural conversation.”

    When I feel my work matters least “Well, we’re not saving lives. So whenever I talk to somebody who is a true, everyday hero, what we do seems a little less essential.”

  • Courteney Monroe

    CEO, National Geographic Networks

    Courtesy of Subject

    When I feel my work matters most “When I find my kids watching National Geographic.”

    When I feel my work matters least “When I talk to my husband, who works at a non-profit aimed at helping veterans, about his job.”

  • Jennifer Yuh Nelson

    Director, 'Kung Fu Panda 3'

    John Phillips/Getty Images

    When I feel my work matters most “When people on the crew tell me they’re proud of their work.”

    When I feel my work matters least “When I'm having fun drawing my boards in my room. No one will ever see them, so they only matter to me.”

  • Cynthia Pett

    Co-owner and managing partner, Brillstein Entertainment

    Courtesy of John Russo/BEP-LA

    When I feel my work matters most “When work and friendship collide: being able to keep my client and dear friend Brad Pitt’s movie career on track even through the storm of publicity and knowing we always have each other’s backs”

  • Shonda Rhimes

    Executive producer, Shondaland

    Getty Images

    When I feel my work matters most “When I overhear people in line at the store or at an adjacent table in a restaurant talking about a storyline from one of our shows that engaged, entertained or inspired them — particularly if it’s a story that made them think about the world in a different way.”

  • Jennifer Salke

    President, NBC Entertainment

    Courtesy of Mitchell Haaseth/NBC

    When I feel my work matters most “I most feel the impact of our work when we are lucky enough to have a big hit show that touches so many people's lives in a positive way. One of the great joys of network television is its unparalleled reach and the ability to connect with a really broad audience. I've had the privilege of experiencing that in my career with shows like Glee, Modern Family and now, This is Us.”

  • Jill Soloway

    Showrunner, 'Transparent'

    Greg Doherty/Getty Images

    When I feel my work matters most “Right now. More than ever. What an awful shock and humiliation to see the deep distrust and dislike of anyone Other than a white cis man play out on a global level. Women, people of color and queer folk are beginning to connect and align over our shared struggle to be the subject instead of the object. Now every last one of us must power up and demand access to the tools of power, which include the propaganda of protagonism. So my work matters most when I meet writers who tell me that watching my work inspired them to create.”

    When I feel my work matters least “If I take a nap in the afternoon, in the few moments after I wake up I’m under the deep impression that nothing matters and everything I do is a waste of time. Luckily that only lasts for a few minutes!”

  • Beatrice Springborn

    Head of originals, Hulu

    Courtesy of Subject

    When I feel my work matters most “When we work with first time creators like Jessica Goldberg, Julie Klausner and Zander Lehmann. You are giving them a platform for their voice and deliver and then some. When I am still at work bleary eyed on Friday at 9 p.m. with the Originals team and realize even at that hour, I still love my job and I wouldn’t want to be doing it without the most smart, fun, strong hardest working team in TV.”

    When I feel my work matters least “When I'm making my daughter hot chocolate. When I’m with friends who don't work in this business. When I get to spend time outdoors — like Griffith Park or just laying in the sun in the grass. When I get to travel for pleasure. All of these remind me that there is a big wide world outside of our bubble.”

  • Dana Walden

    Chairman and CEO, Fox TV Group

    Courtesy of Corey Nickols

    When I feel my work matters most “When it brings people together, like with Empire or This Is Us.

    ” When I feel my work matters least “When one of my daughters is having a crisis”

  • Laura Wasser

    Partner, Wasser, Cooperman & Mandles

    Courtesy of Subject

    When I feel my work matters most “When I am helping families move to the next chapter of their lives, peacefully.”

    When I feel my work matters least “When I am fielding media.”

  • Oprah Winfrey

    Chairman, CEO and chief creative officer, OWN

    Courtesy of Subject

    When I feel my work matters most “I feel my work matters most when the audience sees themselves in the work.”

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