Next Gen 2015: Hollywood's Up-and-Coming Execs 35 and Under

9:00 AM 11/4/2015

by THR Staff

Move over, Moonves: Meet the rising stars behind the stars — including film and TV dealmakers, reps and producers — fronting The Hollywood Reporter's 22nd annual list of the industry's top execs to watch.

Christopher Patey

A common thread among the 35 executives age 35 and under that comprise THR’s 22nd annual Next Generation list is a singular big break or a mentor who helped distinguish each person in a cutthroat business. It’s a path that leaders of previous generations — WME-IMG's Ari Emanuel, Fox film co-chair Stacey Snider and CAA's Richard Lovett, Kevin Huvane and Bryan Lourd, among them — have forged. And it’s one of the reasons that Hollywood continues to lure (and frustrate) some of the most ambitious and talented people in the world: Stardom can happen overnight.

Edited by Lacey Rose, written and reported by Rebecca Ford, Pamela McClintock, Matthew Belloni, Borys Kit, Tatiana Siegel and Natalie Jarvey

Read more Next Gen 2015: Hollywood's Breakout Talents Open Up

See more Next Gen 2015: Hollywood's Top Execs to Watch

  • Sarah Babineau, 35

    VP Original Programming and Development, Comedy Central

    Hussein Katz

    Category: Television

    When it comes to TV, Babineau was a late bloomer. Her father worked for the U.S. government, which meant the Babineaus lived in Europe until she was 10. “We didn’t have any English-speaking channels,” she explains. “I remember the first time I saw TV here, I was like, ‘How many channels are there?!’ ” But the Tufts grad would later find a home in the field by way of documentaries (her first gig: an internship with filmmaker Albert Maysles), shorts (among her productions: a dark comedy about a girl who says “I love you” every time she has an orgasm) and film gigs at Dos Tontos (boss Kent Alterman’s former company) and Sacha Baron Cohen’s Four by Two Films.

    Then came a call from Amazon, which was looking to break into originals. As one of the first hires, Babineau was key to the streamer’s launch, intimately involved in such shows as Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle, before moving to Comedy Central in late 2014. In the past year, she has overseen development and production of all East Coast-based series, including Inside Amy Schumer, Broad City and, highest profile of all, The Daily Show With Trevor Noah.

    MOST HOLLYWOOD THING ABOUT MY LIFE “I now recognize some of the flight attendants on the L.A.-NYC flight I often take.”

    I CAN'T GET THROUGH THE WORKDAY WITHOUT “I love to laugh, out loud. I’m not one of those comedy execs who just says ‘hilarious’ or ‘that’s so funny’ without laughing.”

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  • Brianna Bennett, 33

    VP Drama Development, CBS Television Studios

    Hussein Katz

    Category: Television

    When Bennett moved from her native Akron, Ohio, to Hollywood, she had a temp gig at the DGA and an apartment she’d found off Craigslist. Within a decade, the Ohio University grad had lined her résumé with a series of TV gigs (time at BWCS before its ICM merger, The CW and Fox) before landing at CBS TV Studios in summer 2014. In that time, the new mother (with husband Cole Maliska, a writer on Chicago P.D.) had worked on high-profile dramas including The Following, Sleepy Hollow and breakout Empire.

    “That was the last thing I did before I came over to CBS,” she says of the latter. “I was so bummed because it didn’t premiere until midseason, so I missed all of the fun of seeing it [take off].” More recently, Bennett has been heavily involved in reimagining CBS’ Doubt, a legal drama with Katherine Heigl, and selling projects including the anticipated Nancy Drew reboot.

    MOST HOLLYWOOD THING ABOUT MY LIFE Hot 8 Yoga

    TV SHOW I CAN'T MISS “Are You the One? My husband and I love trashy reality TV.”

    MY QUIRKIEST HABIT “I make up  theme songs for all of our projects in development.

  • Beau Bryant, 33

    Senior VP Talent and Programming, Fullscreen

    Courtesy of Subject

    Category: Digital

    It was while working on Ari Emanuel's desk during Endeavor's merger with William Morris that the L.A.-area native recognized that there was greater opportunity on the digital side of Hollywood. "The writing was on the wall that it was going to be hard to have [a major talent agent's] career," says the Bucknell graduate. Soon, he began building a digital client base, signing YouTube stars Hannah Hart, Grace Helbig and the Fine Brothers. He also developed the model for indie film Camp Takota, which has become the standard for direct-to-digital movies starring online influencers. Since moving to Fullscreen in late 2014, Bryant has assumed responsibility for the YouTube network's 30-person talent management and partner-support team. The married father of one also liaises with agents to make deals for Fullscreen's creators and works closely with the development team building content for the company's forthcoming SVOD service.

    MY BIG BREAK "Working for Ari Emanuel."

    TV SHOW I CAN'T MISS "I'm behind on everything. My wife and I are watching American Horror Story: Coven."

    I CAN'T GET THROUGH THE WORKDAY WITHOUT "I guess my assistant. You should not put that in print. He does not need any more of an ego boost."

     

  • Sabrina Caluori, 34

    Senior VP Digital Media and Marketing, HBO

    Hussein Katz

    Category: Digital

    Caluori's ability to adapt to the shifting digital landscape has helped her rise quickly through the ranks during her eight years at HBO. The Long Island native, who runs digital marketing, built HBO's social media practice, launched second-screen experience HBO Connect and, with her recent promotion, has added oversight of customer acquisition and retention for newly launched over-the-top platform HBO Now. "There's been so much change in the industry," says Caluori, an alum of New York's The New School who once aspired to become a poet. "I've been at the heart of that change at HBO." But Caluori, who lives in New York with her TV editor wife, says her biggest accomplishment this year was learning how to be a working mom to son Lucca. She jokes: "I'm a mom to 60 at HBO and a mom to my 1-year-old at home."

    THING I WISH I KNEW WHEN I FIRST STARTED IN HOLLYWOOD "Everyone you meet now, you will meet again."

    IF THERE WERE A 25TH HOUR IN THE DAY "I'd spend it with my son."

    THING PEOPLE PROBABLY DON'T KNOW ABOUT ME "I usually get that double take when people find out I'm gay."

    MY QUIRKIEST HABIT "I don't know if this is quirky, but I swear a lot."

  • Bing Chen, 28

    Chief Creative Officer, Victorious

    Hussein Katz

    Category: Digital

    Chen's dream of becoming the first Asian president of the U.S. changed when, in eighth grade, he lost his father to cancer. That's when Chen realized that the moments he remembered most fondly about his dad were rooted in entertainment. "I basically decided at the age of 12 that if I wasn't going to be president, then I wanted to be the next Walt Disney," he says. That led Chen — who was born on a farm outside Knoxville, Tenn., but grew up in Shanghai and Orange County, Calif. — to intern at Disney and, later, apply for Marissa Mayer's incubation program at Google.

    After the program ended, the University of Pennsylvania grad transitioned to Google-owned YouTube, where he eventually oversaw programs for the streamer's 300 million-plus creators and co-led the global expansion of its partner program. But in 2014, he left YouTube to co-found, with Sam Rogoway, hot media startup Victorious. There, with the help of $40 million from big-name backers including UTA, WME and Ashton Kutcher's A-Grade Investments, he's molding the future of online entertainment by working with such YouTubers as Ryan Higa, Lilly Singh and Hannah Hart to build audiences on their own mobile apps.

    THING I WISH I KNEW WHEN I FIRST STARTED IN HOLLYWOOD "That not everyone is an asshole."

    MY QUIRKIEST HABIT "I laugh like a suffocating lion."

    ACTOR I'D CAST TO PLAY ME IN MY BIOPIC "There aren't enough Asian actors, so no one. But Hollywood's working on that."

  • Logan Clare, 34

    Associate, Ziffren Brittenham

    Hussein Katz

    Category: Legal

    Clare started her first job out of Fordham Law School the week Lehman Brothers collapsed, which soon made her a victim of mass layoffs at the Morrison & Foerster firm. So the Los Angeles native and her husband, TV writer Mike Weiss (Chicago P.D.), called their contacts frantically but found her only an entry-level assistant job at the Morris Yorn entertainment law firm. "I wasn't fetching dry cleaning or having anything thrown at me," she says. "I learned a lot about how to talk to people on the phone and how all the different representatives work together on a team."

    She eventually began representing talent on her own and was poached in 2013 by Ziffren Brittenham, where she's part of a new generation of lawyers at the venerable showbiz firm serving such established clients as Elizabeth Banks, Simon Cowell and Imagine Entertainment as well as shepherding newer talents including comic Jerrod Carmichael and Orange Is the New Black's Ruby Rose. Clare, who is adjusting to a busy life with her 11-month-old son, Cy, benefits from being one of the rare lawyers in town who began as an assistant: "I know how to [find a client's] W-9 form."

    THING I WISH I KNEW WHEN I FIRST STARTED IN HOLLYWOOD "How casually the lawyers dress. I didn't need all those suits."

    I'M DYING TO WORK WITH "Stephen Colbert. I bet he's funny on conference calls."

    TV SHOW I CAN'T MISS Fargo

    MOST HOLLYWOOD THING ABOUT MY LIFE "Being able to see the Hollywood sign from my office. Otherwise my life is mostly changing diapers and talking in a baby voice to my son — not very glamorous!"

    MY HOLLYWOOD ROLE MODEL Shonda Rhimes. She’s supposed to be a great boss, and it would be cool to have an empire.

  • Michael Clear, 32

    Head of Production, Atomic Monster

    Hussein Katz

    Category: Film

    Upon graduating from Harvard, Clear took a paralegal gig at a corporate law firm in New York. But in his spare time, the Boston native and die-hard Patriots fan began developing a script with college buddy Roberto Patino, then an aspiring screenwriter in Los Angeles. The pair sub­mitted the project to the Sundance Producer Lab and, jokes Clear, "shockingly it got in." The screenplay ultimately would stall in Hollywood, but Clear notes that it "really changed [his] career trajectory." After stints at CAA and Scott Stuber's Bluegrass Films, Clear joined Furious 7 director James Wan's genre-focused production company in June. Already, he has helped set up a hot MacGyver reboot at CBS along with the anime-based tentpole Robotech at Sony.

    On the microbudget front, he's shepherded the recently wrapped horror film Lights Out at New Line and has another horror pic, The Boy Who Drew Monsters, in the works. "Since coming over, James and I set out to have a place in big-budget features, smaller-budget features and television," he says. "We're really proud we have things going in each of those categories." As a vp at Bluegrass, the exec, who met his wife, Sundance Labs coordinator Cristen Aery, as an assistant at DreamWorks, worked on such projects as Safe House, A Million Ways to Die in the West and the upcoming Matthew McConaughey starrer The Free State of Jones. Clear long has had a taste for genre films, too, having set up and developed the psychological thriller Bird Box at Universal.

    THING I WISH I KNEW WHEN I FIRST STARTED IN HOLLYWOOD "I wish someone had just told me to take Fountain Avenue across town."

    IF THERE WERE A 25TH HOUR IN THE DAY "I'd hike with my wife."

    I'M DYING TO WORK WITH "Tom Brady. He's more of an up-and-comer, but I saw a lot of potential in Ted 2."

     

  • Ben Curtis, 32

    Manager, Brillstein Entertainment Partners

    Hussein Katz

    Category: Managers

    The Indiana native is having a banner summer, having watched his client, Mr. Robot star Rami Malek, become one of television's biggest breakouts of 2015. Curtis also took Veep's Timothy Simons (aka Jonah Ryan) from obscurity to busy TV and film actor. "I found him in an improv club that seats nine people without a credit to his name," says Curtis of his first client. "Two weeks later, he got Veep." He subsequently booked Simons in projects including Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's The Interview, and Stephen Gaghan's upcoming Gold.

    On the director front, the Endeavor alum reps Oscar-winning filmmaker Shawn Christensen (the short Curfew) and U.K. funnyman Craig Roberts, who, at just 24, made his directorial debut with the SXSW black comedy Just Jim (Roberts' acting credits include Neighbors and 22 Jump Street). Unique in his field, Curtis, who married celebrity stylist Shelby Scudder (Kesha is a client) in 2014, splits his time between traditional talent management and repping tech and virtual reality startups including PAVR. "Five years from now," he says, "you'll see a lot of managers doing what I'm doing." The UConn grad and former Division I hockey player still finds time to surf with CAA's Mick Sullivan and Universal's Jon Mone. Jokes the Venice denizen, "At least three days a week, I come straight from Malibu to the office with sand on my face."

    MY BIG BREAK As a 22-year-old New York Yankees intern, he cold-called the head of Endeavor's human resources and identified himself as "Ben Curtis with the New York Yankees." When it became clear that he was just an intern, "She started laughing and said, 'Oh my God, send me your résumé now. I'm giving you a job.' "

    THING I WISH I KNEW WHEN I FIRST STARTED IN HOLLYWOOD "Learn everything and don't limit yourself to just talent. The tech industry is eating Hollywood now."

    ACTOR I'D CAST TO PLAY ME IN MY BIOPIC "I bear a strong resemblance to the Shock Top beer guy, so if the film were animated, he'd be the obvious choice."

     

  • Jim Dempsey, 34

    Agent, Paradigm

    Hussein Katz

    Category: Agents

    Dempsey is homegrown at Paradigm, starting out in the mailroom after graduating with an MBA from Rollins College in Florida. In his 11 years at the agency, the Ohio native has developed a knack for cultivating young talent, helping elevate their careers with big studio gigs. He shepherded Vikings star Travis Fimmel into Legendary's big-budget Warcraft while also getting him a role in Rebecca Miller's indie Maggie's Plan; Jessie T. Usher, the breakout in Starz's Survivor's Remorse, nabbed the lead in Roland Emmerich's tentpole sequel Independence Day: Resurgence, plus Universal's A Meyers Christmas with Gabrielle Union; and Jay Hernandez went from the Fox series Gang Related to Warner Bros.' villainous DC Comics film Suicide Squad. "When you're working with people you really believe in, and you share goals with them, you really just work hard to make those things happen," says Dempsey, who also rep­resents a collection of rising TV talent including Jake McLaughlin (ABC's Quanitco), Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men) and Will Estes (Blue Bloods).

    TV SHOWS I CAN'T MISS Narcos and American Horror Story

    I CAN'T GET THROUGH THE WORKDAY WITHOUT "Calling my folks on the way into the office to check in."

    MY WAKE-UP TIME "No need for an alarm. I have a dog named Lily, and she wakes me up at 6 a.m. on the dot."

     

  • Hrishi Desai, 33

    Agent, ICM Partners

    Hussein Katz

    Category: Agents

    If not for the long, bitter rivalry between Jay Leno and David Letterman, Desai likely wouldn't be an agent today. As a teen in Louisville, the Indian immigrant caught the HBO adaptation of Bill Carter's The Late Shift, in which Treat Williams plays Michael Ovitz, and was mesmerized. "I thought, 'That is an incredible job, how on earth do I do that?' " he says of Williams' dealmaker role.

    Lacking Hollywood connections, Desai spent his summers during college at Dartmouth doing internships at agencies and management firms before settling in L.A. He began in 2004 at ICM, where the sports nut ("Watching, not playing," he jokes) has remained for more than a decade. He's been particularly focused on the international market, having done a slew of format sales for companies including All 3 Media. Other lit clients include Mom co-creator Eddie Gorodetsky, Impastor boss Chris Vane and Secrets & Lies production company Hoodlum.

    THING I WISH I KNEW WHEN I FIRST STARTED IN HOLLYWOOD "The quickest way to the Valley. … I still don't know, by the way. "

    I'M DYING TO WORK WITH David Benioff

    ACTOR I'D CAST TO PLAY ME IN MY BIOPIC "If I could not get approved by the studio, then Manish Dayal (The Hundred-Foot Journey), followed by Aziz Ansari."

     

  • Lisa Filipelli, 30

    VP Talent, Big Frame

    Hussein Katz

    Category: Managers

    Filipelli says there was a time when Hollywood didn't take her work seriously because her client roster was made up entirely of social media stars. But the 5-foot former ROTC Army cadet knows how to hustle to make sure clients like Tyler Oakley, lifestyle vlogger Ingrid Nilsen and FABLife star Leah Ashley get the recognition she believes they deserve. "There's this misconception that these kids don't work very hard or that it's sort of a fad," says the former CAA mailroom trainee. "But Tyler's been creating for eight years. We've seen a lot of singers come and go faster than that."

    Filipelli, who grew up in rural Pennsylvania and studied dance at DeSales University, thought she'd make a career for herself on Broadway but instead wound up working in the casting department at Nickelodeon, a move that would plant the seed for her career identifying up-and-coming young stars. Take Oakley, whose YouTube following she helped to grow from 100,000 subscribers in 2012 to more than 7.6 million today, striking deals for a world tour and book deal along the way. Up next: producing his forthcoming documentary Snervous.

    THING I WISH I KNEW WHEN I FIRST STARTED IN HOLLYWOOD "How real the gender gap is."

    I'M DYING TO WORK WITH "Taylor Swift, but I would settle for being an honorary member of her girl pack."

    MY QUIRKIEST HABIT "My ability to connect with teens quicker than adults."

    MY HOLLYWOOD ROLE MODEL YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki.

  • Roger Green, 31

    Agent, WME

    Hussein Katz

    Category: Agents

    The literary agent's roster of directors reads like a Hollywood hot list. He signed Damien Chazelle off his short film Whiplash, then helped put together the feature film version, which was nominated for five Academy Awards (including best picture) and won three. He then got Chazelle's passion project, the musical La La Land, into production, with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone starring. 

    The Emory grad, who thought he would go into finance but fell in love with film, also helped Alfonso Gomez-Rejon graduate from second unit and TV directing to helming the Sundance winner Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and shepherded David Leitch and Chad Stahelski into their directorial project, John Wick. Next, Stahelski will direct the Wick sequel, and Leitch is shooting The Coldest City with Charlize Theron. "Your taste and opinion as an agent is so essential," says the St. Louis native who also reps Mama writing and directing team Andres Muschietti and Barbara Muschietti. "It's a matter of trusting your instincts and betting on their talent."

    MOST EMBARRASSING THING I HAD TO DO WHEN I STARTED OUT IN HOLLYWOOD "As an assistant, scrambling to explain to the completely uninterested man behind the deli counter at Nate 'n Al how my boss' biggest client hates the smell of onions and required that no onions be included in the lunch order for his private jet. And then receiving a phone call when they touched down that the entire time the flight reeked of onions."

    I CAN'T GET THROUGH THE WORKDAY WITHOUT "Coffee, lots of coffee."

    MOST HOLLYWOOD THING ABOUT MY LIFE "This photo shoot and interview."

  • Daniel Hammond, 32

    Chief Creative Officer, Broad Green Pictures

    Hussein Katz

    Category: Film

    Despite a Yale education in English and theater, Hammond followed his older brother Gabriel into the mutual fund business. Together, the Hammond boys built Alerian Capital and SteelPath into a multibillion-dollar empire. In 2012, they sold the latter, which had $2.6 billion in assets and specializes in energy, to OppenheimerFunds (the Hammonds still control Alerian). Flush with cash, the pair, who were raised in Potomac, Md., founded Broad Green Pictures, a distribution and production company that made headlines at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival when it shelled out $3 million for Andrew Garfield's real estate drama 99 Homes.

    In just a year, the company has become a formidable force, having already released seven small-budget films that have generated $34 million in domestic gross. Among them: Robert Redford's A Walk in the Woods ($29.1 million) and the Ben Kingsley-Patricia Clarkson indie Learning to Drive ($3.4 million), which Hammond personally produced. The company has grown so quickly that its 90-person staff is working out of two offices while a new home in Hollywood is being readied. Looking ahead, Hammond says Broad Green aims to release six to 10 movies a year, a mix of art house and commercial fare, and is prepared to spend $25 million to $75 million on bigger titles. In addition to Terrence Malick's upcom­ing films, it recently closed a deal to finance John Ridley's movie about the 1992 L.A. riots and is backing Brad Furman's crime drama The Infiltrator, starring Bryan Cranston.

    I'M DYING TO WORK WITH Darren Aronofsky

    MOST HOLLYWOOD THING ABOUT MY LIFE "My assistant makes me a kale shake every morning."

    ACTOR I'D CAST TO PLAY ME IN MY BIOPIC Ben Whishaw

     

  • Jordan Helman, 33

    Director of Content Development, Hulu

    Hussein Katz

    Category: Television

    The Malibu native long had harbored dreams of becoming a rock star, but after graduating from USC film school, the skilled guitarist took a job pushing a mail cart at Endeavor. "To this day, I don't know if it was too much common sense or a lack of balls," jokes Helman. Though he took a detour in his mid-20s, spending time in China (opening Subway franchises) and Europe (selling kegerators and fondue pots), he ultimately found his passion in Hollywood.

    Until recently, Helman was the L.A. face of SundanceTV, where he worked on critical darlings including Rectify and The Honorable Woman. Then in July, Helman, who's married to Warner Bros. TV comedy exec Jana Steele, moved to Hulu, where he's been leading an aggressive push into premium drama. Already, he has moved forward with projects from Breaking Bad's Mark Johnson, I Origins helmer Mike Cahill and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon.

    MY BIG BREAK "Getting hired by Sarah Barnett and Christian Vesper at SundanceTV to plant the flag in L.A."

    I'M DYING TO WORK WITH "Quentin Tarantino and David Bowie. I can't overstate how important those two figures were in shaping my artistic sensibility growing up. I remain a massive fan of both."

    ACTOR I'D CAST TO PLAY ME IN MY BIOPIC "Jack Nicholson, circa Chinatown."

    MY HOLLYWOOD ROLE MODEL FX Networks CEO John Landgraf. In addition to building a remarkable brand in FX and programming a number of my personal favorites over the years, I find his public candor and outlier nature genuinely refreshing.

  • Lisa Holme, 32

    VP Content Acquisition, Hulu

    Hussein Katz

    Category: Digital

    After graduating with a psychology degree from Yale in 2005, Holme was planning a move to Hollywood until a few of her mentors intervened. They told the Denver native that if she could be happy doing anything other than entertainment, she should do that instead. So she took a job in consulting that lasted only two years but proved helpful in landing her a gig at Hulu in 2010. During her five years at the streamer, she has weathered plenty of executive turnover to become the longest-tenured person on the content acquisition team.

    Following a promotion to head the division this year, Holme has become a key negotiator as Hulu looks to stay com­petitive through exclusive streaming pacts for Seinfeld and Empire. She also spearheaded output deals with FX and AMC. "AMC had been in business with Netflix for a number of years, and most people figured they would renew that partnership," says Holme, who married composer Chris Westlake (Despicable Me) this summer. "We were truly the dark horse in the equation, but through a series of meetings, I was really able to convince them to consider us seriously."

    MOST HOLLYWOOD THING ABOUT MY LIFE "My husband's a composer. We got married this summer and are planning our honeymoon around a movie he's doing."

    MY QUIRKIEST HABIT "I leave my voicemail full so people can't leave me messages. If they want to reach me, they have to try me again or email me or text me."

    MY WAKE-UP TIME "2 a.m. on the couch with my laptop on top of me, at which point I go to bed."

    MY HOLLYWOOD ROLE MODEL Ed Catmull of Pixar. He seems to have created an incredible culture of innovation, invention and creativity. But he isn’t necessarily the creative and artistic leader of the company, so I really admire him.

  • Jeff Hynick, 35

    Partner, Jackoway Tyerman Wertheimer Austen Mandelbaum Morris & Klein

    Hussein Katz

    Category: Legal

    Four years as a business and legal affairs executive at the cutthroat Weinstein Co. is enough to teach a young lawyer how to play hardball in Hollywood. But Hynick, a Los Angeles native, is reluctant to recount his days with Harvey and company. (Ask him the biggest lesson he learned, and he needs a full day to think about his response, finally saying, "Know where the leverage is on every deal.") After switching sides to represent talent at the prestigious Jackoway Tyerman firm, the Southwestern Law School grad recently negotiated Olivia Munn's deal to join the X-Men franchise and Alexandra Daddario's pact for San Andreas.

    He has Emmy-winning Mad Men writer Erin Levy as a client, and he's helping break such up-and-comers as writer-director David F. Sandberg, whose first feature, Lights Out, is set for release in 2016 by New Line, and Sarah Dumont, the female lead in Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. "Growing up in L.A., I wanted to be a lawyer but also still work in the entertainment business," says Hynick, who has a 2-year-old son with wife Dana. "Now I get to help all these amazingly talented people."

    TV SHOW I CAN'T MISS Last Week Tonight With John Oliver

    MOST HOLLYWOOD THING ABOUT MY LIFE "My son's Parent & Me class, where more than half the parents are in the business."

    IF THERE WERE A 25TH HOUR IN THE DAY "I'd have time to golf."

  • James Kearney, 34

    Agent, UTA

    Hussein Katz

    Category: Agents

    During his senior year at Harvard, Kearney set his sights on Hollywood. The Toronto native devoured mogul biographies and began cold-calling the school's entertainment industry alumni. Upon graduating, he landed a gig in the UTA mailroom. "I loved movies and television," he says, "but I knew I wasn't a writer, I wasn't a director and I wasn't an actor, and this was another way to be close to the business."

    In the decade since, Kearney, a former college football player, has developed a niche in the international marketplace, where he reps creators (Deutschland 83's Anna Winger), directors (Queen of the South's Charlotte Sieling and Luther's Sam Miller) and production companies from throughout the world (leading Scandinavian label Yellowbird, Australia's Essential Media). Stateside, he helped ink an overall deal and a slew of shows for The Walking Dead's Gale Anne Hurd, just as he's helped secure projects for producer Tom Fontana and Going Clear author Lawrence Wright. Kearney also is a go-to guy for the agency's film stars looking to produce TV, be it Paul Giamatti with WGN's Titans or Mark Ruffalo with a development deal at MRC.

    MOST EMBARRASSING THING I HAD TO DO WHEN I STARTED OUT IN HOLLYWOOD "Play my boss, Jay Sures, in a skit in front of the whole company at the holiday party. It killed, though I later learned that Jay is a master of revenge."

    ACTOR I'D CAST TO PLAY ME IN MY BIOPIC "Pierce Brosnan. In my mind, we're basically the same guy: equal parts Bond, Thomas Crown and Sam from Mamma Mia!"

    IF THERE WERE A 25TH HOUR IN THE DAY "I'd catch up on all of the Netflix and Amazon series I claim to have watched."

    THING PEOPLE PROBABLY DON'T KNOW ABOUT ME "I have Canadian and Irish dual citizenship, and the highlight of this year was finally getting my green card."

    MY HOLLYWOOD ROLE MODEL CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves. From small parts on 1970s TV to becoming a titan in our industry. Also, growing up I always loved the “More With Les" segment on Letterman.

  • Ryan Ly, 33

    Agent, CAA

    Hussein Katz

    Category: Agents

    The Long Island native enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania with ambitions of being a writer. "The dream was applying to Conde Nast and working at The New Yorker," he says. But after early internships at Open City Films and Christine Vachon's Killer Films, Ly instead opted to work in service of writers. He took a post-college gig at UTA before moving over to CAA in 2005. In the decade since, the married agent, who's expecting his first child with his philanthropist wife in March, has built a business representing drama tastemakers, including Better Call Saul showrunner Peter Gould, Manhattan creator Sam Shaw, and Dana Calvo, whose Amazon pilot Good Girls Revolt has strong buzz. Ly, who heads the agency's TV lit group, is known as one of the best read agents in town, a skill that dates back to his early teen years, when his dad had his son reading the classics from Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island to the many works of Cervantes.

    I'M DYING TO WORK WITH "My favorite author, and literary hero, Philip Roth."

    TV SHOW I CAN'T MISS Mr. Robot

    MY QUIRKIEST HABIT "An unhealthy obsession with grammatically correct emails."

    I CAN'T GET THROUGH THE WORKDAY WITHOUT "A culinarily inspired lunch, ideally ethnic food. I particularly enjoy shabu-shabu at Mizu 212 on Sawtelle."

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  • Molly Mandel, 33

    Manager, Mosaic

    Hussein Katz

    Category: Managers

    As the daughter of School Ties director Robert Mandel, the L.A. native was raised on Hollywood sets. "I'd hang out and think, 'Maybe I want to be a P.A. when I grow up,' " she says, adding with a laugh, "I had no idea what any of it meant." But as she got older, her father's friends, Sherry Lansing and Penney Finkelman Cox, became mentors. In fact, Lansing was one of the first people Mandel remembers talking to about what she wanted to be when she grew up. "Now I realize how amazing it was that I was surrounded by people like her," she says, "but at the time I just thought she was a really cool mom who had good, interesting advice for me."

    Rather than follow her father behind the camera, Mandel moved east after a stint at UTA and began booking comedy shows in New York. The Kenyon College alum would eventually return to Los Angeles, where she joined Mosaic in 2009. Today, her business is split between in-demand performers and writers. Among the former: Silicon Valley star and The Meltdown co-host Kumail Nanjiani, The Daily Show breakout Jessica Williams and stand-up Rory Scovel, who has film projects set up with Demetri Martin, Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler. Mandel's comedy writer roster includes Broad City's Jen Statsky, The Grinder's Sean Clements and Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp scribe Anthony King.

    THING I WISH I KNEW WHEN I FIRST STARTED IN HOLLYWOOD "Life will go on if you accidentally Cc instead of Bcc."

    ACTOR I'D CAST TO PLAY ME IN MY BIOPIC Lucille Ball

    MOST HOLLYWOOD THING ABOUT MY LIFE SoulCycle

    I CAN'T GET THROUGH THE WORKDAY WITHOUT "Swedish fish and having the Food Network on (mute) in my office."

  • Alana Mayo, 31

    VP Production, Paramount

    Hussein Katz

    Category: Film

    Mayo's father, Barry Mayo, had been a pioneering radio executive — one of the first to put rap on the airwaves during the early 1980s — who eventually rose to the president post at Radio One. Given his influence, the Columbia grad toyed with the idea of performing before switching to a career behind the scenes, but, she jokes, "My mother told me I was too bossy to ever take directions." At Paramount, Mayo played a major role in bringing two hot projects into the studio fold: Alex Garland's Ex Machina follow-up, Annihilation, starring Natalie Portman, and the Will Smith vehicle Bounty.

    The New York-born, Chicago-reared executive also was one of the two key studio creatives on best picture nominee Selma from Ava DuVernay. Other recent Mayo projects include Adam McKay's awards-season hopeful The Big Short, Michael Bay's upcoming 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi and Darren Aronofsky's Noah. When she's not on the Melrose lot or screening movies at Oprah's house (as she did with Selma), she spends her down­time with her partner of 18 months, writer-producer-actress Lena Waithe.

    MOST EMBARRASSING THING I HAD TO DO WHEN I STARTED OUT IN HOLLYWOOD "Having to set up a boss' apartment for a date that he was having — floral arrangements, candles, stage a romantic dinner."

    I'M DYING TO WORK WITH Ryan Coogler, Xavier Dolan and Kerry Washington

    TV SHOW I CAN'T MISS The Knick

    THING PEOPLE PROBABLY DON'T KNOW ABOUT ME "I'm always at concerts."

    THING I WISH I KNEW WHEN I FIRST STARTED IN HOLLYWOOD "How important it is to be social and be out there."

     

  • Matt Milam, 33

    VP Production, Sony Pictures Entertainment

    Hussein Katz

    Category: Film

    As the son of a single mother who managed a movie theater in Knoxville, Tenn., Milam quite literally grew up in front of a screen. "I'd be left alone in the [projector] booth and would go from window to window, watching whatever movie was on," he says of his early education in film. Later, Milam scored an internship at Senator (now Good Universe), where one day he overheard company head Joe Drake vexed about an upcoming poker game at Focus Features CEO Peter Schlessel's house. "I printed out some power hands and said, 'I'm sorry to eavesdrop, but maybe these can help,' " Milam recalls saying, to which Drake responded, "You're my second assistant." He would move up the ranks there (working for Drake and Nathan Kahane) and later at Warner Bros. and Skydance before landing at Sony. At the latter, the longtime comic-book lover oversees upcoming geek tentpoles such as Robotech (James Wan is attached to direct), Stephen King's The Dark Tower adaptation, Gran Turismo and Masters of the Universe.

    ACTOR I'D CAST TO PLAY ME IN MY BIOPIC Louis C.K.

    MOST HOLLYWOOD THING ABOUT MY LIFE "If you ask my friends back in Tennessee, they'd probably say my diet. When I return there for visits, I order egg whites, and they call me 'Hollywood.' "

    TV SHOW I CAN'T MISS South Park

    THING PEOPLE PROBABLY DON'T KNOW ABOUT ME "I love really bad pop music, like Avril Lavigne and the Backstreet Boys. And I still play Dungeons & Dragons."

  • Max Nagler, 31

    Agent, Branding, Licensing and Commerical Endorsements, Gersh

    Hussein Katz

    Category: Agents

    After interning at ICM and spending nine months as a marketing director at American Apparel, Nagler found a way to merge his two passions with a gig in the lifestyle licensing department at CAA. "It was such an interesting blend between Hollywood and consumer products," says the L.A. native, who later branched out on his own with a representation company for fashion designers called Creative Management Collective, working with New Zealand designer Karen Walker and L.A.-based George Esquivel. In 2013, Nagler founded Gersh's branding, licensing and commercial endorsements department, helping stars find the brands that align with their interests.

    Among his highest-profile deals: Sharon Stone's partnership with injectable fillers Restylane, one of the first celebrity endorsements of an aesthetic treatment. "One of the most famous women in the world is openly talking about women's desire to use cosmetic treatments — there's something really empowering about that," says Nagler, who also made rich pacts with Jeffrey Tambor and DirecTV, Kevin Nealon and State Farm and Patricia Arquette for Marina Rinaldi.

    I'M DYING TO WORK WITH "Stevie Nicks in a great, new fashion campaign."

    ACTOR I'D CAST TO PLAY ME IN MY BIOPIC "Macaulay Culkin, circa 1990."

    TV SHOW I CAN'T MISS Transparent

    MY QUIRKIEST HABIT "The amount of pillows I sleep with is pretty ludicrous. I sleep with six pillows in a very carefully curated manner."

    MOST HOLLYWOOD THING ABOUT MY LIFE "I'm a guy who was raised in the Valley and now is a talent agent in Hollywood, so pretty much everything."

     

  • Samata Narra, 34

    Senior VP Comedy Programming and Development, Fox

    Hussein Katz

    Category: Television

    For every 30 minutes of TV that Narra watched as a child, her parents required that she read for two hours. "I'm pretty sure that's the reason I fell in love with comedy," she says, adding with a laugh: "I didn't want to read for more than two hours." What her Indian immigrant parents didn't know is that their daughter would sneak episodes of Saturday Night Live and In Living Color on a tiny TV set that her babysitter kept in the laundry room. Once the Kentucky native graduated from Boston University, she set her sights on Hollywood, calling the William Morris human resources department multiple times a day until she finally landed a gig.

    In what she calls "platonic Jerry Maguire fashion," she followed her then boss, Ross Fineman, out the door and spent the next seven years working as a manager for his company before moving to Fox's comedy department in 2011. Of late, she's been integral to Fox bright spots The Last Man on Earth and Bob's Burgers, which recently earned a two-season renewal. The avid skier also is a co-executive producer on the hot feature documentary Meet the Patels, a passion project she got involved with many years earlier.

    THING I WISH I KNEW WHEN I FIRST STARTED IN HOLLYWOOD "That 'rolling calls' is just calling people."

    ACTOR I'D CAST TO PLAY ME IN MY BIOPIC Cate Blanchett

    MY WAKE-UP TIME 6:12 a.m.

    THING PEOPLE PROBABLY DON'T KNOW ABOUT ME "That I am ruthless when it comes to pop-a-shot basketball."

     

  • Jay Polidoro, 35

    VP Production, Universal

    Hussein Katz

    Category: Film

    Ask Polidoro to tell you stories about his childhood in Pittsfield, Mass., and he'll recount the summer of '92 when Terminator 2: Judgment Day became the only thing that mattered to him and his teenage friends. "That was a true event to me," he says, adding of its influence: "I want to make movies for kids whose whole summers will revolve around them." To date, he's done that in his role at Universal, which he joined in 2010, overseeing the $3.9 billion Fast & Furious franchise. On the day Fast & Furious 6 hit theaters in 2013, the Emerson grad already was on a plane to Abu Dhabi to scout locations for the seventh installment, which later would take a devastating turn when star Paul Walker died in a car crash.

    After Polidoro and the Furious 7 team reworked the movie, it opened in April and became the fifth-highest-grossing film of all time with $1.5 billion at the global box office. "There was so much emotion and love and passion put into that film that it was that much more rewarding when the world felt it as well," he says. Polidoro, who worked for Pam Abdy at Paramount and Scott Stuber's company before joining Universal, is gearing up for the eighth installment (with director F. Gary Gray) and also helping the studio launch another potential franchise with its monsters universe that kicks off in 2017 with The Mummy.

    BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION MY FAMILY HAS ABOUT WHAT I DO "When I first told my family that I was in film development, they actually thought I worked at a one-hour photo place. The best part is that they were so proud."

    MY HOLLYWOOD ROLE MODEL "It's more of a hybrid of people: I want this person's creative mind, that person's business savvy, this person's Malibu home …"

    ACTOR I'D CAST TO PLAY ME IN MY BIOPIC "Dame Judi Dench. She'd nail it."

    MOST HOLLYWOOD THING ABOUT MY LIFE "Wondering whom I can call to get Judi Dench to play me in said biopic."

     

  • Louie Provost, 34

    VP Production, Walt Disney Studios

    Hussein Katz

    Category: Film

    Provost was a history major at Northwestern when a friend asked him to help produce the short film she was directing. He didn't know a grip from a best boy, he says, but "midway through the process, I became aware one could make a living making movies." The Connecticut-born, Dallas-reared exec later would enroll in AFI's producing program before landing a series of high-profile internships (among them: Paramount Vantage while No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood were being made) and assistant work, including a stint for New York-based producer Scott Rudin and Disney's then-president of production Oren Aviv. "Scott had four assistants, and I was only his L.A. assistant," he explains. "But I was working with Oren every day. It was an amazing bird's-eye view on how movies get made and marketed."

    The first film Provost, who's married to an interior designer, oversaw as an executive was The Muppets; since then, it's been a mix of big (Alice Through the Looking Glass), inspirational (Queen of Katwe, with Lupita Nyong'o and David Oyelowo) and passion projects (David Lowery's Pete's Dragon). "When you find someone with a bold vision, my job is to champion those filmmakers," he says. "And it's about getting out of the way when you see something amazing."

    THING PEOPLE PROBABLY DON'T KNOW ABOUT ME "I was a contestant on Wheel of Fortune back in college. I won $4,000 and an American Airlines gift certificate."

    I'M DYING TO WORK WITH Alfonso Cuaron and Spike Jonze

    ACTOR I'D CAST TO PLAY ME IN MY BIOPIC "I'd want it to be animated by Pixar and Mark Wahlberg to do my voice."

    TV SHOW I CAN'T MISS "Game of Thrones. But if they kill any more Starks, I won't watch anymore."

     

  • Elan Ruspoli, 31

    Agent, CAA

    Hussein Katz

    Category: Agents

    Ruspoli's days of wheeling and dealing began long before he hit the halls of CAA. As a high school kid growing up in Los Angeles, he started as a server at Islands restaurant before moving on to classier locales like The Peninsula and The Beverly Wilshire. With his eye on entertainment, Ruspoli used the opportunities to network with the customers, a strategy that scored him mentoring gigs at Sony TV and MGM. In fact, it was a customer who told him to show up for a one-night mystery gig — server at the final Vanity Fair Oscar party held at Morton's — that changed his career. "I saw all the name cards and positioned myself to be in the right spots to meet all the agents, pro­ducers and executives," he says, realizing with time that the agency world would be the best fit for him.

    After joining CAA in 2007, the USC grad made his first mark by signing writer-director Josh Boone and helping to put together his first movie, 2012's Stuck in Love. That led to Boone beating out seasoned filmmakers to land the coveted gig helming The Fault in Our Stars, a hit that catapulted the director's (and his agent's) career; Boone's now working on X-Men spinoff The New Mutants and the adaptation of Stephen King's The Stand. Ruspoli was thanked by CAA client Eddie Redmayne during the latter's Oscar speech for The Theory of Everything and is on the teams for David Oyelowo, Dominic Cooper, Jason Clarke, Imogen Poots and Nat Wolff.

    MY BIG BREAK "Putting Josh Boone's movie together was the really big one. I got promoted from doing that movie. I packaged it internally, and it showed that I could represent a filmmaker and all these actors."

    MOST HOLLYWOOD THING ABOUT MY LIFE "My schedule: the meetings, the events, the premieres."

    TV SHOW I CAN'T MISS Bloodline

    THING PEOPLE PROBABLY DON'T KNOW ABOUT ME "I've run three marathons."

     

  • Dean Schnider, 32

    Manager, Management 360

    Hussein Katz

    Category: Managers

    Schnider has been discovering talent since he was in high school, when the then-hip-hop aficionado started managing music groups on the side. After graduating from the University of Michigan, the 22-year-old with nearly no experience in the film industry set out to co-produce a movie. "I was super naive, which I think was my greatest strength," says Schnider of making Hachi: A Dog's Tale, directed by Lasse Hallstrom and starring Richard Gere and Joan Allen.

    Since joining Management 360 in 2009, Schnider, who was born in Johannesburg and raised in Los Angeles, has made a business of discovering strong source material and talent from unexpected places. He signed Cedric Nicolas-Troyan off a short and set him to helm Universal's sequel The Huntsman; he discovered Fresno, Calif.-based writer-directors Chris Lofing and Travis Cluff off of footage they posted online and helped them make the horror film The Gallows, which earned $41 million worldwide (a sequel is in the works at New Line); and landed Josh Trank off a short film, moving him from Chronicle to Fox's big-budget misfire Fantastic Four.

    Now, the manager is tasked with helping Trank set a new course after exiting Star Wars ("Josh is at a point where he's focused, determined and humbled") while also working with director Ricardo De Montreuil (Universal's Low Riders), writer Jason Mark Hellerman (Shovel Buddies) and authors Mickey Rapkin (Pitch Perfect) and Anna Todd (fan-fiction sensation After).

    TV SHOW I CAN'T MISS Mr. Robot

    ACTOR I'D CAST TO PLAY ME IN MY BIOPIC "James Dean. I guess my parents were big fans."

    MY QUIRKIEST HABIT "I'm very specific about computer fonts. My favorite is Garamond 13."

    IF THERE WERE A 25TH HOUR IN THE DAY I'd watch TED Talks.

     

  • Ken Segna, 34

    Senior VP Original Programming, Starz

    Hussein Katz

    Category: Television

    When Segna was growing up outside of Sacramento, his mother and father would allow him and younger brother Brian to watch only one hour of TV a week. Which is why, he jokes, they "were a little confused" when both Segna boys became TV executives. (Brian is at ITV Studios America.) The Stanford grad's path was somewhat circuitous, producing commercials, music videos and, post film school at USC, a documentary about musician Levon Helm (Ain't in It for My Health: A Film About Levon Helm) before landing on a desk at CAA. In 2010, Segna, who's married to Fox 21 TV Studios' Laura Delahaye, moved over to Starz, where he rose quickly from executive assistant to senior vp original programming. Segna has been intimately involved in Power, the most watched drama in Starz's history, from conception, as well as Steven Soderbergh's upcoming anthology series The Girlfriend Experience, Neil Gaiman's American Gods and Alejandro G. Inarritu's TV drama The One Percent.

    MY BIG BREAK "My brother getting me an interview at CAA. That got me started in the TV business, and in the year I spent at CAA, I met so many of my closest friends in L.A., including my lovely wife, Laura.

    TV SHOW I CAN'T MISS "Rick and Morty — it's sci-fi genius and comedy genius wrapped up into one."

    MY QUIRKIEST HABIT "I keep an embarrassing number of grids. Pretty much in any given situation, if there's a semi-sensible way to enter the data into a spreadsheet, I'm doing it."

  • Lindsay Shookus, 35

    Producer, 'Saturday Night Live'

    Hussein Katz

    Category: Television

    Fresh out of college, the University of North Carolina grad landed an assistant gig at Saturday Night Live. Her first week: Matt Damon hosted with musical guest Bruce Springsteen. "I was watching Bruce Springsteen perform from 30 feet away on my fourth day," she says. "I remember thinking, 'How is this my job?' " Thirteen years later, that job now entails hand-picking SNL's hosts and musical guests with creator Lorne Michaels. Among the more rewarding: a then-green Sam Smith, whose early 2014 appearance was born out of Shookus' internal championing. The Buffalo, N.Y., native and mother of one is in charge of casting, too, having hired Vanessa Bayer and newcomer Jon Rudnitsky.

    MY BIG BREAK "When I started as an assistant at SNL, I got my eyes on Kristen Wiig and was able to bring her for an audition for Lorne Michaels and the other producers. Turns out, Kristen Wiig can give you some street cred early on."

    ACTOR I'D CAST TO PLAY ME IN MY BIOPIC "Come on! You can't ask someone who works with 24 comedy writers every day to answer that question seriously. Do you think Julie Andrews is available?"

    THING PEOPLE PROBABLY DON'T KNOW ABOUT ME "I once played Jennifer Lopez's werewolf body double in a sketch. I don't think anyone was shocked when the sketch got cut after dress rehearsal."

    MY WAKE-UP TIME "My 2-year-old has become my alarm, so on a good day, 7:30 a.m. or 8 a.m. My alarm sounds something like, 'MAMA, where ARE yooooou?' "

     

     

  • Jeff Silver, 33

    Founding Partner, Grandview

    Hussein Katz

    Category: Managers

    His dad, a physician, did pro bono work for The Actors Fund in New York, which meant a young Silver got to spend many of his childhood weekends at shows and musicals with his family in Manhattan. "I really fell in love with the spectacle of entertainment — that rush you get when you're sitting in a theater," says the Long Island native, who moved to L.A. after graduating from Union College in upstate New York. He began his Hollywood career as an assistant at CAA and later as an executive at Winkler Films before founding Fourth Floor Management (it was on the fourth floor of the house he was living in) in 2010. Two years later, the company gained real traction when two clients' scripts — Michael Mitnick's The Current War and Andrew Dodge's Bad Words — landed on the Black List (the latter made it to the big screen in March of last year as star Jason Bateman's directorial debut).

    In mid-2014, Silver and his former CAA colleagues Matt Rosen, a longtime roommate, and producer Brian Kavanaugh-Jones launched Grandview Management. "I never thought I would be co-running a company. I just wanted to work with my friends," says Silver, who manages Matt Charman (who co-wrote Steven Spielberg's Bridge of Spies) along with fellow British writers Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse, who penned the forthcoming Jesse Owens biopic Race. The newly married manager still works with Mitnick, who also wrote the Warner Bros. Pinocchio project, as well as Dodge and Tony-nominated writer Robert Askins, who adapted the horror comic Black Hole for New Regency and Plan B.

    MY BIG BREAK "I was a day player on Romper Room when I was 6."

    TV SHOW I CAN'T MISS Narcos

    IF THERE WERE A 25TH HOUR IN THE DAY "I'd be incredibly confused."

     

  • David Stone, 33

    Agent, WME

    Hussein Katz

    Category: Agents

    Stone got his first taste of Hollywood during grad school at USC, where the Pasadena native worked on David Ayer's indie flick Harsh Times. "It was the type of budget production where I was David's on-set assistant, and I was also driving Eva Longoria to and from the set each day and functioning as a lighting stand-in for Christian Bale," he says with a laugh. In his second year at the Peter Stark Producing Program, Stone landed a gig at UTA, where he remained until he moved to William Morris in 2007.

    Today, the married agent's roster reads like a who's who of TV showrunners: Pretty Little Liars' Marlene King, The Bridge's Elwood Reid (now running Lena Waithe's Chiraq at Showtime) and Martin Gero, creator of Blindspot, the fall broadcast season's breakout. Stone, who runs six to seven miles daily and has eight marathons under his belt, is known for sticking with projects, too: Clients Josh and Jonas Pate's Blood & Oil went from ABC to USA then back to ABC, where it launched earlier this fall; and period drama Will, from client Craig Pearce, originally was developed for HBO, then sold to Pivot before being set up at TNT, where it's in development.

    Stone also has worked closely with prolific author James Frey to build out his Full Fathom empire.

    THING I WISH I KNEW WHEN I FIRST STARTED IN HOLLYWOOD "Protect your time and your relationships. They are your most precious resources."

    I'M DYING TO WORK WITH "All the people I have left more than 10 unreturned voicemails for. Don't worry about calling me back, I'll try you again later."

    MOST HOLLYWOOD THING ABOUT MY LIFE "My standing breakfast reservation at Nate 'n Al."

    IF THERE WERE A 25TH HOUR IN THE DAY "I'd finally learn Polish so I can understand what my wife and mother-in-law are saying about me."

     

  • Katie Townsend, 34

    Litigation Director, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

    Hussein Katz

    Category: Legal

    Call her a First Amendment obsessive. About a year ago, Townsend gave up a well-paying job representing Warner Bros. and NBCUniversal at Los Angeles' prestigious Gibson Dunn & Crutcher firm to move to Washington, D.C., with her attorney husband and fight for journalists and documentary filmmakers who are pressured not to publish information or are under fire for what they have published. She's leading a new litigation group at Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a non­profit with backing from several foundations and such media organizations as Hearst, Politico and The Washington Post. "We're working with people who don't have the resources to hire a big lawyer," says the Miami native, who studied journalism at the University of Florida before law school at the University of Virginia.

    She handles about 10 to 12 active litigation matters at a time and manages a hotline for doc filmmakers and media people to call for legal advice on accessing documents or which stories might be libelous. Her group signed off on the legality of the Sundance hit documentary Cartel Land (about Mexico's drug wars), helped unseal sentencing letters for The New York Times in the David Petraeus case and filed court papers opposing a California ordinance that punishes drivers in traffic cases more harshly if they work for media like paparazzi agencies. Says Townsend, "There are people who are independent and trying to tell stories that are not going to get told if they don't get legal help."

    ACTOR I'D CAST TO PLAY ME IN MY BIOPIC "I've been told I look like Emily Mortimer, and she'd be perfect. After all, she was on The Newsroom."

    IF THERE WERE A 25TH HOUR IN THE DAY "I'd probably get in more pilates classes."

    THING PEOPLE PROBABLY DON'T KNOW ABOUT ME "How much I love hockey. My husband and I are both huge Kings fans and were season-ticket holders when we lived in L.A. Our tickets were one of the hardest things for us to give up when we moved to D.C. — it was traumatic."

    Read more Next Gen 2015: How Unknown Daisy Ridley's "Weird Feeling" Helped Her Land 'Star Wars' Role

  • Erin Westerman, 33

    VP Production, Good Universe

    Hussein Katz

    Category: Film

    Westerman parlayed her first job as a 12-year-old gymnastics coach into a career devoted to helping filmmakers and their projects stick the proverbial landing. "I like being the person who helps get the best out of other people by pointing them in the right direction," says the Syracuse University graduate, who also is a classically trained ballerina. After working for Ellen Goldsmith-Vein at the Gotham Group and producer Andrew Gunn, Westerman joined Disney, where, as an executive, she has overseen the star-studded musical Into the Woods ($212.9 million worldwide), Brad Bird's Tomorrowland ($208.6 million) and the hit live-action adaptation of Cinderella ($542.4 million). "As a society, we devalue feminism — we treat it as a weakness rather than a strength," says Westerman, who's married to New Line exec Michael Disco (Next Gen 2010). "With Cinderella, I felt so strongly that her kindness and her resilience and her hopefulness were her superpower."

    Indeed, feminism is an underlying theme running through much of Westerman's work: In 2013, the South Side Chicago native brought together a group of female studio execs to work as mentors for AFI's Directing Workshop for Women, teaching industry newcomers valuable survival skills. And since she joined production and financing company Good Universe in 2014, Westerman has been tasked with oversight of Neighbors 2 and a forthcoming Fede Alvarez thriller while also looking for projects that she can build from the ground up — especially for female directors.

    THING I WISH I KNEW WHEN I FIRST STARTED IN HOLLYWOOD "That having feminine qualities is an asset, not — as many leadership books and former bosses told me — a weakness."

    BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY HAVE ABOUT WHAT I DO "Entourage came out when we were assistants, and it was such a blessing because I could just say, 'We're Lloyd!' "

    MY QUIRKIEST HABIT "I am a hugger. I hug everyone."

    THING PEOPLE PROBABLY DON'T KNOW ABOUT ME "I have an identical twin sister named Jessica. She's a forensic accountant in Chicago."

    I CAN'T GET THROUGH THE WORKDAY WITHOUT "The Hamilton soundtrack."

    MY HOLLYWOOD ROLE MODEL Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn. He works harder than everyone else and he has high standards for material but is clear and upfront about his expectations: "Hit 'em with the fish in the face" is one of his catchphrases. But most importantly, he is humane. 

  • Ben Winston, 34

    Executive Producer, 'The Late Show With James Corden'

    Austin Hargrave

    Category: Television

    At just 34, the North London native is running CBS' The Late Late Show, starring his longtime pal and frequent collaborator James Corden. The gig marks the first U.S. series on Winston's résumé, which is lined with directing and producing credits on The X Factor U.K., the Brit Awards and a suite of One Direction projects. The latter earned the married producer and recent L.A. transplant a fan base of his own, including nearly 500,000 Twitter followers. Next, the son of renowned scientist and TV presenter Lord Robert Winston will look to line up stateside projects through his prolific U.K.-based production company, Fulwell 73, which already produces The Late Late Show.

    MY BIG BREAK "At 18, I got offered an internship as a P.A. on a drama called Teachers, which was shot in a small town in the U.K. called Bristol. I nearly didn't take the job as it meant moving out of London. Thank goodness I did. On the first day, I met an actor on the show with a small role. We may have had minor jobs on that production, but we both recognized huge ambition in each other. His name was James Corden.

    I'M DYING TO WORK WITH "We do a sketch on our show called 'Role Call,' where we re-create an actor's whole career in five minutes. We have done it with Tom Hanks, Matt Damon and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Tom Cruise would be incredible. Outside of the show, Aaron Sorkin."

    THING PEOPLE PROBABLY DON'T KNOW ABOUT ME "I keep Shabbat and kosher. It gives me a great discipline in life to not be able to drive or work on a Saturday. Great for a marriage in an otherwise crazy busy work life. Also, I have part of David Letterman's bridge from his set as a coffee table in my office."

     

  • Kristen Zolner, 35

    Director of Original Series, Netflix

    Hussein Katz

    Category: Television

    After hawking Frappuccinos at a Starbucks in Belmont, Mass., Zolner parlayed her Syracuse education and love of sitcoms into a career in comedy — but that was after a brief postcollege stint in AmeriCorps. She moved around the comedy world, working for HBO (in the festivals group), John C. Reilly and producer Scot Armstrong before settling down in the streaming space. Her first stop was Amazon Studios, where Zolner worked on Transparent until she left in spring 2014, when the series was headed into production.

    At Netflix, the travel junkie works on both original series and the stand-up specials initiative. She's been the internal point person on Netflix's Wet Hot American Summer and Maria Bamford's upcoming Lady Dynamite as well as integral to the service's stand-up push, having worked on more than a dozen specials in the year and a half she's been there. Among the highlights: championing first-time specials for female comics Chelsea Peretti and Jen Kirkman.

    THING PEOPLE PROBABLY DON'T KNOW ABOUT ME "I was in a Renaissance singing group in high school."

    TV SHOW I CAN'T MISS Louie

    IF THERE WERE A 25TH HOUR IN THE DAY "I'd be practicing yoga."

    I CAN'T GET THROUGH THE WORKDAY WITHOUT "Netflix IT support."

     

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