The Hollywood Reporter's 23rd annual list features the industry's rising stars in film, television and digital who may one day become the next studio chief or media mogul.
May 25, 2015, was a double birth for Aftergood — the date marked the arrival of his daughter and also the first day of shooting Hell or High Water, the movie that became a sleeper hit this summer. "I named my kid Jeff Bridges. It's a very strange name for a girl, but I think it suits her," he jokes. (His daughter, with wife Tracy — a vp at Canvas Media Studio — actually is named Olivia Dylan Aftergood.)
The Malibu Canyon native started as an assistant at Peter Berg's production company Film 44, working on the TV show Friday Night Lights and the 2012 film Battleship. In 2012, Aftergood caught a script called Commancheria and spent the next few years fighting to get the project (renamed Hell or High Water) made. It was in the middle of production, after 11 years at Film 44, that he decided to strike out on his own.
“It was incredibly hard, it’s still really hard,” he says. “You go from a big company to a scrappy startup trying to figure out how to configure your email server.”
Now pacted with Studio 8, he's in post on Wind River and brewing a John Wayne biopic and the female werewolf project Silver from Craig MacNeill.
I'm dying to work with: John Carpenter
Most fun task I've ever been given: "I've wrangled several goats after they jumped an electric fence."
How my job will change in the next five years: “I think we’re moving toward an almost entirely content-on-demand world. And I think the successful entrepreneurs will crack how to offer an increasing amount of that content over-the-top and direct to consumer. Suddenly we’re not just producers or development executives — we’re web designers, app builders and grassroots marketers. Basically I’m saying I had better learn a ton of new skills very quickly.”
As one of the key executives spearheading the streaming giant's big-screen efforts, Creighton combines The Weinstein Co.'s edgy sensibility (he worked there for nearly six years) with Netflix's deep pockets and outsized ambitions. Since joining in January, he dove into Okja, Joon-ho Bong's $50 million follow-up to Snowpiercer that stars Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal. On the horizon are Duncan Jones' crime drama Mute (starring Alexander Skarsgard, Justin Theroux and Paul Rudd; in production in Berlin) and The Helicopter Heist (Gyllenhaal will star and produce).
After getting a taste of Hollywood as an intern at Jay Roach's Everyman Pictures, Creighton worked for Mike Myers before moving to TWC. He started as Harvey Weinstein's assistant, where he learned to "work harder than anyone else. Harvey was always in the office before me and after me. He led by example."
Who I wanted to be when I grew up: Professional skateboarder
The biggest misconception about my generation: "The belief we only want superhero movies and can't be trusted to go see original ideas."
I’m dying to work with: Spike Jonze
How my job will change in the next five years: “I’m very interested to see how the theatrical experience evolves. I wonder if five years from now the new Star Wars movie will be an Imax, virtual reality, role-playing experience.”
When she was in seventh grade, a severe snowstorm hit Davis' hometown in Maine, and she ended up watching The Godfather, Chinatown and The Breakfast Club in the same week. "From that moment on, I knew I wanted to make something as great as those movies," says the Wellesley College alum. But first, she got into politics working for the John Kerry campaign during the 2004 election and later for a nonprofit providing Hurricane Katrina relief.
"Someone once told me: 'If there's anything you want to do in your life before you start working in the movie business, you should do it. Because once you're in this business, you're going to do it forever,' " says Davis, who landed at Marc Forster and Brad Simpson's production banner Apparatus before moving to Disney in 2009.
There, she worked on Sam Raimi's Oz: The Great and Powerful and Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book. At Chernin since early 2015, Davis, engaged to wine broker Amanda Crawford, is shepherding the untitled Amy Schumer-Goldie Hawn comedy. “Shooting a movie with Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer in Hawaii is exactly as much fun as it sounds like it would be,” says Davis, who also works on The Greatest Showman with Hugh Jackman , Fede Alvarez’s Incognito and Will Eubanks’ horror thriller.
“To get to tell stories for a living to a global audience is really one of the greatest privileges that you can possibly have," she says, "and so I work really hard to honor that, and live up to that responsibility.”
Quirkiest work habit: "Taking off my shoes before I write notes."
I’m dying to work with: David Fincher
The biggest misconception about my generation: “That we don’t read books.”
App that I can't live without: "I have four map apps. When I'm late, I toggle between them all in hopes of good news."
Being the child of South Korean immigrants helped shape Kim's early love for entertainment. "My household was culturally different than most of my friends', but I found we could always connect on TV shows and movies," says Kim of growing up in Seattle. But it was when she was interning at agencies while studying political science at USC that she realized she wanted to work in the movie business.
After starting as an assistant at William Morris then Warner Bros., she was hired by Bradley Cooper to launch his production company, 22nd & Indiana Pictures. It was Kim who brought the star the script for American Sniper.
“It was a movie that a lot of people had passed on,” she says. “There were no movies about the current war that had been successful at that point.” (The Clint Eastwood-helmed project was a massive success, earning $547.4 million worldwide and nabbing six Oscar nominations.)
In December 2014, she moved to STX, where she shepherded the Hailee Steinfeld starrer Edge of Seventeen (it opens Nov. 17) along with upcoming romantic comedies The One Who Got Away and 40 Days of Dating.
Most prized possession in my office: "This awesome black-and-white photo of my dad in his 20s listening to a Black Sabbath record. He passed away when I was 14, and it inspires me to work hard and live life to its fullest."
Actor you’d cast to play you in a biopic: “I’d like to cast a discovery. There are so many talented Asian-American actresses who are not working enough and should be.”
Hidden talent: "I do great impressions … badly."
When Rosenberg was 11, the Sherman Oaks native obliged her dad and watched the first three Star Wars movies before Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace hit theaters in May 1999. But Rosenberg, a fan of Disney princess movies, wasn't a convert. "I couldn't tell you the difference between an Ewok and a Wookiee," she says. Today, after helping to drive the massive marketing campaign for Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($2.1 billion worldwide), she can talk Death Stars and lightsabers like "nobody's business." Serving as marketing strategy vp means Rosenberg, expecting her first child with husband Cory, guides all pieces of any campaign she's tasked with. She’s also known for being level-headed, deliberate and easy to work with. “It takes a village to make these campaigns work,” she says.
Rosenberg is working on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and likewise will oversee Star Wars: Episode VIII and Episode IX as well as the untitled Han Solo film. Her meteoric rise at Disney began after working in publicity, including talent relations and digital marketing. She joined the studio as an intern after her junior year at USC's Annenberg School of Journalism and Communication and landed a permanent job on the lot upon graduating in 2004.
Quirkiest work habit: "I bring a giant bottle of water wherever I go. It's like my sippy cup."
Industry spirit animal: Tina Fey
Most prized possession in my office: “I have a Princess Leia bobblehead that has my head on it. Jackson George, our creative advertising lead, gave it to me after The Force Awakens.”
One of Schwartz's first jobs after being promoted to creative exec was on 2012's The Avengers. Weeks ahead of its release, the stars were doing press, and Schwartz was tasked with finding a shawarma restaurant for them to film the now-famous post-credits scene, where the heroes eat a meal after saving New York. "We had to get them from the junket to the shawarma place, costume them up, film it and cut it together on the back of a truck," says Schwartz, who started out as an assistant to Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige in 2008.
Schwartz grew up reading comic books in Portland, Ore., and knew even then that "there should be more movies based on comic books because they were something that could be easily translated to a cinematic world." The Pomona College grad now gets to make those films at Marvel, where he oversees the hit Guardians of the Galaxy franchise (the 2014 film earned $773.9 million worldwide, and the sequel opens May 5). He also is shepherding the studio's first solo female superhero movie, Captain Marvel. "I'm very happy to be nerdy," he says.
Quirkiest work habit: "I'm a very quirky person who is probably not aware of their quirks."
Actor to play me in my biopic: Seth Rogen
App I can’t live without: “Twitter. I never tweet but it’s very helpful to understand what people are saying about our movies, our characters and the cultural at large.”
Current TV obsession: "Rick and Morty on Adult Swim."
Smith, daughter of FedEx founder and chairman Fred Smith, quickly has emerged as a go-to financier and producer of risky prestige fare that the major Hollywood studios dance around — including Damien Chazelle's upcoming La La Land (Dec. 9). Smith and her two partners at Black Label, identical twins Trent and Thad Luckinbill, happily agreed to co-finance the musical earlier this year when Lionsgate wanted to minimize its exposure.
Black Label, formed by the three in 2012, boasts impressive investors, including Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder. The Memphis-born Smith spent years learning the business while working at Alcon Entertainment, the production company backed by her dad, beginning as an assistant. (She attended NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, but she's fond of saying she got her real degree from Alcon principals Broderick Johnson and Andrew Kosove.) Her ability to see the potential in scripts dismissed by others was evident when she persuaded Alcon to make The Blind Side (2009) after numerous studios passed. Upcoming films that Black Label is backing include Jerry Bruckheimer's Taliban war drama Horse Soldiers and Rebel in the Rye, Danny Strong's feature directorial debut.
Long before this year's presidential election turned into a cage fight, Wees tapped into the apocalyptic potential. As the exec who spearheaded the creative campaign for The Purge: Election Year, he created a faux political campaign ad with the Trump-esque slogan "Keep America Great" that aired during the Republican primary debates in February. The film went on to become the highest box-office earner in the franchise ($118.4 million worldwide).
"You don't normally get to run around L.A. shooting footage for a TV spot, so this one was extra fun and offered a whole new level of creativity," he says. The Nebraska native has worked on some of the studio's most buzzworthy TV spots and print campaigns. The highlight so far has been Chris Meledandri's Illumination movies, particularly the Despicable Me franchise. On Minions, he managed to go both highbrow and lowbrow in the same ad by weaving in Van Gogh and Da Vinci references with a fart joke. “I got to be a child and an adult at the same time,” he jokes.
The University of Oregon graduate got his start when he did two summer internships at Universal that he dubbed "a crash course in movie advertising." After graduation, he moved back to the Midwest and spent a year-plus working for the now-defunct minor league hockey team the Iowa Stars before one day realizing he wanted back in Hollywood. “I gave my notice, dropped my furniture off at my parents’ house and immediately drove to L.A.,” says Wees, who has been married to Natalie Wees, a teacher, for three months now. He still hits the hockey rink once a week, though not yet with Jerry Bruckheimer’s famed rec league (“I’m not talented enough on the ice to make that cut,” he laments).
I'm dying to work with: "Michael Jordan. I still think Space Jam was robbed for best picture."
Actor to play me in my biopic: "If Kevin Hart and Joe Pesci had a baby, that'd be who should play me."
My current film/TV/music obsession: “Between college football, hockey season and basketball season just starting, who has time for anything else?”
Wandell got his introduction to Hollywood by way of his cousin, Amazon Studios' Morgan Wandell (Next Gen Class of 2006, see page 89). Then a Touchstone TV exec, the older Wandell invited his eighth-grader cousin, who lived on a farm outside of Chicago, to tapings of Home Improvement and Boy Meets World. Afterward, the middle schooler turned to his dad and said, "I'm going to do that."
After graduating from the University of Missouri, Wandell went from an internship at NBC to assistant gigs at John Wells Productions (during ER's final years) and HBO, where he worked for now-FX exec Gina Balian in the drama department when Game of Thrones was being developed. He later would itch to explore comedy, too, prompting a move to FX in 2011. The new dad — whose wife, Renata Lombardo (niece of Michael Lombardo), went into labor with the couple's first child the morning of THR's Next Gen photo shoot — has been heavily involved with Donald Glover breakout Atlanta, Stephen Falk's You're the Worst and the John Singleton drama Snowfall, as well as the hot comic book adaptation Y: The Last Man and Seth Rogen's A.I. comedy Singularity.
My current film/TV/music obsession: "Right now I can't get enough of Chris Stapleton's music. It's literally scoring my daily life."
I'm dying to work with: "Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Her most recent series Fleabag is brilliant. I'd love for her next creation to be on FX.”
Biggest misconception my family has about what I do: "Depends upon whom you ask. My Grandma still thinks I'm an actor and asks when I'll be on TV."
Fetter has the distinction of being one of Netflix's first programming hires. "For that first year, it was just me, Peter [Friedlander], Cindy [Holland] and a marketing person named Shauna. It was still kind of an experiment," the Orange County, Calif., native says of the early days at the streaming giant, which he has seen go from 75 employees to more than 800. The married father of two's contribution began with the critically beloved animated series BoJack Horseman, which he championed internally. Despite having a comedic sensibility that he describes as both "dark" and "really wacky," the USC film school grad also had his hands in Ashton Kutcher's The Ranch and is intimately involved with upcoming dramas The OA from Brit Marling and Godless, the platform's first miniseries.
Quirkiest work habit: "I am chronically early to meetings, events, flights, et cetera. I’m oftentimes more stressed about arriving on time than I am about whatever it is I’m heading into.”
Most fun task I’ve ever been given: "On the first season of Orange Is the New Black we wanted to send a gift to the writers that demonstrated our passion and excitement for the series. I ended up making a prison-style cheesecake using ingredients that inmates have access to — string cheese, graham crackers, Coffee Mate — and sent it to the room for their first day. It was a big hit.”
How my job will change in the next five years: "I think we will be taking even more big bets on young filmmakers. Also, I hope to be riding to work in driverless Ubers."
The biggest misconception about my generation: "That we don’t understand references to films that were made before we were born."
My current film/TV/music obsession: "The Eric Andre Show. It’s hilarious and 11 minutes long so I never miss an episode regardless of how little free time I have."
When it became clear professional athletics wasn't a feasible career goal, Albohm settled on sports programming. Fresh out of school at Bates College — where the New Jersey native "majored in history and minored unofficially in watching every single sporting event I could in my spare time" — Albohm snagged a job as a runner at NBC Sports. The grunt work paid off: In 2004, he caught the attention of Jamie Horowitz, who hired him as a production assistant.
"He took me under his wing," says Albohm of the prominent sports exec, whom he later followed to ESPN and Fox Sports.In January, Albohm jumped to the latter, where he has helped revamp the network's daily multisport studio shows by focusing on opinion-driven content. The recent L.A. transplant, who settled with his wife and newborn in Venice, oversaw the launch of Speak for Yourself and helped to recruit Skip Bayless, with whom he'd worked at ESPN.
Quirkiest work habit: "I am an overaggressive note taker. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing – I’m taking notes during it. I can take notes about my notes."
App I can’t live without: "Fox Sports Go. Now I can take my work with me wherever I go. For some reason, my wife, Emily, doesn’t always love this app."
The emoji I use most: "The thumbs-up. That has been my favorite way to communicate throughout my life and I can now do it electronically."
After a visit to the set of The Cider House Rules as a high schooler in Massachusetts, Rohlich set her sights on Hollywood. At the University of Wisconsin, she toyed with filmmaking: "I didn't feel like I was a writer, and I didn't feel like I could direct actors, so I made two documentaries."
Following a couple of assistant gigs at MGM and Sony, the Iowa-born producer met director Seth Gordon through her now-husband, writer-director Clay Tweel. What started as a casual opportunity for Rohlich to give notes on an early cut of Gordon's video-game doc King of Kong turned into a nine-year partnership with him. In addition to working on such Gordon-directed studio movies as Horrible Bosses and Identity Theft, Rohlich has led Exhibit A's foray into TV with ABC's The Goldbergs and TV Land's Gaffigan. Up next: Amazon's Bryan Cranston drama Sneaky Pete, Netflix's Jennifer Jason Leigh comedy Atypical and the upcoming Baywatch reboot.
I'm dying to work with: Bill Murray
Most prized possession in my office: "An endless supply of LaCroix."
Most fun task I've ever been given: "I embarrassingly admitted to a former boss that I had never seen The Godfather. They immediately had me watch it in the screening room on 35mm. It was incredible."
My current film/TV/music obsession: Westworld
What I wanted to be when I was younger: "A teacher like my parents. No clue where I went wrong."
The Sony veteran, who has his hands in nearly all facets of the studio's roster, came up during the early days of Breaking Bad. In fact, his first note was to creator Vince Gilligan. Then an assistant, the Detroit native piped up on a call during the drama's second season with a science-related note for its creator. "Vince called me later to tell me, in the politest way possible, that my math didn't work out," laughs Aronson.
In his near decade at Sony, the Indiana University grad who had childhood aspirations to "write the next great American screenplay like every boy from the Midwest" worked his way up to drama development vp, serving as a covering executive on Community along the way. "Cutting my teeth on that show broke me into being an executive," he says. Aronson is reuniting with Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston on a Philip K. Dick sci-fi series. The West Hollywood resident also is busy with WGN America's Roadside Picnic and Amazon's Matt Bomer starrer The Last Tycoon, as well as CBS' S.W.A.T. reboot from Shawn Ryan and Justin Lin and NBC’s Salvation from Paul Haggis and Warren Leight.
Who I wanted to be when I grew up: "A zookeeper. As a kid, they looked like they had the most glamorous job, getting to hang out with pet tigers all day."
Actor to play me in my biopic: "Jay Duplass for a drama. Rick Moranis for a comedy."
How my job will change in the next five years: "I can see developing more for international networks directly becoming increasingly important."
My current film/TV/music obsession: "Don't Think Twice/Atlanta/Frank Zappa."
Despite plans to pursue a career in politics — "I thought I was going to be like C.J. in The West Wing," says Helman — the Montana-born exec's first gig was in the Endeavor mailroom. "One of my bosses said, 'You spend way too much time talking to clients about their passion projects, so if that's what you want to do, you need to go work at a studio,' " says the Boston University grad, who soon transitioned to Warner Bros. TV. There, she spent nine years in comedy development, working on such shows as NBC's Undateable, CBS' Mom and Netflix's upcoming animated comedy Green Eggs and Ham from Ellen DeGeneres.
In May, she took a key development job at Freeform. "The opportunity to go work at a network that was finding itself was exciting," says Helman, who's expecting her first child with her husband, Hulu exec Jordan Helman (Next Gen 2015). She already is working to age-up the network with projects aimed at 20-somethings. Among them: Marvel genre-play Cloak and Dagger, Lonely Island comedy Alone Together and Alicia Keys' drama Freedom Writers. Notes Helman, "We like to say we make cool shit for baller women."
I'm dying to work with: "Sally Wainwright. I could watch Happy Valley and Last Tango in Halifax episodes over and over again."
Most prized possession in my office: "I have a large topographical map of Montana in my office that my husband gave me a few years ago. Looking at it reminds me to get out of the L.A. bubble every now and then, both mentally and physically."
App that I can't live without: "Listening to books on Audible has become the best way to kill my 40-minute commute."
Actor to play me in my biopic: Rose Byrne
Gillogly credits her move west, where she majored in critical studies at USC Film School, to James Van Der Beek's character on Dawson's Creek. "When a writer references a movie, knowing what the hell they're talking about is always a huge asset," says the North Carolina-born, Maryland-reared executive.
After graduating a semester early, she nabbed an internship at The Donners' Co. But it was her later boss, Bill Gerber, who ultimately encouraged her to transition to the small screen. "It seems like a lot of people are jumping ship now from features to television, but I credit him for being early on that train," she says. In 2012, she moved to AMC, where she has been instrumental in luring writers as the network looks to rebuild in a post-Mad Men, Breaking Bad era. Among her early successes: martial arts drama Into the Badlands, one of the top five highest-rated premieres in basic cable. Up next: Pierce Brosnan-led Western The Son and historical fiction horror anthology The Terror.
Quirkiest work habit: "When I write notes, I like to do an ‘anti-humiliation pass,’ which is essentially going through the notes and asking the question, ‘How will the writers room make fun of this?’ Sometimes a desperate need for approval can be effective in the workplace."
Who I wanted to be when I grew up: "A voice on The Simpsons."
Most prized possession in my office: "My signed picture of Kevin Costner, sitting in a wagon, staring off into the middle distance, on the set of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves."
Actor you’d cast to play you in a biopic: "Cocktail/Adventures in Babysitting era Elisabeth Shue. Female leads never have curly hair in movies these days. I would’ve killed in the '80s. Now, not so much."
How my job will change in the next five years: "As long as I’m not replaced by robots, I think I’ll be good."
During his undergrad days at Harvard, Dodd studied religion and politics, not exactly a go-to combo for a future agent. But the Boston native counters that the skill set does come in handy when negotiating. "I specialize in peacemaking," he says. “That’s what you learn to do when you study religion and politics.”
After graduating magna cum laude, the Hasty Pudding alum spent three and a half years as a strategy consultant at Mitt Romney's Bain Capital before he took the "humbling" plunge into UTA's mailroom in 2009. "I was surprised to learn how important teamwork was instead of striking out in a bombastic way. Those who do that don't last long at an agency," says Dodd, who lives in West Hollywood with his rescue dog, Cleopatra. After becoming an agent in 2013, he cultivated a roster of writers and directors that regularly appear on the Black List. Among them: Jonathan Perera, whose timely gun control drama Miss Sloane will debut in December; David Mackenzie, who directed the indie breakout Hell or High Water; and writer Michael Werwie.
Dodd, an avid supporter of the arts and the LGBTQ community, also negotiated for client Frank John Hughes to write an original crime thriller for Paramount and Splinter Cell for New Regency and set up Daniel Hashimoto’s Action Movie Kid film at Fox 2000 after the animation veteran’s short went viral on YouTube.
I'm dying to work with: Beyonce
Industry spirit animal: Beyonce
App that I can't live without: "Without Postmates, I would die a disorganized death."
My current film/TV/music obsession: “A combination of Westworld and its music choices."
Garfinkel is a homegrown Gersh superstar, rising in the ranks to become one of the town's most respected lit agents. When he joined the agency in 2003 as an assistant, he learned one of his most important lessons: Treat everybody with respect. "You never know if you'll be asking for material from someone five years from now," says the Emory alum. He now finds himself with an enviable client list that includes Laura Solon, who wrote DreamWorks' all-star comedy Office Christmas Party that opens in December, and Ian Helfer, who penned Fox comedy Why Him? starring James Franco and Bryan Cranston. Garfinkel helped orchestrate a career turnaround for scribe Richard Wenk (The Mechanic), convincing him to take on The Equalizer as a non-studio assignment.
"You had a seasoned screenwriter who was looking to pivot and make a leap in his career," says the newly married Garfinkel (he wed agent Arielle Mesirow on Oct. 8). "It required some hard decisions about cutting quotes and seeing the long game." Indeed: Wenk is coming off a banner fall, with credits on The Magnificent Seven and Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.
I'm dying to work with: "The Netflix docuseries group. They have really raised the bar for that hard-to-achieve combination of filmmaking, truth-sharing and episodic entertainment."
Most prized possession in my office: "Slap Shot one-sheet."
How my job will change in the next five years: "Creative deal making will continue to evolve as the radically new types of players that have entered the field find their Hollywood business maturing. Staff meetings, I predict, will remain constant."
One of LoPiccolo's favorite questions to ask his clients is, "What's the most impossible thing you'd want to do?" Then, he'll try to get them there. Never afraid of a challenge, the Harrisburg, Penn., native has a knack for signing rising stars, including Herizen Guardiola (Netflix's The Get Down), Royalty Hightower (Sundance sensation The Fits), Hannah John-Kamen (Ready Player One) and Demetrius Shipp Jr. (who plays Tupac Shakur in All Eyez on Me).
After playing both football and track at the University of Delaware and getting a law degree from Villanova, LoPiccolo first worked at Paradigm in the motion picture finance department before transitioning to talent (he’s known for sitting in on the talent, motion picture lit and finance meetings every week).
"It's fun to compete, it's fun to win, and it's fun to do it in the team environment of the agency," says LoPiccolo, who also reps Thomas Jane and Anne Heche, along with filmmakers Gabriele Muccino (The Pursuit of Happyness) and Steve Carr (Middle School), as well as finance companies. One of his most exciting new projects arrived two months ago: his newborn son, Roman.
I'm dying to work with: "Jack Nicholson and Martin Scorsese. I'm enamored with old-school Hollywood royalty."
My current film/TV/music obsession: Rapper Young M.A.
Who I wanted to be when I grew up: “Starting center fielder for the New York Yankees.”
Actor to play me in my biopic: “Tom Hardy. He is a total badass and you can’t understand a word he is saying.”
Eleven years ago, Pearl was hired by ICM as an internal temp known as a floater. "That's as low as you can get in the New York office," he jokes. But fate intervened on his first day on the job when legendary agent Sam Cohn's two assistants didn't show up for work. "I was thrown into the fire," he says. That day turned into a six-month gig, and the Westchester County, N.Y., native learned the ropes by deflecting calls for the late superagent, who was famously difficult to reach on the phone.
As an agent, Pearl focuses on New York's film, TV and theater scene. With a client list that still reflects that "eclectic mix," Pearl represents two castmembers on SNL — Pete Davidson and Cecily Strong — and three of the show's staff writers. The George Washington University alum still spends four to five nights a week away from the Prospect Heights home he shares with his therapist wife and infant son, hitting stand-up shows and off-Broadway plays. (“Nine years ago, none of the agencies were signing kids out of school. I started going to clubs and seeing comedy shows and signing people that way. And I still do.”).
Other clients include Mike Luciano and Phil Matarese (HBO's Animals), Nikki Glaser (Comedy Central's Not Safe With Nikki Glaser), Jay Pharoah, Noel Wells, Scott Haze, Nina Arianda, Eoin Macken and breakout actor in the making Finn Wittrock (La La Land).
Quirkiest work habit: "I make most of my own phone calls."
I’m dying to work with: Larry David
How my job will change in the next five years: “I look forward to pitching my clients in VR.”
In a shifting late-night landscape, Rusch quickly has become a central figure behind the scenes. After all, the Long Island, N.Y., native reps James Corden and Trevor Noah, new entrants who have shaken up the genre with viral segments. "I had been talking about him like he's the second coming for years," says Rusch of the Daily Show host, whom she signed five years ago. The University of Florida grad, one of the few comedy agents to stick around at CAA following the 2015 mass defection to UTA, always had a fondness for late-night television, regularly tuning in to watch Conan O'Brien, David Letterman and Saturday Night Live growing up. After a brief stint at 3 Arts Entertainment, she worked the comedy festival circuit, first at HBO and then Montreal, where she met a handful of comedians (T.J. Miller, Nasim Pedrad and Reggie Watts) she'd later go on to rep. When CAA offered her a job six years ago, Rusch parlayed her knack for eyeing promising young talent into elevating their careers. She has done so with other non-late-night clients, too, including BoJack Horseman creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg, who is writing the Lego Movie sequel, and Silicon Valley breakout Miller, next in Office Christmas Party with Jennifer Aniston.
Quirkiest work habit: "I have so many pitch papers and notes on my desk that it always looks like I'm trying to solve a crime."
Actor to play me in my biopic: "Lucille Ball"
The biggest misconception about my generation: "That our parents didn’t keep it real with us. Mine always have."
App I can't live without: WhatsApp
The emoji I use most: "Hands clapping. I’m a fan."
Schuit might have spent most of his childhood in Amsterdam (his Dutch parents moved back from New York when he was 5 years old), but he remained obsessed with American culture. "My grandfather was the American in the family, and he was a big hero of mine,” says Schuit, who spent his youth sporting American clothing, listening to American music and watching American films like Kids and The Godfather. “I always knew as soon as I graduated high school I’d move back to the States.” That he did, living with his grandparents for a year in New York before attending Boston University.
He's a homegrown WME star, starting out in Endeavor's mailroom and growing into a notable lit agent with the ability to help filmmakers get their projects off the ground. Schuit helped Justin Simien parlay his Sundance-winning feature Dear White People into a TV adaptation at Netflix, sold Zach Dean's original sci-fi pitch Ghost Draft to Skydance, and packaged Jonathan and Josh Baker's feature debut, Kin, with Jack Reynor and James Franco attached.
Plus, he’s helped transition foreign filmmakers into Hollywood, this year signing Iranian-born Babak Anvari after his buzzy Sundance debut Under the Shadow, and setting up French filmmaker John Helpert with his first American film at Netflix.
I'm dying to work with: "Shep Gordon. His cultural impact has been nothing short of legendary."
Who I wanted to be when I grew up: “My dad, who is like Jack Nicholson if Jack had been a powerhouse lawyer in Amsterdam.”
Most prized possession in my office: “Portrait of Martin Scorsese, made by my dear friend and infamous Dutch artist Slacker Chris, with whom I watched Goodfellas dozens of times growing up.”
Hidden talent: "Dancing, but I'm not hiding it."
It's as if Solomon was destined to be on the Next Gen list. Her father, accomplished television executive Ken Solomon, was featured on the inaugural list in 1994 — but Solomon only discovered that fact when she told him she was getting the honor this year. "It was very special to be recognized and share a category with someone that I admired for many different reasons," says Solomon. "If I'm on remotely the same path, then I'm doing all right."
But even though it was in her blood, Solomon didn't always know she'd want to be in the entertainment business. She initially planned on being a lawyer, attending University of West Los Angeles. It was only after working at an entertainment firm that she realized she wanted "to be in front of deals, not picking things up after the fact." She started as an assistant at ICM, then moved to Verve, becoming the firm's first internally promoted female agent. Since then, Solomon has made it her personal mission to find and support female voices.
Clients include Meg LeFauve, who was nominated for an Oscar for co-writing Inside Out and just became a director on Disney Animation's Gigantic; Jac Schaeffer, who wrote the alien invasion comedy The Shower, which has Anne Hathaway attached; and Hidden Figures co-writer Allison Schroeder.
I'm dying to work with: Grumpy Cat
Who I wanted to be when I grew up: “A veterinarian, but I realize now that seeing sick animals would make me too sad. I volunteer instead for a local rescue group.”
Most prized possession in my office: "My autographed Luke Perry headshot from his 90210 days. I got it on my 13th birthday."
If Crommett's title at Google sounds made up, that's because it is. The Harvard graduate created the role she now holds — working with Google engineers to consult with Hollywood to ensure that film and TV projects featuring coders and engineers are more inclusive — two years ago, after she learned that young girls were forgoing tech and science careers because they didn't see women doing those jobs on TV. Crommett, who sits on the board of NALIP and Women in Animation, began to take meetings with such shows as HBO's Silicon Valley and Freeform's The Fosters. "I went to my boss and said, 'I think this is going to be a full-time role,' " says Crommett, who was born in Puerto Rico and counts Spanish as her first language. Raised outside Atlanta, Crommett dreamed of becoming an actress while watching I Love Lucy Reruns.
She became focused on promoting diversity in Hollywood at NBCUniversal, where she helped develop underrepresented TV writers and directors. At Google, her three-person team recently worked with the Geena Davis Institute to create software that gives TV shows and movies a diversity score and is prepping the launch of a web series about young professionals working in Los Angeles' Silicon Beach. For Crommett, it's deeply personal work: "I didn't see people who looked like me on TV or shared my experiences until Ugly Betty."
Quirkiest work habit: "We have adjustable standing desks, but I will never adjust mine from standing to sitting. Instead, I leave it in the standing position and sit underneath it."
Industry spirit animal: "MACRO founder and former WME agent Charles King. We're both from Atlanta and I respect the work he does tremendously."
How my job will change in the next five years: "My hope is that in five years my job doesn't exist and I'm on to the next thing."
My current film/TV/music obsession: "I'm still obsessed with [the musical] Hamilton and will continue to be for a long time."
When Emanuele first started working for YouTube in 2011, she thought it would be temporary. The Maryland native was producing an independent movie and needed money to finish the film, so she became a contractor for the Google-owned streamer. "I was not the traditional type of person they hire," says the Florida State University film school graduate who started her career at John Sloss' Cinetic Media, where she met her now husband. Emanuele became fascinated with the technology that powers YouTube and made the job permanent, spending four years managing relationships with some of the site's top channels, including The Tonight Show and Casey Neistat. In 2015, she returned to the creative side of the business when she joined the originals team, which creates programming for YouTube's 1-year-old streaming service, YouTube Red. One of the standouts of originals head Susanne Daniels' team, Emanuele oversaw recently released Single by 30 and now runs point on the high-profile Step Up adaptation and a new thriller series from Doug Liman. Says Emanuele: "I'm excited to work with voices that are very natural and authentic and partner with them to tell those longer stories."
Quirkiest work habit: "I got these glasses that protect your eyes from computer glare, Gunnar Glasses. My team made fun of me until someone else got them and I was like, 'I'm a trendsetter.'"
I'm dying to work with: "I would love to do a YouTube series with Kendrick Lamar."
Current music obsession: "Beyonce. I saw her tour twice, both times in Los Angeles at the Rose Bowl and Dodger Stadium."
How my job will change in the next five years: "It'll probably change in the next five minutes."
Horrigan's first job was designing websites for small businesses when he was still a teen growing up in suburban Massachusetts. Infatuated with all things Apple, he would ask his father to drop him off at the Macworld Expo in Boston every year. "I was a kid wandering around and listening to the Steve Jobs keynotes," Horrigan reminisces. The only thing that captured his attention as much as gadgets were movies. The Hofstra University alumnus now is working at the convergence of technology and entertainment as the first Hollywood hire for Montreal-based virtual reality company Felix & Paul Studios, tasked with overseeing the VR studio's expansion with the opening of its Los Angeles headquarters.
Horrigan started out at CAA — where he met his now wife — and later became then-Paramount president Brad Weston's assistant. When Weston left for New Regency, Horrigan followed to become a senior development and production executive, overseeing such projects as 12 Years a Slave. At FPS, which has a multiyear deal to make VR for Facebook's Oculus, Horrigan oversees content development, strategy and partnerships for the VR studio, working on such immersive experiences as President Obama's first VR appearance and Funny or Die co-production Miyubi. Up next, Horrigan is executive producing the first long-form scripted film from FPS, working on a nonfiction series with Morgan Spurlock and leading efforts on a top-secret space project that will span nearly two years of production.
I'm dying to work with: "Charlie Kaufman. The way he writes is so internalized and experiential that it would lend itself to VR."
Most fun task I've ever been given: "Showing Mick Jagger VR for the first time."
Current TV obsession: "The Night Manager. I recently saw it on a plane and couldn't believe I hadn't done so sooner."
Kaplan's career got a jumpstart when CBS Corp. president and CEO Leslie Moonves hired him as his intern when he was a Columbia University quarterback looking to break into the business. "I admired his attention to building a company with a strong executive team that was deeply loyal," recalls the L.A. native. That eventually turned into a full-time job developing online programming at CBS. Kaplan, who in April married The Originals actress Clair Holt, then jumped to Lionsgate to oversee the studio's low-budget film division, which included titles such as They Came Together starring Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd. After a brief stint running his own firm, Chapter One Films, which had a first-look deal with Blumhouse Productions, Kaplan's work eventually led to a call from Jeffrey Katzenberg about a job overseeing AwesomenessTV's push into film. Under his watch, the digital media company debuted a string of VOD releases, such as Tyler Oakley documentary Snervous and coming-of-age drama Shovel Buddies, which premiered at South by Southwest earlier this year. In March, Awesomeness Films will have its first theatrical release, Before I Fall starring Zoey Deutch and Halston Sage.
Quirkiest work habit: "Afternoon frozen yogurt runs."
Who I wanted to be when I grew up: "Tupac. Everyone who grew up in L.A. wanted to be Tupac."
Actor to play me in my biopic: Sinbad
Current film obsession: La La Land
As a teenager in the New York City suburb Hastings-on-Hudson, Kuhn hosted his own show on the local public access TV station and dreamed of becoming a journalist. But instability in the news business while he was studying government at Hamilton College gave him pause. That's when, Kuhn recalls, his father gave him advice that proved fruitful: "If you always stay ahead of the curve, you'll never have to worry about a job." For Kuhn, that meant creating a niche for himself as a social media expert, first for Katie Couric's CBS Evening News and later for the NBA and CNN. In 2011, at the age of 23, he moved to Hollywood to become UTA's first social media agent. After three years consulting with agency clients on digital strategy, Kuhn was recruited to become CMO of cable startup Layer3 TV, which has raised nearly $100 million from investors, including Evolution Media Partners. He hops between the 150-person company's Denver headquarters and both coasts to encourage TV junkies in Layer3's first two markets — Chicago and Washington — to subscribe. Kuhn, who sits on the board of the Lincoln Center Theater, also handles government relations for Layer3 as it seeks to carve out a new path in an old, established industry. Says Kuhn: "We're a startup in a world that doesn't have many startups."
I'm dying to work with: Jeffrey Katzenberg
Biggest misconception my family has about what I do: "I'm IT support."
App I can't live without: "Audible. I love listening to books — usually on double speed — while driving to work or on airplanes. I just finished Kenneth Rogoff's new book, The Curse of Cash."
Actor to play me in my biopic: John Oliver.
Skogmo presides over a profitable digital media business built on the back of blooper videos. The Chicago native oversees 150 employees who specialize in making money off those wacky pet videos or skateboarding fail clips that proliferate on YouTube, including licensing them to television shows. Like many boys growing up in the 1980s, Skogmo looked up to filmmakers like Robert Zemeckis. He tried his hand at movies of his own and once accidentally burned down the local field in an attempt to re-create a World War II battle scene complete with homemade pyrotechnics. When Skogmo later moved to L.A. as a fresh-faced Columbia College Chicago graduate, he didn't expect to find himself in the clip business. But a part-time job cleaning the garage of a producer friend turned into a gig sourcing videos for CMT blooper show Country Fried Home Videos. "I would go to the P.O. box every day to pick up VHS tapes and DVDs," Skogmo recalls. He soon realized there was a faster way to find funny clips using an early version of YouTube. It was enough to make him the go-to clip-show producer, but after working on such projects as Destroyed in Seconds and World's Wildest Vacation Videos, he struck out on his own with the Peter Guber-backed Jukin Media, which operates a network with 1.5 billion views a month.
Biggest misconception my family has about what I do: "They send me home videos and want me to get them to go viral."
I'm dying to work with: Steven Spielberg
Actor to play me in my biopic: "The person who looks the most like me, Ryan Gosling."
My current TV obsession: "When I'm flipping through the channels, I always end up on the show Below Deck. I have a fascination with boats and am taking boating lessons."
The Florida-raised manager was so obsessed with entertainment, that at Indiana University he was nicknamed "IMDb" in his Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. He has used that passion to create a strong list of lit clients at the predominantly talent-focused firm MGMT. After moving to L.A., he worked as an assistant at UTA before landing at Magnet Management. Having joined MGMT 2½ years ago, he spends his time hustling for his TV and film writers and directors. "Shaping someone's career and watching them grow is so rewarding," he says.
Diamond discovered Kristina Lauren Anderson, whose script Catherine the Great was No. 1 on 2014's Black List and will shoot next year with Barbra Streisand directing. He also reps Frank & Lola director Matthew Ross and Schitt's Creek showrunner Dan Levy and is producing projects including the Daniel Radcliffe-starrer Beast of Burden and The Butcher Cover by client Greg Pritikin at Amazon.
Who I wanted to be when I grew up: "The kid from Blank Check. He could really stretch a dollar."
Most prized possession: "My grandfather's World War II captain's hat."
My current film/TV/music obsession: Atlanta
Haskins made her way into Hollywood via a reality show — as the youngest contestant on ESPN's Dream Job (she made it to the final four). The Brown University grad was set to pursue a career in sports media (she studied broadcast journalism at Boston University) when her sister, a screenwriter, suggested that she could funnel her obsession for TV and film into a Hollywood career.
Since joining PYE in March 2010, the Chicago native (and die-hard Hillary supporter) has worked to nurture the careers of female writers, directors and performers. "I felt there was a real opportunity for me to be an advocate for women, especially in comedy," says Haskins, who also plays on three different intramural sports teams in LA.
She packaged and sold client Laura Steinel’s script Women in Business with Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell and Emma Stone attached and also shepherded Steinel's directorial debut, Fam-i-ly with Taylor Schilling attached to star. She helped Esther Povitsky (Lady Dynamite, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) set up her series Alone Together at Freeform, and also works with Sarah Adina Smith (whose film Buster's Mal Heart starring Rami Malek debuted at TIFF) and Jen D'Angelo (co-producer on Workaholics).
“By helping women grow into positions of power, whether that’s writers or directors or showrunners,” she says, “it means we’re going to inherently have better representation across the board.”
Quirkiest work habit: "I try to model my wardrobe after The Good Wife."
App that I can't live without: "Bandsintown. It culls your music library and alerts you when tickets go on sale for their shows."
Who I wanted to be when I grew up: “Sportscaster Hannah Storm. She was the only in-studio female reporter for the NBA on NBC when I was a little girl and I just thought she was the absolute best.”
Most prized possession in my office: “A photograph of me and my sister with Hillary Clinton.”
Born to an engineer father and an artistic mother who was at one time a drama teacher, Rose was built for management. "In a weird way, I feel like my DNA was perfectly set up to do what my job is now, which is at the intersection of the business and the artist," says the Ann Arbor, Mich., native.
Since joining Mosaic in 2007, she has become an advocate for many writer-directors seeking to grow in the business while still retaining their unique perspectives and styles. “Since the beginning, I’ve been very interested in finding those voices in the independent world who really stand out,” says Rose, who previously worked as an ICM trainee and at HBO.
She helped her first client, Craig Johnson, put together Sundance hit The Skeleton Twins, starring Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, and his upcoming Fox Searchlight movie Wilson, starring Woody Harrelson. Her other filmmaker clients include several indie heavyweights such as Alex Ross Perry (Listen Up Philip, Queen of Earth), Ry Russo-Young (Before I Fall), Dee Rees (Pariah and the upcoming Mudbound) and Chad Hartigan (Morris From America). The University of Michigan alum also helps out with the firm's talent stars, co-repping Tye Sheridan (Ready Player One) and Jeremy Strong (The Big Short) with colleague Paul Nelson.
I'm dying to work with: "Anthony Bourdain. He is a brilliant multihyphenate, and he loves a good dive bar. Maybe he will read this and grab a beer with me sometime?"
Quirkiest work habit: "I'm constantly making lists. Lists on lists on lists. Combining multiple lists into one big list is a favorite pastime."
My current film/TV/music obsession: “The new season of Black Mirror is so outrageously good. ‘San Junipero’ is one of the best hours of television to come along in a very long time; it's inspiringly original and deeply emotional.”
Rosenberg discovered his love for entertainment by first landing in front of the camera. Raised in Vancouver, he took advantage of the town's booming production industry by working as an extra on films and TV shows after high school. He was 18 when he nabbed a "glorified extra" role on The Lizzie McGuire Movie and got to travel to Italy for a month. "I realized I loved production, but I didn't like waiting for the phone to ring. It's not proactive," says Rosenberg, who now has 2-year-old twin girls with his wife, Rebecca, a talent manager at Principato Young.
He moved to L.A. in 2005, and while he dabbled in talent management, he found his groove in lit management, where he could be proactive. Rosenberg worked at management film Caliber Media before landing at Circle of Confusion in 2013. He now works with Michael Starrbury, the co-creator of Comedy Central's Legends of Chamberlain Heights, and helped clients Lee Shipman and Brian McGreevy land their AMC series The Son. Rosenberg, who is producing movies at Sony, Netflix and Universal, also works with writer Matthew Sand (Deepwater Horizon), Jonah Tulis and Blake Harris (the upcoming Console Wars documentary) and up-and-coming comedy writers Matt Bass and Teddy Bressman (Ghostcop).
Quirkiest work habit: “I’m hooked on 5-Hour Energy.”
Most fun task I've ever been given: "As an assistant, my boss' partner told me to make him a desk. He was probably just testing my patience, but what he didn't know was that I took woodwork in high school. So over the weekend I built one from scratch. He came in on Monday and was totally confused, but he respected me for it, and then when I got promoted, it became my first desk."
I'm dying to work with: President Obama
My current film/TV/music obsession: “Too Many Zooz. That band that went viral playing music in NYC subway stations. The sax player is the man!”
Auerbach can be spotted regularly at many of L.A.'s comedy clubs, where he scouts talent. It's his drive and willingness to log late nights for the job that helped him sign such clients as Broad City duo Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, for whom he spearheaded their renegotiations for the hit series as well as for their other projects. (Jacobson released a book of illustrations in October and stars alongside Dave Franco in Netflix's upcoming drama 6 Balloons, and Glazer will star in 2017 comedy Rock That Body with Kate McKinnon and Scarlett Johansson.)
The Denver native studied diplomatic history at the University of Pennsylvania before setting his sights on law and enrolling at New York University. "I decided I wasn't going to pursue a career in acting or writing, both of which I loved as a kid," says Auerbach. "I recognized that I always enjoyed negotiating and dealmaking, and [law] would allow me to help artists focus on their art by being the business architect of their careers." The newly minted partner also reps Pitch Perfect alum Ben Platt, Hamilton's Leslie Odom Jr. and SNL's Vanessa Bayer, and he handles deals for Jackoway Tyerman clients Jonah Hill and T.J. Miller.
I'm dying to work with: Jerry Seinfeld and Von Miller
App I can’t live without: Politico
Who I wanted to be when I grew up: Late-night comedy host
Most prized possession in my office: "The photos of my wife [Samantha] and three boys [Ryan, 5; Noah, 3; Jordan, 8 months]. And my official Super Bowl 50 football signed by John Elway and Peyton Manning."
Kang joined Hulu in 2011 when it was still a startup and engineers were working around-the-clock, sleeping on mattresses in the corner of the open, warehouse-like office. Back then, the company's legal team handled everything from content deals to the site's terms-of-use agreement and the building's lease. In 2013, rumors that the company might be sold sparked an exodus, but instead the streamer got an influx of cash to boost its content offerings — leaving Kang to handle the work of five lawyers. "I never went home before midnight," says Kang, a UC Berkeley law grad.
Now she's spearheading deals for Hulu's new virtual MVPD service, a skinny bundle of sorts that is making networks and studios nervous. "We’re navigating a field where no one has come before us," says Kang. "We’re constantly trying to negotiate rights for things that don’t exist yet.” She says the most challenging deal she has done so far was the one with AMC, which brought Fear the Walking Dead to the streamer. In addition to managing four of Hulu's lawyers, Kang is preparing for a different kind of supervision: She and her investment banker husband, Lawrence Park, are expecting their first child on Nov. 27.
Biggest misconception my family has about what I do: “My family thinks I’m buddies with all Hulu stars, and that they all follow me on Instagram.”
I'm dying to work with: "Amy Schumer. And I'd ask her to join me in a really serious negotiation. Pretty sure we'd kill it."
My current film/TV/music obsession: "I'm late to Homeland, but that show is incredible and makes me want to leave my desk job to become a badass CIA agent."
Yeargan's first taste of Hollywood was via two entertainment internships while studying history at Yale. That's when she realized she belonged on the business side of the industry and enrolled in law school at Stanford. Now she's working alongside mentor and noted entertainment litigator Larry Stein at Liner. In her eight years at the firm, she has handled everything from defamation to trade libel to copyright infringement, but she says one of her first cases still stands out. "We represented Tokyo Broadcasting System in its copyright case against ABC over the show Wipeout," she says. "That was the case I really cut my teeth on."
Litigation is a male-dominated occupation, and Yeargan says it can be challenging to deal with clients who take advice more seriously when it comes from a man. "I've been in a lot of meetings where it takes me an hour before I look around and realize I'm the only woman," she says. She has been a key part of Liner teams representing clients Ciara, Camille Grammer, Blake Shelton, Drake and Lionsgate.
Looking ahead, Yeargan says, “I’d like to become the go-to person for talent in crisis situations.”
Most prized possession in my office: "A letter from former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher thanking me for contributing to his National War Powers Commission Report."
Actor to play me in my biopic: Reese Witherspoon
Who I wanted to be when I grew up: "I always knew I wanted to be a lawyer. As a teenager was inspired by Marcia Clark during the O.J. Simpson trial.”