Women in Entertainment 2009

12:46 PM 12/7/2010

by THR Staff

2011 Harpo Inc.

In a year fraught with corporate challenges, two women have steered their respective ships with unparaelleled skill and assurance.  Once can take credit for a record performance on the film side; the other, for a television business of unrivaled global influence.

The editors of The Hollywood Reporter considered the following factors in determining this year's Power 100 rankings:

1. Achievements in 2009: Boxoffice, television ratings or dollars generated

2. Overall authority:  How much clout the individual has within her company, how many divisions/employees she oversees and how much influence her company has in Hollywood.

3. Greenlight power:  Ability to get a project made, or proximity to the person who can make it.

4. Standing: The invidual's reputation within the community at large.

 

Note: This list looks primarily at women who influence Hollywood in the film and television arena and does not include international power players or those in other areas of entertainment such as music or publishing.

  1. 1
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    Amy Pascal

    Co-chairman, Sony Pictures Entertainment

    Who would have thought that the canny young woman who started out as indie producer Tony Garnett's assistant would become one of the most powerful executives in Hollywood?

    Loved by talent, respected by her corporate overlords, Pascal has proved to be one of the longest-lasting studio execs in history, overcoming early struggles at the studio (when her taste for "chick flicks" may have damaged her) to become a seasoned veteran.

    Her savviness was on full display this year: Who else would have greenlit "Julie & Julia," let alone develop it before Meryl Streep was even attached? Who else would have followed that with a blockbuster like "2012"?

    And who else would have paid a whopping $60 million for rough footage of Michael Jackson's concert rehearsals -- leading to $200 million in global boxoffice, a potential Oscar nomination for best picture and a likely goldmine when "This Is It" comes out on DVD?

    As for her year so far, it's as solid as ever: Sony isn't No. 1 but it ranks a respectable third in market share for 2009, with such other hits as "Paul Blart: Mall Cop," "Angels & Demons," "District 9" and "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs." But it's already enjoying its best year ever at the international boxoffice, where it has topped the $1.63 billion mark.

    Asked to single out a mentor, she goes back to the beginning: "My first mentor was Tony Garnett. I was his secretary. He taught me that writers were what mattered about movies. He taught me how to read scripts; he taught me about storytelling and he also taught me about graciousness."

  2. 2
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    Anne Sweeney

    Co-chairman, Disney Media Networks

    Sweeney remains an island of calm at the center of the entertainment industry storm.

    "We had to rethink our entire business this year," she says coolly. "Part of it is due to the economy and the other part is realizing that life has changed and the structure we had in place was not really optimal for the future." 

    While most showbiz execs have seen their companies shrink this year, Sweeney now presides over an unrivalled magic kingdom of properties and more than 19,000 employees.

    She oversees ABC's entertainment, news and daytime divisions, which include Disney Channel and ABC Studios, as well as ABC Family, SoapNet and Hyperion Publishing. While parts of Disney have struggled, the company's 4% increase in revenue in the third quarter was attributed to Sweeney's units.

    And this year she realized a 10-year dream with the merger of Lifetime and A&E Television Networks, in which Disney controlled an interest.

    Programming from the combined entity will now be available in more than 145 territories reaching more than 250 million households, supplementing the already-extraordinary reach -- more than 1 billion people per month -- of Sweeney content.

    "I knew it would help us be bigger and more focused, because they were very strong brands with very strong leadership," says Sweeney, who will be co-chair of the new A&E Television Networks along with an executive from the Hearst Corp.

    "It was wonderful to see these businesses come together."

    She credits her success to the guidance and mentoring she received from two strong women: "My mother is a teacher, by profession and by nature, who taught me that life is choices and that my decisions determine my opportunities. From her, I learned to choose a position, take one path instead of another and live with the consequences. My great aunt, Mary, was another important mentor, a creative spirit who had little interest in conventional wisdom or arbitrary rules."

  3. 3
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    Oprah Winfrey

    Chairman, Harpo

    A big question mark hangs over Winfrey's future: A year after topping our power list, there's an uncertainty about Oprah's OWN cable network and her future as a talk show host.

    OWN, a joint venture with Discovery, has faced challenges getting off the ground, with several high-level executive changes; after two years in development, the channel will go live in January 2011. And the queen of talk has decided she will end her eponymous show at the end of its 25th season, in September 2011.

    She could, as many have speculated, revamp the chat show for her cable outlet, effectively precipitating the biggest change in the first-run syndie business since, well, forever.

    But the show did not have the smoothest of starts for the 24th season, as the average audience has slipped from a peak of 9 million in 2005 to 7 million in September.

    Still, guests like Sarah Palin have recently helped a ratings rebound and the show clocks 2 million more viewers than nearest daytime competitor "Dr. Phil."

    Two mentors loom particularly large for Winfrey: Nelson Mandela, who she says is the "strongest living mentor for me. He's a role model and standard bearer for all human beings." And Sidney Poitier, she adds, is the figure "who made me believe that I could dream a bigger dream."

  4. 4
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    Nancy Tellem

    President, CBS Network Television Entertainment Group

    Who says network television is dead?

    This year CBS was the only broadcast net to post ratings growth in key demos, up 12% in viewership. Credit Tellem, who oversees every aspect of the network and studio from development to new media.

    She also oversees the CW, which increased its 18-34 audience by 7%.

    "From a ratings standpoint, we dominated, which made me feel like we were doing something right," says the 12-year CBS vet, who is mulling a transition to a more strategic role at CBS focused on content creation.

    She cites Leslie Moonves as a longtime mentor and believer in the enduring power of TV as a medium.

    "What so heartened me last year was seeing the constant need and desire for television content."

     

  5. 5
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    Bonnie Hammer

    President, NBC Universal Cable Entertainment

    The woman who runs NBC Uni's most-profitable division grew up as the daughter of a self-made Russian immigrant. Hammer was taught that there was nothing she couldn't do.

    "In high school, I was trying to do calculus and just pulling the hair out of my head. 'I can't do this,' " she told her father. "His attitude was there's no such word as 'can't.' "

    Hammer's domain includes USA Network, which powers the conglom's bottom line thanks to six scripted dramas, including "Royal Pains," "Burn Notice" and "Law & Order: Criminal Intent."

    The one-time professional photographer is also behind the rebranding of SyFy (formerly Sci Fi), reborn this year to create a unique global brand.

  6. 6
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    Donna Langley

    Co-chairman, Universal Pictures

    A tumultuous year at Universal left Langley one of the few top studio execs to emerge unscathed.

    Indeed, when co-chairmen Marc Schmuger and David Linde were given their exit papers, the gracious and well-liked exec was bumped to the No. 2 position.

    It has been a long ride to the top for Langley, who started out miles from filmland, living on the U.K.'s Isle of Wight (home of fellow filmmaker Anthony Minghella) then came to the U.S. and served a stint at New Line before joining Universal.

    Now the new mom -- she returned from maternity leave in October -- hopes to turn Uni's fortunes around with more franchise sequels ("Bourne," "Fast and Furious" and "Little Fockers") and help from reliable sources like Judd Apatow ("Get Him to the Greek").

    "We are weathering the storm of the public's ever-evolving appetite," she says.

  7. 7
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    Stacey Snider

    Co-chairman and CEO, DreamWorks Studios

    Snider breathed a sigh of relief this year, as DreamWorks finally nailed down its elusive financing and established a marketing and distribution deal with Disney.

    Now she can focus 100% on what she loves -- making movies with her friend and partner Steven Spielberg.

    "I met Steven as a young executive at TriStar working on 'Zorro,' " she says. "And so began a crash-course in the art and science of the movie business that continues to this day."

    Since joining DreamWorks from Universal in 2006, the UCLA Law grad has overseen awards contenders like "Letters From Iwo Jima" and boxoffice smashes like "Transformers."

    Her new slate of five to six pictures a year will include the Spyglass-Paramount co-production "Dinner for Schmucks" and a Fox co-production of a "Harvey" remake.

  8. 8
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    Dana Walden

    Chairman, Twentieth Century Fox Television

    News Corp. reshuffled the deck this year, which gave Walden (and co-chair Gary Newman) fresh oversight from Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman.

    But the reorg came with added responsibilites; her plate now includes Fox TV Studios (USA's "Burn Notice"), as well as fall hits "Glee" (Fox) and "Modern Family" (ABC), and the studio is trying innovative development tactics like co-sponsoring a contest with Aniboom to find the next great animated holiday special.

    The well-connected, talent-friendly Fox veteran recalls a key promotion during her 18 years at the studio: "Peter Chernin took me out of publicity and said, 'I think you're smart and you seem to have good instincts about programming.' "

  9. 9
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    Nina Tassler

    President, CBS Entertainment

    Rough economic seas barely seem to have rocked Tassler's boat.

    This year her network's comedy tentpole "Two and a Half Men" won its first major category Emmy (for Jon Cryer), and with the launch of new hits "NCIS: Los Angeles" and "The Good Wife" in the fall, CBS all but owns the top 10 in the ratings each week.

    "I trust my instincts," says Tassler, an avid reader who got her start in the theater before being mentored by John Kimble at Triad.

    She took the helm at the Eye in 2004. "(The whole team) has worked together for so long, we trust each other. The minute you take away fear and paranoia from what you do, it allows you to see things clearly."

  10. 10
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    Angela Bromstad

    President/Primetime Entertainment, NBC and Universal Media Studios

    Fifteen years with NBC almost seems like a Guinness World Record.

    In January, Bromstad turned in her passport as international television production president and stepped up as the Peacock's fourth chief programmer of dramas and comedies in 19 months.

    She already had Emmy winners like "30 Rock" and "The Office," which she shepherded for UMS; since then she's been "galvanizing the troops" in a fractured division and shepherding new programming like "Community" and "Parenthood."

    She says she gets her work ethic from her mother, who ran a magazine for jewelers with her father. "She had her own business and four kids whose lives she was very involved with," Bromstad says. "She still puts me to shame."

  11. 11
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    Sue Kroll

    President of Worldwide Marketing, Warner Bros. Pictures

    Kroll grew up gazing at the skyscrapers of New York from the other side of the Lincoln Tunnel.

    "I wanted to be in advertising," she says. "I was fascinated by the whole idea of it."

    But, even though her dad was theater critic Jack Kroll, "It still seemed very remote, very disconnected." Not now.

    Fifteen years since she joined Warners, after a career in advertising and marketing for cable television, she runs one of the most respected marketing divisions in town.

    She opened the difficult Where the Wild Things Are to $32 million and handled such blockbusters as the latest Harry Potter and The Hangover. 

    Jetting around the world, she still finds time to support Big Brothers Big Sisters, which recently honored her as a rising star.

  12. 12
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    Judy McGrath

    Chairman and CEO, MTV Networks

    Even if Kanye West hadn't stormed the stage, this year's MTV Video Music Awards would have been noteworthy for delivering its largest audience since 2002.

    McGrath is as closely associated with her network as any exec in the business, having joined the upstart cabler's promo department in 1981 after stints at a radio station and writing for magazines.

    The Pennsylvania native inherited her love of music from her father, a social worker. Now her kingdom includes Comedy Central, VH1, Nickelodeon, Spike and more.

    "The most challenging thing, as always, is to stay in lockstep with our youthful consumers," she says. "More than ever, relevance is the name of the game."

    To that end, this year she moved into digital gaming with The Beatles: Rock Band"and continues to "foster and elevate female talent and voices" at MTV. That includes instituting a program with the Posse Foundation that provides an opportunity for college students to be mentored at the MTV networks.

  13. 13
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    Veronika Kwan-Rubinek

    President of Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures, International

    When one of your earliest memories is of a rocket exploding nearby, it's hard to be fazed by Hollywood.

    "I lived in Lebanon during the civil war," Kwan-Rubinek recalls of her childhood. "I remember walking around during a ceasefire, when suddenly there was a whistle overhead and a rocket basically had crashed into the building down the road and we were all running for our lives."

    That was just one of the experiences that shaped the exec, who grew up in Hong Kong, Lebanon, Bahrain, Germany, Holland, France and the U.S., with a Chinese dad and a German mother.

    Fluent in several languages, she has brought her international perspective to a studio that thinks globally -- witness her recent hits "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" and "The Hangover."

    Now based in L.A., she says her fondest memories are of Holland, though she still calls Hong Kong home.

  14. 14
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    Nikki Rocco

    President of Distribution, Universal Pictures

    "I'm absolutely obsessive-compulsive," admits the much-liked, mother-hen Rocco. "It has to be done on a timely basis, when I want it, and it has to be complete -- that even goes for walking my dog!"

    She laughs, but this ferocity about her work is what pushed a young girl from Flushing, N.Y. -- who started out packing meat in a supermarket at the age of 14 -- to become the first female head of distribution at a major studio, a job she's held since 1996.

    Now she's taking her mother's advice when it comes to difficult times, coping with management changes at the studio and too few hits like the latest "Fast and Furious" and "Public Enemies."

    "She was out there on the front lines," she says of her mother, a film processor at Kodak.

    "She gave me invaluable advice: You have to be able to stand on your own and any help you get is an added bonus."

  15. 15
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    Abbe Raven

    President and CEO, A&E Television Networks

    Raven has education in her blood.

    Encouraged by her mother, she went back to school to get her master's from Hunter College, then taught high school English and drama for five years in her native Queens -- even though that meant giving up a promising career in the theater, where she was the youngest Equity stage manager on or off-Broadway.

    That was three decades ago, before she switched careers and got an entry-level job in cable, helping create A&E's signature shows like "Biography" and "Investigative Reports."

    After launching the History Channel, she returned to A&E in 2002, turning it around by acquiring off-network hits like "The Sopranos," and developing water-cooler shows like "Growing Up Gotti" and "Dog the Bounty Hunter."

    When Lifetime was merged with A&E this year, she was the natural choice to head the combined division.

  16. 16
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    Dawn Ostroff

    President of Entertainment, the CW

    Now in its fourth year, the CW's ratings still don't match its broadcast network competition, but Ostroff judges success by "creating our own culture" to reach a young, female audience.

    Hits "Gossip Girl," "90210" and "The Vampire Diaries" have lifted the CW's ratings this fall and helped the hard-charging mother of four balance work and family responsibilities.

    She's also made mentorship a priority.

    "At CW, I've created my own program with assistants, so when they are ready they move up," she says. "You learn by being in a room and understanding how the process works, and how to be a team player."

  17. 17
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    Sue Naegle

    President, HBO Entertainment

    When she began in the mailroom at UTA, Naegle felt the sting of not being connected.

    "A lot of people were sons of somebody," she recalls. "I saw how nepotism can affect your career trajectory in the business."

    But she also saw how she could make her own connections -- and did just that, building an impressive list of clients -- like Alan Ball -- many of whom now work with her at HBO.

    Naegle got off to a strong start after joining the network 18 months ago, renewing the first show she developed, "Hung," and has already renewed its "Bored to Death."

    She's also tapped her strong links to talent, signing deals with Martin Scorsese, Noah Baumbach and Tom Wolfe. "When I started here, there was a steep learning curve," she admits.

    "I had to learn a whole new set of skills. Now I feel more confident, (but) it's a constant exploration."

  18. 18
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    Elizabeth Gabler

    President, FOX 2000 Pictures

    When you're the oldest of six kids, you learn to be a team player real fast. And Gabler has been a crucial part of the 20th Century Fox team ever since she joined the studio in 1988.

    As head of Fox 2000, the exec who started out as Jim Wiatt's assistant at ICM has taken the once-minor label and made it a driving force with such hits as "Alvin and the Chipmunks," "The Devil Wears Prada" and "Marley & Me."

    But, even with six films in production or post, she still finds time to ride horses and take care of the Santa Barbara farm she shares with her husband, former CAA kingpin Lee Gabler -- and do a ton of charity work.

  19. 19
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    Lauren Zalaznick

    President, NBC Women and Lifestyle Entertainment

    "Project Runway" is long gone, but Bravo's ratings have remained solid and Zalaznick bounced back this year with a relaunch of female-targeted Web site iVillage, and under her purview Oxygen had its best ratings ever last year.

    Lately her plate has been packed with cross-company initiatives like Green is Universal, Women@NBCU and a new health awareness effort.

    The former indie producer takes pride in further integrating the parts of her umbrella group, which generates around $1 billion in annual revenue, to break down traditional silos.

    In the summer she spearheaded Women@NBCU's inaugural Mentors Walk to bring experienced and up-and-coming women execs together.

    "I never thought about being mentored," she says. "I am about personal responsibility, but informal mentoring is probably the most important thing inside a big organization."

  20. 20
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    Kathleen Kennedy

    Producer

    How does Kennedy stay so cool under fire?

    The woman who started out as Steven Spielberg's assistant, then jointly ran his company, is now not only a mainstay of his movies but also one of the most respected producers in town.

    It's not just because of her astute taste for projects that range from the latest "Indiana Jones" to "The Sixth Sense"; it's also because there is a quiet authority to her that sets her apart from some of her ranting peers.

    Now working on a host of projects (many with husband Frank Marshall) including Clint Eastwood's "Hereafter," M. Night Shyamalan's "The Last Airbender" and the Spielberg-Peter Jackson "Tintin" collaboration, she's also making moves in the indie arena ("The Diving Bell and the Butterfly") and TV, where she's shepherding "The Special Relationship" for HBO.

    With all this, she still finds time for her passions like bike riding and collecting first edition books, most notably "Moby Dick."

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    Mary Parent

    Chairman of Worldwide Motion Picture Group and office of the CEO, MGM

    Parent may face an uncertain future at MGM, which has been in uncharted territory since her boss Harry Sloan departed the company this year, but her own reputation remains undiminished -- as one of the brightest and most efficient execs in the business.

    Curious, then, that she only stumbled into it when her own fashion company stumbled.

    "I was at a crossroads, deciding what to do," she recalls. "I had started a company that was half a success, half a failure, while I was in college, and friends said, 'You'd make a great studio executive.'"

    After landing a job as an assistant at ICM, she spent several years at New Line then rose to head of production at Universal, before setting up a production company with her former roommate and fellow Uni exec, Scott Stuber, later accepting the top movie job at MGM.

    Now she's developing films like Hot Tub Time Machine, Red Dawn and Cabin in the Woods -- and hoping to make MGM roar again.

  22. 22
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    Andrea Wong

    President/CEO, Lifetime Networks

    Wong knows how to fix a problem. She should -- she learned with the best at MIT.

    True, the problems were all related to her major, electrical engineering, but the principles apply to entertainment, too.

    "I have no fear of problem-solving, because I solved such hard problems there," she says. "Part of that is learning how to break down a problem and take it one piece at a time."

    She's been doing that at Lifetime, which she arrived at circuitously after leaving engineering for Wall Street, then Wall Street for Stanford business school and Stanford for a PA job at ABC News.

    Since she joined Lifetime in 2007, Wong has added original programming like "Project Runway" and the recent hit "Drop Dead Diva."

    Now Wong, who recently added needlepoint to her repertoire of talents, says she is looking forward to working alongside her new boss, Abbe Raven. "In some ways, women are better bosses (than men)," she says. "They're more collaborative."

     

     

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    Sheila Nevins

    President, HBO Documentary and Family Programming

    Nevins, arguably the most important person in TV documentaries, was brought up without a television.

    The daughter of a post office worker and part-time bookie who lived on New York's Lower East side, "I grew up in a family where an A wasn't good enough," she says. "My mother always wanted to know if anyone had gotten an A+."

    After studying dance at the High School of the Performing Arts, Nevins moved onto Barnard and the Yale School of Drama before joining the U.S. Information Agency -- which produced documentaries for overseas audiences.

    That eventually led her to hook up on documentaries for public TV. Twenty years after joining HBO, her efforts have won her more than two-dozen Emmys, culminating this fall when she received the Governors Award at the Primetime Emmys.

    "Maybe I stuck to one kind of television longer than I would have if I'd been a man," she says. "Maybe I wasn't as ambitious as I might have been, but I loved what I was doing and didn't want to do anything else."

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    Ann Daly

    COO, DreamWorks Animation

    Adding 300 people per year, Daly has overseen DWA's growth to more than 1,600 staffers as the company has ramped up from two animated movies annually to five every two years.

    Moving among facilities in Glendale, Redwood City, Calif., and Bangalore, India, she has shepherded moves into TV ("The Penguins of Madagascar") and stage ("Shrek: The Musical"), while on the film front DWA has led the push into 3D.

    "It's been a giant learning curve," says the avid outdoor enthusiast, who joined DreamWorks as head of animation and home video operations in 1997.

    "When Jeffrey (Katzenberg) asked me to come over to help start up the studio, I didn't know a lot about animation," she recalls. "And we've done that a lot here: We bring in new people, give them a chance to contribute and support them while they learn. Which is why we've been able to expand so successfully."

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    Nancy Utley

    President, Fox Searchlight Pictures

    When things get tough, Utley has the perfect safety valve: Needlepoint.

    "My mother owned a needlepoint store and I took it up when I was a teenager," she says. "I was at the Toronto film festival during 9/11 and ended up having a lot of anxiety, like everyone -- so I ran down the street to a needlepoint shop and started work on it again."

    Unfortunately, she barely finds the time to work on the needlepoint, with three kids and four stepkids -- and her recent elevation to joint president of Searchlight.

    The Northwestern journalism graduate and 23-year Fox vet may have her hands even more full with new releases like "Crazy Heart," but she says she still loves the challenge as much as she did when she landed her first job on Madison Avenue -- with one exception: the uncertainty.

    In needlepoint: "I like that there is a guaranteed outcome. If you do the work, you get the result."

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    Emma Watts

    President of Production, 20th Century Fox

    Watts learned from the best. The one-time assistant to photographer Herb Ritts and then Oliver Stone still marvels at little things they taught her -- like the way Stone would open his own mail and even meet some of his correspondents, crazies and all.

    "He made me meet them first!" she admits.

    Now, as Fox's top production exec, the 12-year studio veteran barely has time to read mail: Just recently, she pushed four films into production in a three-week period (including "Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps" and "The A-Team"), all out next year -- and James Cameron's "Avatar" looms large for the holidays. 

    "The only thing worse than a run like that is not having any movies," she jokes.

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    Ellen Degeneres

    Host, "The Ellen Show"

    "American Idol" may not have had an openly gay winner, but as of January it has a gay judge.

    The show's decision to name DeGeneres to fill the seat vacated by Paula Abdul was widely regarded as a move of genius -- and it's raised the comedian's profile hugely.

    This year she also reupped with her popular daytime talk show through a potential 2013-14 season after averaging 2.1 in the ratings -- that's second only to Oprah Winfrey in women 25-54.

    Her engaging, sometimes goofy TV persona was enough last year to earn her a dance with future President Obama -- and a gay marriage debate with Sen. John McCain. 

     

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    Shari Redstone

    President, National Amusements

    Headlines might focus on the auctioning-off of parts of the National Amusements theater circuit, but Redstone says the debut of her "lifestyle entertainment center" Legacy Place in Dedham, Mass. -- a rare real estate opening this year -- was 2009's most exciting event.

    After all, the complex is dedicated to her grandfather.

    "I was lucky that I was around great people growing up and throughout my career, including when I first joined Viacom and had to learn a lot," she says. The former criminal defense lawyer is also behind theater openings in Russia, including a new 12-screen theater in Moscow.

    "The most exciting thing is telling others about what I have learned about balancing career and private life, because women always struggle with that."

     

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    Terry Wood

    President/Creative Affairs and Development, CBS Television Distribution

    Credited with developing and nurturing "Dr. Phil" and the Emmy-winning "Rachael Ray," Wood also has oversight of shows like the long-running "Entertainment Tonight" and the sophomore strip "The Doctors," which is up 50% in the ratings this year.

    Wood started her career in broadcast news -- she created the first noon newscast in the New York market -- and says she hasn't forgotten about her relationship with viewers.

    "It's like being married. You can't be complacent, but you can't go and have a midlife crisis just because the economy is off." Next up: A daytime justice show centered on lightning rod Nancy Grace and finding a replacement for "Oprah."

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    Amy Baer

    President and CEO/CBS Films

    Baer has been part of the business ever since she hung out on the set of "Happy Days" as a kid -- not so surprising, given that she is actor Tom Bosley's daughter.

    But the executive, who got her first job as the late agent Jay Moloney's assistant at CAA then graduated to a long career at Sony, is truly coming into her own now as head of CBS' nascent movie label.

    Starting from scratch, CBS Films has quickly ramped up, despite being slowed by the WGA strike.

    As 2009 ends, Baer has three movies in postproduction, another about to shoot and more than 30 projects in development. She has also hired about 45 executives, and plans to release their first movie, "Extraordinary Measures," starring Brendan Fraser, on Jan. 22. 

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    Laura Ziskin

    Producer

    Ziskin might be the only person to have read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica not once but twice. That's because the USC film school grad started out writing for such game shows as "Split Second" and "The Newlywed Game."

    Now she's producing Sony's most powerful franchise, "Spider-Man," whose fourth installment starts production early next year and "will in a sense be a finale and wrap up the saga," she says.

    She's also spending much of her time raising funds for Stand Up To Cancer -- $100 million-plus so far.

    And she may no longer read encyclopedias, but she does read tons of scripts, including "The Spellman Files," which she's developing at Paramount with Barry Sonnenfeld.

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    Hilary Estey McLoughlin

    President, Telepictures

    Estey McLoughlin expanded Telepictures' reach this year into cable (TBS' late-night George Lopez show) and the Web (MomLogic.com and newly launched Essence.com are hot destinations).

    At the same time, her TMZ is one of the few Web-TV crossover hits, scoring the scoop on Michael Jackson and Natasha Richardson's passings.

    Estey McLoughlin, a Boston University graduate who has been with Telepictures since 1992, focuses on "creating as much great content in as many platforms as I can."

     

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    Janice Marinelli

    President, Disney ABC-Domestic Television

    Overseeing domestic distribution of the entire Disney product line is no small task, and Marinelli has to attend to both TV and new media licensing rights.

    This year she sealed a Netflix deal to stream select Disney Channel/ABC Studios series and managed digital licensing for ABC Studios content, including electronic sell-through.

    The former Buena Vista account executive (and major sports fan) also expanded the company's SVOD service via multiple content providers nationwide; the service works in part because "we're the only studio in the business that has a brand."

    Up next: Dealmaking for network series like Brothers and Sisters and the feature Toy Story 3.

     

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    Marion Edwards

    President International Television, 20th Century Fox Television Distribution

    Fox has many reasons to thank Edwards, as her sales overseas of such series as The Simpsons, 24 and Prison Break are a key revenue source for the company.

    But her enthusiasm is now directed toward launching local productions of current hits, including How I Met Your Mother in Russia and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia in Chile.

     

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    Belinda Menendez

    President, NBC Universal Television Distribution

    An international education in Europe and the U.S. made Menendez a natural dealmaker in the global marketplace.

    She's responsible for licensing such ratings winners as House and Law & Order in more than 200 countries, and this year she expanded NBCU's subscription-on-demand service, PictureBox, while fostering double-digit growth in new media licensing by expanding the studio's iTunes offerings into Germany, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand.

    She credits her success to being proactive when someone offers to help. "I sat in every meeting, went to all the breakfasts and dinners," she recalls. "It's important to express passion when given an opportunity by a mentor."

     

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    Cyma Zarghami

    President, Nickelodeon MTVN Kids and Family Group

    The head of Viacom's largest division is about to celebrate her silver anniversary with the company.

    A lot has changed, but her management style continues to be built on "sharing information," Zarghami says.

    She keeps reinventing her networks to focus on the next generation of Nick viewers, this year spearheading a brand redesign and integration with outside content originators like DreamWorks Animation ("The Penguins of Madagascar") and Michael Eisner ("Glenn Martin, DDS").

    And next year, Dora the Explorer reaches the ripe old age of 10. "Our core audience is kids," she says. "We approach them in the way a mom would her family."

     

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    Cecile Frot-Coutaz

    CEO, Fremantle Media North America

    Ever since her English-language high school teacher told her she would make a better businesswoman than a doctor, Frot-Coutaz has soared.

    After attending two top French business schools, including one of its prestigious "grandes ecoles," she has gained momentum, with a long run at Pearson TV and its successor, Fremantle.

    With 400 hours of programming under her aegis, Frot-Coutaz is often required to make major decisions on multiple shows a day.

    This year she helped replace judge Paula Abdul with Ellen DeGeneres on Fox's "American Idol"; oversaw a surge in viewers at NBC's "America's Got Talent"; and slipped "Let's Make a Deal" into CBS' "Guiding Light" time slot.

    "You have to spend enormous time on shows to keep them stable," says the mother of a newly adopted daughter.

    "(Ex-Fremantle head) Greg Dyke told me that management is not difficult: You have to make decisions. If you get more of them right than wrong, you'll be fine."

     

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    Pamela Levine

    Co-president of domestic theatrical marketing, 20th Century Fox

    Just because a movie is a sequel doesn't make it an automatic hit.

    So for May's X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Levine decided to bypass the traditional Hollywood premiere, playing directly to the fans, who bid online to bring the movie to their hometown.

    The winner: Tempe, Ariz. Coming off a disappointing 2008, "Wolverine" grossed $179.9 million domestically, and fellow summer tentpoles Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian ($177.2 million) and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs ($196.3 million) also performed well.

    Next up for the yoga enthusiast: launching James Cameron's 3D Avatar, which the studio teased with in-theater Imax screenings of 16 minutes of footage.

    "It's a challenge to communicate how original and unique the experience is," she notes. 

     

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    Eileen O'Neill

    President and general manager, TLC

    Having taken over TLC in summer 2008, O'Neill -- who has a degree in "popular culture" -- established a bicoastal team focused on developing "authentic," nonscripted programming aimed at the 25-54 female demographic.

    Success has come in key show launches including Cake Boss and Toddlers & Tiaras, which add to such established programming as American Chopper and What Not to Wear. Jon and Kate Plus Eight hit record high ratings for the network and will be relaunched in the spring without Jon Gosselin, who is trading lawsuits with the network.

     

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    Mary McLaren

    COO, 20th Century Fox International Theatrical and Home Entertainment

    Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs took an epoch to get to the studio, but McLaren still got it to theaters in 100 countries in time to make release dates.

    The 25-year studio vet's efforts paid off, as Fox's first 3D release grossed more than $874 million worldwide.

    Next the cooking fanatic is preparing the (hopefully on-time) delivery to global distributors of James Cameron's Avatar.

    "I transitioned from running the finance group, so I know first hand the importance of jumping outside one's box," she says. "I try to encourage young people under me to speak their good ideas, even if you're in sales or finance, and I strongly caution people against being too territorial."

     

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    Megan Colligan

    Co-president of domestic marketing, Paramount Pictures

    Colligan, who became the highest-ranking female exec at Paramount in 2008 when she took on shared marketing duties, has range: This year she shaped campaigns for everything from the $832 million grosser Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen to the micro-budgeted hit Paranormal Activity.

    "I'm benefiting from a struggle that occurred a generation before me," she says. Colligan is now in the thick of campaigns for Up in the Air and The Lovely Bones -- and tending to her second child, a boy, born in February.

     

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    Paula Kerger

    President and CEO, PBS

    PBS ratings surged last year thanks to a strong involvement in the elections. This year, Kerger has devoted her time to shoring up its digital platforms.

    PBSKids.org now ranks among the top U.S. children's Web destinations, while in March the network sold its 1 millionth TV episode on iTunes.

    Kerger, who left a job at the Metropolitan Opera in 1993 to jump into public TV and was appointed to her current post in March 2006, credits her management style to some advice she got from George Miles, her boss when she worked at New York's WNET.

    "People in a new job tend to want to change a lot -- but they don't do any of it well," she says. "So I learned to pick a couple of things and do them well. The rest will fall into place."

     

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    Michele Ganeless

    President, Comedy Central

    Growing up in Brooklyn, Ganeless was a self-described "theater geek" who had zero interest in television.

    That began to change after she graduated from Northwestern in 1987 and got a job as research manager at the Young & Rubicam advertising agency.

    She joined Comedy Central for a brief stint when it wasn't even called that -- it was still Ha! -- left, served a second stint, then came back for a third tenure five years ago.

    Now she's overseeing such hits as The Daily Show and The Colbert Report and expanding into digital media. 

     

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    Nancy Dubuc

    Executive vp and general manager, History

    Despite her network's name, Dubuc never looks back. This year the one-time A&E exec debuted Pawn Stars, which averaged 2.1 million viewers, while the special 102 Minutes That Changed America snagged three Emmys.

    "It makes next year a nail-biter," says the self-starter, who was making her family dinner at age 8.

    Building on the hit Ice Road Truckers, Dubuc premiered the 10-part WWII in HD in November and hopes to relaunch History.com before year's end. She credits Abbe Raven with showing her how to be an executive.

    "While there are those who would say I don't show self-restraint, if I have any it's thanks to her."

     

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    Debra Lee

    Chairman and CEO, BET Networks

    "Reflect, respect and elevate our audience." That has been Lee's mantra for more than 20 years at BET, and her experience gave her the insight to know it was time for a quiet rebranding this year, as well as a renewed focus on original programming.

    The results are encouraging: this year's "BET Music Awards" brought in 10.7 million viewers.

    The Brown and Harvard Law grad gave up her career as a Washington lawyer, then transitioned from the general counsel role to the head honcho.

    "My parents taught me early on how important education is," she says. "There's no limit to what you can do if you find what you are passionate about and then are educated enough to stretch yourself."

     

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    Diane Nelson

    President, DC Entertainment

    When Warner Bros. morphed its DC Comics division into DC Entertainment this year, Nelson was promoted from the studio's direct-to-DVD division Warner Premiere to the new entity.

    Now she's tasked with integrating DC characters into Warners' creative production and distribution business.

    And even though the comic community initially criticized the pick (clearly the fanboys underappreciated the global success of the Harry Potter brand, which Nelson supervised), she believes her strong intuition and ability to collaborate will turn her into their new hero. Upcoming: Jonah Hex in 2010 and Green Lantern in 2011.

     

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    Linda Bell Blue

    Executive producer, "Entertainment Tonight" and "The Insider"

    When you've interviewed Charles Manson not once but twice ("He put his arm around my shoulder and started singing Elvis songs!"), nothing can faze you.

    That includes running two of the top entertainment news shows in the business, including ET for the past 15 years.

    The Springfield, Mo., native has journalism in her blood and a nose for a scoop honed from years covering everything from the Democratic convention to Anna Nicole Smith.

    "I hate getting beaten!" she says. Bell Blue works hard to keep things current, even with a 27-year-old flagship in ET, which this year became the only syndicated newsmag in HD; it also boasted exclusives from film sets like 2010's Iron Man 2, and covered the presidential inauguration.

    ET's sister show The Insider relaunched with a new format she calls "breaking news with opposing views."

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    Lynn Calpeter

    Executive vp and CFO, NBC Universal

    The over-arching theme this year was navigating increasingly challenging waters through a recession," says Calpeter, who oversees the entertainment giant's financial and strategic planning.

    This meant reducing costs in some areas and preparing for a potential exit of Vivendi's 20% stake in NBC Universal.

    Whether Comcast or another entity ends up owning some or all of the conglomerate, Calpeter is busy reinvesting in programming with such shows as USA Network's "Royal Pains" and SyFy's "Warehouse 13" and helping the struggling film unit get back on track.

    "My mom was my biggest role model," says the avid mountainbiker, who has been with NBC Uni since 1986. "Today, there are many strong female executives across NBC Uni. We mentor each other and broaden each others' horizons."

     

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    Meryl Streep

    Producer

    In an era of disappearing star power, Streep got a major studio to back a period biopic of a French chef simply by attaching her name.

    "'Julie & Julia' happened, without question, because of Meryl Streep," producer Laurence Mark says. "They would never have made that movie without Meryl. We all know it, Meryl knows it, Sony is certainly happy to say it."

    That's because Streep is unique in her ability to rack up awards and boxoffice; since last summer she has helped Mamma Mia! pass $600 million in worldwide gross; earned her 15th Oscar nomination for "Doubt," and pushed "Julia" to $117 million worldwide.

    Now 60, Streep commanded $5 million and first-dollar gross for "Julia," and she's getting $7 million for this month's It's Complicated.

     

  50. 50
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    Lauren Shuler Donner

    Producer

    Is it possible that one TV comedian could transform an election? If so, then Fey is at least in part responsible for Barack Obama's win, thanks to her spot-on impersonation of Sarah Palin.

    That routine -- returning her to her old haunt at "Saturday Night Live," where she served as head writer -- won her an Emmy this year.

    Meanwhile, the show she created and stars in, 30 Rock, earned a record 22 Emmy nominations and won its third consecutive comedy series Emmy.

    Fey's profile should only grow over the coming year. She follows a memorable performance in Warner Bros.' The Invention of Lying with a high-profile role opposite Steve Carell in April's Date Night

     

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    Katherine Pope

    President of television, Chernin Entertainment

    Having spent virtually her entire career at NBC Universal developing such hits as Heroes and 30 Rock, Pope was abruptly ousted in late 2008 as president of Universal Media Studios.

    But as quickly as one door slammed shut, another opened, and she transitioned from a brief stint as consulting producer on Fox's "Lie to Me" to lead the television division of former Fox/News Corp. head Peter Chernin's new company.

    The former VH1 writer-producer cites honesty in the development process as a trait she looks for in a mentor.

    "Gail Berman always gives a 100% unvarnished opinion," she says. "One time we had wine and cheese in her office. She took what was just a 'Hey, I'm popping by' into a fun time to catch up, and it was touching."

     

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    Tina Fey

    Actress, writer-producer, "30 Rock"

    Is it possible that one TV comedian could transform an election? If so, then Fey is at least in part responsible for Barack Obama's win, thanks to her spot-on impersonation of Sarah Palin.

    That routine -- returning her to her old haunt at Saturday Night Live, where she served as head writer -- won her an Emmy this year.

    Meanwhile, the show she created and stars in, 30 Rock, earned a record 22 Emmy nominations and won its third consecutive comedy series Emmy.

    Fey's profile should only grow over the coming year. She follows a memorable performance in Warner Bros.' "The Invention of Lying" with a high-profile role opposite Steve Carell in April's Date Night. 

     

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    Christina Norman

    CEO, the Oprah Winfrey Network

    Norman has spent the year "honing the vision of what this network can be," she says, while preparing for its launch in January 2011.

    It's a tough task, and she almost didn't get the job -- her initial meeting with Winfrey came by accident as she was on vacation with her family in South Africa.

    The former MTV president plans to capitalize on social networking and technology -- as well as its key asset, Oprah herself -- to turn the network into something completely new.

    Her mentors? "At VH1, Judy McGrath said, 'I believe in you.' Tom Freston got the ball rolling in having my potential looked at in a different way. There's mentorship, and then there's what I'd call my net. Tom and Judy ... they were my net."

     

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    Tracey Jacobs

    Board member, partner, co-head of talent department, UTA

    Jacobs is the most powerful female agent in town because she is singularly, tenaciously, perhaps scarily dedicated to her clients.

    Not surprisingly, she cites Sam Cohn as an early role model. "Sam is the only agent I have ever known who not only had a brilliant intellect and curiosity about everything, but also possessed a pure and artistic devotion to his clients," she says.

    Jacobs' own devotion led to another busy year. She recently signed Gwyneth Paltrow, Simon Pegg and Tim Robbins, while mega-client Johnny Depp has The Rum Diary in the can and has committed to a fourth Pirates of the Caribbean. 

    Owen Wilson's Marley & Me grossed $143.2 million and he is shooting Little Fockers for Universal; Rachel McAdams landed her first franchise film in Sherlock Holmes and stars in next summer's Morning Glory; and Joseph Fiennes is the lead in the hit ABC series FlashForward. 

    Although she would never call attention to herself, last year Jacobs became the first woman appointed to the UTA board.

     

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    Shonda Rhimes

    Executive producer, "Grey's Anatomy" and "Private Practice"

    When Rhimes turned 30, she turned her back on Hollywood.

    The Dartmouth grad had already penned the award-winning "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge," but she up and left for a farm in Vermont, wrestling with herself and what she wanted for her future.

    Thank heaven she decided to come back because without her there'd be no Grey's. Now in its sixth season, the series has passed its 100-episode mark and spinoff Private Practice has grown in the ratings in Season 3.

    Now Rhimes is looking to the movies, too, and has a script in development at Miramax, Bitch Is the New Black.

     

  56. 56
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    Beth Swofford

    Motion Picture Literary agent, CAA

    Images have influenced Swofford ever since she was a kid. What else would you expect from someone whose parents took her to Chicago's Art Institute almost every weekend?

    Now, when she's not adding to her own museum-level collection of hundreds of works by contemporary artists like Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter, she's helping some of the world's top helmers craft images of their own -- like Stephen Daldry and newly signed James Cameron, who went without an agent for 15 years.

     

  57. 57
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    Jo Ann Ross

    President network sales, CBS

    With the recession hammering this year's upfronts, Ross told her account executives they needed to be far more proactive than usual.

    CBS' reported $1.9 billion take was down 24% from the previous year, but the net's gross still put it ahead of rivals. Ross started on the buying side at Bozell and transitioned to CBS to sell ads for the 1992 Olympics.

    "When I started out, my mentor took me to a meeting at the Waldorf Astoria to meet an executive at American Express," she recalls. "Then, he left. We worked out a deal on the back of a napkin. You don't know what you're capable of doing until someone gives you the opportunity."

     

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    Hylda Queally

    Motion Picture Talent agent, CAA

    Queally has bad timing. How bad? When she first came to L.A., looking for a job, she landed smack bang in the middle of the 1982 WGA strike. But that didn't deter her.

    Within no time, the Irish-born agent -- who began her career as a banker before switching to representation -- began networking.

    "I looked for someone Irish in the 'Hollywood (Creative) Directory' and called up (producer) Kathleen Kennedy," she recalls. "I had no idea who she was. I just said, 'I've just arrived and can I take you to lunch?' And she said, 'I'll take you to lunch.'"

    Now she's arguably the top rep for A-list actresses, with a host of such international stars as Kate Winslet, Penelope Cruz and Freida Pinto, as well as actors like Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

    "You have to think like a producer in a partnership with your clients, in a very proactive way," she says.

     

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    Michelle Bohan

    Partner, WME

    Bohan talks a lot about finding "the perfect fit" for each of her clients.

    Cases in point: She helped Chris O'Donnell make the transition to TV leading man in NCIS: Los Angeles and knew The Good Wife suited Julianna Margulies' desire to film in New York, close to her family.

    With three children ages 7 and under, Bohan takes her multitasking seriously.

    For clients Tina Fey and Steve Carell, she's often looking for future projects a couple of years out: During their last hiatus, the two co-starred in Fox's upcoming comedy Date Night. And she's seen Amy Adams' career steadily progress from indie darling to the co-star of the summer's Julie & Julia and the upcoming rom-com Leap Year. 

    "My mother had her own business, a retail store," she recalls. "And from an early age that felt very organic to me. She also was an entrepreneur and a starter herself, which was my inspiration."

     

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    Cynthia Pett-Dante

    Co-owner and managing partner, Brillstein Entertainment Partners

    Pett-Dante's chief goal since Bernie Brillstein, the namesake of her company, died in August 2008 is "to keep everybody in a positive frame of mind."

    She says that she is judged in her line of work the same way that as any man is judged: "Don't play games, be truthful and honest."

    Her theory, though, is that women "put more pressure on ourselves to do just as good at home as we do on the job. You don't want to let your colleagues and clients down, just like you don't want to let your husband and kids down." 

    Brad Pitt, her client for 20 years, starred this year in Quentin Tarantino's most successful movie ever, Inglourious Basterds, and client Courteney Cox returned to network TV as the star of ABC's Cougar Town.

    Plus, promising newcomer Anton Yelchin is coming off roles in two of the year's major franchise pictures: Warners' Terminator Salvation and Paramount's Star Trek.

     

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    Toni Howard

    Head of Motion Picture Talent, ICM

    One thing you don't want to do is take Howard on in poker. "I play poker every day," she says. She means it both personally and professionally, in the deals she negotiates for one of the best star rosters around, including Halle Berry, Samuel L. Jackson, Laura Linney and Edie Falco.

    A Beverly Hills High School graduate (she was there with Barry Diller and Nora Ephron), she drifted into a career because "nobody wanted to marry me," she jokes, and was a casting director for years before WMA lured her to become an agent at age 40.

    She's been a top rep ever since. Oh -- and someone did want to marry her, after all: Producer David Yarnell has been her spouse for two decades. 

     

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    Leah Weil

    Senior executive vp and general counsel, Sony Pictures Entertainment

    "The most crazy-making aspect of my job is the breadth of oversight," says Sony's top lawyer, whose kingdom now includes legal matters for all Sony divisions, plus government affairs, music and labor. "But it allows us to take a long view on strategic decisions."

    Despite the big-picture focus, the die-hard Barbra Streisand fan, who once took a few years off to focus on her two kids, can also move quickly on specific projects, as was required when Sony decided in June to buy Michael Jackson's rehearsal footage and turn around a movie in less than four months.

    "To get all the players together and signed off in such a short amount of time on that project was a big challenge," she says. "But a fun challenge."

     

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    Jennifer Rudolph Walsh

    Executive vp/co-head of worldwide literary department, WME

    If only fashion photographer Steven Meisel hadn't given away Rudolph Walsh's job, she might never have become an agent.

    "I worked for him while I was in college for two summers as his studio manager and then went abroad to Edinburgh -- and when I came back he'd found someone else!" she recalls. "I was devastated."

    Not so devastated that she couldn't find another job with Virginia Barber, the doyenne of New York lit agents. She's had that job -- sort of -- ever since, first working with Barber, then buying out her agency, selling it to William Morris and being instrumental in merging WMA with Endeavor, "one of the crowning achievements of my career."

    But the jewels of that crown remain her clients, including Ken Burns and Kathy Reich.

    "My list is a compete (account) of everything I fear, everything I believe," says the lone female on WME's nine-member board. "This is a portrait of me told through a thousand titles."

     

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    Maren Christensen

    Executive vp and general counsel, Universal Studios

    Before she took the stage to accept the Beverly Hills Bar Assn.'s lawyer of the year honor in April, Christensen starred in an action-packed tribute video that followed her around the world hunting down movie pirates Jason Bourne-style.

    It was funny because it's true. Universal's top lawyer has become one of the industry's most active content protectors, spending as much as 25% of her time preaching the intellectual property gospel in places as far-flung as Shanghai and Copenhagen.

    "It's a tough slog," she says. "Sometimes we take one step forward and a half step back. But if you look closely, there's a groundswell of support for our efforts."

    Key victories this year over the Pirate Bay and Real Networks, as well as the implementation of increased IP protections throughout Europe, are helping the cause. 

     

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    Nancy Josephson

    Partner, WME

    The key to successful agenting, Josephson says, is listening closely to a client's goals.

    Rosie O'Donnell wanted to work at home in her PJs, so Josephson took her to Sirius, which is now broadcasting O'Donnell's talk show from a studio on her property.

    Friends co-creator David Crane and writing partner Jeffrey Klarik wanted to work in the U.K., so she brought them to the BBC for their new series Episodes, which Showtime has boarded as a vehicle for Matt LeBlanc.

    ABC ultimately ordered a pilot for a TV version of The Time Traveler's Wife from Friends'  other co-creator Marta Kauffman.

    And this year she helped Craig Ferguson and Kathy Griffin simultaneously scale the best-seller list, while Tyra Banks' talk show successfully moved from syndication to the CW

     

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    Claudia Lewis

    President of production, Fox Searchlight

    Searchlight piles up the accolades for acquisition hits like Slumdog Millionaire and The Wrestler but Lewis has had her own homegrown specialty successes, including this year's Notorious ($37 million) and (500) Days of Summer ($32 million).

    And, just as important, she has been given the freedom to experiment with risks like "Whip It" and Gentlemen Broncos, even if they didn't ultimately deliver at the boxoffice.

    "Fox has allowed us to find our mistakes, which is a wonderful luxury," says Lewis, the only executive to have been with the company since its founding 15 years ago.

    She's a die-hard traveler who makes sure to see an off-the-grid destination at least once a year, and she cites Fox's Tom Rothman as a guiding mentor.

    "Open discourse, in which people can talk candidly, is one of the best lessons Tom taught me."

     

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    Sharon Sheinwold

    Partner, WME

    Sheinwold says "all comedy is pretty much self-generated," but that downplays the significant role she has had in developing some of the town's most in-demand comedic talent.

    Case in point: She fell in love with Jonathan Ames' script for "Bored to Death," introduced him to actor Jason Schwartzman and eventually HBO's newest critical hit was born.

    But the NYU and AFI grad, who spent 15 years at UTA before jumping to Endeavor last year, isn't all about work: She also likes to garden.

    "I am into the obsessive placement of plants," she says, only somewhat tongue-in-cheek. "I am very into balance."

     

  68. 68
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    Rebecca Prentice

    Executive vp and general counsel, Paramount Pictures

    "I like adrenaline," Paramount's top lawyer says. "So when I have something that's intense, I like that."

    Prentice navigated plenty of hairy situations this year, especially since she became more involved in content protection.

    "Litigation, policy, education -- piracy is affecting everyone so it's requiring much more focus."

    Despite the gloomy theft statistics, she points to several cases that went the industry's way this year, including an appeals court ruling against a service called Kaleidescape that allows DVD owners to rip copies, and the MPAA's successful effort to halt sales of Real Networks' software that allows consumers to copy DVDs to their hard drives.

    Prentice, an avid rock climber, also endured a personal scare in the summer when fires approached her La Canada home. "They got really close, five houses up from us," she says. "But the firefighters were spectacular."

     

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    Bernardine Brandis

    Executive vp, business and legal affairs, Walt Disney Studios

    Disney's top business affairs exec has seen a lot of change since she joined the department in 1985. But this year has been especially tumultuous, with the replacement of studio chief Dick Cook by Rich Ross and an ongoing reorganization.

    She's tried to remain undistracted, focusing on mega-deals with such talent as Tim Burton (Alice in Wonderland), Robert Zemeckis (Yellow Submarine) and Guillermo del Toro (a new label called Disney Double Dare You for horror-themed family films), as well as its complex arrangement to distribute DreamWorks films.

    A former poolside waitress, Brandis prides herself on her reputation as a studio exec that talent lawyers know they can trust.

    "I'm honest, which gives me all the credibility I've needed all these years," she says. "When people hear me say this is the best I can do, they know I mean it."

     

  70. 70
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    Sonya Rosenfeld

    Television agent, CAA

    Rosenfeld never thought about a career in entertainment until she landed a gig interning with producer Doug Wick, who told her to gain experience at an agency.

    She must have taken his words to heart, because three days after graduating from UCLA she started at CAA.

    Now, 23 years later, as CAA's most senior female agent on the TV side, she's been busy brokering the upcoming Matthew Perry show at ABC, guiding the Jonas Brothers through their multilayered Disney deal and ushering FX's new series Lawman through the cogs.

    She's got CAA in her blood -- not too surprising, given that she met her husband, agent Michael Rosenfeld, there.

    "People always look at me and say, 'I can't imagine working with my spouse. How do you do it?' Answer: We are not in competition with each other.' "

     

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    Roberta Reardon

    National President, AFTRA

    Despite myriad diplomatic stresses this year, former daytime drama actress Reardon (along with national executive director Kim Roberts) knocked out eight successful contract negotiations and strengthened relationships with other local and national labor leaders, including ones with primetime TV, commercials and ABC/CBS network news reps.

    As a woman, Reardon says she never takes power for granted: "Early on, when I was an unknown quantity, there were times when people were dismissive. I think they've gotten over that."

     

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    Bridget Baker

    President, TV Networks Distribution, NBC Universal

    With more than two decades of experience in cable, Baker recently has turned her attention to the digital rights domain, which she calls "the frontier. We are the one part of the company where decisions are based on the very long term."

    As such, the one-time Oxford scholar is charged with distributing multibillion-dollar content across platforms like iTunes and Hulu; this year she secured deals with three of the top 10 multichannel video programming distributors.

     

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    Jeanne Newman

    Partner, Hansen Jacobson Teller Hoberman Newman Warren & Richman

    Newman's practice might not be as sexy as repping A-list actors, but her book of business -- which includes reality powerhouses Reveille and Endemol USA, as well as showrunners like Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner -- is among the largest in town.

    "The partners who started my firm -- Tom Hansen, Craig Jacobson, Walter Teller -- they believed in me, let me start a TV practice, let me follow my labors of love, even when they weren't lucrative," she says.

    Now Newman is on pace for another record year, closing major deals to bring Jerry Seinfeld's "Marriage Ref" to NBC and Ryan Seacrest's new Jamie Oliver series to ABC -- not to mention Seacrest's three-year, $45 million re­upping on American Idol. 

    All this despite Newman having open heart surgery in June and three months later suffering a burst appendix, requiring her to be airlifted to Cedars Sinai from the central California winery she owns with husband Gary Newman of 20th TV.

     

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    Melanie Cook

    Partner, Ziffren Brittenham

    Because her father was a judge, Cook was considered a bit of a rebel for going into entertainment law. But her free-spirited personality melded quickly with her talent clients, which range from super-producers Scott Rudin and Mark Johnson to A-list directors Sam Mendes, Nancy Meyers and Tim Burton.

    "If you sit with Tim for 20 minutes he'll start drawing," she explains. "We'll have lunch and at the end he'll give me something for my kids."

    This year Cook negotiated for Rudin to produce the Coen brothers' upcoming True Crime, helped Mendes take on a stage adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and did the deal for Keanu Reeves to produce and star in Henry's Crime. 

    And the devoted outdoorsman has been active with Big Sisters long before she jumped at the chance to join The Hollywood Reporter's mentorship program.

    She's on the Big Sister Guild and even established a scholarship in her mom's name.

     

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    Deborah Barak

    Executive vp business affairs, CBS Network Television Group

    Barak is the big gun brought in for the most important talent and producer deal negotiations, and it doesn't get any bigger than this year's renewal of CBS' comedy tent pole Two and a Half Men for three years.

    She previously worked similar magic for such shows as Everybody Loves Raymond and "CSI."

    Following last year's Flashpoint, her team struck a deal to co-produce CBS' second Canadian cop drama, The Bridge, with CTV.

    "One of our biggest challenges in this business is to figure out new models to deliver first-rate network programs," she says.

     

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    Gail Berman

    Founder-partner, BermanBraun

    Berman is still the only female exec to hold top slots at a major film studio (Paramount) and TV network (Fox).

    Now three years into her partnership with ex-ABC and Yahoo exec Lloyd Braun, the fruits of their labor are starting to deliver on multiple media platforms: celebrity news Web site Wonderwall (on the MSN Network) racks up millions of page views a month and four series have been picked up for TV runs (including NBC's Mercy).

    Still, Berman -- who once produced Broadway shows like "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" -- recognizes she's an anomaly: "It's hard for women to become the most senior members of larger companies," she says. "It's important to support those coming up."

     

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    Blair Kohan

    Partner and Motion Picture Agent, UTA

    Fortunately for Kohan, her hot young clients like to work together.

    Seth Rogen is filming next year's The Green Hornet, a Sony tentpole he's co-writing/co-exec producing with another Kohan client, Evan Goldberg (the pair's I'm With Cancer is in the planning stages).

    Client Paul Rudd just began shooting Dinner for Schmucks for Paramount, and both Rudd and Rogen helped power DreamWorks Animation's spring hit Monsters vs. Aliens. 

    All this and Kohan is now a year into her marriage to writer-producer David Kohan, with a home redesigned by her mom, Carole Katleman, "an interior designer at the top of her field after 45 years," she boasts.

     

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    Jana Winograde

    Exec vp business affairs and administration, ABC Entertainment

    The Alphabet must love what one-time litigator Winograde brings to the table, as her title and responsibilities expanded in June.

    She now oversees deals in virtually all departments and provides business oversight for long-term programming development and distribution.

    This past year, she led the charge to put ABC's programming on Hulu, and negotiated with rights­holders to get the last five episodes of each show up on the network's Web site.

    "The most frequent question I get asked from people I mentor is how to balance having small kids and doing well in business," she says. "The answer lies in establishing boundaries between one's personal and work life -- although to be honest, it's tough. Sometimes, you need to learn how to delegate."

     

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    Beth Roberts

    Executive vp, NBC Universal Cable Entertainment and Universal Cable Prods. business affairs

    Since moving to the cable side of NBC Universal two and a half years ago, Roberts has proven herself able to create innovative deal structures in areas like product integration (where she helped create the rate card used to assess fees based on levels of exposure), as well as handling renegotiations on shows like Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Monk and staying on the lookout for new revenue sources.

    "No one was even streaming shows in 2006, and that's just three years ago," she notes. "It's like herding cats, moving slowly to the finish line but trying to keep everything in order."

    She also is active in NBC Uni's internal mentorship program after first serving as Ron Meyer's mentee three years ago.

    She credits boss Jeff Gaspin for helping her hone her problem-solving skills.

    "He reminds me of 'Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus,' " says Roberts, who self-published a book about how to use science to meet a soul mate online.

    "When women complain to one another, they commiserate, but if women complain to men, the men just try to fix it. Jeff always tries to fix it."

     

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    Suzanne Patmore Gibbs

    Exec vp network scripted creative, ABC Entertainment Group

    Longtime drama exec Patmore Gibbs earned her stripes at indie film houses (Bedford Falls) and television (as an exec with Touchstone), and this past June she was promoted to manage the entire primetime group at ABC, shepherding the newly launched series FlashForward, plus her first nondrama forays Modern Family and The Middle. 

    "There's a steep learning curve because the process is different in comedy," the Chicago native says. "But no matter what, it's always about telling good stories."

     

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    Deborah Schindler

    President, Sony Pictures International Motion Picture

    Jetting from London to Russia to Bombay in a typical week allows Schindler to rack up the frequent flier miles, a nice perk of managing more than 20 local-language productions at a time, including Germany's Friendship, the U.K.'s Cemetery Junction and seven films in Russia alone.

    Major success this year for the former head of Columbia Pictures' East Coast production wing: "Raaz: The Mystery Continues," which is one of India's top grosse

     

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    Nina Shaw

    Partner, Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka Finkelstein & Lezcano

    Shaw has such a strong reputation as a mentor, she gets between 30 and 40 calls a week from people just wanting to sit down with her.

    "There are few African-American women or men in the industry that I haven't been involved in some way in advising them on their careers," she says. That commitment comes from the lack of black role models when she was starting out in entertainment law three decades ago.

    "I'm from that affirmative action, civil rights era of people who were going to break all the barriers. And to a certain degree we did. But the real impact has been on the people who came after me."

    The tough negotiator recently helped bring Laurence Fishburne to CSI and closed a major partnership between client Nick Cannon and Nickelodeon. And she serves as general counsel for Jamie Foxx, handling film deals for Law Abiding Citizen (client F. Gary Gray also directed) and the upcoming Valentine's Day and Due Date, as well as supervising his record deals and music tour.

    What does she tell the Hollywood newbies who seek her advice?

    "First of all, it's hard. There often is no rhyme or reason to why some people are successful and some aren't. You have to have a tremendous passion for it and a willingness to stick it out."

     

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    Lisa Gregorian

    Executive vp worldwide marketing, Warner Bros. Television Group

    Gregorian has a secret love of performance: She was part of an improv group at Emerson (and still mentors a host of graduates and interns from her alma mater) and she dreams of producing a Cirque du Soleil-like show.

    If only she had the time: The New York native, who joined Warners 23 years ago right out of college as the assistant to Jeffrey Schlesinger, now president of international tele­vision for Warners, has been too busy bringing cutting-edge marketing campaigns to such shows as Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries.

     

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    Gale Anne Hurd

    Producer

    When you grow up with an aunt who was a stunt double for Luise Rainer and Merle Oberon, you'd think movies would be in your blood. But Hurd didn't really embrace film until she was a student doing a year abroad in England and fell in love with Michael Powell's Stairway to Heaven. 

    "I watched it in a big room in Cliveden House -- I lived in the servants' quarters -- and it was so romantic and emotional," she explains.

    Not quite the words you'd expect from one of our premier action producers, whose credits include Terminator and Aliens. But Hurd says she loves the fantasy at the heart of all of them.

    This year the woman who started out as Roger Corman's assistant is fantasizing for tele­vision, producing The Wronged Man for Lifetime and The Walking Dead for AMC.

    Next year, it's back to the big screen with Brian De Palma's The Boston Stranglers.

     

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    Jane Rosenthal

    Producer/co-founder, Tribeca Prods.

    This year Rosenthal made several high-profile moves at the Tribeca Film Festival, which she co-founded in 2001.

    She brought on Sundance's Geoff Gilmore and expanded the brand to the middle east country of Qatar with the Doha Tribeca Film Festival. Balancing her duties was "walking a tightrope over the abyss," she says. But the one-time CBS researcher still had time to produce (her Little Fockers began shooting this fall).

    Rosenthal also is active in Democratic Party fundraising. 

     

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    Vanessa Morrison

    President, Fox Animation

    When things are rough, Morrison knows what to do: She plays her violin.

    A music lover (she especially cares for Bach), she says, "I started playing when I was a kid, but it was always a hobby." Maybe that's why she moved into film, with a studio internship that eventually led her to become a Fox exec in 1994.

    She's been running the animation unit since 2007, working on titles like the mega-hit Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox -- which suits her just fine: "I always loved the arts, and animation, in particular, is a perfect combination of all the arts."

     

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    Karen Kehela Sherwood

    Co-chairman, Imagine Films

    Life has changed for Kehela Sherwood since she started working with producer Brian Grazer. Then again, that was 23 years ago when she was a UCLA intern; now she's joint head of the film company.

    She may be married and a mother, but the gracious Kehela Sherwood is still Imagine's secret weapon, a master at developing scripts and a key ally for Grazer and partner Ron Howard on everything from A Beautiful Mind to The Da Vinci Code to the upcoming Robin Hood with Russell Crowe and an untitled project with director Gus Van Sant.

    And she still finds time to go into inner-city schools in support of City Year, a nationwide mentoring program. "The physical distance between where my life happens and where theirs does isn't enormous," she says, "but it feels like a million miles."

     

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    Esther Newberg

    Executive vp, co-head of publications, ICM

    If it weren't for a failed career in politics, Newberg would never have become an agent.

    The daughter of a Democratic party activist, she was working on campaigns even when she was in high school and later became a key aide to Robert F. Kennedy. But when her support for Mo Udall's abortive campaign for president petered, she needed a job.

    "I hadn't been paid in three months," she recalls, "and (CBS') Lesley Stahl said an agency was looking for someone who knew politics."

    She's been at ICM ever since, and now, 33 years later, she's a powerhouse in the publishing world who repped 42 best-sellers in 2008, got Fox to snap up rights to Patricia Cornwell's Scarpetta series, and landed a seven-figure deal for Chris Rock's new book. '

    Best of all, she says, she now reps Caroline Kennedy, "so there's continuity between the two professions."

     

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    Kate Juergens

    Executive vp original series programming and development, ABC Family

    Juergens didn't watch TV until she was 13, but she has certainly made up for it in her professional life.

    Since joining ABC Family in 2004 from the WB Network, she has worked to snag the 12-34 "millennial audience" with shows like 10 Things I Hate About You, Make It or Break It and "The Secret Life of the American Teenager," which set network viewership records.

    Still, like everyone in town, she could use help: "We're victims of our own success," she says. "We have all these wonderful shows on the air -- and the same number of people trying to get them running."

     

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    Jennifer Nicholson Salke

    Executive vp creative affairs, Twentieth Century Fox Television

    Nicholson Salke knows what it is like to be a juggler.

    "I've been running a circus for a long time -- two dogs, two hamsters, fish, lizards, all kinds of stuff," says the mother of three, who's married to writer-producer Bert Salke.

    "No diss on men, but having a balanced life, being a mother of three kids and multitasking has given me a natural ability to manage lots of people."

    She'll need to draw on that ability now that she has added comedy and the rest of scripted development to her previous responsibilities for drama at Fox.

    "This is the first season that it's really my comedy development slate," she says, singling out Modern Family and Glee. The latter was a particular challenge.

    "There was a real risk moving forward creatively," she said. "The tone is very specific. It pushes the envelope. But the originality was so clear that people fell in love with the show."

     

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    Evelyn O'Neill

    Partner, Management 360

    Seven years ago, O'Neill co-founded a management company that has grown by attracting young talent including Reese Witherspoon, Jake Gyllenhaal and Salma Hayek.

    The Harvard grad emphasizes an affinity with her young female clientele, many of whom she's helped stretch beyond acting -- landing Witherspoon a multitiered deal with Avon and traveling to Sierra Leone with Hayek to promote vaccinations.

    She cites 360 co-founder Suzan Bymel as an early mentor.

     

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    Joann Alfano

    Executive VP Entertainment, Lifetime Networks

    Alfano's role model was her older sister, who passed away from breast cancer nearly two decades ago.

    "She was an institutional trader at E.F. Hutton and succeeded in making a six-figure salary at a time when not many people did, never mind women," she recalls.

    Like her sister, Alfano attended Queens College before beginning in show business as a publicist for NBC's Saturday Night Live and The Cosby Show. 

    She gives credit to Warren Littlefield, who ran NBC when she was there, and Ted Frank, who took her out of publicity and put her into programming.

    "I had the good fortune to work at a network (NBC) when it knew what its brand was and everyone understood the message."

    After development roles at NBC and Lorne Michaels' Broadway Video, she was running her own production company when Andrea Wong recruited her to head programming at Lifetime.

    Now with homegrown hit "Drop Dead Diva," she has pushed to acquire shows like How I Met Your Mother, Grey's Anatomy"and Medium. "The world has changed because everyone now covets the female demos," she says. "I think we have a bit of an advantage because we got into this business first."

     

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    Sandra Stern

    COO, Lionsgate Television

    Lionsgate's TV division is on a roll lately with such hits as "Mad Men," "Nurse Jackie," "Weeds" and "Crash" -- all on cable.

    "You can work with a bit more creative freedom (on cable), because you know who your audience is," says Stern, who got her start in the Columbia Pictures Television legal department and has since mastered the art of creative financing, as with this season's Dubai version of "Paris Hilton's My New BFF."

    "I just have an attitude that nothing is not possible if you think creatively."

     

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    Anne Globe

    Head of worldwide marketing and consumer products, DreamWorks Animation

    Being a mom gives Globe "insight into our primary audience," she says. "My 7-year-old daughter and her friends immediately responded to the comic visual of B.O.B. in 'Monsters vs. Aliens,' validating our use of that character as an icon in our marketing campaign."

    The film, which earned $198 million domestically, was a watershed moment for DWA, its first 3D movie when CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg has practically staked his reputation on 3D.

    "The big marketing challenge was to communicate to audiences that they were going to be immersed in a completely new and innovative moviegoing experience that would only be available in theaters," Globe says.

    She also marketed DWA's first Broadway show, Shrek the Musical, which earned eight Tony nominations and collected more than $38 million in its first year. (The show ends on Broadway in January and begins a national tour in July.)

     

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    Debbee Klein

    Co-head TV Literary Department, Paradigm

    Klein was an entertainment addict even when she was a kid.

    "From the age of 9 I would copy the entire fall schedule from TV Guide and tape it to the inside of my closet," she admits.

    That helped when she needed a job and chose to call Norman Lear's company. As a receptionist, she got to meet everyone and by 20 she'd landed another job as an agent.

    Now she is on Paradigm's three-person management committee and is a kingpin in the TV world: She sold three new series packages this season (NCIS: Los Angeles and The Good Wife for CBS; Brothers for Fox), and reps showrunners Shane Brennan (NCIS) and Mark Cherry (Desperate Housewives).

     

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    Jean Prewitt

    President and CEO, Independent Film and Television Alliance

    Prewitt knows the politics of the film business -- and put the emphasis on politics.

    A Harvard and Georgetown law school grad, she campaigned for Ed Muskie and George McGovern before going to Wall Street and then working for the U.S. government.

    Now she runs the organization that handles the American Film Market and is the top lobbyist for the indie world.

    But her heart is in social causes: In her spare time, when she's not reading the murder mysteries she's addicted to, she serves as president of the Casa De Los Amigos, a publicly funded low-housing project -- the very cause that got her into politics in the first place.

     

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    Nancy Kirkpatrick

    President Worldwide Marketing, Summit Entertainment

    Kirkpatrick may not have gotten the job she coveted working on the 1984 Olympics, but she's been applying the same skills to her work as a master marketer.

    That's because Kirkpatrick was an elite-level college gymnastics coach way before she landed in Hollywood.

    "It prepared me as much as anything for working in entertainment, because so much of the entertainment business is about managing stress," she notes. "And coaching gymnastics is all about managing stress and fear."

    She's been handling stress ever since she started out as an assistant at Warners, where she rose through the ranks before hopping to Paramount and then to Summit.

    Now her canny eye for campaigns has helped turn Twilight into a phenomenon, and also made the tricky "The Hurt Locker" into an indie sleeper.

    How does she do it? "A lot of it is about opening your mind to possibilities and getting the best out of your team. Just like coaching."

     

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    Leslie Siebert

    Senior Managing Partner, Gersh

    Siebert was all set to go to law school, and then the Gersh agency got in the way.

    It was 25 years ago and Siebert, fresh from UCLA, had dipped her toes in showbiz with internships at "Entertainment Tonight" and a casting director, but knew that wasn't for her.

    Then she discovered the thrill of pitching an actor, and the even bigger thrill of negotiating a deal.

    Now the L.A. native is overseeing a whole flotilla of other agents at a growing agency, not to mention such clients as David Schwimmer, Winona Ryder and Catherine Keener.

    Her best moments this year: Working with Keener on "Where the Wild Things Are," "a project she helped mold for over a year" and "helping (Ryder) rebuild an amazing career."

     

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    Lexine Wong

    Senior Executive VP, Worldwide Marketing, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

    Maybe it was the leather-clad bike rides as a 9-year-old that did it. Maybe it was growing up with a free-spirited dad who was "like a Chinese James Dean."

    Whatever the cause, Wong, the daughter of Japanese and Chinese immigrants, knew she needed more stability in her life, which is why she got an MBA in finance from New York University.

    But maybe, too, those parents explain why she has been so successful in the freewheeling entertainment industry.

    Overseeing a global team of more than 300 employees, Wong's division in on track to deliver $2 billion in global sales at retail this year.

    Don't be fooled though: She still hankers for adventure and recently bought her 9-year-old son a bike of his own.

     

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    Linda Lichter

    Partner, Lichter Grossman Nichols Adler and Feldman

    It's only fitting that Lichter was among the first to see Paranormal Activity.

    "(Producer) Jason Blum gave it to me," recalls the keen judge of talent. "I watched it in my bedroom at night in a dark room by myself and I knew it had the potential to be another 'Blair Witch,' it was so simple and pure and cool."

    So she signed director Oren Peli and helped sell the movie to DreamWorks/Paramount, the first step on the film's improbable run to $100 million in domestic boxoffice.

    In a tough market, Lichter has had one of her best years ever: Client Anthony Peckham penned this month's Invictus and Sherlock Holmes; Linda Alverton's first draft of an original take on Alice in Wonderland attracted Tim Burton and Johnny Depp; Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio's script for a fourth Pirates of the Caribbean is moving forward at Disney, and director Marc Webb's breakout (500) Days of Summer is generating Oscar buzz.

    An outdoor junkie, Lichter and family are headed to the Galapagos Islands for the holidays and are finishing up a total remodel of a shack they bought in Hawaii.

     

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    Orly Adelson

    President, Dick Clark Prods.

    If only Adelson hadn't fallen in love, she might never have come to Hollywood.

    But when producer Andrew Adelson showed up at a premiere in Israel, the 25-year-old business school student was hooked.

    Two-and-a-half decades later, the powerhouse producer is still here and running Dick Clark Prods., which makes her the person to know if you want a good seat at the Golden Globes.

    Under Adelson, DCP has seen audience growth for the Globes, the American Music Awards and Academy of Country Music Awards; and its Fox co-production So You Think You Can Dance twirled off with two Emmys.

    Adelson is also expanding DCP's reach into the digital domain; she even found time to produce a documentary, Keeper of the Light this year -- oh, and she's still married to the same guy. 

     

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