Women in Entertainment 2010 - Power 100 List

8:45 AM 12/7/2010

by THR staff

President of Disney/ABC Television Group leads The Hollywood Reporter's 19th annual list.

Wesley Mann

Disney/ABC Television Group President Anne Sweeney tops The Hollywood Reporter's Women In Entertainment Power 100 list.

This is the second year in a row that Sweeney has held the top spot -- she shared the 2009 honor with Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairman Amy Pascal.

The top place was determined, among other criteria, by three financial measures: 1. Revenue generated for companies; 2. valuation of assets; 3. number of employees overseen.

And this is what put Sweeney solidly in first place:
-- Revenue at Disney Media Networks last year was more than $17 billion, up 6 percent.
-- Those same properties are valued at a staggering $61 billion.
-- She oversees 10,000 employees, far more than any other woman in the entertainment industry.

It also didn't hurt that when asked, "Who is the most powerful woman in Hollywood?" almost everyone THR contacted -- from high-level agents to producers and even rival executives -- named Sweeney.

Actress Angelina Jolie returned to the list at No. 26, while other personalities were honored for the first time -- television’s Judge Judy took 48th place, Twilight author Stephenie Meyer moved into No. 76.  And the emerging Kardashian sisters rounded out the list in the 100th spot.

  • Anne Sweeney

    Co-chairman, Disney Media Networks; President of Disney/ABC Television Group

    Trust us. We tried to find a way not to make Anne Sweeney No. 1. After all, she also topped The Hollywood Reporter's Power 100 last year. And with our new magazine only weeks old, it seemed like a great time to look for a fresh face, maybe try a new approach.

    So during the past few months, our editors crunched the numbers -- and as everyone on this list knows, numbers don't lie.

    -- Revenue at Sweeney's Disney Media Networks last year was more than $17 billion, up 6%.

    -- Those same properties are valued at a staggering $61 billion.

    -- She oversees 10,000 employees, far more than any other woman in the entertainment industry.

    It also didn't hurt that when asked, "Who is the most powerful women in Hollywood?" almost everyone THR contacted -- from high-level agents to producers and even rival executives -- named Sweeney.

    So what makes her so special? Since being promoted to the top TV job six years ago, Sweeney has steered Disney through the increasingly complex media landscape.

    She oversaw an epic negotiation this year with Time Warner Cable that included unprecedented distribution rights to video-on-demand, and another negotiation that resulted in Disney pulling content from Google TV. She shook up the broadcast network's executive ranks, tapping ABC Family president Paul Lee to take the reins at ABC in July. On Dec. 3, she replaced former ABC News president David Westin with journalist and writer Ben Sherwood. Along the way, the company dove headfirst into the iPad app game ahead of rivals. "The iPad was a seminal moment for us," Sweeney says.

    Married with two kids, Sweeney also recently assumed oversight of 10 ABC-owned stations while remaining a crucial ally to Disney president and CEO Robert Iger.

    It's no wonder she has his ear: If Disney Media Networks were a company onto itself, at that $61 billion value (as estimated by Wunderlich Securities analyst Matthew Harrigan), it would have about five times the market capitalization of CBS.

    Not that everything is perfect. ABC continues to be her unit's trouble spot, struggling to find a breakout show this fall, though it did boost Dancing With the Stars by casting Bristol Palin.

    Most growth is found on the cable side. In February, the company will rebrand preschool block Playhouse Disney as Disney Junior in the first step toward building it into a stand-alone network.

    "My priority is, always and forever, great storytelling," Sweeney says. "Strong, relevant characters married to a distribution strategy that allows us to stay connected to our consumers."

    Colleagues describe her as somebody who doesn't micromanage; she hires smart leaders, then gives them clear goals, resources and support. A few years ago, Sweeney took up painting as a hobby.

    "I told my art teacher, 'I can't paint because I don't know how to draw.' She said, 'You don't have to know how to draw to paint.' That was very freeing."

    -- James Hibberd

  • Amy Pascal

    Co-chairman, Sony Pictures Entertainment

    In a town that has become increasingly corporate, Pascal stands out as one of the most individual executives around and one prepared to go out on a limb for the people and projects she believes in — despite also overseeing about 5,900 employees worldwide and a company that generated $7.58 billion in operating revenue for the fiscal year ending March 31. There’s a sheer imaginativeness about her that few of her peers can rival. Any executive would twist himself into a pretzel to make Men in Black III; any executive would do the same to keep the Spider-Man franchise going. But how many would give the green light to an adult drama about kids with the unlikely title The Social Network and allow its director, David Fincher, to cast it without big-name actors? And how many would put their studio’s most important franchise in the hands of an almost untested director like (500) Days of Summer’s Marc Webb, as Pascal is doing for the Spider-Man reboot? As one top agent said of her, there’s simply no other executive in town who has Pascal’s guts and her willingness to follow them, nor her commitment to dive into each film she makes. Partly, she has been helped by SPE chairman Michael Lynton, one of the few genuine Hollywood intellectuals and a corporate master, providing the best male/female partnership at a major since Sherry Lansing and Jonathan Dolgen had their heyday at Paramount. Of course, even more than by Lynton, Pascal has been boosted by stellar box office: Although her studio is unlikely to surpass last year’s record-breaking worldwide haul of $3.6 billion, it should come pretty close. The Karate Kid was 2010’s surprise hit with $359 million worldwide. That was followed by hits Grown Ups ($271 million) and Resident Evil: Afterlife ($290 million). Pascal has come miles since her first steps on the job, when the “chick flicks” she favored fell flat. Another hit, Salt, was one of the rare female-driven blockbusters; it earned $294 million and was further proof of Pascal’s willingness to take risks. (Who else would take a vehicle intended for Tom Cruise and put a woman in the role instead?) Pascal is that rarest of Hollywood creatures: an original who can still function in a studio system that has all but crushed originality. “We aren’t afraid to look at what we do right and what we do wrong,” she says.

  • Bonnie Hammer

    President, NBCU Cable Entertainment

    When Comcast COO Steve Burke ended months of speculation Nov. 19 and announced the new NBC Universal executive team in a corporate memo, guess whose name he mentioned first? It’s no surprise that Bonnie Hammer received a big promotion in the year’s most closely watched Hollywood shake-up. Her cash-cow divisions — which now include USA Network, Syfy, E! Entertainment, G4, Chiller and Sleuth — are predicted to generate $20 billion in revenue this year and throw off $2 billion in profit. The value of USA alone is estimated at $11.7 billion.

    In short, as NBC bleeds money and Universal struggles at the box office, Hammer’s thriving assets are at the heart of the Comcast-NBC Uni deal.  

    But when asked recently over green tea at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills whether she has followed the endless media coverage of the deal, Hammer deflected the hype surrounding her ascension. “I try not to read it … or buy into it,” she says. “The minute you’re visible, there are going to be bullets, for big reasons or no reason at all.”

    Dressed in a form-fitting black dress and funky costume necklace, Hammer is warm and engaging but never loses her focus. It’s a hallmark of her management style. 

    “I stay under the radar and say, ‘Everybody, we have a job to do,’ ” she says. “When you have a 17-year-old at home, you learn to work despite the noise.”

    Hammer wisely shut out the noise five years ago, when she first suggested USA’s “Characters Welcome” slogan — and was met with a resounding “Huh?”

    “Development thought it was an OK tagline, but it didn’t resonate in terms of where it could go,” she recalls.

    Hammer says her approach to original programming is similarly calculated. Each of her series is grounded in a singular character with a lovable dysfunction (think Monk’s case of OCD) or has an upbeat — or what she calls a “blue sky” — tone, meaning it’s funny without being an outright sitcom.

    The Hammer formula has produced cable’s most enviable slate: USA’s Psych, Burn Notice, In Plain Sight, Covert Affairs, Royal Pains and White Collar are six of the top 10 scripted shows on cable. The rebranding also has revolutionized the network’s scripted development process and turned the generic basic cabler — whose own research before the revamp found that regular viewers were embarrassed to reveal they watched the network — into the No. 1 cable network in all demos for five years running and NBC Uni’s most valuable division.

    Despite the active year, the Queens native says she has prioritized her life outside the office and marvels at the relative peace she’s able to enjoy on the East Coast.

    “By not having to socialize [in Los Angeles], there’s some distance,” says Hammer, who commutes daily to Manhattan from her home in tony Westport, Conn., where she goes by her husband Dale’s last name, Heussner. “What I love about my life at home is, until pretty recently, nobody knew what I did,” she says. “They knew I was a working mom who took the train every day into the city.”

    Hammer earned a master’s in media and technology at Boston University and launched her TV career in 1976 as a production assistant on Infinity Factory, a PBS kids show about the metric system. That led to a gig as an associate producer on Zoom for WGBH Boston. [pullquote] Up the ladder she went, first on This Old House, then executive producing a local morning show. She spent two years in Los Angeles producing Alive and Well, a daytime syndicated/cable hybrid lifestyle series, before returning to New York for a programming job at Lifetime. In 1989, she jumped to USA as a programming executive. She has run Syfy (then the Sci Fi Channel) and USA since 2001 and 2004, respectively.

    Hammer is channeling her programming prowess into an even more ambitious slate on USA. She recently greenlighted Eden, a dramedy about two brothers who are hotel concierges; Wild Card, more of a drama, set in a Las Vegas casino; and Over/Under, a Wall Street procedural she is particularly excited about.

    “It’s a step edgier than anything we’ve done,” she says. It’s that attitude that has vaulted Hammer to her new position. “We can’t be complacent,” she says of the competition. “They’re right on our tail.”

  • Oprah Winfrey

    Chairman, Harpo

    While audience members treated to Winfrey’s annual and final “Favorite Things” episodes have a sweet holiday ahead of them, their daytime queen’s future is hanging on the January debut of her new network, OWN, a joint venture with Discovery. Now that her syndicated talk show is over, the signs are unclear. Three unscripted veterans (Rod Aissa, Michele Dix and Drew Tappon) came on board this year to oversee programming, and the programs themselves will be all-important — meaning shows with stalwart Winfrey talent Lisa Ling, Peter Walsh and Lisa Berman as well as the return of Rosie O’Donnell to daytime TV. Succeed or not, with a net worth of $2.7 billion, according to Forbes, 35 million monthly listeners on Sirius and a Twitter feed with nearly 4.5 million followers, Oprah has a sphere of influence that rivals even that of her pal Barack Obama.

  • Abbe Raven

    President and CEO, A&E Television Networks

    Abbe Raven sits in the principal’s office of the Humanities and the Arts High School in Queens, N.Y., surrounded by two dozen students. She’s come to the high school where she was once a student to participate in a “principal for a day” program sponsored by the nonprofit PENCIL.

    The pupils today are some of the best and brightest of the school, which is housed in a 2,000-student monolith.

    “What’s it like being a woman with power?” one asks quietly.

    “You have to speak up,” says Raven, throwing her hands in the air, trying to spread her energy around the room.

    When the bell rings, they come to life, chattering as they crowd around a table spread of baked goods.

    Raven, who’s dressed in a black pantsuit, flashes an easy smile as she greets a girl with glasses.“I want to see more energy, more spark,” she says later. “Where are the more inquisitive minds?”

    She first learned to think for herself as the daughter of a politicized mother who once chained herself to the governor’s house during a civil rights protest. “It was a loud family,” Raven recalls. “And I was the young, scrappy one.”

    As one of the few white students at Humanities, Raven was politically active. One of her proudest moments was getting suspended for taking part in a “pants strike,” wearing pants in protest of the girls’ skirt uniform. The policy soon was changed.

    She also had a passion for theater, which she studied at the University of Buffalo before getting a job as an off-Broadway stage manager. She returned to school, getting a master’s in theater and film at Hunter College, then taught high school drama and English for five years before segueing to the entertainment business with a job “Xeroxing scripts” at Daytime, a new network in the budding cable television industry.

    She has been working essentially within the same corporate family for close to 30 years. After Daytime split into A&E and Lifetime, Raven worked her way from production manager to director and eventually became head of programming at A&E’s History Channel. She helped shepherd in such new shows as Dog the Bounty Hunter and Growing Up Gotti that established a younger and larger viewership.

    The risk worked, and Raven was appointed president and CEO of A&E in 2005. [pullquote] A year ago, she oversaw the merger of Lifetime with A&E and now trumpets double-digit growth in viewers and her company’s “best year ever.” Today, Raven heads the combined A&E Networks, overseeing 10 networks from Lifetime to History to A&E that together annually attract 300 million viewers worldwide and pull in about $3 billion in revenue. Raven calls herself “very competitive,” noting that she regularly checks Nielsen ratings and worries about which of her shows are in the top 10. But the executive says she’s motivated more by a protective instinct than bloodlust.

    When she designed her new office, she made sure the outside wall was made of glass to physically remind her staff that they had access to her.

    “My prior CEO [Nick Davatzes] instilled in me that employees are your priority and each of them have families,” she says.

    Raven champions the integrity of shows like Intervention, on which people who wrestle with addiction are confronted by family members.

    “When the idea for Intervention came along, on a business spreadsheet, it seemed risky for advertisers and affiliates,” she says. “But my creative viewer side said, ‘This could be really emotional, and we could really change lives.’ ” The hit show won an Emmy last year.

    Personal breakthroughs are equally important to Raven. On a trip to Costa Rica with her husband, attorney Martin Tackel, and their postcollege-age son, she “broke through a fear of heights” and did a zip line through the jungle canopy. “I was screaming my head off.”

    Today at school, her last stop is another Q&A session, this time with a larger group in the school library. Raven is in for a surprise: The school has dug up her decades-old college reference letter. “She is highly intelligent. And deeply interested in knowledge and ideas,” a teacher reads. “Abbe has our strongest recommendation. This is a young woman who will make a positive contribution in this life.” Raven laughs, shaking her head in embarrassment.

  • Stacey Snider

    Co-chairman and CEO, Dreamworks

    One of the shrewdest in the business, Snider is fantastic at developing material and passionate about talent, which is why she’d also rather work with a Steven Spielberg than run a studio that makes two or three times the product of DreamWorks. Their partnership has made Snider an owner of DreamWorks, a company she joined after long stints at TriStar and as Universal chairman. After two years of securing backing, the company is preparing an ambitious slate that starts with the February release of the teen alien pic I Am Number Four. It also is benefiting from a huge chunk of the profit from the Transformers series, made with Paramount. With a distribution deal at Disney, Snider is returning to her roots: Disney studio head Rich Ross was her college pal at the University of Pennsylvania.

  • Donna Langley

    Co-chairman, Universal Pictures

    “I have maintained a solid employee base during a time of great change, reminding people that even in difficult times, this is a great place to work,” Langley says. “I think that’s what I’m most proud of.” You’d think that the anxiety following Comcast’s acquisition of NBC Universal would be drama enough for Langley, but she’s also had to learn how to balance her work and home since becoming a mother. “Having things that require me to go home has actually made me better at my job,” she says. Certainly, things have gone better at work recently for the U.K. native: Langley had some bad luck this year when Wolf Man and Robin Hood turned into box-office duds, but that’s been redeemed by the megasuccess of the summer’s animated, Steve Carell-voiced Despicable Me, which has earned more than $500 million worldwide to date. In October, Langley also landed Sex and the City writer-director Michael Patrick King’s untitled comedy that will star Meryl Streep, Sandra Bullock and Oprah Winfrey.

  • Nina Tassler

    President, CBS Entertainment

    Tassler has left a giant imprint on network programming this year. CBS is the season’s top-rated network and its five new primetime shows — Hawaii Five-0, $#*! My Dad Says, The Defenders, Mike & Molly and Blue Bloods — are the season’s five most-watched rookies. Meanwhile, the Eye’s thriving series — the CSI franchise, The Big Bang Theory and The Good Wife — continue to dominate the ratings. “People still love watching big-hit broadcast television in huge numbers,” says the former actress and protegee of Leslie Moonves who, with her husband, Jerry Levine, moved to Los Angeles during the late 1980s to pursue acting. Tassler instead ended up working her way up the corporate ladder, first as an agent’s assistant at the Irv Schechter Agency then as an agent at Triad Artists for five years, after which she went to work with Moonves at Lorimar and its successor Warner Bros., where she cut her teeth on TV movies and miniseries. “When you offer audiences a show that’s exciting and well-produced, they devour it,” she says.

  • Dana Walden

    Chairman, 20th Century Fox Television

    Walden loves a good laugh. “Every year, for our birthdays, we try and surprise each other in a humiliating way,” she jokes about fellow 20th Century Fox chairman Gary Newman. “Sometimes we’ll put a bogus meeting on each other’s schedules.” It’s amazing they have time for fun, given the primetime TV juggernaut Fox has become under their guidance in the past few years. This year, not one but two of its pilots — Modern Family and Glee, both of which Walden oversaw from inception to final cut — were up for the comedy series Emmy. Ultimately, Family took the top prize and the supporting actor in a comedy for Eric Stonestreet; Glee’s Ryan Murphy nabbed a directing award alongside Jane Lynch, who won for supporting actress in a comedy. Despite huge hits like these, Walden — a mother of two who has launched a slew of pop culture successes in her career, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Fox’s newest hit Raising Hope and is working on getting Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi drama Terra Nova off the ground — says her focus remains on fighting for those little-shows-that-could. “There aren’t as many opportunities to stick with it as there used to be,” she notes of supporting untested television talent. “But for us, it’s ‘Be creatively adventurous or go home.’ ”


  • Judy McGrath

    Chairman, MTV Networks

    After 29 years at MTV Networks, McGrath may have proved a master at overseeing such pop-culture phenomena as Teen Mom and Jersey Shore — not to mention Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert — but she says her proudest moment recently was pulling together the Hope for Haiti Now telethon that raised more than $66 million. “It was a Herculean effort … staging a global fund raising concert,” she says. Between that and running a network group that includes Comedy Central, VH1, Nickelodeon and TV Land, does she ever relax? Yes, she says, by spending time with her husband and 16-year-old daughter and showering her first love — music, that is — with undivided attention. “I still see a ton of live music,” she says. “It helps me decompress, and it keeps me connected to the young audiences we serve.”

  • Sue Kroll

    President of worldwide marketing, Warner Bros.

    Kroll helped Warners hit $1 billion in box office internationally in May and the same domestically in July — a record year, all before ushering Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 to a staggering $604 million haul during its first five days. The studio superstar’s future there seems more secure than ever with the new lineup Warners recently announced as part of its succession plan. “[Marketing] is like putting a very complicated puzzle together, and when that last piece goes in and it opens, it’s an amazing feeling,” she says.

  • Angela Bromstad

    President of primetime entertainment, NBC Universal

    “I’ve worked the hardest in my entire career this year,” says Bromstad, who weathered the Jay Leno Show ordeal and saw her bosses Jeff Gaspin and Jeff Zucker head for the exit. She also has successfully filled NBC’s troublesome 10 p.m. slot with such fresh shows as Law & Order: Los Angeles, Chase and the well-performing sophomore drama Parenthood. Her biggest challenge may lie ahead in the wake of the NBC Universal/Comcast merger. “I’ve been in this industry long enough to know that we just take it a day at a time,” she says.

  • Nancy Dubuc

    President, History and Lifetime Networks

    Through such shows as Pawn Stars and Ice Road Truckers, the executive has changed the way viewers look at History. Her approach has taken the network from outside the top 10 into the top five among all four key demos, making it the No. 1 cable channel with nonfiction programming. Now the self-professed Scrabble junkie aims to do the same as the new president of Lifetime, with 25 reality pilots and seven scripted series in production. “We know we have a brand,” says the Abbe Raven protegee. “And we know it’s strong.”

  • Lauren Zalaznick

    President, NBCU Women & Lifestyle Entertainment Networks

    The powerhouse behind Oxygen, Bravo and iVillage is adding Telemundo and Style, as well as the digital properties Daily Candy and Fandango, to her plate per the recent NBC Uni exec shuffle. The New York-based mother of three says her family has helped inform her tastes. “My kids’ generation is addicted to choice,” she says. “You can’t chase them; rather, lead them.” Zalaznick led Bravo to its best July ratings to date with the finale of The Real Housewives of Orange County, and Oxygen’s fifth season of Bad Girls Club Miami broke premiere records in August.

  • Nikki Rocco

    President of distribution, Universal Pictures

    Rocco’s love of numbers was key to her becoming the first — and only — woman ever to run distribution for a major studio. “I had an affinity for box office,” says the exec, whose long history with Universal dates to when she started there in the sales department while in high school. A die-hard Yankees fan, she remains enthusiastic about the distribution business, highlighting the animated 3D Despicable Me, which has taken in $418 million worldwide. “We never delved into 3D and what it meant to our business,” she says. “It’s not just ‘shipping a print.’” 

  • Sue Naegle

    President, HBO Entertainment

    Naegle’s reputation for nurturing talent has led to the horse-racing drama Luck, which stars Joan Allen and Dustin Hoffman in his first TV series, and the fantasy series Game of Thrones. Although Big Love and Entourage will air their final seasons in 2011, the renewed drama Treme found its niche; audiences love to sink their teeth into True Blood; and the comedies Eastbound & Down, Bored to Death and Hung have been renewed for their third seasons. Oh, and the premiere of Boardwalk Empire became the most-watched season opener since 2004’s Deadwood, with 4.8 million viewers. “We are not restrained by advertisers or standards and practices,” the former TV literary agent says. “What we do need to do is to make the shows fantastic.”


  • Veronika Kwan-Rubinek

    President of international distribution, Warner Bros.

    Born in Hong Kong to a Chinese father and a German mother, Kwan-Rubinek moved to the Middle East when her mother married her Lebanese stepfather. Living in six countries before enrolling at Loyola Marymount University certainly prepares you for the international world; few studios have done better there than Warner Bros., which this year passed the $2 billion mark for only the third time in its history on the strength of such worldwide hits as Inception, Clash of the Titans, Sex and the City 2 and Valentine’s Day. All that has been helped by Kwan-Rubinek’s ability to speak English, German, Cantonese and French.


  • Dawn Ostroff

    President of entertainment, The CW

    Although the CW’s target audience is devouring hit shows America’s Next Top Model, Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries, Ostroff is intent on giving her audience a more extensive viewing experience. “[Our viewers] almost watch us like they’re reading a magazine,” she says of the 18-34 demo she’s targeting. “I literally talk to my sons and their girlfriends for hours about how they watch TV.” Ostroff, who before running the CW was executive vp at Lifetime Television and later president of UPN Entertainment, has eschewed Hulu and made sure the CW’s content is available only on its website.


  • Ann Daly

    COO, Dreamworks Animation

    It’s not easy being Jeffrey Katzenberg’s right-hand woman — especially when his mandate is to have DWA become the first studio to release three CGI movies in one year. And yet, overseeing a Glendale-based operation of about 2,000 employees, Daly has done it: How to Train Your Dragon, Shrek Forever After and Megamind have grossed nearly $550 million domestically within the past year. “It’s been really difficult,” she says of the heavy workload. “I think three pictures a year will make us more financially successful and give the artists more creative freedom.” Now she’s entrenched in various stages of production on the next crop of animation features slated for 2013 and 2014, which include the sequel to Dragon.


  • Elizabeth Gabler

    President, Fox 2000

    Growing up, the Long Beach, Calif., native was less concerned with movies than riding horses, which she does now with husband Lee Gabler at their home base in Santa Barbara. “It wasn’t even on my radar as a job,” she says. Pursuing her love of reading in college set her on the path to entertainment. Today, three of the releases she’s most looking forward to are based on novels: This month’s The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, 2011’s Water for Elephants and 2012’s long-in-development Life of Pi, directed by Ang Lee. She also scored rights to the three-book series Pure by Juliana Baggott and will shepherd the youth-skewing Monte Carlo as well as follow-ups to Alvin and the Chipmunks and Diary of a Wimpy Kid in the coming year.


  • Kathleen Kennedy


    Since starting as Steven Spielberg’s assistant and producing such classics as E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial and Schindler’s List, Kennedy has gone on to work with him consistently, currently on War Horse, Lincoln and The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn. If only that were all: Kennedy also recently produced Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter and M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender. She could step into any executive job in town if she ever wanted to. Who can blame her if she doesn’t?


  • Nancy Utley

    President, Fox Searchlight

    For years, Utley and her Searchlight partner Steve Gilula labored under the vast shadow of their boss, Peter Rice. But when Rice moved out of film and over to Fox television, the searchlight, as it were, landed on the former marketing exec. Although she managed the Oscar campaigns for last year’s Oscar-winning Fantastic Mr. Fox and Crazy Heart, she says her biggest success this year was having four directors return to the studio: Danny Boyle (127 Hours), Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), Miguel Arteta (Cedar Rapids) and Alexander Payne (The Descendants). “The trust built up over the first feature you do together carries over into the subsequent features,” she says.


  • Emma Watts

    President of production, 20th Century Fox

    Watts got her start in film working for Oliver Stone’s production company, Illusion Entertainment. And equally meaningful as her Stone memories is the photograph in her office by her first boss, the late photographer Herb Ritts, for whom she worked as a P.A. in his studio. “He really captured people’s moments,” she says of the photo, Paradise Cove, that adorns the wall of her Los Angeles office. Watts will need the same eye as the studio moves “to elevate the caliber of filmmakers and put [them] with the biggest talent we can get our hands on,” she says. Among her projects: such tentpoles as X-Men: First Class and Rise of the Apes, along with other fare like Cameron Crowe’s We Bought a Zoo, R-rated comedy The Sitter and Gore Verbinski’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

  • Debbie Liebling

    President of production, Universal Pictures

    Liebling joined Universal this year, now reporting to some of the nicest people in the business including Donna Langley, Adam Fogelson and their boss, Ron Meyer. Liebling loves the material they’ve been cultivating. “I inherited a lot of really strong development,” she says of Safe House, starring Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington, set to begin filming in the spring in South Africa; Everybody Loves Whales, starring Drew Barrymore; and Wanderlust, a nudist colony-set comedy starring Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd.

  • Eileen O'Neill

    President and GM, TLC

    Her Sarah Palin’s Alaska debuted in November to the network’s highest ratings ever. “Palin is top of mind for a lot of Americans,” says the 20-year cable veteran, who started as an unpaid intern at Discovery shortly after graduating from Bowling Green State University and who’s had stints working at Planet Green and Discovery Health Channel. This year alone, along with the controversy-stirring Sister Wives, her network has had 21 new and returning series that have averaged more than 1 million viewers, including American Chopper, Hoarding: Buried Alive, Cake Boss and Say Yes to the Dress. “Some of our biggest successes have come from families with multiple births,” O’Neill says. How do you explain that? “I’m a twin. A shrink would have a field day.”

  • Angelina Jolie


    Even though her box office has veered wildly from sleepers like Changeling to this year’s modest hit Salt, the latter gave her the female James Bond role she’d always dreamed of — and Sony a worldwide take of $292 million. Her box office success will be tested with Johnny Depp co-starrer The Tourist, which opens Dec. 10. She currently is directing her first feature, which has stirred controversy for its rumored depiction of a love story between a Serbian man and Bosnian women during wartime.

  • Hannah Minghella

    President of production, Columbia Pictures

    “My parents were fascinated with studying human behavior,” says Minghella, 31, daughter of the late filmmaker Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) and Yvonne Miller.  Columbia’s newly minted president of production is now doing the same through movies as one of the fastest-rising executives in modern history. The Cambridge graduate started as an assistant at Miramax under the Weinstein brothers then landed as a creative executive for Sony’s Amy Pascal. In 2008, she was named president of production at Sony Pictures Animation, where she oversaw Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and The Smurfs.

  • Carolina Lightcap

    President, Disney Channels

    After eight years in Argentina, Lightcap made a gigantic transition, moving her family back to Los Angeles, where she now has Walt Disney Studios chairman Rich Ross’ old job. The Buenos Aires native now oversees 94 channels in 169 countries, of which 26 channels were launched during the past 12 months alone. Lightcap, who was vp and chief marketing officer for Disney in Latin America, says her next goal is to get the Disney Junior brand greenlighted in the U.S., including a 24-hour channel aimed largely at a preschool audience. “It’s an area in which we hadn’t been as active [in North America],” says the mother of a 3-year-old, whom she refers to as her “focus group of one.” “We had Playhouse Disney Channel in Buenos Aires. I can’t wait to have it here.”

  • Sandra Bullock


    Hollywood loves a good comeback, and Bullock’s was this year’s favorite. She might only have received $5 million upfront for The Blind Side, but with a backend that climbed to 20 percent of the studio’s take, she’s the biggest-earning female star in any movie last year. Add to this the success of The Proposal ($317 million worldwide), and it’s hard to find as surefire a topliner, male or female. The newly divorced mom took a break to care for her adopted baby, but she’ll be back in the Sept. 11 drama Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (opposite Tom Hanks) and in Alfonso Cuaron’s 2012 sci-fi project Gravity.


  • Michele Ganeless

    President, Comedy Central

    The woman who has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for fun also happens to be the one behind the bad boys of South Park, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Under her leadership (she’s on her third stint with the network since 1990), Comedy Central has hit ratings highs with new originals from series like Futurama, Tosh.0 and Ugly Americans; she’s also been developing fresh content to feed the network’s pipeline with origins on the Web, like the upcoming Workaholics. “Sometimes you find the nugget of an idea that’s the greatest series ever,” she says. “And sometimes you find a nugget that was meant to be a nugget.”

  • Cyma Zarghami

    President, Nickelodeon/MTVN

    “There were only 30 people in the entire company back then,” Zarghami recalls of her early days as a Nick clerk in 1984. “We pretty much scheduled the network in pencil.” Today it is the No. 1 cable channel for children, with a trio of successful spinoff networks (Nick Jr., Nicktoons and TeenNick) and a stable of iconic animated shows (SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer). Zarghami has grown with Nick since taking charge in 2006, having added a hit lineup of live-action sitcoms (iCarly, Victorious, Big Time Rush) and reviving non-Nick franchises such as Power Rangers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.


  • Frances Berwick

    President, Bravo Media

    Berwick has come a long way from her first job as a staffer at the U.K.’s Channel 4. Today, the native Londoner is the presiding queen of Bravo, having overseen gangbuster growth — ratings are up 6 percent year-over-year, and Bravo has increased original programming by 20 percent — and cemented her June promotion to president after 14 years with the network. It’s also a recognition of her ability to turn guilty-pleasure juggernauts like the Real Housewives franchise into mainstream hits and reality favorite Top Chef into an Emmy winner. “That was huge,” marvels Berwick of Chef’s unseating of the Amazing Race’s seven-year chokehold on the reality competition category. She is taking a long view on Bravo’s future. “We’re transitioning from being a network into a media entity,” she says, pointing to brand extensions like the online Top Chef University and exclusive DVD sales deals with Target and an iPad Bravo Now app. Berwick says she continues to draw inspiration from one of her first bosses at Channel 4, Jane Small. “She believed in her own opinions and was prepared to fight for them,” Berwick says. “She also had a great sense of humor, which made work fun and fair.”

  • Debra Lee

    CEO, BET Networks

    It’s 10:30 on a Saturday morning in October, and Debra Lee is sitting inside the Manhattan Four Seasons’ bright restaurant, eating oatmeal and slices of peeled grapefruit. Tonight the D.C.-based mother of two teens will be at the Bronx’s historic Paradise Theater for this year’s installment of Black Girls Rock! an annual ceremony honoring influential African-American women. Lee is downright giddy as this is the first year it will be televised. 

    “I made a commitment to improving images of women,” she says, stirring her coffee. “Black Girls Rock! Every time I say it, it makes me happy.”

    Dressed in a teal sweater and black slacks, Lee is that rare network executive willing to say that she’s happy. And the Harvard lawyer has lots of reasons for being so.

    BET is coming off its best year to date. Its June BET Awards telecast attracted a record 7.5 million viewers, and the network is set to unveil its first lineup of scripted programming, including The Game, a football-themed comedy that originally ran on the CW, and Staying Together, a sitcom produced by Queen Latifah. Lee has also overseen development of BET’s offshoot network Centric, which debuted in 2009 and targets an older demographic. This expansion, coupled with BET’s growing profile around the world — it has 14 million viewers in the U.K. and can be seen in 28 countries in Africa — has poised the once music-centered cable brand to lead black programming.

    “You just get to a point where you need a real identity,” Lee says. “Rebranding has forced us to ask, ‘What does BET really stand for?’”

    Lee grew up the daughter of an Army general and hospital administrator in the thick of the civil rights movement. Born in 1955 in Fort Jackson, S.C., she and her family lived in Germany before settling back in Greensboro, N.C., at the height of segregation. “I went to an all-black junior high and high school,” she says. “But we didn’t feel like we were suffering. We had our own community.” When integration happened during her senior year of high school, Lee says, “it disrupted everything. It was hard to see then that, in the long run, this would be the right thing.”

    Lee’s parents hammered into their children the crucial need for education. But Lee had a rebellious streak that often collided with her father’s conservative sensibilities. “I mean, I had a huge Afro in high school; my father did not approve,” recalls Lee, smiling. “He said I looked like [Black Panther activist] Angela Davis. He thought the FBI was going to pick me up on the street.”

    After attending Brown for undergrad, Lee entered the white, mostly male world of Harvard Law. She landed at a 300-person firm in D.C. where there were “only three or four women, and they were all unhappy,” she says. In 1986, she had a life-changing lunch with BET founder Bob Johnson, who told her his five-year-old cable venture needed a staff lawyer. [pullquote]

    Her first big BET project was offering legal counsel to the network while it was being sued for backing out of a deal for a failed Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous-style show that centered on black celebrities. “It was awful,” says Lee, laughing. “Bob decided to cancel the contract after the second episode. They asked,‘What do you think?’ I’d been at a firm for five years, and no one had ever asked me what I thought.”

    In the early days of BET, when there were only 80 employees and 10 million subscribers (today there are more than 500 on staff and 98 million subs), the network’s original programming — or lack thereof — was a constant issue. Its mainstay was music videos, but with HBO expanding, BET was desperate to lock in any properties that were available. The advent of The Cosby Show and Oprah Winfrey further forced BET execs to ask: If white networks are providing these programs, then how does BET figure into the equation?

    This made BET’s strategy for the 1990s all about cultivating its niche audience. By mid-decade, it was clear that hip-hop culture sold big. “But then it got into gangsta rap, bling, sexism — we kind of went along,” she admits. That meant dealing with characters whose guns-a-blazing dramas started playing out in the media. “We spent more time talking about security at the BET Awards than the show itself,” Lee says.

    Since she transitioned to the top spot at BET in 2005, drawing a line between what it will and won’t air has been crucial.

    “I realized, ‘OK, I believe in the freedom of speech for the artist, but I don’t have to put it on my network,’ ” she says. “Like, we aren’t going to try for a black version of Jersey Shore. If we did, it would be a black mark on our race. That’s the reality.”

  • Laura Ziskin


    She’s behind one of the biggest franchises in history (the $2.5 billion-earning Spider-Man series) and the only woman to have produced the Oscar telecast twice, but it still mystifies Ziskin how she landed in showbiz. “My father and stepmother were psychologists, so I don’t really know where it came from,” says the San Fernando Valley native, who lives with Oscar-winning screenwriter Alvin Sargent (Julia). “I guess I just always liked putting on a show.” She also likes leading Hollywood’s charge to increase cancer research awareness through the organization she co-founded with Sherry Lansing, Stand Up to Cancer. Its second telethon Sept. 5, also produced by Ziskin, raised another $80 million. While Ziskin continues to deal with her own cancer, she’s already at work on the new Spider-Man reboot starring newcomer Andrew Garfield. “When I think about how good he’s going to be it keeps me excited,” she says.

  • Marion Edwards

    President, international television, 20th Century Fox

    Edwards created 20th’s scripted format business and this year saw the escape drama Prison Break become a primetime hit — in Russia. But the 19-year Fox veteran openly admits no one truly knows what will sell internationally. She still remembers the time a fellow executive told her The Simpsons would do “zero” business outside the U.S. “For every story I tell you about why a show travels, there’ll be a Simpsons,” she shrugs. Most of her own traveling, when not dashing around the world for work, has been within the U.S.: Growing up in Idaho, she earned a theater degree from the University of Denver then came to Hollywood with plans to become a costume designer. Now she’s grateful she made what she calls the “rational decision” to jump into corporate life — first at Universal and MGM, then Fox. A mother of two, she says it’s been an adventurous ride for a girl from New Jersey. “For years I proudly said I was from there,” she says. “Now with Jersey Shore, I’m not so sure.”

  • Janice Marinelli

    President, Disney-ABC Domestic Television

    “I love watching football,” admits Marinelli, who has overseen domestic distribution of content from the Disney-ABC Media Networks and Walt Disney Studios content since 1999. “I will always watch a football game over my other shows. Thankfully, I don’t have to choose anymore!” That’s because Marinelli’s department has made the network’s programming available wherever the viewer wants it: pay television, basic cable, broadcast television, VOD, subscription VOD, electronic sell-through, mobile and broadband. This year she also added Canadian distribution to her “domestic” domain. A promotion in November means Marinelli will lead the new North American In-Home Sales organization, overseeing the entire sales group from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment — which is great for the former Buena Vista account executive, and mother of an 18-, 16- and 13-year-old, who still gets a rush out of signing a big deal. She says no matter how many years go by, the thrill never wanes. “There’s just no greater feeling,” she says.

  • Hilary E. McLoughlin

    President, Telepictures Prods.

    The New York-bred McLoughlin knows how to handle stars. She received an early education ogling Andy Warhol, Truman Capote and Calvin Klein on her jaunts to Studio 54 as a slightly underage teen — outings financed by her after-school job at a dry cleaner. McLoughlin also held a job as a researcher at consulting firm Seltel and temped for Warner Bros. research head Bruce K. Rosenblum before getting her post in development at Telepictures in 1989. McLoughlin has never been one to sit back and wait for good ideas to come to her: she creates them. Today, with eight shows on the air, including Lopez Tonight and Extra, someone else does the dry cleaning while she takes care of bigger business — like overseeing Telepictures-owned TMZ; collaborating with CNN to re-sign Anderson Cooper next fall; and helping Ellen DeGeneres disengage from American Idol to focus on hosting her own show. “Ellen is … heir apparent to Oprah,” McLoughlin says. “With Anderson, [they are] our one-two punch.”

  • Elisabeth Murdoch

    Chair/CEO, Shine Ltd.

    The hard-nosed tactics Elisabeth Murdoch gleaned from her father Rupert were on display during a January NATPE keynote speech, when she slapped budget-strapped executives for acting “more like a victim support group than … dynamic industry leaders.” No one has been more dynamic than Murdoch: In five years, Shine has grown from a small outfit to a 25-company portfolio — including newly launched Shine Australia and Shine France — with projected 2010 revenue of nearly $646 million. Such success comes from shows like Master Chef (with local versions available in 20 countries) and One Born Every Minute, picked up by Lifetime after a rousing U.K. success. Next year she’ll be behind Paula Abdul’s comeback with Live to Dance. Clearly, Murdoch knows how to get what she wants, whether it’s the purchase of American Idol (she’s the one who recommended it to Rupert), the importation of the Law & Order franchise to the U.K. or a former priory, now her country home in England’s Oxfordshire.

  • Linda Bell Blue

    Executive Producer, 'Entertainment Tonight' and 'The Insider'

    It’s 6 a.m., and the conference room inside Entertainment Tonight’s offices on the CBS Radford lot in Studio City already is buzzing.

    This rainy morning’s hot topic is a wedding — not the Indian nuptials of Katy Perry and Russell Brand, which will become the day’s big celebrity happening, but rather that of ET staffers Ben Wallace and Whitney Nevill, who have just returned from their Hawaiian honeymoon.

    “I cried as soon as you hit the aisle,” exclaims Linda Bell Blue, sounding like a proud mother, bleached blond hair dominating her head like her ebullient personality dominates the conversation.

    Bell Blue is the shrewd producer who has been running television’s most successful newsmagazine for 16 years, getting up at 4 a.m. five days a week. And it has paid off: ET has been the No. 1 magazine show in syndication the past 743 weeks.

    Heidi Clements, ET’s senior broadcast producer, marvels at her boss’ ability to steer the ship with unwavering conviction. “She has a golden gut,” Clements says. “She knows within seconds of looking at a video whether or not the story is going to work with our audience.”

    Bell Blue’s focus is apparent at the morning meeting: Within minutes, she steers the conversation toward those more notable nuptials, which join ET’s existing story ideas stuck to the wall on bright blue Post-it notes.

    “We’re in good shape for sweeps,” she says. “You have to win. Not winning is not acceptable.”

    The Springfield, Mo., native got her need to win from her father, R.A. Bell, who ran an oil business and enjoyed watching Walter Cronkite deliver the CBS Evening News with his media-savvy daughter. [pullquote] Bell Blue became a TV reporter while studying journalism at the University of Missouri in Columbia; covering local news in Detroit and Miami, her hunger for breaking news was born.

    “There’s nothing better than a breaking news story,” she says. “It’s just in your blood.”

    She still remembers the names of victims whose murders she covered (82-year-old Elinor Haggart from Miami, for one), though those memories pale when compared to the exclusive interview she landed with Charles Manson as a reporter at KCBS in Los Angeles in her 20s. Her office wall is plastered with images of career milestones. “We’ve been in Cairo covering a movie near the Sphinx,” she points out. “That’s Greece, covering Mamma Mia! That’s Rome with [ET host] Mark Steines in front of the Vatican, covering Angels & Demons. See the castle in the back? That’s Tom Cruise’s wedding in Bracciano, Italy.”

    And yet, driven as she is professionally, Bell Blue is quite the opposite domestically.

    Every morning, she and her husband of 25 years — Steve Blue, executive vp production management at Comcast — get up at 4 a.m. He takes their only “child,” 2-year-old boxer Duke, for a walk through their West Hollywood neighborhood. They rarely vacation; the last time they went to Europe, she says: “[We] went for four days. We were asleep the whole time.”

    Before breakfast, Bell Blue is wide awake and already on her first conference call during a commute to ET’s offices. Then she runs the first of two producers’ meetings, as she is doing today. (She won’t see her husband again until 7 p.m., when they watch her shows together in bed.)

    Around 3 p.m., less than an hour before ET airs on the East Coast, Bell Blue is dressed for bikram yoga, where, in a 105-degree room, she will exercise in silence for 90 minutes — a crucial respite in a life that seems endlessly in motion. “It’s a basic law of nature: To create energy, you have to use energy,” she says of her need for the near-daily session.

    After her workout, she visits her mother, who watches Duke every afternoon, then heads home.

    But that is still hours away. Right now, she has a show to produce.

    “The old saying is, don’t lead with the lead story — put it at the end,” she says, admitting she’s done her best to manipulate the Nielsen meters. “The first block is long, the second block is short because it’s in between, and the third block is long because if viewers click out at four minutes and 58 seconds, you don’t get the credit.”

    She smiles, thrilled at the challenge before her. “You have to love this job to get up at 4 o’clock in the morning for 16 years,” Bell Blue says. “It’s a 24-hour loop of instant gratification.”

  • Cecile Frot-Coutaz

    CEO, FremantleMedia North America

    Frot-Coutaz is one of a handful of people tasked with reinvigorating Fox’s American Idol, the reality juggernaut that this year saw ratings slip and iconic judge Simon Cowell depart to launch a U.S. version of  The X Factor. “In some ways, we’re starting almost with a blank sheet of paper,” says the former corporate strategist at Pearson Television, who earned her MBA from the prestigious INSEAD business school in Paris. Idol is one sliver of the 400-hour programming pie Frot-Coutaz oversees at Fremantle. She has helped broker a deal to bring X Factor to Fox next fall and guided NBC’s summer hit America’s Got Talent to record ratings.

  • Shari Redstone

    Vice Chair, CBS/Viacom

    With the public conflict between paterfamilias Sumner and daughter Shari, it might come as no surprise to learn that both were lawyers, though Shari started as the criminal kind (criminal defense, that is). Now she might need to think more like a prosecutor as she works to punch up National Amusements, which sold 35 theaters in the U.S. to pay down its debt of $1.46 billion and refinance the company — no small feat in this economy. One way she handled it was in Russia, where she, together with Charles Ryan of UFG Private Equity, acquired from National Amusements Rising Star Media — a six-theater, 74-screen circuit in Moscow and St. Petersburg that is thriving under the helm of CEO Paul Heth. Redstone is the third generation of her family to run the Norwood, Mass.-based National Amusements, which still operates more than 1,000 screens in the U.S., Britain and Latin America. She also started a private-equity firm this year, Legacy Ventures, to provide capital and advice to media and technology start-up companies.

  • Lynn Calpeter

    Executive VP/CFO, NBC Universal

    Since General Electric signed a deal in December 2009 to sell 51 percent of NBC Universal to Comcast, Calpeter’s workload has increased exponentially. “I feel like I’m kind of doing two, maybe three jobs,” she says, from day-to-day operations and the complex details of the transition to raising $9.1 billion for NBC Uni’s IPO. That has left her little time for friends or recreation, save for a two-week summer vacation on the Jersey Shore, but she’s not complaining. “It’s exhausting but incredibly exhilarating,” the Cornell graduate says. It’s certainly not the life she envisioned as a girl growing up in Syracuse, N.Y., where she was a multisport athlete with dreams of becoming a veterinarian. “I’m triaging businesses instead of Labrador retrievers,” she says with a laugh.

  • Amy Baer

    President and CEO, CBS Films

    Having started as an assistant to the late CAA agent Jay Moloney, Baer spent close to 16 years at Columbia before joining Leslie Moonves’ CBS Films in 2007. She is the first to admit that the $12 million take of CBS Films’ initial feature release, Extraordinary Measures, was a disappointment, and November’s Faster, starring Dwayne Johnson, took in only $12 million during its first week. But she points to summer’s The Back-up Plan, as a bright spot in the studio’s inaugural year as well its acquisition of The Mechanic and the homegrown production Beastly. The recently announced Paul Haggis project Cell 211 and The Keep will take the studio into 2012.

  • Belinda Menendez

    President, NBC Uni international TV distribution

    Majoring in theology and medieval history at Scotland’s University of St. Andrews might not seem like the best breeding ground for an exec, but it seems to have worked for Menendez. “I studied Greek and Aramaic so I could read original documents,” she says. “I wanted to learn how time had lent certain passages nuances.” Now she can study contracts in a host of other languages she speaks — try English, French, Spanish and working knowledge of German. Today, the London-born Menendez runs 13 offices worldwide and sells drama series like The Event to more than 200 countries. She also has passed on her language skills to the two children — ages 21 and 20 — she raised  as a single parent and who are both multilingual. “I’m still in shock to be where I am now,” she says.

  • MT Carney

    President marketing, Walt Disney Studios

    Until Disney opened its Thanksgiving release Tangled, 2010 was looking gloomy for the studio’s recently hired marketing president. Brought in by newly named studio chief Rich Ross as part of a corporate reshuffle, Carney was saddled with such duds as Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. It got even worse when former Sony marketer Valerie Van Galder was hired to consult on Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. To some, that was hardly a ringing endorsement for the charming, Scotland-born brand strategist. But when Tangled opened to twice the expected business, and Carney’s clever marketing campaign got a good part of the credit, everything changed. True, the rumors of her demise haven’t subsided, but a big success under her belt means no one should bet against her just yet.

  • Tracey Jacobs

    Board Member/Partner/Co-head of Talent, UTA

    With a client list that includes megawatt stars such as Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow, Harrison Ford, Alfonso Cuaron, Mike White and red-hot international actress Noomi Rapace (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), Jacobs has proved herself a master manager of Hollywood power players. Having Depp in another $1 billion grosser in the past year, Tim Burton’s 3D reimagining of Alice in Wonderland, only reinforced her knack for spotting talent: She happened upon the star on Fox’s 21 Jump Street while flipping channels two decades ago. Jacobs says reaching a recent midlife milestone birthday of 50 has given her perspective on the ups and downs of the agency business that she wishes she had earlier in her career. “I really am of that belief — and this may sound corny — that when something doesn’t work, that means something else will that’s better,” she says.


  • Megan Colligan

    Co-President of Domestic Marketing, Paramount Pictures

    “Last year was a real transition,” says Colligan, who shares her position with Josh Greenstein and has enjoyed an impressive run since her 2008 promotion. “This year, it’s a very well-oiled machine.” The proof: Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island earned $128 million domestically, Iron Man 2 earned close to the original with $312 million, and How to Train Your Dragon took in more than $200 million. Sequels Jackass 3D and Paranormal Activity 2 also performed solidly. Fresh from maternity leave after giving birth to her third child in February, Colligan is very proud of the impact of the documentary Waiting for Superman. “It was hitting right at the right time when people were primed to have a conversation [about our education system],” she says. Up next: the Coen brothers’ True Grit, which bows Dec. 22, and shepherding Thor and Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol next year.


  • Judge Judy Sheindlin

    Television personality

    It’s your fault,” says Judy Sheindlin, in a seething whisper that could wilt a truck driver.

    She shifts in her plush armchair, in a wood-paneled study adorned with images of judges at the heart of her Manhattan pied-a-terre, and thrusts her head forward, as if peering at some imaginary nincompoop.

    The subject is personal responsibility; in this case, Sheindlin — better known as Judge Judy — is condemning people who blame lack of access to hospitals for not getting flu shots. She repeatedly makes sport of knuckleheads like these. With an eye roll, she mimics a drug dealer, saying, “My grandmother died, and that’s why I sell heroin.”

    Anyone expecting the brusque, down-to-earth Sheindlin to be markedly different from her television persona is in for a surprise. From up close, one can see kindness in her brown eyes, but she is as uncompromising and scathing when discussing such dolts as she is on camera. The more apparent contrast is her lifestyle when the robe comes off.

    With a $45 million-a-year CBS contract, she and her husband, Jerry — a former judge — have luxurious homes in Greenwich, Conn., and Naples, Fla., where they winter, as well as the New York apartment. Their life is made up of travel, boats (their yacht is dubbed Her Honor), private jets, artwork — and a very real relationship. “I’ve known her 30 years,” Jerry Sheindlin says, “and I’m still trying to understand her.”

    Born Judith Blum, Sheindlin says her father thought she’d be a politician one day, but instead she went to law school and became in-house counsel for a beauty products company. The work was dull, so she found a job in the family court system. Then-New York Mayor Ed Koch appointed her to the bench in 1982. Jerry received his appointment, too, but money remained an issue until the 1990s, when they were well into their 50s. Judy bought lottery tickets every Wednesday. “I would tell Jerry, ‘It’s the greatest fantasy you can have for 10 bucks,’ ” she recalls.

    In 1993, a Los Angeles Times article featured Sheindlin’s unsparing decisions and colorful locution in the courtroom. A 60 Minutes profile followed, and television producers were not far behind. In 1996, Judge Judy debuted, turning the unknown judge into a celebrity and multimillionaire.

    Today, wearing an utterly unpretentious 20-year-old denim shirt, Sheindlin says the difference between TV Judy and the Real Judy is that on air she doesn’t filter herself. “People are fed up with excuses for bad behavior,” she says. “I say what they want to say. I beat up the bad guy.”

    Nine million people watch Sheindlin every day, a number that surpassed that of The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2009. The contract she signed two years ago runs through 2013 and represents an annual $20 million raise from her previous deal. (She’s coy about further extensions.) The actual workload Sheindlin has to earn this money — which, according to Forbes, makes her the 72nd-richest celebrity in Hollywood — is relatively light.

    Judge Judy is shot on a set at the Sunset Bronson Studios in Los Angeles and taped over two- or three-day periods about every other week. Before the taping, Sheindlin is sent a docket of three dozen cases that she reviews. She flies in for the taping and flies out immediately afterward.  The show is “run just like a courtroom,” says executive producer Randy Douthit, who reports that Sheindlin has a caring, maternal presence on set.

    The nuances of maintaining several homes and being a TV star and matriarch of a sprawling family may be many, but Sheindlin’s life is surprisingly conventional. It includes two meals a day when she’s in Greenwich: breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien reading The New York Post and dinner — usually some form of chicken — at one of three favorite restaurants.

    The Sheindlins have no agent, manager or lawyer. “We’ve been taking care of ourselves a long time before this,” she says.

    “See the way she cringes?” Jerry says happily as he lunges in for a kiss. “I give her warmth.”

  • Pamela Levine

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

    The New York-based executive — whose duties cover advertising, media, digital marketing, publicity and promotions — has had some recent challenges, most notably Knight and Day, which grossed a scant $76.4 million domestically (but performed strongly abroad). Levine, however, is still high on Avatar and is looking ahead to The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and next year’s X-Men: First Class and Rise of the Apes. But she hasn’t forgotten her early dreams of practicing psychology: “I still use it very much in my day-to-day life.”

  • Diane Nelson

    President, DC Entertainment

    In September 2009, Warner Bros. picked the Rhode Island native to head its refigured DC Entertainment division, putting her in charge of a league of comic book superheroes, including Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Since then, she has helped steer Green Lantern into production while making key new appointments — naming Jim Lee and Dan DiDio co-publishers of DC Comic and Geoff Johns chief creative officer of DC Entertainment — and moving multimedia and digital content production from New York to Burbank. Nelson, who at one time planned to be a photojournalist and even enrolled at the S.I. Newhouse Communications School at Syracuse University, had a practical side that took over: She switched to English and advertising with the idea of becoming a copywriter, but moved to Los Angeles when husband Peter decided to take a stab at screenwriting. After starting at Walt Disney Records, she segued to Warners in 1996 as vp domestic marketing. In her new position, she retains oversight of Warner Premiere, focusing on direct-to-DVD production, and the Harry Potter franchise, which she has been handling with author J.K. Rowling since 2000.

  • Beth Swofford

    Motion picture literary agent, CAA

    “When I realized that being a director wasn’t for me,” says Swofford, who went to USC film school, “I thought, ‘Well, at least I can help great directors get their films made.’ ” She’s done that for new client James Cameron, who recently closed a deal for two sequels to Avatar; Guy Ritchie, who will direct the Sherlock Holmes sequel; and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, whose Biutiful was picked up at the Toronto International Film Festival. Add in such clients as Sandra Bullock, directors Francis Lawrence (the upcoming Water for Elephants) and Joe Wright (Hanna), and you could say Swofford made the right call. It helps that she has a broader perspective than most agents: An avid art collector, she says her inquisitive nature helps her work. “It’s important to get out and be curious about the world,” she says.

  • Sheila Nevins

    President, HBO Documentary/Family

    With projects that run from the sordid (Real Sex, Taxicab Confessions) to the groundbreaking (Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, Born Into Brothels), nobody is more influential in the documentary world than Nevins. “The bottom line of documentaries is it’s like going to school — real-people school, not celebrity school,” she says. She’s most proud of last month’s Wartorn: 1861–2010, which examines the effect of post-traumatic stress disorder, and also is working on a film that follows the recovery of a pelican caught in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Nevins says her thirst for knowledge fuels the work that she’s done, citing this year’s Iran-set For Neda. “I would never know how to say Ahmadinejad if I hadn’t done For Neda,” she says with a laugh, confessing that she has little spare time. “I have a son, I have a husband, I have a life, so to speak, but work is my fire,” she says.

  • Kathryn Bigelow


    When Bigelow took home an Oscar in March for directing The Hurt Locker, it marked the first time a woman had earned the honor. Pundits couldn’t decide whether it was more interesting to discuss the fact that Bigelow’s ex-husband James Cameron was pitted against her in the race or that a female won an Oscar for directing a male-centric war film. However, Bigelow has always shied away, though elegantly so, from discussing her work in terms of gender. “I think of a person as a filmmaker, not a male or female filmmaker,” she told Slate.com. “Yes, we’re informed by who we are, and perhaps we’re even defined by that, but yet, the work has to speak for itself.” Although seven years passed between her last film, K-19: The Widowmaker, and her most recent one, Bigelow has been directing since the early 1980s. The director, who went to art school to train as a painter, is in preproduction with Hurt Locker writer Mark Boal on Paramount’s Triple Frontier, which will star Tom Hanks.

  • Lauren Shuler Donner


    The Boston University graduate, who has been producing since 1983’s Mr. Mom, says she has managed to find time to start a new hobby: making pottery. “When you are throwing, every fiber of your being has to watch what you’re doing with your hands or it will collapse and go wrong,” she says. “It’s intensely therapeutic.” The wife of director Richard Donner will need all the therapy she can get with a new franchise blooming at Disney and a push into theatrical musicals. That’s in addition to landing Kick-Ass director Matthew Vaughn the helming gig for X-Men: First Class and Darren Aronofsky for X-Men Origins: Wolverine 2, which begins shooting next year.

  • Cynthia Pett-Dante

    Co-owner/managing partner, Brillstein Entertainment Partners

    Pett-Dante still reads every script that lands on her desk for her client Brad Pitt. Well, nearly. “I stop at page 16 if it gets too painful,” she says. Although she has secured successes for some of her younger clients, such as getting Garrett Hedlund in Tron: Legacy and Anton Yelchin in Fright Night, she says it’s becoming harder than ever before to score pay increases for them. “Back in the old days, if you had a young client who did fantastic work and drew a following, the quote would go from 200 to 550,” she says. “Now, that’s no longer the case.” A notable animal-rights advocate, Pett-Dante recently bought a property off a Malibu landslide and set up a farm to host goats, sheep and pigs that were sent to slaughter by a petting zoo shuttered during the recession.

  • Gail Berman

    Founder and partner, BermanBraun

    Berman always has had a flair for the theatrical — from producing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat straight out of the University of Maryland to running Fox TV as president of entertainment to heading film production at Paramount. Now she is redefining the digital sphere with partner Lloyd Braun through BermanBraun, the company they created in 2006. With three website launches this past year alone — GLO, Wonderwall Beltway and Wonderwall Latino — following Wonderwall, an Internet star with 12.5 million uniques per month, Berman has bounced back after a spotty run at Paramount. She also is producing the cop-as-comic-book-hero show The Cape for NBC, Lauren Conrad’s new reality project for MTV and three specials for Discovery. Sadly, she says she’s about to lose two of her most trusted pop culture advisers — her twins Alix and Jacob, soon heading for college.

  • Christina Norman

    CEO, OWN

    I quit. I’m done. I have to stop right now.” Those were the words Christina Norman recalls telling herself in 2008, the year she walked away from her 17-year career as an MTV media executive. “It was the most honest moment of my life,” she says. “Being able to say that I was not good at this anymore — not good to myself, to my work, to the people that depend on me — was the honest truth.”

    Unlike many high-profile Hollywood jobs, which invariably end with the executive being shoved out the door, Norman says she made the decision to leave on her own, burned out from too many years of being on call 24/7. Now, she has redefined herself as CEO of Oprah Winfrey’s new network, OWN, a job she has held since February 2009.

    She met Oprah in 2007, after a torn Achilles tendon forced her to cancel a family vacation in Italy. In its place, after she had recuperated, she took her family to South Africa. “I walk into the lobby of this most opulent, beautiful place,” Norman says. “I’m covered in dust, literally, and I see Gayle King [Winfrey’s best friend]. That’s when she tells me that Oprah is opening a school that week.” King invited her to join them for the opening. [pullquote]

    Soon after, Norman was approached about joining OWN while still at MTV, where she was president of the network. But the timing was wrong. “I was really not in a good place,” she says. “I was not 100 percent, and it showed. It was just not an electric connection.”

    A year after her first interview — and much shuffling among the top execs Winfrey originally appointed — Norman says “a headhunter called me and said they had reopened the search and did I have any recommendations? ‘Give me the job!’ I said. ‘I’m ready.’” So was Winfrey, who adds, “It takes a real woman to know when to say no.”

    Now it will take a real executive to deal with the challenges Norman faces.

    It’s a big risk, and Norman knows it. But risk-taking is part of her DNA. A New York native, she grew up in the Bronx with an architect father and a mother who runs an education and training program for the New York State court program. She earned her degree in film production from Boston University but as a college student was “a knucklehead.”

    After leaving the university, Noman got a job as a P.A. with a small production company — and loved it.

    More work in commercials was followed by a freelance gig as a production coordinator at MTV Networks that turned into a full-time post as production manager in 1991, when Norman oversaw in-house promotional spots for shows like Beavis and Butt-head. When that became a pop-culture phenomenon, she moved on to manage creative campaigns for such shows as The Osbournes and The 10 Spot and soon was appointed senior vp marketing, advertising and on-air promotion. In 2002, parent company Viacom hired her as executive vp and GM of MTV sister network VH1, where she helped launch series including Bands Reunited and Best Week Ever. VH1’s key demographic rose from 250,000 to nearly 340,000, and Norman was tapped as VH1’s president in January 2004.

    A year later, she became president of MTV, supervising the network’s creative and business endeavors — a job she held until she left the company in 2008.

    If this all seems like smooth sailing, that’s hardly the case. Norman admits she has had to master the art of corporate politics.

    “When my second daughter was born, I was at MTV running the promo department,” she recalls. “I had hired someone to sit in for me while I was gone. And then I kept getting calls from my assistant saying, ‘This person you hired is out to get your job.’ So I came in one day a week during maternity leave.”

    Now she’s going to be working at a much more ferocious pace as OWN ramps up to launch Jan. 1. Among the programming, Norman is supervising Oprah Presents Master Class, in which Winfrey will speak with icons including Jay-Z, Diane Sawyer and Condoleezza Rice; a new Rosie O’Donnell Show; and programs featuring King, Sarah Ferguson and Shania Twain.

    “It’s just weeks before the start of this bold new undertaking,” Norman says. “It is incredibly exciting, energizing. I am anxious, proud and exhausted, and we all feel this every single day.” She pauses, tired, but prepared to soldier on.

    “It is so important that everyone deliver,” she says. “That’s what it is about. Put your head down and get it done.”

  • Leah Weil

    Senior Exec VP/General Counsel, Sony Pictures

    Managing a legal staff 250 strong, Weil leaves the nitty-gritty production problems to them. However, two movies this year consumed her attention. The Social Network presented legal obstacles because it was based on real people. “I spent a lot of personal time on that film,” she says. “But since there are so many interesting issues, I don’t think of the legal analysis as shoot-me-now work.” The other was The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which required an extensive rights negotiation. “I didn’t want to read the script before I finished the book,” she says. “Not to be too hokey, but I was hooked.”


  • Shonda Rhimes

    Creator, 'Grey's Anatomy'/'Private Practice'

    The Chicago native and USC film school grad never thought she’d end up writing for film or television. “I fully, truly believed that I was going to be a novelist,” she says. “My goal was to be Toni Morrison.” That changed after Rhimes launched her TV career by penning HBO’s Introducing Dorothy Dandridge in 1999 and went on to write screenplays for The Princess Diaries and its sequel. Since then, she has made a career reinventing the medical drama. She has two successful ABC dramas — Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice — on the air, and the midseason Doctors Without Borders-inspired drama Off the Map is set to premiere in January. Rhimes still chuckles at the fact she’s known for her medical dramas. “I was a candy striper in high school,” she says. “While I considered being a doctor briefly, I realized early on I had absolutely no affinity for science whatsoever.”

  • Nancy Kirkpatrick

    President of worldwide marketing, Summit Entertainment

    Her devotion to work may mean it’s something of a surprise that movies never were Kirkpatrick’s dream job: A gymnastics coach  in her youth, she initially moved from Virginia to Los Angeles in hope of landing a job in sports marketing, only to be scooped up by Warner Bros. One of the first hires Rob Friedman made when he teamed with Patrick Wachsberger in 2007 to launch Summit was Kirkpatrick, a staffer from his Paramount days. It’s hardly surprising as Kirkpatrick is tough, shrewd and — after a couple of initial mistakes at Summit — brilliant. Case in point: Summit’s vampire phenomenon The Twilight Saga, whose latest installment, Eclipse, has earned more than $690 million worldwide. Summit also boasts this year’s best picture Oscar winner, The Hurt Locker. Her top moment, though? Meeting George Harrison. “It’s hard to recover from your first Beatle,” she says.

  • Jeanne Newman

    Partner, Jacobson, Hansen, Hoberman, Teller

    Newman estimates that she negotiates 10-15 nonscripted television deals a day, including big ones like new seasons of Big Brother and The Marriage Ref on behalf of client Endemol and a new season of Top Chef on behalf of Magical Elves. Other deals appear smaller at first: Little did she know that when she introduced Ryan Seacrest to Jamie Oliver that the partnership would translate into an Emmy win (for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution). “It was fun sitting with them at the Emmys,” she says. When she isn’t working, Newman and her husband, 20th Century Fox chairman Gary Newman, run the Jorian Hill winery in Santa Barbara County.

  • Anne Globe

    Head of worldwide marketing, Dreamworks Animation

    Globe’s masterful marketing skills helped How to Train Your Dragon gross nearly $500 million worldwide and the November entry Megamind top the domestic box office during its first two weeks of release. Then there was the final chapter in the Shrek franchise, Shrek Forever After, which became the company’s highest-grossing international release with $735 million. Although DWA’s myriad projects require Globe — who has worked on all four Shreks during her 14 years at the company — to be a juggler at work, she’s more of a dancer at home. “I have a little dance barre in my house,” says the executive, who also has taken 15 years of tap classes.

  • Deborah Barak

    Executive VP business affairs, CBS Network Television Entertainment Group

    Barak started as an associate at O’Melveny & Myers in the litigation department before she yearned to find a “different life, balancing career and family.” She joined CBS in 1985 in the broadcast department and during the next 25 years has moved her way up the chain of command, with stints supervising in-house productions, serving as associate general counsel and head of the business affairs department. Today, Barak supervises the negotiation of talent and producer deals and license fees; recent accomplishments include bringing back all three CSI series as well as negotiating extensions for David Letterman and Craig Ferguson. Barak has worked on innovative contracts including these used on Survivor, which make contestants pay millions of dollars if they blab secrets. “It’s intellectually challenging to rethink how deals are made,” she says.

  • Blair Kohan

    Partner/motion picture agent, UTA

    Kohan presides over as much fun at home as she does at work. The comedy-queen agent is married to David Kohan, co-creator of Will & Grace and $#*! My Dad Says, and shares laughs with their 2-year-old daughter, Nora — that’s when she’s not doing serious business for clients who include such masters of comedy as writer-director Judd Apatow, his frequent collaborators Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen, the writing team of Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley (Horrible Bosses, Burt Wonderstone) and filmmakers such as Mark Pellington (I Melt With You). Kohan attended boarding school in New Jersey, studied writing at Sarah Lawrence College before relocating to L.A. to begin a stint as an agent trainee at Bauer Benedek (one of the firms that merged to form UTA). She only returned to agenting when she joined UTA for good in 1997 after working in feature development at Brillstein Grey, as vp production for Oliver Stone and as a production executive at Fox-based Horizon Entertainment. “It’s the longest relationship in my life,” she jokes.

  • Jo Ann Ross

    President of network sales, CBS

    Ross is the longest-serving head of a network sales division — she also was the first female to have held that job when she took it in 2002 — and leads one of the most stable staffs in the business. February’s Super Bowl “set the tone for the year,” she says, when her team sold out its inventory before going to air. Despite the economic challenges of the past few years, the New York-based executive has led CBS to another record-breaking upfront, her fifth in a row. She also is overseeing an NCAA joint advertising venture with Turner and is active in two cancer charities: City of Hope and Memorial Sloan-Kettering.

  • Stephenie Meyer

    Author of the 'Twilight' books

    Not since Judy Blume has an author so adeptly captured — and profited from — teen angst as Meyer. Her four-book Twilight series has sold more than 100 million copies and has been printed in 37 languages. In 2008, her net worth was $125 million, and Forbes estimates her annual income at $40 million. It’s hard to believe the Cave Creek, Ariz., housewife never had written so much as a short story before publishing her first book. According to Amazon, she ranks as the second-best-selling author of the decade, beaten only by Harry Potter’s J.K. Rowling. “Twihards” can enjoy Bella and Edward’s tormented love affair in a movie franchise that has grossed more than $1.7 billion worldwide, with two films yet to come. Meyer surely won’t suffer much financially going forward; her post-Twilight trilogy, starting with No. 1 New York Times best-seller The Host, is in preproduction at Nick Wechsler Prods. and is rumored to begin shooting early next year.

  • Sharon Jackson

    Partner, WME

    Sharon Jackson has lists. Hundreds of them. On her BlackBerry. On legal pads. On Post-Its. In her office. On her fridge. For just about everything, she’s made a list.

    But the list that counts most for the obsessive agent is her clients, and she’s amassed a who’s-who of comedy stars, from big earners (Jack Black) to the quirky (Jason Schwartzman) to the unexpected (John C. Reilly) to ones who straddle film and TV, like How I Met Your Mother’s Jason Segel, for whom Jackson recently landed his longtime dream project: writing Disney’s relaunch of The Muppets. [pullquote]

    So it’s strange that, in person, Jackson herself is actually quite serious — or at least, her humor is rather quirky. The showbiz veteran, who spent 15 years at UTA before jumping to WME, is direct, if not intense, and has a nonstop work ethic that continues despite having a 6-month-old daughter with husband Woody Jackson, a composer and touring musician who recently scored the hit video game Red Dead Redemption.

    It might surprise people who know how businesslike she is that even comedy makes her cry, if it’s really good. “I’ve cried at funny moments,” she admits, her eyes sparkling behind her purple, plastic-framed glasses. “That’s my litmus test in knowing someone’s special. The through line for anyone I work with is that they literally have to move me.”

    Emotion isn’t the word usually associated with Jackson, who’s not known for her cuddly personality. But sitting in her office at WME, where she has worked since 2008, she’s surprisingly mellow. Music is the prevalent theme, not comedy. She’s got a framed picture of Tom Waits on her wall; can rattle off rock trivia at a moment’s notice; and even met her husband at Club Largo, where she first saw Black in Tenacious D, after which she landed the band an HBO series.

    “It definitely caught people’s attention,” she says. “It was the moment that crystallized Black in pop culture and got him High Fidelity.”

    Fidelity is what Jackson — the former Sharon Sheinwold — brings to her clients. That and knowledge about the industry, which she sees as increasingly crucial, across all platforms. “To represent people well,” she says, “you have to offer them more than they could get across the street. You have to offer them perspective in all areas of the business.”

     But she’s also brought an aggressiveness that has rubbed some people the wrong way, not least her former colleagues at UTA. “If I love some of the talent,” she admits, “I just will not be stopped.”

    Although she doesn’t directly address her exit from UTA — an agency that, in the days when Jackson started there, was known for a degree of in-fighting that has since vanished — she hints it had a bit to do with camaraderie: When asked about the transition to WME, she says it was “great. I love having so many inspiring colleagues.”

    Jackson got her own inspiration while growing up in Islip, Long Island, the child of a high school principal and a lawyer who were supportive of her decision to pursue entertainment. She went to film school at NYU before enrolling at the AFI, after which a professor recommended her for a job in the UTA mailroom.

    She loved it. “I was in the mailroom with [HBO’s] Sue Naegle, [agents] Marty Bowen and David Kramer,” she recalls of her then-colleagues, all now prominent in the industry. Then she quips: “Many other things probably have scarred me for life but not that.”

    Nor have her clients. Many have been with her for years, though in the early days she had more time for indulgences with them, like playing Scrabble with Black. “Back then, we were pretty evenly matched,” she says. “Now he is playing at tournament level. I can’t compete with that!”

    With other clients including Glee’s Lea Michele and writer Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), Jackson is going to need even more of those lists. In fact, she admits to having lists of lists, which she saves like heirlooms. And she keeps making them, even during WME meetings.

    “There’s an incredible amount of doodles on those lists too,” she admits. “And then there’s these drawings of people around the table. It gets pretty elaborate."

  • Jana Winograde

    Exec VP business affairs and administration, ABC Entertainment

    Winograde oversees the deal-making that underpins the development of most programming on the network as well as the negotiations that allow content through syndication and online channels. “I have the ability to be focused, firm and tough while always trying to be fair,” she says. Winograde also prides herself in pushing boundaries, touting a deal for Rookie Blue as an example of one show she negotiated that gave ABC more original content for the summer and licensing pacts with Hulu that have given fans more digital access to ABC shows. When she’s not at work, she’s an interior design buff, going so far as to redecorate friends’ homes.

  • Lisa Gregorian

    Chief marketing officer, Warner Bros. Television Group

    Gregorian has defied job-market odds by logging in more than 24 years at Warners. “These guys are my mentors, my colleagues and my friends,” says Gregorian, who in May was promoted to chief marketing officer after holding the position of senior vp of Warner Bros. Television Creative Services since 2003. Gregorian, who started her career as a sales assistant at Lorimar Pictures in 1986, has achieved great success in her field because of her ability to foster a dialogue with fans, most visible in Warner Bros.’ enormous presence at Comic-Con; in July, her team masterminded a sing-along of the Big Bang Theory theme song, accompanied by Barenaked Ladies. “I love Comic‑Con. I go crazy,” says the married mother of a 16-year-old son, who considers herself a hard-core fan of the San Diego-based convention. “It’s crazy and it’s crowded, but it’s 140,000 people who all are there to celebrate a lot of good product and programming and characters that we’ve created. That’s a compliment.”

  • Toni Howard

    Motion picture agent, ICM

    For years, Howard has maintained a singular client list, including such vets as Michael Caine, Holly Hunter and Samuel L. Jackson (who recently signed a deal with Marvel for an option to star in nine films as Nick Fury), along with new sensations such as Eric Stonestreet (ABC’s Modern Family). What’s her secret? “I’m passionate, and people know I’m not full of shit,” says Howard, who began her career in the mid-’70s as a casting director (Stir Crazy, Tootsie). The statistics speak for themselves: During a quarter-century as an agent, Howard has helped her clients land 15 Academy Award nominations, 71 Emmy nominations and 59 Golden Globe nominations. This year, two of her clients, Laura Linney and Christopher Walken, were nominated for Tony Awards. In February, she stepped down from her post as ICM’s head of motion picture talent, but she has no plans to retire anytime soon. “I like action,” says Howard, who recently signed a new three-year deal. “You sign someone, it’s exciting.”

  • Nina Shaw

    Partner, Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka

    Representing such top clients as Spike Lee, Jamie Foxx and Laurence Fishburne, Shaw is an undisputed power broker — but not without challenges. Risk-averse studio executives don’t take many chances these days, which might bias them toward reliably mainstream faces instead of the up-and-coming talent on Shaw’s roster. Fortunately, she has discovered digital platforms like YouTube as a way of democratizing entertainment and showing industry execs that her clients are developing projects with massive potential. For instance, representing Kasi Lemmons this past year, Shaw was able to tap into online enthusiasm to build a case to Fox Searchlight that a film adaptation of Langston Hughes’ 1961 gospel musical Black Nativity had the possibility of becoming not just a one-year hit at the box office but also something that showed up on television every Christmas. “Execs might not believe it at first, but then you can say, ‘Listen, let’s open your computer, go online and see how many hits these clips have generated,’” she says.

  • Sonya Rosenfeld

    Television Agent, CAA

    Rosenfeld wasn’t a lock for agency life. A college internship at UCLA had her working in A&R at Motown Records during the 1980s. “Rick James came by one day, wearing a full-length leopard coat,” recalls the CAA veteran, who during the past 25 years has built a roster of clients that includes Graham Yost and Salma Hayek’s Ventanarosa, landing Matthew Perry Mr. Sunshine at ABC and bringing the Veena Cabreros Sud series The Killing to AMC. But 2010 has had its lows, too: Rosenfeld, married to CAA agent Michael Rosenfeld, lost her father, Dr. Mel Goumas, and father-in-law, CAA founding partner Michael Rosenfeld. For comfort, she’s returned to her musical roots, taking piano lessons with her son and playing in recitals. “There are all these kids, from 5 to 16 — and then it’s like, ‘Here’s Sonya Rosenfeld,’ ” she says with a laugh.

  • Jennifer Nicholson Salke

    Exec VP development, 20th Century Fox

    Fox’s Glee and ABC’s Modern Family, which Nicholson Salke helped develop, became the buzziest shows on network television last season and dominated the comedy categories at the Emmys, which she calls “the highlight of my career.” Another well-received comedy, Fox’s Raising Hope, became the fall’s first new series to get a back-nine pickup. Although Lone Star fizzled, her enthusiasm for taking chances on high-concept dramas hasn’t: Look no further than Fox’s upcoming sci-fi epic Terra Nova, from executive producer Steven Spielberg, which recently kicked off production in Australia. “It’s something we believe in, and we’d rather go down in flames than stay in a middling creative area,” she says.

  • Leslee Dart

    Founder and CEO, 42West

    Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Nicole Kidman, Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Mike Nichols and Scott Rudin — no press agent shepherds the public image of more Oscar-winning talent than Dart. The company she started six years ago after being pushed out of PMK has helped her maintain a great reputation as well as her roster of awards-season regulars (among her 12 campaigns this year are The Social Network and Rabbit Hole). The New York-based mother of two, who oversees 100 employees on both coasts, says she’s surprised how much fun having her own business can be. “You get to set the tone for how you want a company to run,” she says about her partnership with Amanda Lundberg, Cynthia Swartz and Allan Mayer. Of the firm’s biggest signing this year? “When an icon like a Lady Gaga comes on board, they must think we know what we’re doing,” Dart says.

  • Nancy Josephson

    Partner, WME

    Josephson earned early acclaim as the first female president of an agency, ICM, the company her father founded in 1955. But she’s just as proud of an earlier role: college DJ. The woman who continues to nurture TV talent for WME was such an adept mixmaster that she was offered a professional gig after graduating from Brown. “It was that or law school. I could have been in rock ’n’ roll,” she says. Her clients are grateful she chose the agency path: This year, Josephson sold an idea for Tyra Banks to write her first novel as well as develop her own fashion and beauty site, shepherded a deal with Oprah Winfrey’s OWN to bring Rosie O’Donnell back to TV, saw longtime clients David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik get Episodes to air on Showtime and helped Craig Ferguson sell a scripted show to CBS. “It’s about bringing people’s passions to life,” she says.

  • Linda Lichter

    Partner, Lichter Grossman Nichols Adler & Feldman

    If there’s one thing Lichter has learned trolling the European film festival circuit for interesting projects, it’s the power of word-of-mouth. “The best recommendations come from other clients,” she says. Lichter’s trips to Europe have paid off recently through her representation of Swedish companies Yellowbird and Tre Vanner Produktion, for which she negotiated the sale of rights to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo to Sony and sold Easy Money (a remake of the Swedish film Snabba Cash) to Zac Efron’s company, respectively. When not traveling, she’s at home in Los Angeles with her hobby: beekeeping. Lichter bought the bees in hope of supporting the 14 types of fruit trees that grow in her yard and curing a nasty hay-fever allergy by drinking the honey. Alas, the bees died. “I’ll try it again,” she promises. 

  • Jennifer Rudolph Walsh

    Executive VP/Co-head of the global literary department, WME

    Needing only four hours of sleep a night gives Walsh plenty of time for reading, which explains why she is something of a publishing phenomenon. The agency has published 203 books in 2010, of which 130 have been New York Times best-sellers, including new fiction by Seth Grahame-Smith and books from chefs Bobby Flay and Guy Fieri as well as actress Portia de Rossi, whose memoir, Unbearable Lightness, recently debuted at No. 3. And that doesn’t include selling the proposal for I Am Number Four at the same time it was set up on the feature side, with Michael Bay producing the 2011 release. A member of the WME board, she has worked at the agency since she sold her own company, the Writers Shop, to William Morris in 2000. But rubbing elbows with some of the agency’s stars isn’t her thing. “I garden. I play very bad tennis. I try to cook, and my family humors me,” she says. “It’s the opposite of glamorous.”

  • Lisa Berger

    Executive VP entertainment programming, E! Entertainment

    Berger might be the only executive in town who owes her career to a board game. As a communications major at Arizona State, her wordplay proficiency earned the Los Angeles native a spot as a contestant on the game show Scrabble. She didn’t win, but the connection led Reg Grundy Prods. to hire her after graduation as a contestant coordinator on Sale of the Century. A stint as a wrangler for MTV’s Remote Control followed, and by the time she left the music network 12 years later, she’d risen to senior vp original programming. At E! she has developed such network-defining shows as The Girls Next Door, plus spinoffs Kendra and Holly’s World; Chelsey Lately; new entry Bridalplasty; and, of course, Keeping Up With the Kardashians. But her love for word games hasn’t waned. “I do a lot of crossword puzzles on the weekend,” says the married mother of two daughters. “It’s one of my ways of unwinding.”

  • Donna Gigliotti

    President of production, The Weinstein Co.

    Gigliotti says it was the “arrogance of youth” that landed her an interview with Martin Scorsese for an assistant job on Raging Bull. It was even more arrogant when she told him she wanted a Cartier watch. Well, she got both: After wrapping, the maestro presented her with the timepiece she still wears. As an independent producer, the Sarah Lawrence graduate went on to win an Oscar for Shakespeare in Love and was nominated for The Reader. She recently returned to work with her old bosses, Bob and Harvey Weinstein — with whom she made Shakespeare — in a hybrid executive/producer position guaranteeing her at least two films a year that she’ll actively produce, including the Sarah Jessica Parker starrer I Don’t Know How She Does It and David O. Russell’s The Silver Linings Playbook. Gigliotti is thrilled to have the opportunity. “To be an independent producer right now, I don’t know how you put food on the table,” she says.

  • Karen Kehela-Sherwood

    Co-chairman, Imagine Films

    The currently Los Angeles-based Kehela-Sherwood credits bosses Brian Grazer and Ron Howard for allowing her to maintain her job while living in New York for several years. “It’s access to an entirely different way of thinking,” she says. But no one understands her bosses’ thinking better than the charming and low-profile Kehela-Sherwood, whose partnership with them dates to an internship while studying communications at UCLA. The Imagine veteran says it’s still a unique thrill to see a long-in-development film, like Brett Ratner’s Tower Heist, go into production. Although this year’s Robin Hood didn’t take audiences by storm, Kehela-Sherwood — married to Ben Sherwood, who was tapped as president of ABC News on Dec. 3 — is keeping a close eye on several other Imagine projects: The Dark Tower trilogy, a Howard-directed film series as well as an NBC Universal TV series; comedy The Dilemma, also directed by Howard; and Gus Van Sant’s winter release, the drama Restless.

  • Vanessa Murchison

    President, Fox Animation

    Murchison was one of those “kids with a Super 8 camera” growing up, and her passion for storytelling hasn’t waned. After attending UC Berkeley and graduating from UCLA’s producing program, she landed an internship at Fox, where she has gone on to oversee such hits as Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and the franchise’s upcoming next installment, Ice Age: Continental Drift; Carlos Saldanha’s Brazil-set 3D feature Rio; and the supersecret Leaf Men, from director Chris Wedge. The exec, who once played in a steel-drum band, says having a physicist father put in her DNA the vast computerized world that’s now crucial to animation. “I’m in awe of people who are steeped in technology,” she says.

  • Orly Adelson

    President, Dick Clark Prods.

    Before she moved to the U.S. more than 25 years ago, Adelson was a lieutenant in the Israeli army, an experience that proved handy in Hollywood. “In the army, exactly like in any company, people have to work together to achieve something,” she says. “You can’t work alone.” That certainly has been the case since the former producer joined DCP in 2008, overseeing the awards-show and specials powerhouse that features the Golden Globes, the American Music Awards and Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve With Ryan Seacrest among the company’s titles. She also has hit the mark with So You Think You Can Dance, a sweet spot on Fox’s summer schedule. This year, Adelson, a yoga and pilates enthusiast, expanded DCP’s presence in the digital sphere, creating a “360º interactive social experience” online for each of its shows.

  • Nicole Clemens

    Head of motion picture literary department, ICM

    “I watch everything,” Clemens says. “The Vampire Diaries, Boardwalk Empire, Sons of Anarchy … I’m obsessed.” Her obsession benefits clients who include Emmy-nominated TV director Jason Winer (Modern Family), helming the feature remake of Arthur; director Harald Zwart (The Karate Kid); and Oscar-winning screenwriter Ronald Harwood (The Pianist), who is writing Steven Spielberg’s Martin Luther King Jr. biopic. Clemens, married to TV writer Vaun Wilmott, is particularly proud of how she has transitioned clients from the small screen to big. “It used to be very uncool to be in TV,” she says. “The stigma is gone.”

  • Debbee Klein

    Co-head literary department, Paradigm

    While giving birth to her second son, Klein “had my assistant there. I did the C-section, and then when I came out of the anesthesia, we finished up what I had to do.” It’s that fierce focus that helped Klein make the leap from being a 19-year-old receptionist at Norman Lear’s company to a 21-year-old literary agent at the Irv Schecter Co., where she went on to run the TV department for nearly two decades before joining Paradigm in 1997. Today, she’s on Paradigm’s three-person management committee and packages high-profile series like this season’s The Event for NBC. She also reps a who’s who of showrunners including The Good Wife co-creators Robert and Michelle King and Shane Brennan of NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles — the shows that make up CBS’ entire top-rated Tuesday lineup. Not surprisingly, free time is a foreign concept for the Los Angeles native. “I’m not really good at it,” she says.

  • Sheryl Sandberg

    COO, Facebook

    With more than 500 million users worldwide, Facebook has become a no-brainer marketing tool for Hollywood. “You get your customers to sell your product for you,” says Sandberg, the social networking site’s COO for the past three years. She reports a “deep commitment to the entertainment business right now” at Facebook for marketing films, TV shows — heck, even elections. “Our town hall meeting on Election Night was a partnership with ABC. It was very cool,” says the Silicon Valley-based Harvard MBA and former senior exec at Google who now spends a great deal of her time outside Facebook’s headquarters in Palo Alto, Calilf., meeting with key advertisers in Hollywood. “There’s a real ability to have a one-to-one relationship with the consumer,” Sandberg says. “All marketers, especially those in entertainment, want that.”

  • Leslie Siebert

    Managing partner, Gersh

    Siebert is a master of spotting clients and then helping them reinvent careers after tough patches — as she’s done with such clients as Winona Ryder (Black Swan, Frankenweenie), former Friends star David Schwimmer (he directed the upcoming feature Trust) and one-time Roseanne moppet Sara Gilbert (exec producing and co-hosting the new CBS talker The Talk). “Well-established actors are leaving the big agencies because they’re tired of sitting there,” says Siebert, who joined the agency straight out of UCLA in 1984 and now runs it with Bob and David Gersh. “They want being taken care of made a priority.” When not taking care of her clients — who also include Catherine Keener and Sam Rockwell — the self-proclaimed control freak helps out at home with husband Steven Siebert, head of management/production company Lighthouse Entertainment, and their two sons, ages 12 and 14. She also is one of the inaugural mentors in The Hollywood Reporter’s Women in Entertainment Mentor Program.

  • Kelly Bush

    Founder, ID PR

    Bush is one of the industry’s most effective publicists for putting out fires since Pat Kingsley effectively retired. The karate black belt is unafraid to threaten journalists when she needs to, which might not make her popular with the media but has made her loved by clients. It was Bush who got Entertainment Tonight to pull a clip that would have shown the late Heath Ledger at a party with drugs, and it was she who steered Cynthia Nixon as she went public with her sexuality. Her company speaks for clients as diverse as Sean Penn, Alicia Keys and Christopher Nolan. She also is a crucial player in awards season and, with her staff of 70, has helped clients garner 22 Oscar nominations. With offices in New York, London and Los Angeles, she also advises Sony Classics and Warners on corporate matters that can affect everything from a movie’s opening to a studio executive’s reputation.

  • Lori McCreary

    Producer, Co-founder and CEO, Revelations Entertainment

    McCreary’s entertainment roots go back to being onstage at 8, and she grew up believing she would own her own theater. That all changed in 1992, when she arrived in Zimbabwe on the set of Bopha! and met her future producing partner, Morgan Freeman. She was a first-time producer; he was a first-time director. “It was trial by fire,” she says, but they’ve honed their experience on dozens of projects since they teamed in 1996, including last year with Invictus. In addition to a first-look film deal with Warners, Revelations has moved into TV production this year: Its Through the Wormhole was the highest-rated series premiere in Science Channel history, and Revelations recently closed a first-look deal with Discovery. McCreary also sits on the board of the PGA and spearheaded tests of the major digital cameras. “We’re trying to give producers a tool to be able to accurately budget a film,” she says.

  • Jean Prewitt

    President and CEO, of the Independent Film and Television Association

    A Harvard and Georgetown Law graduate, Prewitt has been heading the independent sector’s trade organization for close to a decade. True, it’s an awfully long way from her beginnings as a Wall Street lawyer, but with her background, it makes sense: Prewitt is heading the indie equivalent of the MPAA, dealing with legal and tax matters as well as overseeing the annual American Film Market, one of the world’s most important movie-sales gatherings. Her responsibilities may seem dull compared to shooting a movie, but actions like her successful effort this year to get a financial export initiative grant from Congress to open a U.S. pavilion at Hong Kong Filmart are pivotal for independent filmmakers. “It’s a breakthrough in getting the indie perspective out there,” she says.

  • The Kardashian Sisters

    Reality show stars, entrepreneurs

    It takes talent and a lot of skill to turn sex-tape fame into an empire, but that’s what Kim (right) and her sisters have done. Their Ryan Seacrest-produced E! show Keeping Up With the Kardashians is the most-watched in network history, beating its own spinoff, Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami; the latter’s August finale trounced Mad Men, which aired against it. Kim started producing this year with E!’s The Spin Crowd, a show about an L.A. publicity firm, adding to her roughly $5.7 million in annual earnings. The sisters’ DASH clothing boutiques in L.A. and Miami have inspired a third show, Kourtney and Kim Take New York; their Kardashian Konfidential self-help/fashion book hit stores in November; and the Kardashian Khaos retail boutique recently opened in Las Vegas’ Mirage Hotel & Casino. “Our business model is based off of our fans and the things we truly love,” Khloe says. “Our dad instilled a strong work ethic in us and taught us if we wanted something, we had to work hard to get it.” Adds Kim, “We want to take on projects we never thought we’d be doing, and work on making them a reality.”

comments powered by Disqus