Women in Entertainment Power 100: The Dealmakers

8:00 AM 12/9/2015

by THR Staff

The advocates and strategists who work behind the scenes on Hollywood’s biggest deals, negotiations and litigations

Courtesy of Subject
  • Melanie Cook

    Partner, Ziffren Brittenham

    Melanie Cook
    Melanie Cook
    Courtesy of Subject

    Cook brokers Scott Rudin's deals for projects including a Little House on the Prairie film; an adaptation of the Pulitzer-winning novel All the Light We Cannot See; and Annihilation, a Natalie Portman thriller. The UCLA Law alum has negotiated several clients into helming Netflix series (Stephen Daldry for The Crown, Barry Sonnenfeld for A Series of Unfortunate Events). She negotiated Sam Mendes' deal for Spectre and is in the middle of contracts including Tim Burton's deal to direct Disney's Dumbo.

    HOW I SAVE TIME "I don't sleep much, I have a six-minute commute, and I am a big multitasker."

    I'M STILL STARSTRUCK BY "Really good athletes, like Laird Hamilton."

    MY QUIRKIEST HABIT “Sometimes I speak Spanish in my sleep."

  • Patty Glaser

    Partner and chair of litigation, Glaser Weil Fink Howard Avchen & Shapiro

    Kevin Winter/Getty Images

    She calls herself a "hick from West Virginia," but Glaser has helped city slicker clients like Conan O'Brien and Keith Olbermann win big cases and has handled legal matters for three studios (Disney, Sony and Paramount), two agencies (WME, UTA) and multiple entrepreneurs (Elon Musk, Thomas Tull).

    Growing up as a tomboy who idolized New York Yankees slugger Mickey Mantle, Glaser says, she never ventured west of the Mississippi until her 20s. After graduating from Rutgers Law School, she clerked for David W. Williams, a pioneering African-American federal judge. Glaser was captivated by the attorneys who appeared in court and although she had no specific plans to become an entertainment litigator, she would later join the firm of Greg Bautzer, one of the original power lawyers in the industry representing the likes of Ingrid Bergman, Joan Crawford, Kirk Kerkorian and Howard Hughes.

    Glaser was a third-generation attorney at the firm, she says, which was important because she came after some of the gender equality battles. While still witnessing the vestiges of the old boy's network, Glaser also credits her mentors with opening doors for her. For one thing, she began handling tough legal matters for Kerkorian, who would painfully quiz her on the finer points of MGM business on air flights.

    "Most lawyers are smarter than I am," says Glaser. "But they are afraid to go to trial. That's my biggest advantage."

    Once she gets to trial, as she is soon set to do against Cox Media Group over tens of millions of dollars allegedly owed over the CBS series Nash Bridges, she can be as superstitious as her childhood idol. Famously, Mantle refused to speak to Don Larsen when the pitcher was in the middle of the only perfect game in World Series history. Likewise, Glaser tells clients not to even think about asking her how a case is going on game day.

    MY QUIRKIEST HABIT "I always eat the same meals and take the same route to court on trial days."

  • Linda Lichter

    Partner, Lichter Grossman Nichols Adler & Feldman

    Chelsea Lauren/WireImage

    Lichter negotiated Linda Woolverton's deal to write the Maleficent sequel and Sony’s for the new Dragon Tattoo novel The Girl in the Spider’s Web. She represented producers Gail Mutrux and Anne Harrison in The Danish Girl’s 15-year journey to the Oscar awards race. And working with This American Life, she represents podcast Serial, which sold TV rights to Phil Lord and Christopher Miller and recently started production on a second season: "I haven't heard it, but I know what it is, and I know it's going to be cool," says Lichter.

    MOST HOLLYWOOD THING ABOUT MY LIFE "My Tesla."

    THE ACTOR I'D CAST TO PLAY ME IN MY BIOPIC Catherine Keener

    I'M STILL STARSTRUCK BY Bob Dylan and Neil Young

    HOLLYWOOD HAS BECOME … "More dog-eat-dog and less social than it used to be."

  • General Counsels

    Gwen Marcus: Executive vp/general counsel, Showtime; Kimberley Harris: Executive vp/general counsel, NBCUniversal; Leah Weil: Senior executive vp/general counsel, Sony Pictures; Rebecca Prentice: Executive vp/general counsel, Paramount; Rita Tuzon: Executive vp/general counsel, Fox Networks Group

    Courtesy of Subject

    Marcus got in the ring with HBO for the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, while Tuzon coordinated Fox's push for international sports rights and drafted deals to bring content to new streaming services like Sony's Playstation Vue. Harris handled NBCU's acquisition of Universal Studios Japan and investments in BuzzFeed and Vox Media. Prentice papered Paramount's unique plan for nearly simultaneous theatrical and VOD releases of Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension and Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. "It's always fun to experiment. Whenever you get a new type of deal, where you're trying to accomplish something different, it provides a jolt to the organization," says Prentice. Weil spent the year handling the Sony hack, contending with lawsuits from former employees (they settled for $5.5 million in October).

    MY FIRST JOB IN HOLLYWOOD Tuzon: "Johnny Carson's production company's litigator."

    GO-TO LUNCH SPOT Prentice: "Too often, my stand-up desk."

    WHAT PEOPLE DON'T KNOW ABOUT ME 
    Harris: "I can say all 50 states in alphabetical order in under 30 seconds!"
    Marcus: "I grew up with 40 snakes and other reptiles as pets. I named my boa Cuddles and my crocodile Oscar Meyer."
    Tuzon: "The early version of me served pizza, made Togo's sandwiches, slung Wendy's hamburgers … and then swore off fast food for life."
    Weil: "I speak Slovak (learned from my parents and from summers in Czechoslovakia)."

    THE HOLLYWOOD CAREER I COVET Prentice: "Identifying books to turn into movies. It would give me time to read everything I'd like to read."

    FAVORITE TV SHOW (THAT I'M NOT INVOLVED WITH) Weil: Grey's Anatomy

    THE ACTOR I'D CAST TO PLAY ME IN MY BIOPIC Harris: Viola Davis

    SUPERPOWER I WISH I HAD Marcus: "Anything that could help me figure out my smart TV."

    AS A WOMAN IN THIS BUSINESS, I'M STILL SURPRISED WHEN … Prentice: "I see group pictures of government leaders and there is only one woman, or maybe two in the frame. It's jarring given how many high-level women I interact with all the time."

  • Distribution Chiefs

    Belinda Menendez: President, NBCU International Distribution & Networks; Frances Manfredi: President, NBCUniversal Television & New Media Distribution, U.S. & Canada; Marion Edwards: President of international television, 20th Century Fox Television Distribution; Janice Marinelli: President, Disney/ABC Home Entertainment and Television Distribution

    Courtesy of Subject

    Edwards oversaw the sale of Fox's mega-hit Empire in nearly every major international territory and is working on bringing The X-Files and Prison Break revivals to the global market. Manfredi secured more than $1 billion in revenue for NBCU this year, and struck SVOD deals that will soon place USA Network's breakout hacker drama Mr. Robot on Amazon Prime and upcoming alien invasion series Colony on Netflix. Menendez — who manages 20 offices worldwide and oversees a portfolio of 100,000 TV episodes and 4,000 feature films — brokered a deal with Amazon in the U.K., Germany, Austria and Japan, in addition to pacts with Alibaba and iQiyi in China and MSM in India. Marinelli was behind Disney's release of six Star Wars films on Digital HD, and one of the priciest SVOD agreements to date, which put ABC's How to Get Away With Murder on Netflix.

    THE MOST HOLLYWOOD THING ABOUT MY LIFE
    Edwards: "My French Bulldog, Eddie."
    Marinelli: "My days are packed with meetings, my nights with emails."
    Manfredi: "Our date nights are dictated by film premieres."
    Menendez: "I experience the bulk of my Hollywood life via late-night conference calls."

    WHAT PEOPLE PROBABLY DON'T KNOW ABOUT ME
    Edwards: "My exact age. I am not sure I even know it."
    Manfredi: "I lived in Italy and speak Italian."
    Menendez: "I have a master's in theology from St. Andrews University, the oldest university in Scotland."

    INDUSTRY PET PEEVE
    Edwards: "That there is still a divide between film people and TV people."
    Marinelli: "Someone looking at their phone in the middle of a conversation."

  • Jeanne Newman

    Partner, Hansen Jacobson Teller Hoberman Newman Warren Richman Rush & Kaller

    Courtesy of Subject

    Netflix recently premiered two Marvel series developed and run by Newman's clients (Daredevil's Drew Goddard and Steven DeKnight and Jessica Jones' Melissa Rosenberg), and she repped Lee Daniels in his overall deal with Fox. Other creators she reps include Tim Kring (Heroes), Hart Hanson (Bones) and several Buffy the Vampire Slayer vets (UnREAL's Marti Noxon and Once Upon a Time's Jane Espenson, for two), and she handles a lot of reality TV.

    HOW I SAVE TIME "I make dinner reservations under my husband's [Fox TV co-chair Gary Newman] name. If you work at a studio you can get in anywhere. We could be driving and I could call someplace and say 'I'm calling for Gary Newman, could we come in in 5 minutes,' and they would say 'Of course!'"

    WHAT I WISH I KNEW WHEN I FIRST STARTED IN HOLLYWOOD "The karma gods do their job. Sometimes it just takes them a very long time."

    SUPERPOWER I WISH I HAD "Mind control."

    AS A WOMAN IN THIS BUSINESS, I'M STILL SURPRISED WHEN … "People ask me if I work full time."

  • Nina Shaw

    Partner, Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka Finkelstein & Lezcano

    Courtesy of Subject

    Longtime client F. Gary Gray converted his Straight Outta Compton success into a deal to direct Furious 8. Shaw also reps Ava DuVernay and Lupita Nyong'o (Shaw accompanied the star on her first return to Kenya since her Oscar) and clients beyond film and TV including Misty Copeland (who Shaw says has no Hollywood ambitions for now: "She's looking forward to bringing in an audience who never went to the ballet before").

    I’M STILL STARSTRUCK BY “James Earl Jones. To hear that voice say 'Good morning, Nina,' makes my day."

    WHAT PEOPLE DON'T KNOW ABOUT ME "I was a hand model in college and law school."

    FAVORITE TV SHOW (THAT I'M NOT INVOLVED WITH) Orange Is the New Black

  • Heads of Business Operations

    Jana Winograde: Executive vp and head of business operations, ABC Entertainment Group; Beth Roberts: Executive vp business operations, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment; Deborah Barak: President of business operations, CBS Entertainment, CBS TV Studios, CBS News

    Courtesy of ABC; Lisa Berg/NBC; CBS

    Barak negotiated talent and production pacts for Stephen Colbert and James Corden's late-night shows and is the reason the studio fully owns both for the first time. Roberts, who oversees dealmaking at 10 networks and two studios, closed deals on Bravo and E!'s first scripted series (Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce and The Royals, respectively) and spearheaded negotiations for the company's first ever co-productions (USA's Colony and Queen of the South). Winograde oversees budgets in excess of $1 billion and a staff of 93.

    FAVORITE TV SHOW (THAT I'M NOT INVOLVED WITH)
    Winograde: "Friday Night Lights, which I'm currently binge-watching."
    Roberts: @Midnight

    WHAT PEOPLE DON'T KNOW ABOUT ME Barak: "I like meditation."

    SUPERPOWER I WISH I HAD
    Winograde: "The ability to sleep anytime, anywhere."
    Roberts: "ESP."

    AS A WOMAN IN THIS BUSINESS, I'M STILL SURPRISED WHEN …
    Barak: "Strength is seen differently in women than men."
    Winograde: "Men in a business context call me 'dear,' 'sweetheart' or 'honey.'"

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