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Next Gen 2010: Legal

Matthew Matzkin, Lev Ginsburg, Gregory Slewett, Mark Wetzstein
Bill Phelps

Influential executives from this year's report on industry players

Lev Ginsburg
33, Partner, McKuin Frankel Whitehead

Ginsburg doesn't go for the big ones when fly fishing near Bishop and Kern, Calif., ("I fish for small California golden trout and occasionally some brookies," he says). But when it comes to clients, he has no trouble landing whoppers. Whether it's negotiating Nikki Reed's latest Twilight deal or helping Stellan Skarsgard (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), he's known among business-affairs execs to be unrelenting. The Honolulu-born UCLA grad started as an intern at Fox Comedy, where he scouted performers at clubs. He joined the Akin Gump firm then Hansen Jacobson before settling at his current gig, where he also reps Donald Glover and Jaime Alexander. As for fishing? That's mostly on hold since the Sept. 22 birth of his second child, daughter Shira.
 
Matthew Matzkin
35, VP business affairs, Warner Bros. Television

Matzkin has probably watched more TV the past four years while working at Warners than in the rest of his life combined. This is quite a thrill for a guy who was allowed to watch only one TV show per week (The Cosby Show) by his ophthalmologist father and elementary school teacher mother while growing up in Westlake Village, Calif. "I still remember the day when I saw a preview for ALF and that made me feel like television was a special medium of communication," he jokes. Since joining the studio in 2006, Matzkin has gone from drafting contracts to his current position as an upfront dealmaker, most recently setting up the CW's Hellcats, CBS' Mike & Molly and the Bruckheimer newbies Chase on NBC and ABC's The Whole Truth. "Most days there is a moment where I feel like, ‘Damn, I love what I do,' " says the football-obsessed ("football isn't a hobby, it's a core essence of the spirit," he quips) father of two, who now allows his kids to watch an hour of TV a day.

Gregory Slewett
33, Lawyer, Bloom Hergott Diemer Rosenthal LaViolette Feldman Schenkman & Goodman

Given his background, it's surprising that Miami native Slewett didn't end up on the road. He studied guitar and voice formally for most of his life and even lived a small-time rock 'n' roll dream in bands (most ignominious name: Blue Sky -- "I still get teased about it," he says) while earning his film degree at the University of Texas at Austin. But college summers working at Michael Douglas' production company at Paramount found him drifting toward the business-affairs department. "I saw you could do something that wasn't a writer, actor, director or producer, but still was an integral part of the business," he says. A law degree from Cardozo and legal stints with litigation expert Patty Glaser (of Glaser Weil Fink Jacobs Howard & Shapiro) and Sheppard Mullin Richter Hampton repping studios, producers, financiers and production companies as outside counsel led him to Carlos Goodman's door -- and Slewett "has never looked back." Since then he's brokered deals for up-and-coming actors like Colin Egglesfield (Something Borrowed) and Rhys Coiro (Straw Dogs) and photographer-producer Mario Testino while servicing the firm's long-standing clients like directors Darren Aronofsky, Paul Greengrass and Quentin Tarantino -- the latter a particular thrill, given that Pulp Fiction fired up his initial interest in film. Lately, he has started recruiting Brazilian acting talent clients like Wagner Moura -- Slewett's wife, Chiara, is from Rio -- and other clients from unexpected venues including former Pace restaurant waitress Leah Rachel, who landed a deal at HBO after passing Slewett a script during her shift.
 
Mark Wetzstein
35, Partner, Nelson Davis Wetzstein  

In 2008, as high-powered attorneys Peter Nelson and George Davis left the practice they shared with Patti Felker (taking marquee clients Peter Jackson and David Duchovny with them), they grabbed Wetzstein, then a young associate, and made him a partner in their new venture. Wetzstein has more than lived up to such lofty expectations, closing deals for Ian McShane to play Black Beard in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and law school classmate Jonathan E. Steinberg (creator of Jericho) to make Fox's Human Target and playing a key role in facilitating the production and sale of Jackson's District 9. Growing up in Westchester County, N.Y., Wetzstein was hardly on track for Hollywood. The son of a Wall Street banker, he did his undergrad studies at the University of Virginia then worked as a paralegal in Manhattan. After earning his J.D., the East Coaster found himself at L.A. legal behemoth O'Melveny & Myers. Sitting amid the glass and polished concrete of NDW's ultra-modern Santa Monica offices, the married father of two feels at home. "It's a rarity in life to do something that you love," he says.

 

Bill Phelps
Bill Phelps
Bill Phelps
Bill Phelps

Next Gen 2010 profiles written and reported by Randee Dawn, Leslie Bruce, Todd Longwell, Carita Rizzo, Lauren Schutte and Andrew Wallenstein