A Day in The Life of Hollywood's Most Powerful Women
Six top women in show business give THR a peek at their packed weekly schedules, from mogul meetings to battles with toddlers over bunny slippers.
This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter's Women in Entertainment Power 100 issue.
Because you are one, you might assume that you already know what it's like to be a female entertainment executive, reading bedtime stories to kids each night before rising bright and early to run the starmaker machinery behind the stories Hollywood brings to the world. But how does everybody else do it?
THR got a hold of the actual personal appointment books of Discovery Communications Group president Eileen O'Neill, Relativity president of production Robbie Brenner, E! Entertainment president Suzanne Kolb, BET chairman and CEO Debra Lee, WME partner Nancy Josephson and Bravo/Oxygen Media president Frances Berwick. They all kindly opened up their iPhone calendars and Outlook datebooks, confirming the exhausting but exhilarating experience of their everyday lives. They may hop a cross-country jet, bond with the first lady, sell a series, guide an Oscar winner, pour a bath and save the world's drinking water in their spare time: It's all in a day's work.
MONDAY, NOV. 18
Relativity president of production ROBBIE BRENNER rises in Los Angeles and checks tracking on next month's big Hollywood movies, followed by early morning reading of the latest draft of Wentworth Miller's novel Scare Me ("I get my best reading done in the quiet hours of the morning," she says) and getting her girls Isabella, 8, and India, 4, ready for school.
After jogging and walking the dog, EILEEN O'NEILL, Discovery Communications Group president, watches cuts of Discovery and TLC shows at her Silver Spring, Md., home before greenlight meetings. "On the mornings before, I'm usually cramming," she says. Meanwhile, BRENNER hikes Fryman Canyon twice a week: "I do this a lot. It's where I can clear my head." On Friday of this week, she would return with her golden retriever, Marley.
President of E! Entertainment SUZANNE KOLB drops off Katie, 3, at preschool: "We play our 'spot the animals on the billboards' game as we drive down Sunset."
BRENNER spearheads a casting meeting for The Most Wonderful Time, starring Diane Keaton, to be directed by Stepmom screenwriter Jessie Nelson.
After catching up with NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Group chair Bonnie Hammer, KOLB has her monthly breakfast with 10 E! employees, "who get to ask me anything they have on their minds." Then she jumps in her car and rolls into the driveway at the Kardashians' Hidden Hills home at 11 on the dot. "We discussed a Christmas special idea that could include home movies of past family celebrations and a reveal of their highly anticipated Christmas card," she says.
WME partner NANCY JOSEPHSON has a Polo Lounge power lunch "with an Oscar-winning movie star thinking about her first TV series," she says. "An Oscar winner she'd been in a movie with stopped by the table. Stars love the Polo Lounge -- no paparrazi, just a pianist playing Cole Porter."
O'NEILL runs a Shark Week meeting to come up with an idea for Craig Piligian, CEO of Pilgrim Films, to top the mega-success of Megaladon. "Megalodon was the highest-rated show in Shark Week history," she says.
BET chairman and CEO DEBRA LEE attends a live 106 and Park taping of Michelle Obama's appearance and tweets about it to her 21,036 followers. She also meets with Obama personally: "She wanted to connect directly with young people about the importance of a good education, so she chose 106 and Park."
TUESDAY, NOV. 19
BRENNER takes her daughter on a school field trip to Storybook Theatre in North Hollywood to see Goldilocks and the Three Bears before hitting the office. There, she prepares for her 2:30 meeting with Casey Affleck, Relativity president Tucker Tooley, Expendables producer Basil Iwanyk and The Way Way Back producer Kevin Walsh, to discuss an untitled Josh Hamilton project. O'NEILL boards a flight to L.A. and catches up on emails.
KOLB lunches with NBCU Cable Entertainment president and chief content officer Jeff Wachtel and executive vp program development Jeff Olde. "We congratulated Jeff Olde on Total Divas' success," she says. Then she meets with the cast of E!'s upcoming series Rich Kids of Beverly Hills.
"Meeting with David Hasselhoff was the most fun I've had this week," says O'NEILL. "The energy was amazing -- it was incredible to hear his stories and great to hear how much he loved singing on Shark After Dark last year."
BRENNER, with Out of the Furnace director Scott Cooper and castmembers Affleck, Christian Bale and Zoe Saldana, attends the film's screening and reception for media and tastemakers hosted by Relativity CEO Ryan Kavanaugh and producers Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Killoran at Soho House.
O'NEILL conducts a creative meeting for Mythbusters with co-hosts Adam Savage (in person) and Jamie Hyneman (on Skype). The kickoff episode for January is Star Wars-themed, "which is near and dear to both their hearts coming from the special effects world," she says. "We were talking about adding a live component to it."
BRENNER has her quarterly meeting for Thirst Project with founder Seth Maxwell at her Beverly Hills office: "I am so passionate about this organization, which is dedicated to raising awareness and creating a sustainable solution to the clean water crisis."
After rolling calls on the drive home from her Mid-Wilshire offices to her Coldwater Canyon house, KOLB has dinner, then it's bath, playtime and bedtime for Katie. Mom helps draft a college scholarship application: "I have the privilege of mentoring a brilliant and beautiful high school senior [thanks to THR's mentorship program]," she says.
WEDNESDAY, NOV. 20
"This is when I negotiate a school-appropriate outfit with my toddler," says KOLB. "Bunny slippers are not for school."
FRANCES BERWICK, president of Bravo and Oxygen Media, has breakfast with NBCUniversal executive vp business development Cesar Conde, recently hired away from his post as Univision Networks president, at Rock Center Cafe.
O'NEILL has a breakfast meeting with Craig Ferguson about Shark After Dark: "His company did our live show every night of Shark Week. We had been talking about doing a similar show for our Naked and Afraid series," the reality show which puts two unclothed survivalists in the wilderness for 21 days. "We were sealing the deal, if you will."
BRENNER meets with Cliff Dorfman, writer of Relativity's The Crow reboot, about upcoming projects. "We recently signed an overall deal with Cliff after his wonderful work on The Crow," she says. "I'm excited to be working with him in the long term."
Says KOLB after her meeting with E! News co-anchor Giuliana Rancic: "Too bad that adorable baby Duke isn't old enough for his own show."
BERWICK has a five-hour development meeting about winter programming with Oxygen development head Cori Abraham. O'NEILL conducts a pitch meeting with a talent who sees angels. "The meeting almost went off the rails with her trying to give me messages from the dearly departed," she says. "I have an Irish uptight force field around me. I said, 'Yeah, let's not do this.' " At 4:30, she Skypes the real angel in her life, son Quinn.
JOSEPHSON and a colleague do ancient civilizations homework with a mentee from WME partner school Whaley Middle School in her office. "We need to brush up on our seventh grade math," she says.
A car will be picking up KOLB at 7:30 for a red-eye to New York, so she ducks out of a talent meeting early to spend an hour of dinner and playtime with her daughter.
O'NEILL takes a producer to a Clippers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder game at Staples Center: "Home team won."
After bedtime stories with Katie, KOLB watches Chelsea Lately, E! News and the latest rough cuts of E! shows like Total Divas.
THURSDAY, NOV. 21
O'NEILL discusses a natural history show with international offices and preps for a production meeting, a job candidate interview and a meeting with comedian Bob Oschack, aka Bob the Shark.
KOLB starts her New York day by grabbing a bite with NBCU president of sales Linda Yaccarino at The London, then walks over to her guest office at 30 Rockefeller Center: "I oddly hear the [30 Rock] theme song in my head every time I walk in."
After viewing a market-research screening of thriller Earth to Echo, BRENNER recaps with Kevin Goetz at Screen Engine, who drives the studio's marketing research, along with Relativity division execs and filmmakers Dave Green and Andrew Panay.
JOSEPHSON attends a luncheon at The Bazaar with Sarah Adolphson, head of WME Foundation, to talk about LA Kitchen, an organization supported by client and celebrity chef Jose Andres. "Robert Eggers' DC Kitchen gives work to ex-cons and youth aging out of foster care, and repurposes tons of food," says Josephson. "And now there's going to be one here -- it's so great!" Meanwhile, BRENNER lunches with Cathy Schulman, friend and Women in Film president, at Cecconi's, where they chat about being Hollywood working moms.
BERWICK attends the "Hammer Direct Reports" meeting presided over by Bonnie Hammer.
BRENNER attends Dallas Buyers Club's AMPAS screening at Hollywood's Linwood Dunn Theater, which includes a Q-and-A with Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, co-writers Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack and producer Rachel Winter.
O'NEILL hops in a car to LAX. On the jet, she screens Bakery Boss, Escaping the Prophet and other TLC shows. "At 11 p.m., I collapsed in a heap at home in Silver Spring."
FRIDAY, NOV. 22
O'NEILL is awakened by her beagle "going nuts because there was a fire truck in the neighborhood," she says. "I gave up getting back to sleep, may still be on West Coast time."
BRENNER's 30-minute meeting with Sissy Spacek turns into 90, as they discuss Badlands and Coal Miner's Daughter. "I'm in awe of her beauty, grace and intelligence, and I found myself mesmerized by her."
WME's JOSEPHSON meets with a New York-based actress-writer who flew in to L.A. to pitch a show. "We pitched to Showtime at 10:30 and HBO at 1, and HBO bought it," she says. "A good way to go into the weekend. It's about putting clients together."
O'NEILL holds a live events meeting discussing where Nik Wallenda, of Grand Canyon tightrope-walk fame, will walk next: city or scenic wonder? "We had a robust debate."
BRENNER holds a Best of Me casting call with DiNovi Pictures and Relativity. "This is our third time working with Nicholas Sparks." Later, she goes over the hill to pick up her daughters from school.
BRENNER ventures to the grocery store to "see what inspires me for dinner. My girls and I love to cook together." Tomorrow, she will take her daughters horseback riding at the Burbank Equestrian Center before working a Dallas Buyers Club press lunch and screening reception at CAA hosted by Reese Witherspoon and Gone Girl producer Bruna Papandrea. Later in the weekend, she will attend an Out of the Furnace dinner with Bale, Affleck, Saldana, Cooper, producer Colleen Camp and guest Michael Mann at the Chateau Marmont.
JOSEPHSON has dinner with friends and fellow parents while "our kids are at a dance party."