Next Gen 2007: Television

35 executives who are shaping the future of Hollywood today

DEAN'S LIST: Saying that the members of The Hollywood Reporter's Next Generation Class of 2007 are "most likely to succeed" isn't quite accurate because these accomplished individuals can honestly say they already have made it. And the editors and reporters who researched, deliberated and eventually chose this year's list wholeheartedly agree. The 14th annual edition is a roundup of the most talented executives in film, television, representation, legal and new media, all age 35 and under. It's not intended as a power list, but rather an unveiling of the leaders of tomorrow.

Jeff Brustrom
vp live-action series, Disney Channel

Born: June 4, 1972
Jeff Brustrom has overseen and developed many of Disney Channel's phenomenally successful series, including "Hannah Montana," "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody," "Cory in the House," and its newest entry, "Wizards of Waverly Place." Someone who has a knack with kids programming surely must have children of his own, right? "No, but I've always felt like a junior high schooler at heart," he laughs. "I remember those years fondly; our characters are all around that defining age, where you're figuring out who you are." He does have nieces, though they aren't old enough yet to watch Disney's live-action series and appreciate his very cool job. But, he jokes, "I'm really looking forward to being a superstar uncle." PERFORMER AT HEART: Brustrom actually got his start in the industry as a singer-dancer at the Great America amusement park in Northern California when he was 17. While earning his degree in communication studies from UCLA, Brustrom interned at ICM before the agency brought him on board full-time in the TV/literary and talent division. After realizing that agenting wasn't for him, he moved into a position at Fox as manager of comedy development, helping to develop "That '70s Show" and "Malcolm in the Middle" before joining Disney Channel in 2001. CURB YOUR GUEST STAR: Aside from Disney's success in live-action series, Brustrom marvels at the fact someone like Larry David (HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Seinfeld") would take on a guest-starring role on "Hannah Montana." "It was very cool and surreal that the guy who created a major cultural icon for TV wanted to be in the show. I didn't even think it was in the realm of possibility." looking ahead: Brustrom is predicting "J.O.N.A.S." -- a new series starring recording act the Jonas Brothers -- will be Disney's next hit. Mostly, he's just happy to play a part in making television that resonates with kids. "I love the fact that we are making shows that this generation is going to remember for the rest of their lives."

Jason Clodfelter
vp development, Sony Pictures Television

Born: July 22, 1973
There was never a doubt what Jason Clodfelter wanted to do when he grew up. In elementary school, Clodfelter took a big interest in the small screen, spending his free time perusing newspapers to collect ratings data and create what he thought would be the ultimate TV schedule. "A lot of young boys play fantasy football -- I played fantasy scheduling. My mom got quite worried," he laughs. LOOK AT HIM NOW: Clodfelter, who was named to his current role in March 2006, says, "This past year has been incredible for us" at SPT. Of the five SPT drama pilots ordered thus far at cable networks this season, four of them -- Lifetime's "Family Practice," A&E's "The Beast" and "Danny Fricke," and Spike's "SIS" -- are Clodfelter's "babies," he says. SPT also has a couple drama pilots picked up at broadcast networks so far. CONTINUING EDUCATION: After graduating from USC, Clodfelter toiled in short films for a while -- one of his shorts premiered at the Sundance Film Festival -- before holding development positions at John Wells Prods. and Spelling Television. Fittingly, Clodfelter had worshipped Aaron Spelling "way back when" he was cutting and pasting those fantasy schedules together. He also admires producers like Jerry Bruckheimer and Steven Bochco but wants to take his time getting to that level. "The more years you put in, the more you actually learn. It's not always about racing to the top." FINDING A BALANCE: Clodfelter says it's important to do as many non-industry activities as he can, whether it's traveling, volunteering or keeping active in a church. "So much of those interactions with people outside of the business brings us a stronger point of view. If your point of view is defined only by reading stacks of scripts every weekend, it's hard to evolve. You become too myopic."

Jocelyn Diaz
vp drama development, ABC

Born: Nov. 16, 1976
At ABC, Jocelyn Diaz has developed or worked on such hit series as "Ugly Betty," "Lost" and freshman "Pushing Daisies." But she's most proud of what the entire ABC team has accomplished while she's been there. "I'm excited about getting to be part of the turnaround at ABC. I was there when we were the No. 4 network. The shows we've launched, I'm really proud of the quality beyond the fact that people watch them." EXTENDED HIATUS: After graduating from the University of Virginia with a double major in Spanish and English literature, Diaz took what was supposed to be a brief detour to Southern California. The D.C. native moved out to Los Angeles "thinking I was going to come out for a year" before going to graduate school to study international relations. "I always had a tiny little bird on my shoulder about Hollywood and thought I'd see what it was like and ended up staying." M.A. IN HOLLYWOOD: Her first job in the industry was at ICM as an assistant in the lit department. "I had no real education as to how Hollywood worked," says Diaz, who spent a year at the agency getting a crash course in showbiz before joining ABC's drama department in 2001. FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Diaz might have foregone the master's in international relations, but she still has a keen interest in that area. She also focuses on international development, formats, writers and possible co-productions, noting that ABC has a pilot, "Life on Mars," based on a BBC series and that "Ugly Betty" is based on the Colombian telenovela "Yo soy Betty, la fea." "My real interest is in the international media landscape. Our whole TV landscape is changing, and that's fascinating to me."

Jayson Dinsmore
senior vp alternative development, NBC Entertainment

Born: June 17, 1972
This isn't how things were supposed to turn out for Jayson Dinsmore. A Massachusetts kid who moved with his family to tiny Pasadena, Texas -- the setting for 1980's "Urban Cowboy" -- at age 10, he'd always wanted to be a minister and, in fact, earned his B.A. degree from Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas, in theology. "When you live in the Bible Belt, church is what you do," Dinsmore recalls. "It fills a void in your life." But by the time he graduated college, Dinsmore admits, "my faith remained, but I could no longer reconcile religion from a logical perspective." Unsure of what he wanted to do with the rest of his life, Dinsmore arrived in Los Angeles in May 1995 at age 22 with $300 in his pocket and no place to live. So he crashed a frat house at USC and stayed there for that entire summer -- rent-free -- while waiting tables at Gladstone's 4 Fish in Malibu. FROM OLD-TIME TO PRIMETIME RELIGION: It wasn't long before Dinsmore snared his first TV gig as a production assistant on the MTV dating game show "Singled Out." He landed at NBC as a coordinator of alternative programs and specials in 2000 as the current reality boom was dawning, working his way up to vp alternative programming and development in 2004 and finally to senior vp this September. Dinsmore is credited as the driving force behind bringing the hit gamer "Deal or No Deal" to the network in December 2005. "My boss Craig Plestis and I made a concerted effort to find a void in the marketplace," he says, "and we found ourselves with 'Deal or No Deal' on our table." he gOT GAMES: Dinsmore also was instrumental in developing the musical game show "The Singing Bee" and the trivia challenge "1 vs. 100" for NBC, along with the reality efforts "Last Comic Standing" and the recently premiered "Phenomenon." And he's overseeing the future launch of the game show "Amnesia," the reality series "Clash of the Choirs" (coming in December) and "My Dad Is Better Than Your Dad." STEADY AS HE GOES: "We haven't had a giant hit yet," Dinsmore laments, "like a 'Survivor' or 'American Idol' or 'Dancing With the Stars.' But we don't fail often, either. We take some big swings, and nine out of 10 times when we put something on the air, it gets picked up for another cycle. I'm really proud of that."

Gina Girolamo
vp comedy programming, Universal Media Studios

Born: April 11, 1972
In 1995, Gina Girolamo was in her senior year at UCLA, majoring in history and planning to become a high school history teacher. To support herself, she worked at the front desk in a swanky gym frequented by celebrities when a client, Joanna Lipari, wife of writer-producer Remi Aubuchon, suggested she try a career in entertainment. "You can make a lot of money in this town. You have the personality, and you will have fun doing it," Lipari told her and set up a meeting for her at Columbia TriStar TV. Girolamo started there right after graduation, then moved to the WB as assistant to Susanne Daniels. "She's the one that made me realize what fun and what an incredible career working in development and television could be," Girolamo says of Daniels. MOTHER'S DAY: After a stint at NBC Saturday-morning programming and NBC Studios, Girolamo moved to the network's comedy department, where she oversaw the development of "My Name Is Earl." She worked on the pilot for eight months, 24 hours a day while she was pregnant with daughter Stella. "I joke that I love 'Earl' a little bit more than my daughter because I've been around him a little bit longer," Girolamo says. She calls her daughter "the perfect development baby" because the girl waited until Girolamo wrapped her 2004-05 development and staffed all shows picked up to series. "On May 27, I was on my way to work when my water broke," Girolamo remembers. HOME LIFE: Now all her spare time revolves around programs like "The Wiggles" and "Dora the Explorer," and "going to the park and dancing and swim classes," but Girloamo doesn't mind. "I really love television so much; while I'm at work, I feel like it's a hobby." FUNNY BUSINESS: Looking to the future, Girolamo says, "I would like to still be relevant in 10 years and hope that there will still be comedy programming then."

Chris Grant
Managing director Reveille; President, Reveille International

Born: Oct. 18, 1978
At 24, most people are making their first steps in the real world with entry-level positions and big dreams. At 24, Chris Grant was running the international division of Reveille, Ben Silverman's production and distribution company, and handling format sales for Universal Television. At 28, he became one of Reveille's four co-heads, buying foreign formats and handling international format sales for Reveille and top reality producers like Mark Burnett, R.J. Cutler and Craig Piligian. EARLY BLOOMER: "I knew I wanted to be in the TV business when I was 5," Grant says, admitting that back then it was mostly because like every little boy, "I wanted to do what my dad did." (His dad is media buyer and TV movie producer Jeffrey Grant.) Starting at 14, Chris spent every summer working in the business, but after he graduated from Carnegie Melon in 2000 as an English major, Grant first tried a career in writing. He abandoned the idea after a few months of writing classes. "It was too lonely of a job for me," he says. MENTOR IN THE MAKING: In January 2001, Grant started in the mailroom of WMA New York, where he met 30-year-old agent Silverman. "He's been an older brother and a tremendous friend, taking me under his wing and teaching me everything you need to know to succeed in this business." The next year, Silverman left to form Reveille and invited Grant to join him. Grant began as Silverman's assistant and soon was promoted to a development executive. In 2003, Silverman offered his protege the opportunity to launch the company's international division. 24-HOUR WORK DAY: Two years later, Grant was hanging out at the Barney's Beanery in Santa Monica, but while most patrons were downing beer and chilling out, he was meeting clients inside and making international calls outside. It was there, on the pavement in front of the popular pub, where he negotiated his first major deal, an output pact with Australia's Network Ten, all between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. When Grant finally goes to bed, he always takes his BlackBerry with him. That's life, Reveille-style. "Our lives are our jobs -- we're young and single and work all the time," he says.

Lisa Katz
vp drama development, 20th Century Fox Television

Born: May 11, 1973
Lisa Katz was a Duke University graduate with a degree in English living with her parents in their San Fernando Valley home when O.J. Simpson changed the course of her life. Katz had taken the LSAT and was preparing for law school a the same time Simpson's murder trial was unfolding. When he was found not guilty on Oct. 3, 1995, Katz decided to look for a different line of work. CAREER ASPIRATIONS: Katz took a job as a floater at the Gersh Agency, and three months later, she was hired as an assistant. "I'm so glad a TV desk opened first because I ended up loving television," she says. However, she really had no interest in the dealmaking process. "I realized I wanted to be on the creative side." She nurtured her creative bent during seven years at Brad Grey Television, before moving to 20th Century Fox TV's drama department in 2004, where she developed the Fox pilot "Damages" and the NBC series "Journeyman," among other projects. But when asked about the moment she considers a milestone in her career, Katz says it happened back in 2005, when she was named vp drama and was rewarded with an assigned parking space. "It was a big day," she recalls. BABY BOOM: Katz might not have become a lawyer, but she did marry one. The happy couple are parents to 1-year-old baby boy Sam, and Katz says she usually wakes up around 5:30 a.m. in order to spend time with him before heading into the office. In the evenings, she races from the Fox lot in West Los Angeles to her home in the Valley to put him to sleep, then heads out to business dinners and reads stacks of scripts before bed. SCHOOL DAZE: As for the future, Katz says in 10 years time, "I can see myself working closely with one writer or at a smaller company." And, she adds, "I'll be looking at junior high."

Nicole Norwood
vp drama development, ABC Studios

Born: Sept. 21, 1973
It was the summer of 2001, and after five years at the WB Network, Nicole Norwood decided to take time off and re-evaluate her life path. "I was trying to decide if I wanted to stay in the business or do something completely different," she says. Norwood already had gotten a taste of the production side of the biz with a stint as an intern on the short-lived E! series "News Weasels" -- her first job in Los Angeles after graduating from Northwestern University as a broadcast journalism major -- and of the agency world with assistant positions in the TV lit departments of Gersh and ICM. LIFE INTERVENES: Deciding to pursue an interest she developed after sustaining two major injuries in grade school and college, Norwood had enrolled in a training program to get her physical therapy license when, in 2002, she got a call from a friend about an opening at Touchstone TV. She interviewed and landed the job. Since then, Norwood has worked on a number of drama series -- from ABC's "Lost" to CBS' freshman "Cane," which ABC Studios co-produces with CBS Paramount. She proudly lists the short-lived series "Miracles" and "Life as We Know It" with her successes because she believes in what former WB current chief John Litvack taught her: "The true measure of an executive is not how well you acquit yourself on a highly successful show but how you manage an unsuccessful show or one that is struggling." RANCH-STYLE GETAWAY: Norwood has a home and a boyfriend in Wyoming -- not to mention five horses and two dogs -- and she visits at least once a month. "It's my happy place, my gateway for peace and solace," Norwood says. "It's so good to have some perspective and clear your head and get away from all the chaos of Hollywood."

Lindsay Sloane
vp original scripted series programming, USA Network

Born: July 3, 1975
Having the most-watched new cable drama of 2006 on your resume is a feat not everyone can boast about. But Lindsay Sloane knew USA's "Psych" was going to be a hit from the moment she heard the pitch, saying that she and then-USA executive Bill McGoldrick knew they had just come across something special. "We had to buy it, and without hearing the pitch themselves, (senior programming executives) Jackie de Crinis and Jeff Wachtel supported us. You just felt it in your gut." After McGoldrick left USA for Spike TV, "Psych" was "my baby from then on," she says. Sloane's current projects also include the upcoming series "To Love & Die," and she has overseen various seasons of "The 4400" and "The Dead Zone." TOP BOSSES: Sloane says that USA executives have taught her a lot in her four years there. "They have empowered me, trusted me and have encouraged me to fight for what I believe. I couldn't ask for better mentors and role models." In fact, Sloane admires USA and Sci Fi Channel president Bonnie Hammer and hopes to mirror her career. "I'd really like to take after her and be president of two networks someday." GRAND PLANS: Sloane knew the entertainment industry was her calling as a young girl growing up in Los Angeles. "I watched a lot of TV as a kid. Once, my mom was telling me I needed to stop watching TV and do my homework, and I remember asking her, 'Isn't there some sort of job I can do in TV?'" After studying radio, TV and film at Northwestern University, she became an assistant to Steve Levine at ICM and then to Brian Grazer at Imagine Entertainment before segueing into a position as vp development at Gran Via Prods., where she worked with Mark Johnson to develop CBS' "The Guardian." a gOOD CAUSE: Sloane likes to cook and play tennis in her spare time, though she hurt her right hand a couple years ago and is now learning to play left-handed until she's healed. She also is involved in philanthropic events: In October, she participated in the GuluWalk, designed to raise money and awareness for abandoned children in Northern Uganda.

Jonathan Wax
vp drama development, Fox Broadcasting Co.

Born: Aug. 23, 1973
Note to agents and producers pitching to Jonathan Wax. Avoid references to shows dated before 1984 -- they might get lost on him. No, Wax isn't quite that young; it's just that the reception wasn't so great in rural Northern California, where he spent much of his childhood. The remote locale didn't prevent Wax from sharpening his management skills at an early age, however. He attended a small private school that operated out of a trailer on a ranch, and every week in leadership class, a different student was required to organize his peers in order to herd sheep into the corral on the property. SKILL SET: Wax's unusual background extends even further. He can make croissants -- a skill he learned while helping his mother and stepfather run a bed-and-breakfast out of their home and, which anyone who's ever read a Julia Child cookbook or spent time in Paris can attest, is no easy feat. He also taught English in Japan for two years after graduating from college and is fluent in Japanese. Job fair: After returning from Japan in 1996, he came to Los Angeles to spend time with his father, an attorney. To earn pocket money, Wax, who was thinking of becoming a lawyer himself, took a job in the mailroom at APA, and before long, he landed an assistant position in the agency's TV lit department. Wax's big break came in 1999 when David Nevins, then exec vp at Fox, hired him as his assistant. A year and a half later, Wax landed his first executive job in Fox's current department, working on such series as "The Simpsons" and "24." He moved to drama development in 2004 and shepherded "Bones." L.A. STORY: Northern-Southern California animosity notwithstanding, Wax is happy with where he is, geographically and in his career. "A lot of people come to this town expecting big things and dreaming big, so they get frustrated trying desperately to get to the next level," he says. "I never expected to be here, I just started and gained momentum."
comments powered by Disqus