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Next Gen 2012: Writers & Directors

David Caspe

Bright young things? Bring 'em on, as The Hollywood Reporter recognizes the 35 superstars 35 and under who are moving up fast (and having fun) in film, TV, digital, law and news.

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BENH ZEITLIN, 30
C--Writer/Direcotr, Beasts of the Southern Wild

His breakthrough debut feature won the World Cinema Jury Prize at Sundance in January -- a milestone that kick-started a near-mania swell of interest in the moody-fantastical bayou drama. Fox Searchlight has positioned Zeitlin (a Wesleyan graduate and New Orleans native) and the film as prime awards contenders.

Industry Mentor: Nick Doob, father of my friend Crockett Doob. He let us use his Avid and helped Crockett direct the film Batman: The Movie, in which I played Superman. We were 6. Crockett is still editing my movies today.

Big Break: I broke my pelvis and hip in a car accident in 2008. The insurance settlement helped me pay off the $40,000 I owed from making my short film Glory at Sea.

10 Years From Now: I hope to be making a film entirely offshore. No one would set foot on land throughout principal photography.

Can't-Miss TV: NFL football. Every Sunday. And Thursday. And Monday.

Movie Fix: Who Framed Roger Rabbit. I'm a supporter of films with heroes who defend the tenants of debauchery and joy.

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DAVID CASPE, 34
Showrunner, Happy Endings

After an unconventional start in the New York art scene, the Chicago native has made a swift Hollywood transition. With his cult comedy now in its third season on ABC, the writer-director-producer has an overall deal with Sony and most recently penned the Happy Madison movie That's My Boy.

Big Break: The first thing I ever sold was this script, which was most recently called The Karate Kids. Summit bought it. They still own it, and I occasionally hear that it's gone out here or there. It presupposes that The Karate Kid was based on two real kids, and the movie picks up on them at their 20-year high school reunion after falling from grace and having a rematch of that big fight from the original movie.

Best Advice: It sounds super simple, but my dad always said to work hard. In any field, if you put in a shitload of hours, it's definitely going to give you some advantage.

Biggest 2012 Accomplishment: I just feel lucky to have a job. I'm f--ing pumped to have a job.

Movie Fix: Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. That came out when I was shifting from painting into writing.

Online Obsession: ESPN.com. I have to keep an eye on [Chicago Bulls point guard ] Derrick Rose's rehabilitation.

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LESLYE HEADLAND, 31
Writer-Director, Bachelorette

The playwright-turned-writer-director of the summer's dark wedding comedy Bachelorette parlayed what she calls "a huge year" into what surely will be an even more bang-up 2013. Headland's play Assistance (about executive underlings; the native of University Park, Md., used to be one for movie mogul Harvey Weinstein) is being developed into a half-hour comedy for NBC, with Will Ferrell and Adam McKay attached as producers.

Industry Mentor: Obviously Harvey, who allowed me to move from assistant to filmmaker. And his company bought my film!

Best Advice: A filmmaker once told me, "Do everything before you're ready."

Movie Fix: I've probably seen The Shining more than any other human being.

Best Day: During the making of Bachelorette, there was a scene where Adam Scott comes off the stage to kiss Lizzy Caplan. I'd imagined that shot for five years. To see this random idea come to fruition was overwhelming. But I'm sure I'll be a jaded son of a bitch in a few years.

Worst Day: We had a rehearsal dinner scene with 30 minutes to shoot because the union was going to shut us down. We also lost a key location, and my parents were there.

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JON LOVETT, 30
Co-Creator, 1600 Penn

The former Obama speechwriter (originally from Woodbury, N.Y.) turned a high-profile, high-stress gig into an improbable entree into the TV business as the co-creator of NBC midseason comedy 1600 Penn, a clever single-camera spin on life inside the White House starring The Book of Mormon's Josh Gad.

Big Break: My first one was when then-Sen. Hillary Clinton hired me to be her speechwriter, even though I'd never really written a speech before. That was nuts.

Turning Point: Politics can be very frustrating. Because it's awful. But every year as a presidential speechwriter, I had the chance to work on the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner speeches with President Obama, Jon Favreau and David Axelrod. Hard to imagine an assignment that's more fun.

Best Advice: "Take Fountain." -- Bette Davis.

10 Years Ago: I was at Williams College and pretty sure I'd never have sex. Boy, was I right.

10 Years From Now: No good has ever come to anyone from having an answer to this question.

Online Obsession: Twitter. Because no amount of tiny, incremental praise from strangers is enough, apparently.

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ZOE KAZAN, 29
Writer/Star, Ruby Sparks

The offspring of Hollywood royalty (her grandfather is Elia Kazan, the late director of such classics as On the Waterfront and Splendor in the Grass) has thrived in her own right. After bit parts, the L.A. native broke through this year with the critical darling Ruby Sparks, a fantasy rom-com she wrote and co-starred in alongside her real-life love, actor Paul Dano.

Best Advice: Whoever told me "just keep writing" and that "you don't just have to choose one thing." Both have made my career more interesting and given me a sense of power in what can be a pretty powerless profession.

Industry Mentor: I did a play five years ago that Ethan Hawke directed. He's an example of somebody who has taken charge of his life: He's done indie films, big budgets, made his own work, directed and written novels.

Biggest 2012 Accomplishment: The fact I kept my relationship together [with Dano] while making and promoting Ruby Sparks.

Can't-Miss TV: Parks and Recreation.

Movie Fix: I'm a big rewatcher of Hitchcock, especially Notorious and Rebecca, and a lot of older films like Adam's Rib. And then stuff like Groundhog Day and Four Weddings and a Funeral. And, of course, Kramer vs. Kramer.

Turning Point: I did an off-Broadway play where I had to be naked for 10 minutes onstage. I was feeling like something wasn't working with my performance, so I asked some of my castmembers to give me notes. One said, "You are totally naked onstage, so you don't have to play on the nakedness. You're already naked."