Next Generation 2007: Film
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.
vp creative affairs, Legendary Pictures
Born: May 23,1974
Don't ask Alysia Cotter what her favorite television show was while growing up: Her family didn't have a TV. "They didn't believe in it," she says. "They wanted us to be creative and explore." Cotter and her brother did just that at the local library, where they rented a projector and began immersing themselves in everything from 1968's "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" to the Looney Tunes cartoons. "It was the genesis of my love for film," she says. DAY OF THE DOLPHIN: That love bloomed, strangely, while Cotter was studying marine biology and researching dolphins at UC Santa Cruz. Discovering she wasn't cut out for the repetitive work involved in science, she took a job with Discovery Channel and then with E! Entertainment. But her real break came when Warner Bros.' Jeff Robinov hired her as his assistant -- and gave her the nickname that has stuck ever since: Bueller. 'FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF'?: Under Robinov, Cotter went from being an assistant to an executive, developing a reputation for having strong contacts in the book world. She left Warners to produce, developing such projects as the forthcoming 2009 release "The Spook's Apprentice" and "Market Forces." But, she admits, "I really missed the studio aspect of it." When Legendary offered her a job in May 2006, she returned to the lot. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF: Now Cotter is working on a slew of projects, putting into practice some of Robinov's advice: "The biggest thing I learned from him was that conviction is one of the most important things you can have in this business -- the ability to believe in yourself and others, without proof that you are correct -- not like science. In our business, without conviction you don't have anything."
vp production and acquisitions, New Line
Born: Nov. 3, 1974
Merideth Finn couldn't have known that a film internship in London would lead her to a safari in Africa, but that's the globe-trotting path this Massachusetts-born Brooklyn resident has taken. After graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University, Finn spent $200 on a U.K. work permit and scored an internship at Heyday Films with one of her first mentors, producer Tanya Seghatchian. BACK TO REALITY: "I had to move back to New York and face my college loans, but Tanya really helped by giving me a list of places for informational interviews." She soon found herself on her current path as an acquisitions exec at Fine Line Features. "It was the first place I got to lay roots," says Finn, who was part of the team that nabbed the company the Oscar-winning "The Sea Inside" (2004). LORD OF THE MERGERS: As the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy ramped up, internal focus shifted to New Line, and so did she, picking up rights to Rebecca Reisert's "The Third Witch" for New Line (with Chris Noonan now attached to direct). Finn eventually helped bridge the gap between the studio and sister outfit HBO with their joint effort, Picturehouse, bringing in such projects as Jodi Picoult's "My Sister's Keeper" for helmer Nick Cassavetes and Kate DiCamillo's children's tale "The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane" with producer Wendy Finerman. On the producing side, Finn is overseeing two 2008 Picturehouse releases: David Schwimmer's "Run, Fat Boy, Run," starring Simon Pegg, and the horror flick "Amusement." OUT OF AFRICA: Persuading Kenyan elephant orphanage founder Daphne Sheldrick to bring her story to the screen has proven to be Finn's wildest adventure yet. "Toby Emmerich was great because he let me go to Nairobi by myself to represent New Line. I got to meet the baby elephants!" she says. "The entire experience was hugely powerful for me. The next day, Daphne encouraged me to go on safari in the Masai Mara. That night, I laid on the cot in my tent listening to hippos and lions roar in the distance. Tears were just steaming down my face because I knew we were going to get the project and I was just incredibly proud and happy."
Production executive of theatrical, DreamWorks Studios
Born: Nov. 15, 1976
Kira Goldberg always loved books. Even as a child, growing up right around the corner from the CIA base in Virginia, attending school with Dan Quayle's son, she worshipped writers. "In fifth grade, my mom took me to see Judy Blume at an event where she was signing books," she recalls. "I waited in line for two hours and told her I wanted to be a writer, just like her. And she told me it was a tough business, and she didn't recommend it." CRITIC'S CHOICE: Following Blume's advice, Goldberg started to think of other options. After taking a film class and making a documentary on women's issues while at Tufts University, she landed an internship with producers Susan Arnold and Donna Roth, then eventually segued to Mark Johnson's production company, working with the producer for three years. "Whenever something happened that wasn't good, he would just pick up the phone and keep on going," she says. "It was total resilience. He didn't dwell on anything bad. He just kept moving the project forward." MOVING FORWARD: Goldberg has kept moving forward, too. After a stint with producers Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher (with whom she helped develop 2006's "World Trade Center"), she was hired by DreamWorks in May 2006. Now she is developing such films as the actioner "Wednesday," with director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (20th Century Fox's "28 Weeks Later"); "The Goree Girls," a drama that Jennifer Aniston is producing; and "Zebra Murders," a real-life serial killer story with Jamie Foxx set to star. MAJOR LEAGUE: After working for small production companies, Goldberg says, "it's been thrilling to do all these movies together" with other executives at the studio. "It's really exciting to see how everyone works on their projects and to be part of a team." HER HIGHLIGHT: Having breakfast with Joan Didion, who was briefly attached to one of her projects. "She's just a hero," she says. Whatever Blume told her, she still loves those writers.
vp production and development, Miramax
Born: March 8, 1976
Like Brad Grey, Jon Gordon, Rick Schwartz, and others before him, David Greenbaum started out as an assistant to Harvey Weinstein and lived to tell the tale. It's a job that requires a lot of diplomacy, so studying politics and economics as an Oxford grad student and working for Israeli president Shimon Peres on Jewish and Arab media and culture projects at the Peres Center for Peace beforehand didn't hurt. "Miramax was the end-all, be-all in the New York film business in 2000," he recalls. "I ran Harvey's office and was his right hand in places like Cannes and Berlin. It was a ton of stress, but he gives you access and a macro level of understanding of the business in a way no one else does." ACROSS THE POND AND BACK: After a couple of years, Greenbaum was promoted to director of production and development and shipped to London to work with Colin Vaines. Here he oversaw such projects as Anthony Minghella's 2006 "Breaking and Entering." When Weinstein left with his brother to form their own company, Greenbaum stayed aboard and moved back to New York, where he was promoted to his current position. "Daniel Battsek has created, with Keri Putnam, a very dynamic environment that seeks out young and new talent and rewards proactivity," he says. Currently, Greenbaum is overseeing such projects as Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden's "Special Topics in Calamity Physics" and Carter Smith's "Come Closer." WORLD TRAVELER: "I have been lucky enough to be a part of the filmmaking process firsthand: in China for 'Kill Bill,' in Romania for 'Cold Mountain,' to see Scorsese working out of Fellini's offices in Rome on 'Gangs of New York.'" HE'S WITH THE BAND: "I was with Harvey Weinstein and Johnny Depp once in the lounge of the Concorde, and a businessman came up and asked me if one of them would take my picture." The businessman had no idea who they were. "I think he thought I was in a boy band. They were laughing hysterically."
vp production, 20th Century Fox
Born: Dec. 29, 1978
Although he started as in intern at New Line when he was 20, Jeff Katz was really getting ready to work at that company since he was 8. At a dinner party, little Katz met Max Shaye, the father of New Line co-founder Bob Shaye, and made a bet with the man that a "Nightmare on Elm Street" TV spinoff show ("Freddy's Nightmares") was debuting that night, not the following week. Katz, a hard-core horror buff, won, and Max Shaye honored the bet: to send a letter from Katz to his son in Hollywood. A few weeks later, Shaye fils wrote back. "It said, 'Someday, kid, you can come to L.A. and make a "Nightmare on Elm Street" movie.' He was totally blowing smoke up my ass, but that was my in: I was going to New Line." THE OBSESSION PAID OFF: The first movie Katz worked on when he was promoted to a full-blown exec was 2003's "Freddy vs. Jason." Other movies he oversaw and helped develop include 2006's "Snakes on a Plane" and this year's "Shoot 'Em Up." "I felt I was there to represent the old-school New Line model," he says, while building on his geek cred and nurturing his niche of comic books, video games and wrestling. IN THE FOXHOLE: Since late May, Katz has been holed up at Fox, which lured him away to oversee its geek movies. In an office that includes a spinning comic book rack, two seats from Tiger Stadium and a life-size Boba Fett mask, Katz now oversees projects such as comic book movies "Wolverine" and "X-Men Origins: Magneto," and a big-screen version of "The A-Team." On the side, he co-writes DC Comics' "Booster Gold" with Geoff Johns. SECRET WEAPON: Xbox Live. Katz plays video games with everyone from writers and musicians to athletes and execs at all hours of the day. He even met scribe Stuart Beattie while playing "Gears of War," convincing the guy to come aboard to adapt the game while bringing it into New Line. "Xbox Live is the new golf," he says. "You're having fun, your guard is down, and it becomes a good way to build relationships."
senior vp marketing, Warner Premiere
Born: Jan. 4, 1974
When a temp agency placed Irika Slavin in the publicity department at DreamWorks, she went well beyond the normal call of duty. "Everyone wanted to work there," says the Rutgers graduate and native Jersey girl. "And I'm, like, shredding resumes for the company because (the candidates were) all smart people -- MBAs and Ivy Leaguers -- and they all wanted my desk. So I just remember, my boss was like, 'So no one sent a resume?' I'm like, 'Well, maybe I lost a couple.'" Slavin's shredding skills eventually led to her seven-year stint at Warner Bros., where she currently serves as the senior vp marketing for Warner Premiere, which handles direct-to-consumer material, including original films, brand extensions, library titles and parallel content. So far, Warner Premiere has announced projects like "Return to House on Haunted Hill," "Get Smarter: Bruce & Lloyd Out of Control," "Lost Boys II: The Tribe" and an adaptation of Lisi Harrison's tween book series, "The Clique." PROUD PARENTS: "The best part about being in Hollywood is the stories (my parents) tell people back at home," she says. "As far as they're concerned, I go to the Academy Awards with Steven Spielberg. I'm currently directing my own feature-length film. They don't know what I do!" GLITTER AND BE GIRLY: "The Clique" has really helped Slavin reconnect with her inner 12-year-old. "(Harrison) was pregnant when we met her last spring, and she was just getting behind on her fan mail and behind on her writing," she says. "We were like, 'Give us your fan mail. We'll photocopy your letter and stuff it in the envelope.' She gave us boxes and boxes of glittered, sparkled, bedazzled mail -- it's the best research we could do." DAYS OF WINE AND CHEESE: Slavin's long-term goal, she jokes, is to "save enough money and move to Napa and buy a very tiny piece of land and make my own wine and invite everybody up from Los Angeles to escape into my vineyard resort."
Co-president of production, Phoenix Pictures
Born: June 16, 1976
David Thwaites was a mere 10 years old and living in his native England when casting directors came calling. "They were looking for kids who had lots of hobbies," he recalls. "I said I could do magic, even though I couldn't, and then I had a week to turn myself into a magician. They were the worst tricks ever: two toilet rolls and a ping-pong ball disappearing." PHOENIX RISES: That white lie helped launch Thwaites on an acting career in British television and theater that would carry him through his university years. Soon, the lawyer's son realized he was bored to tears waiting for his agent to call. He segued into real estate, but his passion for film continued. Unsure how to get into the film business, he wrote to Mike Medavoy, one of the titans of the industry, and Medavoy gave him a job as his second assistant at Phoenix Pictures. FLIGHT PLAN: That was the beginning of a successful stint as an executive that has seen Thwaites involved with such pictures as July's "License to Wed" and 2006's "All the King's Men," both of which he executive produced, and 2006's "Miss Potter," on which he served as a producer. "Potter" took him back to England -- and kept taking him there. "I was on 55 flights" between Los Angeles and England, where the movie was shot, he groans. "I was gone the entire year." ADULT FILMMAKER: Now he's hoping his future projects will keep him closer to home and to his wife of two years, Meghan, a former Phoenix intern. ("It was all very kosher. She was no longer an intern when we started dating.") Meanwhile he's building up a rolodex that will help him get "smart, commercial, adult films" off the ground -- and he's hoping that rolodex might one day be as impressive as his boss's. How many names in Medavoy's rolodex? "Seven thousand," he marvels.