Next Generation 2011: Film
PICTURED From left: New Line Cinema's David Neustadter, Universal Pictures' Maradith Frenkel, Warner Bros. Pictutes' Jesse Ehrman, Fake Empire Prods.' Lis Rowinski, Di Bonaventura Pictures' David Ready, Relativity Media's Ramon Wilson, Columbia Pictures' Lauren Abrahams and DreamWorks' Jonathan Eirich
Lauren Abrahams | 31
Director of Production, Columbia Pictures
Even though she grew up in Malibu surrounded by film talk and loving movies -- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was a particular favorite -- Abrahams never really considered that there were careers to be had in the entertainment industry beyond obvious paths like acting or directing. That all changed, though, after she graduated from Wesleyan in 2003 and scored an internship with production-management firm Benderspink. After just a year, Abrahams found employment as an assistant at Michael De Luca's production company, which brought her to the Sony lot in Culver City, where she has thrived ever since. Two years later, in 2006, she found a new gig as an assistant to Matt Tolmach, then co-president of Columbia Pictures, and within another two years she was promoted to her current position. In her experience, the movie business is a meritocracy. "It doesn't always have to be about nepotism or education," she says. "The people who succeed have common sense and know how to tell a commercial story." Abrahams has demonstrated that knack by shepherding such high-profile projects as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and the Total Recall remake. "Working with the director and editor has been my favorite part of the process," says Abrahams, who, when not focused on upcoming releases, is planning her July 28 wedding to writer-director David Posamentier.
Jesse Ehrman | 35
VP Production, Warner Bros. Pictures
It was a pivotal moment in the late 1990s when Ehrman, then an intern at Davis Entertainment on the Fox lot, was sent to the studio's library to look through magazines in search of possible movie ideas. The UC Berkeley student was intrigued by the concept that anything could be a film. "After that," he says, "anything and everything I read, I began running that filter: 'Is this a movie? Is that a movie?' " In the ensuing years, Ehrman, who grew up in Malibu, did locations work on an indie film, started a website, worked a mailroom job at AMG and eventually landed, in 2004, as assistant to a producer with a deal at Warner Bros., which opened doors at the studio. In 2008, he became a junior executive on The Hangover, graduating to executive on The Hangover Part II. He oversaw the upcoming Todd Phillips-produced comedy Project X and is about to start production on Dogfight, a Will Ferrell-Zach Galifianakis political satire. Projects such as Tarzan and an untitled drama that Matt Damon will direct demonstrate that while he has an affinity for them, he's not just focused on comedies. "We're all encouraged and expected to speak many languages, genre-wise," he says. "There are some that I happen to be more fluent in than others."
Jonathan Eirich | 30
VP Production, DreamWorks
A wide variety of college internships -- Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, research for Errol Morris' The Fog of War, Gold Circle Films -- led Boston native and Harvard grad Eirich to Los Angeles in 2004 with writing aspirations. That is, until his friends urged him to "get a real job," which he did, working for CAA's Jay Baker for a year in 2005. He landed an assistant's gig with then-Universal Pictures chairman Stacey Snider in 2006 and has been with her ever since, following her to DreamWorks as her creative assistant and subsequently earning promotions up the development ranks. "She still acts like she's a 23-year-old assistant trying to get promoted, and it's amazing that she doesn't take anything for granted," Eirich says. "She always wants to be up on everything, and that's inspiring." Since early 2008, Eirich has worked on Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and "DreamWorks 2.0" projects Cowboys & Aliens, The Help and I Am Number Four, which he championed early in book form at the studio. And he's always looking for more. Eirich's Saturday mornings are spent playing a round of golf before heading to the local Coffee Bean for hours of script reading. "You can never get lazy," he says. "You can never get complacent about finding new material, finding new writers."
Maradith Frenkel | 32
Director, Production and Development, Universal Pictures
As a young girl growing up in Miami, Frenkel thought she wanted to be an astronaut. But she dropped that idea after a couple of summers at space camp, where she discovered science wasn't her forte. Instead, she headed to New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. After graduating in 2001, she served a stint at the WME mailroom in Manhattan before getting a call in 2003 to become an assistant to Donna Langley, then a rising production exec at Universal. Within 24 hours, Frenkel relocated to Los Angeles and has been at Universal ever since, moving up the ranks until taking on her current job in 2009. Having helped develop such hits as Mamma Mia! and Bridesmaids, she bristles when anyone calls them chick flicks. "I don't like that term," says Frenkel, who has four younger brothers. "I wouldn't even classify myself as someone who likes chick flicks; I feel it suggests a formulaic romantic comedy. What I do love are movies with strong female characters." That should serve her well as she oversees her current assignment, Universal's big-budget Snow White and the Huntsman, a revisionist version of the Grimm tale starring Kristen Stewart.
David Neustadter | 32
Production Executive, New Line Cinema
In 2003, Neustadter quit grad school, worked at a brewhouse in Bloomington, Ind., and had dreams of becoming a screenwriter. A chance encounter with a customer led him to meet then-New Line story editor Luke Ryan, in town for a cousin's graduation. That connection set Neustadter on a twisty road that saw him move to Los Angeles and land an internship at New Line. In 2004, he became an assistant to the company's Richard Brener. Now, the single Neustadter, who survived the downsizing of the company and its absorption into Warner Bros., helps keep New Line's comedy and horror roots alive. He oversaw Nightmare on Elm Street and Final Destination, and is shepherding the Steve Carell magician comedy Burt Wonderstone, the ensemble comedy We're the Millers and The Conjuring, a horror thriller to be directed by James Wan. The most important business lesson Neustadter learned came from Brener. "To quote my mentor, 'Never burn bridges, always hold grudges, and never in writing.' Especially in e-mails," he says. "Everyone forwards everything!"
David Ready | 32
VP, Di Bonaventura Pictures
Boston native Ready was just two weeks into his mailroom job at Industry Entertainment in Los Angeles when the events of Sept. 11 occurred. "Driving around town, people didn't know what was coming next," recalls the grad of Washington University in St. Louis. "It was a weird way to start a new life in this city." But start it he did, learning the ropes at Industry, then in the office of Warners' Greg Silverman and later at Jerry Weintraub Productions. He segued to Di Bonaventura Pictures in 2006 as vp just as producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura was going into production on Transformers, 1408 and two other films. As a key member of the team, Ready was instrumental in putting together last year's surprise Bruce Willis hit Red -- which could be Summit's next franchise -- as well as bringing the upcoming thriller Man on a Ledge to the screen after a 10-year journey. According to Ready, the most important facets to production are passion and inspiration. "If you can be passionate and can inspire passion in other people, then you have an enterprise of very talented people working toward one goal," he says. "If you can't do that, you can't produce. We're not writing checks. We're selling a vision."
Lis Rowinski | 33
VP Features, Fake Empire Productions
Rowinski grew up in a little town (Plaistow, N.H.) and went to a tiny liberal arts college (Amherst) -- but all things small ended there when she took a big chance and moved on a whim to Los Angeles in 2000. She caught a break when a friend of a friend sent her resume to Endeavor, where she was soon pushing a mail cart. She became an agent in 2004 and left the company, now WME, in 2010 to head up the feature film division of Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage's Fake Empire Productions. The company is in postproduction on its first feature, Fun Size, and has 12 projects in development. "In the first year of our deal [at Paramount], to have something that is actually going, was really exciting. And very lucky -- let's not kid ourselves," she says. In her short tenure, Rowinski has brought to the company projects based on young adult novels The Luxe and Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick and the short-story anthology Let It Snow. She says she's more than pleased with her decision to leave her small-town East Coast life behind: "I think part of moving out here was just seeing if I could figure it out."
Ramon Wilson | 33
Executive VP Business Development, Relativity Media
A homegrown talent (he grew up in View Park, Calif.), Wilson parlayed his political science degree from Yale into several years working in the financial sector in New York as an investment banker, financial consultant and music video producer. In mid-2006, he joined Relativity back in Los Angeles and immediately began helping the growing company transform into a full-fledged studio, brokering big deals to bring in Rogue Pictures, establish a home video outlet and migrate Overture's marketing and distribution teams into Relativity. "Setting up a studio infrastructure during a major transition as far as the way that content is delivered has been a very interesting learning experience," he says. "It's been great to set up a studio that is positioned to take advantage of what's to come." Colleagues may spot Wilson hugging curves along Mulholland Highway on the back of his Triumph Bonneville T100 or at concerts (he recently shot out to Vegas to see Jay-Z perform). But during work hours, he's focused on playing an integral part in the company's expansion. "Relativity is still a relatively small organization," he says, "and what's great is being able to explore ideas and execute them quickly without a lot of red tape."