THR Next Gen 2008: Film
EmptyAli Bell, 30
vp production and development
Montecito Picture Co.
Not everybody can trace their film career to their mother's love of John Singleton's "Boyz n the Hood." "It was a combination of the acting, the cinematography and the way my mom was so rocked by the experience," Bell says. After film school in Florida, she set her sights on directing but segued to producing after working as a marketing and creative exec at Nickelodeon Films and Heyday Films. For two years she's been at the production company headed by Ivan Reitman and Tom Pollock; Bell is responsible for projects like "Underage" and "The Occupants" for Warner Bros. -- as well as bringing in the upcoming Fox Atomic comedy "The Post Grad Survival Guide." "My job is to go out and find new writers or directors and guide them to get their movie or passion project made."
Josh Greenstein, 34
co-president of domestic marketing
Greenstein originally planned to apply his Boston University communications degree to a career in journalism. But after surviving assistant jobs with both Scott Rudin and Bob Weinstein -- "I learned how to anticipate," he says, "by fire" -- he became head of marketing for Dimension. After a move to Paramount in 2005, he was eventually promoted to co-president of domestic marketing with Megan Colligan, orchestrating successful print and TV/trailer campaigns for recent hits "Iron Man" and "Transformers." He tries to take the big-picture view of large campaigns. "I certainly love posters and trailers, but it's really stepping back and looking at the campaign as a whole to determine whether you can build enough heat and momentum for people to say, 'There's a story that I want to pay money and go see.'"
Hannah Minghella, 29
president of production
Sony Pictures Animation
As the daughter of the late Academy Award-winning director Anthony Minghella, Hannah acknowledges she had a leg up in joining the film business. "Obviously, growing up with the opportunities I did was a huge contributor to me getting to where I am," she says. "But I am also incredibly grateful to (Sony chief) Amy Pascal for all of her mentoring." As a student at Cambridge, she studied English lit and would visit her father on set during summer holidays. "There were no film options (at Cambridge), but I was directing and producing theater." She went to work for Dad as a second AD on 1999's "The Talented Mr. Ripley." After three years as Pascal's director of creative affairs at Sony Pictures, Minghella was named president of production for Sony Pictures Animation in March. She now oversees production on next fall's "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" and preproduction on "Hotel Transylvania," as well as the planned hybrid adaptation of "The Smurfs."
Matt Reilly, 30
New Jersey-born Reilly first tasted the business as a summer intern for James Moll and June Beallor, makers of the 1998 Oscar-winning docu "The Last Days." His big break didn't happen until a college buddy working as an assistant to Patrick Whitesell, then at CAA, suggested Reilly take his place. He had only been on Whitesell's desk a month when the agent famously jumped ship for Endeavor. "He called me on a Sunday night and asked, 'Do you want to go with me?'" Reilly remembers. "I was in the eye of the storm of something really big, but at the time I was just going with it." Reilly soon realized he didn't want to be an agent after all. He credits Endeavor's Tom Strickler for pushing him to take a job at Warners, comparing the studio with the Yankees: "'You want to play for the Yankees, don't you?'" Reilly recalls Strickler asking. Reilly now oversees an upcoming slate that includes the Seth Rogen comedy "Observe and Report," political thriller "The 28th Amendment" and Ben Affleck's "The Town."
Erika Schimik, 33
senior vp theatrical marketing
Schimik isn't a sadistic underworld nurse, she just plays one in poster art. Yes, that's her posed in blood-red lipstick and a cocked white hat in the one-sheets for Lionsgate's annual "Saw" Halloween blood drive. Modeling for boss Tim Palen's macabre photography is just a hobby for the University of Michigan grad, who parlayed stints with Robert Redford's Wildwood Enterprises and as a producer at the Miramax FilmColony into a development assistant position at Trimark, which was purchased by Lionsgate. Now she's shepherding campaigns for such tricky films as 2006's "Away From Her" and this fall's "W.," as well as the button-pushing "Saw" franchise. "Our motto in here is to ask for forgiveness and not for permission," she says. "Especially on some of the more challenging or difficult materials. For example, when 'Saw' came out, or 'Hostel,' it meant doing whatever we had to do to get spots on the air, because of censorship or dealing with materials that some people might find offensive or frightening. But, for the core audience, it's exactly the magic recipe to make them want more."
Dustin Smith, 30
head of acquisitions and business affairs
Smith might prove to be Dayton, Ohio's greatest contribution to indie film. After programming a local art house and serving as the Dayton Daily News film critic, Roadside co-presidents Howard Cohen and Eric d'Arbeloff offered him a nonpaying internship shortly after the company's 2003 launch. That led to a director of acquisitions job within a few years, thanks to bringing in the 2006 docu "The Road to Guantanamo" and 2005's "Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic." After Lionsgate's 2007 minority investment made Roadside a de facto specialty arm, Smith is now leading all acquisitions, plus marketing and distribution on a new minislate of festival films. Given the current climate, the savvy exec is just happy to have a job. "I'm honored to be on this list," he says. "But I knew that if enough companies closed, I'd eventually make it by default."
Jeremy Steckler, 34
senior vp production
You won't hear Steckler complain about the office culture at the studios. Before joining Searchlight he was developing projects for Lorenzo di Bonaventura, who had just founded his own off-the-lot production banner. "We were working out of Lorenzo's house," Steckler recalls. "I think I had the couch and Lorenzo had the computer." A Hong Kong-cinema student who began his career in the music business (he started his own indie-rock label in college), Steckler says he ditched music for the film industry because of its richer storytelling opportunities. Since 2006 he has become one of the rising stars at Searchlight, where, under production whiz Claudia Lewis, he's overseen some of the company's most notable productions -- including "Juno." He's currently working on the Nia Vardalos comedy "My Life in Ruins" and the relationship saga "500 Days of Summer."