Next Gen 2010: Hollywood's Young Guns

1:51 PM 11/16/2010

by THR staff

For the 17th year, The Hollywood Reporter honors the 35 execs under 35 whose ambition, talent and motivation have the town talking.

Issue 54 - Next Gen 2010: Agents Andrew Miller, Brent Morley, Josh Hornstock, Todd Christopher, Joe Labracio, Ryan Bartlett
Bill Phelps

(From left) CAA's Andrew Miller, WME's Brent Morley, ICM's Josh Hornstock, Gersh’s Todd Christopher, UTA's Joe Labracio, Paradigm's Ryan Bartlett. Photographed on location at the penthouse suite and rooftop of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

In the 16 years since the Hollywood Reporter launched its annual Next Generation list, it has become the definitive guide for the best and brightest up-and-comers in the business.

It is so esteemed that a major exec interviewed every person on one year's list when he left News Corp. to form his own company. 

And who can blame him? Next Gen honorees of years past include Stacey Snider, Mike De Luca, Ari Emanuel, Amy Baer, Ben Silverman, Sue Naegle, Donna Langley, Kevin Huvane -- the very people who are now running the industry.

Each year, THR editors spend months going through the 500-plus submissions and gleaning names through tireless research and reporting.

The finalists are chosen based on their proven success in developing and initiating projects, their reputation among their peers and the potential others see in them to rise to the top. We have separated the honorees into seven categories: agents, legal, film, digital, publicity, management and TV.

The competition creates its own set of problems: Honorees must be 35 or younger as of Nov. 17, the publication date, and we now have to insist that nominees provide identification because more than a few conveniently shave a few years off their ages.

No need to wait around for the next big thing to come along: The industry's future is now.

Click categories below for profiles of each honoree.
  • Ryan Bartlett, 35

    When he was 14, Bartlett moved by himself from his hometown of Basildon, England, to Mesa, Ariz., to pursue professional tennis. "That obviously didn't work out," he says with a laugh.

    Although he still manages to squeeze in the occasional tennis match, Bartlett mostly enjoys volleying of a different kind these days.

    At Paradigm, he's carved out a niche for the youth market, negotiating seven-figure salaries for Twilight actors Jackson Rathbone, Peter Facinelli and Nikki Reed and placing ABC Family teen star Shailene Woodley in the high-profile drama The Descendants opposite George Clooney.

    It's a huge boost for the former USC film student who, at 28, switched careers after working in acquisitions at Fox 2000, among others.

    He landed as an assistant in Paradigm's lit department, where late-hour chats with talent co-head Steve Small got him thinking. "He said: 'What are you doing in lit? You've got talent agent written all over you.' " 

  • Todd Christopher, 35

    A plasma TV in each of the five bedrooms of his Sherman Oaks home means that Christopher never has a reprieve from television -- which is exactly how he likes it. "I am extremely competitive," admits the mastermind behind Gersh's alternative programming department.

    The Princeton grad and former All-American swimmer is applying his competitive edge to handling clients like Drew Carey (Christopher orchestrated his The Price Is Right gig and another project for the Game Show Network); actress Sara Gilbert (CBS' new chatter The Talk); and Community's Joel McHale, for whom he's working on a re-up for the actor's host gig on The Soup

    Christopher, whose career began in the William Morris mailroom a decade ago, says he never showers execs with too many ideas. "I prefer to be like a sniper -- a one-shot kill method," he says. 

  • Josh Hornstock, 35

    Los Angeles native Hornstock knows how to put out fires. Before joining ICM, he was a firefighter in Northern California for three years. "I never got a kitten out of a tree," Hornstock says.

    "But it was exciting." Since 2006, Hornstock has found similar excitement cultivating untested TV talents. Kevin Biegel, co-creator of Cougar Town, started with Hornstock when he was a writer's assistant on The Tracy Morgan Show.

    Hornstock also landed an overall deal at Universal Media Studios for Sonny Lee and Patrick Walsh (Outsourced) and helped Stephen Falk cross over from features to supervising producer on Weeds. "I kill myself for my clients," Hornstock says. "I'm still putting out fires, but these don't burn as much." 

  • Joe LaBracio, 32

    LaBracio started his television career a decade ago as Ted Koppel's assistant in the New York newsroom of Nightline. After two exhausting years, which included the 2000 presidential election and 9/11.

    "I realized, if you want to be a news producer in a live newsroom, it's your life." For LaBracio, it wasn't. In 2003, he moved to Hollywood to work for Ghen Maynard, CBS' senior vp alternative television, who promoted him to director of alternative series development less than a year later.

    This gig was a natural segue to agency life, first in the unscripted department at CAA and today at UTA, where he has tripled the business the firm does in the cable world, packaging a diverse lineup of reality shows like Police Women andThe Great Food Truck Race.

    He does miss hard news now and then, but as the father of a 2-year-old who's traded skydiving for marathon running since becoming a parent, he wouldn't trade his life for the 24-hour news cycle. 

  • Andrew Miller, 32

    You'd think having to buy a toaster for your boss would put you off any job. But when that boss is Jerry Bruckheimer, think again.

    The Encino-bred Miller was so awed by interning for the mega-producer ("Jerry was incredible") that, despite being the dedicated catcher for the University of Michigan's baseball team, he knew he had to get into showbiz.

    After graduation, Miller landed at UTA, then followed boss Chris Harbert to CAA; there Miller has been responsible for connecting Andrew Lenchewski (Royal Pains) and Jeff Eastin (White Collar) with USA Network's Bonnie Hammer, resulting in CAA's first scripted shows to air on the network.

    However dedicated to his craft, Miller hasn't given up hardball: He plays every Sunday afternoon with a group of high school pals. 

  • Brent Morley, 35

    Morley had an epiphany about what he really wanted to do while working for then-boss Alfonso Cuaron. When the director of Y Tu Mama Tambien had a meeting at Endeavor, Morley realized: "I'm supposed to be on that side.

    I just responded to the energy." After working for a few weeks in the Endeavor mailroom, the St. Louis native became Ari Emanuel's second assistant. Now he's repping clients like Sacha Baron Cohen and Daniel Tosh and is lead agent for Dustin Hoffman, Malin Akerman and "It" girl Rooney Mara.

    "We saw Tanner Hall and knew that she was something special," the agent -- who can be found hiking Runyon Canyon with his wife Joanna on weekends -- says of Mara.

    Getting her the highly coveted starring role in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was a feat all on its own. "David Fincher was honestly the driving force," Morley says. "Everyone in our building galvanized to get her the job. It was a roller coaster."

  • Ezra Cooperstein, 30

    In a world that is brutally difficult to monetize, Cooperstein might just be the guy to have a breakthrough. With his new Maker Studios, a startup that allows YouTube stars to share production and promotion, the UCLA grad is getting 140 million monthly views — something Cooperstein’s former boss at Current TV, Al Gore, would have been proud of.

    “We’re delivering numbers equivalent to cable,” says Cooperstein, a Santa Cruz, Calif., native who swims laps in his free time. But he hasn’t had much idle time lately: Cooperstein has also been instrumental to engineering Current’s innovative VC2 (viewer-created content) division. “And that’s something that can’t be ignored.”

  • Danielle DePalma, 28

    DePalma earned her rep as the driving force behind Lionsgate’s innovative web campaigns for such horror films as Saw, Hostel and The Last Exorcism. But this Fort Lauderdale, ?Fla., native, who plays beach volleyball and practices yoga in her spare time, fell in love with Hollywood through a quite different movie: “My favorite was Legends of the Fall,” she says.

    “I used to go into Blockbuster and ask if they had any [cardboard] standees available and bring them home.” After graduating with a finance and economics degree from Florida State University, DePalma created her own legend when she joined MGM’s financial planning department, landing at Lionsgate in 2005.

    Since taking over online promotions, she has overseen killer campaigns for Kick-Ass and The Expendables. “Having Sylvester Stallone say, ‘Don’t forget to share,’ at the end of the trailer really helped to increase views,” she says.

  • Mike Farah, 31

    Farah’s mantra of “shoot first and ask questions later” keeps the Web shorts he produces for firmly embedded in the cultural zeitgeist, whether they’re pointedly political (Prop 8: The Musical) or just plain silly (Zach Galifianakis celebrity interview series Between Two Ferns).

    The Ann Arbor, Mich., native came to guerrilla filmmaking relatively late in life — “I was not the kid making short films in my backyard when I was 10,” he says — so after earning a degree in finance from Indiana University, he saved up money from his bartending job and moved to L.A. in October 2001 with a vague plan to launch a career in the film business.

    Eventually, he landed as head of development for writer-director Craig Brewer, until the WGA strike in 2007. To fill the void, he produced Web shorts for comedian friends like Jerry Minor and Brent Weinbach, which found their way onto, the site founded by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay.

    By August 2008 he was their in-house producer. Today, he’s forever flirting with chronic exhaustion by leading a 15-person creative team that churns out 20-25 original comedic video shorts a month — featuring such notable contributors such as Jim Carrey and David Mamet — and producing his first feature film, Answer This! written and directed by his brother Christopher Farah.

  • Dan Weinstein, 28

    Weinstein knows the ways of Hollywood: He worked in the UTA mailroom and for producers Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher. But “the old-school model wasn’t for me,” he says. “It felt slow, paint-by-the-numbers.”

    Instead, the Newtown, Penn., native became a manager at the Collective, where he’s amassed a client list of YouTube stars: iJustine, The Annoying Orange and What the Buck Show.

    “Talking fruit can be a real business,” he says. And then some: Weinstein’s clients now generate about 125 million page views per month. “YouTubers don’t get a lot of respect from mainstream media,” he says. “But that’s gonna change.”

  • Jesse Jacobs, 34

    As a top dog in former News Corp. president and CEO Peter Chernin’s ambitious new company, Jacobs looks to buy and buy big.

    “What excites us is technology’s impact on media ... specifically Asia,” says the New York native, who, during his undergrad tenure at the University of Pennsylvania, spent weekends working on sports telecasts for the fledgling Fox Sports.

    After graduation, he produced the Yahoo Online Music Awards and running content and syndication for IFilm. With a Wharton MBA in hand, he took a full-time gig at Goldman Sachs, where during the next five years he worked on major deals, including an Asian financing agreement for the Weinstein Co., the take-private of Clear Channel and the spinoff of Viacom and CBS.

    In 2009, he left to co-found the private investment fund Raine, then joined Chernin at the beginning of 2010.

  • Stefan Brunner, 34

    Brunner is the very definition of globe trotter. Born in Bavaria, educated in Munich and San Diego, he worked in Seoul before landing his gig at Imagenation Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

    "To build something in a country that has absolutely no infrastructure, where everything is new, that is just so fascinating," says the exec, who loves to visit Goa, India, on days off. And he needs them: As COO, he is responsible for all the production-related and creative decision of the company.

    Brunner was Imagenation's production exec on Doug Liman's Middle East-shot Fair Game and whose latest project, the Arab-language drama Sea Shadow, started filming last month in the UAE.

    "The idea was to create something here that allows filmmakers in the Gulf to actually work in the industry year-round and not have to go to Europe or the States to do it," he says. 

  • Chloe Dan, 29

    "I'm short, but there's a lot of energy," Dan says. And tenacity, too. The Malibu native had her first internship at 16 at the Universal-based Joe Singer Entertainment and went on to intern at others companies including ICM and Artisan Entertainment on summer breaks during her years studying at Emory University in Atlanta.

    Realizing she wanted to be where the buyers are, she took a job as an assistant for production vp Jeffrey Clifford and followed him from Disney to Warner Bros.

    She was hired at DreamWorks in 2005 and has worked on films ranging from Hotel for Dogs to Dinner for Schmucks. Her current development slate includes the Justin Adler-penned comedy The Escort and the recently wrapped Real Steel, directed by Shawn Levy and starring Hugh Jackman.

    How does she keep track of it all? "My desk is a total mess, but there's nothing messy in my head," she says.

  • Michael Disco, 32

    Fresh out of Syracuse University in 2000, Disco traveled west to work as an assistant to producer Jon Peters (Batman). "It was incredibly tense but fascinating for me," the Vermont native says.

    After a year and a half in the marketing department at New Line in New York, Disco interviewed with COO Toby Emmerich, who was looking for an assistant in L.A. "The interview was over our video conferencing machine," he says.

    "Jokes ... you can't tell if they translate at all. But I got the job." Today, his world revolves around his New Line projects, including July's Horrible Bosses and Jack the Giant Killer, scheduled to start shooting in the spring.

  • Lauren Levy Neustadter, 30

    When Neustadter was 10, her parents took her to Los Angeles to try her hand at acting. "Looking out the window, I declared dramatically, 'This is where I belong!' " she remembers.

    The New Orleans native ultimately returned to study acting at CalArts but opted for the corporate side of the business. She landed first at CAA and HBO Films before settling in as a creative exec at Miramax, then as vp at Adam Shankman's Offspring Entertainment. There she was thrown into production on The Last Song.

    She's currently overseeing Fox's McG-helmed divorce comedy This Means War, starring Reese Witherspoon and Chris Pine -- a juxtaposition to her own life as she recently married (500) Days of Summer screenwriter and 2009 Next Gen honoree Scott Neustadter.

    As for that childhood dream? "I have such a respect for what actors do," she says. "But I think we all land where we're supposed to."

  • Abhijay Prakash, 34

    Prakash still shudders at the memory of the "really terrible gothic horror film" he made while getting his bachelor's in film and TV from Northwestern. It featured the attack of a young girl studying inside a church.

    "I have no idea why she was studying in there," he laughs. Today, the Universal exec, who holds a degree in economics (with a minor in computer science) from Princeton and an MBA from Wharton, is one of the stutio's key evaluators of M&A opportunities.

    Among them: last year's sale of Rogue Pictures to Relativity and acquiring stakes in such European production companies as Cattleya and UFA. Prakash, who hopes to transition into production and distribution, says there's only thing he loves more than movies: "The Boston Red Sox ... I'm a fanatic."

  • Elizabeth Raposo, 34

    Remember watching Sesame Street as a kid? You can bet Raposo was glued to the set: Her father was its musical director and wrote the theme song and several other tunes associated with the show.

    Despite her musical roots -- she grew up playing piano and violin -- the Georgetown grad landed at CAA, where Rick Kurtzman and Kevin Huvane were mentors, then worked for Darren Aronofsky's Protozoa Pictures on The Fountain.

    At Paramount, Raposo is now supervising the forthcoming Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol and helping shepherd a remake of Dune. "Working with Darren helped me see how a filmmaker approaches his craft," Raposo says.

    "Being at Paramount has given me the chance to grow as an executive." Her undergrad studies have especially been a boon. "Knowing politics really helps," she says.

  • Michael Schaefer, 34

    "I went to business school because the last thing I wanted to do was make movies," says Schaefer, who grew up in Cologne, Germany, the son of a movie director and producer.

    "Turns out I only wanted to make movies." After stints as an indie producer and working for New Line senior vp European production Ileen Maisel (The Golden Compass) in London, a visit to the Festival de Cannes found Schaefer breakfasting with Harvey Weinstein, who hired him "on the spot."

    After working for two years at the fledgling Weinstein Co., Schaefer moved over to Summit, where he has enjoyed an impressive run: He acquired The Hurt Locker at Toronto in 2008 and is overseeing, among others, an untitled Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt movie and Impossible, starring Naomi Watts.

  • Scott Shooman, 32

    Whether it's acquiring such films as Machete and Rescue Dawn for Sony Pictures' international distribution or overseeing the productions of Cadillac Records, Stomp the Yard and Boondock Saints 2,Shooman thinks big.

    There's a reason the picture in his office of him with the Stanley Cup doesn't show him touching hockey's biggest prize. "Superstition says you'll never win it if you touch it," the Boston native says.

    "I like to keep that option open." Up next: the horror film Insidious, directed by James Wan, for which Shooman secured national distribution rights. The executive rarely has time for his beloved hockey these days as his few off-hours find him hitting books.

    He's taking a break from teach film acquisitions as a remote adjunct professor at Carnegie Mellon University to work on an MBA at his alma mater, USC.

  • Tendo Nagenda, 35

    When Nagenda was 12, he moved with his family to his father's native Uganda, taking with him VHS tapes (Miami Vice, Crime Story) for the comforts of home.

    However, with the nearest TV set down the road at his uncle's house, Nagenda immersed himself in books likeThe Great Gatsby. After two years of hearing locals referring to him as mzungu (Swahili for "white person"), he returned to Los Angeles with a Ugandan accent. He says his outsider status serves him well today.

    "The goal is to tell very specific stories that hold value for a large number of people," says Nagenda, who has made his mark at Disney by ushering through the John Hughes-meets-Love Actually teen comedy Prom and snatching up the script for a new live-action take on the Cinderella tale by Morning Glory scribe Aline Brosh McKenna.

  • Lev Ginsburg, 33

    Ginsburg doesn't go for the big ones when fly fishing near Bishop and Kern, Calif., ("I fish for small California golden trout and occasionally some brookies," he says).

    But when it comes to clients, he has no trouble landing whoppers. Whether it's negotiating Nikki Reed's latest Twilight deal or helping Stellan Skarsgard (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), he's known among business-affairs execs to be unrelenting.

    The Honolulu-born UCLA grad started as an intern at Fox Comedy, where he scouted performers at clubs. He joined the Akin Gump firm then Hansen Jacobson before settling at his current gig, where he also reps Donald Glover and Jaime Alexander. As for fishing?

    That's mostly on hold since the Sept. 22 birth of his second child, daughter Shira.

  • Matthew Matzkin, 35

    Matzkin has probably watched more TV the past four years while working at Warners than in the rest of his life combined. This is quite a thrill for a guy who was allowed to watch only one TV show per week (The Cosby Show) by his ophthalmologist father and elementary school teacher mother while growing up in Westlake Village, Calif.

    "I still remember the day when I saw a preview for ALF and that made me feel like television was a special medium of communication," he jokes.

    Since joining the studio in 2006, Matzkin has gone from drafting contracts to his current position as an upfront dealmaker, most recently setting up the CW's Hellcats, CBS' Mike & Molly and the Jerry Bruckheimer newbies Chase on NBC and ABC's The Whole Truth.

    "Most days there is a moment where I feel like, 'Damn, I love what I do,' " says the football-obsessed ("football isn't a hobby, it's a core essence of the spirit," he quips) father of two, who now allows his kids to watch an hour of TV a day. 

  • Gregory Slewett, 33

    Given his background, it's surprising that Miami native Slewett didn't end up on the road. He studied guitar and voice formally for most of his life and even lived a small-time rock 'n' roll dream in bands (most ignominious name: Blue Sky -- "I still get teased about it," he says) while earning his film degree at the University of Texas at Austin.

    But college summers working at Michael Douglas' production company at Paramount found him drifting toward the business-affairs department. "I saw you could do something that wasn't a writer, actor, director or producer, but still was an integral part of the business," he says.

    A law degree from Cardozo and legal stints with litigation expert Patty Glaser (of Glaser Weil Fink Jacobs Howard & Shapiro) and Sheppard Mullin Richter Hampton repping studios, producers, financiers and production companies as outside counsel led him to Carlos Goodman's door -- and Slewett "has never looked back."

    Since then he's brokered deals for up-and-coming actors like Colin Egglesfield (Something Borrowed) and Rhys Coiro (Straw Dogs) and photographer-producer Mario Testino while servicing the firm's long-standing clients like directors Darren Aronofsky, Paul Greengrass and Quentin Tarantino -- the latter a particular thrill, given that Pulp Fiction fired up his initial interest in film.

    Lately, he has started recruiting Brazilian acting talent clients like Wagner Moura -- Slewett's wife, Chiara, is from Rio -- and other clients from unexpected venues including former Pace restaurant waitress Leah Rachel, who landed a deal at HBO after passing Slewett a script during her shift. 

  • Mark Wetzstein, 35

    In 2008, as high-powered attorneys Peter Nelson and George Davis left the practice they shared with Patti Felker (taking marquee clients Peter Jackson and David Duchovny with them), they grabbed Wetzstein, then a young associate, and made him a partner in their new venture.

    Wetzstein has more than lived up to such lofty expectations, closing deals for Ian McShane to play Black Beard in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and law school classmate Jonathan E. Steinberg (creator of Jericho) to make Fox's Human Target and playing a key role in facilitating the production and sale of Jackson's District 9. Growing up in Westchester County, N.Y., Wetzstein was hardly on track for Hollywood.

    The son of a Wall Street banker, he did his undergrad studies at the University of Virginia then worked as a paralegal in Manhattan. After earning his J.D., the East Coaster found himself at L.A. legal behemoth O'Melveny & Myers.

    Sitting amid the glass and polished concrete of NDW's ultra-modern Santa Monica offices, the married father of two feels at home. "It's a rarity in life to do something that you love," he says.

  • Greg Walter, 32

    “I’m given the freedom to go out and find talented comedians and writers who have no credits,” he says. The strategy is paying off with clients such as the droll comedian Aubrey Plaza, who landed plum roles in NBC’s Parks and Recreation and the film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and writer-actor-rapper Donald Glover.

    Walter first got his showbiz close-up in elementary school when the original The Karate Kid shot across the street from his home in Reseda. After graduating from USC as a communications major/film minor, he did a stint at William Morris and then was hired for an assistant gig for producer-manager Gavin Polone.

    “It was a crash course in filmmaking in production, because he was still managing clients,” including Conan O’Brien and Larry David. In May 2002, he landed at 3 Arts. “I love pitching ideas and bouncing stuff off the wall,” says Walter, who's married with two young sons. “Getting any client their first gig is truly the most exciting moment.”

  • Alex Goldstone, 35

    Growing up in London, Goldstone told his parents — producer John Goldstone and talent agent Linda Seifert — that he also a wanted a showbiz career. They gave him some pithy advice: Leave England.

    “It’s a very insular, small business [there],” he explains. “My biggest influences were John Hughes, Steven Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis and Martin Scorsese. They don’t make [their] movies in England.”

    Graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 1997, he moved to Los Angeles and found work as an assistant to Rick Hess, then segued into management in 1999, working at Bondesen Graup and Fuse Entertainment before landing at Anonymous in 2008.

    There he’s closed deals for clients like Heather Hach (Freaky Friday) to script an adaptation of What to Expect When You’re Expecting for Lionsgate.

  • Jessica Kolstad, 31

    “I was taught to not bring my clients into the trenches with me,” Kolstad says. With this approach to PR, it’s easy to see why heavyweights put their trust in Kolstad, the daughter of a wedding planner and a country club manager who says she fell in love with her craft as an intern.

    The wow factor was enough to sell her on a life in the industry, and in 2000, shortly after graduating from Pepperdine, she landed an internship at WKT PR, where she has worked her way up from receptionist to assistant to junior publicist, supporting Lisa Kasteler on clients like William Hurt.

    Since 2008, the Los Gatos, Calif., native has been vp at the Los Angeles-based firm, ushering Oscar-nominated actors including Colin Firth and Carey Mulligan through awards season.

    “I have an extraordinary life,” says the single-but-dating Kolstad, who in the past year has tried her hand at the trapeze, visited the tombs of ancient Egyptian royalty and enjoyed dinner with her favorite author, Michael Ondaatje. “If only my college self knew!”

  • Lauri Metrose, 34

    Growing up in San Diego made Metrose a “beach gal through and through,” she says — which made all the more memorable her experience standing on Waikiki Beach in September, while thousands watched an open-air viewing of CBS’ Hawaii Five-O reboot.

    For more than 10 years across various publicity posts, the married mother of two has overseen giant promotions for the network’s biggest hits, including the Jerry Bruckheimer juggernauts CSI, The Amazing Race and Without a Trace.

    The UC Santa Barbara grad now manages four publicists, two assistants and 26 shows across Showtime, USA Network, the CW and, of course, CBS. “This is not a sprint,” she says. “When you work in TV, you're running a marathon."?

  • Jennifer Lawrence, 20

    "I never felt like I completely, 100% understood something so well as acting," says the star of the indie drama Winter's Bone. Growing up in Louisville, Ky., Hollywood seemed beyond Lawrence's reach, but after submitting her picture to agencies and landing an MTV: My Sweet 16 commercial, she moved to L.A. and has been a working actor since.

    Her performance as Ree Dolly in Bone has cemented her as this year's breakout actress -- and got her a job with her idol, Jodie Foster, for whom she appears in next year's The Beaver. "She is the most brilliant person," Lawrence says of her director. O

    ne day she hopes to follow in Foster's directorial footsteps, but first she has to finish filming X-Men: First Class, now shooting in London.

  • Zoe Kravitz, 21

    When you're the progeny of entertainment icons, getting into showbiz isn't a given. "They were very wary," Kravitz says of her father, musician Lenny Kravitz, and mother, actress Lisa Bonet.

    "Once you step into the limelight, you can't take it back." With credits that include Twelve, It's Kind of a Funny Story and the forthcoming Mad Max: Fury Road, the native New Yorker is carving out a unique place in the industry while embracing a new life as a vagabond: She recently gave up her Brooklyn apartment and is living wherever she works, which right now is in London.

    "I got rid of half my stuff and put everything else in storage," she says. "Home is wherever I hang my hat."

  • Rooney Mara, 25

    Sure, Mara has only one pivotal scene in David Fincher's hit drama The Social Network. But it was apparently enough to score the relatively unknown actress the role of the year in the director's forthcoming The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo; she reportedly beat out big names like Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman to star opposite Daniel Craig in the English-language adaptation of Stieg Larsson's trilogy.

    Before diving into her craft full time like her older sister Kate (127 Hours), Mara traveled the globe after high school and was inspired to start a charity, the Faces of Kibera, which provides aid to orphans in Nairobi, Kenya.

    She eventually enrolled at NYU and graduated just in time to reinvent herself as goth hacker Lisbeth Salander in Tattoo,which she's filming in Sweden. "I'm not funny at all," Mara admitted to Interview magazine last year. "I'm much darker." We wouldn't want her any other way.

  • Emma Stone, 22

    Fresh off her breakout performance in last summer's hit comedy Easy A, Stone scored the much-coveted role of Gwen Stacy in Sony's untitled Spider-Man reboot with fellow Next Gen nominee Andrew Garfield.

    She called the experience she calls "mind-blowing." Add to that the role of society girl-turned-social rebel Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan in Disney's just-wrapped adaptation of best-seller The Help and Stone has come a long way since cutting her sketch-comedy teeth as a teenager at Valley Youth Theater in Phoenix.

    Her skills served her well when auditioning for her breakout role in the 2007 bawdy buddy comedy,Superbad and when realizing one of her lifelong dreams last month: hosting Saturday Night Live on Oct. 23.

  • Andrew Garfield, 27

    Few actors have a bigger buzz factor in 2010 than Garfield, who was born to British-American parents in Los Angeles and moved to Epsom in Surrey at age 4.

    Trained at London's Center School of Speech and Drama, the actor has appeared this fall alongside Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley in the dark coming-of-age drama Never Let Me Go, as Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin in The Social Network and is slipping on the Spidey suit as the titular hero of Sony's forthcoming franchise reboot under director Marc Webb, which begins shooting this winter.

    "It's an incredible honor," says Garfield of his latest gig.

  • Brandon T. Jackson, 26

    Growing up with seven siblings will make a character out of anyone. Just ask Jackson, who moved to Los Angeles from Detroit and was signed by CAA while doing stand-up comedy at the Laugh Factory.

    Just two auditions later, he landed a part in 2005's Roll Bounce and has maintained a crowded slate since. He appeared in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, The Tooth Fairy, Fast & Furious and his biggest commercial hit to date, 2008's Tropic Thunder.

    Jackson says he is "a student on the set" and owes his success to those who surround him. "Everything I've learned is from working with great people," he says.

  • Garrett Hedlund, 26

    Hedlund says there wasn't much of an occasion for science fiction growing up on a farm in Minnesota. "Tron on the farm? No. But if you ask me about Episode 37 of Roseanne, I got you," he says.

    Only 10 days after moving to Hollywood after high school, Hedlund won the role of Patroclus in Troy, then landed a part in the feature-film version of Friday Night Lights.

    Eight years after leaving small-town life in his rearview mirror, Hedlund is headlining Disney's Tron: Legacy as Sam Flynn, the son of gaming genius Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) who vanishes through a portal into another world.

    Also in December, Hedlund appears alongside Gwyneth Paltrow as an aspiring country songwriter (doing all his own singing) in the indie drama Country Strong.

    "I really couldn't play guitar or sing at that point," Hedlund says, laughing, of jam sessions with Bridges. "I also found out that I couldn't harmonize, either." 

  • Aaron Johnson, 20

    At only 20, Johnson is already engaged, a new father to a baby girl and an in-demand import from across the pond. The London-raised actor, who appeared in his first film (Tom & Thomas) at 10, says he never "chose" to become an actor.

    "I just knew I loved working," he says. Recent gigs have included the underdog-superhero comic book adaptation Kick-Ass. Neither compares to playing an angsty teenage John Lennon in the critically acclaimed Nowhere Boy, a performance Paul McCartney called "brilliant."

  • Lena Dunham, 24

    The star, writer and director of this year's buzzed-about indie drama Tiny Furniture, Dunham has teamed with Judd Apatow for another triple-threat endeavor: a yet-unnamed comedy pilot for HBO about a group of twentysomething women.

    The pair began shooting the pilot this month.

  • Daniel Espinosa, 33

    Espinosa first experienced the arts in an acting program for troubled youth in his hometown of Stockholm. Today he's the acclaimed director of The Fighter (no, not the new Mark Wahlberg film), which made a splash on the foreign festival circuit and paved the way for his second feature as writer-director of Easy Money.

    A graduate of Denmark's prestigious National Film School, Espinosa will soon be at the helm of the action thriller Safe House, which begins filming in Cape Town in the spring with Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington. Has Espinosa has gone Hollywood? Nah. He still lives in Sweden with wife Nina, a doctor.

  • Daniel Stamm, 34

    "In Germany it's frowned upon to do something that doesn't award you a [real] job," the Hamburg native says. "I used to say I was a journalist because it was more accepted."

    Stamm eventually went public with his love for cinema at the Baden-Wuerttemberg Film Academy in Ludwigsburg, where he studied for four years, after which he moved to Los Angeles to study directing at the American Film Institute.

    His first feature, A Necessary Death -- a dark mockumentary about a voyeuristic director and a suicidal man -- won the AFI Fest's top prize in 2008 and got Stamm hired to direct last summer's hit thriller The Last Exorcism, which grossed more than $41 million domestically.

    He's busy helming the second installment of M. Night Shyamalan's Night Chronicles.

  • Meredith Ahr, 31

    Growing up in North Palm Beach, Fla., Ahr was obsessed with TV. "I knew every station, every show and would lay out the evening's programs for my family," she says. But her childhood obsession didn't lead to a living until she joined NBC's page program, working on the first post-9/11 broadcast of Saturday Night Live.

    "I recently saw that episode for the first time, and it sparked something in my head," she says. "Making people laugh in a time that's tough? That matters." The Boston College grad went from page status to NBC's associates program.

    Assigned to the reality beat, she helped develop hits like The Biggest Loser, The Marriage Ref and America's Got Talent. "My litmus test is, can I imagine my grandpa, mom, nieces and nephews all watching it?" she says. 

  • Carolyn Cassidy, 32

    It's no surprise that Harvard graduate Cassidy landed in the television business: She spent her childhood moving from market to market with her TV station-managing father.

    But two college internships in summer 1997 -- one reading scripts at Richard Donner's company and the other stuck in an office on a feature at Warner Bros. Animation -- made her career choice clear.

    "I liked working more on the creative side with material -- directly," she says. These days, Cassidy makes that dream come true working on Mixed Signals (adapted from the Israeli dramedy Traffic Light) and has brought aboard in-demand writers like Jhoni Marchinko and Liz Astrof while also serving as point person on deals with the Chernin Co. and Gary Janetti.

    With a mom who works at Williams-Sonoma, Cassidy gets lots of interesting kitchen paraphernalia and says, "I watch a lot of The Barefoot Contessaand I can make a good lasagna." 

  • Yelena Chak, 35

    Most Seinfeld fans have a favorite Kramerism or Costanza moment. For Chak, the characters of NBC development execs Russell Dalrymple and Susan Ross left a bigger impression.

    "I was like, 'They have the coolest job in the world!' " says Chak, a Ukraine native who immigrated with her parents -- both engineers -- to Connecticut at age 3. "The quintessential immigrant story," Chak says.

    The Cornell grad and Stanford MBA eschewed a career in finance to pursue a dream of her own. She filled a UTA mailroom slot in 2002, which catapulted her into comedy development at NBC (My Name Is Earl) and later to a job as director of TV at Bruckheimer Television, where she cut her dramatic teeth on Without a Trace. At CBS since 2007, Chak has been key to its biggest current hits: The Mentalist, The Good Wife and Hawaii Five-0.

    The avid runner, who logs about six miles a day, knows what she's sprinting toward: a career like that of boss Nina Tassler. "She's brilliant, but she also keeps us all inspired," Chak says.

  • Jocelyn Diaz, 33

    Diaz was all set to study international relations at Georgetown when she landed a P.A. job on Disney's Teacher's Pet 2. She never looked back.

    Now the Vienna, Va., native is a key player behind such shows as HBO's Boardwalk Empire and Big Love and is anticipating next year's Game of Thrones, a medieval fantasy series.

    The former ICM assistant and ABC exec, who lived in Spain during college, has a self-professed travel addiction that focuses on Latin American countries because she speaks the language.

    "When you travel, you get a chance to see what other people are trying to make in their film and television entertainment, which gives you an idea of what [they feel] about in their own culture."

  • Kelly Luegenbiehl, 32

    It's all about family for Luegenbiehl, who has helped turn ABC's Wednesday night lineup into a beachhead for domestically minded sitcoms including Cougar Town, The Middle and breakout hit Modern Family, which became the network's first show to win a comedy series Emmy in 22 years.

    "Family comedies weren't on the air, so we had always looked at that as an opportunity," she says. "Then last year everything came together." Her family encouraged her to fly from her native Indiana to check out Pomona College in Claremont, Calif.

    There she pursued her passion for radio, hosting an independent music program and a call-in talk show for the college station, KSPC. But radio jobs were hard to come by, so she went to work as a page at NBC, then at NBC Studios.

    "Some of the writers and directors that I met are people I still know and work with today," she says. They include Jonathan Groff, showrunner for Happy Endings, which is set for a midseason debut along with the new Matthew Perry sitcom Mr. Sunshine.

    "We feel [they] broaden that definition of family, which I think is going to be our bigger goal," says Luegenbiehl, who came to ABC in summer 2006. "Your friends are your family. Your workplace is your family."

  • Noah Pollack, 33

    Blame -- or thank -- Pollack for the televised train wreck that was Heidi Fleiss and Tom Sizemore's reunion on Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew. Now in its fourth season, the reality juggernaut defies the notion that "reality was supposed to be dead by now," he says, "but you can get whiplash trying to keep up with it."

    A UC Berkeley grad who learned the reality ropes working for Bunim-Murray, Pollack also did stints at ICM, Renegade 83 and USA Network before joining VH1 in 2006, where early success with the Rehab shows brought him promotions -- and even a bit of family approval.

    "I'm probably the only person in my family who doesn't have a graduate degree," says the married father of a toddler daughter. "Being part of a show that has gotten good press is a feather in my cap."

  • Andy Richley, 33

    With a lifelong knack for numbers, Richley seemed destined for a career in the business and finance world -- until an old college friend of his dad's offered some advice.

    "[NBC's] Rick Ludwin told me: 'Have some fun. Look into the page program at NBC,' " says Richley, a Chicago native who joined the page ranks less than two weeks later and found himself scouring scripts in search of the next Friends.

    "I immediately felt, this is what I have to do." His instincts for good material have been well utilized at Lionsgate Television, where in the past six years he has helped develop Showtime's Weeds and Nurse Jackie and AMC's Emmy juggernaut Mad Men, as well as countless reality and documentary projects.

    For Richley, the father of a 2-year-old, and a baby on the way, the best part of his job is still those early moments of inspiration. "When the writers talk for hours about this world and their characters ... that kind of passion and knowledge -- you can't beat it," he says.