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Their résumés include Oscar hopefuls, box office runaways, game-changing deals and the most celebrated series on television. They are The Hollywood Reporter's Next Gen Class of 2018, a mix of standout agents, managers, lawyers, and digital, film and TV executives, 35 and under. And now, they join a prestigious list that counts Peter Rice, Ari Emanuel, Kevin Feige and Nina Jacobson among its esteemed alumni.
Profiles written by Ashley Cullins, Rebecca Ford, Mia Galuppo, Marisa Guthrie, Borys Kit, Natalie Jarvey, Lacey Rose, Bryn Elise Sandberg and Tatiana Siegel.
Cate Adams, 32
At 12, Adams was all but certain she'd be a movie producer when she grew up. After graduating from Princeton, the Nashville native moved west to work for a string of women who'd already paved the road, including producers Lynda Obst, Alexandra Milchan and Gail Berman. It was only once she arrived at Warner Bros., working as Greg Silverman's assistant, that Adams' plan altered. "I fell in love with the executives there," she says, "and I thought I could learn so much from them." So she stayed put, working on the studio's recent surprise hit The Meg and overseeing development of the Sesame Street live-action movie as well as a Tom and Jerry live-action hybrid. But at a studio that prioritizes branded properties, Adams is perhaps best known for keeping an eye out for original material. She's now spearheading what will be Robert Zemeckis' next movie, The Witches, and Harry's All-Night Hamburgers.
PINCH-ME MOMENT "Baz Luhrmann showing us the hair, makeup and costume tests for Great Gatsby on his leopard print-covered iPad. It was fabulous!"
Kori Adelson, 32
As an intern at Paramount Vantage, Adelson's first taste of Hollywood taught her a tough lesson in moviemaking. "The studio shut down," recalls the L.A. native. "It was a rude awakening. They made brilliant films, but they were hugely expensive." Adelson's takeaway? "You have to marry commerce and art." After time at Innovative Artists, Paramount and Universal, she carried that lesson to her work at Chernin, where she's spent five years running point on everything from the comedy Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates to the upcoming animated feature Spies in Disguise. Up next: an adaptation of R.L. Stine's Fear Street, which she landed the rights to after tweeting directly to the author. Fox bought the project, which Adelson packaged as a trilogy; it will begin shooting back-to-back early next year.
WHY ISN'T HOLLYWOOD TALKING ABOUT … "Making things great instead of good enough."
Besidone Amoruwa, 30
When Instagram launched IGTV over the summer, many of the platform's biggest stars — including gamer Ninja (11.2 million) and lifestyle guru LaurDIY (4.7 million) — directed their fans to the video hub thanks to Amoruwa's behind-the-scenes work. Part of the L.A.-based partnerships team, it's her job to make sure that beauty, lifestyle and gaming talent know how to navigate all that Instagram has to offer them. This often means starting her day responding to text messages or Instagram "DMs" from creators and their reps. "I'm pretty reachable," acknowledges the UC Riverside alum, who got her start launching the social media accounts for LA Models while also earning a paralegal certificate from UCLA and an MBA from Mount Saint Mary's University. Post-college digital marketing jobs at Sean Combs' Revolt Media and YouTube network StyleHaul solidified her plan to work in social media. "Digital storytelling is getting bigger," says Upland, California-raised Amoruwa, whose Nigerian immigrant parents instilled in her the importance of education. "We're going to see more writers and creatives telling stories that are diverse, inclusive and authentic. I want to be at the forefront."
THE THING I NEED TO GET THROUGH MY DAY "A prayer and a workout."
Racheline Benveniste, 35
Benveniste likes to say her big break came when trying to persuade Mike Medavoy to hire her as an assistant even though she "had no idea what I was doing." Still, she hoped her English accent would get her through. "And it kind of did," she jokes. That gig led to others, including her lengthy stint at Warner Bros. before settling at Netflix in 2016. At the streaming giant, Benveniste has helped shape the movie slate with a collection of family films and franchises, including the upcoming holiday movie The Christmas Chronicles, starring Kurt Russell. Among her biggest endeavors, however, will be overseeing the new Chronicles of Narnia franchise. In October, Netflix picked up the rights to C.S. Lewis' classic book series with plans for a cinematic universe spanning TV and film. The London native, whose mother is American and father Egyptian, has also worked tirelessly to bring the upcoming rom-com Always Be My Maybe, starring Ali Wong and Randall Park, to the streamer.
ADVICE I WISH I GOT AT 22 "It's a positive attribute to have a different background and different experiences — don't hide from it, celebrate it."
Sahara Bushue, 32
When Bushue joined the NBC page program in summer 2008, her only prior TV experience had been sitting in front of one for the first two decades of her life. "I was an only child, so it was kind of like my sibling," says the San Diego native, who graduated with a broadcast journalism degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She quickly found her way to NBC's prestigious program by way of a job fair, for which she submitted an essay that "probably quoted Friends," she says. After a brief stint in publicity, the avid exerciser and lowbrow TV fanatic (she cops to watching Teen Mom "compulsively") scored an assistant gig in NBC's alternative department under then-new hire Paul Telegdy. Nine years later, Telegdy is co-running the network and Bushue is a top executive in his former department. In that time, she's been point on an impressive collection of hits, including America's Got Talent, World of Dance and Little Big Shots.
MOST OVERUSED WORD "I say 'literally' a lot … especially when it's actually figurative or metaphorical. I also often express that I'm 'dead' or '100 percent' about anything exciting. In short, I'm literally 100 percent dead about having this opportunity. Should I go back to college?"
Adam Cooper, 35
Cooper helped clients Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese negotiate the first-ever overall deal for Netflix's international division on behalf of their German series Dark — which is fitting since Cooper began his own career by carving out a niche in WME's business affairs department covering then-new streaming services. The married father also helped Kiersey Clemons ink her deal as the human lead in Disney's streaming reboot of Lady and the Tramp and Tony winner Renee Elise Goldsberry leverage her Hamilton stage success into such projects as Netflix's Altered Carbon. "It's interesting to, again, be on the frontlines of how that platform is going to shift the model," says Cooper. The New Jersey native, who majored in political science at Rutgers before earning a law degree at Duke and a master's of public administration from Harvard, also works closely with firm clients including The Handmaid's Tale showrunner Bruce Miller and Jack Ryan showrunner Carlton Cuse.
THE THING I NEED TO GET THROUGH MY DAY "The photos of my son that my wife texts me throughout the day. And Diet Coke. But in that order."
Emerson Davis, 33
After spearheading the deal for Terence Nance to create the celebrated HBO series Random Acts of Flyness, Davis secured his client a co-writing and directing gig on the LeBron James vehicle Space Jam 2 for Warner Bros. In similarly quick succession, the Maryland native (his father was a lawyer for the SEC) took prolific music video director Hiro Murai from zero film or TV experience to directing the Atlanta pilot and then the Noah Hawley-produced film Man Alive for Fox. Over the past year, the Yale grad also drove the film packaging for Chad St. John's My Own Worst Enemy at Universal with Kevin Hart starring and Tim Story directing (all three are clients). And though he played a key role in getting Space Jam 2 off the ground, Davis has yet to nab Laker tickets. "I'm still waiting for that call! The season's started, but I'm patient," he jokes.
MY FAMILY BACK HOME THINKS MY JOB IS … "I'm not sure, but they ask me every year if I've met Denzel yet. I have not."
Ryan Draizin, 33
Draizin's first premiere came at age 6 when his agent turned producer dad took him to see White Men Can't Jump. Though he and Draizin's mom had split by the time Draizin hit middle school, their early courtship had already secured the Hollywood treatment. The pair's unconventional love story became the inspiration for Fools Rush In, with Salma Hayek portraying Draizin's mom and Matthew Perry his dad. His Mexico-born grandma appeared in the 1997 film, while a scene with a young Draizin as an extra ultimately got cut. Still, he'd caught the bug. Each summer, the University of Colorado Boulder student interned on either a film set or at a talent agency. Postgraduation, he landed at William Morris, later WME, where he worked his way up swiftly. Today, the newly married agent's roster includes Hasan Minhaj, for whom he negotiated a 32-episode Netflix late-night show; Atlanta's Stephen Glover, for whom he scored an FX overall deal; David Goyer, for whom he scored a series order at Apple; and Broad City breakout Arturo Castro, for whom he nabbed a pact to create and star in a forthcoming sketch show, Alternatino, for Comedy Central.
MY FAMILY BACK HOME THINKS MY JOB IS … "My father is a former agent, and both of my sisters work at agencies. So they get it."
Christine D’Souza Gelb, 34
As a partner and public face at Endeavor Content, D'Souza Gelb spends the bulk of her time raising independent financing and selling global distribution rights for films. Among her biggest sales are Dan Fogelman's Life, Itself — though the drama became a critical and commercial misfire, she'd already sold it to Amazon for a whopping $10 million — Blindspotting to Summit/CodeBlack and The Ritual to Netflix, making it one of the biggest pacts out of the Toronto Film Festival. The New Orleans native (daughter of a judge and a neurologist) also proved key to the financing of Ruben Ostlund's The Square, which scored both the Palme d'Or and a best foreign-language film Oscar nomination. The University of Arizona grad, who worked her way up as a sales agent at WME, consults for several high-end producers and financiers, too, including K Period (Manchester by the Sea) and QC Entertainment (BlacKkKlansman, Get Out). Two years ago, D'Souza Gelb married Chef's Table creator David Gelb, with whom she shares a home and a dog, Remy, named after a character from their favorite movie, Ratatouille.
PINCH-ME MOMENT "Getting pushed by a colleague into a dance circle to do a dance-off with Common at a party at the Toronto Film Festival. He won."
Danny Feldheim, 33
Growing up in the suburbs of Detroit, Feldheim dreamed of one day becoming a director like the greats, Quentin Tarantino or Martin Scorsese. So upon graduating from Ohio State, he lined up a job at an L.A.-based real estate-finance company as a way to get closer to the industry. Eight months in, Feldheim requested his boss fire him. "I said, 'I really want to work in Hollywood, and I need more time to focus on it. So I need you to push me out, and I'll collect unemployment,' " he says. The plan worked: Feldheim landed at ICM before jumping to Brillstein, Nickelodeon and, later, Fox, where he had a hand in Empire and Gotham. In 2016, he settled at CBS All Access, where he's helped build the streamer from the ground up. In addition to shepherding such dramas as Star Trek: Discovery, The Good Fight and the new Twilight Zone reboot from Jordan Peele, the married dad has been leading All Access' push into comedy with Will Ferrell's No Activity and a new Star Trek animated series.
MY FAMILY BACK HOME THINKS MY JOB IS … "To get them CBS All Access subscriptions and explain to them where and how to access CBS All Access."
Rob Fishman, 32
After building and selling his first two startups — data company Kingfish Labs to BuzzFeed in 2012 and influencer marketing firm Niche to Twitter for $30 million in 2015 — Fishman is busy on his third. His Brat digital studio, which has raised more than $40 million from such investors as Anchorage Capital and Shari Redstone's Advancit Capital, produces teen-centric shortform video series for distribution on social media. The 1-year-old company found early success with its Chicken Girls drama and subsequent movie, which amassed more than 15 million YouTube views. (Bill Simmons' teenage daughter is a fan.) Since then, Brat — which Fishman runs with Niche co-founder Darren Lachtman — has grown to 50 employees and is filming shows nearly every day out of its Hollywood production facility. "We've had a great opportunity to insert ourselves into youth culture really quickly," says the Cornell alumnus, who got his master's degree in journalism from Columbia and spent more than two years running social media for The Huffington Post. After years away from writing, Brat has given him the opportunity to brush up on that skill: "Now I get to rewrite our scripts."
WHY AREN'T MORE PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT … "How to make free TV on the internet."
Lizzie Fox, 34
Since shifting to CNN in 2012 from Sundance Channel, Fox has overseen the production of more than 30 original series, including Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown and W. Kamau Bell's United Shades of America as well as a slew of auspice-enviable limited series such as Tom Hanks' decades series (The Sixties, The Seventies, etc.). These programs have come to define CNN almost as much as its Donald Trump war. "We started with three series, now we have 10 to 12 every year," says the L.A.-based Fox, a married mom with a 14-month-old son. The UC Berkeley grad comes by it naturally; her parents were prolific TV producers (A Different World, Grace Under Fire). "I grew up on sets," she says. "PAs were my babysitters."
ADVICE I WISH I GOT AT 22 "It's great to have an opinion — but more importantly, know how to read a room."
Chris Giliberti, 30
As employee No. 13 at podcast producer Gimlet Media, Giliberti had his pick of roles. The former consultant started as chief of staff, handling the mundane, like operations, financing, sales and human resources. But when Hollywood came calling about adapting Gimlet's podcasts into film or TV projects, he saw an opening for a more creative position and founded in-house studio Gimlet Pictures. Per Giliberti, the move, which came after Gimlet took a back seat on ABC's short-lived StartUp adaptation Alex, Inc., "was about planting the flag in the market that we're hands-on and we are going to shape these stories in these new formats, just as we do in audio." The shingle's debut adaptation, Homecoming, for Amazon, marks Julia Roberts' first regular TV role. Though the Tufts alumnus took a moment to celebrate Homecoming's Nov. 2 premiere over pizza with his boyfriend, he's already at work producing the show's second season and other projects in development, including a Richard Linklater film based on an episode of tech podcast Reply All.
ADVICE I WISH I GOT AT 22 "You learn more from failure than success."
Laura Gordon, 31
Gordon considers drumming her first love, a skill she picked up as a child in Baltimore. She kept it up while studying creative writing at Johns Hopkins and post-college during her stints at a handful of boutique Hollywood agencies. "I did whatever I could to cobble together some sort of career while simultaneously drumming," says Gordon, who is particularly passionate about LGBTQ rights. In 2011, she landed at ICM, where she now reps comedy powerhouses like Tig Notaro. When she's not overseeing the firm's agent trainee program, Gordon's built up a roster heavy on women and people of color, from Search Party creators Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers to Girls Trip writer Tracy Oliver and Emmy-nominated Barry scribe Liz Sarnoff, for whom she scored a rich deal at UCP. Still, Gordon hasn't given up on her other passion: She wakes up at 4:45 every morning so she has time to work out, read for pleasure and, ideally, fit in a little drumming.
PINCH-ME MOMENT "Playing drums with the Indigo Girls."
Jennifer Gray, 35
The Columbia law grad reps rising talent from To All The Boys I've Loved Before director Susan Johnson to The Resident star Manish Dayal and handles day-to-day business for Keegan-Michael Key. "I probably have a new deal for him every week," says Gray. She also worked on firm client Krysten Ritter's contract for Jessica Jones, ran point on deals for writers and producers of Last Week Tonight, and co-reps Steve McQueen, Conan O'Brien and Roland Emmerich. This year, Gray is celebrating two milestones: the first woman promoted to partner at her firm in two decades and having her first child.
I WISH I COULD TRADE GIGS FOR A DAY WITH … "Shonda Rhimes. I'm such a fan. And I'd get spoilers on her shows."
Brittany Kahan, 34
Kahan was first told she should be a manager by her childhood friend, Everwood actor Gregory Smith, when she was still an undergrad at UCLA. "I was like, 'What does that even mean?' " she jokes now. "He was like, 'Trust me. Get an internship this summer.' " So, the Agoura Hills native put off her law school aspirations and snagged an internship with then-manager J.J. Harris. Smith, it turns out, was right. Kahan graduated a year early to get a jump, moving quickly from assistant to manager. (Smith was her first client.) In 2012, Kahan moved to Echo Lake, where her clients range from The Post scribe Liz Hannah to actress Phoebe Tonkin. Kahan, who's worked with both Fanning sisters for more than a decade, soon will add producer to her credits, beginning with Netflix's YA adaptation All the Bright Places, which she packaged and developed with Elle.
ADVICE I WISH I GOT AT 22 "Take a breath sometimes."
Christine Kim, 33
Kim remembers more TV-watching than studying while attending an all-girls Catholic school in Hawaii. So few were surprised when she set her sights on Hollywood, moving to L.A. for college at USC. She got a degree in business and cinema studies that she parlayed into a job in Lionsgate's theatrical production arm and later at Mosaic and CAA. Seven years ago, Kim jumped to HBO, where she earned her stripes on such prestige dramas as True Detective, Westworld and The Leftovers. Today, she's playing an integral part in a cadre of high-profile upcoming series, including Euphoria, a Drake-produced teen drama starring Zendaya; and Joss Whedon's The Nevers, a sci-fi epic about a gang of Victorian women who find themselves with special abilities.
THE THING I NEED TO GET THROUGH MY DAY "My cute puppy/son, Henry."
Zach Iser, 33
New York-based Iser's arrival at CAA this year was anything but understated. He and his then-ICM colleague, Caroline Yim, who collectively have a staggering hip-hop roster, found themselves at the center of a heated agency bidding war. Ultimately, CAA secured the pair. Iser has brought with him more than 50 artists, including Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals, BlocBoy JB, Daniel Caesar and Ella Mai. In fact, it was Brit singer-songwriter Ella Mai whose breakout success marked the professional high point of Iser's past year. Her debut album, released in October, hit gold, with tickets for her 2019 tour selling out for all venues during presales. "It's exciting to see another client of ours really break with a carefully executed tour strategy coming to fruition," says the NYU grad, whose own trombone skills landed him a scholarship. Now the Calabasas, California, native puts that music sense to work, overseeing such dealmaking as rapper Future's endorsement pact with The Gap or a multiplatform deal with MasterCard on behalf of client SZA.
I WISH HOLLYWOOD WOULD STOP TALKING ABOUT … "How 'urban' is 'in.' Hip-hop culture has been 'in' since its inception."
Ryan Lindenberg, 34
Growing up in upstate New York, a young Lindenberg would wait by the door for his TV Guide to arrive so that he could study the week in television. "As a closeted gay kid in a small town, I felt I could relate to characters on shows more so than I could relate to a lot of my peers," he says. He channeled his love of all things Aaron Spelling TV (posters for Beverly Hills, 90210 and Melrose Place still hang in his office) and the business that Spelling once dominated into an undergraduate degree at USC, followed by an early stint at Touchstone Studios, where Greg Berlanti had a deal. In 2009, Lindenberg jumped to team Berlanti, first as the showrunner's assistant and later as his head of development. Working for the busiest man in TV — Berlanti now has a record 15 series in production — means that Lindenberg fills his days (and nights) identifying new writers and working with them to develop ideas into projects that he can help staff and cast. Whatever free time he has left over is usually consumed with more TV, with Real Housewives filling the Spelling void.
CHARACTER I MOST IDENTIFY WITH "It vacillates between Jennifer Lawrence's character in mother! and Javier Bardem's character in mother!"
Kyle Loftus, 29
Loftus got his feet wet as an intern at APA while still an undergrad at the University of Pittsburgh before joining the agency's mailroom full-time upon graduation. Earlier this fall, at just 29, he was named partner, making him the agency's youngest ever in the role. And he's earned it. Loftus, who's engaged to NBC drama development exec Christina Lehmann, helped client Kenny Smith become co-showrunner of Black-ish as part of a hefty overall deal at ABC Studios. He was key in introducing client John Carpenter to Jason Blum, too, which opened doors that led to the smash hit Halloween reboot (domestic box office: $150 million and counting). He also led negotiations for the landmark deal for crossover artist 50 Cent and his G-Unit banner with Starz that included a three-series commitment.
CHARACTER I MOST IDENTIFY WITH "Josh Lyman of The West Wing. It's the show that made me want to be in the business."
Ari Lubet, 33
As the Wisconsin-born son of a dentist, Lubet jokes that his dad "developing film in the dental lab was the closest [he] got to film." But his own plan to follow in his father's footsteps was derailed when he began dabbling in film classes at the University of Wisconsin. A post-college stint at Scott Rudin's production company gave him a crash course in the business, and he segued from there to a career in representation. At 33, Lubet has a Peabody for his work on client Tony Yacenda's recently canceled Netflix darling American Vandal, which he and the team are shopping elsewhere. The remainder of Lubet's diverse roster ranges from rising filmmaker Minhal Baig (whose Black List script turned Baig-directed Muslim coming-of-age story, Hala, is hotly anticipated) to graphic novelist Gail Simone. He's also set to produce a Jason Blum series about the downfall of Enron, with client Mark Stasenko writing and Alex Gibney attached to direct. Lubet, who makes pottery (he keeps a wheel at his home) and brews his own beer, is expecting a baby girl with his chemist wife early next year.
PINCH-ME MOMENT "Meeting Dave Chappelle at an Emmy party with the Vandal team. He asked, 'Are you the guys who made the show about the dicks?' "
Trevor McFedries, 32
Growing up in Davenport, Iowa, McFedries saw only two paths: become a professional athlete or a football coach. But after a brief stint on a football scholarship at San Jose State, he dropped out and moved back home. That's when two new paths emerged: He became a web designer by day and a DJ by night. Soon music became a full-time gig and, under the name DJ Skeet Skeet, he began to perform around the world, including as part of Katy Perry's 2011 tour. But McFedries never lost his interest in technology, and, after he tired of life on the road, he transitioned to startups full time. In 2016, he launched Brud with business partner Sara DeCou. Inspired by the impact that shows like Will & Grace and The Cosby Show had on society, they built #BlackLivesMatter-supporting, mixed-race CGI Instagram star Miquela Sousa (1.5 million followers). "We started thinking, if we could tell stories that are powerful, perhaps we could build a better world rather than destroy one," McFedries explains. That vision caught the attention of investors Sequoia Capital and Charles King's Macro. "We weren't going to entertain any fund if there wasn't a woman or a person of color who could lead an investment," McFedries says. "We've got a cap table that is black as hell and female as hell, and it's sick." Now, the 14-person Brud is fielding film and television offers.
ADVICE I WISH I GOT AT 22 "No one knows anything."
Emma Miller, 32
As the child of teachers on the outskirts of Chicago, a young Miller figured she'd grow up to be a lawyer or take "a rom-com job" in book publishing. But early stints in kids television and, later, on a few desks at William Morris (later WME) altered that path. The University of Illinois grad has spent the past decade in Los Angeles, where she's moved around every few years, amassing experience in different corners of the TV business: at an agency, a production company (first Marti Noxon's, then at Amblin) and, finally, a network, AMC. At the latter, which she joined in late 2014, the avid runner has been key on a mix of high-profile series, including ratings winner Fear the Walking Dead. In a bid to infuse the cable network with more female stories, Miller also played an key role in developing Noxon's radical if ultimately short-lived series Dietland as well as its forthcoming horror series, NOS4A2, which is being written and directed by women. A work perk: Miller's husband of a few months works a floor away as a vp at sister network IFC.
I WISH HOLLYWOOD WOULD STOP TALKING ABOUT … " 'Getting pregnant' with projects. Also, auspices, IP, circling back, sidebar, 'He's a star!' and 'putting a pin in it.' "
Clifford Murray, 31
During his senior year at Harvard, Murray was president of the Hasty Pudding Theatricals, which honored Anne Hathaway with an award. It was on that day, while Murray was dressed up as Marilyn Monroe, that he met Hathaway's manager, Suzan Bymel, co-founder of Management 360. She told him that he'd be great at talent management and should consider joining her firm, to which the Eastern Asian studies major responded, "No thank you," since he was planning to move to China to work in advertising. When his plans changed, the Massachusetts native reached out to Bymel to see if her offer still stood. After two years on Bymel's desk, he was promoted to manager and has since built up a client list that includes such female writers as Geneva Robertson-Dworet (co-writer of Captain Marvel), Emerald Fennell (Killing Eve) and Megan Amram (The Good Place) as well as rising acting talent (Barry Keoghan) and, with others, veteran actors (Henry Winkler).
MY FAMILY BACK HOME THINKS MY JOB IS … "To work with actahs and writahs."
Kim Rocque, 33
As a member of Netflix's burgeoning indie film team, Rocque works on everything from development to production and acquisition. She's been involved with hundreds of projects, including recently premiered Sierra Burgess Is a Loser, the upcoming Last Days of American Crime and Bubbles, Taika Waititi's stop-motion animation film told from the perspective of Michael Jackson's chimp. The Brooklyn native graduated from Southwestern Law School at the height of the recession and worked odd jobs (think handling customer service for a dance studio) before getting her foot in Hollywood's door with a gig at Capitol Records. Since joining Netflix in 2015, she's seen its in-house legal team quadruple in size and a rapidly growing roster of creatives sign overall deals.
I WISH HOLLYWOOD WOULD STOP TALKING ABOUT … "Diversity and instead take actionable steps to meaningfully address inequity."
Negin Salmasi, 34
When the Iran-born, Michigan-reared Salmasi went off to the University of Michigan, her parents assumed she'd become a doctor or a lawyer "because everyone I grew up with ended up becoming doctors and lawyers," she says. Instead, Salmasi moved to New York postgraduation and worked on documentary films, a career path she supported financially with a lucrative side hustle: throwing warehouse parties. "I did that for about five years, and then I realized that I didn't want to be the old person throwing warehouse parties," she says. So she moved west to attend USC's prestigious Peter Stark producing program. But after a series of low-level gigs at Indian Paintbrush, WME and Sidney Kimmel, she found herself disillusioned and ready to move back. Then, she says, she heard about an opening at Amy Pascal's new production company and landed the job. After two years under Pascal's tutelage, Salmasi beat out about 50 executives to head See-Saw's new L.A. office. Her first project for the King's Speech producer is Steve McQueen's anticipated Widows, which opens Nov. 16.
MY FAMILY BACK HOME THINKS MY JOB IS … "To get them on the red carpet."
Allyson Seeger, 34
Seeger first sat down with John Krasinski at the 101 Cafe back in 2013. Two and a half hours in, the New York native was sold. "He hadn't even offered me the job," she says now, "and I just looked at him and said, 'I'm coming with you.' " Over the past five years, she's helped the actor-producer-director build his New York-based Sunday Night Productions into a bustling banner, beginning with indie film The Hollars (which Krasinski helmed) and the hit series Lip Sync Battle and, more recently, the genre smash A Quiet Place. Now, they're busier than ever, shooting the second season of Amazon's Jack Ryan and developing the Quiet Place sequel. The Mark Gordon Co. alum also has an adaptation of The King of Oil at Universal with Matt Damon attached and a series about Chateau Marmont at Paramount TV. "We like all different kinds of genres," says the Boston University grad. "What we hopefully do well is bring that core emotion and human story to things that don't necessarily have it."
ADVICE I WISH I GOT AT 22 "Don't get caught up in the endgame. The best parts are usually unplanned."
Ben Sheehan, 33
Sheehan has politics in his blood. His father is a consultant who coached former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton on their inauguration speeches, and his mother worked for Sen. Mark Hatfield for more than a decade. So it was almost inevitable that the Emory University political science major would make a career out of politics, too. But first, he tried to make it as a professional musician "playing sensitive love songs for strangers in bars on weeknights." Later, he'd find his footing as head of talent at Funny or Die, helping make videos like Zach Galifianakis' Justin Bieber interview on Between Two Ferns a reality. Sheehan made his way back to politics as executive director of Joss Whedon's Save the Day SuperPAC, which disbanded after Hilary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election, and then decided to launch his own group ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. With OMG WTF, he made it his mission to use his Hollywood connections and digital savvy to help elect down-ballot candidates in such states as Georgia and Wisconsin. The group raised more than $300,000 before Election Day thanks to events featuring America Ferrera, Chelsea Handler and Bradley Whitford. Says Sheehan: "There's no law that says political events have to be sipping on wine in a backyard. You can do things like an improv show or a living room concert."
PINCH-ME MOMENT "When I found myself in a conversation with Alejandro Inarritu, Martin Sheen and Joss Whedon just casually chatting about the 2016 election."
Sasha Silver, 33
As the L.A.-reared daughter of a line producer, Silver didn't think she'd want anything to do with the business. But after briefly pursuing journalism as an undergrad at Columbia, the self-professed TV addict realized she was all but destined to be a development executive. "I loved reading material and going, 'This could be a good TV show,' " says Silver, who parlayed an early internship at Focus Features into a postgrad marketing gig. After a few other stops, Silver joined Hulu's drama team in 2016. She immediately got to work on two of the service's genre plays, Castle Rock and Marvel's Runaways, developing a relationship with creators Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage that led to the pair's second Hulu project, Looking for Alaska. Silver — whose husband is a senior product manager, also at Hulu (no, they don't carpool to work together) — has been key to several upcoming big swings, too, including the Reese Witherspoon-Kerry Washington starrer Little Fires Everywhere and Elle Fanning-Nicholas Hoult drama The Great.
ADVICE I WISH I GOT AT 22 "Don't settle."
Bryan Smiley, 35
Smiley started his Hollywood tenure in the company of soccer moms. "I was hired as an assistant story editor on a reality show called The Secret Life of the Soccer Mom," he says with a laugh. "I didn't even know what a story editor was, but I learned that's a lot of what Hollywood is: trial by fire." Born in Detroit, Smiley went to Chicago's Columbia College to study film production but has spent the majority of his career in business development, working his way up to become one of the heads of the department at New Regency. "But I was always a producer at heart," he says of making the decision to leave his decade-long career on the business side to start a production company with former NBA star Baron Davis, making digital content for outfits like Fullscreen. Ten months ago, Columbia chief Sanford Panitch, whom Smiley knew from New Regency, asked him to join his label as a vp production. Since then, Smiley has spearheaded Sony's production deal with basketball superstar Stephen Curry and has begun development on a long-awaited ODB biopic. "I want to find opportunities for creators that they may not have without a person like me in the room," he says.
ADVICE I WISH I GOT AT 22 "To have more fun."
Gabe Spitzer, 35
As a kid in rural Vermont, Spitzer's love of watching sports baffled his history professor father and literature teacher mom. At the same time, he credits the pair for cultivating his equally strong interest in documentaries. At 12, Spitzer saw those two passions merge when he caught the landmark sports doc Hoop Dreams. So, fresh out of college at Wesleyan, Spitzer briefly spent time at ESPN before landing at HBO Sports, where he worked alongside Andre the Giant director Jason Hehir and Oscar winner Ezra Edelman. There, he started out on the boxing and hockey reality series 24/7, working his way up producing and directing content before breaking out on his own in 2013. During that time, he directed a 30 for 30 short, Every Day, about an 86-year-old marathon runner, that went to Sundance, SXSW and Tribeca. After three years solo, the married father of two moved west in 2016 to help Fox Sports beef up doc programming. This fall, Spitzer jumped again, this time to Netflix's original docs group to do the same. First up: a sports doc project from Wild Wild Country duo Maclain and Chapman Way.
PINCH-ME MOMENT "Having a short documentary I directed premiere on opening night of Sundance."
Ben Stillman, 33
The New York native has been at Black Bear since its inception in 2011. In fact, Stillman worked with founder Teddy Schwarzman before that at Cinetic; a few years in, as they were both looking to move into producing, Schwarzman suggested they start the company. Nearly eight years later, Stillman oversees all creative aspects for the finance and production firm behind The Imitation Game. He's an executive producer on the Melissa McCarthy starrer The Happytime Murders and Julia Roberts' awards-season hopeful Ben Is Back as well as two films in postproduction: Casey Affleck's narrative directing debut, Light of My Life, and The Operative, starring Diane Kruger and Martin Freeman. Next, Stillman, who's married to Disney publicity exec Ashley Stillman, will make the leap to full producer for a string of upcoming films, including the Jonas Salk biopic The Impossible War.
THE THING I NEED TO GET THROUGH MY DAY "This sounds super corny, but my wife leaves me a written note almost every morning that I read (or reread) during the day."
Matt Vioral, 34
Vioral scored a gig in Gersh's mailroom a few months after graduating from UCLA in 2006 and has remained at the agency ever since. By 25, he was promoted to agent. Since then, the Upland, California, native has amassed a roster of young talent that includes recent breakouts like Atlanta and Deadpool 2 star Zazie Beetz, who's finishing up her fifth movie this year (Joaquin Phoenix's Joker film), as well as Kissing Booth heartthrob Jacob Elordi, who landed a plum part as the male lead opposite Zendaya in HBO's teen drama Euphoria. The avid traveler also reps New Amsterdam's Ryan Eggold, Stranger Things' Joe Keery and Split's Haley Lu Richardson, who's set to star in CBS Films and Lionsgate's Fault in Our Stars-esque drama Five Feet Apart opposite Cole Sprouse.
PINCH-ME MOMENT "My first SNL taping for client Sasheer Zamata's debut."
Jessica Virtue, 32
Virtue describes herself as "a Hollywood unicorn" in that she's at least sixth-generation Angeleno. While much of the family steered clear of showbiz, her grandfather, actor Gregory Walcott (Plan 9 From Outer Space), taught her not only to like film but also to respect it. "Number-one rule: No talking during a movie," she says. Later, the University of the Pacific grad landed an internship at New Line, which led to assistant gigs, including one with Sean Bailey, president of production at Disney. She'd later transition to a full-fledged exec there, working on films including Pete's Dragon and Cinderella. Now she's running point on the recently released Christopher Robin and December's hotly anticipated musical Mary Poppins Returns.
PINCH-ME MOMENT "Walking onto the Cherry Tree Lane on the Mary Poppins Returns set. It took all my willpower to not break into song."
Laura Washington, 34
Washington's high-profile work involves everything from policing Beyonce's trademarks to handling #MeToo investigations and lawsuits for companies including ICM and Miramax. The Harvard basketball star went to Georgetown Law instead of the WNBA, which gave her an intellectual outlet for her competitive streak. "My dad is a defense attorney," she says. "So I grew up in the courtroom." Washington began her career at O'Melveny & Myers, moving to Latham in 2015 — after a group of partners jumped firms — two months before her wedding. She doesn't see herself leaving in the next decade, but her love of sports could lead to a future as a general counsel for a franchise, maybe even the Lakers. Jokes Washington, "If Magic calls me, I'm going to have to go."
CHARACTER I MOST IDENTIFY WITH "Olivia Pope? Too obvious? How about Michael Clayton? Too nerdy? Either way, I see myself as a fixer."
Click the image below to see a larger version.
1. Christine Kim 2. Danny Feldheim 3. Jessica Virtue 4. Emma Miller 5. Ben Stillman 6. Kim Rocque 7. Clifford Murray 8. Trevor McFedries 9. Allyson Seeger 10. Zach Iser 11. Ari Lubet 12. Gabe Spitzer 13. Cate Adams 14. Ryan Draizin 15. Kyle Loftus 16. Laura Washington 17. Emerson Davis 18. Jennifer Gray 19. Sahara Bushue 20. Racheline Benveniste 21. Adam Cooper 22. Sasha Silver 23. Besidone Amoruwa 24. Ben Sheehan 25. Laura Gordon 26. Kori Adelson 27. Lizzie Fox 28. Brittany Kahan 29. Bryan Smiley 30. Negin Salmasi 31. Chris Giliberti 32. Ryan Lindenberg 33. Matt Vioral 34. Christine D’Souza Gelb 35. Rob Fishman
This story first appeared in the Nov. 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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