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Meet The Hollywood Reporter’s Next Gen Class of 2021, a group of agents, managers, lawyers and executives making unprecedented moves fit for these unprecedented times.
The reps are brokering massive deals (UTA’s Oren Rosenbaum was behind the $60 million Spotify payday for uber-popular podcast Call Her Daddy) and helping clients navigate new normals (see: Sue Carls at CAA, who helped client Olivia Wilde package and sell her sophomore feature, Don’t Worry Darling, during the pandemic). And executives like Amazon Studios’ Phoebe Zimmer and Netflix’s Laura Delahaye are keeping the streaming masses entertained, while Universal’s Lexi Barta and Marvel’s Mary Livanos are on the frontlines of getting audiences back into multiplexes.
Some even already boast awards acclaim, like recent Emmy winner Ted Lasso producer Liza Katzer and Oscar nominee Christina Oh, who was behind 2020 best picture contender Minari.
THR’s 28th annual Next Gen honorees join a list of alumni that includes MACRO’s Charles King, Netflix’s Bela Bajaria and Rideback principal Dan Lin. But in a Hollywood where century-old studios are becoming streamers, agencies are becoming conglomerates, and the power lunch became the midday Zoom, these stars — all age 35 and under — are charting their own courses.
Profiles written by Clara Chan, Ashley Cullins, Mia Galuppo, Borys Kit, Michael O’Connell, Lacey Rose and Rebecca Sun.
A version of this story first appeared in the Nov. 3 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
Jairo Alvarado, 35
LOGLINE Reps directors Lulu Wang (The Farewell) and Angel Manuel Soto (Blue Beetle) and writer Sneha Koorse (The Umbrella Academy).
THE ARC One of six kids from a self-described boisterous Mexican family from La Puente, California, Alvarado defined himself by becoming an A.V. nerd in third grade. In high school, he stayed in computer labs playing on Avid so late that janitors left him the keys to close up. After an internship at Warner Bros., he returned as a development exec when he graduated from UCLA. It was a remark from veteran rep Erwin Stoff that led to a lightbulb moment and career jump: “You’re a manager; you just don’t know it.” He became a lit rep at 3 Arts, then at Circle of Confusion, where he built a diverse stable of writers and filmmakers. “I really felt that the storytelling was evolving, the culture was evolving, but the representation side wasn’t,” he says. So with Max Goldfarb and Tony Gil, the married father of one launched Redefine Entertainment, where he’s following his north star: pushing the cultural conversation forward. “I was already doing that,” he notes. “Hollywood just happened to catch up.”
THE MOST HOLLYWOOD THING THAT’S HAPPENED TO ME “Several people yelling to me over the phone that I’d ‘never make it in this town.’”
THE TV, MOVIE OR BOOK CHARACTER I MOST IDENTIFY WITH IS “Kevin McAlister from Home Alone because I’m on the young side of a massive Mexican family, so that holiday opening sequence was our house every year.”
THE THING I WISH SOMEONE TOLD ME WHEN I WAS STARTING OUT IN HOLLYWOOD “Nobody really has the answers, but they talk like they do.”
Talha Asad, 33
VP, drama programming,
LOGLINE Shepherded Emmy winner Mare of Easttown from pitch to air and will do the same with Adam McKay’s anticipated Lakers drama.
THE ARC The Orange County, California-raised Pakistan native was on track to go to law school when he found the courage to tell his parents that Hollywood was his passion instead. His dad’s response: “What’s Hollywood?” To which Asad replied, “I’ll let you know when I find out.” From there, the UCLA grad set out on something of a fact-finding journey, taking a series of gigs, from agenting (at Paradigm) to producing (at Ben Stiller’s Red Hour Films), before landing at HBO in 2018. Since then, he’s helped guide popular series like Perry Mason and The Deuce and broke Mare of Easttown. Now, Asad is hard at work on such projects as The Last of Us, a buzzy video game adaptation from Chernobyl’s Craig Mazin.
IF I COULD TRADE PLACES WITH ANYONE IN HOLLYWOOD FOR A DAY, IT WOULD BE … “Jeff Goldblum because he just looks like he’s enjoying life more than anyone, all the time.”
Lexi Barta, 35
VP, production & development,
LOGLINE Runs point on everything from rom-coms (Ticket to Paradise) and heist movies (The 355) to animation (Trolls: World Tour).
THE ARC Barta isn’t sure how she became the go-to for Universal’s movie musical slate — including Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again and Trolls: World Tour — but she’s happy to be here. “I enjoy working on films that meld many forms of art,” says the exec. And as the studio system has been disrupted—and then disrupted, again— the Los Angeles native finds herself in the increasingly rare position of running point on a slate of theatrically bound features that are not delineated by budget or genre. Barta, who came to Donna Langley’s desk from a coordinator position at CAA, oversees projects like a George Clooney-Julia Roberts rom-com and a New York Times Harvey Weinstein drama, and is Uni’s liaison for projects with DreamWorks Animation.
IF I COULD TRADE PLACES WITH ANYONE IN HOLLYWOOD FOR A DAY, IT WOULD BE … “Harrison Ford because he’s Indiana Jones.”
THE BUZZWORD I WISH WOULD GO AWAY “It’s not exactly a buzzword, but you often hear people say to ‘Be nice to everyone because you never know where they’ll end up.’ It’s ridiculous. You shouldn’t need a reason to be nice to people!”
THE THING I WISH SOMEONE TOLD ME WHEN I WAS STARTING OUT “Good luck.”
Diana Bernstein, 35
Director, original series & content acquisition,
LOGLINE Negotiates overall deals with makers like Shonda Rhimes, Patti Jenkins, Marti Noxon and Jessica Rhoades as well as acts as their business and legal partner on their slates.
THE ARC During her freshman year at Northeastern University, Bernstein, a music major and songwriter, decided she wanted a career that combined her creative interests with problem-solving and negotiating skills. She worked at SAG during undergrad, then joined WME after law school before moving on to Netflix in 2014. “Netflix looked really different at the time,” she says. “I joined a team of two then. We were just about to start producing our own content. We weren’t available globally, and it was exciting to be around when we went live in each country.” These days, the Boston-born attorney has had her hands in some of the streamer’s biggest talent pacts and most successful series, including Bridgerton, The Crown, Jessica Jones and Orange Is the New Black. “I spend most of my day partnering with talent,” says Bernstein. “That could look like helping Shondaland pursue IP they’re excited about (like the Bridgerton novels) or getting an actor deal done before we start principal on a project.” As she continues to work with clients and train and mentor members of her team, transparency and trust are pillars of her work: “Focusing on that really allows me to take business items off of a client’s plate so they can focus more on what they do best, which is incredible storytelling.”
THE MOST HOLLYWOOD THING THAT’S HAPPENED TO ME “Being drawn as a background character into an episode of BoJack Horseman.”
David Binegar, 35
VP, scripted programming,
LOGLINE Secured a second season of the hit miniseries Your Honor and is backing his network’s genre hopes (Yellowjackets launches Nov. 14).
THE ARC Phoenix-bred Binegar lingered in the Bay Area after graduating from the University of San Francisco, where he landed one of few non-tech opportunities. His “accidental first career” in animation, working for a short-lived stop-motion studio backed by Disney, led to a job offer at Pixar. More keen to work in live action and episodic TV, he turned it down to move to L.A., where he found … more of the same. “I was getting job offers to keep working in animation,” he says, “but I couldn’t get a job anywhere else because I didn’t know anyone.” It was during his second year in USC’s Peter Stark Producing Program that Binegar got his foot in the door at a cable network. He interned at David Nevins’ old Showtime office, eventually returning as an assistant to originals exec Robin Gurney. Now a programmer himself, Binegar recently launched his network’s biggest hit in years — Bryan Cranston’s limited series turned returning drama Your Honor — and has been entrusted with some of its most valuable IP: Dexter reboot New Blood, another Binegar project, is out Nov. 7.
I’M DYING TO WORK WITH … “Los Javis [Veneno creators Javier Ambrossi and Javier Calvo], Sean Baker, and I would give up an organ to work with Michaela Coel.”
Sean Brown, 35
Global Head of Sports
LOGLINE Secured deals with the NFL, NHL, and LeBron James and Maverick Carter’s SpringHill.
THE ARC As a kid in Pittsburgh, Brown always knew he wanted to make a career out of his love for sports — even if he couldn’t articulate exactly what that meant. The college baller and sneakerhead, who got style advice from his mother (a buyer for Dick’s Sporting Goods), was fascinated by how athletes expressed themselves through fashion and built careers off the court. “There’s so much more empowerment around what they get to do because there’s such a big magnifying glass on them every day,” says Brown. At Clubhouse, he helps athletes show the full range of who they are, including through candid conversations about mental health. “To hear people who are on television and praised as being like gods to some degree [say], ‘I have anxiety, I’m scared to do this sometimes,’ … I would love to have more of that on the platform,” he says.
THE BUZZWORD I WISH WOULD GO AWAY “‘Authentic’ and ‘culture.’ I feel like they’re belabored. We need to work around what ‘authentic’ and the word ‘culture’ mean in different contexts.”
Sue Carls, 34
Motion picture literary agent,
LOGLINE Brokered big deals for Olivia Wilde (Don’t Worry Darling, Perfect); reps Vanessa Kirby, Brian Tyree Henry, Lee Daniels and Aline Brosh McKenna.
THE ARC You could say Carls was destined to become an agent. She’s named after her great-grandmother Sue Carol Ladd, who was a talent agent at a time when few women were. “She paved the way for me to be able to do this job,” Carls says. “I feel honored that I get to carry on her legacy.” After graduating from Duke, Carls attended law school and joined CAA as an assistant in business affairs, where she got “addicted” to both the agency’s culture and the ability to be on the inside of major deals. One day it clicked that becoming an agent would allow her to work more closely with clients and understand the “why” of how directors, studios, writers, and talent were selected for a project. Says Carls, “I want to be a true advocate in every sense of the word.”
I’M DYING TO WORK WITH … “Josh O’Connor, who definitely knows [it].”
Christina Chou, 34
Motion picture literary agent,
LOGLINE Assembled the Minari squad of director Lee Isaac Chung, star Steven Yeun and producer Christina Oh; signed director Cathy Yan and booked her on Birds of Prey.
THE ARC Third-culture identity is a defining element of both Chou’s personal history and her career. The child of Chinese diaspora immigrants (her father is from India, and her mother is from Taiwan) knew that she “wanted to do something that touched the world in the international space.” After graduating with degrees in economics and political science from the University of Illinois, Chou worked in corporate development at CAA, where expanding the agency’s presence in the Asia-Pacific region led to signing auteurs like Chung and Yan (and becoming an agent in the process). In addition to her role at the “intersection between global filmmakers and the U.S. studio system,” she also is CEO of Goodfight, the hot L.A. fashion label she runs with her husband and two friends, and is a co-founder of the Asian American multi-industry coalition Gold House.
I’M DYING TO WORK WITH … “Bong Joon Ho and Alfonso Cuarón. Mother, Memories of Murder, Y Tu Mama Tambien (and of course all of their recent winners) are seminal global films and have had a tremendous impact on me.
THE BUZZWORD I WISH WOULD GO AWAY “Describing any social thriller idea or script as ‘Squid Games-esque.'”
Tanya Cohen, 33
LOGLINE Helped client M. Night Shyamalan get Old and Split into theaters and transitioned animation talent Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Brenda Chapman into live action.
THE ARC The avid marathon runner is not one to waste time. Graduating from university at 19, the Australian-by-way-of-South Africa entered the mailroom at Paradigm, where she was promoted to agent at age 21. “I was catching the bus to work because I didn’t know how to drive on the right side of the road yet,” says Cohen with a laugh; she lives (and now drives) in Century City with her husband and newborn daughter. A jump to lit-focused Verve was followed by a tenure at WME, where she was named partner before joining management/production outfit Range Media. Among Cohen’s areas of expertise is transitioning clients across mediums, like she did for Liesl Tommy, a noted theater director who made her feature debut this year with the Aretha Franklin biopic Respect, and Blackfish documentarian Gabriela Cowperthwaite, who jumped to narrative features with Megan Leavey and Our Friend under Cohen’s guidance. The rep, who grew up performing musical theater with appearances in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, explains that her job is “helping focus other people’s light.”
THE BUZZWORD I WISH WOULD GO AWAY “Tech avails.”
I’M DYING TO WORK WITH … “If I could dig them up from the grave, [Alfred] Hitchcock and Billy Wilder.”
Parker Davis, 32
LOGLINE Helped Jurassic World scribe Emily Carmichael become a go-to franchise writer; signed director Richard Wong out of SXSW and attached him to Lionsgate’s The Valet.
THE ARC Davis pushes rising writers and directors into the echelons of studio filmmaking. His get-in-on-the-ground-floor ethos can be traced back to his introduction at Verve in 2011, when the Maryland native, new to L.A., cold-called the office after Googling talent agencies. Davis is the fifth employee hired at the agency and its first in the mailroom. “I could sit in the office and hear everyone’s conversations,” says the rep of his on-the-job education. He acted as assistant to each of the agency’s founding partners at some point and has been at Verve long enough to remember celebrating an early seven-figure spec script sale with an agency-wide call to clients on speakerphone and a bottle of Johnny Walker. Davis’ clients include Carmichael, with whom Davis began working after seeing her short film and now has writing credits on franchises Pacific Rim and Jurassic World, and Sarah Streicher, a former playwright who last year debuted Amazon’s The Wilds. He says, “To find those interesting and noisy voices is one of the most fun parts of the job.”
THE BUZZWORD I WISH WOULD GO AWAY “Genre-agnostic.”
THE CHARACTER I IDENTIFY WITH “The Wolf from Pulp Fiction because I am great at cleaning up messes.”
Laura Delahaye, 34
Director, original series,
LOGLINE Championed The Queen’s Gambit and Mike Flanagan’s horror empire, starting with The Haunting of Hill House.
THE ARC The Bay Area native had always wanted to work in entertainment, but it wasn’t until she landed a job in L.A. that it felt within reach. That gig? A saleswoman at David’s Shoes, where the Loyola Marymount grad turned a sale of shoes to a Hollywood writer into an informational coffee and, ultimately, a job at CAA. Delahaye would later work at Fox21, where she established a foothold in horror, before moving to Netflix in 2016. In her early days at the streamer, the now-married mom of one developed the hit The Haunting of Hill House — and, more recently, built out its creator Flanagan’s empire. Delahaye also was key to bringing The Queen’s Gambit to life. “I can’t pretend that I’m a chess master,” she says, “but I thought if this could be compelling to me — someone who’s a complete outsider to that world — then there’s a chance that that could translate, and it did.”
THE CHARACTER I IDENTIFY WITH “Ruth from Ozark because we’re both blond, short and probably swear too much.”
Bryan "Dip" Diperstein, 34
Motion picture literary agent,
LOGLINE Guided Tracy Oliver into an overall deal at Apple TV+, Jeremy O. Harris into writing for film, and Matthew Cherry into directing a Netflix movie.
THE ARC Diperstein set his sights on Hollywood after seeing the “hustle and bustle” up close. His aunt (Lisa Olin) had a producing deal at Paramount and would invite him to her office on the lot. He remembers, “I knew I wanted to be in the thick of this.” He thought he’d become a writer, but nine internships later — 30 Rock and The Daily Show among them — he pursued a job in ICM’s mailroom after graduating from Hofstra University. He became its youngest-ever agent in 2012, at just 24. “I made sure I was working harder than everyone without being overly annoying,” says the pro wrestling fan, who now reps Oliver (Girls Trip), Harris (Zola) and Cherry (Hair Love).
I’M DYING TO WORK WITH … “Larry David. There’s no greater gift to humanity right now than a new season of Curb Your Enthusiasm. It’s exactly what we all needed. ‘Hello! I see you, I acknowledge you, I connect with you!’ Larry David is a true genius, and the voice of EVERY generation.”
THE BUZZWORD I WISH WOULD GO AWAY … “Let me circle back.”
Josh Glick, 31
LOGLINE Advises talents Olivia Cooke (House of Dragons), Noah Jupe (A Quiet Place), Diego Boneta (Father of the Bride) and Rupert Friend (Obi-Wan).
THE ARC The Texas-born Glick has always been obsessed with movies. His 11th birthday was Matrix-themed, and he forced his friends to reenact the movie. (He was Neo, of course.) So, naturally, Hollywood beckoned. He joined Gersh’s mailroom and became an agent at age 23. In 2015, he left to join rising management firm Grandview, where he spearheaded the creation of its talent division, and in 2020 became its youngest partner. One of his hallmarks is identifying young talent and sticking with them. “Diego didn’t get a job for two years,” recalls Glick, who became a first-time father during the pandemic. “That was really hard.” Now Boneta stars in one of Netflix Latin America’s biggest series — Luis Miguel — and in the Father of the Bride remake while also moving into producing and investing. Glick signed Jupe before he turned 10 and has guided him from Honey Boy to next year’s Lost Boys reboot. Cooke stayed in his home’s guest room when auditioning but is now shooting the closely watched Game of Thrones spinoff, House of Dragons. Says Glick, “Creating content is what wins, and having actors and filmmakers who create that content is what will put you ahead.”
THE CHARACTER I IDENTIFY WITH “Gabriel from Call My Agent because he cares too much about his clients and is always a little sweaty.”
THE MOST HOLLYWOOD THING THAT’S EVER HAPPENED TO ME “Marrying a CAA agent.”
Clarence Hammond, 34
Senior vp production,
LOGLINE Oversaw Angel Soto’s Charm City Kings and the Jaden Smith-led Life in a Year; up next is On the Come Up.
THE ARC American Psycho and grandmothers don’t often intersect, but they do in Hammond’s case. Watching that Christian Bale flick at 14, then recounting it to his grandma, sparked a deeper interest in movies. The Duke alum landed an internship at Will Smith’s Overbrook, which became his home for the next 11 years as he worked his way up to vp development. One of the most important lessons he’s learned is to never forget the people sitting on the couch. “What will the audience experience be once it’s done?” he says. Now at Paramount Players, he’s focused on commercial projects for theatrical and streaming that “have something to say.” In late October, Hammond began production on his first feature, On the Come Up, an 8 Mile-like rapper drama for the YA set. His goal is to make “elevated genre,” a term he knows is overused. “It’s about who is telling the story. If you get a fresh perspective on a tried-and-true genre, you can elevate the genre from that one choice alone.”
THE CHARACTER I IDENTIFY WITH “Since I recently spent an hour lost in an LAX parking garage, I have to say [Jerry] Seinfeld.”
THE BUZZWORD I WISH WOULD GO AWAY “’Drinks?’ After two years working from home, the idea of being out until 9 on a weeknight sounds as daunting as a trip to Mars.”
MY PARENTS THINK I DO “what I love” FOR A LIVING.
Grace Kallis, 34
Ginsburg Daniels Kallis
LOGLINE Inks deals for talent like LaKeith Stanfield (Judas and the Black Messiah), David Castañeda (The Umbrella Academy) and J.D. Dillard (Sweetheart).
THE ARC Coming from a family of attorneys, Kallis found her calling early. “My mom swears that when I was 10 years old, she saw me reading a People magazine and said, ‘You know all those people need lawyers, right?’ and my eyes lit up,” she says. She met law partner Lev Ginsburg during her final year at Loyola Law School and started working with the firm while she waited for her bar results. Kallis made partner in 2016 and now is one of the youngest lawyers in town to have her name on the door of a boutique talent firm. When she’s not structuring deals like Stanfield’s for Haunted Mansion — “One of my favorite attractions at Disneyland, an exciting deal to make, and now a movie I can’t wait to see” — the married mother of two says she’s cutting the crust off her kids’ grilled cheese sandwiches. She notes with a laugh, “They keep me humble.”
THE CHARACTER I IDENTIFY WITH “Detective Harry Bosch because we both love the pancakes at Du-par’s.”
THE MOST HOLLYWOOD THING THAT’S HAPPENED TO ME “My husband proposed during a movie at the ArcLight Hollywood. I found the ring in my caramel corn.”
Liza Katzer, 35
LOGLINE Bill Lawrence’s in-house tastemaker, who just won her first Emmy for Ted Lasso.
THE ARC With a decade at Doozer under her belt, it’s easy to assume Katzer is a lifer at the comedy-focused shingle. But the Palos Verdes native and Northwestern grad actually bounced around quite a bit before landing with Lawrence, passing through Management 360, UTA and Disney. “We were making China’s High School Musical, which was very far from what I wanted to do: comedy television,” Katzer says of the latter, where she was laid off — “the best thing in the world for me, because it led to this job.” It was then that she landed at Lawrence’s operation in its first year at Warner Bros. And while there have been disappointments (see the one-and-done dramedies Life Sentence and Whiskey Cavalier), they made her well versed in the business of building series from scratch by the time Doozer’s Emmy-winning calling card, Ted Lasso, came along. “It’s been amazing to see the way all these pieces have to come together.”
I’M DYING TO WORK WITH … “Issa Rae and Larry David because I am equal parts insecure young woman and neurotic older man.”
Irene Lee, 32
Director, original series,
LOGLINE Willed Netflix breakout Sex/ Life into existence and worked on hits Bridgerton and The Crown.
THE ARC Lee was reared in SoCal’s San Gabriel Valley, where her Korea-born video store owner dad had her and her brother Steven (named after Seagal, not Spielberg) watching “graphic action films” from a young age. After graduating from UCLA, she found her way to Netflix, as then-content head Cindy Holland’s assistant, following stops at John Wells Productions and WBTV. “I always joke that I avenged my father,” says Lee. “His business was shut down because of Blockbuster, and now I’m at Netflix, which destroyed Blockbuster.” In her six years at the streamer, Lee, who’s engaged to a Netflix gaming exec, has had a hand in hits like Bridgerton and The Crown. She says it was her “passion for erotica” and the potentially rich white space it occupied that led her to Sex/Life, a now giant success that few at Netflix wanted to make. Lee says, diplomatically, “It just wasn’t what we were doing at the time.”
IF I COULD TRADE PLACES WITH ANYONE IN HOLLYWOOD FOR A DAY, IT WOULD BE … “Kim Kardashian. I’ve been keeping up with the Kardashians since day one and admire how she’s grown her brand and influence.”
Harry Lengsfield, 33
LOGLINE Reps super writers like Michael Waldron (Loki, Doctor Strange 2), Ryan and Kaz Firpo (Eternals), and Jeff Loveness (Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania).
THE ARC Growing up in Westchester, New York, Lengsfield saw that the kids around him were destined to be doctors, lawyers or Wall Street types. Thanks to his parents, who fed him a steady diet of movies by Stanley Kubrick, Ridley Scott and John Hughes, he knew his future was in film and TV. He figured proximity to Hollywood was key, so he enrolled at Pepperdine University and interned for legendary exec Allison Shearmur at Lionsgate. Later, as an assistant at WME, he landed on the desk of Chris Donnelly, who reps Martin Scorsese. The two bonded, and when Donnelly was segueing to management, he asked Lengsfield to come with him. “It was too good to pass up,” Lengsfield explains. “The management space is entrepreneurial in all the best ways. The agent space is bifurcated. If you’re a film lit agent, you stay in that lane. As a manager, you have latitude to pursue storytelling regardless of the medium.” He’s been at LBI since 2014, building a stable of TV showrunners and creators as well as writers who occupy a sizable corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
CURRENT OBSESSION “Bo Burnham’s Inside.”
THE INDUSTRY BUZZWORD I WISH WOULD GO AWAY: “Let’s set a Zoom.”
Mary Livanos, 29
Executive, production & development,
LOGLINE The super exec behind Captain Marvel, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, WandaVision and The Marvels.
THE ARC Don’t doubt the power of vision boards. Livanos, who grew up in L.A.’s South Bay, had Marvel and Stan Lee on her board while in high school. At 19, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer-loving, Comic Con-going geekstress scored an internship at Marvel, during which she produced a 2,000-page (!) research document on Doctor Strange. After graduating from USC, she did a string of internships at companies like Universal and WME, but Marvel never left her mind. Her dream became real when she nabbed a job as assistant to production and development exec Jonathan Schwartz, then was promoted to manager of development and production for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. She worked closely on Captain Marvel, but it was her work on WandaVision that helped propel the show to 23 Emmy noms and three wins, marking Marvel’s first Emmy Awards. She is now overseeing the production of The Marvels feature as its executive producer. “I have a real passion for development, which I think jells with the Marvel way,” Livanos says. “We never stop improving the material where we can.”
CURRENT OBSESSION “Hacks.”
THE TV, MOVIE, OR BOOK CHARACTER I MOST IDENTIFY WITH IS “Gonzo.”
MY PARENTS THINK I “read comic books and watch movies” FOR A LIVING. “Not wrong!”
IF I COULD TRADE POST WITH ANYONE IN HOLLYWOOD FOR A DAY, I’D CHOOSE “Our Marvels stunt team. They’re true superheroes!”
Erin May, 34
VP, drama development,
LOGLINE An MBA who jumped from business to creative at 20th Television, she’s worked hands-on with powerhouse writers Steven Canals, Lee Daniels and Gina Prince-Bythewood.
THE ARC While her fellow Harvard MBAs were lining up jobs in finance and consulting, May talked her way into one of the most auspicious assistant gigs in Hollywood — working for Disney chairman Peter Rice, then president of 21st Century Fox. “People were taking over their family businesses, and I said, ‘Well, I’m going out to L.A. to make $10 an hour and … stories,’” recalls May, a onetime aspiring ballerina. She caught the TV bug after undergrad (also Harvard), working desks at CAA and Anonymous Content, but it was her time with Rice — “my second business school” — that inspired her to shift to creative. At 20th TV, May developed a reputation for her taste and interest in new voices, working with the studio’s roster of writer-producers (Anthony Hemingway, Karin Gist, Tate Taylor) and on its buzzier launches (Danny Strong’s Dopesick). Now she’s ready to make her next jump: May moves to a new originals gig at Apple in November.
THE CHARACTER I IDENTIFY WITH “Bastian Balthazar Bux from The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. I was the only black kid in a small, Western town and now I work in Hollywood … not surprising that I’d relate to an underdog whose imagination literally transports him into a story of his own making.”
Ashley McCollum, 34
Senior vp revenue & partnerships,
LOGLINE Sold 18 original series for Will and Jada Pinkett Smith’s Westbrook Media and brokered a deal with Airbnb to list the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air mansion.
THE ARC If you watch a 2007 taping of Today, you might just see a young McCollum holding up a sign reading, “This Southern belle wants to be NBC’s next summer intern.” The stunt caught an executive producer’s attention and, sure enough, she landed a coveted internship at the network and later a spot in its page program. McCollum was one of the first hires at BuzzFeed, leading communications before rising to become chief of staff for CEO Jonah Peretti and, later, building BuzzFeed Tasty into a powerhouse. When the chance to join Westbrook arose, McCollum saw an opportunity to be a part of a company “supercharging” Hollywood’s shift into digital. “I knew those skills and the things that were happening in digital were going to eventually make it to Hollywood,” she says. “I just was pumped to be on the rocket ship.”
WHAT MY PARENTS THINK I DO “I think [my mom] would say I make internet things.”
IF I COULD TRADE PLACES WITH ANYONE IN HOLLYWOOD FOR A DAY, IT WOULD BE … “I often try to channel Bob Iger. I think that he has such a reputation for being an amazing leader, business person and empath. If I ever get stuck, sometimes I’m like, ‘What would Bob Iger do?’”
Ali Mendes, 34
Senior vp development,
LOGLINE The exec behind the first live-action Pokémon movie, Detective Pikachu, and Enola Holmes.
THE ARC Graduating from NYU with a degree in experimental theater, Mendes thought, “I’m going to try to run the Wooster Group.” But, while working at Darren Aronofsky’s Protozoa Pictures, she met Mary Parent on the set of Noah — “We bonded over a shared love of The Bachelor,” she says with a laugh — which began a path toward bigger-budget fare. Mendes eventually followed Parent to Legendary, where the former is known for breathing originality into intimidatingly large IP. One such cultural behemoth is Pokémon, which had Mendes back-and-forth to Japan shoring up what would be its first live-action pic. “Anytime you have a fan base that large, you worry about disappointing. At the same time, you need to tell a story that is going to invite people in,” she says of Detective Pikachu, which would go on to gross $433 million at the global box office. She also built the in-house franchise Enola Holmes, picked up by Netflix in the pandemic, becoming Legendary’s first streaming movie. Mendes and the team quickly turned around a pitch for the sequel, which is now in production in London. There, the exec just welcomed her second child with her husband, Discovery talent manager Adam Dudek.
CURRENT OBSESSION “Maid.”
THE CHARACTER I IDENTIFY WITH “Maya and Anna from PEN15. Part of me will always walk into a room full of people and go right back to seventh grade.”
Charlie Neiman, 32
Head of sports partnerships,
Amazon Prime Video
LOGLINE Led the team that landed the NFL’s Thursday Night Football, the first exclusive sports rights package awarded to a streamer.
THE ARC In 2016, the Washington native became one of Amazon’s first hires to build its sports vertical, after he’d done the same at YouTube. Since then, Amazon has landed the coveted TNF package, which Neiman has upgraded to an exclusive 11-year pact. (Amazon’s rights portfolio also includes the WNBA, the New York Yankees and the Premier League.) Where the former Duke water polo player really shines is in leveraging the company’s platform to be a compelling value-add for partners. “We think a lot about the customer experience we can offer as a digital-first player,” explains Neiman, pointing to TNF‘s commentator options (including an all-female announcing crew) and Gen Z-friendly interactive co-streams on Amazon-owned Twitch.
CURRENT OBSESSION “The Wondery podcasts Dr. Death and Suspect.”
WHAT MY PARENTS THINK I DO “Watch sports.”
Jordan Newman, 35
Head of podcast partnerships,
LOGLINE Oversees Spotify’s exclusive partnerships with Joe Rogan (The Joe Rogan Experience), Dax Shepard (Armchair Expert), Alex Cooper (Call Her Daddy) and Brené Brown.
THE ARC Newman’s “breakthrough” moment with the podcast format happened when he, like millions of others, fell in love with Serial. “That was the first show where I really started to understand the potential of audio and the fact that this format can have such a moment in the cultural zeitgeist,” he says. Originally from Los Angeles, Newman got his first job out of college in corporate communications at Google, where he found himself intrigued by the storytelling aspects behind technology and experimental media. So when the opportunity to lead partnerships at Spotify came about, Newman saw it as the perfect place to be involved in the process with a diverse range of creators. “Part of the job is just listening to so many great podcasts and having a hand in helping develop them and grow them,” he says. “It’s really been a dream.”
CURRENT OBSESSION “Architectural Digest’s YouTube channel. I’m all about home improvement.”
Samantha Nisenboim, 35
LOGLINE Oversaw The Lego Batman Movie, Lego Ninjago and The Tomorrow War.
THE ARC Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, Nisenboim was aware that she lived in the heart of John Hughes country. In fact, she wanted to be Ferris Bueller. Her mother, who emigrated from Siberia, instilled in Nisenboim a love of movies and TV, as it was the way she learned to speak English. When Nisenboim grew older, she headed West to attend USC’s film school. “I just always loved the idea of living in Hollywood,” says Nisenboim. After graduating, she landed on the desk of Warner exec Jon Berg, which gave her a bird’s- eye view of the movie business. It also introduced her to filmmaker Chris McKay, who was looking for an assistant. During that meeting, Nisenboim instead tried to persuade McKay to launch his own production banner and pitched herself to help him run it. Soon after, Giant Wildcat was born, with Nisenboim acting as associate producer on McKay’s feature directorial debut, 2017’s The Lego Batman Movie. She now is prepping Renfield, a new take on Dracula that stars Nicholas Hoult. “Studios will let you get away with making a mediocre movie, but [McKay] wants something better,” says Nisenboim. “That is our mission statement.”
I’M DYING TO WORK WITH … “The 1996 cast of Saturday Night Live.”
Exec vp and co-head of film,
LOGLINE Helped drive Plan B’s push into indies with back-to-back A24 awards contenders The Last Black Man in San Francisco and Minari.
THE ARC Her first time on location for Plan B, Oh found herself in South Korea for Bong Joon Ho’s Okja, then the country’s biggest-budgeted film. There, she gleaned an important lesson: “You are going to not know things in your life, and you need to become OK with asking questions.” After Okja, the Massachusetts-bred exec, who started as Dede Gardner’s assistant, spearheaded much of the company’s smaller fare, flagging breakout scripts and creatives. A year after screening Joe Talbot’s Last Black Man at Sundance, Oh was back in Park City to debut Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari, which came together in only a few short months: “From the day I read the script to the day it premiered at Sundance, Isaac and I hadn’t even known each other for a year.” She’ll bring that combination of taste and proficiency to her new role at Megan Ellison’s Annapurna. And while the decision to leave Plan B was a hard one (“There was a part of me that thought I would die there”), Oh is excited about her new role, noting that everything that has happened in her career thus far has prepared her for the challenge.
*Oh, who The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed is under 35 and therefore Next Gen eligible, politely declined to share her exact age.
Ramela Ohanian, 31
LOGLINE As outside counsel to Amazon Studios, she’s handled overalls and first-looks for Jordan Peele, Barry Jenkins and John Krasinski.
THE ARC “I can’t pinpoint it,” says Ohanian of when she realized she wanted to be a lawyer. “I can’t remember ever not wanting to do it.” After studying philosophy at UCLA, she went on to Loyola Law School, then landed a job as a production attorney at Awesomeness TV in 2016. When the company called to request an interview, she already had two competing offers on the table and persuaded Awesomeness to let her come in that day. That drive quickly caught the attention of Sheppard Mullin, one of several places she had interned, and she’s been there ever since. In addition to her work for Amazon Studios, the Los Angeles native counts Nickelodeon, Keshet Studios and Gunpowder & Sky among her clients. “In one day, I could be touching 10 different types of deals,” says Ohanian, noting that she’s learned to expect the unexpected. “Your day is never going to go as planned.”
I’M DYING TO WORK WITH … “My brother [producer and fellow 2021 Next Gen honoree Sev Ohanian]. We each made it into the industry on our own, but we’d love to work together one day.”
THE MOST HOLLYWOOD THING THAT’S HAPPENED TO ME “Bumping into celebrities at the vet. We bond over our poor dogs’ anxiety.”
Sev Ohanian, 34
LOGLINE After working with Ryan Coogler on Fruitvale Station, he’s now building a slate that includes Space Jam: A New Legacy and Creed III.
THE ARC A rare exec who can negotiate with business affairs and punch up dialogue, Ohanian has traveled to Sundance with films he’s produced (2013’s Fruitvale) and written (2018’s Searching). The L.A. native skipped out on the last year of his graduate program at USC’s film school to produce Coogler’s breakout Fruitvale but found it difficult to land a follow-up he was passionate about. “I had a hard time being taken seriously and getting attached to good scripts,” says Ohanian. So he co-wrote Searching with Aneesh Chaganty and produced it with his now wife, Natalie Qasabian. (The three reunited for thriller Run, which moved from Lionsgate to Hulu during the pandemic.) Ohanian is not likely to want for material again after launching Proximity with Coogler, as well as longtime collaborators like composer Ludwig Göransson. After releasing the Oscar-nominated Judas and the Black Messiah and the LeBron James-fronted Space Jam sequel, he’s currently in production on Creed III.
IF I COULD TRADE PLACES WITH ANYONE IN HOLLYWOOD FOR A DAY, IT WOULD BE … “My sister [attorney and fellow 2021 Next Gen honoree Ramela Ohanian], so I could find out what it’s like to be my parents’ favorite.”
THE MOST HOLLYWOOD THING THAT’S HAPPENED TO ME “It’s a toss-up between Daniel Kaluuya including me in his thank-yous during his Oscar acceptance speech and that time I pitched a screenplay I was writing to a cute girl to impress her, only for her to cut me off and finish my own pitch for me. We’re married now and produce movies together.”
Meyash Prabhu, 33
Motion picture literary agent,
LOGLINE Helped Insecure showrunner Prentice Penny land his directorial debut, client Steven Caple Jr. tackle Transformers, and Brett Haley book Paramount’s Grease prequel.
THE ARC Early on in his two-year tenure as Ari Emanuel’s assistant, Prabhu found himself in an elevator with Steven Spielberg, talking to him about his USC film school thesis project. “I couldn’t believe that one of the fathers of cinema listened to a pitch of a short film that was near and dear to my heart but was not as good of a movie as I thought I’d make,” recalls the rep. But Prabhu, who is married to HBO’s Kara Buckley, has made a career in helping clients like Caple and Penny make some very good movies (see: Creed II and Netflix’s Uncorked). And he has been working with talent from underrepresented backgrounds since long before Hollywood was concerned about diversity in the director’s chair. He says, “I love championing people from communities that look and feel and smell like the ones that I came from.”
THE CHARACTER I IDENTIFY WITH “BB-8.”
BUZZWORD I WISH WOULD GO AWAY “Elevated.”
Francis Roberts, 33
Head of creator partnerships,
LOGLINE Created Club Unity to address Gen Z’s mental health and works with talent like Will Smith and Megan Thee Stallion on Snap Originals.
THE ARC Roberts is a bit of a renaissance man. The first-gen Howard University grad has played the bass in orchestra, studied abroad in Tokyo — where he was taught comparative Asian industrial systems by Yoko Ono’s sister, Setsuko Ono — has a background in investment banking and, most recently, makes his own shoes. But joining YouTube after four years working in analytics at Google introduced him to the world of creators and influencers and how millions of people can be brought together through social media. “I really believe in the democratization of media and the ability to find community,” he says. Though the work of creators may seem like fun and games, Roberts — now leading creator partnerships at Snapchat — approaches his role with empathy and a respect for the work it takes to become a successful creator. “It is an actual job,” he says. “It’s not just kids in their bedrooms playing with a camera.”
IF I COULD TRADE PLACES WITH ANYONE IN HOLLYWOOD FOR A DAY, IT WOULD BE … “Issa Rae because I love that she has used her platform to help give others a platform and tells storylines that we don’t always get to hear.”
WHAT MY PARENTS THINK I DO “My mom actually thinks I’m head of diversity [at Snapchat]. And I was like, ‘No, I’m not head of diversity. I’m just Black.'”
Oren Rosenbaum, 32
Partner and head of audio,
LOGLINE A podcast pioneer who brought Alex Cooper’s Call Her Daddy to Spotify and linked Tinkercast with Wondery and Amazon Music.
THE ARC Believe it or not, Rosenbaum’s path toward becoming an agent started with watching Entourage and its fictional hothead Ari Gold. “That put Los Angeles and Hollywood on the map for me,” says the Manhattan-born, New Jersey-raised USC graduate. He’s made a name for himself by being ahead of the curve on emerging platforms. After interning at Paradigm, he launched the agency’s digital practice before joining UTA in 2014. Rosenbaum, who moved the podcast sensation Call Her Daddy from Barstool to Spotify, also works with companies like American Public Media and Tinkercast. He spends his time looking for “what’s next” and identifying white spaces like the kids and family genre, which he says is a growth area for podcasts. “I love being proactive,” he says. “Skating to where the puck will be, not where it is, is rooted in the core of our group’s philosophy.”
BUZZWORD I WISH WOULD GO AWAY “Influencer.”
I’M DYING TO WORK WITH “Sacha Baron Cohen.”
Mike Staudt, 35
LOGLINE Had two clients, Meng’er Zhang and Florian Munteanu, in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and put Don Lee in Eternals.
THE ARC Staudt’s first signing, international MMA star Conor McGregor, came while he was still a CAA assistant. Itching to be promoted to agent, he tried to create a sports-actor crossover department. When that didn’t take, the Boston University grad jumped to Gersh. There, he has built a niche launching Hollywood careers for international action stars and martial artists. He helped Lewis Tan land the lead in Warner Bros.’ Mortal Kombat and made The Raid favorite Iko Uwais a global star. “It’s taking a 360-degree view for them; books, documentaries, franchises, their own projects,” says Staudt, who in the past year or so had both a son and a wedding (in that order, due to the pandemic). “My son was up there as a groomsman with me.”
CURRENT OBSESSION “Rewatching The Sopranos.”
THE MOST HOLLYWOOD THING THAT’S EVER HAPPENED TO ME “Being in the Marvel panel green room and talent dinner at San Diego Comic-Con.”
Janet Wu, 34
Director, animated film,
LOGLINE Overseeing the upcoming Sea Beast (from Big Hero 6 director Chris Williams), The Witch Boy (from Adam and Dog helmer Minkyu Lee) and Sulwe (based on the book by Lupita Nyong’o).
THE ARC Wu was the second child born to Chinese parents working in Canada. The problem? She was “unexpected,” and this was during China’s strict one-child policy. Opting not to return to their native land, the Wu family moved to the U.S. and ended up in Utah, where Janet discovered a love for the Lord of the Rings movies and their making-of featurettes. “Film wasn’t a career path to a child of Chinese immigrants living in Salt Lake City, but my parents were very supportive,” says Wu, who majored in English and minored in environmental policy at Duke. Still, a creative fuse was sparked, and via the Duke in Los Angeles program, she landed an internship at Scott Free Productions. Reading Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull opened her eyes to animation and led her to Disney, where she worked on Moana and Raya and the Last Dragon. Then Netflix came knocking. “A lot of us [in animation] were fascinated by the potential of Netflix,” she recalls. “Animation had been a division for under six months at the time. The potential to build something new and have agency to give opportunities to storytellers felt like untrod territory.” One of her first projects was the live-action film Finding ‘Ohana, but now that animation is in full throttle, she is a leader in building out a slate with ambitious originals while focusing on diversity. “I love fantasy and epics. I want to tell stories with cultural impact that have something to say but provide escapism and strong representation,” she says. “I mean, I love Lord of the Rings, but where are the Asians?”
I’M DYING TO WORK WITH “Captain Picard. I mean, Patrick Stewart. I have nightmares that I meet and gravely disappoint him. So I’m afraid of it happening in real life.”
Hilary Zaitz Michael, 34
Literary packaging agent,
LOGLINE Packaged Laura Lippman’s upcoming Lady in the Lake with Natalie Portman and Lupita Nyong’o.
THE ARC As of late, agents have been making the jump from rep to producer, but Zaitz Michael did the opposite after a call from Sylvie Rabineau and Jill Holwager Gillett (and a follow-up from Ari Greenburg) came in 2017 as they were setting up WME’s literary packaging arm. There was a learning curve — “I’ve never been responsible for somebody’s career before, just my own,” she explains — but Zaitz Michael, who lives with her husband, UTA’s Max Michael, and son in the Hollywood Hills, is successfully pushing for authors and their titles, including those that have been stalled in the Hollywood machine. Karin Slaughter sold multiple projects that were never made until Zaitz Michael packaged Pieces of Her with Bruna Papandrea and Toni Collette, landing a straight-to-series order from Netflix. After client Gene Yang’s graphic novel American Born Chinese was stuck for years in development, Zaitz Michael reassessed and, adding Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings director Destin Daniel Cretton, got a deal and green light at Disney+.
CURRENT OBSESSION “Squid Game and Below Deck. So different and yet eerily very similar.”
THE BUZZWORD I WISH WOULD GO AWAY “’The Lasso effect’ Bring back the darkness!”
THE THING I WISH SOMEONE TOLD ME WHEN I WAS STARTING OUT “People will always tell you not to sweat the small stuff. Actually, you should sweat the small stuff. Being detailed and meticulous is everything in this industry!”
Phoebe Zimmer, 31
Drama development executive,
LOGLINE Established herself and Amazon as a go-to destination for YA content with breakout The Wilds.
THE ARC With the last name Zimmer, Phoebe was no stranger to Hollywood — though the daughter of UTA power agent Jeremy Zimmer spent her teenage years desperate to be anywhere else. She headed east for college at Wesleyan, but a focus in American studies had
her “bored out of [her] mind” and she couldn’t help but love her film classes. After a series of post-grad gigs in New York — including an internship at A24 — Zimmer flipped for the Amazon series Transparent and pursued a job at the streamer. As a 20-something, the then-assistant wanted to find an area where she would have a point of view and be taken seriously, which led her to the young adult niche. That area wasn’t a priority for Amazon until a regime change in 2018. “The second [Jennifer Salke] got there, it stopped being an uphill battle,” explains Zimmer. Young adult breakout The Wilds was her first big swing, and there are more coming, including The Summer I Turned Pretty, from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’s Jenny Han.
CURRENT OBSESSION “Netflix’s Sex Education. Season three is a true masterpiece.”
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