Women in Entertainment Power 100: The Makers

8:00 AM 12/9/2015

by THR staff

These writers, producers, creators, showrunners and just-make-it-happeners put out some of the highest-rated, most admired and most envied content — and drive the conversation around diversity and gender.

Ava DuVernay, Gale Ann Hurd, Jenji Kohan Split - H 2015
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Ava DuVernay, Gale Ann Hurd, Jenji Kohan Split - H 2015

  • Gail Berman

    After parting with partner Lloyd Braun in 2014, the former Fox and Paramount chief launched Jackal, which inked a mammoth deal with Fox Networks Group and has TV, film, digital and theatrical projects in development. Berman has a comedy (Cooper Barrett's Guide to Surviving Life) and a special (The Rocky Horror Picture Show) coming to Fox and a first-look film deal with Fox 2000.

    ACTOR I'D CAST TO PLAY ME IN MY BIOPIC "Debra Winger meets Amy Schumer."

    WHAT I WISH I KNEW WHEN I FIRST STARTED IN HOLLYWOOD "That my first job was not going to be my last."

    WHAT PEOPLE DON'T KNOW ABOUT ME "I've been known to belt out a Broadway tune or two in the office."

    SUPERPOWER I WISH I HAD "To blink like Jeannie and be in New York."

    INDUSTRY PET PEEVE "The dropping of names."

    HOLLYWOOD HAS BECOME … "A two-hour drive from the Palisades."

    AS A WOMAN IN THIS BUSINESS, I'M STILL SURPRISED WHEN … "We are still discussing equal opportunity."

  • Mara Brock Akil

    The Power 100 first-timer and Girlfriends creator, along with husband and writing partner Salim Akil, said goodbye to their long-running hit The Game, but Being Mary Jane continues to perform for BET, ranking as its top series. After two back-to-back deals at BET, the duo signed a three-year overall pact with Warner Bros. TV that brings them to the studio in May.

    MOST HOLLYWOOD THING ABOUT MY LIFE "Every car must have heated seats. It's a luxury I do not spare."

    MY QUIRKIEST HABIT "If my shoes are off, I crack my toes like every 30 seconds."

    GO-TO LUNCH SPOT "Gjelina. I feel most like an artist when I'm on Abbot Kinney eating that delicious food, drinking that delicious wine and having a delicious conversation about story."

    HOW I SAVE TIME "I have learned to delegate."

    WHAT PEOPLE DON'T KNOW ABOUT ME "I am a nerd dressed up in fashionista clothing."

    MY FIRST JOB IN HOLLYWOOD "I was the stage PA on The Sinbad Show."

    INDUSTRY PET PEEVE "Men and women fighting over the thermostat in the writers room."

    HOLLYWOOD HAS BECOME … "A place of too many hugs."

  • Megan Ellison

    "Art promotes empathy through deepening our understanding of humanity," Ellison tweeted in July. Annapurna — the name of the Hindu goddess of nourishment — wrapped production this year on Wiener-Dog from indie auteur Todd Solondz (it's going to Sundance), Mike Mills' 20th Century Women and Richard Linklater's Everybody Wants Some. Ellison only has one film opening this year, but it's a doozy: Joy, starring Jennifer Lawrence.

  • Ava DuVernay

    Selma's best picture Oscar nomination was the first for an African-American female director; the film also scored at the box office ($67 million worldwide) and with critics. This year, the Compton, Calif., native turned down Marvel's offer to direct Avengers spin­off Black Panther. Instead, she will helm an untitled Hurricane Katrina project and will make her first TV foray with the series Queen Sugar, which she wrote, will direct and produce for OWN and Warner Horizon.

    MY FIRST JOB IN HOLLYWOOD "Intern with CBS Evening News With Dan Rather & Connie Chung out of the L.A. bureau, which was covering Hollywood and the O.J. Simpson case at the time. Wild."

    WHAT I WISH I KNEW WHEN I FIRST STARTED IN HOLLYWOOD "When you nervously walk through the door for that job interview, that pitch, that audition, the person on the other side of the decision wants you to be the answer to their problem, their need, their issue more than you can imagine. I didn't understand this until I was the person hiring and casting. Then, it clicked like the biggest secret ever revealed."

    THE MOST HOLLYWOOD THING ABOUT MY LIFE "Unfortunately, I've succumbed to the warped Hollywood trend and become spoiled by the expertly calibrated private screening rooms used around town by studios and filmmakers. Lately, I've been choosing perfect picture and sound over the grain, grit and gum-under-shoe of public theaters, and I'm really missing that priceless audience energy. There's nothing like it."

    WHAT PEOPLE DON'T KNOW ABOUT ME "I've attended 24 U2 concerts since age 15."

    GO-TO LUNCH SPOT My Two Cents on Pico Boulevard. "Southern-inspired scrumptiousness served from a corner strip mall with major swagger and major skills. Love that spot."

    HOW I SAVE TIME "Calls while driving."

    I'M STILL STARSTRUCK BY "The Queen known as Cicely Tyson."

    SUPERPOWER I WISH I HAD "Time travel."

    MY QUIRKIEST HABIT "I like to crack other people's knuckles for them. It helps them relax, and I enjoy it. I know! So, so weird."


    AS A WOMAN IN THIS BUSINESS, I'M STILL SURPRISED WHEN … "People are surprised by the patriarchy and prejudice embedded in this business, like it's something new that was just discovered and not a longstanding legacy."

  • Dede Gardner - WIE 2015 Makers

    The intensely private producer, who founded Plan B in 2002 with Brad Pitt, has spent the fall ensconced on the War Machine set in Abu Dhabi. Netflix paid a whopping $60 million for David Michod's satirical military comedy, starring Pitt as Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal and slated for release in 2016. Gardner and Plan B — producers on the 2014 Oscar winner 12 Years a Slave and 2015 nominee Selma — hope to be back in the race with Adam McKay's The Big Short. Gardner also is a producer on Terrence Malick's Voyage of Time, due out sometime in 2016, and James Gray's adventure biopic The Lost City of Z, starring Charlie Hunnam as British explorer Percy Fawcett. Robert Pattinson and Sienna Miller also star in Lost City, which Paramount will open in theaters next year.

  • Gale Anne Hurd

    In addition to overseeing TV's biggest drama among adults 18-to-49 (19.5 million with three days of DVR), Hurd in 2015 added companion series Fear the Walking Dead, which scored the most-watched cable premiere in history. Next, she has Syfy rookie drama Hunters as well as the PBS doc Mankiller, making her Valhalla banner responsible for 75 hours of programming in 2016, including Walking Dead post-show Talking Dead.

    WHAT I WISH I KNEW WHEN I FIRST STARTED IN HOLLYWOOD "A failure is so toxic that it's like having a communicable disease."


    SUPERPOWER I WISH I HAD "Invisibility."


    INDUSTRY PET PEEVE "That we still use the qualifier 'woman producer' or 'woman director' since we haven't achieved parity with men."

  • Nina Jacobson

    The final installment of the $2.7 billion Hunger Games franchise debuted behind expectations in November, but it remains a box-office giant with a global total of nearly $450 million to date. Jacobson now is moving into TV with American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson, produced with Ryan Murphy, premiering on FX in early 2016. On the film side, she's making Richard Linklater's Where'd You Go, Bernadette (Cate Blanchett will star) and The Goldfinch, based on Donna Tartt's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.

    INDUSTRY PET PEEVE "If you don't like something, just go ahead and say it. Don't give a vague, euphemistic, avoidant answer in some flowery language I don't understand."


    WHAT PEOPLE DON'T KNOW ABOUT ME "I have a horse I hardly ever ride. I keep it in Malibu."

    AS A WOMAN IN THIS BUSINESS, I'M STILL SURPRISED WHEN … "People act surprised that movies starring women are so successful."

  • Jenji Kohan

    Despite a move from the comedy to drama categories at the 2015 Primetime Emmys, Kohan's Netflix hit earned four nominations, including one for best drama and a win for supporting actress Uzo Aduba. This year, the married mother of three also shot the pilot for her HBO drama about the Salem witch trials.


    THE HOLLYWOOD CAREER I COVET "Waste of time. We should all climb our own mountain. You never know what's really going on with people, what price they pay for this fabulous career you're seeing." 

    INDUSTRY PET PEEVE "B.S. and networking in lieu of actual work. Managers who take producer credits. Agency packages."

  • Jill Leiderman

    The Northwestern grad and new mom has helped ABC's late-night show stay competitive — regularly drawing nearly 800,000 viewers in the key 18-to-49 demo. Though Kimmel trails Jimmy Fallon (NBC) by a wide margin, the show has little trouble garnering buzz, be it with an impassioned Cecil the Lion monologue or celebrities reading mean tweets.

    ACTOR I'D CAST TO PLAY ME IN MY BIOPIC "Paul Giamatti. That guy can do anything."

    MY FIRST JOB IN HOLLYWOOD "Interning at Days of Our Lives."

    INDUSTRY PET PEEVE "People who use the word 'industry.'"



  • Mary Parent

    Alejandro G. Inarritu's big-budget frontier tale, which used only natural light and 90 percent exterior shots, was easily the most ambitious effort of Parent's career. "It was very difficult," says the veteran of the production, which had to cut shooting short in Calgary to find snow in Argentina. “You travel this incredible distance, you run this incredible race, and now you’re not going to get across the finish line.” But determination and passion paid off, as The Revenant now is generating major Oscar buzz. Parent, who worked as an exec at MGM and Universal, also produced Warner Bros.' upcoming Kong: Skull Island and Paramount's Monster Trucks.

    WHAT PEOPLE DON'T KNOW ABOUT ME "I have seven rescue dogs and would take more if we could."

    FAVORITE TV SHOW "Empire. I'm completely addicted."

    HOLLYWOOD HAS BECOME … "More fear-based, which is understandable on many levels, however it sometimes limits the ability to give initially less obvious projects a life — and those can, in turn, be the most obvious ones in the end."
    AS A WOMAN IN THIS BUSINESS, I'M STILL SURPRISED WHEN … "Sometimes I don't see enough women being supportive of one another."

  • Gigi Pritzker

    Along with TPG and China's Hony Capital, Pritzker is one of three key backers in STX Entertainment, which put out its first movies in 2015 — The Gift and Secret in Their Eyes. The Hyatt heiress' OddLot produced misfire Mortdecai but has a trio of promising films in the works, including Comancheria with Chris Pine and Jeff Bridges. The Chicago-based mother of three also runs Relevant Theatricals, which has Tony winner Million Dollar Quartet on tour nationwide, and has a stake in foreign sales company Sierra/Affinity (Whiplash) as well as John Sloss' Cinetic Management (Justin Lin, Richard Linklater).

    MY FIRST JOB IN HOLLYWOOD Working as a production assistant in New York on commercials and independent films.

    THE MOST HOLLYWOOD THING ABOUT MY LIFE "I finally have an apartment in L.A. I stayed in hotels for 20-some-odd years."

    WHAT PEOPLE DON'T KNOW ABOUT ME "I secretly aspire to be a drummer. I've started taking lessons."

    GO-TO LUNCH SPOT Hinoki and the Bird

    HOW I SAVE TIME "Respond very quickly to email. Not letting things built up."


    I'M STILL STARSTRUCK BY Meryl Streep, Daniel Day-Lewis

    SUPERPOWER I WISH I HAD "To take away people's fear. It's a dangerous motivator."

    MY QUIRKIEST HABIT "I have very little filter from my brain to my mouth."

    THE HOLLYWOOD CAREER I COVET Brian Grazer and Ron Howard at Imagine, director David Lean (Dr. Zhivago), and Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman at Playtone


    INDUSTRY PET PEEVE "People who are not always direct."

    HOLLYWOOD HAS BECOME … "A very difficult place to get movies made. A straight-down-the-line theatrical film that isn't a giant tentpole has become a very difficult needle to thread."

    AS A WOMAN IN THIS BUSINESS, I'M STILL SURPRISED … "With the level of competition women feel with each other. We need to be supportive and inclusive, and sometimes we aren't."

  • Jill Soloway

    Her Amazon dramedy about a retired L.A. professor who comes out as transgender — inspired in part by Soloway's own "Moppa" — earned 11 Emmy nominations this year, the most of any comedy series, and took home five trophies including Soloway's directing win. Now the mom of two, who inked a lucrative overall deal with Amazon Studios in June, is working on a follow-up to 2005 memoir Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants.

    WHAT I WISH I KNEW WHEN I FIRST STARTED IN HOLLYWOOD "When I first got here, everyone told me to write Yiddish and cast British, but you can actually cast … Yiddisher. It works."

    I'M STILL STARSTRUCK BY "Florence Henderson. She's my mom. She's everyone's mom." 

    MY QUIRKIEST HABIT "My office has a bed in it. There's no shame in naps!"

    INDUSTRY PET PEEVE "Please, please do not ask me out for coffee. Or to pick my brain, for that matter."