Photographed by David Needleman on Nov. 26 at Fox Studios in Los Angeles
Reuniting with her former boss on a recent fall day, Watts, 43, recalls the advice Stone, 67, gave her 16 years ago when she left his company for a production job at 20th Century Fox: “If you’re going to work for a studio, promise to do it on your terms and don’t lose yourself in the process.” The maverick filmmaker laughs. “What other piece of advice did I give you?” Watts quickly answers: “Never take no for an answer. And always be suspicious of yes.” Stone taught his protege well: Watts steadily rose through the ranks to become president of production at Fox, a job generally dominated by men, and, like Stone, she is more on the serious side. “I liked her East Coast attitude and discipline. She had a very strong interest in storytelling and a great connection to people. And she was a devoted swimmer,” he says. Watts grew up in Vancouver after emigrating from England and attended UCLA before going to work for photographer Herb Ritts then Stone, whom she assisted on movies including 1995’s Nixon and 1999’s Any Given Sunday. (Through Stone, she also met her husband, Jonathan Krauss, who worked for the helmer before striking out on his own as a producer.) “Nobody works harder than Oliver,” says Watts. “He doesn’t just want to make movies for the marketplace but for the ages.” — PAMELA McCLINTOCK
From left: Mentor Abbe Raven & Nancy Dubuc
Photographed by Miller Mobley on Dec. 2 in Raven’s office at A+E Networks in New York City
When Raven interviewed Dubuc, then 29, for what would become the latter’s first job at A+E Networks, director of historical programming at The History Channel, she was struck by her “confidence” — and her height. “She was very tall!” recalls Raven, who at 5-foot-4 is 7 inches shorter than the statuesque Dubuc. “You also said I was too young,” chimes in Dubuc, who can’t resist adding, “That is an HR violation, by the way.” Raven, 60, affects a tone of mock forgetfulness. “I think she probably wanted my job,” she says. “And at that moment, she was too young.” Not anymore: In June, the 45-year-old Dubuc, who on Nov. 2 celebrated 15 years at the company, was elevated to president and CEO while Raven moved to the role of chairman. “We clicked right away,” says Raven. “I could tell she was a go-getter and a doer, and we needed doers. Nancy’s also a big risk-taker, and she has helped me become a bigger risk-taker.” Adds Dubuc: “Abbe has helped me not take stupid risks. I’ll jump off the cliff without looking, and Abbe will say, ‘Maybe you should look down first.’ ” Opposites in nearly every way — stature, temperament — the women have a symbiotic relationship built on trust and loyalty that is unusual in Hollywood’s competitive, credit-hogging environment. Raven took Dubuc to the hospital when she was in labor with her first child and Dubuc’s husband was stuck in traffic. And the two still talk every day. Says Dubuc, “I think it takes a very selfless, very unique person to allow a transition like this to happen.” — MARISA GUTHRIE
Sandra Stern & Mentor Jon Feltheimer
Photographed by Ramona Rosales on Nov. 22 at Lionsgate in Santa Monica
Stern, whose relationship with Lionsgate CEO Feltheimer, 62, traces back nearly 28 years to when the latter hired her at New World Entertainment, says her first impression was a layered one. “We were introduced by an agent, Alan Berger, who suggested we’d ‘get’ each other,” she says. “I thought he was very smart, talented … and kind of cute.” Stern, Lionsgate Television’s chief dealmaker behind such critically acclaimed hits as Mad Men, Nurse Jackie and Orange Is the New Black, was hired (again) by Feltheimer in 2003 and, in his words, “doesn’t just make deals at Lionsgate — she helps run a growing and diversified TV business.” Also one of the main architects behind the studio’s now-legendary 10/90 deal for Anger Management, Stern attributes her finely tuned business sense to “Felt’s” leadership — “He taught me to think for myself … and always look for a win-win” — and credits him for creating a familial work atmosphere. “His door is always open,” she says of her mentor. “There’s always time for friendly banter and corny jokes, usually mine.” Says Feltheimer, who like Stern is a native of Brooklyn, “I’ve learned we can yell and laugh with each other at the same time.” — STACEY WILSON
Mentor Philippe Dauman & Cyma Zarghami
Photographed by Wesley Mann on Nov. 26 at Viacom in New York City
There’s nothing like a little adversity to bring two power players closer. Dauman, 59, and Zarghami, 51, have worked together for nearly two decades, but they became especially close when Nickelodeon was in the throes of a precipitous ratings slide in late 2011 and throughout 2012. “We met even more frequently than we normally do in that time period,” says Dauman, who joined Viacom in 1993 as general counsel and ascended to CEO in 2006. “I told her, ‘This will make you and your organization stronger.’ ” And it did: Nickelodeon has more than come out of its slump since: The network has posted 10 straight months of ratings growth and bowed several series — a reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (above) premiered in 2012 — that have shown long-term franchise potential. “We had a lot of work to do to get ourselves back on track, and the steady hand and leadership of Philippe was one of the most valuable components of our rebound,” says its group president, Zarghami, whom Dauman calls “competitive,” “strong-minded” and “unafraid to take risks.” The two also socialize outside of the office, often having dinner together with their spouses, and Zarghami and her husband attended the September wedding of Dauman’s son. She also notes that Dauman “is incredibly calm all the time.” So he was not up at night worried about whether his trusted lieutenant would get Viacom’s most valuable asset back on track. In fact, says Dauman, “I sleep like a baby.” — M.G.
From left: Mentor Nancy Utley & Megan Colligan
Photographed by Rainer Hosch on Nov. 22 at Skybar at Mondrian L.A.
The affection between Utley, 58, and Colligan, 40, started a decade ago at Fox Searchlight, where Utley ran the marketing department and Colligan was vp national publicity. Both women have made major gains since: Utley is president of Searchlight, and Colligan is president of domestic marketing and distribution at Paramount Pictures. “Her energy was incredible,” recalls Utley of Colligan. “She was wildly creative. She had this insane idea of rereleasing 28 Days Later with a different ending. We did it and got tremendous press.” What Colligan remembers best is that her mentor let those around her flourish. “We had a brainstorm session every Thursday at 4 p.m. that we called the ‘flow.’ There was no agenda or rigor. We developed great ideas that would become critical to a campaign.” Utley also taught her protege it’s possible to have children and a career (Colligan followed Utley’s lead and had three kids of her own). The duo worked together on a series of hits, including Alexander Payne‘s Sideways, before Colligan left Searchlight in 2005 for a bigger job as executive vp marketing at Paramount Vantage. Utley learned the hard way that if someone (like Colligan) shines, they should be promoted over others, even if it upsets the order. “It was,” says Utley, “an eye-opener.” — P.M.