Next Gen 2007: Agents/managers
35 executives who are shaping the future of Hollywood todayDEAN'S LIST: Saying that the members of The Hollywood Reporter's Next Generation Class of 2007 are "most likely to succeed" isn't quite accurate because these accomplished individuals can honestly say they already have made it. And the editors and reporters who researched, deliberated and eventually chose this year's list wholeheartedly agree. The 14th annual edition is a roundup of the most talented executives in film, television, representation, legal and new media, all age 35 and under. It's not intended as a power list, but rather an unveiling of the leaders of tomorrow.
Talent manager, The Collective
Born: July 26, 1977
"I love helping shape careers. It's incredibly rewarding to guide actors through difficult choices and grow with them," says Jamie Freed, who manages up-and-comers such as Selena Gomez (Disney Channel's "Wizards of Waverly Place") and Jacob Zachar (ABC Family's "Greek"), along with buzzworthy actresses like Katee Sackhoff (NBC's "Bionic Woman"). And because of the Collective's team-oriented model, he also collaborates on clients like Forest Whitaker, Emile Hirsch and Martin Lawrence. "It's a very friendly environment. We all help and support each other." CAREER PATH: If it weren't for a high school injury, Freed's life probably would have taken a much different direction. The Orange County native was headed down the same path as his doctor parents and had been recruited by an East Coast university impressed by his wrestling ability -- Freed was captain of his high school team. But after a shoulder injury during his senior year, Freed "re-evaluated" things, stayed in California and attended UCLA. "I decided that becoming a doctor wasn't for me. I just started exploring the entertainment business and fell into music by accident." The sOUND OF MUSIC: In college, Freed started promoting and booking bands at local venues and also managing groups, including one he had "built from scratch." At one point, he had a roster of 200. After college, he continued this business while also working as an agent trainee at UTA. Freed segued into managing after leaving UTA for positions at AMG and Nine Yards Entertainment before joining the Collective last year. CROSSING PLATFORMS: Freed likes finding artists who are multihyphenates and can cross platforms, from film to TV to music and, now, new media. "It's important for us as managers to learn how to navigate through different worlds and create opportunities for our clients throughout them. It's about taking advantage of some of the technological tools we have now that never existed before and monetizing them." That also includes mining sites like MySpace and YouTube for potential clients. IDOL WORSHIP: Freed's role models are his mother and father. "They taught me the most important lesson, and that's to bet big on yourself," he says.
talent agent, UTA
Born: Feb. 14, 1975
Don't let the dark suit, supershort haircut and business speak fool you -- Jay Gassner is a rocker at heart. He played guitar in rock bands through high school and college, and while he loved music, his biggest passion was television. "I grew up obsessed with it," he says. "I knew early on I wanted to get into entertainment, more on the business side of it but working with creative people." Growing up in Holliston, Mass., Gassner had no idea talent agents existed, so he majored in finance at Babson College. After graduating, he moved with his older sister to Los Angeles, where she'd gotten a job as a lawyer, but he had trouble finding a dream job in finance or accounting at the major studios. "I didn't feel I was doing what I wanted to do -- working with actors and talent in Hollywood." Then, he interviewed with an agent and found his calling. "This is exactly what I wanted -- a business person but on the right side of the creative process." OUT OF ONE MAILROOM, INTO ANOTHER: In November 1997, Gassner started in the mailroom of Abrams Artists, and before long, he was promoted to an assistant in the commercial department. But by November of 1998, he decided that he wanted to be at a bigger agency and found himself right back in another mailroom, this time at UTA. In January 2001, he was named an agent in the TV lit department. TALENT CONNECTION: Gassner's clients include the "Lonely Island" trio of Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, screenwriter Nancy Oliver (MGM's "Lars and the Real Girl"), comedians Jason Jones and Chris Parnell, Comedy Central's "The Sarah Silverman Program" creators Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab, and Tony Phelan and Joan Rater, co-executive producers of ABC's "Grey's Anatomy." WORKING ON THE WEEKENDS: Gassner's spare time is split between his job and being with fiancee Cara and their 15-month-old daughter, Amelia. He doesn't mind sneaking work into his weekend schedule, because he loves it. "I watch television and film as much for my job as I do it for fun as a fan," he says.
Manager, Anonymous Content
Born: Oct. 26, 1973
As a 3-year-old, Joy Gorman saw the original cast of "A Chorus Line" on Broadway because her mother -- a single parent with three children -- bought $5 standing-room tickets. Mom's investment paid off when Gorman enrolled at Barnard College at Columbia University and found her niche in the college's historic revue "The Varsity Show." After spending her post-college years working in casting and development, Gorman became a manager in 2002, with two young clients she had met through "The Varsity Show": Dana Fox and Brian Yorkey. "I lost my mom, and I ended up deciding to just work out of my house for a while with Dana and Brian," Gorman says. "When something like that happens, you just can't care about the spec market." Since then, she's joined Anonymous Content and built a roster that includes Dito Monteil, Neil Alsip and Chad Lowe. YOU MAKE ME FEEL SO YOUNG: Gorman plans to be an executive under 35 longer than most. "My college, Columbia, made a mistake and gave me a degree that says class of '96, so I can get away with pretending to be a year younger than I really am," she jokes. "It hangs in my office that I graduated a year later than I really did." GHETTO FABULOUS: When Gorman was interviewing for the job at Anonymous, founder and CEO Steve Golin asked which high school she attended. "I'm like, 'I can't believe he's asking me this,'" she says. "I went to a pretty ghetto high school (in Yonkers) -- DMX went to my high school. Steve was like, 'I was there in 1968 when Martin Luther King got shot.' I thought, 'I really am meant to work for this person!'" ROCK AND ROLODEX: Music helps soothe Gorman's soul. "I have a band," she says, laughing. "Most of the guys are in the business. Sam Hansen (from Jinx/Cohen) is on guitar, and (screenwriter) Matt (Eddy) is on piano, and I'm lead vocals. It really does help you blow off some steam."
Manager, Management 360
Born: Sept. 14, 1974
Alex Hertzberg grew up hanging around soundstages and skateboarding on the Fox lot, where his father, film producer and longtime Mel Brooks collaborator Michael Hertzberg, had a deal. But when it came time for him to go to college, he decided politics was his calling and enrolled at Washington's Georgetown University. While majoring in political philosophy, Herzberg worked as a lobbyist for Capitalwatch, a group working to curb wasteful spending of taxpayer money. He also edited Capitalwatch's paper and a satire magazine at Georgetown. "It was there where I found my love for writing and writers," Hertzberg says. So after graduation in 1996, much to the chagrin of his father, he returned to his hometown of Los Angeles and began to pursue a job in the industry. "My dad was thrilled that his son was thoughtful enough to get out (of the business) intact," Hertzberg says. "He was disappointed when I came back." FATHER FIGURE: Still, his dad proved supportive. When the younger Hertzberg would come home dejected after a grueling day as an assistant at UTA, he'd cheer him up with stories about how Jackie Gleason repeatedly fired him when he was Alex's age and worked as an assistant director on Gleason's 1962 movie "Requiem for a Heavyweight." He also gave him a career advice that still guides Hertzberg in the business: "Any career in Hollywood is filled with ups and downs. The trick is keeping your humility when you're up and your dignity when you're down." CLIENT PRIVILEGE: At Management 360, Hertzberg represents such writers as Michael Tolkin, Matthew Slasberg and Caryn Lucas and works on TV projects for clients Jennifer Garner, Reese Witherspoon and Kiefer Sutherland. He packaged Fox's comedy pilot "Lee & Me" earlier this year and is exec producing HBO's drama pilot "1%." As for the future, he plans to continue making TV and telling stories. "People in the world work hard to pay for our business of telling stories. We owe them some pretty good stories," he says.
Motion picture literary agent, Endeavor
Born: Nov. 24, 1973
Adam Levine may be the only agent in Hollywood who can explain how semiconductor chips and diodes are used for products manufactured by companies like Motorola and Hewlett-Packard. Out of college, the Montreal native started his career in sales for a $5 billion-per-year privately held Canadian company that sold various lines of semiconductor chips. Hollywood was a fluke for Levine. Eight years after applying for his green card, the then-25-year-old was issued one, allowing him to head to the West Coast, where he had friends in the industry. He soon found himself interning at Zucker/Netter Prods. THE BIZ OF THE BIZ: At Zucker/Netter, Levine learned more about the industry but was unsure whether the production side of the business was where he wanted to land. With his sales background, which also included real estate, Levine was drawn to the business of the industry. "I was negotiating big deals with Motorola and others ... and being in real estate, I negotiated deals," he says. "I felt it was more right to be on the business side of things." FINDING A HOME: Levine shopped around to different agencies and management companies. "Then I went over to Endeavor, and that was it: I was home," he recalls. His first three weeks were spent in the mailroom. "It's certainly humbling when you've had this big career and then you find yourself in Hollywood pushing a mail cart around and delivering copies and picking up bagels and making coffee," he says. But his ascension at the agency was quick. In just two and a half years, he was an agent. NO 'I' IN TEAM: Levine thrives in the Endeavor environment, where forming partnerships with other agents is at its core. To that end, Levine has often worked at putting directors with writers and pitching projects to studios. Among his deals, he booked Gabor Csupo ("Rugrats") to helm an indie script Levine found, "The Secret of Moonacre"; he regularly brokers deals for Japan-based advertising and marketing firm Hakuhodo, including buying the Japanese rights to "An Inconvenient Truth" and "Sicko"; he brokered the deal for Darren Bousman's "Repo! The Genetic Opera"; and put director Shawn Levy with fantasy-novel writers Michael Wexler and John Hulme for the film version of their book "The Seems: The Glitch in Sleep."
Partner, head of motion picture and television talent development, APA
Born: April 16, 1973
Ryan Martin always had game: His skills as a point guard earned the Huntington Beach native a collegiate basketball scholarship to Cal State Northridge. Even though his dream of playing for the NBA never materialized, he did receive offers to play in Australia and the Czech Republic, and he was intrigued by the sports agents who were recruiting him. When he broke his wrist during the critical transition from college to pro ball, his curiosity spurred him to get a job in the UTA mailroom in 1996. After becoming an assistant and then an agent at UTA, he moved to Writers and Artists in 2000 and, in 2002, landed at APA, where he reps actors Chris Kattan, Vivica A. Fox, Crispin Glover, Dominic Monaghan and the RZA. TEAM PLAYER: Martin was attracted to APA because it was a place where he could have an impact on the corporate culture, "taking a sports philosophy and bringing it into an entertainment agency," he says. "It's how you can work together effectively as a team rather than working against each other, competing internally, which happens at a lot of these agencies." 'LOST' AND FOUND: Harold Perrineau recently joined ABC's "Lost" co-stars Dominic Monaghan and Jorge Garcia as one of Martin's clients. "Harold came to me when he was let go of the show," says Martin. "I sat with him, and he said, 'I haven't done a movie in a year.' I've put him in six movies and put him back on the show. I'm not saying that I'm doing any magic here. I'm just saying you're just not getting that kind of focus at some of these other agencies." A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN: Martin hasn't had to lay his hoop dreams to rest. "I'm in what's called the NBA Entertainment League," he says. "It's a great fraternal thing. Jamie Foxx is in the league. Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler. Marc Blucas played at Wake Forest, which is a big school. Brian McKnight's been on my team, and he played semipro basketball."
motion picture talent agent, ICM
Born: Dec. 9, 1972
As a child, Scott Schachter didn't dream of being one of the New York Knicks -- but rather their general manager. "I always knew that I wanted to be in the entertainment field, whether that was sports, TV, movies, etc.," he says. "(But) the kids who grow up wanting to be an agent are probably pretty scary." A native of Long Island, N.Y., he attended the University of Michigan and studied psychology, which comes in handy in his current line of work. After a six-month post-graduate stint at a media buying company in New York, Schachter headed to ICM's mailroom in June 1996. "Basically, when I first realized I wanted to be an agent was when I was an assistant for Steve Dontanville when he was here," Schachter says. "He had so many great clients and really gave me enough rope to either hang myself or make it happen." Schachter did the latter, and now counts Matthew Fox, Michael Sheen and Sophia Myles among his clients. PRETTY PERSUASION: Schachter never underestimates the power of suggestion. "Not that your group of friends has a leader, but I was always a leader with my peers and friends," he says. "But I don't want to make people feel like I'm telling them what to do. If I help them think that it's their idea, then I've done my job. Someone once told me that we think for people every day (at ICM)." THE HONEYMOONERS: Even though he helped broker deals for ICM clients Fox, Christina Ricci and Susan Sarandon to star in Warner Bros.' upcoming "Speed Racer," that wasn't the biggest event of Schachter's year. "I have to say one of my proudest accomplishments this year, personally, was getting married," he says. "I'm five months married, so that's fantastic." GREEN DAY: He still finds time for his favorite hobby, though. "I'm not afraid to say yes when people invite me to play golf," he says. "When the weekend rolls around, you've got to shut down for a little bit. It makes you a better agent when you come back on Monday morning all fresh and ready to go."
agent, The Gersh Agency New York
Born: June 17, 1975
For young Sarah Self, Friday night wasn't movie night -- it was book night. "We'd put bags of popcorn in my mom's purse, and we'd go to Barnes and Noble (in La Jolla)," she says. By the time she headed to Northwestern University to earn a degree in radio, TV and film, her love of story led her to pursue summer internships at Egg Pictures, Linda Obst Prods., Jersey Films and Double Feature. Upon graduation, she landed a job working for Bob Bookman in CAA's literary department, and after a foray into development with Jonathan Mostow and Hal Lieberman, she decided to return to agenting for good. "I had this moment where I thought, 'My lease is up on my apartment. My company's splitting up. I'm not married. I've always wanted to live in New York,'" she says. So three years ago, she opened Gersh's New York book department, and she now counts Diablo Cody, Jeff Buhler and Dan Shere as clients. BIG MAN ON CAMPUS: Self always has had a knack for discovering talent. "I did a lot of producing student films in college," she says. "I worked on two films with Zach Braff because he actually was my year." WHAT DIDN'T KILL HER ... : When Self first moved to New York, she had a rough year. "I had an emergency appendectomy, and then five months later, I broke my ankle and had to have major surgery," she says. "I had to work from home, and I still have pins in place in my ankle. But every time I look down at my scar, it just makes me realize that I can continue to deal with obstacles and change."
talent agent, WMA
Born: Aug. 15, 1974
Baseball and movies were Los Angeles native Brad Slater's passions growing up. "If I wasn't on a baseball field, I was sneaking into movie theaters and watching movies all day," he says. While the baseball career never panned out, he did catch a break on the industry side. As a junior film major at the University of Arizona, he interned for Mandalay Entertainment. Half the day, Slater would do mundane intern tasks like making photocopies, and the other half of the day he had unprecedented access to Mandalay executive meetings. NEW KID ON THE BLOCK: Post-graduation, Slater got a job at Goldbar Entertainment selling movies overseas. "I was 21 years old, and everyone else was 40," he says. Looking to eventually move on, Slater had just two prerequisites: He wanted to work for the company's boss, and he didn't want to start in the mailroom. Working for manager Rick Yorn and then newly formed Artists Management Group was the right fit. "Yorn was taking over the town in how managers work," Slater says. "I couldn't pass up the opportunity." manager vs. agent: When AMG merged with the Firm, Slater was approached by several agencies, including WMA, which he at first rejected. "I didn't know if I wanted to wear a suit like everybody or shave every day," he says. But candid conversations with agents convinced him to give it a try. Within five minutes of meeting with WMA, he says he knew he had to be there. "For me, it was the equivalent of playing professional baseball," he says. Top of his game: This year was a big year for Slater, with two of his clients, Forest Whitaker and Jennifer Hudson, winning Oscars. "I said I'd never go to the Oscars unless I had a client nominated," he says. "And I had two. When I set foot on the red carpet that night and entered the Kodak Theatre, it was a great moment." Slater's client list of TV and film actors include Chazz Palminteri, Neal McDonough, Terry Crews, Emily Procter, Jerry Ferrera and Jensen Ackles.
motion picture talent agent, CAA
Born: May 3, 1975
It's a story straight from Hollywood: A Southern boy heads to Tinseltown, starts out in the mailroom at one of the biggest talent agencies and ends up becoming a top agent, representing A-list clients like Sean Penn, Adrien Brody, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Biel. For Michael "Mick" Sullivan, this is no celluloid dream -- it's his life. Growing up in St. Louis, Sullivan headed to the West Coast to the University of San Diego. A business major, the ambitious Sullivan had a knack for being the boss. During his college career, he ran a lucrative asphalt construction business with his brother back in St. Louis. "I definitely learned more about business on my own than I did in school," he says. "That's how it works for me." THERE IS A LIGHT: Sullivan interned at several big financial management companies doing things, he says, that "bored the shit out of me. It wasn't what appealed to me at all." He had a friend working at CAA who told him of opportunities at the agency. Sullivan found the opportunity to be "a light at the end of the tunnel. Everyone's got each other's back, which I like," he says. MOVING UP: From the CAA mailroom, Sullivan worked his way up to TV packaging agent. After three years, he moved over to the film side, representing talent. "The day I moved from being a TV/literary agent to a talent agent, I had absolutely no idea what was going on," he says. "I had no exposure to the movie business, no idea how the process works with actors." USING BOTH SIDES OF THE BRAIN: It didn't take long for Sullivan to get a knack for the business, with a client list that tips at 20. He says he loves how the creative side of his job meshes with the business side. "I love the notion of accomplishment that can come from infusing creativity into business and being able to not only think with the business side of my brain but also think with the creative side of my brain and put the two together," he says.
Born: May 18, 1973
At age 13, Jake Weiner made a speech at his bar mitzvah announcing to the world that he wanted to be a director. Still, the first time he really began to see an industry job as more of a necessity than a pipe dream was when he was interviewing for a position selling commercial real estate in Hartford after graduating from Syracuse University in 1995. Newly determined, Weiner began his career at New Line as a floater in New York and ended it as development executive in Los Angeles. He took a meeting with Chris Bender and J.C. Spink in 2001, and before it was over, the pair had proposed that Weiner join their new management and production company. Today, Weiner is a partner at BenderSpink, where he's developing projects, including the remake of the Spanish cop comedy trilogy "Torrente," the Terry Zwigoff-directed comedy "The $40,000 Man," both for New Line, and the father-son drama "The Eighth Wonder," for Universal. SWEETENING THE DEAL: "The first thing I had read when I came to this company was a script called 'Major Movie Star,'" he says. "It was written by April Blair, whom I met in New York (when) she wrote a movie called 'Fresh Kills' that Fine Line bought. A sidebar, but we're now married." ALL IN THE FAMILY: Weiner didn't have to look far to find good material. "My sister Jennifer is a novelist," he says. " 'Good in Bed' was out in bookstores and doing great, but she said, 'I just finished my second book. Do you want to read it?' It was 'In Her Shoes,' and I gave it to everybody here. It came together with Curtis Hanson and Cameron Diaz." DADDY DUTY: Weiner is the father of two children, ages 5 and 1. "Two years ago, I went to my first parent-teacher conference," he says. "It was like an out-of-body experience for me: 'I can't believe that I'm in this seat right now talking to the teacher about my kid.' It's crazy, but it just grounds everything."
vp interactive media, Paradigm
Born: Sept. 28, 1973
Joel Wright's first year in the agency world couldn't have gone better -- and in the ever-evolving world of digital media no less. After four years as director of advertising solutions at Yahoo, he was brought in to start a new-media team. "When I first came in, it was a division of one: me," he recalls. But now with three other agents on the team, he has signed talent to a slew of online deals, including Sony's "Superbad" star Michael Cera at CBS, Jay Mohr at Fox Sports and Leeza Gibbons at AOL. Still more clients are lining up for Paradigm's consulting business, with the likes of AEG Sports, Virgin Mobile and Motion.tv learning about new media from Wright. SCHOOL IN SESSION: Wright finds that for the most part his job is to educate Paradigm clients about the opportunities that Internet and mobile companies have to offer. "A year ago, people were saying you can't make money doing this," Wright says. "Now people are starting to talk and saying, 'I can do this.' The production budgets aren't gigantic, but if you can tell a story to an advertiser and package content, there is real upside." que cera: With Cera and his friend and fellow actor Clark Duke, Wright packaged a 10-episode series of shorts to CBS' Web site Innertube. "Clark and Michael" drew raves for its sly, mockumentary-style take on their misadventures, which can be seen at ClarkandMichael.com. Now that Cera is a boxoffice star, Wright is happy to have helped his career. "It's incredible to watch his rise," he says. "Just being a part of the creative process on that project was fantastic." new rules: The key to navigating new media for Wright has been opening clients' eyes to a new realm of buyers outside of the usual suspects in Hollywood. Take YouTube discovery Taryn Southern, who Paradigm has brought to young-skewing Web sites like Heavy.com and the online home for Cosmopolitan magazine, both of which have given the up-and-comer her own shows. "The list of buyers is growing out there," Wright says. "AT&T, Comcast, Break.com, Meredith Publishing. If you can attach the right advertisers, the opportunities are limitless."