Next Gen 2012: Film

2012-40 FEA NextGen Film H IPAD
Austin Hargrave

From left: Open Road Film's Ben Cotner, Color Force's Bryan Unkeless, Legendary Entertainment's Jillian Zaks, Disney's Asad Ayaz, Marc Platt Productions' Adam Siegel and The Weinstein Company's Stephen Bruno. (Not pictured: Megan Ellison).

Bright young things? Bring 'em on, as The Hollywood Reporter recognizes the 35 superstars 35 and under who are moving up fast (and having fun) in film, TV, digital, law and news.


Marc Platt Productions, President

After a dozen years at Marc Platt Prods., Siegel (originally from West Hartford, Conn.) notched his first full producing credit with the Ryan Gosling starrer Drive, a project the Wesleyan grad put together from scratch that became the toast of the Croisette at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. The married father of one's credits also include the Angelina Jolie starrer Wanted and cult fave Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

Big Break: Getting my first movie made, which was The Perfect Man, with Hilary Duff and Heather Locklear. [He began as an intern at Original Film.]

Career Inspiration: When I was a kid, I watched The Natural with Robert Redford. I noticed all the good guys were in white and all the bad guys were in black. It was the first time I saw the watchmaker's hand.

Biggest Recent Accomplishment: When Nicolas [Winding Refn] won the best director prize at the Cannes Film Festival. I was sitting in a tuxedo in that room, thinking back to reading the book in my car and how it all came to this.

Lunch Spot: Art's Deli on Ventura Boulevard. I feel like a very old-time Jewy producer there. Most movie deals were made over a martini or pastrami, and I can't have a martini at lunch.

Best Day: Meeting Paul Newman. He offered me a beer. I can't imagine anything better than drinking a cold beer with Paul Newman.

Worst Day: It doesn't happen at work. It happens at midnight when I realize I f--ed up. One night, in the old days when we had to count the pages of scripts, I woke up in a panic that I didn't count the pages properly. I drove to work at 4 a.m., and all the scripts were missing one page.

When I'm Not At Work I'm: Either drinking martinis with my buddies or at the park with my daughter.


Disney, Senior VP Global Marketing

Ayaz is marketing brand lead for Disney Live Action and Marvel, overseeing the planning, development and execution of global marketing campaigns for Walt Disney Studios and Marvel Studios film releases. The Pakistan-born USC grad is currently planning the campaigns for Oz: The Great and Powerful, The Lone Ranger and Iron Man 3.

Industry Mentors: [Marvel Studios' ] Ike Perlmutter and Kevin Feige.

Career Inspiration: As a kid, I watched a lot of [Disney] movies and read Marvel comics -- Thor was my favorite. It's funny how it all led here. [He started as a retail planner for Disney.]

Best Advice: [Marvel's] Rob Steffens told me, "Always go out of your way to give credit to others." We get so caught up in what we do and the big movies we work on, but it's the people who work on our teams that matter. A marketing campaign is never one person. It's an army.

Biggest 2012 Accomplishment: The Avengers marketing campaign. It was the first collaboration between Marvel and Disney that paid off hugely. [The film made $1.5 billion.]

Can't-Miss TV: Parks and Recreation.

Movie Fix: Fargo.

Lunch Spot: Sushi Nishiya in Burbank. It's one of the best-kept secrets.

I Wake Up At: 6 a.m.

The First Thing I Do: Check the number of Facebook "likes" on our films.

I Fall Asleep At: 11 p.m.

The Last Thing I Do: Check the number of Facebook "likes" on our films.


Open Road Films, Senior VP Acquisitions

Cotner played a crucial role in the acquisition of two box-office success stories: Joe Carnahan's action pic The Grey and David Ayer's cop drama End of Watch. He also was instrumental in acquiring upcoming titles Side Effects, from Steven Soderbergh, and The Host, based on Stephenie Meyer's book.

Big Break: Getting a job right out of school [Pitzer College] at Paramount Classics as an acquisitions coordinator.

Best Advice: Amy Israel, whom I worked with at Paramount, always encouraged me to set aside my personal feelings and think of things from the perspective of the audience.

10 Years From Now: I enjoy exploring new territory, so I hope to be working in the film industry, but taking on new challenges.

Bigest 2012 Accomplishment: The Grey, since it helped establish us as a major player. I saw the footage, and we acquired it off of that.

Can't-Miss TV: 60 Minutes. I'm an old man at heart.

Lunch Spot: Gulfstream in Century City.

When I'm Not Working I'm: Hiking with my dog in Temescal Canyon.

I Wake Up At: 6 a.m.

The First Thing I Do: Read every website. I'll also watch CBS -- I told you I'm an old man at heart.


Color Force, Senior VP

Unkeless was the driving force behind identifying Suzanne Collins' action-adventure trilogy The Hunger Games as the industry's next powerhouse franchise. Color Force acquired the rights to the books after the Engelwood, Colo.-reared Unkeless brought it to Color Force founder Nina Jacobson.

Big Break: Being hired at Color Force. At the time, I had been lucky enough to be a story assistant and see the inside of a studio, but this was the first time I was an exec.

Bigest 2012 Accomplishment:  Hunger Games opening in a way that was very well-received by the fans of the book. That was our goal all along. The big box office was also really exciting. [It made $686.5 million.]

10 Years From Now: I try not to think that far in advance. This industry is so unstable, and it's pretty treacherous out there. Hopefully, I'll still be making movies I care about.

Movie Fix: Groundhog Day.

Online Obsession: I go through tons of books looking for source material.

Best Day: When Nina called me and said she was hiring me. I had already done three interviews and a notes sessions, then really late in the day, I got that call. I was so pumped. [His first industry gig was at Echo Lake Prods.]

Worst Day: When I first came out to Hollywood, I worked on a McDonald's commercial and my job was to find a costume for a dancing pickle. I had to go all over the city to find doll clothes. It's really hard to find clothes that fit a pickle. That was a pretty bad day.

I Fall Asleep At: 2 a.m.

The Last Thing I Do: Brush my teeth. I don't want them to fall out.

Bigest 2012 Accomplishment:


Legendary Entertainment, VP Creative Affairs

The UC Berkeley grad has had a quite the year, spending 8-1/2 of the past 12 months on movie sets, working on three Legendary productions including Guillermo del Toro's $200 million giant-monsters-vs.-mechas pic Pacific Rim. But it's The Seventh Son, based on the Joseph Delaney children's novel, that is closest to the Beverly Hills native's heart -- it was the first project she brought into the company. (She will receive co-producer credit on the movies.)

Industry Mentor: Legendary Entertainment President Jon Jashni. I spent two years on his desk as an assistant. You listen to all the calls and learn a lot. He is always straightforward.

Career Inspiration: My dad is a doctor at Cedars-Sinai, and occasionally some of his patients would come over for dinner, including [producer] David Gale. I was enthralled by his stories and wanted to be a part of that world. [Zaks began her career with stints at ICM and WMA before starting as assistant to Legendary's president and COO in 2006.]

Best Advice: From Jashni: "Survival is its own form of success. A lot of people drop out of the business, and if you look around, the people who are sticking it out, are the ones making it."

Biggest 2012 Accomplishment: We went from getting a 17-page treatment from Travis Beacham to, a year later, getting to stand on a giant set that Guillermo del Toro created. To go from page to reality is a huge moment.

Can't-Miss TV: Breaking Bad.

Movie Fix: Back to the Future. It's Michael J. Fox at his best. I'm a child of the '80s.

Lunch Spot: The Nosh of Beverly Hills. It's been a staple in my life since I was 3.

Best Day: When I found out we were making Seventh Son. It's the project I worked hardest on and the first one I was given to oversee.


Annapurna Pictures, Founder

Megan Ellison -- backed by her billionaire father, Larry Ellison -- has quickly become Hollywood's go-to financier for prestige projects. Her slate of films includes The Master, Lawless, Killing Them Softly and Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty. She's also financing Bennett Miller's next film, Foxcatcher, and holds the rights to the Terminator franchise. Ellison, who operates out of her compound in the Hollywood Hills, is notoriously reluctant about talking to the media and has declined participation in this year's Next Gen package. Instead, she chooses to communicate publicly via quotes posted on her official Twitter account, @meganeellison. A sampling:

• 'Dear diary, my teen-angst bullshit now has a body count.'--Heathers (1988)

• 'If you're going through hell, keep going.' --Winston Churchill

• 'You know that place between sleep and awake? … That's where I'll always love you, Peter Pan. That's where I'll be waiting.' –Hook (1991)

• My Hollywood Proverbs, part 3: -possession is nine-tenths of the law-'you're gonna need a bigger boat.' JAWS (1975)

• 'Reality is wrong. Dreams are for real.' –Tupac Shakur

• 'If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour…you're gonna see some serious shit.' –Back to the Future (1985)

• 'Expect everything, I always say, and the unexpected never happens.' –Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth


The Weinstein Co., President of Marketing'

Bruno has stood the test of time with Harvey and Bob Weinstein, spending most of his career with the pair (first at Miramax then at TWC, save for a yearlong stint at HBO). The Philadelphia native has overseen the highly successful marketing campaigns for 2012 Oscar winner The Artist, The Iron Lady, Lawless, The Master and The Intouchables, among others.

Big Break: I was an assistant at Rubenstein Associates after graduating from Boston College and was at a fund-raising event and met a woman who recommended me for a job at Miramax. I interviewed to be Harvey's assistant but ended up [former Miramax COO] Rick Sands' assistant. I eventually became Harvey's for two years.

Best Advice: Whatever you do, work as hard as you possibly can, but always remain ethical.

Career Inspiration: I have always been a film fan, and the Miramax brand always stood out.What Harvey does best is to make a movie a cultural event. That's what we focused on, making the movie an event.

Can't-Miss TV: 30 Rock. Not only is it funny for the general audience, it has a lot of industry jokes and winks.

Movie Fix: Thomas the Tank Engine: Misty Island Rescue. My 3-year-old son has probably watched it five dozen times. I have too, especially after Hurricane Sandy. We live in Battery Park and had nothing to do.

When I'm Not Working I'm: Spending time with my family: my son, Rex; my 3-month-old daughter, Lila; and my wife [whom he met while at Miramax], Melissa Bruno.