Women in Entertainment Power 100

Issue 57: WIE - Christina Norman Landscape
Kwaku Alston


The Hollywood Reporter’s 19th Annual List of the Females Who Rule Entertainment

51. Beth Swofford
Motion Picture Literary Agent, CAA

“When I realized that being a director wasn’t for me,” says Swofford, who went to USC film school, “I thought, ‘Well, at least I can help great directors get their films made.’ ” She’s done that for new client James Cameron, who recently closed a deal for two sequels to Avatar; Guy Ritchie, who will direct the Sherlock Holmes sequel; and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, whose Biutiful was picked up at the Toronto International Film Festival. Add in such clients as Sandra Bullock, directors Francis Lawrence (the upcoming Water for Elephants) and Joe Wright (Hanna), and you could say Swofford made the right call. It helps that she has a broader perspective than most agents: An avid art collector, she says her inquisitive nature helps her work. “It’s important to get out and be curious about the world,” she says.

52. Sheila Nevins
President, HBO Documentary/ Family

With projects that run from the sordid (Real Sex, Taxicab Confessions) to the groundbreaking (Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, Born Into Brothels), nobody is more influential in the documentary world than Nevins. “The bottom line of documentaries is it’s like going to school — real-people school, not celebrity school,” she says. She’s most proud of last month’s Wartorn: 1861–2010, which examines the effect of post-traumatic stress disorder, and also is working on a film that follows the recovery of a pelican caught in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Nevins says her thirst for knowledge fuels the work that she’s done, citing this year’s Iran-set For Neda. “I would never know how to say Ahmadinejad if I hadn’t done For Neda,” she says with a laugh, confessing that she has little spare time. “I have a son, I have a husband, I have a life, so to speak, but work is my fire,” she says.

53. Kathryn Bigelow

When Bigelow took home an Oscar in March for directing The Hurt Locker, it marked the first time a woman had earned the honor. Pundits couldn’t decide whether it was more interesting to discuss the fact that Bigelow’s ex-husband James Cameron was pitted against her in the race or that a female won an Oscar for directing a male-centric war film. However, Bigelow has always shied away, though elegantly so, from discussing her work in terms of gender. “I think of a person as a filmmaker, not a male or female filmmaker,” she told Slate.com. “Yes, we’re informed by who we are, and perhaps we’re even defined by that, but yet, the work has to speak for itself.” Although seven years passed between her last film, K-19: The Widowmaker, and her most recent one, Bigelow has been directing since the early 1980s. The director, who went to art school to train as a painter, is in preproduction with Hurt Locker writer Mark Boal on Paramount’s Triple Frontier, which will star Tom Hanks.

54. Lauren Shuler Donner

The Boston University graduate, who has been producing since 1983’s Mr. Mom, says she has managed to find time to start a new hobby: making pottery. “When you are throwing, every fiber of your being has to watch what you’re doing with your hands or it will collapse and go wrong,” she says. “It’s intensely therapeutic.” The wife of director Richard Donner will need all the therapy she can get with a new franchise blooming at Disney and a push into theatrical musicals. That’s in addition to landing Kick-Ass director Matthew Vaughn the helming gig for X-Men: First Class and Darren Aronofsky for X-Men Origins: Wolverine 2, which begins shooting next year.

55. Cynthia Pett-Dante
Co-Owner/Managing Partner, Brillstein Entertainment Partners

Pett-Dante still reads every script that lands on her desk for her client Brad Pitt. Well, nearly. “I stop at page 16 if it gets too painful,” she says. Although she has secured successes for some of her younger clients, such as getting Garrett Hedlund in Tron: Legacy and Anton Yelchin in Fright Night, she says it’s becoming harder than ever before to score pay increases for them. “Back in the old days, if you had a young client who did fantastic work and drew a following, the quote would go from 200 to 550,” she says. “Now, that’s no longer the case.” A notable animal-rights advocate, Pett-Dante recently bought a property off a Malibu landslide and set up a farm to host goats, sheep and pigs that were sent to slaughter by a petting zoo shuttered during the recession.

56. Gail Berman
Founder and Partner, BermanBraun

Berman always has had a flair for the theatrical — from producing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat straight out of the University of Maryland to running Fox TV as president of entertainment to heading film production at Paramount. Now she is redefining the digital sphere with partner Lloyd Braun through BermanBraun, the company they created in 2006. With three website launches this past year alone — GLO, Wonderwall Beltway and Wonderwall Latino — following Wonderwall, an Internet star with 12.5 million uniques per month, Berman has bounced back after a spotty run at Paramount. She also is producing the cop-as-comic-book-hero show The Cape for NBC, Lauren Conrad’s new reality project for MTV and three specials for Discovery. Sadly, she says she’s about to lose two of her most trusted pop culture advisers — her twins Alix and Jacob, soon heading for college.

57. Christina Norman
CEO, Own

The Second Act: “I quit. I’m done. I have to stop right now.” Those were the words Christina Norman recalls telling herself in 2008, the year she walked away from her 17-year career as an MTV media executive. “It was the most honest moment of my life,” she says. “Being able to say that I was not good at this anymore — not good to myself, to my work, to the people that depend on me — was the honest truth.”

Unlike many high-profile Hollywood jobs, which invariably end with the executive being shoved out the door, Norman says she made the decision to leave on her own, burned out from too many years of being on call 24/7. Now, she has redefined herself as CEO of Oprah Winfrey’s new network, OWN, a job she has held since February 2009.

She met Oprah in 2007, after a torn Achilles tendon forced her to cancel a family vacation in Italy. In its place, after she had recuperated, she took her family to South Africa. “I walk into the lobby of this most opulent, beautiful place,” Norman says. “I’m covered in dust, literally, and I see Gayle King [Winfrey’s best friend]. That’s when she tells me that Oprah is opening a school that week.” King invited her to join them for the opening.

Soon after, Norman was approached about joining OWN while still at MTV, where she was president of the network. But the timing was wrong. “I was really not in a good place,” she says. “I was not 100 percent, and it showed. It was just not an electric connection.”

A year after her first interview — and much shuffling among the top execs Winfrey originally appointed — Norman says “a headhunter called me and said they had reopened the search and did I have any recommendations? ‘Give me the job!’ I said. ‘I’m ready.’” So was Winfrey, who adds, “It takes a real woman to know when to say No.”

Now it will take a real executive to deal with the challenges Norman faces.

It’s a big risk, and Norman knows it. But risk-taking is part of her DNA. A New York native, she grew up in the Bronx with an architect father and a mother who runs an education and training program for the New York State court program. She earned her degree in film production from Boston University but as a college student was “a knucklehead.”

After leaving the university, Noman got a job as a P.A. with a small production company — and loved it.

More work in commercials was followed by a freelance gig as a production coordinator at MTV Networks that turned into a full-time post as production manager in 1991, when Norman oversaw in-house promotional spots for shows like Beavis and Butt-head. When that became a pop-culture phenomenon, she moved on to manage creative campaigns for such shows as The Osbournes and The 10 Spot and soon was appointed senior vp marketing, advertising and on-air promotion. In 2002, parent company Viacom hired her as executive vp and GM of MTV sister network VH1, where she helped launch series including Bands Reunited and Best Week Ever. VH1’s key demographic rose from 250,000 to nearly 340,000, and Norman was tapped as VH1’s president in January 2004.

A year later, she became president of MTV, supervising the network’s creative and business endeavors — a job she held until she left the company in 2008.

If this all seems like smooth sailing, that’s hardly the case. Norman admits she has had to master the art of corporate politics.

“When my second daughter was born, I was at MTV running the promo department,” she recalls. “I had hired someone to sit in for me while I was gone. And then I kept getting calls from my assistant saying, ‘This person you hired is out to get your job.’ So I came in one day a week during maternity leave.”

Now she’s going to be working at a much more ferocious pace as OWN ramps up to launch Jan. 1. Among the programming, Norman is supervising Oprah Presents Master Class, in which Winfrey will speak with icons including Jay-Z, Diane Sawyer and Condoleezza Rice; a new Rosie O’Donnell Show; and programs featuring King, Sarah Ferguson and Shania Twain.

“It’s just weeks before the start of this bold new undertaking,” Norman says. “It is incredibly exciting, energizing. I am anxious, proud and exhausted, and we all feel this every single day.” She pauses, tired, but prepared to soldier on.

“It is so important that everyone deliver,” she says. “That’s what it is about. Put your head down and get it done.”

— Norman profile by Mary Murphy

58. Leah Weil
Senior Exec  VP/General Counsel, Sony Pictures

Managing a legal staff 250 strong, Weil leaves the nitty-gritty production problems to them. However, two movies this year consumed her attention. The Social Network presented legal obstacles because it was based on real people. “I spent a lot of personal time on that film,” she says. “But since there are so many interesting issues, I don’t think of the legal analysis as shoot-me-now work.” The other was The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which required an extensive rights negotiation. “I didn’t want to read the script before I finished the book,” she says. “Not to be too hokey, but I was hooked.”

59. Shonda Rhimes
Creator, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice

The Chicago native and USC film school grad never thought she’d end up writing for film or television. “I fully, truly believed that I was going to be a novelist,” she says. “My goal was to be Toni Morrison.” That changed after Rhimes launched her TV career by penning HBO’s Introducing Dorothy Dandridge in 1999 and went on to write screenplays for The Princess Diaries and its sequel. Since then, she has made a career reinventing the medical drama. She has two successful ABC dramas — Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice — on the air, and the midseason Doctors Without Borders-inspired drama Off the Map is set to premiere in January. Rhimes still chuckles at the fact she’s known for her medical dramas. “I was a candy striper in high school,” she says. “While I considered being a doctor briefly, I realized early on I had absolutely no affinity for science whatsoever.”

60. Nancy Kirkpatrick
President of Worldwide Marketing, Summit Entertainment

Her devotion to work may mean it’s something of a surprise that movies never were Kirkpatrick’s dream job: A near-professional ice skater in her youth, she initially moved from Virginia to Los Angeles in hope of landing a job in sports marketing, only to be scooped up by Warner Bros. One of the first hires Rob Friedman made when he teamed with Patrick Wachsberger in 2007 to launch Summit was Kirkpatrick, a staffer from his Paramount days. It’s hardly surprising as Kirkpatrick is tough, shrewd and — after a couple of initial mistakes at Summit — brilliant. Case in point: Summit’s vampire phenomenon The Twilight Saga, whose latest installment, Eclipse, has earned more than $690 million worldwide. Summit also boasts this year’s best picture Oscar winner, The Hurt Locker. Her top moment, though? Meeting George Harrison. “It’s hard to recover from your first Beatle,” she says.

61. Claudia Lewis
President of Production, Fox Searchlight

Lewis has been especially busy this year, shepherding a mix of urban dramedies including Just Right and Our Family Wedding and such awards contenders as Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, Mark Romanek’s Never Let Me Go, the Duplass brothers’ Cyrus and Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire follow-up, 127 Hours. “We were fascinated, surprised and incredibly curious about how [Boyle] intended to tell the story — and how we’d sell the thing,” Lewis jokes. The UC Berkeley grad, who worked at the school’s respected Pacific Film Archive, is perhaps the most well-traveled woman on this list: During the past year alone, she has been to India, Fiji and taken an architecture tour of Cuba. “It’s all really well-preserved, from midcentury buildings to the great older stuff,” she says. “A real colonial vibe.”

62. Katherine Pope
President of Television, Chernin Entertainment

Today, comfortably ensconced in boss Peter Chernin’s new Santa Monica offices, Pope says the company’s growing pains have been worth it. “We don’t say, ‘Here’s what works for us,’ which frees you up to be more open and take more risks,” she says. Pope took her share of risks at her gig as president of Universal Media Studios, including the series House, Heroes, The Office, 30 Rock and Friday Night Lights. None of Chernin’s series — which include the anticipated Terra Nova (Fox), Breakout Kings (A&E) and Seek and Destroy (Showtime) — has hit the air yet, “so we have a perfect track record,” she says with a laugh. Although her work might be all about high drama and big laughs, she insists her private life is anything but. “I’m the most boring person in the world,” admits Pope, a chronic bookworm who is expecting her second child in the spring with her husband, documentary filmmaker and writer Richard E. Robbins. “You could have surveillance on me 24/7; it would be fine.”

63. Hylda Queally
Motion Picture Talent Agent, CAA

Today, 21 years after Queally  left her own small agency in Dublin, her Gaelic accent largely has faded, but her client list retains a foreign flavor. Cate Blanchett, Marion Cotillard and Penelope Cruz have won Oscars under her guidance. She has placed others in such international tentpoles as Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Cruz and Astrid Berges-Frisbey), Rise of the Apes (Freida Pinto) and Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol (Lea Seydoux). Her U.S.-born talents, including Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine) and Evan Rachel Wood (the HBO miniseries Mildred Pierce), also work nonstop. Queally’s workload leaves little time for outside interests. “If you’re going to spend time away from your children, it better be worth it,” she says.

The Woman Who Has Most Inspired Me: “The woman who’s inspired me: producer Kathleen Kennedy. When I came here from Ireland in 1989. I didn’t know anybody in the industry. I searched through [the Hollywood Creative Directory] to find a female and came across one with an Irish name, and thought that I should reach out to her. She was, and continues to be, a great source of support.”

64. Michelle Bohan Partner
Talent Agent, WME

Bohan’s first job as an assistant at Triad Artists, where she shared a desk with now-CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler, didn’t launch her on an immediate path to success. “I was the outside Rolodex girl, and Nina was the inside girl,” Bohan says with a laugh. Now, after 19 years as an agent, Bohan has made up for the slow start, repping two of the biggest names in comedy: Tina Fey and Steve Carell. In addition to adding Allison Janney and British actress Lucy Punch to her roster this year, the self-professed news junkie signed MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, taking her back to her first love: politics. “I always say I’m a lobbyist, but in a different way,” Bohan says.

65. Rebecca Prentice
Executive VP/General Counsel, Paramount

Prentice most recently took the point in negotiating an agreement with Disney whereby Paramount was paid at least $115 million for distribution rights to Iron Man 3, The Avengers and other Marvel properties. She also led a team that negotiated a deal that gave Netflix rights to stream thousands of Paramount films. Prentice also manages a 60-lawyer department that works to protect the studio content from digital theft. When not at work, Prentice likes to rock-climb and knit. “I like getting to the end, whether it’s a complicated deal or the top of the mountain, where I can enjoy the gorgeous view,” she says.

66. Maren Christensen
Executive VP/General Counsel,  Universal Studios

Christensen is one of Hollywood’s leading advocates for copyright reform. More recently, she has been busy contending with the regulatory review of Comcast’s acquisition of NBC Universal. Each week, the Department of Justice and FCC question how the proposed merger would work and whether it would be good for consumers and competition. “There’s been a lot of work on my end playing traffic cop and getting the right information to the right people to give everyone comfort about this deal,” she says. A good day for Christensen is when she isn’t seen. “You just hope you aren’t profiled on the front page of the Times,” she adds.

67. Beth Roberts
Executive VP, NBC Universal Cable Entertainment/Business Affairs

At the helm of business affairs for NBC Uni’s cable division, Roberts has led negotiations on some of the company’s biggest hits, from Bravo’s The Real Housewives to USA Network’s Burn Notice. She also is part of a five-person team helping NBC Uni begin to produce its own shows, including Warehouse 13 on Syfy and Royal Pains and Covert Affairs on USA. In her free time, she is writing a book on finding a soulmate online and counts the exact number of steps in her workout routine each day. “I’m on the phone 90 percent of the time, so I try to make up for it by getting outside and using a pedometer to make sure I’m doing enough physical activity,” she says.

68. Bridget Baker
President of Distribution, NBC Universal

“It makes my brain hurt,” Baker says about the on-demand world she now faces — so different from the TV world she entered as the third person hired by CNBC more than 20 years ago. How can it be uncomplicated when the Alaska native’s gig involved all things related to NBC Universal’s content delivery: Executing all-in distribution deals with top multichannel video programming distributors, including DirecTV, Dish Network and Time Warner Cable, she is all about getting programming on as many platforms as possible. One thing that hasn't changed is her 10-minute daily commute — on a mint-green bicycle. “I was doing it long before it was ‘green,’ ” she says.

The Woman Who Has Most Inspired Me: “Michelle Obama. I like smart, engaged women who walk their talk. She resonates for me as a parent, a mother and a career woman. She manages to be this great mom, role model and fashion icon who doesn’t compromise easily.”

69. Bernardine Brandis
Executive VP Business and Legal Affairs, Disney

Brandis has helped Disney incorporate the Marvel brand after a $4 billion acquisition and given guidance on the recent ramp-up to the fourth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Brandis also gives her two cents when active producers including Jerry Bruckheimer and Scott Rudin do major work under Disney’s umbrella. The most surprising thing about her? She has an encyclopedic knowledge of rap stars and sheepishly admits that her favorite is Eminem. “He’s too traditional and mainstream, but I love him anyway,” she says.

The Woman Who Has Most Inspired Me: “Eleanor Roosevelt. At a time when she was expected to shut up, she was vocal anyway and pushed for universal rights. She brought real class to her role as first lady.”

70. Melanie Cook
Partner, Ziffren Brittenham

Injuries from triathlons and heli-skiing have forced the self-admitted adrenaline junkie to scale back her aggressive lifestyle. Now, she only rides a bike and river-rafts the Grand Canyon. Cook is still pushing it in the deal room, but instead of sticking by hard salary quotes for such clients as Tim Burton and Scott Rudin, she has been going for pool profit participation on recent deals involving The Social Network and Alice in Wonderland. This past year, Cook put together House executive producer Katie Jacobs’ first-look deal at Fox, Rudin’s deal for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Winnie Holzman’s deal to develop a film adaptation of Wicked. Cook also is involved in building houses for the Hollywood chapter Habitat for Humanity. “There are a lot of people in this town who wouldn’t want to see me with a nail gun in my hand,” she says.

71. Jeanne Newman
Partner, Jacobson, Hansen, Hoberman, Teller

Newman estimates that she negotiates 10-15 nonscripted television deals a day, including big ones like new seasons of Big Brother and The Marriage Ref on behalf of client Endemol and a new season of Top Chef on behalf of Magical Elves. Other deals appear smaller at first: Little did she know that when she introduced Ryan Seacrest to Jamie Oliver that the partnership would translate into an Emmy win (for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution). “It was fun sitting with them at the Emmys,” she says. When she isn’t working, Newman and her husband, 20th Century Fox chairman Gary Newman, run the Jorian Hill winery in Santa Barbara County.

The Woman Who Has Most Inspired Me: “Patty Glaser. She is the person who first hired me. She’s the bravest person I know and she’s absolutely fearless. Sometimes I go to bed hoping my clients can afford her if they ever get into trouble.”

72. Anne Globe
Head of Worldwide Marketing, DreamWorks Animation

Globe’s masterful marketing skills helped How to Train Your Dragon gross nearly $500 million worldwide and the November entry Megamind top the domestic box office during its first two weeks of release. Then there was the final chapter in the Shrek franchise, Shrek Forever After, which became the company’s highest-grossing international release with $735 million. Although DWA’s myriad projects require Globe — who has worked on all four Shreks during her 14 years at the company — to be a juggler at work, she’s more of a dancer at home. “I have a little dance barre in my house,” says the executive, who also has taken 15 years of tap classes.

The Woman Who Has Most Inspired Me: “Hillary Clinton. I admire her work ethic and her intelligence. I had the opportunity to meet her once in person, and she’s tremendously articulate and a real presence. On a one-on-one basis, you felt like she really was connecting with you. That’s a unique and impressive quality, and she continues to work very hard to do the right thing.”

73. Deborah Barak
Executive VP Business Affairs, CBS Network Television Entertainment Group

Barak started as an associate at O’Melveny & Myers in the litigation department before she yearned to find a “different life, balancing career and family.” She joined CBS in 1985 in the broadcast department and during the next 25 years has moved her way up the chain of command, with stints supervising in-house productions, serving as associate general counsel and head of the business affairs department. Today, Barak supervises the negotiation of talent and producer deals and license fees; recent accomplishments include bringing back all three CSI series as well as negotiating extensions for David Letterman and Craig Ferguson. Barak has worked on innovative contracts including these used on Survivor, which make contestants pay millions of dollars if they blab secrets. “It’s intellectually challenging to rethink how deals are made,” she says.

74. Blair Kohan
Partner/Motion Picture Agent, UTA

Kohan presides over as much fun at home as she does at work. The comedy-queen agent is married to David Kohan, co-creator of Will & Grace and $#*! My Dad Says, and shares laughs with their 2-year-old daughter, Nora — that’s when she’s not doing serious business for clients who include such masters of comedy as writer-director Judd Apatow, his frequent collaborators Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen, the writing team of Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley (Horrible Bosses, Burt Wonderstone) and filmmakers such as Mark Pellington (I Melt With You). Kohan attended boarding school in New Jersey, studied writing at Sarah Lawrence College before relocating to L.A. to begin a stint as an agent trainee at Bauer Benedek (one of the firms that merged to form UTA). She only returned to agenting when she joined UTA for good in 1997 after working in feature development at Brillstein Grey, as vp production for Oliver Stone and as a production executive at Fox-based Horizon Entertainment. “It’s the longest relationship in my life,” she jokes.

75. Jo Ann Ross
President of Network Sales, CBS

Ross is the longest-serving head of a network sales division — she also was the first female to have held that job when she took it in 2002 — and leads one of the most stable staffs in the business. February’s Super Bowl “set the tone for the year,” she says, when her team sold out its inventory before going to air. Despite the economic challenges of the past few years, the New York-based executive has led CBS to another record-breaking upfront, her fifth in a row. She also is overseeing an NCAA joint advertising venture with Turner and is active in two cancer charities: City of Hope and Memorial Sloan-Kettering.

Selection Criteria: For The Hollywood Reporter’s annual Women in Entertainment Power 100 issue, editors based their selection of candidates and ranking on the following: 1. Revenue generated for their companies; 2. valuation of assets; 3. number of employees overseen; 4. impact and influence within the film and television industries; 5. ability to get projects greenlighted or proximity to greenlight power; and 6. reputation (general standing within the entertainment community, in addition to achievements).