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In 1993, Jurassic Park (the first one) was the No. 1 movie at the box office, The X-Files went to air and THR debuted its first list of the top 35 Hollywood execs 35 and under.
In the 30 years that followed, Next Gen alums have created cinematic universes (Kevin Feige was selected in 2003) and maintained century-old studios (Donna Langley in 2002). From 1994’s Ari Emanuel, Kevin Huvane and Courtenay Valenti to 2002’s Bela Bajaria, these execs have built, lost, sold and rebuilt entertainment empires.
In any given year, the Next Gen list is a reflection of Hollywood and its priorities. You can track the rise of prestige TV, the debut of streaming and the entrée of social media. With that said, meet the Next Gen class of 2023.
Kelsey Balance, 35
Senior vp global scripted series, Universal International Studios
THE LOGLINE Under Balance, the studio exploded in volume with more than 20 series in production.
THE ARC Raised in the suburbs of Chicago, Balance settled in Los Angeles after a couple of stints at UCLA – first, for a dance camp while still in high school, and later for college. An internship at CAA led to her first job at Universal Pictures, but Balance found she gravitated toward TV. It was in her next gig, at Participant Media’s Pivot TV, that she says she not only grew into an executive but also got an early education in the international marketplace through her work on co-productions like Please Like Me and Fortitude. In 2018, after putting in a few years at NBCU’s first streaming effort, Seeso, the married mother of two joined Universal International Studios, where she’s racked up a dizzying number of frequent flier miles, setting up high-profile series like Peacock’s critically adored We Are Lady Parts and the Eddie Redmayne starrer The Day of the Jackal, while also building the studio’s non-English-language slate.
MOST HOLLYWOOD THING I’VE EXPERIENCED “On my first day as an assistant, my very first incoming call was from Ari Emanuel. I accidentally hung up on him. Surprised I’m still working in the industry!”
TALENT I’D LOVE TO WORK WITH Greta Gerwig
Chris Cikowski, 31
VP animation, 20th Television Animation
THE LOGLINE A key player on the small-but-prolific team responsible for hits like Futurama and The Great North.
THE ARC At 8, Cikowski’s grandparents gifted him a video camera, and he was rarely without it for the duration of his childhood. Most of what he was making was “trash,” says the Philly-area native — the exception, which he jokingly calls his “opus,” was a 35-minute high school pep rally video that he fashioned as a SportsCenter broadcast, complete with fake commercials. Having caught the bug, he moved to L.A. for film school and then landed a full-time job with TV producer Aaron Kaplan that ultimately led him to 20th Television. The married exec and avid skier describes his role today as “an obstacle-mover for very creative people and their first audience.” Others would tell you he’s been vital to the Hulu revival of Futurama, Hulu’s Solar Opposites and a buzzy FX animated pilot from Drew Goddard.
BUZZWORD I WISH WOULD GO AWAY “Subscribers. They’re human beings who just want to be entertained!”
TALENT I’D LOVE TO WORK WITH Matthew Vaughn
Houston Costa, 33
Talent agent, UTA
THE LOGLINE Guides the careers for talent like Greta Lee (Past Lives), Alba Baptista (Warrior Nun) and Amandla Stenberg.
THE ARC “Where I come from informs my work,” says Costa, who grew up in several rural Southwestern mining towns, where, he says, “you either join the Army or you do your Mormon mission — and I wasn’t Mormon.” Though he considered the military, Costa also googled “school by the beach” and was admitted to Pepperdine on a full scholarship, spending summers at the school as a janitor and packing cherries in Stockton to help subsidize living costs. He majored in film and eventually landed in the WME mailroom. “I thought it was the post office department of an agency,” jokes Costa, who worked on the desks of top agents Sharon Jackson and Charles King and, when he made the jump to UTA, Theresa Peters. Now he helps clients like Past Lives breakout Lee cement leading-star status, with the awards hopeful set to lead Disney’s new Tron film. He says, “What factors into strategy oftentimes, especially in representing people of color, is responsibility. What are you going to portray yourself as?”
MOST HOLLYWOOD THING I’VE EXPERIENCED “I had to deliver a surprise birthday cake to Jack Black, and he sang me a song and had me sit down to eat the cake with him.”
MY FIRST JOB IN HOLLYWOOD ENTAILED “Calling the Hotel du Cap from Beverly Hills to order a cheeseburger from their restaurant and then having them deliver it to my boss who was staying there. Unfortunately, they delivered a chicken sandwich instead.”
Justin Di Stefano. 35
Senior associate, Nelson Davis
THE LOGLINE The lawyer handles deals for up-and-comers like West Duchovny (Painkiller), writer Britta Lundin (Will Trent) and director Nicolas Pesce (Visitation) and top-tier talent such as Allison Janney.
THE ARC As a kid in Calgary, Di Stefano and his class were asked to draw their future occupations. “I drew a lawyer,” he recalls. “And in the speech bubble I wrote, ‘I arrest my case’ not knowing that I meant ‘rest’ because I was 5.” After graduating from UCLA Law and interning at Columbia Pictures and Warner Bros., he landed on Peter Nelson’s desk as an assistant. More than a decade later, the soon-to-be partner is working with talent like Janney, Kevin Pollak and Peter Jackson. He’s proud to be proof “that a Canadian who doesn’t have connections can do it” and jokes that his negotiation style could be summarized as you “catch more flies with honey than vinegar, but maybe I’m catching with maple syrup.”
BUZZWORD I WISH WOULD GO AWAY “Gaslight. If you haven’t seen the 1944 film, you’re using it wrong.”
I’D TRADE PLACES WITH “A shelf stocker in the Criterion closet.”
MOST HOLLYWOOD THING I’VE EXPERIENCED “Hiring emergency snowplows during a blizzard at Sundance.”
Olivia Doud, 32
THE LOGLINE Guided SNL breakouts Please Don’t Destroy plus Jury Duty’s Mekki Leeper from college stand-up to Emmy nominee.
THE ARC Every night at dinner, Doud’s family unfolded their TV trays to watch two episodes of Seinfeld in a home where Saturday Night Live, Adam Sandler and Chris Farley were sacred. While at film school in Austin, she worked at SXSW, booking travel for comedians and dealing with assistants at Hollywood firms, including Mosaic. In her early years in L.A., she built her comedy bona fides working as an assistant at Funny or Die and spearheading a weekly stand-up show in Echo Park, and along the way observed how comedian’s managers were in the trenches with their clients. Eventually, a job at Mosaic opened up. Now based in New York, she identifies the next generation of comic talent, advising clients like Leeper and SNL castmember Michael Longfellow. She says her ideal comedian is “someone who has a character or a world they’ve built that you want to be in.”
THE CHARACTER I IDENTIFY WITH Peggy Olson
MY FIRST JOB IN HOLLYWOOD ENTAILED “Trying to catch a fishbowl Dolph Lundgren threw out a window.”
Reed Duchscher, 34
CEO and founder, Night Media
THE LOGLINE Helped MrBeast grow from a YouTuber to an entrepreneurial powerhouse and built a next-gen management company from the ground up.
THE ARC Jerry Maguire was an early inspiration for Duchscher, a former college football player who started as a sports agent representing a few teammates from North Dakota State. He moved to Las Vegas to pursue athlete representation but stumbled upon YouTube channel Dude Perfect, which had garnered more than a million subscribers with trick-shot videos. His cold email turned into a partnership and a major career shift. Duchscher launched Night Media in 2015 with the goal of helping digital creators translate their popularity into actual businesses, not only landing sponsorship deals but eventually “owning the brands that you promote on your channel.” Now he’s the engine behind YouTube’s best known single personality, Jimmy Donaldson (210 million subscribers), aka MrBeast, who this year launched a chocolate company called Feastables that has a groundbreaking new partnership as the jersey patch sponsor of the Charlotte Hornets. Meanwhile, Night has now expanded to include an incubator, a creative studio and a $20?million venture fund. He says, “What do you do when you have massive global distribution? Hopefully we’re showing people that there is a clear blueprint for success around these digital creators.”
BUZZWORD I WISH WOULD GO AWAY “Influencers. We like to use ‘creators.’ To me a creator is a category of an artist. It’s similar to painters, actors and musicians. I stopped using the word ‘influencer’ a while ago.”
THE CHARACTER I IDENTIFY WITH “Woody from Toy Story. I work with a lot of crazy characters.”
Addison Duffy, 32
Media rights agent, UTA
THE LOGLINE Has more than 100 adaptations in development, including client Elin Hilderbrand’s The Perfect Couple.
THE ARC The L.A. native has had her nose in a book for as long as she can remember: “It was my hobby and my passion.” It wasn’t until UTA’s media rights co-head Jason Richman gave a talk while Duffy was still a college intern at the agency that she realized it was possible to combine a career in entertainment and her love of books. After graduating from the University of Oregon, she insisted on remaining in UTA’s mailroom until a job on a media rights desk became available. “I refused to interview for anyone else,” she recalls of a nine-month slog that paid off. Duffy is now a key player in the department, even spearheading the agency’s audio-to-film and TV rights work. (Her twin brother is a music agent at UTA.) Among Duffy’s many clients are Cecilie Fjellhoy and Pernilla Sj?holm, whose story, in Duffy’s hands, became the hit Netflix doc The Tinder Swindler,?along with Wondery (Peacock’s Dr. Death) and author Zakiya Dalila Harris (Hulu’s The Other Black Girl). And yes, she still reads multiple books a week, though now it’s considered work.
THE CHARACTER I IDENTIFY WITH “Most days, it’s Belle.”
Becca Edelman, 31
Senior vp film and TV, 21 Laps
THE LOGLINE Exec behind a variety of content, from Hulu’s Rosaline to Netflix’s Shadow and Bone.
THE ARC Growing up in Westchester, New York, a black sheep in a family of lawyers, Edelman was a devout drama club nerd, forcing her parents and younger brother to sit in auditoriums for play after play. “But I was a terrible actress,” she laughs. “and I regret making them sit through all that.” At Yale, Edelman ran the film society, while an internship at ICM opened her eyes to the industry: “I couldn’t believe this world existed, a whole world revolved around writers and directors.” Stints at WME and with producer Doug Wick led to Shawn Levy’s 21?Laps, where she’s been since 2017. Two movies and five seasons of TV have taken her from coordinator to senior vp. Next up is restarting production on The Perfect Couple, the murder mystery that she championed and placed at Netflix with Nicole Kidman, Liev Schreiber and Dakota Fanning.
TALENT I’D LOVE TO WORK WITH Emerald Fennell
MY FIRST JOB IN HOLLYWOOD ENTAILED “Being an intern carrying a 10-pound printer all over New York City while chasing the producer’s assistant, who was in turn chasing the producer, just in case he wanted to print something at a moment’s notice on set.”
MOST HOLLYWOOD THING I’VE EXPERIENCED “Having a crush on my studio exec on a project. And then marrying him.”
Jacob Epstein, 33
THE LOGLINE Guides new talent like Alex Scharfman, who is directing A24’s feature Death of a Unicorn, which stars fellow client Paul Rudd.
THE ARC New York City born and raised, Epstein aspired to advise some famous fellow New Yorkers: “My dream was to figure out how to represent both Stanley Kubrick and Nas at the same time.” His career started with an internship at Late Night with Conan O’Brien when he was 16, which was followed by another at Brillstein Entertainment Partners, where he’d meet current boss Aleen Keshishian, who later asked whether he’d consider pivoting from his agent ambitions at UTA to join her as a manager at Lighthouse. “It was a dream opportunity I could not turn down,” Epstein says. Since then, he’s worked with the likes of Rudd, Jason Bateman and Justin Theroux while breaking new talent like Scharfman (Epstein helped package his feature debut Unicorn with Rudd and Jenna Ortega) and showrunner Phoebe Fisher (Cruel?Intentions).
BUZZWORD I WISH WOULD GO AWAY “Content. I don’t like grouping a film, series or album that an artist poured their heart into for years into the same category as a TikTok or meme.”
MY FIRST JOB IN HOLLYWOOD ENTAILED “19-hour days.”
Philip Fernandez, 32
Talent agent, IAG
THE LOGLINE Signed 2 Chainz and Ne-Yo, turning them into multihyphenates, while advising clients like Edi Gathegi (Superman: Legacy).
THE ARC Fernandez’s deeply traditional Latino parents were not thrilled when he decided to turn down his law school acceptances and instead take up his actress cousin’s offer in 2015 to move to Los Angeles “and see what happens.” What happened was a few PA gigs, closed doors at agencies and a job as a car salesman. The latter turned out to be a blessing, as it had him meeting working agents, which got him into rooms and landed him in the APA mailroom in 2017. He was then conscripted by the agency’s Jim Osborne, becoming his assistant and gaining a crash course in the business. He has now made a name for himself with clients like Gathegi, who landed the role of Mr. Terrific in James Gunn’s Superman. “You sign through proximity,” says the agent, who finds off-hour catharsis playing drums.
THE CHARACTER I IDENTIFY WITH “Winston Wolf from Pulp Fiction. I solve problems.”
THE STRIKES MADE ME RETHINK?“All my financial decisions.”
MOST HOLLYWOOD THING I’VE EXPERIENCED “Getting Jim Osborne’s suits to the Venice Film Festival from L.A. in less than 24 hours.”
Adam Friedman, 34
Exec, CAA/Connect Ventures
THE LOGLINE Helps top talent like Ellen Pompeo and Lupita Nyong’o explore business endeavors and brand partnerships, while also guiding the agency’s investments in Chain, Clubhouse and OpenSea and leading its foray into NFTs and the Web3 space.
THE ARC Despite growing up in L.A. and being inspired by Entourage, Friedman wasn’t interested in representing actors. But he did aspire to “work with businesses the way that agents work with talent.” After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, he started his career at Madison Square Garden, a CAA client. It didn’t take long for him to make the jump to the agency, where he helped launch Connect Ventures and the emerging technology group. Recent highlights include helping Simu Liu become chief content officer of modern Chinese food brand MìLà and Mindy Kaling become an investor and brand ambassador for inclusive skin care company Lion Pose — and guiding Miles Teller’s co-ownership of The Finnish Long Drink since the start. Friedman notes, “This job is about connecting what are hopefully very valuable dots to make magic happen.”
I’D TRADE PLACES WITH “Dimitri Dimitrov at Sunset Tower in pre-social media days.”
THE CHARACTER I IDENTIFY WITH Larry David
Anita Gou, 32
Founder, Kindred Spirit
THE LOGLINE Producer-financier behind festival favorites and awards titles like Lulu Wang’s The?Farewell.
THE ARC In January 2019, Gou spent an exorbitant amount of time in the Sundance Film Festival’s Eccles Theater, where Honeyboy and The Farewell premiered in back-to-back slots, prompting bidding wars and cementing Gou’s status as a savvy indie producer-financier with exceptional taste. Growing up across Taiwan, Hong Kong and Los Angeles, she had a steady diet of Stephen Chow and Jackie Chan films, with trips to the movie theater becoming bonding experiences with her busy entrepreneur father. Gou landed at the NYU film school, and, she recalls with a laugh, “I realized quickly I didn’t want to direct, which was a relief.” A generation of filmmaking talent has benefited from this early epiphany, like a pre-Euphoria Sam Levinson — Gou produced his sophomore feature Assassination Nation. Even as the indie film market becomes more challenging, the producer focuses on the bright spots. “I’m a product of a multicultural environment,” says Gou. “One of the positive changes to come of the past few years is that there are more avenues for voices like this.”
THE STRIKES MADE ME RETHINK “How much we all wait to speak up.”
THE CHARACTER I IDENTIFY WITH “Fleabag. I’m always in my own head and I love animal themed cafes.”
BUZZWORD I WISH WOULD GO AWAY “Pitching a project as the [insert gender and/or race] version of Get Out. That movie is 6 years old, we’ve got to move on!”
Grace Haeri, 32
Associate Principal Counsel, Marvel Studios
THE LOGLINE A super-lawyer who handles production legal and business affairs for MCU projects including The Marvels and Echo.
THE ARC Born and raised in Newport Beach, Haeri is a first-generation American (her mom is from South Korea, her dad from Iran) who has loved movies and TV for as long as she can remember. “[Having] immigrant parents really gave me a unique perspective on culture and identity, especially growing up in the O.C.,” she says. “I really found a sense of belonging and community in film.” After graduating from law school at Chapman University and interning at Lucasfilm and Marvel, she started her career in business affairs at CAA. It wasn’t long before she was back in the superhero business, running Marvel Studios’ legal internship program and working behind the scenes on projects like Loki, Daredevil and Fantastic Four. “When I draft my contracts, I listen to film and TV scores,” Haeri says. “John Williams is my current go-to.”?
MY FIRST HOLLYWOOD JOB ENTAILED “Using my law degree to master the art of pouring water and opening blinds each morning as an assistant.”
THE CHARACTER I IDENTIFY WITH “I feel like I’m an Avenger. Probably Bruce Banner or the Hulk, depending on the day.”
Sam Hanson, 34
Senior vp production, New Regency
THE LOGLINE Shepherds the works of auteur filmmakers like Robert Eggers, Jeff Nichols and David O. Russell.
THE ARC “I have never worked harder than getting 8-year-olds to make a music video,” says the onetime camp counselor, who has a particularly high tolerance for labor, having decamped to an isolated peninsula in Nova Scotia in 30-degree weather to shoot Eggers’ The Lighthouse. After sending a cold email while still at Maine’s Bowdoin College, Hanson landed his first job at HBO before jumping to the filmmaker-focused enclaves of Annapurna and Focus Features, and finally arriving at New Regency, where the avid runner has handled titles like Russell’s Amsterdam and Nichols’ The Bikeriders. “It’s about demonstrating to them that my whole purpose is to help them achieve their vision,” says Hanson of how he ingratiates himself with the auteur set. “As soon as you convince them of that, then your interests are aligned and you are no longer an obstruction to them.” His relationship with Eggers continued to the director’s latest, the Viking epic The Northman, where Hanson, who shares daughter Annie with his wife, MRC exec (and Next Gen alum) Mary Claire Manley, plays a bit part that ends in his throat getting slit onscreen. “I had to lay in the dirt for an entire day,” he remembers. “Everyone thought it was hysterical.”
WHY ISN’T HOLLYWOOD TALKING ABOUT “2023 being a great movie year.”
THE CHARACTER I IDENTIFY WITH “Lieutenant Vincent Hanna from Heat.”
Ali Herting, 32
Producer, Fruit Tree
THE LOGLINE After taking part in A24’s meteoric rise and working on films like Zola, Herting now heads Emma Stone and Dave McCary’s shingle.
THE ARC Herting has the supremely unique distinction of being A24’s first intern. Still in her last year at NYU, the Bay Area native joined the company a few months into its launch, landing a job after graduating. “[A24] was 2 months old; there weren’t any films there yet,” she recalls. “My dad was like, ‘Are you sure? These places go out of business all the time.’?” When Moonlight landed its best picture win, she says, “My dad was the first to call.” Her credits include The Last Black Man in San Francisco and Zola, and while some would be happy to rest on those hard-won laurels, Herting offers, “I wanted to push myself not to remain comfortable.” She ultimately left A24 for Stone and Dave McCary’s Fruit Tree, helping establish a film and TV slate that now includes the Julio Torres movie Problemista and Showtime series The Curse.?As with A24, Herting enjoys getting in on the ground floor of a new outfit: “It’s a little addictive.”
THE CHARACTER I IDENTIFY WITH “Aspirationally: Elaine Benes. Realistically: George Costanza.”
MY FIRST JOB IN HOLLYWOOD ENTAILED “Buying glass gun bongs and etching unicorns onto them.”
MOST HOLLYWOOD THING I’VE EXPERIENCED “Running through Times Square with steak knives for a boss’s lunch.”
Kelvin Le, 34
Associate, Jackoway Austen
THE LOGLINE A former corporate lawyer with Wall Street experience who now works with the likes of James Marsden and Dave Bautista.?
THE ARC After realizing being a professional poker player wasn’t in the — ahem — cards, Le set his sights on law school. Graduating from Harvard (he transferred after working his way to the top of the class his first year at UCLA), he found himself working on big-ticket M&A deals at Sullivan & Cromwell before joining Sidley in L.A. There, he got experience on corporate transactions for Hollywood clients like Conan O’Brien, which gave him the itch to move to the talent side. Jackoway Austen hired him in early 2020, and now he’s running point on firm clients like Bautista and Eiza González and building his own business. “I closed a feature deal recently for a writer named La Monte Edwards,” says Le, who was raised by his Vietnam War refugee grandparents in Orange County. “When I told him what we got for him, his jaw dropped. He hadn’t worked in five months because of the strike. That is what makes me so excited to do this job every day.”
MOST HOLLYWOOD THING I’VE EXPERIENCED “Photographers at an awards show thought I was in the cast of Crazy Rich Asians.”
MY FIRST JOB IN HOLLYWOOD ENTAILED “A global pandemic shutting down the industry two months after I started, leaving me wondering if I was going to get fired after giving up my cushy corporate lawyer job.”
Hilary Leavitt, 35
President, Upside Down Pictures
THE LOGLINE Building out the Duffer brothers’ ultra-buzzy company, which includes a final season of Stranger Things and sci-fi drama The Boroughs.
THE ARC After graduating from Pace in New York, the Jersey Shore native was nearly out of money and ready to move home when a temp agency offered her the choice of two jobs: a dentist’s office in the Bronx or a programming assistant at BBC America. Leavitt’s temp role soon became permanent with work that included Orphan Black. She eventually landed in Los Angeles with a job at MRC, working closely with Ozark’s Chris Mundy and The Great’s Tony McNamara. It gave her a taste of her sweet spot: “Being a true non-writing EP,” she says. “I just want to help you make things.” In time, Ross and Matt Duffer tapped her to run their Upside Down banner, which includes a Stranger Things stage play. “Matt, Ross and I share a lot of tastes,” she adds. “It’s a Venn diagram, not a full moon.”
I’D TRADE PLACES WITH “Sherry Lansing on some rad day between ’93 and like ’99.”
MY FIRST JOB IN HOLLYWOOD ENTAILED “As an assistant, being told to block out large chunks of time on an exec’s calendar to ‘think’. But now I get it.”
Megan Macmillan, 35
Senior vp comedy, Universal?Television
THE LOGLINE A comedy nerd who works with the storied NBCUniversal talent pool (Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video).
THE ARC While at USC, the Los Angeles native would regularly drive up to Hollywood to see comedy shows instead of going to campus parties. “Later on, somebody would tell me that you don’t work in comedy if you don’t go to shows,” says Macmillan. “It’s so important in curating taste and building a network.” That network is pretty impressive. Her job at Universal Television, which she took after stints at Sony and Davis Entertainment, has Macmillan, who lives on the Eastside with her husband (Dickinson writer-producer Robbie Macdonald) and their two young children, working with a murderers’ row of comedy icons — including too many SNL alums to list. She’s overseeing more than 50 series in development and helped put on shows like Bupkis and Girls5eva.
TALENT I’D LOVE TO WORK WITH “Ziwe. I love her fresh perspective … and wardrobe.”
THE CHARACTER I IDENTIFY WITH “Weird Barbie. I like to know what’s really going on, and once had an equally traumatizing haircut.”
I’D TRADE PLACES WITH “I’d love to trade places with Lisa Vanderpump for a day, but I doubt she’d want to be me — they don’t serve rosé at the Universal commissary.”
Max Maulitz, 32
Talent Agent, WME
THE LOGLINE Represents Hollywood’s top Jeremys — Strong (Succession) and White (The Bear) — as well as Zac Efron and Riz Ahmed.
THE ARC Maulitz made the most of the industry publicists, managers, agents and others who came in as guest lecturers to USC. “I’d go and have coffee with them, and a hundred percent of them would say, ‘You’re definitely an agent,’?” he recalls, adding that he’s not sure exactly why there was such a consensus but he’s “really grateful that they said that.” The Denver native and avid tennis player landed at WME — where he interned during college — and hasn’t looked back. The overwhelming success of The Bear has been a high point for Maulitz, who works with both star White and creator Chris Storer as well as Robert Pattinson, Sadie Sink, Billie Eilish and Efron, who co-stars with White in A24’s The Iron?Claw. “I often think how ridiculous it is that this is my job, pitching stories and talking about such talented actors and filmmakers and musicians,” Maulitz says. “The fact that people pay me to do that, how lucky is that?”
BUZZWORD I WISH WOULD GO AWAY “骋别苍谤别-补驳苍辞蝉迟颈肠.”
MY FIRST JOB IN HOLLYWOOD ENTAILED “Selling my soul for restaurant reservations.”
I’D TRADE PLACES WITH NBA Commissioner Adam Silver
Michelle Momplaisir, 30
VP, Focus Features
THE LOGLINE Built a varied résumé, from Marvel titles to festival darlings, including Sundance winner A Thousand and One.
THE ARC “Technically, my first job in entertainment was working on The Jerry Springer Show,” offers Momplaisir, who after graduating from Fordham University also danced at the Alvin Ailey Theater. She explains of her diverse post-grad résumé, “I was really taking whatever I could get.” A short few years later, the Connecticut native would find herself on very different kind of sets from Springer — from Marvel tentpoles to festival dramas. After entering the NBCUniversal Page program, Momplaisir landed on the desk of Universal Pictures chairwoman Donna Langley. “Every day being on her phone was a master class in communication,” says Momplaisir, who lives in East L.A. with her husband and their Australian shepherd and whose passion for specialty film led her to Uni label Focus Features. There was an interlude at Marvel Studios, where she was on set for Captain Marvel, and then back to Focus, where her credits include Cannes title The Silent Twins as well as upcoming films Lisa?Frankenstein and Robert Eggers’ Nosferatu.?
I’D TRADE PLACES WITH “The Barefoot Contessa: Ina Garten.”
MOST HOLLYWOOD THING I’VE EXPERIENCED?“When we hired Simu Liu on Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings when I was at Marvel. Kevin [Feige], [director] Destin [Daniel Cretton], [producer] Jonathan [Schwartz] and I had spent the morning rewatching tape. Then we all gathered in Kevin’s office with a few others on the team. Kevin called Simu on speaker and announced he’d got the part, and of course Simu had to keep it a secret until Comic-Con. The pure emotion of the call and witnessing the dream-making was all very inspiring.”
Casey Neumeier, 34
Manager, Artists First
THE LOGLINE Among his fast-rising writer clients are Tanner Bean and Katie Mathewson, both Emmy-nominated for the juggernaut Jury Duty, as well as its breakout star Ronald Gladden.
THE ARC Neumeier’s earliest memories are of him and his screenwriter dad, who wrote RoboCop and Starship Troopers, sitting around on Sunday mornings dissecting the weekend’s box office. And though he eagerly followed his father into the industry, Neumeier preferred to work alongside talent. “I have a lot of empathy for the loneliness of the artist experience,” he says. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and doing a stint at APA, Neumeier landed a gig at Artists First, where he just celebrated his 10th anniversary. In that time, the newly married manager has shepherded the careers of writers including Lauren Otero (Wednesday) and Cameron Squires (WandaVision). More recently, he’s quietly lined up a series of major Hollywood projects and brand partnerships for viral Jury Duty star Gladden. And while Neumeier, a self-described sports obsessive, no longer goes to as many movies as he used to, he still follows the box office religiously.
THE STRIKES MADE ME RETHINK “The amount I spend on subscription streaming services.”
Bronte Payne, 30
VP film, LuckyChap
THE LOGLINE The Aussie upstart has serviced LuckyChap’s wild rise, from Emerald Fennell’s Saltburn to Megan Park’s My Old Ass.
THE ARC “I was always at the theater as soon as a movie came out, but in Australia everything comes out six months after America,” Payne says of growing up a hemisphere away from Hollywood. The onetime economics major and longtime film lover traveled to the Sundance Film Festival during a break from the University of Melbourne: “My dad was like, ‘You can’t sit around here; go on an adventure!’?” This first taste of the entertainment industry led to a semester abroad in Los?Angeles and eventually the MFA program at the American Film Institute. Payne landed at the Margot Robbie-headed LuckyChap following a stint at Kaplan/Perrone, helping shape the shingle’s film slate. She was on set for Fennell’s Saltburn, developed My Old Ass from breakout director Park and co-produced Cocaine Bear screenwriter Jimmy Warden’s Borderline.
WHY ISN’T HOLLYWOOD TALKING ABOUT “The TCM Classic Film Festival.”
I’D TRADE PLACES WITH “Michael Mann or Steven Soderbergh’s assistant.”
Dani Potter, 33
THE LOGLINE Her roster includes Tracy McMillan (UnPrisoned), Katori Hall (P-Valley) and Jared Stern (Netflix’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).?
THE ARC As a SoCal kid, Potter spent her Friday afternoons at Disneyland, where her psychologist mom had worked as a Horseshoe Café waitress back when she was in college. In fact, Potter’s mom named her after a co-worker because “Dani looked very cute on the Disney tag.” After shifting from pre-med to public policy at Duke, Potter landed a gig at WME, where she’s since worked her way up to partner. The married rep is immensely proud of client projects The Night Agent and Hulu’s UnPrisoned, to name a few, along with a partnership she’s fostered with the White House to rethink what social responsibility looks like in programming. Among her many focuses at WME is helping talent build out production companies, which she has done with Team Downey (as in Robert Downey Jr. et al.) and, more recently, Emma Stone. When she’s not in the office, Potter and her husband often can be found snowboarding — and she makes sure to hit Disneyland at least once a year as well.
THE CHARACTER I IDENTIFY WITH “The Incredibles’ Edna Mode.”
I’D TRADE PLACES WITH “Bob Iger. I have some shows to greenlight and deals to reup, but mostly I want to fulfill my childhood dream of spending a night in Walt Disney’s apartment inside Disneyland and owning the Mighty Ducks.”
Luke Rodgers, 33
Executive vp creative, LAMF
THE LOGLINE The onetime film finance agent is now doing the financing (and producing) for festival darlings.
THE ARC “It was the first time my name was on the call sheet, and of course we had to evacuate for a hurricane,” recalls Rodgers, who had spent years making sure top indie filmmakers found money for their passion projects before reaching producer status himself on Ana Lily Amirpour’s Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon. (The inclement weather passed, and the movie would eventually have a Venice premiere.) The proud Detroit native landed his first entertainment job at CAA Media Finance — “I was worried it was accounting,” he says with a laugh — where he spent more than a half a decade securing film financing for the likes of Claire Denis and Gaspar Noé. He says, “It taught me the idea of making a movie for what it really should be made for. Don’t take the most money but take the money to make the story you want to make.” Now, he guides the film slate at LAMF and was at Sundance with Magazine Dreams, which became one of the bigger sales of the fest to Searchlight. Outside of film, Rodgers will oversee LAMF’s newly established theater fund, run in partnership with Darren Aronofsky’s Protozoa Pictures.
MY FIRST JOB IN HOLLYWOOD ENTAILED “Playing violin on camera in the background of a Bravo dating show. Those lessons paid off, Mom and Dad!”
THE CHARACTER I IDENTIFY WITH Lucille Bluth
MOST HOLLYWOOD THING I’VE EXPERIENCED “The absolute terror I felt at the thought of answering this question in print.”
Andrew Schneider, 35
President, Perfect Storm
THE LOGLINE Now handles both TV (Max’s Warrior, NBC’s The?Endgame) and film for Justin Lin’s shingle.?
THE ARC The onetime public policy major jumped around Hollywood — from The Comedy Store and DreamWorks Animation to Management 360 and Fox 21 — before landing on the TV track. “The stories I loved weren’t being told in movies anymore, they were in TV,” he says. He was on the ground floor when Channing Tatum and Reid Carolin launched Free Association, notching up credits such as A24’s first TV foray, Comrade Detective. For the past four years, Schneider has been at Lin’s Perfect Storm and earlier this year his purview expanded to include film, with a mandate to architect the company’s future post-Fast & Furious. First up is Lin’s return to indies with The Last Days of John Allen Chau, set to shoot in Thailand. Elsewhere, he and Lin are actively developing an adaptation of manga One-Punch Man and have set up a heist film that landed at Apple after a five-studio bidding war. “The main goal is to find that next big franchise movie that we can build out,” says the married exec, who plays guitar and cello in his free time.
MOST HOLLYWOOD THING I’VE EXPERIENCED “Pulling up to a premiere and someone remarking my Honda Fit isn’t a good look.”
THE CHARACTER I IDENTIFY WITH “Jack Bauer. I’m constantly running out of time.”
MY FIRST JOB IN HOLLYWOOD ENTAILED “Setting the flower arrangements for a meal between Jeffrey Katzenberg and Xi Jingping.”
Jeff Schwartz, 35
Senior development executive, Amazon MGM Studios
THE LOGLINE Has developed some of the streamer’s more ambitious projects, including Swarm, I’m a Virgo and Homecoming with Julia Roberts.
THE ARC An early film buff and self-described “theater kid,” Schwartz got a high school job at one of the only indie theaters in Tampa, Florida. He also made friends with the local film critic, who appreciated his “obsession with 1960s European cinema” and loaned him Fellini movies and the like. Still, Schwartz figured his other love, politics, would steer him toward a political science education at Columbia University. Instead, he says, “I pretty quickly realized I wasn’t obsessed with politics as much as I was obsessed with The?West Wing.” Schwartz pivoted and earned a degree in film, which he parlayed into work on a lot of indie comedies and a then-coveted position at Scott Rudin Productions before relocating to L.A. His first West Coast gig was at Amazon, where Schwartz has spent seven years rising through the ranks. The newly married exec has been key to many of the service’s higher-profile series, including Catastrophe, Harlem and Modern Love. Still a movie buff, Schwartz calls autumn his “favorite time of the year,” revealing how he’d gone to the theater the prior weekend to see three different films and had loved every one.
THE STRIKES MADE ME RETHINK “Why I don’t live on a ranch in Montana (after bingeing five seasons of Yellowstone).”
WHY ISN’T HOLLYWOOD TALKING ABOUT “What’s going on with the ArcLight Hollywood? How have we not found a way to reopen the best theater in the city?”
Sam Masaru Sekoff, 30
THE LOGLINE Scored an HBO overall deal for Perry Mason’s respective producer and writer Mauricio Katz and Pedro Peirano and shepherded filmmaker Geremy Jasper’s Searchlight feature 翱’顿别蝉蝉补.
THE ARC Born in Japan, Sekoff moved to Florida with his father and sister after their parents split. Things were rough growing up with his dad, but there was a bright spot: Tarantino, Coppola and Paul Thomas Anderson were revered at home. “All the best memories of my dad growing up were watching movies,” he says. At 13, Sekoff ended up in foster care after his dad died. Once he aged out of his group home, Sekoff moved to L.A. to attend USC. Upon graduation, he jumped right into a job in the mailroom at Gersh, where he garnered a reputation for being a talent whisperer and was made an agent at just 25. “I always tended to lean in more when it came to client development and bigger-picture career architecture,” he says of a 2021 career change from agent to manager at Range.?All along, movies have been a tie to his roots in Japan, where he still visits family. “Cinema has meant a lot to me, made me feel connected to my culture,” he says.
TALENT I’M DYING TO WORK WITH “In no particular order: Hayao Miyazaki, Park Chan-wook or Vin Diesel.”
MY FIRST JOB IN HOLLYWOOD ENTAILED “Making a fruit plate for Dolph Lundgren.”
MOST HOLLYWOOD THING I’VE EXPERIENCED “Escorting Justin Bieber around the Teen Choice Awards.”
Pete Stein, 33
MP lit agent, CAA
THE LOGLINE Guided red-hot clients Cord Jefferson, who wrote and directed the Oscar hopeful American Fiction; Blue Beetle director Angel Soto; and Academy Award-winning doc filmmakers Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, who made their narrative debut with Nyad.
THE ARC Hollywood seemed an obvious landing pad for Stein, a Colgate grad, who was relationship-driven and media-obsessed. At CAA, he found his passion for discovering filmmakers and scripts. His first client was Mattson Tomlin (2025’s The Batman Part II), signed when Stein was still a trainee. As a young agent, he also snagged Marvel stalwart Michael Waldron. “There’s a clear emotional response when you see something or read something. Then you see who is behind that film or script and see what their life mission is,” he says of agenting. “When you can grow with them, it becomes thrilling and fulfilling.” Stein, who married his college sweetheart and now fights for the use of the family TV with his toddler sons (they want Bluey, he wants the latest Scandinavian horror entry), runs the department’s intern program and co-founded CAA Moebius, a screening series showcasing diverse graduate student filmmakers from around the world. His other clients include directors Lee Cronin (Evil Dead Rise) and Michael Chaves (The Nun II) as well as Jimmy Warden, who wrote Cocaine Bear.
BUZZWORD I WISH WOULD GO AWAY “I would say ‘moment’ is really having a moment right now.”
I’D TRADE PLACES WITH “Paul Hollywood of?The Great British Bake Off. I love the stakes of taste-judging the flakiness of a chocolate croissant.?“
Ashley Strumwasser, 34
Senior vp film and TV, Hello?Sunshine
THE LOGLINE Her 2023 hits alone include Amazon Prime Video’s Daisy Jones & The Six and Apple TV+’s The Last Thing He Told Me.
THE ARC An avid reader, it’s fitting that Strumwasser found herself as one of the first hires at what’s become the premier adaptation house in Hollywood. “I’ll be afraid to start a book because I know that I won’t be able to stop,” says Strumwasser, a USC alum from Agoura Hills who lives with her husband (a creative exec at Stoller Global Solutions) and their dachshund. She worked at WME before initially connecting with Lauren Neustadter at then-Fox-owned 20th TV. The success she’s had since she formally teamed with Neustadter and Reese Witherspoon (see Hulu’s Tiny Beautiful Things) has not resulted in much of an ego. Says Strumwasser, “I’m just grateful to work with these women.”
MOST HOLLYWOOD THING I’VE EXPERIENCED “The first slate on set of a new project.”
I’D TRADE PLACES WITH “Dolly Parton. What can’t she do?”
Raymond Tambe, 34
THE LOGLINE Advises clients like Aric Avelino (Silo) and Jingyi Shao (Chang Can Dunk) and works with firm A-listers like Tyler Perry and the Obamas’ Higher Ground.
THE ARC The Texas-born lawyer’s path began when his parents asked him and his siblings what they wanted to do in the future. “In that moment, I wanted to give them an answer that would make them leave me alone. So, I told them I wanted to be a lawyer.” He kept with the idea and did debate and mock trials, but a short-film project in high school helped him narrow his focus to entertainment law. After an internship at powerhouse firm Ziffren Brittenham, the Stanford Law grad started off handling securities and patent litigation at Morrison & Foerster. He jumped to talent boutique Cohen Gardner and then found himself back at Ziffren, where he thought he’d spend the rest of his career — until three of the partners split off to form JSSK and asked him to join their new firm. “The idea that we’d be able to put huge resources behind diverse causes and diverse clients and diverse stories was really appealing to me,” he says. These days, he spends a lot of his time working with firm mega-clients like Adam McKay as well as Phil Lord and Chris Miller. He also backs emerging talent like filmmaker Ken Kobayashi, who has two TV projects set up and multiple feature films in the works. Tambe says that a big part of his job is “trying to stay up to date with how stories are being consumed, finding the clients that tell those stories in the best possible and most engaging way.”
THE STRIKES MADE ME RETHINK “Everything. Not only the strikes but COVID and all of the world’s issues; they’ve made me realize that we can’t take anything for granted.”?
BUZZWORD I WISH WOULD GO AWAY “Overnight sensation. It’s one of those terms that makes it seem like an actor or director exploded overnight by luck, and it doesn’t take into account the years of hustling behind the scenes. It also unfairly skews the expectations of creatives trying to enter the business.”
Danny Toth, 33
Lit Agent, Gersh
THE LOGLINE A genre specialist who helped client Bryce McGuire’s Night Swim become a Blumhouse title.
THE ARC Growing up in Orange County, Toth would secretly borrow his brother’s VHS cassettes of movies like Pulp Fiction and Event Horizon after everyone went to bed. He thought he wanted to be a screenwriter, but at LMU he enjoyed giving feedback on others’ work rather than doing the writing. Things clicked for Toth when he saw the development of films like Contagion and Deepwater Horizon during an internship at Participant Media. “This is what I like about movies. Being excited about the development and producing,” he recalls thinking. After ill-fitted stints as a visual effects PA and in reality TV producing, friends convinced him to learn the ropes at an agency. He scored a gig at Gersh, where he worked his way up to lit agent and has sought out fresh talent in the genre space like client Oliver Park, who is attached to helm the Blair Witch reboot. Toth prides himself on finding new voices in the genre world. Says the married father of two daughters: “I am chasing IP and building things from the ground up.”
BUZZWORD I WISH WOULD GO AWAY “厂迟颈肠办测.”
TALENT I’D LOVE TO WORK WITH “Working with anyone involved in a Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails biopic directed by David Fincher. Or, obviously, with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross scoring the film. A boy can dream, right?”
Zach Vargas-Sullivan, 31
Film Exec, A24
THE LOGLINE Oversees the indie studio’s Apple partnership while servicing films like Oscar winner Minari and The Inspection.
THE ARC The Columbia history major says he looks at his work through a historical lens, explaining how “images of our present frame our future.” It’s appropriate, then, that he first encountered filmmaker Elegance Bratton in an undergrad history seminar. As he recalls, “There was this genius in the corner of the class and I was like, ‘Who is this guy?’?” A few years later, he’d help Bratton turn his life story into A24 title The Inspection. With the New York studio, where he’s been for six years, Vargas-Sullivan has earned a reputation for championing and shepherding the work of first-time and underrepresented filmmakers, with titles that include the Sundance standout All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt and the upcoming Death of a Unicorn. He says, “It’s really humbling to spend [your] time getting to something that is your filmmaker’s version of right.”
DC Wade, 35
Partner, Odenkirk Provissiero
THE LOGLINE Helps land clients like Insecure breakout Yvonne Orji everything from overall deals to comedy specials.
THE ARC A cupboard filled with more than 300 VHS tapes, each with three movies recorded, was Wade’s own personal Netflix growing up in Baltimore. The University of North Carolina School of the Arts grad started his representation career at WME before making the jump to manager, saying, “I really liked how you’re able to dig in with clients on their projects.” After a stint at the now-shuttered Imagine Artists Management, Wade, a married dad to a girl, joined Odenkirk Provissiero, becoming the firm’s first-ever partner. He is now expanding the brand with clients like Orji, What If …?’s Bryan Andrews and Kevin Miles, aka Jake from State Farm.
BUZZWORD I WISH WOULD GO AWAY “惭补苍诲补迟别蝉.”
WHY ISN’T HOLLYWOOD TALKING ABOUT “Video games are not just IP but where some of the best stories are being told right now.”?
TALENT I’D LOVE TO WORK WITH “Angela Bassett. She’s a queen and my late grandmother watched What’s Love Got to Do With It religiously.”
Cooper Wehde, 27
Producer, American Light and?Fixture
THE LOGLINE A hands-on co-executive producer of The Bear and a key talent scout at Christopher Storer’s red-hot shingle.
THE ARC Wehde remembers reading a very early script for The Bear, then conceived as a film, while still in his high school bedroom in Oklahoma City. It had come through his half brother, Drew, a Chicago-based cinematographer who worked closely with Storer. “Like all of Chris’ work, it was so human and loud but also very emotional,” recalls Wehde, who followed his brother to Chicago, putting in three years at film school (and working restaurant gigs on the side) before bailing to take a full-time spot with Storer in L.A. He’s now Storer’s right hand — which includes co-executive producing the Emmy favorite. These days, Wehde splits his time between Chicago, where the die-hard Cubs fan is when The Bear is in production, and New York, where he scours for talent and projects across TV and film. At just 27, Wehde is also a producer on the SXSW family dramedy Mustache and has Kyle Mooney’s A24 comedy Y2K, among other projects, coming down the pike.
THE CHARACTER I IDENTIFY WITH “A cross between Michael Clayton and Paddington.”
I’D TRADE PLACES WITH “Gromit (Ayo Edebiri’s dog).”
Coral Wright, 35
Director of spectacle TV, Netflix
THE LOGLINE Wright’s work has yielded hits like Wednesday and manga adaptation One Piece.
THE ARC As Wright tells it, her lawyer mom flew to Emory to help her study for the LSAT exam, but before they cracked open any books, she asked her daughter a simple question that nobody had asked her: “If you could get paid to do anything, what would it be?” Without hesitation, Wright replied, “I’d watch movies and TV.” The next day, the L.A. native scrapped her law school plans and turned her attention to Hollywood. She got a graduate degree from Carnegie Mellon, where she was part of the entertainment industry management program, then did stints at Mandate, Summit and Spyglass, where her tastes — namely “monsters and explosions” — began to crystallize. Now at Netflix, she continues to make event programming, including the breakout Wednesday and the fantasy drama Sweet Tooth. In whatever spare time she has, she heads to the mountains to ski and snowboard. Asked if she regrets ditching law school, Wright says: “No, I would have been terribly bored!”
MOST HOLLYWOOD THING I’VE EXPERIENCED “Power lunching at Superba.”
This story appears in the Nov. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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