It’s a truism that just about everyone feels he can run a studio. All one has to do is choose the right material and get it into the hands of the right actors. Of course, if it were that easy the studios’ batting averages would be a lot healthier.
That having been said, at any given time industry insiders are nurturing an informal list of players who show potential as possible production chiefs.
They run the gamut from producers, to agents, to middle management executives at major production entities. A few already have been approached for top studio jobs and have turned them down, waiting for a more propitious situation.
What follows is a distillation of those lists — names that are presently bandied about as candidates for top studio positions. While some may lack the usual qualifications, they’re talented rookies on a rapid trajectory toward the industry’s upper strata. Others already have reached the pinnacle of what they do.
With a couple of the top agents, a studio post would represent a pay cut, though the prestige of the job and the opportunity to get out of the “service business” might nonetheless hold a lure.
Here, then, in alphabetical order, is the A-List:
Armyan Bernstein, Beacon Pictures CEO: A master dealmaker who has turned Beacon into a successfully managed indie. He was most recently wooed by the Mouse’s Michael Eisner, but chose to remain at his indie shingle.
Ari Emmanuel, Endeavor partner: Brusque and aggressive , he’s the ultimate get-it-done man, who has managed to give his agency great leverage in the movie business.
David Heyman, Heyday Films topper: Scion of British movie financier John Heyman and producer Norma Heyman, he managed to acquire and then herd “Harry Potter” to Warner Bros. He has now set his sights on a variety of international, literary projects. .
Andrew Lazar, producer at Mad Chance: At 35 he already has more than a dozen feature credits, including “Cats & Dogs” and the upcoming “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.”
Bryan Lourd, CAA partner: A charming Southerner who’s the quintessence of Hollywood cool, and whose touch with talent and powerbrokers made him a contender for the Sony chairmanship.
Michelle Manning, Paramount production prexy: After more than a decade at the most stable major, Manning has considerable line experience and excellent creative contacts.
Kevin Misher, producer: Square-jawed, street-fighter type who left Universal’s production ranks for a rich deal on the lot, where he’s put together several guy-friendly projects that are just about ready to roll.
Neal Moritz, producer and owner of Sony-based Original Film: The multi-tasking former importer of women’s handbags has produced nearly two dozen films and TV shows since 2000. The prolific string paid off with last summer’s surprise hit “The Fast and the Furious.”
Robert Newmyer, producer, Outlaw Prods: With a Harvard MBA and training under Jonathan Dolgen, he combines hardcore business smarts, social graces and a knack for touch football.
Mark Ordesky, prexy of Fine Line Features: A career-long devotion to New Line and Fine Line is paying big dividends . He logged frequent-flier miles to New Zealand to shepherd “The Lord of the Rings” while also steering Fine Line.
Mary Parent and Scott Stuber, Universal Pictures co-heads of production: Crackerjack young production duo with a nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic and a discerning eye for the commercial mainstream.
Hutch Parker, Fox president of production: Pragmatic, longstanding Fox exec at home with the nuts and bolts of commercial filmmaking, championing projects in the face of studio bureaucracy and cultivating top-tier studio producer deals.
Jeff Robinov, exec VP of production at Warner Bros: The former ICM agent brought the “Matrix” script to Warners, then jumped there to become an exec. Intense and gifted at seeing the big picture, he may be heir apparent to Lorenzo di Bonaventura’s job when the latter gets promoted.
Peter Schlessel, production prexy at Columbia: The yin to Columbia chairman Amy Pascal’s yang, Schlessel is a straight-shooter with particular expertise in homevideo. Give him a budget and a package, and he can instantly tell you how much will be recouped.
Marc Shmuger, Universal vice chair: Affable and global-minded marketing guru shrewd at working with talent, building movie brands and navigating a fast-shifting mediascape.