Hollywood's New Leaders 2011: Agents

Trevor Astbury | Rosanna Bilow | Dave Bugliari | Brian Dow | Zach Druker | Andrew Finkelstein | Mark Gordon | Eric Kuhn | Dina Kuperstock | Brandon Liebman | Ophir Lupu | Nigel Meiojas | Lauren Meltzner

Trevor Astbury
Feature literary agent {Paradigm}
With his finely tuned radar for pinpointing interesting, unique voices, Astbury, 32, has quickly established himself as a go-to agent for hot writers. He recently inked high-profile deals with Bruckheimer Prods. for John Spaihts, who wrote “Prometheus” for Ridley Scott (to be released next year, starring Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron) and Chris Gorak’s “The Darkest Hour” (starring Emile Hirsch, out in December). He also works with writer-director Jamie Linden, whose “Ten Year” premiered at Toronto last month, and writer Bert Royal (“Easy A”). “He wanted to direct his comedy script ‘A Thousand Words or Less,’ and we just sold it to Fox Searchlight and it’ll be his directorial debut,” says Astbury, who also made a deal with Royal and Warner Bros. to sell the action thriller “Truth or Dare” to the CW as a pilot. An avid basketball player and surfer, Astbury is a family man with a one-year-old son and a take-no-prisoners attitude at work and play.

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Rosanna Bilow
TV Agent {CAA}
Bilow, 31, says she can hardly differentiate between work and play. In fact, the 10-year veteran of the agency insists agenting never feels like a job. “I get to interact with such an amazing array of talented people,” says the Fresno native, who joined CAA after studying film at the U. of Southern California. “For example, I was so excited when we started working with Gordon Ramsey because he was someone I loved to watch on TV.” Over the past year, Bilow played a key role in bringing a number of new series to the smallscreen, including Oxygen’s “The Glee Project,” TLC’s “Unpoppables,” WE’s “Amsale Girls” and Bravo’s “Miss Advised.” Plus, her clients boast an array of projects in various stages of production at cable nets, including Ramsey’s “Food Court Wars” at the Food Network and the Chelsea Handler-produced “Big Loud Lisa,” which stars insult comic Lisa Lampanelli, at the Travel Channel. But Bilow is loath to take individual credit. “Because I’ve sort of grown up at this company, I’ve learned it’s all about working together and figuring out how we can do our best out there,” she says.

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Dave Bugliari
Agent {CAA}
“I have a saying by my desk that reads, ‘If it’s comfortable, it’s probably wrong,'” says CAA talent agent Bugliari, 32. That advice has served the New Jersey native well, as he steers such comedy-skewing clients as Bradley Cooper, Patton Oswalt and Isla Fisher out of their comfort zones. Longtime client Cooper, for example, followed up his career-changing turn in the two “Hangover” comedies with dramas including “Limitless,” “The Place Beyond the Pines” and “The Words.” “The business ebbs and flows,” says Bugliari, whose clients include Jason Sudeikis, Chris (Ludacris) Bridges, Christina Applegate, George Lopez, Terrence Howard, Sean “Diddy” Combs and Sarah Silverman. “There are times when comedy is the focus of the studio world, and there are times when the industry is focused on small dramas. I like to (embrace) variety so you can always adjust back and forth.” Before landing his first and only industry job at CAA, the Hamilton College alum spent a year in Lake Tahoe working as a bartender, bouncer, ski instructor, waiter, busboy and line cook. The waitering gig, in particular, prepared him for his Hollywood career, he says. “As a waiter and as (an agent), you’re constantly dealing with people who are expecting perfection,” says Bugliari, who recently became a first-time parent with actress Alyssa Milano.

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Brian Dow
Partner and head of Branded Lifestyle Division {APA}
To not only make partner by the age of 32 at APA Talent & Literary Agency, but also head its seven-person (and growing) branded lifestyle department, Dow had to have a tough skin. “People used to make fun of me for representing the Kardashians and Bethenny Frankel,” Dow recalls with a sniff. “So many Hollywood people still have such snobbery about reality. People really used to turn their noses up at me. And those same people now are the ones saying, ‘Oh my god, how do we get into this business?’?” His biz is “branded personalities,” specifically “taking those people and turning them into multi-platform brands,” and he’s launched products such as lingerie lines and books with reality television star Frankel. “From an economics standpoint, this department is where a lot of the money is,” he says proudly. Not bad for a guy who took seven years to graduate college and started out in the UTA mailroom. “Once I finally figured out what I wanted to do, it was zero to 100 miles an hour pretty quick. I always had a very clear vision, I saw these people as brands, because that to me is really what they are. I always saw it differently and how to monetize it and that’s why I (and my department here) are very ahead of that curve.”

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Zach Druker
TV literary agent {WME}
photos/_specials_arts/HNL_agents_zach_druker.jpg” vspace=”3″ hspace=”3″ align=”left”>Druker, 33, always knew he wanted to work in entertainment. However the Lehigh U. journalism graduate, who thought he was destined for a career in PR, didn’t know about his calling as an agent until an article in the now-defunct Talk magazine about Endeavor steered him in the right direction. “I didn’t know what agents did, and this gave me a real insight into it,” says Druker. When Druker was assigned to Greg Hodes’ desk, he realized that working in television was where he belonged. “I love the pace of it,” says Druker. “I love the constant need to fill channels with programming. I get a kick out of always feeling that there’s something to do, and never a dull moment.” Indeed, the summer was anything but dull for Druker whose clients David Caspe (“Happy Endings”), John Enbom (“Free Agents”) and Leila Gerstein (“Hart of Dixie”) reaped the results of their agent’s hard work — although “Agents” has since been canceled. It’s the second time in two years that Druker managed to land three shows on broadcast television. “For me it’s about making sure that my clients feel good about the stuff that’s going on around these projects,” he says. “This is the time of the year when we’re all ultimately white-knuckling it, hoping that the hard work that our clients have done, and that we helped fa
cilitate, works, and America likes it.”

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Andrew Finkelstein
Motion picture agent {WME}
Talk about an education. Eight years ago, Finkelstein — now a second-year agent at WME — made his way from New York to Hollywood with only one mission in mind: working for legendary agent Ed Limato. From the mailroom at ICM he worked his way to agent Jim Osborne’s desk. “Osborne said, ‘If you can survive me for six months’ — and this is when people used to throw things, and scream at you — ‘I’ll get you to Limato,’?” recalls Finkelstein, 34. True to that word, seven months later, Finklestein was working as Limato’s assistant, a position he held for six years. “I had the distinction of being Ed’s longest-running assistant ever,” says Finkelstein. “I stuck it out with him, which contributed to our bond.” Finkelstein is now continuing the late Limato’s legacy by representing his clients — including Richard Gere, Denzel Washington and Steve Martin — while also shepherding a new generation, consisting of Bill Skarsgard (brother of Alex, son of Stellan), Amy Seimetz (“The Off Hours”) and Dylan O’Brien (“Teen Wolf”). “I love the roller coaster — every day is awesome and awful,” says Finkelstein. “I’ve had an amazing ride.”

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Mark Gordon
TV literary agent {ICM}
Gordon, 30, is developing quite a stable of cable showrunners, led by Vince Gilligan, the mastermind behind “Breaking Bad.” The agent recently negotiated Gilligan’s return to oversee a final 16-episode order for the critically acclaimed AMC drama. A second writer from “Bad” who is a Gordon client, John Shiban, is set as showrunner of another AMC drama already getting buzz, “Hell on Wheels.” And then there are Clifton Campbell, executive producer of A&E’s “The Glades,” and veteran latenight producer Robert Morton, who was at the helm of the recently canceled “Lopez Tonight” on TBS. Gordon has also been busy on the broadcast side as one of the agents who secured James Spader’s return to TV as a featured player on “The Office.” Gordon learned the business at the knee of veteran agent Bob Broder, whom he followed over to ICM after starting his career at Broder Kurland Webb.

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Eric Kuhn
Social Media Agent {United Talent Agency}
Though Kuhn, 24, is one of the youngest talent agents in Hollywood, the social media phenom insists that age is but a number. “Let’s just say I was never one who liked to sit at the kids’ table,” jokes the former head of social media at CNN, who was recruited by partner Jeremy Zimmer for the newly created post. “Though I’m young in Hollywood, in the social media world I’ve been doing this for five years, which is a long time.” Kuhn joined UTA in January and is charged with helping clients identify and exploit social media opportunities. That pursuit sees the Hamilton College grad living out of a suitcase, with a typical itinerary that includes a Silicon Valley breakfast with Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg to discuss the company’s new F8 venture and jetting to Boston for a day of hobnobbing with the geniuses at MIT’s Media Lab. Kuhn’s previous gigs found him bringing Katie Couric and CBS News into the Twitterverse. “I go inside the very big, very established places and push boundaries and do what 100 middle managers have told them that they can’t do. I leverage new technology and ideas to stay ahead of the curve.” Kuhn’s accomplishments include creating such original fare as “Rick’s List” with Rick Sanchez, launching the live streaming premiere of “John King, USA” on Facebook and producing two “Larry King Live” telethons that featured a “social suite” with celebs Ryan Seacrest and Will.i.am. Still, his most pressing goal is hitting 10,000 followers on Twitter. He was recently at 9,552 followers, “but hopefully by the time the article runs it will be over 10,000.”

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Dina Kuperstock
Agent, Film Finance Group {CAA}
As an unpaid intern at film sales company Cinetic Media, Kuperstock, now 30, began a love affair with the distribution and acquisitions business. “It was an opportunity to take films that wouldn’t otherwise be seen and find a way to get them out to a larger audience, particularly films that have a positive social message or a new voice,” says the Chicago-born agent whose specialty is finding distribution for indie pics, including the 30-odd CAA films she helped place in the past 12 months. “I realized I could be a conduit to make them happen.” Seven years later, the relationship is going strong. Kuperstock’s recent highlights include nabbing a home for Rodrigo Garcia’s “Albert Nobbs,” Sundance breakout “Devil’s Double” and the Shia LaBeouf starrer “The Wettest County in the World.” “I’m drawn to filmmakers who have a commercial sensibility but can present something unique within that genre, like a smart action movie with an intellectual twist or reveal,” says the festival mainstay who played a key role in striking distribution deals for “The Hurt Locker” and “Rabbit Hole.”

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Brandon Liebman
Talent agent {WME}
For Liebman, 33, a lifelong fan of films, making movies was never his ambition. “I wanted to be a criminal defense attorney,” says the USC Law School grad, who changed his career path after a stint in entertainment litigation, working for Marty Singer while still in school. “Marty really helped me understand the different facets of the agency business,” says Liebman. After graduating, he joined Endeavor, which has been his home for nearly eight years. While his career path includes a “fascinating” 1 1/2 years as Ari Emanuel’s assistant (“I was the blonde girl,” jokes Liebman about his “Entourage” alter-ego), it was working for Michelle Bohan that convinced Liebman that talent representation was his niche. His clients, many of whom he counts as friends, consists of Armie Hammer — the unknown actor he got in a room with director David Fincher and subsequently cast in “The Social Network” — as well as Liam Hemsworth of “The Hunger Games” and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Emilia Clarke from “Game of Thrones.” Although Liebman is not stationed behind a camera, he feels he’s contributing to the world of entertainment. “To have the ability to have creative input while having no discernible talent of my own makes me feel like I’m the luckiest person in the world.”

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Ophir Lupu
Co-Head of Games Department {CAA}
For a lifelong gamer like Lupu, 33, there’s no greater thrill than playing a game created by one of his clients. “That never gets old,” says the Montreal-born, L.A.-reared agent, who joined CAA 11 years ago straight out of George Washington U. “Knowing you had a hand in putting these games together makes it p
articularly (satisfying).” Lupu’s fingerprints can be seen on some of the year’s most innovative gaming deals, including the “Assassin’s Creed”/THQ pact that established a development studio and label for client Patrice Desilets within publisher THQ. Lupu also helped ink a deal for clients Jason West and Vince Zampella’s fledgling development studio, Respawn Entertainment, with Electronic Arts for the exclusive worldwide publishing and distribution rights to future games. Still, Lupu’s favorite move was spearheading the sale of social gaming client area/code to Zynga. “It was a huge accomplishment,” he says. “It signals how we grow as a business.”

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Nigel Meiojas
Agent, Motion Picture Talent {ICM Talent Department}
Meiojas, 29, will be the first to tell you that he’s tenacious and will “never take no for an answer.” That resolute attitude may be one of the reasons that at the young age of 29 he’s part of the ICM team of talent agents who represent Robert Duvall, the 80-year-old veteran of such films as “The Godfather,” “The Godfather: Part II,” and TV skeins like “Lonesome Dove,” whose career shows no signs of slowing down. But Meiojas isn’t solely focused on the vets. He’s spent the past few years helping to mold the careers of such up-and-coming talent as Jonny Weston, who nabbed the lead in Curtis Hanson’s “Of Men and Mavericks,” starring Gerard Butler; and Alexander Ludwig, who grabbed a strong supporting role in Lionsgate’s highly anticipated “The Hunger Games,” starring Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth. The studio is planning at least two more pics on the bestselling trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Meiojas also reps Scoot McNairy, who recently completed production on Andrew Dominik’s “Cogan’s Trade,” which also stars Brad Pitt and Ray Liotta. In August, McNairy joined the cast of the Ben Affleck-helmed “Argo,” starring Affleck and Bryan Cranston. Meiojas has become well aware of Hollywood’s pitfalls and enormous opportunities. “From day one you need to treat your client like a star,” says the agent. “In this world, where you’re always just one movie away from being a star, it’s anyone’s game.”

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Lauren Meltzner
TV lit agent {UTA}
Early in her Hollywood career, Meltzner, found the image of a tenpercenter less than palatable. “(It) was the one thing I was certain I didn’t want to do,” says the TV lit agent who hails from Long Island. “It was a suit thing.” But after multiple interviews, the Brown alum joined UTA as an assistant in the TV lit department, a decision she cites as her smartest and luckiest to date. The move proved fortuitous for a number of UTA’s thesps, filmmakers and international talent, who have enlisted Meltzner, 32, in their bids to add TV creative to their resumes. Meltzner, who has become the go-to guru for UTA’s multihyphenate wannabes, is credited with setting up projects written by Rashida Jones and Will McCormack (Showtime) and Brit renaissance man Danny Wallace (Warner Bros./ABC) as well as launching “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” correspondent Kristen Schaal’s smallscreen writing career with a 20th Century Fox Television deal. “I want my clients to challenge me as much as I challenge them, tell me what they want to do even if it’s something they have never done before,” she says. “This business is full of people whose default is saying ‘no,’ and I always want to say to my clients, ‘Yes, we can figure it out.’?” But seven years after becoming an agent — a far cry from her high school job as the assistant to an inept wedding photographer — has Meltzner warmed to the idea of a suit? “As long as I can pair it with very high heels,” she quips.

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