Variety‘s Hollywood’s New Leaders profiles those to look out for in the worlds of film, TV, digital and more. For more of the New Leaders, click here.
Rachel Altman, 34
Agent, Paradigm Talent Agency
A risk-taker, Altman left Abrams Artists last year for Paradigm, a shop that has provided her clients “with the kind of major agency platform they deserve to take their careers to the next levels of success,” she says. Her actor clients span all ages and work in film, TV and theater. They include Rohan Chand (“Lone Survivor”), just cast as lead Mowgli in Warner Bros.’ “The Jungle Book”; Emily Kinney, a series regular on AMC’s “The Walking Dead”; Ursula Parker on “Louie” and now shooting the Legendary movie “Lazarus”; Willa Fitzgerald, cast as lead in the Dimension TV/MTV pilot “Scream”; Elena Kampouris (“Men, Women & Children”); Aidan Gemme (Broadway’s “Finding Neverland” ); Sydney Lucas (“Squirrels to the Nuts”); John Magaro (“Unbroken”); Charlie Tahan (“Love Is Strange”); and Giselle Eisenberg (“Danny Collins”).
Dan Burnside, 40
Agent, Dattner Dispoto & Associates
After starting in Rysher Entertainment’s distribution department, Burnside joined DDA in 1999 as an assistant and quickly advanced under VP Bill Dispoto’s guidance. Believing career success happens when the client is correctly matched to the job, he’s recently cemented deals for d.p. clients on a mix of TV and film projects including “The Slap” and “My All American” for Frankie DeMarco (“All Is Lost”); “Hannibal” for Jim Hawkinson; and “Survivor” for Danny Ruhlmann. “Advancing is a by-product of the work I do,” he says. “I never made career advancement my ultimate goal. My focus has always been to get great results and fight hard for my clients. The rest comes naturally.”
Zach Carlisle, 28
Carlisle was one of Verve’s first employees after leaving WME along with Verve partners Bryan Besser, Bill Weinstein and Adam Levine. He was promoted to agent in 2011 and helped start Verve’s television department. Carlisle reps “Under the Dome” creator Brian K. Vaughan, playwright Steve Yockey and Robert Munic, creator of A&E’s “The Cleaner.” He launched the TV career of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Scott Gold (as a writer on “Under the Dome”) and sold three of Gold’s projects to Sundance, Spike and Lifetime. Carlisle also helped discover and guide writers Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger to their current position as producers on NBC’s “About a Boy,” and guided the sale of the duo’s first television project with Fake Empire to ABC. “Television offers an amazing array of storytelling opportunities for our clients,” he says.
Todd Christopher, 39
Head of alternative TV department, partner Gersh Agency
The Princeton grad joined as an agent in 2003 and was quickly promoted to VP, senior VP, and then partner last year. Christopher heads the Alternative Packaging Department, a division he created that has grown to seven agents, four of them former assistants promoted off his desk. It oversees unscripted, daytime and latenight television, and digital media packaging. His client list includes Drew Carey, Montel Williams, Sara Gilbert, Ray William Johnson and K.P. Anderson, for whom “I’m currently negotiating a very significant production company overall deal. I feel fortunate to be working within an organization that has encouraged entrepreneurship.”
Jaime Feld, 35
Agent, talent, CAA
Feld began at CAA in 2002 assisting partner Kevin Huvane and was promoted to agent in 2010. She reps Chelsea Handler, Miley Cyrus, Julianne Hough and Sofia Vergara — and helped broker John Boyega’s three-picture lead deal in the “Star Wars” reboot, and deals for Tony winner Sarah Greene to star opposite Bradley Cooper in “Adam Jones” and in season 2 of Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful.” Feld signed 23-year-old Mexican star Eiza Gonzalez and helped her transition to English-language series “From Dusk Till Dawn,” written and directed by Robert Rodriguez, for El Rey Network. Feld also helped orchestrate Ronan Farrow’s deal with MSNBC, Handler’s Netflix talk show, and landed Paula Patton a lead in “World of Warcraft.” “There’s no better feeling in the world than telling a client they got the job you believe is going to change their life,” she says.
Avi Gandhi, 26
Digital agent, WME
Gandhi is quickly building up expertise in developing alternative financing methods for artists. In his position within WME’s business development group he spearheaded the formation of a crowdfunding effort that raised over $2.5 million for clients. Gandhi was able to strike partnerships with the leading crowdfunding platforms, to which he steered all kinds of content, including “TableTop,” a series featuring YouTube stars Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day. In addition, Gandhi was one of the masterminds behind “Camp Takota,” which leveraged the rabid Internet fan base of star Grace Helbig to engineer an independent film hit on iTunes.
Chris Highland, 35
Talent agent, UTA
The NYU grad who started at Gersh, then Paradigm, has had the golden touch since arriving at UTA in 2012. N.Y.-based, he’s helped expand UTA’s theater department and Gotham presence. Highland negotiated client Bryan Cranston’s deal for LBJ bioplay “All the Way” that won the thesp a Tony for lead actor. He helped facilitate Sophie Okonedo’s “Raisin in the Sun” deal, for which she won a supporting actress Tony, and theater deals for Ewan McGregor, Cynthia Nixon and Megan Mullally. “I have the opportunity to work with clients in achieving their goals of performing on Broadway, while guiding some of the exciting talent coming out of New York to Hollywood careers.”
Sean Liebowitz, 31
Talent agent, ICM
Since joining in 2009, the longtime Broadway fan has grown theater clients’ careers into film and TV — including Lena Hall (Tony winner for “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”) and Finn Wittrock (“Noah,” “Unbroken” “American Horror Story” for FX). Liebowitz set a deal for Cush Jumbo opposite Hugh Jackman on Broadway in “The River,” signed Tony-nommed Condola Rashad and Corey Hawkins (Universal’s “Straight Outta Compton”), and was instrumental in Marin Ireland’s deal as lead in WEtv’s first scripted drama, “The Divide.” His client Ray Fisher was just cast as lead in WB’s big-budget “Cyborg.” “My professional growth is tied to the passion for the work I do for my clients,” he says. “I’ve also been the beneficiary of incredibly strong teamwork and mentorship.”
Molly Matthieson, 28
Digital agent, WME
Matthieson is half of a team managing early-stage investments via WME Ventures, which places strategic bets on tech companies she helps spot for their potential.Bringing the benefits of entertainment partnerships to tech startups — including Uber, CreativeLive, YPlan, Songza and Battlefy — is her specialty. Uber bowed in Nashville with help from local favorites (and WME clients) Big & Rich, for instance. Matthieson also works her magic with top startup investors, launching a book club for them featuring nonfiction books written by authors represented by WME.
Alex Mebed, 35
Mebed reps diverse A-listers, including Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Spike Jonze, Ed Zwick, Ethan Hawke and Simon Cowell. He structured a joint venture between Cowell’s Syco and Animal Logic Entertainment to focus on original animated IP; set Logan Lerman as the co-lead of “Fury”; packaged “Regression,” starring Hawke; scored lead for Sam Claflin in “The Riot Club”; and negotiated career-launching roles for Luke Grimes with “50 Shades of Grey,” Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” and “Shangri-La Suite.” Mebed also signed young star Jaeden Lieberher, who debuted in “St. Vincent” and next stars in Cameron Crowe’s untitled Hawaii project and Jeff Nichols’ “Midnight Special.” “I just want to help artists make their art,” he says, “and do it with integrity, hard work and curiosity like the people I’ve been lucky enough to learn from.”
Michael Pio, 32
Agent, Innovative Artists
In just five years Pio has helped build a stronger literary presence for Innovative. He repped Jillian Bell before her SNL writing gig and was instrumental in a straight-to-series order for her Comedy Central scripted original “Idiotsitter” as co-writer, executive producer and star. He also sold her film pitches (to MGM and Original Film) as writer-star after her breakout performance in “22 Jump Street.” Pio signed Australian director Jeffrey Walker before he had U.S. credits, and who is now much in-demand after helming “Modern Family,” “Bones” and “Super Fun Night.” He also engineered offers for “The Simpsons’” star Nancy Cartwright’s original animated series “Unassisted Living” from Pivot and Fox Digital Studios. “The most rewarding part is being able to make my clients’ dreams a reality,” he says.
Brady Torgeson, 40
VP, physical production, APA
Torgeson began at Montana Artists Agency and in 2013 moved to APA with other Montana agents. There he helped establish the physical production department, which recently booked editor Jon Schwartz on Fox hit “Let’s Be Cops,” stunt coordinator Charlie Croughwell on “Geostorm,” second unit director Bob Brown on “Pixels,” and editor Malcolm Jamieson on Weinstein miniseries “Marco Polo.” “As lines between film, TV and new media continue to blur, the opportunities for our clients grow,” he says. “Knocking down traditional barriers to achieve goals is one of my most rewarding career challenges.”
Louiza Vick, 28
Vick, from St. Petersburg, Russia, has been with Worldwide Production Agency since 2010. She cut her teeth at Anonymous Content, the Directors Bureau, Caviar and Paradigm. Vick expanded WPA’s below-the-line list to include editors Michael Shawver (“Fruitvale Station”), Mako Kamitsuna (“Pariah”), Franklin Peterson (“Safety Not Guaranteed”), Vincent Tabaillon (“Now You See Me”) and Oscar winner Mark Sanger (“Gravity”). She reps “Fargo” lensers Matthew Lloyd and Dana Gonzales, and signed lensers Alex Disenhof and Lol Crawley (“Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”). “I consider myself a manager as much, or more, than an agent,” Vick says. “To advance someone’s career, you have to know and care for them, professionally and personally.”