Hollywood’s New Leaders: Film

Hollywood New Leaders Film
Adam Amengual for Variety

Variety‘s Hollywood’s New Leaders profiles those to look out for in the worlds of law, TV, digital and more. For more of the New Leaders, click here.

Richard Baker, 39
Exec VP, marketing and distribution, FilmNation Entertainment
Take one self-described nerd, mix marketing expertise gained at the Edinburgh Intl. Film Festival and the Weinstein Co., and hire him at FilmNation to oversee marketing plus distribution on Benedict Cumberbatch starrer “The Imitation Game.” Result? A record $7 million purchase of “Imitation” by TWC at Berlin for the likely Oscar contender. Title aside, Baker is a jack of many trades, having shaped the studio’s brand and art-directed the “Imitation” reel that secured its purchase. He recalls his first boss, an “eccentric chain-smoking old-school theater manager” who “never hid her mistakes.” “It’s OK to ask stupid questions,” he says. “But only once.”

Gillian Bohrer, 36
Exec VP production, Lionsgate
Bohrer has only had to interview once for a job. When she felt ready to move up in the world, her company evolved from Summit Entertainment (where she started 11 years ago) to Lionsgate. That might explain her ability to calmly oversee blockbuster franchises “Twilight” and “Divergent,” and now Jennifer Lawrence starrer “The Glass Castle,” and still tie in a passion to promote women directors by hiring them to helm the short “Twilight” films for Facebook. “You can’t push things that aren’t there,” she says. “I’ve done fine not rushing to get to a particular goal.”

Lia Buman, 37
President, acquisitions, Focus Features
Buman left Film District on maternity leave as VP acquisitions. On her return she got a promotion in a newly merged company – Focus Features. Within months, the shaken-up indie had a 10-films-per-year release slate for 2015 and 2016, and Buman took advantage of the accelerated sked to hone in on up-and-coming helmers James Wan and Rian Johnson. The Russia-born exec is hard-working by nature. Fresh out of college she took a job at IBM so she could save up to move to L.A. and start her real life’s work. Buman credits her foreign-born status for her work ethic: “Being an immigrant is what teaches you hard work,” she says.

Seth Byers, 36
Exec VP, creative strategy and research, Universal Pictures
Great cinema often flops without great marketing. Enter Byers, whose research expertise and passion for the creative makes him critical as leader of Universal’s Creative Strategy and Research department, which kicked off mid-2013 and helped drive “Ride Along” and “Lone Survivor” to box office success. Los Angeles born-and-bred, Byers credits his mother, who raised three boys on her own, for leadership lessons. “She taught me emotional intelligence and that despite everything there’s always a way to get through everything,” says the former Sony exec, noting he also follows good advice he got from from his first boss: “Be kind to everybody.”

Peter Giannascoli, 36
Senior VP, marketing, Paramount Home Media
As theatrical and homevideo lines blur, Giannascoli’s on the forefront of re-thinking movie marketing. Working on physical and digital platforms, he was behind home media releases for “World War Z” and “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” and experimented with the SuperTicket, buying a digital copy and movie ticket simultaneously. Giannascoli likes to rely on facts because a gut reaction isn’t always trustworthy. “Mike Bloomberg said it best. ‘In God we trust. Everyone else, bring data.’ ”

Alwyn Hight Kushner, 33
President and COO, TCL Chinese Theatres
Kushner was a film producer for eight years before joining TCL Chinese Theatres in 2011. It’s a job that, she says, requires skillsets from her producing days, but her main responsibility at the Hollywood’s historic landmark is balancing the legacy of the Chinese Theatre with the need to update it for modern audiences and the future. “We’ve taken a world-class entertainment jewel and polished it,” Kushner says. “I love that it’s my responsibility to create the best moviegoing experience on earth. I love that we’re at the epicenter of the film industry.”

Marcus Mucha, 34
VP, business development, Revelations Entertainment
Recently elevated to VP, Mucha says that he couldn’t be happier at being part of the Morgan Freeman-Lori McCreary-fronted production company. “We’re not just about producing entertainment. We’re about making content that makes a meaningful difference in the world,” he says. Prior to moving to L.A. to work as an intern with ICM, Mucha earned his undergraduate degree at Cambridge and spent two years studying in Japan. His favorite film? “The Shawshank Redemption,” he answers instantly.

Patrick Osborne, 33
Talent, director, Walt Disney Animation Studios
Osborne’s meteoric ascent through the Disney hierarchy proves the Mouse House knows when it’s got a good thing. Having animated on “Bolt” and “Tangled,” he headed the animation team on the Oscar-winning “Paperman,” then served as co-headed animation on “Big Hero 6” before moving off the film to direct “Feast,” which he worked on with John Lasseter. Osborne is now poised to lead the next generation of CG artists. He notes that “not every project turns out great. … Don’t worry about it too much; be someone who is great to work with, and try again.”

Brian Robinson, 40
Global head of creative, design and development, Dreamworks Animation
Jumping into DreamWorks Animation to assemble a team in a new division is quite a leap for a non-entertainment industry pro to make as he hits the big 4-0, but Robinson doesn’t shy away from gambles. “Don’t be afraid to risk what seems so safe,” says the man who left a VP slot in brands and designer partnerships at J.C. Penney for his new gig. To Robinson, good leaders are inspirational and have a vision, and he hopes he’s conveying both to his 51 new hires. “Live life with adrenaline, not anxiety,” he advises.

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