Variety New Leaders Film
Kevin Scanlon

Patrick Chu
Age: 31; VP, production & acquisitions, FilmNation Entertainment
A leader in finding projects from studio-driven production companies and bringing them into the independent finance space, including Paramount’s “Arrival,” “Train Man” (with the Gotham Group), “Miss Sloane” (he exec produced), “Life Itself” (with Temple Hill), and “Civil War.” He sold Chris MacBride’s pitch “Amnesia” to Sony, which FilmNation is now fully financing. He notes: “FilmNation trusts me to pursue projects I feel passionate about, and fosters a supportive culture.”

David Edwards
Age: 31; VP, digital marketing, Lionsgate
In the past year, the three-time Webby Award winner in the motion picture group has overseen five unique virtual reality projects, including teaming with Samsung’s Gear VR team to develop and distribute the official “Hunger Games VR” experience, and with immersive content producers Wevr to create the first promotional “room scale” VR experience for “Allegiant.” He spearheaded VR and AR mobile app releases for “Now You See Me 2,” “Nerve,” and “Blair Witch.” “Digital marketing is about discovering and leveraging new opportunities,” he says. “VR is a perfect example; when manufacturers made it accessible to broader audiences, we moved quickly.”

Josh Feldman
Age: 33; VP/co-head of storytelling, Hasbro
He spearheads the billion-dollar franchises spun from Hasbro properties, including Paramount’s “Transformers” franchise (the next is due in 2017), “G.I. Joe,” and “Micronauts.” He currently has “Ouija: Origin of Evil” with Blumhouse, and oversees Hasbro’s film company Allspark Pictures. “I often feel like an ambassador, trying to balance the needs of movie studios, TV networks, digital MCNs, publishing companies, retailers, and licensees,” he says. “Despite their differences, (they) rally around our stories.”

Jenia Gorton
Age: 30; VP of international sales, Sierra/Affinity
Gorton began in the mailroom at Paradigm Talent Agency. Eight years later, she’s taken a turn into independent film as VP of international sales at Sierra/Affinity, where she’s had a hand bringing in projects at nearly every stage of development. She’s worked on such films as “Spotlight,” “Whiplash,” and “Manchester by the Sea.” “It’s in my nature to not take no for an answer,” she says. “To me negotiation is about finding a way to do things creatively.”

Lyndsay Harding
Age: 38; Chief financial officer, Amblin Partners
Harding was a key member of the team responsible for the formation of Amblin Partners in December 2015. This included a new $500 million credit facility and distribution partnership with Universal Pictures. China’s Alibaba Pictures Group recently took a minority stake in the company. The exec also plays a key role in developing strategic partnerships for the company. “Striking a balance between art and commerce is a perpetual challenge,” she says. “That’s what keeps things interesting.”

Kristina Hernandez
Age: 35; VP, creative film services, The Walt Disney Studios
Hernandez oversaw Disney’s push for the live-action “Jungle Book.” She wanted a teaser that would upend audience expectations and match director Jon Favreau’s darker vision for the re-telling. Next up: Launching the live-action “Beauty and the Beast” in March. The film’s teaser racked up 92 million views in the first 24 hours it was online. “It’s really minimalist,” she says. “We showed images inside the castle and the big reveal of Belle at the end. I didn’t want to show too much and we didn’t have a lot finished anyway.”

Matt Kaplan
Age: 32; President of Awesomeness Films, AwesomenessTV
He has propelled the division’s success in just 18 months, with releases including Tyler Oakley’s “Snervous,” “Expelled,” and “Shovel Buddies,” an official selection at this year’s SXSW. Kaplan and his team are preparing for the theatrical release of “Before I Fall” in 2017 with Open Road.

Sam Neswick
Age: 37; Chief operating officer, Participant Media
Neswick was named to his post in March, putting him in charge of company strategy, operations, investments, innovation, corporate development, and strategic partnerships. A graduate of both Harvard Business School and Harvard University, he previously worked in senior positions at The Walt Disney Co., where he worked on its acquisition of Lucasfilm. Neswick believes in fundamentals. “Really trying to deal with every partner that you work with in an honest and high-integrity way serves you well in the long term,” he says. “It’s when people trust you that you get really important responsibilities and really important jobs.”

Lucas Ochoa
Age: 35; Pulse Films, managing director of film and scripted TV
Since the division launch in 2010, he has produced a slate of award-winning films that bowed at Sundance, Berlin, and Cannes, with the latest production, “American Honey,” winning the Cannes Jury Prize in 2016. “The greatest challenge is to hold your course, believe in your own taste [you will be told you’re wrong countless times across the life of making a film], really understand the concept of ‘opportunity cost’ and just have the capacity to keep going,” he says.

Miguel Palos
Age: 34; Chief financial officer, IM Global
He assembled financing on more than 30 IM Global-produced films, deploying over $500 million in production capital. Palos took the lead on key financials of the recent acquisition of a majority interest in the company by Tang Media Partners and the simultaneous launch of joint venture IM Global Television with TMP and Chinese internet giant Tencent, and was key in the formation of Latino film sales joint venture Mundial. He notes: “Balancing expenditures and investments against shareholder expectations in an organization which transforms into something new every two to three years demands untiring effort and an even-keeled personality.”

Johnny Pariseau
Age: 29; Production exec, Michael De Luca Prods.
Pariseau, a USC film school grad, rose from the UTA mailroom to become a book agent representing clients like the Elmore Leonard estate and packaging films like “Hidden Figures” before joining Michael De Luca Prods. this year as a production executive. His dad was a film buff who showed the family old noir classics like “Gilda” and “White Heat.” “There’s something that’s really fun and exciting about finding stories and then being able to fight for them,” he says. “Find those creative elements that will make the story come to life.”

Dan Scheinkman
Age: 34; VP of development, Le Vision Pictures
One of the few Americans working in development for a Chinese company making Hollywood content and products for the world. With a business model similar to Netflix and Sony, Le Vision’s also creating the platform to distribute its content and own the hardware to support it. “Our content and devices rolled out from China into India and Russia earlier this year, and will arrive in the U.S. in Q4,” he says. “The biggest challenge is the perception that China requires distinct content. The fact is, great stories will work seamlessly worldwide.”

Sara Smith
Age: 30; VP, film, The Mark Gordon Co.
Smith began her career as Mark Gordon’s assistant and was quickly promoted through The Mark Gordon Co. to VP of film. She’s now overseeing projects as diverse as “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms,” “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair,” and “Sand Castle.” She’s also developing “Blood’s a Rover” and “The Last Goodnight.” “I was always in love with Disney movies and Bond films when I was growing up,” says Smith. “And I think that’s why I was so thankful to be Mark’s assistant because he was able to do it all and I loved how he told stories.”

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