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Variety’s 10 Assistants to Watch Class of 2017

Without these helpers where would Hollywood mavens be? They are the leaders of tomorrow, the assistants who manage the C-suite meetings, calendar and even philanthropy. They work an insane number of hours, but their reward is anticipating problems and overcoming challenges whether in the office or in the field. While there are thousands of minions who toil quietly behind-the-scenes, Variety highlights 10 without whom, their bosses say they would be lost.

Samantha Stone  
& Annie Ackerman 
Stone: Executive assistant to Bonnie Hammer, chairman, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment; Ackerman: coordinator to Frances Berwick, president of Lifestyle Networks, NBCU Cable Entertainment
Stone is responsible for coordinating meetings with executives, talent and agents and managing Hammer’s calendar, phone calls and regular direct reports meetings. Regularly reads scripts and screens cuts of shows throughout development and shares her feedback with Hammer. She assists at red carpet and promotional events, as well as leadership off-sites. She is also a member of the team re-launching Hammer’s pro-social campaign Erase the Hate. “Bonnie is always pushing me to think outside the box … to predict the unpredictable, to leave no stone unturned. Understanding priorities is most important, but thinking beyond my boundaries has been the key to my growth and success.” Ackerman moved to New York from Los Angeles to join the NBCUniversal East Coast Page Program, then honed her skills in various departments, including corporate communications, talent development, “Saturday Night Live” and ad sales. Reporting directly to Berwick, she functions as traffic cop, gate-keeper, brand enthusiast and internal communicator for Bravo, (she pitches and writes articles across Lifestyle verticals) E!, Oxygen and Sprout. “Proactively anticipating the needs of others, staying calm in high pressure situations and keeping a positive attitude contribute to my success. In a fast paced environment, strategic thinking, flexibility and adapting on the fly are essential.”

Celestine Au
Coordinator, talent, ICM Partners
Born in Hong Kong, raised in Shanghai, Au’s well-rounded education in marketing, advertising, PR, and dealmaking (she completed 12 internships at UCLA, including Miramax, Variety, ID PR) and her fluency in Mandarin have played key roles in her career. She began on April King’s desk in 2015 and rose through the ranks to work for department head Dar Rollins. When Spencer Baumgarten joined ICM, he recruited her to help build business in Asia, Promoted to talent coordinator last year, she’s landed clients roles on “Westworld,” “Insecure” and “The Path.” Challenges” “Consistently remembering that revolutions don’t happen overnight, but that I’ve aligned myself with the right people who push the envelope.”

Blair Bigelow
Coordinator & assistant to Marcy Ross, president of Skydance Television
Ross’ assistant since early 2016, he was promoted to coordinator while continuing to work on Ross’ high-traffic desk in support of a full-service TV department, which is in production on six original television series, including its fourth season of “Grace and Frankie” and “Altered Carbon” on Netflix, “Jack Ryan” on Amazon, “Condor” on AT&T Audience Network, “Ten Days in the Valley” on ABC, and “Dietland” on AMC. “My biggest challenge on the job is finding balance between executing my ongoing assistant duties and providing an active creative voice within the growing Skydance TV department.”

Austin Denesuk
TV department coordinator CAA
The Dallas native and Lafayette College grad nearly pursued a career in law before joining CAA in 2014 as a floater before quickly being hired by Rob Kenneally, television packaging agent. Next tapped by television co-head Joe Cohen, she worked closely with such clients/companies as Ryan Murphy, Bad Robot, Plan B and Smokehouse. She was accepted into the agent trainee program in 2017, responsible for managing staffing grids, servicing clients, covering multiple networks. “At first, the transition from assisting one person to departmental coordinator was challenging, but the exposure to new facets of the business has helped me hone my passions and develop my niche.”

Mike Griffin
Executive assistant to Paul Young and a junior manager at Young’s new venture
Griffin was hired last year by Young because of his entrepreneurial spirit, development work at Icon with Mel Gibson on projects including “Hacksaw Ridge.” He had earlier experience at ICM, and produced bi-monthly live comedy show “Eat Your Veggies,” where both established and rising comedians showcase. Recent performers include Brent Morin, Tone Bell, Jonathan Kite, James Davis, and Jenny Zigrino. He works in artist management and development where his focus is standup comedians, writers and actors. “I’m honored to join Paul at his new venture where we are totally committed to supporting the original and singular voices of our incredibly gifted artists.”

Samantha Later
Executive Assistant to Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins
After starting in finance at Morgan Stanley, Later joined Hulu more than three years ago as exec assistant to CFO Elaine Paul. She segued to lead EA for Hopkins. Her job involves scheduling his workdays, including back-to-back meetings, and handling relationships with four parent companies, as well as all of Hulu’s business initiatives, across content, advertising and product. She leads training efforts for all incoming executive assistants and organizes Hulu companywide meetings and off-sites. “Don’t be afraid to go with your gut. It’s there for a reason and it’s usually right.”

Shaun Sutton
Executive assistant to CEO Mike Farah, Funny or Die
The Kansas native, who graduated from USC’s Peter Stark Producing Program before a stint at UTA, works closely with Farah and the entire executive team in all day-to-day operations and overall strategy for the company. Known for his ability to adapt to changing situations and demands from multiple departments with conflicting needs. “Working for Mike has given me an unparalleled look into the inner workings of one of the most dynamic, innovative companies in entertainment. From production to branded content to digital strategy, it has been an incredible opportunity to learn from executives across all of our departments.”

Steve Levy
Assistant to Dan Harmon, producer “Rick & Morty”
The U. of Miami grad began as a PA on Nickelodeon’s “iCarly” and Comedy Central’s “Tosh.0.” He landed an assistantship at Jerry Bruckheimer’s company before becoming producer Dan Harmon’s assistant in 2014. Has taken on EP responsibilities for Harmon’s YouTubeRed “Good Game” project and the pilot for Adult Swim’s “Art Prison.” Levy also EPs the official “Rick & Morty” after-show “Ricking Morty” and helps develop numerous Starburns Industries projects across live action, stop motion, feature-length and various television platforms. “Assisting Dan is a rewarding challenge. I balance multiple priority TV and film projects while maintaining a rigorous schedule that still allows him time to ‘Minecraft.’ ”

Jacob Luftglass
Assistant to head of UTA, comedy touring, Nick Nuciforo
The rising star was recruited out of college and helps route worldwide arena and theater tours for such comedy superstars as Jim Gaffigan, Jeff Dunham, Sarah Silverman, Judd Apatow, Will Ferrell, George Lopez, Jeff Foxworthy, Seth Meyers, Wanda Sykes and Larry the Cable Guy. Luftglass works directly with clients to prepare them for engagements and curates internal databases. He organizes and runs weekly assistant-training for his division, was chosen to lead a team for UTA Foundation’s Big Bowl. “I try to make everything challenging look easy. I like to bring a sense of certainty to all that I do and always try to stay a step ahead.”

Sommerly Simser
Office of Michael Rosenberg, co-chairman Imagine Entertainment
The Regent U. grad interned with CBS, then worked at Bunim/Murray Prods., APA, Paramount and Sony before joining Imagine where she interfaces daily with marketing teams and executives at studios, and internally with marketing, development and the executive team. “One of the most challenging aspects of the job is meeting unspoken needs, which requires being three steps ahead. Murphy’s Law is always at the center of every bizarre scenario, and they are always bizarre, in this town. The ability to predict these scenarios is challenging and stressful, but at the same time extremely fun and weirdly makes me feel triumphant when I’m ahead of the curve.”

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