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Hollywood’s New Leaders in Film

Each year Variety’s New Leaders feature profiles the most prominent up-and-comers in the entertainment business. To determine this year’s worthies, Variety looked for go-getters across disciplines, from television, digital, music and film, to law and finance, as well as content creators. They were proposed by their bosses and peers who have worked with them and seen their rise. All are age 40 or under, and Variety has measured them by the progress of their career trajectories: do they take calculated risks? How fast have they risen in their companies? Are they innovative and employ solutions to problems that are creative? While it’s hard to pinpoint the “it” factor, these folks embody that intangible. The people on the list have helped build the brilliant careers of their clients, shepherded hit television shows and successful movies, created small-screen series, films and animated shows, launched digital platforms, fostered hit music, counseled top dealmakers and financed them, and are some of the leading lights in the wildly expanding digital delivery and content world. As part of the salute to the qualities that keep the town humming, NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt is also being honored with Variety’s Creative Leadership Award. The New Leaders, Variety’s 10 Assistants to Watch as well as Greenblatt will be recognized Oct. 18, at the Jeremy Hotel rooftop in West Hollywood. In the pages that follow, they share whom they like to emulate and the figures that gave them advice, and mentored them.

Kori Adelson
VP, film, Chernin Entertainment; 30
In her four years at Chernin, Adelson has worked as a creative executive on 30 films including “The Mountain Between Us” and sci-fi thriller “Underwater.” She spearheaded and packaged feature adaptation of R.L. Stine’s book series “Fear Street,” and attached horror director Leigh Janiak to helm the franchise. Adelson led the charge on acquiring feature rights to original musical stage show “Identical Twins,” and set it up at Fox. She acquired feature rights to award-winning playwright Jennifer Haley’s “Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom,” which David Fincher had been previously developing as a TV series. “I’ve learned to question everything and be fearless in the pursuit of bold storytelling and innovation.”

Dave Bishop
CEO, Protagonist Pictures; 40
Recently promoted from head of worldwide acquisitions at international sales and finance company Protagonist, Bishop now oversees its growing slate of decorated prestige films as a sales agent, as well as the company’s continued expansion into development, production and finance. Hot properties include “The Florida Project,” which sold to A24 and was directed by Sean Baker; and Toronto fest hit “Beast,” writer-director Michael Pearce’s feature debut. “A mentor advised me once to work across as many areas of the film business as possible. I have made this a focus throughout my career.”

Nate Bolotin,
Aram Tertzakian
& Nick Spicer

Co-founders, XYZ Films; All 35
XYZ specializes in creative financing structures, utilizing international co-productions to maximize soft money, North American backstop deals, SVOD pre-sales, crowd-funding and combinations of traditional debt and equity. The result? Fifty films produced and executive produced since 2008 and more than 200 feature films licensed since 2009. The trio have produced seven Netflix Originals in the past two years, licensed 21 films to major studios for production and distribution; they also launched “The Raid” franchise. In 2016, XYZ moved into distribution, branding the global release of “Under the Shadow” and horror anthology “Holidays,” and partnered with Vertical Entertainment to utilize its global digital platform deals. This year, their pic “I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore” won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. They had six films accepted at Toronto, including Zoe Saldana starrer “I Kill Giants” and “Brawl in Cell Block 99,” starring Vince Vaughn. “We’ve always had full control over the company and our own careers. When people say passion makes movies happen, they really mean commitment. Passion ebbs and flows. Making movies is arduous and you need commitment to go the distance,” they say.

Katherine Bridle
Head of development, See-Saw Films; 34
Bridle joined the shingle in 2008 as an assistant, progressing to her current role as the company expanded into TV production. She was the first person at See-Saw to read and recommend the unsolicited play script that would become multi-Oscar-winning “The King’s Speech,” as well as the Vanity Fair article that would become multi-Academy Award-nominated “Lion.” Bridle is responsible for driving creative development of all See-Saw film projects, including upcoming “Mary Magdalene,” directed by “Lion’s” Garth Davis, and Steve McQueen’s “Widows.” “The best advice I ever received was, ‘There’s always a solution.’ It helps me to remember that in the creative process, apparent roadblocks often open up exciting new paths to explore.”

Jessica Virtue
Director, production, Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production, The Walt Disney Studios; 30
Virtue joined Disney in 2011 as assistant to president of production Sean Bailey, and was promoted to production executive in 2015. Virtue was intimately involved in the development and production of monster hits “The Jungle Book” and “Beauty and the Beast,” and is now working on Ava DuVernay’s upcoming “A Wrinkle in Time.” Virtue is lead executive on upcoming “Mary Poppins Returns,” “Christopher Robin” and “Cruella,” and junior executive on live-action “Mulan.” “Advice that echoes true for me right now came from Sean Bailey: Always speak with optimism. Even tough conversations require a sense of possibility and problem solving.”

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