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 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? As part of the salute to the qualities that keep the town humming, filmmaker/producer Travis Knight, who founded Laika Studios and is finishing up the anticipated “Bumblebee” for Paramount, as well as Variety‘s 10 Assistants to Watch along with the New Leaders will be recognized Oct. 17, at the Jeremy Hotel rooftop in West Hollywood.

Jon M. Chu

Filmmaker, 38

The #OscarsSoWhite controversy in 2016 made Chu “look in the mirror” and ask himself how he could contribute to diversity and representation on screen. Fast forward to 2018, when Chu’s “Crazy Rich Asians” became the highest-grossing romantic comedy in a decade. “That is a very empowering thing to feel as a 38-year-old in a business that I’ve been for 10 years,” he says. “I’ve always felt so lucky to be here. And at a certain time, I realized, ‘No, I earned [the right] to be here.’ I could make something that someone else couldn’t necessarily make.” Next, he’s teaming up with Lin-Manuel Miranda to adapt his “In the Heights” musical, which Chu calls a “celebration of the immigrants’ story.” Chu also says Hollywood needs young creators “more than ever”: “This is your moment … With cinema, stories that we have not heard are more important than ever, and they only come from people who haven’t had the opportunity to tell them.”

Liz Meriwether

Writer and Producer, 36

As if giving birth to a daughter and producing three pilots wasn’t enough excitement, Meriwether also bid adieu to “New Girl” and launched ABC’s “Single Parents,” which she co-created with J.J. Philbin. She’s waiting to hear if another pilot, “Bless This Mess,” with Lake Bell, will be picked up. “It was really fun to get a chance to work with such great female creators and directors and actors,” Meriwether says. “After seven wonderful years with ‘New Girl,” it’s exciting to get a chance to start something new.”

Hiro Murai

Filmmaker, 35

Murai, who’s helmed FX’s “Atlanta” and is currently shooting season 2 of HBO’s “Barry,” previously directed music videos for various artists, including Childish Gambino, a.k.a. Donald Glover, “Atlanta’s” creator and star. Murai had no problems breaking the rules, because “I didn’t even know the rules that we should’ve been abiding by.” He and Glover worked “almost to a fault” on perfecting a “contrarian” and non-stereotypical portrayal of African-American characters. Their approach was basically, “what’s the opposite of what would be done on TV?,” Murai says. “It was really important to us that these stories are told in a way that felt unique to us and that felt right to us.”

Michael D. Ratner
Director/Producer, President and CEO,
OBB Pictures, 29
Ratner started OBB Pictures, a digital-focused original content production company, after bankruptcy rumors swirled around Relativity, where he had a first-look deal. OBB is behind Netflix’s “Historical Roasts” with Jeff Ross, “Cold as Balls” with Kevin Hart and a “30 for 30” called “Gonzo at the Derby” starring Sean Penn, for ESPN. His short film “The 30 Year Old Bris” played at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, and he says, “I don’t think I would have started the company as early as I did if it weren’t for a few of those quick wins and then also feeling like there’s no studio that feels stable enough so let’s just bet on ourselves.”

John Krasinski

Actor, Writer, Director, 38

Krasinski became a household name as Jim on NBC’s “The Office,” which gave the internet many memes, but the actor secured a higher place in Hollywood after his directorial debut, “A Quiet Place,” took in $334 million earlier this year. A sequel is in the planning stages. “Certainly, directing ‘A Quiet Place’ has changed my life in a big big way. That was something really special,” Krasinski says. But he’s still a leading man: he’s toplining Amazon’s high-profile limited series “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” which has been renewed for season two. “If there’s one thing I’m dying to do again soon, it would be to get on stage again.”

Marielle Heller

Filmmaker, 39

Heller’s latest film, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” was a hit at the Toronto Film Festival, and she is directing “You Are My Friend,” starring Tom Hanks as the children’s TV icon Mr. Rogers. As a female director, Heller says she is grateful for the women that have come before her and allowed her to receive the type of recognition she sees today. “It’s not that the women have changed,” she says. It’s just that the world has shifted a little bit, and it’s noticing. There have been great women directors from the beginning of Hollywood who have been making incredible movies and telling interesting stories about women for a long, long time.”