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.
EVP, Drama Programming, Development and Event Series, Fox Broadcasting Co., 36
While Georgetown classmates went to work on Wall Street or K Street, Andrews decided to shoot for a career in television. “I remember seeing gay characters on ‘Melrose Place’ and ‘The O.C.’ and seeing representations of myself,” he says. He has helped empower writers on shows as “Empire,” “Star” and “9-1-1” to create underrepresented characters. “It makes me excited to work in this industry because I feel like you can give voice to people who haven’t always had it. It’s fun and incredibly satisfying.”
President, Fabrik Entertainment, 35
Aouate has built on Fabrik’s reputation for producing premium shows including “The Killing” and “Bosch,” selling seven new series in the last year. She chooses projects she’s passionate about. “If you’re investing your whole heart in a project — which you have to do because this business can be so all-inclusive — you need to feel as if it’s a project you can stand behind, through and through. And you also need to feel as if the people involved with the project are people you’d love to be in business with for 10 seasons of television. If that’s not the case, you shouldn’t pursue it,” she says.
Director of HBO Programming, 32
From such breakout hits as “Insecure” and “Silicon Valley” to the upcoming “Mrs. Fletcher” and “Los Espookys,” Chiaghana’s touch is evident on some of HBO’s top comedies. She grew up dreaming about working in Hollywood, but is still amazed at where her career has already taken her. “I literally have a red stapler that I bought at my first office job because of the movie ‘Office Space,’ and now I get to work with Mike Judge,” Chiaghana says. But she credits her success to her mother’s advice to seek out role models you can learn from and always mind your manners.
Matt and Ross Duffer
The Duffer brothers started out in TV drama on “Wayward Pines,” but hit paydirt with the blockbuster Netflix show “Stranger Things,” racking up five Emmy noms so far. The season three teaser trailer, released in July, sent fans into internet-fueled overdrive. “We’ve only ever worked together,” Matt Duffer told Variety in 2017. “All of the movies we watched growing up, we watched together. In kindergarten, we’d tell stories with our toys. We’d set a timer for two hours because we knew that was how long a movie was. We still love telling stories together. We push ourselves and each other to be better.”
SVP of Television Development, Super Deluxe, 38
Kemp loves working with entertainment underdogs. “Here at Super Deluxe, we’ve been able to work with a lot of incredibly unique creators who have something special and important to say, but maybe don’t have the experience you usually need to create a television show,” she says. That includes the supernatural thriller “Chambers,” coming to Netflix in 2019, and “This Close,” a series written by and starring deaf creators that Kemp spied in a Kickstarter campaign. “We now have an ecosystem where those stories can break through,” she says.
SVP, Current Programming, Lionsgate Television, 35
Hendry, one of the youngest members of Lionsgate’s leadership team, loves working on character-driven shows of all genres, from “Manhunt” and “Greenleaf,” to the highly-anticipated lit adaptation “The Kingkiller Chronicle.” “The beauty of television, in my mind, is that it’s the long-winded story,” Hendry says. “These characters come into your homes and stay with you for hours and hours. You can’t just have two hours of ‘Mad Men’ — you’d never be able to tell the story of Don Draper. So I look for great characters that you want to invite into your life for 100 hours. From there, we know we’ve got a television show.”
Head of Development, Paper Kite Prods., 29
Head of Production, Paper Kite Prods., 34
Lessing and Arend joke that their mantra at Amy Poehler’s Paper Kite Prods. is “In Amy We Trust,” but the fact is they thrive under the collaborative, supportive and female-driven environment the “Parks and Recreation” vet created. “Paper Kite does things in television and film that run all size and scale, and we work with the people we admire most in this business,” Lessing says. They have upcoming projects with Aparna Nancherla and Jo Firestone, comedy trio Three Busy Debras, Chelsea Peretti, Janet Mock and Poehler herself. “Paper Kite is all-hands-on-deck, but ‘Making It’ was my project and ‘I Feel Bad’ is Kim’s baby,” Arend says. And Lessing continues: “Of course ‘Broad City’ has been our first love forever. Kate also worked extensively as a producer on ‘Russian Doll,’ which is coming out on Netflix in February.” Providing supportive environments for their writers, directors and talent is also important. “We love absolutely everything we do, and don’t take on projects we’re not really in love with,” Arend says.
SVP Comedy Development, NBC Entertainment, 34
EVP, Drama Programming, NBC Entertainment, 40
In comedy and drama, NBC is taking big swings. “The kind of storytelling we’re doing, which is really smart and sophisticated both in content and tone, also pushes the boundaries a bit for broadcast,” Dellaverson says of such serialized shows as “Good Girls,” new fall shows “Manifest” and “New Amsterdam,” and midseason’s “Enemy Within,” “The Village” and “The InBetween.” She looks for smart, relatable, surprising storytelling. “With everything going on in the world right now, people are responding to hopeful, aspirational, emotional stories, and that all starts from character.” On the comedy side, Meyerson is especially excited that “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” is coming to NBC, and to be developing a sitcom for “SNL” standout Kenan Thompson. “I’ve been lucky enough to see two networks revive their comedy brands,” says Meyerson, who previously worked at Fox. “‘Superstore’ premiered the first month I was here, and that show, in a way, reignited people’s love for the NBC brand. And a year or so later we had ‘The Good Place’ and we were off and running again.”
Co-President, Leftfield Pictures, 38
Leftfield’s long-running History shows — “Alone,” “Pawn Stars” and “Counting Cars” — has allowed the company to take bigger risks. “They’ve really opened the doors for us to make some bigger swings,” he says, noting that they now have a Facebook Watch series, “Inspiring Life With Lewis Howes.” “We have some exciting things in development with Netflix, Travel, History and USA that feel bigger and louder than stuff we’ve already done.” Witt, who’s thrilled with how well “Wolves and Warriors” has performed on Animal Planet, lives and works by the advice he gives others: Take opportunity over money.