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Variety’s New Leaders 2019: These Representatives Are Making a Mark on the Industry

Every year, Variety seeks to identify the next generation of leaders in the entertainment business, looking for representatives in the creative community, film, TV, music and digital. This year’s group has a heavy New York focus: We selected executives from forward thinking companies such as Spotify, Group Nine and Endeavor Audio, as well as writers and producers in late night comedy, plus agents and managers who help put the deals together that keep the entertainment business humming.

Angell credits the work ethic he learned growing up on a dairy farm for his success in helping TV writer clients including Eric Wallace (“The Flash”) and Daniele Nathanson (“Animal Kingdom”) level up to showrunner status or graduate to EP roles on shows such as “The Morning Show” (client Adam Milch). Exec producer on Syfy’s “Van Helsing” — now in its fourth season — Angell’s also proud of the way he and his team have stepped up for clients amid the ongoing dispute between agencies and the WGA. “If they’re doing their job right, [managers] will step up and fill in the void in big ways,” he says.

Streaming sales are one thing, but filling seats to arena shows — where the best seat can cost a couple thousand dollars, as opposed to $1.29 for a single — is quite another. Clemens acknowledges that he worked on “some of the biggest tours of the year for superstars” — and to the surprise of many in the music industry, that includes the reunited Jonas Bros. “I’m grateful to contribute to their success,” Clemens says, downplaying his role. To put it in context: He’s responsible for 1,500 shows to date — from Post Malone’s first as headliner to veterans Guns N’ Roses — and managing a global team that handles not only music but also comedy, social influencers and podcasting.

The New York-based Gordon has assembled an impressive client list that includes “Ozark’s” Julia Garner, who won an Emmy for the role this year and recently signed a production deal with MRC. She’s also proud of the Netflix series “Bonding,” on which Gordon is an exec producer, and is producing for Amazon Studios a feature adaptation of “Bright Burning Stars,” starring client Kristine Froseth. Gordon says it’s important to work with people she trusts and who inspire her. “You have to rely on your instincts to choose people and projects that you really believe in,” she says.

Jeter has successfully shepherded acting and below-the-line clients into directing and producing major studio projects: Former stuntmen David Leitch and Chad Stahelski both joined the action director A-list thanks to Leitch’s “Hobbs & Shaw” ($750 million-plus worldwide gross) and “Deadpool 2” ($785M worldwide) and Stahelski’s “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” ($325M+). Bryce Dallas Howard made her documentary feature directing debut, “Dads,” starring Will Smith, and her television directing debut on Disney Plus’s upcoming series “The Manda­lorian.” She put together the “Sweet Girl” deal at Netflix, with Jason Momoa starring and producing. “If you believe in a client and their aspirations and passion and ability to grow, the possibilities are endless.”

Kramer’s roster encompasses some of the top sports jour­nalists and on-air talent on television. Last year, he orchestrated a multi-year contract extension with ESPN for Doris Burke, the first woman to serve as a full-time NBA analyst at a national network. He repped Kara Lawson when she became the first woman in NBA history to serve as the main analyst for a team’s TV package when she joined the Washington Wizards telecasts on NBC Sports Washington. Is it a good time for women in sports? Kramer gives a lot of credit to the NBA “for advancing the notion that women should be at the top, should be calling the top-tier games.” He adds: “It’s a tremendous time for women in sports journalism — as journalists, as analysts.”

The New York-based Levites has helped negotiate deals for James Gunn (“Suicide Squad” sequel), Tom McCarthy (directing “Timmy Failure” for Disney Plus) and “Glee” and “Scream Queens” co-creator Ian Brennan (overall pact at Netflix). She worked with breakout indie studio A24 on all aspects of its development, production and distribution. Increasingly, she must caution IP owners (clients include the estates of Roald Dahl and Agatha Christie) about the 360-degree rights they might surrender in big money streaming deals. “It might look beautiful and glitzy on the outside, but there are reasons to do deals and reasons not to do deals,” she says.

Just named head of the agency’s media rights department, she reps top authors across all genres (Kevin Kwan’s “Crazy Rich Asians,” Tomi Adeyemi’s “Children of Blood and Bone,” Martha Hall Kelly’s “Lilac Girls”). Media rights sold in the past year include Cristina Alger’s “The Banker’s Wife,” Jo Piazza’s “Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win” (both ordered to series by Amazon), J. A. White’s “Nightbooks” (optioned by Netflix). She cut 26 deals in the past 18 months, including “Exit Sandman” by Jillian Lauren and “The First Sister Trilogy” by Linden Lewis. “My greatest successes have been projects I deeply believed in from the outset, even if it took the public longer to understand them, like ‘Crazy Rich Asians,’” she says.

Mena represents Colombian filmmakers Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego, whose credits include Oscar-nominated “Embrace of the Serpent” and forthcoming “Waiting for the Barbarians.” He closed the Amazon/Amblin deal for them to direct a series executive produced bySteven Spielberg and starring Javier Bardem billed as the largest Spanish-language production in history. He also reps Mexican filmmaker Issa Lopez (“Tigers Are Not Afraid”), setting Lopez to write-direct a film for producer Guillermo del Toro at Fox Searchlight, and landed high-profile projects for director Tina Mabry at Lionsgate and Fox Searchlight. “Coming from an unconventional background, and having been an indie producer, my goal is to focus on different voices from different, international perspectives,” he says.

She’s shattered the glass ceiling in the male-dominated hip-hop industry, but Reynolds-Drumm’s gender nonetheless occasionally threatens to hold her back. “I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve expressed a thought or opinion only to be ignored until a male counterpart backed it up,” she says. “We still need more women in positions of leadership.” Those men should learn to listen to
her voice of experience. This is, after all, the woman who helped broker Migos’s spot on Drake’s 2018 world tour as well as road trips and movie and endorsement deals for Lil Yachty, Lil Baby and feminist rapper Rapsody. Reynolds-Drumm says her greatest achievement thus far has been creating a formidable roster with her business partner and fellow ICM agent Yves Pierre: “We don’t just sign artists to add names to a piece of paper or chase trends. We sign what we listen to and what we believe in.”

Abrams’ youngest partner has helped the agency expand its roster of influencer clients, including Beyoncé’s makeup artist Sir John, artist Poppy, Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson, and 10-year-old skateboarding prodigy Sky Brown. She closed more than 500 brand partnership deals for clients this year, including with Target, Mac and Sephora. She created an in-house initiative to help talent maximize revenues, monitor branded campaigns, forge new alignments with digital marketers, and supercharge overall growth. “Our landscape is evolving so quickly that the biggest challenge I foresee is lack of adaptability.”

Variety’s New Leaders 2019: CreativesSocial Impact | Music | TV | Digital | Film | Agents/Managers/Lawyers

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