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Lena Waithe’s Hillman Grad President Is Among Variety’s New Leaders in Film

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.

ELISSA FEDEROFF
HEAD, THEATRICAL DISTRIBUTION, NEON, 38
Federoff came to Neon after stints at ThinkFilm, the Weinstein Co. and Lionsgate, and has been able to put her indie skills to work as the rising label’s head of theatrical distribution the past three years. Neon has found success with “I, Tonya” and “Three Identical Strangers” in the specialty arena and last month released Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” to sold-out theaters; Alfre Woodard-starrer “Clemency” and Céline Sciamma’s “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” are also on the way. “Executives always say the sky is falling in terms of cinema and the theatrical experience,” Federoff says. And it’s never gone anywhere, nor is it going anywhere. Consumers still enjoy the theater-going experience.”

BRITTANY GROOMS
VP CASTING, SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT, 34
In February, Grooms became the youngest head of casting of any of the major film studios. Grooms, who got her start as an extras casting assistant for Tyler Perry studios, climbed the ladder for six years at Disney, working on films including “Beauty and the Beast” and “Mulan,” before joining Sony. “Making films that reflect the world we live in is extremely important,” Grooms says. “There’s nothing like representation and people seeing people who look like them; it makes us all a little more human to the person next to us. The goal is always to make a timeless piece. If we’re going to make something that even seems remotely real, the people have to be real.”

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RISHI RAJANI
PRESIDENT FILM & TV, HILLMAN GRAD PRODS., 27
Rajani worked at Fox, Paradigm and Jeff Robinov’s Studio 8 before joining Lena Waithe’s Hillman Grad Prods. in June 2018. In July, he was elevated to president of the shingle, which is releasing its first film, “Queen & Slim,” later this month. He’s executive producer on BET’s “Boomerang,” and will also exec produce “Twenties” for the network. Series for Amazon (“Them”), Quibi (“You Ain’t Got These”) and HBO (“Kid Fury”) are in the works, and fostering diverse narratives is a priority. “It all falls into that category of us just wanting to make great art that has to be created by, starring, and about the perspectives of people that don’t get that a lot.”

SHIVANI RAWAT
FOUNDER-CEO, SHIVHANS PICTURES, 33
Rawat moved from producing indie films to also helping to distribute them in the past year: Working in conjunction with Bleeker Street, her company co-released “Hotel
Mumbai” starring Dev Patel in March, and “Brian Banks,” starring Aldis Hodge, in August. Next up, ShivHans will finance David Oyelowo’s directorial debut, “Water Man,” producing it alongside Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films. ShivHans previously released “Trumbo” and “Captain Fantastic” through Bleeker Street, and keeps budgets relatively lean at $20 million or under. “Someone needs to support independent filmmaking, and I’m there for that,” Rawat told Variety earlier this year.

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

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