Allen has ushered through some of the most eye-popping vfx on big screens this past year, including “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation,” “Terminator Genisys” and “Transformers: Age of Extinction.” It’s a big job managing all those pixels in a male-dominated vfx world. “I’ve been doing this for 16 years, and there were very few women. And lately I’ve seen a big shift when I look at my counterparts at boutiques and see more female artists and freelance vfx producers. But I’d like to see more.” With more productions using more visual effects, more doors are opening for women. Allen can’t choose a favorite project: “I love all of them … they’re all diverse, and all have different challenges.”
Women’s Impact Report alumna Arnold (2014) and Soria stepped in as co-presidents of feature animation at DreamWorks Animation in January at a pivotal time for the studio, coming off a string of box office misses and a major rethink on how it releases its films. Their tenure started with the surprise hit “Home” and they recently scored a coup, signing Oscar-nommed director Jason Reitman to helm “Beekle.” An adaptation of children’s book “The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend,” it’s the first project the pair has put into development. They’d been producing projects at the studio for many years, but hadn’t actually worked together before their new role. “The transition felt very natural as we’ve been working with the incredibly talented artists at the studio for quite some time now,” says Soria. While they see growth in the animation business, Arnold says she’d like to see more women in the biz. “I’d love to see more women in the animation workforce. The animation business is busier than ever. There’s a need for more female directors, artists and technicians.”
Courtesy of Bonnie Arnold/Mireille Soria
Arquette quietly became a big TV star after starring on CBS’ “Medium” from 2005-11, and mixing in film and roles on shows such as “Boardwalk Empire.” But beginning with last year’s Sundance, when “Boyhood” bowed, the kudos started coming in for the vet actress, culminating in a supporting actress Academy Award. Arquette returned to television this year with her new series, “CSI: Cyber,” on CBS. That show kicked off its second season Oct. 4. After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, she started GiveLove, an organization that supports ecological sanitation in underdeveloped countries. The actress also fights for women’s equality — famously using her Oscar speech to raise wage equality issues — saying, “women are 51% of the population, but we are definitely not 51% of the leads.”
Exec VP, TNT
Tapped by TNT/TBS prexy Kevin Reilly to sharpen the brand with new programming aimed at a hipper audience, the vet producer (partnered for the past decade with Peter Berg in Film 44, which produced “Friday Night Lights,” among many other properties) accepted the challenge. “Because Kevin, when back at NBC, was so talent-friendly and a real risk-taker and believed in ‘Friday Night Lights,’ and I saw this as a unique opportunity, heading in a more premium-cable direction,” she says. TNT has made a series commitment to “The Alienist.” “Getting that (miniseries) with Cary Fukunaga, Paramount TV and the Anonymous Content team was a big deal — and more is on the way,” she promises.
Courtesy of james white
Summer 2015 was the summer of Baker in New York. The playwright — whose humane, patient and slyly groundbreaking work has made her one of the theater world’s most talked-about talents — had two shows running at once, starting with the Off Broadway return of “The Flick,” which earned her a Pulitzer in 2014 (and will make its way to London in 2016). Then came the Off Broadway premiere of “John.” Baker’s a slow writer, so it may be a while before her next one arrives — but if her unhurried work proves anything, it’s that the wait is worth it.
Courtesy of Brigitte Lacombe
Banks has taken over two new Hollywood roles: director and producer. “Pitch Perfect 2” placed her in the very small club of female directors with blockbusters. She now has the “Charlie’s Angels” reboot on her director’s slate. “I’ve made some really big movies as an actress and they don’t scare me. Despite what you may hear about female directors, I’m excited about having the time and money to spend and the canvas to work with,” she says. This year, Banks has “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — 2,” starred in “Love & Mercy,” and found time to be on the Venice Film Festival jury.
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Bechdel first gained popularity for her ongoing comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For,” then her memoir “Fun Home” was turned into a Broadway show, which won the 2015 Tony Award for best musical. “Fun Home” follows three stages of Bechdel’s life, including when she came out as a lesbian at 19, just four months before her closeted father committed suicide. “I think its a really great feeling for queer people to see these authentic experiences reflected on the stage,” Bechdel says. “It’s really important to see one’s reality reflected in the cultural mirror.” The graphic artist is now working on a cartoon memoir about her relationship with exercise throughout her life.
Courtesy of Elena Seibert
Screenwriter Berloff co-wrote “Straight Outta Compton,” a surprise summer blockbuster about the origins of game-changing rap group N.W.A. She researched the group’s history for over a year, resulting in 1,000 plus pages of notes. She’s pleased “Compton” has encouraged continued discussions about First Amendment rights and police brutality. “Aren’t we lucky we live in a country where I can say whatever I want?” Berloff asks. Because she knows firsthand the difficulties of breaking into the industry, she’s a mentor for aspiring screenwriters. Her advice? “Get up every single day and write. Nothing will come unless you put the hard work in.”
Courtesy of Andrea Berloff
Exec producer, “Empire”
Hip-hop may be a male-dominated industry, but Chaiken is upping the femme factor in Fox’s hit “Empire.” “Cookie (Lyon) is a strong female representation — period,” says Chaiken of Taraji P. Henson’s matriarchal protagonist, angling to wrestle control of her ex-husband’s record company. “She’s also possibly representative of the untold story of hip-hop. There are so many partnerships throughout history in which the man’s name is known and the women’s name is not and she did just as much work as he did. In a sense, Cookie’s story is that story.”
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Partner, Ziffren Brittenham
Cook recently renegotiated Robin Wright’s deal for “House of Cards” and James Spader’s for “Blacklist.” She negotiated Scott Rudin’s TV deal at Fox, helped him move “Steve Jobs” from Sony to Universal, did Tim Burton’s pact to direct a live-action “Dumbo” and Barry Sonnenfeld to helm “Nine Lives.” “I raised two grown kids, I’m active on a number of charities, never a calm life,” she says. How does she get it all done? “I don’t sleep much, that’s the biggest secret. I’m organized, I cut to the chase.” Her deals don’t take a lot of back and forth. “I know what the other side wants and get it done without a lot of drama. I am not unreasonable in things I want.” With Ziffren Brittenham for 12 years, she enjoys entertainment law: “I love talent.”
Courtesy of Melanie Cook
Amid high-profile appearances as host of MTV’s Video Music Awards, inducting Joan Jett into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and hosting “Saturday Night Live’s” season opener Oct. 4, Cyrus spent much of 2015 dedicated to social causes. She created the Happy Hippie Foundation to feed and clothe homeless youths and fund animal companion programs. AmfAR recognized her with the Inspiration Award for her contributions to the fight against AIDS and on Oct. 17 she will headline Seth Rogen’s Hilarity for Charity fund-raiser that aims to inspire change and raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease among millennials.
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Tina Fey & Ellie Kemper
Writer-producer & Actor
Co-created, co-written and co-produced by Fey (with “30 Rock” partner Robert Carlock), and starring Kemper in the title role, the freshman Netflix comedy “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” garnered seven Primetime Emmy noms, including for comedy series and a comedy guest actress nom for Fey, who also scored a Grammy nom for her bestselling “Bossypants” and has the comedy “Sisters” on deck for December. Kemper, a Princeton grad and alumna of New York’s Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, gained notice on NBC’s ‘The Office,” as well as roles in “21 Jump Street,” “Sex Tape” and “Bridesmaids.” “Kimmy’s“ conceit of a protagonist freed from a doomsday cult who moves to New York is a tricky one, but Kemper’s mix of optimism, spunk and warmth — not to mention her stellar comic timing and supporting cast — makes it work.
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Chief Creative Officer, Skydance media
Paramount relies on Skydance to deliver some of its biggest pics, including “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” ($673 million worldwide), “Terminator Genisys” ($440 million worldwide), “Star Trek Into Darkness” ($467 million worldwide) and “World War Z” ($540 million worldwide). Goldberg’s enthusiasm for making movies is infectious. “If it’s something we love, we’ll figure out how to do it” she says, noting that Skydance’s “True Grit” certainly didn’t fall into their “sweet spot — sci-fi, fantasy, action adventure.” The company’s TV unit, led by Marcy Ross, is also fired up: “Grace and Frankie” is a Netflix hit, and “Manhattan” has been renewed at WGN. Goldberg notes that in the end, “it’s all about the story and the talent.”
Courtesy of skydance media
Agent, head of youth and young adult division, Paradigm
After launching the youth department at the boutique Abrams Artists in 1995, Green and partner Jennifer Millar moved to Paradigm in 2010. The move and its timing proved to be a smart business decision for the team, which had three clients in Toronto festival films: “Judah Lewis starring in ‘Demolition,’ and Danika Yarosh and Robbie Kay in ‘Heroes Reborn,’ the first-ever television production premiering at Toronto,” she notes. Green and Paradigm had nine clients on Variety’s Sept. 1 Youth Impact Report. “And one of my first clients, Katie Holmes, is directing my current client, Stefania Owen, in the upcoming feature film ‘All We Had.’”
Courtesy of Wendi Green
Christy Haubegger, founder and former CEO and publisher of Latina magazine, joined CAA in 2003 to provide clients insight on diverse marketing initiatives. Since then she’s worked with Salma Hayek, Sofia Vergara, Shakira, Jennifer Lopez and Rosario Dawson to help guide their nontraditional business footprint. “I spend a lot of time with clients and buyers (studios, networks, brands) helping them to understand what today’s multicultural audience responds to and how to be strategic rather than opportunistic about diversity.” Haubegger has been instrumental in building out Eva Longoria’s career, from actress to entrepreneur; she helped shepherd a deal for the actress to create a home line at J.C. Penney. Last spring Haubegger closed a deal for Pitbull to develop two series with Endemol Beyond USA and in September she helped sign Ava DuVernay. Haubegger is also working to add diversity behind the camera. “As an agency, we are focused on being leaders in the multicultural space. We know that if we use our access and leverage, not only does great business happen, but we can do something positive for society.”
Courtesy of Christy Haubegger
“Minions” producer Healy says it’s important to wear many hats at once in order to have a successful producing career. And she should know. She’s been at the forefront of the field for many years, particularly in the realm of visual effects and computer animation. She started in live-action films, then moved to more VFX-driven projects and has been with Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment since 2008. “Minions” took in $1.1 billion worldwide. “Taking risks is critically important in order to break new ground,” she says. “I believe it’s important to … tackle whatever job needs doing and surround yourself with people who are exceedingly smart.”
Taraji P. Henson
If it’s not easy telling the difference between the artist Henson and Cookie Lyons, her alpha female alter ego on Fox’s blockbuster show “Empire,” it’s because there are so many similarities, admits the thesp. “We’re both survivors and don’t like to hear ‘No.’ We’re both up for the challenge.” But there are also differences, notes the Oscar-nommed star (“Benjamin Button”), whose take-no-prisoners performances have galvanized such gritty dramas as “Hustle & Flow” and “No Good Deed.” “Cookie says exactly what’s on her mind and is exactly who she is … her very authentic self. Taraji has to be more careful and hit the edit button.”
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Jacobson, one of the driving forces behind “The Hunger Games” blockbusters, keeps moving forward, executive producing FX true crime anthology series “American Crime Story,” signing a first-look deal at Fox 2000 for her Color Force shingle — which she runs with partner Brad Simpson —last July, nabbing the rights to Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Goldfinch,” as well as the quirky bestseller “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?” And then there’s the final “Hunger Games” installment, set for Nov. 20 worldwide release. The series has made more than $1.5 billion so far, underlining what Jacobson wrote in Variety in January: “In order to have critical mass, you have to push harder and get out of your comfort zone. ‘Boys don’t identify with a female protagonist’ is a common conventional wisdom. It’s just not true.”
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Partner, WME Talent department
While she’s certainly got the touch with comedy stars including Amy Poehler, Aziz Ansari, Rebel Wilson, Jack Black and Jonah Hill, Jackson’s glossy clientele list is not restricted to one genre. Venice Film Festival winners, Charlie Kaufman and Brady Corbet are also among her heavyhitters. Kaufman’s stop-motion film, “Anomalisa,” scooped the Venice Film Festival’s Jury Grand Prize and was recently acquired by Paramount. Corbet’s historical mystery drama “The Childhood of a Leader” garnered the fest’s Horizons’ section nod for director and also the Lion of the Future, for best first work. As for what she hopes the future holds? “My career feels like a dream, so I guess my hope would be not to wake up. I can’t imagine what the reality would be like if I did!”
Courtesy of Sharon Jackson
E.L. James, Sam Taylor-Johnson, Kelly Marcel, Dakota Johnson
“50 Shades of Grey”
With $569 million in worldwide box office, “Grey” meant green for Universal. But the success of the film really rested in the hands of the women behind the camera and the one in front of the camera: Sam Taylor-Johnson, who directed the spicy and provocative material with a sense of humor, freshness and understanding of what turned women onto the provocative E.L. James novel; Kelly Marcel’s adaptation of the spicy bestseller, which satisfied fans and gave Dakota Johnson, in her first starring role, a character to develop. Johnson’s fresh innocence and joy in the film was a delight, and rightfully sent her career skyrocketing. While Taylor-Johnson and Marcel are not back for the sequels, they created a piece of entertainment that many doubted could be done.
The former Olympian nee Bruce Jenner says she has “zero” weird feelings being included in this list. “I’m honored, as I’ve struggled all my life, trying to figure out who I am, and finally I’m able to now live as my true self,” she notes. But Jenner, who’s gone from being hailed as the world’s greatest athlete to the world’s most famous transgender person, doesn’t see herself as a spokesperson for the transgender community, “because everyone has a unique story.” Jenner promises to tell more of hers “in an upcoming book, and a second season of E!’s ‘I Am Cait.’”
Courtesy of E!
Partner, Motion picture agent, UTA
Kohan’s list of talent includes some of the brightest comedy stars in Hollywood, including Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who scored with “Neighbors,” have set the sequel and sold upcoming pilot “Preacher” to AMC and pilot “Future Man” to Hulu. She placed Paul Rudd into global hit “Ant-man” and negotiated an overall deal for client Jill Soloway to develop projects for Amazon and a third season of “Transparent.” She has a knack for steering clients into nontraditional paths. “I think the emergence of digital media is wildly exciting to (my clients) and feels new and fresh and unconventional and interesting to them,” she says.
Alex J. Berliner/ABImages
LeFauve co-wrote Pixar’s summer hit “Inside Out,” which has grossed $761.9 million worldwide, and has sole credit on the studio’s other 2015 release, “The Good Dinosaur,” due out at Thanksgiving. She is co-writing the script for Marvel’s first femme-driven superhero movie, “Captain Marvel,” with “Guardians of the Galaxy” scribe Nicole Perlman. “Like any writer or artist, self doubt and fear ends up being the biggest challenge. The key is, when that doubt rises up, I try anyway.”
Courtesy of Meg LeFauve
Exec VP, general counsel, Showtime Networks
Given her 30-plus years tenure at Showtime Networks, you’d think Marcus would have seen it all. But each technological evolution brings new legal questions. “We’ve made Showtime available in many innovative, consumer-friendly ways — from Showtime on Demand, to Showtime Anytime — but not until this past summer have we been able to make Showtime accessible to people without traditional video subscriptions,” Marcus says, referring to the Showtime app released in July. “To be part of the team that lawyered those deals was a major professional milestone.”
Courtesy of john P Filo/ cbs
Partner, Weintraub Tobin
While Marlow says helping her clients reach their career goals is immensely gratifying, in May she reached a career highlight of her own: becoming the youngest attorney ever to make partner at Weintraub Tobin. Not only does she believe success has no shortcuts, she also embodies it with her hard work and constant evaluation of the ever-evolving entertainment industry. That keeps her ahead of the curve. “I am most excited about helping my clients as they explore additional artistic media,” Marlow says. “As the categorical limits — e.g. film, television, digital music, etc. — are being removed from today’s creative talents, I look forward to assisting multitalented artists excel in all aspects of our business.”
Courtesy of Jessica Marlow
Katie O’Connell Marsh
CEO, Gaumont Intl. Television
While Marsh ankled Gaumont, which consolidated and rebranded itself in late September, the studio has been on a roll since launching in 2010, with series like “Hannibal,” “Hemlock Grove,” and the 10-hour drama “Narcos.” Marsh takes no credit for Gaumont’s success, but says it’s because she collaborates with inspiring people she admires, then steps out of their way. “We knew we has a special series (in ‘Narcos’), but to have it launch with such critical acclaim and what seems to be commercial success has been beyond our expectations,” she says. She hopes the same magic will happen with drama series “Viva La Madness,” adapted from J.J. Connolly’s book of the same name and starring Jason Statham.
Another big year for the uber-successful Oscar-nommed actress-comedienne-producer-director-writer (currently the third highest-paid actress in the world, according to Forbes). Paul Feig’s go-to lead propelled James Bond spoof “Spy” to more than $236 million worldwide, cementing her global appeal (over half the gross came from outside North America), and she flexed her box office muscle with “Tammy” (a $100 million-plus hit despite lukewarm reviews), which she also co-wrote and produced with husband Ben Falcone, who directed. She is reteaming with Feig for the distaff “Ghostbusters” reboot. “I always work with great women,” she says. Also upcoming: “The Boss” which she co-wrote with Falcone, who also directed. “I play a force of nature, and it’s great to portray an incredibly dominating woman and do stuff that’s often taboo in real life.” She recently launched clothing line Melissa McCarthy Seven7.
Courtesy of BRIAN BOWEN SMITH
With her hip, often risque lyrics that tackle modern issues such as same-sex love, the 27-year-old star has both shaken up country music and lived up to her hometown’s name — Golden, Texas. Her acclaimed 2013 Grammy-winning major label debut album, “Same Trailer Different Park,” went gold, as did the controversial single “Follow Your Arrow.” Her second album, the wryly titled “Pageant Material,” dropped in June as No. 1 on the country charts, and scored an album of the year nom at the CMA Awards. “I’ve always loved — especially in traditional country — the stories of real life’s trials and tribulations,” says Musgraves, who cites Dolly Parton, Lee Ann Womack and Loretta Lynn as “strong country women influences.”
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Noxon is pretty busy with “Unreal,” “Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce” and “Code Black” and is working on the highly anticipated TV adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s debut novel, “Sharp Objects,” and is about to direct her first feature film. “I actually wrote an episode of ‘Girlfriends’ where Abby is told — by a male hooker, by the way — that ‘nobody truly interesting is universally liked.’ That’s been my motto as a creator and a showrunner,” Noxon says. “The show comes first, and the popularity contest is last on a long list of other priorities. Like training the dog to make the kids’ lunches.”
Perry’s record-setting year started with the most-watched Super Bowl halftime performance in history, attracting an audience of 118 million viewers. Her videos for “Dark Horse” and “Roar” crossed the 1 billion views threshold on Vevo this summer, making her the only artist with two videos tallying 10 figures. And after selling out 66 arenas in North America on her Prismatic World Tour in the second half of 2014, she conquered Europe and Asia with 33 shows and is wrapping the tour with a South America run of 10 shows that concludes Oct. 18.
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Poehler has become a powerhouse show creator/producer and movie star — and possibly the hardest-working woman in Hollywood. She next co-stars alongside Tina Fey in upcoming “Sisters,” is shooting “The House” opposite Will Ferrell and is developing “Balls,” Universal’s basketball comedy. The former “Parks and Recreation” star also serves as exec producer on Comedy Central’s “Broad City” and Hulu’s “Difficult People” (both renewed), and through her shingle Paper Kite Prods., which has a deal with NBC/Universal Television, has pilot commitments for “Aunt Jill,” “Dumb Prince” and “Pre-Madonna.” She and brother Greg are partnered in production company Syskon.
CEO & Founder, BroadbandTV Corp.
Rafati is proud to be a role model for women hoping to succeed in the largely male-dominated technology industry. “You definitely feel the pressure as a woman leading a top tech business, and you need to be very prepared to show that you have a rock solid understanding of the market,” Rafati says. “But it’s a good pressure. We want to close the gender imbalance at the top and it’s fantastic to know that you are contributing to a shift in thinking.” BroadbandTV’s online content platform attracts 5.7 billion views a month, and is the second largest multichannel network in the world.
One reason for Rhimes’ success is her proactive nature. “If you’re on a ship, and the ship is taking on water, and you’re sitting there and you’re looking at the water pouring in, and you’re thinking, ‘I wonder who is going to fix that?’ The answer is always YOU,” says the mastermind behind “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal,” “How to Get Away With Murder” and “The Catch.” She’s even moved outside her comfort zone to write a book. “I’m terrified about having written ‘Year of Yes.’ It’s something I’ve never done before and it’s definitely a new adventure.”
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In January, Rodriguez scored her first Golden Globe award for her starring role on CW hit “Jane the Virgin.” “Playing her has strengthened my awareness and desire to constantly grow as a human being,” Rodriguez says. The actress completed her B.A. degree and is thankful her parents ensured she pursued higher education. “As an educated woman in the industry, not only am I prepared technically as an actor, but I am also a consistent seeker of knowledge,” Rodriguez says.
Jeff Katz Photography / CBS Studios
The top female MMA fighter in the world, Rousey, with her confidence and charisma, easily moved to film: “The Expendables 3,” “Furious 7,” the “Road House” remake and “Mile 22,” among other projects. “Balancing fighting and movies isn’t easy, but it isn’t as impossible as everyone tried to convince me it was. Every athlete that attempted to stay at the top of their sport while pursuing dreams of Hollywood had failed before me. Stallone called it ‘the curse,’ and when he gave me my first role in ‘Expendables 3,’ he asked me if I thought if I could break it. ‘If anyone ever could, it’s going to me,’ I told him.” She got that right. “I’m not saying I made it yet, but I’ve gotten farther already than anyone thought I could and intend to go farther still.”
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Executive VP, development, Warner Bros. Television; Co-President, Warner Horizon Scripted Television
Rovner says she’s learned a lot throughout her career because she’s never been afraid to ask questions. “There’s great power in being willing to admit you don’t know something,” she says. Others listen to her as well. “I desperately wanted to have a female superhero on TV, one that was relatable, smart, strong and whose costume was appropriate, not a male fantasy.” Rovner says she wouldn’t let Greg Berlanti leave a meeting until he agreed to take on “Supergirl.” Luckily he heard her. “I knew ‘Supergirl’ would be safe in his hands,” she says.
Courtesy of CHRIS FRAWLEY
Schumer has received an Emmy, Peabody and Critics’ Choice Television Award this year for her Comedy Central show “Inside Amy Schumer.” Her success continued on the big screen with summer hit “Trainwreck” ($178 million domestic), and she is expected to break sales records as the first comedienne to headline Madison Square Garden in June 2016. Her hilarious and painfully honest brand of feminist comedy often goes viral (“12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer” was an instant classic). Schumer’s got season four of her series, a one-hour HBO special and her first book on tap. Simon & Schuster paid $8 million-plus, the highest advance that the publishing house ever paid to a female author.
Courtesy of Emily Shur
Senior managing partner, the Gersh Agency
As head of the Gersh Agency’s talent division, Siebert’s clients include Allison Janney, Kyle Chandler, Taylor Schilling, Angela Bassett and Jeffrey Tambor. Hard work and perseverance helped Siebert rise through the ranks, but early on she learned to believe in herself. “Follow your passion. Don’t believe what anyone else says. Go with your gut,” she says. Asked what her biggest professional accomplishment of the past year has been, she says: “Getting Jeffrey Tambor out of one pilot to do ‘Transparent,’ and getting him the Emmy for it.” Along with new seasons of “Transparent” and “Bloodline,” Siebert’s looking forward to David Schwimmer’s return to TV in “American Crime Story” and seeing Calista Flockhart on “Supergirl.”
Courtesy of Leslie Siebert
Senior VP of music, ABC
Of all the major networks, ABC has long been the most willing to throw its full weight behind commissioning and supporting original music in new series, and Soler is the driving force behind that. A former music supervisor for film, Soler served in that position for the first few episodes of “Nashville,” and continues to imbue the series with serious musical bona fides. Working with composers like Mark Isham and Alan Menken (the returning “Galavant”), Soler says, “I’ve seen how original music can change a show from a good show to a great show. … When you look at the ROI of a recording session versus (licensing) a song, you can record something like 23 minutes of score for about half of what you’d pay in licensing for a song that may play for 20 seconds. It’s just such an obvious thing to do.”
Xander Photography/Jeff Xander
Just 12 months after premiering on Amazon, Soloway’s “Transparent” became a global phenomenon and television royalty. In January, the transgender-themed series garnered two Golden Globes for TV series, musical or comedy, and actor, for series lead Jeffrey Tambor. Eight months later, the Amazon dramedy scored five Emmys trophies, including one for directing a comedy series, which Soloway collected. Last summer, Amazon Studios ordered a third season and inked an overall deal with Soloway to develop projects. “Even though we’re making a television show, to feel like it’s all for a larger cause is the most exciting part of all of this,” Soloway said during a TCA panel discussion in August.
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Senior VP, development, Bravo Media
With “Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce” and “Odd Mom Out” renewed for second seasons, it seems Bravo Media’s long-awaited foray into original scripted fare has just begun. “My approach to development is similar to that of an investment portfolio,” Spotts says. “It’s critical to have a carefully crafted balance of safe bets, slight risks, and big swings. This ensures we’re looking to both maintain and expand the Bravo brand simultaneously.” Up next, “Recipe for Deception.” “To my knowledge, (it’s) the first culinary competition in which the chefs don’t know what they’re cooking while they’re cooking it, and the judges don’t know what they’re eating while they’re judging it.”
Courtesy of Heidi Gutman/NBC
Head of Originals, Hulu
Since joining Hulu in 2014, Springborn has realized the value of letting creative develop projects with minimal interference. “Sometimes execs — myself included, before Hulu — are so concerned with getting their voice/note heard that there are a lot of unnecessary notes, documents and calls. The development process really can be streamlined and we’re doing that here at Hulu,” she says. With projects like “Difficult People,” “Hot Wives,” “The Mindy Project” and an adaptation of Stephen King’s “11/22/63,” it’s hard for Springborn to limit her excitement to just one project. “Usually it’s the next one to be released, which at this moment is (Jason Reitman-directed) ‘Casual.’ ”
Courtesy of Beatrice Springborn
Katie Jacobs Stanton
VP, global media, Twitter
Stanton is a woman with both power and a giant social reach (company saw uptick to $1.4 billion in revenues last year, has 316 million monthly active users, and new media partnerships in television, sports, music, entertainment and business). “Our goal is to bring the world’s best content to Twitter, through tweets, videos, Periscope or just emojis,” says the former White House and Hillary Clinton social media expert, a key player behind Twitter’s explosion into political and activist campaigns (#BlackLivesMatter, #BringBackOurGirls). “The conversation always starts on Twitter.” She notes that recent “Empire” series premiere got “1.3 million tweets — a record for a one-hour show.”
Courtesy of Katie Jacobs Stanton
Book-to-film literary agent, APA
With the number of outlets looking to produce high-end content rising, Stille is reaping the benefits for her clients. Paramount optioned Eric Larson’s “The Devil in the White City” for Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese; J.R. Ward’s “The Bourbon Kings” is set up at NBC; Sony TV snagged Therese Anne Fowler’s “The Vanderbilts”; and Sony Pictures snagged Glenn Greenwald’s “Nowhere to Hide.” “The expansion of outlets interested in original programming, and the return of the mini/limited series, have created a terrific appetite for intellectual property, which allows us to option quality material that would have been passed on just a few years ago as simply ‘too difficult,’ ” she says.
Courtesy of Lucy Stille
President, Lionsgate TV Group
In a new job, Stern’s mission is to grow Lionsgate abroad, among emerging cablers and streaming services “the Lionsgate way, which is being nimble, disciplined, not throwing a lot of money and throwing stuff on the wall to see what sticks.” The 13-year Lionsgate vet, who worked with previously CEO Jon Feltheimer at Columbia TriStar and New World Television, says, “World domination is our larger goal, and I’m only partially joking.”
She may not have played the titular character in “Mad Max: Fury Road,” but as Furiosa she dominated the film; Max may be mad, but Furiosa showed that women are smarter and more resourceful. Next up, she returns “with a lot of other strong women” in “The Huntsman” sequel; stars in “The Last Face,” “an epic love story with Javier Bardem”; and voices Claymation “Kubo and the Two Strings.” Her production company, Denver & Delilah, has a full slate of projects; her Africa Outreach Project (is) “the foundation of everything in my life.”
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Life doesn’t stop at 76, or even slow down, for Tomlin, who stars in Netflix’s comedy “Grace and Frankie” opposite Jane Fonda (who was a Variety Power of Women honoree in 2014). “Frankie” earned the actress an Emmy nomination for lead actress in a comedy series — her 22nd Emmy nom. The comedian also starred in this year’s Sundance hit “Grandma.” The 1955 Dodge Royal driven in the film is actually Tomlin’s car.
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Chief Creative Officer, i am OTHER
With 20 years at top magazine titles, including editor-in-chief gigs at Vibe and Latina, becoming the creative director for close friend Pharrell Williams on artistic engine i am OTHER was a smooth transition for Valdes. After conceiving the concept of Williams’ “Happy” music video, Valdes says she felt “like a room without a roof” when she traveled to Cannes as co-producer of her first feature, “Dope,” which played in Directors’ Fortnight and was picked up for U.S. distribution by Open Road. Her plan is to take over Hollywood with more diverse stories via film, television, books and other media. “I hope that I can continue to help people understand that diversity is beautiful,” says Valdes.
Courtesy of Mimi Valdes
Swede Vikander had already built a strong career in Europe with roles in such pics as “A Royal Affair” and “Pure.” But she says she was nervous at first to work outside of her native language before taking on roles in English. But her fears were unfounded, as she became an “overnight sensation” with sci-fi hit “Ex Machina” and “The Danish Girl.” Her roles of choice are multi-layered characters. “I think you can have a very soft person, but don’t just make them the girl. If you actually give them levels that a character has, then it gives them strength and gives them the ability to show what’s underneath.”
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President, STX Entertainment
Instrumental in the formation of the first major fully integrated motion picture, television and digital studio to be launched at this scale in more than 20 years, Watts says her mandate “is to develop mid-range, $20 million to $80 million star-driven films that are no longer the staple of the traditional studios.” She spent a year developing deals with exhibitors, backed by TPG and China’s Hony Capital, and released “The Gift” (“$5 million budget which’ll make $45 million”) and the upcoming “Secret in Their Eyes” with Julia Roberts. “We’ll release a film a month, starting next year. China is the future, and my motto’s ‘Go East, go digital.’ ”
Courtesy of Eric Charbonneau
Exec VP, documentary Film, Participant
Weyermann has been behind documentaries that changed the way people saw the world. “An Inconvenient Truth,” “Darfur Now” and last year’s Oscar winner, “Citizenfour,” are just a few films that she has championed during her tenure. This year she is responsible for producing some of the industry’s most buzzed-about nonfiction releases including “The Look of Silence,” “3½ Minutes” “Best of Enemies” and “He Named Me Malala.” “If we can reach individuals through these stories and have them emotionally connect to the storytelling then I feel, on that level (our films) are having an impact. What happens beyond that depends on a lot of factors.”
Courtesy of Mark Leibowitz
Partner, ICM Partners
Wiles has 20-20 vision when it comes to eyeing raw talent. She handles a long list of prolific players including the Duplass brothers, the Zellner brothers, Sean Baker, Wentworth Miller, Patrick Brice, Amy Landecker and Duke Johnson, who co-directed “Anomalisa” with Charlie Kaufman. That film just won a prize at the Venice festival, vaulting it into awards season talk. This year she guided the Duplass brothers in their pacts with HBO, Netflix and the Orchard. “The deals are fun, but it’s not why I do this job. What I love is when a client starts at one place and doesn’t necessarily believe they are going to get to where they dream of being and then things start to happen. We make the dream advancements. That’s when it feels really great.”
Courtesy of Joanne Wiles
Yousafzai, who spoke out publicly against the Taliban’s prohibition on educating of girls, gained global attention after surviving a gunshot wound to the head at age 15 from a member of the Taliban. After her rehabilitation, she wrote a bestselling memoir, and then she became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for her efforts in children’s rights. Pakistan’s young champion will gain film credits in the upcoming documentary, “He Named Me Malala,” which details her journey of becoming an education activist. In the film, she stars alongside family members who are also committed to fighting for children’s education around the world.
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President, digital, brand & audience development, Endemol Shine North America
Zigler has worked in most areas of the television industry, making her new role at Endemol Shine an ideal fit. “I can work with research to understand trends and behaviors; collaborate with marketing to position our shows and company to properly take advantage of those insights; work with digital to create content and audience engagement that’s relevant and engaging; and then bring it home on the revenue side with licensing and brand partnerships.” Zigler is especially proud of the company’s “MasterChef” franchise and digital networks Icon and Smasher. “Both of these networks, with more to come, are exciting new offerings that tap into creative, business and management skills across the Endemol Beyond team.”