26 Rising Stars of the Entertainment Business at Netflix, Amazon, More – Business Insider
Hollywood is changing faster than ever. Corporate mergers have created enormous, vertically integrated conglomerates, with Warner Bros. Discovery in particular seeing integration pains, content cuts, and layoffs. Major streamers are battling for subscribers in the US and around the world, and technology continues to disrupt the way people find and watch TV and movies.
These changes demand fresh thinking and innovation from talented leaders who can develop and promote powerful storytelling for today’s audiences and platforms, whether they’re creative or development executives, social-media managers, marketers, casting pros, or production coordinators.
Insider has identified 26 dynamic rising stars of the entertainment industry, standouts who are accomplishing all that and more at the biggest entertainment heavyweights — Netflix, Disney’s Lucasfilm, NBCUniversal — as well as independent studios and production companies.
Some are changing the way people find new shows, while others are taking big risks on first-time writers. One up-and-comer is making sure series and movies elevate people from historically excluded communities; another is working to level the playing field for creatives breaking into the industry.
They’re all passionate about storytelling, developing untapped talent via fresh pipelines, and reaching new audiences. (And while they have diverse tastes, backgrounds, and roles, a whole lot of them recently binged Hulu’s “The Bear.”)
Insider solicited nominations, sought recommendations from our sources, and vetted these pros with their partners and peers. We also spoke with each of them about their career paths, lucky breaks and lessons learned along the way, valued mentors, where they see the industry headed, and more.
Arya and Thost have a mutual dedication to the craft of documentary but took very different paths to their current positions — both are directors of documentary film — at indie company Participant Media.
Thost, 30, studied film but first considered a career in journalism, working for a time for the progressive publication Truthdig before ultimately migrating to Participant in 2015 as a film marketing fellow. Working on Joshua Oppenheimer’s “The Look of Silence,” a doc about the 1965 Indonesian genocide, “really opened up my eyes to what the form could do,” he said.
Arya, 32, began her career in nonfiction in 2016 at Participant-owned Pivot TV, a millennial-focused network focused on social change. That led to an assistant position at Participant’s documentary division, where she has since worked her way up the ranks.
The assistants turned executives now oversee creative development and new projects for the company’s features slate, meeting with filmmakers, reviewing footage, and acting as the “first line of defense,” said Thost, as they shepherd a project from development to release.
“We’re definitely really proud of the way we’ve been able to work together and continue to build relationships with emerging filmmakers and producers and really prioritize bringing people who may have felt getting to the next stage might have been inaccessible,” said Arya.
Amid a documentary boom in recent years, the two are looking to help filmmakers break through the noise with projects that speak with nuance.
In a climate-crisis project, for example, “we’re not solely talking about climate — we’re also talking about race and equity and class. And so I think a huge accomplishment for us has been finding those layers. These are not one-issue films. These are films that explore the intersectionality of many, many things and identities.”
Among the mentors at Participant they credit for their rise over the years are Elise Pearlstein and the late Diane Weyermann.
“These incredible figures took the time to teach, as well as just leave space for us to develop our case,” said Arya. “That really does make a difference, especially as you’re beginning your career.”
Most recent binge: Arya: “Better Call Saul” (AMC), Thost: “Unsolved Mysteries” (Netflix)
Avila was bitten by the reality-TV bug years before he started working in the industry.
Growing up, his infatuation with the high-drama, high-wattage world of unscripted TV showed up in manifold ways. For a high-school poetry project, he selected “Survivor” as the main theme for his writing. Even family recreation time involved “Big Brother”-themed board games. So it’s little wonder Avila has gone on to work in the reality-TV universe, joining the unscripted production company Magical Elves.
Avila, 35, joined the company, which is behind hits like “Top Chef” and “Nailed It,” in 2019. Earlier this year, he was promoted to director of unscripted development. One challenge of the job, he said, has been figuring out how to navigate a bifurcated entertainment landscape with streamers on one side and linear cable on the other.
Linear TV, long the natural home for reality programming, is increasingly ceding territory to streamers, and that’s forcing production execs like Avila to adapt in real time to buyers’ divergent needs. Linear “is more focused on, ‘What’s the episodic reveal?'” he said, describing how he thinks about pitching to cable. “What’s that thing that’s going to keep people coming back the next week, because they don’t have it at their fingertips right in that moment?”
Among his proudest achievements so far has been getting to work on “Top Chef” and helping determine how to capitalize on the brand’s success, Avila said. The legendary cooking competition, now awaiting the debut of its 20th season, has spawned offshoots including “Top Chef Amateurs” and “Top Chef Family Style.”
But the very best part of his role, Avila said, is the constant stimulation. Even a simple brainstorm with colleagues could rapidly balloon into an exercise in spitballing ideas around the table inspired by a list of everyone’s top 10 favorite songs. Nothing is off limits.
“It’s not only just thinking creatively every day about what’s the next fun, new idea. It’s hearing the things that the market is wanting and needing and then being creative,” Avila said. “Getting to be creative in all senses of the word is the average, typical day at Magical Elves.”
Most recent binge: “The Mole” on Netflix
Growing up in Los Angeles, Brown was exposed to a life in showbiz through her parents, who have both worked for decades on production crews.
Brown, 35, is responsible for driving the development and production of TV projects at Hartbeat, the comedian Kevin Hart’s production company. She’s overseen the production of “True Story,” a Netflix crime-thriller series; executive produced the streamer’s comedy special “London Hughes: To Catch a D*ck”; and served as HartBeat’s point executive on FX Network’s “Dave,” to name a few.
Brown’s job revolves around taking meetings with writers, networking with agents and managers, and identifying future hits to pitch for development. Behind the scenes, that means scouring books, articles, podcasts, and more to find inspiration.
She’s passionate about several themes reflected in the national zeitgeist. A forthcoming project Hartbeat is working on with HBO Max, for example, is based on a book about the crushing burden of student-loan debt.
Brown described Hart as a high-energy, highly focused boss and said that being on his team has instilled a few new habits in her. One has been embracing exercise.
One morning early on in Brown’s time at Hartbeat, the comedian convened an 8 a.m. team meeting. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s so early,'” she recalled. “I went on Instagram and I saw that he had been up working out for like three hours already.”
His dedication ultimately rubbed off on her, Brown said with a laugh. “Kevin got me to work out, which is like a miracle.”
Most recent binge: “‘The Bear,’ (on Hulu) which I absolutely loved and watched all in one sitting. But sometimes you need a little bit of ‘Bling Empire’ (on Netflix), too.”
Carter is a self-described homegrown talent at HBO, having started as a college intern at the premium-cable giant before graduating to assistant in the New York office and eventually moving to Los Angeles. Now, about seven years later, the 29-year-old is a full-fledged original programming manager on the comedy-development team, who spends her days hearing pitches, meeting with writing and directing talent, offering notes on scripts in development, and watching dailies of shows in production.
Reporting to HBO’s head of comedy, Amy Gravitt, Carter has worked on the network’s most acclaimed comedies, including “A Black Lady Sketch Show” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Building on her years in a supporting role, Carter is at the point where she is entrusted to shepherd key projects to the screen as the lead creative exec on a show.
“It’s just really rewarding to be able to pull everything that all of my colleagues have taught me and come into my own a little more,” said Carter.
The daughter of the former “Vanity Fair” editor-in-chief Graydon Carter, the HBO exec seems to keep a lower profile than her father, once the host of Hollywood’s most lavish Oscars party. She and a counterpart in the network’s drama department oversee HBO’s intern program — one of Carter’s “favorite parts of the job” — where she enjoys developing the next generation of talent for the cable network that the Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav has called the company’s “crown jewel.”
“It’s so nice to work for a company where they really value nurturing younger executives and assistants and teaching, where both my boss, Amy, and the head of drama started at HBO as assistants,” said Carter.
Most recent binge: “Bad Sisters” (Apple TV+)
For many prospective actors, meeting a casting director they don’t know can inspire feelings of horror — or at least dread. But when it comes to actually auditioning to work in the horror genre’s top films, meeting with Blumhouse casting directors Conover and Domeier Lindo means you’re coming face-to-face with some of the top gatekeepers in the space.
At Blumhouse — the production company founded by Jason Blum in 2000, which has gone on to make talked-about hits like “The Purge” and “Paranormal Activity” — Conover, 30, and Domeier Lindo, 35, have helped build out casts for films like the “Halloween” trilogy, “The Invisible Man,” “The Black Phone,” and more. Conover and Domeier Lindo also worked on casting for the 2018 smash “Crazy Rich Asians,” the film adaptation of the novel of the same name by author Kevin Kwan, which was directed for the screen by Jon Chu. (Blumhouse did not produce that film.)
Both casting directors report to Terri Taylor, Blumhouse’s head of casting. Conover and Domeier Lindo agreed that working on director Jordan Peele’s 2017 psychological horror film “Get Out” was a career highlight. “It felt exciting to me right after reading the script,” Conover told Insider. “A lot of people in town passed on that movie. And the beauty of our company at the time is that we could take this great risk.”
The risk paid off. “Get Out” raked in more than $250 million at the worldwide box office and scored a 2018 Oscar for best original screenplay as well as three other nominations. It also minted Peele as a star auteur in the industry.
Something that sets the Blumhouse casting team apart is that they’re in-house at their production company, rather than being outsourced freelancers hired by a studio.
“We are casting all of the movies, we cast some of our TV projects, and then we also function as executives overseeing the projects that we don’t cast on the television side,” Domeier Lindo said. “For the first five or seven years of doing this, we really were the only department that functioned in this way.”
Most recent binges: Conover: “Severance” (AppleTV+) and “The Bear” (Hulu); Domeier Lindo: “Pachinko” (AppleTV+) and “Outer Range” (Amazon)
Core was working at Amazon-owned IMDb when he helped found Amazon’s Black Employee Network’s Los Angeles chapter — and his work with that group led to a light-bulb moment: He wanted to elevate all historically excluded communities, not just his own.
Core, 35, parlayed that passion into a role at Amazon Studios & Prime Video — as head of US and worldwide DEIA Content, he works to ensure both production crews and the images onscreen include people from historically excluded communities across gender, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, and disability status. He also leads Amazon Studios’ VOICES event series, which focuses on the history and data of inequities in Hollywood. (In his free time, he volunteers for Meals on Wheels.)
“I basically built this role to ensure that those pieces that are in development, we’re making them broader,” he said. “We want broader to mean that it’s actually telling a story that includes all of these communities and [that audiences] see their humanity in these communities.”
In the past year alone, Core has consulted on over 30 series and features, including “Emergency,” “With Love,” “A League of Their Own,” and “The Boys,” to increase diversity in front of and behind the camera and promote authentic storytelling, often consulting with partners like Illuminative, Lead on ADA, and Define American.
With input from GLAAD, he also helped remove a movie’s plot twist that was deemed anti-trans, working with the director to finesse the storyline without losing its impact.
Growing up in a trailer home in Compton, California, Core didn’t expect to end up in the entertainment business. But while there were struggles, he was raised with strong values of respect and community. Mentors encouraged him to be himself and be fearless, advice that helps him when dealing with people in power.
“It’s easier said than done,” he said. “There’s that imposter syndrome that comes up every now and then. But being fearless and just taking the risk and having those conversations, I have found have been so fruitful.”
Conversations about DEI have gotten easier in the industry in recent years, he said, adding that he’s experienced one other key change: “Studios collaborating. People are really discussing, ‘How are you discussing inclusion at your studio?’ Everyone is having the conversation and learning from each other. When I took this role, you didn’t talk to Warner Bros.”
While inclusivity is still often seen as risky, Core predicted that will shift as more people from historically excluded communities enter positions of power. “It’ll change how we see content, how we do business,” he said.
Most recent binges: “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” (Amazon) and “Yellowjackets” (Showtime)
As a student at Oberlin College in Ohio, Cramer used to book campus gigs for up-and-coming comedians. A few years later, at 26, he’s become something of a gatekeeper for the comedy scene, helping influence who breaks into the industry via his monthly Cramer Comedy Newsletter.
In addition to writing the newsletter, Cramer is also a producer at Sony’s Columbia Pictures, where he’s had a movie deal in place since 2021. The focus of the deal is to get the “the next generation of funny voices” in front of big audiences, he told Insider. For someone who was an executive assistant at the entertainment firm Madison Wells Media just three years ago, it’s been a meteoric rise in Hollywood.
“I have people reading my thoughts about stuff every month who, a few years ago, I would have never dreamed of even being able to get in the room with,” Cramer told Insider.
Cramer’s newsletter offers an invaluable spotlight for as-yet-undiscovered comedians and writers, and getting featured in it can have career-altering ramifications.
In April, Cramer’s newsletter featured EJ Marcus, a comic personality who has more than 400,000 TikTok followers. It didn’t take long for a talent manager at 3 Arts Entertainment to swoop in and sign Marcus, Cramer said. And this fall, he introduced his readers to Nicole Daniels, another TikTok personality who caught his eye; soon after, she was signed by reps at Framework Entertainment.
Cramer recalled being at a breakfast meeting when a Columbia Pictures exec called to tell him the studio was interested in buying and developing a new film project from two filmmakers he’d featured in a recent edition of the newsletter. He left the breakfast and sprinted home to help get the deal closed, “making calls along the way,” he said.
About 2,000 readers receive the newsletter each month. Cramer curates the subscriber list by hand with the goal of keeping it exclusive and maintaining its “underground” vibe — steadily accumulating readers with real industry clout matters more than racking up an Instagram-influencer-sized following, he said.
“The most valuable thing about the newsletter is putting people on the radars of folks who oftentimes are not only people who take an interest in them, but also would be able to do something about it,” he said. “The readership is one of the most valuable assets that I have.”
Most recent binge: “‘Rap Sh!t’ on HBO Max, ‘Reboot’ on Hulu, and NBC’s ‘Saturday Night Live’ — the boring answer, because it is just such an institution and if you do what I do, you can’t not just know it inside and out.”
Greenwald manages a slate of more than 30 scripted projects in various stages of development at A+E Studios. As vice president of creative affairs, he works across all genres and has sold projects to HBO Max, AMC, Peacock, NBC, Showtime, Netflix, Paramount+, and Apple. He’s quickly become a go-to executive for writers, producers, agents, and talent, and a key advisor to the EVP Tana Nugent Jamieson, helping set A+E apart in the competitive marketplace of scripted content.
Greenwald, 34, was key to the development of “The Driver,” starring Giancarlo Esposito, which is slated to launch on AMC and AMC+ in 2023. On top of developing the script and getting the right team in place in the middle of the pandemic, Greenwald had to carefully guide the remaking of a British show for a US audience. “It’s also very much about the Black and immigrant experience, so making sure we tell that authentically and with the right representation was also really important,” he said.
Growing up in Atlanta as the youngest of three kids, Greenwald attributes his success to the diplomatic skills he developed at a young age. “I grew up with a family of very loud people, very strong people, and I was always the person people came to with any disagreement,” he said. “I tend to be the one who listens.”
Riding on the career fast track from the beginning, Greenwald first proved himself as a development assistant at Jerry Bruckheimer Television and went on to become a successful independent producer-director before joining Lin Pictures as a development executive. At Lin, he helped develop and produce the “Lethal Weapon” TV series for Fox and “Frequency” for The CW.
Greenwald cochairs his company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative and also serves as a member of A+E Networks’ Diversity Behind the Camera project. He said as a viewer, he’s always been drawn to content that features people different than him. He also wants to bring more fairness to an industry where success is often driven by who you end up working for and the relationships you form early on.
“It’s very much an apprenticeship business,” he said. “There’s not really a clear path, and so a passion of mine is to see how the path can be rewritten to be more equitable.”
Most recent binge: “‘The Bear’ (on Hulu). People have tried shows in the world of food for so long, and I think they got it so right, making it about grief, toxic masculinity.”
Helmer has one of the most enviable jobs in social media: making Darth Vader look cool on Instagram.
As the vice president of social and digital at Lucasfilm, the studio that most famously gave birth to the Star Wars universe, Helmer, 32, spends much of her time deep in thought about how to promote a galaxy far, far away. Her team consists of roughly 20 people — whom Helmer dubbed “super fans” — in addition to freelancers.
They’re responsible for managing Lucasfilm’s online portfolio including StarWars.com, Lucasfilm.com, and the official Star Wars accounts on platforms including Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. They also work closely with Walt Disney Studios’ in-house marketing team on launches for shows like “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” “The Book of Boba Fett,” and “Andor,” among others.
Helmer recently celebrated her one-year anniversary in this role. She originally joined Disney, which acquired Lucasfilm a decade ago, as a social media analyst for Disney’s parks, experiences, and productions division in 2014. Growing up, though, her passion for the film studio ran deep: She spent many childhood nights watching “Indiana Jones” with her parents and in high school got hooked on “Star Wars” novels.
For Helmer, a key focus is ensuring that the content her team produces represents the ethos of Star Wars and upholds the mantle of one of Hollywood’s most instantly recognized brands.
“At the end of the day, you have these iconic characters that have stood the test of time over the last 50 years,” Helmer said, adding: “It’s of the utmost importance to me that I’m upholding that integrity of the brand and making sure that we’re creating things for the audiences.”
Most recent binges: “Andor” (Disney+), “1883” (Paramount+), and “The Empress” (Netflix)
Hoberman started her career as a journalist with ABC News and was doing investigative reporting at “20/20” when she felt the tug to expand her work beyond the one-hour show format.
“I worked on a year-long investigation of counterfeit products and met so many interesting characters,” she recalled. “I thought, this could be a whole episode of a series.”
She made the jump in 2015, getting hired as a development manager at entertainment entrepreneur Brent Montgomery’s production company, Leftfield Pictures. She went on to Herzog & Co. and eventually landed at Dawn Porter-led Trilogy Films, a part of Sony Pictures Television, one year ago.
Hoberman, 33, has developed everything from lifestyle shows for Bravo and true crime for Oxygen and Discovery ID, to food-focused shows for Food Network and anthology series for Marvel. Currently, as Trilogy’s VP of development, she is working on shows with CNN, Peacock, and Universal Television and working on independent films about life-changing issues and people.
The throughline is a strong focus on character-driven stories. For CNN Original Series “Watergate: Blueprint for a Scandal,” marking the 50th anniversary of Watergate, she worked closely with John Dean to tell the story firsthand. Hoberman had a short time to become a Watergate expert and earn Dean’s trust while making a complicated story digestible and relevant for today. It took a lot of studying — plus learning what made Dean tick.
“Every conversation was a quiz or a history lesson,” she recalled, adding that she shared one key affiliation with Dean. “Being a big Dodgers fan during a big Dodgers season didn’t hurt.”
Hoberman’s tenacity has also guided her in navigating the rejection that’s inevitable in Hollywood. When she couldn’t find a home for one favorite project, she decided to tailor the pitch and narrow it to a single outlet. Eventually it got greenlit. “Sometimes you can bend yourself into a pretzel trying to make something work for something,” she said. “We’ve had things get passed on and two years later, they find their time in the sun.”
Most recent binge: “‘The Bear’ (on Hulu). It’s so fast-paced, it hooks you. I couldn’t stop watching.”
As co-creators of the Netflix animated series “Arcane” — based on Riot Games’ massively popular “League of Legends” — showrunner Linke and writer and co-producer Yee are deep into producing Season 2, putting finishing touches on scripts, reviewing storyboards and connecting with French animation studio Fortiche in the wee hours of the morning.
But once upon a time, Yee and Linke worked in Riot’s customer support division, answering tickets and taking care of players’ account issues. A boom in gaming around 2010 offered an opportunity for growth: Yee explored creative design, building out worlds and characters, while Linke tried his hand at music, eventually forming a team that composed songs for esports tournaments and other content. From there, a partnership grew.
“At some point, you know, Alex and I sat together [around 2015] and said, ‘Why don’t we try to make something bigger with the skills that we have?'” said Linke, 35. “With Alex coming from the story background, the creative background, myself having worked on animation, on music — here we are.”
After years of world-building in gaming, did the transition to TV feel like a natural segue for the pair? “It did not,” Yee, 39, said drily. But both felt their capabilities in their current roles had “maxed out,” said Linke, and they wanted to push themselves creatively. They were well aware that players of “League of Legends,” which was released in 2009, had long been hungering for a movie or show.
“We initially worked with people from both features and TV and kind of had to figure out our own own mold for the show, because we really wanted to target something that felt like feature-quality animation, but that we would need to produce on more of a TV schedule,” said Yee. Then there was the challenge of creating a lens through which new audiences could learn about the enormous “LoL” world and all of its characters.
“We didn’t really pick a straightforward route,” said Yee.
Nevertheless, viewers have since embraced “Arcane,” which stars Hailee Steinfeld, Ella Purnell and Katie Leung, making fans out of players and players out of new fans. The series picked up a Creative Arts Emmy for best animated program this year. And it all comes at a time when gaming and gamers have been woven into the popular culture more deeply than ever.
“I think that puts us in this really interesting position where people actually want to know what we have to say, as a generation, as a culture,” said Linke. “And it gives you this confidence that you can really lean into what makes you different [from] the rest of entertainment, instead of having to always somehow fit into the — let’s call it what it is — the old boys’ club.”
Most recent binges: Linke: “Andor” (Disney+) and “House of the Dragon” (HBO); Yee: “Sandman” (Netflix) and “Shantaram” (Apple TV+)
Fabel Entertainment is passionate about finding fresh voices at a time when Hollywood often still leans in to safe choices. Driving this goal are Mandali and Russ, considered a dream team at their small and growing company.
The two exec leans on each other to bring to life a television slate that entertains in new ways, whether it’s Russ tapping Mandali’s network to make sure a trans character is accurately portrayed on “Invisible Monsters,” the A&E adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk‘s novel; or Mandali seeking Russ’ own unique perspective on a project.
Coming from different sides of the world, Mandali and Russ were both developed an early love of filmed entertainment. Mandali, 28, grew up in Hyderabad, India, where movies served as a way to learn English, while 29-year-old Russ was raised in Brisbane, Australia, with a cinephile dad. Both landed at Fabrik Entertainment and later followed its CEO, Henrik Bastin, when he exited to set up Fabel in 2021.
Fabel is best known for “Bosch,” the police procedural based on Michael Connelly’s bestselling books that’s been a hit for Amazon, and Russ has been a key part of day-to-day production on its spinoff, “Bosch: Legacy,” which streams on Amazon’s ad-supported service, Freevee.
While “Bosch” has helped put their company on the map, Mandali and Russ see the series’ success as enabling Fabel to take chances on shows that might come from a first-time writer or from a genre viewers might not know they want — like “Invisible Monsters,” with its edgy, strong female and queer characters, or a scripted series Fabel is developing based on the neurologist Oliver Sacks.
“A lot more attention is needed for a new writer,” Mandali said. “Having ‘Bosch’ as a backbone helps with that.”
“This is why I got into this industry — to show the audience something they haven’t seen before,” Russ said. “If they say they want ‘NCIS,’ you program ‘Squid Game.'”
Among Russ’ recent favorite films is the black comedy “Triangle of Sadness,” she said. “It’s thematically super rich: It’s about class in this very elegant way, it’s very funny, it’s a darkly comic thriller. I like content that feels like something I’ve never seen before.”
Mandali’s pick is summer’s mind-bending action hit from A24, “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” “I’m dressing up as one of the characters for Halloween,” he said.
As VP, scripted development for NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises, Mendoza leads a team that brings drama series to life for the network. When he and his team developed the long-awaited reboot of classic telenovela “Pasión de Gavilanes” — 20 years after its initial season — the task was “great,” he admitted to Insider, and “terrifying.”
Mendoza, 35, helped ensure the original cast and writer were involved in the return of the beloved series, which centers on the challenges facing the Reyes-Elizondo family. Since its debut in February on Telemundo and arrival on Netflix in July, it shot to No. 3 of Netflix’s list of top 10 non-English series.
Growing up in Guadalajara, Mexico, Mendoza discovered his creative talent at age 14, when he won a school writing prize. With his parents’ encouragement, he started writing about TV and movies for a local newspaper. He launched his TV career on the news side, but his passion was fiction; he auditioned for a writing job at Telemundo and never looked back.
Since then, he’s been careful to follow his heart. “Someone told me, write things you understand and believe in, or else it’ll feel fake. I’ve applied that to my whole career.”
Now, he seeks out stories that serve a diverse Latin audience in the US by focusing on universal emotional themes. Other series he and his team have developed include “Betty en NY,” “Buscando a Frida,” “100 días para enamorarnos,” and “La suerte de Loli.”
“Streaming changed the game for everyone,” he said. “Everyone watches things on demand and we are still programming like linear. It’s harder now to get people’s attention. But as a writer working in development, I always feel comfortable because the only thing that’ll never change is: People always want a story. And platforms give us the opportunity for Hispanic content to travel around the world.”
Most recent binges: “Game of Thrones” (HBO) and “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu)
Murphy and Rothstein may work for a traditional Big Three broadcast TV network but they are, in many ways, in the vanguard of entertainment. The duo are VPs of scripted comedy for NBCU’s TV and streaming division, which means they are responsible for developing programs for both legacy NBC (see: a “Night Court” multicam reboot) and budding streamer Peacock (see: an untitled Borat project from Jason Woliner).
“We just get to do so many different kinds of shows and really stretch our creative muscles,” Rothstein told Insider. “For people who are creative and who are interested in content and consume content the way we do, I think what’s really fun for us is to get to do all sorts of different things and work with really amazing talent, telling wonderful stories.”
Both execs came up in legacy Hollywood institutions: New Jersey native and Broadway aficionado Rothstein through an internship-turned-decade-long-tenure at Disney’s ABC Studios, and Murphy through a storied industry rite of passage — as an agency assistant.
At ABC Studios, Rothstein, 34, largely worked on comedies (“The Muppets,” “American Housewife”) with a detour in drama (“How to Get Away With Murder,” “American Crime”). She joined NBCUniversal three years ago. Murphy, also 34, has been at NBCU for almost 11 years, a stretch that has also included time working on drama (“The Sinner”) and comedy (“Girls 5Eva,” “Rutherford Falls”).
“I did find my way into Hollywood but, like Emily, had that wonderful experience of realizing, ‘Oh, wait, there is a role for me that’s not writer, director, actor,'” said Murphy. “I can help storytellers, uplift their stories and be creative in that way, and also have some sort of business-minded work as well.”
The two are focused on putting a forward-looking spin on known IP and historical TV formats, like the upcoming “Pitch Perfect” spinoff “Bumper in Berlin” or George Lopez’s NBC comeback vehicle “Lopez vs. Lopez,” in which he stars opposite his daughter Maya.
“[‘Lopez vs. Lopez’] feels unexpected, and they’re tackling subject matters that you don’t normally see tackled on TV, let alone in a multicam,” said Rothstein. “That’s something that I’m really proud of.”
“Talking about change in the industry,” she added, “I don’t think we were able to tell stories like this before, in this way.”
Most recent binges: Rothstein: “The Patient” (Hulu), “Below Deck: Mediterranean” and “The Real Housewives of the Potomac” (both Bravo/Peacock); Murphy: “The Resort” (Peacock), “What We Do in the Shadows” (FX/Hulu), “Sesame Street” (HBO; Murphy has a toddler)
O’Brien picked up his first internship at Starz just as the premium cable network was figuring out its direct-to-consumer play. O’Brien worked on the consumer insights and programming teams, paving the way for his later roles on the forefront of streaming video.
“It was certainly a break, having subject matter expertise at a young age,” said O’Brien, 28, who started a digital TV recommendation service, Bundl.tv, in college in 2015, then parlayed his experience into an internship at Turner Broadcasting, showing prospective employers that he had both entrepreneurial chops and an understanding of the industry.
O’Brien joined Roku in 2019 as a content acquisition executive for the Roku Channel. A year later, he moved on to Amazon Prime Video, where he became a content acquisition manager, giving him a bird’s-eye view of the channels business. “Being able to see what’s driving acquisition, what content is driving engagement and reducing churn … that was just so insightful for me, being able to work on deals and also serve as an internal consultant in helping them grow since I was able to see across categories.”
In July of this year, O’Brien became director of content sales and distribution at Pocket.Watch, a studio that aims to turn YouTube stars into global franchises.
Early on in his career, O’Brien got some words of advice from mentor Greg Maffei, CEO of Liberty Media and chairman of Live Nation: “Always make sure you’re working where the industry is headed, not where it’s been.” To that end, O’Brien has been developing a creator economy side hustle, helping real estate executives build and monetize audiences through a company called Estate Media.
Most recent binge: Season 3 of “Never Have I Ever” (Netflix)
Patel grew up in a large, extended Indian family in California, one of 18 people living under the same roof. Films were a language that helped her connect with her relatives, which including eight other kids, in spite of their age differences. The family spent hours bonding every week in front of a television, huddling for their shared tradition of movie night at home, Patel told Insider.
“When I was 10, I may not have had anything in common to talk to my 15-year-old cousins about,” she recalled. “But I do remember that we could find common ground in talking about whatever the last movie was that we saw. We could talk [for] hours about the latest Brendan Fraser ‘Mummy’ movies.”
These days, Patel, 32, has a hand in evaluating the commercial prospects of possible future hits as a vice president for strategy and business development at Universal Filmed Entertainment Group. She joined Universal in 2014, and her work now extends across the development slates at Universal, DreamWorks Animation, and animation studio Illumination. She runs complex assessments about the business implications of each project the studios are considering, from box-office success forecasts to licensing and streaming.
Last year, she was involved in negotiations spearheaded by Jimmy Horowitz, a vice chairman at UFEG, that helped bring director Christopher Nolan to the studio and resulted in his next film about physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer. She also worked with Horowitz and his broader team in acquiring “The Exorcist” franchise to produce a forthcoming trilogy. The New York Times reported in 2021 that Universal paid more than $400 million for the iconic horror brand.
Patel works on projects incubated in-house, too, including iterations of the “Fast & Furious” and “Jurassic World” franchises. Outside of her day-to-day job, she mentors up-and-coming professionals across Universal through The Lab, the company’s first internal incubator which is sponsored by Donna Langley, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group’s chairman.
Patel’s family had a tilt more toward career paths steeped in academia, math, or the sciences, she said, and she started off as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs in San Francisco before transitioning into the entertainment industry. Skills she picked up on that job are foundational to success in her current role, Patel added.
Her family couldn’t be prouder of the work she does in the film industry now, and, she said, they’ve found an unexpected benefit from her high-profile gig in Hollywood: “They ask me all the time when I will introduce them to celebrities.”
Most recent binges: “The Bear” (Hulu) and “Friday Night Lights,” one of her longtime favorite shows which she’s watching all over again right now
With tenures at no fewer than five different networks, studios and streamers, Provenzano has accumulated a wealth of industry knowledge and experience during her 13 years in Hollywood.
She has spent the entirety of her career working in development. Right after graduating from USC, where she studied cinema business, she dove headfirst into a comedy development role at HBO, working for veteran execs Nick Hall (now at A24) and Casey Bloys (who now presides over all of HBO and HBO Max’s original programming). She had an early hand in such shows as “Veep,” “Girls,” and “Silicon Valley.”
Provenzano’s “big break” came in the form of a junior exec role at FX Networks at a time when the highly regarded cable network was cultivating “Fargo” and “Atlanta” under the guidance of series development exec Kate Lambert and originals chief Nick Grad.
“I was so fortunate to learn from the very best in our business,” said Provenzano, 34.
Then came a stint at Paramount TV Studios, where she dipped her toes into the sell-side of the business, then Hulu — where Provenzano was the point executive on Amy Schumer’s “Life & Beth” — and now at Amazon Studios, where she’s rounding out three years as a development executive.
She loves that every day at work is different from the last: hearing pitches, identifying emerging talent, working with writers on drafted scripts. Provenzano is also involved in maintaining series that are already on the air, including “A League of Their Own,” which she is particularly proud of for its representation of the LGBT+ community.
“Just a huge part of why I do this job is to amplify underrepresented and marginalized voices and communities,” said Provenzano. “And I think that show does so in such a smart, thoughtful way, while still being really fun and joyful.”
Most recent binges: “The Summer I Turned Pretty” (Amazon) and “The Bear” (Hulu)
Long before Richards became a high-powered casting exec, when she was still paying her dues as an assistant, she received a key piece of advice from Chris Parnell, then the co-president of Sony Pictures Television Studios and now a high-ranking AppleTV+ executive.
“If you want something, you have to give it 110%,” Richards recalled Parnell telling her. “Once I got that advice, I really buckled in and worked really hard and ended up getting promoted.”
That commitment to fully dedicating herself has helped Richards, 33, rise in less than a decade from assistant to vice president in talent and casting at Sony Pictures Television — reporting to Dawn Steinberg, executive vice president of worldwide talent and casting. In her role, Richards has helped build the casts of a number of hot series including NBC’s “The Blacklist;” the Emmy-nominated “The Boys” on Amazon Prime Video; and Prime Video’s “The Wheel of Time,” starring Rosamund Pike.
Richards’ original ambition was to be an actress. “My mom has a story about me watching Barney and saying, ‘I want to do that,'” she said. She attended Emerson College for musical theater and, while there, realized that pursuing a career in casting would give her the chance to marry her love of the craft and her fascination with the business side of entertainment.
At SPT, Richards has been instrumental in building out the studio’s Diverse Actors Showcase, a three-week program that debuted in 2021 and gave talent front-row access to acting coaches, casting directors, and showrunners. Richards said the Actors Showcase drew more than 13,000 applications last year, and the studio plans to reprise the program in the future. As a former actress, Richards said she’s passionate about initiatives that help up-and-comers get in the door.
“When I get to see these actors doing well and emailing me that they’re booking recurring roles on shows,” she said, “it just makes it worth it.”
Most recent binge: “Tell Me Lies” on Hulu
The executive director of media planning and buying at Hulu, Stavros is in the business of figuring out where to best spend parent company Disney’s money to promote original series like “Dopesick” or “Only Murders in the Building.” But beyond working with social media platforms and publishers like the New York Times to amplify ad campaigns and draw in new viewers, the 31-year-old marketing exec is proud of being able to create moments of social impact.
Of particular note was a 2019 campaign to promote Season 3 of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel whose first season brought Hulu its first Emmy. Stavros worked with CNN brand studio Courageous Studios to bring to life an art installation of 140 mirrored statues in New York’s Flatiron neighborhood, underscoring that there are 145 statues of men but only five statues of women in the city.
The campaign, which expanded to other cities, was part of an effort to “not just to be standard advertising, but [make] meaningful connections with potential viewers and give a little pause and contemplation for any potential audience,” Stavros said.
Stavros’ love of entertainment marketing was cemented right out of college, when she worked on Fox Broadcasting’s media team. In 2017, she moved on to Hulu, where she has been ever since, climbing the ranks from associate manager of media to her current position. She said she felt lucky to have mentors in Disney General Entertainment marketing president Shannon Ryan and Hulu originals marketing chief Barrie Gruner.
“Honestly, just raising my hand for opportunities, finding ways to better collaborate with other teams and really showcase our wonderful content through advertising, has led me to a more senior position within the organization,” said Stavros. “And I can’t be more appreciative.”
Most recent binges: “The Handmaid’s Tale” Season 5 and “The Patient” on Hulu
“Orange is the New Black” broke lots of molds when Netflix debuted it in 2013. Wilkes helped the edgy drama, set in a women’s prison, break out in its marketing as well.
Wilkes, 35, who joined the streamer in 2014 and is now its director of Creative Marketing for UCAN (US and Canada) series, applied the experience she had previously gained in marketing films at Universal Pictures, creating trailers that would promote the concept of binge-watching.
“Trailers didn’t exist for TV programs,” she said. “It took that marketing and put it in a television space. Things like that just weren’t being done at a TV level.” Today, she leads a team of marketers who run campaigns for some of Netflix’s biggest projects — including in 2022 “Stranger Things 4” and “Dahmer — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story,” two of its most popular series of all time.
On “Stranger Things 4,” her work propelled the series further into the cultural zeitgeist and featured a global stunt that saw the show’s alternate dimension Upside Down rift open across 14 landmarks from the Empire State building to the Gateway of India in Mumbai.
“Seeing the pure joy around the fandom was so much fun and really emotional,” she said. “You could see the impact the title had around the world.”
For the Ryan Murphy thriller “The Watcher,” Wilkes’ work can be seen in the teaser campaign that riffed on a real estate ad, featuring Jennifer Coolidge in her role as the series’ real estate agent. “It was really tonally different from the show itself,” Wilkes said. “It gave fans a real chance to see what it would be like to be a real-estate agent.”
Most recent binges: “‘The Watcher’ (Netflix). Watching my husband watch it is so different because I keep seeing it from his perspective. I also love ‘Only Murders in the Building’ (Hulu) — I have such an affinity for Steve Martin and Martin Short and want to hang out with them on a daily basis.”
Want to break bread with Zimmerman, VP of programming at AMC Networks’ horror destination, Shudder? You’ll find this 34 year-old media executive in a predictably offbeat music venue popular with heavy metal enthusiasts. It’s called Saint Vitus Bar, in Brooklyn’s industrial Greenpoint neighborhood.
Unlike Sicilian Saint Vitus, known for casting spirits out and helping those with nervous disorders, Zimmerman has a passion for ghosts and specters, something he shares with Shudder viewers who just love to be scared out of their wits. While Zimmerman started his career at cult film magazine Fangoria and has watched an infinite number of horror films, he says he’s still gullible — susceptible to every spooky jump and boo.
Zimmerman’s deep affinity for his subject matter means he’s been able to forge a service that explores all the corners and cabinets of the horror genre at this subscription video on demand streamer. One of the first original documentary projects he commissioned for Shudder was “Horror Noire,” focused on Black stories and creators.
The executive spends one hour on each of several Fridays leading up to Halloween manning a hotline where fans discuss their moods and feelings and Zimmerman will recommend a corresponding horror movie — the ultimate in audience research.
He also helped create a novel marketing innovation, surprising audiences with “secret screenings.” Each promotion begins with a call-out to fans via a Shudder newsletter and via social media suggesting a time period when the horror community can stream one of the service’s on-demand movies without knowing what it will be about — so viewers can be surprised together.
“We try to create something a little bit more fun, different, and meaningful,” said Zimmerman. He also noted that the on-demand service is curated by humans, not zombie-like algorithms.
Zimmerman oversees a team of creatives who acquire and develop feature films and television series. They also manage all aspects of production including casting, story, and shoots.
While AMC doesn’t publicly break out numbers for Shudder, it’s part of a group of niche AMC channels that together counted 10.8 million streaming subscribers as of the end of 2022’s second quarter, according to the company. The others include AMC+, Acorn TV, Sundance Now, and ALLBLK.
Asked about his mentors, Zimmerman mentioned a few folks who have been industry brothers and sisters to him, he said: Ryan Turek, VP feature film development at Blumhouse Productions; Mark Ward, chief acquisitions, feature film at RLJE Films; and Caryn Coleman, founder of non-profit The Future of Film is Female. “She taught me a lot about building audiences for films and when they’ll reject new discoveries,” Zimmerman said.
Over time, he told Insider, his dream is “to be part of making big scary movies” and to create as many pathways as possible for viewers who share his love of being terrified.
Most recent binge: The work of Japanese filmmaker Toshiharu Ikeda, the director of “Mermaid Legend.”
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