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Sundance 2015: Here Are the Top Junior Agents You Need to Know

Sundance 2015: Here Are the Top Junior Agents You Need to Know

With Sundance 2015 launching today, Indiewire is showcasing a selection of the most promising young reps — as recommended by those at the agencies’ top levels. And since we’ve included photos, now you’ll now who to corner in the Yarrow Hotel lobby.


Gabriel C. Mena, 
Paradigm

Age: 34
Education: University of Florida
Career Background: I come from an independent producing background where I ran a fund out of Spain that financed production on a number of films including the 2008 Sundance film “Mancora” directed by Ricardo de Montreuil and the 2008 Tribeca film “Celia The Queen,” which I also produced.  The company, Hispafilms, was also integral in completing the financing on Andy Garcia’s “City Island.” I decided back in June 2013 to bring my skill set to agenting. Since joining Paradigm’s packaging, financing and sales division, I have headed up initiatives to represent high level producers’ slates, helping them package, finance and sell outside of the conventional studio system. I have also become increasingly involved in the growing film market in Latin American as well as the Hispanic American market stateside. I represent emerging Mexican directors such as Isaac Ezban (“The Incident”) and Marco Polo Constandse (“Casese Quien Pueda), as well as high profile actors Oscar Jaenada (“Cantinflas”), Luis Gerardo Mendez (“Nosotros Los Nobles”), and Ivan Sanchez (“La Tempestad”).
Agency Tenure: June 2013
Ambitions: To continue on an upward trajectory that eventually allows me to reach a role of leadership at Paradigm as it continues to forge itself as the premier alternative agency in the industry — focused on a client-first mentality. Positioning myself and Paradigm at the forefront of the Hispanic market both in the US and in Latin America, ensuring that the talent is recognized and able to reach this booming audience. I operate with a hands-on, thoughtful approach that offers the client not only a service but a collaborator in the expansion of their business and believe this will help my clients and Paradigm grow into the next decade of this ever evolving industry.
Filmmakers and films that inspire you: Iñarritu’s “Amores Perros,” Cuaron’s “Y Tu Mama Tambien,” Coppola’s “The Godfather,” Fellini’s “8 1/2.”
What Sundance filmmakers could learn from you: Perseverance will allow great stories to be told. While there are inherent financial obstacles to getting independent films made I have been privy time and again to the success stories coming from those that never “shelved” it. When all options are exhausted find some more options. Trust in your own lunacy.
Head of your department: Ben Weiss and Emmanuel Nunez
Best/most useful thing you’ve learned from those above you: Go with your gut. However you cut it, it is a subjective business. Trust in your intuition and be willing to take a chance on the things you believe in. All the great filmmakers had at one point or another an agent that decided to take a chance on them. It takes  a high level of confidence and a unique foresight to discover the next Guillermo Del Toro.


Mikey Schwartz-Wright, UTA

Age: 27

Education: Boston University, then transferred to NYU and earned a BA in Sports Business Management.

Career Background: My first job after college was at NBC, programming on-air promos for USA and SyFy for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Shortly after, I moved back to LA and interviewed for the Agent Training Program at UTA.

Agency Tenure: I started in the UTA mailroom. One of my responsibilities was to drive around out-of-town clients. One of these clients was Daniel Espinosa, a client of [Motion Picture Literary Agent] David Flynn’s. Daniel and I hit it off. He said good things about my work ethic to Flynn, and Flynn asked me up for an interview. I got hired and worked on his desk for almost two years. I then went on to work on Bec Smith’s in the UTA Independent Film Group.

Ambitions: To represent original voices and help artists get their work made and seen by a large audience. At UTA, I have benefited from a culture where senior agents and executives always take the time to answer questions and offer advice. I would like to be in a place one day where I can do the same. 

Filmmakers and films that inspire you: I thought “The Interview”was genius. In spite of a few hiccups, it was inspiring that so many people rallied behind Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg to get their movie out to audiences.

What Sundance filmmakers could learn from you: When in doubt, take Swede Alley; traffic on Main Street is a nightmare!

Head of your department: Rena Ronson

Best/most useful thing you’ve learned from those above you: UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer reminds us that we not only have to be willing to take risks, but that we have to be willing to fail to truly innovate in our business and excel in the long run. It’s among the hardest principles to apply in your work and in your life, but it’s also one of the most important.

READ MORE: 5 Must-See Shorts at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival

Adam Paulsen, CAA

Age: 26

Education: 
Wesleyan University; B.A Film Studies

Career Background: 
I got my start with Albert Berger & Ron Yerxa. From there I worked for Big Beach, Bob Shaye, and Dylan Sellers, and then Larry Charles on the set of “The Dictator.” After production wrapped, I produced a small indie comedy called “Awful Nice,” that CAA sold at SXSW, which was a great first exposure to the agency’s Film Finance Group. I then worked for The Weinstein Co. in production/acquisitions. I knew after those experiences that I was most interested in what CAA Film Finance did, so when the opportunity arose to assist Micah Green, I jumped at the chance to do so.

Agency Tenure: 
I joined CAA in July 2012 in the Film Finance and Sales Group.

Ambitions: 
To continue championing the movies and filmmakers that I’m passionate about, and to identify and sign the next wave of directors and producers that inspire and thrill with their work.

Filmmakers and films that inspire you: 
Any filmmaker taking creative risks and trying to make something bold and original is inspiring to me, no matter the size or scope. I tend to gravitate toward comedy, sci-fi, and anything with heart. 

What Sundance filmmakers could learn from you: 
I would encourage emerging directors and producers to think more globally in their creative development. Most films receive the majority of their revenue from distribution outside of the United States. English-language movies that are designed to have particular appeal in established and emerging international markets can attract talent, financing and distribution in a way that more domestically focused stories and packages do not. 

Head of your department: 
Micah Green and Roeg Sutherland, the co-heads of CAA’s Film Finance and Sales Group

Best/most useful thing you’ve learned from those above you: 
The power of treating everyone with integrity and honesty every step of the way, and to never lose sight of how important each and every movie is to its filmmakers.

READ MORE: 13 Films Indiewire Can’t Wait to See at Sundance 2015

Mark Hartogsohn, Gersh

Age: 
29

Education: 
Syracuse University, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Major: Television, Radio, Film and College of Arts & Sciences, Major: History

Career Background: 
I started my career at ABC News working at Good Morning America as a script supervisor and received a Daytime Emmy for my contribution to their 2008 presidential election coverage. I then worked for independent film producers in New York before moving to Los Angeles and starting at Gersh.

Agency Tenure: 
I’ve been at Gersh for four years. I started as an assistant in the Television Literary Department and then moved over to the Production Department. I was promoted to coordinator for the Motion Picture Literary Department and then became an agent.

Ambitions: 
I want to work with filmmakers who create thought-provoking stories that are universal and entertaining. I would also like to pay off my student loans.

Filmmakers and films that inspire you: 
The Coen Brothers, Woody Allen, “Ghostbusters,” Mel Brooks, Alan Pakula, Jaws, Billy Wilder, “The Graduate,” “Die Hard,” Sidney Lumet, Richard Linklater.

What Sundance filmmakers could learn from you: 
It’s my job to understand what producers/buyers want from new and established filmmakers. Sundance filmmakers can utilize me to help bring out their best qualities as artists and marry that with the business side of filmmaking. I help challenge filmmakers to come up with new ideas and connect them with the right people to help them make their movies.

Head of your department: 
Bob Hohman

Best/most useful thing you’ve learned from those above you: 
Kill them with kindness, think before you speak, have discerning taste.

READ MORE: Meet the Sundance 2015 Filmmakers

Samantha Chalk, Gersh

Age: 
29

Education: 
Washington University in St. Louis, Major; Dramatic Arts, Minor: English Language and Literature

Career Background: 
I began my career working in the Casting Department at the Roundabout Theater Company, where I participated in the development of various Broadway shows, including American Idiot. Once at Gersh, I ultimately ended up working with many of the cast members that were in these shows. I then started working for a commercial Broadway producer. At the same time, I also continued my managerial role at certain Broadway houses at night. During this period, I found myself one too many steps removed from the development of the actor and I knew I needed a way in. That’s when I took a job in the Gersh mailroom and was hooked.

Agency Tenure: 
5 ½ years. I began as an assistant to two incredible women, my favorite R’s, Randi Goldstein and Rhonda Price. I was promoted in October of 2013 in our Talent Department. I have had a very fortunate upbringing in this business, working with and learning from these two women, both of whom taught me the value of listening to what their clients are really saying…outside of the noise. They simply cut through it all. They impressed upon me that this business is about trusting your instinct and that not everyone is going to agree with you. It is our job to turn those opinions around and make that no into a yes!

Ambitions: 
There is no greater joy than to see a client in a film and to have been present in the process it took to get them there. The story of how it all came together might as well be a short film to me. It is both creative and, frankly, often a struggle. Whether or not the resolution is uplifting is my job. You have to be the backbone. The voice of reason. The comrade in battle. Sometimes this business can be the Wild West and you need your Annie Oakley. My goal is to continue to be a part of the conversation, to develop and foster the careers of our clients and to enjoy the journey with them.

Filmmakers and films that inspire you: 
I am inspired by films that grant me the privilege of seeing a little bit of myself in each of the characters. Humanity, basically. I still believe in the power of film to elicit escape. It is in the moments when I am brought to life in those few hours of distraction that I am reminded of the importance of storytelling in the public arena. Witnessing Patricia Arquette’s performance in Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” this season speaks to this very idea. The film gave us, the audience, the opportunity to connect without asking us to make a comment and to find a little bit of ourselves in their everyday life.

What Sundance filmmakers could learn from you: 
Go after what you want. When you introduce yourself to someone you’ve never met, be sure to pay attention. You never know what nugget of information you’ll find in your conversations at Sundance and what it can lead to. Be inclusive. This is a business that thrives on collaboration, so make sure to connect the dots when you’re in Park City. You’ll thank me later.

Head of your department: 
Alex Yarosh

Best/most useful thing you’ve learned from those above you: 
 Be yourself and speak truth. Clients may not want to hear what you have to say, but if you know that it will only better the path they are on, then you both win.

READ MORE: Sundance Springboard: 11 Potential Breakthrough Actors

Grant Derkac, ICM Partners

Age: 
30

Education: 
B.A. from Brown University, MFA from the Producers Program at UCLA

Career Background: 
My road to ICM has been fairly unique. After graduating from UCLA’s Producers Program in 2009, my first job was working for manager Adam Shulman at Anonymous Content, helping to service his roster of clients that included Bill Condon, Mark Bomback, Shari Springer-Berman & Bob Pulcini, and Bill Wheeler. From there I had the good fortune to work for two incredible producers in succession, Steve Golin and John Lesher. Both of them have had tremendous careers collaborating with the most acclaimed talent in the business. Watching and learning how they identified, developed and packaged material, as well as how they handled the complexities of production, was such an eye-opening experience. I believe this knowledge has served me well in my transition to the agency world. 

Agency Tenure: 
I joined ICM Parters’ International & Independent Film department in November of 2013.

Ambitions: 
To continue to support and nurture the careers and films of true artists. I am afforded the freedom by my colleagues to pursue what some would consider challenging material, and my hope is that I can continue to do so in the future. With the landscape of independent film constantly evolving, I hope to be on the forefront of these changes and find creative ways for our clients’ films to find an audience and make money at the same time. 

Filmmakers and films that inspire you: 
I am drawn to emotionally challenging and complex stories, and filmmakers that try to push the envelope and aren’t afraid to take risks. But I also grew up on a steady diet of John Hughes and am a huge fan of smart comedies/romantic comedies.

What Sundance filmmakers could learn from you: 
Our group is fairly selective when it comes to the projects we pursue. Given that, I can confidently say that when we do engage on something, we are fiercely passionate about those projects and will work tirelessly on behalf of the film and filmmakers to do what is in their best interests. Coupled with that is the understanding that at the end of the day, this is still a business, so it is paramount to help our filmmakers understand the intricacies of the sales process.

Head of your department: 
Jessica Lacy

Best/most useful thing you’ve learned from those above you: 
It is okay to say I don’t know how to do something and ask for help. Making the move from development to sales & packaging presented a learning curve that I had to acclimate to quickly. I was extremely fortunate to have such an incredible leader in Jessica and supportive colleagues to help me navigate that transition.

READ MORE: ‘Dope’ Trailer Brings Kinetic Energy to Sundance 2015

Joe Austin, WME

Age: 
29 

Education: 
Villanova University, B.A. Economics and Mandarin Chinese

Career Background: 
I started in the William Morris Agency mailroom in 2008, before becoming an assistant in the Talent Department. After the merger with Endeavor, I transitioned over to WME’s Global department (the agency’s financing and distribution arm) and worked for Graham Taylor and Liesl Copland. I became the department’s coordinator and was promoted to agent in 2013. 

Agency Tenure: 
I started at the William Morris Agency in 2008.

Ambitions: 
I want to continue working with talented filmmakers and support their careers, by bringing them new opportunities that will help them develop, package and convert material they’re passionate about. I hope to play a significant role in helping our team grow and eventually be able to assemble films completely in-house using WME’s resources. As agents, we’re fortunate to represent a variety of talented artists and content creators. With studios making fewer films at larger budgets, there’s a huge opportunity to take more risks on original material and independently package projects for our clients.

Filmmakers and films that inspire you:
I’ve always admired David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, Ridley Scott, Danny Boyle, Chris Nolan, Michel Gondry, Charlie Kaufman, and Quentin Tarantino for their styles and work. We also have a strong roster of young filmmakers, whose creativity and talent inspire me to work harder and search for unique and important stories that need to be shared, including Benh Zeitlin, Ryan Coogler, and Damien Chazelle. 

What Sundance filmmakers could learn from you: 
No matter what happens, remain calm. Seeking out distribution, receiving awards, and reading reviews makes the festival process an emotional ride. You just have to stay focused and keep reminding yourself that it’s no small feat to put a film together. Just being selected by the Sundance Film Festival is a huge deal.

Head of your department: 
Graham Taylor 

Best/most useful thing you’ve learned from those above you: 
Having a strong culture and clear vision are the most important things. At WME, Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell have built a remarkable company and I’m proud to be a part of it. The Global department has channeled their passion and built a business that’s centered on teamwork, camaraderie, sharing, and supporting each other. We are truly a family and I think all of our successes stem from that culture.  

READ MORE: Sundance Institute Announces 2015 January Screenwriters Lab Partners

Ryan Feldman, WME

Age: 28

Education: University of California, Irvine, B.A. in Political Science, Minor in Business Management

Career Background: I started in the Paradigm mailroom in 2008, just after the writers’ strike. I joined CAA’s Motion Picture department in 2010 as Dan Aloni’s first assistant and then transitioned over to WME with him in 2012. Following that, I became the department coordinator and was promoted to agent in 2013.

Agency Tenure: Three years at WME. 

Ambitions: I want to help build and guide the careers of the next generation of storytellers and filmmakers. My goal is to help all of our clients achieve their goals and support them in expanding their businesses. I also want to cross over into the larger media industry and bring clients opportunities outside of the traditional film model. The entertainment landscape is continuing to shift and I want to stay at the forefront of the changes, helping the team at WME lead the way for all of our content creators.  With content being more powerful than ever, it’s an exciting time to be in the representation business. 

Filmmakers and films that inspire you: This is always a tough question to answer because there are just so many. The first film that comes to mind is Christopher Nolan’s “Memento.” The way he constructed the movie changed the way I looked at films and filmmakers. I also distinctly remember seeing Jay Roach’s “Meet the Parents” in theaters. He captured the perfect balance between humor and emotion. I’ve always admired Robert Zemeckis’ career. From “Romancing the Stone” to “Back to the Future” to “Forrest Gump” to “Flight,” his range as a filmmaker is rare. 

What Sundance filmmakers could learn from you: Persistence goes a long way. In this business, your voice is your currency, and you have to stay true to your vision and fight for stories and projects that you believe in. You have to be open to exploring opportunities, while still maintaining strong opinions. My advice to filmmakers is that the entertainment business is dynamic and the best way to enjoy the highs and survive the lows is to have a strong team around you. Most importantly, I would tell them to enjoy the ride.  

Head of your department: Danny Greenberg and Philip Raskind

Best/most useful thing you’ve learned from those above you: Get in front of it. The best way to be effective is to anticipate where things are going, predict any complications, and figure out how to get ahead of them.

I’ve also had the rare opportunity to work for three different agencies. This unique perspective has taught me the value of company culture. WME does it best. Everyone works together and supports one another. The energy is contagious and makes everyone aspire to do better. 

READ MORE: The Story Behind Two Sundance Success Stories: “Short Term 12” and “Land Ho!”

Benjamin Braun, Submarine Entertainment

Age: 
22

Education: 
Continuing to pursue a degree in Economics.

Career Background: 
I started a part-time internship in 2011 and when an assistant position opened up in 2012, I dove into working in film sales and film distribution. I currently work in our sales and acquisitions department where I screen and evaluate new submissions, manage client relations and help sell documentary and feature narrative films. Additionally, I manage exhibitor relations in our distribution label Submarine Deluxe. We release 4-6 titles per year theatrically. 

Agency Tenure: 
3 years, 6 months

Ambitions: 
Working at a boutique sales and distribution company gives you an amazing bird’s-eye view of the industry. You get to see a massive amount of content; you see what sells, how it’s received critically and ultimately how it performs in the marketplace. So over time, you develop a strong sense of how to evaluate the broad range of material that’s out there and learn how to pick the best of what ends up on your desk every week. I’d like to continue to develop those skills and help discover and guide talented new artists through one of the most chaotic and challenging parts of being a first time independent filmmaker… finding a distributor!

Filmmakers and films that inspire you: 
The types of documentaries I respond to are about pop-culture icons, artists & musicians. As far as narratives go mainly post-apocalyptic thrillers or anything set in outer space. Nick Broomfield, The Coen Brothers, John Hughes, John Waters, John Carpenter and Kubrick are some personal favorites. Also anything the Duplass brothers do. “Baghead” still scares me even after watching it eight times.

What Sundance filmmakers could learn from you: 
Keep your mind open to creative ways of splitting up rights; we have had a lot of success splitting up TV, theatrical, and digital rights between different companies. In some cases, we’ve ended up with better deals that way than with all rights deals. Also, when it comes down to choosing between distributors that may be interested in acquiring your film, keep in mind that one of the most important things is to find a partner that you know sees the film the same way you do and will be on board with marketing and releasing the film in the way that you envision it. Sometimes the higher MG is not always the way to go. When you are deciding on a distribution partner, remember you are entering into a partnership where their team is going to be intertwined with your daily life, day in and out for the next year. It’s so important to pick people that will be collaborative and fun to work with.

Head of your department: 
Josh Braun, Dan Braun, David Koh

Best/most useful thing you’ve learned from those above you: 
You can’t be hesitant to speak your opinion either for or against something, even if you know the rest of your team is not going to agree with you. Be vocal about your opinions and fight for the projects you believe in. Also, in a department where we see an endless amount of new projects, I try to give anyone with a new submission the attention and time of day that you would give to much more established filmmakers. 

READ MORE: Sundance Institute Announces Quiver Digital Distribution Deal

Jamie Hughes, Paradigm
Age: 28 

Education: 
B.A., Communication and a J.D. from USC

Career Background: 
While at USC Law, I was the president of the Entertainment Law Society where I created an entertainment industry mentor program, an annual Sundance trip, and a weekly speaker series featuring titans of the industry. Having interned with casting director Deb Aquila in college and following an internship in the legal affairs department at Radar Pictures during my first year of law school, I realized I wanted to work at a talent agency. I began working at Paradigm part time while I finished law school and came back full time after I passed the bar. At Paradigm, I was fortunate enough to work for Chris Schmidt and Alisa Adler, who taught me how to be a kind yet incredibly productive agent. I also spent a year working for the head of my department, Andrew Ruf, who introduced me to and mentored me through the world of independent filmmaking.

Agency Tenure: 
3 and 1/2 years

Ambitions: 
I want to help guide the careers of creative, passionate, and talented artists to help bring their creative energies to interesting and moving projects. I also want to be Harvey Weinstein’s friend.

Filmmakers and films that inspire you: 
“The Graduate” and “Cabaret” were seminal films that got me interested in film and storytelling. I’m inspired by artists who let their passion drive their projects despite the odds. Julianne Moore inspires me because of the courage she manifests in the roles she takes. She was amazing in “Still Alice,” and then she turned around and portrayed an equally captivating but completely opposite character in “Maps to the Stars.” Then there are films like “Love is Strange” and “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” that are incredible films made with very low budgets.

What Sundance filmmakers could learn from you: 
Never get comfortable. Always continue to push yourself. Stay out of your comfort zone.

Head of your department:
 Andrew Ruf and Ken Stovitz

Best/most useful thing you’ve learned from those above you: 
It is a business of people so relationships are the best currency you can have. Just because you have the upper hand today doesn’t mean you will tomorrow. Be nice to people, especially when you don’t have to be. 

READ MORE: Sundance Premiere “Last Days in the Desert” Awarded Dolby Family Sound Fellowship

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