Megan Ellison, Founder, Annapurna Pictures, Los Angeles
The Influence

Plenty of rich people like to invest in film productions, but not all of them have great taste. The daughter of software mogul Larry Ellison competed in horse races in her youth, but Megan isn't your typical heiress: Taking a curatorial approach, she's using the money at her disposal to actively sustain the autonomy of major American filmmakers, many of whom she grew up idolizing as a young film geek.

In the past 12 months, the 27-year-old Ellison has produced three of most acclaimed American movies released in theaters: "The Master," "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Spring Breakers." While not every one has been a major commercial hit, Ellison has essentially provided a safe haven for filmmakers who would otherwise face severe compromises. Last year's "Killing Them Softly" was released by The Weinstein Company, which allegedly wanted to make changes to the film that Ellison refused to permit; the same conditions applied to "The Master."

"To me, she's the most interesting and inventive person out there," said "Spring Breakers" director Korine, whose next movie will also be produced by Annapurna, which purchased "Spring Breakers" shortly after its world premiere and edged out countless other bids. "Her approach and her taste are just the best," Korine said. "The way she thinks is something new. She honestly just wants to make amazing films."

Biggest Success

The notoriously press-shy Ellison won't speak publicly about her career, but according to a Vanity Fair article, she took Paul Thomas Anderson to lunch at Jerry's Famous Deli just as he was on the brink of making a deal with Fox Searchlight to produce "The Master." Ellison offered him twice the studio's proposed budget on the spot and won the project.

Biggest Disappointment

Despite her resistance to make public statements, Ellison took to Twitter in January to express her extreme frustration when "Zero Dark Thirty" director Kathryn Bigelow wasn't nominated for an Oscar.

Biggest Challenge

Like many rich investors out there, Ellison still has to fight against the perception that she's just throwing money at people blindly, especially since she's so much younger than many of her cohorts in the business. 

What's Next

Annapurna has several auteur-driven pictures in the pipeline, including Spike Jonze's upcoming "Her," Bennett Miller's "Foxcatcher" and David O. Russell's "American Hustle," all of which have already generated early awards season buzz. (Regarding Russell's film, Ellison recently tweeted, "it's going to be something special.") She's teaming up again with Anderson for his follow-up to "The Master," an adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's "Inherent Vice," which recently started production. The company also bought the rights to "The Terminator" franchise and has plans for new films with Ellison's brother David's company, Skydance Productions.