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The 20 Most Powerful Women in Global Entertainment

From Lagos to London, these execs are challenging the status quo, paving the way for the next generation and shaping what the world watches.

By several metrics, 2022 has been a good year for women in the international film and TV business. UCLA’s annual Hollywood Diversity Report found the percentage of women in lead acting roles has nearly doubled over the past decade; that their share of writing credits has more than doubled; and that the percentage of women directors has increased by more than fivefold (from 4.1 percent in 2011 to 20.5 percent in 2020). In the U.K., the BBC’s most recent impact report on gender parity (in March) found that 61 percent of all BBC teams achieved 50 percent representation of women in their content, up from 35 percent in 2017. In June, Walt Disney Co. released employee data showing near exact pay equity, with women at the company earning 99.4 percent as much as men.

But those impressive advances also make clear the progress that still needs to be made. The old boys’ club of industry gatekeepers and C-suite decision-makers still holds sway, particularly outside North America.

“The industry has changed for the better over the years with more female representation, but there is always more work to be done,” says Banijay Rights CEO Cathy Payne, one of 20 executives on THR‘s 2022 list of the most powerful women in global entertainment. “It’s important to constantly invest in the next generation.”

The Hollywood Reporter and A+E Networks will celebrate the women on this year’s Global Entertainment Power List at international television market Mipcom Cannes, where they are co-hosting the 10th Women in Global Entertainment Power Lunch, at the Majestic Hotel on Monday, Oct. 17. A+E has an ongoing commitment to boost women’s roles in the industry, as seen with its “Broader Focus” initiative at A+E’s Lifetime channel.

Actress Alyssa Milano will deliver the keynote address at the Power Lunch, where she will also open up about her recently sealed major first-look deal with A+E Studios to write and produce projects aimed at U.S. and global audiences.

Written by Patrick Brzeski, Alex Ritman, Scott Roxborough, Georg Szalai and Etan Vlessing

This story first appeared in the Oct. 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Mo Abudu

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Mo Abudu Founder, EbonyLife Media COURTESY OF SUBJECT

Founder, EbonyLife Media (Nigeria)

Nigerian media mogul Abudu has been a global pioneer since at least 2006, when she founded the pan-African satellite network EbonyLife TV and launched (and hosted) Moments With Mo, the first pan-African talk show. EbonyLife has since moved strongly into production, becoming the first African company to sign a multifilm and TV deal with Netflix — the company’s first Nigerian Netflix series, Blood Sister, racked up 11 million global viewing hours in its first week of launch — and inking major production partnership deals with Sony Pictures Television and AMC Networks. In December, Abudu got the green light from Starz to develop the African-set series Queen Nzinga, starring This Is Us and American Gods actor Yetide Badaki as the 17th century Angolan leader who waged a ferocious 40-year guerrilla war against Portuguese slavers. Abudu says “tokenism and lip service” are still a major obstacle to true diversity in the industry. “The gatekeepers to our global industry are mainly middle-aged white men, trying to keep people like me out,” she says. “It’s three times worse for women like me. I have to deal with not only being a woman; I am a Black woman, I am an African woman, telling Black and African stories. Most of these gatekeepers are afraid of taking risks on such stories. They would rather stick to the status quo. So my task is to convince them otherwise.”

What was the biggest professional challenge you faced this past year?

“Gatekeepers being too afraid to make decisions.”

Five years on from #MeToo, what impact do you think the movement has had on the business and you personally?

“One has more confidence to approach these male gatekeepers with them understanding that we have rights and we must be respected.”

What needs to be done to improve equality and diversity within the industry?

“We need more gatekeepers that are female, black, African. There must be a real commitment to telling Black and African stories. The industry must do away with tokenism. The industry must be prepared to spend larger budgets on Black and African stories.”

What current industry trend do you hope to soon see the back of?

“Tokenism and lip service has to stop. It’s annoying when you pitch an idea about a Black show, and get told that one other “Black show” in the world is like that, when there are a dozen other “white shows” like that.”

What advice would you give young women just entering the industry?

“Never give up on your dreams. Stay focused, work hard and believe in yourself.”

What show, currently on air, would you love to have made?

Succession!”

Rola Bauer

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Rola Lee
COURTESY OF MGM/KAT KLEINER

President, International Television Productions at MGM (Germany)

A major force in the international television industry for decades, Canadian-born, Munich-based Bauer can lay some claim to inventing, or at least perfecting, the international co-production model of high-end TV financing, where multiple broadcasters in different countries pool their resources to back a show that would not be bankrolled otherwise. Since taking over Amazon-owned MGM International Television Productions, her focus has been on building up the studio’s global drama slate, with recent successes including Harlan Coben’s Shelter, starring Jaden Michael and Constance Zimmer, which just received a full-series order. Five years after #MeToo shook the foundation of the global entertainment business, a trans­forma­tion that Bauer says “was long overdue,” issues of gender equality and diversity “remain at the forefront of my decision-making both professionally and personally.”

What do you see as your biggest achievement of the past year?

“This year MGM International Television Productions got a pilot pick up to series on Harlan Coben’s Shelter for Prime Video, coproducing with Amazon Studios. We are currently filming in New Jersey. Not only is the series a thrilling mystery, with a phenomenal young cast, it shines a light on several important global issues.”

Five years on from #MeToo, what impact do you think the movement has had on the business and you personally?

“It’s always been about more than a hashtag. The movement highlighted an issue that was long overdue. Gender equality and diversity remain at the forefront of my decision making both professionally and personally.”  

What advice would you give young women just entering the industry?

“Do not give up no matter what you are told. If you are told no, reset, and find a creative solution to move forward. Dive deep and ask ‘what else can I do to achieve my goal?’ Also, as I say often, own your hard work, don’t let others take away your success.”

What do you watch for pleasure?

“I really like Search Party.” 

What show, currently on air, would you love to have made?

“I would have love to have made The Boys. The series is irreverent, funny, smart, and an extremely well-produced series.” 

What do you do to unwind?

“Sleep, being with family and on the water or in the mountains! All clears my head and re-energizes me.”

Valerie Creighton

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Valerie Creighton COURTESY OF PASCALE THERRIEN/ANKA CZUDEC STUDIO

President and CEO, Canada Media Fund (Canada)

The Canada Media Fund invests over $350 million each year in homegrown TV series and digital content destined for Canadian and international markets. But it’s where that financing has gone under Creighton’s leadership — after a series of restructurings since she joined the organization in 2006 — that has helped the TV funder shape the country’s shift toward more diversity and inclusion. Invest­ment has increasingly been focused on TV series written, directed and produced by women as a start, and more lately has been followed up with more financing for projects by creatives from other underrepresented communities in Canada. Says Creighton: “As the largest funder [in Canada], it is our mandate and responsibility to remove barriers to access for sovereignty and equity-seeking communities. Full stop.”

What is or has been the greatest challenge in being a woman in this (still very male-dominated) industry?

“When I started in this industry over 30 years ago, there weren’t many women leaders. There were no female mentors to turn to for advice. The boys still ran the show. Now, things are getting better. Three of Canada’s largest media industry organizations are headed by women, with Catherine Tait at the CBC, Francesca Accinelli at Telefilm, and me at the CMF. And we have the first Black woman at the helm of the Canadian Film Centre. This would have been unthinkable 15 or 20 years ago.”

What advice would you give young women just entering the industry?

“Stand your ground and protect your authentic self at all costs. Push through the barriers — there’s always a way and it may not be the obvious one. Work with people who want to work with you, who share your values. Trust comes easier that way. If you don’t know what to do or have the answer, find someone who does. Not being the smartest person in the room keeps you humble. There’s a reason you chose this industry, this work — and if you lose your path, your authentic self will guide you back to solid ground.”

What do you watch for pleasure?

“Drama series, especially something that can drain my brain from over thinking and put me in someone else’s shoes.”

What show, currently on air, would you love to have made?

“The prairies are in my blood, and I live on the land and raise horses, so I would have to say Heartland. It is a quintessentially Canadian story of family, equine culture, and love of the land. It is the longest-running one-hour scripted drama in Canadian television and is tremendously popular beyond our borders, especially in the United States, where the series has wide distribution through broadcast syndication. Reruns of older episodes air on various platforms and channels, and of course it has global distribution on Netflix. It’s a tremendously successful Canadian story and one which we’re proud to support at the CMF. And Schitt’s Creek is the town I grew up in!”

Jane Featherstone

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Jane Featherstone Co-founder, Chief Creative Officer, Sister (U.K.)
COURTESY OF SUBJECT

Co-founder, Chief Creative Officer, Sister (U.K.)

Featherstone cut her teeth at Brit indie Kudos and parent company Shine, overseeing such breakout dramas as Broadchurch and Spooks. But since founding Sister Pictures with Stacey Snider and Elisabeth Murdoch in 2019, she has established her place at the top tier of high-end TV. Out-of-the-gate hits included HBO/Sky’s Emmy winner Chernobyl, the BAFTA-winning Olivia Colman starrer Landscapers, and Sky-AMC’s Gangs of London, the latter recently reupped for a second season. This year, Sister followed up with critically acclaimed maternity ward drama This Is Going to Hurt, with Ben Whishaw, for BBC-AMC+, and has one of the industry’s most hotly anticipated upcoming slates, including Amazon’s feminist supernatural thriller The Power, starring Toni Collette.

What needs to be done to improve equality and diversity within the industry?

“I think as an industry we are all committed to providing access to underrepresented groups into our business. But we have to put our money where our mouth is, and provide and support pathways from the most junior roles, right through to more senior ones — from HOD’s, writers, producers, directors — so that those underrepresented groups become represented in those decision-making jobs. 

The only way we will see real change is when the workforce is a different shape and we start to see different people in positions of power and influence — who can make that change. We have to create and maintain pathways, this cannot be a flash in the pan ‘oh we’ve done that, ticked that box.’ We have to continue to invest as part of a long term strategy for the industry.” 

What do you watch for pleasure?

“I watch a lot of documentaries for pleasure — at the moment the [Jair] Bolsonaro documentary [The  Boys from Brazil] is absolutely brilliant and I’m enjoying the Arsenal documentary, All or Nothing, both entertaining and compelling. 

I also watch a lot of sport for pleasure too. I like FI, football, and while it’s probably not cool, I do really enjoy University Challenge and news. Oh and Stranger Things with my kids. And a LOT of Below Deck. Many, MANY seasons of Below Deck. And also Dopesick. Basically a whole variety of things.” 

What advice would you give young women entering the industry. 

“Find a mentor. Official or unofficially, somebody who you respect and whose professional values at work you admire, and ask them lots of questions. Don’t work from home too much — you learn by being around other people. Work with the best and kindest people you can find and tell your bosses what you want to be. Because only by saying it out loud will they see you differently from the role you’re currently in.”  

Cécile Frot-Coutaz

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Sky Studios CEO Cecile Frot-Coutaz
COURTESY OF SKY STUDIOS

CEO, Sky Studios (U.K.)

The French industry veteran took the reins at the production arm of Comcast’s European TV giant Sky in September 2021 and has had a busy first year. The longtime CEO of Fremantle and former head of YouTube in Europe, the Middle East and Africa has overseen Sky Studios as it launched its first wholly in-house series, The Rising, this year and looks to continue expanding its original content investment. “I’ve been at Sky Studios for just over a year, and it’s been a brilliant 12 months,” she says. “I am really proud of a lot of our output, though much of it was [in the works] before I joined. The Midwich CuckoosThe Lazarus Project and The Rising landed really well for us.”

What was your first job in the business?

“My first job in the TV business was when I joined Pearson TV as a strategy and M&A executive, working under Greg Dyke. That was a really great, varied role working for someone who was an inspirational leader of people. I learned a lot there which still informs some of what I do today, from leading people, organizational change and taking risks.”

What do you watch for pleasure?

“I enjoy a whole range of TV but to relax I am currently enjoying Only Murders in the Building. Steve Martin is a genius. His comedic style and tone is timeless.”

Jay Hunt

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Jay Hunt Creative Director, Worldwide Video, Europe for Apple (U.K.)
COURTESY OF ADAM LAWRENCE

Creative Director, Worldwide Video, Europe for Apple (U.K.)

The Australian-born British television executive has kept a low public profile since shifting from Channel 4 to Apple TV+, where she has been head of commissioning for Europe since 2017. But quiet has not meant complacent, as Apple’s quality-over-quantity approach has delivered such Euro-sourced series as Gary Oldman-led hit espionage drama Slow Horses, which was renewed for a two-season order; the Sharon Horgan comedy Bad Sisters; and period mystery The Essex Serpent, starring Tom Hiddleston and Claire Danes. Though currently Brit-heavy, Apple’s European slate is about to add some French flavour with upcoming drama Liaison featuring Eva Green and Vincent Cassel.

Minyoung Kim

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Minyoung Kim VP Content for Asia Pacific, Netflix (South Korea)
COURTESY OF NETFLIX

VP Content for Asia Pacific, Netflix (South Korea)

After corporate stints at Twitter, NBCUniversal and Korean entertainment giant CJ ENM, Kim joined Netflix in 2016 as one of the company’s very first content executives in Asia — and her impact and staying power at the streamer have been singular ever since. From establishing Netflix’s first small office in Seoul, Kim’s team has made the streamer a prime destination for globally bankable Korean content — an achievement capped by the phenomenal global success of Squid Game, which took home Asia’s first Emmy wins in September. Kim says her greatest success over the past year has been “guiding and encouraging my team to continue to lean into risk — to try new things, be bold, and trust their creative instincts as they did with Squid Game, so we can give our members something they’re unable to watch or experience anywhere else.”

What was the biggest professional challenge you faced this past year?

“The biggest challenge this past year has definitely been the slowing growth of the company globally, and some of the tough decisions we’ve had to make as a business. I’m lucky in the sense that despite the headwinds Netflix is still very much investing in content, so for me it’s about being more intentional and strategic about what and how we invest in our content slate in APAC that would maximize member joy and make our service unmissable for audiences worldwide.”

What do you see as your biggest achievement of the past year?

Squid Game became a global phenomenon a year ago and has really opened up the world to more Korean and Asian content. It’s one of the biggest achievements for my team, if not the biggest, especially with Squid Game taking home some of Asia’s first Emmy wins recently. Personally, my biggest achievement this past year has been guiding and encouraging my team to continue to lean into risk; to try new things, be bold, and trust their creative instincts as they did with Squid Game, so we can give our members something they’re unable to watch or experience anywhere else. I’m also really proud of how we are diversifying our APAC slate in terms of genres and formats. For example we released Korean films, Carter and Seoul Vibe, the very buzzy reality series Singles Inferno, anime features Bubble and Drifting Home, YA series Heartbreak High from Australia, horror film Incantation from Taiwan [and] we are being more aggressive on [our] Japanese Live Action slate (personally excited about First Love),  just to name a few.”

What advice would you give young women just entering the industry?

“Don’t be afraid to be bold, be original, be different and mostly, don’t be afraid to fail.  And in everything you do, make sure you be you.” 

Miky Lee

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Miky Lee
CJ ENM

Vice Chair, CJ Group (South Korea)

In 1995, Lee and her brother Jay Lee, heirs to South Korea’s CJ Group conglomerate, which specialized in food products, embarked on a bold diversification by making a major equity investment in Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen’s startup studio, DreamWorks SKG. Although DreamWorks’ path proved more circuitous than initially hoped, Lee and her brother leveraged their access to Hollywood’s inner workings back in Korea, building CJ ENM over the ensuing decade into Korea’s most successful movie studio, television studio and cinema exhibitor. It’s already dominant in Korea, and Lee has set her sights on even greater global influence, closing a $785 million deal for majority control of Hollywood production powerhouse Endeavor Content (recently renamed Fifth Season) earlier this year. “It’s been incredible to see the love for Korean films, television and music continue to grow,” Lee says. “I hope that my work within the industry will make the road a little easier for women who will walk a path similar to my own.”

What do you see as your biggest achievement of the past year?

“Having our films Decision To Leave and Broker both in competition at Cannes and winning awards was exhilarating. We are so honored to work with and support the best creators! Seeing them recognized by the global community makes all of us so proud.” 

What advice would you give young women just entering the industry?

“Stay passionate and active. Having felt the glass ceiling, I try to create an environment where people are recognized for their work and not their gender. Many women leaders are making a path for future generations and together, they are breaking through the glass ceiling. Times are definitely changing. 

The industry is starting to recognize the creators, not for their gender, but for their talent. I am happy to see things moving in the right direction, but we still have ways to go, which is why I plan to continue to dedicate myself to finding new talent and providing opportunities regardless of gender.”

What do you watch for pleasure?

“Watching movies and TV series is my job, but it is also what gives me pleasure. It is very interesting to see how life, trends, and culture are reflected in different countries around the world. Entertainment is a melting pot.”

What do you do to unwind?

“I don’t have a nervous personality, probably because I love what I do. I spend most of my time focusing on projects I’m passionate about. I’m not sure if it’s unwinding or working, but I love to watch a lot of TV and films, and I listen to all kinds of music.”

Anna Marsh

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Anna Marsh, CEO Studiocanal (France)
FRANCOIS ROELANTS FOR CANAL+

CEO, StudioCanal (France)

Marsh took over as StudioCanal CEO in 2019, handling operations across the company’s vast portfolio, which includes such European production subsidiaries as Germany’s Tandem (Shadowplay), the U.K.’s Red (It’s a Sin) and Urban Myth (War of the Worlds), and Spain’s Bambu (Cable Girls). This February, she was named to the management board of StudioCanal parent Canal+, honored by exhibitors group CineEurope as the international distributor of the year, and, on Oct.3, appointed deputy CEO of the entire Canal+ Group. In addition to the 30-odd features StudioCanal puts out every year, the studio is curator of the blockbuster Paddington franchise, and producer of a raft of high-end television series, including the period crime procedural Paris Police 1900 and new sci-fi thriller Infiniti.

What was your first job in the business?

“My first job was at a Paris-based Production company called Télé Images, lead by a bold, visionary producer Simone Harari who trained her staff thoroughly in the art and business of storytelling. My first steps in the global content rights business were taken in headquarters just meters away from the effervescent Champs Elysées, a dream opportunity for someone who had travelled 18,000km around the globe to settle in Paris.”

What is or has been the greatest challenge in being a woman in this (still very male-dominated) industry?

“Upon reflecting up on this question, it strikes me how disappointing it is that this question remains high on the list in 2022. The recent publication of the Film Français cover [which featured seven prominent French film figures, all men, under the headline “Objective: Reconquest”] was a stark reminder to me that inequality in the industry is deep-seated and significant progress still needs to be made. In terms of my own career, having grown up in a country frequently run by women, it admittedly did take some adjustment upon arrival in Europe in the early 2000’s. Ultimately however, I strongly believe that strong work ethic and authenticity will more than often prevail, and women should not feel like they need to endorse so-called masculine qualities to succeed. We are all different, and must lean into our strengths, rather than feeling an obligation to camouflage who we are just to be heard.”

Five years on from #MeToo, what impact do you think the movement has had on the business and you personally?

“Some ‘best practices’ arising from the movement seem to have finally infused the workplace. I do sense that one is now more empowered to call out unacceptable behavior in the workplace and that support networks are more visible across the industry. It is however, up to each and every one of us to continue to set a good example and create a positive, more respectful work environment than perhaps we’d seen in the past.”

What advice would you give young women just entering the industry?

“Stay true to your beliefs and values. Be brave, be bold, and try to support other like-minded ladies. Future generations quite literally depend on women giving other women opportunities to make a difference. And do not forget the words of Michelle Obama: ‘No one is born smart. You become smart through hard work.’”

What do you watch for pleasure?

“None other than the greatest movie(s) of all time… Paul King’s Paddington 1 & 2! It was such a privilege for Studiocanal to produce, distribute and finance the Paddington movies with Heyday, and to have duplicated the success thereafter with the Emmy winning animated series The Adventures of Paddington.”

Anne Mensah

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Anne Mensah VP Original Series, Netflix (U.K.)
COURTESY OF BSKYB / ANDI SOUTHAM

VP Original Series, Netflix (U.K.)

Based in London, BBC and Sky veteran Mensah oversees all Netflix U.K. series commissions and has built relationships with creatives for the streamer since 2018, bringing audiences such hits as Sex Education and BAFTA- and Emmy-winning drama The Crown. Her recent commissions include The Gentlemen, produced and directed by Guy Ritchie, based on his film of the same name, and the series Kaos, described as a darkly comedic and contemporary reimagining of Greek mythology. For young women entering the industry, she advises, “We spend a lot of time talking about mentors and hierarchy, but we sometimes forget that your peer group can be a huge source of long-term support. They will know the real you through numerous jobs and will help you find your own voice in the long run.”

What show, currently on air, would you love to have made?

Hacks — without a doubt. I have not been as obsessed with a show in years. I think it’s perfection in writing, acting and directing. All round brilliance. My sadness is that I watched season two too quickly. I should have stretched it out.”

What advice would you give young women just entering the industry?

“If you can, find your gang, your peer group that you trust to cheer you on when you are up and catch you when you are down. The ones you can laugh with, debate with and occasionally despair with. We spend a lot of time talking about mentors and hierarchy, but I think we sometimes forget that your peer group can be a huge source of long-term support. They will know the real you through numerous jobs and will help you find your own voice in the long run. A friend of mine calls it our Parliament of Owls, and my Parliament helps me massively.”

Charlotte Moore

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Charlotte Moore Chief Content Officer, BBC (U.K.)
COURTESY OF SUBJECT/BBC

Chief Content Officer, BBC (U.K.)

One of the most powerful and highly respected figures in U.K. and global TV, Moore oversees all of the U.K. public broadcaster’s TV, radio, sports, education and children’s content and has championed the BBC’s drive for increased diversity. She has also focused on growing video streamer iPlayer and audio service BBC Sounds and has had success with such dramas as This Is Going to HurtThe Responder and The Capture, with the final season of Happy Valley still to come. Asked about her biggest achievement of the past year, Moore says: “I’ve transformed our commissioning structure to create a digital-led BBC that puts audiences first, resulting in a record-breaking year for iPlayer and continued growth.”

What needs to be done to improve equality and diversity within the industry?

“We’ve made huge progress on screen, but the focus for broadcasters and producers has to be diversity and inclusion behind the camera. If we want our programs to reflect the audiences we serve, we have to nurture diverse voices and recruit more people from under-represented groups. From costume designers and editors to location managers and casting, we need to develop and progress diverse talent across the industry.”

What advice would you give young women entering the industry?

“There’s never been a more exciting time to work in the industry and there have never been so many impressive women in senior roles. We may not have achieved equality yet, but embrace the progress we’ve made, be fearless and don’t limit yourself.”  

Jennifer Mullin

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Jennifer Mullin CEO, Fremantle (U.K.)
COURTESY OF SUBJECT

CEO, Fremantle (U.K.)

As head of Fremantle, by some measures the world’s largest independent TV production outfit, Mullin is inarguably one of the most powerful execs in global TV. The past year has seen Fremantle go on a buying spree, snatching up such boutique production houses as Ireland’s Element Pictures (Conversations With FriendsThe Favourite) and Italy’s Lux Vide (Medici) and signing talent like Angelina Jolie, Kenneth Branagh, Jimmy Fallon, Penélope Cruz, and Italian auteurs Paolo Sorrentino and Luca Guadagnino. From its entertainment TV roots — Fremantle still produces such flagship shows as Idol and Got Talent — the company has become a power player in big-screen drama, with a 2022 slate that includes some 30 movies, including Guadagnino’s Bones and All and Cruz starrer L’Immensità

What is or has been the greatest challenge in being a woman in this (still very male-dominated) industry? 
“I don’t view challenges through the lens of my gender. The pandemic, of course, was a recent challenge and the state of the global economy and industry disruption are ongoing issues to contend with.”   
  
Five years on from #MeToo, what impact do you think the movement has had on the business and you personally? 

“It raised awareness that was necessary and reframed the conversation from all sides of the table.  I have always championed women and would like to think the movement did create more opportunities. Equally important, #MeToo sent the message that bad behavior, of any kind will not be tolerated.”     

What needs to be done to improve equality and diversity within the industry? 

“Honestly, quite a lot. At Fremantle, we are invested in doing our part, in our teams and on our shows, but it needs everyone’s investment and commitment to create a truly diverse and equitable industry.”   

What show, currently on air, would you love to have made? 

“So many I would love to have a hand in making, but I will go with The Crown.”   

Cathy Payne

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Cathy Payne CEO, Banijay Rights (France)
COURTESY OF SUBJECT

CEO, Banijay Rights (France)

As the head of global television sales giant Banijay Rights, the Australian-born, Paris-based Payne has been a leader in expanding into the new business of advertising-backed video-on-demand, or AVOD, launching Banijay-branded channels backed by the company’s enormous catalog of 130,000-plus hours of programming, from nonscripted blockbusters Deal or No Deal and The Biggest Loser to high-end drama series such as The Woman in White. When it comes to improving equality and diversity across the industry, Payne’s personal focus is on overcoming unconscious bias, where “we still have a long way to go.” But she remains optimistic. “As probably the greatest woman of our life- time (the late Queen Elizabeth II) said, small changes often bring about the biggest change.”

What is or has been the greatest challenge in being a woman in this (still very male-dominated) industry? 

“The industry has changed for the better over the years with more female representation — and we see that women run many of the big international distribution groups presently, including at Banijay, All3Media and ITV Studios. That said, there’s always more work to be done. I found a big breakthrough for me came in the form of self-belief and pushing through imposter syndrome. I had fabulous mentors who helped me realize that ability within me was real. It’s important to constantly invest in the next generation.”  

Five years on from #MeToo, what impact do you think the movement has had on the business and you personally? 

“I would sum it up as a very well-engrained responsibility: a responsibility to call out, to ensure situations are not created where those more vulnerable are at risk, and to provide meaningful channels and appropriate forums for those who experience any difficulties to speak out. It’s about leading by example. #MeToo-related issues were never acceptable — and those learnings cannot be forgotten.”       
  
What advice would you give young women just entering the industry? 

“Be clear on your goals and objectives, know your strengths and areas to improve, seek out good mentors for advice and, importantly, share with your peers and encourage their success.”       
 
What do you watch for pleasure? 

“I watch very broad audience popular shows — whether that be large sports games or big reality/entertainment brands. I have never lost my fascination on how a television program can engage a huge audience.” 

What show, currently on air, would you love to have made? 

Ted Lasso – it hits so many themes. A great feel-good laugh out loud comedy.”  

Aparna Purohit

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Aparna Purohit Head of India Originals, Amazon (India)
COURTESY OF AMAZON PRIME VIDEO INDIA

Head of India Originals, Amazon (India)

Purohit’s first job in the entertainment business was as a radio DJ in New Delhi, hosting a show about cinema — a gig that allowed her to “save enough money to move to Mumbai to pursue my dream to work in film.” Eventually, she found her place as a creative producer with a five-year stint at Mumbai Mantra Media. In 2016, she joined Amazon Prime Video as the company’s India head of creative development, later being upped to the role of head of India originals. Despite the heavy setbacks Indian entertainment faced during the darkest days of the pandemic, Purohit has helped the company emerge from that moment into a position of strength in 2022. “While the physical production had to be put on hold, we doubled down on development of new ideas and stories, and ensured that our writers rooms in multiple languages continued to function,” she explains. “Thanks to this, just earlier this year we announced that we will release over 40 new series, movies and co-productions across different Indian languages over the next two years.”

What advice would you give young women just entering the industry?

“My advice to the younger generation is quite simple: Don’t accept the ‘norms’ — assert yourself. ‘Choose’ not to accept status-quo — be it lesser pay, or lesser job responsibilities or being passed over for promotion at work because of gender bias at the workplace. Don’t be afraid to be seen or heard. Be persistent. Believe in yourself, in your self-worth. Grab the opportunities you get like they belong to you. Also, make learning a continuous process. Learning, unlearning and relearning is the key. Just when you feel you have perfected something, the 2.0 version of that is in the market and it’s time to learn all over again.” 

What do you watch for pleasure?

“I like to watch anything and everything. I like to keep an eye on the new, emerging trends — what’s keeping the youth engaged, what is the conversation at the water cooler, which new film/show is being discussed on social media. But my comfort watch is a good old classic romance.”

What show, currently on air, would you love to have made?

“There are a lot of great shows out there from all over the world. And streaming has really spoiled us for choice. There are quite a few of my personal favorites that I would have loved to localize for our Indian audiences, but one that really stands out for me personally is The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. The storyline is really innovative. It is multi-genre, from comedy to relationship drama, all so beautifully interwoven into a single story. We see the female protagonist, a homemaker and mother of two, looking to break through gender biases and follow her dream of becoming a stand-up comedian, a relatively unheard-of career for women in the times the show is set in. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel reflects the finer nuances of personal relationships, of women empowerment, while being rib-tickling funny and hilarious.

The other one that is my all-time favorite is The Wire — it’s choice of themes, portrayal of inter-personal relationships, diversity of cast, a commentary on societal inequalities and a throbbing, pulsating city at the centre of it all. I would have loved to be associated with that show.”

What do you do to unwind?

“Well, I like to have my moments of silence. I am an avid walker, which helps to declutter my mind. I also like to travel a lot, especially to the mountains. Away from the hustle bustle of the city, the calm and tranquility not only rejuvenates and reinvigorates but also opens up several new windows in my mind.  And, of course, I love watching reruns of my favorite shows and movies on Prime Video!”

Christina Sulebakk

Christina Sulebakk H 2022 1
Christina Sulebakk General Manager Nordics, Warner Bros. Discovery (Denmark)
COURTESY OF MICHAEL LANGHOFF

General Manager Nordics, Warner Bros. Discovery (Denmark)

Esteemed international TV exec Sulebakk has weathered the storm that has shook Warner Bros. Discovery over the past months, emerging as one of the major execs still standing at the newly merged media giant. In June, she shifted from running HBO Max across the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region to a new position as Warner Bros. Discovery general manager Nordics, overseeing all of the studio’s Scandinavian operations including HBO Max, Discovery+ and Danish pay TV channel Kanal 5, as well as the marketing and monetization of WBD content in the region across all platforms, from theatrical and home entertainment through licensing, consumer products and video games.

What was the biggest professional challenge you faced this past year?

Merging two of the best-known companies in entertainment was always going to bring with it challenges, as it involves bringing together the best elements of the two. That said, for me moving into my new role overseeing the whole Warner Bros. Discovery business in the Nordics has given me a chance to see first-hand how this merger creates an incredible proposition for consumers across linear, streaming, theatrical and more. I am enjoying the challenges associated with moving into a newly formed and multi layered role, like setting our vision and strategy for the region, but I am excited by the things we will be able to achieve together.

What needs to be done to improve equality and diversity within the industry?

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are among the key priorities of the new company, with Asif Sadiq, our Chief DE&I Officer reporting directly to the CEO David Zaslav. Ensuring that you have someone at the senior leadership level to make sure that company strategies and priorities are compatible with attracting and nurturing diverse talent is essential.

What advice would you give young women just entering the industry?

Work hard, be honest in everything you do and don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Remember that you don’t learn how to swim by reading books and you will need to throw yourself out in deep water to test your swimming skill from time to time during your career.

Karen Thorne-Stone

Print 30 Powerful Women in Global Entertainment Karen Thorne Stone H 2022
Karen Thorne-Stone
COURTESY OF ADAM PULICICCHI

CEO, Ontario Creates (Canada)

Having joined Ontario Creates in 2007, Thorne-Stone has overseen investments in Ontario’s creative industries and driven efforts to market the province to Hollywood studios and streamers as a foreign location destination for producing originals. Her success led Ontario’s film and TV industry to a record $2.88 billion in overall production spending in 2021, of which foreign and mostly Hollywood production topped $1.9 billion. “Ontario has always had an extremely diverse population,” she says, “but we are finally making good progress toward ensuring that the content we fund, and the creators who make it, reflect that diversity and that all voices are included.”

What was your first job in the business?

“I came to this business mid-career.  As the Executive Director of Economic Development for the City of Toronto, I led the development of a Screen Industries Strategy for the City.  From there, I became the City of Toronto’s first Film Commissioner.  It was an exciting time as we worked to create a business friendly environment for the film and television sector.”

What needs to be done to improve equality and diversity within the industry?

“Decision makers need to be very intentional in what gets supported. Funders and incentives must require diversity in content and the teams that make it; not just at the entry level, but by supporting career progression. Traditional models of seniority in hiring must be replaced by merit and equality based criteria.”

What current industry trend do you hope to soon see the back of?

“I hope to see independent producers retain more control of their intellectual property; keeping the responsibility and control for optimizing its value and reaching new audiences.”

What advice would you give young women just entering the industry?

“Be clear about your goals and confident in your abilities. Listen, watch and learn — from the approach, successes, and failures of others.  Seize opportunities when they are presented to you; even if they feel ambitious or not exactly on target for your career; sometimes great things come from unexpected experiences. Find a mentor, or two, to advise you, challenge you, and support you.”

What do you do to unwind?

“I turn off my screens, pour a glass of wine, and read a book.”

Jane Tranter

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Jane Tranter Co-founder, Bad Wolf (U.K.)
MIKE MARSLAND/WIREIMAGE

Co-founder, Bad Wolf (U.K.)

Tranter is coming off the biggest year in the history of her Wales-based production studio, Bad Wolf, with the third and final seasons of hugely ambitious fantasy series His Dark Materials for HBO and BBC and A Discovery of Witches for Sky; the second seasons of HBO Max’s Industry and Sky’s I Hate Suzie; and new projects, including the 10-part epic The Winter King, based on Bernard Cornwell’s best-selling Warlord Chronicles books, and Russell T. Davies’ new Doctor Who series. Tranter believes the TV industry needs to incorporate “greater flexibility and think more laterally and objectively” to embrace differences and find ways to “create jobs so that a wider spectrum of people can bring different perspectives to TV.”

What is or has been the greatest challenge in being a woman in this (still very male-dominated) industry?

“The industry has needed to embrace greater flexibility and think more laterally, logically and inclusively about a work-life balance for women and parents, as well as for people from different socio-economic backgrounds. And additionally bearing mental health concerns for all in mind as well. We may have made inroads into a healthier working environment but there is still a lot to achieve.” 

What needs to be done to improve equality and diversity within the industry?

“A totally lateral and objective view of how to embrace difference. We shouldn’t be looking at how to get people with different abilities into existing jobs but thinking about how to create jobs so that a wider spectrum of people can bring different perspectives to TV.” 

What current industry trend do you hope to soon see the back of?

“Diversity as box ticking. I want to see diverse stories, not just secondary cast used to make up quotas.”

What advice would you give young women just entering the industry?

“Work hard, but understand why you are working hard. Enjoy it, as that’s the only way you’ll get to do your best work. Never underestimate your own opinions or feelings and learn how to best articulate this combination of your intellect, gut and heart. Know that you have just as much right to be here as anyone else, no matter where you have come from.” 

What do you watch for pleasure?

Ted Lasso.” 

What show, currently on air, would you love to have made?

“I am afraid I have to have two: In My Skin season one and In My Skin season two. But also It’s A Sin.  (So that’s actually three….).” 

Jane Turton

Jane Turton CEO All3Media
Jane Turton, CEO, All3Media
@ALL3MEDIA

CEO, All3Media (U.K.)

As CEO of All3Media, Turton oversees a global production and distribution powerhouse comprising more than 40 production and sales outfits across Europe, the U.S. and New Zealand and a slate that includes such British scripted series as global hits Call the Midwife, and Midsomer Murders, and the International Emmy winner Des starring David Tennant. Her advice to young women starting out? “At the start of your career, gain as broad a base of experience as possible. It’s invaluable. Meet as many people as you can, ask for advice, ask questions, do your research. You can specialize later but will never be able to learn the breadth of the media as effectively as when you are starting out.”

What do you see as your biggest achievement of the past year?

“2021 was a record-breaking year for All3Media with record revenues of well over $1 billion, up 32 percent year on year. Revenue from streamers was up by more than 40 percent, driven by non-scripted and documentaries, and we also had strong sales from our formats with titles including GoggleboxThe Traitors and Lingo, success in scripted with great dramas such as Call the Midwife, The Larkins and The Tourist. Our digital business, Little Dot Studios, expanded its media network by 50 percent and launched 10 new channels. It has 6000 titles, reaching 25 million YouTube subscribers globally a year.”

Kayo Washio

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Kayo Washio Head of U.S. Operations, Wowow (Japan)
COURTESY OF SUBJECT

Head of U.S. Operations, Wowow (Japan)

Washio began her career at Wowow, Japan’s leading pay TV broadcaster, with double duties: She worked in the company’s sales division, taking titles to international markets, and she acted as an interviewer for Wowow’s movie channel, hosting sit-downs with A-list Hollywood stars as they introduced their projects to the Japanese audience. As her relationships in the U.S. flourished, she arranged for Wowow to co-produce a number of prestigious documentary projects, such as Martin Scorsese’s The New York Review of Books: A 50 Year Argument and Robert Redford and Wim Wenders’ six-part TV series Cathedrals of Culture. Washio also got Wowow involved in co-producing high-profile Hollywood titles, such as HBO Max’s Japan-set yakuza thriller Tokyo Vice, which was recently renewed for a second season. Of her proudest achievements over the past year, Washio says she was gratified to see lobbying efforts to the Japanese government pay off, with Tokyo Vice receiving a first-of-its-kind $700,000 location incentive, but most of all that the Japanese audience found the show to be culturally authentic — still a rarity for much Japan-set Hollywood content.

Five years on from #MeToo, what impact do you think the movement has had on the business and you personally?

“The possibility to be able to work unencumbered in the Hollywood community was realized, which I was not able to imagine before.”

What needs to be done to improve equality and diversity within your industry?

“This requires a long answer, especially in our industry in Japan. There are so many elements to be improved. The production system in Japan is so different from in the US. I believe working conditions need to be addressed and improved first. The Japanese government should create new rules and have a clear system in place to invite foreign productions. There should also be union rules to educate local crew that will then educate Japanese productions.”

What advice would you give young women just entering the industry?

“Encountering the right people and timing is the key, although we cannot control that, we must make daily efforts to seize the opportunities. Your collective experiences will be your asset.”

What do you watch for pleasure?

“My favorite film of the year is definitely Top Gun: Maverick. I’ve watched it three times at theaters both in Japan and the US.”

Emiko Iijima (THR’s Top International Woman Executive in Entertainment)

Emiko Iijima headshot template H 2022
EMIKO IIJIMA VP Anime Production, Crunchyroll (Japan)
COURTESY OF SUBJECT

VP Anime Production, Crunchyroll (Japan)

Iijima might just be the Peggy Olson of the Japanese anime world. She began her career in the secretarial pool at Tokyo anime studio Pierrot, the creator of several world-famous anime series like NarutoBleach and Tokyo Ghoul. Iijima would spend a decade as a secretary at the company, but she also distinguished herself as the studio’s only employee fully fluent in English, an ability that opened the door to taking on an additional role helping out with the then-nascent international distribution business. “I did well with that, so then I was asked to do international sales as well,” she remembers. “Then I started including domestic distribution responsibilities as well. Eventually, I was overseeing the merchandising division — and I was put in charge of a subsidiary company in China.”

Iijima’s climb through the ranks of the Japanese anime industry happened to coincide with a revolution in the content category’s global popularity. During her early days, she and her colleagues would travel to the U.S. to compete against other Tokyo studios to sell a single Pierrot title to Cartoon Network for the one or two slots the cable channel reserved for anime. “Today, Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon are all coming to Japan to chase us for as many of the best anime titles as they can get. It’s a change I couldn’t have imagined 20 years ago,” she adds. What was once a niche curiosity has become one of the hottest categories among Gen Z youth on a global basis, reflected in the blockbuster box office receipts that top anime hits earn in cinemas (Demon Slayer: The Movie pulled in $447 million in 2020) and the soaring prices the streamers are willing to pay for the most pedigreed series.

After nearly 25 years, Iijima left Pierrot in 2019 to join U.S.-based Funimation, which later merged with Crunchyroll in a $1.2 billion Sony acquisition to become the world’s largest anime specialty service. “When I was at Pierrot, part of my job was to find the best international foster parents for our IP. I found that Funimation was consistently the best parent — taking the most care to market and distribute our titles effectively.” Later, she decided to join the streamer — “to more deeply explore and contribute to anime’s international potential,” she says. Today, Iijima heads up Crunchyroll’s co-production division, working with top anime studios and creators in Japan to co-produce original anime films and series for the company to stream exclusively.

In much the same way that anime’s audience has diversified globally, change has finally begun to arrive within the industry’s production ranks, too. When Iijima began her career in anime in the 1990s, it was rare to find a woman outside of a secretary role. Although she acknowledges that women remain rare among the very top executive ranks, Iijima says “there are more and more high-level female producers and team leaders who are thriving.”

She offers this advice to young women launching their careers in the anime industry today: “When you are starting out, don’t be constrained by what you think your own preferences are. Accept every assignment and challenge without hesitation. Do it and find a way to learn from it. Eventually, this path will lead you to a landscape you couldn’t have imagined.”

Article Credit: The Hollywood Reporter. Publication Date & Time: OCTOBER 7, 2022 9:45AM

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