Ben Stiller

Ben Stiller: The Hollywood A-lister added a digital arm to his Red Hour production company and has churned out web series, such as Stiller and Meara on Hulu and Burning Love, a spoof of The Bachelor that after becoming a hit on Yahoo was picked up by E! to run as a half-hour TV show.

Sarah Silverman

Sarah Silverman: The edgy comedian known for making viral political videos is now putting her digital energy into JASH, a YouTube-funded comedy channel launched with comedy producer Daniel Kellison, indie darling Michael Cera, and other comedy veterans.

Michael Cera

Michael Cera: Now a partner in the YouTube-funded comedy channel JASH, Cera was an early digital pioneer, who has been shooting, writing, and producing his own online videos since 2006. In 2007, his web series with Clark Duke, Clark and Michael, was picked up by CBS’ online channel.

Keyvan Peymani

Keyvan Peymani: Last summer, ICM Partners hired Peymani from Warner Bros. to lead its newly created Digital Strategy Division. Ever since, the Netflix alum has been refocusing ICM’s digital strategy, making it less about representing online talent and more about broader investments in startups and other tech ventures.

Michael Yanover

Michael Yanover: As head of business development at CAA, Yanover has led the agency’s foray into founding and incubating tech startups, such as Moonshark, WhoSay, and--the biggest success to date--Funny or Die.

Brent Weinstein

Brent Weinstein: As head of Digital Media at UTA, Weinstein has steered the agency deeper into what he calls the “ventures business.” This includes helping TV producer and film director Brian Robbins create the online media company Awesomeness TV; and incubating tech startups like Shop Hers.

Jeremy Zimmer

Jeremy Zimmer: The UTA cofounder and CEO was the first agency honcho to create a digital division back in 2003. More recently he has become personally involved in digital ventures, investing in startups like AwesomenessTV and GoldRun.

Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell

Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell: Last year, the co-CEO’s of William Morris Endeavor made the decision to sell a 31% stake of the company to the Menlo Park-based private-equity firm Silver Lake Partners, to help the agency focus more aggressively on tech opportunities. Among the startups that WME has invested in are Uber, Chill, and TheAudience.

Matt Mazzeo

Matt Mazzeo: The former business development executive at CAA was recently hired to run angel investor Chris Sacca’s digital entertainment fund, Lowercase Stampede.

Natalie Bruss

Natalie Bruss: As head of digital strategy for the publicity powerhouse ID, Bruss helps Hollywood clients maximize their digital prowess. She worked with Ben Stiller back when he was new to Facebook, and strategized Pee-wee Herman’s comeback via Twitter.

Brian Robbins

Brian Robbins: The producer of TV shows like Smallville, and the director of Norbit, Robbins has made an impressive segue from mainstream media veteran to digital guy. His YouTube-funded channel AwesomenessTV has over 87 million viewers, and Robbins recently made a deal to adapt some of the channel’s web series into shows on Nickelodeon.

Steve Raymond & Sarah Penna

Steve Raymond & Sarah Penna: In 2009, Raymond and Penna created Big Frame, one of the biggest YouTube networks. The company helps YouTube talent like MysteryGuitarMan (Penna’s husband) grow their audiences and build their business through branding, and creates channels such as BAMMO.

Michael Green

Michael Green: The former talent manager cofounded The Collective, the digital management and production company that represents YouTube sensations such as Lucas Cruikshank and Epic Meal Time.

Jordan Levin

Jordan Levin: The former CEO of the WB network is now president of Alloy Digital, which rolls up popular YouTube channels such as Smosh and Clevver.

R.J. Williams

R.J. Williams: The former child star runs Young Hollywood, one of the most successful YouTube-funded channels. The E!-like site is must-see-viewing for celeb-obsessed teens and tweens.

Robert Kyncl & Alex Carloss

Robert Kyncl & Alex Carloss: YouTube’s global head of content and global head of entertainment, respectively, have led the company’s aggressive Hollywood initiative. Since 2011, they’ve worked with content creators to create original channels that YouTube has lavishly funded, spending over $100 million to date.

Harley Morenstein

Harley Morenstein: The 6-foot-6 Canadian is behind Epic Meal Time, a Jackass-in-the-kitchen cooking network on YouTube (think 20-inch bacon sandwiches doused in maple syrup) that has garnered over 4 million subscribers.

Matt Kozlov

Matt Kozlov: The 30-year-old CEO of Moonshark, a mobile game company created and incubated by CAA. The company uses celebrity star power to juice apps like DancePad, featuring music by stars like JLo, and Stan Lee’s Verticus.

Jaclyn Shanfeld

Jaclyn Shanfeld: The 29-year-old CEO of Shop Hers, which lets people buy clothes from one another’s closets. United Talent Agency helped launch the startup, a prime case of Hollywood’s broader definition of entertainment.

Darcy Antonellis

Darcy Antonellis: As Warner Bros.’s chief technology officer, Antonellis oversees a team that, besides handling the digital aspects of movie rollouts, holds regular Hackathons, resulting in apps like Out My Window.

Ed Leonard

Ed Leonard: Last year, the former CTO of DreamWorks Animation stepped down to pursue a more entrepreneurial project--becoming CEO of Ptch, an iOS app that allows users to create their own music videos. Ptch was incubated inside DreamWorks, though it operates independently from the studio. All 15 Ptch employees own equity in the company and work in an office that was formerly basement storage space.

Stewart Hendler

Stewart Hendler: A film and commercials director, Hendler has been spending more time directing web series lately, proving how blurry the line is becoming between traditional and digital media. He directed H+ as well as Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, a 90-minute prequel to the universe established in the video game. He says that making the web series "felt very much like any legit, mainstream TV production."

Jason U. Nadler

Jason U. Nadler: The former digital agent at the United Talent Agency cofounded Serious Business, a new media company that is bridging the gap between traditional and digital media--creating what Nadler calls “Internetainment.” An example: Braindex, an iPad app that sets up an interactive battle of wits with celeb guests, including Mike Tyson, who play along with users on their touchscreens, answering multiple-choice trivia questions.

George Ruiz

George Ruiz: After stepping down from ICM Partners, where he represented online stars like Felicia Day and Dane Boedigheimer (The Annoying Orange), Ruiz founded Intelligent Artists, a new media company that manages talent and produces content for the digital age.

27 Leading Characters In Hollywood's Big Digital Play

A cast of leading stars, producers, agents, and studio execs are digitally disrupting their business, before the digital business disrupts it for them.

In 2012, for the first time, Americans watched more movies via the Internet (through Netflix, Amazon, and Apple's iTunes Store) than they did buying and renting physical DVDs. Apps like Angry Birds have become as profitable (on a cost-to-revenue ratio) as blockbuster franchises like The Dark Knight.

And now a group of forward-thinking stars, producers, agents, and studio executives are going digital—lest digital displace them.

Their timing couldn't be better. Global smartphone and tablet apps were an $11.7 billion market in 2012, according to Forrester Research, a total larger than the U.S. box office. If apps follow their predicted trajectory to a $38 billion business by 2015, they will surpass global movie ticket sales, which inched up slightly in 2011 (the last reported data) to $32.6 billion. As a result, Hollywood currently seems more interested in discovering the next Instagram—which in 18 months went from launch to acquisition by Facebook for $715 million—than in finding the next Channing Tatum.

Click through a gallery of leaders above. And read about the Rebels Saving Hollywood in Fast Company's April cover story here.

Add New Comment