Those hoping for the backstabbing, strewn-bodies bravado associated with a previous generation of Hollywood power broker might have been let down by the Hollywood Reporter's "Next Gen" bash at the Avalon, a tribute to the trade paper's special issue on the entertainment industry's top 35 executives under 35 years old. They proved more puppyish than pitiless.
While one observer thought the young agents, managers and producers were "on good behavior or they'll get scolded back at the office," most of them seemed genuinely flummoxed by the recognition, striding with heads down past the phalanx of photographers, who didn't recognize anyone anyway.
"I'm overwhelmed," said New Line VP Guy Stodel, who looked to friends to see if this were the right response. "How about, 'I'm just a flunky kid from South Africa. Wow!' Is that good?"
"We're so proud of you," said his friends, nodding.
Sure, there was networking: There was Microsoft's J Allard suggesting to Revolution Studios' Marc Evans that they "swap offices for a week." There was literary manager/producer Mikkel Bondesen, a towering figure in a white linen tunic top (he's Danish) amid a sea of straight-from-work dark suits, embracing fellow honorees and professing, "I'm a gregarious person, and I actually genuinely like the people that I get to work with."
"The dirty little secret of this business is that it's fun," said Aaron Ray, a 1999 Next Gen pick, who'd come in support of his friend ICM agent Jim Osborne. OK, but wasn't there anything cutthroat about moving up the ranks?
"Well, yes. It's so competitive, starting in the mailroom," said Osborne, being jostled by a crowd that came early, stayed late, drank chocolate martinis and wiped out six stations of catered food at the Nov. 4 event. "I had to eat that humble pie, get people's dry cleaning."
How did he swallow it? "With difficulty."
While a gathering of random Angelenos would likely net a dozen wannabe directors, only one of the 35, MTV's Jesse Ignjatovic, professed to want to direct feature films. And still, snuggled on a low couch with his wife, Christine, he didn't seem ready for exposure. "To see my picture on the cover and to read what I'd said, and even this, it's ... it's hard," Ignjatovic said. "I'm not into being in front of the camera."
Just when one was lulled into thinking a kinder, gentler Industry was cresting, there was a 2003 honoree, watching as names of former Next Gen recipients scrolled down a big screen, saying aloud: "He was my lawyer. Didn't do anything for me.... She doesn't return my calls.... I gave him a client...."