The Creative Capitalists
These tastemaking financiers are working inside and outside the Hollywood studio system to fund—and make—great films.

The screenwriter William Goldman famously said of Hollywood, "Nobody knows anything." It's why most movies, in fact, fail. But when you love film, value craft, and have learned what makes a business work from a father who's been an innovator in his field, you have a shot at beating the odds. David Ellison, CEO of Los Angeles–based Skydance Productions (and son of Oracle CEO Larry), is committed to making artistically challenging blockbusters, like the upcoming reboot of Terminator. "I don't believe creativity and commerciality are mutually exclusive," says Ellison, pointing to films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind: "Great little character movies inside a large canvas that appealed to the masses."

Resolute New Yorker Andrew Lauren (son of fashion mogul Ralph) is happy to keep a continent between himself and the movie industry. He's built his rep championing small films considered commercially unviable by the studios, like this summer's critical darling The Spectacular Now. "There are those in Hollywood who say, 'You made $20 million, that's not a business,'" Lauren says. "I'm like, 'Sure it is—when you make the film for $3 million.'"

Andrew Lauren, 44 (pictured, above)
Credit Check: The Squid and the Whale, The Spectacular Now; upcoming: The Carrion Birds
The East Coast Model: "Moderate- and lower-budget films get to the heart of what the culture is about. I'm not sure the studios can do that anymore. It's all about 'What toys can we market? Will it play internationally?'"

David Ellison, 31
Credit Check: Star Trek Into Darkness, World War Z; upcoming: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Terminator
His Animated Blueprint: "I've always admired what Steve Jobs did at Pixar. Everything was in service of story—nothing else mattered."

• • •

Piracy Pays Off
Remember when online piracy was a bad thing? It did blow up the music business, and expectations were high that the TV industry would suffer the same fate. But blimey if your smarter-than-average exec hasn't found an upside to hornswoggling. In August, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes called piracy of HBO's Game of Thrones "better than an Emmy" for cultural buzz, marketing HBO's brand, and seeding a growing fan base who then pay to see the Khaleesi live. Sure enough, Thrones—2012's most pirated show—saw a ratings surge in 2013. In September, AMC's series finale of Breaking Bad scored 10.28 million viewers—a 267 percent bump over 2012, credited in part to viewers' racing to catch up via pirating platforms. For Kelly Merryman, VP of content acquisition at Netflix (home to pirate favorite Orange Is the New Black), piracy is like free focus groups, for both licensing and producing content: "With the purchase of a series, we look at what does well on piracy sites," she said in September. Seems Hollywood is learning what pirates knew all along: There be profit in plundering.

• • •

The 2013 Hollywood Mavericks

The Transformer

The New Kings of Doc

The Antiestablishment Exec

The Dynamic Duos

The Soundtrack Wizard

The Netflix Natives

The Cutting-Edge Comedians

The Character Actresses

The Crowdsourcer

The Creative Capitalists

The Prestige Producer

The Rookie Filmmakers

The Indie Auteur