Courtesy of 20th Century Studios
Asbell, who succeeded Emma Watts in the top job last March, welcomes a slew of pedigreed creatives to his team including Sarah Shepard, Brian Dukes, Rashonda Joplin and Catherine Hughes.
“They are all stellar executives, and we’re fortunate to have them on board at a pivotal moment in our studio’s history, as we prepare to greatly expand our streaming output alongside our slate of theatrical films,” Asbell told Variety.
The upcoming 20th slate includes the Ryan Reynolds comedy action film “Free Guy,” the ensemble murder mystery “Death on the Nile,” “The King’s Man” and Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story.” The four new hires complement a creative team that includes Scott Aversano, J. R. Young and Colin Greten.
Shepard joins 20th as senior vice president of production, moving over from a VP role in original scripted content at Disney Plus. There she worked on projects across Disney-owned content engines like Walt Disney Studios, Pixar Animation, Marvel and Lucasfilm. Before Burbank, she served as co-president of George Clooney and Grant Heslov’s Smokehouse Pictures, where she worked on titles including “Trial By Media” and “On Becoming a God in Central Florida.”
Dukes has been named vice president of production at 20th. Starting at CAA as an assistant, Dukes went on to serve as an executive at Sony’s Screen Gems label, where he worked under longtime head Clint Culpepper and current president Steve Bersch. Projects in his portfolio included the Emma Stone classic “Easy A,” the “Resident Evil” action horror franchise, Kate Beckinsale’s “Underworld” films and the “Think Like a Man” series.
Joplin will serve as production director. She hails from the Georgia Film Commission office where she assisted productions coming through Savannah. From there, she joined management company Collective Digital Studio where she launched and wrote content for platforms tied to names like Shay Mitchell (“Pretty Little Liars,” the Netflix adaptation of Caroline Kepnes’ “You” books) and Bethany Mota. She’s also done stints at Studio 71, working on scripted content for stars like Dwayne Johnson and Ben Stiller. Most recently she served as director of scripted development at MGM Studios, where she shepherded untapped voices and launched the studio’s first digital series starring LaKeith Stanfield.
Hughes has been named 20th’s manager of creative affairs. She was most recently a manager of scripted original content at Disney Plus, where she worked on multiple productions across film and TV leading up to and through the platform’s launch. Prior to that, she worked at Chernin Entertainment, having come from Paradigm Talent Agency.
Variety's Matt Donnelly contributed to this post