For entertainment attorney Susan Zuckerman Williams, the question isn’t which independent film companies she’s worked with on their financing, but which companies she hasn’t.
In her 22 years at Loeb and Loeb, the L.A.-based lawyer has been involved in $4 billion worth of financial transactions, including, most recently, the multimillion-dollar launches, capitalizations or debt financing of such companies as Vendome Pictures, Summit Entertainment, the Film Dept., Cold Spring Pictures, Radar Pictures, Spyglass, MRC and DreamWorks.
Born and bred in Toronto, Williams went to USC Law School in 1983. “If you had said that I was going to go be the entertainment partner at Loeb and Loeb, I would have said you were crazy,” she recalls. “I was going to be a banking lawyer, because I didn’t realize I could marry finance with movies and television. I’ve always loved movies.”
Being from tax-incentivized Canada also contributed to her being Loeb and Loeb’s tax incentive guru. “Everyone said, ‘Susan’s Canadian, she can do it,'” recalls Williams, who has recently worked on soft-money funds for such films as “Law Abiding Citizen,” “The Tempest” and “New York, I Love You.”
Another Canadian asset: “She’s very nice, honest and trustworthy,” says Lionsgate exec VP Wendy Jaffe, who recently conducted negotiations with Williams for their deal with Relativity Media. “Every time a difficult issue comes up, she is very smart and reasonable when it comes to working out solutions, And she’s not one of those lawyers you think is hiding something.”
Williams’ acuity and directness is lauded in her business — she was recently named best lawyer — entertainment law in the 2010 edition of “The Best Lawyers in America.”
For Williams, one of those hurdles involves being a working mother. “It’s difficult, because you always feel like something is pulling on you,” she says. “But fortunately I have a 13-year-old daughter who does her homework with me in the office.”
IN A NUTSHELL
Job title: Partner, Entertainment Dept., Loeb and Loeb
Mentor: Loeb and Loeb’s Mickey Mayerson, who taught her “how to understand the business concerns facing your client; it’s not just about the legal issues” and “not (being) daunted by new forms of financing that come to the business, but to just dive in and learn it.”
Career mantra: “Have the courage of your convictions.”
Leisure pursuits: “Spending time with my daughter” and watching movies.
Philanthropic passion: “As a working mom, I devote my volunteer activity to my daughter’s schools.”