Hollywood Law: Up Next - Profiles
Here’s a group of attorneys that stand above the crowd and represent the next generation of sharp legal minds in the entertainment business.
Assistant General Counsel, Legal Affairs
Sony Pictures Entertainment
Northwestern University Law School, 2004
From her strategic perch at Sony, where she provides legal counsel and key advice to Sony Pictures Television and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Abe is well positioned to peer into the digital future. “It’s amazing how much has changed since I joined Sony just five years ago,” she says. “Given the rapid growth in new media, my main focus is now on the Internet, mobile and other new platforms. A lot of my legal work involves licensing deals in those areas, and game console and connected-device deals.” Recent projects Abe has worked on include Sony Network Entertainment Intl.’s digital sell-through and VOD deals in the U.S., Canada, Australia and Japan to license feature films and television content for distribution on Sony’s PlayStation Network and its Qriocity (pronounced curiosity) streaming music, games and video-on-demand service — as well as Walmart’s Vudu film distribution technology. The latter was one of SPE’s first U.S. digital distribution deals for HD movie sell-through rights. Abe began her career at Latham & Watkins.
Harvard Law School, 2008
In his short time in practice, this Orange County, Calif., native has done some impressive legal work, helping hammer out deals for Korean media conglom CJ Entertainment, Open Road Distribution and up-and-coming comedy collective 5-Second Films. He’s also assisted with big-name clients Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman and James Cameron. But perhaps his best claim to fame is his editorship of his firm’s entertainment blog Law Law Land, which leavens sober examinations of hot-button legal issues with large doses of humor. “The main goal of the blog is to present issues that are interesting and sophisticated for lawyers, but also be comprehensible to average people,” Basin says. “It empowers (clients) to understand the options in front of them.” While Basin admits he’d like to follow his writing muse into other creative endeavors, he insists it won’t interfere with his legal career. “I want (to do both law and writing) and I will go for both,” he says.
Law Offices of Joshua P. Binder
University of San Francisco School
of Law, 2001
Binder is a rarity in the legal biz: a solo artist. His eponymous firm has just three employees — a secretary, an intern and Binder himself. Yet he’s been able to rise to the top of his profession representing reality TV personalities such as Rachel Uchitel and Mary Carey, hip-hop legends Too $hort and DJ Quik and the entertainment ventures of major athletes, including Shaquille O’Neal and Lamar Odom. “A lot of people don’t know how I did it,” says Binder, “and, frankly, neither do I.” After interning under Andrew Ross at Sony Music, he followed in the footsteps of his father (a retired tax and family law attorney) and hung out his own shingle. He found modest success out of the gate, signing South African band Just Jinger to Capitol Records and rapper Sean Anthony to Warner Bros. From there, “I just continued to network and land bigger and bigger clients,” he says.
Senior Counsel, Affiliate Sales
Rainbow Media Holdings
The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law (Yeshiva University), 2006
Brophy works on distribution for all her company’s national networks, including AMC, IFC, Sundance Channel, WEtv and IFC Films, and helps to negotiate and draft carriage agreements with major cable and satellite operators around the country, as well as AMC in Canada. “I deal with Comcast, DirecTV, Time Warner Cable, as well as Verizon and AT&T, which also have television services now — all the major distributors,” she says. Since joining two years ago, Brophy has seen new technologies begin to challenge traditional platforms, threatening to disrupt established distribution methods and upend audience viewing patterns. “I think new media is going to be more and more important in our business,” she adds. “There’s a lot of different balls in the air, and it’s a constantly evolving landscape and an exciting time to be in the industry. The focus is now on areas like VOD, mobile and Internet.”
O’Melveny & Myers LLP
Cornell University Law School, 2001
Bruington was working as an associate at a large law firm in New York when attraction sparked between her and L.A.-based opposing counsel Jason Silvera. Romance ensued, but the continental distance was a strain, so they decided to live in the same city and “I sort of lost the coin toss,” she says. It turned out to be a win-win for love and career. Bruington landed in the Entertainment, Sports and Media department at O’Melveny in 2006, where she quickly distinguished herself working with the Weinstein Co. to establish its $285 million Asian film fund and on MGM’s joint venture with Tom Cruise to form the new United Artists. In the time since, she’s helped orchestrate multi-hundred-million-dollar financing deals for Overture Films and Participant Media. Amidst all this, she and Silvera (married in 2008) found time to collaborate on a son Marco, now 15 months old. “It’s really worked out much better than I’d imagined,” she says.
Lisa A. Callif
Donaldson & Callif
Southwestern University Law School, 2001
Callif’s central focus has been on repping independent filmmakers in areas ranging from financing to production to distribution. She also has extensive experience in an area key for documentarians — the fair-use doctrine as codified by U.S. Copyright Law. As a result, Callif spends considerable time doing clearance work as well as rendering fair-use opinion letters, making it possible for clients to use limited amounts of unlicensed material in their projects. Callif has worked on indie docus such as “I’m Still Here,” “Teenage Paparazzo,” “Waiting for Superman,” and “Inside Job.” She’s now working with Oliver Stone, Jason Blum and Elise Pearlstein on their projects. Callif especially enjoys helping to shepherd small films all the way from pre-production through completion. “It’s satisfying to be part of taking someone’s dream project through all the different stages of production and providing the kind of advice that can help make that happen,” says Califf.
O’Melveny & Myers LLP
Harvard Law School, 2003
As only a second-year associate, Deutsch put himself on the Hollywood map when he negotiated and drafted a 32-film, multi-year distribution arrangement for Walt Disney Pictures and a consortium of Wall Street financial investors under the banner Kingdom Films. In the years since, he has handled
everything from the financing of individual documentaries such as the Participant Media titles “An Inconvenient Truth,” “Darfur Now” and “Waiting for Superman” to setting up mega-million-dollar multipicture slates like the multi-picture five-year deal between MGM and Sony that includes “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and the next James Bond film. “From the smallest deals to the biggest deals, there’s always somebody who needs to sit at the core of it and make sure all of the parties’ issues are being addressed,” Deutsch says. “I think I have a unique ability to pierce into the heart of a complicated set of issues and quickly find the source of the problem and either eliminate it or come up with a solution.”
Hansen, Jacobson, Teller, Hoberman, Newman, Warren, Richman, Rush
UCLA School of Law, 2007
Driven by his love for industry and his passion for film and television, Fox knew he wanted to be an entertainment attorney even before he began law school. “I always loved movies, but for me, even from a young age, the real passion was the business,” Fox says. He works closely with partners Steve Warren and Gretchen Rush in representing clients for film, television and endorsements. Artists that Fox has helped rep include Leonardo DiCaprio, Reese Witherspoon, Tobey Maguire, Taylor Lautner, Jennifer Lawrence, Taylor Kitsch, Akiva Goldsman, David Benioff, Francis Lawrence and Pierre Morel. He has also worked closely with Danny McBride’s production company Rough House and Appian Way’s new genre label Via Nova. And in a rainmaker role, Fox has brought new clients to the firm, including Courtney Hunt and Dutch Southern.
DMF Law Professional Corp.
UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law, 1999
While lawyers can be risk-averse, Frank has never erred on the side of caution when it comes to his career choices. Barely into his third year at his first job at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, he left to establish his own firm, Eisner & Frank. “I never saw myself as a big-firm lawyer, I saw myself as a talent lawyer,” he says. The firm grew from three lawyers to 30. In May, Frank repeated the move, spinning off the entertainment department from his old firm to set up his own transactional entertainment boutique. Known for his clients in unscripted television, he reps, among others, “Jersey Shore” production company 495 Productions. Since 2010 he’s been legal counsel for Virgin Produced (shingle’s “Limitless” grossed more than $145 million worldwide) and has repped Netflix in its acquisition deal of “House of Cards,” a 26-episode original series purchased for a rumored $100 million. “What I like about having my own practice is the ability to craft it, pick and choose types of clients I want to work with without restrictions, including certain clients that might be out of the box for traditional talent firms or traditional large firms,” Frank says.
Morris Yorn Barnes Levine Krintzman Rubenstein & Kohner PC
University of Georgia, 2004
Gladden was so eager to be in the biz that literally the day after he graduated from law school he packed his bags and moved to Los Angeles. In 2006, after a stint at Innovative Artists, he landed at Morris Yorn, which is run on a talent-agency model, meaning he spent two years working as assistant for one of the partners. “You do normal things like scheduling and sending out agreements, but you’re also learning the substantive aspects of law,” he says. Since making associate three years ago, he’s been living out his Hollywood dream, helping broker Ellen DeGeneres’ multi-year production deal with Warner Bros. Television, Sarah Michelle Gellar’s return to television in the CW series “Ringer,” and “CSI” creator Anthony Zuiker’s digi-novel series with Harper Collins. A former army reservist, he’s proud to have made it without the aid of the old boys’ network or family connections. “One thing I really like about my firm is that you pay your dues and, based on merit, get promoted,” he says.
Vice President, Corporate Affairs/In-House Counsel
USC Gould School of Law, 2006
Goldberg reps Relativity in a wide variety of areas including distribution, corporate finance, employment, intellectual property, acquisitions and litigation. In the year that she’s been with the company Ryan Kavanaugh built, she’s worked on the licensing of rights to Netflix in which Netflix acts as Relativity’s exclusive SVOD exhibitor during the traditional pay TV window. She has also been the sole attorney responsible for negotiating all of Relativity’s long-term distribution output deals with all major digital, cable and satellite providers for VOD and pay-per-view rights. In addition, Goldberg has closed deals with Cinram to act as Relativity’s exclusive provider of DVD replication and distribution services and with Technicolor to act as its exclusive film lab services provider. Goldberg feels especially fortunate to be working in a dynamic company. “I’ve had a lot of opportunities here at Relativity that a young lawyer might not have elsewhere,” she says. “I never have two days that are the same and the work is always interesting.”
Stroock & Stroock & Lavan
UCLA School of Law, 2008
Just three years out of law school, James has been part of closing deals for some of reality television’s biggest names as well as providing advice on key tax issues. She repped Mark Burnett — and all affiliated entities — when Hearst Entertainment acquired 50% of Burnett’s business. She was also on hand to aid in a tax restructuring before the deal closed. James played an essential part in the closing sale of Bunim-Murray Productions to Banijay Entertainment last year. Additionally, she has handled tax matters for clients such as Paul Hogan and Summit Entertainment. James readily admits she enjoys something many dread. “When I first came to this firm they gave me tax work and I found that I liked it and was good at it,” says James. “It’s great to be able provide that service for clients because tax codes are always changing and tax incentives are a huge part of our industry now.”
Felker Toczek Gellman Suddleson
UCLA School of Law, 1999
Kroeger’s client list reads like a roster of some of the most promising young acting talent in the industry. He has represented Chris Colfer from the moment of his test deal for “Glee,” Tiffany Thornton who stars on “So Random,” Amber Riley of “Glee,” Aimee Teegarden of “Prom,” Adam Hicks of “Lemonade Mouth” and Mackenzie Foy, who got the part of Renesmee in “Twilight: Breaking Dawn.” Kroeger focuses on closing deals through thoughtful, realistic negotiations that balance his clients’ needs with a deep understanding of the industry overall. For Kroeger, the best part of his work is helping clients take steps toward their goals. “It’s satisfying to be part of someone’s professional growth and to be there as each part of that process takes place,” says Kroeger. “I like to be part of mak
ing sure they get the best deal they possibly can.”
Senior Counsel, Business Affairs
Paradigm Talent Agency
New York Law School, 2006
Just 31, the youngest talent agency business affairs executive in town has already made her mark as a savvy negotiator, handling both television and motion picture deals along with literary, new media and endorsement agreements for the agency’s clients. “Where other agencies’ business affairs departments are segmented, we do everything, and in the three years I’ve been here, our clients are getting bigger and better deals,” she says. LaValley recently negotiated a high-profile deal for the film and TV rights for “The Knitting Circle,” a literary project that Katherine Heigl will co-produce and star in for HBO Films, and was involved in the deal for Michael Rapaport’s acclaimed doc “Beats Rhyme & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest,” distributed by Sony Pictures Classics. Other key deals include negotiating Laurieann Gibson’s agreements for “Skating With the Stars” and new dance shows “The Dance Scene on E!” and “Born to Dance on BET.”
Kinsella, Weitzman, Iser, Kump
University of Pennsylvania Law School, 1996
Last December, MacIsaac was preparing the trial brief for Jamie McCourt’s divorce when she learned the judge had invalidated the marital property agreement giving husband Frank McCourt sole ownership of the Dodgers. Her relentless pursuit of discovery as part of her firm’s team on the case helped demonstrate that “the document had been manipulated after it had been signed and notarized,” MacIsaac says. “It was one of the more dramatic moments in my career, in that ‘Perry Mason’ kind of way.” She was also recently a key player on teams that won a $13 million judgment in favor of Ubisoft Entertainment and successfully steered client Chuck Lorre Productions’ dispute with Charlie Sheen away the courts, toward contractually mandated arbitration. “I’m a tenacious person,” she says. “I find learning about new areas of the law very interesting. And I think that If you like what you do, you end up being good at it.”
Hansen, Jacobson, Teller, Hoberman, Newman, Warren, Richman, Rush
University of Pennsylvania Law School, 2005
Starting college at 15 after skipping grades early in elementary school, Manfro has had the opportunity to start her career much earlier than many others. She spent a majority of her college time interning at 3 Arts Entertainment, where she grew her love for the business. “As I spent more time there I just found that negotiating deals was very fascinating and so I went straight from college to law school,” Manfro says.Working with partners Adam Kaller and Ken Richman, Manfro has helped with clients such as producers Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen. She has also worked with writers John August, Jeff Schaffer, Alec Berg, David Mandel, Michael Brandt and Derek Haas, as well as showrunners Mike Schur and Robert Carlock. Thesps she’s repped include Tracy Morgan, Rob Corddry, Darren Criss and Josh Hutcherson. In just her first year at the firm, she brought in clients, including Jay Pharoah and James Newman.
Morris Yorn Barnes Levine Krintzman Rubenstein & Kohner
Harvard Law School, 1999
Massey is the firm’s tech overlord, charged with finding innovative ways to pair Hollywood talent with cutting-edge technology, whether it’s a grounding deal putting client Anthony Zuiker (creator of “CSI”) in the social-gaming business with Playdom in 2008 or a recent Internet distribution agreement between tech talent agency Collective Digital Studios and Blip.tv. “There’s no template for a lot of these deals we’re doing,” Massey says. “I’m literally drafting the paperwork from scratch, trying to think what are the issues both now and what could arise in the future.” She started her career working with start-ups and IPOs in Silicon Valley in 1999, just as the tech bubble was stretching to capacity. After being fired by Donald Trump in the season finale of NBC’s “The Apprentice” in 2004, Massey moved to L.A. in 2005 to join Morris Yorn. Whether the client is Ellen DeGeneres or Tony Hawk, the goal is the same: “Whatever they’re dreaming up, we want to make that happen,” she says.
Glen G. Mastroberte
Stroock & Stroock & Lavan
UCLA School of Law, 2002
Mastroberte’s clients range from producers, directors, writers, actors and production companies to film funds, financial institutions and equity investors. He’s worked with thesp Terrence Howard with on “Winnie,” about Winnie and Nelson Mandela. He also repped director Adrian Noble in negotiations to direct the stage version of “The King’s Speech.” In addition, Mastroberte repped Reliance Big Entertainment in structuring development pacts with Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment, Julia Roberts’ Red Om Films and Jay Roach’s Everyman Pictures, among others. Additionally, he repped helmer Michael Hoffman on his current project “Gambit,” which is based on a screenplay by the Coen brothers and stars Cameron Diaz and Colin Firth. Mastroberte also counts the Rwanda Film Festival and Rwanda Film Institute among his clients. “It’s great to be able to represent a wide variety of people and organizations — from actors to producers to a film festival,” says Mastroberte. “You see all the aspects of the industry and it’s never dull.”
Head of Litigation and Technology Law
Boston University School of Law, 2000
Miller wears two hats; as head of litigation he’s responsible for managing all lawsuits and claims, and advises executives on all aspects of corporate liability; and as the head technology lawyer he also manages all their patents and licensing and is responsible for DWA’s strategic alliances with such partners as Hewlett-Packard and Intel, “generally providing guidance in those areas.” Since joining the company in April 2010, Miller has been instrumental in several key deals; “On the technology side, we’ve made adjustments to our Intel alliance, and an extension of our alliance with HP, as well as a lot of IP licensing deals to do with software,” he says. “And because of this company’s achievements and aspirations, every deal that comes across my desk is exciting and challenging, and it’s about people who’re trying to innovate both technologically and creatively, so it’s a great time to be doing what I do.”
Kinsella, Weitzman, Iser, Kump
University of Virginia School of Law, 1990
Millett had her sights set on a career as an old-school corporate transactional lawyer until a summer clerkship at Greenberg Glusker brought her to L.A. “The (Washington, D.C.-area) firm I worked at the previous summer was hundreds of years old; a very conservative place with
a lot of rules,” she says. “And in Los Angeles — and particularly in the entertainment industry — it’s much more open-minded. That really appealed to me.” She also found she loved being backstage, litigating cases for studios, record companies, writers, directors, producers and agents in disputes involving copyrights, unfair competition, contracts, and other issues. Working for marquee clients such as Paramount chief Brad Grey, Sharon Osbourne, Axl Rose, Paris Hilton and the estates of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett, Millett has come to appreciate the theatrical nature of her own work: “You do all the behind the scenes work, (crafting) the storyline and the script and then you present it,” she says.
Gang, Tyre, Ramer & Brown
UCLA Law School, 2005
Passman’s practice covers a broad spectrum of the entertainment business — music, film and TV, and since joining the company four years ago he’s worked closely with other partners on such high-profile clients as Ben Stiller, Michael Mann, David O. Russell and John Patrick Shanley, as well as with his own A-list clients, including Heidi Klum. “I’ve now started doing fashion law as well,” he says. Passman’s key recent deals include closing a jewelry deal for Klum and a wrap-around deal for Mann’s indie production “The Fields.” “I worked on all the pieces, including Michael’s production deal, as well as the financing end, which typically isn’t in our wheelhouse.” He’s also seen new media exert a heavier gravitational field, with such clients as Amir Blumenfeld going from the Internet’s “College Humor” to acting in major movies. “There’s also much more hybridization now, and I do Gwyneth Paltrow’s music and the same for other clients.”
Seton Hall University School of Law, 2004
As Savare was finishing up his law degree he had several job offers on the table, but Lowenstein Sandler in New Jersey presented him with an offer he couldn’t refuse. “They said, ‘Whatever entertainment cases we have, you got it,’?” recalls Savare, who cut his teeth in entertainment litigation as a junior assistant on David Chase’s defense team after a New Jersey judge sued the writer, claiming that “The Sopranos” was his idea. “I saw that case from the filing of the complaint all the way through the trial, where we won the jury verdict,” he says. During his seven years of practice Savare has drafted and negotiated contracts for the Shubert Organization, Juilliard, MTV and the Bill T. Jones dance company. He is part of the defense team for Rykodisc in the ongoing copyright infringement suit filed by the estate of Frank Zappa and in the process of licensing cartoonist Ted Key’s characters, including Hazel. But he’s most proud of his pro bono work for the New Jersey Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. “Without our services these artists would have no legal representation,” says Savare.”I don’t do just entertainment law, which I think makes me a better entertainment attorney.”
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
Georgetown University Law Center, 2005
In four years as counsel for Akin Gump, Spicer has already played a major role in some high-visibility deals between independent movie production companies and financial institutions. In 2008 he represented Comerica Bank in negotiations for single-picture loans with Summit Entertainment in connection with “The Twilight Saga,” among other films. Two years later he helped negotiate Comerica’s backing of several Lionsgate-produced Tyler Perry pics. Though Spicer says that representing Goldman Sachs and Assured Guaranty in the re-structuring of the Weinstein Co. is professionally one of the most fascinating transactions he has worked on, he counts his representation of Media Rights Capital in the negotiation and documentation of a $350 million credit facility with J.P. Morgan as his biggest accomplishment to date. The relationship is ongoing as his firm shepherds every MRC project through the facility. Spicer, who started his career in real estate finance, attributes his success to being thrown into the deep end from the moment he began practicing. “Two of my colleagues happened to go on maternity leave when I started. I was brand new and the only associate in the firm. It was sink or swim. If you work like that you learn quickly.”
Gretchen D. Stockdale
EVP and General Counsel
Pilgrim Films & Television
Loyola Law School Los Angeles, 2002
Since joining Pilgrim in 2008, Stockdale has helped double the size of the company, now one of the largest independent producers of nonscripted television with nearly 700 employees and 24 programs on air or in production, including the long-running franchises “Dirty Jobs” and “American Chopper” (Discovery), “Ghost Hunters” (Syfy), “The Ultimate Fighter” (Spike), “Top Shot” and “Only in America With Larry the Cable Guy” (History) and “My Fair Wedding” (WE). “It’s ironic that over the past two years, in the worst economy America’s seen since the Great Depression, we’ve thrived,” she says. “We feel our potential’s limitless.” Stockdale, who manages all Pilgrim’s legal needs, including the development, production and distribution of its television programs, cites the executive team as “the key reason for our success.” Recent key deals include partnering with AETN to create a show — “and hopefully a new sport — of full-metal jousting,” and four scripted projects being developed for Lifetime.
Paul D. Swanson
Liner Grode Stein Yankelevitz
Sunshine Regenstreif & Taylor
UCLA School of Law, 1999
Swanson’s practice is focused on counseling clients on various corporate, intellectual property and entertainment-related transactions. He also reps leading investment banks, a variety of entertainment lenders and producers in arranging and administering debt and equity motion picture credit facilities. Swanson worked with Summit Entertainment in a debt-facility transaction that provided Summit with the funds to make the “Twilight Saga” films as well as other projects. He repped Colony Capital in a merger, equity and debt transaction that led to the acquisition of Miramax and the Miramax film library from Disney. Swanson has also worked with Comerica Bank and Union Bank a number of times on single-picture film financing. Swanson, who originally thought of becoming a psychologist, enjoys being part of the financial and intellectual property issues that lead to the creation of entertainment. “The work itself is interesting and you get to be a part of helping a project get made,” he says.
Independent Film and Television Alliance
Villanova University School of Law, 2001
Tommaselli is involved in “everything that relates to IFTA, which provides services to some 150 small- to medium-size companies around the globe that are highly entrepreneurial,” a role that has become “increasingly international,” she says. Her focus includes such hot-button issues as piracy, trade barriers,
consolidation — in addition to making our government aware of the financial ins and outs of indie film. Tommaselli, who’s at the forefront of the evolving area of international arbitration, also supervises IFTA’s international arbitration tribunal, which focuses on entertainment-related disputes and deals mainly with licensing issues. Since joining IFTA in 2007 she’s overseen 518 cases, including claims totaling more than $25 million and awards that have garnered in excess of $70 million. “The rapid growth of new media has really changed the landscape,” she notes. “We just published our updated and revised model of international licensing agreements for the American Film Market, which reflects the changing distribution platform.”
O’Melveny & Myers
UCLA School of Law, 1999
West has repped big clients (such as Hakuhodo, the second-largest advertising company in the world) and handled mega-deals, including Soros Fund Management’s $900 million acquisition of DreamWorks’ non-animation films in 2006. But his greatest strength is the personal touch he gives to individual clients such as Jenna Elfman, Marisa Tomei and Rod Roddenberry (son of the “Star Trek” creator and head of Roddenberry Productions). For Rob Lowe, he’s negotiated deals for his role in NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” his autobiography “Stories I Only Tell My Friends” and multiple films, as well as his investment in the Miramax film library. He’s also advised Apple on intellectual property licensing and protection issues for the company’s co-branded advertising campaigns with Duracell and its product-placement deals with movie studios. His secret? “I think I’m effective at advising [clients] as to what issues they should be concerned about,” West says, “but ultimately I try to stay focused on negotiating the points that are near and dear to their hearts.”
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