You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Top Talent Lawyer Michael Gendler Helps Clients Navigate Through Showbiz Disruption

“The Times They Are A-Changin’” sang Bob Dylan in 1964, referring to the social upheavals of the day.

Now, 55 years later, the same refrain can be applied to the business of Hollywood, which is working its way through a period of deep disruption.

Indeed, the rigid and omnipresent deal template for creative talent imposed for years by the film and TV industries is being swept away before our eyes, says attorney Michael Gendler, partner, along with Kevin Kelly, at the Gendler & Kelly transactional law firm in Beverly Hills.

The cause: video streamers barging into Hollywood with big content ambitions and barrels of money that are upending the one-size-fits-all structure.

Gendler will participate in a keynote conversation with Variety co-editor-in-chief Claudia Eller at the publication’s invitation-only Power of Law Breakfast, presented by City National Bank, April 10 at the Beverly Wilshire. The session focuses on the shifting world of Hollywood dealmaking.

Hollywood is “no longer an oligopoly with five companies that control all manufacturing and distribution,” Gendler observes. “That’s over for the moment.”

Gendler predicts streamers and traditional TV buyers, bending to intense competitive pressure, will be forced to bend deal templates over time to snag top talent. “It’s a more-complicated and fast-changing world, which is fantastic for dealmakers,” he says.

Besides dollar figures, obvious dealmaking pivot points can be bonus mechanisms, reserving ancillary rights, talent adding multi-hyphenate gigs including as producers and exercising creative control.

On the vanguard of Hollywood’s talent reshuffle, Gendler negotiated the move of writer-producer Brad Falchuk and his Teley-Vision banner to Netflix in a four-year deal, exiting 20th Century Fox Television.

The lawyer’s clients read like a Hollywood who’s who. In acting: Meryl Streep, Julianna Margulies, Steve Martin, Chris Pine, John C. Reilly. For producing-writing-directing, Neill Blomkamp, David Chase, David E. Kelley, Courtney Kemp, Alex Kurtzman, Rob Marshall/John DeLuca, Shonda Rhimes (landing her huge Netflix deal in 2017), Ed Solomon and Kurt Sutter. Add to the list book authors Harlan Coben (“Run Away”), Jenny Han (“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before”), Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (“Friday Black”) and Daniel Silva (“The Other Woman”).

Gendler, who lives in Pacific Palisades, is married and the father of two daughters — one soon entering college and the other graduating. For recreation, he plays tennis and has assembled a 1,100-bottle wine collection. “That’s small in this town,” he observes wryly.

Another passion is education — evidenced by his volunteering for numerous school advisory boards — because of his conviction that today’s students will have to be incredibly agile amid unprecedented disruption in the business world. He says many of tomorrow’s jobs don’t even exist today. “I think it’s a chance to work locally for global change,” he says.

Gendler is a trustee and former president of the Marlborough School — the all-girl private Los Angeles school founded in 1889 where his daughters were enrolled. The school’s website notes “he has served on every subcommittee, including development, academic advisory, campaign, executive, and audit, just to name a few.”

The attorney also sat on the advisory board for seven years at UC Berkeley’s College of Letters and Sciences, and has been active over a decade at the UCLA Lab School.

Gendler adds that his day job is also fulfilling as he helps talent navigate Hollywood’s ever-changing business landscape. “They are thoughtful and smart people who could have done anything,” he says of his clients. “Instead, they followed their passion and took the career risk of going into the arts.”

More Biz

  • Former movie producer Harvey Weinstein (L)

    Harvey Weinstein Reneged on Payoff to HR Director, Suit Claims

    The former Human Resources director of the Weinstein Co. filed a lawsuit on Tuesday, claiming he never received a $450,000 payout he was promised in the wake of the New York Times’ expose in October 2017. Frank Gil alleges that Weinstein promised him the money on Oct. 6, the day after the Times’ story ran. [...]

  • Plume of black smoke rising from

    Attorney for Universal Music Artists Impacted by 2008 Fire Requests Inventory

    Following on its statements last week that it will be filing a lawsuit on behalf of several Universal Music recording artists impacted by a 2008 fire that destroyed a huge number of master recordings, a Los Angeles law firm has requested a “complete inventory” from the company. Addressed to UMG CEO and chairman Lucian Grainge, [...]

  • Charles Caldas To Step Down as

    Charles Caldas To Step Down as Merlin CEO

    Charles Caldas, the only CEO that the independent-label collective Merlin has ever known, announced today that he will step down from his post at the end of 2019, after more than 12 years at the helm of the global rights organization. He will continue his current duties until then and work with the Merlin board to [...]

  • Merlin Reports Record Distributions for 2019

    Merlin Reports Record Distributions for 2019

    Global indie-label collective Merlin reported record distributions in its 2019 membership report, paying $845 million to label and distributor members between April 2018 and March of this year. That figure, a 63% year-over-year increase, includes more than $130 million paid out this year from non-royalty income — and included in that figure is the estimated [...]

  • Dwyane Wade on Supporting His Son

    NBA Star Dwyane Wade on Supporting His Son's Attendance at Miami Pride

    NBA star Dwyane Wade spoke to Variety about why it was important for him to support his younger son attending a pride parade last spring. In April, Wade’s then 11-year-old son Zion posted pictures of himself at Miami Pride, with his siblings and stepmother Gabrielle Union. Wade, who was on the road with the Miami [...]

  • Songs for Screens Powered by Mac

    Songs for Screens: How Eric Church Teamed With Ram Trucks — and Five Tons of Vinyl — for ‘Solid’ Campaign

    Country star Eric Church has long used his new music to reward his loyal fans, from surprise releasing 2015’s “Mr. Misunderstood” album as a direct fan-club exclusive to impromptu meet-and-greets before his hometown show in Greensboro, North Carolina. So when Church was prepping the April vinyl release of 2018’s critically acclaimed “Desperate Man,” the singer [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein legal team

    Harvey Weinstein Loses Another Defense Lawyer

    Harvey Weinstein has lost another defense lawyer, just three months before he is set to go on trial for rape and sexual assault. Attorney Jose Baez told the judge overseeing the case that Weinstein had taken actions that made it difficult to represent him, according to a letter obtained by the New York Post. Baez [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content