Once again, Variety spotlights the top attorneys in the entertainment business. These are the litigators who fight for their high-profile clients in court, the transactional lawyers who cut the deals shaping modern Hollywood, and the in-house attorneys who manage the business affairs of agencies, studios, networks and streamers.
Profiles by Robert Marich, Todd Longwell & Sarah Ahern
Partner, Fox Rothschild
Hollywood is frustrated by recent expanded court interpretations in right of publicity claims by those depicted in fact-based dramas, Bandlow finds. “It is literally impossible to advise your clients as to what they can or can’t do because the decisions are all over the place and so damaging to free-speech interests,” he says. Remedies are appeal court reversals or legislation, Bandlow adds. Specializing in IP infringement, privacy, free speech and clearances, the litigator defended DoubleVerify for its online content labeling, Eddie Money in a lawsuit brought by a former drummer and an adult film company fighting piracy.
Boston University School of Law, 1993
Partner, Litigation Glaser Weil
Basinger cautions the #MeToo movement to be careful what it wishes for when it comes to seeking to prohibit confidentiality agreements going forward and invalidating existing ones. “A lot of victims want to be anonymous,” observes Basinger, who works harassment claims. “They don’t want to be in the limelight and part of an ongoing debate.” Confidentiality enables closure along with receiving compensation to heal, she adds. She reps the estate of financier Kirk Kerkorian, Russell Simmons defending a conduct claim, sports journalist Adrian Wojnarowski for employment transition, Freddie Roach defending a boxing match claim, Endeavor and Keith Olbermann.
U. of Michigan Law School, 1997
Founding Partner, Chatham Law Group
A decade ago, if content premiered on an OTT streaming service, Hollywood’s reaction was “What went wrong?” But now OTT is at the top of talent wish lists, marvels Chatham. “The more trailblazing content is going to streaming,” he says, and predicts “that line between streaming and a theatrical movie to continue to blur.” Chatham, who works both transactions and litigation, reps Dr. Phil McGraw’s Stage 29 Prods. (CBS Television’s “Bull”), negotiating a CBS first-look deal in August that yielded law-school pilot “Class Action.” He advises the estate of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington and also is on-air expert for client Dr. Phil’s daytime TV show.
Southwestern Law School, 2005
Partner, Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison
Last year’s dismissal, on appeal, of a carriage discrimination suit brought against Altice USA (formerly Cablevision) by the Game Show Network was the latest in a long line of precedent-setting legal victories for the New York-based Cohen. He has also been a leader in digital rights and licensing rate litigation in the music biz for longtime client ASCAP and others, including Songwriters Guild of America, Warner Music and Sony Music. “These industries have completely changed as they’ve digitized,” says Cohen, who also scored high-value victories for Charter Communications and NBCUniversal in 2017. On top of that, “the sheer volume of electronic documents that didn’t used to exist has changed every litigation.”
U. of Chicago Law School, 1980
Scott A. Edelman & Orin Snyder
Co-Chairs, Media, Entertainment & Technology Practice Group, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher
Case law strains to keep pace as digital technology upends the entertainment marketplace, and trailing even more are regulations and legislation that “are going to have to be reformed to deal with this new paradigm,” says Snyder. Meanwhile, Edelman is encouraged that tech and Hollywood are cooperating on various anti-piracy initiatives because industries united are “a more persuasive force both in court and with government regulators.” Century City-based Edelman repped MGM in defeating home video accounting claims, Discovery Communications, Sony Music and Universal Music. New York-based Snyder advises AMC Networks in “The Walking Dead” TV series profit-participation dispute, Sean Combs, Facebook, Lady Gaga, video gamer Machine Zone, Jerry Seinfeld and David Letterman’s Worldwide Pants.
Edelman: UC Berkeley Law, 1984
Partner, Litigation Department Greenberg Glusker
Eskenazi feels that cementing permanent response mechanisms available to harassment victims is imperative because today’s high-media awareness eventually will subside. She volunteers for the Women in Film Sexual Harassment Helpline, which provides “a range of options” to victims and has created a database. Options are immediate psychological counselling, access to support groups and advice for legal remedies — both civil and criminal. Her clients include the owner of the “Friday the 13th” horror film franchise in defending a copyright claim, and the late reggae singer Bob Marley’s family in pursuing breach of contract involving a merchandise licensee.
Stanford Law SCHOOL, 1985
Partner and Chair, Litigation Department Glaser Weil
Discovery for evidence in legal proceedings now reaches into difficult-to-access Instagram posts and text messages, says Glaser, because society’s meaningful communications increasingly occur in the digital world. “Text messages are sometimes the most revealing in terms of culpability,” she notes. She encountered one instance where an analysis of metadata — hidden data that describes other data — revealed e-document tampering. Glaser represented Harvey Weinstein for arbitration over employment termination, Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions, ITV America, Olympics gold-medal snowboarder Shaun White, boxing trainer Freddie Roach and Conan O’Brien and his production company.
Rutgers School of Law, 1973
Tamerlin J. Godley
Partner, Munger, Tolles & Olson
Godley earned a reputation for handling thorny talent issues while defending Warner Bros. in a $100 million wrongful termination suit by Charlie Sheen in 2012, and she’s putting those skills to work in the #MeToo era, conducting non-public sexual assault investigations for clients, as well as a highly public one for Warner Bros.’ ABC show “Bachelor in Paradise.” “We’re establishing cultures where there is zero tolerance for [assault], but also making sure that the consequences meet the circumstances, and we use deliberate process along the way,” says Godley, who also won Warner Bros. a dismissal of a suit alleging it stole the idea for its daytime talker “The Real.”
USC School of Law, 1996
Partner, Jenner & Block
Handzo admits that while he did play the tuba in high school, he’s not particularly passionate about music. But, he says, “I do like being on the side of trying to make the rates go up for the record companies, the artists and the content owners.” In recent months, the Washington, D.C.-based attorney has done that through his work with Sound Exchange, which collects digital royalties on behalf of more than 155,000 recording artists and master rights owners. In December, he obtained a judgment that brought a 40% increase in royalties paid by Sirius XM Satellite Radio, already the largest payer of performance royalties.
U. of Michigan Law School, 1980
Ivy Kagan Bierman
Partner, Loeb & Loeb
Kagan Bierman finds that workplace training has mushroomed in the wake of the #TimesUp movement. Employers now want expanded codes of conduct and a broader pool of employees to receive education — not just top brass. “There is a real emphasis in looking at the whole culture,” says Kagan Bierman, who is active in anti-harassment orgs. She advises a publicly traded broadcaster, advertiser and TV commercial producer in separate Hollywood labor matters; Jill Soloway and her Topple Prods. in asserting personal misconduct by a cast member; Alcon Entertainment; Black Label Media (“La La Land”); Bunim/Murray Prods.; EuropaCorp; FremantleMedia; Google/YouTube; and Netflix.
Northwestern U. School of Law, 1984
Richard Kendall & Phil Kelly
Kendall: Founding Partner, Kendall Brill & Kelly Kelly: Partner, Kendall Brill & Kelly
Kendall and Kelly specialize in litigation for media and tech companies, networks, agencies and studios (including Viacom, Paramount, MTV and Universal) involving matters such as profit participation and copyright, often swooping in to help out with troubled cases shortly before trial. “A lot of clients view Dick as the wise veteran of many wars, and maybe me as person down in the trenches, day-to-day,” says Kelly. In recent months, they’ve won $14.9 million in damages for Viacom in its breach of contract suit against toymaker MGA (Bratz dolls) and a dismissal for the estate of business manager Bob Philpott in a 12-year-long case involving the ex-wife of “Law & Order” producer Dick Wolf, and secured a confidential settlement for client Universal Studios in a major profit participation/slate financing dispute with a hedge fund.
Kendall: Usc GOULD School OF LAW, 1979
Kelly: UCLA Law School, 2000
Partner, Munger, Tolles & Olson
Last year, San Francisco-based Klaus won an injunction for Disney, Lucasfilm, Fox and Warner Bros., preventing VidAngel from streaming unlicensed movies, and he’s serving as lead counsel on suits by Disney to stop Redbox’s resale of its digital movie codes and the six member studios of the MPAA, Amazon and Netflix against TickBox TV for inducing the unlawful streaming of their content. “Michael Jordan is credited with saying that the key to being a good player is to play with people who are better than you, and that’s the philosophy of our firm,” says Klaus, who recently won a dismissal of Olivia DeHavilland’s suit over her portrayal in the FX series “Feud.”
Stanford Law School, 1992
Robert N. Klieger
Partner, Hueston Hennigan
Consumers and government are waking up with alarm to how tracking people online can build “predictive personality profiles,” crunching the data to go beyond just mundane purchasing inclinations to political beliefs, views on public policy and influencing public opinion, says Klieger. Courts will struggle with these personal privacy issues with inadequate existing legal structures now in place until new legislation, he predicts. Klieger represents Viacom/CBS lead shareholder Sumner M. Redstone and his daughter Shari. Other clients include Amazon for entertainment, Walt Disney Co., Electronic Arts, Lionsgate, Showtime Networks and Universal Studios. He sits on the board of CBS.
Participants in new ventures are so eager to get to work that Kump finds they sometimes don’t future-proof deals. Addressing control of properties and spinoffs upfront will “save a lot of wear and tear, and litigation down the road,” he says. “What I find people fighting about all the time is who has what rights and who has what obligations.” Kump repped Kim, Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian in several matters including winning a federal trademark action on summary judgement. Other clients are Endeavor, Joel and Rob Mandel’s The Management Group (TMG), Media Rights Capital and Starz.
U. of Michigan Law School, 1981
Partner and Co-chair of Intellectual Property and Entertainment Litigation Practice, Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp
Lepera is cautiously optimistic that blockchain technology — distributed digital ledgers — will improve tracking of music revenue streams and other crucial data. “The goal envisioned for this decentralized database is to create more efficient, transparent, and secure transactions — to maximize and get money to the right place,” she says. Her clients in music and entertainment include The Black Keys, Fetty Wap’s label and Kobalt Music Publishing. The litigator defended Drake employing “fair use” to defeat a copyright infringement claim; and separately Timbaland (Timothy Mosley), Linkin Park, Universal Music, Warner Music and MTV defending a copyright lawsuit.
New York Law School, 1982
Partner, Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp
Levin believes that Hollywood can deploy free-speech arguments effectively when discrimination claims stem from creative decisions. “The First Amendment provides a strong defense in cases involving decisions of hiring and terminating personnel whose jobs are directly linked to free speech,” he says. An obvious example is biographical dramas where actors need to resemble well-known historical figures. His practice covers labor employment, collective bargaining and litigation — including defending CNN in a wrongful termination, discrimination and defamation case before the California Supreme Court. Other clients include CBS, Disney’s Touchstone Television, Fox Entertainment, MGM and Warner Bros.
U. of San Diego School of Law, 1991
Skip Miller & Sasha Frid
Miller: Partner, Miller Barondess Frid: Partner, Miller Barondess
The duo may run a boutique firm, but they litigate major cases. These days, Frid focuses on music clients (Live Nation, Universal Music, Five Finger Death Punch, Motley Crue), while Miller gives more attention to film and TV matters, such as the racial discrimination lawsuits filed by Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios against Comcast and Charter, seeking $20 billion and $10 billion in damages, respectively. Miller repped guitarist Don Felder in his lawsuit against his former band The Eagles and their manager Irving Azoff, but now his firm is working with Azoff and Steely Dan co-founder Donald Fagen in a legal fight with the estate of band co-founder Walter Becker over the right to use the band’s name. “What it comes down to is these clients want to win. That’s why they use us,” he says.
Miller: UCLA Law School, 1972 Frid: UC Berkeley
Chair, Trial Practice, O’Melveny & Myers
Petrocelli believes the sports, entertainment, music and film/TV sectors that he represents are becoming one big mashup, driven by take-charge consumers. “We’re witnessing an unprecedented transformation in the entertainment industry as Hollywood, Silicon Valley and Madison Avenue all are converging, supercharged by the ubiquity of the internet,” he says. The litigator’s clients include AT&T and Time Warner defending their megamerger; Irving Azoff’s Global Music Rights in two anti-trust lawsuits involving radio broadcasting; Walt Disney Co.; Twentieth Century Fox; Warner Bros.; investor Colony NorthStar; singer Kesha; Live Nation; Sirius XM Radio; and Top Rank boxing.
Southwestern Law School, 1980
Marvin S. Putnam
Head of Entertainment, Sports & Media Litigation Practice, Latham & Watkins
Putnam applauds the awakening of harassed women with the rise of the #MeToo movement, though he’s worried about society’s “willingness to judge and jump to conclusions.” Putnam, who handles such thorny cases, is a fan of due process to verify claims. He wonders if some questionable allegations will cause temporarily setbacks, but in the long run sees a good result with the powerful being held accountable and victims empowered. He reps Madison Square Garden Co. for a Los Angeles-area arena dispute, the Weinstein Co. board member Tim Sarnoff, MGM Studios in an employee issue and Beyoncé for multiple matters.
Georgetown Law, 1993
Shareholder, Los Angeles Media & Entertainment Litigation Practice, Greenberg Traurig
Rosengart sees more disputes going to trial. “Clients, whether on the talent side or on the corporate side, might be less willing to have a reputation of settling as opposed to going the full distance at trial” to protect their public image, he says. Further, making quick settlements can be a catalyst for more claims from others seeking money, he adds. Rosengart repped New York financier Raven Capital/Sculptor Media, winning a $1.76 million breach of contract action and additional sanctions. His other clients include Ben and Casey Affleck; Michael Mann; and Sean Penn.
Boston College Law School, 1987
James G. Sammataro
National Head, Entertainment Litigation Department, Stroock & Stroock & Lavan
Sammataro advises against operating on the assumption that the law will be applied in the future in the way it’s been applied in the past. “Technology is always going to outpace the law,” he says, adding that we should always be on the lookout for seismic shifts in the law. The Miami-based litigator repped Enrique Iglesias suing his former record label alleging undercounting streaming income, Latin-music mega-concert Calibash, Spanish Broadcasting System seeking redress for a talent departure, and copyright infringement and defamation cases
Duke U. School of Law, 1999
Howard E. King
Managing Partner, King, Holmes, Paterno & Soriano
King defines a major shift in the music biz: “The path to artist profits has shifted from touring to stimulate record sales, to making music widely available at a modest cost to stimulate profitable touring, merchandise, licensing and endorsement opportunities.” In litigation, King’s cases have included Metallica vs. Napster and defending an artist accused of an offensive performance during a Super Bowl halftime broadcast. In transactions, he has negotiated employment contracts for senior execs in recording and live touring, and handled all aspects of the hip-hop Up in Smoke Tour. “Albums are becoming obsolete for most artists who drop singles often and earn modest streaming income, but know that popularity leads to these more substantial income streams.”
UCLA School of Law, 1977
Alex M. Weingarten
Partner, Venable LLP
The anti-SLAPP law, which is designed to protect free speech by unburdening little guys in litigation, gets applied broadly in California, says Weingarten. “You can grind a case to a halt for years with strategic use of the anti-SLAPP statute,” Wein-
garten notes. The law requires plaintiffs to make their case at an early stage and its freedom-of-expression orientation seems tailor-made for many Hollywood matters. The litigator’s clients include electronic dance music’s Steve Angello, the sons of film icon Roger Corman, Will Ferrell, 50 Cent, the widow of film executive Brad Grey, and Robin Thicke and his brothers regarding their father’s estate.
Georgetown Law, 1999
Name Partner, Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert
The intense scrutiny by the legal system and public opinion when personal misconduct surfaces is the talk of Hollywood, but the entertainers, athletes and their advisers seem a bit slow to realize how strongly it impacts them, says Weitzman. “People default to what was and not what is,” he says. Weitzman feels that the recognition lag is human nature and the new normal will sink in quickly. A litigator, transaction attorney and strategic adviser, Weitzman reps the estate of Michael Jackson in multiple matters including a federal tax dispute. Other clients include Justin Bieber.
USC Gould School of Law, 1965
Name Partner, Jackoway Tyerman Wertheimer Austen Mandelbaum Morris & Klein
Austen has been leveraging the explosion of outlets for his stable of actors, writers and directors, crafting overall deals for the likes of Jill Soloway (“Transparent”) and director Matt Reeves, negotiating contracts for a half-dozen “Game of Thrones” stars (including Peter Dinklage), and Eddie Redmayne’s pact to star in Amazon Studios’ “Aeronauts.” He’s also set up deals for Jonah Hill to write and direct “Mid ’90s” and Jude Law to co-star in “Captain Marvel.” “Making deals in television for high-end creative people on spec pitches and scripts is a cottage industry right now because of the desire for great content in the television space,” says Austen.
Harvard Law School, 1989
Joshua P. Binder
Partner, Rothenberg, Mohr & Binder
Binder feels music talent is in the catbird seat, able to retain valuable rights and craft unusual deals. Talent can “build businesses that they can own and be masters of their own destinies” by retaining music publishing and master recordings, or getting eventual reversions, he says. As music streaming elevates individual tunes, he’s done some record-label deals for just one song, as opposed to an album. He joined the law firm in February with his broad-based music practice. In the past year, he repped label Top Dawg Entertainment, Kendrick Lamar, country singer Cam, Daddy Yankee, Marshmello and SZA.
U. of San Francisco School of Law, 2001
Gordon M. Bobb
Partner, Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka Finkelstein & Lezcano
With creative talent simultaneously engaging long-form, short-form, scripted, unscripted, digital, literary and social media, Bobb says that dealmaking is spreading out of sheer necessity to “build out an empire, build around these enterprising clients.” He consults his legal colleagues to navigate those diverse verticals. Bobb repped Gina Prince-Bythewood for directing Marvel movie adaptation “Silver & Black”; Tiffany Haddish for big-payday acting gigs, a two-year HBO producing deal, presenter in Groupon commercial and movie pitch sale to Paramount Pictures; Lena Waithe for acting, writing and producing; and Ava DuVernay to direct Disney’s sci-fi “A Wrinkle in Time.”
Columbia Law School, 1996
P. John Burke, Marissa Román Griffith, Alissa Miller, Christopher Spicer
Burke: Partner, Head of the Entertainment Group, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld Griffith: Partner, Entertainment Group, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld Miller: Partner, Entertainment Group, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld Spicer: Partner, Entertainment Group, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
Burke expects studio mega-mergers involving the parents of Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox to galvanize “less-diversified players that feel the need to join companies with more bulk and better access to or ability to create streaming platforms.” Meanwhile, Griffith sees no let-up in video streamers diversifying into content like TV series because that “means you control your own destiny. It also makes you more attractive for a potential combination with a studio.” In traditional theatrical, Spicer is impressed by a raft of upstart indie distribution companies showing a knack for grinding out success with specialty films. Miller feels that flat-monthly-fee theater admission services could further energize cinema with “the endgame of monetizing a treasure trove of data from movie-goers. That data provides critical insight for studios, independent distributors and other partners.” Burke, Griffith, Miller and Spicer advise Bank of America, Comerica Bank, East/West Bank, JP Morgan, MUFG Union Bank and SunTrust Bank. Other clients include American Film Institute, China’s CMC Capital, Content Partners, Fosun Intl., JibJab Media, MRC, RatPac-Dune Entertainment (slate financing with Warners) and Shamrock Capital.
Burke: Southwestern Law School, 1976 Griffith: Stanford Law School, 1993 Miller: UC Berkeley Law, 2001 Spicer: Georgetown Law, 2005
Global Chair, Entertainment, Sports & Media Practice, Latham & Watkins
Calabrese finds that Hollywood transactions increasingly have new types of deal points. He spends “as much time negotiating what’s good for the brand and the connection to the consumer in deals as we do talking about the money points.” That’s particularly true if parties can support brands in online media and directly access consumers in distant territories. Calabrese advises Skydance Media (in its Tencent strategic partnership in January), Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp (including its U.S. film theatrical distribution deal), and also longtime clients the Intl. Olympic Committee and the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.
Cornell Law School, 1981
Partner, Lichter Grossman Nichols Adler & Feldman
Clark says the Hollywood talent hiring process, roiled by new laws prohibiting employers from asking salary histories, will eventually smooth out in terms of mechanics. “We’re in what I think is a relativity short period of some confusion and a bit of gamesmanship,” he says. Clark repped “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” writer-director Rian Johnson and producer Ram Bergman for more Star Wars movies; Tate Taylor to direct-produce thriller “Ma” for Blumhouse Productions; Justin Marks (Starz’s “Counterpart”); producers Brandon Sonnier and Brandon Margolis (NBC pilot “Bad Girls”); and director Alethea Jones (Sony Pictures’ “Barbie”).
UC Hastings College of Law, 1995
Lindsay Conner & Sophia Yen
Conner: Co-chair, Entertainment and Media Practice, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips Yen: Partner, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips
Conner believes the five-year investment tide surging into content will continue because “I don’t foresee any dip in the public’s appetite for content anytime soon.” Chinese investors were an early wave and OTT streamers like Netflix flowed later. Yen sees a new wrinkle in dealmaking as OTT streamers say they set price-tags for buying programming based on proprietary viewing data. “It’s tougher for content creators because that same data is not available to them,” she says. The Los Angeles-based Conner and Yen advised China’s Perfect World Pictures in a $250 million loan facility. Other clients include AT&T, Sony Pictures Entertainment, distributor FilmRise, Huace Group, Huayi Bros. Media, Infore Capital Management, Tang Media, and Michael Eisner’s Tornante Co.
Conner: Harvard Law School, 1980 Yen: Boston U. School of Law, 2006
Partner, Ziffren Brittenham
The daughter of a judge, Cook entered law school after realizing her planned career in dance was unlikely to yield economic dividends. Today, she exercises the art of getting her clients what they need, whether it be securing director Tim Burton the rights to the original artwork he creates for his films or helping producer Mark Johnson (“Better Call Saul”) and actor Chadwick Boseman team to make the thriller “Expatriate,” co-written by the “Black Panther” star, for Universal. “To me it’s not just about the numbers and the deals, because most of my clients aren’t only about that,” says Cook, who also handles Keanu Reeves, Ed Harris, Holly Hunter and Robin Wright. “They care a lot about their control of the project.”
UCLA School of Law, 1978
Name Partner, Kleinberg Lange Cuddy & Carlo
Books are flying off the shelves in Hollywood. With TV program production booming, buyers gravitate to literary properties because they’re “a brand name that already has a built-in readership that can be converted into TV viewership,” Cuddy says. She reps author George R.R. Martin for his “Nightflyers” as a Syfy TV series and as executive producer, and separately “Wild Cards” at Universal Cable Productions. Other clients include Dream Factory Group, writer-producer Susannah Grant, producer Mark Lewisohn, authors Anne Rice and Rachel Renée Russell, and the creative team of Mark Waters and Jessica Tuchinsky.
This N.Y.-based trio has been at the center of numerous mega-deals. Deckelbaum helped facilitate longtime client Time Warner Cable’s $78.7 billion merger with Charter Communications in 2016, and last year (with Googe) advised Oak Hill Capital Partners and GI Partners in their $2.365 billion sale of Wave Broadband to RCN Telecom. For longtime client Endeavor (formerly WME-IMG), Hamill and Googe handled the pending merger of IMG College and Learfield and a $1 billion investment by Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC. They also helped facilitate client Vice Media’s $450 million investment from TPG Capital. Other big media clients include ASCAP, Sky, TAO Group, Tencent, Imagine Entertainment and Sony Entertainment. “Ariel and I focus on media and entertainment transactions,” explains Hamill, “and Chuck supports us on that but also has day-to-day talent representation,” handling high-profile personalities, including actresses Sigourney Weaver and Meg Ryan.
Deckelbaum: McGill U., 1998 Googe: Columbia Law School, 1987 Hamill: Boston College Law School, 2003
Partner, Entertainment, Sports & Media Practice, Latham & Watkins
Deutsch sees a boom in production companies with no immediate end in sight, fueled by growing audiences globally facilitating content monetization and ample independent funding available. “We are seeing some very well capitalized new entrants to the content production business” operating outside the usual cocoon of the studio system, he says. “In some ways, we’re seeing a bit of a renaissance like the independent companies of old.” The Los Angeles-based Deutsch advises distributor A24 Films, MGM, Mattel, Charles King’s multiculturally focused Macro Media, Brad Weston’s Makeready, Netflix, Brian Oliver’s New Republic Pictures, Participant Media and producer Russo Brothers’ AGBO.
Harvard Law School
Craig Emanuel, David Hernand, Erik Hyman, Mickey Mayerson, Stephen Saltzman, Susan Williams
Emanuel: Partner & Chair of Global Entertainment and Media Practice, Paul Hastings Hernand: Partner & Vice-Chair of Global Corporate Practice, Paul Hastings Hyman: Partner & Chair of the Century City Entertainment and Media Practice, Paul Hastings Mayerson: Partner & Co-Chair of Global Entertainment and Media Finance, Paul Hastings Saltzman: Partner & Chair of Asia Entertainment and Media Practice: Paul Hastings Williams: Partner & Co-chair of Global Entertainment and Media Finance, Paul Hastings
Hernand recalls that not long ago Hollywood believed consumers wouldn’t watch content on mobile devices, but that’s all changed with smartphones and tablets. Next, “the driverless car may be the movie theater of the future,” Hernand muses. Meanwhile, Emanuel feels that the TV series boom has plenty of legs because production will be a necessity amid fewer available re-runs. “I think … see studios and networks are going to retain ancillary digital rights more and more” for their own platforms, he says. Emanuel, Hyman, Mayerson, Saltzman and Williams arrived at Paul Hastings from Loeb & Loeb in March. Emanuel reps talent and companies in development, production and distribution transactions for movies, TV and digital. He handled Ryan Murphy Productions in negotiating the recently announced $300 million deal with Netflix to produce new series and films starting July 1. Hernand works M&A across media, entertainment, technology and other industries. Hernand repped StarStreet in its sale; The Young Turks in raising $20 million in venture capital; and Dick Clark Productions. Hyman represents Hollywood talent, financiers, high-net-worth individuals and companies in financial activities, digital media and marketing brands. Mayerson and Williams handle Hollywood finance for content producers, distributors, commercial banks, mezzanine financiers, equity investors, specialty funds and high-net-worth individuals. Their transactions span single-picture deals, slates, securitizations, tax incentives, co-productions/joint ventures and M&A. Saltzman works international distribution, co-financings and cross-border transactions representing U.S., European and Asian clients in content, media, digital, theme parks, videogames, licensed merchandise and publishing.
Emanuel: Monash U., 1981 Hernand: Georgetown Law, 1992 Hyman: Columbia Law School, 1999 Mayerson: Columbia Law School, 1981 Saltzman: Columbia Law School, 1986 Williams: USC Gould School of Law, 1986
Alan J. Epstein
Chair, Entertainment and Media Group, Venable LLP
Epstein says that a wave of high-echelon producers attached to major studios are breaking away to set up truly independent companies using non-studio financing to control their content and their destinies. “One of the keys to success is helping the creative producer think like an entrepreneur,” he says. Their direct-to-consumer business model reduces the need for studio distribution clout. Epstein advises Imagine Entertainment, J. J. Abrams’ Bad Robot and animation’s Illumination Entertainment in corporate transactions and other matters; the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences as outside counsel; talent in film, TV and music; and executives for their employment contracts.
UCLA Law School, 1987
Matthew Erramouspe, Bruce Tobey, Amy Siegel & Silvia Vannini
Recently, rights for a program that previously were separated sometimes get bundled, Siegel says. “Now you can wrap them into one comprehensive deal, but it’s more complex,” she says. Those strands are broadcast TV, cable TV, on-demand and streaming. Bundling happens as program rights owners begin to launch their own streaming services. Tobey finds that the arrival of streamers as TV program producers upend TV’s traditional seasonal development cycle “because Netflix can drop a series any time of year.” Erramouspe, Tobey, Siegel and Vannini represented Lionsgate selling its stake in premium TV service Epix; movie producer Good Universe in its sale; Elliott Management for the sale of a 30-title film library; Imagine Entertainment in its $100 million Hong Kong program TV financing venture; Libra Foundation investing in a media venture; China’s Alibaba for U.S. college TV basketball rights; and startup Lightspeed Venture Partners’ involvement in original TV programming for Apple. The quartet’s other clients include Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Skydance Media, Jeff Robinov’s Studio 8, STX Entertainment and Top Rank.
Erramouspe: UCLA Law School, 1996 Tobey: UCLA Law School, 1984 Siegel: Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, 2005 Vannini: U. of Michigan Law School, 2007
John T. Frankenheimer & Debbie White
Frankenheimer: Partner and Chair, Music Industry Practice, Loeb & Loeb White: Partner and Deputy Chair, Music Industry Practice, Loeb & Loeb
Frankenheimer feels that buoyant music economics enable previously overlooked mid-sized companies and individual talent to corral funding “from various tiers of the financial community very interested in music.” Growing touring, publishing and recording are enticements. When overseas music talent cracking the U.S. market encounters different recording, digital, publishing, concert, licensed merchandise, and sponsorship structures, White advises them to be “mindful when setting up their U.S. presence,” particularly selecting reliable partners. L.A.-based Frankenheimer handles producer Adam Anders, Ross Golan (2017 BMI songwriter of the year), festival-organizer Superfly Events, Warner Music, private equity, venture capital and hedge funds. New York-based White advised Citibank for sponsorships and music licensing;
K-Pop’s BTS; Duran Duran; Regina Spektor; China’s Tencent; The Who; and Christie Brinkley.
Frankenheimer: CLA Law School, 1973 White: NYU School of Law, 1996
Partner, Cohen Gardner
Gardner has helped guide writer-director Ryan Coogler from critical success (2013’s “Fruitvale Station” and 2015’s “Creed”) to massive, game-changing worldwide blockbuster (2017’s “Black Panther”). With the latter, “we had to make sure that the studio would honor Ryan’s voice … and at the same time from a dealmaking perspective recognize that this wasn’t really a new filmmaker, but rather an established filmmaker who was going to add a great deal of value to the Marvel brand,” says Gardner. His other clients include director Joon Bong-ho (“Okja,” “Snowpiercer”), rapper-filmmaker Boots Riley (“Sorry to Bother You”) and producer Cassian Elwes (“Mudbound”).
U. of Virginia Law School, 1996
Gary Gilbert & Jeff Biederman
Gilbert: Co-Chair, Entertainment and Media Practice and Co-Chair, Music, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips Biederman: Co-Chair, Music, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips
With music-label profits soaring, Gilbert says, “my response to that is, great, so let’s do away with ‘360 deals.’” That will get labels out of recording artists’ pockets for touring, publishing and merchandise income streams. Biederman feels the boom in music publishing deals has legs because compulsory fees escalate and demand continues for sync rights whose fees are negotiated. “A non-music finance person can understand” the rosy economics, Biederman adds. Gilbert reps Jackson Browne, the Dixie Chicks, Death Cab for Cutie, producer Mike Elizondo, Fifth Harmony member Ally Brooke, the Rick James estate and music publishers. Biederman advised Kobalt Music Publishing’s $150 million purchase of Songs Music Publishing in December, Dierks Bentley, Miles Davis Properties, producer-writer Jesse Frasure, plus actors.
Gilbert, UCLA Law School, 1971 Biederman, Vanderbilt U. School of Law, 1989
Senior Partner, Ziffren Brittenham
Gilbert-Lurie sees “layers of challenges” in valuing upfront payments and downstream profits as digital streamers upend the TV ecosystem. When they hold long-term domestic streaming rights to a TV series, the long-term value of the same show as reruns on traditional TV is an open question, he says. And streamers gobbling up global rights deprive major studios of foreign-market revenue. The transactional attorney reps TV series juggernaut Dick Wolf; showrunner Bruce Helford and Sara Gilbert reviving “Rosanne”; and Imagine Television’s TVB financing in July. He also worked deals recently for Sandra Bullock, Claire Danes, Tina Fey, as well as Microsoft.
UC Berkeley Law, 1979
Carolyn Hunt & Stephen Weizenecker
Hunt: Partner, Entertainment, Media and Sports Practice Group, Barnes & Thornburg Weizenecker: Partner, Entertainment, Media and Sports Practice Group, Barnes & Thornburg
Atlanta-based Weizenecker marvels at the film/TV industry taking root outside his window with Disney’s multimillion-dollar local production spend for “Black Panther,” sprawling Pinewood Atlanta Studios, and the growing empire of hometown hero Tyler Perry. Weizenecker credits the state’s production incentives as “the fertile soil for this ecosystem.” Financial benefits have expanded to videogames, animation, music, post-production and even e-sports. Century City-based Hunt advises banks, other financers, high-net-worth individuals, distributors and producers on international film and TV finance and distribution. She repped MUFG Union Bank for prints-and-advertising financing. Weizenecker helped draft Georgia film and music incentives; he reps producers and financiers of feature films, television series, commercials, music videos, animation and videogames in content financing.
Hunt: Georgetown Law, 1996 Weizenecker: Thomas M. Cooley Law School, 1995
Jason Karlov, Rebekah Prince & Bryan Thompson
Karlov: Chair of Entertainment, Media and Sports, Barnes & Thornburg Prince: Partner, Barnes & Thornburg Thompson: Special counsel, Barnes & Thornburg
Top pro athletes make so much money — and fast, with rookie bonuses — that Prince advises managing their finances like a regular business. That means corporate governance with “alarms in place” and formal employment agreements for staff. She advocates “taking a more holistic approach to their entire enterprise.” Meanwhile, Karlov feels that the music industry should open its doors wider to new uses such as hardware with pre-loaded tunes and unusual live events. This “will allow the recording and music industries to continue to rebound,” Karlov says. Karlov leads the Century City-based team. He reps Bob Dylan; John Fogerty; the NFL (including half-time shows)/NFL Network; T Bone Burnett; the Grateful Dead’s song catalog; and fitness outfits Beachbody and Peloton in their music licensing. Prince reps Kobe Bryant Inc.; production services outfit Quixote Studios; Robert and Kym Herjavec (Mark Burnett Productions’ “Shark Tank”); celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck Worldwide; and basketball’s Russell Westbrook. Thompson joined last year from Fox Networks Group, and earlier worked at Yahoo! and producer Whalerock Industries.
Karlov: USC Gould School of Law, 1995 Prince: U. of Texas School of Law, 2002 Thompson: U. of North Carolina School of Law, 1998
Kleinberg, Founding Partner, Kleinberg Lange Cuddy & Carlo
Kleinberg’s longtime clients range from Jack Nicholson to former Monkee Michael Nesmith, but these days he does his heaviest legal lifting as the U.S. rep for “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling. In recent months, he’s handled complex negotiations for the continuing build-out of her digital hub Pottermore, the multi-hundred-million-dollar expansion of the Potter attractions at Universal Studios Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood, the addition of a “Fantastic Beasts” attraction at Warner Bros. Leavesden Studios Tour in London and various WB Games initiatives. “It shows you the power of creativity,” says Kleinberg, whose other clients include Oscar-winning animator Glen Keane (“Dear Basketball”) and singer Peter Cetera.
UCLA Law School, 1967
Ari Lanin & Benyamin Ross
Lanin: Partner, Media, Entertainment & Technology Practice Group / Co-Chair, Private Equity Practice, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher Ross: Partner, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher
Lanin finds that when top Hollywood execs decamp the studio system for tech ventures, they use their instinct for content along with their organizational skills and marketing savvy to attract financing. “There’s a new breed of independent moguls,” Lanin says. Ross feels that influencers who harness interactivity at Twitter and elsewhere in cyberspace will next ride virtual reality and augmented reality. “What we’re seeing is the importance of an interactive connection with the audience,” Ross says. The Los Angeles-based duo advise Jeffrey Katzenberg’s WndrCo, Chernin Group, Otter Media and John Fogelman’s FactoryMade Ventures. Lanin advises private equity firms Aurora Capital and Platinum Equity. Ross handles live entertainment/arena Oak View Group, and influencer’s Huda Beauty brand.
Lanin: USC Gould School of Law, 2000 Ross: NYU Law School, 2004
Owner. LaPolt Law
LaPolt’s efforts to advance the proposed Music Modernization Act in Congress may seem like herding cats. After getting music industry consensus, the proposal was then hashed out further with the tech and broadcasting industries, which came onboard too. “We negotiate with a smile and the notion you get more with honey than with vinegar,” she says. The copyright overhaul gains momentum because it should end litigation under today’s antiquated regulations. Clients of LaPolt’s transactional boutique law firm include deadmau5, Fifth Harmony, Britney Spears, Steven Tyler, and Eddie Money’s reality TV show on AXS TV.
John F. Kennedy School of Law, 1997
Partner, Morris Yorn Barnes Levine
Client Jordan Peele’s Oscar-winning big-screen debut as a writer-director, “Get Out,” has created a lot of work for Levine, building up Peele’s production company and setting up first-look deals with Sonar Entertainment for TV and Universal for features. But, says Levine, “I’m fortunate enough to have a healthy and mature practice, so it’s also business as usual for my other clients,” who include Aziz Ansari, Fred Armisen, Jeff Garlin and Carrie Brownstein, TV series creators Bill Lawrence (“Life Sentence”) and sportscasters Tony Kornheiser, Michael Wilbon and Skip Bayless. And he still finds time to attend more than two dozen Dodgers games a year (not counting playoffs).
Lichter reps a diverse stable of directors, writers and producers, ranging from such vets as “The Big Bang Theory” co-creator Bill Prady, screenwriter Terry Rossio (“Godzilla vs. Kong,” “Pirates of the Caribbean” films) and “Homeland” producer-director Lesli Linka Glatter to up-and-coming director Chloe Zhao, whose “The Rider” won the Directors’ Fortnight prize at Cannes, as well as Scandinavian producer NiceFLX Pictures (“The 100-Year-Old Man”), SFFilms (“A Man Called Ove”) and Yellow Bird (“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”). A dedicated festgoer, she serves as vice chair of the Telluride Film Festival. “It’s always been interesting to find new voices and help them find a place,” says Lichter.
UC Berkeley Law School, 1976
Darrell D. Miller
Chair, Entertainment Department, Fox Rothschild
“Are we on the threshold of new opportunities and bigger opportunities for women and people color in terms of studio tentpoles?” wonders Miller. His gut says yes because economics opens doors in Hollywood doors — though sustainability is a question. Miller thinks that decision-makers will embrace diversity to stand out in the saturated marketplace. He reps “Black Panther” star Angela Bassett for acting, producing and directing; and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges in the “Fast and Furious” franchise and for MTV’s “Fear Factor” revival. Other clients include writer-producer Cheo Hodari Coker, producer-director Reginald Hudlin, producer-director Chris Robinson and actor-producer Courtney B. Vance.
Georgetown Law, 1990
Partner, Greenberg Glusker
Tax lawyers and accountants are burning the midnight oil so clients can cash-in on U.S. tax reform. “There are some profound beneficial changes for Hollywood,” says Moore. His highlights: no limit to deducting costs for films made in the U.S. (versus $15 million before); big tax savings for personal compensation if “business income,” so loan-out companies and partnerships will revamp; and a big tax break for foreign income earned by corporations. The transactional lawyer repped the sale of VOD outfit Gravitas Ventures in November, $30 million financing for Globalgate Entertainment consortium in autumn last fall, and Martin Scorsese’S $100 million-plus budget film drama “The Irishman” in September.
UCLA School of Law, 1981
Benjamin Mulcahy & Gina Reif Ilardi
Partners, DLA Piper
The specialty of this bicoastal tag team (Mulcahy in L.A., Reif Ilardi in NY), which recently made the leap from Jenner & Block to DLA Piper, is structuring and activating innovative marketing campaigns for major studios, corporations and brands. They include Fiat Chrysler’s high-profile launch of the 840 hp Dodge Challenger Demon, and United Entertainment Group’s agreement with North Face, Capitol Records and Spotify to simultaneously launch Maggie Rogers’ single “Split Stones” and North Face’s Ventrix product line via a smartphone app. “The interworkings of all the different media players that want to do deals together has become increasingly complex in our practice,” says Reif Ilardi. And after more than a decade, their personal working relationship is finely honed. “We’re good at reading the room and each other,” says Mulcahy.
Mulcahy: U. of Minnesota Law School, 1994 Reif Ilardi: Fordham U. Law School, 2005
Michele M. Mulrooney
Chair, West Coast Tax and Wealth Planning Practice, Venable LLP
Federal tax reform that is effective this year is good news because it lowers taxes in Hollywood — particularly for above-the-line folks —though there’s still plenty of head-scratching going on to understanding its intricacies, says Mulrooney. “We’re doing a lot of structuring in income tax planning that we weren’t doing before,” she says. The new tax regime nominally excludes services, but how it’s implemented and possible workarounds are being crafted. Mulrooney advises Hollywood high-net-worth individuals in international tax compliance, personal tax, pre-nups, creating foundations, estate planning, family law and other personal legal issues.
USC Gould School of Law, 1985
Partner, Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz
In recent months, New York-based Nickin negotiated high-profile deals for Aaron Sorkin to script the “Lucy & Desi” biopic to star Cate Blanchett, and John Goodman’s return to “Roseanne,” but her most innovative work was on behalf of Simon Fuller’s XIX Entertainment to bring the Norwegian hit “Skam” to Facebook Watch as its first scripted series. “We were able to work with Facebook over the course of the year to establish a new framework, not just for ourselves, but all of their deals going forward, and create a revenue share that made sense,” says Nickin. “It’s kind of a hybrid between SVOD deals and traditional network television deals.”
Wayne State U. Law School, 1997
Shareholder & Co-Chair, Atlanta Entertainment & Media Practice, Greenberg Traurig
When music talent launches spirits brands, Rosen says, artists invest seed money to attract a liquor company as partner. “It’s very akin to a music demo so the spirts company isn’t guessing,” he says, referring to demo records in which talent invests a small amount of money for crude recording that’s shopped to record companies to get a big recording deal. Rosen has worked a half-dozen such deals. Artists also commit “sweat equity … like promotion on a tour,” he says, adding that their ownership stakes can eventually be cashed out. Rosen negotiated Kenny Chesney’s recording-deal move to Warner Music Nashville. Other clients include Florida Georgia Line, Miranda Lambert, Reba McEntire, Brad Paisley and Thomas Rhett.
Atlanta Law School, 1991
Vice-Chairman, Global Entertainment & Media Practice, Greenberg Traurig
Rosenbloum says that licensing music to social media that users later incorporate in homemade videos is all-new money for the tunes industry. “It doesn’t cannibalize core industry revenue streams,” he says. “It’s purely incremental for the music business.” Rosenbloum also expects that tunes will get a promotional boost. Licensing for social-media is unusual, he adds, because it’s not known in advance exactly how music will be used by non-pros. Rosenbloum repped Musical.ly for its sale to China’s Bytedance and advises Bytedance going forward. Other clients include Amazon, Dick Clark Productions, the Latin Recording Academy, Microsoft, SoundCloud, Spotify and Stingray Digital.
Harvard Law School, 1994
Barbara M. Rubin
Partner and Chair, Transactional Entertainment Department, Glaser Weil
Rubin advises talent from successful TV series to pursue profit-participation audits regularly, hopefully making relationship-fraying lawsuits unnecessary later. Periodic financial reviews should keep employer relations “warm and fuzzy, and are a way to keep them honest,” she says. An audit by one of her clients uncovered an expense misallocation worth potentially millions of dollars over years. She notes that a recent California court decision ruled that not exercising audit rights when contractually available bars claims later. Rubin reps production/management company Anonymous Content; Martin Sheen; Alison Sweeney for acting and producing; writer-producer Jeff Melvoin; writer-producer Bruce Zimmerman; and Scripps TV station group.
Loyola Law School, 1978
Partner, Entertainment, Sports & Media Practice, Latham & Watkins
The film/TV sector is buffeted by cross-currents in addition to the obvious globalization trend, says Savill. “We’re now seeing an emphasis on digital-first content, including a lot of short-form,” she says. She advised Netflix in its Millarworld comics acquisition in August — symbolic of the trend of streamers acquiring stockpile intellectual property. London-based Savill sits on various U.K. government and industry public film bodies, and advised completion bond outfit Film Finances in its $75 million London IPO in June. Other clients include Blumhouse Productions, Meridian Film Fund and Bank Leumi.
U. of New South Wales, Australia
Partner, Sheppard Mullin
New York-based Schnapp has been at the legal forefront of the entertainment-tech convergence. In recent months, he’s repped music performing rights org ASCAP in its new deal with Google/YouTube, Cinedigm Entertainment in the launch of its gaming lifestyle OTT service with the Wham Network, and Bandsintown in its joint promotion and audience acquisition alliance with the Universal Music Group. Last June, after 10 years at Hughes Hubbard & Reed, he moved to Sheppard Mullin, where, he says, he’s able to take advantage of “a strong West Coast practice that has what my clients are looking for in a full-service entertainment, technology and media practice.”
Syracuse U. College of Law, 1994
Co-Founding Partner, Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka Finkelstein & Lezcano
Shaw says that Hollywood needs to stretch beyond its comfort zone and be more self-reflective on hiring. The industry tends to cocoon by employing the same team of persons over and over, so there’s de facto staying within “your circle of personal acquaintances,” she says. She reps “Black Panther’s” Lupita Nyong’o; Ta-Nehisi Coates, writer of test-cheating drama “Wrong Answer”; and director Ava DuVernay (“A Wrinkle in Time”). Shaw also founded TimesUp’s $21 million legal defense fund, and is a founding member of Anita Hill-chaired Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace.
Columbia Law School, 1979
Partner and Chairman of the Motion Picture, Television, Theater, Publishing, New Media and Sports Group, Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks
As talent finds more ways to monetize celebrity, Shire feels that clients need to understand differences between verticals. For example, some creators enjoy great control over their Broadway plays; by contrast, Hollywood screenwriters work in a prevailing work-for-hire environment. He sees a “unique evolution in business and law for each of the different media” that also embraces TV, sports and books. Shire repped Bruce Springsteen for Broadway; producer Scott Rudin for “Hello, Dolly!”; Robert De Niro for “The Irishman”; Elton John, including his farewell tour; LeBron James for endorsements and digital; Facebook; and talent in digital deals.
George Washington U. Law School, 1982
Partner, Felker Toczek Gelman Suddleson
A second-generation entertainment lawyer, Suddleson works with established stars such as Vin Diesel, Jesse Eisenberg and Zac Efron, but what sets him apart is his track record of nurturing talent including “Vampire Diaries” creator Julie Plec, screenwriter Gary Dauberman (“It,” “Annabelle”), “Patti Cake$” star Danielle Macdonald and, most notably, Greta Gerwig, whose breakout film “Lady Bird” earned her Oscar nominations for both writing and directing earlier this year. “When you meet a young super-talented actor in a bar with their manager after a screening at Sundance and they wind up being an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker, that’s pretty wonderful stuff,” says Suddleson.
Yale Law School, 1995
Matthew Thompson, Stephen M. Fronk, Richard Petretti & Russell (Rusty) G. Weiss
Thompson: Partner and Leader, Media and Entertainment, Sidley Austin Fronk: Partner, Sidley Austin Petretti: Partner, Sidley Austin Weiss: Partner, Sidley Austin
As a cycle of Chinese investment diminishes, Thompson says that Hollywood’s major studios need to offer fairer terms to attract a new wave of funders for film-slate co-financing. “If a studio figures that out, it will open the floodgates of available capital for all the studios,” says Thompson, who is working on such deals. Petretti points out that studio mega-mergers, trade-war jitters and fluctuating home entertainment economics need to be overcome. “I wonder if it will take a while because there is so much upheaval,” Petretti says. Thompson repped Canada’s eOne buying the balance of an affiliate for $209 million; two film-library transactions; and private equity and family offices in entertainment transactions. Silicon Valley-based Fronk advised Tang Media Partners in acquiring a U.S. theatrical distributor, and separately a global company in launching a global OTT video service through a new interactive platform. Petretti represents banks, funds and borrowers, mostly for debt transactions, including J.P. Morgan and City National Bank. Weiss assisted FoxNext on its Marvel Strike Force mobile video game; Imax for virtual reality; the LA 2028 Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games; and Daybreak Games.
Thompson: UC Hastings College of Law, 1991 Fronk: UC Hastings, 1996 Petretti: NYU Law, 1980 Weiss: Loyola Law School, 1994
Founding Partner, Ziffren Brittenham
A top legal power broker for more than five decades, Ziffren has served as Los Angeles’ film czar since 2014, working to ensure that film and TV shoots (and the attendant jobs) stay in town by lobbying for improved state production incentives. Recently, he repped Nobel Prize-winner Kip Thorne and author Stephen Hawking in a deal with DreamWorks for their movie idea, “Brains.” “What I try to do now is take on matters that from my point of view are going to be fun,” says Ziffren. “And hopefully I have the ability to choose what I want to do and deal with people I want to deal with.” Ziffren is keynoter at ’s Power of Law breakfast on April 20.
UCLA Law School, 1965
Legal Director, Music Licensing, Facebook
Atkins has found that over the years the tech and content industries, which used to clash constantly, have increasingly shown “growing and persistent appreciation for shared opportunities.” She feels that both industries work to enable consumers to interact with professionally made content “while preserving the value of the content itself for both creators and rights holders.” The New York-based Atkins arrived in March from law firm Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams & Sheppard, where her clients, including Facebook, are involved in digital, technology and content. She also repped Carnegie Technologies’ investment in Triller, an app for creating music videos; sync licensing engine Songtradr; and mobile app Dubsmash.
Harvard Law School, 1992
SVP and Associate General Counsel, Endeavor
Braun supervises a team of attorneys and execs around the globe handling legal affairs, litigation, employment, immigration and government relations for companies under the Endeavor umbrella, which include tenpercenteries (WME, IMG Models, etc.), fashion and entertainment businesses (New York Fashion Week, Miss Universe) and sports leagues (the PBR, UFC). In the wake of #MeToo’s ascendency, she’s formed a committee to examine allegations against clients and also counsels reps whose clients have been harassed. “I’m not their lawyer,” says Braun of the clients, “but I can be a translator to help demystify the process of filing a complaint.”
U. Of Michigan Law School, 2002
General Counsel, CAA
Freedman says diversification into adjoining businesses and internationally is necessary to better plug clients into expanding media. That can mean pushing into digital to work with online influencers. Another area is providing corporate clients with employee perk programs offering entertainment benefits. “The agency business has evolved over time,” he says. Freedman worked on buying a stake in Entertainment Benefits Group in January, Singaporean investor Temasek purchasing a CAA stake in September and creating CAA China in April partnering with CMC Capital Partners. He joined in 2009, from Paramount Pictures and private practice.
UCLA School of Law, 1993
Chief Legal Officer, MGM Studios
New state laws banning employers from asking salary history eliminates a traditional starting point in negotiations for hiring talent, leaving dealmakers scrambling, says Freeman. “It’s changing the way those negotiations run from start to finish,” she adds. Freeman finds that talks take longer and Hollywood hasn’t yet settled on new protocols. She worked on formalizing a theatrical distribution joint venture with Annapurna Pictures, re-establishing Orion Pictures in distribution, acquiring unscripted producer Evolution Media, increasing MGM’s debt facilities to $2.1 billion and fully acquiring premium pay TV service Epix. The Los Angeles-based Freeman joined from HBO in 2016.
UCLA Law School, 1995
VP, Business & Legal Affairs, Netflix
Gagan found an initial California court’s ruling favoring Olivia de Havilland’s lawsuit disputing her depiction in FX Networks series “Feud: Bette and Joan,” in which she’s played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, “worrisome” because it had the potential to “chill the ability to tell stories involving public figures who might not want some of those stories told.” Netflix filed an opposing brief helping win a reversal on appeal, on First Amendment grounds. Gagan worked on Netflix’s acquisition of comic book publisher Millarworld; producer deals for Shonda Rhimes, Jenji Kohan and Shawn Levy; standup shows for Jerry Seinfeld and Ellen DeGeneres, and protecting the intellectual property of “Stranger Things.”
Stanford Law School, 2000
SVP and General Counsel, Hulu
Ho oversees a team of 40 attorneys handling everything from content, licensing and advertising to patent litigation for new product features for the streamer. In the past year, much of his energy has been devoted to growing its over-the-top live TV service, launched in spring 2017. It now boasts more than 70 premium channels. He also negotiated a deal to create a $4.99/month package for college students, bundling Hulu with music streaming service Spotify. “People tend to think our legal team just sits around doing sexy licensing deals all day,” says Ho. “But we’re really a full-service legal department.”
Harvard Law School, 1997
EVP & General Counsel, ASCAP
At ASCAP, Kim oversees dealmaking and enforcement of contracts generating more than $1 billion in royalties a year for over 650,000 songwriters, composers and publishers. In the past year, she has closed new licensing deals with the terrestrial radio industry, ABC, Disney cable networks and YouTube. She helped craft the Music Modernization Act, recently introduced to both houses of Congress, which would reform outdated regulations that prevent songwriters from earning a fair market rate for music streamed and downloaded online. “I think that the music industry has come to a place where it’s cautiously optimistic that the technological changes can be for good for business,” says Kim.
NYU School of Law, 1988
Richard B. Levy
Board Member and General Counsel ICM Partners
Hollywood’s talent agencies continue diversification into media and intellectual property, says Levy: “Everyone is taking a slightly different approach to what that looks right for them.” What started with the sector expanding into marketing services has, over the past decade, accelerated into sports, sponsorships, production and distribution. At the employee-owned talent agency, Levy worked deals acquiring a majority stake in speakers-bureau Royce Carlton and leading the investment group buying the Just for Laughs comedy festival. He is the de facto head of business operations, business/legal affairs, human resources and operations, and has a hand in finance.
NYU School of Law, 1992
SVP, Head of Television Business and Legal Affairs, MRC Studios
Micelli not only handled the legal wrangling associated with the rejiggering of MRC-produced Netflix series “House of Cards” in the wake of sexual assault allegations against Kevin Spacey last year, she also closed a deal for director Damien Chazelle’s (“La La Land”) upcoming series for Apple, oversaw the company’s diverse array of network licensing agreements and handled production matters ranging from crew contracts to set safety. “Anything that you see that’s used to put a show together, we touch in some way,” says Micelli. “And every day I get to make deals, and every day they’re different.”
Loyola Law School, 1993
Executive Vice President, Deputy Group General Counsel 21ST Century Fox
Video streamers are disrupting traditional Hollywood in their quests for content, says Nova. “We have seen programming transactions that don’t make economic sense,” she observes. The disruption is pushing traditional Hollywood players into a consolidation trend and also causing them to diversify into streaming, as evidenced by the studio-backed Hulu consortium, she adds. Nova oversaw legal aspects in the December agreement to sell key Fox assets to Disney for $66 billion that will leave a leaner Fox. She’s also on the board of Fox-controlled New York regional sports YES Network.
Columbia Law School, 1992
EVP, Business Affairs, and General Counsel, Paradigm Talent Agency
As the person handling all business and legal affairs for Paradigm, Wagner strives to “render a level of services that has an unmistakable level of excellence … and the rest of it takes care of itself,” he says. Over the past year, he’s negotiated a license agreement for the Paramount TV/Netflix adaptation of the Norwegian series “Maniac,” made deals with NBC for a new music reality show and Fox for a live production of the musical “Rent,” and handled the agency’s acquisition of the boutique music agency Monterey Intl. in-house, while shepherding the various screen adaptations of horrormeister Stephen King’s works.
NYU School of Law, 1989
Business Affairs Executive, UTA
Walker is the agency’s in-house expert on cutting-edge international productions and other complex TV, digital and intellectual property deals. She helped negotiate “The Crown” creator Peter Morgan’s partnership with Left Bank Pictures and Sony for Netflix, later expanded to an overall deal, and Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino’s pact to create, write and direct his first television project “The Young Pope.” The changes being wrought by streaming services and cable’s expansion frequently take Walker into uncharted contractual territory. “You can come up with unique solutions and craft something that’s totally new,” she says.
Southwestern U. School of Law, 2006
Associate, Reed Smith
Bloch delved into the entertainment industry prior to enrolling in law school, working for the former Endeavor Agency (now WME) and then as a talent manager for Principal Entertainment in New York. Now at Reed Smith, he recently helped negotiate the Coen brothers’ upcoming Netflix anthology series “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.” “I feel protective of my clients, and l love helping them get their projects off the ground and making sure these deals are secure,” he says.
VP, Business & Legal Affairs, STX Entertainment
Cao entered her legal path with the intention of being a criminal lawyer, but her overriding passion for music, film and television launched her into a career as an entertainment lawyer. At STX, Cao served as the lead attorney on multiple projects, negotiating and drafting deals for upcoming films including “Happytime Murders” and “Second Act.” “Here at STX, I always see something new coming in,” she says. “You’re constantly learning and thinking you can do something better.”
Partner, Ramo LLP
Chang counsels production, sales, distribution and post-production companies. She reps Solution Entertainment Group, with recent projects including the film “Killerman” with Liam Hemsworth, and “Wheelman,” which dropped on Netflix in 2017. “There has been a lot of discussion about VR and cryptocurrency and how that has started to infiltrate what we do and what our clients do,” Chang says. “Being a part of those developing areas is really exciting.”
Associate, Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz
Aside from structuring and negotiating a variety of entertainment agreements for her clients at Frankfurt, Kurnit Klein and Selz, Cleary has developed a comedy practice, helping up-and-coming comedians in New York build their careers as entertainers. Cleary has negotiated agreements for comedians including Anthony DeVito and Rekha Shankar. “The part I really like about what I do is seeing relatively unknown artists have their voices discovered, and helping them navigate different paths to success,” she says.
Rose Leda Ehler
Associate, Munger, Tolles & Olson
As a litigator, Ehler helped the Munger Tolles & Olson team secure a victory for Disney, Lucasfilm, Twentieth Century Fox and Warner Bros. in a copyright infringement and circumvention action against streaming service VidAngel. “The entertainment industry is a fascinating business, and just being able to be an adviser to it and learn through our clients about their business as that business evolves has been great,” she says. “I’m very excited to see where the industry goes as things continue to evolve.”
Associate, Katten Muchin Rosenman
Hill recently served as the lead associate on two copyright infringement lawsuits regarding the Starz series “Power,” with defendants including Anchor Bay Entertainment, CBS Entertainment as well individuals like rapper 50 Cent. “There were a lot of defendants involved, a lot of parts and lawyers,” Hill says. “Playing that circus ringleader where you’re keeping in contact with a lot of different people, spearheading litigation strategy and drafting big motions was probably the highlight of my year.”
Motion Pictures, Business Affairs Executive, UTA
Landau represents a wide array of clients on behalf of UTA, closing film sales and financing film deals. Recent work includes securing the financing of Academy Award-nominated films “The Big Sick,” “Call Me by Your Name” and “I, Tonya.” “Coming to a place like UTA was an incredible opportunity for me to get in the heart of the entertainment business, and to get direct access to the amazing artists that we have here as clients,” he says.
VP, Business and Legal Affairs, Executive, Participant Media
As the lead attorney for Participant Media’s digital, new media, advocacy and social impact divisions, Ludmir has negotiated deals for the company’s new VR content projects, aiding online users to take action on issues such as climate change. “If you’re inspired enough to get more intimately involved with a particular issue, the next step is made more intuitive via this technology,” he says. “I’m proud to have been a part of the team to take that to fruition.”
Associate, Cowan, Debaets, Abrahams And Sheppard
In today’s digital landscape, social media influencers have rapidly become key players in the world of digital marketing. Peritz, who focuses his practice on helping shape the talent and brand sides of the influencer industry, says it is “growing organically, and there’s no stopping it.” He reps the eSports team Faze Clan, as well as other digital influencers.
Mary Lauren Teague
Associate, Loeb & Loeb
Teague’s recent work includes protection matters and appearance-related agreements for big players in the Nashville music industry, including Carrie Underwood. Recently, Teague negotiated agreements for artists appearing on the “Forever Words” project, an album by Johnny Cash’s son John Carter Cash that amalgamates previously unrecorded lyrics by Johnny Cash to new music written by artists such as Brady Paisley and Elvis Costello. “Lawyers are now being looked at more as strategists, where clients and business managers help discover new revenue opportunities or exploitation opportunities,” she says.