How did I get my current position?
Though I loved my time in Chicago, I knew that the place to be for entertainment business opportunities, particularly in film and television, was Los Angeles. Upon graduation, I studied and passed the California bar and made the official move to LA. Because I had not taken summer employment in California- which, incidentally, I do recommend to anyone who knows where they want to eventually be practicing- it was a challenge to find my first job. I lacked the contacts and network that is increasingly important to any job search. What I discovered was that not every job is found through old-fashioned means of applying to an ad and getting an interview. Rather, I was submitted through a friend to a boutique law firm in Beverly Hills and soon after I got a newly created position. The job was a combination of legal, business development and marketing. The firm itself specialized in entertainment issues but on the litigation side. I was grateful for the opportunity and I learned a lot about entertainment related contracts and real world practice; however, I knew it was not the long-term place for me.
Meanwhile, an actor friend of mine was working on a short film with a production company that was headquartered in Toronto. He knew of my interest in more hands-on production work so he asked if I wanted to help out. I participated as the production lawyer, meaning I was responsible for the talent and crew contracts, guild compliance- particularly the Screen Actor’s Guild (now SAG-AFTRA)- and copyright issues. I suddenly found myself doing exactly what I had set out to do all along. It was an exciting time. I hit it off with the production company, Landed Entertainments (www.landedentertainments.com), and they offered me a full-fledged position.
Since then, we have produced two short films, seven music videos for Japanese pop stars and are poised to go into production on a feature narrative film and a documentary feature this summer. The company now also has a subsidiary office in Los Angeles, which I manage as the General Counsel and Producer. My current responsibilities combine my interests in legal issues, entertainment business and creative pursuits. Some of my duties include contract drafting and negotiation, guild compliance, casting, crew hires, and creating the production schedules and budgets.
In fact, one of the short films was based on a feature length screenplay I co-wrote with my fellow attorney brother called Let’s Rap. After getting great positive feedback, we are now expanding the project and it is the feature film being produced in Toronto this summer. As I am only licensed to practice law in California, for the Canadian contracts I act as the supervisor. Luckily, my brother is an Ontario lawyer so he can handle the official workload.
As a side project, I also wrote a short romance novel which takes place in Chicago over the course of a trial and self-published it on Amazon. Basically, you never know where your legal training will take you!
How did my studies relate to my current job?
Not only did Loyola instill the confidence required to deal with large talent agencies and their lawyers, it also provided the requisite training for all my business related duties for the production company. I know how to read and negotiate a fair contract. I know how to react when that contract isn’t being fulfilled. And particularly with respect to IP, I know what I can and can’t do on a film project. One day I had an actor show up wearing a New York Yankees baseball hat. No one seemed to notice that this was a direct violation of the Yankees’ IP and I had to be the bearer of “you can’t wear that on-screen without clearance” news. You aren’t always the most popular person on a set, but the production lawyer definitely saves the production money and aggravation in the long run. Production law can also be fun as you get to discover what constitutes fair use in a real context, decide how a real-life person may be referred to in a script and find out which companies will grant you the right to showcase their products and logos on-screen. For music lovers, you also get to contract with musicians and publishing houses in order to utilize songs for your soundtrack.
For more information feel free to contact Samantha at Samantha [at] landedentertainments[dot] com