Film students strive to ‘Get It Right’
For many students at the USC School of Cinematic Arts (SCA), the first step into the real world can be daunting. In addition to generating a good idea, executing that idea and getting the product into the right hands, students also have to worry about the legal ramifications of their work.
With that in mind, Esq. Productions hosted a panel on March 3 at SCA called “Get It Right: Getting It Made Without Giving It Away” to cover common pitfalls in the entertainment industry. One theme of the morning was transparency.
“Bring your issues out into the open. Don’t hide your dragons,” suggested panelist Neil Ollivierra, vice president of business and legal affairs for Lionsgate. “Don’t sweat your [legal] issues. Don’t hide them. Don’t worry about them. Get them out in the open and deal with them. Let everyone know what’s going on and find a solution.”
The panel for the morning’s event included Ollivierra, David Wienir, a business affairs executive at United Talent Agency and Matthew N. Sugarman from the law firm Weissmann, Wolff, Bergman, Coleman, Grodin & Evall LLP. Among the topics were idea protection, chain of title, moving into the digital space and the different roles that talent lawyers, business affairs executives, agents and studios play over the course of an artist’s career.
“It’s very rare that what I think I’m going to be doing is what I end up doing on any given day,” Wienir said. “It’s a wonderful job for someone who is comfortable reacting to what goes on. If you can pay attention to several details at once, it might be for you.”
Esq. Productions, a nonprofit corporation, produces educational programming focused on the business and legal sides of various entertainment industries. Run by Latha Duncan, a third-year student at Southwestern Law School, and William Barrett, a third-year student at New York Law School, Esq. Productions has worked with several film schools and film festivals.
“We believe there is much the creative artist can do to proactively navigate the business and legal minefields of the industry,” Duncan said. “We try to provide the artist with the broadest perspective possible on these matters. We want artists to leave our events empowered to tackle these sides of their careers at the front end.”