OU Law alumna Emily Taylor (’16) and 3L student Nick Williams have taken their talents out West working at Lionsgate Entertainment in Los Angeles. Taylor works in the company’s Office of Business and Legal Affairs, and Williams recently wrapped up a summer internship in the Legal Rights Management Department. Below is their take on working in the field of entertainment law.
When you began at law school, was it your goal to work in entertainment law? If not, what led you down that path?
Taylor: Yes and no. When I was applying to law schools, I had no idea that entertainment law was even an area of practice. I decided to visit a couple of law schools before I decided where to attend, and in my meeting with Career Development at OU Law (Casey Delaney, specifically), I was introduced to the idea and possibility of entertainment law. Between my undergraduate program and law school, I spent nearly seven years performing at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The idea that I could combine my creative side with my analytical side was really exciting. The conversation about entertainment law is really what made me decide to choose OU Law for my J.D. program.
Williams: Media/entertainment law was what actually first perked my interest in going to law school. I come from a strong background in music and writing, and with how ubiquitous and democratized both those fields have become recently, learning the legal grid-works beneath them seemed equally beneficial and compelling. But, like all “good” law students, I went into OU Law with an open mind and have found other areas of the law fascinating as well – areas that additionally have shown to have some sort of thread to my initial area of interest with media/entertainment law.
Describe the day-to-day of your job.
Taylor: I am in a really exciting, developing and fast-paced department in the Office of Business and Legal Affairs at Lionsgate. My group has a number of responsibilities, including streaming services, digital production, marketing, consumer products, and video games. The best part of my job is that it is 100% different every 30 minutes. Here is a short description of some of the things I do with respect to each of those areas:
- STREAMING SERVICES: This has been the meat and potatoes of my job so far. Lionsgate just launched a new streaming service on Aug. 3, so it has been all-hands-on-deck to get that up and running. The platform hosts both original and licensed productions, so in some cases we just need to execute license agreements to display someone else’s intellectual property, but in others we are responsible for a show from concept through exhibition. I have negotiated, drafted, and reviewed agreements with production companies, on-camera performers, writers, directors, and intellectual property holders. New content is released on this platform every day and new shows are ordered every quarter, so I juggle a lot of agreements every single day.
- DIGITAL PRODUCTION: People are really familiar with the life cycle of a movie where it is exhibited in a big theatre and then eventually makes it to Blu-ray/DVD/iTunes/etc., but a lot of films never get a theatrical release. Lionsgate also has a lot of content (usually made with a smaller budget than the theatrical films) that is made specifically for digital, straight-to-consumer platforms (like iTunes or Amazon). This area looks a little like the streaming services, but it is more complex because there is a higher level of involvement with the guilds and unions (e.g., SAG/AFTRA, WGA, DGA, and IBEW). I have had to execute a lot of agreement with the guilds to ensure compliance with the requirements and regulations. Additionally, I have registered copyrights for screenplays and overseen payment for services rendered.
- MARKETING: Did you know that studios often spend at least as much money marketing a film as they do actually producing the film? That is because box office numbers have a huge impact on the continued life cycle of a film. Therefore, marketing is a really active department in an entertainment company. In this part of my job, I review and redline any type of agreement you can image. I have done non-disclosures, hotel agreements, photographer agreements, charter jet agreements, sweepstakes agreements, key art clearances, promoter agreements, giveaways, trademark registrations, and services agreements (just to name a few). Often in performer agreements, there will be all sorts of limitations on how the studio can use that performer’s name/image/likeness/voice, and I make a lot of charts that outline those restrictions; these charts are passed on to business side of marketing so that they know the requirements and restrictions without having to comb through an entire legal agreement.
Williams: My internship was, in short, all about contract analysis. I worked in the Rights Management Department at Lionsgate, which focused on recognizing the different partitioned rights the company had to a movie/TV show, and then communicating that information to other branches of the company, such as the Sales Department. Day-to-day, I would cipher through the Distribution Agreements Lionsgate had accumulated via recent acquisitions, assess those various contracts, and summarize the information for other departments to utilize.
How did OU Law prepare you for your role at Lionsgate?
Taylor: I will forever be grateful for my experience at OU Law. It was through my connections made at OU Law that I had the opportunity to intern at Paramount Pictures in the summer of 2015. From that experience at Paramount, I ended up spending a year at UCLA Law School getting an LL.M. in entertainment, intellectual property, and media law. And through my program at UCLA and connections at Paramount, I was offered my current position at Lionsgate. None of that would have been possible without the foundational education I received at OU. In each opportunity I have had in the entertainment industry, I have found that I have felt fully prepared and wholly confident in both my knowledge and my ability to analyze the pertinent information and issues. The OU Alumni network, the continued support of the OU faculty, and services of the Career Development Office have made it possible for me to pursue my dreams! If I had it all to do over again, I would not change a thing.
Williams: The education I acquired through OU Law definitely allowed me to rapidly understand the new environment I was in and run with the tasks I was assigned. But, I think even more so than pure education, the familial environment at OU Law, and particularly how that molds your approach to collaborative tasks with others, was what I was really able to excel at with my summer position. The entertainment industry is first and foremost a people-oriented industry. And atop of that, it’s currently in a rapid state of change. New protocols and new questions are constantly arising, and it becomes imperative to have the ability to both communicate and collaborate in those areas.
Nick, what recommendations do you have for students looking to apply for externships/internships?
Reach out and build your network of relationships. I’m not sure I’ve experienced a field that’s so relationship-driven as the entertainment industry. Particularly, with it being such an exciting field, the competition for the available positions is pretty steep. And yet, what seems to differentiate those that acquire the positions as opposed to those who don’t has a lot to do with the quality of relationships they have. The positive side to that though is that I’ve met a great many people who have been wonderfully kind and willing to help out, whether through sitting down and passing along what advice/wisdom/insight they have, or connecting you with another helpful friend of theirs.
However, I’d also encourage others to be earnest in that process of connecting. The education of becoming an attorney is all about learning how to give value to others on a professional level, yet the ability to do that on a personal level is just as important. Know what you have to give, and seek to make the lives of others all the better for it.
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