Don't let the smiles fool you. These are Hollywood's 100 fiercest advocates.
The e-mails arrive in our inbox every couple of weeks.
Someone is desperately -- desperately! -- looking for a great Hollywood lawyer. Maybe it's an author fielding offers to turn her novel into a movie. Or a TV producer upset that a new reality show looks awfully similar to the concept he pitched a year ago. They invariably ask whether the editor of a blog devoted to entertainment law (THREsq.com) can offer a recommendation or two. Well, consider this issue to be one giant "reply all."
For The Hollywood Reporter's fourth edition of Power Lawyers, we researched the biggest deals and lawsuits of the year in film, television and music to zero in on the 100 attorneys who are most influencing the entertainment business. Only outside, private practice attorneys are eligible (no in-house studio, network or music-label execs), nor do we include guild or agency lawyers, professors or non-U.S. attorneys.
We've broken down the list into specialties (talent, litigation, corporate dealmaking and labor), hopefully creating a comprehensive resource filled only with great Hollywood lawyers. Still can't find one? Please don't shoot us an e-mail. -- Matthew Belloni
Click the categories below to access the list in each specialty.
This year, "All my clients who could work and generate substantial fees for themselves did," Hergott boasts, "and that's little short of a miracle in this environment." I
t's not quite a miracle considering those clients include A-listers Russell Crowe, Jake Gyllenhaal and Brad Pitt. He also handles mega-producers Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy and has become a respected art collector.
Hergott cut a deal to acquire Ming Wong's video sculpture "Life of Imitation," inspired by the 1959 Douglas Sirk film "Imitation of Life," which he is installing in the living room of his Beverly Hills home.
Wertheimer was a bit conflicted at the Oscars in March because clients Mark Boal ("The Hurt Locker") and Jason Reitman ("Up in the Air") were both up for best picture (Boal won).
It's a nice problem to have, as is juggling complex deals for J.J. Abrams on his new NBC series "Undercovers," Paramount's "Mission: Impossible 4" and "Super 8," not to mention the dozens of other projects Abrams has in development that "can't even be discussed," Wertheimer says.
On top of that, he's tended to longtime clients Sigourney Weaver and David Hasselhoff, as well as his legendary Sunday pickup softball games.
Grubman's former New York firm with fellow Power Lawyer Paul Schindler once dominated music. Like the industry itself, however, he's looking beyond record sales now.
"We're still doing deals for Sting, Bruce Springsteen, U2, Madonna, Mariah Carey and others," says the larger-than-life personality. "But we're now very involved in movies, television, video games and sports."
Grubman is part of a team counseling LeBron James and Chris Paul in this year's supercharged free agency market, and on the movie side, he reps Tribeca Films and the Weinstein Co.
After 52 years in the business, Hirsch and longtime partners Bob Wallerstein and George Hayum are grooming the firm's next generation.
Howard Fishman now takes much responsibility for Julia Roberts (handling her "Eat Pray Love" deal and negotiating for her to become the new face of Lancome cosmetics), as well as hot actors like Rachel McAdams, Rachel Weisz and Clive Owen.
And partner David Matlof reps filmmakers like Peter Berg (next summer's "Battleship") and Joseph Kosinski ("Tron: Legacy"), producer Lauren Shuler Donner and actors like Aaron Eckhart and Jeffrey Donovan ("Burn Notice").
"When I was starting out, Barry was a generous mentor," Matlof says. "Now I have the pleasure of collaborating with him and building the firm's new client relationships."
Myman probably was more interested in the May finale of "Lost" than even the most devoted fans. He reps co-showrunner Damon Lindelof and Jack Bender, who directed that final episode, and Myman recently closed new deals for both (Lindelof with ABC and a writer-producer deal for "Star Trek 2" at Paramount; Bender with J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot).
He repped Billy Bob Thornton on four film deals, Jessica Simpson in connection with her big-ticket reality show "The Price of Beauty" and closed a cutting-edge deal to bring Lisa Kudrow's online series "Web Therapy" to Showtime, international TV and Hulu.
He's now working on a mobile deal for the show. "We've cut some new ground with the unions and buyers with this new path for content," says the former water polo player and current Dodgers fan.
Ramer isn't among the town's most feared and respected negotiators merely because he presides over a powerhouse talent firm with roots that go back as far as Hollywood itself.
Or because the Harvard Law grad has spent decades shepherding the careers of industry icons like Steven Spielberg and Clint Eastwood. No, it's also his shiny Ferrari.
"He's a formidable but fair-minded advocate," says Warner Bros. president of worldwide business affairs Steve Spira. "The only thing he drives harder than a bargain is that old car of his."
One of the few talent lawyers equally comfortable with big-ticket finance deals, Wolf this year juggled the $300 million co-financing deal between Paramount, Skydance Prods. and producer David Ellison.
He's also the point person for Judd Apatow's key relationship with Universal, which includes deep funding for Apatow to develop material.
"People frequently refer to the 'Apatow Studio' but there's really no formal company," Wolf says. "Judd's success has enabled us to develop deals that allow this loose confederation of collaborators to operate with creative freedom while maximizing their financial upside."
And he closed a directing-producing deal for Nicholas Stoller ("Get Him to the Greek") at Universal.
When the budget of "The Blind Side" couldn't accommodate Sandra Bullock's usual $10 million quote, Gilbert-Lurie structured a unique arrangement with Alcon (reportedly paying her $5 million upfront with a greater share of the back end, including DVD sales) that will ultimately make her far more.
"Sandy took a gamble on 'Blind Side,' given its subject matter and modest budget and the unusual deal we structured," says Gilbert-Lurie, who grew up wanting to become a courtroom litigator but instead reps "Law & Order" creator Dick Wolf, Tina Fey, Hugh Laurie and Sarah Silverman.
"I can try to engineer a shrewd deal, but it doesn't mean much unless the picture performs. It was Sandy's sensational performance that activated the economics of the deal and won her the best actress Oscar on top."
After facilitating the William Morris-Endeavor merger, this year Jacobson turned his attention to creating Barry Diller and Ben Silverman's new company Electus.
"They're trying to create a new model for a media company that marries content with advertising at the inception of a project, rather than at the end," says Jacobsen, who continues to be involved in the venture.
The avid art collector also handled super-producer Lorne Michaels' negotiations for the digital rights for "Saturday Night Live" and closed deals for Jennifer Aniston ("Just Go With It," "Wanderlust") and director David Fincher ("The Social Network," "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo").
When Fox was young, his father bemoaned lawyers for killing deals. Now he's working to change that stereotype, closing Jon Cryer's rich pact to stay on "Two and a Half Men," as well as new deals for filmmakers William Monahan, Gavin Hood and Christopher McQuarrie.
"David kills with kindness," says manager-producer Michael Sugar, who shares Hood. "He's an incredibly savvy negotiator, but I think he ends up with the best endgame because he doesn't play games."
Fox helped producer Steve Schwartz beat several studios in a bidding war for two hot literary properties ("The Host" by Stephenie Meyer and "Spiral" by Paul McEuen), and set up a new horror franchise for "Saw" producers James Wan and Leigh Whannell.
As the World Cup was approaching, Lande's international music practice kicked into high gear, securing spots in the Cup's opening ceremonies for clients Alicia Keys and Shakira.
He also put together a $30 million endorsement and marketing deal for Shakira with SEAT, a European car company. "The potential opportunities in international markets are often much larger than the potential opportunities in the U.S.," he says.
Working closely with colleague John Branca, Lande structured two deals for the Michael Jackson estate to create a touring Cirque du Soleil show and one in Las Vegas featuring Jackson and his music. Revenue from both shows is expected to exceed $1 billion over the next 10 years.
Klein is known for her comedy clients -- Jim Carrey, Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd -- but she's equally comfortable with drama actors. She brokered Samuel L. Jackson's unique multipicture deal with Marvel, handled Megan Fox's ad campaign for Armani and reps Toni Collette.
She's also behind the structuring of Ferrell and Adam McKay's Funnyordie.com and Gary Sanchez Prods., which made Sony's upcoming Ferrell-Jackson vehicle "The Other Guys."
One of the few A-list lawyers on Twitter (he mostly shares wisdom from his must-read tome "All You Need to Know About the Music Business"), Passman just masterminded a big year for Green Day, including a Broadway bow for their "American Idiot" musical and their own "Rock Band" game.
He's also behind Pink's $100 million-grossing world tour and signed "American Idol" breakout Adam Lambert. What's next in the evolving music business? "The next year will be an interesting challenge, because the digital distribution services are developing," he says. "We're going to find out how music is going to be delivered in the future."
Del didn't set out to become the top rep for TV executives when he opened his practice in the 1970s, but "once you represent some, a certain expertise develops," he says.
In addition to presiding over one of the town's top full-service boutiques, he recently negotiated new pacts for Kevin Reilly at Fox and helped Reilly's predecessor, Peter Ligouri, land at Discovery Communications.
He also reps showrunners Marc Cherry ("Desperate Housewives"), Carlton Cuse ("Lost") and Eric and Kim Tannenbaum ("Two and a Half Men"). "Without being too New Agey about it, I believe that you find clients that should be with you," says Del, who shares his love of classic rock with four children, ages 4-17.
"I don't do this because I'm in love with the music," says Stiffelman, who studied architecture, medicine and film at various universities before enrolling in law school at UCLA.
"I do this because I love making the deals and getting inside the numbers." The numbers are good lately, thanks to a "whole panoply of new agreements" for Lady Gaga, from tour and merchandising deals to a partnership with Polaroid.
He's helping turn Justin Timberlake into a movie star, as well as locking endorsement deals with Sony and Givenchy. And he renegotiated a reunited Stone Temple Pilots' deal with Atlantic and cut a new solo deal for Kelly Rowland at Motown.
"Making deals with Marvel is especially challenging," notes Brown, who helped put Chris Hemsworth in "Thor" and "The Avengers" and bring Gwyneth Paltrow back for "Iron Man 2."
"You're making a long-term deal with options, so those get to be complicated." The avid tennis player, whose late mother is actually the Brown in his firm's name, also handled George Miller's deals with Warner Bros. for "Mad Max 4" and "Happy Feet 2," Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's pact for "Faster" at CBS Films, "Yellow Submarine" for Robert Zemeckis at Disney, as well as Michael Mann's HBO pilot "Luck."
We're starting to take this personally. Four years running, Bloom is the only Power Lawyer to refuse our call.
So we'll again congratulate Bloom for clients like Jerry Bruckheimer, Johnny Depp, Charlie Sheen and Nicolas Cage, and note the stellar work this year of partners like Carlos Goodman (Quentin Tarantino), Michael Schenkman (Christopher Nolan) and Leigh Brecheen (Conan O'Brien). Maybe next year, Jake?
Even fierce rivals admit Sloane's firm is on fire.
"It makes me nervous if I see that a potential client is also meeting with them," says a competing lawyer. That's because Sloane and his partners -- all still in their 40s -- enjoy rock-solid relationships with agents and managers, based on a team approach to representing everyone from actor-producers Will Smith and Mark Wahlberg to stage-trained thesps Morgan Freeman, Hugh Jackman and Jon Hamm to rising actresses Amy Adams and Anne Hathaway to directors like James Mangold ("Knight and Day").
"I've been in the talent representation business from virtually the beginning of my career," says Sloane, who has two young children with his wife, actress Embeth Davidtz. "As a result, I've really had a lot of hands-on experience in every aspect of entertainment business transactions."
Newman is fairly unique in the talent lawyer universe because she also serves as all-purpose counsel to unscripted TV clients like Endemol and Reveille, handling production work as well as big-ticket deals. "Other lawyers aren't necessarily as interested in reality TV," she says. "For me, it's fascinating."
She teamed Jerry Seinfeld and former "Oprah" producer Ellen Rakieten for NBC's "The Marriage Ref" and facilitating Brit producer Stephen Lambert's breakthrough move to the U.S. with CBS' "Undercover Boss," all while watching over her Santa Ynez Valley ranch, where she and husband Gary Newman of Fox TV produce wine sold under the label Jorian Hill.
"Jeanne is smooth and wired and smart and charming," Reveille's Howard Owens says. "There really isn't any problem we throw at her that she can't handle."
Jackoway won't talk about his meetings with client David Letterman's extortionist Robert "Joe" Halderman that resulted in an arrest and guilty plea, but it clearly wasn't a typical day at the office for the former Wall Street lawyer.
By contrast, even repping A-listers J.J. Abrams (with partner Alan Wertheimer) and Seth MacFarlane (with Karl Austen) is pretty tame, as was a new Warner Bros. TV pact for "Sex and the City" creator Michael Patrick King and an extension of Letterman's CBS deal through 2012. Frequent fishing trips reduce his stress levels. "BlackBerrys aren't waterproof," he jokes.
"There are still opportunities for talented artists, writers and producers," Katz says, despite reduced profit margins and fewer opportunities for artist development. Luckily, the Atlanta-based music icon isn't trying to break many new acts, having repped A-listers like Jimmy Buffet, Diana Ross and Christina Aguilera.
Recently, as co-general counsel to the Michael Jackson estate, he helped strike a deal with Sony for Jackson's catalog and the gathering of older, never-released products.
McKuin started his own firm at 27, so he can relate to entrepreneurial clients like showrunner Josh Schwartz, whom McKuin helped launch Fake Empire (with Stephanie Savage) with a fat deal at Warner Bros. TV and a first-look film pact and development fund at Paramount.
He handled Kristen Stewart's big renegotiation for the fourth and fifth "Twilight" films, did "NCIS" renegotiations for Michael Weatherly and Sean Murray (and partner Jeff Frankel reps Diablo Cody, among others). He's also one of the few top lawyers active in the reality space, with clients like 51 Minds' Marc Cronin.
He recently sold a Heidi Klum/Seal reality project to Lifetime, being careful to retain foreign rights. "With those two international players, the rights are going to be really valuable to us," says the Harvard Law grad, who plays piano, guitar, bass and drums.
Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr. calls Branca "the Smokey Robinson of dealmaking."
The onetime guitarist-songwriter has had his hands full as an executor of the Michael Jackson estate, striking lucrative deals with Sony Music (reportedly worth between $200 million and $250 million), Cirque du Soleil (for the development of two shows based on Jackson's music) and for the hit film "This Is It" (Branca got an executive producer credit).
His team also handled tour deals for Fleetwood Mac and Aerosmith with Live Nation and helped close the sale of the Rodgers & Hammerstein catalog to Imagem Music Group.
"The opportunities in this business are precious," notes Austen, who is making the most of them with an ultra-aggressive strategy both in negotiations and signing new talent. It's paying off with rising stars like "Saturday Night Live" breakout Kristen Wiig (who co-wrote and will star in Universal's "Bridesmaids"), Joseph Gordon-Levitt ("Inception," "Premium Rush") and a whopping five film deals for unlikely leading man Jonah Hill.
He sold Seth MacFarlane's feature debut, "Ted," to Universal and closed deals for emerging directors like Jonathan Liebesman ("Battle: Los Angeles") and Matt Reeves ("Let the Right One In"). "It's not just that Karl is aggressive," manager-producer Peter Principato notes. "He's a facilitator and a strategic thinker."
"A great number of our writer-producers are represented by Ken -- and with good reason," says ABC Studios business affairs chief Howard Davine. This year Richman solidified his reputation in TV with big overall deals for showrunners Ron Moore (at Sony), Robert Carlock ("30 Rock") and Mike Schur ("Parks & Recreation"), as well as securing the writing-producing team of Alec Berg, David Mandel and Jeff Schaffer first-dollar gross on Sacha Baron Cohen's next film at Paramount.
He recently signed Emmy nominee Jim Parsons ("The Big Bang Theory") and is assembling perhaps his most challenging team -- coaching T-ball for his kids. "Wrangling a bunch of 5-year-olds can be more challenging than my day-to-day job," he says.
"Nothing could be more surprising for us," Kleinberg says of the tragic April suicide of partner Peter Lopez. "That has been a personal challenge." Still, Kleinberg and his venerable firm are moving on, working with everyone from J.K. Rowling to Mick Jagger to Jack Nicholson, whom Kleinberg has repped since 1973.
At some point he recognizes he'll have to find a "heavy hitter" music lawyer to step into Lopez's spot, but Kleinberg knows how to be patient, having spent six years on dialysis before getting a kidney transplant in 2007.
Yorn headed to the Great White Way this year, helping film producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron ("Hairspray") take a stab at theater. "They really wanted to do Broadway," he says. "So we did their deals for the Tony-nominated 'Promises, Promises' and 'How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying' with Daniel Radcliffe."
Yorn also negotiated Tony winner Scarlett Johansson's "A View From the Bridge," a fun diversion from handling the massive pact for Ellen DeGeneres to continue her WBTV talk show, as well as her "American Idol" deal and A-list endorsements of Vitamin Water, American Express and Cover Girl.
Back in the mid-'90s, Rose was brought in to solve a quick problem on Ben Stiller's "The Cable Guy." Stiller liked his style and has been with him ever since. This year, that meant helping Stiller's Red Hour transition from DreamWorks to Fox in one of the few big-ticket producer deals, as well as sealing market-leading pacts for Universal's "Little Fockers" and a host of upcoming Stiller projects.
Rose also handles filmmakers Cameron Crowe ("We Bought a Zoo"), Joe Johnston ("Captain America") and Pete Segal ("Get Smart 2"), along with top scribe Steve Zaillian ("Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," "Moneyball") and actors like Martin Lawrence ("Big Momma's House 2") and Miranda Cosgrove (a complicated deal at Nickelodeon).
A "total animal nut," Rose founded Rascal & Chloe Rescue after being introduced to the cause by UTA agent Ruthanne Secunda. "Some people do their sports; I rescue cats and dogs and horses and mules," he says.
"As CD sales decline and digital sales increase, artists are looking to control their own product," Phillips says. So he's been busy recapturing rights for clients who want to take charge of their assets.
For the estate of Michael Jackson, Phillips is negotiating a major video game deal, and also helped settle a potentially nasty dispute when client Paul Anka noticed similarities between a 1983 song he wrote with Jackson and the singer's posthumous release, "This Is It."
For Burt Bacharach, Phillips consulted on the Broadway revival of "Promises, Promises" and he advised longtime clients Barbra Streisand, Brian Wilson, the Eagles, Tracy Chapman and Steve Perry.
Lichter has a knack for bringing indie talent into the Hollywood mainstream, whether it's helping "(500) Days of Summer" director Marc Webb land Sony's "Spider-Man" reboot or selling remake rights to the hot Swedish thrillers "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" (Sony) and "Snabba Cash" (Warner Bros.).
"Since I work in both the studio and the independent worlds, I haven't found that there's less business (in the current economic climate)," says Lichter, a "nature freak" who keeps two beehives in her backyard and this year totally remodeled her house in Hawaii.
Active clients also include top scribes Linda Woolverton ("Alice in Wonderland") and Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio ("Pirates of the Caribbean 4"). "Years ago, I was a buyer and I bought 10 scripts and Linda represented the writers on eight of them," recalls Gersh's Frank Wuliger, who now shares several clients with Lichter.
"Every time I bought one, the business affairs guys would say, 'Oh no, not Linda Lichter!' She's tough, but you know what? She made the deals on all eight. She never blew the deal."
Barely in his mid-40s, Johnson is now managing partner of the Ziffren firm and a close adviser for powerhouse multihyphenates like Tyler Perry and Tyra Banks. In April, Johnson got Paramount to guarantee client Sacha Baron Cohen $20 million against 20% of first-dollar gross (rising to 30% after costs are recouped) for his next movie, and helped structure Oprah Winfrey's joint venture with Discovery for OWN. He also confers "multiple times a week" with nonprofit Boys and Girls Club of California.
Here's a taste of Cook's hectic life: she closed Debbie Liebling's deal to become president of production at Universal in her car on the way to the premiere of client Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland." "I don't know how she does it," Liebling says.
"But I knew I was going to be in good hands." Cook juggled Sam Mendes' pact for the next Bond film and Barry Sonnenfeld's deal for "Men in Black 3" while handling several projects for producer Scott Rudin, including "The Social Network" and "Moneyball."
Active in Big Brothers Big Sisters and other causes, she capped a comeback from back surgery with a charity 5K run in March. "Actually, I'm not supposed to be running," she says, "so I just consider it walking."
"There's more room to innovate than there has been before," Gendler says of the challenging deal environment. "And more willingness and eagerness on behalf of the clients to do it." Case in point: Gendler advised filmmaker Neill Blomkamp to turn down studio offers and instead take a sweeter deal with Media Rights Capital for his follow-up to "District 9."
The father of two girls (he's on the board of the Marlborough School), Gendler closed series deals for showrunners David E. Kelley (NBC's "Harry's Law") and Shawn Ryan (FX's "Terriers," Fox's "Ride-Along"), a new film for Steve Martin (Fox 2000's "The Big Year") and a slate of projects for writer-producers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, including CBS' "Hawaii Five-O" reboot, "Star Trek 2" and "Cowboys & Aliens" (to be directed by Gendler client Jon Favreau).
Shaw cites client Nick Cannon as a prime example of her diverse practice. "We made a deal at Nickelodeon for a kids' charity show he came up with called 'The Halo Awards,' " she says. "Then we coupled that with him getting a daily morning radio show in New York and reupped him as host on 'America's Got Talent.'
" She closed a deal for multihyphenate Jamie Foxx to star opposite Bruce Willis in Lionsgate's "Kane & Lynch" and facilitated James Earl Jones' return to Broadway in "Driving Miss Daisy." As the most powerful black woman in Hollywood law, she actively mentors rising stars and this year set up a scholarship fund in memory of her great-grandmother at her alma mater, Barnard College.
Felker is proof that a woman who spends nearly all her time in sweats can land hot men. This year she shepherded Zac Efron's rising star, extricated Jesse Eisenberg from a previous commitment so he could star in Paramount's "The Social Network" and handled Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner, Orlando Bloom, Vin Diesel and Jeremy Piven, as well as film/TV powerhouse Greg Berlanti (ABC's upcoming "No Ordinary Family" and Warners' "Green Lantern" and "Life as We Know It"). The bottom line is, "If they want your client, they don't care what you're wearing," Felker says.
"We used to be able to print money," Schindler reminisces about the old days of the music industry. "Making deals and renegotiating was so easy. But now execs aren't making money, the celebrities aren't making money. It's just harder." Having touring powerhouse Live Nation as a client has certainly helped ease that burden.
And Schindler is pushing into new arenas -- literally. He helped Marc Anthony and Fergie become investors in the Miami Dolphins and is representing the New York Yankees in deals to bring major concerts like the recent Eminem/Jay-Z shows to Yankee Stadium.
Nelson embarks on a wilderness outing with law school buddies every year. But representing Peter Jackson can be as adventurous as anything on Earth (or Middle-Earth). This year "The Lovely Bones" disappointed, but Nelson negotiated outright ownership of the Oscar-nominated, Jackson-produced "District 9," which will earn the filmmaker tens of millions of dollars.
And while another Jackson production, "The Hobbit," is in limbo, he is producing the Steven Spielberg-directed "Tin Tin" and consulting on the new King Kong 3D attraction at Universal Studios.
"Ordinarily, lawyers have to draw with colors that are premixed," says Nelson, who also reps filmmakers Andrew Adamson and Edgar Wright. "But Peter Jackson sets such a high standard, I can often throw away the palette and bring in something new."
Angelina Jolie's lawyer doesn't just fend off tabloids. Offer got her unique deals for Sony's "Salt" and "The Tourist," and did high school classmate Michael Bay's "Transformers 3" pact and "Twilight" heartthrob Robert Pattinson's renegotiation with Summit for two "Breaking Dawn" movies.
"I've been friends with Robert from our nursery school days," Bay says. "He has class, great integrity and knows how to cut through the bull and get to the point." Offer's list also includes Eric Bana, Ashton Kutcher, Emile Hirsch and Edward Norton, as well as directors Michel Gondry, Greg Mottola and Mike White.
Fischer is often cited as the "next" Skip Brittenham or Tom Hansen. Truth is, he's already pretty much there. This year he negotiated for Simon Cowell to bring "The X Factor" to the U.S. and launch a joint venture with Sony Music, closed Judd Apatow's overall deal with Universal, Sacha Baron Cohen's next movie at Paramount, Wes Craven's reboot of the "Scream" franchise, the extension of BermanBraun's pact with NBC and writer-director Joss Whedon's deal for Marvel's "The Avengers."
"Because we've done a lot of these high-profile transactions before, I think studios respect our point of view," says Fischer, whose first job in Hollywood was as a production assistant on "Rocky II" and "Raging Bull." "We don't make any crazy asks."
Q: When is the market for big deals going to come back? <br>A: "It is partially already back. Comcast-NBC is certainly a big deal. But there has been a massive change in the financial markets over the past three years.
Everything is different. There used to be more than 40 banks lending in the motion picture sector and now there are a third of that number. Raising capital for the motion picture business will continue to be a very challenging proposition, but there is still the opportunity to make financing deals with studios if we and they recognize those changes.
There's some motion picture financing out there, but it's very smart and cautious money. The challenging economic climate, which I don't see materially improving for a while, means the only driver that can help deals happen is better terms for investors. The next big revenue stream may be some form of digital delivery and selling motion pictures on all the new digital platforms, but no one knows when these revenues will be significant.
I hope the fall in DVD revenues has finally bottomed out." <br><br>Brittenham reps production companies Legendary at Warner Bros., Skydance at Paramount, DreamWorks at Disney, Working Title and Illumination at Universal and Scott Free at Fox.
Warren recently took on two of the hottest young Taylors in Hollywood -- Lautner ("Twilight") and Kitsch (NBC's "Friday Night Lights") -- and proceeded to broker leading man roles for Lautner in "Abduction" (Lionsgate), "Stretch Armstrong" (Universal) and "Cancun" (Summit) and Kitsch in "John Carter of Mars" (Disney) and "Battleship" (Universal).
Working closely with partner Gretchen Bruggeman Rush, Warren has honed one of the town's most impressive actor lists: Leonardo DiCaprio, Drew Barrymore, Benicio Del Toro, Dakota Fanning, Tobey Maguire and Charlize Theron, as well as writer-directors Stephen Gaghan, Brad Silberling and Andy Tennant.
"I choose my clients very carefully," says Warren, who was accepted by both Columbia Medical School and Harvard Law School and chose the latter, "because the last thing I want to do is represent someone I don't have that passion for."
"You have to be a bona fide superstar to get a superstar deal," Hansen warns. Client Robert Downey Jr. certainly qualifies, based on rich pacts for "Iron Man 2" and "Sherlock Holmes," as do Comedy Central stars Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and pop princess Britney Spears (Hansen handled the world tour, merchandising and endorsement arrangements).
The wisecracking Hansen, who began his career with Ken Ziffren and Skip Brittenham before creating his own powerhouse, set up John Wells' new overall deal with Warner Bros. and is working on several projects for multihyphenate Mel Gibson. An avid collector of vintage autos, "If they would pay me my current rate to detail cars, I would definitely change professions," he says.
Dern often signs clients with his partners, but his reputation as a negotiator is all his own. "He's one of the best lawyers, but also one of the nicest guys in the business," manager-producer J.C. Spink says. "That's so rare."
This year Dern secured several projects for Jack Black, Jason Segel and Jessica Alba, as well as hot filmmakers Todd Phillips ("The Hangover" sequel for Warner Bros.), Ruben Fleischer ("30 Minutes or Less" for MRC) and Zack Snyder ("Sucker Punch" for Warners).
He's 81, but Fields has had a year as jam-packed as any lawyer half his age. He settled the fracas between the Weinsteins and Lionsgate over ownership of "Precious," handled Clive Cussler's neverending litigation with Philip Anschutz over "Sahara" and brought a $15 million case for Uma Thurman against a French cosmetics company.
The consigliere for heavies like Tom Cruise and Warren Beatty also teaches at Stanford Law School and has ramped up his interest in historical-era scholarship. He appeared in recent documentaries about Queen Elizabeth and Richard III, and even traveled to London to personally investigate whether Elizabeth was complicit in a centuries-old murder.
He'll never get to represent his dream client, though. "Shakespeare had all kinds of interesting conflicts," he says. "Representing him would be analogous to representing Jim Cameron or Tom Cruise. He was quite litigious in his small town of Stratford."
In September, Eskenazi settled the biggest case of her career, representing the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien in a $200 million-plus claim against New Line over profits from "The Lord of the Rings." But an agreement to resolve the high-stakes litigation came very close to unraveling: at the last moment, she says, New Line made new demands, and with a trial date fast approaching, she got on a plane to New York to work out the final differences.
Eskenazi won't say who caved on that last issue, but she's a tad disappointed she wasn't able try a case she worked years to prepare. "I firmly believed we would have had a stellar win and a much better result than what we settled for," she says. Plus, "It would have been fun to show up at trial, because it was the case of a lifetime."
Q: "I've been defamed by an anonymous posting online. Who can I sue?"
A: "If you are the target of an online attack, one practical solution is to simply request that the website remove the libelous statements. Although sites and ISPs have broad immunity for content published by third parties, they often have little tolerance for online abuse. If you really want to go after your online secret admirer, file a lawsuit against a 'Doe' defendant. You can often expose 'Deep Throat' through some simple discovery.
Remember, websites routinely require visitors and bloggers to register before posting content. Moreover, sites usually can pinpoint the IP address where the defamatory posting originated. Later, amend your pleadings to name the 'Doe' defendant, and litigate the merits of the case. I have consistently found that anonymous defamers feel intense pain from an embarrassing and expensive lawsuit."
Freedman filed the first defamation case (against Courtney Love) arising from Twitter comments and he owns protectyourrep.com, which removes unwanted content on the Web.
Why are there so many fly fishermen among Hollywood elite lawyers? Kinsella joins fellow anglers Skip Brittenham, Tom Hansen, Jake Bloom, Jim Jackoway and others getting waist- deep in the freezing water.
"Working with so many moving parts, it's a lot like doing entertainment law," he says. This year the smooth-talking Kinsella successfully stopped the release of "I Love You Phillip Morris" for client EuropaCorp, in a dispute with the film's U.S. distributor.
And he's representing songwriter Paul Anka in a defamation case against his wife, who claimed to Swedish press that he had forged her signature on the couple's pre-nup agreement.
Petrocelli made his name representing the Ronald Goldman family against O.J. Simpson, then established himself in Hollywood by handling Disney's "Winnie the Pooh" case against the Schlessinger family. In recent years he's been known more for general business and white-collar matters, including heading the defense of former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling in what Business Week called "the trial of the century."
But "a good third of my practice has been in entertainment," he says, and he was recently injected into perhaps the industry's nastiest battle, representing Warner Bros. in the copyright termination case brought by the heirs of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. In the year's boldest move, Petrocelli sued the families' lawyer, Marc Toberoff, in May, alleging a scheme to repudiate contracts governing the Man of Steel.
"The cases I don't litigate are as satisfying as the ones I do," says Halberstadter, who, despite his litigation prowess, readily admits that much of what he does is peremptory, helping studios mitigate risk on potential claims.
This year he settled a dispute for CBS with sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison over an episode of "Star Trek" he wrote 30 years ago, and he won summary judgment for DreamWorks after the studio was sued by writers alleging the TV series "Las Vegas" had been stolen from them. He's repping Summit in the suit brought by an Army sergeant who claims the Oscar-winning "The Hurt Locker" was lifted from his life story.
And Halberstadter takes pride in being just one of two male names on Ms. magazine's masthead (he does pro-bono work for the publication).
It has been an especially busy year for Quinto and his most litigation-happy client, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He successfully pursued an Arizona- based travel company that tried to sell tickets to the Oscars, and he came up with the idea to sue domain registration giant GoDaddy for trafficking in more than 100 domain names that allegedly infringed the Academy's trademarks.
On Oscar night, Quinto takes the responsibility of guarding the door against all crashers, which resulted in a lawsuit from an actor who claims he was detained on the red carpet for six hours. "The joke this year was we were going to try to persuade crashers to hit soft targets like the White House," he says. Trivia: Quinto has visited more than 129 countries.
Title was working in the public defender's office when she stumbled upon entertainment law. Her first firm (Rosenfeld, Meyer & Susman) gave her a shot because they liked her courtroom experience. These days, Title is adept at being relentless and paying careful attention to details, especially for her star client, NBC Universal.
Last month she won an important appeals court ruling in a case brought by two individuals who claimed they conceived the Syfy hit "Ghost Hunters." She's also recently handled profit participation and copyright claims over "Hercules," "Quincy, M.E." and "The Biggest Loser." "It's amazing that when I started out, I didn't even know what entertainment law was," she says.
The man who repped Metallica in its landmark 2000 copyright infringement case against Napster has found himself at the center of this year's biggest music disputes. He won management commissions from the Killers and settled Joe Satriani's infringement claim against Coldplay over its Grammy-winning song "Viva la Vida." (King threatened to serve Coldplay with court papers at the Grammys.)
On his plate now: Representing Irving Azoff in nasty litigation with Axl Rose, and a former "Dog the Bounty Hunter" producer against A&E over producers' fees. "The challenge with musicians is never to utter 'trust me' but to explain what's going on," he says. "They get it." King also happily teaches well-known artists how to play craps in Las Vegas.
Weitzman has a knack for getting involved in some wacky disputes, from representing Sharon Osbourne in court to dealing with the fallout from a Farrah Fawcett documentary. This year got even weirder (and more rewarding) when Weitzman became counsel for the Michael Jackson estate.
It's his job to respond to all sorts of unusual claims, from the attempts by the late singer's mother to challenge the executors of the estate to the range of demands from creditors. Not a week goes by, he says, where someone isn't claiming to be Jackson's long-lost wife or child. One woman even filed a petition to adopt Jackson's real children. "It's amazing what these people think they can get away with," he says.
Lavely calls his job "problem solving." That's a nice way of saying he puts out the fires that heat up tabloids, working with A-listers Jennifer Aniston, Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake. This year, Lavely prevented Jennifer Lopez's ex-husband from distributing a wedding night sex tape and scored pro golfer Tiger Woods as a client.
(Woods has had some personal issues, as you might have heard.) Dealing with paparazzi, stalkers and other craziness has put him literally in the firing line. Gun shots have whizzed through Lavely's office window, he says, and his fiancee nearly left him because she considered her life to be in danger.
"People become more desperate the more you prevail against them," he says. "A lot of these cases operate at psychological levels that are totally separate from the legal aspect."
Taylor has seen an increase in "Hollywood accounting" cases lately. "Studios are trying to be tight and hang onto more money than they ever did before," the Chicago native says. "And we're seeing the need for litigation attorneys to get involved earlier and be ready to just sue."
He's also repre senting "Scream" producer Cathy Konrad in a $3 million claim against the Weinstein Co. over whether she was entitled to produce sequels to the franchise. And he's also defending Rod Stewart in a lawsuit brought by Patty Glaser's law firm over $3.3 million in allegedly unpaid fees for work on at least 19 matters over 20 years.
It's safe to say that Gatti won't get a Warner Bros. holiday card this year. In April, a court of appeal upheld a $3.2 million jury verdict against the studio in an accounting claim brought by producer Alan Ladd Jr. (who also happens to be Gatti's father in law).
"It was an 11-year case and John put a lot of work into making this right," Ladd says. The co-head of Stroock's entertainment department is also representing National Lampoon in an ongoing $40 million dispute with Warners over profits from the "Vacation" movies. Unlike many talent-side litigators, Gatti additionally handles the occasional studio case, this year defending CBS against claims made by John Wayne's heirs over alleged unpaid profits.
After an esteemed 25-year career at Warner Bros., Schulman is back in private practice and finally eligible for this list. "It's strange not to be the client anymore, but I find it fun working on the nitty gritty stuff," he says.
That includes stepping in to resolve problems such as profit participation disputes and working below the radar on behalf of a number of different companies -- but not Warner Bros., he says. Schulman also took on a new role as executive director of the USC Gould School of Law's entertainment law program.
New York-based Zavin boasts a truly international practice. This year he had a copyright infringement case against MGM over "Raging Bull" dismissed in February and settled a suit for Sony Pictures over a 10-film deal last fall, and he handled rights exclusivity deals for Polish National Television across South America.
Next up, he'll rep CBS and King World over licensees' failure to pay and MGM against CanalPlus over a pay TV distribution deal, with more than $50 million at stake. His diverse caseload keeps Zavin moving -- he's been to 47 of the 50 states -- but he recalls most fondly a trip to Kazakhstan, where he advised local politicians about IP protection: The lights went out at a restaurant, and he got ice cream for his main course.
Sager and her team are Hollywood's lawyers of choice for handling First Amendment disputes. But she'll dive into any industry battle, like representing A&E against producers who claim to have conceived of "Steven Seagal Lawman."
She's litigating three different cases for CBS, including taking on an individual who says his privacy rights were violated on "The Doctors." And she's representing Electronic Arts in a major class-action brought by former collegiate athletes who say their publicity rights were violated in a video game.
An avid traveler who goes dancing in New Orleans each spring, Sager will soon enjoy a three-month sabbatical in Europe as part of a firm-mandated vacation for hard work.
Iser has found himself on the front lines of a burgeoning area of copyright law, representing Jackson Browne against John McCain over the 2008 presidential candidate's use of Browne's "Running on Empty" in a promo video posted on YouTube.
The case was settled with a public apology from the campaign, but Iser wasn't done. He then filed a lawsuit in Florida on behalf of Talking Heads frontman David Byrne against Senate candidate Charlie Crist over the unlicensed use of "Road to Nowhere" in a campaign ad.
"These are important cases," Iser says. "They help establish and make clear that campaigns can't utilize artists' work without permission."
The thorn in Hollywood's side dug in even deeper this year. In addition to representing heirs of the two creators of Superman in thus-far successful attempts to wrestle back key rights, Toberoff took aim at Marvel Entertainment on behalf of the estate of comics icon Jack Kirby, trying to terminate copyrights and gain control to such creations as "Spider-Man" and "X-Men."
Toberoff estimates that the Kirby characters represent 80% of Disney-owned Marvel's revenues. In May, Warner Bros. lobbed a bombshell complaint against Toberoff personally for pursuing a "scheme" that interfered with its contracts over "Superman." Toberoff promises revenge.
"After we get rid of the frivolous tortious interference claims, I am going to go personally after Warner Bros. and the individuals involved, including (litigator and fellow Power Lawyer) Dan Petrocelli, and file a malicious prosecution lawsuit," he says. "I'll knock this out even if it takes me 10 years."
Passin is a decorated veteran of wars with music companies and one of the few litigators still able to coax big checks from struggling labels. This year he brought a $5 million action on behalf of Cher and the heirs of Sonny Bono against UMG for unpaid royalties from Sonny and Cher recordings.
"I love representing artists who are willing to stand up for their rights," he says. "They pave the way for other artists to get paid for their work." He also brought a royalties claim for Poison against Capitol Records and settled a major case on behalf of the 5.1 Label Group against Sanctuary Records over revenue from dual CDs.
Grossman loves the attention of a court room battle, but this year he did his best to dim the spotlight as best he could. Last July, when nude peephole videos of ESPN reporter Erin Andrews hit the Internet, Grossman was called upon to temper the maelstrom. He sent cease-and-desist letters to hundreds of websites that posted the video and worked with law enforcement authorities to investigate the perpetrator.
Grossman and lieutenants Dan Alberstone and Roland Tellis dealt with another media sensation when Los Angeles Dodgers owner and client Frank McCourt announced his marriage split from team CEO Jamie McCourt. "I believe we have a skill set here of dealing with the media responsibly that's come in handy lately," Grossman says.
In the Hollywood litigation world, Katz is the equivalent of a marathon runner, enduring years of conflict before a case finally ends up in trial. After spending six years personally handling each deposition and navigating the death of the judge, Katz is representing Disney in the $270 million trial against Celador over profits from "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."
He lost that trial but is vowing a lengthy appeal. Away from the spotlight, Katz has several matters in arbitration, including a $100 million international dispute that involves a broadcast satellite launched into space.
Few attorneys have a heavier workload than Singer, who handled seven major matters in the past year, including five arbitrations and two trials. What makes "Mad Dog Marty" so busy is also what makes him notorious: He doesn't mind getting his hands dirty on the small stuff that other lawyers might find aggravating, from trying to tame a blogger who suggested Demi Moore's W cover was Photoshopped to putting the kibosh on a play about Jeremy Piven's sushi habits.
Singer says he particularly enjoys when he's able to "kill or modify a story to protect a client's reputation" and insists he has a "thick skin" when bloggers poke fun at him. After suing Gawker for posting a naked video of Eric Dane and Rebecca Gayheart, the site quoted Singer in last year's Power Lawyers issue saying that the best way to avoid the release of a sex tape is not to make one. "They put my quote in the response to our lawsuit!" he says. "I found that humorous."
Bert Fields beats Marvin Putnam. No, Putnam beats Fields. One of the more amusing sideshows in showbiz litigation is the dispute between novelist Clive Cussler and Philip Anschutz's Crusader Entertainment over attempts to collect money from the 2005 bomb "Sahara." Putnam represents Crusader. Fields represents Cussler.
When Putnam claimed victory after a jury in the 14-week trial awarded Crusader $5 million, so did Fields, who argued that the decision opened the door for an appellate court to award Cussler $8.5 million. The California Court of Appeal then declined to take Fields' advice (but reversed the jury damages award), allowing Putnam to claim victory again. So Fields filed a new suit in June.
"It's icing on the cake that the appeals court totally denied Bert's spin of victory," says Putnam, who also reps Fremantle Media, author J.K. Rowling and ICM, and is the chairman of the prestigious writers' organization, PEN USA.
Q: I'm a documentary filmmaker. How much copyrighted content can I use in my film without permission or payment to the owner?
A: "You are asking about 'fair use.' Everyone wants some firm and fixed amount of material they can use pursuant to fair use. However, if you are making a documentary, the first question is not about the amount of material, but rather, 'Do you need the film clip or music or photo to tell your story cinematically in order to illustrate the point you are making in the film?' If the answer is 'yes,' you can use what you need -- but not one bit more.
You must also be sure to make a clear connection between the point you are making and the material you are using. Fair use is rooted in the filmmaker's First Amendment right to tell a story; but in the real world of distribution, the key is whether the E&O insurance carrier will offer liability coverage. You'll need a legal opinion outlining why each piece of copyrighted material has been used. If the carrier agrees with the legal opinion, you are on very solid fair use ground and the film can be distributed."
Donaldson represents independent filmmakers and recently filed a brief in support of Joe Berlinger in his fight against a subpoena to turn over 600 hours of raw footage from his film "Crude" to Chevron.
In the course of three weeks last fall, Elkin was handed two landmark court decisions. First, while representing Launch Media, a federal appeals court in New York ruled that allowing users to customize their Internet radio is not "interactive," and therefore his client wouldn't need to pay royalties beyond statutory licensing rates.
A few weeks later, a federal judge ruled on summary judgment that client Veoh was entitled to safe harbor protection from UMG's claims that the video-sharing company hosted copyright-infringing works. "The wins we've had in court have affected the economics of the media industry in some serious ways," he says. Upcoming is a Ninth Circuit showdown in the Veoh case.
Yes, that was Johnson onstage playing rhythm guitar at a tony lawyer awards dinner in April. The plaintiff-side litigator provides no shortage of entertainment value himself. On finally settling a five-year-old foreign levies class-action against the WGA: "Particularly satisfying is the money I'll now get paid."
On filing a scandalous suit on behalf of a model against Chris Rock: "Let's wait to see how Mr. Funny explains his way out of that one." On suing A&E for stealing the idea for "Steven Segal Lawman": "Now a girl sues Segal for sexual harassment! Stops the show. Hmm, that could impact damages." And last but not least, on preparing to file a new class-action against a Hollywood studio: "That's right. I know where the piles of money are being buried."
"My clients call me the Terminator for my ability to take hard cases and win them early," Snyder says. Recent successes include defending Starbucks when Carly Simon claimed the coffee chain owed her money for getting out of the music business; protecting Jerry Seinfeld and his wife from allegations of plagiarism and defamation; and representing Edgar Bronfman Jr. in a $100 million lawsuit over claimed compensation due from the Warner Music buyout.
All three of these cases were won at the summary judgment phase, which allowed clients to avoid a public face-off in court. Next up: Defending Facebook on privacy claims.
Q: A studio just greenlit a movie that mirrors a project I pitched last year. Do I have a case?
A: "This scenario requires considering several factors. If you pitched your project to the studio that 'greenlit' (i.e., authorized production) the 'mirror' film, you should be able to prove that it had 'access' to your material, often the most difficult element to establish. However, you must also show that the film truly 'mirrors' your pitch. Ideally, it will have few or no unique or original elements (e.g., plot ideas, characters and language) aside from what you pitched. If you can show both access and this substantial similarity, two legal theories can be used to obtain redress.
First, under U.S. copyright laws, unique verbal or visual expressions are protected. You might be able to prove copyright infringement without showing exact duplication if the essential creative aspects of the film 'mirror' your pitch. If it is primarily your unique or original ideas (without substantial transformation) that predominate the film, the other potentially available legal theory is that when you and the studio agreed to the pitch meeting, you had an actual or 'implied' agreement that the studio would not use your material without compensating you. Several simple practices before you reveal your project can help protect your rights and prove your case. Talk to a lawyer before you pitch."
Glaser this year represented Lionsgate in successfully defending the Weinstein Co.'s claim that it owned rights to Oscar-winner "Precious."
Schwartz scored big points at home when he told his 10-year-old son that "Modern Warfare 2" creators Jason West and Vince Zampella were coming over. The litigator had only discovered who they were after hearing they needed lawyers in the wake of being terminated by Activision.
But Schwartz is fast becoming the go-to lawyer for breach of contract disputes in the video game world after successfully representing Viacom in a separate case versus Activision. He's been getting calls regularly from those looking to sue video game publishers over not living up to promises. In fact, at a recent conference, one game company in-house lawyer jokingly thanked Schwartz for his tenacity, saying if it wasn't for him, he'd still be practicing law.
Going back to 1984's famed Sony Betamax case at the Supreme Court, Frackman has been involved in the cases that define current copyright law. He's still doing everything he can to shape it favorably for content holders, including arguing before the Ninth Circuit for UMG in an attempt to stop a man from reselling promotional CDs on eBay, a major test of the "first sale doctrine."
He's also representing the record industry in a copyright case against Vimeo, a social-networking website for filmmakers created by Barry Diller's company. And he recently filed a noteworthy brief on behalf of Hollywood studios in the Viacom vs. Google dispute. In his spare time, the avid New York Yankees fan goes to baseball dream camps to play ball with some of his boyhood idols.
Q: What's the one thing studios can do better to prevent profit participation lawsuits?
A: "Some lawsuits are unavoidable. But studios need to try to shape the dialogue more. Some (not all) talent are quick to talk about how 'Hollywood accounting' deprived them of their share of the profits from a highly successful television show or movie. But 'profit participation' is often a misnomer. A better phrase is 'contingent compensation.' Talent do not automatically share in the profits; they get paid contingent compensation only if certain contractually defined benchmarks are hit.
Whether studios get to recoup various costs similarly depends on the contractually defined deductions to which the parties have agreed. All these variables differ, depending on the talent. A big star has more clout and will get a better profits definition and fewer deductions. But talent are represented by very experienced and capable lawyers; they understand how the formulas work in practice, and they try to negotiate the best contract they can for their clients. Studios need to educate the public (including judges and jurors) to understand that it is the language of the contract that those sophisticated talent lawyers negotiated, not some mythical 'Hollywood accounting,' that controls."
Edelman is representing Warner Bros. in a multimillion-dollar profits lawsuit brought by the co-creators of "Smallville."
Over the years, Stein has stayed one step ahead of the business. He got involved in some of the earliest cases challenging television contracts that locked talent to multiple-option deals. Later, he was on the forefront of litigating vertical integration and profit participation in the business (this year he brought a claim against Miramax on behalf of the "Chicago" creative team).
Now he's looking into reality television format rights. The avid volleyball player is gearing up for trial on behalf of Tokyo Broadcasting, which claims that elements of ABC's "Wipeout" were taken from its own shows. And he's representing cast members of truTV's "Operation Repo," who claim an ownership interest in the program.
Marenberg is representing UMG in its appeal to the Ninth Circuit that video-sharing service Voeh isn't entitled to safe harbor protection in hosting copyright- infringing content. He's representing Activision in the defense of a breach of contract dispute brought by the two former Infinity Ward executives who created "Modern Warfare 2."
And he's pursuing substantial millions from Fox over last year's mega-hit "Alvin and the Chipmunks" sequel on behalf of the family that owns the rights to the characters. An avid soccer fan, he rescheduled a trial (involving royalties owed to Bing Crosby's heirs) that began during the first week of the World Cup, he says.
Dunlap is based in Washington, but he certainly got Hollywood's attention in May when he filed a massive lawsuit against tens of thousands of anonymous individuals who pirated "The Hurt Locker" and other independent movies online.
The RIAA tried suing individual copyright infringers before pulling back on the tactic, so what makes Dunlap believe his effort will be more successful? Part of the explanation can be found in his background: He's aggressive (a former Virginia county prosecutor), trained in combat (he was a captain of the Army National Guard), technologically literate (he's had his hand in biotech companies) and business savvy (he's worked for some Fortune 500 commercial banks and is pursuing an MBA). "I definitely have a high tolerance for risk," he says.
Plonsker can get it done. He settled a big case against Fox on behalf of profit participants on "Dharma & Greg" after winning a hard-fought summary judgment on a $15 million issue. "That case was another warning to the studios to treat profit participants -- their partners -- fairly and not adopt the most aggressive, clearly unsupportable contract interpretation imaginable," he says. Plonsker represented the rightsholder of "Hawaii Five-O" in a deal with CBS that avoided litigation over the remake.
And after filing a lawsuit on behalf of Jodie Foster's company against Sony Pictures over profits from "Panic Room," he was able to resolve the matter. Similarly, he put to bed Fox Searchlight's lawsuit against his client Camelot Pictures over the financing of Kenneth Lonergan's "Margaret." A lack of courtroom scrapes, yet Plonsker suffered a herniated disc in his neck playing soccer.
Known for aggressively representing such indie filmmakers as Michael Moore and Jim Sheridan, the New York-based Hurwitz is a fixture on the festival scene. He made Sundance's top deal in 2007 when he traded "Son of Rambow" to Paramount Vantage for $7 million; this year, amid a deflated market, he sold the crowd-pleasing "happythankyoumoreplease" to Myriad Pictures. Hurwitz has been working to turn Western Pennsylvania into a filmmaking hub and is involved with E2, a group of business leaders who advocate for pro-environmental policies.
Black has helped drag Hollywood into the new millennium, representing Microsoft in content deals and helping tech companies like 3D film equipment company XDC seal licensing agreements with the studios. True to the digital community, Black takes an entrepreneurial approach to clients like Pokemon, which wants to revive its U.S. film business, expand its digital profile and increase its presence in Latin America. "Dan has been instrumental in helping us navigate the difficult-to-follow waters of American media relationships," Pokemon general counsel Don McGowan says.
The son of Jewish-Polish immigrants, Schreck worked as a taxi driver and a blackjack croupier before joining the A-list of New York-based talent attorneys. This year he's seen "an explosion" of comedy and theater work, citing the recent successes of clients Sarah Jessica Parker, Kevin James and Ed Helms, as well as playwrights Tony Kushner and Suzan Lori-Parks. "The New York creative community is as fertile and exciting as I've seen it in many years," he says.
Don't ask Calabrese whether the Weinsteins will eventually buy Miramax back from Disney -- even he doesn't know, and he represents them. But the dealmaker behind some of the industry's biggest-ticket transactions recently closed the $660 million financing for DCIP (the consortium of movie exhibitors) to deploy digital technology to 14,000 screens, as well as other deals for Disney and the International Olympic Committee.
"It's usually a good moment when Joe turns his head toward 'the room' and says 'what if ... .' " notes Andrew Kramer, president of business and legal affairs for the Weinstein Co. A "car guy," he says his favorite is the 1964 DB5 Aston Martin -- James Bond's appropriately no-nonsense ride from "Goldfinger."
Meltdown schmeltdown. "As a result of the economic crisis, we're spending more time these days on workouts for financings that were concluded prior to 2009," Burke notes. He repped Union Bank in a restructuring of the credit facility for the Film Department and did the restructuring of Goldman Sachs' credit facility for the Weinsten Co.
He's general counsel to the AFI and co-chair of UCLA's annual entertainment symposium, and Burke also handled five new production loans for Relativity and a credit facility for River Road Prods. while continuing to manage Comerica's credit facility for Summit. Despite the tough environment, "We have seen many more potential deals in 2010 than we did in 2009, so we are trending in the right direction."
A legend in the music industry, Frankenheimer has recently found himself focusing on sales of iconic song libraries. Last year he represented Dutch company Imagem in its acquisition of the Rodgers and Hammerstein catalog (reportedly for more than $200 million).
Then he shepherded the sale of the ARC Music catalog, which contained works by Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and others, to Fuji for a reported $50 million. "It was a particularly bittersweet moment," Frankenheimer says of the ARC sale. "I've been a life-long fan of these artists and their incredible writing."
The man behind the bombshell festival deals for "Napoleon Dynamite" and "Little Miss Sunshine" was in typical form at Sundance this year, brokering the $5 million sale of Lisa Cholodenko's "The Kids Are All Right" to Focus Features. Sloss, who left Morrison and Foerster to start his own firm in 1993, is such an indie fixture that rivals complain he and his Cinetic sales company have too many clients. Among them are Bob Dylan and director Todd Haynes. Trivia: Sloss was once part of an art exhibit at a New York gallery; he and his law partners were featured in a video, dancing.
Go ahead and curse Yospe's name next time you notice an iPad or a Diet Coke in a movie or TV show. Considered the guru of brand integration, he perfected the art of product placement as general counsel of Mark Burnett Prods., where he helped bring cars and potato chips to remote islands on "Survivor." Yospe told the New York Times recently that he works with screenwriters and "often writes dialogue," which prompted bloggers to herald the death of cinema. But Yospe sees the issue differently. "If I do my job, our work actually helps the story," he says.
A leader of the new generation of complex financing dealmakers, Grode represented Comerica and Union banks in a $300 million credit facility for Relativity Media and handled several video game deals, including shepherding Atari's pact to turn "Asteroids" into a movie at Universal.
He followed his mother to Hollywood (Susan Grode reps "The Simpsons" creator Matt Groening) but says his real break came when he worked for Roger Corman before law school. "I started out as a production assistant and eventually became the second unit director on a film," he says proudly.
Negotiating for Jay Leno to reclaim his "Tonight Show" perch from Conan O'Brien wasn't tough for the man who practically invented the modern talent law firm. But dealing with the media maelstrom? "The most difficult challenge was how to handle the network-affiliated station groups and present the facts to them, the media and the public," Ziffren says.
This year he found himself learning and teaching simultaneously, helping longtime client Starz move into the digital world in a cutting-edge deal with Disney while serving as a professor of motion picture distribution at UCLA. The well-known oenefile also improved his collection of California cabernets. "I'm now getting Social Security, but I put checks in my wine account," he says.
Ullman's recent work includes crafting Universal's massive financing agreement with Relativity Media, a slate deal valued at upward of $500 to provide financing for at least 40 films. He also represented Universal in a five-movie pact with Mexican filmmakers Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, as well as handling assorted financing deals for Fox, New Line, GE and Morgan Stanley.
"The mix of work changed," Mayerson says of the economy's impact on his A-list finance practice. He spent much of the year "reworking previously concluded deals because the underlying economic assumptions turned out, (due to) changing market conditions, not to have materialized," he says.
Despite the climate, Mayerson advised on the launch of three new film companies, including Right of Way films, the new joint venture between Steven Rales and filmmaker Jason Reitman. He also represented Newmarket Films in its sale to Exclusive Media Groups.
An art aficionado who studied French at the University of Paris, Darwell is a pro at handling financing for such classy fare as "Milk," "The Queen" and "Lost in Translation."
This year he's done work for Comcast in its acquisition of NBC Universal and is serving as outside counsel for Disney in connection with its sale of Miramax. A world traveler, expect Darwell to arrive at meetings well-dressed: he founded the firm's fashion law practice and has represented the likes of Gucci, Chanel and Versace.
"In law school, I was viewed as the least likely to go into entertainment law," says Fisher, as buttoned-down and ultraprofessional an M&A attorney as you'll find in Hollywood. That explains her reputation for meticulously scrutinizing major deals like Vivendi's $5.8 billion sale of its interest in NBC Universal.
She's repping Grupo Cinemex in connection with digital cinema matters and handling Peter Chernin's corporate issues. Fisher also does pro-bono work for the nonprofit Camfed, which supports women and children in Africa, in part by training African women to make documentaries about social issues.
A lot of lawyers love golf and wine tasting. Moore needs more excitement than that: He has a hang-gliding license, is an avid snowboarder and rides one of his eight motorcycles to work every morning. Perhaps that love of adrenaline has led to aggressive dealmaking: he represents several foreign companies investing in Hollywood, including Reliance Big's stake in DreamWorks, and other players from the Netherlands, Japan and the Middle East.
At the moment, he's excited about a company called Digiboo, whose product he describes as "Redbox, but with a USB flash drive."
In addition to helping the Weinsteins in their bid for Miramax, Scharf recently shepherded the sale of the San Diego Padres to former Arizona Diamondbacks owner Jeff Moorad. As creative as finance minds come, Sharf advised film houses Overture and Participant on their investments this year.
"I feel a true partnership with them," he says of his corporate clients. Still, everyone needs to get away. When the mood strikes, Scharf retreats to his Sonoma County vineyard and winery.
Parents of teenage girls can blame Derwin-Weiss for helping Summit market the "Twilight" movies so aggressively. The ubiquitous campaign includes sweepstakes, co-promotions, iPhone apps, Facebook and Twitter contests, all of which must be monitored for legal issues.
"It's exciting," she says, "because you never know what's going to pop up." Although partner Carole Handler departed for Lathrop & Gage in May, Derwin-Weiss is part of a recent push into entertainment for the Chicago-based Wildman firm. Her group serves as marketing counsel to most of the major studios.
"There is not an 'entertainment exemption' to labor laws," Oncidi says, only half jokingly, when asked the biggest challenge in representing Hollywood clients like Paramount, CAA and Harpo Films in labor and employment matters.
"They should be aware that wage-and-hour laws do apply and anti-harassment laws do apply." This year he concluded the 10-year-old case between TV writers and WME and UTA for $70 million (CAA is forging forward, however). "Tony is a trusted adviser," says CAA general counsel Michael Rubel. "His judgment is impeccable." Despite the Hollywood clientele, Oncidi has been traveling regularly to Argentina and is learning the language.
A guild and union expert with nearly 50 years in the business, Fabrick spent the past year honing IATSE's low-budget agreement on behalf of production companies and renegotating the NFL Network's deal with the DGA.
He calls 2009 "the year of the audit," requiring him to help those guilds and unions shake loose change from the couches to help shore up their economically depressed investment portfolios. Fabrick also negotiated a new role this year -- as nurse for his wife, who injured her leg. He lost 23 pounds without her regular cooking. "I realized she's been trying to kill me for 52 years," he jokes.
They call her "Earthquake Witch" at home, because Bierman has predicted several recent quakes. Perhaps that second sense comes in handy for such clients as Fremantle Media, 19 Entertainment, Cartoon Network and Hasbro Studios (which recently brought her on as outside labor counsel): "I try to give clients the benefit of foreshadowing," she says.
And charm may have something to do with it -- this year she smoothed over a tense situation in Las Vegas between strong-arming union organizers and a reality TV show, and she spends her Friday nights supping in Studio City with a key union rep, forging yet another relationship with a would-be opponent.
"God, I love the races," says Cole, a horse aficionado who tends to bet on the right pony in labor negotiations. He repped five major studios in the settlement of the 10-year-old age-discrimination suit brought by writers, and the AMPTP against the WGA over the use of motion capture in "Monster House."
Like many others involved with guilds and unions, he's working feverishly behind the scenes in prep work for upcoming talks with the Teamsters, SAG, DGA and WGA this year, though he doesn't see the negotiations being as "thorny" as previous years. And Cole is in the process of purchasing a thoroughbred with friends. "It's more fun if you own your own horse."