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What one attendee feared would be a dull evening — “an entertainment finance attorney?” he mused — turned out to be anything but, as the Beverly Hills Bar Association honored Akin Gump partner Marissa Román Griffith as its 2019 Entertainment Lawyer of the Year in a May 2 ceremony featuring plenty of heart, and more than a few R-rated jokes from the host, comedian Dana Goldberg.
And if entertainment finance doesn’t have the inherent glitz that many see in such fields as talent representation, it’s not without drama. A client, MRC COO Scott Tenley, attested to Griffith’s tenacity as he recounted her closing a $250 million financing for the company even as Lehman Bros. was failing and credit markets were beginning to seize up as the Great Recession began. Other encomiums were delivered by Akin Gump partner John Burke and Ziffren Brittenham partner Cliff Gilbert-Lurie, a past recipient of the award.
But perhaps the most moving remarks came from Griffith herself, who recounted that her role model was her attorney mother, who brought Griffith along to her law school classes at age 10. Later, when Griffith sought a position as a film finance associate, she received a brutal response from one firm’s partner — “Why are you wasting my time?” he asked — but not from Burke, who said simply, “We can teach you what you need to know.”
And so he did. Today, Griffith represents financiers, borrowers, distributors and studios involved in various aspects of the production, financing and distribution of film, television and digital content. Recent projects include the films Hotel Transylvania 3, Mortal Engines, Peter Rabbit and Ready Player One and the episodic series Counterpart, House of Cards and Ozark.
A graduate of Stanford Law School and Princeton, Griffith is a member of Akin Gump’s firmwide Inclusion Council, a trustee of the Mexican American Bar Foundation, a board member of Female Executives in Media and Entertainment and co-president of the Outfest board of directors. She’s married to Peter Griffith who, her bio points out, is not to be confused with the Family Guy character.
MRC is a division of Valence Media, the parent company of the Billboard-Hollywood Reporter Media Group.
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