Where is Legal Hiding?

A myriad of concerns crawled around in the back of my mind on whether a Villanova Law student should be on this Los Angeles trip.  Continually, executives would talk about the investment side, production side, and creative side as the three legs of the entertainment stool.  However, spoiler alert, while legal is heavily integrated in every avenue of production, legal has not been swallowed up.  And while this statement may seem obvious, try to imagine exactly what attorneys do for the production side.  It was hard for me as well and so I decided to apply for this trip because not only did I have no clue what the entertainment industry involved, but also no one could explain what entertainment law involved.  Cue the Villanova-On-Set cohort taking a trip to the People’s Choice Awards dress rehearsal where we met Amanda Harrell, Executive Vice President of United Artists Media Group’s Business & Legal Affairs.

A Villanova University Law School graduate herself, Ms. Harrell succinctly and expertly explained how legal has not been swallowed up by the MBAs of the world.  Amidst the backdrop of rehearsals, she discussed her production background with Mark Burnett Productions prior to law school.  While she found that her production involvement had prepared her well for understanding entertainment production in the legal field, the legal entertainment elements were very different.

Ultimately, she credited her Villanova education with giving her the tools she needed to learn quickly about the legal side of the industry.  Ms. Harrell explained that she now supervises a team of attorneys who are concerned with contract issues, employment issues, and intellectual property issues (to name a few).  Practically, this means that sometimes an advertisement issue or trademark issue, could arise during rehearsal and the attorney has a few minutes to make the call on legality.  This kind of pressure can create a strain between the legal and creative sides of the industry.  Alternatively, the attorney could be creating contracts for joint ventures or creating contracts for the merging of production corporations.  Sometimes the attorney finds himself or herself in new waters and simply has to wade through the tide.

Whichever legal issues you wish to tackle, the understanding that the Villanova cohort has received throughout this trip, not to mention from Ms. Harrell, has been invaluable in understanding how all of the pieces fit together on the production side.  While I had a concern that this trip would not supplement the legal interests I have, I was wrong.  In the end, the foundational legal issues are still present and the vast puzzle that is the entertainment industry is becoming clearer.  The Villanova-On-Set cohort is very thankful to Ms. Harrell for taking the time out of her busy schedule to not only show us an interesting piece of the entertainment industry, but also share her thoughts and insights into how the legal field and business field interact on a daily basis in Hollywood.