“Dear Dark Side:
I have been reading Daily Variety, Deadline Hollywood and The Hollywood Reporter religiously to find out who the important players and deals are. But I notice that generally only one attorney—usually representing the talent-- is mentioned as closing each deal that’s written about, which seems strange—doesn’t it take two sides to come to an agreement? Or do the studios employ armies of faceless Droids to do battle with the talent attorneys?
Good call—staying on top of the trades (not to mention the blogs) is a great way to familiarize yourself with the wonderful world of entertainment dealmaking. But while it might appear from these publications that the valiant talent attorneys are out there slaying one deal after another all on their own, in fact the producer/studio/network side (what we like to call the ‘Dark Side’) is also represented! Typically, the major studios employ both Business Affairs (usually lawyers, but not always) and Legal Affairs execs (always lawyers). The general division of labor is that the Business Affairs execs make deals, and the Legal Affairs types draft contracts. But we all know it’s more complicated than that—and independent production companies usually can’t afford both departments, so the in-house attorneys get to combine Business and Legal Affairs functions. In addition, talent attorneys may be closing their deals with attorneys at other law firms who represent the independent producers and/or production companies that are responsible for producing the picture in question—either because there is no studio attached, or because the studio is only indirectly involved, as in a negative pickup situation.
Whether the Dark Side is represented by an in-house attorney or outside counsel, these are the industrious people who draft, negotiate and re-negotiate every deal that is mentioned in the trades—in fact, if you want to know whether a deal has REALLY closed, they are the ones you should check with, as the talent attorneys might be a little cavalier about these kinds of ‘details’. . . but it is already pretty clear who spends more on personal PR!
The Hollywood Representation Directory currently lists over 965 executives in Business Affairs and Legal Affairs departments in the studios, television networks and independent production companies, and there are scores more Dark Side adherents in various law firms. The Dark Side has its own heroes and villains, and each has his or her own story to tell. Our column is dedicated to these hard-working men and women, and to the greater recognition of the central role they play in the entertainment industry—and through our efforts, the Dark Side will see the light of day!