Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Hollywood, land of Opportunity

There’s more to the movie business than just actors, directors and producers. Hollywood also employs a small army of executives who produce, market and distribute motion pictures. 

According to the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., employment in California’s motion picture and television industry increased by nearly 10% in 2011, adding 11,700 jobs. But while Tinseltown may have a reputation for being more about who you know than what you know, many of its executive positions require a formal post-secondary education.

Many area schools offer advanced degree programs designed to give entertainment industry executives a competitive edge.

Edward Noeltner is president of Beverly Hills-based Cinema Management Group, which acquires, licenses and distributes motion pictures worldwide. He holds a master’s degree in critical studies from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. 

“That sort of critical background has helped me immensely in my career in terms of picking some winners,” said Noeltner, who has licensed movies including “Chicago” and “The Hours.”

“First of all, I got a bachelor’s degree in radio and television production [from the University of Arizona in 1980],” he said. “That set me up for working in the industry … the technical ins and outs.”
Gregoire Gensollen is vice president of international distribution and strategy at FilmNation Entertainment, an international sales, distribution and production company with offices in L.A. and New York. He earned his MBA from UCLA Anderson School of Management in 2006.

“Most of my electives were in the producers’ program in the [UCLA] film school,” Gensollen explained. “It’s extremely hard [for me] to have a macro view of the [movie] business … without having the different classes that are offered at UCLA, both the pure business MBA and the film school.”
As of this year, UCLA Anderson offers an entertainment certificate within its general management MBA.
People considering an entertainment-related degree should take into account not only a program’s ranking but also its location, Gensollen said. He recommends L.A. because of its bountiful opportunities for entertainment internships — he did nine while at Anderson — and networking opportunities.

Legal eagles

The movie industry’s myriad contracts and negotiations provide plenty of work for entertainment lawyers in Los Angeles.

G. Fabricio Lopez, principal counsel at a major entertainment company, enrolled in UCLA Extension’s Paralegal Program upon arriving in Los Angeles from Ecuador in 1994. 

“It was very hands-on,” Lopez recalled. “One instructor was a judge, another a prosecutor, another a paralegal. So they were very academic, but at the same time very ‘This is what you do on a daily basis.’”
Lopez graduated from L.A.’s Loyola Law School in 2004, where he now teaches. His advice to aspiring entertainment attorneys is to seek out schools, like Loyola, that offer the option to focus on this area of law.
Professor David Ginsberg, who heads UCLA School of Law’s Entertainment, Media and Intellectual Property Law Program, advises students contemplating an entertainment law career to choose an undergraduate degree they are passionate about rather than one that necessarily pertains to entertainment or law to better round out their skills.

“Between the UCLA School of Law’s first-year and entertainment law specialization program, we will provide a curricular and analytic approach appropriate to training a well-prepared entertainment lawyer,” he said.

Accounting is another specialty offering good opportunities in the industry. Los Angeles is home to more than 50 accounting firms specializing in entertainment, according to Roger L. Torneden, director of business, management and legal programs at UCLA Extension. 

“Differentiation is key for a new entrant [into entertainment accounting], as is up-to-date continuing education,” Torneden said. “In addition to a bachelor’s degree or higher education … courses in entertainment studies or a new certificate program in accounting, finance, taxation or personal financial planning would seem indisputable evidence of such a personal commitment.”

Supporting roles

As for talent managers and agents — though many have no related academic qualifications — post-secondary programs can help launch an agency career.

“A jurist doctorate or MBA with an undergraduate degree in marketing would be ideal,” said Von Johnson, who created and teaches UCLA Extension’s Business of Entertainment class.  “Students will benefit from electives in content production, post-production and theater.”

“My biggest lesson for students is that they must learn how to network,” said Larry Auerbach, who had a 47-year career at the William Morris Agency. As associate dean of student industry relations at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, Auerbach created the school’s Graduate Certificate in the Business of Entertainment program and its undergraduate Business Cinematic Arts program, both in conjunction with the Marshall School of Business.

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