Perhaps you’re sitting in your introductory cinema studies class, watching the clock tick by and wondering how many more hours you’ll have to sit in the classroom before your name will be on the big screen (Ed Note: a lot.) Maybe you’re counting down the minutes in your political science class, dreading the years of law school ahead of you before you’re doing the real work. Or maybe you’re neither of these two students but wish you were, wondering how on earth you let yourself major in Econ.
All of these cases and more filled the seats in JMHH 365 this past Friday for Wharton’s Undergraduate Media and Entertainment Club’s annual Spring Conference. Called “Making the Deal,” the event focused on teaching students anything and everything about surrounding Hollywood life. Three speakers were featured who covered topics ranging from Hollywood terminology to major studios to law firms that represent the big names in the business. As students munched on Greek Lady and Insomnia provided by the club, their minds were filled with the insight and knowledge that speakers had to offer.
First to present were Kathy Demarco Van Cleve and Emory Van Cleve, a husband and wife duo that both teach in Penn’s cinema studies department. Both professors are widely loved, with classes that fill up quickly and are always hard to get into semester after semester. And, both have a lot of wisdom to offer about the film industry—Kathy is a producer, screenwriter and novelist, with several highly regarded books published and films produced. Emory has played a part in almost every aspect of the filmmaking process and has worked on several films as well.
The pair’s presentation “Hollywood 101” gave a helpful run through on Hollywood basics. The talk went through the basic steps of production, names of the major studios, definitions for important terms and much more. Both speakers also interspersed their lecture with helpful pieces of advice for those trying to break into the film industry. Points that they stressed? Every film is collaborative. A passion for storytelling is absolutely essential. And talent has a whole new meaning in film. “Talent is a funny word in the film business,” Kathy said. “It does mean talented people, but it’s talent as a noun. Talent is writers, talent is actors.”
Next came Stewart Brookman, a successful entertainment attorney, who discussed how to make deals in the Hollywood industry. Stewart first shared his personal story, setting an example for many students. After hearing an entertainment lawyer speak in his Entertainment Law class at Berkeley’s law school, Stewart was struck by his appealing lifestyle compared to most lawyers—Stewart didn't fail to include that the speaker was dressed in a blue blazer, pink shirt and wore a chain around his neck. Stewart left his first job at a corporate law firm to pursue entertainment law quickly and has been working in the business ever since. “It’s a dream career,” he shared. “I really like what I do. That’s not to say it’s not stressful…but I really like what I do.”
His talk stressed key tips to making successful negotiations in Hollywood. Among the most important things are thinking creatively, knowing your buyer, understanding your leverage and thinking outside the box. Stewart also explained that it’s important to understand your role. “In terms of the deal process, we’re on the front line,” Stewart said, staring the audience down. “We are really the quarter backs.”
Students came to satisfy their curiosity about the Hollywood industry, and left with minds full of advice and bellies full of cookies. Whether or not the attendees actually end up working in Hollywood can’t be known, but one thing is for sure—they are now far more prepared for the challenge. That’s a wrap!