‘Hollywood in Place’: Ziffren Institute Examines the Entertainment Business and COVID-19

20200429 ZiffrenHollywoodInPlaceMore than 200 people joined an April 23 webinar, hosted by the Ziffren Institute for Media, Entertainment, Technology and Sports Law, where a distinguished panel discussed the impact that the coronavirus pandemic has had on the entertainment business.

“Hollywood in Place” featured three entertainment leaders who spoke about how their day-to-day work has changed, how their firms and companies have adapted to working remotely in virtual environments, and how the greater industry is navigating stay-at-home orders and other disruptions. Joe Calabrese, Chair of the Entertainment, Sports & Media Practice at Latham & Watkins, shared his perspective from inside a large global law firm. Jeffrey Freedman ’93, General Counsel at CAA, provided the view from a major talent agency. And P.J. Shapiro, Managing Partner at Ziffren Brittenham LLP, offered his thoughts from a preeminent boutique law firm. Ziffren Institute Executive Director Susan Akens moderated the all-star panel.

In the live online event, Shapiro offered a candid look at his day leading up to the webinar, which ranged from negotiating a major deal on behalf of an A-list client to negotiating his home kitchen, where he made lunch for his family and loaded the dishwasher. Freedman described CAA’s transition to working at home, highlighting the agency’s uncommonly early efforts to prepare for COVID-19’s disruptions. Regarding the deal-making landscape, Calabrese noted that some transactions have been put on hold, while discussions of force majeure clauses and insurance-related issues have been more prevalent than ever. The panelists agreed that consistent communication and effective technology — and their unflappable IT departments — have been critical.

As the industry looks ahead to the day when productions resume and people return to their offices, there is still uncertainty as to how these different parties will mitigate the risk of bringing people back into a shared space. But the panelists agreed that solutions will emerge: They have been encouraged by the spirit of collaboration that has underscored many of the discussions between parties who, in normal times, are on opposite sides of the bargaining table.