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Vanessa McMahon

Vanessa is a novel writer, screenwriter, rep and a film producer. She shares her discoveries and film surprises. :-)



Interview with Entertainment "Super Lawyer" Steven Beer @ AFM 2016

Interview with Entertainment "Super Lawyer" Steven Beer @ AFM 2016
Film industry attorney, consultant and published writer Steven Beer has become a super star in his own right, even deemed “Super Lawyer” after his feature in 2006 edition of "Super Lawyers/New York Metro Edition" where he was classified as top 5% in New York. Having successfully represented film producers, financiers, distributors and nurtured some of entertainment's most renown talent including award-winning writers, directors, producers, and multi-platinum musical artists (i.e. Britney Spears, Lady GaGa, and Taylor Swift), Beer was also deemed one of the "21 Great Thinkers of Indie Film" by The Wrap online magazine. Steven regularly attends major film festivals around the world including Cannes, Berlin, Sundance and AFM for meetings.
I recently interviewed him during the 2016 AFM. Here is what he had to say:


How long have you been in entertainment law?

BEER: I’ve been practicing entertainment law for 20 years. During this period, my practice has concentrated on film, television, and music related matters.

What are some of the hardest and most valuable lessons you've learned in entertainment law?

BEER: Perhaps the hardest lesson was the realization that having great talent or content is often not enough to be successful. How a project is marketed and distributed often determines success in a crowded and competitive marketplace. Another valuable lesson I’ve learned is that money is not always a benchmark for achievement. Instead, it often comes in many shapes, sizes, and forms of currency. You never know where a project can take you -- you can wind up finding success down the road even after initial setbacks through creativity and determination. I have found that persistence is one of the most valuable attributes contributing to success.


Do you think law is one of the most secure jobs in the entertainment business?

BEER: In some respects, yes. Given the complex nature of many entertainment deals, working with specialized, experienced legal counsel is indispensable.


What are some of the most memorable cases you've worked and experiences you've had in your career?

BEER: I have had the good fortune of playing a nurturing role in many successful careers, such as those of Britney Spears, Lady GaGa, and Taylor Swift. I have enjoyed working with first-time writers and directors who have emerged as industry powerhouses. Jill Kargman of “Odd Mom Out” is an excellent example. On the content side, it’s been rewarding to work on documentaries that have raised awareness about critical subjects. One such film, “Strange Culture,” discussed GMOs in our current food culture. The documentary went to Sundance and Berlin. I am proud that the film contributed to the acquittal of an artist, Steven Kurtz, who’d been falsely accused of violating the Patriot Act following 9/11.


What advice can you give to young talent entering the entertainment business?

BEER: Be prepared, make good decisions, and don’t take shortcuts. I recommend that young talent surround themselves with experienced professionals who can guide them before they sign off on agreements. Additionally, it’s important that young artists view themselves as entrepreneurs, not just talent. I wrote an article about this in the Berkeley Journal of Entertainment and Sports Law titled “The New Renaissance: A Breakthrough Time for Artists,” which speaks to both the new opportunities and challenges in the business today.


Besides law, you are also a writer with a published book. Can you tell us about your book?

BEER: In 2015 Allworth Press published my book, “Your Child’s Career in Music and Entertainment: A Prudent Parent’s Guide from Start to Stardom.” The book is a road map for parents with kids in the industry, a position I found myself in with my own children. I learned that there were few existing materials on the market intended to guide parents with something as critical as their child’s success and well being in this arena. My book addresses subjects like: knowing which professionals to consult and when, finding and preparing for auditions, dealing with finance and business aspects of an entertainment industry career, understanding specific statutory and legal protections for children, and creating a balance for the whole family while -- most importantly -- maintaining a child’s health and happiness.


Will you write more books in the future?

BEER: When writing my book, I thought about the challenges that parents of young athletes face. I have contemplated writing a similar book for these parents. I play ice hockey and I see dedicated parents every week at the rink -- up at all hours and truly supportive of their kids’ pursuits. Seeing these dedicated parents motivates me to write a similar guide.


You attend film markets like Cannes, Berlin and AFM. Why is it important for lawyers to attend film markets? Further, how was this year's AFM for you and why do you think it's an important market?

BEER: Negotiations mirror the marketplace. An understanding of market dynamics can help crystalize negotiation points. One example of this is the changing status of the DVD, which is not nearly as important as the ascending significance of subscription video on demand platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. The closer you are to these markets, the better you can understand the nuances and changing culture of the industry.


Will you wear other hats in the entertainment business in the future? (i.e. producing and more writing?)

BEER: I don’t think so. I value my role as a counselor and entertainment lawyer. I appreciate being able to guide clients with their transactions and careers in this business. I look forward to many more years as a partner at Franklin, Weinrib, Rudell & Vassallo, P.C. as we are celebrating our fiftieth year of practice. I feel grateful to practice here in this unique and collaborative community.


Interview by Vanessa McMahon



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