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Live from LA: Spotlight on Entertainment: January 19, 2006...

Love what you do.

Don’t be afraid to take a chance.

Be determined and find a way to turn your determination into a career.

These words constitute common career advice, but when the advice comes from people who have succeeded in the world of Hollywood entertainment, it is especially meaningful. With a Pacific Coast beach visible in the background, a panel of New York Law School alumni in Los Angeles shared their success stories through a live video hook-up at New York Law School’s second Spotlight of the new year, Live from Los Angeles: Spotlight on Entertainment, on January 19.

The panelists, introduced by Lyndon Parker ’72, managing director of the Los Angeles office of Mestel & Company, one of the nation’s pre-eminent attorney search firms, were Nancy Weingrow Eagle ’80, senior vice president of business and legal affairs for Universal Studios Home Entertainment Family Productions, and Michael Rizzo ’95 and Jon Huddle ’96, both agents at ICM (International Creative Management), one of the world’s largest talent and literary agencies.

Mr. Rizzo began the discussion by describing his career path. While a law student, he worked as a media planner and buyer. As a result, he said, “I got to see a side of the entertainment industry, but the creative side was missing.”

Mr. Rizzo said he sent many resumes to companies in California when he graduated from the Law School, and eventually, he was hired by an agency. He later moved to ICM where he became a television, literary and packaging agent.

“What I do on a daily basis is negotiate deals for directors, writers and on air talent,” he said. “A packaging agent puts together a project.”

Mr. Rizzo’s first project was the television show Jackass, Later he worked on another “alternative” show, Reno 911. Currently, Mr. Rizzo represents writers on such shows as Law and Order and Saturday Night Live. His upcoming film projects include a movie featuring Borat, the hapless Khazakstan native portrayed by Ali G, who is, in turn, a character invented by the British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen.

“I love what I do,” Mr. Rizzo said. “I think that makes it easy. You have to love what you do and I truly do.”

“When I went to New York Law School , I didn’t know what the entertainment business was,” Nancy Weingrow Eagle said.

Initially, Ms. Eagle wanted to be a consumer reporter. She applied for an internship with Betty Furness, who was a consumer reporter on television for many years. The internship “made me realize that I wanted to be around the entertainment field.” Still, when Ms. Eagle graduated from the Law School, her first job was with a litigation firm.

After a few years, Ms. Eagle went into television production through contacts she made through her husband. For two years, she worked on a freelance basis on a show called America’s Greatest Commercials. Ms. Eagle was responsible for getting clearances for the 300 clips used on each show. Through this job, she became acquainted with numerous talent agents.

“I was kind of an outsider, but I started to network,” she said.

Ms. Eagle worked on the follow-up show, TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes and this experience led her, eventually, to ABC’s contracts department. One key to her ability to advance, she said was that “I had a niche. I was the only contract attorney specializing in children’s programs.”

Ms. Eagle described her current job, in which she works on made-for-video productions and animated television cartoon series franchises as “another niche.”

The panel’s third speaker, Jonathan Huddle, first went to Californiawhile still a law student to visit Michael Rizzo.

“As soon as I figured out that this job existed, I said I’m coming out here and becoming an agent,” he recalled.

Mr. Huddle began his career as an agent in a very traditional way – working in the mail room of the William Morris Agency.

“I found myself at the ripe old age of 26 slotting mail with mail room guys from Harvard and Yale,” he said.

In response to a question posed by Benjamin Brandow 2L, Mr. Huddle noted that there is no one path to success in the entertainment field.

“Everyone has their own path,” Mr. Huddle said. “Sometimes you don’t have the pedigree to get into one of the five major law firms that do entertainment, but that’s not enough for me to tell you to forget it.”

“It’s about believing in yourself and having passion,” Mr. Rizzo said. “If you want to go from A to B, there are many ways to do it.”

“All three of us really ended up giving up law for a time to go into the entertainment business,” Ms. Eagle said. “Doing that required a leap of faith.”

After the panel, many students said they felt encouraged and motivated by the speakers.

“I think this Spotlight was very useful,” Leslie Myers 2L said. Leslie worked for Def Jam Records in marketing and promotions for several years before entering law school. “As a person from the music business, I can identify with what they are saying. The real value of the Spotlights is that you hear about real life experience. You can get some of that in the classroom from professors, but this is unabridged information from real professionals.”