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An Interdisciplinary Edge in the Entertainment Industry

May 10, 2023

From a Whitney Houston biopic to premiering at Sundance, Penn Carey Law students and alumni successfully navigate legal careers in the ever-changing entertainment industry.

From AI-generated deepfakes in mainstream entertainment to the explosion of short-form digital content, the legal issues surrounding the entertainment and media industry are more complex than ever.

At the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, expert faculty and legal practitioners such as Jennifer E. Rothman, Nicholas F. Gallicchio Professor of Law, and Jonathan Seiden L’01, Adjunct Professor of Law and Senior Vice President and Associate General Counsel for Endeavor, challenge students to apply their legal knowledge and build the skills required to work in the fast-paced industry.

Penn Carey Law’s cross-disciplinary programs and active alumni network also prepare students such as Wendy Li L’24; Elizabeth Ostertag JD’25, WG’25; and Devin Tusa L’24 to forge unique careers in the industry.

Diverse Pathways

While Tusa, Ostertag, and Li all had clear interests in entertainment, they each took different routes to law school.

Black and white image of a Penn Carey Law Student. Devin Tusa L’24Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Tusa always knew he would pursue a film career, but his interest in the legal aspects of the industry developed later. Tusa attended NYU’s film school where he discovered a passion for producing— work he has continued while attending Penn Carey Law; Tusa was a producer for Tender which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year.

“I didn’t think too much about a career in law until I started getting opportunities to work on small commercial projects and needed customized legal agreements,” he said. Tusa enrolled in every entertainment-related legal class NYU had to offer and interned at HBO’s Legal and Business Affairs office and at Marvel. After graduating, he worked as the head of production for The Win Company producing political campaign ads for the Biden campaign and other prominent political candidates.

When Tusa started looking at law schools that aligned with his career path, he was drawn to Penn Carey Law’s business acumen, hands-on learning, and opportunities to study under expert faculty.

“One of the things I liked about Penn Carey Law was its emphasis on interdisciplinary practice. Working in entertainment often requires knowing a little about a lot of different fields and areas of law,” he said.

Tusa, co-President of the Penn Carey Law Entertainment and Sports Law Society (ESLS), also mentored Ostertag during her admissions process.

Ostertag’s path to law school also started with a long-standing interest in the entertainment industry, an interest she cultivated by writing and producing short films and pursuing entertainment industry opportunities in her consulting work after graduating from Princeton.

Elizabeth Ostertag JD/MBA'25 Elizabeth Ostertag JD/MBA’25She decided to pursue law school while working in a corporate innovation role, where she led a team of technical and design experts developing new technology. Ostertag was involved in the legal aspects of protecting the team’s original ideas under intellectual property and contract law. This experience helped solidify her path to a legal career, and Penn Carey Law’s robust cross-disciplinary programs stood out to Ostertag.

“I chose Penn Carey Law in part because of its enormous strength in interdisciplinary learning,” she said. “As a JD/MBA candidate, I knew I would be supported throughout my career by the close-knit communities of Penn Carey Law and Wharton.” Ostertag was also an ESLS 1L rep this year.

Like her peers, Li was interested in a career in the entertainment industry, but her path to law school was more direct. A graduate of UCLA, Li’s prior work includes FX Networks and Opportunity Agenda, where she researched the role of media in shaping the public’s perception of social issues. This background set the stage for her career path which sits at the intersections of entertainment and media, social justice, and increasing on-screen representation.

Wendy Li L'24 Wendy Li L’24“I knew I would attend law school, eventually,” she reflected. “I know that if I want to make change in this industry, I need to understand both the sociocultural and business dynamics at play, especially when it comes to understanding how film affects society.”

Li explored this topic in her work organizing a panel for the ESLS 10th Annual Symposium in March.

“The panel discussion examined how to achieve long-lasting change regarding diversity on the screen,” she noted. “What structures are required to sustain this so that it’s not subject to the whims of the industry and culture? I want to explore this idea more, and I was very excited to organize this panel for the symposium.”

Practical, Hands-On Learning

“Almost every class you’ll take at Penn Carey Law touches on ‘entertainment law’,” said Jonathan Seiden L’01, Adjunct Professor of Law and Senior Vice President and Associate General Counsel for Endeavor.

“It’s a mix of mergers and acquisitions, tort, labor law, employment law, child advocacy for young actors and artists, intellectual property law, privacy—just applied to film, TV, or Broadway.”

Adjunct Professor of Law Jonathan Seiden L'01 Adjunct Professor of Law Jonathan Seiden L'01Seiden’s impressive career cuts across many sectors of the entertainment industry — from film, TV, music, and live events to endorsements, brand integration, content licensing, and more—and has seen massive shifts in everything from distribution to content itself. This diverse experience inspired him to conceptualize a specialized course, “Entertainment Law Transactions,” which he began teaching in 2016.

“The course provides the nuts and bolts of different sectors of the entertainment industry and the most common types of deals that would be entered into in each of those sectors,” he said.

The course covers topics related to content (TV, film, music, live events), celebrity law and the right of publicity, negotiations, and contracts and terms across different entertainment sectors. Students also analyze the industry in its current state and explore how to negotiate deals in an environment that is constantly shifting and responding to new technology and cultural shifts.

“‘Entertainment Law Transactions’ gives good context on why contracts for actors or producers are shaped in a certain way,” Li noted. “The course is very helpful in giving students a view of the entertainment industry from a wider lens.”

Students engage in live negotiations using fact patterns Seiden specifically develops to be challenging yet fun, such as a hypothetical robotics company negotiating with Lady Gaga for a branded robotic consumer product. The half-hour exercises sharpen students’ negotiation skills and teach them how to make these complex, often emotionally charged deals work.

“Ultimately, I hope that students leave the course with a good understanding of the main principles behind the most important transactions in the industry, how lawyers are involved in negotiating those deals, and how shifts in culture and technology uniquely affect the entertainment and media industry,” Seiden concluded.

A Collegial Alumni Community

Matthew Salloway L’04, CEO of GSI Ventures, noted that “the beauty of Penn Carey Law is the incredible world-class faculty, small class size, collegial environment, ability to take cross-disciplinary courses.”

Salloway, whose recent producer credits include “Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody” and the Neil Diamond Broadway musical “A Beautiful Noise,” advises Penn Carey Law students to maximize their exposure to different disciplines and different courses. As a student, Salloway was involved in the Journal of Labor and Employment Law (now the Journal of Business Law) and took cross-disciplinary classes at the Wharton School and Fels Institute of Government.

“The excellent academic training that I received at Penn with respect to critical thinking, writing, negotiation, all prepared me for my current career. As a producer, I have worked to create impactful, commercial content for audiences worldwide,” he said.

Karen Segall L’05, Head of Legal and Business Affairs at A24, echoed Salloway’s sentiments, noting that Penn Carey Law’s broad course offerings and learning opportunities beyond the classroom all provide a strong foundation for students interested in the entertainment industry.

“I’ve drawn on some of the classes more directly related to a career in entertainment, such as IP-related courses,” she said, “but opportunities such as learning negotiation skills in the Mediation Clinic and classes I took at the Annenberg School for Communication have proven to be just as valuable to my career as the traditional law school courses.”

Both Salloway and Segall reflected on how the Law School’s tight-knit community has resulted in strong personal and professional relationships throughout their careers.

“Penn Carey Law’s collegial environment gave me the freedom to explore an atypical career path. I was able to simultaneously focus on my studies and forge relationships with my peers, many of whom I am still regularly in touch with today,” Segall said.

Current students, like Li, have found Penn Carey Law alumni working in the entertainment industry to be helpful and supportive.

“Everyone is really helpful,” noted Li. “The active alumni network was part of my decisions to come to Penn Carey Law. Even before I was admitted, alumni were willing to jump on a call. I’ve really enjoyed my experience, and that makes me want to support future generations of students.”

Learn more about Penn Carey Law’s innovative cross-disciplinary education.