Grace Clements is one of four students selected as a Biederman Scholar. As a recipient of this honor, she will participate in a variety of Institute initiatives and programs. In the following Q&A, she discusses her decision to attend law school, how she selected Southwestern, her goals for practicing entertainment law, her involvement as an extern for Lionsgate and why this appointment is so meaningful to her.
Q: How does it feel to be selected as a Biederman Scholar? Why is this honor special to you?
It is a true honor to have been selected to be a Biederman Scholar. After working in the entertainment industry for years, I decided to go to law school to become an entertainment attorney. I chose Southwestern precisely because of the Biederman Institute, its outstanding faculty, and its strong curricular and professional focus. To be named a Biederman Scholar signifies to potential employers that I am serious about my pursuit.
Q: You already have an MFA in Theater and a very impressive resume with production credits for Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show. What made you decide to come to law school?
Thank you! As a producer, I was constantly brushing up against copyright and trademark clearance, privacy, contract and other legal issues that surround the business. In my two years at Saturday Night Live, the most consistently funny piece of writing I read was the weekly standards and practices memo. I wasn't alone - the whole team awaited reading the legal memo as a weekly ritual, laughing at the absurdity of when it was ok, say, to depict Will Ferrell as Janet Reno in the skit "Reno's Dance Party," versus when it just went too far, as "Martha Stewart Valentine's Day Special" apparently did in having Ana Gasteyer's Martha in bed with a sex doll (or ten) dressed like Martha Stewart. I was always fascinated by just how far you could push the envelope, and as an artist myself, I recognized the importance of protecting free speech and the exchange of ideas.
Q: What brought you to Los Angeles from New York? Why did you choose Southwestern?
Once I decided to become an entertainment lawyer, I knew that Los Angeles was the place to get my degree. While I have worked in film and television in New York, Los Angeles is really the center of that industry. The prominence of the Biederman Institute was a primary factor in my decision to attend Southwestern. In addition, I attended Southwestern's Diversity Day before I applied, and I was impressed by the commitment that Southwestern shows to a diverse student body, including diversity of professional experience and background. Because Southwestern has part-time evening and part-time day programs, in addition to the traditional full-time day program and an accelerated two-year program, the school attracts a much more experienced and eclectic student body. I felt that here my experience would be an asset and not an anomaly.
Q: Specifically, what kind of entertainment law are you planning to practice? Do you want to work for a firm or studio? Is there a specific area of entertainment you want to be involved in?
I am particularly interested in content-driven media: Motion picture and television, and that's rapidly expanding into video game and internet as well. I am still exploring whether I want to be the one that makes the deals, on the Business Affairs/transactional side, or the one that fixes the deals once they've gone sour, on the media litigation side. This past summer I worked for Business Affairs, Inc., a boutique law firm that specializes in entertainment transactions for motion picture and television, representing what they call "the dark side": Studios, financiers, producers, writers and directors. It was an incredible opportunity to dive into complex agreements, copyright issues, delivery, production; basically, all aspects of the transactional business and legal affairs practice. Next I would love to experience the media litigation practice. I have chosen my law school activities to reflect this dual pursuit: I am in law review to polish my writing and moot court to refine my oral advocacy skills. I'm busy, but it's worth it.
Q: What specific activities are you involved with within the Biederman Institute and what do you like most about it?
Last year I attended many of the programs offered in the professional CLE series "A Conversation With...." It was a great opportunity to gain more specialized knowledge and then network with professional attorneys in the field. The Biederman Institute and the Media Law Resource Center also co-host an annual conference, and last year's event Scripts, Lies and Videogames was both informative and inspiring.
Q: What kinds of things are you doing as a Law Clerk for Lionsgate Entertainment? Is acquisitions an area of specific interest to you?
I am working in the acquisitions department, drafting, reviewing and revising agreements under the tutelage of the incredible Wendy Jaffe, Southwestern alumna and Executive Vice President of Acquisitions and Co-Productions. It is a unique opportunity to put into practice what I am simultaneously learning from the course "Independent Film Finance and Distribution," taught by Lionsgate General Counsel and Executive Vice President Wayne Levin and Jim Gladstone, Lionsgate's Executive Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs. Wayne Levin is a Southwestern alumnus and board member, and he teaches this class at Southwestern every year because he is committed to ensuring that our graduates are well equipped to enter the industry as successful entertainment lawyers. Jim Gladstone adds another valuable perspective to the inner workings of a studio's business and legal affairs practice. I can't imagine another law school with this much curricular and professional synergy.