Dick Wolf Honors Ziffren Brittenham’s Cliff Gilbert-Lurie at Variety’s Power of Law Breakfast

Dick Wolf Honors Ziffren Brittenham’s Cliff Gilbert-Lurie at Variety’s Power of Law Breakfast

Variety‘s annual Power of Law breakfast, presented by City National Bank, featured speakers discussing the radical changes that have rocked the entertainment industry in recent years and how insiders are adapting to the uncertainty surrounding Hollywood.

The event honored Cliff Gilbert-Lurie, Ziffren Brittenham LLP co-managing and senior partner, with the Power of Law Award recognizing his long career and his impressive track record of philanthropic work in Los Angeles County and beyond. The event also celebrated those profiled in Variety‘s annual Legal Impact Report, which recognizes transactional and litigation attorneys working in media and entertainment.

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Dea Lawrence, Variety‘s chief operating and marketing officer, opened the morning at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills remarks by acknowledging the significance of the legal eagles gathered.

“The lawyers in this room this morning are the best people to help us navigate the dramatic changes the entertainment industry has been experiencing this past year,” Lawrence said. “With the industry striking, shuttering, consolidating, and acquiring, entertainment attorneys are, alongside arbitrating and deal-making, increasingly shaping the future of our industry, and for that, we are very grateful.”

Kelly Coffey, chief executive officer of City National Entertainment, touched on audiences’ appetites for in-theater movies after the success of “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” last summer and how AI and IP will evolve in the upcoming years.

“Nothing gets done in Hollywood without all the people sitting in this room,” Coffey said. “And if recent trends in Hollywood are any indication, we have a lot to look forward to and we have a lot of work to do together.”

Coffey handed it off to Variety co-editor-in-chief Cynthia Littleton and Dan Scharf, head of global business operations for Amazon MGM Studios, to talk about his experience in helping to bring Amazon into the streaming arena over the past decade. He also offered thoughts on where he sees as current trends in media and content-related dealmaking.

Dan Scharf Keynote Conversation I Variety Power of Law

Scharf explained how the disruption of last year’s WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes has affected plans and the outlook for moving forward at Amazon MGM Studios. “Right now we’re full on in production across everything,” he said. Scharf mentioned the outcome of challenges from the strike include scheduling the release of programs because of how much content was ready before the strikes began, changes in advertising and how the number of hours watched on streaming is more crucial now in terms of metrics.

Scharf pointed to the new Amazon Prime Video series “Fallout,” which premiered on April 10. Setting the groundwork for that show was a challenge to figure out the licensing around an existing video game.

“We kind of created a separate document that was basically ‘Rules of the Road,’ ” how the TV series was able to adjust the game narrative. “The Rules of the Road was essentially a map of what we could and couldn’t do,” Scharf said. “And we negotiated the heck out of it; it ended up being a five-page document. And then the idea was that this was then settled, and then we could let the creators do their thing as long as they didn’t violate the terms of these rules of the road.”

Neal H. Moritz Keynote Conversation I Variety Power of Law 

Next to take the stage was Neal H. Moritz, founder of Original Film and producer of Prime Video’s “The Boys,” “Gen V,” “21 Jump Street” and all 10 “Fast and the Furious” films. He sat down with Variety Deputy Awards and Features Editor Jenelle Riley to discuss the tumultuous state of the industry and the changes he has seen in the entertainment business.

The industry effectively shut down for most of 2023 thanks to the dual WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Moritz asserted that the landscape has changed since last year. “There was definitely a recalculation,” he said, resulting in contraction from studios across the board.

“Everything is examined much more than it would’ve in the past, and I don’t think necessarily that’s a negative thing,” Moritz said. “You have to be very, very careful what you’re making for the movie theaters today. It’s kind of an overused thing, but it’s got to be specific. It’s got to be something you really can get people out of the house to go to the movie theater for.”

Moritz’s production strategy has not changed much since he has always tried to make “really commercial, mainstream entertainment.” But the pressure to deliver to get people to buy a ticket or tune in to a show has never been higher.

“It can’t just be a replica, there’s got to be something new, something innovative,” explained Moritz. “I think in ‘Fast and Furious’… we became a little stale, so we are trying to turn that on its head for the finale. It’s a challenge.”

Clifford Gilbert-Lurie Award Acceptance Speech I Variety Power of Law 

Gilbert-Lurie was feted by none other than Dick Wolf, the mega executive producer of the “Law & Order,” “One Chicago” and “FBI” TV drama series franchises, who has been a client of an entertainment lawyer for more than 35 years. “Much of what I’ve become is solely due to Cliff,” he said. “During this entire period, I’ve never heard a negative word about Cliff. Ever.”

Gilbert-Lurie explained how his views of career success and achievement have changed over the years, in large part due to philanthropy, which he says has made him a better lawyer, community member, husband, father, and friend.

He has served as a past chairman of and is a current member of the Board of the Alliance for Children’s Rights and as a member of the Board of Governors of the Paley Center for Media, the Peabody Foundation, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDs Foundation, and the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. He is also a member of The Los Angeles Coalition for the Economy & Jobs and the UCLA Galactic Center Group.

Gilbert-Lurie ended his speech by stating how respect, judgment and magic moments have guided his law journey.

“This gift, plus the gift of a long and rewarding career representing talented clients, enabled me to contribute philanthropically and conferred its own additional gifts,” Gilbert-Lurie said. “First, I developed compassion and empathy for other human beings. I’ve become less cynical and more hopeful.”

(Pictured top: Cliff Gilbert-Lurie and Dick Wolf)

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