Originally scheduled to take place over two days during March, the 44th Annual UCLA Entertainment Symposium was forced to hit the pause button when the COVID-19 crisis bore down, “safer at home” orders were implemented and UCLA classes and operations shifted to largely remote settings. But the hold was only temporary and the show did indeed go on several months later, when the Symposium launched a four-week series of weekly webinars in July and August that kept the signature tradition going, as illuminating and popular as ever.
From the start, the series was a hit, illustrating the creativity and adaptability of the event’s organizers, including several members of the Entertainment Symposium Advisory Committee, whom UCLA Law Dean Jennifer Mnookin personally thanked during her introduction to the virtual event on July 22. More than 830 people from around the country livestreamed that first night’s presentation, which featured media analyst Tom Wolzien’s annual review of the state of the business, titled “The World Turned Upside Down: Divining the Media Business in Dystopian Days,” and another panel, “The Safety Dance: How the Entertainment Industry Is Working Through a COVID-19 Pandemic,” which explored issues including insurance, talent health and safety concerns, federal lending programs and how to safely resume productions.
Panels on July 29 included “Backend? What Backend? Are Profit Participations an Outdated Concept in the New Television Era?” and the John H. Mitchell Panel on Ethics and Entertainment Sponsored by the Patricia W. Mitchell Trust, titled “The News, the Law and Legal Ethics.” On Aug. 5, viewers watched as panelists discussed “Labor of Love: A Discussion of the Relationships Between Unions, Talent and Producers,” and a special panel that was added in the wake of the protests that followed the killings of George Floyd and others, “Sports, Entertainment and Racial Equity: Heeding the Call for Justice.”
The final-evening presentation, on Aug 12, started with “The Shifting Power of Influencers in the Age of Social Distancing” and concluded with the symposium keynote, which featured Bryan Lourd, Managing Partner and Co-Chairman of Creative Artists Agency, in conversation with Ken Ziffren ’65, founder of UCLA Law’s Ziffren Institute for Media, Entertainment, Technology and Sports Law.
Lourd and Ziffren discussed a wide array of issues involving the ongoing writers dispute, the Black Lives Matter movement and how COVID-19 has caused a slowdown in the industry, even as optimism remains. “I think that the first safe Friday night in the next six months, year, three months – whenever it is – will be maybe one of the biggest nights in movies in the history of the business,” Lourd said. “I think that the audience is dormant and waiting.”
For a full rundown of the event’s panels and presenters, please visit the 44th Annual UCLA Entertainment Symposium website.