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Power Lawyers 2021: Hollywood’s Top 100 Attorneys

Client: Jonathan Gardner, Esq. – Partner

When Hollywood gets disrupted — whether by a pandemic or a paradigm-shifting merger like the one between AT&T’s WarnerMedia and Discovery — it’s the lawyers who must rewrite the rules of the game. And if there’s anyone who can negotiate tentpoles pivoting to streamers, mediate the detente between writers and agents and navigate the still-insatiable appetite for content, it’s the entertainment industry’s top 100 attorneys — who may never go back to wearing suits and heels but definitely will return to The Grill on the Alley.

Cohen Gardner University of Virginia School of Law

One of Gardner’s more complex deals involved client Ryan Coogler and his Proximity banner signing an exclusive TV deal with Disney, involving several divisions, including Marvel, and multiple distribution platforms. A Gardner specialty is working with filmmakers on the festival circuit — at this year’s Sundance, he repped producer Nina Yang Bongiovi in a $16 million Netflix acquisition for racial drama Passing, and Megan Park’s The Fallout was nabbed by HBO Max at SXSW — and it’s something he’s this past year. “Look, we all did our best with Zoom, but it’s not the same thing. We can’t even pretend it is,” says Gardner, who also made a deal to bring Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite universe to TV. “Walking down Main Street at Sundance and running into a colleague or hearing filmmakers on panels, plus the glamour … With COVID it was all gone. I missed it a lot.”

What’s the biggest effect of packaging coming to an end? “It levels the playing field for various agencies and management companies.”

The thing I missed most during 2020 is … “Cannes Film Festival.”

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