Harvard law school is finally on the map in Hollywood," observes Brenda Feigen '69. Through the HLSA committee on entertainment law based in L.A., in which Feigen is active, she hopes the School's influence in the industry will extend to other parts of the country.
Feigen calls herself a literary manager, not an agent, because she often gets directly involved in the process of transforming clients' treatments and screenplays into feature films, TV movies, CD-ROMs, and other products. "I look for good material, whether screenplays, teleplays, or manuscripts, place it with publishers and/or studios, and set the creative process in motion," she explains.
Doctors and scientists, as well as lawyers, often approach Feigen with compelling tales to tell. So do former CIA agents, private eyes, and spies. At present, she is in the process of assembling a creative and financial partnership to make a motion picture based on the book The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang, which hit the New York Times's and other best-seller lists in January. It is a gripping, often harrowing account of the 1937 massacre of as many as 350,000 Chinese civilians by Japanese soldiers on the eve of WWII. "I'm intrigued to be involved in the financing of a movie that will reveal to the world atrocities that have never been talked about," says Feigen. The book has generated great interest, and she hopes to put together a consortium of American and Chinese filmmakers and financiers, with the goal of making a film "that is a true international co-production."
Feigen had been working for more than 20 years as a New York lawyer and then as motion picture literary agent with William Morris when an interesting screenplay penned by a Navy SEAL caught her attention. In 1988 she moved to L.A. to produce the movie NAVY SEALS, released in 1990. After several years in production she began practicing entertainment and literary law with Berton & Donaldson, but found she wanted a more hands-on role in projects. In 1995 she opened her own agency, with a partner handling the studio side of projects. While Feigen's focus is on putting deals and creative teams together, her contracts expertise comes in handy. "It's an advantage that I'm both lawyer and agent, because, for example, the new media have changed publishing contracts dramatically, particularly in addressing electronic rights issues," which pertain to interactive games, CD-ROMs, and other electronic spin-offs of literary works.
Feigen is always shopping new ideas around. She is involved in laying the groundwork for new partnerships between Hollywood and Asian production financing and facilities that would lower U.S. film production costs and reduce filmmakers' dependence on the Hollywood studio system. Feigen has met with fellow HLS graduates in the New York legal community, as well as in L.A., to seek their expertise in international trade, financing, and other movie-related matters. "The axis between Asia and Hollywood is incomplete without Wall Street, the focal point of investment banking," she says, "and the lawyers who specialize in Asia and money are in New York."
Ultimately, Feigen would like to have a hand in producing movies filmed and financed in part in Asia. Another goal "near and dear" to her heart is to produce a TV mini-series chronicling the Women's Movement. A longtime activist in the Movement, Feigen is also completing a manuscript for Knopf, with the working title From Harvard to Hollywood: The Journey of a Feminist. "I credit Harvard Law School with turning me into a radical feminist," she says. "There were only six percent women in my class."
Through the HLSA and her own outreach, Feigen hopes to collaborate with other Harvard lawyers in the industry and trade expertise. "We can create a synergy to get projects on the ground and represent worthy ideas properly."
She also hopes to see increased HLS curriculum offerings in entertainment and media-related courses. "After all, entertainment is one of this country's biggest exports. It's high time that HLS gives the industry the attention it deserves," she says. -- Julia Collins