The plot of the South Korean television series “My Love From the Star” is farfetched, dealing with an alien who falls in love with a pop star.
But the drama dominated a morning of debate for a Chinese Communist Party committee last month when delegates lamented the inability of homegrown offerings to match the show’s runaway success in China.
“The Korean drama craze … is resulting in a lack of confidence in our own culture,” warned Xu Qinsong, a party official from Guangdong. The alarm is not limited to China. In recent years Taiwanese regulators have intervened to reduce the screening of South Korean soap operas, while thousands marched in Tokyo against the extensive screening of the shows on Japanese television. The booming industry behind this regional angst is the subject of “The Korean Wave: Korean Popular Culture in Global Context.” It is a new collection of academic essays, of varying quality, on the South Korean entertainment sector’s rise to prominence in East and Southeast Asia. It was edited by Yasue Kuwahara, a professor at Northern Kentucky University, and published by Palgrave MacMillan. From Manila to Mongolia, Seoul’s television and music companies have found enthusiastic audiences. Their success reflects the cultural allure of one of the region’s most advanced economies and has opened doors for other South Korean industries, including tourism and cosmetics. In the collection, there is the obligatory chapter on “Gangnam Style,” the tongue-in-cheek hit by rapper Psy that became the most viewed music video in Internet history. The authors do well to focus on the new role of music consumers in helping to promote songs by sharing them online — although there is needless hyperbole in their closing statement that “Gangnam Style” “may have been a turning point in global entertainment.” Likewise, the book gets off to a shaky start by opening with an essay, by the British professor John Walsh, that portrays the phenomenon as a “government construct.” Walsh lists various government initiatives to support the entertainment industry. But he entirely fails to demonstrate that any of these has been instrumental in the success achieved by the country’s fiercely competitive television and music production sectors. Where the latter have shown a keen sensitivity to the international marketplace, government interventions have often seemed clumsy. The South Korean government of Lee Myung-bak, for example, spent more than $70 million on “globalizing Korean food” — with results so questionable that the national assembly ordered a special audit. As contributor Hyejung Ju suggests later in the book, if any government action should be cited, it was the liberalization in 2000 of the television and music sectors, which made it easier for new, small, independent companies to enter the industries and unleashed dynamic market forces. Yet even that does not explain the enthusiasm felt for South Korean shows and songs by many Asian consumers, often to the exclusion of rival products from their own countries or from the West.
The alarm is not limited to China. In recent years Taiwanese regulators have intervened to reduce the screening of South Korean soap operas, while thousands marched in Tokyo against the extensive screening of the shows on Japanese television.
The booming industry behind this regional angst is the subject of “The Korean Wave: Korean Popular Culture in Global Context.” It is a new collection of academic essays, of varying quality, on the South Korean entertainment sector’s rise to prominence in East and Southeast Asia. It was edited by Yasue Kuwahara, a professor at Northern Kentucky University, and published by Palgrave MacMillan.
From Manila to Mongolia, Seoul’s television and music companies have found enthusiastic audiences. Their success reflects the cultural allure of one of the region’s most advanced economies and has opened doors for other South Korean industries, including tourism and cosmetics.
In the collection, there is the obligatory chapter on “Gangnam Style,” the tongue-in-cheek hit by rapper Psy that became the most viewed music video in Internet history.
The authors do well to focus on the new role of music consumers in helping to promote songs by sharing them online — although there is needless hyperbole in their closing statement that “Gangnam Style” “may have been a turning point in global entertainment.”
Likewise, the book gets off to a shaky start by opening with an essay, by the British professor John Walsh, that portrays the phenomenon as a “government construct.”
Walsh lists various government initiatives to support the entertainment industry. But he entirely fails to demonstrate that any of these has been instrumental in the success achieved by the country’s fiercely competitive television and music production sectors.
Where the latter have shown a keen sensitivity to the international marketplace, government interventions have often seemed clumsy. The South Korean government of Lee Myung-bak, for example, spent more than $70 million on “globalizing Korean food” — with results so questionable that the national assembly ordered a special audit.
As contributor Hyejung Ju suggests later in the book, if any government action should be cited, it was the liberalization in 2000 of the television and music sectors, which made it easier for new, small, independent companies to enter the industries and unleashed dynamic market forces.
Yet even that does not explain the enthusiasm felt for South Korean shows and songs by many Asian consumers, often to the exclusion of rival products from their own countries or from the West.
Many critics argue that the secret lies with a winning blend of seductive glamour normally associated with U.S. entertainers, expertly packaged with an underlying strain of traditional Asian family values.
Chuyun Oh puts an interesting spin on this theory with an analysis of Girls’ Generation, the most successful South Korean pop group of recent years. “They have moved beyond any specific race or ethnicity,” she says, attributing to them a “mutant multicultural Koreanness.”
This book ends with a suggestion by its editor Kuwahara that “a majority of the Japanese are not genuinely interested in Korean culture” and watch South Korean shows because they are like “a fun house mirror that shows them what the Japanese and their society are like.”
This does not bode well for hopes that Korean cultural exports could serve as a bridge between the nations at a time of deteriorating diplomatic relations. It may, however, provide reassurance for the likes of Xu Qinsong, the Chinese Communist Party official from Guangdong.
Beneath a sea of fake stars in a theater in Griffith Park, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ann Druyan and Seth MacFarlane premiered the first episode of their new series “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” on Tuesday night.
The show is billed as a continuation of Carl Sagan’s beloved mini-series “Cosmos: A Personal Journey.” That award-winning show first aired 34 years ago, and has since been seen 750 million times. Pretty amazing for a show about science.
This time around it is Tyson, astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, who guides viewers on a journey through the Cosmos–what Sagan once defined as “all that is or ever was or ever will be.” The new series will premiere on several TV channels on Sunday.
Tyson’s journey also begins with a ship of the imagination, unfettered by normal constraints of time and space. But while Sagan’s ship looked like a fluffy dandelion, Tyson’s ship is slim, and sleek–a hard, shiny, metallic seed. And though Sagan took us to the edge of the universe, Tyson takes us one step beyond — suggesting our universe may be just one small bubble in a multi-verse. Universes upon universes.
“Feeling small?” he says.
After the screening the creators of the series got on stage for a question and answer session that was streamed live across the Internet.
Ann Druyan, who was married to Sagan and who co-wrote and co-produced the first “Cosmos,” spoke about the intent of that original series.
“Carl always said we weren’t trying to reach the reader of the New York Review of Books,” she said. “We were trying to reach everyone. This knowledge is our birthright.”
Seth MacFarlane, creator of “Family Guy,” and the man responsible for bringing the “Cosmos” project to Fox, interjected “You were trying to reach the Kardashians.”
But don’t get hung up on that flipness. MacFarlane was visibly thrilled to be sharing a stage with Tyson and Druyan. When Tyson started to talk about how the earliest evidence of life on Earth might be found in fossils on the moon, MacFarlane leaned forward in his chair and said “We’re with you. Keep going!”
Druyan noted that she and a producing partner had been trying to get this updated “Cosmos” made for years, but it wasn’t until MacFarlane brought the Fox network onboard that it all finally started to happen. “This man truly is a genius,” she said.
For his part, MacFarlane applauded the P.T. Barnum element of Sagan’s “Cosmos.” “One of my favorite quotes from Carl is, ‘I want this to be interesting to people who have no interest in science,'” he said. “For 1980 it was a really visually diverse array of images.”
David Bishop, president of Sony Pictures’ home entertainment division, is leaving the company in March when his contract expires, a Sony spokesman said on Wednesday.
A replacement has not been named for Bishop, who has led Sony Pictures Home Entertainment since 2006 during a turbulent time for the home video business as consumer habits changed.
“David played a tremendous role in building the home entertainment organization we have in place today: an innovative business that can compete aggressively in the evolving digital marketplace,” said Michael Lynton, chairman and chief executive of Sony Pictures Entertainment.
This comes after a shakeup earlier this year in which Sony picked Dwight Caines as president of theatrical marketing for the company’s Columbia TriStar Motion Pictures Group. Caines assumed some responsibilities of Marc Weinstock, who was fired from his post as the studio’s head of domestic and international marketing. Longtime media relations executive Steve Elzer also left Sony this year.
The departures followed a poor box office showing from the film studio this summer. The Will Smith action movie “After Earth” made a disappointing $244 million in worldwide ticket sales, while the Channing Tatum film generated $205 million.
However, Sony has fared better with fall offerings such as the animated sequel “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2” and the Tom Hanks-starring “Captain Phillips.” “American Hustle” is performing well in limited release and expands this weekend.
With the holiday season gearing up, more than a few of us will be hosting a festive dinner party, buffet or potluck. As pleasant as any holiday event may be, it seems like the moment someone rings the dinner bell, an otherwise civil gathering can turn into a stampede as guests mob the food table.
Much as I like to keep my buffets casual and free-form, there are a few rules I always follow to keep the meal organized. Call it a little “buffet psychology.” Here are some tips:
1. Organize the food layout, with a definite beginning and ending. Set the plates, napkins and silverware/plasticware at one end of the table near the food, so guests know where to line up. This will keep the guests from rushing the food like an NFL defensive line.
2. Consider plate size. Guests tend to fill up whatever size plate they have, be it small or large. Go with a smaller plate (8 to 9 inches in diameter) so guests don’t overfill and waste food. They can always go back for seconds.
3. Organize all of the less-expensive/greater-quantity foods at the “beginning” of the buffet, like salads and starches (rolls, rice, potatoes, etc). Save the big ticket and expensive items for the very end of the buffet (turkey, roast, fish) so guests have less room on their plates and are less likely to overfill.
When it was announced that Marlon Wayans and not Eddie Murphy would be portraying Richard Pryor in the long-discussed biopic of the comedy giant, the news was greeted with Internet jeering. Wayans wasn’t surprised when he read the disparaging comments — you can’t hang your star on films like “White Chicks” and “Little Man” without consequences.
“Look, I want to be able to make the stupidest movies ever, because they make people laugh and they make money,” Wayans recently said with a smirk. “But that’s not all I want to do. And I think I’ve proven to some people — the ones paying attention — that I can do more. Everybody else, well, they can wait and see and make up their mind.”
Wayans believes he is on the verge of winning over skeptics and just maybe establishing a name for himself that goes beyond his status as “the other Wayans” — or maybe even “the other-other-Wayans.” The 37-year-old is the youngest of 10 children in the show-business brood that came to fame on “In Living Color,” the 1990s television show created and written by Keenen Ivory Wayans and Damon Wayans. His position in the family photo has given Marlon Wayans plenty of opportunity — he and sibling Shawn got their own show, “The Wayans Brothers,” for four seasons on Fox beginning in 1995 — but also an ongoing challenge in establishing anything resembling an individual identity.
“I have no complaints,” Wayans said, “but I do have a plan. I love doing comedy, but I also love to do drama.”
When it comes to laughter and tragedy, it would be hard to think of a figure that bundles them together in more compelling fashion than the late Richard Pryor, a Peoria, Ill., native who grew up in his grandmother’s brothel, was expelled from school at age 14 and went on to become a firebrand force in pop culture as a stand-up comic, movie star, writer. When, in 1998, he became the first recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, he was described by Lawrence Wilker, the president of the Kennedy Center, as a signature voice in the national conversation: “He struck a chord, and a nerve, with America, forcing it to look at large social questions of race and the more tragicomic aspects of the human condition.”
The Murphy factor
The effort to bring Pryor’s story to the screen has been underway for a number of years and Jennifer Lee Pryor, the comedian’s widow, is part of the process. For many months, the conventional assumption was that Murphy would play the lead role. That’s not the case. Instead, Wayans arrived at lunch at a Los Angeles restaurant recently with the smile of a man who had a winning lottery ticket in his pocket.
“You need to be lucky in life, but it’s also what you do with your luck,” said the New York native, who still has sinewy arms from his role in last summer’s action movie “G.I. Joe.” “I’m ready.”
As of now, the defining image of Wayans in the public mind is likely a tiny con man impersonating an infant in the 2006 film “Little Man,” which was made with some unsettling CG-effects. There’s also 2004’s “White Chicks,” another gimmicky farce, where he played a black FBI agent in rubbery pale-face drag. The films were relentlessly crass and made a combined $215 million in worldwide box office. Many film critics, of course, were aghast, among them British writer Mark Kermode, who wrote, “There is no pit deep enough in the world to dispose of every single copy of this film. . . . ‘Little Man’ is bad for the world.”
That may well be true, but Wayans is trying to join a surging number of stars who specialize in coarse comedy and then pull their pants back up, step into a drama and ask the moviegoing world to quit laughing (But, seriously, folks. . .). Wayans doesn’t have to look far from his family history to see role models.
“In Living Color” alumnus Jim Carrey pretended to talk out of his butt (literally) in “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” but then won critical acclaim playing Andy Kaufman in “Man on the Moon.” Will Ferrell and Jamie Foxx have had similar successes, and Adam Sandler, producer of the Pryor film project, with films such as “Punch-Drunk Love” and “Spanglish” has aspired to be art-house as well as outhouse in his screen times.
For Wayans, “Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said?” (which begins shooting in the fall) is the sound of opportunity. “This is like an invitation to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro for me, and I’ve never been more excited in my life than when I got the role,” he said last week. “I want to be in dramas, I want to produce, I want to write and I want to prove I can handle a role such as this one.”
A new report on spurring job growth in Los Angeles covers the bases, but leaves Hollywood out of the picture.
The Los Angeles 2020 Commission report, titled “A Time for Action,” was commissioned last year by City Council President Herb Wesson and offers various prescriptions to reverse a net decline in jobs over the last two decades.
The recommendations include such ideas as promoting bioscience research, establishing a regional tourism authority and combining the ports of L.A. and Long Beach.
But film industry advocates said they were disappointed that there was no discussion of what should be done to reverse a long-term decline of employment in L.A.’s entertainment industry.
Hollywood’s labor unions have been saying for years that L.A. leaders don’t pay enough attention to protecting one of the area’s economic pillars, allowing other states and countries to lure away film and TV production with rich tax credits and rebates. Mayor Eric Garcetti, however, has appointed veteran entertainment industry attorney Ken Ziffren as a film czar to lobby for stronger state film tax credits to make California more competitive.
“It is a little surprising to me that it wasn’t at least a focal point of the report,” said Paul Audley, president of FilmL.A. Inc., which handles film permits and promotes the local film industry. “So much around the city is tied to the entertainment industry, and the job losses in this industry are pretty critical. It’s one of the quickest things that could turn the economy around.”
Locally, the entertainment industry remains among the largest private employers, with about 250,000 jobs and an output of $60.9 billion in 2012, or 11% of Los Angeles County’s overall economy, according to a recent report from the Otis College of Art and Design.
But L.A.’s entertainment economy has been losing market share. California lost 16,137 film and TV industry jobs (mainly in the L.A. region) between 2004 and 2012, an 11% decline, according to a recent report by the Milken Institute, as jobs fled to such states as New York, New Mexico and Louisiana.
In an earlier report, released in January — one that painted a bleak picture of L.A.’s ills — the 2020 Commission briefly acknowledged the problem of entertainment jobs losses in one paragraph of a 43-page document that highlighted high poverty rates, chronic budget shortfalls and failing public schools.
The follow-up report released Tuesday, however, did not address the entertainment sector among any of the 13 policy recommendations the commission said would “put the city on a path to fiscal stability and renew job creation.”
“It’s very odd to raise a concern in the opening document and leave it un-addressed in the conclusion,” said Kevin Klowden, a managing economist at the Milken Institute.
The report’s focus on tourism, he added, would have provided a natural opportunity to discuss the importance of the film and TV industry to L.A.’s economy.
“I’m very surprised that the film industry was not at least touched on in reference to tourism because it is such a key component of tourism,” Klowden said.
But Austin Beutner, a former investment banker and L.A. deputy mayor and co-chair of the private commission, said there was a lack of consensus among its members on the best strategies to boost local entertainment jobs and that the topic had already been addressed by others.
“Clearly the loss of entertainment jobs has impacted the community. Clearly we need to do what we can to bring those [jobs] back,” Beutner said at a Times editorial board meeting. “I don’t think there’s any debate in the group about that. We just said … ‘Others are covering it and we don’t have consensus on whether that’s the highest and best use of tax dollars.'”
Beutner was former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s jobs czar. He was joined by several other high-profile business, civic and labor leaders on the commission, none from the entertainment industry. They included former California Gov. Gray Davis; former U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis, a candidate for county supervisor; and Commission Chair Mickey Kantor.
Kantor, a veteran Los Angeles lawyer and former U.S. Commerce secretary, said the commission had to limit the scope of its recommendations.
“We didn’t deal with transportation and traffic,” he said at the editorial board meeting. “We didn’t deal with education. We didn’t deal with homelessness. We didn’t deal with the environment. We’re 13 people without staff. So we dealt with … what we understood.”
John Corrigan is the assistant managing editor for Arts and Entertainment, leading one of the Los Angeles Times’ largest editorial departments in its coverage of film, television, culture, music, media and the fine arts.
Corrigan has worked at The Times since 1999, serving as Business editor from 2009 to June 2012. He greatly expanded the Business section’s online presence, adding daily video reports and building up its Tech Now and Money & Co. blogs. Corrigan directed several of The Times’ most ambitious projects, including stories that won Loeb Awards in 2010 and 2012. He has also overseen coverage of major news stories including the Enron scandal, the West Coast ports shutdown and the Toyota recall for sudden acceleration problems. He was project editor for the 2003 series “The Wal-Mart Effect,” which won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting.
Corrigan started his career as a City Hall reporter for the Vista Press, and a year later became a reporter for the Los Angeles Daily News. He worked his way up to city editor, helping shape the paper’s coverage of events including the videotaped police beating of Rodney King, the 1992 riots, the 1994 Northridge earthquake and the O.J. Simpson trial.
In 1996, Corrigan decided to specialize in business news. He became managing editor of the Los Angeles Business Journal, and later moved to the Orange County Register, where he oversaw the daily business report.
For the past three years, he has been a preliminary judge for the Loeb Awards, and he is a former board member of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.
Corrigan has a bachelor’s degree in communication and fine arts from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He earned a second bachelor’s degree in journalism from Cal State Northridge. While in college, he obtained his private pilot’s license. Outside of work, Corrigan serves on the advisory board for LMU’s alumni magazine. He enjoys backpacking, playing guitar and spending time with his wife, Alison, and their three children, Kelly, Kevin and Katie.
Plan B Entertainment, has signed a production deal with New Regency and RatPac Entertainment — an arrangement that precipitates his company’s departure from Paramount Pictures at the end of the year.
The pact takes one of Hollywood’s hottest and best-known production banners away from the Viacom Inc.-owned studio and aligns it with crosstown rival 20th Century Fox.
Plan B’s first-look deal with Paramount expires Dec. 31. The production company has been based at the studio since 2005.
New Regency and RatPac will finance future projects from Plan B as part of a multi-year, overall deal, New Regency said in a statement Tuesday night. The company is based on the 20th Century Fox lot and has a long-term distribution arrangement with the studio.
RatPac, the film finance vehicle of filmmaker Brett Ratner and Australian businessman James Packer, will have the opportunity to co-finance projects from Plan B that are in development at New Regency.
New Regency already has a relationship with Pitt and his company, having co-financed and co-produced Plan B’s recent success, “12 Years a Slave.” The companies also are working on “True Story,” a crime drama that stars Jonah Hill and James Franco. That project, to be released by 20th Century Fox, recently wrapped production.
New Regency Chief Executive Brad Weston praised Plan B in an interview with The Times.
“We had a great experience with Plan B on ‘Twelve Years a Slave’ and next year’s ‘True Story’ and we really like each other,” said Weston, also New Regency’s president. “It was a really organic outgrowth of a great relationship.”
Plan B said in a statement that the arrangement with New Regency and RatPac is a “perfect fit.” New Regency was founded by billionaire producer Arnon Milchan, who serves as its chairman.
At Paramount, Pitt’s company made this past summer’s zombie thriller, “World War Z,” which grossed $540 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. The expensive Marc Forster-directed movie, which starred Pitt, suffered from production issues, and required reshoots.
The A-list star will continue to have a relationship with Paramount: The studio is moving forward with Pitt’s “World War Z” sequel, which “The Impossible” director Juan Antonio Bayona would direct.
Paramount declined to comment.
Pitt formed Plan B in 2002 with then-wife Jennifer Aniston. He has long had a close relationship with Brad Grey, the chairman and chief executive of Paramount.
“World War Z” is by far the highest-profile movie made by Plan B that Paramount released.
Plan B produced the comedy “Year of the Dog” and the thriller “A Mighty Heart” for Paramount’s specialty film division Paramount Vantage. Both movies came out in 2007, with “Year of the Dog” taking in $1.6 million worldwide and “A Mighty Heart” topping out at $18.9 million.
However, Plan B found major success at other studios. Among the successes that Paramount missed out on were “Kick-Ass,” which was released in 2010 by Lions Gate Entertainment and grossed $96 million worldwide; the prestige picture “The Tree of Life,” which was directed by Terrence Malick and released by Fox Searchlight Pictures; and “12 Years a Slave,” an Oscar contender that also was distributed by Fox Searchlight.
“12 Years a Slave” has been a source of friction between Paramount and Plan B. The drama has been a critical and commercial hit, grossing more than $35 million worldwide, but Paramount didn’t get an opportunity to distribute it, according to a studio source with knowledge of the matter who was not authorized to comment publicly.
Paramount believes, according to this person, that Plan B violated its deal with the studio by not offering it a chance to distribute the picture, which was released in October.
New Regency declined to comment about the “12 Years a Slave” matter. Plan B did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
It has been a busy few days for Paramount, which has lost one top-tier producer, but gained another. On Dec. 6, the studio announced it had inked a first-look deal with producer Jerry Bruckheimer.
As part of that three-year pact, Bruckheimer will produce “Top Gun 2” and a “Beverly Hills Cop” picture for the studio.
Plan B’s deal with New Regency and RatPac is the last company’s second high-profile film financing accord in recent months.
In September, Warner Bros. Pictures struck a financing deal with RatPac-Dune Entertainment LLC, a new entity formed by Dune Entertainnment’s Steven Mnuchin and RatPac.
Don Engel had only a small law firm in Los Angeles — just two or three attorneys in addition to him and his wife. But a phone call from Engel could strike fear among the loftiest executives in the music business.
Engel, who represented some of the biggest pop stars of the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, was a fierce, tireless and some say overbearing fighter on behalf of clients who wanted to revise or cancel their recording contracts. Among his clients were hit makers Olivia Newton-John, Donna Summer, Don Henley and the band Boston.
“He was a force,” said entertainment industry lawyer Russell Frackman, who went up against Engel several times in legal fights. “There are not many lawyers in this area, or any area, where just the fact that one man was involved would cause anxiety on the other side. He was fearless.”
Engel, who later in his career represented artists such as Luther Vandross, Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones and the Dixie Chicks in various battles, is credited with helping change the balance of power in the industry, giving more of it to artists.
“In many important ways, what we have come to call the artist rights movement in the U.S. started with Don Engel’s representation of artists against record companies who overreached,” said entertainment attorney Chris Castle. “Just knowing that Don Engel was a phone call away had a certain civilizing effect on our business. Whether they know it or not, both superstars and new artists alike benefit from his groundbreaking representation.”
Engel, 84, died Jan. 15 in a hospital in Redwood City, Calif. He had been battling leukemia for 17 years, said his wife, Judy.
The Engels had moved to Northern California so their physician son, Gregory, could oversee his father’s care. Until about two years ago, Don Engel was still representing clients.
Despite his pugnaciousness, many of the lawyers who did battle with Engel ended up not only admiring him, but also becoming good friends. “It was clear Don loved what he was doing,” Frackman said. “It’s one of the reasons he was so good at it.”
Friendship with Engel was probably not as popular among industry executives or judges who had to deal with him in court. “He would never back down in the face of any judge,” said attorney Mark Passin, who joined the Engel firm just out of law school. “There was one case where the judge told him to bring his toothbrush the next morning, implying that if he didn’t stop arguing a point, he would be found in contempt of court and go to jail.”
Engel didn’t make excuses for his work demeanor. “This is not a gentleman’s business,” he told the Los Angeles Daily Journal in 1985. “This is a cutthroat business where nobody gives you anything.”
Donald Engel was born Dec. 11, 1929, in the Bronx. He graduated from City College of New York and served as an intelligence officer in the Army during the Korean War. He enrolled in New York University’s law school upon his return.
He established a practice in New York focusing on the publishing industry before moving to Los Angeles in the mid-1970s and switching to show business law. He viewed the situation in his new home city with typical candor.
“We found the caliber of attorney in the entertainment business to be far below what we were used to,” he told the Daily Journal. “We don’t even want to be called entertainment attorneys, because most of their emphasis is on the entertainment rather than the attorney part.”
In L.A., Engel earned a reputation for using novel tactics to spring pop artists from their contracts. One of his arguments was derived from the so-called seven-year-statute in California law that states some contracts can’t be extended past seven years. It was used successfully in the 1944 court case that allowed actress Olivia de Havilland to break her contract with Warner Bros. Engel argued, successfully at times, that it should also apply to record contracts.
Engel’s business got a boost in the early 1990s when superstar contracts skyrocketed, including a $40-million deal for Janet Jackson and $65 million-plus for her brother Michael. Performers who wanted to keep up with the Jacksons called Engel.
“I’m swamped,” he said in a 1991 Los Angeles Times interview. “In the last couple of months, I’ve been retained by eight artists and entered discussions with about 10 others. What we’re talking about here is major artists trying to break contracts.”
The extra work probably didn’t much faze him — Engel was known widely as a workaholic. “If you sent Don a letter that was one page long,” Frackman said, “the next day you might get a five-page reply. Nothing got past him.”
The onset of leukemia eventually forced him to slow down. The music industry changed greatly from when he was most active, in large part because of the Internet. But Judy Engel said he would have embraced the digital challenges. “I told him,” she said, ‘”you would have really enjoyed this.'”
In addition to his wife and son Gregory, Engel is survived by another son, Stephen; daughters Jacqueline Leibsohn and Laura Engel; and seven grandchildren.
Employment in L.A.’s entertainment sector rebounded last month, with the number of film and TV jobs rising 3.1% over the year before.
Employment in L.A. County’s motion picture and sound recording category — which covers the bulk of employment in the local film, TV and music industries — rose to 118,400 jobs in October, an increase of 3,600 jobs from October 2012 and nearly 2% from September, according to state employment data.
The entertainment sector fared better than L.A. County’s economy as whole. Non-farm employment in L.A. rose 1.4% in October compared with October 2012, while the number of non-farm jobs in Sept. was up 1.2% from a year ago.
The figures, compiled by the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp., are subject to revision and do not count those who work as freelancers or independent contractors.
Nonetheless, they represent an improvement over September’s job picture, when L.A. County lost 1,000 jobs in the entertainment category compared with the same month in 2012, a decline of 0.9 %.
Studios including Walt Disney and DreamWorks Animation, as well post-production houses such as Rhythm & Hues and Digital Domain, have laid off hundreds of workers this year in an effort to cut costs. Southern California also has been squeezed by the exodus of film and TV jobs to other states and countries.