to film :: commentary
and new-media attorney
By Kate Sullivan
- Interior Shot - A Lower Eastside Movie Theater
twelve weeks on the NY Times bestseller list, is there
an author who does not quietly, while alone in a padded room,
think about taking a book to the coast? Not the Baja Coast.
North by more than 200 miles. The coast of Hollywood, the twinkly
suburb of Los Angeles, where a movie character's words become
an enduring lexicon.
Make-My-Day meets An-Offer-You-Can't-Refuse.
The heady experiences of having a runaway bestseller might send
you looking for solitude. You might loiter in a dark movie theater
and mumble to yourself, My book could be a cinematic classic.
That thought (don't tell us you have not thought about it) leads
us to examine a phenomenon that occurs where in an odd convergence
of timing, funding, and passion for plot — a book's quiet
story line becomes a vividly engaging screenplay.
Word Smitten looks at publishing's media cousin, the distant
cousin who calls when the story tank is empty and new ideas
are needed. We were looking in Hollywood for an individual who
could stare down the current media realities without blinking.
We contacted Peter Dekom. We contacted him even before all the
people we spoke with said that he is one of the best examples
of how to behave in Hollywood. We contacted him because we know
him and know he is the go-to guy.
We wanted to ask the question: How does an author cross that
But, we discovered another question. Not, How do
you produce a film from a book? The better question to ask
is How does anything ever get produced — anywhere?
For the answer, we talked with this legendary below-the-radar
Peter Dekom. For more than twenty years, Dekom provided solid
guidance to production companies and film czars. Projects with
industry experts get completed because Peter Dekom - the business
wizard behind the curtain - commands the wires to move quickly
and then the curtains part and scripts get read.
A talented and well-regarded businessman, who is an advisor
to governors, politicians, producers, and film industry czars,
Dekom has represented companies that include Spelling Entertainment,
The Geffen Company, and Imagine Films Entertainment.
His client roster included Barry London, Strauss Zelnick, John
Travolta, Shelley Duvall, George Lucas, Ron Howard, and Rob
Reiner. For more than twenty years, he was a senior partner
with Bloom, Dekom, Hergott and Cook first housed in an elegant
Sunset Boulevard office and later on Rodeo Drive in Beverly
What about the question, "How does anything ever get produced?"
For entertainment executive Lois Scali, who practices entertainment
law in Los Angeles, the only answer is Peter Dekom.
met Peter in 1983, my first year as a law student at UCLA. A
few years later, while attending a conference for NAPTE, I watched
high-powered executives racing down the hallways." Scali had
decided to step away from the windburn. Before she could extract
herself from NAPTE's crowd, she felt a tap on her shoulder.
"How nice to see you Ms. Scali." It was Dekom.
a whirlwind, he introduced her to key contacts, remembered the
names of each individual, from newbie to senior executive, and
paved a road for her career. She continues to trust him
and to rely on him. Scali represents the talent side of television
and motion pictures, as well as the production side.
was just a second year associate at Irell & Manella, and from
that point on, I realized he treats the most junior person with
the same respect as senior executives. That has never changed."
From that beginning, in 1987, to the present, she has called
on him when a deal presented overwhelming difficulties. Ms.
Scali's practice has included domestic and international acquisition;
distribution and licensing agreements; sales and acquisitions
of film, television, and music libraries; talent agreements;
strategic alliances; and general intellectual property advice.
"Peter orchestrates so many pioneering deals," she adds, "that
if I need his advice, it's there. He is generous about sharing
- Exterior Shot
A small town in New Mexico
(Okay, it's Santa Fe and not so small)
that Lassie? Our local Santa Fe film production industry
is in a deep well, and Timmy's away at college?"
the country, film production lags. Wildcat production in other
countries affects the U.S. film industry, the production of
product, and indirectly, the purchase of books for transfer
to film. Hollywood still merits the title of film kingdom, yet
production facilities are found from Florida to Maine and from
Manhattan to even clear-sky Santa Fe. In Santa Fe, as a result
of slowing economic forces, and a dwindling interest in film
services, an arm of the state's economic development agency
put a call out and Peter Dekom answered.
To all sources we spoke to for this profile, a rescue of this
magnitude (reviving interest in a previously robust local film
production industry) falls to only Peter Dekom. When asked to
advise the New Mexico State Investment Council on projects to
increase film production from $16 million to the previous decade's
level of $60 million, Peter Dekom brought extensive knowledge
to New Mexico's State Investment Council.
production in New Mexico has trailed off," Greg Kulka comments,
"from more than $60-70 million to less than $16 million in 2001."
In his post as alternative investments portfolio manager, Kulka
and the members of New Mexico's State Investment Council wanted
to encourage the passage of
Senate Bill 280 to revitalize an industry that provides jobs
and a future for the area. "Peter was instrumental in putting
our policies in place and he assisted us with details."
Part of his effectiveness, his ability to walk on water, according
to Kulka, is his endurance. "He met with Governor Gary Johnson
and worked closely with Senator Shannon Robinson, who introduced
the bill to the 2002 legislative session. We ran him around
the capitol. That bill passed both houses with only one dissent
from each house. Only one."
Kulka adds, "Every time I listen to Peter talk in front of an
audience, it's amazing. He really engages the audience-he's
quite a punster."
As a result of the due diligence by Peter Dekom, and a positive
vote for Senate Bill 280, New Mexico has revived a conduit for
jobs. Kulka summarizes it, "The main idea, projects that would
have direct equity participation from vendors, in which the
below the line positions would require sixty-percent fulfillment
through New Mexico residents, works for us. It works because
it's providing for future education channels for us."
As an advisor to the state, Kulka comments that Peter gives
100% of his effort, taking the raw ideas from film producers,
and giving them a path for their work.
people characterize Peter Dekom, Kulka says, "they say he skips
across the water, where most people walk." If you were to ask
Peter Dekom about it, he would comment they just aren't looking
hard enough for his water skis.
Beyond water skis, nothing stops him when a film project is
proposed. In his lifetime, he has encountered only one intimidating
experience and it had nothing to do with Hollywood.
Entertainment attorney Steve Breimer describes the time his
mentor and long-time friend met up with a silver-backed gorilla
while trekking in Africa.
mammoth gorilla challenged him, made him stop in his tracks,"
Steve Breimer recalls. "But while everyone else ran, Peter stared
Trekking, a favorite pastime, provides him with tremendous enjoyment,
taking the concerns of scripts, financial projections, pending
deals, and entertainment personalities out of the mix. No proportion
of fear equals standing eye-to-eye with a 500-pound gorilla.
guide told everyone to run, but some innate wisdom prevailed
and I stood my ground. The babies, small gorillas-and you pronounce
it go-ree-yas-are tempting to pick up and hold. They
picked at my shoes and hugged at my legs. But the silverback
gorilla will kill you. They've been known to throw a man with
one hand." Of the incident, Peter quips, "After that, nothing
Hollywood does could ever faze me."
to view these articles:
on the topic of new media and books-to-film in today's Hollywood.
ON MY WATCH
Hollywood vs. the Future
Retail: $26.00 (New Millennium Press)
this summer, this nonfiction study of all forms of entertainment
media by Peter J. Dekom and Peter Sealey, Ph.D., provides a
very compelling look at content and the Internet's impact on
Hollywood's new media frontier.