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Hopkins alum discusses work in law for film fest

By AMANDA AUBLE | October 15, 2015


Arts & Entertainment Editor

Karen Lorenzo, the general counsel for global media company Tribeca Enterprises and a Hopkins alumna, discussed the business and legal side of the film industry with students from both Hopkins and Maryland College Institute of Art (MICA) on Saturday, Oct. 10.

Studio North, a student-run film production company, sponsored this seminar held in the newly finished JHU-MICA Film Centre in Station North.

When she heard about Studio North’s conception a few years ago through the Hopkins Alumni Association, Lorenzo felt that she could connect her career with the endeavors of current students.

“Unlike some of the other projects and areas that come up where I’m like ‘I can be of no use there. I cannot help you. I have no advice or guidance,’ I said, ‘I know how to do a film festival and run film companies.’ That’s what we do,” Lorenzo said.

Seated in a semi-circle of desks inside a sleek, new classroom, approximately twenty undergraduates introduced themselves and their varying academic interests, from film production, screenwriting and visual arts to economics, marketing and international studies.

To accommodate the varied interests, Lorenzo explained her collaborative role as general counsel, working with the legal and business sides of the Tribeca Film Festival.

“When you’re in legal and business affairs, as my experience has been happily here with Tribeca, you’re in with the teams.

Whether it’s the producing team or the marketing team or sponsors, they are sales people doing interesting branded content to have... people get interested in Tribeca Film Festival. You’re in working with them from day one, which means it’s really never dull. You’re almost always in a sprint,” she said.

Based in New York, Tribeca Enterprises currently operates a network of branded entertainment businesses, most notably the Tribeca Film Festival. Actor Robert DeNiro and producers Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff founded the company in 2003 after the success of the first Tribeca Film Festival in 2002.

According to Lorenzo, this inaugural festival began as an effort to revitalize the surrounding lowerManhattan area after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. The festival now draws millions of international film-makers and viewers each year.

Although Lorenzo mentioned that some of her family maintained careers in the entertainment business, her initial educational path did not lead directly to media law. She attended Hopkins as an International Studies major hoping to pursue a career in foreign service.

She originally wanted to complete the five-year Master’s program through the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, D.C.

However after her sophomore year she decided against this route and found a passion for history. She graduated from Hopkins and attended New York University Law School, thinking she was going to pursue a career as a history professor.

Lorenzo practiced public interest law after graduation, but her plans changed again when she realized that her public interest law didn’t come as easily as her skill with intellectual property and copyright law.

It was her experience working with different companies in San Francisco’s Silicon Valley when Lorenzo finally discovered her ultimate career passion.

“There was something about the inventors and the artists. It’s just an energy that I like to be around. It’s that creative spirit where I feel like I want to help them get their thing out, whether it’s the film or the story or the photograph or the widget,” she said.

Returning to New York, Lorenzo expressed her aversion to joining a typical law firm but also felt apprehensive about returning to entertainment law. However this changed when she met with the Tribeca Film Festival’s founders. She encountered that same “creative spirit” and agreed to work for the gradually expanding company.

“What motivates me is feeling like I’m on a team that I trust and want to be a part of whatever it is that they’re creatively trying to accomplish,” Lorenzo said.

Now approaching its 15th anniversary, the Tribeca Film Festival has grown from simply hosting film screenings to featuring resources like workshops, marketplaces, virtual reality centers and question-and-answer sessions with film-makers. For eight years the festival also sponsored Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival.

“When I joined Tribeca, it was Tribeca Enterprises. I think I was employee eight or nine. Now it’s 100 full-time employees,” she said.

Tribeca Enterprises has also expanded as a company to produce original films and owns Tribeca Productions and Tribeca Cinemas. Additionally, in March 2014, Madison Square Garden Company incorporated Tribeca Enterprises as a subsidiary.

Despite the expansion into the film industry over the years, Lorenzo mentioned Tribeca’s consistent mission as a creative corporation.

“We are constantly doing new things and expanding, but at the core of it is really a belief in trying to help people who are story tellers get their story out on multiple platforms [and] multiple territories to the broadest audience possible, either through live events, which is the main driver, or these other complementary areas — film distribution and now games,” Lorenzo said.

When asked about internships and film careers, Lorenzo offered suggestions to students including writing academic articles to demonstrate their knowledge of the changing field as well as looking into live event opportunities like the local Maryland Film Festival.

“In a film fest, you have venues, you have film-makers, you have sponsors, you have artists, you have talent [and] you have media. There are many operations and ­— those of you on the film production track — if you could start interning to see what it’s like in real life, I would encourage that because there’s nothing like seeing it first hand,” she said.

Overall, students in attendance left the discussion with new knowledge of a behind-the-scenes film profession.

“It’s important to learn about the business, the ins and outs and how it works,” Studio North Production Chair Daniel Contaldo said. “You don’t really get the business side [at Hopkins]. It’s more production and screenwriting theory.“

The event also helped some students pinpoint their own career goals.

“I’m really glad I came here today,” sophomore Taylor Veracka said. “I felt like I learned so much. Especially being from Long Island, Tribeca is somewhere I’m definitely interested in interning or just looking into it. I’m super into the sports aspect of film-making so this is great for me.”

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