Veteran entertainment industry attorney Ken Ziffren, who has helped mediate labor disputes and represented some of the biggest stars in the entertainment business, is taking on a new role in Hollywood: Los Angeles film czar.
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti has tapped Ziffren to succeed Tom Sherak, the former president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences who died last month after a long bout with cancer, said a person familiar with the appointment who was not authorized to discuss the matter. The appointment is expected to be announced shortly.
Like Sherak, Ziffren brings deep connections in Hollywood and a skill for consensus building, which will be an important quality if he is to succeed in convincing skeptical lawmakers in Sacramento that the state needs to do more to help an industry concentrated in Southern California.
Ziffren is the founding partner of Ziffren Brittenham, one of the nation's leading entertainment law firms, whose clients include Oprah Winfrey. Matthew Johnson, a managing partner at the Los Angeles law firm, was a major supporter of Garcetti's mayoral campaign and was appointed last year to a panel that oversees the Los Angeles International Airport.
Ziffren served as a mediator in resolving the Writers Guild of America strike in 1988, acted on behalf of Starz in establishing a premium pay television service in 1994, and served as special outside counsel to the NFL in negotiating contracts with the networks, according to a biography posted on the website of UCLA School of Law, where he teaches two seminars. Ziffren also has worked as a consultant to the Directors Guild of America.
The prominent lawyer will continue the work that Sherak began in September to spearhead an effort to stem the exodus of film and TV production to other states and countries.
Sherak was working with a coalition of industry groups to support legislation that would increase funding for California's film tax credit program and lift some of the restrictions to make it more competitive with New York, Georgia and elsewhere.
Like Sherak, Ziffren is expected to volunteer his services. Rajiv Dalal, a former Time Warner executive who was Sherak's deputy, will continue to run the day-to-day operations of the mayor's new film office.
Former Motion Picture Assn. of America President Bob Pisano also is expected to continue as as an informal advisor to the film office.