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Contracts key to Hollywood legal internship for Robert Vega ’12

Robert Vega '12 at NBCUniversal

Calling from the NBCUniversal lot where many popular television shows and films are produced, Robert Vega ’12 said that his legal internship in the Television Production, Legal Affairs Group of NBCUniversal (NBCU) has been nothing short of “phenomenal!”

The behind-the-scenes legal work involved in the production of television shows is often transactional in nature. Vega has spent a lot of his time at NBCU drafting and vetting contracts that deal with issues not associated with the talent or the distribution rights of the products—issues like lighting, equipment deals, location, and the licensing of trademarks or product placements, even the use of piñatas. “One of my projects included drafting an agreement for the purchase of twenty piñatas for use in producing a reality TV show,” he said, pointing out the extent to which legal agreements are used throughout the television industry.

Vega also works with surety contracts. “Oftentimes a TV show will have a situation where they have to protect themselves from liability and they need to have special insurance policies to cover parts of the production like the use of water or aircrafts. Anything that could have an accident needs to have coverage and these deals often range into the several thousands to millions of dollars because we usually deal with high-end stuff,” Vega said.

The legal staff at NBCU is accustomed to writing and reviewing these types of agreements, Vega explained. “We have standard language that we look for in particular policies. Generally, if you work on a lighting deal in LA, it’s going to have the same basic provisions in Canada or New York with some slight modifications. It’s really interesting just to see how sometimes there are subtle things that make a big difference in deals.”

One of the things that Vega especially enjoys about working in the entertainment law field is that it is constantly changing. “You really have to be a Jack of all trades.” While intellectual property and contractual issues make up the bulk of legal work in the entertainment industry, other issues arise, too.

“Getting to see the fundamentals behind the making of a TV show from ground up and witnessing what things are necessary to keep going has been extremely beneficial – from the legal issues, to the financing, to the personal struggles at ground zero. Being able to attend the production of Late Night with Jay Leno and The Voice was a bonus,” Vega added.

After graduating from the University of California San Diego, Vega worked in the International Television Distribution Department at Warner Bros. Burbank, California office doing contract administration while volunteering at a legal clinic for the indigent, which gave him a taste of the law. Having enjoyed both experiences inspired him to go to law school. “I was looking for a law school with a big international law program. Seeing that Penn State Law had an Entertainment Law Clinic was also attractive to me.” So he left, Burbank, California, his home on the West Coast to study law at Penn State.

“I have been very fortunate. My Hollywood background has allowed me to do things that I never thought possible. I’m just taking my experiences and trying to do something great with it and never looking back.”

Upon completing his studies at Penn State, Vega plans to return to Los Angeles to practice law in California.

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