Ethnicity and Entertainment: An Interview with Attorney Nadia Davari

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Nadia_Noor

Entertainment Attorney Nadia Davari

Through my adventures in show business as an actress, voiceover artist and journalist, I have met all sorts of people from all walks of life. As many of you know, unfortunately there is a huge flake factor. Very few of them have follow through and a great vision. One person who does, however, is my dear friend and entertainment attorney Nadia Davari. She really goes the extra mile with her clients and I’ve made many career strides since working with her. I haven’t always had this fortune with entertainment attorneys. While I’ve worked with some good ones, none of them hold a candle to her. She’s a straight shooter with a super strong BS meter in an industry where people often flake and say they’ll do lunch or coffee but never mean it. Nadia’s undergrad degree is in Molecular, Cell, Genetics and Developmental Biology from UCLA and she went to USC’s Gould School of Law for law school with an emphasis on entertainment law. I spoke to Nadia at length for my column this month especially about her “ethnic” clients as my column for Ms. In the Biz is titled Ethnicity and Entertainment after all.

Q: What obstacles do your “ethnic” clients face? You have great anecdotes. Please share…

A: What I’ve noticed with my ethnic talent clients that they take every opportunity they can, which is understandable, but I advise them not to settle. I often hear the ‘I can’t get/do better,’ but there are so many successful minority writers, directors, actors and producers, though I’d like to see more to honestly reflect our society. I have a client who is an Asian comic and he really wanted to have a large scale variety show. He has a strong and loyal following that supported him wherever he went. At the time, he was repped by one of the top agencies and an A list management company, but that wasn’t enough for him to get where he truly deserved to go. He just got lost in the shuffle and they didn’t know what to do with him. He was in analysis paralysis and it just wasn’t serving him. We finally decided it would be best if we took matters into our own hands. The show has become a huge success in a short amount of time and now he’s getting press hits in mainstream media, not just his own community and he’s gone from performing for a niche audience to mainstream audiences and he’s fielding so many offers. The

Nadia with voiceover artist David Marc, who is on the advisory board of the Don LaFontaine Voiceover Lab at the Screen Actors Guild Poker Classic

Nadia with voiceover artist David Marc, who is on the advisory board of the Don LaFontaine Voiceover Lab at the Screen Actors Guild Poker Classic

moral of this story is to showcase your talent wherever you can. We do a disservice to society if we portray ethnic talent as one dimensional people. We’re all human beings who can relate to the human condition. Also, it’s more important to have reps that believe in you than those that are just big names.

I rep an actress of Middle Eastern descent, who has lots of training, and experience who never gave up on her craft, but was only getting called in for the veiled women and other stereotypical roles. Her team just wasn’t serving her as she had an ethnically ambiguous look and could pretty much play anything. When she finally was ready for more growth in her career, I referred her to an excellent agent and manager who totally get her, so now she’s not just a covered up actress in predetermined roles. I kept advising her to surround herself with a strong team that believed in her, who could be of help to her and not pigeonhole her talents.

Q: Nadia, boy do I know the tune of that song and it’s nice to know I’m not alone. You’re a great cheerleader for artists. Any stories about clients who could cross over more easily into mainstream projects and if so, how he/she did so?

A: I rep a very African-American artist from the south, who came about in the hip hop era, but he never allowed himself to be pigeonholed. Though he’s worked on writing staffs of popular urban sitcoms, he definitely branched out and is producing films, scripted TV shows and reality series about all sorts of subjects and ethnicities that are unrelated to his ethnicity. As I mentioned before, it’s about the human experience rather than a stereotype.

Nadia_JasonRitter

Nadia with actor Jason Ritter at the Geekie Awards.

Another client of mine who is of Latino descent worked regularly as an actor but he was always playing stereotypical character roles and never got auditions for the roles that he wanted. After years of being a working actor, he started producing and writing his own content. With the connections that he had made in his years of working on various projects, he was able to create quality content at a reasonable price. He wrote roles that he knew he would show his varied and wide range of talent. He is now producing and starring in his motion pictures that he produces and these films are winning many awards at prominent film festivals. He is talented and that talent is finally recognized in the way that he had envisioned.

Q: Any more advice?

I often advise my clients to create their own content. With the number of outlets that are now available to filmmakers, it is much easier to distribute your content. It is important, however, that you protect yourself legally by entering into agreements with all the talent and partners that you have by setting out clearly what each of your roles are and what compensation you each expect to have if the project is successful. Also, I recommend that you copyright your screenplay and any other content that you create. While registration is not a condition of copyright protection, it will establish that your copyright is valid and it will provide notice to everyone that you own the copyright, making it harder for anyone to say that they infringed “innocently.”

Speak with an attorney before you sign any contract or you could be signing your life away. I think it’s important to propel the deal forward, but not settle. We have to think of the best interest of our clients. If it’s less than the quote, we have to consider the credit, production, if it’s a role against type, working with a certain tier of talent and filmmakers, if it’s a role the actor is passionate about. It’s about getting that foot in the door and showing your talents. I see a lot of artists, who are so passionate about what they do, often get in their own way, it’s a perceived idea of how it happens and the deal falls apart. Artists often come to me after the sign the deal and unfortunately it’s a deal that doesn’t serve them.

More info about Nadia at www.NadiaDavari.com

About Vida G

Vida G. is a multi-talented performer that is active on the Tinsel town scene as an actress,voiceover artist and a reporter. Vida recently shot a supporting role in Savage Cinema’s campy horror flick,”Pond Scum,” directed by legendary indie Aussie filmmaker Mark Savage, who has also cast her in a major supporting role in his upcoming thriller called “Circus of Dread” starring Bill Oberst Jr. Vida recently voiced two characters in an animated film called “Lovesick Fool” created by Emmy-nominated director Dominic Polcino (“The Simpsons,” “Family Guy,” and “King of the Hill”), which stars Fred Willard, Lisa Kudrow, and Janeane Garofalo also voiced roles in this film. “Lovesick Fool” is hitting the festival circuit and has won first place at the Topanga Film Festival and LA Arthouse Film Festival. It has also screened at the Burbank International Film Festival, the Manhattan Film Festival, and the NYC Independent Film Festival.

  • Payam Mike Purqurian

    This is excellent advice. Looks like Nadia loves what she does!

    • Nadia Davari

      Thank you. I hope that I can make a difference.

  • Jeff Arsenych

    I have known Nadia since she was a child and am not surprised at all by her professional competence. She has become a brilliant lawyer who has a high level of integrity and a knack for strategic thinking. Very compelling.

    • Nadia Davari

      Thank you for your kind words. This means a lot to me coming from you.

  • sheba k.

    Nadia is polished and ‘gets it’ right from the start. I have worked with her on some contracts and have referred her to others for much more complex work. She is personable, professional and brilliant. I cannot say enough about her.

  • Rajeev Chhibber

    Nadia is one level headed, caring professional attorney. I am so glad to have known you and proud to have you as a friend.
    Wishing you all the best my friend.

  • Abu Abraham

    Excellent article and it only begins to encompass what Nadia does for others. I came to U.S. from India where I starred in TV serials (the American equivalent of a Soap Opera). My natural progression would’ve been to take a shot at Bollywood, but instead I aimed for trying a career in U.S. entertainment. I was introduced to Nadia by a semi-celebrity and she helped me secure tv and ad spots within a few months. I couldn’t have taken on the enormous contractual and legal packages that are required when working in the U.S. entertainment industries without Nadia’s help, especially when I came from a fading system that operated on word of mouth and mutual trust. When I was bombarded with telenovela offers and realized I’d never master speaking in Spanish, my career eventually shifted towards medicine.

  • Maria Hall

    Film and TV shape our culture so much. I’m heartened to know there are people “on the inside” who actually care about artists as human beings, and who can remind ethnic artists they don’t have to settle for a quick buck at the expense of their futures, their family heritage, or their pride. It’s the 21st century – we should be beyond that! Unfortunately, we’re not beyond it YET, so we’ve got to keep working towards broadening our perspectives and increasing our compassion. That shouldn’t be hard here in LA because it’s such a great melting pot of wonderfully interesting cultures (not to mention delicious FOOD!) – we are truly blessed to be able to have authentic insight into so many different cultures. But I know LA is also a challenge because (especially in the entertainment industry) it’s so competitive. That’s why I appreciated the frequent use of the word “team” in this article. While I won’t say it’s impossible to make change alone, it’s way quicker and more fun to do it as part of a TEAM. 🙂 Thanks for the inspiration, and keep up the good work, Vida and Nadia!

  • Matthew Millan

    Fantastic interview. I am a documentary filmmaker and Nadia has been advising me since the beginning of the year. Signing contracts with distributors is a very new game for me, and without Nadia’s wonderful counsel, I surely would have fallen on my own sword. She is not only very shrewd in navigating the finer details, but is also refreshingly honest and sincere in her approach. One thing you know with Nadia is that she cares a great deal, and will do all she can to protect you from disadvantageous positions. She is easily the first name I would suggest to anyone looking for an entertainment lawyer.

  • Erik Jenkins

    What I see on film and TV still doesn’t reflect the diversity I see in real life.
    People are multidimensional regardless of ethnicity. So it’s nice to see somebody like Nadia out there helping to push this along. Hopefully one day diverse rolls for minorities will be the norm on screen vs the exception.

  • Joseph Hammes

    Wow! Quite an impressive interview with an equally impressive attorney. After reading the article I realized that Nadia is not simply just another Los Angeles lawyer; she really does care about her clients and takes her time to think things through and make sure she is taking care of them from all perspectives. I came away from reading this and thinking that Nadia really is a brilliant woman, much more than I had thought!
    And, she just happens to have quite a beautiful smile! Had to throw that in there! Bravo Nadia!

  • Don Hale

    Suberb article. I’ll say as a new filmmaker working with Nadia as as counsel. Truly an asset to our industry. Her attention to detail and work ethic is only matched by the amount of care she puts in to her clients.

  • Vida Ghaffari

    I am so excited to see all these comments about my interview with Nadia, but not surprised. A true advocate for artists, be it actors, writers, or directors, Nadia is not your typical suit (she has a huge heart for artists and happens to wear designer suits, but I digress). It was truly a pleasure to interview her. My only wish is that could mention some of the thriving names in the story (thanks to Nadia’s assistance and belief in them) to inspire our readers, but due to lawyer-client confidentiality, I wasn’t able to. Thanks again to Helenna for the opportunity. There are some amazing Ms’s in the Biz and it’s nice to highlight them and their hard-working efforts.

    • Nadia Davari

      Dear Vida you are such a talented artist. I have been watching your career develop and grow and could not be prouder. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about my experiences. I hope the readers find it useful.

  • Parimal Rohit

    Great interview by a great interviewer! Nadia had some great advice to give and Vida had the right question to ask. Great work!

  • Received this great message from: Laura Matthews
    “Nadia is
    indeed amazing—thanks for the interview. I’m glad you caught the unique
    sensibility she brings to the business. I’m proud to be working with
    her!” Thanks for reaching out to the site Laura!!!

  • Nikki Salami

    I’m truly impressed by both of you and couldn’t be more proud of the level of your professionalism combined with genuine sincerity. Excellent work!

  • Ana Clavell

    I have to agree with Ms. Davari 100% – all talent and creativity that touches us, that is truly successful, has at its core our common human experience. Bravo! We need more passionate champions like you!

  • Rob Stevens

    Terrific feature article on Nadia Davari. As mentioned in the interview, Nadia has a great handle on intellectual property rights. Beyond representing individual artists, she also has done a fantastic job guiding my small new media company through the critical start-up process. She has a great handle on digital media.

  • Saman Namazikhah

    Great article! It’s such a breath of fresh air to see a champion for ethnic/minority talent. It’s always been troublesome to see minorities cast as stereotypical roles, especially in such a so called “forward thinking” industry. I commend Nadia for pushing her clients not to settle and strive to display their true talents and not just a role that they “fit”.

  • Fahi Takesh Hallin

    Well said! Nadia is truly amazing!

  • Nadia H.

    I had the pleasure to meet two very impressive, highly intelligent and gorgeous professionals in the entertainment industry who happen to be female. Gorgeous not just on the outside (clearly they both are), but I strongly believe in inner beauty, which they were both radiating. Immediately, I noticed that special spark in their eyes: positive, smart and a ‘go getter’ attitude. Just as with ethnicity, it is well known that being a woman in show biz, is not exactly easy despite it being the 21st century. So when I have the fortune of meeting a female professional in our creative line of work, who is also from a different ethnicity, my heart jumps. Imagine two of them. What a wonderful force! I’m talking about Nadia Davari and Vida Ghaffari, thank you for such an inspiring article! After meeting you I am not surprised though, it reflects both your passions towards what you do and you set the best example for young women starting out or planning to become working professionals in the many facets of the entertainment business. Don’t get me wrong, Nadia and Vida are unique, each in her own way and passion she follows. I just love that they are also friends because we -professionals working in show biz who happen to be female and from various ethnic backgrounds and cultures- really need to support each other and help each other grow. That’s what they are doing and this brings a lot of hope and a positive outlook for the landscape of women in the entertainment industry.

  • angryasianguy

    She’s the real deal! That’s why she’s my Lawyer! If only we could reveal all the things that we we’re working on. Ready to attack 2015! Boom!

  • from Bennie Richburg: “Great insight! I think it’s important to embrace your own ethnicity as well. When I first started out in 90 my attorney at that time advised me to work on “white shows.” My instincts told me different. 24 years later, WIll Smith, Martin Lawrence , Jamie Foxx all under my belt, I’m still going strong.”

  • Vida Ghaffari

    Well said Bennie. Big fan of your inspiring and prolific career. I’m digging all these wonderful comments by such amazing and supportive “Misters in the Biz!” Nadia made such great points during our interview. Very inspiring and insightful as well!

  • Mel Navarro

    Great article with someone that clearly knows the filed and is willing to share her ideas, knowledge and insights.

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