This spring marks the first time an entertainment finance course has been offered to finance majors at LMU’s College of Business Administration. Even more remarkable is that LMU is the only university in Los Angeles currently teaching entertainment finance to finance students. (Other schools only offer this course to film students.) This is particularly surprising considering Los Angeles is the entertainment capital of the world, a city where jobs in entertainment finance run aplenty. No one is more pleased than entertainment industry executives, who admit it’s been a challenge finding qualified applicants to fill entry-level positions.
“We [LMU Finance Department] were looking to add another elective to our curriculum so I went scouring on LinkedIn and discovered that a lot of our alums are working in entertainment finance,” said course instructor Dr. David Offenberg. “Given LMU’s location, it made sense to offer an entertainment finance course as a viable career path for our students.”
According to Offenberg, the ultimate goal of the course is to prepare students for their first job in entertainment finance. Interestingly, out of the 26 students enrolled in the class, nine have already had internships in entertainment finance. Students are learning about the different financial structures and challenges related to film, television, broadcast, distribution and even stage and symphony. They’re also being exposed to the underlying business models of each segment to understand the financial and operational constraints under which these firms operate.
“The whole syllabus was essentially built by LMU alums who work in entertainment finance,” said Offenberg. “They told me what subject matter is important and what students need to know if they want to work in this field.”
In late January, students were paid a very special visit by Lew Horwitz, known as the godfather of independent film finance for having pioneered the use of foreign pre-sale contracts to collateralize film production loans as well as the use of gap financing and tax incentive funding. Horwitz has financed over 500 films including “Monster” and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and gave a very thorough overview of the top ways to raise capital for films. He also showcased his other talent and performed a few magic tricks for the class.
In addition to an in-depth film model project, a significant portion of the class centers on the mentor project. The ultimate goal of the mentor project is to give students at least one friendly point of contact in the entertainment finance world and develop their knowledge of the local entertainment industry. Students split up into teams and each team is assigned an industry mentor. Nearly all of the mentors were handpicked by Offenberg and are successful LMU alums who work in the finance department at major entertainment firms such as A+E, Paramount, Sony, NBC Universal, Hulu and DirecTV.
Student teams meet with their mentors at least once during the semester and are assigned a background report on their mentor’s employer. At the end of the semester, each team conducts a presentation on their mentor and his/her firm with the goal of conveying everything their classmates need to know about the mentor and the firm in preparation for a job interview.
“Our students are getting a solid foundation in entertainment finance, but they’re also making real contacts in the industry and developing financial models that can be showcased to potential employers in job interviews,” said Offenberg. “We’re confident this will give our students a competitive advantage in LA’s entertainment job market.”