Roger J. Kaplan
T: (310) 359-1424
Los Angeles Office
- Commercial Transactions
- Entertainment & Sports
- Intellectual Property
Bar Admissions :
- District of Columbia
- University of Chicago Law School; J.D., 1989
- Harvard College; A.B., cum laude, English and American Literature and Language, 1986
Large Corporate Experience:
- NBC Universal Television Group
- Universal Television
- PolyGram Television
Large Law Firm Experience:
- McKenna, Conner & Cuneo
Roger Kaplan is a creative, pragmatic and dynamic attorney with extensive legal and business affairs experience in all aspects of the development, production and exploitation of a wide variety of entertainment content and media.
After more than 20 years working within the industry’s largest studios, Roger founded a solo law practice in order to engage in a rich variety of issues and matters relating to projects in television, film, digital media, merchandising, games, software, and book publishing, and to bring his oft-proven innovation and creativity to bear in the service of clients who—whether talented individuals, small start-ups or multi-national conglomerates—are all trying to keep up with the rapid evolution of the entertainment and related industries. Roger joined FisherBroyles slightly more than three years later, where the merger of his boutique practice with the firm’s broad resources produces tremendous synergies benefitting clients.
Roger started his career with a brief turn at a large corporate law firm in Los Angeles, handling documentation of numerous “negative pickup” loans funding both independent and studio feature films.
From there, Roger transitioned into the studio world. First was about three years of intensive rights research and review—studying and abstracting rights in the broad and venerable television library of ITC Entertainment Group (producers of “The Saint,” “The Thunderbirds,” “The Prisoner” and many another stylish English TV series from the 1960’s and 1970’s). This chapter, so focused on understanding how the language of a decades-old program contract can either frustrate or facilitate opportunities in new technologies, helped galvanize what has become Roger’s guiding philosophy throughout his career: the lawyer’s job is first and foremost to ensure that the client’s rights are solid and enduring, and described in the applicable agreements clearly, unambiguously and (if at all possible) simply—thereby facilitating the establishment of an asset with substantial long-term value.
Eventually, Roger pivoted into the role of Director—Business & Legal Affairs at PolyGram Television, in which Roger negotiated business and legal terms of talent contracts, license agreements and other contracts in connection with all aspects of the development, financing, production, acquisition, and distribution of television series, “movies of the week,” mini-series and specials, as well as in connection with theatrical motion pictures, direct-to-video programming and related merchandising activities. Roger distinguished himself with his mastery of legal wordcraft, creatively adapting existing contract forms and structures to new (and often complex) business circumstances. His powers of negotiation were honed against the savviest and most powerful agencies and law firms in the entertainment world.
After PolyGram merged into Universal, Roger was working for a small, yet vibrant, first-run syndication television group. Here Roger experienced first-hand how talent, creativity and teamwork on the operational side, when combined with exciting and quality programming, can make a successful program–despite limited resources, a lack of a related distribution outlet and, generally, intense competition. Roger advanced to Vice President, and learned the numerous new challenges arising with the advent of unscripted and “reality” programming. Responsible for addressing the day-to-day legal issues arising over the course of several production years, Roger was instrumental in recognizing and addressing clearance and other problems that were unknown in scripted television and film. During this time, Roger created entire suites of release forms appropriate for use by production personnel in the field, negotiated and crafted agreements with vendors of cutting-edge digital and product placement technologies, and developed and drafted extensive legal policies and guidelines applicable to production of Universal’s first-run syndication programs. Roger conducted several effective and well-received “layman’s terms” presentations to production staff on key legal issues each year.
When NBC and Universal merged in 2004, Roger left the syndication group, and joined NBCU’s extremely busy television contracts department. Here, Roger’s stock-in-trade was negotiating and drafting hundreds of pilot script development agreements, license agreements, and all other key agreements respecting the development, production and promotion of scripted and “reality” series, mini-series, movies and specials for NBCU’s broadcast, cable, Internet, digital and other platforms. Beyond the “traditional” sorts of deals and agreements related to network programming, Roger handled an explosion of brand integration agreements, papering millions of dollars’ worth of such arrangements with large advertisers. Roger’s creativity and powers of innovation were employed once again when he was called on to be the primary architect of the legal structure and implementation of a plan to produce unprecedented advertising spots that synthesized elements from NBC’s programming with the sponsor messaging. Roger steered the discussions involving several senior business, legal, production and marketing executives, and negotiated and finalized all necessary agreements. All aspects of the plan were executed on an extremely tight deadline, allowing NBC to meet a major obligation under a multi-million dollar, high-profile co-branded marketing initiative with a major national sponsor.
Presentations & Teaching Experience
- California Lawyers for the Arts—Presentation on production legal clearance and insurance issues. Sept. 21, 2011
- Universe Multicultural Film Festival—Panel on doing business with U.S. production companies and studios. April 14, 2013
- West Hollywood Public Library—Panel giving overview of entertainment industry: described contract issues and terms. May 15, 2013
- California Lawyers for the Arts—Presentation on production legal clearance issues, July 25, 2013
- San Diego International Kids Film Festival—Panel “Film Distributions A to Z”. September 8, 2013
- Scriptwriters Network—Panel “LEGALLY SPEAKING: A Legal Primer for Television and Feature Scriptwriters”. December 13, 2014
- Slate, Inc.—Presentation on production legal clearance issues, May 6, 2015
- Producers Guild of America Women’s Impact Network — Salon “Navigating Legal Issues and Producer Empowerment on Their Projects”. May 21, 2016
- Los Angeles County Bar Association
- Beverly Hills Bar Association
- Academy of Television Arts & Sciences
- California Lawyers for the Arts