Mihaylo alumnus Mark Okumori ’09, ’11 (entertainment and tourism, MBA) has a career in motion picture deal analysis and forecasting for William Morris Endeavor (WME) in Beverly Hills. He discusses the dollars and cents of show business and how students can get started in the field.
Nothing defines the Los Angeles region more than motion picture production. Mihaylo College has its share of alumni who have developed lucrative careers in the business end of the film industry. Among them is Mark Okumori ’09, ’11, who shares advice for current students and alumni on how they can make it big in the business of entertainment.
What is a typical day like in your role in motion picture deal analysis? How does it compare to popular perceptions of working in the entertainment industry?
My role at WME involves performing financial deal analysis and forecasts for our clients, which in turn forms the basis upon which their representatives, such as agents and lawyers, negotiate talent deals with various studios. For example, when a studio submits an offer to WME for one of our clients to perform in a motion picture, my job is to evaluate the deal presented, to determine what our client could expect to earn at various film performance levels, and communicate that information to the client’s representatives who uses it as a basis for further negotiations with the studio. I follow this process for each offer and counter-offer from both sides until an agreement is reached between our client and the studio. So primarily, my job is focused on interpreting the legal points of a movie deal and converting these into meaningful numbers that talent representatives can use to negotiate a deal in the formative stages of a film.
What is the current state of the business end of entertainment and how can new entrants into the field get started?
The entertainment landscape is rapidly evolving with the emergence of new media, which is changing the way entertainment is consumed. As a result, studios, agencies and other media companies are being forced to adapt to the changing marketplace. I’m not a marketing executive, so my knowledge of consumer trends may be limited. However, I can tell you that talent representatives are increasingly looking for means to expose talent to various media platforms and cross over into diverse entertainment categories, such as fashion, sports, commercials, consumer products, branding, television, film, digital media, eSports, music and events.
Entering the talent representation business is standard at any agency, regardless of your qualifications. You start at the mailroom, where you are overworked and underpaid, but then work your way up to assistant, move up to coordinator, junior agent, and finally a full talent agent. The full process can take five to seven years, so be prepared to suck it up and keep working hard for little financial reward in the early years of your career. The training to become an agent happens while you’re an assistant to a talent agent, through listening, observing and networking to the point where you are able to independently support your own client base. This is how it has always been since the industry started a century ago, and I don’t see it changing anytime soon.
How did your undergraduate degree in entertainment and tourism from Mihaylo help you jumpstart your career?
I believe it gave me a basic foundation of how the entertainment industry works. Having this concentration on my résumé likely added some weight to my job application. However, the bulk of my knowledge prior to entering the workforce came from reading industry reference books, such as Movie Money, The Mailroom and Entertainment Industry Economics, as well as trade publications, including Hollywood Reporter and Variety.
An internship in my senior undergraduate year with the California Film Commission, arranged by Accounting Lecturer Kim Tarantino, and later an MBA project with Fox Sports that I got with the help of Management Lecturer Harold Fraser helped me get my foot in the door and is the reason I achieved what I have.
How did earning your MBA at Mihaylo help you, and what would you say to undergrads about why they should get a graduate degree?
The MBA adds more to a résumé, and for me it provided an in-depth understanding of business concepts compared to what was covered in the undergraduate curriculum. Yet I feel it is the soft skills that the MBA program promotes, including teamwork and communications, which provide a good transition to the professional world.
Where do you see your career in the future?
In five years, I would like to hold an executive director/vice president position at WME in the same line of work. I plan to pursue a law degree starting this August to enable me to further my career as my job entails both legal and financial functions.
For more on entertainment careers
For more on Mihaylo’s entertainment and tourism program, visit the Mihaylo Entertainment & Tourism Management Center online or at SGMH 5357A. The center hosts networking events and provides resources for finding internships. Students can also participate in Behind the Scenes, a club that offers industry tours and regular panel discussions.