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Conversations with Atlanta's Movers and Shakers: Entertainment Attorney, Charles "Bo" Bowen, ESQ.


Charles "Bo" Bowen, ESQ., of Bowen Schmidt Entertainment Attorneys

Back in April,  we were fortunate to connect with entertainment lawyer Charles “Bo” Bowen. Bo comes from a long line of entertainers, singers, and performers ranging from Broadway actors to silent film stars. Growing up in a theater environment (and being a veteran of the stage himself) inspired a deep love of all things artistic and creative that has shaped and guided Bowen’s career and his unique approach to the practice of law.


Atlanta Film and TV: We gave you a brief introduction, but could you tell us about who you are and what you do in the Atlanta Entertainment Industry?


Charles “Bo” Bowen: "Of course! I am the Managing Partner of Bowen Schmidt Entertainment Attorneys. My primary focus is film and television and my partner Ryan Schmidt focuses on the music industry. Our firm is located in Savannah but most of my production clients are in Atlanta. I am also heavily involved in lobbying the Georgia legislature on behalf of the entertainment industry which can be a challenge. Sometimes it’s pushing them to enact legislation that I believe will advance and grow the industry, while sometimes it’s to stop them from doing something that will hurt the industry. We commonly have to remind them to stop trying to fix something that’s not broken!"


Atlanta Film and TV: Could you take us on your journey of how you started to where you are today?


Charles “Bo” Bowen: "I grew up in Athens, Georgia where my dad made educational films for the University of Georgia. I come from a very long line of entertainers. My great-aunt, for example, starred on Broadway and in silent films. My parents had a vaudeville act that traveled all over the country. I grew up in a true theater environment where I acted in dozens of productions, and that experience inspired a deep love and respect for artists and creatives that has informed and guided my legal career. I have a passion for protecting creatives and helping them advance in their careers. I quickly learned that in order to do that effectively, I was going to have to approach the practice of law in an entirely new and different way.


Professionally, I graduated from Georgetown University Law Center in 1995. Upon graduation, I moved to Savannah and opened my own corporate law practice. Several years later, I was hired to run the Savannah branch of a couple of large Atlanta law firms. Those experiences enabled me to learn all the ins and outs of general corporate and contract law. As the film and television industry began growing throughout Georgia, I was finally able to focus my practice primarily on entertainment law.

  

I met my current law partner, Ryan Schmidt, about seven years ago. Upon meeting him, I immediately recognized a kindred spirit. Prior to going to law school, Ryan pursued a music career as a singer/songwriter in Nashville. He has released several albums and even appeared on Season 3 of The Voice. Ryan brings the same passion that I have in the film and television realm to the music world. He is driven to protect and help people in the music industry because of his personal experiences as a musical artist. He has seen firsthand how members of the industry often seek to take advantage of musicians and his goal is to ensure that is not allowed to happen. The two of us formed Bowen Schmidt Entertainment Attorneys with the primary goal of not just protecting each one of our clients, but to do everything in our power to help them to level up their careers. 


Several months ago, Bowen Schmidt Entertainment Attorneys was named the National Elite Firm of the Year at Crisp’s Annual Game Changers Summit in Atlanta. While it was certainly nice to be recognized for our efforts on behalf of our clients, receiving this award simply made us want to work harder and become even better. One of our core values is “better than yesterday.” We want Bowen Schmidt to be the very first thing that comes to mind when any creative needs an attorney who has their back, truly understands what they are going through, and will work tirelessly to help them achieve their goals."


Atlanta Film and TV: For those who may not know, could you share what an Entertainment Lawyer is?


Charles “Bo” Bowen:  "When people think of the entertainment industry, they often picture the glamorous side of the industry: movie stars, spotlights, and walking the red carpet. Behind every successful artist, filmmaker, production company, or musician, however. there’s invariably an entertainment lawyer managing a complex web of contracts, negotiations, and legal rights on their behalf. We want our clients to know they can trust us to handle the business side so they can focus on the creative side. 


More specifically, entertainment law is much like every other form of corporate law in that a large part of the job is the negotiation and drafting of contracts. No matter what aspect you are in the industry you are in–filmmaker, writer, athlete, musician, you name it–contracts will always be the backbone of your career. Thus, we make it our daily mission to ensure that our clients never sign anything unless the contract is fair and in their best interest. 


Of course, there are many other aspects of entertainment law, from protecting intellectual property to forming LLCs or other companies to researching potential state or federal incentives. No matter the issue, however, we always want our clients to put the burden of navigating legal challenges on us so they can focus on their true passions: the creative side of the industry.




Atand TV: There are many areas of entertainment law. Could you share with us what areas of entertainment  law you practice at Bowen Schmidt?


Charles “Bo” Bowen:  "As I mentioned, I primarily focus on film and television while my partner Ryan primarily focuses on music. Georgia’s creative economy, however, goes far beyond music, film, and television. We have worked with athletes, esports and gamers, influencers, and people involved in theater (such as writers, choreographers, directors, and actors). We also represent authors, journalists, photographers, celebrity chefs, designers, and radio personalities. The entertainment industry is so expansive that we never truly know what our next call will be!


On the film and television side, I primarily represent independent productions as the major studios typically have in-house counsel. If someone is seeking to make a project independently, however, I can step in on the production legal side no matter where they are in the process. My role is to make certain everything is covered, handled properly, and that the production runs smoothly with no legal roadblocks. My partner Ryan, on the other hand, primarily represents the musical artists themselves. He ensures that musicians are properly registered so they can collect all the royalties to which they are entitled, reviews any deals his clients are offered, and goes above and beyond to ensure his clients are always treated fairly."



Atlanta Film and TV: For those who may not know, how does an entertainment lawyer differ from an agent or manager?


Charles “Bo” Bowen: "The primary difference is that while an entertainment attorney focuses on existing legal matters, agents and managers actually go out and pitch their clients and try to find them opportunities. Agents and managers often procure auditions for their clients or send samples of their work to networks, movies, or record labels to help find them potential opportunities. Once that opportunity presents itself, that’s when we step in. We review the offers to make certain our clients are being treated fairly, draft up the contracts, and handle all legal issues that arise throughout the project."



Atlanta Film and TV: Can you talk to us about what it is that you do with the Savannah Film Alliance and IATSE? 


Charles “Bo” Bowen:   "I founded the Savannah Film Alliance in 2015 to fill a hole in the local entertainment industry. Through working with many different people and organizations, I realized that many of them had similar goals but did not have the opportunity to consolidate their efforts. Thus, the Savannah Film Alliance was really an effort to simply get everyone in the industry together in one room so we could stay informed, discuss the challenges facing the industry, and pool our resources and talents together to both meet those challenges and grow the industry. Since its founding, the organization has grown from approximately 30 people at the first meeting to over 500 members. The one thing we have learned for sure is that we can accomplish far more together than we ever could have individually!  


As far as IATSE, that obviously is the labor union that represents the majority of the crew on any film or television production. There are many unions and guilds in the entertainment industry and they do a great job promoting and protecting their members. I have tried to forge great relationships with each of the unions and guilds as I know how important they are to ensuring safe and stress-free productions."



Atlanta Film and TV: Talk to us about what an NDA is and how important it is for those who sign their names, understand what they are signing. 


Charles “Bo” Bowen: "An NDA is a Non-Disclosure Agreement. There are a lot of circumstances in which my clients are asked to sign (or ask other people to sign) an NDA. There’s really not anything overly complicated about it. It’s simply a document that says that everyone agrees to keep whatever is being discussed private and confidential. If you are asked to sign an NDA, read it carefully because there will likely be strict penalties if you don’t keep the information discussed private and confidential. 


I actually have a somewhat different feeling about NDAs than a lot of other attorneys and I encourage my clients to use them sparingly. Of course, I get that having someone sign an NDA can give peace of mind to the person who is seeking to protect their property. However, it’s already illegal to infringe upon someone else’s intellectual property, and if you are dealing with the type of person who would engage in that type of behavior, that extra piece of paper is probably not going to make a difference! There’s another hidden danger in NDAs, on the other hand, which I do not believe gets enough attention. The entertainment industry is built on relationships. If you’re going to pitch your idea to a potential investor but insist that they must first sign an NDA, you’re essentially telling the other person: “I don’t trust you!” While all factors need to be taken into consideration, I have seen the overuse of NDAs actually turn out to be counterproductive."



Atlanta Film and TV: What piece of advice would you have for someone looking to become an entertainment lawyer?


Charles “Bo”  Bowen: "I would give the same advice that I would give a person seeking to become any type of lawyer or engage in any other type of business: you have to have a passion for it. If you do not have the passion for it, you are doing both yourself and your clients a tremendous disservice. Businesses that are formed solely for the goal of making money are destined to fail.


However, if you are passionate about pursuing entertainment law, the best advice I can give you is to learn from the ground up. Like in sports, fundamentals are the key. Learn everything you can about general corporate and business law first so you have a rock solid foundation. Once you have that in place, then look for opportunities in the field of entertainment law."



Atlanta Film and TV: We like to ask all of our Atlanta Movers and Shakers G.E.M.S., which stands for Great Educational Moments with Movers and Shakers. Do you have any G.E.M.S. you would like to share with our readers and viewers? 


Charles “Bo” Bowen: "I can think of three G.E.M.S. that I share with all of my clients, no matter the industry, that I believe are crucial to achieve success. I try to model my own firm on these three principles every day.  


First, no matter what you do, while it is extremely important to be familiar with all relevant industry standards, don’t ever be satisfied with them. With every single deal that Ryan or I pursue for clients, our goal is to create new, more powerful industry standards when it comes to the protection of our clients and all creatives.


Secondly, always try to be empathetic and understand your client’s fears and anxieties, then do whatever it takes to make them feel better. It is very common for people to feel nervous or uncomfortable calling a lawyer, particularly if they are new to the industry. They don’t know what to expect. They may be concerned about the potential cost of a lawyer. They may dread the thought of dealing with some dry lawyerly personality who cannot relate to them. Thus, our goal at Bowen Schmidt Entertainment Attorneys is to go out of our way to make certain that every single person that calls our firm feels comfortable, heard, and protected and hangs up being happy they called us. That is a worthy goal no matter what industry you’re in.


Finally, I have learned that you cannot try to predict and focus your business on how things may change in the future. No one predicted COVID-19 or how streaming would impact the film and television industry. Even now, we can’t begin to imagine what AI may be capable of within the next five to ten years. Instead, I believe the secret to success is to focus on things you know will never change. No matter what happens in the future, our clients will always want to be treated in a friendly and respectful manner. They will always appreciate an attorney who works hard for them and gets good results. They will always want a lawyer who immediately returns their calls and responds to their needs. If you focus on perfecting those things that you know will never change, I assure you it will revolutionize your business!"



Atlanta Film and TV: Atlanta Film and TV: Do you have anything else you would like to share?


Charles “Bo”  Bowen:  "Due to many factors, the entertainment industry (particularly film and television) has been unusually slow recently. This is true all over the country, not just in Georgia. But the entertainment industry always has been and always will be a cyclical business. To anyone that may be feeling discouraged, I want to assure you that it will turn around! Bowen Schmidt Entertainment Attorneys was founded to help creatives pursue their passion, and we will always be here to help you successfully pursue your dreams."


Click below to view our full conversation:














Atlanta Film and TV: How can people connect with you?


Charles “Bo” Bowen:  "I am always accessible via email at bo@bowenschmidt.com and Ryan is available at ryan@bowenschmidt.com. Our phone number is (912) 544-2050 and you can learn all about us and our firm at bowenschmidt.com. We are always happy to chat with anyone involved in the entertainment industry. We will listen and will be happy to help in any way we can." 










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