Behind the scenes: media law in the home of entertainment

By Tess McPhail

MLS alumna Madeline Miller has found a way to combine her legal training, social justice aims and love of film in the heart of Hollywood.

University of Melbourne alumna Madeline Miller (BA(Hons) 2005, JD 2008) is the Vice President of Business Affairs in Production at Global Road Entertainment, a Los Angeles film studio.
Madeline Miller (BA(Hons) 2005, JD 2008) with fellow alumna Kamaka Martin (BA 2002, JD 2008) at a University of Melbourne alumni event in Los Angeles. Image credit: supplied.

Madeline Miller (BA(Hons) 2005, JD 2008) is a self-confessed media law junkie.

As Vice President of Business Affairs in Production at Los Angeles film studio Global Road Entertainment, she has plenty of opportunity to satisfy her interest in this area of the law. On an average day, Miller could be working on anything from rights acquisitions for scripts and screenplays, to the development of talent deals for Hollywood’s latest blockbusters.

Before entering the media law field, Miller worked in commercial and international law. It was after a year working for the United Nations in Cambodia that she set her sights firmly on the international film industry.

“My interests were always international law and social justice but also the media and entertainment industry,” Miller says. “I was drawn to the business side of the industry and wanted to try and combine the two in some way.”

She pivoted her government law practice to commercial intellectual property, enrolled in a diploma of filmmaking at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) and became the pro bono legal counsel for the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival in Melbourne.

“I was really focused on getting myself across the industry in lots of different ways.

“Even though it was focused on the creative side, I think studying at the VCA helped me to understand the industry better so that I could work within it.”

Through her legal experience and engagement with the film sector, Miller landed a job at Screen Australia managing government investment in film and television.

“Suddenly I was thrust into the financing side of the industry, which was really foreign but also a really great transition,” she says.

Deciding to take her passion for film further, Miller moved to California in 2015 to complete a Masters degree in entertainment law at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

I realised I really wanted to work in film and a much bigger industry - I really just wanted to work in Hollywood.

“At UCLA I was fortunate to discover Critical Race Studies, taught by some incredible professors, and I got to take a course looking at representations of issues of race and gender on film, which was amazing as it combined my interests in social justice and media.”

Since cracking the US industry, Miller has found a way to combine these passions. In response to the growing momentum of the #MeToo movement, she has been working with the Equality Institute in Melbourne to develop a consultancy group focussed on workplace cultural change.

“Our goal is to develop targeted leadership and training to empower the next generation of women,” Miller says.

“My big goal is connectivity. I think we’re stronger when we work together.”

The consultancy group is on the cusp of launching in Los Angeles and New York and will offer expert workplace assessments as well as online leadership and negotiation training strategies for women, designed by women.

“For me, it is really important that women who don’t have access to resources feel really connected by the platform we are developing, so we are working on creative ways to provide maximum breadth and impact,” Miller says.

“It is meant to be additive and not competitive with other movements that exist.”

Her advice for women both in and outside the media industry?

“Just keep pushing. Don’t be silenced or dissuaded by other people’s opinions.

“You need to have a bit of courage to step outside your safety zone and not know where you’re going to land.”

This article originally appeared in MLS News, Issue 19, May 2018.