Caribbean Heritage Organization Excellence in Entertainment Law Honoree
Gordon Bobb, a partner at the Century City law firm of Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka Finkelstein & Lezcano, focuses his work primarily on the representation of actors, comedians, athletes, writers, directors, production companies and distribution companies across television, film and multimedia platforms. Beyond his law practice, Bobb serves as a member of the board of directors for the Black House Foundation, and as an advisor for the Georgetown entertainment media alliance.
With parents hailing from Georgetown and Annsborough, Guyana, Bobb describes his relationship with Guyana as a “kinship to the culture.” During his visits to Guyana, Bobb felt struck that black and brown people comprise the majority of Guyana – from the highest levels of government to the shop owners on the street. Though acknowledging the after-effects of colonialism, like poor infrastructure and lack of electricity, Bobb believes Guyana is at a turning point due to a rising focus in the tourism industry. Bobb’s observation is corroborated by the director of the Guyana Tourism Authority, Brian Mullis, who in a 2018 press release points out that “we [Guyana] have an opportunity to be recognized locally and internationally as a premier destination for protecting our natural and cultural heritage.”
Gordon Bobb grew up in Brooklyn, New York, a West Indian enclave. Much like other first-generation families who hoped to carve out a piece of the American dream, Bobb’s family emphasized hard work and education to access upward mobility. After a push from his mother, he attended the prestigious Stuyvesant High School where fellow students and teachers “elevated [his] lot in life.” Following a “fantastic public school education” he said, Bobb continued his pursuit of the American dream at Georgetown University before attending Columbia Law School. Both growing up in a first-generation Caribbean household and an early exposure to a Black lawyer, impacted Bobb’s path. After meeting a Black lawyer for the first time in eighth grade, Bobb felt inspired and thought: “Oh wow, a lawyer who looks like me, I can do that.” Representation mattered then, and continues to in his work today, he said.
When he finished his study at Columbia’s Kernochan Center for Law, Media and the Arts, Gordon joined a large Wall Street law firm, but did not feel passionate about it. Instead, he decided to move to Los Angeles to become a talent lawyer. In his new path, Bobb hoped “to try to represent people like [his] best friend and brother, Roger Bobb, to help bring their stories to the screen.” Though lacking direct experience in talent law, from his extensive preparation at Columbia and the Wall Street firm, Bobb was hired by one of the biggest entertainment lawyers in town and one of the few Black entertainment lawyers in Los Angeles, Nina Shaw. Shaw took Bobb under her wing and taught him everything he needed to know about entertainment law. In the past, Bobb negotiated Girls Trip director Malcolm D. Lee’s first book deal with Universal, and the follow-up feature comedy Night School. He continues to work with clients such as Ava DuVernay and Lena Waithe.
Outside of his work as a partner with Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka Finkelstein & Lezcano, Bobb serves on the Board of Directors at the Blackhouse Foundation, a non-profit organization expanding the opportunities for Black multi-platform content creators and their inclusion in major film festivals by fostering an environment for continuing support. His interest in the work of expanding opportunities for Black creators first began after attending the Sundance Film Festival in 2001. He remembers walking up and down Main street wondering where all the “Black people were and feeling like there was no place for us.” In response to this absence of inclusion, Bobb joined the Blackhouse board in 2008 to create a space in support of Black filmmakers, and to mentor aspiring ones. This year, after attending the Sundance Film Festival, he observed the foundation’s work materialize, as he witnessed the exponential growth of Black films screened and sold at the festival, as well as panel discussions centering on Black people. Bobb hopes the inclusive change he witnessed at Sundance will extend to the broader entertainment industry.
According to Bobb, the industry has discussed diversity for the last 10 to 15 years, though he asserts as of late the conversation has shifted to inclusion. He contends that diversity in the industry holds a negative connotation, the conversation “shouldn’t be about we need to diversify, we need to include more people in the process because the more people you include the better product and result you get. The more points of view, the more perspectives you get.” This transition is part of a generational shift because millennials grew up in a time demanding more representation, both in front of the camera and behind the camera. For Bobb, this shift proves crucial as you cannot run a business or media company and ignore entire segments of the population. Further, according to Bobb the sharing of stories specific to Caribbean culture will increase as the proliferation of digital media produced by individuals across the Caribbean diaspora increases.
For those who want to follow in his footsteps, Bobb advises that while your “path may not be linear, you should always be moving forward. It’s always knowing where you want to end up and keeping that as your North Star.” He hopes for the next generation of Caribbean and Caribbean-Americans to keep striving and pushing themselves in the way that his family did. His work and continued investment in both the Caribbean and Black community highlight why he was the Caribbean Heritage Organization’s perfect choice for their 2019 honoree for excellence in entertainment law.
As a Guyanese-American woman interested in law, the opportunity to interview Bobb was incredibly exciting, and I look forward to following the fantastic projects he continues to work on.