Ten years ago Elsa started practicing law on the backlot of Universal Studios, in a trailer on the lot. “I began in 2005 with a lot of schlock films in the
early days of digital shooting,” she told me from her Beverly Hills office where she now employs five other women attorneys and has just hired the first
man. In 2005 you could make digital movies (just after “Blair Witch”) and international sales agents paid good money for them. DVDs still existed and were
a relevant income stream for independent producers. For a $200,000 budget you could reap a return of $2 million even without a large theatrical release.
What came out of those days was “bootstrap entrepreneurship” from producers who could produce a film digitally on a shoestring budget.
Her firm also employs a packaging and sales person, Tiffany Boyle, to consult and advise with producer and financier clients on meeting and evaluating
distributors, sales agents and financiers. This is not too different from the job of producer reps, but the packaging and sales consultant can work on an
hourly or take a percentage of distribution which includes legal.
“It is an enhanced legal service, not at all in competition with Submarine, Preferred Content and other indie producer reps. In fact, sometimes we place
our films with them, or we work in tandem with them and even introduce our clients to them as we value what producer reps and agents bring to the table in
terms of procuring offers and creating a marketplace for an independent,” she adds.
Tiffany Boyle was previously director of sales at Crystal Sky, working under head of production Benedict Carver (“Underworld”, “Resident Evil”) and head of
international sales Daniel Diamond (“The Believer”). She worked in the development and sales on the company’s films, including “Doomsday”, “Big Stan” And
Ramo herself was born in L.A. but grew up in San Diego as a first generation U.S. citizen. She went to UC Riverside and as soon as she graduated from
University of San Diego School of Law, she returned to L.A.
She began in royalty litigation for music and asked her first employers if she could find her own clients and proceeded to network through the film
organizations in L.A. for whom she would do free transactional work. She came from a family business and is very entrepreneurial by nature.
Her expertise has been featured in numerous outlets, including Variety’s 2014 Women Impact Report, The Wrap, Forbes, and Latino Weekly. Incidentally, she is
not Latino but her partner, Erika Canchola, is Mexican-American. Erika was an intern for Elsa during law school, then was hired, became an associate, and
now is a partner.
Ramo has also lectured on film financing for the California Lawyers for the Arts, Film Independent, Attorney Credits, LawReview CLE,myLawCLE, and the
Institute for International Film Financing.
She has been a panel and guest speaker at USC, AFI, UCLA, South by Southwest V2V, Slamdance Film Festival, the San Diego Film Festival, Digital Hollywood,
Boston University School of Law, and the University of San Diego Law School. In May 2010, she was awarded an Artistic License Award along with Maria
Shriver by California Lawyers for the Arts for her outstanding pro-bono work providing artists and arts organizations with legal services.
Eight years ago she moved her office to Beverly Hills. Every year her business doubles in size. She handles about 50 features a year at various stages of
financing, production and distribution. At every major market she has a handful of films.
She just spoke at Digital Hollywood on a panel about women entrepreneurship. She recognizes that men and woman are different and respect for one another
professionally is what makes progress possible. She began ten years ago as a young woman in an older man pool, but now she is seen less as a female and
more as an equal professional. She tells her interns who are women “never give an excuse of sexism, better than putting energy in negativity is putting it
into negotiating and doing your job well irrespective of your sex.”
Elsa is straightforward and outgoing, she has a self-confidence that is warm and welcoming. You want to share with her.
She also notes that the talent to produce low budget films is the same skill set which, even without money to back it, can be used for the new networks and
she finds that she is succeeding at pre-selling TV series lately. She is currently legal counsel for her first unscripted doc series to Netflix Chef’s Table
and finds that non-conventional serial content is hot now.”
“What is your real goal?” I asked, and she answered that she appreciates the opportunities given to her and appreciates the growth of herself and of her
clients. She is also interested in “how much the indie business is changing and has always changed. Three or four years ago it was DVD, and now it is all
changed to digital streams of revenue and the great thing is it will all change again.”
Content evolves in a circle. She started with offering free services and was happy to be hired. Now she gives low rates to new filmmakers; she can evaluate
their talent better, she recognizes passion and talent. Sometimes it works out for her and the new talent, and sometimes it fails.
“I am always looking for emerging talent, looking at the cutting edge.” The business is constantly evolving and my biggest goal is never to ‘settle’, never
Check out her website at www.ramolaw.com. It offers a great list of filmmaker resources as well as bios of her growing