Don't Kill the Messenger with Movie Research Expert Kevin Goetz

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (Film/TV Producer, Manager, & Executive) on Breaking Into the Business, Producing, & More

April 19, 2023 Kevin Goetz / Ellen Goldsmith-Vein Season 2023 Episode 17
Don't Kill the Messenger with Movie Research Expert Kevin Goetz
Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (Film/TV Producer, Manager, & Executive) on Breaking Into the Business, Producing, & More
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Kevin is joined by Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, founder and CEO of Gotham Group, a management and production company.

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, Gotham Group CEO, Producer
Ellen Goldsmith-Vein is a business woman and producer, widely recognized for her prolific work as the founder and CEO of Gotham Group, a leading management company in the entertainment industry. In addition to her successful career in management, Ellen is a notable philanthropist and political fundraiser, dedicating her time and resources to various charitable causes. With an impressive portfolio spanning both television and film, Ellen has produced blockbuster hits such as The Maze Runner film series, which grossed over 1 billion dollars at the box office worldwide. She has also produced critically acclaimed films such as Star Girl and its sequel Hollywood Star Girl, Wendell and Wild, Abduction, My Best Friend's Exorcism, and The Spiderwick Chronicles. Ellen's work has earned her several accolades, including an Emmy award nomination in 2008 for her contributions to the popular television series, Creature Comforts.

Ellen's background and starting Gotham Group (3:00)
Ellen talks about being the first woman to own the size of management company that she does. She discusses how she started Gotham Group 30 years ago and how she went from a career in banking to the entertainment industry.

Ellen's transition to representation (8:10)
Ellen talks about her desire to be on the same side of the table as the talent and how she transitioned to the representation business.

Finding White Space(14:15)
Ellen discusses the importance of finding white space in the industry and how focusing on the animation space helped Gotham Group become successful.

Producing a $125 million movie (17:53)
Ellen talks about her experience producing The Spiderwick Chronicles and the challenges of being a producer.

Social activism (26:39)
Kevin and Ellen discuss Ellen and her husband Jon Vein’s involvement in social activism and their efforts to make a positive impact through their work in the entertainment industry.

Challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated industry (37:10)
Ellen talks about the difficulties of being a woman in the entertainment industry and how she had to work hard to be taken seriously.

Providing opportunities and advice for young women (38:34)
Ellen discusses the importance of providing opportunities for young women in the entertainment industry and how she tries to help them get their foot in the door. Ellen gives advice to young women to focus on their own work and not worry about what others are doing to create success for themselves.

Tune in to hear Kevin and Ellen discuss Ellen's career path, her experience as a producer, her political activism, and the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated industry.

Host: Kevin Goetz
Guest: Ellen Goldsmith-Vein
Producer:  Kari Campano

For more information about Ellen Goldsmith-Vein:
The Gotham Group:

For more information about Kevin Goetz:

46s Film Making
46s: Filmmakers talk origins, challenges, budgets, and profits.

Listen on: Apple Podcasts   Spotify

Podcast: Don't Kill the Messenger with Movie Research Expert Kevin Goetz 
Guest:  Film/TV Producer, Manager, & Executive Ellen Goldsmith-Vein
Interview Transcript:

Announcer (00:02):

There's a little-known part of Hollywood that most people are not aware of known as the audience test preview. The recently released book, Audienceology, reveals this for the first time. Our podcast series, Don't Kill the Messenger, brings this book to life, taking a peek behind the curtain. And now, join author and entertainment research expert, Kevin Goetz.

Kevin Goetz (00:24):

Hi everyone. My guest today is an enthusiastic, infectious, just delightful, and inspirational woman, Ellen Goldsmith-Vein. She's the founder and CEO of the management company, Gotham Group, and a prolific political fundraiser and champion of many charities. Ellen is both television and film producer. The Maze Runner film series grossed 1 billion at the box office worldwide. Ellen also produced films including Star Girl and its sequel Hollywood Star Girl, Wendell and Wild, Abduction, and My Best Friend's Exorcism, along with The Spiderwick Chronicles. She was nominated for an Emmy award in 2008 for her work on the television series, Creature Comforts. More than anything, we've become very good friends over the years and I so respect her for so many, many things. Unfortunately, this is not a visual medium, but I will say that I mostly respect her style, <laugh> and her fashion sense. She looks so beautiful today. Hopefully, some of you will be able to see her because we'll post this. Hi Ellen.

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (01:41):

<laugh>. Hello. I'm just so happy to see you that I was just overwhelmed with glee. I was peeling with mirth as I was leaving the house. I said to my husband, Jon, who's maybe even more obsessed with you than I am, I'm going to see Kevin Goetz. Where? On his podcast. But podcasts are recorded, Ellen, they're not live. And I said, well, I get to see him because we're zooming.

Kevin Goetz (02:06):

I'm a very visual person. I like to see things and see people and look in their eyes. And to me, that is part of my communication, you know?

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (02:15):

Right, totally. Well I am just happy to say that we are very like-minded people. You and I, oh gosh, we are. It was kismet when my colleague and one of my partners, Lee Stollman introduced us because I immediately was just taken by how whip-smart you are and how you have this ability to retain information and to endear yourself to filmmakers and audiences alike. And it's such a tightrope to walk the balance and skill that you have. You're like Phillipe Petite walking between the World Trade Center Tower.

Kevin Goetz (03:00):

Well, I feel like I should be the guest on your podcast because you are just a delight and what a lovely, lovely thing to say. Forgive me for being so familiar, but I have to say we do have a very like-minded sensibility, but we also, the two of us come together on so many things politically and I definitely want to talk about that as we get into the show today. I do want to start with the fact that you are, I believe, the first woman to own the size of management company that you do. I think you have almost 50 managers or people that work in your office and, and tell me how that started, like where did you get the vision to start a management and production company?

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (03:48):

You know, it's interesting because this is our 30th year in business, which I know is shocking. 30 years considering. 30 years this year. So I tell this story all the time, so it's sort of slightly redundant, but I had kind of this early midlife crisis and I left banking thinking that I was going to go into the entertainment industry and it would be much less stressful. So I called my father and I said, do you know anybody in entertainment? And he said, I know this one guy. Really? Who was that? Who? Jim Wiatt. So he introduces me.

Kevin Goetz (04:19):

Not a bad person to know. Jim Wiatt and who ran of course, ICM.

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (04:25):

And Jim was at ICM at the time and I think he was just running the motion picture department.

Kevin Goetz (04:30):

Yeah. Worked with the closely with Jeff Berg.

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (04:32):

Yeah. And so I went in and I met with Jim who had maybe five seconds for me before sending me off to meet with the HR people. Now since then, Jim has become a great friend and he was on the board of my husband's company Marketshare. And what I discovered was that in entertainment, you really start at the bottom. I had no idea. I thought, you know, I was going to breeze in in a suit and a Hermes scarf and I was going to be running this agency within like two weeks. I literally believed that, which may be one of my superpowers. And I ended up taking a job at the William Morris Agency and also thought that I was so smart that I skipped over this step of, you know, at the time they had this thing called dispatch where you would go and deliver packages and you worked in the mail room, then you'd go into dispatch, which is by the way, where I met Lee Stollman. He was an agent trainee at William Morris when I was an assistant at William Morris. And I thought, well, I'm just so amazing. And they clearly recognized that at William Morris and therefore I've skipped these steps and I'm going right to work on a desk, which is what everybody wants to do. And I did. I went to work in TV packaging, working for a young guy named Toper Taylor and Toper...

Kevin Goetz (05:53):

Um, that's whose desk you covered?

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (05:55):

Like, I covered his desk. He had just been promoted and he was, you know, I grew up in La Jolla, California, this small community. I went to school in Virginia and then at UCLA and he was like pages six and seven of the Brooks Brothers catalog. So he and I got along famously <laugh> from Palo Alto, I was from La Jolla. Um, and although we had the, you know, the Bruin, Trojan rivalry, he was a great guy and represented a lot of really interesting people like who, and, and then I worked for Mark Kin and Bob Christani. And so I really learned a lot about the television business. But what I also…

Kevin Goetz (06:34):

He was a literary agent?

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (06:37):

He was a TV packager, so he, okay. He really covered kind of cable and syndication and all of the sort of the stuff that nobody else really wanted to do. And one of those things happened to be animation. So a couple of things happened. One, Bob Christani said to me, you know, you're smart girl, but it's going to be a long time before you ever get promoted here because you didn't go through the right track and you're not a trainee. And then, and I was like, okay, well that's not going to work for me. And because Toper had this really interesting business, and particularly in the animation space, the space that I had been interested in since I was a kid watching The Jetsons and The Flintstones and all those great Warner Brothers cartoons and Tex Avery. I was really quite taken with animation and particularly Peanuts and Charlie Brown, which were my favorites then. And my favorites now. And by sheer luck Toper and I ended up getting an offer from a Canadian production company called Nelvana Entertainment that we represented, which was the second-largest animation studio in North America at the time behind Disney. And they wanted to open an LA office and really kind of become a go-go animation company. And so Toper and I left William Morris, packed up our bags and moved up to the 9000 building at Sunset and basically did everything, business affairs, accounting, selling, programming.

Kevin Goetz (08:10):

Were you an assistant at that time when you left?

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (08:13):

It was basically him and I. I was an assistant when we left, but when we…

Kevin Goetz (08:16):

That's what I mean when you left, it was the agent and the assistant. Jerry McGuire.

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (08:20):

Yeah. And off we went and no looking back. And we very quickly became a powerhouse in animation, animating. We did all of Tim Burton's licensing and produced the Beetlejuice stuff and it was just an amazing opportunity. So I really got a chance to understand how to produce animation and how to put animated programming together. But as much as I loved that, and I did that for about three years, I really wanted to be in the representation business and I wanted to be on the same side of the table as the talent. And so at the time, there was one guy in animation, I describe him as the Mike Ovitz of the animation business. And at the time that was a good thing. His name was Stuart Kaplan and he had this small company called Atlas Management and he was looking to bring a partner in.

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (09:16):

And so he called me and said, you know, I'm looking to bring a partner in and I know you want to, you know, and Toper was perfectly happy with my going off and doing this because at that point Nelvana was pretty robust company and we had a ton of shows on the air and it was just all upside, so. And he was super supportive of it. And so I went to work with Stuart at the time, he had about 10 clients and he gave me this film to look at called Tin Toy by John Lasseter. And I mean he really had the animation sort of base of talent, but unfortunately, that was in the early nineties. He also was, was not, well he had AIDS and that was when young men who had AIDS did not survive.

Kevin Goetz (09:58):

Oh, that's right.

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (10:00):

So about three and a half years after I joined Stuart, he passed away and that was when Atlas became the Gotham group. At that time we went from representing about 10 clients when I joined Stuart to close to a hundred. So we really had a monopoly.

Kevin Goetz (10:17):

And who did you represent at that time?

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (10:19):

We represented writers, character designers, storyboard artists, directors and…

Kevin Goetz (10:27):

And why did you need a name change?

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (10:29):

I had to switch the companies over from Atlas to Gotham and Stuart was a lawyer also and Atlas was a management company. Gotham was an agency.

Kevin Goetz (10:39):

I see. They wanted, the law wanted you to have a real distinction between agent and manager. Yeah, I remember when that whole thing was going down.

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (10:47):

Right. And I remember actually pretty distinctly at the time sort of trying to make the decision about what made sense, but because we were spending so much time procuring employment for people, I mean that was what we were doing.

Kevin Goetz (11:00):

Agency seemed right for you.

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (11:02):

Right. And Stuart basically was like, do whatever you need to do. Because really right after I joined him, he basically didn't really work at all after that. And it was so interesting too because a lot of his clients were like reticent to speak to me and like they didn't want to talk to me because Stuart was like the man and I had to really like win them over. So Atlas became Gotham, how did I come up with the name Gotham? I was sitting in the Gotham Bar and Grill in New York and my lawyer said, you, I need to set up a company for you. What do you want to call it? And I was like, Gotham <laugh>,

Kevin Goetz (11:36):

I thought this was going to be a much better story. Something with Batman or…

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (11:40):

Well, you know, it's super cartoony, so I figured well…

Kevin Goetz (11:44):

It's a great name.

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (11:45):

I mean it is what it is. So alas Gotham and, and then we just, you know, sort of quickly continued to, to grow and, and in the late nineties I started getting a lot of calls from people at the agencies and other management companies. Brad Grey at Brillstein-Grey. And in fact, I negotiated a whole deal to merge Gotham into Brillstein-Grey. I also met with ICM, which was fun because Jim Wiatt was in the meeting. Of course.

Kevin Goetz (12:15):

Full circle. Full circle.

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (12:17):

Yeah, full circle.

Kevin Goetz (12:19):

I want to just circle back though. You start this company, you morph the company. It sounds like you were listening to where the business was going and picking a lane for yourself because what Gotham Group is known for a lot of YA, a lot of graphic novels and cool stuff, <laugh>, you know, it has that vibe to it. That rep to it. Was that by design?

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (12:48):

Well, because the company was founded in the animation space and that is really the cornerstone of our business. I mean, this sort of goes back to this story about how I started getting all these calls from these other larger agencies who were like, hmm, animation, maybe that's a thing now. And I ended up merging Gotham into AMG, which was Michael Ovitz’s sort of, as I always say, misadventure into the management business. And we became a management company. And it was at that time, Kevin, that we started representing publishing houses.

Kevin Goetz (13:19):

So ingenious though, no one really was doing this, right?

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (13:24):

No. And by the way, to be honest with you, no one cared about the animation business either. And now it's, you know,

Kevin Goetz (13:29):

My dear, I am well aware. But you were the first really.

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (13:34):

So yes, I'm the pioneer.

Kevin Goetz (13:37):

<laugh> No, absolutely. And I think that is so, so admirable. So admirable.

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (13:42):

Thank you. And so I think I saw like, here's another opportunity to be able to represent content creators in a different space where people are less interested. Everyone was chasing movie stars and directors and fancy writers. And, and the other thing that I discovered at AMG, where there were many fancy directors and writers and actors, they all wanted to be in the animation business or they wanted to write a graphic novel. So Jon Ridley wanted to write a graphic novel and Matthew McConaughey had an idea for an animated television series.

Kevin Goetz (14:15):

You found the white space. And that is so cool. Let the listeners hear that. Like find a place where, and I love what you said before, nobody wanted to do initially what you all wanted to do syndication, right? And cable was not the sexy part of the business and that was a white space. And then now, right, then you find the animation space and then you leverage that into something else that is such good business practice. I try to use that philosophy at Screen Engine/ASI as well to try to find those places where competitors aren't going and where there's genuine opportunity. So it's a great business lesson for folks.

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (14:57):

Oh yeah, absolutely. And I mean, we sort of quickly grew to be the destination for picture books and middle grade and YA. And I have to say that that that also was an outgrowth of having had the opportunity to work with Michael for better or for worse. And also one crazy sort of random circumstance where I got a call from a friend of mine who was working for Steven Spielberg and she said, yeah, I'm trying to figure out, there's this author-illustrator who is going to do the cover for a book for a charity of ours, the Starbright Foundation, and he needs somebody to make a deal for him. And I can't think of anybody like who can do that? Do you think you can do it? And she introduced me to this wonderful author-illustrator named Tony DiTerlizzi. And Tony is literally our longest-running client in that space. He also happens to have the distinction of being the co-author and illustrator of The Spiderwick Chronicles, which was our first movie.

Kevin Goetz (16:00):

And you're re you're doing something else with that now, aren't you? Re-imagining it right?

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (16:05):

After many, many years, we finally managed to levitate it again as a television series with our incredible partners at Disney and Paramount television studios. I'm really excited about it and I hope that audiences are going to really enjoy this new version, this sort of refreshed version of Spiderwick. But I feel like so many times along the way just being open to, you know, this is something that I always think is really valuable is you never know with people like what you're going to encounter. Right. You know, sometimes we get calls and we're like, oh God, I don't want to talk to this person. But it ends up growing into something that you have no expectations of.

Kevin Goetz (16:46):

Yeah, absolutely.

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (16:47):

So being open-minded, being expansive and taking a couple of minutes for people I think is really, really valuable. Not only for them, but for those of us who are in the universe of trying to create programming and content that people want to show up and watch.

Kevin Goetz (17:06):

Happy accidents in a way. Right. And I think we might have first met at the screening of Spiderwick Chronicles, would that be possible? Were you there?

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (17:15):

Yeah, quite possible.

Kevin Goetz (17:20):

And that was such a good movie that was so well done that think we were out in either Laverne or…

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (17:26):

La Brea.

Kevin Goetz (17:27):

LaBrea, LaBrea, yeah. But I remember because it was a location that I don't believe we'd ever been to. I think I was working for NRG at the time.

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (17:36):

It was NRG.

Kevin Goetz (17:38):

Yeah. And it was, I remember that. It was so many years ago though. And I loved the community. It was a great community of folks of audience and so it was a happy accident also to stumble upon that location. And then the movie played like gangbusters if I recall right.

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (17:53):

You know, I have to say that movie was beautifully executed at the highest level. I mean we had such a wonderful team of people working on that film and that was our first movie. It was a 125 million movie and we haven't made 125 million movie since then.

Kevin Goetz (18:12):

<laugh>. So were you hands on? Were you on the set every day?

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (18:17):

I was very, very involved in the development of that process and I was on set some of the time. But the truth is that the movie was really produced by Kathy Kennedy and Mark Canton. They were both really nice enough to give us the opportunity to have a seat at the table and to…

Kevin Goetz (18:41):

Well, you certainly earned the seat at the table. I mean, I respect Kathy and Mark so much, but you found the material essentially and honed it and developed it.

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (18:50):

Well and had the opportunity to partner also with Julia Pistor at Nickelodeon.

Kevin Goetz (18:56):

Oh, Julia was great. Julia was great.

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (18:57):

Yeah. So in fact we have another project we're working on with her now. She's a great friend and incredible producer. So, but yeah, that was an interesting opportunity because I had no idea really what to expect and I didn't really understand and appreciate the absolute immersion that's required of a producer. And to be honest with you, Kevin, that's when I sort of realized that I can run a management company and I can supervise everybody who's working here. And we have people who are really dedicated to representation. But it's very hard to do both things. And especially when you're on a film or you're working on a television series, you have to really pick your lane because it's that immersive. And I really pride myself on the fact that we do on all of our films, we are there 24/7 and we are involved in every aspect from pre-production to production, to post-production, to marketing and publicity.

Kevin Goetz (20:00):

Right. Because it doesn't end simply once you put the movie in the can, it's got a whole other cycle in the marketing distribution, which you get very, very clearly. Can I circle back on something you said before, which really struck me? You used the word in, I love that you and I are so in sync on so many things. You said a superpower. That's one of my favorite terms now and I've actually incorporated it in many of my focus groups. I'll actually ask the audience in a focus group what they think the superpower of this movie is. What sort of the crystallization or the essence of the movie in its most powerful. And you said you thought that was maybe your superpower and I think, and you were referring to the fact that, that you had the ability to sort of galvanize and have a belief in yourself that was perhaps naive, but you believed in your ability, your talent. Is that what you meant when you said that's one of your superpowers?

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (21:01):

A version of that I think more than anything because I think it's an interesting combination of ego and insecurity. But mostly I feel, and my husband Jon always says, you know, you can't just will things into being. And I'm like, yes, actually.

Kevin Goetz (21:16):

Oh yes you can <laugh> I can.

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (21:18):

And the truth is, I really believe that if you believe in something, you can rally people around that cause. And I've seen it happen in the political specter and I've seen it happen in the professional specter and I've seen it happen in the personal specter. So I do think that one of my superpowers is just really being able to sort of gather all of my answers.

Kevin Goetz (21:46):

Bring all these pieces together. I said galvanizing, but here's your other superpower. You are an enthusiast, you're a champion, you're inspirational. I always smile when I know we have a meal on the books or we are doing something where we're going to see each other because you bring such joy to the table and such a sense of energy and enthusiasm and I so love that about you. And so people want to be around you. They want to be in your circle, in your aura, in your light. You know it sounds a little airy fairy, but I actually believe that.

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (22:26):

Thank you. Well, I feel like I love what I do. I love the people that I work with.

Kevin Goetz (22:32):

It's so clear that you love what you do, but it goes even beyond that because it's not enough to love what you do, but you have to also be great at it. And that seems to be where both of those superpowers come to be. And I agree with you by the way, about this notion of willing something to happen. I just want to share a very quick story of a movie that I produced years ago called Wild Iris. And Wild Iris started as a play and the play was called Bluebird Bridals. It was never produced, but it was written by a writer whose play that I'd produced and was in as an actor years before is Kent Broadhurst, a New York playwright. I did a reading of it and loved it and at the time I think Fried Green Tomatoesand Steel Magnolias were sort of out.

Kevin Goetz (23:18):

And I said, it's kind of in that realm, which tells you right now that it has absolutely no reason to exist theatrically. And at the time there were very few places that would make it other than say Showtime or HBO. Right. And so by sheer will, and I believe that because of my belief in it and my passion and the people that I got attached to it was the reason that it not only got made but had Dan Petri as the director and starred Laura Linney, Gena Rowlands, Emile Hirsch, and all of these fabulous supporting characters. Thank God we won an Emmy, we were nominated for three Emmys and won one. Wow. And it was an amazing experience and it would never have happened if I did not will it to existence. So when you say that, I really believe it and share that story with young filmmakers Now to be perfectly candid and frank and, and I think you'll support this, you can only do that so often because it's exhausting and it takes a lot <laugh> of energy to do that. Wouldn't you agree?

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (24:37):

Well, yeah, except for it does take a lot of energy, but I'm sort of also known as being relentless. So if I'm in the pursuit of something, whether it is a piece of material that I want to produce or a writer for something that we're producing or in support of one of the managers here trying to sign someone…

Kevin Goetz (25:02):

You'll go to whatever lengths it takes to do it.

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (25:06):

I will. Including that pair of Gucci sandals that I really want that are sold out that you can't find anywhere. You know what I mean?

Kevin Goetz (25:14):

So do I know what you mean? Of course we're talking Gucci sandals

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (25:18):

<laugh>. Why can't I find those glasses like you had on? It's not like I, I'm going to end up going on…

Kevin Goetz (25:23):

Like wait a minute, let's tell everyone because people don't know what you referred to. We were at lunch and I was wearing my uh, Dita sunglasses and you picked them up and said these are nice, you put 'em on. And I'm like, those belong on you.

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (25:35):

Right? And I couldn't find 'em so I got these.

Kevin Goetz (25:37):

And so you're wearing these Tom Fords right now. Yeah. But they look very much like the Ditas.

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (25:42):

I wanted those so badly.

Kevin Goetz (25:44):

But I love that you did that and you always put a smile on my face when I think about you and it and that story. <laugh>, may I take a break and when we come back I want to talk about the second part of your life, which is really socially relevant and very active. So we'll be back in a moment with Ellen.

Announcer (26:07):

Get a glimpse into a secret part of Hollywood that few are aware of and that filmmakers rarely talk about in the new book Audienceology by Kevin Goetz. Each chapter is filled with never before revealed inside stories and interviews from famous studio chiefs, directors, producers, and movie stars, bringing the art and science of audienceology into focus. Audienceology, How Moviegoers Shape the Films We Love, from Tiller Press at Simon and Schuster. Available now.

Kevin Goetz (26:39):

We are back with Ellen Goldsmith-Vein who I'm so excited to talk to. Ellen, I want to ask you about Jon  and meeting Jon. Where did you first meet? First of all, Jon Vein, you know I have a bromance with him. I have a man crush on him. He's such a smart guy. First of all, he started and ran a very successful business, which you can tell us about because we can't ignore it, Jon. But also the fact that the two of you have joined forces, particularly on the Democratic side of the aisle in terms of your fundraising and simple awareness that you've provided to so many of us by opening your home and being so gracious on that front. So first, thank you for that. And Jon went to law school with Barack Obama, is that right? Did I get that correct?

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (27:35):

Yeah, they were both Harvard Law graduates. Yeah.

Kevin Goetz (27:39):

Wow. But were they in the same class?

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (27:42):

I think Barack was a year or two ahead of Jon maybe? Mm-hmm <affirmative>, I'm not a hundred percent certain.

Kevin Goetz (27:48):

Where did you guys meet?

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (27:50):

We met, actually Jon describes himself as a recovering entertainment lawyer and he left his law practice to go and run a company that they represented there called Film Roman. And Film Roman is a big animation studio.

Kevin Goetz (28:07):

I'm getting the connection.

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (28:09):

<laugh> Exactly at the time they were getting ready to take the company public. So Jon went over to sort of deal with that and that's where we met and we represented pretty much all the talent that was working at that studio on The Simpsons and Family Guy and so on and so forth. And so that's how I met Jon. And he is probably one of the most resourceful intellectual thinkers and I know you know this. He is an interesting combination of incredibly good human being and incredibly smart businessman and entrepreneur. So in a sort of strange twist of fate, after Film Roman went public, Jon left Film Roman and you know, I had merged Gotham into AMG. Michael Ovitz asked Jon to come over and run the management company and the film production company and he was then charged with selling the company and he did make a deal with a guy who he also went to law school who was running The Firm and AMG became The Firm.

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (29:27):

We spun back off again, Gotham, you know, which was probably 20 years ago at this point. And Jon then started a company which was sort of the only company at the time, and then went on to become the biggest company in the marketing and data analytics space. He was basically, he and his partner Wes Nichols were consulting for Fortune 50 companies on their marketing and advertising data. So they created this proprietary software which was, you know, where most of the value of the company was, which would analyze all this data that they would get from these companies. And then they would go and tell them how to spend their money.

Kevin Goetz (30:07):

And that company was?

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (30:09):

Called Market Share Partners.

Kevin Goetz (30:10):

Big Company. And that's where I first became aware of Jon.

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (30:14):

Right. And he did consult for some of the studios and things also, but I think in a different way than what you were doing then at NRG and now at Screen Engine, which I think is more audience dependent and theirs was more, I think based on actual hard data.

Kevin Goetz (30:35):

They were a measurement company more so, and we are more of sort of an insight company that provides diagnostic resources. How did you guys get as politically involved as you are?

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (30:47):

Yeah, Jon's been politically like he's always wanted to be in public service and that was sort of…

Kevin Goetz (30:54):

Did he ever want to actually run for office?

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (30:56):

Well, we'll see what happens in the next handful of months on that. I think he's sort of weighing some options and you know, he's still very active in politics in Los Angeles and we've been big supporters of Karen Bass for God I want to say my daughter's 23 now, so for at least 20 years.

Kevin Goetz (31:14):

I know you were, because I saw him most recently at a, an all guy's dinner at Eric Paquette's house. It's an annual thing. Right. And he was there of course with the mayor Eric Garcetti and the three of us were kind of ping around and talking a great deal and I saw his real strong support of Karen, meaning Jon's real support of Karen. Eric hadn't come out yet with who he was going to support, but it was a really interesting conversation. I always love Jon's perspective, so he's always had this passion, but then you got involved in as well. And I've been at your home, I know with Kamala Harris, I've been at your home with Diane Feinstein and others. Right. You know, just, I love what you always have done in that realm.

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (32:00):

Yeah, I mean I think it's really important and I also think it's been great for my kids who are real activists and dyed-in-the-wool Democrats who are, you know, are true believers in democracy and they really care. So I feel as though in many instances where maybe we haven't won an election for a candidate that we've supported, what we have been able to do is provide an opportunity for people and especially young people to learn and to rally around those things that I think are…

Kevin Goetz (32:32):

Well that's why this is not even a political question when I ask and talk about you're on the side of the democratic side of the aisle, what it's more, comment on, at least from my perspective, is just how involved you are and how aware you're making people like myself. That's a real service. I'm on the board of the World Affairs Council of Los Angeles, LA World Affairs Council in Town Hall and one of our missions is to promote the value and the resources of Los Angeles, but it's also to bring the world to Los Angeles, meaning the great conversations around countries, protectionism, the economy, the war in the Ukraine, for example, the threat and the tensions with Taiwan, for example. So where do you see yourselves or are you going to be too circumspect about that <laugh>? Where do you see yourselves going <laugh> in the future?

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (33:31):

I've got my hands full here with this Gotham Group thing. So I think for me, I want to be able to continue to work with the organizations that I have been committed to for a long time, particularly around girls and women and the arts and underserved youth in Los Angeles and nationally. And I am right now almost entirely focused on gun safety. And I think everyone hopefully is, you know, it's shocking that we live in a world where we wake up every day and there's some sort of new reporting on these tragic events that are taking place in schools and other places. So, but I think in terms of actually whether or not Jon's going to run for office, we'll see sort of where he comes out on that and it's sort of a process of kind of identifying I think, what opportunities are there.

Kevin Goetz (34:28):

Sure, sure. Boy, I mean just my own two cents, we need candidates like a Jon, but, more importantly, the spirit of that is, is the greatest thing to know that people still have even an inkling of wanting to do it because it's gotten so polarizing in such a bad way. I always equate it to the movie business, and in terms of this idea of polarization of the haves and the have-nots, you know, and why things are movie theater worthy, let's say, versus why something could be or easily be seen say in the home. And you're really seeing that huge disparity. So I think as a culture we're moving more into that sort of polarity.

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (35:17):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I totally agree with you. I think Jon's work runs the convention center and tourism boards for, or has for Eric and sort of in the inner circle with Karen on a lot of the issues around Los Angeles as an economically moving forward and, and particularly involved in the area of homelessness. He ran this thing for Eric Garcetti called Project Room Key during the pandemic where Eric basically called and said, listen, do you want to help me try to get some of these homeless people off the street and into hotels? And so Jon went and I think they managed to get something like 4,000 beds which is really quite astonishing. But I mean, in terms of what you were saying about being polarizing, I think in a way I kind of liken running for office as being a director, which I'm not, which doesn't mean I never would be, but you make a movie and you can make one bad movie and you're on everyone's don't list for God knows how long.

Kevin Goetz (36:19):

You're about to say shit list.

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (36:21):

<laugh>. Yeah, exactly. And the same thing happens with our candidates and you get picked over, every little thing that you do is scrutinized under a microscope. And so I think…

Kevin Goetz (36:33):

It does give one pause to say, do I want to go through that? It's not even about the issues, it's about trying to trip me up. Now I'm sure you feel that in business sometimes. I do. Someone told me the, the great definition of an entrepreneur is the equal makeup of paranoia meets self-doubt.

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (36:53):

Uhhuh <affirmative>.

Kevin Goetz (36:54):

And it really is kind of true. And there's never a shortage of people gunning for you saying, how can we knock him down a few pegs? I could never imagine running for public office because of that. I, maybe I have too thin a skin or something.

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (37:10):

I don't know. But I think what you're saying is really true. And I think just going back to what we were talking about earlier with Gotham and the fact that we're going to be 30 years old and had a lot of headwinds as a woman in a business that people looked upon as being adjunct to the entertainment industry, animation and the kids programming business and wanting to be a producer and be taken seriously. And you meet with such disdain and disregard and disrespect and you know, it's very, very hard just like you do when you believe in something. And as we do in our country and democracy, you gotta buck up every day and get right back up on that horse.

Kevin Goetz (37:52):

What do you say to your young gals that you're mentoring, the young women that you're so active in promoting and wanting to give that opportunity to?

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (38:01):

And that's the other thing, I mean, it's like providing opportunities for people. It's so hard to like get a foot in the door in the entertainment industry, which is why anybody anytime calls me and says, hey, my kid's looking for an internship. I'm like, we've got one. Because I just want to provide a way for people to get in the door because I remember how hard it was for me and I had Jim Wiatt.

Kevin Goetz (38:22):

I love the fact that you feel you’ve been given those blessings, those opportunities, and of course, you have to pay it forward. And I'm the same way. You and I are very much cut from the same cloth.

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (38:34):

How can it possibly hurt you to do something nice for somebody else? It doesn't. It's very easy. It's very easy to say yes. And I don't need the sort of psychic baggage of saying no to people when it's just as easy to say yes. So I mean, what I would say to any young woman, and I say this all the time, is if you believe in something, make it happen. Go make it happen. But also like, don't worry about what the guy over there is doing or that one over there is doing. Just keep your eyes on your own paper. Just focus on what you are doing and not what everybody else is doing. And ultimately I think that is how you can create success for yourself. My mom always used to say it's an inside job and it really is.

Kevin Goetz (39:21):

Well, I think this is about as good a place as any to sort of end this discussion because that's inspirational talk. I have to say, Ellen, you are just a joy, you are an inspiration as a professional, but even more so as the woman that you are. And I just absolutely love you and am thrilled we're friends and I can't wait to have the dinner with the four of us. I think it's on the books finally. And four really busy people trying to organize a dinner in Los Angeles, <laugh>. It's, you know, God, I think running for public office is a bit easier, but listen, thank you so very much.

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (39:58):

Thank you for having me. What a treat.

Kevin Goetz (40:01):

And to our listeners, I hope you enjoyed our interview today. I encourage you to check out Ellen's wide body of work. For other stories like this one, please check out my book, Audienceology at Amazon or wherever books are sold, or through my website at You can also follow me on my social media at KevinGoetz360. Next time on Don't Kill the Messenger, I'll welcome Mark Gordon, film and television producer and former president of the PGA, Producers Guild of America. Until next time, I'm Kevin Goetz, and to you, our listeners, I appreciate you being part of the movie-making process. Your opinions matter.


Host: Kevin Goetz

Guest: Ellen Goldsmith-Vein

Producer:  Kari Campano


(Cont.) Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (Film/TV Producer, Manager, & Executive) on Breaking Into the Business, Producing, & More