LawFuel – Entertainment Law – The Florida Times-Union carries an interview with Jacksonville native Michael Ossi, an entertainment lawyer. Among other clients, the Ossi, Butler, Najem & Rosario civil trial and entertainment law firm represents actor John Travolta, who lives in Ocala. I spoke with Ossi as part of an occasional 10-minute chat with an area newsmaker.
Q: You began your career as a personal injury lawyer. How did you cross into the entertainment side?
It was pure luck. I was in the right place at the right time. I was at the clubhouse at Pablo Creek Golf Club, and Todd Roobin of the film commission office called out there wanting to get Samuel L. Jackson on the [members-only] golf course. The clubhouse assistant asked if I would bring him as my guest, and I said of course.
Q: You also hosted Gregory Harrison there when he was in the area in 1999 to film the Safe Harbor television series. That sparked your interest?
I got intrigued by the business. By the time I met Samuel Jackson two years later, I was as prepared as any Los Angeles lawyer.
Q: Jackson introduced you to Travolta on the set of Basic, which was being filmed in Jacksonville. You started doing some legal work for him. Then what?
It took about a year of performing services for us to become his lead attorney. We handle all of his business affairs and all of the entertainment and endorsement matters. It’s just our law firm. It’s just us.
Q: How does the entertainment business compare to the personal injury side?
We handled more than 10,000 personal injury cases but nobody ever cared. Now, everybody wants to associate with me because I am an entertainment lawyer.
Q: You’re also a partner in the new Ring Productions, which produces independent films. The state is considering more incentives for film production. Why is that important?
We would like Florida to be competitive with other states, including Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico and Connecticut. The governor does not want to see money leaving the state.
Q: Has Gov. Charlie Crist ever asked to be an extra in a movie?
No. [But] he has come to the movie set. He came to meet with Sharon Stone for Rocket, and he met with Jimmy Fallon and Tom Arnold. He loves the movie industry. It’s a clean industry, and the people of the state of Florida want the films to come here. There are more extras who want to be in a movie in Jacksonville than another other city of the country … 10,000 wanted to be in Lonely Hearts two years ago. Several hundred were used.
Q: You turn 47 this summer. Your favorite movie was Saturday Night Fever, which starred Travolta. How many times have you seen it?
Probably 15 times. I was raised during the Godfather, Rocky, Saturday Night Fever and Grease days.