Being a lawyer is great. Being a lawyer and also a TV writer and development executive is super cool. I sat down virtually with just such a person, Christine Torres, to discuss her trajectory. As a highly successful former Brooklyn prosecutor, Chris realized her lifelong passion for filmmaking when she moved to Los Angeles where she consulted on “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.” She was ultimately hired full-time as a staff writer working closely with Neal Baer, Dawn DeNoon, and Judith McCreary.
Prior to “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” Chris enjoyed working with high-level talent, and executives in television/film development, production and post-production, and in the Business and Legal Affairs departments at both Universal and Disney. Currently, Chris is VP of Development at Crystal Lake Entertainment where she produces and develops film, documentary, and television projects for legendary horror filmmaker Sean S. Cunningham (Friday The 13th, House) and also produces independent projects under her filmtorres banner. Chris graduated from Hamilton College, with a B.A. in Philosophy, and received her J.D. from Washington and Lee University, School of Law. She is a Member of the New York State Bar Association and the Writers Guild of America, west.
ORLY: Please explain your legal background (education, work as an attorney).
CHRISTINE: I attended W&L Law School in Lexington Virginia. Then went to work for the Brooklyn DA’s office after graduation. Spent 6 years working for the People of the State of New York and Brooklyn. In that time I investigated and tried numerous cases, misdemeanors, and felonies, from DUI to Murder and everything in between. I spent time in a few specialized bureaus, including 16 months in Narcotics.
ORLY: How did you break into writing?
CHRISTINE: I came to LA to produce. I fell into writing because I couldn’t find a script I liked enough to devote all my time and energy bringing it to the market place. So I decided to write my own.
ORLY: How much of your legal experience informed your writing?
CHRISTINE: My legal background has always been a great asset. It still helps to pay the bills, and I never need to find a consultant when plotting a new script. Or if I need to talk to someone with legal expertise, I have access to a whole class full of willing free consultants. Since I write mostly crime/legal drama, I can really draw from my experience in the Brooklyn DA’s office for stories or inspiration.
ORLY: What are you doing now as a writer and an executive?
CHRISTINE: I work as a development and production executive at a boutique horror production company. We develop our own scripts in-house so I get to work with writers and help develop stories. I do a fair amount of reading of outside scripts but that is mostly for fun. I’m also a producer, which for me means that I’m responsible for getting a production off the ground, making sure that while shooting the crew has all the tools it needs and my director only has to concentrate on her shots.
ORLY: How much of your work now correlates to your legal training and experience?
CHRISTINE: My legal background always informs all that I do. As a development exec, I make sure that our writers are papered, our scripts are protected. There are a million little things that I take care of myself that others need to farm out to an attorney. It saves time and money. However, for the more complex issues, I always use someone else, a lawyer that I trust. It’s nice to have someone to confer with and delegate the responsibilities.
ORLY: What are your favorite TV shows and/or films that have a legal story or main characters who are lawyers?
CHRISTINE: Favorite TV show with legal themes… Mmmm… I usually can’t watch those without throwing a shoe at the TV. They rarely get it right.
ORLY: Any advice for attorneys who want to become tv/film writers or producers in connection with their legal training/professional experience?
CHRISTINE: If you want to be a writer/actor/director – creative, then be one. Just jump in and pursue your dream. You will never regret going to Law School. It enables you to think about the business side of SHOW BUSINESS, which is a leg up on so many creatives out there. And if you want to be a lawyer in the entertainment business, there are so many interesting areas in which to practice – Production, Distribution, Financing, Technology… My only advice is that if you are going to be a lawyer, be respectful of your clients. Call them back in a timely manner. And listen to them. They just need a bit of hand-holding which goes a long way in lawyer-client relations and achieving mutual business goals. I know it’s a pain in the ass…