Brains, Beauty, Benge
Producer, Writer and Entertainment Attorney. Not to mention a military veteran, the founder of Bullet Entertainment and an owner of the nightclub “Derriere” in Hollywood, California. With this exclusive interview, Wendy's wisdom gives us a sneak peak into the Hollywood Gauntlet.
Accomplished is certainly one word to describe Wendy Benge. Her unstoppable work ethic and desire to constantly educate herself is an inspiration to men and women internationally. Self driven and self reliant also are some words that come to mind when describing Wendy. She's the kind of person you just want to ask, "How do you do it?" When she answers, you will discover that when Wendy sets a goal, she goes above and beyond to accomplish it. In other words, she works her ass off!
Should you visit Wendy's website www.wendybenge.com, you will discover all kinds of achievements in her "About" page. One that has us floored is her knowledge of Entertainment Law. As an Entertainment Attorney, Wendy's legal representation ranges from studio productions, independent films, unscripted television and financiers to Hollywood socialites, elites and newcomers. Wendy’s law firm experience derives from such prestigious law firms as Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP.
Wendy obtained her BA at the University of Southern California and Edinburgh University in Scotland. Her first law degree was obtained from the Canterbury School of Law in New Zealand and the Hong Kong University School of Law. Wendy then obtained her Master of Laws from Duke University School of Law. As if that wasn't enough, Wendy is a member of the California State Bar, and currently holds the positions of Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand and Law Practitioner of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, Australia. Not to mention, with great pride, Wendy served in the US Navy! Wendy was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation medal from the Secretary of the Navy in her capacity as an Airman in an Anti-Submarine Warfare Unit.
Wendy's talent doesn't stop there. In addition to being a legal legend, Wendy dove into film producing at the behest of her financiers. After working as outside counsel for a film bond company and running a 150 million dollar film fund, it was only natural that Wendy would start her own production company Bullet Entertainment. As a Producer, Wendy specializes in filmmaking, development (business plans, budgets IP & deck), production (Executive Producer, on-set producer & on-set bond producer), post production (supervising & editing), and sales and distribution.
Wendy's growing list of credits include a host of celebrated films from "Life After Beth" starring Anna Kendrick, Aubry Plaza, and Dane DeHaan, Elmore Leonard's "Life of Crime" starring Jennifer Aniston, Isla Fisher, Mos Def and Tim Robbins and Lee Daniels' "The Butler" starring Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey,"W" directed by Oliver Stone, “Saw IV”, “Broken Vows” starring Wes Bentley, Cam Gigandet and Jaimie Alexander... just to name a few!
While Wendy is also an avid screenwriter, soon Wendy will be able to add "Author" to her resume as she is currently working on her first book entitled the Gauntlet Series™ "Navigating the Hollywood Gauntlet - The Written and Unwritten Laws of Hollywood". This series encompasses the law and hands-on production advice geared toward Financiers and Filmmakers. After all, the question of how films are financed is one of Hollywood's biggest mysteries.
Did your military background help you with your goals? Financially? Economically? Emotionally? Yes it did. Very much so. I joined the Navy at 17 and was out before my 21st birthday. Straight out of the service I worked for the Military of the Purple Heart full time thought-out my schooling at USC. The military inspired me to be my best and to power forward no matter the odds or life's set backs – including losing both of my parents in 2010/11. Family and Life Lessons? My father, a Marine and Aerospace Engineer, pushed me to be better and to do better for others. He would say, “It doesn’t matter if you’re swabbing a deck or leading the troops, pull up your bootstraps, stand tall, be the best, and do it with pride.” This lesson has stuck with me in all aspects of life. It especially relates to my journey in entertainment and the various roles that I have. Another key moment in my life was two conflicting pieces of advice that were given to me by legal industry leaders that helped defined my path. When asking one mentor why we were giving one client a less advantaged agreement he stated “Because that’s what he paid for”. Although he was a ballbuster and a brilliant man this did not resonate with me and we parted ways. Although I became disheartened at this point, an amazing mentor at my new firm Stroock stated that the most important thing is to always arm your client with the best agreement you can create, no matter what his financial situation is. He went on to say you never know who will look at your work in the process and who that client will become in the future. This truly resonated with me and has been the influence throughout my life and very reason for my book. No matter what your financial situation people deserve the best representation possible and the means to understand this industry and support themselves. What inspired you to write a Navigating the Hollywood Gauntlet? Aside from the influences above I wanted to write a book that not only had the legal and business aspects of the industry but one that was drafted in a way that Creatives and Financiers could understand without the use of an attorney. One that was entertaining but geared toward both Creative and Financiers that would provide a one-on-one experience with real life explanations and proper agreements to use. Where can we expect to purchase the book? We are setting to release the book this winter. I am sure it will be available to purchase though Amazon and other online retailers, as well as University bookstores. Tell us about the Derriere Lounge. What inspired you to launch Derriere? I wanted to create a special venue were we could bring elite talent from around the world to intermingle with the community of music lovers of Los Angeles. So I partnered with nightlife legends and Derriere was born. With Derriere the goal was to create an intimate scene where people could feel at home and experience world-renowned DJs interacting with surprise live musical performances by famous artist along with our signature burlesques dancers. It was also key for us to have a viby outside area where people could actually socialize or talk industry business. As a business woman I also sought for Derriere to be specifically designed as a prime filming venue. Derriere has a timeless design, exposed brick, sexy textures and high darkened ceilings. It can be easily transformed in a moment to a different and exotic place. Onward Alice... What advice do you have for women who enter male-dominated fields like law, the military, or Hollywood? My mother was the strongest person I knew. She was a fighter and a firecracker. Her strength and fire inspired me onwards through many rough times, especially when I had to make a stand as a woman or move forward against the odds. Like her, my advice is “stay strong.” This truly is our time… but it is not without struggle. Only one woman in the history of the Academy Awards has won an Oscar for Best Director. One! It’s time to change this. It is obvious, with this year's winner for Best Picture and Director that we are moving forward in our industry. Long may this shift continue. In this direction, I have several upcoming films that embrace diversity. As a Writer, and soon to be Director, of “Nowhere Girl” I look forward to working alongside other women who have taking the forefront in this area. As a Producer I have other projects in various stages of release, including “Soul Custody”, which just won Best Picture and Best Cutting Edge Film at the San Diego Black Film Festival and received accolades in February from film critics at its international release in Toronto, Canada. I am very proud of our director, V.Vansay Zanubon and our team. "Soul Custody" opens the doors of diversity and inclusion. We sought to break molds on racial social norms and I will continue to do so with scripts that I write and on my client’s projects in the future. What has been the biggest reward of all your hard work? The all out love that my clients and friends have given me over the years. My life has not been the easiest one, as one could gleam from entering the military at 17, to working full time while in college, losing my family early on… but I like to think that my choices in friends and clients have overwhelmingly given back support and love when needed. Any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs? How do you run multiple businesses so successfully? Don’t lose hope and don’t give up. They say that each failure is one step closer to success, but this is only true if you can learn and adapt to what is needed in your field. Don’t let your ego control your destiny. We can’t possibly know everything, and we are constantly learning and growing each day. I think the key is to understand that being a creative is a life journey, a continuing work, and we are but a piece of ever-changing art as we encounter this life. What defines us is our ability to think outside the preverbal box, to arm ourselves with knowledge, strategize, choose our people wisely, act honorably and be able to pick ourselves and others back up when plans don’t exactly hit the mark. I mean, after all, we are navigating the Hollywood Gauntlet – Game On.