Rubbing Shoulders with Royalties at Sony Pictures

Talent needs to get paid or the world doesn’t quite go round. That’s where Shannon Norris, a 2016 MBA graduate, comes in.

While things like profit participations and other entertainment industry accounting arcana don’t hold a candle to what’s on the screen, plot-wise, there’d be no business in show business without them. As Manager of Residuals for Sony Pictures Entertainment, Shannon sees to it that i’s are dotted, t’s are crossed and checks are issued.

“Finance in the entertainment industry is a bit different from finance in any other industry,” she says. “That’s because the industry has a unique product that doesn’t follow the same path as regular consumer goods. The particular finance that I do, residuals, is a niche field that’s found only in the entertainment industry.”

As Shannon explains it, residuals are royalties paid to the talent involved in the making of film and television shows, as these works are shown in any market or medium. Agreements are negotiated between the guilds and the studios; her department is tasked with making payments that these agreements stipulate.

Although the residuals side of the entertainment industry has always been opaque, that intricacy is actually growing. “The business is definitely becoming more complex with the addition of all the new media platforms,” she says. “When I started 10 years ago, TV and film had set windows for how and when products would be released in different markets, but now, with the introduction streaming and on demand platforms, these windows have completely shifted, if not disappeared altogether.”

Prior to joining Sony Pictures last year, Shannon spent seven years as a senior financial analyst with NBCUniversal, and was totally sold on a career Hollywood. “It’s very cool to be a part of this world, where I get to see behind-the-scenes of what it really takes to create film and television products,” she says. “It’s also pretty cool to take a walk at lunch on any given day and see a multitude of celebrities walking around, or see the sets being built or watching scenes get filmed.”

Shannon earned her undergraduate degree in economics from San Diego State University and then moved back to Burbank, her hometown. “When I decided to get my MBA, I wanted to go to a school that was close by, since I was working fulltime,” she explains. “I also wanted a school that could provide a more intimate learning experience, with smaller class sizes, than I had while at SDSU.”

But it was Dr. Satinder Dhiman who proved to have the biggest impact on her Woodbury experience. “Dr. Dhiman was probably the most influential to me,” Shannon recalls. “Through his courses, I learned about leadership and about working with others. These are skills that many people never grasp and may not even realize are necessary in life. Woodbury turned out to be a very good fit for me.”

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