When the marketing team at Amazon Studios wanted to recreate the Carnegie Deli to mark the new season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, they turned to Colleen Hilton, ’07, for legal advice. Hilton, senior corporate counsel at Amazon Studios, oversees the legal team supporting the marketing, PR, licensing and merchandising, distribution, and other ancillary rights of Amazon’s original scripted and unscripted series and feature films.
While some of what Hilton does is “run of the mill” legal work—such as reviewing artwork, trailers, or social media content to ensure that it complies with a series or movie’s contractual and legal requirements—more often than not she is helping the marketing and PR teams execute ideas “that keep me on my toes.”
“Our goal is to support what the marketing and PR teams want to do in a way that doesn’t involve unnecessary risks and legally is done properly,” says Hilton, whose self-described passion for movies and television almost led to her becoming a film archivist.
Hilton says it’s rare that a marketing idea is given a hard no. “It’s more like, ‘pitch me your idea,’ and we’ll see if it needs to be changed,’” which is what happened with the Carnegie Deli promotion. Because The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is set in the 1950s, the marketing team wanted to sell sandwiches, pickles, and black-and-white cookies at that decade’s prices, which would have required setting up a retail restaurant and having to worry about taxes, Hilton noted. “Where we ended up was that they could advertise the prices, but when people went to get their food, to their surprise and delight, it was free. ‘Oh, it’s on Midge Maisel today.’”
As Amazon Studios continues to grow, so does Hilton’s work. “I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to take on new challenges, like our movies distribution,” says Hilton, who previously was business affairs counsel at Sony Network Entertainment. “The first year that I was here, we started getting opportunities to license some of our TV content in different places, including India, Japan, Europe, and Latin America, and I took that on. Then I took on the distribution of our movies in the United States and internationally. We also started growing our merchandise program for some of our series, and that work now falls under my umbrella. Then we started doing soundtracks for a lot of our shows and movies, so I support our music team on soundtracks.”
For the alternative-history show The Man in the High Castle, for instance, the marketing team wanted to create an online radio program called Resistance Radio that would complement the series. “As part of that, they wanted to produce a full album of 1960s songs covered by today’s artists, and they wanted to put on a concert with the artists at South by Southwest,” Hilton says. “They came to us with the idea in December or January, and South by Southwest was in March. I remember thinking, ‘What an amazing idea, but there’s no way we are going to make that happen.’ But we did, and it was great. I’m particularly proud of that one.”
And despite being able to attend movie screenings for free—one of her job perks—Hilton still prefers to pay to see a movie at the theater. “I love having that experience, so it’s absolutely a dream come true that I get to work on the projects that I do and to have a tiny part in something that I become a true fan of,” she says. “It’s so fun.”