David Wardle (‘02): Navigating Law in La La Land

By Ashleigh Wilson April 12, 2023

Hollywood and the film industry aren’t all glitz and glamor. Behind the scenes are off-screen professionals like BYU Law alum David Wardle (‘02), who, as he describes, “bust kneecaps for a living,” making sure people stick to their commitments and actually deliver the incredible projects that we get to enjoy on the silver screen. Through his work in entertainment law, David is quite literally running the show. As the Senior Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs for Saban Films, David oversees all of Saban Films’ legal involvements, primarily dealing with contract law—the buying and selling of movie rights. While David emphasizes his love for the industry, he also stresses the importance of paying your dues when pursuing a career in entertainment. There might be long years of low wages, but if you work hard and hang in there, you eventually get to enjoy the fruits of your labor. 

The lights, camera, and action had always been enticing to David, but it was his great grandmother who inspired him to pursue a career in movie production. David’s great grandmother was a painter, who used her artistic talents as a vehicle for portraying her steadfast faith in God. Encouraged by her incredible example, David decided he wanted to bear a similar testimony through film. Navigating Hollywood as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a daunting task, but David insists that it is a necessary one. As he points out, we all have children and grandchildren who will consume content in the future. If people of faith don’t carve out a presence in the film industry, we are all at the mercy of those who might not have our own, or our children’s, best interests in mind. It was this hope of establishing an uplifting presence in the film industry that carried him through his rigorous education at BYU Law and the grueling early years of getting his foot in the door. 

Reflecting on his time at BYU Law, David cites three things that set him up for success, even in one of the most competitive industries: the people he met, the skillsets he acquired, and the incredible affordability of it all. As he describes, BYU Law cultivates an environment of incredible support and kindness, such that by the time you graduate, your small, tight-knit class feels like family. Additionally David emphasizes that BYU Law enabled him to take risks with his career that he wouldn’t have been able to take had he been saddled with debt from the high cost of legal education at another school. David appreciates BYU Law for not only keeping him in touch with those who helped him along the way, but also connecting him with current students who are looking for advice on how to navigate their educations and future careers. 

With the help of some of the connections made during his time at the Law School, and with the help of Law School alumni who welcomed David to Los Angeles through pro bono initiatives and other services opportunities, David has been able to build a network of BYU alumni in the entertainment industry. As David mentions, it’s very gratifying to help people in the industry find jobs and sell shows in such a competitive environment. Few people know that Brigham Young University has the second oldest film school in the country. David hopes that his efforts in building up the BYU presence in Los Angeles inspires others to join him in his mission of encouraging creative, uplifting, and thoughtful content creation.

Saban's "Power Rangers" Private Movie Screening at Saban Theatre on March 23, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Saban Brands)