Portrait of Corky Kessler on Fisher's campus

From first serving as a criminal prosecutor in Chicago to finding his calling as an entertainment lawyer, Hal “Corky” Kessler (BSBA ’71) has consistently leaned on the skills and principles he acquired as an undergraduate marketing student at Ohio State.

With a career in entertainment that has spanned more than 30 years, Kessler has significantly helped the industry grow in a number of ways. He has developed, packaged and executive produced more than 20 feature films; is a mainstay as a judge and panelist at top film festivals including Cannes, Sundance and Toronto; and assisted in the creation and implementation of sweeping federal tax incentives for film and television projects in the U.S. that were included in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

He spoke with Fisher to reminisce about his days at Ohio State and why he’s driven to give Fisher students the opportunity to be in the business that he loves.

You’re originally from Chicago. Why did you choose Ohio State for your undergraduate education?

I wanted to go to a school where I knew nobody; so I came here. I quickly realized that although there were more than 50,000 students at Ohio State at that time, the school was only as large as the people I came to know. So to me, this large institution really was only as large as 200 to 250 people.

How did you end up studying marketing?

I started out as an accounting major. I was pathetic. Then I switched to a focus on marketing, which helped me greatly in what I ended up doing as a career.

Corky Kessler and Mary Wilson
Corky Kessler and Mary Wilson, of The Supremes.
(Photo by Linda Carfagno)

How has that marketing background shaped your career, first as a criminal lawyer and then as an entertainment lawyer?

It provided me with a specific set of tools that I continually drew upon. I knew how to build marketing plans and pitch to a variety of clients, whether those were funding sources, distributors, talent or production companies. The business has changed greatly over the years, but those fundamentals were skills I always used. The film industry has been, and always will be, run on business principles.

What advice would you give to current students?

When students first get to a college, it’s usually the first time they’re away from home. It should be a place that gives you the opportunity to grow and to learn but to also have fun. There’s a lot of time in life to be serious and to work. I tell students all the time to find that healthy balance.

You’ve spoken in classrooms and hosted students at various film festivals. What’s your motivation for giving back?

I’m driven to give students the opportunity to be in the business that I love. We need good thinkers, whether that’s in finance or marketing or accounting, in this business. Anything I can do to help those students, I’m willing to do.

When you look back on your time as a Buckeye, what do you remember most fondly?

I had the best four years I could have ever had here. Every day was filled with great people and good experiences.

Corky Kessler (BSBA ’71)

  • Entertainment lawyer at Rubenstein Business Law in Chicago
  • 2019 recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Producers Choice Honors
  • Served as an opening night speaker at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival
  • Member of the selection committee for the Sundance Film Festival for 22 years
  • Co-executive produced The Sum of Us, starring Russell Crowe


I’m driven to give students the opportunity to be in the business that I love.

Corky Kessler (BSBA '71)Attorney, Rubenstein Business Law