Caitlin DiMotta (Credit: Lisa Anderson Photography)
Like some little girls, Caitlin DiMotta (IAA 96-98) wanted to be a ballerina when she grew up.
Unlike some girls, DiMotta achieved her goal—though it wasn’t her dancing that made the biggest influence on the world.
By the time she was 13 years old, DiMotta landed her first job with Ballet Idaho/Eugene Ballet. At the time, she was living in Boise, Idaho, with her parents, and dance was all she wanted to do.
“I wanted to get my GED and to just be done with school,” says DiMotta, now 35. “I thought, ‘I’m going to dance forever and school is dumb.’ ”
She got good grades at her local public school, but as soon as that bell rang, all thoughts of academics dissipated from her mind, and DiMotta became immersed in her dance world.
During a summer program in rural Idaho, she met Kay Braden, a choreographer, teacher and performer who also choreographed at the Interlochen Center for the Arts.
Braden introduced her to Sharon Randolph, director of the dance program at Interlochen, who convinced her that the academy would be a good compromise for DiMotta since it’s a rigorous mix of academics and arts.
“Two months later, I was on a plane, and my life changed,” DiMotta says.
DiMotta attended the Interlochen Arts Academy for her junior and senior years of high school, and it was the first time that she finally enjoyed her academics, where she thought about them as much as she did her dancing.
“I felt like the academics were so challenging, and I was finally engaged,” she says. “They were so satisfying.”
After graduating, DiMotta moved to Chicago, where the city embraced her strong body, which was the right look for its contemporary and modern dance movement, and she enjoyed being a freelance dancer there. She also started taking night and weekend classes at Columbia College Chicago for a self-designed liberal arts degree, even though she still thought she would dance forever.
“It didn’t occur to me to have a Plan B,” DiMotta says.
It was only when DiMotta was filling out 501(C)3 paperwork for a friend’s dance company that she began questioning her future.
“It took me three months, and maybe four separate free seminars from the [volunteer lawyer organization for the arts in Chicago] to do this,” she says. “I was frustrated one day, sitting in the coffee shop, trying to figure out what I was being asked for on the form. I said, ‘Someone has to go to law school.’”
It was a joke at the time, but that joke lingered in DiMotta’s head.
She had been through a long and rigorous arts education, she had signed hundreds of thousands of contracts, but she had no idea what she was signing.
“You’re trained in classical arts education to work for other people, but you don’t learn the business side, how to look over a rental for theater space,” she says. “The three of us were stumbling our way through because we didn’t know what we were doing.”
Then, when she was 22, DiMotta began having problems with her left hip joint.
The doctor told her that if she continued dancing, she’d need a hip replacement in about 5 years, or she could retire—and she’d be fine with physical therapy and Pilates.
“I remember thinking to myself, ‘I’m 22 years old, and I’m thinking about a hip replacement before 30,’ ” DiMotta says.
She started considering law school again. She already knew so much about artists’ fears. She knew what worried them. And so she signed up for a Kaplan course. About a month later, DiMotta took the LSAT and got a great score, and she was accepted into every law school to which she applied.
She was offered a full scholarship to the University of New Mexico School of Law, and she decided to go there, in part because her mother and sister had moved there. This was also the spot where she ended up meeting her husband, Duffy Boudreau.
Boudreau ended up hating law school, and decided to start writing screenplays (he is a writer for the IFC original series Documentary Now!).
“One of us should be an artist,” DiMotta says.
But she was never far from art, herself. The couple met Ed Brubaker, comic book writer and cartoonist known for writing Batman, Daredevil, Captain America and Catwoman.
Brubaker asked DiMotta to represent him so she could look over his contracts and make sure that everything was legit.
He soon began telling everyone he knew about DiMotta, who very quickly found herself becoming a comic book attorney.
“It’s a mishmash of traditional literary publishing and film exploitation,” she says. “It’s the wild west—there are no standards, and there are very few lawyers who did this work.”
It’s exactly where DiMotta wanted to be, though she didn’t realize it in the past.
Artists spend their lives creating something, be it a dance or a comic book, but they have no idea how to protect what they create.
“It’s really important that before you sign something, that you know what the consequences are,” she says. “I don’t think that most publishers or studios are out to exploit creators, but it’s not their job to protect them.”
DiMotta was a dancer. Now, she’s there to protect artists, and while she specializes in comic books, she loves the arts in general, and she represents actors, writers, directors, all artists.
“I say this from a place of absolute honesty: Between the lawyer, the manager and the agent, a good team is worth its weight in gold,” says DiMotta, who moved to Los Angeles last year with her husband and their baby girl. “Rely on your team to get you what you want while you focus on your craft.”