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After more than 25 years as a
CPA at Sony Pictures and in the
entertainment industry, Irwin
Jacobson still wakes up every
morning anxious about what his
professional career might bring that
day. “I love the industry,” he says.
“The numbers part of it makes
it intellectually stimulating, and
the entertainment environment
surrounding it keeps it engaging.”
In his freshman year in college, Jacobson thought he would go
into marketing and advertising—until he mentioned the idea to
his grandmother. Her response?”
“Are you kidding? You need to do something practical. You need to be an accountant. Your name is Irwin, after all.
Taking grandma’s advice, he did some research and found that
accounting fit him quite nicely. But, to avoid the nerdy stereotypes of
accounting and find the sexy side of the profession, Jacobson honed his
accounting training to cater to the entertainment world.
Debits are debits and credits are credits—that never changes,”
he says. “But what you’re dealing with behind those numbers is the
exciting part and, for me, that’s entertainment.”
And there has been no shortage of exciting moments for Jacobson.
Under the guise of having to do a physical inventory on the set, he
climbed up the mast of Captain Hook’s ship when Steven Spielberg was
producing “Hook” at Sony Pictures Studios. “I got to watch Spielberg
direct,” he says. “That was like magic for me.”
He’s also met dozens of celebrities on the studio lot with the likes
of Geena Davis, Robert Duvall, Michael Keaton, Pamela Anderson
and Jason Priestley. “You never knew who you’re going to bump into
walking back from the parking structure to the office,” he says.
Off the studio lot, Jacobson also had the chance to affect change
with government agencies as a spokesperson for Sony.
“I went to Sacramento to argue about the way property taxes are
assessed on studios,” he says. “I also spoke in front of the California
Board of Equalization, and attended a fund-raising art show for Rick
Auerbach when he was running for county assessor. We wanted to make
sure our position was well understood. These are not things you would
think are normal course of business activities for an accountant, and it
provided added value for me.”
Jacobson’s 20-year career at Sony Pictures recently culminated,
and he served the past several years as vice president of finance and
controller for the studios. Today he’s on the hunt for the next adventure
in entertainment, and is trying to branch out into other entertainment
opportunities and broaden his résumé even further. And he knows his
CPA license will get him safely to his next destination.
“Having a CPA license pays off 10 times more than the effort it
takes to obtain it,” he says. “There’s a big difference between saying
you’re an accountant versus a certified public accountant. As a CPA,
you’ve earned a higher level of professional respect.”