Michael C. Donaldson, Partner

Michael C. Donaldson, Partner

Michael C. Donaldson is an entertainment attorney who has been fighting for independent filmmakers for over 30 years. In addition to working on films by such industry icons as Oliver Stone, Davis Guggenheim and Lawrence Bender, Michael serves as General Counsel to Film Independent (home of the Independent Spirit Awards and the Los Angeles Film Festival) and the Writers Guild Foundation. He is the industry’s go-to attorney for fair use (a doctrine in United States copyright law permitting limited use of copyrighted material without permission from the rights holders) and other clearance- and rights-related issues.

Some of Michael’s notable accomplishments include:

  • Being appointed to the Executive Committee of the Copyright Society of the USA.
  • Being honored as one of Hollywood Reporter’s Power Lawyers in 2010 and 2011.
  • Co-authoring with his partner The American Bar Association’s Legal Guide to Filmmaking.
  • Being honored with the Amicus Award by The International Documentary Association – an honor bestowed on only two others in the 25-year history of the awards: Steven Spielberg and John Hendricks (founder of the Discovery Channel).
  • Serving as one of the authors of the Documentary Filmmakers Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use and being the only attorney in private practice to serve on the drafting committee for the recently released Statement of Best Practices for Online Video.
  • Serving on the Advisory Committee of the Stanford Fair Use Project.
  • Successfully negotiating with Media Professional Insurance Company and Chubb Insurance Company to offer fair use riders on the E&O insurance policies, allowing many films to be made under the fair use doctrine.
  • Assisting in the drafting and lobbying for Orphan Works legislation.
  • Being the sole American attorney to assist in the drafting of the Rome Resolution of 2007 to harmonize Fair Use across the European Union.
  • Holding the position of President of the International Documentary Association.
  • Organizing and leading the Documentary Credits Coalition in negotiations with the cable networks to prevent the wholesale migration of credits from the screen to the Internet.
  • Contributing to The Film Foundation’s book entitled City Secrets: Movies.

Michael graduated from UC Berkeley School of Law, Boalt Hall in 1967. His book Clearance and Copyright, now in its third edition, is used in over 50 film schools and has become the standard industry reference book. Michael also wrote Negotiating for Dummies (now in its second edition and translated into eleven languages), Fearless Negotiating (published in hardback in 2007 by McGraw Hill) and The E-Z Legal Guide to Trademarks & Copyrights.

Michael has worked on such projects as “This Film is Not Yet Rated” (where all 134 clips were utilized under fair use), “Wanderlust” (saving its filmmaker over $400,000) and “Expelled” (which featured the song “Imagine,” prompting an unsuccessful law suit by Yoko Ono). Michael has also worked with the Geffen Playhouse and the REDCAT, as well as representing Center Theatre Group (Ahmanson Theatre, Mark Taper Forum and Kirk Douglas Theatre) for over twenty years.

Aside from lecturing frequently at law and film schools across the United States and in Europe, Michael is an avid skier, worldwide hiker and kayaker, and award-winning photographer. He also won a gold medal at the 1998 Senior Olympics for Parallel Bars and a silver medal on the rings. But what remains most important to Michael (in addition to his partner Tim Kittleson and his three daughters and three grandchildren) is his pro bono and philanthropic work.

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Lisa A. Callif, Partner

Lisa Callif is an entertainment attorney whose primary focus is on representing independent filmmakers in all aspects of their moviemaking, including financing, production and distribution. She was recently profiled in Hollywood Reporter’s Power Lawyer List as one of Hollywood’s Top 100 Attorneys (2016) and named by the Daily Journal as one of the Top 100 Women Lawyers in California (2016 & 2014).  She was also named by Variety as one of The Best and The Brightest (2011).  As part of her practice, Lisa does a significant amount of clearance work for documentaries, including rendering fair use opinion letters, which permits her clients to use limited amounts of unlicensed material in their films under the fair use doctrine as codified in US Copyright Law.

Lisa has recently rendered legal services on such films as Weiner (2016 Grand Jury Prize, Best Documentary, Sundance); 20 Feet From Stardom (2014 Academy Award and Film Independent Spirit Award Winner), Invisible War (2012 Film Independent Spirit Award Winner and Grand Jury Prize, Best Documentary, Sundance), Inside Job (2011 Academy Award winner), Insidious (from the producers of Paranormal Activity), How to Die In Oregon (2011 Grand Jury Prize, Best Documentary, Sundance), Waiting for Superman (2010), and The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers (2010 Academy Award nominee). Lisa co-wrote two books with her law partner Michael Donaldson: The American Bar Association’s Legal Guide to Independent Filmmaking and Clearance and Copyright, 4th Edition. She has written several articles about clearance issues and is often quoted in periodicals such as the Wall Street Journal, Variety, the Daily Journal and others.  Most recently, Lisa and her partner Michael, were featured on the cover of LA Lawyer magazine where they co-authored an article about fair use and its application in documentary films. 

In addition to her work with independent film, Lisa is one of the few attorneys in Los Angeles to represent live theaters.  Lisa represents the Ahmanson Theatre, the Mark Taper, the Geffen Playhouse and other Los Angeles based theater companies, as well as playwrights and composers.

Prior to working with her now-partner Michael Donaldson, Lisa spent four years at Proskauer Rose in the Litigation Department where she practiced general civil litigation, including entertainment matters, and specialized in SEC enforcement and white collar defense. While at Proskauer, Lisa represented national and international corporations as well as senior executives at both private and public companies.

After graduating summa cum laude from New York University with a BS in Communications, Lisa worked extensively in the music industry in New York and Los Angeles before enrolling in the Southwestern University School of Law. At Southwestern, Lisa received her J.D., made the Dean’s List, participated on the moot court team – where she placed first in both writing and oral advocacy in a national competition – and was a Lead Articles Editor on Southwestern’s Law Review. Additionally while in law school, Lisa wrote an article about online distribution of motion pictures, which was published by Hastings’ Communications and Entertainment Law Journal in 2000.

Lisa is an adjunct professor at Southwestern and a frequent speaker on panels sponsored by Film Independent, American Pavilion and UCLA (where she also teaches “legal basics” at the UCLA Summer Producer’s Workshop).

Lisa, also serves as counsel to the non-profit organizations:  Film Independent, the organization that produces the LA Film Festival and the Independent Spirit Awards; and Women In Film, whose mission is to promote gender parity in all aspects of media. Lisa lectures at UCLA, the International Documentary Association and Film Independent.  She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Dustin and her two children, Diggy and Liam. 

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Dean R. Cheley, Partner

Dean Cheley is an entertainment attorney who offers expertise in all areas of the entertainment industry, including structuring deals and negotiating contracts for individuals and corporations involved in the film and television industry.  He works with book authors, screen writers, performers, directors and producers, as well as institutions such as studios, networks, guilds and talent agencies.  Prior to joining the firm, Dean litigated numerous types of entertainment disputes, including copyright and trademark infringement, rights of publicity, breach of contract and partnership disputes.

Mr. Cheley received his law degree in 2006 from the University of California, Berkeley (Boalt Hall), where he was awarded the American Jurisprudence Award and was Executive Editor of The Berkeley Technology & Law Journal. While at law school, he interned at the Samuelson Intellectual Property Clinic, where he authored comments on behalf of media archives, filmmakers and libraries in response to a US Copyright Notice of Inquiry concerning orphan works and exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Prior to his career in law, Mr. Cheley worked as a producer and consultant for companies developing new media technologies, e-commerce, and branded entertainment.  He brings this experience to bear advising his clients with regard to copyright, trademark, licensing and other IP matters, as well as marketing and other promotional activities related to the entertainment industry.  Dean earned his bachelor’s degree from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in Digital & New Media Studies, an Interdisciplinary Program sponsored by faculty in the schools of Design, Film and Television and Communication.

Christopher L. Perez, Partner

Christopher Perez joined Donaldson & Callif, LLP in 2009 and became a partner in the firm in 2014. Christopher specializes in all aspects of the firm’s practice, including representing independent filmmakers through financing, production, rights clearance and distribution. Since joining the firm, Christopher has helped hundreds of productions secure the errors and omissions insurance policies necessary for distribution.

Christopher has also contributed to several of the firm’s advocacy projects.  Beginning in 2009, Christopher and Michael Donaldson successfully appealed to the U.S. Copyright Office to allow documentary filmmakers to secure an exemption from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) for extracting material from commercial DVDs for use in their documentary films under the doctrine of fair use. In 2012, Christopher and Michael were able to renew the exemption and expand access to online sources, and in 2015, they secured an even broader exemption for documentary filmmakers so they may access material from Blu-ray discs.

Christopher has lectured on production, distribution, financing and clearance issues at UCLA, USC Law, the USC School of Cinema, UC Irvine, Cal Arts, the School of Visual Arts, Columbia College of Chicago and other institutions. He has also lectured for members of the International Documentary Association and Film Independent and appeared on panels at various film festivals and the Producers Guild of America. Christopher has also written several op-ed pieces for the Daily Journal, LA Lawyer and Realscreen.

In 2016, Christopher, along with attorney Corey Field, led a four-day seminar on the U.S. entertainment industry for students of the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business in Beijing, China.  The seminar covered business and legal aspects of the U.S. film industry for Chinese media executives interested in entering the U.S. market.

Christopher has received the following honors and recognition:

  • Named one of “Hollywood’s New Leaders” by Variety, recognizing outstanding entertainment industry insiders in various categories. Christopher was one of eight honorees in Law & Finance.
  • Named in Variety’s 2016 Legal Impact – Up Next list for his clearance and fair use work on numerous films.
  • Selected for inclusion on the 2016 Southern California Super Lawyers Rising Stars list.
  • Named one of California Lawyer’s Attorneys of the Year in 2016 for his work with Michael Donaldson on an exemption to the DMCA for documentary filmmakers.

Christopher graduated from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor with a BA in American Studies and a minor in Film and Video Studies, where he produced, directed and wrote several student films. He studied law at the Gould School of Law at the University of Southern California. Christopher was Academic Chair of the Latino Law Students’ Association and an active member of the Public Interest Law Foundation. During law school, Christopher worked for California Lawyers for the Arts, Technicolor, and the Cyberlaw Clinic at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School.

Aside from his legal work, Christopher enjoys managing and playing for his soccer team Esquire FC. He is particularly proud of the Donaldson + Callif team that won first place at the 2015 Los Angeles Film and Entertainment Soccer Tournament (LAFEST) hosted by the LA Galaxy Foundation.

Christopher lives in Los Angeles with his wife Maria and his dog Bill Paxton.

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Marisa S. Kapust, Associate

Marisa Kapust joined Donaldson + Callif in 2013. With a passion for independent film, Marisa specializes in providing production legal services for independent narrative films and documentaries.  She also assists in all areas of the firm’s practice, including clearance work and fair use law.  Marisa has contributed to Michael Donaldson’s recent article, “Refuge from the Storm: A Fair Use Safe Harbor for Non-Fiction Works,” which appeared in the Spring 2012 Journal of the Copyright Society of the USA.

Marisa graduated from UCLA with a BA in Political Science and a minor in Theater.  After college, Marisa worked at International Creative Management (ICM) (now known as ICM Partners) in the motion picture talent and literary department, which inspired her enthusiasm for artist advocacy and representation that continues to motivate her today.

Marisa received her law degree in 2013 from the Gould School of Law at the University of Southern California, where she was awarded the American Jurisprudence Award and earned a Certificate in Entertainment Law.

Erez J. Rosenberg, Associate

Erez Rosenberg is an entertainment attorney who joined Donaldson + Callif in 2015.  Erez specializes in all areas of the firm’s entertainment law practice, including representing filmmakers in all stages of development, financing, production, rights clearance, and distribution.  

Erez graduated summa cum laude and with high distinction from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities with a B.A. in English, which honed his analytical skills and fostered his passion for writing.  While in college, he founded and managed Shining Star Volunteer Entertainers, LLC, a not-for-profit company which organized volunteer performances by artists and entertainers at charitable venues (such as community centers, nursing homes, and hospitals).

Erez received his law degree in 2015 from UCLA School of Law with a specialization in Entertainment, Media, and Intellectual Property Law.  In law school at UCLA, Erez was Editor-In-Chief of the premier entertainment law journal, the UCLA Entertainment Law Review.  Also while at UCLA, Erez served as President of the UCLA Jewish Law Students Association and as a representative of the Class of 2015 on the UCLA Student Bar Association.  Additionally, while in law school, Erez wrote a comment on the problem of orphan works in the digital age, which was published in the UCLA Entertainment Law Review. 

Erez worked at Donaldson + Callif during his second and third years of law school.  During that time, he contributed to drafting and editing the 4th Edition of Michael Donaldson and Lisa Callif’s Clearance and Copyright, which has become the bible for clearance and copyright issues in the entertainment industry.   

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Kate Serfoss, Associate

Kate Serfoss joined Donaldson + Callif in 2016. She works in all areas of the firm’s entertainment law practice, representing production and media companies in the motion picture, scripted and unscripted television and digital media industries, as well as representing producers, directors, writers and actors.  She guides clients through all stages of production, including rights acquisition, clearance, development, production and distribution. 

Kate received her B.A. in Art History and International Studies from Pepperdine University. Her experience in the art world and her studies of the political, legal, social, and economic factors that shape creative output inspired her to pursue a career in art and entertainment law.

Kate received her J.D. from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles where she concentrated in Entertainment and Digital Media Law. During that time, Kate volunteered for California Lawyers for the Arts and worked for leading media corporations, including Paramount Pictures, Viacom Media Networks, and Legendary Entertainment.

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Katy Alimohammadi, Associate

Kathryn Alimohammadi joined Donaldson & Callif, LLP in 2015.  Kathryn is an avid fan of independent filmmaking and specializes in representing filmmakers in all stages of their projects, including production legal services, rights clearance and distribution.  

After graduating summa cum laude from UCLA with a B.A. in History, Kathryn went on to receive her law degree in 2015 from UCLA School of Law.  While in law school, Kathryn was a managing editor for the UCLA Journal of Environmental Law and Policy and volunteered all three years for the UCLA Reentry Clinic, where she assisted people in the community in obtaining jobs and ensuring their employers followed existing anti-discrimination laws. 

Before coming to work at Donaldson & Callif during her second and third years of law school, Kathryn worked on the documentary film The Battered Bastards of Baseball (Netflix 2014), where she learned many of the intricacies of documentary filmmaking and was first introduced to the fair use doctrine.  Once at Donaldson & Callif, Kathryn contributed to Michael Donaldson and Lisa Callif’s book Clearance and Copyright, 4th Edition.