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 named to Variety’s 2019 Legal Impact Report.
- 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 fourth 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, trapeze flyer, 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.
Lisa A. Callif, Partner
As a founding partner of Donaldson + Callif, Lisa Callif is the go-to attorney for Hollywood’s most acclaimed independent producers of film, television and web-based content. Lisa supports clients in all aspects of project creation, including financing, production and distribution. Her extensive experience in clearance, fair use and copyright issues, along with her reputation for obtaining Errors & Omissions insurance for seemingly impossible projects, has earned the trust and loyalty of the industry’s top talent. She uses every legal tool at her disposal to cut through red tape for her clients, working tirelessly to preserve artists’ voices and allowing some of the decade’s most poignant, controversial and important stories to be told. For this work, Lisa has been consistently recognized in The Hollywood Reporter’s Power Lawyers list, Daily Journal’s Top Entertainment Lawyers list, and Variety’s Dealmakers Impact Report and Women’s Impact Report.
In addition to representing filmmakers, Lisa serves as counsel to nonprofit organizations, including Film Independent, which produces the Film Independent Spirit Awards, and Women in Film, whose mission is to promote gender parity in all aspects of media. Lisa is also one of the few attorneys in Los Angeles to represent live theaters, including the Ahmanson Theatre, Mark Taper Forum, Geffen Playhouse and Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, among others.
Along with Partner Michael Donaldson, Lisa has co-written two books: Clearance and Copyright, 4th Edition, and The American Bar Association’s Legal Guide to Independent Filmmaking — revered as the guiding principles for the film industry. She regularly publishes articles about emerging issues in entertainment and copyright law, and is often quoted in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Variety, Intellectual Property Magazine and more.
Lisa graduated summa cum laude from New York University with a B.S. in communications and worked in the music industry in New York and Los Angeles before obtaining her J.D. from Southwestern University School of Law. She previously served as an adjunct professor at Southwestern and is a frequent speaker at Film Independent, the International Documentary Association and UCLA, where she also teaches legal basics at the UCLA Summer Producer’s Workshop.
Lisa lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Dustin, and her two children, Diggy and Liam.
- Free Solo (2019 Best Documentary Oscar Winner)
- Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2019 Oscar nominee shortlist, 2018 Sundance premiere)
- Where’s My Roy Cohn? (2019 Sundance premiere)
- Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men (2019 Sundance premiere)
- David Crosby: Remember My Name (2019 Sundance premiere)
- Kailash (2018 Grand Jury Prize, Best Documentary, Sundance)
- Spielberg (2018 Emmy nominee)
- Eighth Grade (2018 Sundance premiere)
- The Price of Everything (2018 Sundance premiere)
- The Biggest Little Farm (2018 TIFF premiere, 2018 Telluride premiere)
- Gaga: Five Foot Two (2018 MTV Movie & TV Awards, Best Music Documentary)
- Jane Fonda: In Five Acts (2018 Traverse City Film Festival, Best U.S. Nonfiction Film)
- Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A Bad Boy Story (2018 MTV Movie & TV Awards nominee)
- Bisbee ’17 (2018 Sundance premiere)
- The Game Changers (2018 Sundance premiere)
- Under the Silver Lake (2018 Cannes premiere), The Defiant Ones (2017 Grammy winner, Best Music Film)
- Clive Davis: Soundtrack of Our Lives (2017 Critics’ Choice Documentary Award winner)
- CNN’s The Sixties, The Seventies, The Eighties, The Nineties and The 2000s (Emmy nominee)
- Making a Murderer series (2016 Emmy winner)
- Weiner (2016 Grand Jury Prize, Best Documentary, Sundance)
- He Named Me Malala (2015 Academy Award shortlist)
- 20 Feet From Stardom (2014 Academy Award and Film Independent Spirit Award winner)
- Boyhood (2014 Academy Award and Golden Globe Awards winner)
- Invisible War (2012 Film Independent Spirit Award Winner and Grand Jury Prize, Best Documentary, Sundance)
- Inside Job (2011 Academy Award winner)
- The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers (2010 Academy Award nominee)
Awards and Honors
- The Hollywood Reporter Power Lawyers (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019)
- Variety Women’s Impact Report (2018)
- Variety Dealmakers Impact Report (2017)
- Southern California Super Lawyers (2016 – 2019)
- U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” (2019)
- U.S. News – Best Lawyers® Business Edition (2017)
- Daily Journal Top Women Lawyers (2014, 2016)
- Daily Journal Top 50 Entertainment Lawyers (2015)
- Daily Journal Top Law Firm Boutique (2015)
- Variety The Best and the Brightest (2011)
Christopher L. Perez, Partner
Chris specializes in all aspects of the firm’s practice, including representing independent filmmakers through development, financing, production, rights clearance and distribution. He has helped hundreds of productions secure the E&O insurance necessary to distribute their films and has established himself as an advocate for artists’ rights. In addition to representing filmmakers, Chris serves as counsel to writers, podcast producers, radio personalities, museums and foundations, as well as Film Independent, which produces the Spirit Awards and supports independent filmmakers around the world.
Chris has lectured on production, distribution, financing, and clearance issues at the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business in Beijing, China, UCLA Producers Program, 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 has appeared on panels at various film festivals and the Producers Guild of America. Chris has also written several op-ed pieces for the Daily Journal, LA Lawyer and Realscreen.
Chris has also been a leader on several of the firm’s advocacy projects, including the landmark Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) exemptions secured for filmmakers in 2009, 2012, 2015 and 2018.
Chris 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 earned his Juris Doctorate at the USC Gould School of Law. Prior to working with Donaldson + Callif, Chris worked for California Lawyers for the Arts, Technicolor, and the Cyberlaw Clinic at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School.
Chris also sits on the Board of Directors for the International Documentary Association.
Awards and Honors
- Hollywood’s New Leaders – Variety, 2015
- Legal Impact Report – Variety, 2016, 2017, 2019
- Southern California Super Lawyers Rising Stars– 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019
- Attorney of the Year – California Lawyer, 2016
- Tiger King: Murder, Madness and Mayhem (dir. Rebecca Chaiklin and Eric Goode)
- The Last Dance (ESPN/Mandalay Sports Media)
- Bombshell (A24/BRON)
- Song to Song(dir. Terrence Malick)
- The Rolling Thunder Revue(dir. Martin Scorsese)
- Knock Down the House(dir. Rachel Lears)
- What’s My Name | Muhammad Ali(dir. Antoine Fuqua)
- Humans of New York(dir. Brandon Stanton)
- The Farewell(dir. Lulu Wang)
- Native Son(dir. Rashid Johnson)
- Shock and Awe(dir. Rob Reiner)
- Minding the Gap(dir. Bing Liu)
- The Front Runner(dir. Jason Reitman)
- Loving(dir. Jeff Nichols)
- Professor Marston and the Wonder Women(dir. Angela Robinson)
- Bernie(dir. Richard Linklater)
- Tabloid, American Dharma, The B-Side, The Unknown Known(dir. Errol Morris)
- 9.14 Pictures
- Associated Television International
- Big Beach Films
- Bungalow Entertainment
- Film Independent
- Granity Studios
- IP Corporation
- Live Nation
- Los Angeles Media Fund
- Mandalay Sports Media
- Motto Pictures
- Moxie Pictures
- National Comedy Center
- Pineapple Street Media
- Radical Media
- Story Syndicate
- The Ringer
- Turner Classic Movies
- Wavelength Productions
- XYZ Films
- Zipper Bros. Productions
Dale Nelson, Partner
Prior to joining the firm in 2019, Dale spent over 20 years as in-house counsel to Warner Bros., most recently as Vice President and Senior Intellectual Property Counsel. As a senior member of the Warner Bros. Intellectual Property Group, she handled a wide variety of domestic and international intellectual property law and transactional matters across all business divisions of the company, providing advice and managing resolution on rights disputes, clearance, distribution, marketing, production, enforcement, IP policy and legislative matters, and providing transactional drafting and negotiation for acquisitions, licensing, and vendor services relating to production, marketing and distribution. The intellectual properties she has managed include franchise properties (e.g., Harry Potter), new feature and television series, and library classics. Dale has a particular expertise in international laws relating to motion picture production and distribution, copyright, trademark, rights of publicity, moral rights, free speech and fair use. A frequent speaker and panelist on a wide range of intellectual property topics, Dale is eager and excited to contribute her expertise to the firm, particularly in the realm of independent films and documentaries.
Dale began her law practice as a litigation associate with Los Angeles based firm Lyon & Lyon, litigating trademark, copyright and patent cases, and prosecuting trademarks and copyrights for a varied industry client base including media clients.
Dale was raised in Green Bay, Wisconsin and is a long time Packer fan. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, her J.D. from the University of San Francisco School of Law, and was an extern to Justice Allen E. Broussard of the California Supreme Court. Her affiliations include AIPPI/AIPLA, of which she serves on the Standing Committee on Copyright and Treasurer of the US Chapter; Los Angeles Copyright Society; and Copyright Society of the USA. Dale is also a long-time supporter of the Western Center on Law and Poverty, of which she is a former board member and current Development Committee Member.
Julie M. Philips, Partner
Julie M. Philips joined Donaldson + Callif in 2019 to lead the firm’s production legal practice. With over 20 years of experience in her own practice, following 11 years with the Bloom Hergott firm working with such A-list clients as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, John Hughes, Bruce Willis and Kim Basinger, Julie has established a loyal roster of clients for whom she provides business affairs and legal services in all aspects of production, including A24, Scott Rudin Productions, IAC Films and Netflix. Julie’s high-level experience as an advocate for artists and production companies gives her a unique understanding of the objectives of all parties to any negotiation. Her work includes negotiating and documenting financing and distribution agreements, above- and below-the-line employment agreements, rights acquisitions, location and facilities agreements, and clearances and releases, including complex arrangements for the acquisition of adaptation and remake rights in the works of world-renowned playrights (e.g., Tom Stoppard) and international filmmakers (e.g., Akira Kurosawa). Representative of recent projects for which Julie has successfully negotiated the major production-related agreements are Uncut Gems, Macbeth, Lady Bird, Sergio, The Humans, The Kissing Booth 2 and 3, Triple Frontier, Eighth Grade and The Meyerowitz Stories.
A native New Yorker, Julie earned her undergraduate degree with honors in political science and economics from Skidmore College in New York, and her J.D. from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. Julie lives in Los Angeles with her twins, Rachel and Ben.
Star Mishkel Tyner, Associate
Star joined Donaldson + Callif in 2019. Star’s practice focuses on all aspects of development, financing, production and distribution for narrative and documentary feature films and scripted and unscripted television series.
Star graduated from the University of Southern California School of Law, where she served as the Senior Editor of the Southern California Review of Law and Social Justice, which also published her law review note. Star obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Chicago, graduating with distinctions including highest Academic Honors in the Humanities and the Dean’s List for her four years in college.
Prior to joining Donaldson + Callif, Star was senior associate at Gray Krauss Sandler Des Rochers, where she served as production counsel on numerous award-winning independent feature films and television series. In a previous life, Star was a securities litigator, prosecuting securities class actions against notable companies and individuals like Petrobras and Martin Shkreli.
Star interviews prospective college candidates for her alma mater, serving as a long-time member of the University of Chicago’s Alumni Schools Committee. She is also an avid traveler, mom to two future standup comedians, and a film producer in her spare time.
- All Day and a Night (dir. Joe Robert Cole)
- All Square (dir. John Hyams)
- American Factory (dir. Steven Bognar & Julie Reichert)
- Assassination Nation (dir. Sam Levinson)
- Disney + Family Sundays (dir. Justin Rae Barnes)
- Hala (dir. Minhal Baig)
- Light of My Life (dir. Casey Affleck)
- Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (dir. Angela Robinson)
- The Rental (dir. Dave Franco)
- What Would Diplo Do? (dir. Brandon Dermer)
- Altimeter Films
- Concordia Studio
- Zipper Bros. Productions
Nick S. Marell, Associate
Nick joined Donaldson + Callif in 2019. Nick brings years of entertainment legal and business affairs experience to Donaldson + Callif. Prior to joining the firm, the Florida native practiced for five years in Lionsgate’s Television Business and Legal Affairs department. At Lionsgate, he counseled the studio throughout the development and production of scripted and unscripted television projects across a wide array of distributors and ever-changing business models.
Nick began his career working on sets as a production coordinator and line producer. This first-hand experience gives him a unique perspective on the work of the firm’s clients. From there, Nick dug deeper into the independent side of the entertainment industry as part of the film and television company Amasia. Nick’s range of experience offers him the flexibility, insight, and perspective to help each of his clients produce their projects.
A graduate of George Washington University, with a B.A. in Political Communications (and a member of Phi Beta Kappa), Nick graduated from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.
Nick lives with his wife Sherry Levine in Studio City.
Katy R. Alimohammadi, Associate
Katy Alimohammadi joined Donaldson + Callif, LLP in 2014. Katy 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, Katy went on to receive her law degree in 2015 from UCLA School of Law. While in law school, Katy 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, Katy 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, Katy contributed to Michael Donaldson and Lisa Callif’s book Clearance and Copyright, 4th Edition.
Alexandre M. Yousefzadeh, Associate
Alex Yousefzadeh joined the team at Donaldson + Callif in 2015. He works in all areas of the firm’s entertainment and media law practice, advising clients through the various stages of corporate structuring, development, financing, production, rights acquisition, clearance, and distribution.
Alex received his B.A. from New York University’s Gallatin School in 2012, in the interdisciplinary study of medicine, psychology, and media. After his time at NYU, Alex moved back to Los Angeles and enrolled in the Southwestern University School of Law, where he focused on intellectual property law and practical entertainment courses.
Before receiving his J.D. from Southwestern in 2016, Alex worked at Donaldson + Callif as an intern and law clerk, where he assisted the firm’s partners with research and clearance projects, familiarizing himself with the fair use doctrine. As a law clerk, Alex also devised several guides to assist Donaldson + Callif’s clients to locate rights-holders of copyrighted materials, bridging the gap posed by the lack of orphan works legislation in the United States.
Jonathan Fisher, Associate
Jonathan joined Donaldson + Callif in 2019. Jonathan works in all aspects of the firm’s practice, including representing filmmakers and media companies through the various stages of production including development, rights acquisition, clearance, and distribution.
Prior to joining the firm, Jonathan was in-house counsel at Beachbody (the world’s largest at-home fitness company), where he was responsible for all aspects of production for their premium digital content. This included the development and execution of fully involved requirements for new productions and negotiating partnership deals with large technology vendors for their streaming platform (VOD, SaaS, Cloud, and IT service agreements).
Jonathan graduated from Florida State University with a B.A. in Political Science and, during that time, was also an active member of the FSU Marching Chiefs and Student Life Cinema. Following his undergraduate degree, Jonathan attended Quinnipiac University School of Law in Connecticut and was a member of the Civil Justice Clinic and a law clerk at the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities. He pursued his passion for media law through his membership with the Sports and Entertainment Law Society and in his third year of law school, was the sole law clerk at ESPN. He received his Juris Doctorate in 2015 with an emphasis and honors in Intellectual Property Law.
Jonathan is driven by a lifelong devotion to the craft of storytelling, and has dedicated his career to the support and protection of that creative expression.
Megan A. Smallen, Associate
Megan Smallen joined Donaldson + Callif in 2018. She works in all areas of the firm’s entertainment and media law practice and helps clients navigate through the various stages of production including development, rights acquisition, clearance, and distribution.
Megan’s passion for entertainment led her to enroll at Loyola Marymount University where she received a B.A. in Film and Television Production. While at LMU, Megan produced several student films and studied all aspects of filmmaking including screenwriting, directing, producing, cinematography, and sound design. In 2012, Megan participated in the School of Film and Television International Documentary Program in Bonn, Germany where she made a short documentary film and developed a strong appreciation for independent filmmaking.
After graduating summa cum laude from LMU in 2014, Megan graduated cum laude from Southwestern University School of Law where she earned her J.D. While at Southwestern, Megan focused her studies on entertainment and intellectual property law by taking courses in copyright and intellectual property licensing and participating in the Southwestern Entertainment and the Arts Legal Clinic. In addition to her coursework, Megan published an article on the DMCA notice and takedown procedures as an Associate Editor of the Southwestern Law Review and gained exposure to many aspects of entertainment law through her internships at Fox Networks Group, William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, Marvel Studios, IMAX Corporation, NBCUniversal, and Donaldson + Callif.