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.
Lisa A. Callif, Partner
Lisa Callif is an entertainment attorney whose primary focus is on representing independent producers in all aspects of creating their projects, including financing, development, production and distribution. She was recently named by the Daily Journal as one of the Top 50 Entertainment Attorneys in California (2015) as well as one of the Top 100 Women Lawyers (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 permit 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 He Named Me Malala, Boyhood, The Hunting Ground, Hello, My Name Is Doris (SXSW 2015, starring Sally Field), the CNN series The Sixties and The Seventies, Blackfish, 20 Feet From Stardom (Academy Award Winner 2014), Invisible War (Grand Jury Prize, Best Documentary, Sundance 2012), Inside Job (Academy Award winner 2011) and Insidious (from the producers of Paranormal Activity). Lisa has co-written two books with her law partner Michael Donaldson, Clearance and Copyright, 4th Edition and The American Bar Association’s Legal Guide to Independent Filmmaking.
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 investors.
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 has served as an adjunct professor at Southwestern and is 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 currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband Dustin, and their two sons, Diggy and Liam.
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, including co-drafting an amicus brief on behalf of documentary filmmaker Joe Berlinger in Chevron Corp. v. Berlinger in the Second Circuit; co-drafting an amicus brief of documentary filmmaker Lee Storey in Storey v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue in the United States Tax Court, and assisting the International Documentary Association on its submission to the Federal Trade Commission regarding net neutrality.
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 fair use and other production, distribution and clearance issues at UCLA, USC, UC Irvine, Cal 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 2015, Variety named Christopher one of “Hollywood’s New Leaders,” recognizing outstanding entertainment industry insiders in various categories. Christopher was one of eight honorees in Law & Finance.
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. After college, Christopher returned home to Los Angeles to work in marketing and membership development for the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO). 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, where he had the opportunity to participate in several legal assistance projects for the National Lawyers’ Guild, the AME Church, and Homeboy Industries in Boyle Heights. 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, where he worked on an array of cutting-edge entertainment, Internet, intellectual property and privacy issues.
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.
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.