Hollywood: The Write Way / Lisa Callif Talks LA Film Festival Move

Interview: Lisa Callif Talks LA Film Festival Move

With the successful kick off of the Los Angeles Film Festival in Downtown Los Angeles, I wanted to get to know more behind the festival’s move from Westwood to the city. So I spoke to entertainment attorney, Lisa Callif who negotiated the legalities for the move.

Let’s talk about the LA Film Festival because I am very intrigued with the work you have done for the move.

It has been a lot of fun! I’ve been working with Film Independent for five years and they are such a wonderful organization to work with. There were certainly some obstacles in the negotiation with AEG, but it was exciting because we were all interested in being downtown and having everything in one place. We are all really hopeful that the festival will be a success downtown and will continue to be centered at LA Live.

Can you explain the obstacles that you faced with negotiating this move?

It’s tough negotiating with a large company like AEG because they are typically so set in their ways. They generally have standard agreements for their concert and sporting events, and there is usually not much negotiation. However, since this is their first festival – their first event of this kind – they were really flexible in accommodating our needs, like with food… LA Live has so many fantastic restaurants, but nowhere to grab a sandwich. That’s a big concern, because there are going to be a lot of people who aren’t going to want to sit down and eat a $100 meal. Originally there was going to be no outside food, but after they realized that it could hurt the festival, this was amended so that there are kiosks and such. We all want this to be a successful festival, so it worked out at the end of the day. The other obstacle is always money. AEG already had sponsorships in basically every category. So it was interesting negotiating, in asking “What about the film festival sponsors?” So again, at the end of the day, it all worked out, actually more than we expected them to be. I don’t believe there were any sponsors that were lost.

You mentioned the food advantage but what are some other advantages to the move?

The nice thing is having everything under one roof – not only the theaters, but venues for parties, and reduced rates for the nearby hotels. In Westwood, it was sort of like this though many things were a few blocks apart and here everything is in one place. So it is quite exciting. There are events taking place at the Orpheum Theatre and there is a bit of branching out downtown, but for the most part it is all at LA Live.

Were the filmmakers involved at all in the move?

Well, the filmmakers didn’t really have a say in it but it was really done in the best interest for them since the festival is looking to expand each year.

So is the move in any aim to make it more like the Sundance Film Festival?

That’s an interesting question. Sundance is

 the festival where everyone wants the festival to be as popular as the successful films are. So in terms of it being successful and contained in one place, then sure.

What went behind your decision to move from working in the music industry to working in entertainment law, specifically independent film making early on?

I always wanted to be a lawyer and around age 14, I decided that I would be an entertainment lawyer. I originally thought that I wanted to represent the Cameron Diazes and Tom Cruises of the world. But when I was young, I fell into music with an internship at Jive Records. I ended up getting a job there and then took some time off before going to law school. Once I was at law school, I still had my sights on film and television. I didn’t want to do music because I felt television and film would be a better match. Then I met Michael C. Donaldson who had this practice representing independent film makers and theater. Having been here for 5 years and working with Michael, it has been so much fun. It is very rewarding. We are helping people create artistic products and do what they want to do and that feels good.

What were you shocked to find out about the industry?

The one thing that shocked me in a good way was how persistent artists can be. That is one of the reasons why I wanted to practice entertainment law. I am not a natural artist but I love being around the art. Seeing artists who don’t give up is always so wonderful to me.