Michael Donaldson and Lisa Callif Named Top Entertainment Lawyers by Daily Journal

The Daily Journal named partners Michael Donaldson and Lisa Callif as Top Entertainment Lawyers in 2015 for their success in representing independent filmmakers.

Michael has established himself in the entertainment industry for his understanding of the fair use doctrine, a once obscure topic. “Even copyright lawyers’ eyes would glaze over when it came up,” Michael admits. One major film that relied on Michael’s understanding of fair use, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, was denied clearance by major law firms for using a clip of John Lennon. When Michael stepped in and advised minor edits, the film was cleared and a lawsuit filed by Yoko Ono was dismissed. Last year, he assisted the producer of Los Angeles Plays Itself on how to make his film commercially available. “It’s one hundred percent clips. You never see the narrator. It’s a triumph for fair use.”

He adds, “We just plug away, enjoying our work. It is immensely satisfying to deal with filmmakers who have been told ‘No, no, no,’ and from us they hear a ‘yes.’”

One of Lisa’s strategies is to “know when to fade into the woodwork.” She used this strategy while working with indie director Alma Har’el for the documentary LoveTrue. After one of the men featured in the film experienced second thoughts on expressing intimate life details, Lisa was confident in the release the man signed early on in production. When the man needed to discuss the issue, Lisa said, “Having a lawyer present would have hurt that conversation. I helped Alma navigate the talk in advance. The best thing for me was to step back and coach the client. I found it necessary to rein her in a little bit before she and the man worked it out.”