Skip to main content

The Call Sheet – The American Bar Association’s Legal Guide to Independent Filmmaking


Michael Donaldson and Lisa Callif have co-written The American Bar Association’s Legal, which includes a very useful CD with all the contracts, everything creative professionals and the lawyers who represent them will need to know from script stage through screening—financing, copyright, hiring a staff, distribution deals, etc. The book also features case studies throughout each stage of the filmmaking process and boxed tips on how best to work with your lawyer. Thankfully, the book is written in language that even non-lawyers will understand. Although this is clearly written with Americans in mind, South Africans will be able to apply the principles.

The American Bar Association’s Legal Guide to Independent Filmmaking with The Amicus Award by The International Documentary Association, an honour bestowed only two others in the 25-year history of the awards: Steven Spielberg and John Hendricks, founder of The Discovery Channel.  Independent filmmaking is fraught with potential legal pitfalls: how do you get someone’s life rights? Or protect your script? When you’re actually hiring people, what do cast and crew contracts need to include? What about props and material releases? Michael has been fighting for independent filmmakers for over 30 years, working with industry icons like Oliver Stone, Davis Guggenheim and Lawrence Bender. He 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 also an acknowledged expert in 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.