The Project Contributors

Michael C. Donaldson has been an entertainment lawyer for more than thirty years. His practice focuses on theater and independent film. He is a past President of the International Documentary Association (IDA) and General Counsel to FIND Film Independent (formerly the Independent Feature Project/West) and Writers Guild of America/West Foundation. He wrote Negotiating for Dummies, which has sold nearly 200,000 copies in English and has been translated into nine languages. He also wrote Do It Yourself! Trademarks & Copyrights, 1995 which is in its third printing and Clearance & Copyright: Everything the Independent Filmmaker Needs to Know, published by Silman-James in 1997 which is used as a textbook in over 30 colleges and universities.

Carroll Anne Ellis is Director of Victim Services in Fairfax County, VA where she supervises and coordinates the mission and activities of victim services for the Fairfax County Police Department. For over 20 years she has headed a support group for homicide survivors in the Washington Metroplex and has considerable experience working with survivors that deal with the media impact of high profile murders in their families. She is the winner of Office for Victims of Crime, U.S. Department of Justice 2004 Crime Victims Service Award.

Ted F. Gerdes is the founder of GERDES LAW, a unique law firm specializing in preventative legal counsel: the clearance of content for television, film, Internet, literary works, multimedia and advertising. Initially a defense litigator for producers, studios, advertising agencies, errors and omission carriers and other content owners, he now consults with clients to minimize the risk of litigation. He has been a practicing attorney since 1981, has vetted and obtained life story rights for numerous books, scripts, films, television programming and tele-features. Mr. Gerdes’ expertise includes copyright, contract, trademark, libel, right of privacy and publicity. He has written numerous articles on the subject, some of which can be found at

Melissa Hook is a nationally recognized leader in the field of victim assistance in non-profit administration and program development, public policy development and collaborative initiatives that promote victims’ rights and services. She is a noted author, curriculum developer and editor on topics related to criminal and juvenile justice and offender reentry, crime victim assistance, organizational development, and professional ethics. She frequently collaborates with filmmakers in the development and production of documentary films. Ms. Hook is the Director of the Office of Victims Services, Executive Office of the Mayor in the District of Columbia.

Lisa F. Jackson has been making documentaries for almost 30 years. Her films have appeared on HBO, PBS, ABC, Court TV, NBC, TLC, MTV, A&E and The Hallmark Channel. They cover topics as varied as breast cancer, adoption, restorative justice and the Barbie doll. The Washington Post has praised her documentaries as “superb” and “outstanding,” New York Times commented that “producer/director Lisa F. Jackson is remarkably adept in getting her subjects to speak frankly and thoughtfully,” and the Christian Science Monitor noted that she takes on difficult subjects “with intelligence and courage.” These films have earned, among many other awards, three Emmy nominations, two Emmy awards and four Cine Golden Eagles.

Donna Kanter is a writer-producer-director and owner of the Kanter Company, Inc.  A team member who has launched 14 reality series, she directed the pilot, Rescue, 911 (CBS),  created FBI: The Untold Stories (ABC), and in 2005 wrote and directed two pilots: Inside The Yellow Line for Court TV, and Cold Case Cops for Discovery. She is executive producer/writer of her third Movie of The Week, Aftermath (CBS) and four seasons of Badge of Courage (Court TV).  A two-tie Emmy winner, Kanter is a member of the WGA, the DGA, and recipient of the AFI’s Directing Workshop For Women.  She has completed two terms as Governor, Writers Branch, of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and was just elected ATAS Treasurer for 2005-2007.

Terry Lawler is the Executive Director of New York Women in Film & Television. She is a Vice President of the Board of Directors of the New York Production Alliance and serves on the advisory committee of Reel New York, an independent film and video series broadcast on WNET/13. Previously, Lawler served as Director of Development and Production at Women Make Movies, and as National Director of Film and Videomakers Services at the American Film Institute. She has also worked as a media consultant for foundations and non-profit groups including the MacArthur Foundation, the Astraea Foundation, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and the Goethe Institute, among others. She has served as a production executive on several network television specials and was Executive Producer of Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography, which won Best Documentary awards from the American Society of Film Critics and the New York Film Critics Circle in 1992, and Hollywood Mavericks, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 1990.

Ellen Levin became a victim/survivor after the 1986 murder of her daughter Jennifer Levin in Central Park. Levin is an outspoken advocate for issues related to improving the news’ coverage of crime and victimization.

Dennis R. Reiff is President of D. R. Reiff & Associates, a full-service insurance brokerage firm founded in 1983, with a specialty in the placement and servicing of entertainment businesses. He is an expert broker of difficult intellectual property insurance, commonly known as errors and omission liability insurance.

Sandra Ruch is the Executive Director of the International Documentary Association (IDA) a nonprofit membership organization devoted to promoting nonfiction film and video. IDA supports the efforts of documentary filmmakers around the world and serves to increase public appreciation and demand for the art of the documentary. Prior to joining IDA, Ms. Ruch was Director of Cultural Programs and Promotions at Mobil Corporation for twelve years. She supervised the programming and advertising of Mobil Masterpiece Theatre, the longest running mini-series for PBS as well as Mobil Mystery Theater. Ruch’s extensive career spans nearly three decades and includes being Senior Vice President of marketing at Cinergi Pictures where she supervised and implemented the marketing campaign behind Disney’s EVITA; Media Consultant to Scholastic Inc. for entertainment based in-school programs; and Producer on Quicksilver Highway, a Movie of the Week for Fox Television.

J. Stephen Sheppard is a senior partner in the firm of Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams and Sheppard. He has spent nearly 40 years in the entertainment industry as a lawyer, agent and producer. He represents documentary filmmakers, production companies and news professionals, among others. Sheppard serves as business affairs consultant and legal counsel for a leading cable television network.

Jeffrey Tuchman is an award-winning documentary producer, director and writer with over 30 documentaries to his credit. His films have aired on cable and broadcast channels, including A&E, PBS, The History Channel, NHK, ABC, Discovery/TLC, Court TV, CBS, MSNBC and HBO. Recent works include Murder in The Quarter and Railroaded In Texas for Court TV and Voices Of Civil Rights for the History Channel.

Winnie Wong is Vice president of the Entertainment Division of DeWitt Stern Group (DSG), a national, full-service insurance broker. DSG has insured countless feature films, documentaries, television and cable shows from the planning stages to filming and wrap-up to post-production and distribution. Ms. Wong is an experienced entertainment insurance specialist well-versed in the business of film-making. Ms. Wong frequently addresses liability and clearance concerns related to use of crime victims in film and television.



Thank you to all the contributors who's expertise, time, and experience have made this project possible.



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