WILLIAM L. WHITACRE
Clients utilize William L. Whitacre, Esquire of William L. Whitacre & Associates, PA, for independent film productions and music industry matters in the role of principal entertainment legal counsel for business structure, equity structure, development and production financial offerings, production legal services, distribution delivery compliance, artist development, music publishing and licensing, artist and label agreements, and related services including acting as an Executive, Supervising, and Principal Producer in film.
William L. Whitacre practices exclusively in entertainment law. His firm is Whitacre Entertainment Law, P.A. whose clients include international film and television producers, musical artists, independent music labels, and related companies and individuals. His practice consists of an exclusive base of principal clients with whom he is often a strategic and equity partner, and/or supervising producer. Mr. Whitacre’s screen credits for produced and distributed feature films include The Pamplin Film Company’s Hoover starring Ernest Borgnine (also Executive Producer); PFC’s Michael Winslow Live starring Michael Winslow (also Executive Producer); the Haxan Films feature films The Blair Witch Project; Altered; and Seventh Moon starring Amy Smart; The First of May (also Supervising Producer); Missing in America starring Danny Glover (also Associate Producer); Silver Wings and Civil Rights (also Supervising Producer); a feature documentary with many of the original Tuskegee Airmen, and winner of the Audience Award at the Miami International Film Festival and W.A.S.P. A Wartime Experiment in Wo-man Power which erarned a Regional Emmy in 2020. From 1992-1994 Mr. Whitacre’s firm was based at Disney/MGM in Orlando Florida, and from 1994-2008 he was based at Universal Studios Florida. He currently operates as a sole practitioner with a virtual office in Orlando, and based in East Tennessee, giving him the flexibility to travel and represent clients throughout the world.
Mr. Whitacre created the business and equity structures for Blair Witch Film Partners, LTD, the entity that sold the Blair Witch Project to Artisan Entertainment and earned theatrical box office gross of $140.5M in its record breaking 1999 release. He was also directly responsible for the final delivery of the film to Artisan that resulted in the first advance payment of $1M being released to the Producers prior to the film’s theatrical debut. Mr. Whitacre also provided all the business and equity structures for Probed, LLC and White Ape Pictures, LLC, and the production legal and distribution delivery services for the feature film Altered in 2006 to its distributor Rogue Pictures, a division of Universal’s Focus Features for a multi-million-dollar negative pick up advance payment greater than the production budget of the film.
EDUCATION AND BACKGROUND
Mr. Whitacre studied creative writing with Harry Crews’ mentor, Smith Kirkpatrick at the University of Florida while working on his BA in English Literature. He graduated from the University of Florida Law School with his Juris Doctor degree in December 1971. He entered the United States Army in 1972 and was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1973 while on active duty. During his 6 years of active duty U.S. Army service he celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps and the Bi-Centennial of the United States. Following service with the Army he moved to Orlando, Florida where he has practiced law full time since 1977.
Mr. Whitacre was an Assistant State Attorney in Florida from 1977 to 1981. He served as Chief Assistant State Attorney, and Acting State Attorney of the Ninth Judicial Circuit of Florida, with responsibility for liaison with the Office of the Governor of Florida on community law enforcement relations. During his tour with the State Attorney’s Office, Mr. Whitacre successfully prosecuted many high-profile homicide cases, gaining national attention on the Associated Press wire, and in other media for his innovative use of expert witnesses in the fields of forensic pathology, odontology and anthropology which he taught at the Orlando, Florida J. C. Stone Police Academy. His successful homicide prosecutions have been featured in True Detective magazine.
Mr. Whitacre has been a trial attorney and litigator for forty years. In his private practice he has represented ABC Liquors, the largest independent beer and wine merchant in the United States, and The Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority as primary trial counsel in multi-million-dollar litigation, together with Revlon, Neve, and many other corporations and organizations in both State and Federal court. In addition to the Florida Bar, he is admitted to the bar of the United States Supreme Court and in 2020 he registered to practice in Tennessee pending formal admission.
Mr. Whitacre has litigated Federal criminal and civil matters in Florida, Virginia, and Illinois. He was one of the founding participants in the Florida U.S. Middle District Court’s mediation program, acting as a sole mediator in non-binding summary evidentiary proceedings to assist counsel in reaching settlement without the necessity of trial in complex civil litigation. He has also successfully represented clients in binding arbitration proceedings under the rules and regulations of the American Arbitration Association and has participated in hundreds of civil mediation proceedings.
Music clients have included JACO PASTORIUS Grammy nominee with WEATHER REPORT; D.J. MAGIC MIKE “Father of Bass;” CHEETAH RECORDS (Four RIAA certified Gold Sales Awards, and one RIAA certified Platinum sales award); MUSCLE MIXES MUSIC Reebok’s Step Aerobics music provider; TOM WASHINGTON International Producer of Phenix Horns, the horn section for Earth Wind and Fire; BILL RICE, member Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, and Grammy nominated for the Mickey Gilley cut Here Comes the Hurt Again in the film Urban Cowboy; DALE OLIVER, Nashville producer of the Platinum Award winning Christian group Casting Crowns; HANK “SUGARFOOT” GARLAND Legendary Country and Jazz Guitarist who recorded extensively for and with Owen and Harold Bradley at the Hut in Nashville; FLATFOOT RECORDS an independent record label operation of Valencia State College in Orlando, FL; FUEL RECORDS, which recorded with Grammy winning producer ROCKWILDER and HILARY WILLIAMS, granddaughter of country music legend Hank Williams, and many others.
Music representation includes career development, personal management, business organization, copyright, artist contract formation and negotiation, music licensing, music publishing and administration, and distribution agreements with companies such as Warner/Atlantic, Polygram, CBS, INDI, SONY RED Distribution, and their international affiliates in Europe and Japan. Mr. Whitacre’s music affiliations include being an ASCAP and BMI music publisher through his company Wail & Moan Music. Mr. Whitacre has been a presenter in music law in the Pro Instructor Series and a performer in the Nashville Songwriters Festival. He is a guitarist and singer/songwriter, performing throughout the world at festivals and other venues, including the MerleFest Songwriter Lounge and Tut Taylor’s BMI Stage, and the Museum of Appalachia and has recorded guitar and contributed music law commentary for the internationally published Apple Training Series: Garage Band 09 and its earlier edition, both authored by composer Mary Plummer of InVision Digital and Media Arts located at Universal Studios Florida. In 2012, along with the three other co-founders of the Florida Music Food Initiative, Inc. Bill produced a double CD featuring twenty-two Florida singer songwriters who contributed songs calling attention to hunger and homelessness which was sold in concerts throughout the State to generate funds and conduct food drives for local food banks and for the Florida Coalition for the Homeless. Bill is also a founding Partner of On the Wall Music, Inc. a Tennessee Artist Development Company which regularly records new artists in Nashville at top studios with A-List session players and works directly with industry leading promotion and PR personnel including Jerry Duncan Promotions and Martha Moore of somuchMooremedia.
Television clients have included LAUREN CHAPIN (Father Knows Best); DANNY GURA (Hi Honey, I’m Home, Nickelodeon/ABC); DETECTIVE KATHY A. (Steven J. Cannell/Gross-Weston Productions and Hearst Entertainment); TOM SMITH (Roller Jam, TNT); VNN (Villages News Network); and The Boat Show (Speedvision). Mr. Whitacre was approved by Universal/USA Studios as principal production counsel for the remake of the television series In Search Of for his client ISO PRODUCTIONS, LLC (the principals of Haxan Films) and for the television series Freaky Links for his client FREAKYLINKS, INC.
Mr. Whitacre has been featured on NBC’s A Current Affair in the episode entitled Assault and BATtery. Television representation has included negotiation of option contracts on books and life stories for television Movies of the Week as well as development agreements, talent agreements and general production company services with principal broadcast networks and companies.
Film clients have included the following production companies and their feature films: PJK GROUP Miami Connection starring Grandmaster Y. K. Kim; A JOINT FILM VENTURE COMPANY Miami Beach Cops; SHO ENTERTAINMENT The First of May, starring Julie Harris, Mickey Rooney, and Joe DiMaggio; HAXAN FILMS, INC. The Blair Witch Project, grossing $140.5M in theatrical box office revenue and a 1999 Sundance and Cannes Film Festival Selection. Additional film clients include WHITE APE PICTURES, LLC Altered, released by Focus Features/Rouge Pictures through Universal in 2006; TREAT YOURSELF FILMS, INC. Florida City” BACK HOME PRODUCTIONS The Way Back Home with Julie Harris and Ruby Dee; HARVEST OF EMPIRE, LLC feature documentary entitled Harvest of Empire; ANGEL DEVIL PRODUCTIONS Missing in America with Danny Glover, Ron Perlman, and Linda Hamilton, shot in Vancouver, B.C.; the HAXAN FILMS feature shot in Hong Kong in Fall 2007, Seventh Moon starring Amy Smart; the award winning feature documentary film Voices from Mariel and the feature film produced in 2009 by ENDURE PICTURES, LLC entitled Endure starring Judd Nelson, with Tom Arnold and Joey Lauren Adams. Mr. Whitacre has a vested pension from the Director’s Guild of America (DGA) for his work as a Unit Production Manager in feature films.
Current projects in development in 20 include live action and animation film features and feature documentaries in various stages from development through distribution, with budgets ranging from under $1M to $35M.
Mr. Whitacre’s current Judeo/Christian faith-based film projects in development include 33 Hope, LLC, which has published the book Thirty Three The Story of Hope and is producing the feature film 33 Hope a compelling story about the Resurrection and the early foundations of Christianity.
Mr. Whitacre’s representation in film includes business and equity structuring, production contracts for talent, music, cast and crew, permitting, licensing, copyright, private placement film financing investment packages, distribution coordination with primary emphasis upon legal delivery requirements and acting as a Producer and Supervising Producer.
Mr. Whitacre has received the Orange County Bar Association’s Award of Excellence for his work as a Guardian ad Litem on behalf of abused and neglected children. As a stage actor his awards include Best Actor in the All Army Festival of the Performing Arts for his portrayal of Lennie in Mice and Men. He has appeared as the lead actor in many stage productions, and in the action film Apocalyptic: The Tsunami War, produced by Bryce DiCristofalo.
Mr. Whitacre’s awards also include recognition from Valencia College, Women in Film, and the Florida Motion Picture and Television Association for his contributions to educational programs. He has written for the Florida Bar’s Entertainment, Sports and Arts Law newsletter, EASL and has been a Panelist at multiple Entertainment Law Continuing Legal Education presentations for the Florida Bar. He has lectured and participated at major universities and colleges including The University of Florida, the University of Central Florida, Florida A & M University, and Valencia College, and as a panelist at many entertainment industry festivals and conferences, including the following: ShowBizExpo LA; ShowBizExpo NYC; IFP Midwest; The Hollywood Film Festival; Yale Film Society; The University of Florida Music Law Conference; The Jacksonville Film Festival (for the Florida Bar;) The Florida Film Festival; Knoxville Film Festival and The Sarasota Film Festival. In addition to “True Detective” Mr. Whitacre has also appeared in numerous print publications including Florida Today, The Orlando Sentinel, The St. Petersburg Times, and the Forbes Magazine 2000 Annual Investment Guide re investing in independent film.
Mr. Whitacre has been married for 51 years to his High School sweetheart Gaynell. He has two grown children and two grandchildren. Mr. Whitacre enjoys working with some of the best and most experienced creative people in the film and music industries worldwide.
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