Welcome to our new Member of the Month feature, where each month we’ll highlight one of IO’s fantastic member companies. This month, a Q&A with Hall Webber LLP.
How did your company get started?
In his role working as the first in-house lawyer for Atlantis Films during their start up days our founding partner Lon Hall connected with a lot of talented independent producers and creative entrepreneurs whom he realized were in desperate need of access to specialized but affordable legal services which were hard to come by at the time. So Lon seized the opportunity, leaving Atlantis to begin our firm in 1993, which was specifically geared to cater to the independent creative community. Our other managing partner Danny Webber joined the firm in 1999 after having also worked in-house in the business affairs and program acquisition department of what had by then become Alliance Atlantis Communications. Together we have now been serving creative entrepreneurs in the film, television, interactive, music, theatre, sports and other creative areas for nearly 20 years.
What problem are you currently trying to solve?
While rapidly advancing digital technologies and easy online access to a vast supply of content makes it very easy for anyone to try their hand at producing interactive projects, this also makes it pretty easy for producers to get themselves into trouble by not educating themselves properly or sometimes just willfully ignoring the distinction between what they can do legally (i.e. respecting current intellectual property laws) and what they can do technically. Our job is to try and connect with these producers early enough in the process so that we can help them to accomplish their creative goals without taking unnecessary legal risks. Our goal is not to put up roadblocks but rather to facilitate our clients being able to do their best work risk free. Many creative entrepreneurs are reluctant to contact a lawyer because they may be intimidated or concerned about the costs.
What are you most excited about in interactive digital media in Ontario right now?
One of our most innovative interactive digital media clients has made great strides towards making Virtual Reality technology more accessible and user friendly for producers to be able to incorporate into mainstream storytelling. So VR will soon be less of a novelty product utilized mostly in gaming and will become a tool for 360º dramatic and documentary filmmaking. Which creates new challenges for us lawyer as well since now we’ll have to worry about making sure our clients have cleared rights for everything in front of them AND behind them!
How has being an Interactive Ontario member benefited you?
As mentioned above, creative interactive entrepreneurs tend not to frequent in the same circles with us lawyers unless they are forced to, so being able to connect with this community through IO networking opportunities is very helpful to us. And ultimately we hope a great benefit to the producers we meet who end up taking advantage of using our services.
What aspect of Interactive Ontario has been the most valuable?
Part of our job is to anticipate and predict legal issues which may arise before they happen which means we have to stay on top of all of the trends and developments with respect to new technologies, business and financing models. The best way to do that (aside from reading a lot!) is to connect directly with the innovators who are on the front lines of these endeavors. And IO is a great way to do that.
What advice do you have for someone who’s just getting started in your field?
Try to meet as many people as you can without asking for anything and treat everyone you meet as if they may be the key to your next great success whether they appear to be in a position to help you out or not. You just never know where opportunities will arise from….
What’s next for your company?
Well we would definitely like to get MORE involved with the IO membership. The generation of traditional Canadian film and television producers has for the most part consolidated into just a handful of successful remaining companies who no longer need quite as much help from us. But there is a vast new world of creative and technical talent forging their way into the industry through interactive media projects and we intend to be there along for the ride with them. Just as we’ve been through every imaginable stage of development in the Canadian creative industries.