William L. Whitacre was born and raised in Florida, attending Elementary and High School in Melbourne, on the Space Coast. After graduating from Melbourne High School in 1964 Bill attended the University of Florida, obtaining his BA in English LIterature in 1968. In 1969 Bill married his High School sweetheart Gay Gwin and with her help he earned his JD in Law from UF in 1971. Having been commissioned in the US Army while in law school, and completing a summer at Ft. Bragg's JFK Center in RECONDO training, Bill went on active duty in 1972, first serving in a NORAD assignment in Air Defense Artillery, and then after a branch transfer he became a member of the Army Judge Advocate General's Corps and had the honor of putting on his dress blues and celebrating its 200th Anniversary at a formal dining in at Ft. McNair in Washington. As a JAG Officer Bill represented the Army in Federal Court in constitutional and tax litigation, served as the Staff Judge Advocate of the 7th Transportation Group, and worked with Army CID as Post Magistrate for the Commander of USATCFE, the US Army Transportation Center at Ft. Eustis, Virginia.
Following his active duty Bill and his family moved to Orlando, Florida where he has practiced law since 1978. Bill's first position in Orlando was as an Assistant State Attorney for Robert Eagan in the 9th Judicial Circuit, where he was Chief of the Career Criminal Unit, the Chief Assistant State Attorney, and by special Court Order the Acting State Attorney during the State Attorney's absence from the 9th Circuit. As a prosecutor Bill was recognized for his innovative use of forensic odontology and anthropology in homicide cases and featured in True Detective magazine. Bill served as Legal Advisor to three Municipal Police Departments and organized and conducted several statewide task force events for the Governor of Florida on community police relations with representatives of law enforcement and local political leaders and also taught the use of forensic evidence in homicide prosecutions at the J. C. Stone Police Academy.
Upon leaving the State Attorney's Office Bill joined the commercial law firm of Ben Fishback, and undertook principal responsibility for all corporate administrative law matters and statewide litigation for ABC Liquors, Florida's oldest and largest fine wine and spirits merchant. Bill continued his commercial law and litigation practice with a series of partners in his own firm until joining the firm of Fenimore Cooper where Bill litigated multi-million dollar eminent domain cases for the Orange County Expressway Authority.
In the mid 1980's Bill formed Livingston & Whitacre with patent attorney Ed Livingston and began actively building his entertainment law practice. Bill joined the Florida Motion Picture and Television Association, served as its President, wrote a column for Jam Entertainment News, and participated actively in the Entertainment Art and Sports Law Section of the Florida Bar, writing for EASL, its statewide Section newsletter and participating as a panelist in Bar Approved Continuing Legal Education presentations.
Bill has maintained entertainment law and production offices on the back lots of the Disney/MGM Studios at Lake Buena Vista, FL, and in the Producer's Building at Universal Studios Orlando, during which time he represented and produced many feature films, earning a vested pension in the Directors Guild of America as a Production Manager, and acting as an Executive Producer, Principal Producer, Supervising Producer and/or Attorney with many different production companies including Pamplin Film Company, Haxan Films, Angel/Devil Productions, and First of May Film Company. His credits include films starring legendary Academy Award Winners Ernest Borgnine and Mickey Rooney. Bill's credits also include producing and/or representing films with Danny Glover, Tom Arnold, Joe DiMaggio, Ruby Dee, Ron Perlman, Linda Hamilton, Julie Harris, Michael Winslow, Amy Smart, Judd Nelson, and many others and liaison with many of the top entertainment agencies including William Morris, Creative Artists Agency, and Endeavor. Bill has also represented production company clients in Union and Guild signatory agreements with SAG/AFTRA, DGA, IATSE, and the Teamsters.
In 1998 Bill met the young principals of Haxan Films, Inc. who had just returned from filming The Blair Witch Project which went on to earn $140M in box office from its theatrical run in 1999 after receiving a $1M advance from its distributor Artisan following its debut at the Sundance Film Festival. Bill earned the screen credit as the attorney on The Blair Witch Project, and created a finishing funds financial offering to prepare the 35mm print and related costs for Sundance. Bill also successfully completed all of the delivery compliance to Artisan for the initial $1M advance to Haxan Films. Following BWP's theatrical run Bill continued to represent Haxan Films and its principals for the next fifteen years as its principal business and production counsel providing legal services for the television series Freakylinks, which still runs on Chiller, and for the feature motion pictures Say Yes Quickly, Altered, and Seventh Moon. Altered, produced in 2004 with private equity investment, received a multi-million dollar negative pickup advance payment from Focus Features, one of the principal releasing divisions of Universal Studios, following Bill's completion of the complex delivery compliance prior to the film's release.
In addition to providing legal representation to many film companies, Bill provides strategic services on a limited basis as a Producer and Supervising Producer through his company Makarios Production Services, Inc.
In addition to film, Bill has been fortunate to represent some of the most influential and highly regarded musicians in the world, including the legendary country and jazz guitarist "Sugarfoot" Hank Garland, who recorded in Nashville in the late 1950's with many of the top music artists of the time, including Elvis Presley. In music Bill has also represented the incredible bassist Jaco Pastorius, and has worked with some of the best producers in the business, including Tom Washington, and currently the multi-talented award winning musician, producer and composer Dale Oliver. Bill has also represented many indie record labels, including Cheetah Records, which he assisted Tom Reich and Michael Hampton, p/k/a D.J. Magic Mike in founding in the late 1980's. Cheetah's run as a prominent label included a Cash Box Indie Label of the Year Award, two RIAA certified Gold Albums, and one RIAA certified Platinum album, as well as the distinction of having four songs at the same time on Billboard's Heatseeker Chart. Bill's songwriter clients have included Nashville Songwriter Hall of Fame writer Bill Rice, who had many cuts with many major artists from the 1960s through the 1990's, including Elvis Presley. Bill is an ASCAP songwriter member, and an ASCAP and BMI Publisher through Wail & Moan Music, and Bail & Moan Music.
Bill's projects in development include feature films with budgets from under $1M up to $40M and feature animation and documentaries, as well as television programs ranging from weekly sports to a dramatic series. His clients include George X, the prominent MMA sportscaster, as well as the series Roxanne, being produced with Bill's partners Buck Allen and Steve Thompson in We Are All One Films, LLC and Mind the Gap, a visionary feature film being produced by Ilana Marks of The Umbrella Project.
Bill's current faith based projects in development include 33 The Story of Hope, a $20M feature based upon the Apostle Paul in which Bill is the Principal Producer with Kirk Berendes and Richard Hayes; The Narrow Road, a film version of the iconic Christian story Pilgrim's Progress being produced by Erik Yeager; and The Favorite, being produced by Pastor Daniel Bernard, based upon the inspiration of his son Luke's recovery from a near fatal car accident.
Bill (far right) at the Jacksonville Film FestivalIndependent Film and the Law Panel
Presented for the Entertainment Art and Sports Law Section of The Florida Bar
William L. "Bill" Whitacre was drawn to the arts at an early age. At the age of six Bill appeared on stage as the Minister in his First Grade Easter Play. While attending the University of Florida he participated in theater with the Florida Players. During his active duty with the US Army, Bill appeared in Army training films, and won the Best Actor award in the worldwide All Army Festival of the Performing Arts for his portrayal of Lennie in Of Mice and Men. Bill began performing as a musician in the 1960's. He is a singer/songwriter and plays guitar, mandolin and banjo. Bill began his entertainment law practice in the 1980's by representing his martial arts instructor Grandmaster Y.K. Kim in the production of the feature film Miami Connection. As an actor, musician, and performer Bill understands how important creativity is to his clients and to the entertainment industry worldwide. Bill has extensive experience in music, acting, litigation, commercial law, and the entertainment industry.
Currently Bill is a solo practitioner providing legal services in entertainment law through his firm William L. Whitacre & Associates, PA a Florida professional Association. He is a member of the Florida Bar and the Bar of the United States Supreme Court. He is applying for membership to the Tennessee Bar and hopes to be admitted in Summer 2015. Bill devotes personal attention to each client. When necessary he hires interns, paralegals, and others on a project by project basis and works with other attorneys as co-counsel outside Florida. Bill has lectured, taught, and presented at the following institutions and events:Valencia College, University of Central Florida, University of Florida Music Law Conference, Independent Feature Project Midwest in Chicago, Enzian Film Festival, Hollywood Film Festival, Jacksonville Film Festival, Sarasota Film Festival, Showbiz Expo LA in Beverly Hills, Showbiz Expo NY in New York City, and many others.
Bill serves on the Film Production Technology Advisory Committee of highly innovative and award-winning Valencia College and he is a frequent lecturer in the film program. Headed by visionary Producer and Director Ralph Clemente, Valencia's film department has a $2.5M film production equipment package and has been involved in the production of over 47 feature films in the last decade. Valencia's film department has been called "one of the best film programs in the country" by Hollywood great Steven Spielberg. Bill also lectures in the legal aspects of music production and serves on Valencia's Music and Sound Technology Advisory Committee. Bill provided entertainment law services to Music Technology Department Head Raul Valery, and his students, in the founding of the College's own completely student-run record company, FlatFoot Music.