Sally Helppie is a graduate of the UCLA School of Law, where she was a Teaching Assistant, member of the national moot court team, Melvin Belli advocacy scholarship recipient and winner of the Distinguished Advocate award. She practices entertainment law and litigation.
Sally's entertainment law practice runs the gamut from representing very high-budget Hollywood productions to small independent producers, as well as individual writers, actors and financiers. She negotiates acquisitions and distribution, drafts a wide variety of financing documents, advises on insurance and bonds, addresses Guild and Union matters, handles copyright and trademark issues, performs script clearances, prepares production contracts, and litigates disputes. She has performed the legal work on such films as "The Tourist," starring Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp; "The Young Victoria," starring Emily Blunt; "Windsor," starring Barry Corbin, and Martin Scorsese's 3D feature, "Hugo," as well as on multiple other narrative and documentary films at all budget levels. Similarly, she has negotiated and drafted contracts for numerous television pilots and series, including Charlie Sheen's "Anger Management," "The Glee Project," "The Bachelor," "Children's Medical Center," "Texas 28," "Donna Decorates Dallas," "Texas Troubadours," and others.
Sally also is a seasoned trial attorney whose litigation work emphasizes contracts and business torts, trademark and copyright issues, employment litigation, real estate matters, mediation and arbitration. Her practice encompasses all aspects of commercial trials and appeals before the state and federal courts, as well as various arbitration panels. Sally has been lead counsel in literally hundreds of cases on behalf of Fortune 500 companies, smaller businesses and individuals. She has won many cases before juries in state and Federal courts, and has successfully represented parties at all levels of appeal. Her litigation background also has proved to be invaluable in negotiating and understanding complicated entertainment deals. Sally has consistently been rated AV® Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell (its highest rating) for both legal ability and ethical standards.
In addition to her legal work, Sally is an award-winning producer and CEO of Advocate Pictures, LLC, a full-service production company. Sally produced the 2008 action thriller, "Exit Speed," which enjoyed a platform U.S. theatrical run and wide release abroad; it screened on the Showtime Channel and TMC, and currently is available on DVD, Blu-Ray and digital platforms. The film, shot entirely in Texas, stars Lea Thompson ("Back to the Future," "Caroline in the City") and Fred Ward ("Tremors," "Sweet Home Alabama"). She also produced "Haunting at the Beacon," a supernatural chiller that won the top award for Best Feature Film at the 2009 Paranoia Film Festival and for which she was named Best Producer at the 2009 La Femme Film Festival. It had a small U.S. theatrical release, was presented on the Showtime Channel, and is available on DVD, Blu-Ray and digital platforms throughout the world. "Haunting at the Beacon" also was shot entirely in Texas and stars Teri Polo ("Meet the Parents" franchise, "The Fosters"), David Rees Snell ("The Shield," "Last Resort"), Michael Ironside ("Top Gun," "Terminator Salvation"), Elaine Hendrix ("The Parent Trap," "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll") and Emmy winner and SAG president Ken Howard ("The White Shadow," "Gray Gardens"). Sally produced "Beyond the Farthest Star," a family-friendly feature shot in Texas starring Renee O'Connor (perhaps best known as Gabrielle from the "Xena" series) and Dallas-based actor Todd Terry, which has been released theatrically in the United States. Her most recent film as producer is "9th Floor: Quest for the Ancient Relic," starring Nathalie Kelley from "Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift," along with well-known acting icons Robert Picardo ("Star Trek: Voyager") and Steve Railsback ("The Stunt Man," "Helter Skelter"), Tony-winner Gregory Jbara (CBS hit "Blue Bloods"), Texas native Jonny Cruz ("Missionary Man," "General Hospital") and Hallee Hirsh ("ER," "You've Got Mail"). Following an international release, it is now available on DVD, Video on Demand, and digital platforms. Sally currently is working on a feature-length documentary film based on a short regarding an educational program in her home state of Michigan.
Sally has been an Adjunct Professor in SMU's Meadows School of the Arts since 2011, where she teaches two semester-long courses: Film Producing and Media Career Preparation. In addition, she has been a guest lecturer at numerous colleges and law schools, including Texas A&M Law School, University of North Texas Law School, South Texas College of Law, KD College, Texas Christian University, and the Art Institute of Dallas.
Sally is a sought-after speaker and has presented at numerous events, including the Austin Film Festival, Entertainment Law Institute, Dallas International Film Festival, Christian Media Association, Dallas Screenwriters Association, El Paso Classic Film Festival, Women in Film, Entertainment Boot Camps, Creekview High School, and sections of the Dallas Bar and the State Bar of Texas.
Sally is the current Chair of the Texas Entertainment and Sports Law Section of the State Bar of Texas. She was the 2011 Chair of the Dallas Bar Association's Sports & Entertainment Law Section and currently serves on the Council. She is past Chair of the Dallas Bar Association's Business Litigation Section (which won the Section of the Year award under her leadership), and a past-chair of the Dallas Bar's Judicial Evaluation subcommittee. She has been selected for the Producers' Network at the Cannes Film Festival and is a member of the Texas Motion Picture Association, Women in Film-Dallas, and Dallas Producers Association. She serves on the board of directors for Tall Castle, Inc., a non-profit educational film corporation.
Areas of Practice
- Entertainment Law
- Commercial and Business Litigation
- Contracts and Business Torts
- Trademark and Copyright
- Real Estate
- Texas, 1985
- U.S. Supreme Court
- U.S. Court of Appeals 5th Circuit
- U.S. District Court Northern District of Texas
- U.S. District Court Eastern District of Texas
- University of California at Los Angeles School of Law, Los Angeles, California
- J.D., Doctor of Jurisprudence - 1985
- Honors: UCLA National Moot Court Team
- Honors: Elected to National Order of Barristers
- Honors: Teaching Assistant, Legal Research & Writing
- Honors: Melvin Belli Advocacy Scholarship Recipient
- Honors: Winner, Distinguished Advocate Award
- California State University, Northridge, California
- B.A., Bachelor of Arts summa cum laude - 1982
- Honors: Best Writer Award, Journalism Department
- Honors: National and State awards for speech, debate, and dramatic arts
- Honors: Kappa Tau Alpha Journalism Honor Society
- Major: Journalism
- Minor: Speech Communication
- University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan
- Adjunct Professor, SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, 2011—present, Film Producing course
- Adjunct Professor, SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, 2015—present, Media Career Preparation course
Past Employment Positions
- Bell Nunnally & Martin, PLLC, Partner
- Johnson & Gibbs, P.C. (f/k/a Johnson & Swanson), Partner and Associate
Selected Articles and Presentations
- Why Do I Need a Lawyer? Legal Panel, Dallas International Film Festival 2015
- It’s Only a Movie Legal Panel on ethics, State Bar of Texas Convention 2015
- The Works and Career of John Avildsen, SMU 2015
- Current Trends in Film and Television Finance, Entertainment Law Institute 2014
- Guilds and Unions in a Right to Work State, Entertainment Law Institute 2014
- Introduction to Entertainment Law: What To Know Before You Shoot, Christian Media Association National Convention 2014
- DIY Media Distribution: Eliminating the Middleman, Dallas Bar Association Headnotes 2014
- Making Money in a Digital Age, Dallas Bar Association Entertainment Law Boot Camp 2013
- Fifteen Minutes of Fame: Reality TV Shows, Dallas Bar Association Headnotes 2012
- Today’s Contract, Tomorrow’s Lawsuit: Entertainment Contracts from the Litigator’s Perspective, Entertainment Law Institute 2012
- So You Want To Be In Pictures: Does it pay to loan your property for a movie location? Dallas Bar Association Headnotes 2012
- Copyright Basics and Script Clearance, El Paso Classic Film Festival 2011
- Film Distribution for the Independent Producer: Strategies and Negotiations, Entertainment Law Institute 2010
- Coming to a theater near you: From Script to Screen, Dallas Bar Association Headnotes, 2010
- Add a Dash of Lawyer: A Recipe For Successful Film and Television Production, Boot Camp for Lawyers and Non-Lawyers 2010
- Overview of Entertainment Law for Paralegals in Texas, Dallas Paralegals Association 2010
- Financing Independent Film Productions, Entertainment Law Institute 2009
- Independent Film Production in Texas: Combining the Legal with the Creative, Dallas Bar Association 2008
- Litigation Ethics, Stromar Legal Education Seminar, 2001
- Updates on Evidence, Stromar Legal Education Seminar, 2000
- How to Present Financial Information at Trial, South Texas College of Law 1999
- Theming a Case for Trial, DBA Bench/Bar Conference 1999
Pro Bono Activities
- Board of Directors, Tall Castle, Inc.
- Champions of Wayne