Jump to content


Photo

Suing your Cinematographer!

lawsuit e&o insurance liability errors omissions

  • Please log in to reply
17 replies to this topic

#1 Grant Perkins

Grant Perkins
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 19 posts
  • Student
  • Los Angeles

Posted 17 August 2018 - 04:18 AM

Wow...

 

I just sat through slew of films that had anywhere from 10 - 75(!) percent of the film that was out of focus :blink:.

 

A nightmare scenario for a low-budget producer (or any, I might add) would be to see that the dalies are unusable because they were just blurry. 

 

It didn't stop those intrepid producers (God bless 'em!) but the question now arises:

 

What aspect, if any, of insurance would cover such a gaff(er)?

 

E & O?

General Liability?

The completion bond?

 

Or does the production just "eat it" and move on?

 

Anyone have any experience with dealing with such an issue?


Edited by Grant Perkins, 17 August 2018 - 04:22 AM.

  • 0

#2 Brian Drysdale

Brian Drysdale
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 5298 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 17 August 2018 - 04:51 AM

That's why you hire experienced crew members.

 

If it's regularly out of focus it should have been spotted at an early stage, there are less excuses these days when you  can  see the camera output on a monitor, rather than waiting for the rushes from the film lab.

 

The traditional method would be to fire the 1st camera assistant during the production. Anything beyond the odd soft shot in the completed film would mean that due care and attention wasn't being paid.

 

I doubt you'd get insurance cover unless there was a camera/lens  fault on equipment that had been previously tested and found satisfactory, or perhaps a key scene has soft shots. Bur 10 - 75% wouldn't be covered due to crew "difficulties" ..   


  • 1

#3 Adrian Sierkowski

Adrian Sierkowski
  • Sustaining Members
  • 7496 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles, Ca

Posted 17 August 2018 - 10:32 AM

Were these student films?

 

Focus is down to the AC and the Cam Op.

Insurance wouldn't cover it, barring some strange situations, and even then, probably wouldn't.

The DoP may well be let go-- it depends on the reasons why it's soft-- perhaps the DoP isn't listening and is shooting WFO on lenses where they no longer properly focus? Bur yes, normally, the 1AC would be the first ot be dismissed (though really depends on the 1AC and their relationship with production).

I can't think of any film where 75% was soft (without using a filter) in it's final form.


  • 1

#4 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 20299 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 17 August 2018 - 10:39 AM

How could a producer sue a crew for an entire movie being out of focus?  The first thing that would come up is dailies -- "what did you do as producer when you first noticed that dailies were consistently soft?"

 

It also doesn't make much sense for 75% of a final movie to be out of focus when considering the cut only represents a small percentage of the total footage shot, and you assume that the best footage made it into the movie.


  • 1

#5 Bruce Greene

Bruce Greene
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 634 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 17 August 2018 - 12:13 PM

Twice in my career I've been refused payment for my services when the movie was out of focus.  Both times, the production supplied the focus puller.  And both times it was for steadicam work operated through a blurry video assist, so no focus confirmation was possible.

 

Actually this happened a third time, and the producer called me to say he wouldn't be paying as all my footage was out of focus.  This was a TV pilot for a major network.  Again, steadicam with low res video assist.  But this time, I owned the camera and was blamed.  I then loaded my camera and Steadicam into my truck and drove to the studio lot where they were filming.  I viewed all the dailies.  There was just one shot out of focus.  And it was a POV of the room with no actors in frame. (The remote focus had frozen on the slate setting)  So, I offered to go to the set and shoot the shot again by myself, no crew needed, no charge.  (they were shooting on a different stage).  The producer said no thanks, I want to strike the set...   And I did get paid, and ... the pilot wasn't picked up :)

 

On the film I'm working on now, in a foreign market, the contract they sent me had all kinds of clauses, in a language I don't really understand, that said that I would be responsible if anything went wrong.  Like a contractor building your house.  I kindly asked that those clauses be removed and they were.  But, I guess all the local DPs sign this thing :)  What DP can reimburse production for lost shooting days anyway?  (in this part of the world, there is no production insurance...)

 

Just my wacky experiences in the biz.  I hope it's interesting to some!


  • 1

#6 Grant Perkins

Grant Perkins
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 19 posts
  • Student
  • Los Angeles

Posted 17 August 2018 - 01:44 PM

Were these student films?

 

 

This was at a film festival.  So there may have been a couple of student films slipped in but I don't think so -- based on the age of crew & cast and the apparant budgets.

 

(I should note that this problem was not evident on the foreign films! :o )


  • 0

#7 Grant Perkins

Grant Perkins
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 19 posts
  • Student
  • Los Angeles

Posted 17 August 2018 - 01:55 PM

How could a producer sue a crew for an entire movie being out of focus?  The first thing that would come up is dailies -- "what did you do as producer when you first noticed that dailies were consistently soft?"

 

It also doesn't make much sense for 75% of a final movie to be out of focus when considering the cut only represents a small percentage of the total footage shot, and you assume that the best footage made it into the movie.

 

This were "film festival" films, so you can extrapolate what the constraints may hay been that forced the producer to use whatever was shot to deliver a product.

 

But besides firing people, can the producer recoop a days filming costs from the Cinematographers, I dunno, E & O insurance? Say if....that DP insisted on being paid as a company? And.... he supplied his own camera crew as part of that deal?


  • 0

#8 Brian Drysdale

Brian Drysdale
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 5298 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 17 August 2018 - 03:30 PM

Quite a few years ago, some parts of the BBC tried this with freelance camera crews being held responsible for things going wrong, even thing beyond their control. . It didn't last ;long,


  • 0

#9 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 20299 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 17 August 2018 - 06:50 PM

Doesnt the producer have an obligation to oversee his or her own production, look at dailies, solve problems as they happen, fire whoever needs to be fired? To make a crappy film and then turn around and sue the crew for how it turns out makes no sense.
  • 0

#10 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 20299 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 17 August 2018 - 06:53 PM

Again whether or not the DP supplied the camera and/or crew, unless this whole movie was shot over a weekend, as soon as the producer saw how poorly the footage was turning out, they should have fixed it long before shooting was completed. Thats why you have monitors, you have dailies, you have a script supervisor, you have an editor, etc. lots of eyes on the footage every day.
  • 0

#11 Robin R Probyn

Robin R Probyn
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 2421 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Tokyo

Posted 17 August 2018 - 07:11 PM

I think more the question should be.. can the DoP sue the producer for making a crappy film out of their rushes.. !


  • 0

#12 Adrian Sierkowski

Adrian Sierkowski
  • Sustaining Members
  • 7496 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles, Ca

Posted 17 August 2018 - 07:55 PM

It being film fests, and indie films, you have no idea the budgetary levels they were working under--- nor the skill of the crews therein. And yes, if you are the producer, you take and assume all risk; you can mitigate that, of course, but you get all risk and all reward from the movie and if you're not looking at the footage nightly and bringing up the problems to the crew, and working with them (up to and including letting them go) well then that's the producer's own fault.

I once had a producer complain to me about a lens flare. He didn't want to pay me over it (personally I liked it) to which I said to him (in front of the person who I think really had the problem with the flare) that he was literally right there next to me at the monitor looking at it, take after take, and didn't mention a thing.


  • 0

#13 Grant Perkins

Grant Perkins
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 19 posts
  • Student
  • Los Angeles

Posted 18 August 2018 - 05:04 AM

It being film fests, and indie films, you have no idea the budgetary levels they were working under--- nor the skill of the crews therein. And yes, if you are the producer, you take and assume all risk; you can mitigate that, of course, but you get all risk and all reward from the movie and if you're not looking at the footage nightly and bringing up the problems to the crew, and working with them (up to and including letting them go) well then that's the producer's own fault.

I once had a producer complain to me about a lens flare. He didn't want to pay me over it (personally I liked it) to which I said to him (in front of the person who I think really had the problem with the flare) that he was literally right there next to me at the monitor looking at it, take after take, and didn't mention a thing.

 

Right, and if a camera is damaged or lights or a generator, by anyone on the set, a claim is made against the producer's production insurance and (hopefully) the production continues. Producers carry insurance for such an event.

 

But what about when the film image is damaged? Whether it came out blurry or someone changed a reel incorrectly and exposed a reel(as happened on one of my student shoots!)?

Short films, indie films don't have the luxury of eating a days production, so I'm sure that why I saw so many mistakes in the final products -- it was either that or nothing.

 

But how does this play out with bigger ticket things like commercials and music videos that are typically shot in one day? If the next day the producer sees something wrong with the footage, how is that mitigaged? (With the particular scenario you described, was that on film or video? if film, would it even be possible to see that imperfection on the video monitor?)

 

Is it customary that at a cinematograher has insurance that covers such an event ? Or is this is a risk on any size or budget production  that there is no such insurance for?


  • 0

#14 Grant Perkins

Grant Perkins
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 19 posts
  • Student
  • Los Angeles

Posted 18 August 2018 - 05:08 AM

I think more the question should be.. can the DoP sue the producer for making a crappy film out of their rushes.. !

Ha! Well my question was to them, "What the @#$%&! were you thinking?!"

 

(Actually they weren't bad they just didn't look great -- and in L.A. looks are everything. They had "nice personalities". :rolleyes: )


  • 0

#15 Brian Drysdale

Brian Drysdale
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 5298 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 18 August 2018 - 05:26 AM

 

Is it customary that at a cinematograher has insurance that covers such an event ? Or is this is a risk on any size or budget production  that there is no such insurance for?

 

The cinematographer would or should (if freelance) have public liability insurance and insure their own equipment, anything to do with the production  is the producer's responsibility..


  • 0

#16 Robin R Probyn

Robin R Probyn
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 2421 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Tokyo

Posted 18 August 2018 - 09:04 AM

Ha! Well my question was to them, "What the @#$%&! were you thinking?!"

 

(Actually they weren't bad they just didn't look great -- and in L.A. looks are everything. They had "nice personalities". :rolleyes: )

 

Presuming these epics are shot on video cameras.. any focus puller can have the aptly named Small HD Focus 5 inch monitor for something like $500.. 800 nit daylight viewable  .. a small price to pay for in focus..even if a bit slow.. rushes.. the era of sleepless nights and morning calls to the labs should be a thing of the past..


  • 0

#17 Adrian Sierkowski

Adrian Sierkowski
  • Sustaining Members
  • 7496 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles, Ca

Posted 18 August 2018 - 10:25 AM

It really doesn't matter what happens with the footage on set, it's still ultimately the producers responsibility-- it all goes back to them. Crew may/should insure any kit the bring out on set, but if the AC mistakenly unloads the film wrong, and it's all exposed for the day-- well that still falls on the producer in the end. The AC may well be fired, or may  not; that's on the producer.

 

In my own case it was video though I've had my share of soft film shots, not whole films, but sometimes you miss by a few inches


  • 0

#18 AJ Young

AJ Young
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 188 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles, CA

Posted 13 September 2018 - 01:13 PM

Some recent blockbuster films have shots that were buzzed like MI: Fallout, La La Land, Interstellar, and even the modestly budged Blue Jasmine.

 

Was it impossible to re-shoot those shots? No, not at all. Did the studio see the dailies? I'm sure they were angry. However, the crew from all of those films are still regularly working and are at the top of the industry still.

 

On the flip side, there may be other takes that were tack sharp, but the best performance was the out of focus shot. A good director and producer know performance will always have more importance than a technical aspect like a slightly out of focus shot. (Scorsese, in an interview with AC for Hugo, said he embraces the accidents that happen with a camera)

 

---

 

I'm starting to realize that low budget DP's get a great deal of threats from a low budget production for out of focus, underexposed, or lack of coverage shots and etc because that producer or executive is feeling the pressure of a much bigger problem. The above films were still good and made a lot of money (they were a sure bet); low budget films that experience the same issue have more complications that come with the low budget world which can quickly make a film unsellable. Factor in the gamble an indie production takes selling an unknown film and it's clear why a DP can be an easy target for a low budget film's failure rather than the other multitude of mistakes from every department, top to bottom.

 

Nonetheless, as a DP you should always "dot your i's and cross your t's". If you know that take was out of focus, speak up. If you think you'll need more time, tell the producer in prep. You're always on the side of safety when the inevitable conversation of "Why did this happen?" comes up. As a department head, you're in a much better position if you've raised a concern when there was a problem rather than ignoring it.


  • 0



Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: lawsuit, e&o, insurance, liability, errors, omissions

New Pro Video - New and Used Equipment

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

rebotnix Technologies

FJS International, LLC

Willys Widgets

Rig Wheels Passport

The Slider

Visual Products

CineLab

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Metropolis Post

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Paralinx LLC

Tai Audio

Technodolly

Wooden Camera

Glidecam

Ritter Battery

CineTape

Aerial Filmworks

Abel Cine

Tai Audio

Glidecam

CineLab

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Rig Wheels Passport

Metropolis Post

Paralinx LLC

The Slider

Visual Products

FJS International, LLC

Willys Widgets

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Abel Cine

Technodolly

CineTape

New Pro Video - New and Used Equipment

Wooden Camera

Ritter Battery

Aerial Filmworks

rebotnix Technologies

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS