Jump to content


Photo

Producer Question


  • Please log in to reply
16 replies to this topic

#1 Oliver Ojeil

Oliver Ojeil
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 74 posts
  • Director
  • Los Angeles

Posted 20 January 2006 - 08:31 PM

Eventhough this is a cinematography forum, I have a question if any of you guys could help..
If at some point a director was involved in a project with another party (private/individual) and he gets fired, does the things he worked on and created so far for the project are entitled his? In other words, can the responsible of the project keep using the name of the project that the director came up with, and the shots he shot/directed? keep in mind that from square one when the director came in, there was nothing on paper, all VERBAL agreements, so do we need to get him to sign off?
I just got hired to finish directing a feature documentary and wrap up the mess that he had left behind, and we're worried about the rights issue here.
Thanks

Edited by Oliver S, 20 January 2006 - 08:32 PM.

  • 0

#2 Alessandro Machi

Alessandro Machi
  • Sustaining Members
  • 3318 posts
  • Other
  • California

Posted 20 January 2006 - 11:58 PM


I just got hired to finish directing a feature documentary and wrap up the mess that he had left behind, and we're worried about the rights issue here.
Thanks


And now you know why such situations are contentious. Those that take over want to be seen as the hero saving the day while viewing the person who was fired as the "mess-maker". If it were me I'd want to get a reason put in writing as to why the person was fired or let go from the producer and then get an explanation from the director explaining why they think they were fired or let go, and then based on those two explanations, come up with a solution.

If nobody is willing to say what is going on in writing, it means the parties involved are posturing for the best possible position in a lawsuit that could possibly be avoided if everyone just communicated with each other.
  • 0

#3 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19769 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 21 January 2006 - 12:21 AM

This is one reason why these property rights issues are settled BEFORE you start working on something...

If the project contains his intellectual concepts, you should buy him off. If he put work into the project, he probably should get paid something. Start out by thinking what a fair offer would be to secure the rights, compensate him for his time, in exchange for getting him to relinquish any ownership claims in writing.
  • 0

#4 Robert Edge

Robert Edge
  • Sustaining Members
  • 401 posts
  • Other

Posted 21 January 2006 - 01:14 AM

The answer depends on whether you are working in a common law or civil law jurisdiction and what the full facts are.

Asking a bunch of cinematographers for their opinion on this is kind of like asking a lawyer for his advice on how to shoot a film.

I'd like to think that the average lawyer would have the sense to decline to tell a cinematographer over the telephone how to shoot a scene, unless, of course, he was a player in a Hollywood studio :)

Really. If this is a commissioned project, there is some point in the producer knowing his legal rights before negotiating. In fact, if it is commissioned, there should be a legal firm in place. If it isn't a commissioned project or otherwise of commercial value, then everybody should just grow up.
  • 0

#5 Sidney King

Sidney King
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 56 posts
  • Director

Posted 21 January 2006 - 02:27 AM

I second the motion to take any "legal" advice from a forum like this with a grain of salt. In my limited experience with these sort of intellectual property disputes, in GENERAL the person with the strongest ownership claim (in lieu of formal contracts, which it sounds like you don't have) is whoever is footing the bill. I.e, the producer.

However, even if this director is in a weak position legally (and he may actually have a quite strong position), David's advice to get him to formally relinquish any claim to ownership on the project is very sound. This is ESPECIALLY if you have any plans for distribution down the road.

Remember, before the film will be broadcast or distributed in just about any form, you have to secure E&O insurance (which is insurance to protect the film from a potential lawsuit; and like health insurance, you have to prove you don't need it before you can get it). I don't think any distributor or insurer will want to touch a project undergoing an intellectual ownership dispute or that has such a high potential for litigation.
  • 0

#6 Robert Edge

Robert Edge
  • Sustaining Members
  • 401 posts
  • Other

Posted 21 January 2006 - 03:06 AM

Four points:

First, without exception, the "legal advice" that I have read on this site has been expressed by people who think that the whole world works under the common law system and who are unaware of the fact that a good part of the world, including most of Europe and South America and parts of North America, work under a different system.

Secondly, the people who give such advice do not seem to be aware of the fact that there are local variations even within the common law.

THirdly, as a matter of common law in these circumstances, there is no difference between an oral (verbal) contract and a formal contract.

Fourthly, it is far from apparent from the sketchy facts that have been provided that this dispute has anything to do with the law, whether common or civil, on intellectual property. In fact, on the facts as described, the claim, if any, may be based on completely different principles.

Simon is asking for legal advice about a specific dispute rearding hazy facts that has come up in lord knows what jurisdiction.

Of course, if people want to ask for legal advice on the internet, and if others want to respond, that is their right. The one thing that I know is that no responsible second year law student, let alone practicing lawyer, would make some of the statements that have been made thus far in this thread.
  • 0

#7 Paul Bruening

Paul Bruening

    (deceased)

  • Sustaining Members
  • 2858 posts
  • Producer
  • Oxford, Mississippi

Posted 21 January 2006 - 04:25 AM

I wouldn't go near the project until all of the previous terms are settled by contract between the producer and previous director. This will take attorneys. These guys are right. You can sign into a pile of legal hassles on this one. Not that every deal goes sour, but when they do- Holy cow!
  • 0

#8 Brian Drysdale

Brian Drysdale
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 5070 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 21 January 2006 - 07:32 AM

I wouldn't go near the project until all of the previous terms are settled by contract between the producer and previous director. This will take attorneys. These guys are right. You can sign into a pile of legal hassles on this one. Not that every deal goes sour, but when they do- Holy cow!


I'd get an entertainment lawyer, this is a specialised area. Unfortunately, they tend to be both busy and expensive.

Our film commission insists on contracts for everyone working on the productions that they fund. It can be over kill at times, but it saves any problems down the line. Certainly people like directors and writers should always sign contracts because of the copyright.
  • 0

#9 Oliver Ojeil

Oliver Ojeil
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 74 posts
  • Director
  • Los Angeles

Posted 21 January 2006 - 01:11 PM

Thanks all for the thoughts out guys.
David, the director who got fired due to lack of artistic skill has been paid way over the top, probably three if not four times more than a normal director could have gotten in this situation, so he's well set down that end.
Alessandro, Alessandro! ma cosa stai dicendo? The guy was a mess from what I've seen on the screen, and the way he handeled the project. I was brought in to save the tons of cash these guys have allready put in, 60% of what he shot has to be re-shot anyway.

  • 0

#10 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19769 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 21 January 2006 - 01:43 PM

If he was just a director for hire, then there isn't really a legal issue for replacing him other than the professional question of whether he deserves co-directing credit depending on the percentage of his footage used (assuming there are no union issues). He doesn't own his footage if he didn't pay for it. It sounds like the real issue is ownership of the story, if he feels he is a co-author. Like everyone says, get a lawyer.

It seems common sense to begin any production (when real money starts to be spent) with written contracts.
  • 0

#11 Oliver Ojeil

Oliver Ojeil
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 74 posts
  • Director
  • Los Angeles

Posted 21 January 2006 - 02:30 PM

It seems common sense to begin any production (when real money starts to be spent) with written contracts.


Thats what I told the guys, especially considering the amount of money they spent on this thing.. it just puzzles me that there are ppl. out there with all this money, still lack the basics in this industry!
  • 0

#12 Sidney King

Sidney King
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 56 posts
  • Director

Posted 21 January 2006 - 03:49 PM

Well, in response to Mr. Edge, the original post from Oliver did say the director "created" certain "things," that the project "originated" with him, that he even came up with the title. These are all issues related to intellectual property that may have everything or absolutely nothing to do with how this particular case would be adjudicated or settled. Sure it's unclear, so what?

As far as I'm concerned anyone is welcome to call everyone else on the board legal idiots, but they're missing the point. Oliver is just asking around for some ideas and real-world experience from folks involved in this particular industry; I shared what little bit of (actual, not theoretical) experience I had in this area, as others have done. No one is pretending to be a lawyer, pretty much everyone has properly caveated their statements.

We're just sharing ideas and experiences, the whole point of a message board.
  • 0

#13 Dickson Sorensen

Dickson Sorensen
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 131 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 21 January 2006 - 04:34 PM

This is one reason why these property rights issues are settled BEFORE you start working on something...

If the project contains his intellectual concepts, you should buy him off. If he put work into the project, he probably should get paid something. Start out by thinking what a fair offer would be to secure the rights, compensate him for his time, in exchange for getting him to relinquish any ownership claims in writing.


It all boils down to the original director's contract with the producer. If this is a DGA project the guild must be notified before a director is replaced. If its not you should have your legal represenitive (could be done by an agent) secure a contract for you.
A good round of legal fees for all.
I heard it once that
The relationship between a producer and a director is thus:
Before the shoot the Producer holds a gun to the Director's head.
Once the shoot begins the Producer gives the gun to the Director who holds it to the head of the Producer.

Someone pulled the trigger.
  • 0

#14 Robert Edge

Robert Edge
  • Sustaining Members
  • 401 posts
  • Other

Posted 21 January 2006 - 06:30 PM

No one is pretending to be a lawyer...


Maybe I'm doing just that, except that I'm not pretending :)

I re-read my posts. I think that the imagery in the first one is actually kind of amusing. As for the second one, I think that I was being clear and concise in expressing myself and in saying that there are problems with some of the statements that have been made in this thread. I don't think that I called you a legal idiot.

Oliver,

Your producer should consult a lawyer. If that happens, the lawyer will get to the bottom of the facts and explain the producer's rights. I could tell you in some detail what I think the potential issues are here, but I'm not going to - the lawyer that gets consulted will have enough to do without having to answer questions from the producer about advice given over the internet on a second-hand, one-sided, half-baked set of facts, and based on a legal system that may or may not be applicable.

Perhaps there is a reason, but it is not clear to me why you are involved in this issue in the first place. You were not present when the original agreement was made, you were not present as the relationship deteriorated, you were not present when the relationship ended and you were not present when decisions were made about the consequences of terminating the relationship. Despite that, you are making highly critical statements on a public forum that is followed by people in the industry about another director. If I were in your shoes, I would not assume that I can do that, with impunity, simply by not identifying him or her by name. What do you suppose is going to happen if your predecessor is alerted to the existence of this thread?
  • 0

#15 Oliver Ojeil

Oliver Ojeil
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 74 posts
  • Director
  • Los Angeles

Posted 21 January 2006 - 07:34 PM

Maybe I'm doing just that, except that I'm not pretending :)

I re-read my posts. I think that the imagery in the first one is actually kind of amusing. As for the second one, I think that I was being clear and concise in expressing myself and in saying that there are problems with some of the statements that have been made in this thread. I don't think that I called you a legal idiot.

Oliver,

Your producer should consult a lawyer. If that happens, the lawyer will get to the bottom of the facts and explain the producer's rights. I could tell you in some detail what I think the potential issues are here, but I'm not going to - the lawyer that gets consulted will have enough to do without having to answer questions from the producer about advice given over the internet on a half-baked set of facts, and based on a legal system that may or may not be applicable.

Perhaps there is a reason, but it is not clear to me why you are involved in this issue in the first place. You were not present when the original agreement was made, you were not present as the relationship deteriorated, you were not present when the relationship ended and you were not present when decisions were made about the consequences of terminating the relationship. Despite that, you are making highly critical statements on a public forum that is followed by people in the industry about another director. If I were in your shoes, I would not assume that I can do that, with impunity, simply by not identifying him or her by name.


Dear Mr. R.Edge,

This was not the aim of this thread by any mean. I stated things the way they happened with utter objectivity. Now when I need advice on how to run personal things, I know now where to inquire and who to solicit, merely due to the forsaken ability when it comes to managing the grey substance, as the industry, thank God, lacks many maestros as such.
  • 0

#16 santo

santo
  • Guests

Posted 21 January 2006 - 08:22 PM

Verbal agreements in the film world aren't worth the air they're breathed on.
  • 0

#17 Sidney King

Sidney King
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 56 posts
  • Director

Posted 22 January 2006 - 07:13 PM

A pretty interesting case involving this issue is Kim Basinger and "Boxing Helena." She was sued by New Line (after the film flopped) for violating her verbal commitment to star in the film; she lost to the tune of $8M, and declared bankruptcy. She appealed and the decision was overturned. You can find some legal analysis of the case online if you fish around for it.
  • 0


Technodolly

rebotnix Technologies

Tai Audio

Abel Cine

Ritter Battery

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Glidecam

CineLab

Paralinx LLC

Rig Wheels Passport

FJS International, LLC

CineTape

Opal

Visual Products

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Metropolis Post

Willys Widgets

The Slider

Aerial Filmworks

Wooden Camera

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Visual Products

The Slider

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

CineTape

Ritter Battery

Glidecam

Tai Audio

rebotnix Technologies

Opal

Metropolis Post

Technodolly

FJS International, LLC

Willys Widgets

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

CineLab

Wooden Camera

Abel Cine

Paralinx LLC

Rig Wheels Passport

Aerial Filmworks