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Beware Filmmakers - I think this is a rip-off


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#1 Jim Feldspar

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Posted 16 June 2007 - 08:47 AM

I heard about the local PBS station offering a $2000.00 grant to support the making
of a 3 minute short that PBS might include in Ken Burns "War".

Now two thousand bucks is nice but look at the last requirement on the eligiblity
list below,

"grant WGBH all right, title and interest, including the copyright, in and to the short
produced with the grant"


I say the hell with them. I'd sign something to let them show it all they want and to
show it first and to show it exclusively for a year but the copyright?

What if I thought
of a way to expand it into a feature or develop something from my short?

Public television. Everybody calls the people involved liberals and lefties but this looks
like a grant from HUAC!


This is from lab.wgbh.org. the site with the info. for the $2000.00 grant from
WGBH in Boston:


Eligibility

Almost anyone with a good idea and the gumption to execute a video short may apply to the Lab's Open Call. You must be a legal resident of the United States and be at least eighteen years of age to apply.

Employees of WGBH are not eligible to enter. All entries submitted become the property of WGBH and will not be returned or acknowledged.

If selected to receive a grant you must complete, sign, and return a Producer Services Agreement and:

comply with all independent contractor criteria of WGBH including completing all independent contractor status verification paperwork required by WGBH (e.g. Taxpayer I.D. Number for Business). Failure to do so will disqualify you from becoming a grant recipient

be available to produce the short during a four week period beginning on or around 7/10/07 and ending no later than 8/17/07

not become an employee of or provide other services to WGBH prior to December 31, 2007

if deemed necessary by WGBH, obtain a fiscal agent

certify that the completed work is original, and no other person or entity holds rights to the entry

certify that the completed work has had no prior cable, network or public television broadcast in the US

grant WGBH all right, title and interest, including the copyright, in and to the short produced with the grant

Edited by Jim Feldspar, 16 June 2007 - 08:49 AM.

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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 16 June 2007 - 10:24 AM

This is not unusual. People who pay for a production often have ownership and even copyright -- film schools, for example, do this when they pay for a student's production. The student doesn't own the work.

WGBH is giving you money and exposure -- they should get something in return for their investment. They also don't want to be dealing with re-licencing the short from you every time they want to show it.
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#3 Jim Feldspar

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Posted 16 June 2007 - 02:41 PM

This is not unusual. People who pay for a production often have ownership and even copyright -- film schools, for example, do this when they pay for a student's production. The student doesn't own the work.

WGBH is giving you money and exposure -- they should get something in return for their investment. They also don't want to be dealing with re-licencing the short from you every time they want to show it.



I understand that there's a trade-off.For example, some scientists work for pharmaceutical companies and
get
labs and equipment and research funds that otherwise they would never get. They may get a good salary but
if they discover a drug that makes billions, they won't necesarily get a cut of that. However, without the job
at the drug company they would maybe never have achieved that scientific success and contribution to
society
(and to the company's bank account,) That's part of the deal though, because the pharmaceutical companies
spend hundreds of millions, if not billions, on other projects that don't work and the companies don't recover
that money.

You make good points in this case.

Possibly too, if a filmmaker did find a way to expand his idea from a three
minute short into something much bigger, WGBH might not stand in the way. Their project is done so after
some time such a spin-off might not hurt them and maybe all they would want is a credit.

I guess it's just that yielding total ownership that troubles me. It's probably a lot easier for WGBH than
working out the individual negotiated conditions of a bunch of filmmakers that may never come into play
anyway, and exposure on a Ken Burns film could help launch somebody's career so it might well be worth it.


This morning I saw a rerun of "Dinner for Five" in which Jon Favreau talks to filmmakers and actors. In
this show, Frank Darabont noted how the Writers Guild of America gave up, as prcatically its first action,
the writers ownerships of copyright to the studios. I'm sure that that there are complex issues here but
everybody on the show did have a bit of a chuckle at a union becoming established and then giving up so
much.

I guess that the WGBH requirements remind me of other contracts that contain provisions that protect the
heck out of the producer and although they might never be exercised, they do mean that a filmmaker
who signs such an agreement is agreeing to at least the possibility of an extreme trade-off.


I guess if you have a hit record but you don't get any of the money and yet it launches your career, then
maybe it's worth it.
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#4 Bryan Darling

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Posted 16 June 2007 - 02:53 PM

Well look at it this way, if your piece isn't accepted then you can do with at you please. Also, where some might not want to do it because they feel they are being slighted, there will be plenty, plenty, more that will and one of those will have their piece accepted, shown, and noticed by many viewers and others. I think that is worth giving up a little piece of film in return for $2k and some good on-screen time. More than likely the copyright is specific to the film itself. And let's say it isn't, well I bet if you approached WGBH about expanding the piece into something more, they would more than likely assist in some capacity to get that realized; since they were impressed enough the first time to accept what you had made before.

Otherwise don't participate and do something for yourself with your own money and send it to shop it around.
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#5 Jamie McIntyre

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Posted 16 June 2007 - 03:25 PM

This is not unusual. People who pay for a production often have ownership and even copyright -- film schools, for example, do this when they pay for a student's production. The student doesn't own the work.

WGBH is giving you money and exposure -- they should get something in return for their investment. They also don't want to be dealing with re-licencing the short from you every time they want to show it.


My school actually doesn't do that, and is one of only a few that don't. That was a big factor of why i chose Columbia College Hollywood. Everything you shoot, you own. :)

Edited by Jamie McIntyre, 16 June 2007 - 03:26 PM.

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#6 Matthew Buick

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Posted 16 June 2007 - 04:37 PM

Heck! I would abide by that contract. For $2,000 (£1,000) I could buy myself a Canon 814XL-S, a decent tripod, some nice negative stock and a 2K transfer. Plus, photography by Matthew Buick gets shown on TV! As long as they let me have a positive print I'm happy. :)
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#7 Jim Feldspar

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Posted 17 June 2007 - 07:13 AM

Well look at it this way, if your piece isn't accepted then you can do with at you please. Also, where some might not want to do it because they feel they are being slighted, there will be plenty, plenty, more that will and one of those will have their piece accepted, shown, and noticed by many viewers and others. I think that is worth giving up a little piece of film in return for $2k and some good on-screen time. More than likely the copyright is specific to the film itself. And let's say it isn't, well I bet if you approached WGBH about expanding the piece into something more, they would more than likely assist in some capacity to get that realized; since they were impressed enough the first time to accept what you had made before.

Otherwise don't participate and do something for yourself with your own money and send it to shop it around.


Yes, these are good points, much like if one doesn't like a certain show, change the channel. I'm
still protesting however (or complaining?) For example, I've worked for free on many shoots as a
p.a., extra grip. sandbag carrier and it's been worth it because I've learned a lot.

In this case a production is getting ownership of ideas thought of by someone outside the production
who is hungry enough to make this trade-off. I dislike that much more than trading my manual labor
for the benefits of working on a big production.

Of course this may be a case of an entity simply protecting itself without having any ulterior
motives. You're most likely right that there would be no objection by the station to a filmmaker
developing the ideas in the short later on.

I think you hit the point when you said that there will be plenty of other people who won't mind these
terms. That attitude is pervasive and it's why higher up the chain on the labor side, unions developed.

Without unions, there would be a lot more "Oh you don't want to work 16 hours for a flat rate? No
problem. There's ten people waiting outside who will."

As a p.a. I can take low/no pay for carrying stuff but giving up ideas that somebody else couldn't
think up? That just bugs me.
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#8 Jim Feldspar

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Posted 17 June 2007 - 07:22 AM

This is not unusual. People who pay for a production often have ownership and even copyright -- film schools, for example, do this when they pay for a student's production. The student doesn't own the work.

WGBH is giving you money and exposure -- they should get something in return for their investment. They also don't want to be dealing with re-licencing the short from you every time they want to show it.



Being an English major and not at a film school, I didn't know that film schools take ownership/
copyright of a production. That would really piss me off. The film student is paying tuition so
isn't he or she is paying for the film?

If my school said that the English department could claim the copyright to my short stories
which I wrote for my classes because they provided the desks and teachers and lights and heat
and in some cases copy services for students; I'd tell them to take a hike.
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#9 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 17 June 2007 - 07:53 AM

Being an English major and not at a film school, I didn't know that film schools take ownership/copyright of a production. That would really piss me off. The film student is paying tuition so isn't he or she is paying for the film?

If my school said that the English department could claim the copyright to my short stories which I wrote for my classes because they provided the desks and teachers and lights and heat and in some cases copy services for students; I'd tell them to take a hike.


Film Schools owning the copyright of student's films is extremely common, but as you pointed out not necessarily right since the tuition fees can be so considerably high - its obvious the funding is coming indirectly from the student or student's family.

Unfortunately it is such common practice that nobody questions it anymore. Where it does become useful, is that a good film school may continue to distribute the shorts to festivals or screenings after the student has left, and that often benefits everyone. Also unlike writing a short story, students will often be working as a group, so it avoids the copy-write being shared by several people and all the problems that entails.

Personally that grant sounds pretty good $2000 for a 3 minute short is pretty good, and anyhow in the vast majority of situations filmmakers don't own the copy-write of their own work.
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#10 Jim Feldspar

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Posted 17 June 2007 - 11:51 AM

Film Schools owning the copyright of student's films is extremely common, but as you pointed out not necessarily right since the tuition fees can be so considerably high - its obvious the funding is coming indirectly from the student or student's family.

Unfortunately it is such common practice that nobody questions it anymore. Where it does become useful, is that a good film school may continue to distribute the shorts to festivals or screenings after the student has left, and that often benefits everyone. Also unlike writing a short story, students will often be working as a group, so it avoids the copy-write being shared by several people and all the problems that entails.

Personally that grant sounds pretty good $2000 for a 3 minute short is pretty good, and anyhow in the vast majority of situations filmmakers don't own the copy-write of their own work.


Quite excellent points. Who should own the copyright to something written by one or more people,
perhaps revised by others, directed, shot, edited by different people? In comparison, the short story
copyright (which is on every one I've turned in) is certainly easier to ascertain. Also, as you point
out, the school may benefit the filmmakers by continuing to screen their films and certainly I've never
heard of a film school making millions by producing a picture based on an idea in a student(s)' short
or conversely suing a student who gets someday to make a feature based on his short. Obviously
that doesn't happen.

I guess it's the big picture that's bugging me. As you point out, there might be an argument here but
after a while common practice becomes so common that people don't tend to question it anymore. I
see that so often in society that I guess this set me off.

Oh, by the way, part of the agreement with WGBH for the $2000.00 grant is that the filmmaker post
a copy of (his/her edit of the) short and then make cuts based on comments from people who view it
online. How do you like them apples?

Enough ranting.

1. I'm going to talk to the station about this, if they'll listen, and see what they have to say.

2. I'm going to work on my list of laws and policies that I think are unconstitutional or simply unfair
but exist because they go unchallenged.



3. Maybe I will pitch an idea, see if I even can get a $2000.00 grant and worry about all my
philosphical concerns down the road.
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#11 Chris Keth

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Posted 17 June 2007 - 12:36 PM

My school actually doesn't do that, and is one of only a few that don't. That was a big factor of why i chose Columbia College Hollywood. Everything you shoot, you own. :)


Same with RIT. The downside of that is that you have to foot the bill for everything you make.

I think it's a perfectly fair thing to ask. That's more than most shorts will ever earn.
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#12 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 17 June 2007 - 04:18 PM

I think the channel can do more than simply hand out a check. They should burn in the name of the filmmaker into the master, for four seconds, at least twice in the video, as a form of ongoing "publicity compensation" above and beyond the fee.

Now whenever the film plays the filmmaker gets another round of publicity if even they don't receive anymore compensation.
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#13 Will Earl

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Posted 17 June 2007 - 10:57 PM

Well at least there is a cash prize if you win. More and more of these competitions are popping up on the internet with 'exposure' being the only prize up for grabs. Often it's just a cheap way for bands or companies to get a music video or album cover (for some reason the music industry seems to be the main culprit involved in these competitions) made under the pretence of being fan friendly.

This website may be of some interest...

http://www.no-spec.com/
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#14 ryan_bennett

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Posted 18 June 2007 - 12:13 AM

I don't know I just think if its WGBH for real, it's respectable and a decent deal.
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#15 Jim Feldspar

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Posted 18 June 2007 - 08:38 AM

Well at least there is a cash prize if you win. More and more of these competitions are popping up on the internet with 'exposure' being the only prize up for grabs. Often it's just a cheap way for bands or companies to get a music video or album cover (for some reason the music industry seems to be the main culprit involved in these competitions) made under the pretence of being fan friendly.

This website may be of some interest...

http://www.no-spec.com/



Excellent web site!
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