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Producers Credit Dispute


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#1 Mercy

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Posted 19 November 2009 - 07:13 PM

We are in post production of our film, which was shot in Kenya earlier
this year. During development, the director/ writer /co-producer (American)
had his former university prof (American) help in writing the script. To which,
she is being credited for as a writer. She also came on board to coach the
actors (the actors were non actors), also being credited. The director had asked
her to raise money and she agreed to do so. She later wrote an email asking if
she could be given the title 'Producer' as that would give more clout and
strength when she approached funders. The director said yes. She came into Kenya
one day before the first shoot day. Having her on set became too disruptive and
the director asked her to leave, to which she agreed, for the sake of the
production. She had not / still not raised any money for the film. Her
departure was accompanied by an email from both the Director and I, the Producer,
that outlined the reasons she had to leave and what she would get credited
as.-Writer and Acting Coach.

She has been insisting that she wants to be credited as Producer and
failure to that, she will refuse to sign the Writers Agreement and will block the
film from distribution, and will take legal action. There is the email from her
asking to be given the Producer title to enable her to raise money. I know the Writers
Agreement should have been signed way earlier, but i did not join the production until the 4 weeks
before the shoot.

What would you advise as the best way forward?

Mercy Murugi
Producer

Togetherness Supreme
now in post production

Teaser-
View on Vimeo

Http://www.hotsunfilms.com
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#2 Richard Boddington

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Posted 19 November 2009 - 07:36 PM

I know the Writers Agreement should have been signed way earlier,


Yep. I would never shoot a frame until the writers deal is signed.

Since she's asking for just a credit and no extra money, my advice would be to give her the producers credit and move forward. A screen credit will not cost you any thing so you'll really be getting off easy. Or try and offer an associate producer credit, or co-producer credit.

Bottom line is that this is not worth the potential legal fight. Just ensure that you don't credit her with any thing until AFTER she signs the writer's agreement.

You won't be able to get the E&O insurance that you'll need for US distribution without a signed writer's agreement, so toss in the towel on this one and give her the producer's credit. Next time, get it in writing before you start shooting.

R,
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#3 Mercy

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Posted 19 November 2009 - 11:06 PM

I know its too late to defend myself, but all those agreements were made by the Director/ Writer / co producer a year before i was hired to work on the film.

My issue with giving her the credit is she is an extremely difficult person to deal with and I would not want her speaking / appearing / being publicly associated with the film.

My question here is why is signing the writers agreement tied to the getting or not getting the producer credit? Isn't there a way I can file a complaint against her to WGA for refusing to sign the WA, since she has received the respective credit for that?
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#4 Richard Boddington

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Posted 19 November 2009 - 11:46 PM

My issue with giving her the credit is she is an extremely difficult person to deal with and I would not want her speaking / appearing / being publicly associated with the film.


Good grief thousands of "difficult people" get credits on movies :lol:

The issue here is do you want to settle this quickly or have it drag on?

My question here is why is signing the writers agreement tied to the getting or not getting the producer credit? Isn't there a way I can file a complaint against her to WGA for refusing to sign the WA, since she has received the respective credit for that?


Quite possibly yes, is this a WGA show? Did you sign a contract with the WGA? If not then they probably have no jurisdiction and you're on your own.

If she didn't sign the writer's agreement then she may in fact hold you "hostage" for the producers credit, since the movie will be useless without a signed writer's contract.

Sure you can try taking her to court and explain to a judge that she should not be allowed to withhold her signature from the writer's agreement in exchange for a producer's credit. Maybe a judge will agree with you, maybe not.

All of this takes time and money. Trust me, I've been in enough disputes in the movie business over stuff like this. From my experience....in this situation you swallow your pride, give her what she wants, and resolve this quickly and cheaply.

You really don't have much traction here, you need a signed writer's contract or you will have much bigger problems. Just give here the producer's credit and move on. Try and list her on a page with three other producers to water down her credit, that is the standard approach in these situations.

I saw your trailer....don't let this tie up what appears to be a good product.

I'm not a lawyer but I play one on TV ;)

R,
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#5 Mercy

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Posted 20 November 2009 - 12:10 AM

R,

Good advice...and no, i don't want it to drag on.

No, we haven't signed anything with WGA but the script is registered there and she is a member.

Say, for argument sake i took it to court, would that be in Kenya or USA? The story is based in and shot in Kenya. She is American, the Director is American and i am Kenyan.
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#6 Richard Boddington

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Posted 20 November 2009 - 01:45 AM

R,

Good advice...and no, i don't want it to drag on.

No, we haven't signed anything with WGA but the script is registered there and she is a member.


If she's a WGA member that also probably means she would need to be paid WGA rates, are you paying her WGA rates? You can always e-mail the WGA and ask if they'll step in or mediate.

Say, for argument sake i took it to court, would that be in Kenya or USA? The story is based in and shot in Kenya. She is American, the Director is American and i am Kenyan.


Now you have a real jurisdictional nightmare on your hands. Why would an American obey a Kenyan court ruling and vice versa? This would cost you a fortune in legal fees to sort out. It's not worth it by any means. Plus you have zero guarantee of any victory in the courts, and it would easily take years to move through the courts.

R,
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#7 Joe Giambrone

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Posted 15 December 2009 - 02:22 AM

It sounds like you're in deep.

Did she write a spec script which she gave to the project without any compensation?

Sounds like she IS a "producer."

Since she has you over a barrel, without making it any worse, you should give her the credit before she starts asking for money!

The jurisdiction matters if you try and distribute in the US.
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#8 David Rakoczy

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Posted 15 December 2009 - 07:27 AM

Mercy,

Per the rules of this forum, please go to My Controls and change your screen name to your first and last name.

The Members thank you in advance.

Have a great day.
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#9 Sean Halket

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Posted 30 April 2010 - 02:54 PM

Well, for one thing, if she's just raising money for the movie, then she should not technically be called the producer. She sounds more like an investor, therefore, simply giving her the title for executive producer would fix it. Although she did not raise any money at all, just crediting her as executive producer may make her happier and it would save the film even if she did not raise money.
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#10 Jack Aversano

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Posted 13 June 2012 - 07:32 AM

Touchy issue here. I've seen matters like this before. Once Producer or Ex. Producer credit is offered or given it can open the floodgates to sociopathic behavior from the one getting the credit. Even if it is credit only. I've seen cases where the person was offered credit only provided they perform certain tasks as an incentive. Not only did they not perform the tasks they tried to hijacked the project. In another case I saw a Ex. Producer credit given and the individual ran roughshod over the project. The project was run into the ground and hundreds of thousands of $ waisted and only 1/3 of the film shot.

My advice is if you are going to offer credit make sure you get a complete release and waiver from the person you give it to. The waiver should stipulate that she may not interfere with or block the film from distribution. A complete waiver of rights. Have a entertainment attorney draft it and get it notarized. Make her sign the writer agreement first.
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