I'm curious if anyone has had a similar experience if not identical. A couple of years ago I shot a fragrance commercial with a first time director who came from the still life world. I lit, operated, and made lens choices, as well as advised him during the two day shoot on best practices in continuous table top lighting vs his work with strobe. It took almost a year for it to be released, and when it was, I added it to my reel. The production company whom I worked for immediately told me to take it down, as the Director began complaining that someone was pretending to be the photographer of his shoot.
This was all confusing to me until I found out that he did not want anyone else's name on the work since, as a photographer, it is important for him to protect images associated with his name. Now it has been a year, and I obliged out of kindness to keep the work off of my site, but my work is precious to me and I would like to display it.
Never the less, I believe in the mantra that we are hired to create images that will, inevitably, belong to our clients. I haven't worked with the gentleman since, and he doesn't do too much motion in the first place.
Should I be able to display this work or not? I have a call sheet, I have witnesses, but against me I have a production company that asked me to take it down and rightfully sides with their client. This is just to see if anyone else has dealt with a scenario like this.
I'd take the position that if you're on the call sheet as director of photography, you're morally entitled to showreel the material as such, although you are unlikely to be able to enforce this and if they want you to take it down, you'd probably better do so.
Except at the high end, there are generally no formal agreements about this sort of thing and if you don't have one, you're probably screwed. Almost anyone who's ever put any real work on a showreel is doing so without permission. The only reason it works is that copyright in general is extremely poorly enforced (and we should be happy: 100% enforcement of copyright would make life practically impossible).
It's an interesting side issue to this that moving-image camera personnel are among the most poorly served by both law and customary practice. Actors, musicians, stills photographers, and other trades all get far better protection in terms of ownership of the work, fees for repeat usage, and other benefits in exchange for providing services that are no more impactful on the final work than the efforts of the director of photography. And that's in the rarefied word of narrative and commercial work. News photographers can sell the same photograph many times - try that as a news cameraman and you will not receive a pleasant reaction. This is the situation which disadvantages you, and it is also the same situation that your director client is trying to protect - he's applying stills photography contractual thinking to motion picture work. It's inappropriate, but it's what he's used to as a stills guy.
In general, though, film and TV crew are do extremely poorly against comparable trades in this and other industries.
Appreciate the response Phil. Those same thoughts are what have been hovering around in my mind. I've been happily using it away from my site, but it would be beneficial to have it available at all times. Thanks for sharing.
Photographers are a different breed. They're used to it only being them and an assistant and the assistant often has many responsibilities, from lighting to doing dishes. Lately photographers have been reading the writing on the wall and realizing table top motion is where it's at, and now that the cameras are where they are, agencies are scaling back and taking their large productions from these big table top production companies and handing them to their favorite still photographer where the budgets are far smaller. The photographers happen to be fantastic with food, but don't know anything about live action lighting, so they hire someone that does. You may think you were the DP, but the photographer probably just thought of you as an assistant whose day rate is way too high. Once they figure out live action lighting, they won't hire you anymore.
I'd leave it on your reel. If the production company asks you to take it down, ask them for a reason why, and then explain that as the DP, you have a right to use that piece for personal promotion. If you haven't worked for them since, they have little to threaten you with except legal action, which is unlikely.
The dir sounds like a D bag.. Im sure you don't want to work with him again.. similar on commercials are directors who operate but ALL the lighting,camera lenses are decided by the DP.. then they want to collect any awards for DP that come up.. that happened in the UK ages ago and the DP fought it .. just a few A holes around .. nothing new there..
If it were me.. if the prod co are giving me work or I otherwise have a good relationship with them.. ok well eat it for the greater good.. if you get very little to no work from them.. ignore them and put it on your site.. there is zero chance of legal action.. and you were the DP anyway..
What does the contract say? I'd expect it to say something about rights. If not then you can probably do what's lawful unless the parties expressly intended otherwise.
If the purported problem is claiming his work as your own then perhaps you could negotiate a detailed credit line.
However I'm aware that litigation is something of an art form in the US- I was once hilariously threatened (in England) by a US firm with various torts which would have been laughed out of court here- so you have to ask yourself how important the material is to take the risk.
I've always been very generous when comes to getting reel material out. I supply it to actors for their reels, the DOP of course, production designers, and anyone else who wants a scene for their reel. Which has also included helicopter pilots, VFX artists, and animal trainers. If it will help them in their future careers I see no reason to object. Most companies are not as nice and accommodating as I am though. Certainly the big studios would balk at the idea of providing anyone with any footage for their reels.
Then again, that's why people use words like, swell, awesome, and neat, to describe me.
Thank you all for sharing your opinions. Appreciate it. I've been fortunate enough to work mainly with good natured people in my time, the small few that exhibit that kind of insecurity are rare. I believe posting our work is a professional commonality, and you are respectful enough when you site the production, client, and the Director while specifying your position. As long as you're not breaching an NDA, have a call sheet, then all is well. The bottom line is this director comes from a completely different career identity. The scenario has at least provided me with a new approach to first time directors. I've been respectful enough.