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rights to rushes


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#1 Joe Macdonald

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Posted 20 May 2005 - 09:32 AM

I'm a final year BA student studying in UK. just finished a nature documentary shot on super16mm about sea birds in scotland. the film was funded by my film school as a part of my course and there was a crew of three who went to shoot, me as DOP, the director and the sound recordest. I fully understand that the film school and my university own all rights to the footage we got, but my director, who is good friend and will remain so, believes that as the film was his concept he would own the right to keep the footage and use it as he wishes. i am completely willing for this to happen as he is a friend, but to settle a theoretical debate i would like to know who would own the footage if we had invested 50/50 of our own money. thanks joe.
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#2 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 20 May 2005 - 10:14 AM

Whoever owns the copyright.....

I can make a movie and put in 70% of the budget, and to be fair, usually you will get the rights to it. HOWEVER, this is no rule.

Generally the owner is the person who owns the copyright to it.

If your friend owned the script, and he SOLD it to the film school for them to produce, then they own it and all rights unless some contract term said otherwise?

Generally, the script belongs the the majority producer, or in some cases, the studio to which the majority producer is working with the make the film.
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 May 2005 - 10:46 AM

I'm sure the film school already has a policy in effect in terms of the legal ownership of student films. However, if the student was willing to reimburse the school on all their costs, including any services provided (camera, post for example), then perhaps the student can get ownership back. But I doubt it.

Simply having the original idea does not give you legal ownership of a movie.
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#4 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 20 May 2005 - 10:50 AM

As david said, some film schools have already set rules about this. For instance the NYFA rules are that the films belong to the students, however, they have the right to use clips from them for there promotions.

Depends on the schoolTell your friend to ask them what you can do about it...
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#5 oscar jimenez

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Posted 20 May 2005 - 11:11 AM

What Mr. David says is completely right, if you want to own the rights of all footage, pay back school all costs, then you have bought your production. When I shoot a tv spot, I define that the clients own a 30 seconds edited spot. I always keep footage, but as a matter of respect towards client I never use it as Stock Footage for other purposes after a 2 year period at least. It depends on your relationships with clients also.
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#6 Joe Macdonald

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Posted 20 May 2005 - 11:32 AM

thankyou all for your responses. what i would like to make clear, however, is where the responsability lies between myself and the director. I was acting as the DOP on the shoot, and due to the nature of wildlife photography, it was hard for the director to have any idea what footage we got until telecine. We had worked closely in pre-production and between shots discussing framing and the subject of each shot, but it was still my decision through the viewfinder (no video asst) as to the aesthetic composition of the shot. it was near impossible for the director to get a look through the viewfinder because of the terrain and behavour of the birds, he had to trust my judgement, so in theory it could be said that the rushes belong to me and it is what he did with the footage in the edit that is the result of his directorial input. Are they mine or his, is the basic question. (I currently have the rushes and the director is happy for things to be this way, but it has sparked a theorectical debate between us that has been in stalemate for the last few weeks, which is why i am asking for the oppinion of others). Thanks, Joe.
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#7 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 20 May 2005 - 01:43 PM

Hi,

I don't quite understand the question; what practical issue are you trying to resolve?

In general it is often acceptable for crew to use clips from a production on their showreels, and this goes as much for makeup and costume people as it does for camera crew and actors. If it's about this, then you should most certainly have the right to exploit the material. If you want to use stuff that's in the rushes but not in the final - which is a right I always insist on for low budget stuff in case the edit is bad - your director would have to be particularly possesive to disallow it. In any case I don't think it's really his decision. The production is owned by the production company that commissioned it - in your case the school - and if your director was trying to tell you you couldn't do something, and you felt strongly enough about it to risk alienating him, you'd go to them with your situation. The director doesn't own it any more than you do in that respect. Spielberg and his friends started SKG to address the issue of not owning what they felt were "their" films - Spielberg doesn't own Jurassic Park, Universal does.

But really, what's the problem here? It's a film school shoot; everyone involved should be free to exploit it to the fullest possible extent.

Phil
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#8 Matt Pacini

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Posted 20 May 2005 - 01:45 PM

Nobody but the school can give you the correct answer to this.

There is no universal rule of law here, it all depends on the agreement you signed with the school, (which likely says that they own it in every way, but you'll have to ask them.)
It's futile to ask anyone here.

MP
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#9 Robert Edge

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Posted 20 May 2005 - 02:15 PM

I am going to proceed as you requested, and assume that the director/editor, the sound recordist and you were the only people involved in this project. In the normal course, the three of you would agree on who owns what at the beginning of the project.

In the absence of an agreement, either express or implicit in your discussions, actions and contributions (financial and otherwise), I suspect that you would own the footage, the sound recordist would own the sound and the director/editor would own the copyright in the specific form that the footage and sound took after editing. This means that the film could not be shown unless the three of you started talking sense to one-another.

When I first read your post, I thought you might be talking about another, and more interesting, issue. That issue is this: which of the three of you should be credited as the director of this film? In A Man and His Camera, Nestor Almendros made the argument that in some cases the cinematographer for a documentary film, as distinct from a fiction film, should be recognized as co-director. I think that the argument has some merit to it.

Edited by R. Edge, 20 May 2005 - 02:17 PM.

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#10 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 20 May 2005 - 04:38 PM

Hi,

Also:

I do not wish to demean the contribution of directors, but it strikes me as odd that when you get a first-time director (who might have some promo or ad experience) and put him on a feature, you tend to get something just as polished-looking, if slightly vacuous and empty, as you would if it'd been a Kubrick movie, which wouldn't necessarily have been so vacuous and empty. Clearly on a big-budget, typical Hollywood feature, a very large contribution is being made by the rest of the crew, enough even to slightly obscure that of the director - after all, some of these films are such huge organisational beasts that they can't possibly oversee everything. I suspect it's this thinking behind the general bad feeling about people who take a "A film by...." credit.

Phil
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#11 Joe Macdonald

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Posted 22 May 2005 - 08:17 AM

thanks to all who have replied. particularly interested in R.Edge's point about documentary cinematographers as opposed to fiction cinematographers.

I clearly stated in my previous posts that the stock was not at stake here and i am just trying to get a clear definition of the rights to my own stock footage for future reference. As a crew of three we all understand that it is 'our' film, in that we all had input into it's conception and realisation, this is not in question, what is? The general rights of cinematographers in regard to their own footage, i am trying to keep this in reference to documentary footage only, thanks, Joe.
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#12 Rik Andino

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Posted 22 May 2005 - 09:20 PM

This is why it's so important to have contracts cleatly stating ownership.

Usually the rights belong to whoever is paying you to do the job.
Sometimes you can wrangle some stock footage rights in the contact
That's if you're a good negotiator...but usually doesn't happen.

When you work for free you have more leverage
You can probably secure some rights that grant you access to the footage.
Since you're not getting payment for the job...
You can find other ways to get recompensed for working on the project.

But make no mistake whoever finances the project has the rights officially
No matter how much input someone else put.

However you can still go to court and dispute your case...
If you didn't sign a contract...but you'll need to prove why the rights belong to you.
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