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Breakthrough Deal For DOP Royalties?


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#1 Jonathan Flanagan

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Posted 29 November 2016 - 12:48 PM

The BVK (the German cinematography society) had signed what could be a very significant and precedent setting deal regarding remuneration for cinematographer's work in film and TV series screenings by private broadcasting channels.

https://bscine.com/news?id=177

Edited by Jonathan Flanagan, 29 November 2016 - 12:49 PM.

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#2 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 30 November 2016 - 05:20 AM

I'm in two minds about this. I don't want to try and argue money away from people, but I do think that if anyone gets this, everyone should. There are people doing very good work for YouTube which is going out to massive numbers of eyes and they're nowhere near getting anything out of it. There's also the concern that it could become as complicated as the music system, which essentially makes properly-licenced music unusable for many productions because the complexities are so labyrinthine. This must not occur again.

 

Obviously at this point it's very early days and applies to one group of people in one country working for one channel, so we'll have to see where it goes.


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#3 Richard Boddington

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Posted 30 November 2016 - 11:53 AM

I have to agree with Phil.....if you're going down this path, why just DOPs, why not everyone else?

 

From a producer stand-point this has nightmare scenario written all over it.  It's already complicated enough dealing with music and actor fees after the fact. This looks like it will be paid out by broadcasters, so most producers won't care.  Or will they? If broadcasters are stuck paying high "royalty" fees to behind the camera talent in order to air a movie, they will lower the advance they pay to the producer.  So the producer will take it in the teeth eventually.

 

And I will argue again, and again, that only those who "risk" money on a project are entitled to back end fees.  The DOP is paid a guaranteed salary for his work, and has zero risk equity in the project, like the rest of the crew.  Therefore, he is not entitled to any further compensation beyond his paycheque.

 

R,


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#4 Richard Boddington

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Posted 30 November 2016 - 12:00 PM

Here's where the nightmare scenario for producers starts to happen:

"This internationally acclaimed and OSCAR-nominated colleague intends to recover some of the gross profits made over decades by the production company responsible for the Award winning film “Das Boot”, by the broadcasting stations and the video distributor. The BVK and its board can be congratulated on their fight for the authors’ rights of Cinematographers."

This is especially unfair as no back-end sharing deal was put in place for the DOP when the movie was made way back when.  So to have a DOP suddenly come out of the woodwork and say, "I want my cut of the profits" is totally ridiculous.  Did the producer set aside a collection account for the DOP?  Of course he didn't, why would he, that was not a requirement when the film was made.

 

R,


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#5 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 30 November 2016 - 12:57 PM

From a producer stand-point this has nightmare scenario written all over it. 

 

And I will argue again, and again, that only those who "risk" money on a project are entitled to back end fees. 

Not all producers risk their own money. Should they still receive a share of the profits? Should writers and directors? Even Assistant directors get residuals.

 

I'm not sure I agree with the retroactive deal that's been negotiated in the case of Das Boot, but I don't see why DPs shouldn't be able to receive points and/or residuals.


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#6 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 30 November 2016 - 12:57 PM

And I will argue again, and again, that only those who "risk" money on a project are entitled to back end fees.

 

There's two problems with that.

 

First, actors, writers, directors and composers already get paid fees after the fact, and (unless they're also producing, of course) they didn't risk a thing.

 

Second, there's the issue of how much risk the average big-name producer is actually taking on any of this. And I don't mean in terms of Hollywood accounting, where every movie loses money so as to avoid having to pay any tax, I mean in terms of actual potential damage to someone's ability to maintain their lifestyle if a production fails. This is an extension to the same concern as it is completely reasonably applied to many big businesses: executives are paid lots of money because they're apparently shouldering a lot of responsibility, but if a large company fails, it's astoundingly rare to find these people sleeping in cardboard boxes.

 

For instance, having assisted in the loss of one hundred and fifty-two million dollars on 47 Ronin, almost certainly the largest financial loss ever on a film, Pamela Abdy was until recently head of production at New Regency, a role which I hazard to suggest was remunerated at significantly more than minimum wage. It is difficult to characterise this as someone taking any sort of risk that deserves any sort of reward.

 

If someone is risking their own money then they'll own the result by default and make more money the more they licence it.

 

Ultimately I think that there's an argument that practically anyone who worked on anything could reasonably expect to enjoy the reward of that thing doing well, regardless of whether it's a film or a highly innovative inflatable dartboard, and assuming that the deal was clear upfront. On that basis I'm actually a bit cautious about anyone getting this stuff, because if anyone gets it, everyone should get it, and that's a bit impractical. A lot impractical, actually.

 

P

 

PS - Er, yeah, basically, what Stuart said.


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#7 Richard Boddington

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Posted 30 November 2016 - 01:26 PM

Well, to you both, producers quite often assume "gap loans" on their projects which is the same as risking their own money.  Even though it is being temporarily financed by a bank.  Fact is, DOPs, and other crew sign nothing with any bank.  So when the sh*t hits the fan none of these people are on the hook for anything.

 

When was the last time you heard of a DOP being sued over the financial debacle of a movie?  Plenty of producers have been.

 

Actors and composers receiving back end royalties is a sore spot for any producer, after all, everyone of these people was paid well up front for their services.

 

This could open a Pandora's Box that could cripple the indie film industry.  At the very least it will force producers to move away from DOPs and other crew that demand these sorts of deals.  What's especially difficult for me to swallow is that "crew" have zero clue how much work the producer must continue to do on a project once it is done.  Each film requires years of sales work that must be taken on by someone and managed, guess what, it sure as hell isn't the DOP!!   He's gone off onto other projects long ago.  And so the DOP will just sit back and collect a monthly royalty cheque after being well paid and the producer continues to work on the project and make sales?

 

Sorry, doesn't work for me.  Nor will any other producer willingly sign onto this.

 

I agree with Phil here:

"On that basis I'm actually a bit cautious about anyone getting this stuff, because if anyone gets it, everyone should get it, and that's a bit impractical. A lot impractical, actually."

Why not the catering staff or the security guards or the drivers?

 

DOPs will be forced to make the same argument to these people that producers currently make to DOPs....sorry you don't rank high enough on the crew list.  Kind of ironic.

 

I want to add before the inevitable, "you're the evil SOB producer" posts arrive, as they always do on this forum.  That I would be more than happy to bring the DOP into a revenue share deal on any project, so long as they defer their entire fee, and essentially put sweat equity into the movie.  If it's a success they can share in that success with me.

 

R,


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#8 Richard Boddington

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Posted 30 November 2016 - 01:33 PM

One positive....this thread is not as ridiculous as some past threads where some people have come on here and said that since a DOP shoots a movie he is the "author" of it, and therefore, he should own it.

 

Those threads did make me laugh out loud.

 

R,


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#9 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 30 November 2016 - 01:50 PM

Fact is, DOPs, and other crew sign nothing with any bank.

 

I shall remember you to the producer who asked me for £3k's worth of rental gear - value well over twenty times that - on a production. Apparently he thought I was as rich as him. 

 

Part of the reason this is so unpalatable to people working in the low budget arena is that we're all very, very aware of how much money we've speculatively put into things.

 

And so the DOP will just sit back and collect a monthly royalty cheque after being well paid and the producer continues to work on the project and make sales?

 

Well, yeah, just like the musicians, actors, director, writers, and so on. 

 

Unfortunately if you try to draw a line with this, you find that there is no objective way to do so in a collaborative artform. So, er, yes, the caterers and the security guards, fine, if that's part of an upfront deal. They'll be asking you for lower pay up front, if they have confidence in your ability to sell the production. That's how it works.

 

You have actually argued for both these points, against yourself, if you actually look at what you've written there.

 

 

 

P


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#10 Richard Boddington

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Posted 30 November 2016 - 02:15 PM

You have actually argued for both these points, against yourself, if you actually look at what you've written there.

 

 

 

The movie industry is unique in its complexities.  :D

 

R,


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#11 Richard Boddington

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Posted 30 November 2016 - 02:24 PM

Well, yeah, just like the musicians, actors, director, writers, and so on. 

 

The counter argument will be that these are key creatives, above the line personnel.  The DOP is not.

 

Not that I want to see any of them be paid residuals if they were paid well upfront.

 

R,

 

PS: Looks like I am wrong here....I just got a licensing bill for the continued use of my new Nissan.  Turns out everyone who worked on the line, plus the front office staff, all want continuing royalties.  


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#12 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 30 November 2016 - 04:00 PM

 

The counter argument will be that these are key creatives, above the line personnel.  The DOP is not.

I don't see how you can say that a DP is not a key creative, but that an actor who may not work the entire shoot, is.

 

Obviously, the level of involvement varies from show to show for a DP. On some projects they be involved weeks or months in advance of shooting, and be responsible for the entire visual style of the movie, on other projects they may contribute much less, but if a composer is considered above the line, then a DP should be too.


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#13 Richard Boddington

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Posted 30 November 2016 - 04:27 PM

I don't see how you can say that a DP is not a key creative,

 

Well sorry but no industry guides list the DOP as an above the line "key creative."  Here's the wiki page on this:

 

https://en.wikipedia...ne_(filmmaking)

 

Do you have an industry source that shows the DOP as an above the line person?

 

R,


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#14 Miguel Angel

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Posted 30 November 2016 - 04:40 PM

Maybe it is time to change those industry guides? :) 

There are definitely some cinematographers who are absolutely responsible together with the director and the rest of the heads of the different departments for the look of the project they are working on although you could argue that they are being guided by the director.. but that's another conversation :D

 

However, if a director and a writer are above the line, why wouldn't be a person who translates those thoughts into images a key creative as well as the person who produces and builds the places where those images are going to be recorded? 

 

Regarding the original post, I am not sure if it is a good thing or a bad thing, I get Richard's point of view and I also see the cinematographer's perspective, but I think that the arguments that Richard made against it are very solid.

 

Have a good day. 


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#15 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 30 November 2016 - 05:27 PM

 

Well sorry but no industry guides list the DOP as an above the line "key creative."  Here's the wiki page on this:

 

https://en.wikipedia...ne_(filmmaking)

 

Do you have an industry source that shows the DOP as an above the line person?

 

R,

I never said that DPs were above the line (although they should be). I said they were key creatives.


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#16 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 30 November 2016 - 06:57 PM

I'm not sure how seriously we should take "the line" anyway. It's not as if any formal definition has ever been discussed or agreed upon. It is not a concept that is widely referred to or respected outside the rarefied atmosphere of the highest end productions, which is to say that's the case in the overwhelming majority of filmmaking worldwide.

The only reasonable conclusion in the context of the current discussion is as follows: of course it's common for a director of photography, who doesn't get author's rights, to make a larger contribution than a bit part actor, who does. Any other point of view is obviously lunacy.

Personally I think that the best solution is for everyone to take whatever fee they can negotiate, unionised or not, and if they want points in the damn thing they can invest in it. This would require rather larger fees than are currently normal for certain jobs.

Any other solution requires special pleading that certain roles are more deserving of risk-free participation than others. This particularly applies to actors whose plight when looking for work is well enough known to go unquestioned. Of course the reality is that startup crew are in a very comparable situation, and worse, most productions need several actors they only need one DP. Worse yet, they're all too often, now, required to turn up to set with five or six figures in gear. Better off than actors? Balls. We all live in the same world with the same costs of living.

I think everyone should get it or nobody should. This inevitably becomes a mandate for nobody to get it, because it would become grossly impractical. It's already a defacto ban on the use of PRO-affiliated music in certain types of production, which is absurd.

This is not, I should emphasise, an argument for anyone to gain or lose money, at least on average.

P
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#17 Justin Hayward

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Posted 30 November 2016 - 07:13 PM

I never said that DPs were above the line (although they should be).

I'm curious about the history of this.  Wikipedia says... "In general, Above-the-line refers to Actors, Producers, Writers and Directors. For the most part, these are fixed costs. For example, if a scene is cut from the script, the writer is still paid the same amount."

 

But if a movie gets a sequel the original writer gets paid a ton without doing any work on the new project at all.  Which is one of the reasons they break out lawyers when it comes to assigning credit.  (Of course I'm talking about writers in the WGA)


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#18 Richard Boddington

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Posted 30 November 2016 - 09:44 PM

I never said that DPs were above the line (although they should be). I said they were key creatives.

 

Well then it becomes a semantics question.

 

R,


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#19 Richard Boddington

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Posted 30 November 2016 - 09:46 PM

Personally I think that the best solution is for everyone to take whatever fee they can negotiate, unionised or not, and if they want points in the damn thing they can invest in it. This would require rather larger fees than are currently normal for certain jobs.

 

Well yeah, what I have been saying from the start.  Anyone want to invest in my next project?

 

*SFX: Crickets chirping.

 

That's what I thought :)

 

R,


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#20 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 30 November 2016 - 10:14 PM

Well that's sort of the whole point.

 

don't want points in it.

 

I just want a decent wage. These are not alternatives.

 

P


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