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My turn to seek advice

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David Roth Weiss
My turn to seek advice
on Jun 20, 2006 at 7:09:07 pm

I am having a dispute over my credit on a project, and need some input from the level-headed folks here...

The project is a feature-length documentary... At least now its feature-length...

Initially, I was brought in (two years ago) as a "film doctor" to help make this project work. I directed a major recut and in just one week I succeeded in making the 61-minute version of the project work after they had struggled with it for nearly two years. I received credit as "Editorial Consultant/Post-production Supervisor" on that version.

Fast Forward... Over the last six months I've been working as the sole editor (and producer) on an updated, feature-length version of the project. It is now at 85-minutes. The Exec. Producer now says he wants to leave the prior credits as they were, giving me no credit as editor, producer, or writer (I wrote most of the new narration too). This is of course and issue for me... Here in L.A. it is commonly stated that, "credits are the currency of Hollywood," and, the industry standard is to give "the last man standing" the top credit. I think I deserve to be put on the credit last at the top of the other two editors as is customary here in L.A. I have explained these to the Exec. Producer, who is taking an emotional stance. He feels a certain emotional bond to the previous editor because she ended up with hurt feelings last time around, simply because I was able to make her work actually work.

What do you guys and girls think about this???

TIA,
DRW


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Bob Woodhead
Re: My turn to seek advice
on Jun 20, 2006 at 8:04:31 pm

You're better than the others who failed. You saved the project for the Exec. Prod. You've enabled him to finally realize his dream of getting the project finished at feature length. Finally, you're not taking credit for writing or producing. Top editor credit should be a no-brainer. But I'd say that you're due add'tl credit (not top line) for writing as well.


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David Roth Weiss
Re: My turn to seek advice
on Jun 20, 2006 at 9:45:36 pm

Thanks for your support Bob.


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Bob Cole
Re: My turn to seek advice
on Jun 20, 2006 at 9:01:15 pm

Well, naturally, I agree with you as to the "shoulds" of this. It's the "how" that puzzles me.

Absent a legal approach...

It sounds as though the EP is responding to emotional blackmail from the prior editor. So tell the EP that you can't afford ("emotionally and professionally") to spend a half-year on a project without receiving the appropriate credit for your work on it. And find a way to let him deal with his emotional blackmail issues by coming up with a nice credit for the prior editor. Could she have been an assistant producer, in some remote sense?

Hey David, at least you were working on something that you WANTED credit for.

-- Bob C


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David Roth Weiss
Re: My turn to seek advice
on Jun 20, 2006 at 9:07:45 pm

All good Bob... More grist for the mill.

Problem is, I'm now inclined to drop down into second gear for the duration of the project. Throughout my career I've always prided myself on having one gear, which has always been full speed ahead. But, if treated unfairly on this one I will almost certainly lose the will to go the extra mile.

DRW


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Ron Lindeboom
Re: My turn to seek advice
on Jun 20, 2006 at 10:31:47 pm


I am sitting here in my office with a large mounted poster of the 1939 classic "The Wizard of OZ" on the wall.

The film's direction is credited to Victor Fleming (actually the 3rd director on the project, there would be four altogether), a man who took over the project after Richard Thorpe took unsuccessful attempts at capturing the magic of the books and George Cukor came in to take over (and later left to direct "Gone With the Wind"). Victor Fleming picked up the pieces and quickly turned out a classic. He kept some shots, created many new ones, tweaked the dialog and reshot some scenes that had already been in the can. He would later leave TWOZ and complete "Gone With the Wind" after George Cukor was taken off that project, as well. King Vidor would come in and finish off the Kansas farm scenes, hardly enough to earn him the "last man standing" credit, which fell to Victor Fleming. Victor Fleming would also end up with the credit for GWTW, as he did the most on it.

From reading your post, David, I would say that you arguably did "the most" and pulled it out of the fire. The "last man standing" rule also has a variant that in Hollywood gives the credit to the man or woman who "was standing the longest" and whose vision was the one used. Richard Thorpe didn't get the credit and when George Cukor took over, all Richard's work was chucked as his vision of the film was just not in keeping with what the producers had in mind. When George Cukor left for "Gone With the Wind," Victor Fleming took over and fine-tuned and crafted what became a masterpiece, a film that is today said to be the most viewed film of all time. While King Vidor's Kansas farm scenes are indeed superb, the credit falls to Fleming, not the last man standing but the one who stood the longest and whose vision is the most pronounced in the film.

Based on this story, I'd say that the executive producer needs to admit that you are and have been the editor, and arguably the co-producer in many ways, on this project.

You may not have directed it but you sure sound like you have indeed crafted it and it is your vision that has most shaped the story at this point.

Thanks for letting me tell a story. It's the grandpa in me...

;o)

Ron Lindeboom




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David Roth Weiss
Re: My turn to seek advice
on Jun 20, 2006 at 11:10:18 pm

Great film lore Ron. And, its definitely food for thought. Nowadays however, the "last man standing" rule applies more than it once did. The unions try to arbitrate these matters in the most expeditious and businesslike manner, often casting creative input aside as it so often requires a judgement call thay are willing to make.

Oddly, the previous editor is a member of the Editor's Guild, and I am confident that the guild would not rule in her favor. My union would also probably rule in my favor, but, as this is a non-union project, this of course is all moot.

When considering all the creative aspects, each of us added much to the project, and I am really quite willing share the credit. I'm certainly not satisfied with Editorial Consultant any longer, but I'm just not quite sure how far I should take the dispute. I have worked with this guy for a long time, and though he's sometimes tough to deal with in some ways, he's been very good to me over the long haul. Thats what makes the situation a bit tougher for me than it might normally be.

DRW


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tony salgado
Re: My turn to seek advice
on Jun 21, 2006 at 3:43:49 pm



David,


Could the producer I assume it is a "he" be involved with the female prior editor? Does he have more than an emotional bond to the person?

If so don't expect anything to change.

I would be more concerned about getting the proper payment for your services as you can't take screen credit to the bank to deposit.

You can also put your real title in your resume as no one ever hires you based on your screen credits but rather your actual experience.


Tony Salgado


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Michael Munkittrick
Re: My turn to seek advice
on Jun 21, 2006 at 3:36:29 am

Everything that you


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Mark Raudonis
Re: My turn to seek advice
on Jun 21, 2006 at 4:00:32 am

DRW,

This is what agents and lawyers are for!

If that's not an option for you, I gotta ask, did you have a deal memo before you started stating what the credit would be?

If you're tuned into Hollywood enough to know about the "last man standing" rule, then surely you're wise enough to demand a deal memo upon starting a project. Absent that,
it's time to suck it up, confront your nemesis and demand what you feel you're owed. You may not want a confrontation, but clearly this is bothering you or you wouldn't have posted. You know what you've got to do... so get to it. Good luck!

Mark




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David Roth Weiss
Re: My turn to seek advice
on Jun 21, 2006 at 10:13:13 pm

Mark,

Of course none of us ever intends to get into disputes, and all of us take up projects from time to time without deal memos, even though we all say we will never do it... I did it again... Stupid me...

In any case, I have decided to take all emotion out the equasion. Its strictly business now -- it is only proper that every project have credits that accurately reflect the participation of those who applied their talents to the effort. Thats my position and I will not waver...

THNX for your input...

DRW


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David Roth Weiss
Re: My turn to seek advice
on Jun 21, 2006 at 9:57:06 pm

[Michael Munkittrick] "Everything that you


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Pixel Monkey
Re: My turn to seek advice
on Jun 21, 2006 at 2:04:01 pm


[David Roth Weiss] "He feels a certain emotional bond to the previous editor because she ended up with hurt feelings last time around"

This isn't handing out lollypops at the dentist's office. He should deal with her emotions in other currencies than credit, if you know what I mean. Credits have nothing to do with emotion. They're an account of work done. Did he list his Mom as "Creative Consultant"?

Flip side, I do know that in my little world most of the preproduction editing (for funding videos, and even early rough cuts of dailies, etc.) goes uncredited sometimes. He could be classifying all this prior work you've done as content that has little impact on the final version. No matter if he's correct or not, perhaps it's a situation where he's simply holding onto his cards tightly - just to see if you fold?



______
/-o-o-
`(=)`/...Pixel Monkey
`(___)

Just finished editing "Frank Lloyd Wright's Buffalo" - see it on PBS Sept 4, 2006 at 10pm.
(Yes, that is Labor Day)


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Mark Suszko
Re: My turn to seek advice
on Jun 21, 2006 at 2:18:03 pm

Why are we even talking about the earlier, shorter versions? I feel like you should only be negotiating over the current full-length project, which was 100 percent your work. Let the girlfriend or whatever have her credit on the shorter version(s). She did not work on this long version at all, did she?

Yes, you should have had a deal memo in place first, but there's no use complaining about that now.

Seems to me all the confusion is because everyone is considering the three programs to be one identical program. But the only information I'm working from is what you posted. Good luck with it.


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Pixel Monkey
Re: My turn to seek advice
on Jun 21, 2006 at 3:50:29 pm



[Mark Suszko] "Let the girlfriend or whatever have her credit..."

(Hee hee!)



______
/-o-o-
`(=)`/...Pixel Monkey
`(___)

Just finished editing "Frank Lloyd Wright's Buffalo" - see it on PBS Sept 4, 2006 at 10pm.
(Yes, that is Labor Day)


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Monica F.P.Williams
Re: My turn to seek advice
on Jun 23, 2006 at 4:03:36 pm

Hi David
This documentary exist because of you, deal memo or not. And this is not the just friend talking.
The fact of the matter is that you saved the first version and you are taking the feature lenght to the next level and is beautiful. Ask him If he was so happy with the first editor, why he hired you to fix the first cut and to do an entirely new one?
My two cents
Monica

"Art is all about craftsmanship. Others can interpret craftsmanship as style if they wish. Style is what unites memory or recollection, ideology, sentiment, nostalgia, presentiment, to the way we express all that. It's not what we say but how we say it that matters.


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David Roth Weiss
Re: My turn to seek advice
on Jun 23, 2006 at 4:10:11 pm

Thanks Monica, I'm just gonna have to sic you and Fellini on Bob...


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nestorl
Re: My turn to seek advice
on Jun 26, 2006 at 2:22:42 pm

David,

Sorry to jump on this topic so late. You got great feedback from the other posters. I just want to ad on issue that applies to your case. Did you sign deal memo or a work for hire release? If you did, and the credit is not included on the deal memo, then there is no legal issue but instead will be an ethical fight. However, if you did not sign a work for hire release, then you as one of the creative forces behind the documentary (as are the director, composer, dp, and writer) own the copyright of the work. This is the most common mistake made by producers not familiar with copyright law. Unless you explicitly waived your copyright claim to the project, you have copyright claim to the entire project and any D+ attorney would be able to place an injunction against any and all future distribution of the film.

So hopefully it will never get there, but it is always nice to know that you have this weapon just in case. Cheers, nestor.


---------------------------
Nestor L. Lopez
Executive Vice-President
Explorart Films
http://www.explorart.com

------
Statements presented in the message are statements of opinion only and should not be considered legal advice. Please contact a qualified entertainment attorney.


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David Roth Weiss
Re: My turn to seek advice
on Jun 26, 2006 at 4:15:55 pm

[nestorl] "Unless you explicitly waived your copyright claim to the project, you have copyright claim to the entire project"

That's an interesting one I hadn't heard before Nestor. It certainly makes me feel better about not signing a deal memo. I can't wait to inform Bob (Exec. Producer/Director) of this. His paranoia will increase dramatically.



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Steve Wargo
Re: My turn to seek advice
on Jun 26, 2006 at 4:09:36 pm

The credits should now read:

For her: Wannabe editor who couldn't make it work

For DRW: Editor who came along and saved our bacon by taking over someone else's hopeless work, re-writing quite a bit of it and making it happen.

For him. Teary eyed jerk who puts his little friend before the actual business at hand.

This stuff constantly fries me. If someone can't do the job, they deserve no credit other than "person who tried" at the very most, and we know that will never happen.

This just happened to us on a feature and the original editor got "editor trainee" as his credit. The guy who came in later and fixed and finished got "editor"

Steve Wargo
Tempe, Arizona

It's a dry heat!


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Ron Lindeboom
Re: My turn to seek advice
on Jun 26, 2006 at 4:37:27 pm


[Steve Wargo] "This just happened to us on a feature and the original editor got "editor trainee" as his credit. The guy who came in later and fixed and finished got "editor""


I have to agree with Steve on this one. I have also seen times when someone started a project and didn't hit the mark and got replaced later. The first person got an "Assistant Editor credit but full editor's credit, that's an insult to the craft and the profession.

Glad to see you up and about, Steve. How are you healing up after the motorcycle accident? We hope all is coming back together nicely.

Best always,

Ron & Kathlyn




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