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Who owns the footage?

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Jeff Fink
Who owns the footage?
on May 25, 2013 at 6:40:44 pm

I recently began shooting a documentary about a fairly well known news story. A friend of mine contacted me about it before it got big asking if I would like to help him make a film about it. I agreed and because we were friends, we didn't sign anything (big mistake, I know). I proceeded to film for the next week or so while he worked at his full time job. I decided that since we weren't, in fact, making this film together, that I was going to go ahead and make the film on my own.

Upon hearing this he got mad, claiming that it was "his film" and that he saw the initial story before it was newsworthy thus thinking again that the film was his.

I interviewed several people and had them sign individual releases under his production company name and LLC. He is now claiming that I "stole his footage".

Because the individual releases said nothing about who specifically owns the footage, I feel that the footage belongs to me, since I shot it. The release was intended to keep the individuals from suing the company for money or rights, but again, does not specifically state anything about the ownership of the footage.

I was never paid and never agreed to work "for him". What do you guys think?


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Wayne Keyser
Re: Who owns the footage?
on May 25, 2013 at 8:57:30 pm

Just my opinion:

You have reason to claim that the footage you shot is yours. However, your friend's claim is concerning - not that he would prevail if this went to court for any reason, but that all of that "noise" would certainly complicate many aspects of bringing this project to completion. Your claim, likewise, might interfere with any attempt of his to use your footage ... I'm sure you wouldn't give it to him and it's the only real leverage you have to move toward a written agreement once he calms down.

"Your" already-shot interviews already lack releases in your name (the existing ones, as you say, are in his company's name). If I were a person you had interviewed and you approached me asking me to sign another release, I'd refuse to sign, thinking "this is quite a battle and I don't think I'll get in the middle of it".

=============

There is no "way to peace." Peace is the way.


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Todd Terry
Re: Who owns the footage?
on May 26, 2013 at 2:46:30 am

Sounds like you hijacked his film, to me.

All releases are in his company's name. That makes the issue of who technically "owns" the footage irrelevant, as his company is the only one that can do anything with it, no matter who's physical property it actually is.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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David Roth Weiss
Re: Who owns the footage?
on May 26, 2013 at 4:44:37 pm

It sounds to me like two both need to grow up and realize that you need each other. And, since either of you will ever get rich making a documentary anyway, you guys are fighting over a tempest in a teapot.

If either of you hires a lawyer, the only person who will come out ahead will be the lawyer.

The bottom line is, don't blow your friendship over a ownership of something with little more value than its potential to propel you both onto bigger projects if you learn to work together.

David Roth Weiss
ProMax Systems
Burbank
DRW@ProMax.com

Sales | Integration | Support

David is a Creative COW contributing editor and a forum host of the Apple Final Cut Pro forum.


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Ned Miller
Re: Who owns the footage?
on May 27, 2013 at 12:13:23 am

Jeff, Jeff, Jeff...

This is a case of business ethics, or rather, lack thereof.

If you were not involved in this story before your "friend" contacted you, then it seems to me you stabbed a buddy in the back (a common occurrence in our industry). With "friends" like you who needs enemies? If it wasn't for your "friend" you would never have even been in the position you are in now where you have the chance to develop (steal) the story. In my mind, based on doing this every week for thirty-three years, you "stole" the project from him. I've seen this dozens of times, but usually not between two "friends".

He should have had you sign something but he made the mistake of trusting you. I made that mistake many times in my youth but now I know better. Are you located in Hollywood? If so, ignore my opinion. What you did is considered normal there.

Ned Miller
Chicago Videographer
http://www.nedmiller.com
www,bizvideo.com


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Jeff Fink
Re: Who owns the footage?
on May 27, 2013 at 4:04:02 am

The story is national news. I've been following it on Facebook and have been involved as far as shooting the story since it went public. He saw the initial post about it on Facebook and mentioned to me that he wanted my help in making this film. A day after he contacted me about it, it was all over social media. He's claiming that because he saw the initial post that its his story. Albeit I've been doing all the shooting while he was in a different city working at his full time job. I initially agreed to help because he asked for my help. I got close to the story and the subjects and have formed a close bond with them. After a few days he began telling me of his grand vision for the film, which conflicted with what I felt for the direction of the film. The difference in vision is mainly why I severed ties..


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Shane Ross
Re: Who owns the footage?
on May 27, 2013 at 5:08:02 am

Sure...you followed the story. But it was his idea to make a film about it, and he enlisted your help. Now you are trying to take it over. Ethically speaking...that's bad hat. The forms are all in his company name too..so, there's that.

David is also right that there is no money in making independent docs. None. If you sue, the only persons to win will be the lawyers.

I've been following the Oklahoma tornado on the news, but didn't have the idea to go shoot anything about it. If someone said "Hey, let's go shoot something about this!" They are the Executive Producer...they came up with the idea, and hired you, albeit for free. You are the producer, you worked under his banner. Trying to take the story as your own...that won't fly.

Shane
Little Frog Post
Read my blog, Little Frog in High Def


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Todd Terry
Re: Who owns the footage?
on May 27, 2013 at 5:35:06 am

[Jeff Fink] "he wanted my help in making this film."

[Jeff Fink] "I initially agreed to help"

Look at your own words, man. He asked for your help in making a film. You agreed to help.

You also said you initially agreed. Ergo, you're now changing or backing out on what you agreed to.

Not good form, man. Others might chime in and surprise me with a different opinion, but I'm betting you would be hard pressed find anyone sympathetic to your position here in this forum.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Jeff Fink
Re: Who owns the footage?
on May 27, 2013 at 3:43:12 pm

The reason I agreed is because I am a filmmaker. He had never made a film before. I assumed he would be coming down to shoot or at least schedule some interviews etc, but he literally did nothing for a week during the most important part of the project and would only be able to give (I found out later) 1-2 days per week towards the project. In my opinion, that's not enough to make a film..

I understand that it was rude of me to back out, but from my perspective, if someone goes in on a project with you 50/50 then does 0 of the work and expects to get all the credit (director, producer, editor - I initially thought that I would be directing/editing while he produced since he was handling the release formed under his production company, but he later announced that he would be getting the credit) - That doesn't fly with me. I would've seen this project and started it on my own had he not contacted me about it. I made the first contact with the subject in person and have several ties to the story on my own.

Edison was probably not the first person to come up with the lightbulb, but he was the one who got it done.


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Steve Martin
Re: Who owns the footage?
on May 27, 2013 at 5:15:30 pm

Jeff,

You've gotten a reasonably consistant answer from this community based on the facts presented in your post.

I tend to agree with those answers and believe that you are in the wrong here. You can rationalize all you want, but short of new, more complete or very different information, the opinions on this thread are unlikely to change.

If were in your position I would approach my friend, admit that I was wrong and apologize. Full stop.
After that apology and depending on my ability to repair the relationship and his willingness to discuss it, then (and only then) might I try to work something out that was mutually beneficial.

Of course, what you choose to do moving forward is your business.

Best of luck to you!

Production is fun - but lets not forget: Nobody ever died on the video table!


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Mark Suszko
Re: Who owns the footage?
on May 27, 2013 at 11:14:41 pm

Your footage is as dead as your friendship. I'm not sure "friendship" would be the word I'd use here in any case, as a friend wouldn't go as far as you have.

If this story means so much to you, you're going to have to go shoot it from scratch as if what you already shot never happened. If that's difficult, well, you made it so, and there's nothing for it now but to forge ahead.

This is not the first or last time a story like this has happened. The moral remains the same though:
Friend or not, GET A WRITTEN CONTRACT.


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Shane Ross
Re: Who owns the footage?
on May 28, 2013 at 5:42:09 pm

[Jeff Fink] "he literally did nothing for a week during the most important part of the project and would only be able to give (I found out later) 1-2 days per week towards the project. In my opinion, that's not enough to make a film.."

I've had many executive producers who put in that much effort...or less. Some are off working on finding new shows to keep the company afloat...others, just milking the company and not working much. But, they are the owners, and they came up with the idea, and then farmed out the producing of that to others.


[Jeff Fink] "I am a filmmaker. He had never made a film before"

So what? Tons of films are financed/made by people who come from real estate, or banking.

Sorry...you are in the wrong here. Sever ties and move on.

Shane
Little Frog Post
Read my blog, Little Frog in High Def


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Andrew Kimery
Re: Who owns the footage?
on May 28, 2013 at 7:05:24 pm

As others have said, you seemingly hijacked his project in short order. Even if the whole thing was about to die on the vine it's his deal to let die. Since you are the experienced part of the duo did you even try to advise your friend before you decided to announce you were taking over?

I'm not a lawyer, I don't know what the exact verbal agreement was, I don't know how the releases were worded but my arm chair QB guess is that he owns the rights to the footage. Maybe even you both have claim to it but I highly doubt you have sole ownership of it. IP can be a crazy thing. I mean, right now there are two versions of the band Queensryche out there and their record label is releasing a greatest hits album recorded by a previous version of Queensryche that doesn't exist anymore.




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Bob Cole
Re: Who owns the footage?
on Jul 1, 2014 at 4:26:17 pm

So, what happened?

Bob C


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Todd Terry
Re: Who owns the footage?
on Jul 1, 2014 at 4:36:46 pm

Betting you won't hear back from this guy, Bob.

He joined the COW the day he first posted this, and hasn't been back except for two responses.

I have a feeling he's one of those guys who was looking for validation of his opinion, even though he was clearly in the wrong... and when he didn't get it (quite the opposite, in fact), he took his ball and went home.

Just my guess.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Bob Cole
Re: Who owns the footage?
on Jul 1, 2014 at 5:51:20 pm

Too bad. I was curious.

Way back when I had a PA who stole a concept of mine for a mockumentary. He won a national prize with his film, never credited me, left a trail of bad debts to a number of suppliers -- but he was so brazen about it that I sort of found the whole thing charming.

There is definitely an "ethos" (as opposed to "ethic") that some filmmakers evince: I'm doing Art and therefore whatever it takes is fine.

Bob C


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