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Jacob Mitchell

Copyright Collectives and Cinematographers

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Hey all,

 

I was recently drafting my personal contract which I was taking from Imagos template contract for DPs. Here is the template: https://www.imago.org/images/pdfs/CINEMATOGRAPHERS/MODEL%20CONTRACT%20FOR%20AUTHORSHIP%20-%20version.22.01.08.pdf

.

In article 7.2, its speaks to Copyright Collective Socities. I understand the purpose of these copyright collectives, but after some searching, did not find any socities of note in America that cover motion picture professionals.

 

Since this is from Imago, are these Socities more common in Europe than America? Does anyone have any more info on joining a Copyright collective?

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In the UK there is Screen Craft Rights Org. Im not sure the inner workings they contacted me..certainly not in my contract .. but I got £444/$560 from royalties this year .. mostly it seems from German cable screenings of drama/doc s I had shot even quite a while ago,, sure not a fortune but I,ll take it !..

 

Some Dp,s get offered a percentage of box office.. no doubt this can be manipulated to zero.. but I believe others have made money.. my dad was offered 3% on the original MadMax film..because they couldn't pay the full rate.. but luckily I talked him out of shooting it .. !!!!

Edited by Robin R Probyn

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Why do Musicians, Writers, and even photographers have copyright and get royalty. Why are cinematographers 'work for hire'?

 

Why not put the entire crew of a film on a "royalty" deal in that case? Why should a DOP get a royalty when his work is shown, and not a costume designer?

 

R,

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I have had this argument with actors in the past.

 

There is certainly no natural justice in the idea that certain people are somehow more valuable and should be able to earn effectively uncapped amounts of money from a production while others get paid a day rate. The reason that musicians and still photographers get a better deal is simply because they had better lawyers when the contracts were written, no other reason - and it's simply become accepted ever since. I have met jobbing actors of no great fame who have made six figure incomes from being in a single commercial. The DP might have made a few thousand dollars, and most of the rest of the crew a mere few hundred. It's not very fair, especially when the treatment for actors is generally far better than the crew get.

 

P

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I guess Phil is right.. the Cameraman/women.. DoP etc has only relatively recently achieved any real status.. outside of other DP,s knowing their name ..and Directors mentioning them every now and again in interviews .. I mean it was a guy turning a handle.. film stars have from the very beginning been .well.. stars and of course weald power as people will go to see a film they are in.. and stills photographers have been considered "artists" from way back.. the ones I know from corp shoots usually have a buy out rate too include copyright these days.. but it does mean they can charge more ..

 

But I guess there is nothing to stop the top ,I guess 20, in demand feature/Commercial DP,s from demanding copyright/ points etc.. maybe they should.. ?.. or costume designers for that matter.. see if they get any work or not..

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I have had this argument with actors in the past.

 

There is certainly no natural justice in the idea that certain people are somehow more valuable and should be able to earn effectively uncapped amounts of money from a production while others get paid a day rate. The reason that musicians and still photographers get a better deal is simply because they had better lawyers when the contracts were written, no other reason - and it's simply become accepted ever since. I have met jobbing actors of no great fame who have made six figure incomes from being in a single commercial. The DP might have made a few thousand dollars, and most of the rest of the crew a mere few hundred. It's not very fair, especially when the treatment for actors is generally far better than the crew get.

 

P

 

Musicians and still photographers use their creativity to create "stand-alone' works of art (separate from the film) that may have potentially tremendous value apart from the value of the film. To wit: the soundtrack of a mediocre and/or poorly grossing film that sells millions of albums or downloads. Granted, still photographers can't seem to exploit their "stand-alone" artwork as much as the musician, but it does seem fair that both have that contractural right.

 

Unfortunately, the genius contribution of the cinematographer, editor, set designer, costume designer, etc., has zero value apart from the film itself. Even more unfortunately for them, the contribution of their works of art, great as they may be, can at best be only a necessary condition of the success of the film, history has shown.

 

Whereas the contribution of a screenwriter, an actor or sometimes a director can be and often is a sufficient condition of the success of the film. In that sense, it does seem fair that they command a potentially higher amount of money for their services.

 

Edge case: a costume designer whose design "takes off" and is sold in stores, (very rare, but I would also hazard a flat-out guess that they have some contractural rights in that regard, for their "stand-alone" objects).

 

Edge case: the Zapruder film, where a frame grab has great value (I can't think of any other film where a frame grab, even in a documentary, has had any real value that that the cinematographer could realize).

 

Not really an edge case: a Stan Brakage type film, where the cinematography and editing seems to be the only thing on screen but where Stan can be compensated as a producer, "writer" and "director" who provides sufficient value towards the success of the film.

 

That is my take, that "stand-alone" creations and providing a potentially sufficient condition for the success of a film account for those seemingly unfair contracts.

Edited by charles pappas

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So just for clarification as it applies to film production, the on-set stills photographer shooting behind the scenes stills does not receive an on-going royalty for the use of his work. They are all work for hire contracts, and his stills become the property of the production. The producer does not pay an additional royalty if one of those shots is used in the key art, or the back of the DVD box. The photographer is paid his daily rate to shoot for the production.

 

The composer can also easily be set up as a work for hire. All the scores that have been done for my movies, my production company owns the final score outright, no additional royalties are paid going forward. The composer receives his fee, and that's it.

 

I'm not DGA, so I don't have to sign any of their paperwork or use any of their members. Nor am I WGA, I write my own scripts, so why would I bother with that?

 

As for DOPs who "demand" points? Well, sorry, but 99% of producers will walk away and find someone else.

 

R,

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Yes I guess there are only a dozen or so DP,s who could just straight out ask for a salary and points.. but why not.. if the director wants them.. they are very fast.. their work or style is something that few others can do.. their input will be a big part of a very "visual" film.. they have a track record of shooting big films within their budget /schedules .. but also its a way of getting a big time DP on your film without paying a huge salary .. if its a success then the everyone wins..

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but also its a way of getting a big time DP on your film without paying a huge salary .. if its a success then the everyone wins..

 

Ah, I'm 100% fine with that. But agents and DOPs will demand BOTH, and that's where the problem lies.

 

R,

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Ah, I'm 100% fine with that. But agents and DOPs will demand BOTH, and that's where the problem lies.

 

R,

 

 

I didn't know its that common a demand.. I thought if it was ever requested it would only be a tiny percentage in the Oscar winning league.. ?

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I didn't know its that common a demand.. I thought if it was ever requested it would only be a tiny percentage in the Oscar winning league.. ?

 

Certainly only the top 1% of DOPs would be able to make and get such a backend. I've never heard of points being allocated outside of the above the line personnel.

 

R,

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Certainly only the top 1% of DOPs would be able to make and get such a backend. I've never heard of points being allocated outside of the above the line personnel.

 

R,

I've heard from a Line Producer friend that there's often points set aside for the DP, but they are rarely asked for. I think it's fair to offer the DP some sort of profit participation. After all, the Assistant Director is getting residuals through the DGA, and they are not creatively involved at all.

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Well of course when you have to spend two years of your life raising finance for a film and then taking incredible risks with a bank loan, you see this all 180 degrees differently. It's the Little Red Hen philosophy....the DOP didn't help raise the money, nor did he co-sign the bank loan, so I fail to see why he should participate financially in a royalty situation. He gets a healthy day rate, and that's enough as far as I am concerned, same for the rest of the crew. Again....unless you do what I do, and raise finance for films, it's hard to see this POV. Frankly the crew has zero idea of the work that was done by the producers prior to them arriving on set. Hundreds and hundreds of pages of documents were generated before the first crew truck showed up and a single piece of gear was off loaded.

 

Now here comes the kicker, the producer has another 1-2 years of tough slogging ahead once the shoot is wrapped. There is post, sales, and distribution to come. None of which the crew is involved with.

 

On my last shoot the DOP jetted off to Qatar for his next job in less than 24 hours after my shoot was over. I on the other hand had another 18 months of work ahead of me.

 

So I just don't see how the DOP and a producer are even on the same level in terms of time commitment to a project. A film is 8 weeks out of the life of the DOP, and 2-3 YEARS out of mine.

 

R,

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I'm not suggesting an equivalence between a DP and a producer, just saying that a DP can, and should, have a huge creative input on a movie, but there are often people who get rewarded far more for doing far less.

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I'm not suggesting an equivalence between a DP and a producer, just saying that a DP can, and should, have a huge creative input on a movie, but there are often people who get rewarded far more for doing far less.

 

Well yes, an actor can be on set for a few days..and blah blah blah...yep. But there is nothing "fair" about the movie business, nothing.

 

R,

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Musicians and still photographers use their creativity to create "stand-alone' works of art (separate from the film) that may have potentially tremendous value apart from the value of the film. To wit: the soundtrack of a mediocre and/or poorly grossing film that sells millions of albums or downloads. Granted, still photographers can't seem to exploit their "stand-alone" artwork as much as the musician, but it does seem fair that both have that contractural right.

 

Unfortunately, the genius contribution of the cinematographer, editor, set designer, costume designer, etc., has zero value apart from the film itself. Even more unfortunately for them, the contribution of their works of art, great as they may be, can at best be only a necessary condition of the success of the film, history has shown.

 

Whereas the contribution of a screenwriter, an actor or sometimes a director can be and often is a sufficient condition of the success of the film. In that sense, it does seem fair that they command a potentially higher amount of money for their services.

 

Edge case: a costume designer whose design "takes off" and is sold in stores, (very rare, but I would also hazard a flat-out guess that they have some contractural rights in that regard, for their "stand-alone" objects).

 

Edge case: the Zapruder film, where a frame grab has great value (I can't think of any other film where a frame grab, even in a documentary, has had any real value that that the cinematographer could realize).

 

Not really an edge case: a Stan Brakage type film, where the cinematography and editing seems to be the only thing on screen but where Stan can be compensated as a producer, "writer" and "director" who provides sufficient value towards the success of the film.

 

That is my take, that "stand-alone" creations and providing a potentially sufficient condition for the success of a film account for those seemingly unfair contracts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks Pappas,

 

this is what I wanted to know - stand alone creations/work of art. Thanks for the lucid explanation.

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