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Author Topic: Ethics of Listing Productions You Worked With (Through Someone Else)  (Read 234 times)

JoeKitchen

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Good Morning,

So this will be a little bit of a long post, but it is necessary to give some background first. 

In the beginning of 2019, I and a large format printer local to me started working with an American living in the Netherlands who produces backdrops & translights (see below) for TV and film, albeit independently of each other at the time.  As we worked with him for the next three years, it became apparent he is unstable and a hardcore narcissist.  We are also certain he is a drug user, so not a great combination overall.  It eventually got to the point that neither of us could continue working with him, not to mention he screwed me out of $9500.  It is important to note that I only worked for him as an independent contractor and neither signed a work-made-for-hire agreement nor any exclusivity contract.  I chose not to pursue copyright damages initially (all images had already been registered) since he lives in the Netherlands and collecting any judgements would have been impossible.  I decided to instead keep that copyright violation in my back pocket for when I would need it. 

A couple of months after we both stopped working with him, the printer and I reconnected and started our own backdrop business, Precision Backdrops.  Although I had no legal obligation against doing so, I chose not to use the image files I captured for him with this new business.  We instead built a new portfolio.  The issue here though is that it is the translights that are most valuable, and they are very tedious and technical to both photograph and print.  Not to mention views only accessible from private property are also more valuable in both sales and marketing.  So our catalog at this time was lacking when it came to translights. 

Then our prior associate found out about our new venture and attempted to sue us out of business for infringement of trade secrets.  Specifically he went after me.  There are no trade secrets, so his case was pretty weak.  This is also when I pilled out my potential copyright case as a counter, and after my attorney made it known to his this is how we would respond, his legal threats quickly went away.  Although it never went to court, being threaten by an attorney with a lawsuit for the first time was somewhat nerve racking not to mention it did cost me money. 

So all of the translights I shot for him went up on our website shortly thereafter.  This really fleshed out our catalog. 

Our former associate now appears to be out of business.  He had a bad reputation in the industry and, from what we heard, he was blacklisted from all Disney productions worldwide.  I assume at least one of the other major studios followed suit.  I did hear he may have shut down his old business only to open under a new name to get around the blacklisting.  Since he is adopted, I would not be surprised if he starts using his adopted last name too.  We dont think it is going to work. 

So, after all of this and with the industry starting to open again, I am wondering if listing the shows we both worked on through him on our website as shows we worked on would be a good idea? 

On the plus side, it would greatly increase our roster of shows we can reference.  We have worked on a few shows over the last two years, but the strikes have prevented us from really taking off yet. 

On the negative, it would be a "faking it until you make it" kind of deal.  We have been telling ADs we have spoken to about these projects, but would putting it in writing be ethical? 

Also, our former associate screwed up some of these projects by accepting unrealistic delivery timeframes ultimately leading to the backdrop being late by a week or two or three.  This really messes up production a lot more than just being truthful from the beginning.  So I am also concerned that if we list these shows we worked on, could that unprofessionalism on his part also taint us?  Or am I being crazy here? 

Thanks, Joe


(A film backdrop is a large print, averaging 24 feet tall and anywhere from 40 to 200 feet long, that wraps around a set acting as the view through the set windows.  A translight is special type of film backdrop that when front lit shows a day version of the view.  When backlit, a night version of the view is shown.)
« Last Edit: April 29, 2024, 08:40:50 am by JoeKitchen »
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Christopher Sanderson

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Re: Ethics of Listing Productions You Worked With (Through Someone Else)
« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2024, 10:18:07 am »

If it were me, I would not publicly reference shows with your trans lights that have possible surrounding 'issues'. You have the legal right to reference them apparently but there is 'taint'. So I base this more on 'atmosphere' than any ethical stance.

Reputation in the small circle of production is key. The last thing a producer, pm or ad wants is the possibility of litigation surrounding a backdrop.

That said, I would definitely have all that unused promotional and portfolio material at hand to privately show a potential client should the opportunity arise specific to a particular project where it might clearly make the difference to a completed sale.

Good luck!

JoeKitchen

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Re: Ethics of Listing Productions You Worked With (Through Someone Else)
« Reply #2 on: April 29, 2024, 06:48:07 pm »

If it were me, I would not publicly reference shows with your trans lights that have possible surrounding 'issues'. You have the legal right to reference them apparently but there is 'taint'. So I base this more on 'atmosphere' than any ethical stance.

Reputation in the small circle of production is key. The last thing a producer, pm or ad wants is the possibility of litigation surrounding a backdrop.

That said, I would definitely have all that unused promotional and portfolio material at hand to privately show a potential client should the opportunity arise specific to a particular project where it might clearly make the difference to a completed sale.

Good luck!

Thanks for the advise.  I did speak to a few others and the overall opinion is to only list the shows where you know things went smoothly, which is what we are doing.  Given the small community in the film industry, this seems very wise. 

Insofar as potential copyright issues, my attorney (who specializes in IP) is confident I am the sole copyright owner of those images and may use them to produce my own derivatives, aka backdrops.  This was explained to my former associate's attorney, also a specialist in IP, and he did not attempt to make a legal argument otherwise.  In his situation, it did not benefit him to be coy and restrained, so if the argument could have been made it would have.

With that said, we are only indemnifying USA productions against litigation if someone wishes to license the usage of one of those backdrops.  Currently though, they are just helping to flesh out the catalog and yet to be licensed to anyone, which is fine by me. 
« Last Edit: April 29, 2024, 06:51:14 pm by JoeKitchen »
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