Home of Professional Cinematography since 1996

style="margin-bottom: 0"> 

class="style5" Ethics

>Published : 16th July 2005

>Fellow CML’ers

>I've recently hit an ethical dilemma and was hoping some of you might have experienced something similar and knew of a solution, if any. I recently shot a music video in the Ukraine for a local singer who is becoming big internationally. During the editing process, the election happened with its subsequent orange revolution after it appeared that there had been significant election fraud. During this protest, said singer came down firmly in favour of the orange side, announced a hunger strike and, according to her web site, went and re-shot sequences of her video using the peaceful protests. While I applaud the people's way of expressing their discontent with the system, I have absolutely no idea, other than "pro-Russian" and "pro-European", of what the candidates stand for. I certainly didn't travel to the Ukraine to lend support to one political movement or the other, yet suddenly find my work used to support a candidate I know nothing about. As I was the only "westerner" working on the music clip I only have had some contact with the Russian director, who also found out about the new footage through the net. There was never a proper contract and I have no direct link to the singer who speaks very little English.

>So: grin and bear it? Think "oh well, there are no credits on a music clip so no one will know it was me"? Protest? What rights do we really have as cinematographers in such situations? Surely other members' work has been abused in the past, so how did you deal with that? I know it happens a lot in commercials, where we don't get invited to grading sessions, but this is a political statement that is being made with my work.

>I look forward to hearing from you.

>Roger Simonsz
DP/Operator
Ethically confused in Paris


class="Paragraph">> So: grin and bear it?

>Seems like your only option. Unless you're absolutely certain that the political views being espoused by the artist are completely contrary to your own. Without a formal contract you've no legal position to challenge what the footage you shot was used for.

>I've just finished work on a (big budget) music video where, at the eleventh hour, the record label execs booted the director and their editor off and gave all the rushes to someone else to re-cut it. IMHO the directors cut was excellent (not to mention identical to their 'approved' treatment) and since they're a close personal friend of mine and the piece was a real labour of love for both of us I felt as queasy as they did when this happened.

>We have no legal recourse to stop the record company from re-appropriating the footage though; they paid for it to be shot - they own it.

>After spitting blood for a while I've just decided to take it on the chin.

>Yours,

>Tom Townend,
Cinematographer/London.


>I know that this may sound dismissive, it's not meant to be.

>You were hired to shoot a music video.

>You shot a music video.

>They've released a music video.

>They used additional footage, happens to all of us.

>They changed the script, happens to all of us.

>I'm not being flip but you haven't personally endorsed the message, you just shot a music video.

>I've shot commercials for al the major UK political parties, doesn't mean I agreed with their policies, I was hired to do my best work lighting someone so I did.

>I've done ads for some really crap products but my job was to make them look as good as I could not to endorse them.

>I have turned down some ads and done others for free. These were in cases where I was very clear in advance what the product/cause was and made a decision one way or the other.

>You just did the job you were hired for.

>Sleep easy.

>Cheers

>Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based
www.cinematography.net


class="Paragraph">>What rights do we really have as cinematographers in such situations?

>None. You were hired to do a job and you did it. What happens after that is none of your concern, unless it costs you money that you should have been paid.

>Like Geoff said, you aren't implicitly endorsing a politician just because your footage, shot for another purpose, is now being used in a political ad. You don't own the footage, you were paid to shoot it, it's out of your hands.

>If a tagline appeared at the end that said, "All the members of the cast and crew, specifically including Roger Simonsz, support the political message endorsed in this video and will fight for it to the death if given the opportunity--oh, and here's Roger's address," you might have a case.

>Art Adams, DP [film|hidef|video]
Mountain View, California
San Francisco Bay Area - "Silicon Valley"
http://www.artadams.net/
Local resources : http://www.artadams.net/local


class="Paragraph">>absolutely no idea, other than "pro-Russian" and "pro-European", of >what the candidates stand for.

>If it helps at all with your ethical dilemma, every person I know in Ukraine is firmly supporting the "Orange Revolution," from writers and musicians to furniture salesmen...So if I was in your shoes, I'd be very pleased to have my footage re-purposed that way. Of course, I've got a bit more of a connection to that whole situation, so I can sympathize with someone who may be walking in without any background.

>If you'd like some political analysis feel free to email me off list where we won't bore others

>George Hupka
Director/DP
Downstream Pictures
Saskatoon, Canada


>Roger,

>Whereas I sympathize with you, there really is nothing you can do.

When we show up at call time, we really are simply 'hired guns'. We are hired for the work we can deliver to the client [regardless of weather you are working for a famous movie director or a studio or a commercial director].

>Our views on the subject do not add up to a hill of beans. Now, the director should be alarmed at this since he/she is the message 'artist' and possibly the audience out there who will eventually view this work might sincerely believe that the director IS making a political statement...and this could be a dangerous situation for him/her…but, you, as a photographer or really a 'recorder' have nothing to worry about.

I mean, I shoot feminine hygiene spots but I really have no personal view on them!

Cheers,
Jeff Barklage, s.o.c.
US based DP
www.barklage.com
view reel : www.reelsondemand.com


>I agree with Geoff's post - if your job was to shoot the project, that's what you do.

>I shot one of those hair transplant commercials (at least it was S-16 and 35, some of those are pitifully cheesy awful video)So we filmed one actor coming out of the ocean, shaking his hair in slow motion etc-but the actor of course had 100% real hair, so it's of course deceiving the public all the way, he never had the damn procedure done... of course it's all smoke and mirrors...

>John F Babl
DP
Miami


class="Paragraph">>...So we filmed one actor coming out of the ocean, shaking his hair in >slow motion etc-but the actor of course had 100% real hair, so it's of >course deceiving the public all the way, he never had the damn >procedure done...

>I'm shocked!

>I've been on sets where the grips were asked to hang a 12 x 12 solid in front of the agency so they could not see the doctoring of their product for a shot. I think it's illegal for them to see it done. Maybe it's even illegal for the production company and director to do it. I'm not sure....

>BTW-what is a 12x12 foot solid black called in Europe and elsewhere?

>Jim Sofranko
NY/DP


>Jim Sofranko writes :

class="Paragraph">>BTW-what is a 12x12 foot solid black called in Europe and elsewhere?

>A 12 * 12 Black...

>Cheers

>Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based
www.cinematography.net


class="Paragraph">> So: grin and bear it?

>Tom Townend wrote :

class="Paragraph">>We have no legal recourse to stop the record company from re->appropriating the footage though; they paid for it to be shot - they own it.

>Not necessarily. I'm not sure of the international case law on this, but here is the situation in the US:

>The person operating the camera is considered the author of the images on film, and therefore owns the full copyright in these images from the moment of their creation, regardless of who paid for the film and processing. The US copyright office merely provides an official registration, they do not grant copyright; that is inherent in a work from the moment of creation.

>This copyright can only be assigned to another party in a written instrument (document).

>So if you have no deal memo, or a deal memo that does not expressly contain an assignment of copyright, and assignment of authorship, or a work for hire agreement, the authorship is retained by the person who fixed the images in a tangible form (the camera operator).

>So If there was no deal memo, and you don't like how the footage is being used, then you can absolutely do something about it. Beyond that if they use the footage in a manner that is above and beyond what they hired you for, and you've retained the copyright, you may be able to negotiate an additional usage fee for the footage.

>Furthermore, if you sign a deal memo that does have an assignment of copyright, and the client breaches their contract with you by not paying you in full, the copyright assignment becomes invalid, and you retain authorship of the footage.

>That means they need your permission to even duplicate it, or else they have committed a copyright violation.

>I'm currently in the middle of my second dispute of this nature. In both cases, I did work for very little money in exchange for DVCam copies of the source footage, only to be told after the fact that the would not release the source footage to me at all.

>In the first case there was no deal memo, and they ultimately had to relinquish the footage. In the second, there was a deal memo, but I specified the source footage as part of my compensation package. Until the pay me in full with both the monetary and non-monetary compensation, they have not fulfilled their contract and I retain authorship of the footage.

>I come from a still photography background, and this is routine practice for professional still photographers. If they are commissioned to produce a photograph, common practice is to not sign a work for hire agreement, and to retain the copyright. The commission would include a usage agreement for a specified period of time for a specified usage, after which additional fees would be negotiated for any further usage.

>For example, if they hired you to do a magazine ad, and then later decided to turn the same picture into a billboard, you would be entitled to additional compensation for the additional usage.

>Copyright Law can really give you some sharp teeth, provided that you were the one operating the camera at the time of the creation of the footage. If you had a separate camera operator, authorship resides with them, and you haven't got a leg to stand on.

>Thanks,

>Rachel Dunn
-------------------------
Cinematographer


>Jim Sofranko wrote:

class="Paragraph">>BTW-what is a 12x12 foot solid black called in Europe and elsewhere?

>An ethical shield?

>Jeff Kreines


>Having been there, and done it -- to my regret -- I think there is a significant difference between knowingly participating in perpetrating a fraud, and having footage you shot for hire used in a cause with which you might not necessarily agree.

>Brian Heller
IA 600 DP


>OK,

>I know this is how the law read :

class="style7">>>The person operating the camera is considered the author of the images on film, and therefore owns the full copyright in these images from the moment of their creation, regardless of who paid for the film and processing. The US copyright office merely provides an official registration, they do not grant copyright; that is inherent in a work from the moment of creation.<<

>But, to actually get any real satisfaction from the courts regarding this is next to totally impossible.

I shot a music video for one of the 'bigs' [or so they think they are].

>I was stupid and believed the jerks when they said to go ahead and put my crew & rentals on my invoice for a single payout [I know...I know, I was STUPID! But I thought the producer was a friend whom I had worked with before for over 5 years! and many projects...]

>Well, I had to use my personal savings account to pay everything off and I had to do several shoots for the post house to remove my debt!

>This sucks!

>I did hire a lawyer, I did have a contract, it was signed by both parties...but they are in another state [watch out for this ploy!] and after hiring a lawyer in my home state to go after the producer, and a lawyer in NYC to go after the record label [who had 'the problem']....I was not only out my initial money but out thousands due to the legal costs. The judge threw my case out...as well as everything on his desk that afternoon and left his office early on a nice summer day..[so my lawyer told me]. He apparently never read my case files at all.

>So, I'd have to re-file and do it all over again and again pay thousands again to re file. Nope.
Cut your losses when you know you are screwed.

>So, what did I learn from this?
NEVER EVER trust any producer now matter how long you have known him/her when it comes to 'floating' the crew on your own invoice.

>Never sub-rent anything that cannot be either pre-paid or C.O.D.

PS, this video ran on MTV and VH-1 and after all the record industry moans and groans about music piracy...THEY are the biggest pirates! They pirated my images.

>This was 2 years ago but it is a painful memory.

Cheers,
Jeff Barklage, s.o.c.
US based DP


class="style7">> Having been there, and done it -- to my regret -- I think there is a >significant difference between knowingly participating in perpetrating a >fraud, and having footage you shot for hire used in a cause with which >you might not necessarily agree.

>Ok, it weighs heavily on my soul.... in the 80's I worked on a Yugo commercial.

>We made that car look great, and I only hope that no one bought one based on the work we did on that ad. - They were HORRIBLE little cars.

>Mark Weingartner
mea culpa

>LA


>Mark " Mea culpa" Weingartner writes:

class="style7">> Ok, it weighs heavily on my soul....
> ...in the 80's I worked on a Yugo commercial.

>Ego te absolvo.

>Should Fr. Boyle set up cml-true confessions?

>Brian "I ain't tellin'" Heller


class="style7">>NEVER EVER trust any producer now matter how long you have known >him/her when it comes to 'floating' the crew on your own invoice.

>Truer words were never spoken.

>Aside from the obvious financial issues, there's the problem of someone who now works for you getting hurt on the shoot, an occurrence which could *easily* bankrupt you.

>Just a bad, bad idea.

>Bob Kertesz
BlueScreen LLC


class="style7">>NEVER EVER trust any producer now matter how long you have known >him/her when it comes to 'floating' the crew on your own invoice.

>A lot of people in my area do this but I make it a policy not to. I had too many bad experiences getting screwed in LA, plus a couple up here. I go out of my way to help producers and directors make their shoots go as smoothly as successfully as possible, but one of the few things I won't do to help them out is front my own money. I'll save them money by working efficiently and I'll cut corners where I can, but I'm not going to be responsible for paying anyone anything.

>Art Adams, DP [film|hidef|video]
Mountain View, California
San Francisco Bay Area - "Silicon Valley"


>As the original poster of this topic I'd just like to thank everyone for their input. On reading the many, and varied, replies I can't help but feel that we sometimes undervalue our power as image makers. I'm not talking about actually being paid or not, but about the power inherent in images.

>Big corporations wouldn't be falling over themselves to get product placements in films if the image counted for so little. We all know that placing a camera slightly above or below an eyeline can make a world of difference to the perception of the viewer to the person being filmed. Lenie Riefenstahl's films are still mostly kept under lock and key due to their visual power and the effects it can have on an unsuspecting audience.

>Politicians know all about this and continually manipulate the "free", and "un-free", world through use of images and will employ specialists to help them achieve their required "image". This is true for politicians you may agree with as well as those you don't, but you only tend to notice it in the latter. Just treating our job as any other is negating the power we have and hold. We are not just there to make things "pretty' or ensure the correct exposure and when we engage ourselves on a project we give more than a properly exposed negative. Every shot we make, or allow to happen, is a statement we should be able to defend. I know this is not always possible and I too have mouths to feed, but I don't think we can afford to ever let go of the idea that whatever shot we make is important and carries our imprint further than edge numbers.

>Thank you all once again, and may I wish all those in the Northern Hemisphere a joyous festival of light, and in the Southern Hemisphere a great mid-summer.

>Roger Simonsz
DP/Operator
Joyously in Paris