Posts Tagged film

What’s the Verdict: What does Governor Brown’s new Fair Pay Act mean for Hollywood?

I read an article this morning that posed this very question, and it will be interesting to see how this will play out in Hollywood. An industry already under scrutiny and pressure over pay-disparity of its female actresses as compared to males, due in part to the post-Sony leak of Jennifer Lawrence’s lower profit participation (as compared to co-star Bradley Cooper; 7% vs. 9%, respectively), followed by Patricia Arquette’s Academy Award acceptance speech bringing attention to 35 million people, which then prompted an inundation of media speculation by morning as to why.  Some say this law was a reaction to that pressure.

The law is interesting for 2 reasons: 1) it applies to “similar” jobs, not “same.” 2) it shifts the burden on employers, to justify why there is a disparity, if there is one.  In an industry in which pays are already presumably guided by box office numbers and demand (and projections based on same), it will be interesting to see how things shift, and whether this will in turn change how calculations are done.  In the film world, these calculations determine pre-sales, commitments that determine, in part, how much financing a project will get.  A commitment from a foreign territory (for example) to buy your project at X pre-negotiated amount, before it’s even made, is taken to the bank and used as collateral for a loan.  A risky move already on the part of distributors, sales agents are faced with the difficult and creative job of providing projections based on what talent, director, etc. is attached, and what those names typically bring in at the box office. Oh, how these numbers will change as pays are “equalized.” I have to ask if this will lower pay for everyone.  Doubtful at the A-list level, but what about the low budget and modified low budget world many of my clients (and a significantly growing fraction of the film world) live in?

And while I sympathize, from my perspective, my client is just a cog in the wheel–meaning I can’t take all that into consideration when negotiating the best deal for my client.  And what impact is that having?

The problem here is that there is no guidance yet.  And guidance comes from judges deciding cases and interpreting what the law means in different factual scenarios. My hope is that this law will lead to actual change, as opposed to a slew of litigation….which sadly enough, is the only way we will get some clarity on how the law will be applied.  You can bet on seeing some high profile cases pop up soon.

The other very interesting question that hasn’t been answered yet is what this means for the concept of the “loan-out.” Legally, the actor/producer/director/writer’s loan-out company is contracted by the studio, producer, etc. and it’s actually the loan-out that “hires” the talent, director, writer, etc (going to refer to them all as “talent” from here on out). So technically, the talent etc. is an employee of the loan-out, not the studio or producer.  Hollywood runs on the concept of independent contractors.  And the loan-out –a company set up for the sole purpose of minimizing legal exposure for talent etc.–could end up being a double-edged sword.  Can an actor/producer/writer/director with a loan-out bring a claim against a studio or production company when they are technically employees of their own loan out? The independent contractor vs. employee has already been heavily litigated (there is a slew of case law to turn to, and the IRS even has its own 20 point checklist http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Independent-Contractor-Self-Employed-or-Employee), but we can bet on seeing this issue come up in future cases.

Anyway, just some thought for the curious mind.  I’d love to hear what you all think. Thank you @latimes for getting my wheels turning this morning. http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/envelope/cotown/la-et-ct-hollywood-fair-pay-20151008-story.html

(As a note, I haven’t addressed the important role of crew and “other” talent here, no doubt also subject to this disparity and deserving of notice.)

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What’s The Verdict: Were Mike Huckabee’s anti-Hollywood phone calls more like a survey or telemarketing? Will he be held liable?

What’s The Verdict: Were Mike Huckabee’s anti-Hollywood phone calls more like a survey or telemarketing? Will he be held liable?

Just earlier today, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has revived a lawsuit that accuses U.S. presidential candidate Mike Huckabee along with others of violating telemarketing laws.  The lower court rejected the case, but after today’s decision, Huckabee and others will again face a class action lawsuit over millions of prerecorded  phone message delivered on behalf of the film Last Ounce of Courage back in 2012.

So, what actually happened that led to the lawsuit?

Huckabee was tapped by the film’s producers including Veritas Entertainment in an attempt to get people to a see a movie about a son of fallen U.S. soldier.  The film was Last Ounce of Courage.  To be more precise, there were about 34 million calls to residential phone lines and cells phone.  Based on the script, Huckabee was promoting the film by pitching it as ‘anti-Hollywood.’ For example, Huckabee would call residents and ask the following:

“Do you agree that traditional American values are under attack in mainstream media and by our government?” As well as, “Would you, like me, Mike Huckabee, like to see Hollywood respect and promote traditional American values?”

Two St. Louis residents, Ron Golan and Dorit Golan, filed a $5 million class action suit on behalf of themselves as well as other claiming that the calls were a violation of the Telephone Communication Protection Act and Missouri’s Do Not Call Law. Turns out that the Golans weren’t actually in their home to hear the message but were left with voicemails on their answering machine.

In May 2014, a federal judge rejected the lawsuit because the plaintiffs were unable to demonstrate an injury sufficient enough to give them standing for a law intended to crack down on robocalls.  However, the 8th Circuit judge Diana Murphy has decided to read the law more broadly than the district judge who rejected.  Judge Murphy says that the lower court judge erred in dismissing the claims.

The defendants are arguing that the calls do not fall under the category of telemarketing or advertising, but were more for information gathering with survey questions.  It is now the role of the appeals court to examine and determine the context of the calls to see if the purpose was to promote goods.  Judge Murphy states in her opinion that the messages appeared to be survey-like by asking if recipients had traditional American values, but clearly acknowledges that the producers were most concerned with getting viewers of the film rather than gathering information.

Overall, Judge Murphy recognizes that the Golans are not subject to a unique defense nor did the suffer a unique injury, but what matters for all class members (including Golans) is that the phone calls placed by Huckabee were initiated for the purposes of promoting Last Ounce of Courage.  Additionally, she does not rule on whether or not Huckabee could be “vicariously liable” and is leaving that to the lower district court.

Judge Murphy has reversed the lower court judge’s opinion, meaning the case has been revived and remanded.  The final decision will be left to a lower district court judge.

The case is Golan et al v. Veritas Entertainment LLC et al, 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 14-2484.

What do you think the lower court judge will do this time around? Stay tuned for more updates on What’s The Verdict!

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What’s The Verdict: Will the success of Entourage mean an end to female driven storylines?

What’s The Verdict: Will the success of Entourage mean an end to female driven storylines?

Entourage may prove to be one of the biggest films of the summer, and even the year. Fandango reported that more than 50% of its online sales today have been for tickets to the anticipated film debut of the popular HBO series. The film, which aired special previews across the country this past Tuesday was already able to hit a $2 million in ticket sales record.

With these starting numbers Entourage is sure to break a couple of records. But what effect will this have on female driven films in the industry? Over the past coupe of years female driven casts have become more and more prominent. Even films that would have traditionally thought of as male driven have begun to feature strong female leads.

Mad Max, a film that was originally male driven featured several female protagonists in the remake released last month. For a while it seemed as though the trend of large ensemble cast type films was to integrate both female and male characters.

Entourage presents audiences with a change to this trend. The film is entirely male driven. While it does feature female characters and cameos the storyline, like the HBO show, will revolve around its male actors.

With the film projected to break a series of records for both summer films, and the industry in general, will its all male cast send a message to content creators? Will the industry revert back to featuring all male casts?

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What’s The Verdict: Hollywood Falling Short of Guild Agreements over Original Soundtrack Music Recycling?

What’s The Verdict: Hollywood Falling Short of Guild Agreements over Original Soundtrack Music Recycling?

The state of originality over in Hollywood has been under scrutiny lately.  A new lawsuit was just filed against the largest film and television studios just this morning by the American Federation of Musicians.  Apparently, these studios, including Sony, Viacom, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, Disney, and Warner Bros all violated terms of an agreement by recycling previously recorded film soundtracks.

While the American Federation of Musicians argue that in guild agreements “All music sound track already recorded…will not be used at any time for any purpose whatsoever except to accompany the picture for which the music sound track was originally prepared….” But these guidelines were not being followed.  For example, 33 seconds of music from Cast Away was used in Bridesmaids and 18 seconds of music from Jaws was used in Little Fockers, amongst other examples.

The American Federation is shaking their finger at the studios essentially saying ‘this is a big no no.’  The complaint was filed in California federal court this morning.  You may read the complaint here.  

Stay tuned on What’s The Verdict for more updates.

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Movie Magic: A Recap of This Year’s Box Office Hits

After a robust Christmas season, it is safe to say that the industry will be celebrating a record breaking year in North American box office numbers. Analysts projected that as of this past Sunday, box office revenue would equal the 2012 record of $10.8 billion which meant that with two more days to go before 2014, the final tally would likely be around $10.9 billion. The top earning holiday films included: ‘The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug’, ‘Frozen’, ‘Anchorman 2’ and ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’.

Although those films dominated the holiday season box office, there are several notable films that contributed to the year’s record breaking numbers. ‘Iron Man 3’ is at the top of the list, earning over $409 million at the North American box office. The iron clad marvel superhero was followed closely by ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ and ‘Despicable Me 2’ but not so closely by the number four top grossing film of the year ‘Man of Steel’ which brought in $291 million in domestic revenue. The motion picture industry will have plenty to celebrate this evening as we ring in the new year! 

What was your favorite motion picture of 2013? 

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/box-office-led-by-hobbit-667856

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Brett Ratner’s RatPac-Dune Closes $300 Million Credit Facility to Fund Warner Bros. Films

RatPac-Dune Entertainment, the partnership between filmmaker Brett Ratner, Australian businessman James Packer and Wall Street financier Steven Mnuchin, closed a $300 million credit facility deal last week. The credit facility will be used in conjunction with an equity investment, to finance as many as 75 upcoming Warner Bros. movies. The Hollywood Reporter broke the story about the slate co-financing deal between RatPac-Dune and Warner Bros. in September. This partnership formed on the heels of the termination of Legendary Entertainment’s association with Warner Bros. earlier this year. The new partnership already commenced with the first joint investment in Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. 

Do think RatPac-Dune and Warner Bros. make for a great partnership? 

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/brett-ratners-ratpac-dune-closes-660509

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Comcast Enters The Digital Media Realm

Comcast has officially entered the world of digital media by opening a digital movie and TV show store. Less then a week after rumors surfaced that the cable experts were considering a digital store, Comcast has already begun selling movies ahead of their DVD release dates on TV as well as online. The price point for standard definition range between $10.99 and $12.99 while high definition goes up to $16.99.  

Do you think this will have any quantifiable effect on the evolving distribution landscape? 

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/comcast-opens-digital-movie-tv-658116

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