Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Little Bit Wicked by Kristin Chenoweth

Kristen Chenoweth with Joni Rodgers. A Little Bit Wicked: Live, Love, and Faith in Stages. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2009.

The author first appeared with the Tulsa Ballet while in second grade. Unlike many of the other girls, she absorbed what the teacher taught. She recalled how a small object could trip a dancer. While onstage as a rabbit, she saw a some greenery had fallen onto the stage, put it in her mouth, and hopped back to her spot. She felt encouraged when the director called her “my clever bunny.”

Having talent, and having worked to improve that talent, has provided Chenoweth with options in life. She chose a role in a new play “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” over a role in an established play “Annie Get Your Gun”, and won a Tony. She close a role on Broadway in a new show “Wicked”, which was successful, over a role on the TV show “The West Wing”, and still later appeared on the show. She chose a role on the TV show “Pushing Daisies” that made her more of a national name but was canceled over the Broadway play “Young Frankenstein”, which was a hit.

Her singing teacher, Florence Birdwell, taught her to sing with her entire body. She graduated from Oklahoma City University with a degree in Musical Theatre and later obtained a masters degree in Opera Performance. She entered pageants. She was second runner up for Miss Oklahoma. Her parents moved to Pennsylvania, where she faced less competition, yet heard the winner was rigged in advance, and was once again second runner up.

Chenoweth received several stage roles. She chose the role in the untested “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” which wasn’t ever assured to make it to Broadway, over a role on an established Broadway show. She decided she preferred accepting a new role.

Chenoweth’s first TV role was in an AMC miniseries “Paramour” that ended when AMC was sold to Ted Turner. Turner wanted the channel to have no original shows. She did an episode of “Blind Men” that was produced by John Markus. John Markus would later produce her TV show “Kristen”. When Jeff Zucker took over at NBC, he canceled “Kristin” and replaced it with “Fear Factor”. Jeff Zucker, though, would ask her three years later to return to do “The West Wing”.

Chenoweth enjoyed working with Joel Gray. She found him someone who cared deeply about his acting work, which she labels “part of a dying breed.”

Chenoweth enjoyed her cast mates on “The West Wing”. A line from her first show was when the 5’11” Allison Janey looked at the 5’2” Chenoweth and remarked “I can’t believe we’re members of the same species.”

Aaron Sorkin wanted Chenoweth on “The West Wing”, yet she turned it down. Ironically, he had left “The West Wing” when she later agreed to accept a role. He asked to meet her and they began dating. They had dated off and on, but say they’ll always love each other.

Heroes Among Us by John Quinones

John Quinones with Stephen P. Williams. Heroes Among Us. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2008.

As anchor of the TV show “What Would People Do”, the author, a sixth generation American who grew up in the barrio of San Antonio, is amazed at how people react to scenes of discrimination. It upsets him when people openly display their racism.

Among news items that Quinones broadcast was the Challenger launch in 1886. He asked the camera to stay on the proud parents of Christa McAuliffe as this school teacher was among those launched in a space shuttle. The proud faces changed as the shuttle exploded. This was a most heart breaking broadcast, especially knowing that millions of inspired children were watching.

The author explains that a hero is someone who resists following a group towards evil.

Quinones describes family by using a quote from Martin Mull that “a family is like having a bowling ball inside your brain.” He believes heroes arise from how they are raised.

The book describes various incidences of heroism.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Paradise, Suzanna Style by Suzanna Leigh

Suzanna Leigh. Paradise, Suzanna Style. Charlotte’s Publishing, 2000.

The author once had a seven year contract acting in Hal Wallis movies. She worked with Elvis Presley, who requested she be his leading lady in “Easy Come, Easy Go.” Elvis’s manager. Col. Tom Parker, was against Elvis and the author being friends. Col. Parker planted false information in the press he hoped would cause Elvis to drop their friendship. Hal Willis, on the other hand, tried to have the press build their relationship as he felt that would create lots of movie publicity.

Leigh refused to cash in on her friendship with Elvis. She stated they had great physical attraction for each other but they were not lovers. They were pictured in magazines kissing.

Leigh attended the Arts Education School, where students were reminded that Julie Andrews had proceeded them.

At age 12, Leigh won her first movie role in “Tom Thumb” with Russ Tamblyn and Peter Sellers. She was paid two guineas

She was in a day’s worth of shooting in the movie “Oscar Wilde”. She stayed on the set on additional days to learn more about film making.

On her third film, the author learned that producers and directors often sought to have sex with actresses and held the lure of roles in connection with their sex demands. Leigh feared that actresses who did that ruined their reputations which harmed their careers. She notes that Harry Cohn of Columbia Pictures was notorious for demanding sex from actresses. Cohn is said to have made a prostitute into a movie star. Leigh claims Cohn, during a meeting she had with him, suddenly attacked her and that director Otto Preminger rescued her and hit Cohen on his nose. She ran out of the meeting with Cohen yelling she would never work at Columbia. She later learned Cohen had bet someone he could get her to sleep with him.

Leigh notes that one costar, Lawrence Harvey, kept thin with bulimic behavior and would seek strength by drinking blood.

Leigh had an early problem learning lines. She would have them memorized at home yet faced difficulties when performing. She then learned the entire script, which seems both to have comforted her memorization abilities as well as better allowing her to handle dialogue changes to scripts.

Roman Polanski propositioned Leigh, telling her he could only direct women with whom he had slept. Polanski claimed, according to Leigh, that sexually frustrated women fail to give their best performances. Leigh noted that Polanski filmed some sexually violent scenes that were cut and never shown.

Tony Curtis and Jerry are talented actors who would improvise off a script.

Tony Curtis suggested, and Leigh followed, that scripts be placed into black leather covers with gold title printing.

While filming “Paradise Hawaiian Style”, Leigh met actor Richard Harris in Hawaii and had an affair with him. Her co-star Elvis Presley disapproved of her affair with a married man.

Elvis stated he considered Leigh as his “little sister”. All 51 Elvis films made a profit. Leigh was asked by Elvis to film a second movie with him, which was rare. Elvis usually appeared with all new casts in each movie. Elvis asked Leigh to sing in the movie’s soundtrack, telling her this would be profitable as she’s share in the record sales income.

Leigh requested, as was allowed, to do her own costume designing in the movie “The Lost Continent”.

Leigh visited Hungary for British Film Week in 1968. A Hungarian actress slipped her a note telling of the oppression Hungarian artists and actors were under. Leigh’s hotel room was ransacked. A British Embassy staff member warned her she could place the note writer in jeopardy if she went public with what it said. Leigh stayed silent. She learned a few years later that the note writer was shot to death attempting to flee Hungary. Leigh also learned from talking with Roman Polanski that he was not an advocate of more artistic freedom of expression within the Communist block nations.

Tony Curtis is a dedicated actor. He felt so strongly he could play the lead in “The Boston Strangler” that he paid for his own screen test for the role. He got the part.

Leigh worked well with Tony Curtis, although she noted Tony Curtis and Roger Moore did not work well together. Joan Collins asked Leigh what it was like to work with Tony Curtis, and she recommended Curtis as a good co-worker. Unfortunately, Curtis did not get along with Collins. Collins then became upset at Leigh.

Ringo Starr asked Leigh to be in the movie “Son of Dracula”. The filmmakers concentrated more on taking drugs during the shoots than their work. The script and story were often altered at the spur of the moment. Dennis Price was the voice of reason on the set. The movie received poor reviews.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Clearance & Copyright by Michael C. Donaldson

Michael C. Donaldson. Clearance & Copyright: Everything You Need to Know for Film and Television. 3rd Ed. Los Angeles: Silman James Press, 2008.

This is an excellent resource book on legal issues involving clearance and copyright issues affecting the film industry. Numerous sample contracts are presented within this book.

For the first 150 years of the printing press, printers could print what they wished, excepting censorship from the King. Queen Anne in the 18th century gave authors the right to determine which printers were allowed to print their works. The authors usually were paid by the printers they chose for that right.

The British and French idea of a copyright hold by authors extended to the British colonies. The idea of a copyright
was included in the U.S. Constitution.

A copyright automatically exists to any original book, play, song, photograph, etc. There is no registration required.

It is a violation of the copyright law to make even one copy of a movie.

A copyright lasts 70 years after the death of the author. If a work was written by a corporation, employee or hired employee as a condition of employment, the copyright lasts the lesser of 1.) 120 years from when if was created or 2.) 95 years after it was published.

A derivative work must secure permission from the copyright owner in order to produce an alteration of an original work.

A public performance of copyrighted material, even if performed for free, must request permission from the owner of the owner of the copyright.

Ideas can not be copyrighted. Copyright protects something in a tangible form. Thus, the more written, the more it is protected is someone steals it.

An implied contract bonds an agreement between parties even though the terms have not been settled.

An express contract is an agreement between parties of specific terms, either in writing or orally.

A dispute where a court agrees a story concept was stolen requires both parties to be industry professionals. A studio has no obligation to pay a non-writer for a movie concept. The court also has to agree that the stolen concept was specific enough to the concept used in the movie. The courts in most states will require the concept must be a novel one. Payment for the concept requires showing the author was denied the ability to make money for it in order for it to be a contract dispute rather than a copyright dispute.

A producer who pitched an idea that a studio makes has an implied contract. Courts have upheld this when the studio than made the film with no payment to the producer who pitched the idea. Such cases are often difficult to prove. The person accusing another of stealing ideas has to show by the preponderance of evidence that the accuser’s ideas were sent and received by the defendant, that it was clear the sender expected payment should the idea be used, and the accused knew this and accepted the idea on such payment terms.

Many studios require writers to agree to waive their rights before allowed to pitch ideas. Some studio lawyers avoid making this requirement too overbearing that a court would find it unenforceable.

Writers should keep all writings from a studio mentioning their ideas. This may be useful if a paper trail is every needed. It is helpful to keep a record of all meetings and telephone discussions.

Treatments and scripts should be registered with the Writers Guild (WGA). Mailing a script to oneself and not opening it until a trial may not work as opposing counsel may dispute that the seal can not be proved to have never been altered.

Another may make fair use of another’s work depending upon how it is used, depending whether or not it is used for profit, the nature of the work, the degree to which a copyrighted work is used, and how much the use of the work affects its value. Appellate courts have made inconsistent rulings regarding fair use. There are arguments between the need for copyright protections versus the needs of First Amendment expressions.

The resuse of the Reginald Denny tape by stations that did not obtain a license to show it were found to not have had a fair use to show it. Even though only 30 seconds of the tape was shown, it was considered the “heart” of the film.

It is not fair use to show the heart of someone else’s film.

The reuse of another’s film that is transformative, such as put into a documentary, can be a fair use of that film.

The publishing of concert posters in a book transformed the original use of posters and were fair use in the book/

The test of fair use is whether art of science is advanced move by the use of a copyrighted material than if it is not used.

A copyrighted material may be used for critique, whether social, cultural, or political, so long as the use is a presentation of the work.

Copyrights material should be attributed. Duplication of an attributed copyrighted material should not be more than what is required for the reuse purpose.

A copyrighted material unintentionally filmed for another purpose can be reasonably used so long as the copyrighted material does not become a main focus.

A copyrighted material can be used in a historical documentary, so long as it is not used more than required to make the intended part.

Court rulings have failed to produce clear definitions of what is or is not fair use of copyrighted materials. Fair use will require that it was necessary to make a point, only enough required to make the point was used, and there is a clear connection between what is used and the point.

A resume fee is required to be paid to a Screen Actor Guild, Directors Guild, or Writers Guild member for reuse of a post-1960 film. A reuse fee is not required when it is reused under fair use.

Used works should be credited, including naming the director. This is required in France and other foreign countries.

A copyrighted material on a book cover can only be enough to inform what the book is about but not enough to persuade the buyer to buy the book.

A movie whose advertising noted the existence of clips as an inducement to buy the film violated the fair use of the clips for historical purposes.

There are insurance policies for films that include a fair use rider.

Background music that unintentionally appears in a background and its sound is reduced as much as possible can appear in a documentary.

A short amount of music discussed in a film may be fair use.

A biographical documentary may allow small amounts of the music by the subject of the documentary.

Compositions and recordings have different fair use standards.

Satire can directly take material and comment on it.

A parody can be made of a copyrighted work that criticizes or comments on it so long as it does not diminish the value of the copyrighted work. There is no requirement the parody contain humor. 2 Live Crew’s “Pretty Woman” was ruled a parody of Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman”.

Critical commentary may parody another’s work. Parody may be done by a serious work.

Public figures can be parodied.

A trademark can be parodied.

A copyrighted song presented humorously or by an impersonator is a violation of the copyright.

A slight change to a recognizable song violated its copyright.

A trademark’s reputation can not be abused in a film.

“Animal House” is an example of a movie that made satirical comments without using any copyrighted materials to make those points.

Jokes usually can not be copyrighted, although parodies can.

A comedian’s expressions copied verbatim can have copyright protections.

All pre-1923 works are in the public domain.

Some pre-1978 works have expired or renewed copyrights.

Works produced by Federal government employees as condition of their employment are public domain.

Studios and movie financiers prefer that a film purchase all underlying rights.

The retelling of a story an author claimed as fact cannot than have the author cliam it really is a protected fictional story.

“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” is a public domain story. Independent additions to the work Disney are copyrighted by Disney.

A pan and scan alteration of a public domain film can be protected and create a copyright infringement if reused by another.

A non-commercial Creative Commons license prohibits any commercial use of the work.

A no-derviative Creative Commons license prohibits any derivative work of that work.

An Attribution Share Alike 3.0 license allows others to obtain the license granted for its use in the same manner as the work itself is licensed.

An Attribution 3.0 license allows use of the owkr so long as attribution is given.

A work whose owner can’t be found after a legitimate substantial written search is an orphan work that can be used. If the orphan work’s owner later appears, fewer copyrighted protections are afforded the owner/

Filmmakers often pay archives for public domain films as payment for the services for the archives/

The updating of the soundtrack in a public domain movie recaptured the film’s copyright.

Popular visual characters or drawn characters are licensed so royalties must be paid on advertising.

A music video using a character looking like Freddy Krueger was prevented from being shown.

A television commercial that used a James Bond copy was successfully sued for violating James Bond’s copyright.

A “holdback period” is when a copyright owner allows one party, but no others, to develop a film proposal.

A “right of first negotiation” requires a copyright owner to conduct good faith negotiations with one set party before negotiating with anyone else.

A “right of last refusal” gives a party the right to match the final offer made by another.

A “franchise” character is a popular character that can be expected to attract many viewers, especially during the first weekend of a movie’s release.

A copyright dispute over a character may depend on whether a character has enough original “character delineation”. Also important, to a lesser degree, is the degree to which the “story being told” concerns the character in dispute.

A copyrighted logo that appears on clothing used as costume in a film that uses the clothing in its intended use should not be a trademark violation. Documentaries have less to worry about. A lawsuit was filed by the trademark owner of the Barney costume, but lost as it was a parody, over the commercial use of a Barney-like costume.

The owner of source material which a script is based upon owns “underlying property”. The “underlying rights” must be obtained from this owner.

A film company has to own the underlying work in order to do anything with the story that involves a film, including re-releases. A work with a –re-1978 copyrighted story may have seen its film rights to a studio cease when a writer died and those rights were inherited.

Often a studio buys an option of a film which gives the studio the right to decide if it will make the film. No other studio could bid on the film while the option remains in effect. The author advises the option be in writing.

A bible is a descriptive detail of a script story. There can be separate owners of a story, bible, and screenplay. Characters can also be separately copyrighted.

Film rights for most books are held by their authors.

The copyrights for most comic books are held by the publishers.

Magazine articles, newspaper stories, and non-fiction books may have two tiers of ownership by the authors and the subjects.

Films based on a song usually need to obtain rights from the song’s publishing company.

The film rights to most plays are held by the playwrights.

Film rights to sequels or prequels can be held separately from other film rights.

Unless a screenwriter is a “work for hire”, the copyright of the screenplay belongs to the screenwriter.

The copyright for a work for hire is the shortest time of either 95 years after publication or 120 years after its creation.

Most studies are double vested, with one production company that signs WGA members to a Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA) and another that signs non-union writers without the MBA.

Absent a written agreement, each joint author of a script has a right to make deals and is required to provide a share to the other writers.

In a joint writing effort, if one person has the right to decide what goes into the script, that person has superintendence over the script. Courts have varied over the degree to which superintendence determines the rights between joint authors.

The rights to a spec script remain with the author. The purchaser a script can change it as the purchaser desires/

A submission agreement allows someone to read a script and not be sued bo the author if the reader produces any similar film.

An enforcement contract has to specify what one party gets in return for how much payment, who the parties are, and the length of time the contract will last.

Copyrights are not required to be registered. The author recommends registering a screenplay before pre-production.

A court may award damages if a copyright is infringed.

A bank lender, investor, or creditor may have a security interest in a film.

People have a right of privacy, even to factual information about them. Courts have made different rulings on what can be discussed about a person’s private on film.

A person generally does not have a reasonable expectation to privacy when in public. Usually a person can be filmed in a public place. The following, though, may be disallowed to be shown if an affirmative misrepresentation was made in the filming.

The tort of false light occurs when a false statement harms or embarrasses a person.

A written release should be obtained from a person who is filmed in order to best avoid lawsuits from filming a person.

A Life Story Rights Agreement allows a film to be based on someone’s life.

A trademark used as intended and is not disparaged does not required permission to be used.

Caterpillar sued Disney for diluting its trademark by showing characters misusing their products. Caterpillar lost as it was the characters who were inept and not the product.

Whammo sued Paramount for depicting a character misusing its Slip ‘N’ Slide product. Whammo lost as it was obviously the misuse of the product that was shown.

American Dairy Queen Corporation successfully sued a movie that was planning on using the title “Dairy Queens:. The title was close enough to the established product Dairy Queen and the film title would damage its reputation.

Copied set designs can cause the original set designer to sue. Universal settled in such a lawsuit.

The filming of a building does not require the permission of its architect. Artwork in a public open space can be shown without permission in one court decision.

A documentary does not need a location agreement.

A fictional film should obtain a location agreement for all locations used. Government permits may be necessary for public locations. The author advises making sure the permission is obtained from the right sources. A building owner may not have the right to grant permission for filming inside a tenant’s space. A tenant may not have the right to allow cable for filming brought into a building/

Permission may be required to film a decorate art piece. Different court rulings have been reached on this issue. Issues to consider are whether a short focuses on the original art piece, if it is recognizable, and if it is a focal point rather than set dressing.

Books, magazines, and newspapers are not decorative arts.

A prop used as it is intended can be depicted in a film even if it has a copyright.

A prop created for a film should be an original piece. Using a knock-off protected by a copyright still can violate the copyright. A sculptor sued Warner Brothers seeking an injunction to prevent distribution of a movie using a similar sculpture. Warner Brothers settled the suit.

Music used in a film must be cleared. Deals must be negotiated with the holder of the rights to the music. Even adaptations of songs require approval.

Some films hire original composers.

A film that depicts a TV set another film requires permission from both the holder of the copyright of the film and the actors shown in the film.

A movie title has to be cleared. Movie titles do not have copyrights. They can be a product protected by trademark. Some movie titles have trademark status. The Motion Picture Association of America registers titles.

A title should not indicate an endorsement from anyone when no endorsement exists.

Errors and omissions insurance protects a film against accidental infringement of a copyright, trademark, person’s privacy, etc. Media/Professional and Chubb offers the bulk of this type of insurance.

A chain of title shows all ownership of a film from its beginnings.

A final film, called a locked film, should be registered with the Library of Congress.

A copyright infringement can occur if too many specific details of another film are used in a film. A court prevented the release of the movie “Great White” for being too similar to “Jaws.”