The Mentoring Room - Ask the Working Pros

Mentoring Room

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This is a Public Topic geared towards first-time filmmakers. Professional members of The D-Word will come by and answer your questions about documentary filmmaking.

Russell Hawkins

"all contractual agreements have been shattered" - I'm not a lawyer but I think that is the key right there.  Presumably you have a release form and a music contract, but the son has no contract that states that you have assigned ownership of your intellectual property to him. 

If your aim is to regain control of the film, you probably need to engage a lawyer and seek an immediate injunction to prevent distributors from selling the "rogue" film while you pursue negotiations or legal proceedings with the son.

Is the son an integral part of the film?  If he tries to withdraw his participation you may also want to seek legal advice about whether you can release your original version on the strength of the existing release forms and music contract.It may become murky if the son/family have invested in the film (prior to the theft).  If you raised the funds independently of them you probably have a very clear cut case. 

Have you looked into any arts/law organisations that offer legal advice?  You should be able to get at least an initial phone consultation with a lawyer free of charge.  There are several filmmakers on this forum who are also lawyers, hopefully you will get more responses.

I think these instances are pretty rare, it takes a certain kind of personality to just take something like that!  For what it's worth, I am aware of a documentary where the fixer stole all of the exposed film after the shoot and the film was never made. Hopefully your setbacks are only temporary.

John Burgan

What Russell said. Just for the record, this is a Public Topic, hence this discussion can appear in a Google search, whereas all the Pro topics are private. This is aimed at Fans, not Pros, as stated at the top.

Doug Block

In reply to Dino Reyes's post on Tue 28 Mar 2017:

As John said, wish you began this discussion in the Legal topic where it's not public. However, since it's here, I'll just ask: how did your subject get access to the material in order to re-edit?

Bill Jackson

Doug, I wanted to ask the exact same thing. I held off, knowing this wasn't the correct topic, and it might be moved to another topic. It seems the power to stop this was lost when they were given the  material.

Daniel LaBarbera

In reply to Jill Morley's post on Tue 28 Mar 2017:


Thank you so much for the advice! I will definitely check out "The Cruise" today. I am desperate for good references so thank you!  

I did a test-run with Stevie a few days ago, filming him while he trained a new employee for his company. I have about 2 hours of uneventful footage, with a few decent soundbites here and there. I think discovering the story will hopefully unfold as the process continues. 

Kristal Sotomayor

Hi everyone!

My name is Kristal and I'm a senior studying film at Bryn Mawr College! I'm going to be graduating in May and wanted to get some advice on documentary filmmaking labs and fellowships for aspiring filmmakers. I also really want to get into a graduate film program to gain more experience and contacts before starting to make my own feature length documentaries. Mostly, I'm going to graduate soon and I want to spend a year or two honing in on my skills before going to graduate school so any advice that people can offer would be amazing! Thank you so much!


Kate Prendergast

HI, I have wrapped shooting and nearly done editing my first documentary. I was hoping to get some advice from more experienced film makers on post production work flow. The nitty gritty of what the year ahead might look like. I am in the NYC area and hoping to connect with other independent film makers. Thanks

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