Clash Over Documentary Film Rights to Continue

     (CN) – A documentary filmmaker has been given the green light to pursue his lawsuit against a camera operator he says has been trying to stop Showtime from airing a film on South Africa the two worked on together.
     Stafford Bailey produced a movie called “Blacks Without Borders: Chasing the American Dream in South Africa.” While making the film, he employed Michael Brewer on a “deferred compensation” basis, which meant that Brewer would be paid when the film was released.
     However, Bailey claimed that Brewer’s work was not up to par and needed to be reshot by another camera operator. The cost of the reshoots exceeded the fee Bailey was to pay Brewer.
     According to Bailey’s complaint, Brewer sued him in small claims court in 2006 without success, claiming to be a partner in the film project.
     In this case, Bailey claimed that Brewer sent a letter to Showtime to stop the pay-cable channel from airing the film because it was Brewer’s “brain child.”
     As a result, Bailey said, Showtime refused to pay Bailey the licensing fee to air the movie.
     Also, Bailey said that Brewer similarly interfered with his attempts to get the film shown on The African Channel and the Pan African Film Festival.
     Brewer tried to stop Bailey’s lawsuit with an anti-SLAPP motion, claiming that his letters to the movie distributors were protected because they were in anticipation of litigation.
     Brewer also claimed again that he had ownership rights to the film, which he said was supposed to be part of an episodic “lifestyle” TV show called “Global Living” before Bailey repurposed and renamed the project as a documentary film.
     The trial court denied the anti-SLAPP motion, and the Los Angeles-based California Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling because Brewer had already lost in small claims court in 2006.
     “Appellants’ acts are not entitled to the protection of the anti-SLAPP statute. In reaching this conclusion, we note that our ruling is a narrow one,” Justice Nora Manella wrote on the court’s behalf.
     “It applies only in cases where the proponent of the contemplated litigation has been barred from relitigating the contemplated claims under the doctrine of res judicata,” she added.
      Blacks Without Borders follows the lives of Americans who seek their fortune in South Africa. It includes tours of their homes, one of which is a 35,000 square foot mansion that sits on a 700-acre property.

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