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Old February 24th, 2004, 02:20 PM   #1
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Firing Editor...legal issues

Hey guys--I have to fire the editor who is working on my documentary. Thus far, she has logged 90% of the ftg (I logged the other 10%) and done some rough cuts on a couple sequences. Additionally, she has done some producing responsibilites (helped draw up a budget). Unfortunately she is not doing an adequate job editing the film as she has another full time job which takes up much of her time. In any case, I want to know if there are any legal issues I need to be concerned with. She is not an employee and there are no contracts between us. I would like to give her $5000 for the time she has already spent on the film. This is in the form of an investment from a friend which she has used to buy computer equipment. I would let her keep the remainder of this investment and of course all the equipment as compensation for her work. Anyway, I just want to make sure I'm not getting in any tricky territory here. Thanks!

Peter
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Old February 24th, 2004, 02:57 PM   #2
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Instead of firing her, you could work out her severance and then ask her to resign instead. No hard feelings and all that.
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Old February 24th, 2004, 03:07 PM   #3
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Thanks Keith. Unfortunately there are already hard feelings. Perhaps "firing" is too strong a word, though. I had to make a decision to do what was in the best interest of the film, and the film necessitates an individual who can edit it full time. So this is not a "firing" in the strongest sense of the word, more a parting of ways, I guess.

Peter
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Old February 25th, 2004, 02:22 AM   #4
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I would stay away from 'firing' as it assesses blame and in a reputation-based industry you want to make sure everyone leaves a situation looking as good as possible.
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Old February 25th, 2004, 09:22 AM   #5
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I can't pinpoint the exact relationship you have with her. If she's not an employee and there are no contracts then I can only assume she's a partner of sorts. I don't know how you can fire a partner. If your doc made money, then she might be able to lay claim to some of that.

I think you would have to tell her that it's just not working out with her editing skills, you're not happy about it, and you have to bring someone else in. Since you have nothing else for her to do then you'd like to just pay her for what she's done so far and let her go. I hate to use the word 'fire' because it's almost like calling someone 'stupid' nowadays. "I have to let you go" just seems more appropriate and doesn't sound judgemental about their work or personality.

If she yells "sue", then you can only ask what she wants because it's not working with her. I don't know that she'd be able to get anything out of you anyway unless the doc made really good money but Paul T should comment on that.

Letting someone go will probably bring hard feelings no matter what. My wife had to fire her own sister once and it took a couple of years for them to talk again.
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Old February 25th, 2004, 09:42 AM   #6
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I don't know much but I know that every state has different rules for firing. In IL the basic answer is that an employee in IL is an "at will" employee and can be fired at any time for any reason. It can get more complicated but that is the basic scenario. You can get good info from sites based in your state about employment law.
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Old February 25th, 2004, 10:01 AM   #7
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Not knowing the exact verbal agreement you may or may not have had (and the fact I'm not a lawyer) I think that since you are thinking about giving her 5 grand and letting her keep the equipment it sounds like a good deal to me... but then again, how much time has she put in on the project?

If you need someone who can be there full time, you need someone full time. That's a good enough explanation and it's not an issue of performance or whatever---

She's not editing full time so this is her break into the game.

If it were me (and knowing only what I've read here) I'd tell her that it's an issue of her availablility and you're sorry. Tell her the money you have for her (have a check made out) and the stuff about the equipment.

If you want, offer her a credit on the project as some sort of assistant editor so she at least can put that on her resume --- this doesn't mean you have to give her billing in the final credits.

I also would have something in writing for her to sign to get the check and to keep the equipment... I would have it state something like "as full compensation for all services and participation.... as an independent contractor..." or something like that.

If she doesn't want to sign, she doesn't get the check and ask her to return the equipment (I'm still not sure about that part of it.)

If you had no written agreement that limits what she can do BUT it never helps to make enemies, smooth her and say what you have to say to get her to walk away happy or at least not angry.

Apologize to her about this, tell her "it really hurts to have to do this but..." "best for the project" "Timetables" and tell her how pleased you were with her work---- make her smile, get her to sign, show her the door and forget about it till you cut her 1099 at the end of the show.
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Old February 26th, 2004, 04:21 PM   #8
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Thanks for the advice guys. It looks like everything is going to work out OK for the most part. We are "going our separate ways" and their are some hard feelings, to be sure, but something like this is certainly never easy. In compensation for her work I am giving her the computer (dual 2.0 G5) and she will of course get credit. Should the film make any money down the road I have told her that she will be compensated fairly for her work. Thanks again for the support and advice guys,

Peter
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Old February 29th, 2004, 06:36 PM   #9
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"Should the film make any money down the road I have told her that she will be compensated fairly for her work."

Of course it doesn't matter unless it makes money, but unless this is in writing as to what is actually 'fair', you might have a huge headache down the road.
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Old February 29th, 2004, 07:46 PM   #10
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You could just obtain all the logs and footage and get another editor. Don't fire her (you can't anyway because she isn't an employee)

Then assign her bits that she can do with her spare time. Things like openings and credits (hey, someone has to do the FBI warning).

Make certain everyone is logging their time on the project. When you get to the finish and IF it makes any $, you split it according to the contributions. (Although you should have had contracts in-place from the beginning. Do them now.)
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