Editor's note: the following is a tongue-in-cheek, oftenirreverent, question and answer column published in the ASMP News solelyfor the entertainment of our readers. It does not necessarily reflect theviews of ASMP, the local chapter or other ASMP members. All opinions andanswers are solely those of the author, and he is welcome to them.

Readers' questions about any aspect of photography, or life ingeneral, are welcome and Dr. Photography will answer them in future columns,if he happens to feel like it. Send mail to:
Dear Dr. Photography

Dear Dr. Photography,

I've just finished editing a film shot by acameraman whose seeing eye dog wears glasses. Apart from hiring you, isthere any way we can improve the rushes?

Moaner from Bristol, England


DP: While hiring me is somethingI would hope every high-paying client would do, when considered afterthe fact on a project which is already in the can, I'm afraid I would beof little service other than consuming vast libations while patiently empathizingwith your tale of woe.

My best advice, however, would be to spend some quality time with yourblind cameraman and his nearsighted dog to inform them that the footagethey shot will be used as an art film, rather than the informative documentaryit should have been. You can then edit a completely terrible soft-focuspiece entitled "Cinema in the Mist," which will be met with ravereviews and guaranteed gold at Cannes.

(Return to Humor Index)

Dear Dr. Photography,

What is your feeling about colorization of black& white films, particularly the old classics?

Not Yet a Big Cheese in Atlanta


DP: Don't you guys ever give up?I thought ethics were things you stayed up late at night discussing as asophomore in college. Usually, by the time you've been working in the realworld for a few years, you've figured them out. Since you asked, however,here are my two bits.

Colorizing black & white films is not a crime. Rather, it is themodification of a product, or "work of art" if you prefer, sothat it has a greater commercial value. It is well within the rights ofthe film(s) owner to add color, or even to take it away. Perhaps what ismore interesting however, is why that it so.

For years, the motion picture industry has been one of the main reasons-for-beingof work-for-hire. When you have several hundred artists and crew membersworking on a single project such as a feature film, it would be highly impracticalfor each of them to own a piece of the copyright of the finished piece.When a studio or production company pays a few million dollars to createa motion picture, they don't want to have to deal with every actor, director,cinematographer, grip, lighting assistant, designer, carpenter, catererand go-fer telling them what they can or cannot do with the result. Therefore,everyone involved has traditionally been employed either as an employeeor under a work-for-hire contract. They are generally well-compensated (themotion picture industry is one of the most highly unionized businesses inAmerica) but give up all ownership of their work.

Even big-name directors and actors fall into work-for-hire categories.For years, many of them believed that they alone controlled "their"art. But when an extremely wealthy Ted Turner purchased the entire MGM filmlibrary and "desecrated" classic black & white films by colorizingthem, they too discovered the perils of work-for-hire. Directors and actorsflocked in vain before Congress trying to wrest control of their work. ButTed Turner now owns everything they did for MGM and can do anything he wantswith their films -- from colorizing and re- editing to selling merchandisingrights or even destroying them, if he so desires.

Turner is not a criminal because he decided to add color to some oldmovies. Rather, he is a shrewd and very successful businessmanwho has acquired a vast library of films and is altering them so they willsell more successfully in today's market. If you don't like these new products,don't buy them.

Think about that the next time you agree to work-for-hire.

(Return to Humor Index)


©1993 Scott Highton
All rights reserved