God, Mankind and Movies

by Eric Sherman on January 4, 2014

As a film professional, I try to keep up with current movies – successes and failures.


However, I admit that I’ve had an aversion to the modern “comic book” type of bloated, special effects-laden, blockbusters.


Recently, I decided to check them out – so many ticket-buyers canNOT be wrong, I figured.


In the past few weeks, I’ve seen SUPERMAN-MAN OF STEEL (directed by my former student Zack Snyder!); all the TRANSFORMERS (directed by my former student Michael Bay!); all the BATMANs; all the IRON MANS; the AVENGERS;all the SPIDER MANs; and AFTER EARTH.


At last, I’ve figured out their appeal…they show an individual rising to super-human powers, controlling matter, energy, space and time.  This factor has always been the subject of mythology, ancient and modern alike.


There is a fundamental human desire and belief that a person CAN control his environment and can be victorious over the powers of evil.


There is always the hope that one can win.  Think of the biggest boxoffice stars in history – John Wayne, Tom Cruise, et al.  They are individuals who NEVER give up; who never “throw in the towel.”  And they all are driven by:  PURPOSE.  Until the last few films of his career, you couldn’t even show John Wayne dying or dead!


The fly in the ointment can be innocence (SPIDER MAN), arrogance (IRON MAN), a bit of apathy (BATMAN), or lack of education (MAN OF STEEL).  But these are overcome in all the above.


The great director Fritz Lang (who confronted MUCH evil in his life, e.g., when he was offered to be the head of the Nazi film industry by none other than Joseph Goebbels!) once told me about his own movies:  Of course I leave some hope in every film – otherwise, why would I bother to make it?).


This hope factor IS why movies still are desirable forms of mass communication.


The Raging Bull Rages On

by Eric Sherman on November 20, 2013

A friend and client of mine, Paula Petrella, was and is a family friend of Jake La Motta, “The Raging Bull,” the boxer on whom the famous movie RAGING BULL was based.


In fact, Paula’s father, Frank Petrella (pseudonym Peter Savage), wrote two screenplays and a book about his lifelong friendship with Jake which became the backbone of the movie’s screenplay.


Paula’s father passed away a year after the film was released.  Ten years after his death a new Supreme Court decision triggered a reversion of his copyrights to his heirs.  (This decision was based on a copyright dispute in Hitchcock’s REAR WINDOW.)


No one contested that the script was based on the 1970 book, but MGM/UA refused to recognize the reversion of rights.  It said two things:  (a) the movie hadn’t made any money; and (b) the film is not similar to the original 1963 screenplay authored by Mr. Petrella (which preceded his book by seven years).


Paula took this to court, and due to a somewhat arcane legal concept (“laches”:  legal term denoting ‘undue delay on the part of the person filing the lawsuit’), the Ninth District Court threw the case out.  MGM/UA claimed that too much time had lapsed before Paula had filed her copyright infringement claim.


However, Congress included a three-year statute of limitations in copyright law, and Paula’s case fell squarely within the required three years from the last infringement. A judge on Paula’s appeals panel disagreed with the decision to dismiss her suit and said that “there is nothing in the copyright statute or its history to indicate that laches is a proper defense to a suit brought under the [Copyright] Act.”  


No other court in the nation allows laches to be overlaid on the statute of limitations in this way.  Judge Fletcher said, “Our circuit has taken a wrong turn in its formulation and application of laches in copyright cases. We should revisit our case law to provide appropriate protection to innocent copyright owners who have brought infringement suits within the statute of limitations.”


Another associate of mine, Steven Lowe, undertook a study, and he discovered that in the past 20+ years, not a single case in the Ninth Circuit had been found in favor of the plaintiff in a copyright tussle. (See the YouTube link, “The Death of Copyright” –

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BVqtZ7KwIs.)  In addition, he discovered that the Ninth Circuit subverts the Supreme Court’s test for finding similarity between screenplays and films/TV shows, and therefore it almost never finds similarity.


Now, the US Supreme Court has agreed to hear Ms. Petrella’s case early next year.  Seems that the Ninth Circuit is the only one in the nation to allow “laches” to operate in copyright infringement.  This is truly exciting.


Should Paula be victorious, then she will still have to return to district court to pursue the matter, but in this instance, there would be no “laches” defense.  This precedent could ensure that copyright holders are allowed to pursue their claims in the Ninth Circuit exactly as Congress intended.


Supreme Court documents to date:  http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/petrella-v-metro-goldwyn-mayer-inc/


Paula, we’re pulling for you!


All best wishes,


Eric Sherman

* * * * *


p.s.  for my newsletter readers, I’d be VERY curious as to your answer to this question:


Of all the areas you could have more information about, please rank these in the order of importance:


1.  how to finance a movie


2,  how to keep control of your movie



3.  how to seek out venues in which your movie can be shown

4.  how much would you expect to pay for this information?





Anything else?  (please list)


South of the Border

September 17, 2013

I’ve just returned to LA from Brazil, where I spent three weeks acting in a movie written and directed by a former student and current client of mine, Tiaraju Aronovich. It’s called THE CROSS AND THE STAR, and is an exciting story about a real-life situation: the rise of neo-Nazi-ism in South America. Did, her […]

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News from Greece!

May 9, 2013

A “friend” whom I’ve never met, Antonia Patsidou, from Greece, recently conducted this interview with me.   Please go to this link http://my.opera.com/theantonella/blog/show.dml/60585892   As you’ll see, many of her questions are about how to sell your script.   One of my observations has been that very few authors understand the value of their screenplays.  In […]

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What Can I Do For You?

March 28, 2013

Most people who want to make movies run into two areas of difficulty: 1.  Creative (screenplays, actors, crew, equipment, etc.) 2.  Administrative (contracts, forms, money-raising, etc.) The film industry is changing so rapidly (mostly due to technological developments and audience viewing habits) that today’s answers might not be accurate even a month from now. As […]

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