New Hollywood Maverick: Wild Bill Richert January 21-22 FILM SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER WELCOMES WILLIAM RICHERT
"A bold, brash uncompromising figure in the tradition of Orson Welles and John Cassavetes, William Richert burst on to the Hollywood scene near the end of the storied 1970s, first as a screenwriter and then as director of the dazzling conspiracy opus Winter Kills. A critical triumph abandoned by its studio, the movie set the tone for Richert’s career to come—a quartet of highly original, idiosyncratic American features that have maintained an almost clandestine existence, subject to poor distribution and myriad unauthorized versions. "
LETTER TO ANTHONY KAUFMAN AT REELPOLITIK INDIEWIRE ABOUT THE CLASS ACTION IN COURT
May 6, 2014
I haven’t written you since the last court hearing with Judge West, long ago, when you noted a VARIETY article telling me to “be patient.” You quoted Dave McNary’s piece but it was slanted, as you’ll see when I send along a transcript of the hearing (you have no obligations to read this boring stuff, but it’s a record that requires making.)
Besides, after years in the courtroom with Judge West, along with with two contentious court hearings with a new Judge, there wasn’t much to say since the foreign levy settlement gave the WGAw three years to pay the money, that is, the millions they’d been collecting since 1990.
Now their time is up; the lawyers have actually quit the case after earning millions to adequately represent the writers.
All of this matters because the WGAw has claimed “jurisdiction” over created work on the internet, and from experience I know that this union, and its intimacy with the studios, is not ever in the interest of the original creators.
I’ve now submitted 4 new motions to the Court. Looking back it’s possible to trace the tendrils of a long term legal subterfuge that has enmeshed me as lead plaintiff and stand-in for thousands of independent writers/actors/directors who have no reason to suspect, from the courts or their class lawyers, that anybody might have taken thousands of dollars from them.
Again: this involves all the “new media” – meaning “indie” mostly -- since the WGAw says the 2007 gave the LA-based union “jurisdiction” over new media. Did you ever see the new media contract at wga.org? Check it out when you got time. It gives you chills, as an independent, thinking you might have to comply with such arcane and work-stopping rules. But no matter. The WGAw says regarding the internet and new media: they already “Cover” you. Wha?
Now, if the union should send – and they give no indication they are sending it except their own accountings – if you take the money the WGAw owes you, it will also own your personal ID and SS number. Sound Orwellian? How about Verronian? Read this quote please:
NY TIMES: LOS ANGELES, Sept. 18 - Mira Nair, of the Writers Guild of America, West, has something that belongs to you. The Ms. Nair in question may or may not be the sometime screenwriter and the director of "Vanity Fair," "Monsoon Wedding" and "Mississippi Masala."
It is hard to be certain, unless she were to navigate to an index tucked out of sight behind a button marked Services on the wga.org Web site, scroll to a bar labeled Uncollected Monies, put her name in a search box, then fill out a claims form requiring driver's license and Social Security numbers.
The core of the issue, the scope of the matter, which has been covered up by lawyereze, is writers’ copyright ownership, and actors performance ownership; even hired directors collect royalties, but tens of thousands of non-union directors don’t really know it. But there has been little public debate about that. I’ve got terabites of letters I’ve written as if to the morgue. (That’s old tech newspaper lingo for archives.)
The WGAw simply keeps collecting the money. Who’s to stop them? -- Well there is one chance in the court of Judge Wiley, and I’m going for it.
105,000 titles was the number that WGAw lawyer told the court had been subject to collection by the WGAw
We need to know who the authors/actors/directors got money from 105,000 “titles’! -- When there are only around five thousands “working writers” in the union? (Now SAG will embed IDs for their actors, their new demand under David White and Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, lawyer-honchos who’ve made the electorate a ghost gallery) -- so we’ll all know instantly on the internet who is union and who is not, and what do you think the unions will do with that information, hmm?)
These “titles” and the WGAw’s claim they can collect without revealing the entire amount or any split is a complete takeover of the work of independent filmmakers by a union, and involves data that the union can use in ways writers may well object to.
The WGAw still has not accounted for the money from my non-union THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK, for example – but as a result of the settlement I now know they’ve been taking money all these years, but still haven’t accounted for it.
I am certainly not the only indie director/producer whose royalties have been divided between unions and studios with no rights to the money at all. My small amounts, compared to high Hollywood earners, could still add up to several hundred thousand dollars. Not chump change, as the WGAw has tried to make the public believe.
There is an indie wire connecting flows of money called foreign royalties from independent movies shown countries throughout the European Union, Russia, Asia, South American and Australia – the amounts of these “foreign levies” are enormous, but almost entirely unknown and unaccounted for. The money is taken from collecting societies by the Writer’s Guild of America, West, a Hollywood union located on Third Street in Los Angeles.
The WGAw splits non-union royalties with the major studios like Disney, Warners, Fox, Paramount, Sony – and has done this in secret for decades.
Three lawsuits emerged from the original complaint I filed (solicited by a lawyer) in 2005 – SAG, DGA and WGAw.
Now I am asking the courts to rejoin them, substitute attorney, and other things. The Motions are on my website.
From the POV of the very powerful rich union, run by producers in concert with the majors, this is all about politics, and that’s how the LA press characterizes it all – like Ed Asner is really running for President of SAG again, or writer Eric Hughes, who has boxes of evidence against his union, is still running for President of the WGAw.
I am a writer and naturally aligned against politiks where making art is ever concerned, though somehow art and politics are protagonists who gather together. Must be some kind of attraction.
Here is your very own ReelPolitik “Exclusive” of the press release, thanks for listening,
DESK OF WILLIAM RICHERT LEAD PLAINTIFF “IN PRO PER”
WILLIAM RICHERT V. WRITERS GUILD OF AMERICA, WEST, INC. et. al.
WILLIAM RICHERT DISMISSES LAWYERS NEVILLE JOHNSON AND PAUL KIESEL FROM WRITERS’ CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT
- FROM COURT TRANSCRIPT JUDGE WILEY JR. LA SUPERIOR COURT HEARING MAY 16, 2012:
THE COURT: “I'm directing the court reporter to repeat my remarks. It's not common in CCW that we actually have an issue of courtroom control. It's supposed to be the palace of reason and -- .”
MR. RICHERT: “ -- Well, in this case, it could be the dungeon of a certain kind of insanity, Your Honor, and it's very deeply within the vaults of these three unions…”
- FROM COURT TRANSCRIPT, JUDGE WILEY JR. HEARING AUGUST 22, 2012:
NEVILLE JOHNSON: “There’s no lawyer representing the constituency, the class action...”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
LOS ANGELES CALIFORNIA
May 8, 2014
LA attorneys Neville Johnson and Paul Kiesel have been dismissed from the class-action lawsuit WILLIAM RICHERT V. THE WRITERS GUILD OF AMERICA pending court approval of substitution of attorney in a class action, according to lead plaintiff William Richert.
Mr. Richert has been in LA Superior Court as the class representative for the writers of 105,000 film/video titles in his class along with others throughout the world who are unaware they are represented in the settlement, with litigation starting in September, 2005.
“In firing Neville Johnson and Paul Kiesel” I am following congressional mandate for the duties and obligations of the Lead Plaintiff in a class action,” says Mr. Richert.
“I’m taking action after almost two years of the conspicuously absent settlement enforcement by Messrs. Johnson and Kiesel, along with the blatant contempt the WGA has shown for the settlement for the writers class, and the negligent existence of the foreign levy agreements for SAG and the DGA non-union directors.
Placing the announcement on his Facebook page for the writers, actors and directors governed by the class actions, which allow the WGAw to function as a collection society, Mr. Richert asks the artists and journalists following the story to examine and check out the U.S. Court of Appeals decisions about class actions, and the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, so they can become aware of the many rights they have.
Mr. Richert states that it is extremely difficult to undo a negotiated class action lawsuit involving deep-pocket unions or corporations – look at the asbestos class action for years of disputes – but a settlement can be vigorously enforced to the benefit of the class.
“For enforcement we need a lawyer to interpret the clauses to the court, since judges are not cops or investigators. They can only work with what they are given, basically, and they have to trust the lawyers. Of course, 50% of the time they might be lied to. Very rarely are all the lawyers lying 100% of the time, as appears to have happened in these cases.”
Saying he’s just discovered his “settlement class” may include Guilds across the European Union and Australia, Mr. Richert continues:
“Only last week I looked at the WGAw settlement again and saw that the tiny phrase ‘U.S.’ had been removed from the earlier class definition of screenwriters and authors who are purported to be controlled by my lawsuit. This was brought to my attention by a leader in another country’s writers guild.
“That change means my class definition now includes ‘all writers, including members of the WGAw and most importantly, non-members of the WGAw.
“‘Non members of the WGAw’ would mean most of the planet. I have been told that the WGAw is also collecting royalties for the European Union and the Australian Writers Guild, which I didn’t know, and the WGAw didn’t admit. I hadn’t looked at this phrase in a long time, and never noticed that the ‘U.S.’ was missing.
“I looked at the Amended settlement once again because an official of a Writer’s Guild in another country told me that the WGAw settlement was being used to block royalties in Guilds across the European Union – Germany, France, Italy and especially Spain. An international commission of Writers Guilds is preparing to contest the settlement as a whole.
“I object to this ongoing outrageous conduct by the WGAw Officers and Board of Directors under the settlement’s use of my name and class.
“Carl Gottlieb, Secretary-Treasurer, recently sent me a check for $1,300 in foreign royalties for a movie that the WGAw had no contract for, and for which the original amount was upwards of $12,000 before the WGAw split with the studios.
“Amounts owed to me alone, and I’m a slim earner in the Hollywood system, could be in the hundreds of thousands, with only a fraction accounted for.
“Not only is the RICHERT VS WGAw settlement being used against writers throughout the world, but the SAG settlement negotiated by Messrs. Johnson & Kiesel was the core basis of dismissal of a lawsuit filed by Sunny Wise in the Federal court on behalf of Eric Hughes, Ed Asner, Clancy Brown, Dennis Hayden and others, including me.
“The benefits to the classes as defined and created by these 3 lawsuits are grossly derogatory to the classes, are the opposite of fair and reasonable, and the economic, performance and copyrights that the actors, writers and directors possessed under law before the settlements were enacted have been lost to all.
“The settlement themselves are instruments of fraud.
“The union management and Boards of Directors continue to pay gargantuan fees from the members’ funds to lawyers to protect them and their profiteering secret conniving methods,” Mr. Richert says.
THE LAWYER THREATENS THE CLASSES HE REPRESENTS, THEN QUITS
“Something really, really, really bad,” will happen to his clients if he were not paid more money, Neville Johnson told the court of Judge Wiley Jr., with actors Tom Bower and Dennis Hayden in the Gallery.
“The lawyers were deficient,” Mr. Johnson boldly added, knowing he was referring to himself and Mr. Kiesel. Judge Wiley Jr. agreed.
Deficiency is the opposite of what these class action lawsuits are meant to achieve, Mr. Richert asserts, and under law, class action clients are not supposed to suffer a net loss.
The lawyers for the actors – Dan Schecter, Duncan Crabtree Ireland, Bob Bush – and their respective law firms and consultants like EEG – actually paid themselves legal fees and bonuses totaling way more than the $8 million they claim was paid to the actors, without showing any actual accounting, which remains under court seal due to inaction of Neville Johnson, according to Mr. Richert.
Under the direction of David White for SAG and David Young and Carl Gottlieb for the WGAw, with Neville Johnson and Paul Kiesel negligent for all three “sister” guild lawsuits, and them all guided by Robert Hadl for himself and the studios, with compliance from Joe Roth at the DGA; the rights of artists world wide have been reduced to a fraction of true value, and attempts to correct the injustice have been blocked in the courts and ignored in the press.
“At one point I asked to be removed from the case and demanded that my name be taken off. After a meeting in the hallway with Mr. Johnson, I went back into the courtroom and heard Judge West accept my offer. Then on the way out Mr. Johnson leaned over and loudly asked our opponent, Ms. Emma Leheny for the WGAw, if she could supply a new writer as plaintiff. When she said, “Yes, I think I can,” while the Judge pretended to be looking through schedules, I knew I would not be able to withdraw and leave that case to the lawyers and the union writers at he WGAw. So I went back into court and my role, and have stayed ever since.”
Mr. Richert noted that one Executive Director of a foreign guild, who wishes to remain anonymous because of fear of WGAw retaliation, said that a single accounting of interest-only from a tiny group of writers whose royalties were taken by the WGAw amounts to $200,000 – again, that is interest alone.
The amounts due American non-union writers are unknown, but could add up to $500 million or more, and that does not include what is due European writers.
There is no evidence that any of the classes were “adequately represented” in the lawsuit, the key to legitimacy of a class action according to U.C.L.A. professor William B. Rubenstein.
“Our challenge to the medusa heads of the sister-unions in Hollywood, and their major studio overlord partners, is just beginning now that the time limit has passed for compliance at the WGA. I am in discussions with one of the greatest class action lawyers in the known Universe, as they say in Hollywood.
“Once we get approval from Judge Wiley that hiring a real lawyer to represent the class is court approved, we can contract and announce our new class action lawyer.
“Neville Johnson’s promise that something ‘really really really’ bad” will happen to all of us clients if Judge Wiley did not pay him additional fees to represent the classes, could become a rallying cry for film artists across the world – against clandestine union activities against folks the union has no business representing under any circumstances. Ultimately, these are copyright issues and performance right issues thwarted by settlements the unions misrepresented to their members .
“What Mr. Johnson hasn’t reckoned with are the non union not-for-hire writers like me who don’t care a fig about their holy crony vows.”
WGA COLLECTION SOCIETY NOT A LEGAL ENTERPRISE IN A PUBLIC CORPORATION
According to Mr. Richert: In true Verroneian WGA-double-speak, after 60 years the union managed to victoriously upend the dreaded deadly anti-human anti-writer “Hollywood Blacklist,” of the 1950s, a crime against freedoms of all kinds, including freedom of speech engineered by crusading anti-Red evangalesists supported by the Writer’s Guild of America and the Hollywood Reporter, among other lynchers of freedom of speech and writing.
“Some say that the WGA 2007 marching crusade ‘Pencils Down’ was a rewrite of that era, stopping writers from telling the truth by labeling them traitors.
“However, ‘Pencils Up!!’ is the motto of the writers I grew up with, and emulated.
“Like other Verroneian reversals of truth and fact, in 2005 the WGA co-authored the creation of a brand new incarnation of THE BLACK LIST, reinvented as an index of the best screenplays in Hollywood. Now when anybody says ‘Black List,’ it means the opposite of what it once did, as they re-created my lawsuit for fraud as ‘the highly successful foreign levy program.’”
[check WGA website wga.org. WGA ex-president and Board Member Patric Verrone is now running for public office from Pacific Palisades, where his union once distributed threatening leaflets about a cable television executive. Mr. Verrone is running on “I won the strike” platform, which continues his revisionist campaigns, as the strike was a net loss to writers in LA of up to 75% and the jobs are still moving away from LA.]
Look further on wga.org at the WGAw “Audit” to see the single-page accounting for foreign levies – now almost $180 million -- what is actually a number like $1.4 Billion for an unknown number of writers – unknown, and still unaccounted for.
“Using the same obfuscation-grammar zero-sum response legal-sleaze techniques to deceive, David Young and Daniel Pietrie Jr. both wrote devoted, passionate letters to the entire 2009 WGA membership – which basically means all of the movers in Hollywood, producers writers and directors – denouncing the allegations I made before the settlement without mentioning them, using in the letters a kind of old-style organizer malevolence, all directed at the named plaintiff, William Richert.
“These letters, approved by Counsel and the Board of Directors, were only propaganda for the settlement the writers were meant to sign, relinquishing their copyrights 92 percent to the major studios; like saying: this is good for you, fellows/ladies! That bad man Billy Richert was saying mean things about us Hollywood writers, and he should be scorned.
“Since there are so many innocents involved here, and the futures of independent writers, directors, actors and filmmakers are at stake, this long festering case grants unions and studios vast impact across all media, from the theatrical screens to the home screens connecting across the internet, stretching far into the future from deep into the past” says Mr. Richert.
“I only recently got a check for my movie LAW AND DISORDER, non union, made in the early 1970s.
“In addition to absconding with copyrights and royalties for writers worldwide, the personal slurs against me made publicly to the WGAw members by Patric Verrone, Daniel Petrie Jr. and Carl Gottlieb and David Young will be answered duly in time and with the proper lawful response. A union attacking a nonmember (or members) for performing public-interest whistle-blower functions is an actionable Federal offense.
“Corruption didn’t start in Hollywood, it only seems to wind up here,” says Mr. Richert, “like in the proverb: ‘When Jesus is Near, can the Devil be far behind?’”