June 2006 Volume 28 Number 1
Woody Allen and his long-time producer Jean Doumanian had a bitter falling out several years ago. Things got so bad between them that Allen sued Doumanian for allegedly failing to pay him some $14 million. After nine days of trial, they settled the case on financial terms that have never been disclosed. A few years later, though, one term of the settlement became public knowledge because another dispute arose between them – a dispute over Allen’s creative rights and obligations.
Allen’s original contract
with Doumanian’s company gave Allen creative control, including “final
cut” rights, subject only to his obligation to deliver versions of his films
that could be shown on network television. When they settled the pay dispute,
the written settlement agreement gave Doumanian the right to “modify”
Allen’s films so they would comply “with generally
accepted Network Television censorship and/or standards and practices
of Allen’s movies – “Bullets Over Broadway,” “Everyone Says I Love
You,” “Deconstructing Harry,” “Celebrity,”
“Mighty Aphrodite” and “Sweet and Lowdown” – were rated “R” and
contained extensive profanity, and three of them contained explicit sex or
nudity. Apparently, Allen didn’t deliver network-suitable versions, so
Doumanian proposed edits, to which Allen objected.
settlement agreement provided that future disputes would be resolved by a New
York state court judge. And the task of doing so fell to Judge Bernard Fried.
experts testified for Doumanian that the proposed edits were necessary in order
to license the movies for network broadcast. Time Magazine film critic Richard
Schickel testified for Allen that the proposed edits would affect the films’
artistic integrity and entertainment value.
a factually detailed opinion, Judge Fried determined that the proposed edits
were authorized by the settlement agreement’s clause authorizing Doumanian to
modify the films for “generally accepted network television censorship and/or
standards and practices,” despite the creative control rights granted to Allen
in his earlier contract.
Productions, Inc. v. Sweetland Films, 2006
WL 1388489 , 2006