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A horrific legal battle over the rights to a movie franchise

In the Friday the 13th series of films, victims fearful for their lives did everything they could to get away from a lumbering giant named Jason. Thirty-seven years later, his alleged creator wants the monster in a hockey mask to come back.

Victor Miller, the original scriptwriter for the first film, is seeking to reclaim the movie franchise rights. Whether Jason comes along for yet another ride is another question.

Miller is looking to reclaim the rights to the film. However, he is facing off against his own villain by the name of Sean Cunningham. Miller wrote the script for the iconic film on a work-for-hire agreement. Cunningham was the original film’s producer.

Both sides filed summary judgment motions with a federal judge set to make a decision of significance within the film industry, not to mention among horror movie fans.

The successor company that originally produced Friday the 13th claims that Cunningham conceived the idea for the film, secured the financing and controlled all creative decisions. One of those decisions included hiring Miller, who was on a “work-for-hire” agreement.

While both Miller and Cunningham agree that they had a collaborative relationship, the two are in dispute over who had the majority of the ideas that made it from the page to the screen. Miller notes that he drafted a 15-page treatment entitled “The Long Knight at Camp Blood" and screenplay "on spec" at his home on a freelance basis without daily supervision. According to him, revisions were minor.

Cunningham claims that drafts were significantly marked up with changes and modifications. In addition, his discussions with Miller often revolved around explanations of key elements that make a horror film successful.

Both sides do admit that Cunningham came up with the film’s title and the name of the famed antagonist featured in it.

The future of a famed film franchise is in the hands of a judge, barring an appeal… or, in movie parlance, a sequel.

 

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