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WGA East Throws Support Behind ‘Crude’ Director

Labor union says Berlinger shouldn’t be forced to surrender footage to Chevron

The Writers Guild of America, East, AFL-CIO (WGAE), is throwing its weight behind documentary filmmaker Joe Berlinger’s efforts to prevent Chevron from obtaining 600 hours of unused footage shot for his film "Crude."

At the beginning of May, a New York federal court judge ordered Berlinger to turn over his film to the oil company. Chevron plans to use the footage to demonstrate that the prosecution in a $27 billion case currently winding its way through Ecuadorian court engaged in misconduct.

The move comes a week after the Independent Documentary Association (IDA) and award winning filmmakers such as Michael Moore ("Fahrenheit 9/11"), Alex Gibney ("Taxi to the Dark Side"), and Davis Guggenheim ("An Inconvenient Truth") wrote a letter of support for Berlinger.

Berlinger plans to seek a stay on the court’s ruling and will appeal the decision to the Second Circuit Court.

Here’s the text of WGA’s letter:

“In defense of free speech and the First Amendment, the Writers Guild of America, East joins with the Independent Documentary Association (IDA) in support of documentary filmmaker Joe Berlinger and in objection to Federal Judge Lewis A. Kaplan’s recent ruling that Berlinger must turn over to the Chevron Corporation 600 hours of footage shot during the production of his documentary ‘Crude: The Real Price of Oil.’

To accede to such a demand is tantamount to a reporter being told to turn over all of his or her notes and to violate confidentiality agreements with sources. As with the members of the IDA, our WGAE members working in the documentary field ‘hold ourselves to the highest of journalistic standards in the writing, producing, and editing of our films.’ Those standards include the protection of our outtakes, script drafts, research and sources.

Berlinger and his attorneys are asking Judge Kaplan to delay Chevron’s subpoena pending their appeal. As events proceed, we will let you know how you can help."