A Legal Minute: Christopher Nolan, CAA, WME Legal Case
A Legal Minute: A little bit of the legal side of the biz you can read in a minute.
Work It Out Amongst Yourselves
Back in the year 2000 I had a chance to see a film that to this day is still one of my favorites, Memento. The edgy look at the interesting tale of a man who could not form short-term memories is one of Guy Pearce’s better performances, and the second feature directorial effort from Christopher Nolan.
Little did we know back then that five years later, Nolan would direct one of the most innovative superhero re-boots of all time, the Batman Begins / Dark Knight trilogy. On Nolan’s way to the top, Nolan was represented by the agency CAA (Creative Artists Agency), one of the main power players in the industry. CAA played a major role in Nolan’s career. But, earlier this year, Christopher Nolan left CAA for WME (William Morris Endeavor), the oldest established global talent agency.
This switch of agencies has led to a bit of a predicament for CAA and WME, and now, by extension, Nolan and his wife’s production company, Syncopy. Earlier this past week the Nolans filed a lawsuit against both CAA and WME in order to determine who in fact is entitled to commissions for the money Nolan derives from the hit, The Dark Knight Rises. As is the case when talent moves from one agency to another, there can be loose ends to tie up, such as which agency deserves the commission payments from the talent and for how long after they have been retained.
In this case it actually appears CAA and WME both have good cases. CAA was the agency that originally worked placing Nolan into the directorial chair for Batman Begins and, by extension, the rest of the trilogy. As CAA would argue, without them, Nolan would never have had the opportunity to direct The Dark Knight Rises. Acfordingly, they have been pursuing the Nolan for commission payments. The problem, of course is that Nolan is still getting a bill from WME, the agency who he went to before The Dark Knight Rises was released. Since that time they have worked diligently to handle his career, stepping in admirably with strategy calls concerning the Aurora, CO shooting.
In order to figure out who exactly is entitled to the sizeable commissions from one of this summer’s biggest hits, the Nolans have decided to let the courts decide. Thankfully for them, the California courts have a long history of looking at the facts surrounding commission disputes. So, such is the case in this lawsuit. It’s actually refreshing. The Nolans do not want to wiggle out of paying their fair share of commissions. They just want to know who to cut the check do. Unfortunately for CAA and WME, there will be not way both can win.
Roberto “R.C.” Rondero de Mosier is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, California, New York and Illinois. He is a partner at Gonzalez & Mosier Law PLLC. His practice specializes in Entertainment Law and Intellectual Property rights. In his spare time he enjoys watching television and films, and writing about it. Follow him on Twitter @showbizattorney, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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