A federal judge in Los Angeles has ruled that Paramount Pictures was not the “producer” of the upcoming film Same Kind Of Different As Me and did not violate its contract with the American Federation of Musicians when the film was scored overseas with nonunion musicians.
The ruling stems from a lawsuit the union filed against Paramount in its ongoing battle to stem the flow of outsourced music in American films, many of which are now being scored, as this one was, by musicians in Slovakia. On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee granted Paramount’s motion for summary judgment dismissing the union’s breach of contract claim.
The film, an adaptation of the memoir by Denver Moore, Ron Hall, and Lynn Vincent, originally had an April 29, 2016 release date, but in March the studio pushed it back to February 2, 2017. Renee Zellweger, John Voight and Greg Kinnear star.
Paramount, which put up 40% of the film’s budget, is signed to the union’s contract, which requires producers to use AFM musicians when scoring films shot in the U.S. The judge, however, ruled that the definition of “producer” is so vague in Article 3 of the AFM’s contract that Paramount’s role in the making of the film did not fit the definition.
The AFM argued that it has long understood a studio is the producer of a film under Article 3 “if it financed at least 25% of the production costs of the motion picture.” The judge, however, ruled that “this 25% threshold appears nowhere in Article 3,” and that the union offered “no evidence of past practices by the parties that demonstrate that they interpreted Article 3 in this way during the course of their decades-long relationship.”
In ruling against the AFM, the judge also noted it was not Paramount, but Skodam Films, the movie’s production company, that had entered into contracts with vendors and negotiated deals with other unions whose members were involved in the film’s production including the DGA and SAG-AFTRA.
“Comparing the day-to-day activities of Skodam Films and Paramount,” the judge ruled, “Paramount’s involvement in the making or shooting — during principal photography — of the motion picture pales in comparison to Skodam Films’ exhaustive work.”