Friday the 13th screenwriter Victor Miller has filed a lawsuit to get in on the rights to the franchise, and the legal battle is starting to get vicious.
While Friday the 13th has become a massively popular franchise, it owes some of its success to its roots. But when Jason returned to continue the series in Friday the 13th Part 2, screenwriter Victor Miller was apparently left behind at the campground. The franchise moved on without him, and now Miller is arguing for rights to the franchise.
Courtesy of iHorror, it seems the legal battle, first filed in June 2016, is heating up. Miller and producer Sean S. Cunningham have both given depositions. At this point, the primary focus of the lawsuit is to determine if Miller was an “employee” or an “independent contractor” when he wrote the film.
More from 1428 Elm
- Shudder Original Terrified: Poltergeist or Dimensional Beings?
- Godzilla Minus One makes the King of the Monsters terrifying again
- A Creature Was Stirring scares up yuletide frights
- Unwrapping the Unhappy Holidays collection on Shudder
- Holiday Horror viewing guide: 20+ movies to stream this Christmas
For his part, Cunningham swore in his deposition that Miller was a “work-for-hire” screenwriter. Basically, Cunningham says Miller was just brought in do to a job, get paid, and leave, so he doesn’t deserve a piece of the rights. The Friday the 13th producer claims to have paid Miller out-of-pocket for a screenplay and treatment as per their agreement.
Cunningham also argues Miller deserves no credit for creating the Jason character (other than naming him), because Jason was always dead in Miller’s drafts. It’s also argued that Miller’s first draft was entitled “A Long Night at Camp Blood”, so he doesn’t get credit for the name either.
Miller and his attorney are firing back, however, saying Cunningham is lying about his story. They’re searching for a former secretary of Cunningham’s who may be able to verify Miller’s side of the story. The two are also seeking actual, dated drafts of the screenplays to fully determine Miller’s creative contributions.
His name was Jason, but who created him?
But just so the fans know, Miller isn’t trying to take the franchise away from Cunningham and those who currently hold the rights. He just wants to be legally included as someone who wrote the original film, helping create the franchise. As a source close to Victor puts it:
"“Victor doesn’t want to control the entire Friday the 13th franchise, and that’s not what this is about.If the lawsuit is successful, it would mean that Victor, as a writer, as a creator, would simply be able to negotiate a new deal, new terms, and to gain some leverage as an author over the existing franchise.”"
The article notes that Miller is expected to make a motion for summary judgment in court on June 9. A trial start date would then be assigned should that fail.
As a huge fan of the film, I just wish we could all get along. I have immense respect for Cunningham and Miller both. But I do think they did kind of screw Miller. He’s since said he would have written the sequel, but they never even considered asking him. But if he didn’t do such a good job writing that creepy-as-hell first movie, there may never have even been a Part 2, and then a massively successful franchise.
You know what? I’d be pissed, too.