Rights Issues Stymie BUCKAROO BANZAI Amazon Series

Buckaroo Banzai

Buckaroo Banzai may be in trouble and this time it is not from the machinations of evil Lectroids from Planet Ten or the World Crime League, but from something far more vexing – rights issues.

In an interview, W. D. Richter, director of the 1984 cult classic The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai: Across The Eight Dimension, revealed that it is possible that the rights to the actual character of Buckaroo Banzai actually lie with screen writer Earl Mac Rauch. And that could impact the television version of the film that writer/director Kevin Smith is currently developing with MGM for Amazon Studios.

“Mac’s original contract is about the shortest I’ve ever seen in the motion picture business,” Richter states. “It’s about four pages long with a few lines going onto a fifth page. It’s for a draft and two sets of revisions based on an original idea by ‘The Writer’ which the contract calls ‘The Property.’ And [Mac] is hired to write and deliver a first draft screenplay and two sets of changes, based on ‘The Property.’”

In this particular case, “The Property” is a 57-page treatment by Rauch for The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, titled Lepers From Saturn. The treatment was just one part of a presentation that Richter and Rauch made to David Begelman, head of MGM at the time. Much of the other material in the presentation, which they titled “A Buckaroo Banzai Sampler,” consisted of half-completed drafts of other Banzai adventures Rauch had started in on while developing the overall idea and character. When MGM fired Begelman, he formed Sherwood Productions and was allowed to take the script that Rauch had written for MGM with him as one of his new production shingle’s first projects.

Richter elaborates, “Rereading Mac’s MGM agreement recently when the new series was announced to see if Mac had any royalties built in, it occurred to my non-legal eye that the document does not acquire ‘The Property,’ it simply hires Mac to write a screenplay based on it. It’s important to stress that the MGM-drafted Agreement specifically defined Mac’s 57-page treatment as ‘the Property’ and that the Agreement never “acquired” it in any of its language because it only engaged Mac to write a screenplay ‘based upon’ his treatment. In fact, Begelman made it clear to us that he didn’t want to get involved in the larger world of Buckaroo Banzai because, as he said, ‘I don’t know what it is’.”

So Richter says that the crux of his and Mac Rauch’s argument hangs on the way that the contract specifically defines Rauch’s pre-written treatment and the screenplay that Begelman hired him to write as two different things.

“It’s perfectly obvious,” Richter says, “that the Agreement’s simple, blunt language acknowledges the existence of two entirely separate intellectual properties – one they called ‘The Property’ and one they called ‘The Work.’ Crucially, ’The Work’ is a technical term in the Writers Guild Basic Agreement with all the studios, is defined as only “what the writer is engaged to write”, and a screenplay is all that Mac was engaged to write in the MGM contract. David Begelman basically commissioned a screenplay based on a piece of literary material that MGM didn’t own and then David Begelman went off and made and released a movie based on it. It’s the equivalent of releasing a movie based on a Stephen King book but forgetting to buy the book from Stephen. And a highly regarded property lawyer agrees with us.”

“We’ve asserted all of this to MGM, and they’ve reflexively disagreed,” Richter says. “And I understand that. They’re not going to say ‘Oh yeah, right! Sorry.’ I’ve gone through all my records and archival material and we’ve demonstrated that Begelman was clearly not just pitched one episode as if it were a stand-alone movie. He was presented with ‘The Buckaroo Banzai Sampler.’ He was told it was a whole world, and shown written examples prior to his commissioning the screenplay from Mac.”

Richter goes on to explain that the contract in question does not contain what should be a standard clause called ‘Conditions Precedent.’ Among the many conditions within that standard paragraph is the requirement that the studio has obtained any underlying rights to the property before the screenwriter can get to work.

“I think it was complacency,” posits Richter. “They just thought ‘Well, it’s the same guy.’ But they went to the trouble of calling it ‘The Property’ and only did it once and never acquired ‘The Property’ in the whole five page document. This could have catastrophic implications for them if we’re right.”

This is not the first time that rights issues have been a hindrance to continuing the Buckaroo Banzai franchise.

“The history of the chain of title on Buckaroo is just deranged,” Richter admits. When Begelman dissolved Sherwood Productions, he sold off much of its holdings to pay off debts. The property bounced around for a while from French bank Credit Lyonnais to Polygram Records and then ultimately back to MGM. But along the way, there are some gaps in the history of the film’s rights. In 2009, Warner Brothers Animation was interested in doing a cartoon version of Buckaroo Banzai, but was warned off by Warners’ legal department who felt that a clear chain of title could not be established.

“They knew that the motion picture rights to The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai: Across The Eighth Dimension had journeyed around the universe,” Richter says. “Mac just found some emails that Warners Animation had sent to us calling out four or five places where the title chain just dropped out. For example, Warner’s lawyers discovered that on a specific date the title was definitely in the hands of Company A, yet three years later it somehow ‘belonged’ to Company G. But the copyright search couldn’t discover how the rights had ever made their way from A to G or was it by then to H or even K. Were there five intervening companies? One? What’s missing? Where are all these transfer-of-rights documents? Warner Brothers couldn’t find them, and I suspect MGM can’t either because as David Begelman once bragged to me about how he was actually financing Buckaroo, ‘I operate on a need-to-know basis, and you don’t need to know.’”

Richter says, “With this messed up chain of title, if you can’t trace it from its beginnings all the way back to MGM, you have to look back and see who’s the last person who really owned everything. It’s Earl Mac Rauch when he walked into that room, laid that universe on Begelman’s desk and Begelman chose to only develop one episode of it and failed to buy either the treatment or any rights to the whole saga.”

An email sent to Smith’s ViewAskew production company for comment on Friday was not answered.

About Rich Drees 5674 Articles

A film fan since he first saw that Rebel Blockade Runner fleeing the massive Imperial Star Destroyer at the tender age of 8 and a veteran freelance journalist with twenty years experience writing about film and pop culture.

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61 Comments on "Rights Issues Stymie BUCKAROO BANZAI Amazon Series"

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Robogeek
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RT @FilmBuffOnLine: Rights Issues Stymie BUCKAROO BANZAI Amazon Series: https://t.co/PNMPTVzHhv

AnarchistDalek
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RT @MikeOkuda: A fascinating – and somewhat disturbing – glimpse behind the scenes of the new Buckaroo Banzai television project. https://…

mototanthosya
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RT @MikeOkuda: A fascinating – and somewhat disturbing – glimpse behind the scenes of the new Buckaroo Banzai television project. https://…

SirBenKenobi
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RT @MikeOkuda: A fascinating – and somewhat disturbing – glimpse behind the scenes of the new Buckaroo Banzai television project. https://…

marshotel
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Génial! Earl Mac Rauch détient toujours les droits de tout le bouzin. Depuis le début, en fait. Les bras cassés… https://t.co/LvleWMY92F

Wipeoutt31
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RT @FilmBuffOnLine: Rights Issues Stymie BUCKAROO BANZAI Amazon Series: https://t.co/PNMPTVzHhv

trackback

[…] with Film Buff Online, the director of the original film W.D. Richter said that the wording of Buckaroo Banzai writer […]

CrackMcCraigen
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It was ’09 not ’03 but I was the guy Warner’s was talking to about developing Buckaroo for animation. https://t.co/Gn2L9GnJxU

DanielFaust_
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RT @CrackMcCraigen: It was ’09 not ’03 but I was the guy Warner’s was talking to about developing Buckaroo for animation. https://t.co/Gn2L…

TronKnotts
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RT @CrackMcCraigen: It was ’09 not ’03 but I was the guy Warner’s was talking to about developing Buckaroo for animation. https://t.co/Gn2L…

szuniverse
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RT @CrackMcCraigen: It was ’09 not ’03 but I was the guy Warner’s was talking to about developing Buckaroo for animation. https://t.co/Gn2L…

chuckappa
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@CrackMcCraigen @FilmBuffOnLine that would have been really cool. I know you would have done a good job!

Itchinader
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RT @CrackMcCraigen: It was ’09 not ’03 but I was the guy Warner’s was talking to about developing Buckaroo for animation. https://t.co/Gn2L…

DouglasMacKrell
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RT @CrackMcCraigen: It was ’09 not ’03 but I was the guy Warner’s was talking to about developing Buckaroo for animation. https://t.co/Gn2L…

JosephDickerson
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RT @MikeOkuda: A fascinating – and somewhat disturbing – glimpse behind the scenes of the new Buckaroo Banzai television project. https://…

KenPlume
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I’ve known for years that the Buckaroo Banzai rights were a mess, so this doesn’t surprise me at all… https://t.co/4lBYluv1ml

Meeea
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Du rififi pour la série Amazon Buckaroo Banzaï, visiblement le scénariste détiendrait encore les droits
https://t.co/82x9c52PtI

rmfezman
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RT @CrackMcCraigen: It was ’09 not ’03 but I was the guy Warner’s was talking to about developing Buckaroo for animation. https://t.co/Gn2L…

clairwitch
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@marshotel @FilmBuffOnLine on va jamais savoir ce que cette pastèque fichait là…

noelill
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@CrackMcCraigen @FilmBuffOnLine 😵 so confusing. It would be so much easier to work with a new idea and not unearth things from the 80s

Dawn Korus Winarski
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Dawn Korus Winarski liked this on Facebook.

Natasha Bogutzki
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Natasha Bogutzki liked this on Facebook.

jetjocko
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No matter where you go, there you have lawyers. (The rights to Buckaroo Banzai are bolluxed, via @KenPlume.) https://t.co/s7XFdCs3f5

GumbelGrumble
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RT @CrackMcCraigen: It was ’09 not ’03 but I was the guy Warner’s was talking to about developing Buckaroo for animation. https://t.co/Gn2L…

Figmentfly
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RT @MikeOkuda: A fascinating – and somewhat disturbing – glimpse behind the scenes of the new Buckaroo Banzai television project. https://…

bleeding_tree
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Rights Issues Stymie BUCKAROO BANZAI Amazon Series – https://t.co/GMmZUqlAVm

theReal_Rebel
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RT @MikeOkuda: A fascinating – and somewhat disturbing – glimpse behind the scenes of the new Buckaroo Banzai television project. https://…

Sleestak
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RT @bleeding_tree: Rights Issues Stymie BUCKAROO BANZAI Amazon Series – https://t.co/GMmZUqlAVm

dorkland
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Rights Issues Stymie BUCKAROO BANZAI Amazon Series – https://t.co/TTYRBWHu5I

MikeOkuda
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RT @FilmBuffOnLine: Rights Issues Stymie BUCKAROO BANZAI Amazon Series: https://t.co/PNMPTVzHhv

Chenry74
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@FilmBuffOnLine @MikeOkuda Crap.

agraphafx
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RT @FilmBuffOnLine: Rights Issues Stymie BUCKAROO BANZAI Amazon Series: https://t.co/PNMPTVzHhv

JessetheMac
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RT @FilmBuffOnLine: Rights Issues Stymie BUCKAROO BANZAI Amazon Series: https://t.co/PNMPTVzHhv

david_a_lloyd
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Rights Issues Stymie BUCKAROO BANZAI Amazon Series – FilmBuffOnline https://t.co/crZTDmG6fo

Saslow_Scott
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RT @FilmBuffOnLine: Rights Issues Stymie BUCKAROO BANZAI Amazon Series: https://t.co/PNMPTVzHhv

gmskarka
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If you want a glimpse into some of the reasons that have been delaying @AdamantEnt ‘s BUCKAROO BANZAI game…

https://t.co/qqoDzTNmJN

joewhitechicago
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@johnaugust @clmazin thoughts?https://t.co/U5Sfnv1ImO

ShapuTapu
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RT @FilmBuffOnLine: Rights Issues Stymie BUCKAROO BANZAI Amazon Series: https://t.co/PNMPTVzHhv

Rezznul
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RT @FilmBuffOnLine: Rights Issues Stymie BUCKAROO BANZAI Amazon Series: https://t.co/PNMPTVzHhv

s_hamilton
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RT @gmskarka: If you want a glimpse into some of the reasons that have been delaying @AdamantEnt ‘s BUCKAROO BANZAI game…

https://t.co/q…

BodySnatchers79
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RT @CrackMcCraigen: It was ’09 not ’03 but I was the guy Warner’s was talking to about developing Buckaroo for animation. https://t.co/Gn2L…

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[…] (14) BUCKAROO BANZAI CAN’T GET ACROSS THE AMAZON. Joseph T. Major in concerned. He looked at this article and said, “It looks like the World Crime League is making a score.” — “Rights Issues Stymie BUCKAROO BANZAI Amazon Series”. […]

TomVidovich
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RT @CrackMcCraigen: It was ’09 not ’03 but I was the guy Warner’s was talking to about developing Buckaroo for animation. https://t.co/Gn2L…

FredKiesche
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RT @FilmBuffOnLine: Rights Issues Stymie BUCKAROO BANZAI Amazon Series: https://t.co/PNMPTVzHhv

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[…] Hat Tip – FilmBuff […]

jntweets
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RT @dorkland: Rights Issues Stymie BUCKAROO BANZAI Amazon Series – https://t.co/TTYRBWHu5I

R Check
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Adamant Entertainment took pre-orders on a Buckaroo Banzai game years ago. The owner, Gareth Skarka, has claimed that the product was finished and the rights holders requested revisions which were completed and re-submitted. Supposedly, he never bothered to follow up with them while he worked on another project (now over 5 years late, also). Now he’s hilariously blaming this *potential* dispute as the reason his product from so long ago has been delayed. This clown should have refunded his customers years ago instead of all the nonsense, lies, and excuses.

MJanovic
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RT @marshotel: Génial! Earl Mac Rauch détient toujours les droits de tout le bouzin. Depuis le début, en fait. Les bras cassés… https://t…

ARTofCOOP
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whattheflach
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