‘Crude’ director gains support in Chevron suit

Orgs come to the defense of Joe Berlinger

Hollywood guilds, documentarians and professional groups have come to the defense of director Joe Berlinger as he appeals a court order to turn over 600 hours of outtakes from his movie “Crude” to Chevron.

On July 14, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear Berlinger’s appeal of a lower court’s order that he turn over the material to the oil giant, which is fighting a legal battle against a class action of plaintiffs over its liability for the cleanup of oil fields in Ecuador. Chevron said the outtakes may provide compelling evidence of unethical activity on the part of Ecuadoran plaintiffs’ lawyers and government officials.

In an amici curiae brief by Michael Donaldson of Donaldson & Callif, the entertainment groups argue that if Berlinger were to be required to turn over the material, it would “significantly impair the creation of documentary films that investigate controversial issues” and would have a “chilling effect” on such projects.

Two dozen orgs and individuals signed on to the brief, including the Directors, Writers and Producers guilds, Film Independent, the Intl. Documentary Assn., IFP Inc., Alex Gibney and Eddie Schmidt.

They also argue that although Berlinger is a documentarian, he is protected by journalists’ privilege, and that Chevron has not met the threshold to overcome it.

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