Case Write-up: Stunts for the Silver Screen
ADVANCE d 4 Wendy is a professional movie stunt-person. She was asked by Stefan, a movie producer, to perform the dangerous scenes for the leading lady in a movie thriller, “Chasing Chérie” at a salary of $5,000 a week for a six-week period. After Wendy read the script, Stefan presented her with a written contract which specified the $5,000 per week compensation and contained other terms standard in these types of contracts. One of the terms required Wendy “to perform the leading lady’s dangerous scenes as called for in the movie script.” Wendy and Stefan both signed the contract.
ADVANCE d 4 ADVANCE d 4After the first week of shooting, for which Wendy was paid, the script called for a chase scene in which the leading lady escaped capture by leaping off a cliff into the river below.
ADVANCE d 4The movie director, Milos, decided that the scene would be more effective if revised to have the leading lady elude her pursuers by riding her white horse through a burning field of marijuana. Milos, with Stefan’s consent, changed the script accordingly and arranged with a wealthy friend living in Montana for the use of one of the fields where he secretly cultivated marijuana.
ADVANCE d 4When Wendy was asked to perform the revised scene, she refused because the fire scene was not in the original script. “I’ve never been on a horse in my life,” she said.
Stefan responded, “The contract requires you to do the leading lady’s dangerous scenes. I told you before we signed it that Milos, the director, might wish to make script changes and you said it was all right.” He claims that “dangerous scenes called for in the movie script” meant the final movie script, which would include any rewrites during the course of shooting. Wendy denied agreeing to script changes or to stunts not called for in the original script. “How am I supposed to know whether I can do stunts that haven’t even been written yet?” she asked. “I’m not Daffy Duck standing in for Bugs Bunny to be crushed, blown up, torn, spindled, and mutilated. Besides, I didn’t sign up for being arrested. What if the police show up while we’re all out there?”
Stefan became angry and screamed at Wendy in the presence of the full cast and crew, “You cowardly b—-! You’re fired. I don’t want people like you working here.” A humiliated Wendy fled the set. As she was getting into her car, the wind blew a hundred-dollar bill against her leg, and she grabbed it and stuffed it in her pocket.
ADVANCE d 4A few days later, Stefan called Wendy, and, when she didn’t answer, left a message on her voicemail: “Dahling, all is forgiven. You don’t have to do the fire scene. Come back and finish the film, and we’ll up your salary to $6,000 per week.”
ADVANCE d 4Wendy checked the employment possibilities and discovered there were none at that time for someone in her profession. She ignored Stefan’s request and went to Las Vegas for the rest of the contract period. In her gambling there she won $10,000.
ADVANCE d 4After returning from Las Vegas, Wendy sued Stefan, alleging he owed her five weeks salary. Stefan counterclaimed that Wendy’s replacement cost him $6,000 per week, or a total of $5,000 more than her contract price, and he was due this money.
ADVANCE d 4What are the rights of Wendy and Stefan in this lawsuit? If Wendy had gone back to work in response to Stefan’s voicemail, what would her rights have been? Spot as many issues as you can, and give me your best analysis of each, citing cases and other authority where appropriate.