Documentary filmmaker Joe Berlinger will have to turn over three categories of unused footage from the film "Crude: The Real Price of Oil" to the Chevron Corporation, according to an order issued yesterday by the three-judge panel of an appeals court.
Under the conditions of the order, Berlinger shall "promptly turn over" unreleased footage that relates to plaintiffs’ counsel in a pending lawsuit, private or court-appointment experts in that proceeding and any depicting the current or former officials of the Ecuadorian government.
In a statement released today, Berlinger said that while he had not seen the full opinion, which has not yet been released, he is pleased with the initial results.
"The appeals court has substantially limited Judge Kaplan’s overbroad order, which was the main thrust of our appeal," Berlinger said. "The court has expressly prohibited Chevron from using any footage we do turn over in their public relations campaigns, a goal that was extremely important to me. The courts have affirmed that documentary filmmakers are journalists deserving of First Amendment protection."
Chevron had filed a petition to subpoena all 600 hours of Berlinger’s raw footage, which Berlinger, through his attorney Maura Wogan, opposed, citing a journalist’s privilege. Media organizations supported Berlinger’s position before the court.
While Wogan initially argued that all of the film was protected, in oral arguments Wednesday before the Court of the Appeals in New York (2nd Cir.), she said she’d be willing to turn over some of the outtakes if there was a narrowly tailored request for certain footage.
Randy Mastro, an attorney for Chevron, asserted that three categories were especially important to his clients to provide information that might assist them in fighting three lawsuits they are currently battling about the drilling of oil in the Ecuadorian rainforest. The appeals court’s order seems to mirror those categories.