'Crude' Filmmaker Gets Support, Open Letter From Film Community
Posted: May. 12, 2010 Sign-in to Comment Bookmark and Share

The IDA and a group of filmmakers that includes Academy Award winners and nominees have issued an open letter in support of Joe Berlinger, the director of Crude, and objecting to a judge's ruling that Chevron could subpoena Mr. Berlinger's footage from his film.

Read about the developing story in the NY Times here.

And now the letter in its entirety:

May 12, 2010

An open letter in support of Joe Berlinger and the documentary filmmaking team of "Crude"

As members of the documentary film community, we the undersigned strongly object to theHonorable Judge Lewis A. Kaplan's ruling last week in the case involving our colleague JoeBerlinger, the Chevron Corporation, and Berlinger's 600 hours of raw footage shot duringproduction of his documentary film "Crude".

Judge Kaplan sided with Chevron and ruled that Berlinger must turn over all of his raw footageto Chevron for their use in the lawsuit discussed in the film. Berlinger and his legal team plan toappeal the ruling.

In cases such as these involving access to a journalist's work material, whether they involve anewspaper or online reporter, a radio interviewer, a television news producer, or a documentaryfilmmaker, it is understood that First Amendment protection of the journalist's privilege is neverabsolute. Typically, if such privilege is successfully rebutted in court, a turn-over orderdemanding a document or other thing is issued and the journalist must comply or face theconsequences. Therefore, it is astounding to us that Judge Kaplan demanded that all of thefootage shot during the production of the film be handed over to the attorneys of Chevron, giventhat the privilege exists primarily to protect against the wholesale exposure of press files tolitigant scrutiny.

While we commend Judge Kaplan for stating "that the qualified journalists' privilege applies toBerlinger's raw footage", we are nonetheless dismayed both by Chevron's attempts to go on a"fishing expedition" into the edit rooms and production offices of a fellow documentaryfilmmaker without any particular cause or agenda, and the judge's allowance of said intentions.What's next, phone records and e-mails?

At the heart of journalism lies the trust between the interviewer and his or her subject.Individuals who agree to be interviewed by the news media are often putting themselves at greatrisk, especially in the case of television news and documentary film where the subject's identityand voice are presented in the final report. If witnesses sense that their entire interviews will bescrutinized by attorneys and examined in courtrooms they will undoubtedly speak less freely.This ruling surely will have a crippling effect on the work of investigative journalistseverywhere, should it stand.

Though many of us work independently of large news organizations, we nevertheless holdourselves to the highest of journalistic standards in the writing, producing, and editing of ourfilms. In fact, as traditional news media finds itself taking fewer chances due to advertiser fearsand corporate ownership, the urgency of bold, groundbreaking journalism through thedocumentary medium is perhaps greater than ever.

This case offers a clear and compelling argument for more vigorous federal shield laws to protectjournalists and their work, better federal laws to protect confidential sources, and strongerstandards to prevent entities from piercing the journalists' privilege. We urge the higher courts tooverturn this ruling to help ensure the safety and protection of journalists and their subjects, andto promote a free and vital press in our nation and around the world.

Patrick Creadon                   Doug Blush
Los Angeles, CA              Los Angeles, CA

Eddie Schmidt
President, International Documentary Association (IDA)

With the support of IDA's Board of Directors:
Adam Chapnick, Beth Bird, Bob Niemack, Brian Gerber, Gilda Brasch, Laurie Ann Schag,Marjan Safinia, Moises Velez, Pi Ware, Sara Hutchison, Senain Kheshgi, Steven Reich,Sue West, Thomas Miller
Executive Director Michael Lumpkin

Supporting Filmmakers

Alex Gibney, Michael Moore, D.A. Pennebaker, Chris Hegedus, Bruce Sinofsky, Joan Churchill,Rob Epstein, Barbara Kopple, AJ Schnack, Kirby Dick, Ricki Stern, Annie Sundberg, HeidiEwing, Rachel Grady, Freida Mock, Terry Sanders, Marina Zenovich, Tia Lessin, Carl Deal,Kevin Macdonald, Ken Burns, Haskell Wexler, Ellen Kuras,Robby Kenner, Fisher Stevens, Margaret Lazarus, Renner Wunderlich, Gordon Quinn, Margaret Brown,
Rebecca Cammisa, Ondi Timoner, Elise Pearlstein, Ross McElwee

Davis Guggenheim, Lesley Chilcott, Rory Kennedy, Jeff Blitz, Laura Poitras, Marshall Curry,Ross Kauffman, Adam Del Deo, Hubert Sauper, Adam Hyman, Richard Pearce,R.J. Cutler, Sam Pollard, Jessica Yu, Nick Broomfield, Morgan Neville,Peter Gilbert, Steve James, Louie Psihoyos, Lucy Walker,
Pamela Yates

Morgan Spurlock, Bill Moyers, Scott Hamilton Kennedy, Tom Weinberg, Joel Cohen,Kate Amend, Anne Makepeace, Evangeline Griego, David Zeiger, Chris Paine,Greg Barker, Skip Blumberg, Brian Strause, Joe Angio, Ben Shedd,Brian Oakes, Dallas Rexer, John Maringouin, Jeff Malmberg,
David Van Taylor

Liz Garbus, Cara Mertes, Simon Kilmurry, Cynthia Wade, Stefan Forbes,Jennifer Venditti, Peter Kinoy, Tom Putnam, Jessie Deeter, Robin Hessman,Paco de Onis, Kim Longinotto, Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert, Sean Welch,Steven Ascher, Jeanne Jordan, Kevin Walsh, Christine O'Malley, Theodore James,Tomlinson Holman, Paola Di Florio, Martin Smith

Diane Weyermann, Jehane Noujaim, Leon Gast, Bill Guttentag, Steven Okazaki,Peter Davis, Michael Tucker, Gabor Kalman, Andrew Goldberg, Eva Orner,Christoph Baaden, Mark Lewis, Annie Roney, Petra Epperlein, Christopher Quinn,Amy Berg, Douglas Chang, Tina DiFeliciantonio,
Jane C. Wagner

James Longley, James Marsh, Yance Ford, Lisa Rich, Tony Gerber,Amy Ziering, Kurt Norton, Amanda Micheli, B. Ruby Rich,Amir Bar-Lev, Jon Else, Judy Branfman, Lucy Phenix, Mike Tollin, Paul Mariano,Jay Rosenblatt, Johanna Demetrakas, Kristine Samuelson, John Haptas

Robert Greenwald, Terry Zwigoff, Laura Gabbert, Matt Tyrnauer, Anna Thomas,Doug Block, Ken Schneider, Gary Cohen, Peter Gerard, Nathan Truesdell,Chris Smith, Bob Richman, Sandy McLeod, Judith Katz, Paul Rachman,Hilari Scarl, Jonathan Stack, Shirley Moyers, Andrew Berends, Buddy Squires,
Jon Alpert, Matthew O'Neill

Lynne Littman, Mark J Harris, Thom Powers, Lauren Greenfield,Theodore Braun, Mary Ann Braubach, Frederick Gerten, Seth Gordon, Celia Maysles,Henry Alex Rubin, Rick Goldsmith, Bob Hercules, Jim Morrissette, Howard Weinberg,Judith Helfand, Andrew Garrison, Rebecca Chaiklin, Doug Pray,Katy Chevigny, Sarah Gibson, Daniel Junge, Ted Hope, Tom Fontana, Doug Zwick, Michael Winship, Stacy Peralta

Sandy Cioffi, Jeffrey Schwarz, Lyda Kuth, Sara Archambault, Geoffrey Smith, Marina Goldovskaya, Jennifer Grausman, Ginger Brown, Natalie Difford, Dierdre Haj, Jack Willis, Judy Irola, Kieran Fitzgerald, Jon Shenk, Mridu Chandra, Ryan Krivoshey, Doug Whyte, Rebecca Cammisa, Charlotte Lagarde, Alison Armstrong, Amy Geller, Gerald Peary, Paul van den Boom, Petr Lom, Jan Rofekamp, Rick Minnich, Henry Chalfant, Mark Achbar, Marcia Jarmel, Stephanie Soechtig, Fisher Stevens, Risa Morimoto, John Philp, Carol Dysinger, Tom Lino, Gregory Orr, Stuart Samuels, Daniel B. Gold, Alice Klein, Brian Newman 

Marc Simon, Summer Preney, James Scurlock, Neil Sieling, Laura Israel, Tom Yellin, Michael Schwarz, Joshua Z. Weinstein, Safina Uberoi, Dylan Robertson, Linda Jaivin, Karin Hayes, Ondi Timoner, Jeanne C Finley, Eric Lin, Joanna Rudnick, Justin Pemberton, Esther Robinson, Kief Davidson, Colin Powers, Laurie House, Stephanie Black, Ayza Omar, Harold Moss, Robert C. Alexander, Daniel Coffin, Nilita Vachani, Mark Landsman 

Bill Ferehawk, Judith Ehrlich, Frank Christopher, Churchill Roberts, Xan Parker, Elizabeth Holder, Ivy Meeropol, Cameron Yates, Deborah Dickson, Paul Devlin, David Leaf, Janet Cole, Michael Palmieri, Donal Mosher, Maro Chermayeff, Mario Murillo, Christine Noschese, Stephanie Caruso, Jason Figueira, Stephen McCarthy, Jonathon Napolitino, Nick Andert, Hima B., Gary Weimberg, Martin Harbury, Margaret Brown, David Soll, Neal Baer, Alcides Soares, Sandra Schulberg, Francisco Bello, Margaret Lazarus, Renner Wunderlich,
Miranda Yousef, Yung Chang

Show your support!
Show your support for the cause by adding your name and title to the comments.
Signature for Berlnger open letter

Mona Nicoara

Berlinger support signature

Ed Robbins Filmmaker Brooklyn, NY

Support for Joe Berlinger & "Crude"

Signed, Rev. Chris Carpenter
Film Critic/Entertainment Writer

Christopher Carson Filmmaker

Christopher Carson Filmmaker

Joe Berlinger Letter

Michael Rose

I offer my support to Joe Berlinger and his efforts to keep from turning over his field tapes to Chevron.

Good to see the IDA joining this cause.

re: Crude

I just read where BP attempted to have one of the Offshore Workers that was saved from the disaster sign a release saying that he was not a witness to the Blowout or whatever caused the accident to happen! He signed the release! Oil Companies will do anything to have the truth burried forever. Please don't let this happen to Joe Berlinger in making him release his footage which is and should be "Public Domain". Oil drilling and explorations are based on greed and Profiteering and the public needs to see alternative energy resources even if it comes from those same Oil Companies that have damaged our Environment.

John Vizzusi, Filmmaker
Sights & Sounds Films
1409 Oak Place #K
Apopka, Florida 32712
Studio: 1-407-889-2320
Mobile: 1-407-310-2774
Website: www.DVFilm.org

Michael Fox Documentary Film

Michael Fox
Documentary Film Maker
California, USA

Standing in solidarity with Joe Berlinger

This is appalling. We will do all it takes to make sure that WE set the precedent that this cannot go forward.

Ruth Leitman
Director Producer Ruthless Films

In Support of Joe Berlinger

Luan Van Le

Support to Berlinger and CRUDE

This would be a terrible precedent.
Marth Christensen

Germaine de Pibrac James,

Germaine de Pibrac James, Independent Filmmaker

Re: Joe Berlinger

Adding my support to Joe Berlinger in his stand against Chevron.
I am glad IDA is also helping in this issue by passing out this information.

mario almanza

moviegoer/amateur filmmaker/photographer

Support the First Amendment Stop the Corporate War on Freedom

This is an outrageous attack on our freedom of speech and expression. The complicity of the judiciary in not upholding the constitution is distressing. However, I do believe Chevron will rue the day they took on Joe Berlinger. He does not stand alone.
James Chressanthis, ASC

Signature in support of Berlinger

Please add my signature in support of Joe Berlinger, and thanks for raising awareness regarding this vitally important issue. - Glasgow Phillips

Support for Joe Berlinger from The Netherlands

As chairman of the Dutch Society of Film- and televsion makers and chair of the Dutch Indies I strongly support Joe and I recommend every indepent filmmaker to do the same!

In support of Joe Berlinger's Footage/First Amendment Privileges

autumn tarleton
doublewide media, nyc

Crude vs. Chevron

I strongly support Joe Berlinger in this case.
Robert Stone

in support of Joe Berlinger

Juan Leguizamón
Film Editor

In support of Joe Berlinger

As a former Co-Chairman of the Producers Guild of America East's Documentary Committee, I would like to lend my support of Joe Berlinger in this important battle of free speech. It is understood that there is no absolute right to prevent all access to a journalist's work if there is reasonable need, but I don't see that here. Nor do I find it reasonable for any journalist to have to turn over their ENTIRE research. At worst, it should be a few hours of pertinant material in this case. Let Chevron prove Berlinger has such material and ask for it specifically, not in its entirety.

-- John F Schwally
New York, NY

Support for Joe Berlinger

Consider my name added
Barry Schneier
Progressive Pictures

Wow, American the ugly

Hang in there Joe. You are a hero in the eyes of everyone that has seen that film.

This is outrageous! 100%

This is outrageous! 100% behind you Joe.
Joanna Friedman, Los Angeles, Freedom Filmworks

I support Joe Berlinger

This is simply DESPICABLE and transparently TENDENTIOUS.
I support the right of filmmakers everywhere to the privacy of their research and the protection of the confidentiality of their communications with any person or institution who participates in a project. This decision affecting CRUDE harms both and erodes the right to the responsible and lawful exercise of journalistic inquiry.

This is horrible.

I'm outraged by this.

Alan Hatchett
Documentary Arts

Support for Mr. Berlinger

I fully support Joe Berlinger and hope that all filmmakers can eventually be protected against undue harassment by corporations and the judicial system.

Kevin Tostado

We strongly support Joe Berlinger & CRUDE!

Please add our names to those who support Joe Berlinger, and thank you IDA, for raising awareness about this issue, which affects us all.

stephanie watanabe | producer
georgie girl pictures
berkeley, ca

Joe Berlinger support

This is an outrageous abuse of power. We stand behind you, Joe.
Abigail Wright & Miranda Smith
Miranda Productions, Inc.

In support of Berlinger and Bonfiglio

Ginny Galloway
Filmmaker, GreenBox Films

Joe Berlinger

I total support Joe Berlinger.
"To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker."
Frederick Douglass

In support of Mr. Berlinger

Raúl Martínez
Filmmaker, Buffalo/San Juan

'Crude' treatment!!!

Support for Berlinger's film!

Filmmaker - Sri Lanka

Ana Prieto

Ana Prieto

Crude and Rude

All of us at Globalvision stand in support as well...

Rory O'Connor

Curtail Chevron, Support Filmmakers' Freedom

I wholeheartedly support this open letter and the legal appeal. One of the main points of "Crude" was how Chevron's legal maneuvers were prolonging any resolution. Let not the same thing happen to the filmmaker, too.

Curtail Chevron, Support Filmmakers' Freedom

I wholeheartedly support this open letter and the legal appeal. One of the main points of "Crude" was how Chevron's legal maneuvers were prolonging any resolution. Let not the same thing happen to the filmmaker, too.

Carolyn McCulley
Citygate Films
Bethesda, MD

In support of Joe

In support of Joe Berlinger

Charlotte Lagarde

Signature for Letter of Support for Joe Berlinger

Cheryl Pollak
Producer, Director

Joe Berlinger & "Crude" vs. Chevron

I want to show my full support of this open letter and hope it will make a difference in this particular case of protecting the First Amendment rights of Mr. Berlinger, his crew and subjects of his interviews - as well as setting a precedent for future cases. It is essential to protect the rights of journalists and documentary filmmakers and therefore the rights and safety of the people interviewed and depicted.

Thank you, IDA, for taking a stance.

Luci Westphal

In full support of Joe Berlinger

As a filmmaker, I am in full support of Joe Berlinger for his documentary film, CRUDE,
in his case against censorship against Texaco (Chevron); please add my name.

Rina Sherman

Filmmaker, Visual Anthropologist, Writer, Ethnographer, Photographer

Support for Joe Berlinger from Spain

I am in full support of Joe Berlinger for his documentary film, CRUDE,
please add my name as well.
Stéphane M. Grueso
elegant mob films, Spain

support for Joe Berlinger

Please add my name to the letter of support for Joe Berlinger. If this stands, it will have a chilling effect on documentary filmmaking.
Virginia Tormey Friedman
Center for the Documentary
Charleston, SC

Joe Berliner and CRUDE footage

In solidarity with Joe Berliner and all journalists and documentarians providing crucial coverage of important subjects, I support our nation's free press and object to this ruling.

Paula Ely


This judge has become the nightmare example many entrepenurial filmmakers have probably imagined with concern. We should be wary of judge seeking to (seemingly) raise the standards by which we have to defend ourselves from outside unwanted entities viewing our unfinished work.

Of course we support Joe.

Matthew Kohn, Director

Joe Berlinger Support

Michael Angus
Jerrycan Films

support for Joe Berlinger

Backing Joe and CRUDE all the way!

Kelley Whitis
Moirai Media
Los Angeles CA

CRUDE First Amendment Protected

Behind the filmmakers on this all the way!
Thanks to Big Sky Film Fest. for alerting me to this issue.

Protecting journalists and truth-tellers

Chevron proves once again to be Chev-wrong, and they will go to great lengths to cover up their wrongs and continue polluting, harming, and destroying the planet we all have to inhabit and clean up.

Jen Gilomen
Documentary Filmmaker, Deep Down
http://deepdownfilm.org | http://forwardfilms.org
Director of Public Media Strategies, Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC)

They are going for you, out of fear -

Dear Mr. Berlinger,

In the last month I have done two home screenings of CRUDE, one for environmental activists and one for filmmakers. Rainforest Action Network sent me a copy of your excellent film so that we could make sure that more people see it. It was one of several astonishing documentary films that I saw at last year's Vancouver International Film Festival.

It is ugly and shocking that Chevron's lawyers have now turned on you. They are going for you, out of fear and to try and silence the rest of us who bear witness. It's a disgusting stall tactic, used for ever and everywhere. What it demonstrates to me is that on many levels, you have already won.

Congratulations on telling the story that so devasting to this huge oil company. Congratulations for working with RAN to use alternative distribution methods to make sure the word is out and that the world is watching. Congratulations on finally being able to shame a multinational corporation. I hope the courts will soon offer you some protection and that they rule in favor of the Ecuadorian people and provide some long overdue justice.

in solidarity,

Pia Massie, documentary filmmaker

Joe Berlinger Support

I fully support Joe Berlinger and the entire CRUDE team.

Mike Steinberg
Big Sky Documentary Film Festival

In support of the CRUDE team against Chevron

I wholeheartedly support this open letter and the legal appeal on behalf of Joe Berlinger, Mike Bonfiglio, the CRUDE team, and the future of documentary filmmaking. It is essential to protect the trust between documentary filmmakers and their subjects, and the production companies who make these films possible.

Bari Pearlman
BTG Productions

Support for Joe Berlinger, Michael Bonfiglio and The Crude Team

I fully support Joe Berlinger, Michael Bonfiglio and the entire Crude team. It is extremely important to protect filmmakers and the subjects they chose to document.

Travis Morss
Festival Coordinator
Big Sky Documentary Film Festival

I support Joe Berlinger

I stand in solidarity with Joe.

- Alex Houston

I oppose the judge's ruling to subpoena footage

I support Joe Berlinger and oppose the judge's ruling.
Mr. Berlinger's footage must be protected from subpoena.

Marty Ostrow
Fine Cut Productions, LLC
Cambridge, MA 02139

I stand with you guys in

I stand with you guys in your important battle.

A Crude Law

May I film you, sir?
Hell no, Big Brother! Nice try.
(It may be too late).
tender film-lover

Keep fighting the good fight...


You, unfortunately, find yourself on a familiar battlefront - the outcome of which will affect all of us. Thank you for your courage and tenacity. We are with you every difficult step of the way.

-Skye Fitzgerald

German Documentary Association AG DOK supports "Crude"

On behalf of Thomas Frickel, Chairman and CEO of the German Documentary Association AG DOK, and our fellow AG DOK members, I wish to express our outrage at the judge's ruling to subpoena the footage Joe Berlinger shot for his film "Crude." This judgement is a scandal, and undermines the protection of confidence between filmmakers and their contributors which is at the heart of documentary filmmaking. The AG DOK condemns this attack on the freedom of the press, freedom of information, and the freedom of expression to the utmost degree.

Rick Minnich

judge's ruling on CRUDE

Signature in support of Joe Berlinger


Chevron does not need Mr. Berlinger's footage.

-Drew Stanley

In support

I support you Mike Bonfiglio and Joe Berlinger!

In support of Berlinger

Chevron needs to do the work, be specific, and understand exactly what it is they are asking of Berlinger, and of the American people.

Renee Gayle Brutvan
Ithaca, NY

In support of Joe Berlinger

The trivialization and partisanship of mainstream media have made independent documentary media indispensable for public information in this country and elsewhere. The ruling that would allow Chevron to examine the outtakes for "Crude" threatens the ability of independent media makers to do the interviews and gather the information we need. I support Joe Berlinger and oppose this ruling.

Stephen Most

In support

Freedom of the press and documentary community are fundamental to democracy. It is critical we show the oil companies, and other big business, they are not above the law and, yes, they too can be accountable.

In support of Joe Berlinger

If this ruling stands, how do journalists and documentary filmmakers assure their sources in the future of confidentiality? Trust broken is not easily mended, especially if a judge can come along and force a person to break the assumed confidentiality. (It's like asking a priest (good priests) to betray his parishioner during confession -- that too, is an assumed contract of confidentiality).

I support Joe Berlinger and the crew of the film CRUDE. Stay strong!

Patricia Sorge
Fringe films, Inc.

Los Angeles Press Club supports filmmaker's 1st Amend. rights

The Los Angeles Press Club joins our colleagues at the Writers Guild of America, East and the International Documentary Association in defense of documentary filmmaker Joe Berlinger’s First Amendment rights.Those rights were violated when federal Judge Lewis A. Kaplan recently ruled that Berlinger must turn over to the Chevron Corporation 600 hours of footage shot during the production of his documentary “Crude: The Real Price of Oil.”

The ruling in effect asks a film journalist to violate confidentiality agreements with sources as well as the standard practices of protection of outtakes, script drafts, research and sources.

Betrlinger’s film makes the case that Ecuadorians suffered the ravages of pollution from oil drilling by Texaco, now Chevron, and are seeking billions in damages. Chevron hopes the outtakes will take them off the hook.

We agree with many in the documentary field that this is a fishing expedition by Chevron’s lawyers and a serious threat to hard-hitting, investigative reporting.


what chevron is doing in

what chevron is doing in ecuador is utterly disturbing and criminal...
a judge's ruling that favors chevron is simply unforgivable....

Pinch me... are we in the U.S.???

I am stunned to learn about this issue. Without free press and protection of those who are interviewed, how is the world to know anything? It's bad enough the masses don't flock to documentaries.

This ruling must be overturned!

Lynn Hasselberger

President, myEARTH360.com
Founder, I Count for myEARTH

Supporting Joe Berlinger

As a documentary filmmaker who worked on such films as An Inconvenient Truth with Al Gore and Countdown to Zero, I fully support Joe Berlinger and his film.

Marianna Yarovskaya, Los Angeles