Will Bueché



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Terminator fans Vs. Drew Cummings, collected

Posted in Personal by Will on Monday, October 25th, 2010 ~ 4pm

Some context: The Terminator film has never had good behind-the-scenes extras on past DVDs, nor will it on the eventual BluRay special edition, because the owner of the behind-the-scenes footage is arguably a bit eccentric: Rather than sell the footage to the studio, where it could be incorporated into proper behind-the-scenes extras alongside The Terminator film itself, Cummings sells DVD-Rs of his featurette on Amazon.

This situation arose because unlike today, where studios produce the behind-the-scenes features themselves (or pay companies to work-for-hire so the studio owns everything they shoot), back then evidently the studios allowed companies to shoot the behind-the-scenes footage on their own dime, and thus, the footage ended up being owned by whatever company happened to shoot it. In this way, the behind-the-scenes footage of Terminator ended up in the firm grasp of Drew Cummings.

On Amazon, a review of Cumming’s DVD-Rs drew the attention of Mr. Cummings, and he joined into a bit of a debate that questioned the assertions made about his ownership and handling of the behind-the-scenes footage of The Terminator. The debate also highlighted what seem to be exaggerated claims that Cummings makes about having “pioneered” the concept of behind-the-scenes features. Ultimately, there were hard feelings all around.

Fritz Nelson wrote, in his review of The Making of: Terminator:
…The producer of this program and the Terminator rights-holders, have never come to financial terms over the usage of this footage, thus it has never been included on any official release of The Terminator…Buy it soon, as this may get recalled at any time due to a dispute of copyright….It is disputable wether he’s allowed to release this since it includes quite a bit of in-movie footage. (At the moment MGM is in no position to challenge him legally because they have bigger problems to deal with.)

Drew Cummings, producer of the footage, replied:
There is no dipsute with Orion, Mgm, or Hemdale. Drew Cummings is the producer and copyright holder and has been since its production. When 60 Minutes produced a segment profiling James Cameron for his release of Avatar, MGM and Cameron told them to contact Drew Cummings for the licensing to behind-the-scenes of The Making of: Terminator footage.

Will Bueche wrote in response:
Drew, everyone knows you’ve been reluctant to sell the footage to MGM in any of its previous efforts to make special editions of The Terminator. You’re thought of as an eccentric producer at best, since other producers of behind the scenes footage manage to come to satisfactory arrangements, yet you hold out and come away with nothing. Someday soon you’ll have another opportunity, when whoever owns The Terminator next (after MGM falls) will revive an attempt to make behind-the-scenes extras for a definitive edition of The Terminator. Please come to your senses and sell your footage while there are still Terminator fans around — fans who would enjoy seeing the footage presented properly in context, on the same disc as the film itself. The value of your footage may be falling every year (even less value now after Terminator: Salvation didn’t do so well), but there’s still one more chance to come to an agreement that will benefit the fans, and benefit you. Fans such as myself try so hard to have patience with you; I am asking you to have the same patience with the studios. Please.

Drew Cummings, producer of the footage, replied:[1]
From 1983 to 1989 I produced and own the “Making Of:” series, which includes Robocop, Terminator and roughly 40 other films. I was not hired by the studios and I funded the entire production myself at a time when the studios and directors were reluctant to give away hollywood special effects and stunt secrets on how films were made. I financed the entire series (52 half-hour) episodes, and that is why I own the footage and copyrights on the behind-the-scenes footage. Today, the studios own all of the behind-the-scenes footage from their films in part because I showed them that there was a value for such material.

I have no aversion to selling or licensing my footage, or for that matter selling the masters and copyrights to the right buyer. I just want a reasonable fee. So far, no studio has made a reasonable offer. The Biography channel just did a two hour “Nightmare On Elm Street” retrospective that was highlighted by talking heads and still photos. It would have been so much more entertaining and interesting to the viewer if it contained actual behind-the-scenes footage of the makeup, special FX, and stunts I own. I didn’t even receive a call from the producers, and MGM is aware of my one hour Nightmare special, as was Warner Bros. who will be releasing the current Nightmare film from 2010. As for the price of the Terminator DVD on Amazon, it is selling quite well, and building every month, as does Robocop, and Nightmare On Elm Street. I am sorry if anyone views the price as too high.

I plan on releasing more episodes from the series in the next few months. From time to time I will license or even GIVE footage to shows like 60 Minutes if they are paying a tribute to the directors or actors for their scope of work, but I am not prepared to give unique and valuable footage to the studios to add onto their DVD’s without a fair fee. I took the risk of funding the production of the behind-the-scenes footage for my series, and the shows aired the same week the film was released in the theatres, so the studios received nationwide coverage for zero dollars. In some most cases some of the films we covered were so bad we couldn’t even make a licensing deal in the VHS market.

“The Making Of:” weekly half hour series I started in the 1983 defined a whole new genre called docu-tainment. Subsequently, the studios realized the value of the behind-the-scenes long format shows and specials that I pioneered, and started producing and owning them themselves. All I know is that I am very blessed and have had the opportunity to work with hundreds of actors, directors, FX wizards, and filmmakers on locations around the world, on a weekly series that defined a new form of documentary filmmaking that can be found on every DVD released today.

Will Bueche replied:
Actually, both Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark had making of specials that aired in prime time television in 1977 and 1981, respectively, that established the genre of behind-the-scenes specials. The Making of Star Wars network tv special aired September 16, 1977, years before Drew Cummings. Spielberg actually had two for Raiders, one being on stunts, another for Close Encounters (1978) and Lucas had two more for Empire (1980) and Jedi (1983). The first pair of Superman films in the late 1970s had their own as well.

I respect and admire that Drew put his own money into the behind the scenes featurettes he created in the years after the genre of behind-the-scenes featurettes had been established as something fans wanted to see. Did he pioneer the genre? No. But as an early investor in a proven genre, he deserves respect.

What I regret is that his expectations for remuneration from studios who today would like to buy his footage have been so far out of league with fiscal reality on the part of the studios that the statement “So far, no studio has made a reasonable offer” needs to be seen as an indication that what Cummings views as reasonable, is, in fact, so far from reasonable that “no studio” has ever been able to come to an agreement with Cummings.

So the situation as it stands today is that many honest fans of Cummings’ behind the scenes special appeal to him to negotiate with the studios, and time and again are disappointed to find that he’d rather sell a few discs himself than negotiate.


Van Ling, James Cameron’s special features producer, spoke of this impasse in a related discussion on Home Theater Forum on 2009-11-11, and subsequently twice more:

As for the behind-the-scenes footage and 1984 interviews, I have been pursuing that material for literally 15 years and it’s probably not going to happen. The person who purportedly “owns” the material wants six figures (basically, a large percentage of what the studio is spending on the entire disc) for the use of just the edited 20-minute “Making of” piece they did for TV syndication in 1984, and claims not to have any of the original raw footage any more. He will not allow us to review the footage before paying him (I had to find an old commercial VHS copy of the edited piece on eBay), and he and the studio have been in a longstanding dispute over the material: he claims that he owns it outright, while the studio claims they do, and will not pay him for something they feel they already own. The fact that his original deal was with the produciton company Hemdale, which was bought out by MGM a decade ago and no longer exists, only complicates things. It’s a real shame, since he really can’t commercially use or post the footage because it’s of the studio’s intellectual property and technically contains footage from the final film, and we can’t use it because actual material may in fact be owned by him and he’ll sue over its use (again) even though he has no rights over the IP content itself. It’s a big mess, and sadly, will likely not get resolved. The amount of money he wants for it is way over what it’s worth to the studio (they know that apart from a few fans, no one is going to pay extra for the disc just to see this material), and if he doesn’t have the original tape footage (rather than the already-edited material), there is even less incentive to meet his price.

Monetization of historical material sucks, but there we are.


Van Ling, James Cameron’s special features producer, on Home Theater Forum on 2010-08-19, commenting on the news that Cummings was selling his featurette on Amazon:

Fritz, Johnny: the guy is no dummy. He knows that right now, MGM is in no position to challenge him legally because they have bigger problems to deal with than a guy with a gray area. So I reckon this may be the only way fans are going to see that material on disc.

If someone on the forum has gotten it, I would be interested to know if there is any material on it other than the original 22-minute edited “Making of” piece itself… he first claimed he had hours of raw material, then said he only had the final edited master (on Beta) when I asked him to show me the material.

Van Ling, James Cameron’s special features producer, on Home Theater Forum on 2010-08-23:

I had several conversations with Drew about the footage and was straight up with him about it. I asked him if he had the raw dailies tapes; he said he thinks they are in a storage facility he has down there in Florida, and he hinted that there might be a “longer cut” of the making-of doc. I asked him if he would please locate the material and make watermarked copies for me to review in order for the studio to make an assessment on how much they might be willing to pay as a “library fee” to pull the material (MGM still maintains they own the content, but might be willing to pay a “pull” fee, which is SOP). Whatever you want to call it, and I specifically said for him to watermark it so that he could feel assured we weren’t going to just take it and use it without making a deal with him. He said he would work on that, and that he didn’t want to license anything but to sell the rights outright and walk away… AND felt any offer of less than six figures for the material would be “insulting”. I think he also wanted a producer credit on the BD, and no changes could be made to his making-of piece without his permission. I said we’ll see about all of that once we could review what footage he had.

I then didn’t hear from him for weeks (this was back in early 2009). I write him email reminders, keeping it friendly and respectful. He finally sends me a reply saying essentially, “so do you want this or not?” I point out in my reply that he had mentioned a longer cut and raw footage, etc., and I get a reply saying “Let me be clear: I only have the edited 1″ master and that’s it.” This is of relatively no use to us without raw material to cut with, and the studio is NOT going to pay six figures for what amounts to only about 15 minutes of premixed and edited footage he already has been releasing as what the studio considers a bootleg for years.

So that’s my side of it, anyway. I’m sure he probably “remembers” it differently. It’s a shame, as he did have some vintage footage from Robocop, LifeForce, Elm Street 4, and other (mostly B-list) shows, and I can only hope that it all doesn’t get lost to history.


…to which I (Will Bueche) will simply add, “Amen”, and “may his descendants have more sense than he seems to.”

[1] I’ve added paragraph breaks to Drew Cummings’ statement, since he did not provide any breaks himself.

Addendum: In searching for more information about Drew Cummings career, I came across this news item:
Florida man sues ‘American Idol’ (CNN, Jan 19, 2003)
(He made headlines after he threatened to sue after being denied an opportunity to sing after the show’s open-call wranglers decided they did not want him trying out based on his age — but it appears the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission declined to hear his case). Debate about issues here.

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