"The Lizzie Bennet Diaries does not belong to him."
July 4, 2023 11:14 PM   Subscribe

"The whole story of why we'll never get an LBD movie." Over a year ago, Ashley Clements started producing The Look Back Diaries. After all of the episodes were discussed, she's started discussing the behind-the-scenes tea, specifically with regards to Bernie Su screwing her and the other Pemberley Digital castmates out of a lot of money and in the last episode, categorically ending hopes of a movie.

Admittedly, Ashley got the idea to write her own screenplay of "The Lizzie Bennet Wedding" without owning the copyright. She asked Hank Green about it and he said he'd given up most of his ownership and she'd have to talk to Bernie...I note that Hank Green has participated in The Look Back Diaries and Bernie wasn't asked, 'nuff said. There's a lot of money not happening, such as the Kickstarter money, being told to pay money for their own certificates, finding out that LBD was on television and nobody knew/was getting paid for it...
posted by jenfullmoon (5 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
So, this is the part that gave me pause:

Admittedly, Ashley got the idea to write her own screenplay of "The Lizzie Bennet Wedding" without owning the copyright.

....So....Ashley was the talent hired to star in this, and got her own idea for a sequel and approached the creators - but one deferred to the other, and the other said no. I have that right, yes?

So....how does Ashley "own" the project again?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:13 AM on July 5, 2023 [2 favorites]

There's probably an in-depth story that could be written about the 10(ish)-year anniversary of the first wave of "professional" YouTubers -- I really hate the term "content creators", but I mean the first people for whom "making serialized web videos" became compensated, full-time work.

For example, I noticed that Natalie Tran, who became one of Australia's highest viewed YouTubers in the early Tens, then dropped off completely in 2019, has now come back as an actress/TV host.

Contrast this with Slender Man, where the concept found permanence but all the horror verite series about it (Marble Hornets, Tribe Twelve, etc.) have fallen by the wayside, or Lonelygirl15 and it's spinoffs. Heck, Carmilla: The Series had such a strong following that a new YT channel was basically constructed around its stars, but even after that series got an actual feature film finale, all the key players seemed to drift apart.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 10:32 AM on July 5, 2023

I had to post this before watching it in full (sigh) and finished it now.

I do think it was not a great idea to start plugging away at doing the movie when she didn't have the power to do so--though it sounds like she hit up Hank first (Hank being much more friendly) and he no longer had much/if any decision making power. Sounds like Bernie pretty much ticked off well, everybody, but Ashley and Brendan are the only ones who are straight up burning bridges at this point over his behavior. Also interesting that it sounded like it might be a go for awhile even if Bernie was being Bernie.

Can't say I'm shocked Bernie just said a no out of nowhere. Interesting how that guy was a big hit for a few years and then just seems to have disappeared of late, eh?

So....how does Ashley "own" the project again?

I am TERRIBLE at business/technical details and understanding them and I'd probably have to watch the whole thing again and transcribe it, but it sounds like she kind of (????) owned the movie script stuff if not the overall IP, and she has some kind of legal...thing about it that's useless now... about it. I'm sorry, business just doesn't make sense to me to explain details. What I got out of it was "she had an idea to do a script, got some interest, Bernie was talked to, Bernie was difficult but not quite 100% against it" (I note there's a brief snippet of an interview with Bernie on a podcast saying she got the entire thing when she did not!), "eventually Bernie shut it all down."

I am impressed at her ballsiness/ovariness to put all of this out there in the open at this point, but I guess things are so burnt at this point it probably doesn't matter, either. I know I'd have severe reservations about speaking out about literally anything if I worked in Hollywood for fear it'd burn my own ass. I both respect her and am concerned, you know?
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:09 AM on July 5, 2023

Upon re-watching:

* Bernie has the copyright to LBD in general. Hank now has only 10% of ownership, Bernie apparently has the rest.
* Ashley has a copyright to the screenplay she wrote.
* Bernie permitted her to do some "non-monetary shopping agreement" thing in which she's allowed to shop the movie around and that's it, Bernie gets approval. "And if you think that sounds like a bunch of nonsense, that's because it is." Everyone retains their respective copyrights, albeit she doesn't know if LBD is copyrighted, apparently?
"We have given Ashley full rights to the franchise." -Bernie on the Pemberley Podcast.
* Ashley overstepped and sent a pitch to YouTube Red (to a person who no longer worked there and didn't forward it on) without enlisting Bernie (which she admits was a mistake) and "Bernie lost his goddamned mind." Ashley groveled, though she notes that no actual harm was done since no actual pitch happened, technically speaking.
* Bernie claimed on the Pemberley Podcast that he gave Ashley full rights to the franchise.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:03 PM on July 5, 2023

It's actually fascinating to see this get aired out, because there's definitely an element of the BTS of creative media that mainly consists of boneheadedly barreling forward until someone literally stops you, unless they don't.

Ashley doesn't own LBD legally, and it seems like neither she nor Bernie fully understands that or at least the reasons why, or the reasons why it might not matter depending on how they played it. She owns the script she wrote (not ANY script about a LBD Wedding, though—only hers), which she can't produce without Bernie's permission unless she were to change it enough that it wouldn't be based on his IP anymore. This happens alllll the time, at least in my realm, which is books. It's not just Twilight fanfic that gets published with some details changed. Some successful series started out as pitches to big brands to use for their IP and then weren't accepted. Change enough to make it an homage instead, voila. A little harder to do with something like this and still have a major studio interested. Book publishing has a lot in common with Hollywood, but it's a little more receptive to "original" stories.

There are also lots of things where there are multiple actual rights holders that aren't super compatible—either because they're competitors, there are personal grievances, there are so many entities that it would be too complicated, or one is big and one is little and can't get the big one on the phone. Sometimes, by sheer force of will (and money, and calling in favors) the thing happens anyway! Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Hermitcraft TCG, Kim Cattrall guest starring on And Just Like That!

Then there's the lawyer she talked to who basically suggested making it without permission but with just really good insurance! LOL. Variations on that happens all the time as well. Simply find someone to sign something saying it's their problem if you get sued.

But when it comes down to it, if there are two people who are essential to a project—in this case the rights holder and the star—and they hate each other's guts? Ashley may not actually own anything but in this case they both have the same amount of power. Neither can realistically make it without the other one, so each one's "yes" alone is equally toothless, and likewise each "no" is equally final.
posted by lampoil at 2:30 PM on July 5, 2023 [3 favorites]

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