While the Friday the 13th franchise seems to have halted in creating another entry or restarting the franchise once again, the battle has gone to court regarding the film’s franchise rights. The lawsuit over the rights to Friday the 13th entered a new phase this past week when Sean S. Cunningham was formally deposed under oath. Cunningham, the director, and producer of the original 1980 film Friday the 13th was questioned during the deposition by Marc Toberoff, the attorney for writer Victor Miller.
In June 2016, Miller sent a notice of termination to producers, identified as Horror Inc. and The Manny Company, for the purpose of reclaiming the rights to the Friday the 13th franchise. The key issue in the proceedings is to whether Miller was an “employee” or an “independent contractor” when the 1980 film was developed and then went into production in 1979.
During his deposition testimony, Cunningham reiterated his claim that his agreement with Miller, which was signed on June 4, 1979, was a “work-for-hire” arrangement. Cunningham also stated in his testimony that Miller had not completed a screenplay or even a treatment at this point, approximately three months before Friday the 13th began its filming.
Cunningham also made clear that he did not think Miller had any responsibility for the creation of the now iconic character Jason Voorhees, beyond the name itself. Regarding the screenplay of the film, Cunningham testified that his June 4, 1979, agreement with Miller covered the writing of a treatment and then a screenplay and that he paid Miller “out of his own money” for the screenplay and the treatment. Regarding the creation of Jason, Cunningham argued that Miller isn’t entitled to having been named as one of the creators of the Jason Voorhees character because Jason “was dead” in all of Miller’s screenplay drafts.
The big news today is that Miller is out to prove that Cunningham perjured himself during his deposition testimony. Miller’s attorney, Marc Toberoff, is presently searching for a former secretary of Cunningham’s who might corroborate Miller’s recounting of events.
On June 9, Miller intends to make a motion for summary judgment in court. If not this issue will surely go to trail and will just get uglier and uglier as the time passes.