Uma Thurman lying on a bed, smoking a cigarette with a pistol and a pulp magazine handy, is undoubtedly an iconic image, but one that truly deserves credit for what adorns the movie poster for pulp Fiction? Thanks to the fact that Disney and Miramax employees somehow can’t locate key documents, a federal judge now hears more about the marketing of Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece in 1994. The stake is owned by this famous piece of cinema history.
Firooz Zahedi, a renowned photographer whose celebrity images have been exhibited in galleries in Los Angeles, is the applicant. He photographed Thurman in his private studio on April 7, 1994, and now he blames Miramax for using his work on “thousands of consumer products.”
According to Miramax, however, Zahedi was fulfilling someone else’s vision and he was working under a pay-for-work agreement. The catch? The documents are gone. A Disney employee, according to a statement from a Miramax diaper, says there’s no way the pulp Fiction VHS was reportedly released without erasing the cover image while Zahedi’s legal team has its own studio insider who explains how “Miramax’s business practices in 1994 did not include getting photographer contracts executed.” .
Zahedi received $ 10,000 for his work – which he said was “well below” his standard fees. He agreed, he adds, because he liked the script and was promised he would have the freedom to execute his concept. The photographer says he did a “seedy motel room” set and “was inspired by the ‘film noir’ pulp fiction books of the 50s and 60s as well as the archetypal” femme fatale “characters.
Miramax, who raises anger at how Zahedi suddenly ‘came out of the woods’ to claim ownership (this calls into question the photographer’s ability to do so after so long), tells a slightly different story. Even before Zehedi was hired, a Miramax marketing team discussed ideas, came up with the concept of using Thurman as a femme fatale character with props on a bed, and created a set of sketches. Next, Zahedi was hired “following the layout as created by Miramax,” and eventually the movie poster got the approval of senior officials including Harvey Weinstein, not to mention Tarantino and his partner in. Lawrence Bender production.
Zahedi replies that all he got were “ideas” and that he was the one who made “all the creative decisions” about how to fix those ideas in the photographs. “Zahedi has always been credited as the author of said photograph, even on the price that the advertising campaign for the film received,” adds his lawyer. “After the film was released in 2003, Miramax registered the poster with the copyright office, stating in its application that it was not claiming authorship or ownership of the Zahedi photograph.
U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee will hold a hearing in the case on October 22.
Read Miramax’s summary judgment motion. Read Zahedi’s.