Why Freelancers are Talking About “Old Boy”


taken from Juan Luis Garcia’s website

This came out of my Facebook news feed today: the director of the “Old Boy” remake, Spike Lee, denied knowing graphic designer Juan Luis Garcia’s allegations that the agency who hired Garcia didn’t pay him for doing the comps of the official poster — which Garcia asserts was based on his design.

Garcia sent an open letter to the director, saying:

“I need you to know the truth. Some of the posters you are using were stolen from me. I tried my hardest to resolve this amicably but the agency just blatantly refused. I am a fan of your storytelling and respect your success as a filmmaker, artist, and person. I definitely relate to your passion for the Knicks and competition, just ask my wife and family. I wish you nothing but success with Oldboy and all of your future projects. I hope we can resolve this between us because the agency refuses to work with me and they have tormented me and my family enough. Please feel free contact me at your convenience.”

To which Spike Lee replied, via Twitter: 


Here’s the problem though: in the same letter by Garcia, he sheepishly admitted that he “never signed any contracts or work-for-hire agreements”, only hoping that the promise of compensation should his idea be chosen would be honored: 

“They told me the budget was small and that they could only pay me peanuts for the comps but if you and the studio liked any of them I would then be compensated fairly through the licensing buyout fee.

I know, I saw all of the warning signs but the idea of working for you and having my design represent your film blinded me. So I went along with it.”

This story makes me think: like Garcia, how many freelancers out there are producing work without getting paid, and how many companies (like this unnamed agency) are raking money from stolen work? 

Out of the millions of freelancers whose horror stories will never go viral, who actually has the time and effort to take their battles to court? 

By Evan Tan

Evan Tan is a writer & communications professional based in Manila, Philippines.

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