The DVDonDVD truth from Doug Denoff
(reprinted from www.sitcomsonline.com)
Greetings, everyone, here's the truth from me, Doug Denoff, owner of www.dickvandykeshow.com and son of Sam Denoff, co-producer and co-writer with Bill Persky of some of your favorite episodes, including Coast TO Coast Big Mouth, October Eve and the Christmas Special.
Your posts have just been brought to my attention by Steve at sitcomsonline.com and after reading all of them, I want you to have the facts. Then maybe we can all use our power to get The William Morris Agency to undo the mess they've caused.
For those of you unfamiliar with the nonsense of Hollywood, The William Morris Agency represents Calvada Productions which of course owns the DVD Show. Calvada was formed by Carl Reiner, Dick Van Dyke, Sheldon Leonard and Danny Thomas.
The Agency also represented my dad and Bill Persky for many years.
I created the website in 1997 originally out of love for the joyous experience of growing up with the DVD show in my house. As you may know, Good Times entertainment released about 30 episodes on VHS in 1995 but this was pre-Internet and they didn't sell at all. I originally wanted to release the 1968 color CBS Special "Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman" because 1) it's a wonderful special which never re-ran, and 2) I had a small part in it!
In 1999 I contacted WMA and they told me that a "gentleman" named Paul Brownstein had been given the right to try to sell the special on behalf of Calvada, but it was hard to sell because so many famous songs were used in it that the music royalties would make it unprofitable. for many months I chatted repeatedly with Paul about my idea and he kept telling me it was pointless.
I also came to know Dave Van Deusen at The Walnut Times. He's a good friend now and encouraged my ideas and projects.
In October 2000, I realized that October 3, 2001 would be the 40th anniversary of the show. I spoke with my Dad and we agreed that it made sense to release all 158 episodes on the anniversary on DVD which had never been done; hence www.dvdondvd.com ! I formed a corporation called DVDonDVD.com to produce the project.
I dicussed it with Mr. Brownstein who continually said it would be a very tough sale (now you KNOW he's no expert on public taste). So I called WMA and arranged a meeting with the lead agent for Calvada. My Dad and I went in with a full presentation, research, and copies of many of your letters from the dvdondvd website. The agent agreed that the idea was wonderful. We proposed licensing the rights in exchange for a very favorable profit sharing with Calvada. They would put up zero money. I would pay for the manufacturing of the DVD's out of my own pocket. I had spoken with La-z-boy about manufacturing the ottoman for the special edition. I spoke with the Smithsonian Institution about staging a special event on October 3, 2001 to celebrate the anniversary and place some of the memorabilia in the Smithsonian alongside Fonzie's leather jacket and other TV icons.
We began negotiating a contract. WMA suggested that we keep Brownstein on our team to handle the many administrative and royalty issues and he agreed to become a participant as a part of MY company. But he continued to downplay the entire idea - suggesting we'd only sell a few hundred complete sets.
We began researching additional material and I found bloopers and other material never before seen (although Mr. Reiner later asked that we not use bloopers because he wants the world to only see rob and laura in character - we would of course respect his wishes). I also spoke with many of the show's participants, including director John Rich, about contributing to the project.
The final step was to get the blessing of Mr. Van Dyke's personal agent. Dad and I met with him, gave him the presentation.
Meanwhile, in March 2001, behind my back, Brownstein talked to Image Entertainment and got them to bid on buying the rights from Calvada. He represented to me and WMA that 'WE' were receiving the bid, meaning it was on behalf of my project. But when he sent me the bid, it was addressed to Paul Brownstein Productions, not Calvada or DVDonDVD, Inc. I was furious since he did not approach them on behalf of ME or what I thought was 'OUR' project. Paul claimed that Image was just an alternative for US to hire to do the actual manufacturing - not a competitor. By the way, if you visit image-entertainment's website, you'll see that they are hardly the right fit for the DVD show with all the soft-core junk they release.
Anyway, Dick's agent refused to make a decision for many months. Brownstein and I spoke several times a week and he constantly played as if he was on the team, and I constantly talked to Calvada's agent at WMA. She commisserated with me but said she could'nt get the blessing from Dick's Agent.
Then of course came 9-11 and everything went on hold for a while.
In mid-november, with WMA having already blown the 40th anniversary, my mother became very ill. Three days before she died on November 26, 2001, Brownstein came over to have lunch with me at the deli by Cedars Sinai Hospital in LA, to tell me that Dick's Agent had decided to make a deal with Image. He claimed to have nothing to do with it (do YOU believe him?) and that he would not be financially involved, but that they had preserved my right to release the 'Ottoman Collection"
Of course I was furious but days later had to face the death of my mother (my dad's first wife).
Then we started to see press from Brownstein how HE was releasing the show on DVD. Then Mary Tyler Moore's wonderful retrospective show had amazing ratings and the world craved 'comfort TV' in the wake of 911. Now I was ready for a fight.
I called the WMA Agent in charge of Calvada and requested a meeeting. We finally met in August and I told her that both WMA and Brownstein had outright stolen the project from my father and me and that if they didn't come up with a solution, I'd take legal action. Of course this is contrary to my original intent to nurture and support the release of the show, but I was not going to stand by and see Brownstein make money off of my idea.
At the meeting WMA basically agreed that they had mis-handled the entire situation, that they had never told Dick Van Dyke OR Carl Reiner about our proposal (but my Father had) and proposed a solution which I found acceptable, but now THAT hasn't happened either. They claim that Dick's agent chose the Image proposal over ours, yet Brownstein claims that HE is doing the release. Brownstein has made the Time-Life deal without my involvement.
WMA has promised that we will still be able to release the Ottoman Collector's edition, but unless I can get WMA to change their tune, it's going to have to wait until these other things take their course. In the meantime, if you purchase the Time-Life set through this website by clicking on the link (available after 12/18/2002) dickvandykeshow.com will earn a 10% affiliate fee from Time-Life which will be used to ensure the quality of the Ottoman Collection.
Dontcha just love Hollywood?
Dad and I met with an Entertainment Law Firm who agrees that our rights were violated by WMA and Brownstein. In one last effort to keep things out of court, dad put in a call to Carl Reiner on Wednesday. As we suspected, (and as WMA admitted), Carl was completely unaware of our situation. He agreed to call WMA, but we are poised to allow the lawyer to proceed to protect our rights and the project.
UPDATE AS OF April 8, 2003
Carl called Dad and told him that he was going to tell WMA to make things right with us. We hope to resolve things soon.
UPDATE AS OF May 4, 2003
WMA offered us a settlement which is hardly worth discussing, (and not consistent with their offer of settlement 6 months ago) but without knowing all the facts of what's going on we can't evaluate it, so we're requested all the information on their dealings with Brownstein, Image Entertainment, Time-Life any any other involved parties.
Brownstein is still claiming publicly that his company s releasing the DVD's, which is not consistent with WMA's claim that the choice was between my original offer and that of Image Entertainment.
Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope you will support my original goals and look forward to bringing you the product as originally intended