A Van Nuys video director is asking a judge to confirm he owns vintage footage in which he interviewed Tupac Shakur as part of a deal with Universal Music Group’s predecessor to make a video of the late hip-hop star in the early 1990s.
Plaintiff Stephen Blake is representing himself in the Van Nuys Superior Court lawsuit filed Tuesday against Universal Music, who he alleges has ignored his requests that the company acknowledge the video belongs to him. He says the video’s contents are highly relevant in today’s period of social unrest and that he wants to offer them for sale at auction.
A UMG representative could not be immediately reached for comment.
UMG predecessor Interscope Records hired Blake in late 1992 to produce a music video for Shakur called, “”Holler If You Hear Me,” the suit states. Interscope executive Tom Whalley, for whom Blake had previously produced music videos, asked the plaintiff to be in charge of the Shakur video, according to the suit.
Under a written agreement, Blake produced, directed, edited and composed additional music for the video and the three hours of footage was edited to 4 1/2 minutes, the suit states Blake designed a “dramatic intro” for the video in which Shakur, in a voice-owver, expresses anger about the wrongful deaths he had witnessed, the suit states.
Blake interviewed Shakur in January 1993 at the home of the singer’s late mother, Afeni, in the San Fernando Valley, the suit states. After Blake’s work for Interscope was complete, he was paid and the contract was closed, according to the suit.
In early 1993, Blake told Whalley that the “Holler If You Hear Me” project had become so personal to the plaintiff that he wanted the raw footage and recorded audio interview footage with Shakur, the suit states. Whalley agreed and personally gave the footage to Blake, the suit states.
The two men verbally agreed Blake had no rights in the music copyrights, but only in the footage ownership, the suit states. Whalley also granted Blake permission to create and possess a one-inch submaster of Blake’s director’s cut of the video, which closes with Shakur saying, “Revolution is the only way,” a comment Interscope had removed from the officially released version of the video, the suit states.
Earlier this year, Blake was told by operators of an international auction house that they were interested in auctioning the video footage given that Shakur’s fame has grown over time, the suit states. Blake also believes that recent nationwide social unrest has made Shakur’s message even more relevant and constructive, the suit states.
Before moving with any sale of the footage, Blake contacted UMG in June to confirm that they would honor the oral agreement he had with Interscope and Whalley, but to date he has not received any response, according to the suit.
Blake believes that UMG has not admitted to the validity and enforceability of agreement he had with Whalley and is suing to enforce his right to possess and sell the footage, the suit states.
Shakur, then 25, was shot 24 years ago Monday in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. He died six days later.