Tri-C Adjunct Professor and Filmmaker involved in Dispute over Film Project

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By Jonathan Beard

An adjunct professor at Cuyahoga Community College is involved in a civil lawsuit. Jillian Holt, a Cleveland-based filmmaker and adjunct professor at Tri-C’s metro campus, along with another defendant, Keith Collins II, have been accused by fellow Cleveland filmmaker and author Ivy Willis of breach of contact, defamation, and violation of privacy for an excess of $120,000. Holt is representing herself in the case. Both Holt and Collins have released counterclaims for damages and court fees.  

According to court documents accessed from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, Willis claims that Holt and Collins “stole” footage from a film the three were creating known as “The Catalyst.” Initially, she claims that the three were involved in planning, with Holt being tasked with writing the script and Collins hired as the cinematographer. 

Willis alleges that Holt and Collins subsequently blocked her before the shooting of the film’s final scene and denied her access to the film, while refusing multiple attempts by her to settle the issue beforehand. She additionally alleges that statements made by Holt and Collins afterwards led to the cancellation of at least one project by an unrelated client and “harmed her reputation” among the local film community.  

In her statement to the court, Holt denied the allegations. She claims that she was the copyright owner, and contests Willis’ right to the finished footage. According to Holt, the film ran into budgeting issues involving the payment of actors from Detroit, MI, as well as other costs around shooting the film. “With the addition of the Detroit actors, professional crew, and Plaintiff Willis promising the Cleveland actors the same money as the Detroit actors, the budget had skyrocketed which made me very uncomfortable.” claims Holt in court documents. “I asked Plaintiff Willis on numerous occasions, what her budget was for the film, to which I have never received a number reply.”  

Holt further states that Willis, who also owns a daycare in the Cleveland Heights area, previously pondered embezzling tax funds from her childcare business to contribute to the final costs. Holt claimed to have contributed around $12,600 to the project, compared with around $7,600 by Willis. She claims that Willis further tried to solicit Collins for the remaining footage, leading her to believe she “could no longer work with her in any capacity.” 

Willis claimed in court documents that Holt is still in possession of the footage and continue to alter scenes from “The Catalyst,” and pushed for a temporarily restraining order on the footage. The Court granted this measure but stopped short of releasing the footage into her possession, saying she failed to show proof of rightful ownership. The court case is still ongoing as of March 1, 2024. Other members of the crew for “The Catalyst” have been subpoenaed by the Court of Common Pleas for the case. 

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