MANHATTAN (CN) - Producers making a movie called "Brando" sued the screenplay's author for $5.2 million, claiming he breached contract by hijacking the project and withholding money needed to develop the picture.
Plaintiffs Starline Films, StarChild Productions, and producers Jonathan Doscher and Francine Ganguzza sued six people and three businesses, including the Gersh Agency, Brillstein Entertainment Partners, and the Gray Kraus Stratford Des Rochers law firm, in Federal Court.
Starline et al. claim they entered into a literary option agreement with lead defendant Ercan Bas on July 10, 2012 to develop a screenplay he'd written called "Brando."
Starline claims it got exclusive rights to the screenplay for 18 months, and that all checks from investors would be written to StarChild.
A month later, Starline claims, it told informed Bas and co-defendant actor Christopher Riggi that it had secured $25,000 from an investor (co-defendant Alexander Dube) to produce a trailer to be used to market the film.
Two days later, after an exchange of emails, Bas and Riggi asked that the $25,000 check be sent directly to them, and that they would then pay StarChild, according to the 51-page complaint.
On Aug. 21, 2012, Bas and Riggi asked the plaintiffs several questions about the structure of Starline Films and, in a subsequent communication, made several "unexplained critical comments about how the project should be managed," according to the complaint.
Days later, when they still had not received the initial $25,000, the plaintiffs say, they asked investor Dube to stop payment on the check or press Riggi or Bas to send it. When Dube declined to take action, the plaintiffs say, they informed the agent for the two men that its clients were in breach of contract.
None of these entities - Stephen Hirsh, Gersh Agency, JoAnna Colonna, Brillstein Entertainment Partners, attorney Jonathan Gray or his firm Gray Kraus Stratford Des Rochers - all defendants, took any action, the plaintiffs say.
Starline claims: "Bas violated that exclusive right when he failed to honor this arrangement by withholding funds collectively with Riggi, and communicating with investors directly to produce the picture without Starline's involvement."
It claims that "up to an additional $195,000 was directed to Riggi and Bas as a result of the breach of the partnership agreement."
Plaintiff Doscher claims that Bas emailed him on Aug. 30, 2012, claiming that he, Bas, now owned the domain names to two Starline movie projects, Old Stone Face and The Westies, "as well as one for Starline Films and for Ganguzza's personal name."
"Bas has willfully, maliciously and vindictively registered these titles as domain names with the intent to cause irreparable harm in the following formats: oldstoneface.com, oldstonefacemovie.com and the westiesmovie.com," Starline claims.
It claims that "Bas has willfully, maliciously and vindictively registered the domain name, starline-studios.com with the intent to cause irreparable harm, while knowing that Starline was forming an additional company 'Starline Studios' to produce new movie projects."
And it claims: "Bas has willfully, maliciously and vindictively registered a domain name in Ganguzza's name: franganguzza.com with the intent to cause irreparable harm and costly damages."
Starline et al. seek $5.2 million in compensatory damages, liquidated damages, injunctive relief, and attorney's fees, for cybersquatting, copyright infringement, breach of contract and tortious interference.
They are represented by Alan J. Field of the Alan Field Entertainment Group in Demarest, N.J.
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