‘Deadtime’ Authors Want to Run the Shows

     LOS ANGELES (CN) — The authors of the popular children’s thrillers “Deadtime Stories” sued the producers of a Nickelodeon TV series based on the books, claiming they broke their promises to give the authors an equal say in running the show.
     Sisters Annette and Gina Cascone, who wrote the TV screenplays as well as the books, also claim the producers, brothers David and Scott Hillenbrand, owe them money that the sisters raised to make the show’s first season.
     Their lawsuit in Superior Court seeks at least $2 million in damages, and punitive damages, and a court order putting them in control of the show. They sued the Hillenbrands and three production companies on Tuesday: Going Forward Productions, The Witching Game, and FFG Movie, all California LLCs.
     The plaintiff is Three Amigos Productions LLC, the company the Cascones formed for their involvement in the TV series.
     “A primary author of right for ‘Deadtime Stories’ is also the managing member of plaintiff TAP [Three Amigos Productions],” the complaint states.
     Three Amigos arranged for financing to produce the first season of the TV series when the Hillenbrands had trouble coming up with money, the sister’s attorney Joshua Furman said.
     “My clients provided the funding,” including some of their own money, Furman said in an interview.
     They did so because, as one sister told Furman, “This is my baby.”
     The Cascone sisters wrote the 17 Deadtime Stories novels in the late 1990s. The books recount tales of ghosts, monsters and other horrors told to small children by their babysitter. Titles include “Terror in Tiny Town and “The Witching Game.”
     According to separate interviews about the TV series that the Cascones and Hillenbrands gave to The Huffington Post, their work together began in 2010. In 2012, the Cascones wrote and the Hillenbrands produced a movie based on the story “Grave Secrets,” which David Hillenbrand directed.
     They also made a one-hour and a half-hour version of the story, which led to the series on Nickelodeon in 2013-14.
     In their Huffington Post interview, the Hillenbrands describe themselves as co-creators, executive producers and showrunners.
     “The buck pretty much stops with us,” one unspecified brother said, “with regard to all aspects of the production from inception to preparation, pre-production, production, post-production and delivery.”
     Furman said that’s a big part of the problem.
     The sisters were “supposed to have more control” over the TV show, he said. “That didn’t happen.”
     The lawsuit claims the sisters’ company transferred media rights to the books to the Hillenbrand company Going Forward Productions. Going Forward ten transferred the rights to the other defendant Hillenbrand companies, according to the complaint.
     Those companies entered into a deal with Three Amigos, requiring that the Hillenbrands transfer the rights to a new company called DTS Productions. According to the deal, the brothers and Three Amigos would each own 47.5 percent of the new company, while yet another company would own the remaining 5 percent.
     As part of the deal, Three Amigos would provide funding and would have the right to approve or veto any decisions affecting the series until the funding was repaid, the sisters say. Three Amigos sued in its own right and derivatively on behalf of DTS Productions.
     But the Hillenbrands never transferred the media rights to DTS, according to the lawsuit. When challenged, the Hillenbrands replied, “We don’t care,” Furman said.
     Although only one season of the TV series ran on Nickelodeon, the dispute over control has come to a head now because “on March 8, 2016, the Hillenbrands executed a distribution deal for a second season of Deadtime Stories episodes with a UK distributor,” and did it without informing or getting approval from Three Amigos, the complaint states.
     So in April, Three Amigos demanded the Hillenbrands cancel the second-season deal. David Hillenbrand refused.
     “It thus became clear to [Three Amigos] on or about April 15, 2016, that the Hillenbrands had no intention to comply with the terms of the Deal Memo or the Addendum, neither for themselves, nor for any of their various entities,” the complaint states.
     Scott and David Hillenbrand did not reply to emails requesting comment.
     Three Amigos seeks damages and punitive damages for breach of contract, breach of faith, and breach of fiduciary duty.
     Furman’s office is in Sherman Oaks.

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