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Documentary Filmmakers Sue Jeffrey Sachs

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Two filmmakers claim in Superior Court that world-renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs frustrated their efforts to make a documentary based on his book "The End of Poverty" - after he agreed to narrate and host the film.

Producers Patrick Aluise and Loren Duffy claim that Sachs granted them a $5,000 option for rights to his best-selling nonfiction book, in which he outlined his plans to reduce world poverty through development aid.

The producers and their co-plaintiff company, Aluise Entertainment, say they exercised the option in early 2007 for an additional $45,000.

"The film was to center on Sachs and his work in Africa, as described in detail in the book. After buying the film rights to the book from Sachs, AE [Aluise Entertainment] spent further significant sums to commence the film project," the complaint states.

"Sachs, however, failed to uphold his end of the bargain. From the formation of the agreement through February 2011, AE made repeated efforts to obtain the cooperation from Sachs to which AE was entitled under the agreement and which was necessary for the development and production of the film. These efforts were constantly met with delay, deflection to other people, and ultimately, silence. After numerous efforts by AE over many years, in March 2011, Sachs finally repudiated his obligations under the agreement in a letter from his attorney. As a result, AE lost not only the money it had already spent in its efforts to make the film, but lost the opportunity to make the film at all. AE is entitled to Sachs's cooperation as required under the agreement or, in the alternative, is entitled to be made whole for all amounts it lost when Sachs failed to uphold his end of the bargain."

The producers say they hired award-wining director Jonas Akerlund to direct the movie, courted potential financiers - including Brad Pitt's Plan B - and met with U2 front man Bono, who had written the foreword to "The End of Poverty."

The option gave the producers 5 years to begin principal photography on the movie, but they say, "the vast majority of that time was spent in frustrating efforts to get Sachs to cooperate."

The filmmakers claim that Sachs constantly delayed, postponed and "pushed off" meetings to discuss the film.

The complaint states: "AE representatives did meet with Sachs's agent on at least two occasions. After each meeting, AE believed that perhaps they would begin to get the cooperation necessary from Sachs. However, following these meetings, Sachs and his representatives would fall back into the pattern of stringing AE along, making and breaking plans to communicate with AE about the film."

The producers say that after the project collapsed they lost two $100,000 deals with (nonparty) River Road Productions, which had agreed to produce the film.

"The sole condition standing in the way of Aluise and Duffy receiving the benefit or those producer agreements was Sachs's cooperation, as required under the agreement. When Sachs failed to provide that cooperation, both Aluise and Duffy lost the nearly certain economic benefit they would have received under those producer agreements. Aluise and Duffy are entitled to be made whole for Sachs's wrongful conduct," the complaint states.

Sachs is director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University and a special adviser to the UN. He is known for helping several Latin American governments institute economic reforms during the 1980s. He also advised governments in Poland, Slovenia, Estonia and Russia as they entered into market economies.

The plaintiffs seek compensatory damages for breach of contract, breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, reformation, restitution after rescission, money had and received, conversion, promissory fraud, fraud, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, negligent interference with prospective economic advantage, and declaratory relief.

They are represented by Andrew Spitser, with Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp.

A spokesman for Sachs did not respond to a request for comment.

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