Hollywood Fight Over Film Financing


LOS ANGELES (CN) – A film financier defrauded a Canadian production company by falsely claiming rights to a screenplay by a famous Irish director, the Canadian company claims in court.
     Dark House Films and Jessica Martins sued David Ranes and his companies Ranestorm Entertainment and New Myth Entertainment in Superior Court on March 13.
     The plaintiffs say they agreed in August 2013 to invest $5.25 million in a film called “Sheriff Street,” based on a screenplay written by Jim Sheridan. Ranes told them Sheridan would also direct the movie, according to the complaint.
     Sheridan, an Irish director, is best known for his films “My Left Foot” and In the “Name of the Father.” He is not a party to the complaint.
     Ranes claimed that he owned the motion picture rights to the screenplay and told plaintiffs that if they invested in the film, they would receive “a 20 percent return on their investment, a generous profit-split regarding net proceeds, and credit as producers and/or executive producers of the picture,” the complaint states.
     Based on his representations, the plaintiffs say, they signed a finance agreement and made a “good faith deposit” of $250,000.
     But Martins claims that when she emailed Ranes a few months later to check on the film’s pre-production status, Ranes said that Sheridan was going to abandon the project unless he was paid $150,000 more.
     Martins says she demanded to talk to Sheridan directly, but Ranes told her that Sheridan refused to speak to her.
     Martins says she sent the money, but Ranes never confirmed that Sheridan was staying with the movie or that the project was going forward.
     In January 2014, Dark House claims, it threatened to withdraw funding unless Ranes, among other things, confirmed the status of Dark House’s payments and sent a cast list and budget information to prove that he owned the rights to the “Sheriff Street” screenplay.
     Ranes never sent the information, and refused to repay the plaintiffs’ money until they threatened to sue, the plaintiffs say.
     Though the parties reached a settlement agreement in September 2014 that required Ranes to refund the plaintiffs’ $387,982, Ranes won’t pay up, according to the complaint.
     Martins says she spoke to Jim Sheridan for the first time in October 2014, and he told her that Ranes had never controlled the rights to the screenplay. Ranes had promised to pay Sheridan $150,000 for certain rights in the movie, but never did, the complaint states.
     The plaintiffs seek compensatory and exemplary damages for fraud and deceit, conversion and breach of contract.
     They are represented by Clark McCutchen.
     Ranes, Ranestorm Entertainment and New Myth are also defendants in a RICO lawsuit filed in New York Southern District Court on Sept. 8, 2014, according to Justia.com, checked at 5:30 p.m. Monday.

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