LOS ANGELES (CN) – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s production company says it paid $500,000 for a full-length movie based on Abdul-Jabbar’s book about the Harlem Renaissance, but the producer it hired turned in an “unreleasable” 12-minute tape of interviews that had nothing to do with Abdul-Jabbar’s script.
Abdul-Jabbar’s production company, Union/OSG, claims it hired William Zagger and B-Train Films to produce a feature-length documentary based on Jabbar’s sixth book, “On the Shoulders of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance.”
The book traces the history of the Harlem Renaissance from the “flowering of black culture in New York City after World War I” through Abdul-Jabbar’s own life in New York.
The book includes the story of the Harlem Rens, a basketball team that “became the first black team to win a world professional title in any sport, paving the way for the integration of the American Basketball League, forerunner to the NBA,” according to the Superior Court complaint.
In 2008, Abdul-Jabbar and his producing partner, Deborah Morales, decided to make the book into a movie called “On the Shoulders of Giants.” They raised production money, hired a writer and developed a screenplay, the lawsuit states. They formed Union/OSG to take care of the legal and business sides of the project.
In April 2009, Abdul-Jabbar and Morales say, they hired Zagger and B-Train to direct and produce a 90-minute movie within seven months based on Union’s screenplay.
B-Train and Zagger reportedly have produced Emmy award-winning kids’ show “Generation Jets” and have made documentaries for ESPN’s SportsCentury.
But Zagger and B-Train turned in a 20-minute first cut that consisted of a “segment of interviews that in no way covered or adhered to the script” and lacked music and other “basic elements of a motion picture,” according to the complaint. It adds that B-Train’s second cut had “shrunk to just twelve minutes, and continued to miss the majority of the script and story.”
B-Train turned in its final director’s copy after the Oct. 31 deadline, and the movie “inexplicably omitted important parts of the story while unnecessarily repeating others, departed from the screenplay (and its narrative approach to telling the story – turning the picture into a series of ‘talking head’ interviews), ignored Mr. Abdul-Jabbar and Ms. Morales’ creative decisions, lacked the finishing elements of a motion picture, and was commercially unreleasable,” the lawsuit states.
Zagger and B-Train allegedly refused to edit the picture any further, claiming the movie was “completed.”
Zagger and B-Train also failed to secure licenses for much of the movie’s content, according to the complaint, instead delivering a movie full of pictures, film and music clips which Union had no permission to use.
The defendants allegedly refused to provide a projected budget or monthly cash flow reports, leaving Union in the dark about how they used $150,000 of Union’s money.
At that point, Union says, it tried to salvage the movie itself. In November 2009, it asked B-Train to hand over the movie and hired new editors and its original writer to reincorporate the parts of the movie B-Train left out.
B-Train dropped its footage at Union’s post-production facility in a “drive-by data dump,” leaving no index for Union’s editors to find the movie’s clips, the lawsuit states. Union says B-Train refused to help Union’s editors wade through the footage, claiming the editors were “too stupid” to find the clips.
Union says the delays kept it from showing the movie at the Sundance Festival and the NBA Hall of Fame and ruined an agreement to show the movie in AMC theaters.
Union demands $3 million in damages. It is represented by Martin Singer and Todd Eagan with Lavely & Singer.