WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CN) - A motion picture production company says it was taken for a ride by Florida-based investor whose empty promises caused it to pour an extra $20 million into a Natalie Portman western.
Plaintiff Boies Schiller Film Group currently has six films in production, one of which is "Jane Got a Gun," starring Oscar-winner Portman as a farmer's wife whose outlaw husband has been betrayed by his gang.
After he returns home, bloodied and near death, Portman's character must enlist an old flame to save her own life from the gang and defend her home.
Since production began on the film in 2013, it has seen its original director quit over creative differences, and it's run into other challenges due to production delays.
But in a complaint filed in the Palm Beach County Circuit Court, the production company behind the film, says the issues that arose around the film began earlier, with the involvement of Florida investor Peter Nathanial and his investment fund, Impala Partners.
The effort to make "Jane Got a Gun" was put into motion by Stone Village Productions.
In 2012, the complaint says, Nathanial decided he wanted to partner with Stone Village Productions on the making of the film, and inserted himself in the role of soliciting third-party financing -- this despite having no experience in the movie business.
As part of this effort, the defendants reached out to Boies Schiller Film Group, and asked it to provide "gap" funding for the picture. Gap funding is financing that provides a loan or investment that bridges the gap between senior bank financing and equity financing.
Because gap financing is senior to equity, the existence and amount of equity is key to assuring others investing in the film will be repaid, the complaint says.
As a result of these conversations, Boies Schiller Film Group agreed to provide $1.75 million in gap funding, subject to a number of conditions.
Even after those conditions were not met, Boies Schiller Film Group did not walk away. Instead, it provided a series of secure loans that totaled $2 million by March 2013.
But that wasn't enough to get the picture made. The plaintiff claims the defendants came back to and promised that if it provided an additional $8 million, the defendants would arrange for enough additional funding to finish the production and distribute the movie.
"Although there was nothing at the time to suggest that those promises and representations were false, it is now clear that Nathanial and Impala never intended to provide the financing that they promised and represented they would provide," the complaint says.
Throughout these interactions, the plaintiff says, Nathanial repeatedly assured it he and his entities, by now including one called "Scott Pictures," had millions of dollars and was "fully committed to ... 'Jane.'"
The defendant’s assertion that he and Scott Pictures “had assets worth more than $10 million was important, including because Scott Pictures was a signatory to the loans provided by BSFG, and it was important to know that Scott Pictures had assets independent of Jane to secure the loans made by BSFG,” the complaint says.
Boies Schiller Film Group continued to pour money into the film, lending it a total of $9 million, than another $8.5 million “in material part in reliance on the false promises and representations of Nathanial and Impala and in material part on the consequences that would have resulted in BSFG had not continued to fund Jane.”
If BSFG had not provided funding, the motion picture would have collapsed and the plaintiffs would have lost all of their funding, due to the defendants’ alleged lies about having assets to produce Jane, the complaint says.
Boies Schiller Film Group is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for violations of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, promissory estoppel, negligent misrepresentation, and fraud.
It is represented by Gregory Coleman of Critton, Luttier & Coleman in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Representatives of the defendants could not immediately be reached for comment.
Subscribe to Closing Arguments
Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.