Taken for an Expensive Ride in Hollywood | Courthouse News Service
Saturday, December 2, 2023
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Taken for an Expensive Ride in Hollywood

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Two Los Angeles men claim Bret Saxon and his Insomnia Media Group took them for more than $1 million to produce movies that were never filmed, including one that Saxon claimed, falsely, would be produced by Robert DeNiro. DeNiro is not a party to the Superior Court complaint.

Plaintiffs Ayman Kandeel and Kirkwood Drew say Saxon and Insomnia Media falsely claimed that they were "competent and successful motion picture producers, that they had pre-sold foreign distribution rights to their motion picture projects for sums in excess of the production budgets, and that if plaintiffs would provide funds to defendants, the funds would be invested in motion picture projects, secured by existing foreign distribution contracts, and that plaintiffs' investments would produce significant returns."

Saxon used his 10,900-square foot home in Pacific Palisades, private jets, luxury cars and black American Express card to woo the plaintiffs and to "project an aura of success and financial solvency," the complaint states.

But Kandeel and Drew say that "neither the automobiles nor the exclusive credit card belong to Saxon, and were owned by third parties and were backed by accounts not issued in Saxon's name."

Kandeel says he wired $1 million to Insomnia Media in 2007 after Saxon told him the money "would be used to produce a film entitled 'Robert DeNiro Presents: 20% Fiction,' written by Barry Primus."

The $1 million "was wired to defendants in a sign of the utmost of good faith and based on defendants' representation that Robert DeNiro was on board to produce, and to grant this name and likeness in connection with '20% Fiction,' and that defendants controlled the script for the motion picture, written by Barry Primus, and that there were substantial pre-sales of the rights to the motion picture," the complaint states.

Saxon and Insomnia Media failed to get another $3.6 million they needed, and the film fell through, but Saxon never returned the $1 million, Kandeel says.

Kandeel says Saxon told him the money was spent on "pre-production," but he doesn't believe it: "defendants have in fact spent around $23,000 on pre-production and have converted plaintiff Kandeel's funds for their own personal use and expenses."

Kandeel says he forked over another $300,000 "to consult on a Middle Eastern themed motion picture project." Nothing came of that, however, except for "talk and expensive trips" and part of a screenplay that defendants did not even own, "rending it worthless and unusable," Kandeel says.

Drew claims that Saxon and Insomnia falsely promised him "that they had two motion picture projects for films entitled 'Viral' and 'Motel Hell,' that were represented and packaged by the William Morris Agency and green lit by MGM, and which had been pre-sold internationally for sums in excess of the production budgets."

Drew says he loaned them $250,000 in 2007 to cover pre-production fees, but "no written contract was ever provided by defendants to plaintiff Drew, despite his repeated requests," and when "this sum was not returned, defendants continued to tell plaintiff Drew of other deals and projects that they would place him in."

Drew says that in 2008, Saxon promised to return the money, but returned only $30,000 of the $250,000.

Also named as defendants are IMG Firm, IMG Film 14, and Rob Stein.

Plaintiffs seek $1.3 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in and punitive damages.

They are represented by Michael Baranov with Baranov & Wittenberg.

Follow @jamierossCNS
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