Tangled Fight Over New ‘Bullet’ Film

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – Robert Rodriguez’s American United Media excluded a filmmaker from his stake in the upcoming movie “Bullet,” and is refusing to let him finish the film, the filmmaker claims in court.
     Nicholas Lyon sued Funimation Productions dba Funimation Entertainment, and American United Media dba IFA Distribution, in Superior Court.
     Lyon alleges breach of contract, breach of faith and fair dealing, and promissory fraud.
     Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez is not a party to the lawsuit.
     In June, Funimation sought a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against SC Films International, its chairman Matthew Joynes and Lyon in Texas state court. That lawsuit, in Denton County Court, claimed that Joynes and Lyon had “called into question the ownership and control of the motion picture,” and were jeopardizing the “Bullet” film.
     In the new lawsuit, Lyon claims that under the terms of a venture agreement he was to receive 30 percent interest in the film.
     (Under terms of the deal, co-producers American United, and SC Films International and Joynes, named as a “witness” to Lyon’s allegations, would both receive a 35 percent interest, according to Lyon.)
     But Rodriguez’s company then entered into a deal with Funimation that would give the two companies a majority 65 percent stake in the Bullet Film Production Company, Lyon says, while SC Films took the remaining 35 percent, Lyon says in his lawsuit.
     When he assigned the rights to his “Bullet” screenplay this year, Lyon claims, he did not know American United and Funimation had formed the production company, or that he had been deprived of his stake in the film.
     Lyon says he was on location shooting “Bullet” when the production company produced a directing agreement for him to sign. He says he wanted to talk to his lawyer first but “was told his signature was needed immediately or the production would stop.”
     Funimation’s previous lawsuit cites that “work made for hire” agreement as the basis for its claims against Lyon and SC Films, contending that the contract stipulates that Bullet Film owns all rights in the movie.
     Lyon claims that though SC Films did not object to his taking a stake in the production company, American United and Funimation refused to include him.
     Lyon claims that in March he claimed that the “validity of the assignment of his copyright and intellectual property rights which were made before he had learned he had been excluded.”
     “On April 8, after plaintiff had fulfilled his duties to complete the filming of the motion picture, he attempted to secure the motion picture’s hard drives to work on post production editing but defendant Funimation refused plaintiff access to same. Instead, plaintiff was informed that the hard drives would be placed in a vault pending resolution of legal issues with SC Films International,” Lyon says in his complaint.
     Lyon claims that he later learned that Rodriguez never intended to pay him. He claims he is owed at least $27,000 and that Funimation is editing “Bullet” without him.
     “Since at least February 7, 2013 the media has reported that the motion picture is being directed by plaintiff. However, given defendants’ refusal to allow plaintiff access to continue directing, plaintiff’s credit as director appears to be in jeopardy, leading to reputation damages,” Lyon says in his lawsuit.
     Lyon claims that promotions for the movie at the San Diego Comic Con Convention did not credit “Bullet” as “A Nick Lyon Film,” which was a requirement of his original agreement.
     A “Bullet” website, bulletthemovie.com, checked this morning, does credit Lyon as the movie’s writer and director, and Rodriguez as a producer.
     Longtime Rodriguez collaborator Danny Trejo stars in “Bullet” as cop who takes on a drug cartel.
     Lyon seeks actual and punitive damages and costs. He seeks reinstallation as editor of the movie, dissolution of Bullet Film, and wants his contracts voided. He is represented by Patricia Kinaga of the Kinaga Law Firm.
     Neither Funimation nor American United Media immediately responded to emailed requests for comment made after business hours Wednesday.

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