‘Deadfall’ dispute has plot twist

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge appointed a receiver last week to settle a dispute between “Deadfall” producer Ted Fox, distributor Trimark Pictures and The Completion Bond Co. that could turn into a precedent-setting case.

It is a case where the producer came in under budget but the completion guarantor backed the distributor, who wanted to add more work and therefore spend more money — a complete reversal of the usual dispute between producers and completion guarantors.

The dispute in this case centers around the money required for the additional scenes Trimark wanted.

The pic, being directed by Christopher Coppola, stars Nicolas Cage and Michael Biehn, Sara Trigger and James Coburn. It is about two men and a woman who inadvertently square off with veteran swindlers in a con game. Charlie Sheen and Talia Shire appear in cameo roles.

Producer Fox claims he met the 21-day shooting schedule and came in $ 240,000 under the $ 3.4 million budget. But Trimark wanted some scenes re-shot and others added, attorneys say. Fox says he agreed to shoot the additional scenes if Trimark put up the extra cash. Trimark, backed by the Completion Bond Co. (CBC), said he should use the $ 240,000 left over for contingency to cover the extra shooting costs, says Fox attorney Bill Immerman.

And, so the legal dispute began.

It started when Fox’s Deadfall Prods. sought a preliminary injunction in state court Feb. 26, trying to block the CBC from taking over the picture. Fox claimed the guarantor had no right to do so since the picture came in under budget and met all terms of the contract.

On March 8, CBC countered with a request for a temporary restraining order to block Fox from interfering with its takeover of the picture.

Instead of granting either party’s request, Superior Court Judge Robert H. O’Brien took the unusual route Friday of appointing an outsider to finish the picture and deliver it to Trimark.

O’Brien appointed producer, industry consultant and turnaround specialist John Hyde to take control as receiver over the project.

“There were some scenes Trimark wanted to improve the film creatively, and it was their nickel,” said CBC attorney Steven Fayne. “Some scenes were missing that needed to be cleaned up. In one an actor walks over and looks out the window. Normally you would shoot out the window to see what he’s looking at. That wasn’t the case.”

Fayne said of the “1,000 films CBC has done, this is the first time we’ve been in court over this particular issue. This film has become a tempest in a teapot. We’re talking about a pittance really, since what’s required to fix it is three days of shooting.”

What’s not unusual about this case, Fayne noted, is a dispute over a producer meeting the shooting schedule deadline.

“We had a delivery date of March 8. The conversations between the producer and the distributor over how the scenes would be done never seemed to go anywhere,” Fayne said. “This was going on 1 1/2 weeks before the delivery deadline. The grounds for a guarantor is not only to make sure a picture comes in on budget, but on time.”

While Fayne said CBC backed Trimark’s demand that the contingency money should be used to cover the costs of the redos and extra shots, Trimark’s chief executive Roger Burlage side stepped discussing the issue. He said the project was a negative pickup and pinned the dispute between Fox and CBC.

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