‘Illusionist’ duo up to old tricks

Judge bars Yari from removing Schulman's producer credit

HOLLYWOOD — Cathy Schulman scored a victory Friday in the continuing credits battle with her erstwhile partner Bob Yari.

A judge granted a temporary restraining order barring Yari from removing Schulman’s producer credit and Tom Nunan’s executive producer credit from “The Illusionist,” the Edward Norton starrer that premiered this year at Sundance and is scheduled to be released theatrically in August.

Schulman’s application for the TRO was supported by court declarations attesting to her work as a producer on the film from writer Neil Burger and cast members including Paul Giamatti and Norton.

The order, which remains in place until a preliminary injunction hearing June 23, prohibits the removal of Schulman’s and Nunan’s credits on screen, in theatrical trailers and in newspaper and television advertisements.

At the June 23 hearing, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Dunn can either dissolve the order or continue it for the duration of the case.

Mel Avanzado, Schulman and Nunan’s attorney, said, “We’re gratified that for now the parties should remain as they are and the film should be left alone with Cathy and Tom’s credit on the picture. We’re confident that at the preliminary injunction stage, the result will be the same.”

Avanzado said it was the only case he was aware of where someone tried to remove a credit from a completed film, and that Yari’s film group was in the process of creating new title sequences when the TRO was granted.

Bill Immerman, a senior exec at the Yari Film Group, said he could not comment on the temporary restraining order because he had not yet seen it.

The credit fight between Yari and Schulman began in January, when Yari sued Schulman, his former partners in Bull’s Eye Entertainment, a Yari-financed entity. Yari claimed Schulman improperly took credit for producing “Crash” and that she interfered with the sale and promotion of “The Illusionist” by showing early cuts of the film and getting all the Sundance festival passes for herself.

Before filing the suit against Schulman, Yari lost a PGA arbitration over producer credit on “Crash.” He publicly condemned the PGA action, saying it downgraded him from creative producer to mere moneyman.

Just days before the Oscars, Yari sued the Producers Guild of America and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, alleging he was the driving force behind “Crash” and that the process by which producer credits are awarded is secretive, arbitrary and unfair. Schulman and co-writer and director Paul Haggis were the two producers awarded credit by the PGA.

In response to the out-of-control numbers of producers on a film, the Academy has permitted the PGA to determine producer credits for the Oscar, which limits nominees to three. The PGA is a trade association, not a guild, and it has no control over screen or advertising credits, which are contractually determined. The only issue was who could collect the award on Oscar night.

The case took on even bigger meaning when “Crash” won the Oscar for best picture, and Schulman and Haggis, but not Yari, collected the award.

In addition to Yari’s suit against Schulman and the PGA, Schulman and Nunan sued Yari, claiming he refused to pay them for their work on “Crash” and fired them in retaliation for the PGA’s decision.

On “The Illusionist,” Schulman claimed she was terminated from the picture after she had completed all her producing services and that the move was designed to prevent her from getting credit for the film. She denied leaking the film to selected distributors.

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