'Crash' cash at issue

Moneyman and prolific producer Bob Yari has sued producers Cathy Schulman and Tom Nunan, claiming they siphoned off funds owed to his production company Bull’s Eye Entertainment.

The suit also alleges that Schulman wrongly claimed that she and not Yari made the decision to produce the film “Crash” and that she interfered with the sale and promotion of “The Illusionist,” the high-profile film starring Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti, which will have a special screening at this week’s Sundance Film Festival.

Schulman’s attorney, Melvin Avanzado, denied the allegations in the lawsuit and said some charges in the complaint were “demonstrably false.”

Claiming that motion picture credits are very valuable and that denying entitlement to such credits is like stealing, Yari’s suit seeks to dissolve Bull’s Eye on the ground that “Schulman’s antics are so disruptive that the parties cannot do business together.” The suit also seeks damages of at least $1 million.

According to the suit, which was filed earlier this month in L.A. Superior Court, Sony Pictures Television was to pay advances to Bull’s Eye, but actually paid the money to Schulman’s attorney, who in turn distributed it directly to Schulman and Nunan. Yari claims that under an oral agreement, Schulman and Nunan received an advance from Bull’s Eye for their producing services, but that Yari is the sole owner of the company until he recoups his investment.

The bulk of the complaint alleges that Schulman took credit for producing “Crash” and that she claimed Yari was not a producer under Producers Guild of America rules.

According to people familiar with the case, the suit was triggered after Yari lost a guild arbitration over producer credit on “Crash.” Yari and three other producers had their credits removed, leaving Schulman and writer Paul Haggis as producers.

Yari’s attorney James Wohl denied that there was any connection between the guild arbitration and the lawsuit.

Less directly, the allegations on “The Illusionist” also seem to involve credit stealing, with Yari claiming that Schulman prematurely released early cuts of the film, and interfered with the promotion of the film at Sundance by getting all the festival passes for herself.

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