SAG shut down filming due to pay dispute

When ThinkFilm Intl. pitches its slate at Cannes this week, the indie will confront an added obstacle: its seemingly wobbly financial condition.

ThinkFilm Intl. is part of U.K. sales company Capitol Films, whose owner David Bergstein is a key investor in the indie comedy “Nailed,” starring Jessica Biel and Jake Gyllenhaal, which was shut down Friday by the Screen Actors Guild due to a lack of funds on deposit to pay its actors. Though the film has since resumed shooting, Bergstein’s problems with SAG have sent ominous signals to the creative community. Capitol has been losing staff at a great rate over the past couple of months.

Nick Hill, the co-managing director, ankled a few weeks ago, leaving Peter Naish in charge. Sales director Sofia Neves recently took a new job as director of worldwide sales and distribution at HanWay Films.

In April, development head Ed Clarke left to go to Kudos Pictures in the same role. ThinkFilm Intl. sales topper Eve Shoukroun and Capitol business affairs exec Maya Amsellem have left to start an unnamed new venture.

Lawyer Hannah Leader, survivor of the original Capitol, is expected to leave when her contract expires at year’s end. Leader and Naish are en route to Cannes.

Bergstein didn’t respond to a request for comment.

ThinkFilm’s newly promoted prexy Mark Urman will be in Cannes looking at movies, going to meetings and answering a lot of questions. But it doesn’t look like he’ll be buying.

American distrib ThinkFilm is known to owe substantial amounts to media outlets, among others. The company was going to announce the acquisition from Senator Entertainment this week, but then canceled its press meetings.

Further problems emerged last week when ThinkFilm execs suddenly discovered there was no money for Friday newspaper ads for Helen Hunt’s much-hyped Toronto pickup “Then She Found Me.” The following day, SAG pulled the plug on “Nailed,” telling members not to work due to the lack of required funds in accounts designated to pay the film’s actors.

No shoots had been planned for the weekend and production resumed Monday on the political comedy — directed by David O. Russell from a script he co-wrote with Kristin Gore — after SAG received the necessary funds. The DGA also received assurances that its members would be paid for the pic. Financial insecurity has not prevented Russell from continuing to demand as many as 50 takes from his actors.

“Screen Actors Guild has now received adequate financial assurances that its members will be paid their wages for work on the production ‘Nailed,’ ” SAG said Monday. “Our members are free to return to work on this production.”

Capitol and ThinkFilm Intl. have a significant presence at Cannes. They’ve scheduled 10 screenings this week for five pics including romantic drama “The Edge of Love,” with Cillian Murphy and Keira Knightley; romantic comedy “The Last Word” with Ray Romano, Wes Bentley and Wynona Ryder; and supernatural thriller “Aparecidos.”

Rumors have emerged that Capitol’s financial uncertainty may also delay or derail a pair of projects in pre-production including “Mary, Queen of Scots” starring Scarlett Johansson.

The tipping point of Bergstein’s current financial problems may have been last month’s departure of ThinkFilm president Jeff Sackman along with the shuttering of the company’s Toronto office. Sackman ankled because he wasn’t getting the support he needed; potential lawsuits have been threatened on both sides.

Diane Garrett in Hollywood contributed to this report.

An update was made to this article on May 13, 2008.

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