'Sordid Lives' settlement talks with AFTRA collapse

Stan Brooks has filed for bankruptcy protection after settlement talks broke down between the producer and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists over unpaid “Sordid Lives” residuals.

Brooks disclosed Monday that his Once Upon a Time Films was taking the action “with tremendous sadness and regret.”

AFTRA announced Monday that Brooks had withdrawn his offer to settle with the union. Brooks has been threatening since August to file for bankruptcy if Hollywood unions would not reduce the $1.6 million he owes in unpaid residuals, health and retirement contributions and late payment penalties. Under an arbitrator’s ruling in August, AFTRA members are owed $1.2 million and another $400,000 going the Directors Guild of America, the Writers Guild of America and the IATSE Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plan.

Brooks’ attorney Kenneth Suddleson told Daily Variety on Monday that his client is being forced to seek bankruptcy protection because the unions have been unwilling to engage in serious negotiations. “This is very unfortunate,” he added.

Brooks had asserted last week that he had that he had nearly doubled his original $242,000 offer to settle nonpayment of the $1.6 million. Negotiations continued over the weekend but AFTRA alleged the talks were unproductive due to a lack of specifics from Brooks.

“Despite AFTRA’s serious good faith effort to carefully review and understand the merits and practical implications of the settlement offer to the cast members of ‘Sordid Lives: The Series,’ Once Upon A Time Films, Ltd., and its attorneys have refused to meaningfully address our basic concerns–including clarification of what exactly the proposed settlement sum consists of and how future residual payments to performers were to be guaranteed and paid–and have withdrawn their offer to settle,” AFTRA said.

Suddleson disputed AFTRA’s characterization, asserting that Brooks’ offer has been explained in thorough detail.

The union also said it’s prepared to move forward with confirmation of the stipulated award, which is scheduled for Oct. 22 in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Brooks has asserted his financial difficulties stem from the production company losing $700,000 due to the 2008 bankruptcy of payroll company Axium Intl. while “Sordid Lives” was shooting. He claims that production was completed thanks to his mortgaging his home and securities.

The comedy series premiered on Logo in 2008 and starred Bonnie Bedelia, the late Rue McClanahan, Olivia Newton-John, Beth Grant and Caroline Rhea.

Brooks said in a statement, “It is with tremendous sadness and regret that we announce that Once Upon a Time Films has been forced to follow the path of other respected companies affected by the Axium collapse and seek relief under the insolvency laws, which we have done this afternoon. After lengthy negotiations all weekend and with many extended deadlines, at noon today it became clear that a deal was not attainable. All of us at Once Upon A Time are proud of our 21 years of making award-winning movies and telling stories – and thank every cast, crew, network and creative partner we’ve collaborated with over this time.”

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