“Inconceivable,” a thriller about surrogate motherhood starring Gina Gershon and Nicolas Cage, was released this summer to terrible reviews. The L.A. Times called it “laughably stilted,” while the Hollywood Reporter said it felt “like a parody of a Lifetime television movie.”
For first-time director Jonathan Baker, the bad reviews were the least of his problems. According to a lawsuit filed Friday in Santa Monica Superior Court, Baker invested $1 million in the project, only to see his producing partner — Emmett/Furla/Oasis — embezzle much of the funds. So far, Baker has recouped none of his investment, and was not even paid for his directing services, the suit alleges. He also claims that Emmett/Furla/Oasis misappropriated a total of $1.6 million.
Baker, the founder of a chain of day spas which he later sold, says he agreed to finance the project on the promise that Emmett/Furla/Oasis would also produce a second film, “Fate,” that he had been developing and wanted to direct. Baker alleges that Emmett/Furla/Oasis “never intended to live up to their end of the bargain,” and made the promise of a second film only in order to induce Baker’s investment.
Baker alleges that as soon as he put in the $1 million, Emmett/Furla/Oasis embezzled a $650,000 producer fee, which was not part of their agreement, and which he only discovered later after getting an accounting of the film’s costs.
Baker says he was promised that his equity investment would be the first to be repaid after repayment of loans and production costs. However, he claims that Emmett/Furla/Oasis put several other parties ahead of him in line, including $200,000 to George Furla. Baker alleges that Emmett/Furla/Oasis was able to get away with defrauding him in part because they did not use a collection agent, such as Fintage, as the contract required.
Baker is seeking at least $4.5 million in damages.
Emmett/Furla/Oasis did not respond to a call seeking comment. Baker is represented by Brian G. Wolf of Lavely & Singer.