Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lights, camera, lawsuit

TimesUnion, 11.17.10
By PAUL GRONDAHL

ALBANY -- The producer of the financially troubled independent movie "Sister Spirit," which left a string of unpaid bills after three weeks of shooting locally over the summer, is now suing its financial backer.

Producer Heather Rae filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court last month against David M. Thomas for defaulting on a contract for a $1 million line of credit in which he agreed to bankroll the low-budget feature film, according to the filing.

Thomas is a former IBM executive who lives in Florida, according to financial records. The financing of indie movies is conducted at such arm's length that Rae conceded she never met Thomas, didn't know the source of his reported wealth or even where he lived.

Thomas could not be reached for comment.

"This deal was done by an attorney we knew who had worked on other film projects and he represented Mr. Thomas as a wealthy financier who was building a fund to finance independent films," Rae said. "I've been doing films for 20 years, and this is how they're done. We saw proof of funds and bank statements, so there's a lot of mystery in this. We relied on the attorney to do his due diligence."

The troubled indie movie brought fiscal ruin to Rae, producer of the Academy Award-nominated movie "Frozen River." She invested her family's life savings of $200,000 into "Sister Spirit," her car was repossessed and her house in Boise, Idaho, is in foreclosure as a result of her losses.

"I'm at the point where I'm trying to figure out how to buy groceries," she said.

Another producer, Molly Conners, an Albany native who worked with Rae on the critically acclaimed "Frozen River," also invested heavily with her own money on the project. Conners, who lives in Brooklyn, is a daughter of Albany County Comptroller Michael Conners.

Meanwhile, dozens of vendors across the Capital Region, ranging from caterers to off-duty city cops who provided security, are no closer to getting the money owed them for their work in the offbeat comedy whose cast includes Alicia Silverstone, Jon Cryer and Vincent D'Onofrio.

The amounts owed locally ranged from $40 a day for nearly 250 nonunion extras to more than $12,000 in unpaid bills to Birch Hill Catering in Schodack for 16 days of feeding 150 members of the cast and crew.

The movie had a working title of "Ass Backwards" and was about 75 percent completed when checks began bouncing after the Thomas line of credit was frozen.
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Thanks Linda!

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