2ND UPDATE: Following is a joint DGA-SAG-WGA statement: “The Guilds welcome the judge’s appointment of a trustee in this situation. We will continue to keep a watchful eye on this matter and protect the interests of our members.”
UPDATE: Bergstein never showed in Bankruptcy Court today. But judge Barry Russell sided with an army of creditors and appointed an interim trustee to wrest control of the assets of all five of the companies controlled by David Bergstein. That prevents the liquidation of those assets until the court has a chance to sift through the particulars of Bergstein’s troubled empire. Screen Capital International managing director David Molner, one of the lead creditors, hailed the judge’s decision: “I think it’s very telling that even the judge was startled by his own ruling. Things must be pretty bad at a company, let alone five companies, for this kind of extraordinary relief to be granted. This is hopefully the beginning of a process which will result in these assets coming under new control, as approved by the court and for the benefit of creditors. Now there is considerably more hope for people, not just us, who were dishonored or defaulted on. to get some measure of justice down the line.”
6:30 AM: At 10 AM this morning in Courtroom 1668 of the Royal Federal Building in Los Angeles, embattled Capitol Films and ThinkFilm head David Bergstein faces the 14 creditors who’ve banded together to put the brakes on his attempt to sell an 805 film library. They want a trustee to take control of the assets.
That army of creditors might well double by the time the hearing is over, if it goes forward as scheduled this morning. The new petitioners will include the Writers Guild of America, Screen Actors Guild and the Directors Guild of America, as well as the Health & Pension Benefits Plan. The guilds have submitted a 160-page declaration in which they charge Bergstein paid no residuals due through his companies and subsidiaries. For instance, the SAG filing lists 40 films that include Nailed, Animal Factory, A Sound of Thunder, The Whole Ten Yards and Boondock Saints. According to the union, Bergstein’s companies did not pay a cent toward residuals or pension and health contributions, despite contractual obligation to do so. This will put more pressure on Bergstein following an initial bombshell complaint that included allegations that Bergstein used corporate assets to cover $950,000 in gambling markers.
I’ve looked at the list of 805 library titles that the creditors hope will make them whole. While there are a lot of unmemorable titles– 2001: A Space Travesty and Awesome: I Fuckin’ Shot That jump out–there are also quite a few solid indie titles. There is Woody Allen’s Sweet and Lowdown, Sidney Lumet’s Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead, Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the Ed Harris-directed Pollock, , dramas like Sword of Gideon, Half Nelson, Boondock Saints, You Can Count On Me, Dahmer,and Winslow Boy, and documentaries like Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired and Murderball. Nailed, the David O. Russell-directed drama that had several stops and starts that illuminated the extent of Bergstein’s money woes, is on the list. Bergstein is struggling to get that film through post-production, I hear. Not on the list is Love Ranch, the Taylor Hackford-directed drama that stars Joe Pesci and Helen Mirren. That film was foreclosed on by Aramid Capital Partners, which set the picture to be release this summer by Entertainment One.
I will let you know how the hearing goes.