Producers Robert Kesler and Scott LaStaiti have filed suit in a dispute over production credits and participation in the movie Stars. Kesler and LaStaiti claim that partners they took on in an oral joint venture agreement connived to cut them out of the project they develooped. According to the Los Angeles Superior Court filing, screenwriter Jim Janosky sometime prior to 2004 showed Kesler his script for Stars, about a young man who contemplates suicide while on a cross-country road trip. Kesler in 2004 showed the script to LaStaiti and they set out developing the project, according to the suit. In December 2005, Kesler showed the Stars script to director Derrick Borte (The Joneses), who the suit claims told the plaintiffs he wasn’t available. Three years later Kesler and LaStaiti again met with Borte who then said he would like to help make the movie, the suit says. Borte shared the Stars script with his production partner Scott Lochmus, the suit says, and in early 2009 Borte, Lochmus and their Storyland Films entered into an oral joint venture agreement with Kesler and LaStaiti. All of them were to participate in producing Stars and to receive producer credits.

By fall 2010, plaintiffs Kesler and LaStaiti and Borte had discussions about financing the project. The plaintiffs suggested Borte approach Lleju Productions principal William Perkins, the suit says, because the were aware Borte and Perkins had an existing relationship. The plaintiffs also contend that Borte was “noncommital” and never said whether he showed Perkins the script or not. Kesler and LaStaiti subsequently read an October 10, 2011 trade paper article reporting that Lleju, Perkins, Borte and Lochmas had teamed up to produce Stars from Janosky’s script and would begin filming the following month.

The plaintiffs contend that by secretly steering the project away from them, Borte and Lochmas violated their joint venture agreement, and that Storyland, Lochmas and Borte are all receiving credit on Stars and that Kesler and LaStaiti are excluded. Additionally, the plaintiffs contend that they introduced the defendants to casting director Mary Vernieu, who has received an executive producer credit. The suit names as defendants Lleju Productions and Films, Storyland Pictures, Derrick Borte and Scott Lochmus and other individuals. Kesler and LaStaiti allege breach of oral contract to produce the movie, breach of fiduciary duty under the joint venture agreement, fraud and other charges related to diverting the project for their own benefit. Kesler and LaStaiti are seeking compensatory and punitive damages, interest and court costs.