Oscar-Winning Producer Rips WGA Over Inclusion On Unfair Business Practices List
Accusations are flying in a nasty showdown between the Writers Guild of America and Oscar-winning producer Nicolas Chartier, who the guild has accused of engaging in “employment practices detrimental to writers.” Chartier, who in 2010 won a Best Picture Oscar for The Hurt Locker, fired back. In a blistering letter to the guild (read it here), his attorney, Harvey Saferstein, called the charges “reprehensible” and accused the guild of engaging in a “smear campaign” designed to “implicate an innocent man and defame him for its own misguided ends.” He also threatened to sue if the guild doesn’t retract its allegations by the close of business Thursday.
The feud stems from years’ worth of unpaid residuals owed to the writers of True Justice, the Steven Seagal cable series that’s currently running on the ReelzChannel. Chartier is one of the executive producers of the show, which is produced by Phillip Goldfine’s Sojo Productions. In December, an arbitrator ordered Sojo to pay the writers $700,000 in unpaid residuals and interest.
In an interview with Deadline, Goldfine acknowledged he owes the show’s writers the money, and said he’ll pay up as soon as he pays off the company’s bank loan. “We never said we weren’t paying,” he said. “Once the revenues come in, the bank gets paid and then the WGA will be paid. The bank has first standing.”
The arbitrator did not find that Chartier and his company, Voltage Pictures, were responsible for any of the unpaid residuals, but Chartier claims the guild has dragged him into the dispute in order “put pressure” on Goldfine, his sometime business partner and executive producer of last year’s Documentary Short Subject Oscar winner The Lady In Number 6: Music Saved My Life.
The feud escalated Monday when the guild issued an Unfair Business Practices Advisory to its members (read it below), warning them to be careful in their dealings with Chartier, Goldfine and their various businesses. “This advisory relates to companies owned or controlled by Phillip Goldfine and Nicolas Chartier,” the guild told its members. “Sojo Productions produced a basic cable series, True Justice, which was released in 2010. Chartier executive produced the series. Voltage Pictures, owned by Chartier, distributed the series. In December 2014, arbitrator Sol Rosenthal issued an arbitration award against Sojo Productions for unpaid residuals and interest totaling more than $700,000 due to the writers of True Justice. The award remains unpaid.”
The advisory (read it below) notes that Goldfine and Sojo have been placed on the guild’s strike/unfair list for failing to comply with the True Justice arbitration award, and that as a result, guild members are not allowed to work for Sojo. It also noted that another of Goldfine’s companies, Hollywood Media Bridge, is not a signatory to the guild’s contract “but continues to have numerous projects in development.”
The WGA letter goes on to say that Chartier is a principal owner of two other companies that have signed the union’s contract – Voltage Development and Vendetta LLC – but notes the guild has “requested additional financial assurances from these companies to ensure their payment of contractual obligations to writers.” The advisory states that Chartier is also an owner of SVZ, Inc., which is not signed to the guild’s contract, and that Goldfine “is affiliated with the company.”
Saferstein, however, claims the guild’s advisory is filled with misleading innuendos, guilt-by-association, and outright falsehoods, and accused guild officials of engaging in a “smear campaign” to destroy the reputations of Chartier and Voltage Pictures. “Your advisory states that Mr. Chartier and his companies are ‘companies or individuals who have engaged in employment practices detrimental to writers,’ ” he told the guild. “This is false and you have no basis to make such a claim. Starting with the Oscar-winning screenplay of The Hurt Locker, Voltage Pictures has fully financed and/or produced numerous films written by amazing WGA writers, including the multiple Academy Award-winners The Hurt Locker and Dallas Buyers Club.” Voltage, he said, “has worked with some of the most respected and talented members of the WGA…and looks forward to continuing to do so in the future.”
“There is little doubt,” he wrote, “that the WGA knows full well the effect that this kind of advisory would have on writers and others in the entertainment business. Indeed, detrimental impact to Mr. Chartier’s reputation is precisely the intent of such an advisory.”
As proof, Saferstein charged that during a telephone conversation on Monday, guild attorney Cathy Chrispovich told his law partner, Irene Flores, “that the intent of the advisory was to ‘put pressure’ on Mr. Chartier so that he would then put pressure on the people actually responsible for the True Justice residuals. Thus, the WGA apparently knows Mr. Chartier is not culpable for the True Justice arbitration award and yet the WGA is still willing to implicate an innocent man and defame him for its own misguided ends.”
“By clever editing,” he said, the advisory also implies that Chartier and/or Voltage are party to the $700,000 unpaid arbitration award. “In fact,” he wrote, “the WGA’s arbitration award never even mentioned Mr. Chartier, Voltage, nor Mr. Chartier’s companies that you now name in the advisory as having ‘engaged in employment practices detrimental to writers.’”
The advisory, Saferstein wrote, “Selectively points to Mr. Chartier, without any actual evidence or finding of wrongdoing, and it does so with clever wording and various omissions. For example, the advisory states that Mr. Chartier ‘executive produced the series.’ By singling out Mr. Chartier as a producer and not mentioning that he was one of 22 other producers on the series, the WGA’s intent is to imply that he was responsible for the residuals. That is false.”
Two of the other producers on the show were WGA members, he said, and in another damning accusation, claimed Chrispovich told his law partner they weren’t named in the advisory “because they were WGA members.”
“Moreover, the advisory states that Voltage Pictures distributed the series,” Saferstein wrote. “This too is false. Voltage Pictures was merely a foreign sales agent.”
He then demanded that the WGA “withdraw and retract its advisory as to Mr. Chartier and his companies. It is reprehensible that the Writers Guild, the traditional defenders of freedom of expression, should engage in such a reprehensible smear campaign against a respected member of the entertainment industry such as Mr. Chartier. Unless your advisory is retracted by close of business May 7, 2015, further action will be taken, which may include litigation or other action toward the WGAW.”
Here is the WGA’s full advisory sent to members Monday:
May 4, 2015
Unfair Business Practices Advisory
Dear WGAW Member:
The Board of Directors has established a policy of issuing periodic advisories notifying WGAW members of companies or individuals who have engaged in employment practices detrimental to writers. Unlike companies on the Guild’s Strike List, for which a member may not work, Guild rules do not prohibit a member from selling material to or accepting employment with a company named in an advisory (provided, of course, that the company is or becomes signatory to a WGA agreement). The purpose of the advisory is to provide members with information, which they may take into account as they see fit.
This advisory relates to companies owned or controlled by Phillip Goldfine and Nicolas Chartier. Goldfine is the owner of Sojo Productions, Inc., which was signatory to the 2008 MBA. Sojo Productions produced a basic cable series, True Justice, which was released in 2010. Chartier executive produced the series. Voltage Pictures, owned by Chartier, distributed the series. In December 2014, Arbitrator Sol Rosenthal issued an arbitration award against Sojo Productions for unpaid residuals and interest totaling more than $700,000 due to the writers of True Justice. The award remains unpaid.
Guild members should be aware of the following:
* Phillip Goldfine and Sojo Productions are currently on the WGAW Strike/Unfair List for failure to comply with the True Justice arbitration award.
* Goldfine’s company, Hollywood Media Bridge, is not signatory to the MBA, but continues to have numerous projects in development.
* Nicolas Chartier is a principal of two companies that are currently signatory to the 2014 MBA: Voltage Development NCCF, LLC and Vendetta, LLC. The Guild has requested additional financial assurances from these companies to ensure their payment of contractual obligations to writers.
* Chartier is also an owner of SVZ, Inc., and Goldfine is affiliated with the company. SVZ Inc. is not signatory to any Guild agreement and has at least one project in development.
The purpose of this a dvisory is to inform WGAW members about the business practices of Goldfine and Chartier, and certain of their related companies. As always, the Guild’s working rules prohibit members from working for or selling literary material to individuals or companies that (1) are on the Strike/Unfair List; or (2) are not signatory to the current MBA.
For reference purposes, the following is a full list of individuals and companies mentioned in this advisory:
* Phillip Goldfine
* Nicolas Chartier
* Hollywood Media Bridge
* Sojo Productions, Inc.
* Voltage Pictures
* Voltage Development NCCF, LLC
* Vendetta, LLC
* SVZ, Inc.
If you would like additional information, or if any of the individuals or companies listed above tries to hire you, plea se contact the Legal Services Department at XXX.XXX.XXXX.