Stanford pics in stand-off

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Competing film projects about the Stanford Prison Project, a 1971 experiment involving a faux prison filled and policed by grad students, are the subject of a lawsuit filed a few days before the start of the American Film Market.

Separate development projects based on the infamous university experiments -- which seemed to criminalize the student inmates and make their student wardens power-crazed -- are under way at Maverick Films and the Inferno. And both are expected to pitch their projects heavily at the AFM, which starts Wednesday.

In a suit filed Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Maverick claims that Inferno stole key ideas for such a film from Maverick after being invited in as a co-producer on an ongoing development project. Inferno executives passed on the opportunity to co-produce "The Stanford Prison Experiment," then launched a competing project, "The Experiment," according to the suit.

The suit, which names Inferno and company exec William Johnson as defendants, seeks injunctive relief and at least $50 million in damages.

"Defendants, under the guise they were interested in co-producing, distributing and financing the Maverick film, conned Maverick ... to disclose in great detail their creative, business and other plans to produce, finance and market the film," the suit claims.

It adds: "Johnson's decision to announce the production of 'The Experiment' at this time is no accident. Johnson apparently intends to promote his film heavily at the 2006 American Film Market ... in order to siphon-off the interest in a film concerning the Stanford Prison Experiment that Maverick's film has already generated."

A spokesman said Maverick also intends to promote its project at the AFM.

The legal action was filed by Raskin Peter Rubin & Simon, the Los Angeles law firm representing Maverick.
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