1:33pm PT by Eriq Gardner
Morgan Spurlock Sues Financier for Backing Out of NASCAR Documentary
Morgan Spurlock says he was deprived of the opportunity to make his dream project after spending five years on research and development.
In a lawsuit filed on Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Spurlock's Warrior Poets Inc. claims that Broad Green Pictures agreed to put up $5 million for a NASCAR documentary, a written agreement was executed, funds were provided to start initial production and a draft press release was ready to announce the project. But then in January, at the halfway point, BGP allegedly bowed out.
"For Mr. Spurlock, as a lifelong NASCAR enthusiast, BGP's 'greenlighting' of the Documentary was the opportunity of a lifetime," states the complaint. "Although he had already obtained substantial success and renown for his prior documentary work — including as the director, writer and star of the Oscar-nominated documentary Super Size Me — the Documentary would be his greatest work yet, providing a never-before-seen look into the world of NASCAR, with unfettered access to the sport and drivers."
Broad Green, founded by billionaire hedge fund manager Gabriel Hammond and his brother Daniel, made a splash at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival by buying up rights to several films. "As we learned about the industry, we realized we needed to be able to put movies on the screen in the way the filmmaker wanted," said Gabriel at the time.
Victor Moyers, the company's president of productions, engaged discussions with Spurlock last September.
According to the complaint, "Mr. Moyers represented to Mr. Spurlock (1) that BGP's principals had already 'approved' the financing of the Documentary's $5 million budget and were fully on board with the project, (2) that the Documentary had been 'greenlit' by BGP's principals, and (3) that 'we are making the movie.'"
That, plus a $50,000 advance to film scenes at a Nov. 21 NASCAR Homestead-Miami event, was enough to start the engines of the filmmaking process. The complaint says that Spurlock and others had worked with NASCAR drivers to get unprecedented access that would allow them to detail their lives, their families and their races. The hope was that with over 75 million NASCAR fans out there, the documentary would become a commercial hit. And before it was shut down, filmmakers spent hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Broad Green is said to have sent over a long-form written agreement that spelled out the relationship. The financier would put up $5 million and distribute the picture. Warrior Poets would get 17.5 percent of the gross receipts until investment costs were recouped. Afterwards, the profit participation would increase to 42 percent.
"The fact that the parties understood they had reached a binding agreement on the material terms of their relationship was expressly reflected and confirmed in email correspondence," states the complaint authored by attorney Michael Weinsten at Lavely & Singer, later adding, "Critically, at no point did anyone from BGP ever respond to the above communications by stating that there was no agreement or by directing Warrior Poets to cease production on the Documentary."
The plaintiff says it was caught off guard then when on Jan. 21, Gabriel Hammond conveyed the news that Broad Green was pulling out. "Even more shocking was the reason given by Mr. Hammond — namely, that the Documentary was being pulled because (1) it had never been greenlit and (2) it had never been approved by BGP."
Spurlock's company says it was left with an unfinished film, that it was too late to obtain a new financier and distributor and has been saddled with the bill for the salaries of the above-the-line production crew. It is suing for breach of contract, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, promissory estoppel and quantum meruit and demanding $2 million for each of these causes of action.
Broad Green hasn't yet responded to a request for comment.