Richard Gere Film Project Embroiled in Legal Fight

Nicholas Jarecki, a writer/director about to embark on his first major film project, is tangled in the sort of dispute that might serve as a lesson for young artists. On Tuesday, Jarecki filed a lawsuit in New York federal court against a producer he claims is attempting to hijack his coming film about, of all things, a big financial mistake.

Jarecki is the author of the book, "Breaking In: How 20 Film Directors Got Their Start" and is the brother of noted filmmakers Andrew Jarecki (Capturing the Friedmans) and Eugene Jarecki (Why We Fight). He's currently at work on his first major feature, titled Arbitrage, said to star Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon, with a plot described this way: "A troubled hedge fund magnate desperate to complete the sale of his trading empire makes an error that forces him to turn to an unlikely person for help."

To get his own start turning this film into reality, Jarecki turned to Michael Ohoven at Infinity Media, who has produced such films as Capote, Saved! and The Devil's Rejects.

According to Jarecki's lawsuit, the parties discussed the financing, development and production of the film, and Ohoven provided some assistance in getting it off the ground, including hiring an independent consultant, Kevin Turen.

In late 2010, however, Jarecki and Ohoven had a disagreement about the film's future, and Jarecki says he let Ohoven and Infinity know that he would be financing and producing the film without their assistance or involvement. Jarecki stresses that he had no written agreements assigning, licensing or otherwise transferring to them any copyright rights in the screenplay or film. (No word on disclaimers signed by the parties either.)

Ohoven's lawyer is said to have sent a letter to Jarecki's reps contending he had the exclusive right to produce and distribute a film, and that he was "a co-author and co-owner of the Screenplay by virtue of contributions purportedly made to the Screenplay by Turen on Infinity's behalf."

Jarecki deems Turen's work as a work-for-hire assignment and is now seeking a judicial declaration that that his screenplay can't be classified as a joint work for copyright purposes.

Ohoven couldn't be reached for comment.

Eriq Gardner can be reached at eriqgardner@yahoo.com and can be followed on Twitter.

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