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Screenwriter Kurt McLeod has sued Zero Gravity Management for breach of contract and fiduciary duty, alleging the agency had a conflict of interest in negotiating his contract for writing Copshop because it was also a producer on the movie.
According to a complaint filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Zero Gravity Management founders Eric and Mark Williams prioritized maximizing their participation for producing Copshop to detriment of their client, who was allegedly pressured to accept minimal payment for his work on the movie due to misrepresentations by his managers. McLeod also alleges that Mark Williams took undue credit for co-writing the screenplay for the 2021 movie starring Gerard Butler.
“ZGM, Eric and Mark concealed the true budget for Copshop from Mr. McLeod (and convinced him the cap on his fee was reasonable) to serve their own interests and in contravention of their obligations to their client,” reads the lawsuit. “Specifically, by reducing the amount of money to be paid to Mr. McLeod (for which as managers they would only be paid a fifteen-percent commission) they increased the amount of money they earned directly and fully as producers on Copshop.”
The new lawsuit rehashes old claims that are familiar to Mark Williams. Screenwriter Nick May in 2021 sued the Ozark co-creator for stealing writing credits on Blacklight. The case quickly settled, with May being credited for the movie.
Like May’s case, the lawsuit from McLeod landed in court rather than arbitration by the Writers Guild of America.
According to the complaint, McLeod optioned his screenplay to Sculptor Media at the advice of his agency. He agreed that the purchase price for Copshop, if the option was exercised, would be 2.5 percent of the film’s budget with a cap of $125,000.
McLeod says his managers characterized the contract as fair and didn’t raise an issue over the cap on his fee. He claims this was a “misrepresentation and a concealment by ZGM and the Williams brothers because they knew at the time that the budget for the film would be in an amount that the cap of $125,000 was many times less than he was entitled to earn.”
“Defendants kept the actual budget of the film secret from Mr. McLeod and advised him to accept far less money than he was entitled in order that they would be able to take larger fees for themselves and otherwise benefit from their affiliation with Copshop,” the complaint states.
Zero Gravity Management took a 10 percent fee for representing him the deal, according to the lawsuit.
In arbitration, the Writers Guild of America concluded that the “story by” credit should be Mark Williams and McLeod, while the “screenplay by” credit should be McLeod and Joe Carnahan, Copshop’s director. McLeod learned during the proceedings that Zero Gravity Management had allegedly fabricated documents to credit Mark Williams as an author on the script.
The complaint alleges breach of contract and fiduciary duty in addition to fraud, among other claims. It doesn’t seek to challenge or alter the credits determined by the WGA.
Zero Gravity Management didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
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