EXCLUSIVE: Troubled producer, Lifetime part

Stanley M. Brooks scrambles to raise funds sought by guilds

There is fallout from producer Stanley M. Brooks' financial troubles ahead of settlement talks planned for Monday with AFTRA, DGA and the WGA West. All three guilds have him on their "strike" (do not work) lists over unpaid salaries or residual payments.

The fallout involves Lifetime, to which Brooks had been a frequent supplier for the past decade -- up until a week or so ago. THR has learned he has quietly sold his interest in the only two projects he still has with the A&E Television Networks division, apparently to clear any obstacle to their production and to raise money to pay his union obligations -- and salvage his reputation.

One of the two movies, which have not been announced by domestic rights holder Lifetime Movie Network, is the suspense thriller "Sandra Brown's Smoke Screen," now shooting in Vancouver and starring Jaime Pressly and Canadian Currie Graham. It's written by Karen Stillman and directed by Gary Yates (who is not a DGA member, nor is it a DGA production, according to a guild spokesperson).

The second is "On Strike for the Holidays," which is in development at Lifetime and being written by frequent Brooks collaborator Jim Head, with director Robert Iscove attached. Not yet cast, it's about women in a small town who strike just before Christmas to teach their ungrateful husbands a lesson.

Brooks did not respond to a request for comment, but his attorney Kenneth Suddleson said Brooks no longer has any involvement with the movies even though his name might appear in credits as executive producer.

His attorney said "Smoke Screen" is now being produced by Canadian companies Seven24 Films and Smoke Screen Prods.; both apparently are special-purpose corporations formed for this movie. He said the Canadian producers have sold international rights to both movies to Sony Pictures Television.

A Sony TV spokeswoman said the company bought "Smoke Screen" from Brooks, and not just the international rights.

Suddleson declined comment about whether these projects were among several sold to Sony to raise money to pay the guilds.

Brooks said this week through Suddleson that he has been in financial distress since 2008 when his companies, including Once Upon a Time Films, lost $700,000 in the collapse and bankruptcy of the Axium payroll service.

Since production on "Smoke Screen" began Aug. 9, the union representing most of the actors has changed to the Union of British Columbia Performers, a local union in Vancouver. This apparently does not include Pressly, who continues to be covered by SAG.
Michael Feeney, senior vp corporate communications at AETN, said the company learned of Brooks' financial problems in late July from a media report. He said Brooks did bring it "Smoke Screen" and "Strike," and they were acquired before AETN became aware of Brooks' strike listing.

"We are holding off on doing anything additional with him until we see how things settle out. He has taken ownership of the problems," Feeney said. "We are going to wait and see how the arbitration works out. We don't want to jump to any conclusions."

Feeney said that Tanya Lopez -- who is head of movie production at Lifetime, a former talent agent and Brooks' wife -- has not participated in any negotiations with Brooks or decisions regarding his involvement with the company since she joined the network in 2007. He said that since she arrived, Lifetime has made 90 TV movies and Brooks has been an exec producer on seven, none of which she was involved with.

Before Brooks' decision to sell his interest in the Lifetime movies, a spokesman for the WGA West said the guild was aware that a member had worked on "Smoke Screen" through a company that is a signatory to the WGA of Canada agreement.

How often does the guild face such issues? "It is unusual to find guild members working for a company on the strike list," the WGAW spokesman said. "The rule prohibiting them from doing so is for their own protection. Most members understand that and comply with the rule."