Stanford pic provokes suit

Maverick sues Inferno over project

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.