Lawsuit Raises Warning Over Confidentiality of Movie and TV Casting Info

Brigitte Sire

Beside a pile of annotated scripts, Meriwether keeps a mug featuring staff writer Josh Malmuth's bar mitzvah photo. She laughs, "He made the mistake of telling us that his bar mitzvah theme was jazz, and we made him suffer for it all year."

Breakdown Services has detailed a "scheme" by which three individuals, allegedly working under various guises, misled talent managers and took advantage of vulnerable actors and actresses.

The plaintiff is a company that has been in operation for about four decades. Breakdown Services analyzes scripts for television shows, movies and video games. The company gets the information from some 300 casting directors, and the "breakdowns" are then distributed to licensed talent agents and qualified personal managers for the purposes of connecting actors to jobs.

Breakdown Services now operates a website, which according to the company has been under attack by those looking to gain improper access. Last year, we wrote about a lawsuit against one such assailant. The latest legal effort comes in New York, with the plaintiff seeking a preliminary injunction against three defendants: Frank Moran, Louise Yanofsky and Steven Rubin.

In court papers, the plaintiff explains why it will only work with licensed talent agents and reputable personal managers as well as the importance of entertainment industry confidentiality.

"Casting directors want to assure that qualified professionals are submitting suitable candidates with the necessary qualifications so that they are not overwhelmed with submissions by unqualified or inappropriate candidates," says Breakdown Services. "In addition, casting directors are concerned that otherwise, the information may be leaked to 'spoiler' websites that publish information about the plot and characters in movies and television shows before the movies are released or the shows are aired."

The plaintiff adds that if confidentiality can't be maintained, it has been advised by casting directors that other means of distributing the information would be utilized. Thus, Breakdown Services believes its business model jeopardized by those who would share or sell account access. There's also the strong hint that the "gatekeeper" model of Hollywood is under some threat.

The three defendants, according to a memorandum to support an injunction, "under ever changing aliases, have operated a business, using the name Actor's Advantage, to sell access to Plaintiff's secure site to actors and actresses for monthly fees. To do so, they have infiltrated Plaintiff's customers, who are unaware of the misuse made by the Defendants of their passwords and usernames."

One of those customers was William Buell (Requiem for a Dream), who according to his affidavit, was performing in a Broadway show when he learned that "breakdowns" were available from Moran. So he pooled money with his other actor-friends including members of the cast. Soon, there were others who wanted in, and eventually, the amount Buell was collecting exceeded the amount that he was paying Moran, who allegedly knew about Buell's sources of funding.

In 2011, Buell says he decided to stop distributing the breakdowns, and Moran allegedly asked for and got the list of those actors who were pooling money. According to Breakdown Services, Moran then sold the breakdowns directly to the actors (dozens according to a spreadsheet filed in court) and Buell got a cut — sometimes over $2,000 a month. (Buell is not a defendant.)

Breakdown Services provides other examples of illicit entry into its system.

For example, Moran allegedly approached a talent management company called Redwood Entertainment with a proposal to expand the firm's clientele to actors. According to an affidavit by Redwood president Janet Castiel, who previously worked primarily with music performers and comedians, Moran proposed to bear the expense so she could become a member of the Talent Managers' Association and then get access to the breakdowns. She agreed. The arrangement had Redwood receiving the first $500 in commissions from jobs booked for actors, and then splitting equally the remaining commissions with Moran. The relationship allegedly continued for two years until earlier this year when Breakdown Services sounded the alarm.

Moran is said in plaintiff's court papers to have worked with Yanofsky, who allegedly came to an agreement with another customer of Breakdown Services — G&G Talent Management. After Moran's deal with Redwood broke down, at least one child actress was allegedly steered from Redwood to G&G by Yanofsky, who is accused of acting as a "manager" for this actress and charging a flat fee for representation.

In June, G&G says it ended its association with Yanofsky and her husband, Rubin. According to an affidavit, G&G founder Angela Gulizio says she had learned by that time that Rubin had registered 150 actors to the G&G account, and that she had noticed problems had begun to arise — like a "thin male client of mine was submitted for a 'husky' part and a size 2 female client was submitted for a 'short and chubby' part."

Gulizio also says that she began receiving word of clients being approved for membership into Actors Advantage, and that actors were being charged a monthly fee for representation. Even after G&G terminated the relationship with the defendants, she says that defendants under aliases continued to hold themselves out as agents, employees or reps of the firm.

"I am appalled," she says in her affidavit.  It is unethical to charge actors for representation (instead, all compensation must be by commission)."

Breakdown Services says it learned about the alleged scheme from casting director Paul Russell, who had in turn been advised about it by an actress named Cynthia Granville. The plaintiff says that PayPal records indicate the defendants have received tens of thousands of dollars from actors over the years — and that "may reflect only a fraction of the money collected" because "emails sent to actors stated that the preferred method of payment was cash."

Now Breakdown Services is looking to put a stop to all of this, claiming tortious interference as well as unfair competition and describing the horrors of potentially losing the trust of casting directors.

Usually, digital services want as many customers as possible — but clearly, that's not the case here. According to the company, "Another particular concern is that if the breakdowns are distributed directly to actors, without the 'gatekeeper' function performed by licensed talent agents and personal managers, the casting directors will be inundated with literally thousands of submissions by actors for each role being cast, regardless of the applicant's lack of qualifications or suitability. Casting is extremely time-sensitive, and casting directors do not have the time to review thousands of submissions for parts that must be cast in a few days."

Moran couldn't be reached for comment.

"The accusations are not accurate," responds Rubin. "Specifically, I deny that anything was stolen or that anyone was deceived or taken advantage of. I never stole any product nor did I sell any stolen product. Moreover, the accusations that I misled a child actor are blatantly false. These accusations are merely a fictitious tale woven by a corporation whose fortune and power is derived almost entirely from fear tactics and actively preventing the vast majority of actors and other artists from succeeding commercially. These accusations are slanderous, libelous, and I intend to answer them in a legal context to clear my name."

"Breakdown Services would lead you to believe that they protect actors from predators," Rubin continues. "The truth is that their business model appears to be designed to keep a small few in power, while making the barrier to entry into an artistic field nearly insurmountable."

Twitter: @eriqgardner

Updated with Rubin's comment.