Film Investors Get Their Day in Court
A handful of aggrieved investors in Malcolm "Mac" Parker's film Birth of Innocence had their "day" in court this morning, asking Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford to allow the film to be completed as quickly as possible and marketed so they can recoup a portion of the millions owed them.
Last week, Crawford ruled that Parker would have to stand trial on charges that he violated state securities laws and committed securities fraud, among other allegations.
The charges stem from a 10-year film fundraising scheme that raised at least $12.8 million from 790 people. To date, the film has yet to be completed.
What the hearing lacked in overt drama, it made up for in the simmering passion of about six of the 20 investors who have asked the court to ensure the film is completed, even if that means taking control out of Parker's hands.
As I noted in this week's "Fair Game," this group of investors has broken off from the larger group of investors in an effort to make sure Parker finishes the film as originally intended.
They are concerned Parker may try to add new elements to the film, potentially driving up its cost and causing further delay.
"I want to be clear," Ramona O'Brien-Brisson told Judge Crawford, "we do not want and we did not ask for party status in this case. We don't want to do anything to slow the process down. We are not trying to do something to become divisive, and that is the most important thing to tell you."
In short, she told Crawford, her group wants the court to know there are some investors who are in dire financial straits and need the film to be completed and marketed in hopes of recouping even small portions of what is owed them.
O'Brien-Brisson said the 20 investors represent about $2 million of the $12.8 million that has been identified, to date, as having been raised by Parker to complete the film.
As O'Brien-Brisson spoke to Crawford, Parker sat quietly and listened. Joining Parker was his attorney, Wanda Otero-Ziegler. In the audience sat Christopher White, a longtime friend, investor and confidant of Parker. White had been gathering signatures from other investors to oppose any effort to give this break-away group party status in the court case.
In response, Judge Crawford told the group, the attorneys for the state and Parker that the case will continue to proceed as scheduled, with an expected trial date in early November.
The next status conference is September 3. At that time, Parker must provide to the court the full accounting of the film's fundraising and expenses -- something that should have been completed this spring.
"I think at this point, we're going to keep the hearing focused on the liability portion of the case and whether the state can make its case of violations of state securities law," said Crawford. "Hearing from each investor about how this has impacted them and hearing their stories -- that would be for another day."
After the hearing, O'Brien-Brisson said she originally invested in the film because she trusted Parker. But revelations that nearly $4 million of the money went to a silent partner, Louis Soteriou, who has since disappeared, along with other "surprises," led her and others to break their silence.
"I believe there are more surprises to come," said O'Brien-Brisson. "I just hope the case is settled."