Baker spoke to Deadline about what he experienced, and revealed that he has much of what happened to him during this process on film because a documentary about first-time filmmaking coincidentally was being filmed at the same time (see interview below).
According to the agreements Baker and Emmett Furla entered into, the suit states, Baker was to be paid $125K for directing fee and it was later agreed that he would also have 49% of the copyright. The producing fee for Baker Entertainment was to be $425K and $550K for Emmett Furla. He entered into the agreement because he was told that in order to do his passion project Fate, he would have to do one of their films first.
However, the suit states, shortly after Baker put the $1M into escrow in exchange to become the only equity player, the filmmaker says in the suit that Emmett/Furla began paying themselves $650,000 (each) in producer fees, said Baker, and then brought in more equity players and paid them out first in breach of their initial contract. He is seeking at least $4.5M in damages and has asked for a jury trial.
In the midst of this, Baker was producing a documentary about first-time directing asking those he admired — like Jodie Foster, Taylor Hackford, Adrian Lyne, John Badham — about what the journey entails and how to navigate “from the desk.” They were his mentors as a first-time director, Baker told Deadline, but added “no one could have prepared me for what happened with Emmett Furla.”
During the filming of that documentary, that’s when things started going south with Emmett Furla so most of what happened to Baker with Emmett Furla is on film, Baker told Deadline. The documentary was paid for by Baker.
“First, you must know that I didn’t want this documentary to harm film or Hollywood,” said Baker. In the process, things with Emmett Furla began to unravel. “It came to a point, that there was nothing I could do but walk away, bite my tongue or finish the film (Inconceivable) and hope that they (Emmett Furla) would keep to their word and make Fate, which is the first film that I wanted to do and was my passion film that I was bringing in,” Baker told Deadline. “Then they baited and switched me. They said I had to do one of their films first in order to do Fate. I went ahead and finished Inconceivable. I had 49% of that copyright. If it weren’t for having the copyright, it would have been much worse.
“This is about fraud, embezzlement” — (accounting is a cause of action) — “and breach of contract. I put up my own money at the beginning and then to get (Inconceivable) where it was, I had to put up of my own money at the end. I am in this business to be creative, and they hindered the creative process. They really don’t care about that themselves, it’s just a formula for them,” Baker said.
“This wasn’t a collaboration but I tried so hard to make it so, and they just kept siccing the bond company after me. It was me against them. I kept quiet until the movie came out. It’s like I’m David and they were Goliath and they just kept beating me up. They owe my staff a hundred thousand dollars, and still haven’t paid them a dime. They just kept saying they don’t have it in the budget. I was supposed to be their partner on this film. They didn’t even show us the budget, in fact, they reversed-engineered the budget,” Baker said.
Emmett/Furla could not be reached for comment.
The crux of the lawsuit is that Baker “has not been paid back one dollar of its equity investment in the First Picture or its financing fee, nor has BEG (Baker Entertainment Group) been paid for Baker’s director services, and BEG also has not been paid its entire producer fee, and has been forced to bring this lawsuit in order to prevent EFO and the other Defendants from depriving Plaintiffs from the money that is rightfully theirs.”
In addition to Emmett Furla Oasis Films, Baker is also suing Georgia Film Fund Twenty-Nine and Higrowth LLC.
The agreement began in February of 2015, according to the suit, and Baker states that Emmett represented that Baker would be paid producer fees at the same time and of the same amount and “on an equally favorable basis.” Emmett also represented to Baker that if the director put in the $1M to fund Inconceivable that Baker and his company would be the only equity player and would be “repaid on a priority basis above all other non-equity investors,” according to the complaint. Based on those assurances, Baker and Emmett Furla Oasis entered into a term sheet agreement on March 2, 2015 for two films.
However, once the money was deposited into escrow, that’s when everything began to change without Baker’s knowledge, according to Baker’s suit.
The lawsuit was filed Friday in L.A. County Superior Court. Inconceivable, which starred Nicolas Cage, Gina Gershon, Nicky Whelan and Faye Dunaway, came out in a limited theatrical release from Lionsgate on June 30.
Emmett Furla was also sued earlier this year by producer Robbie Brenner over promises made and money owed over Escape Plan 2.