EXCLUSIVE: Paramount’s announcement on Tuesday that it was teaming with Deluxe Entertainment Services Group to become the first major studio to stream its awards consideration films online made news and tech-challenged voters nervous. (So far, it is a pilot program for the Visual Effects Society; a Paramount source told me they were selected because they are deemed the most likely to be able to figure out how to do it.) But this isn’t the only awards-season noise the newly aggressive Deluxe has been making this month. Another of their moves even raised eyebrows among several rank-and-file Academy voters.
Last week, some concerned Academy members contacted me regarding an emailed letter they had received from Deluxe Media Management asking for confirmation of their contact information and directing them to a detailed survey of the members’ personal details in their database. A bolded note near the bottom warned: “PLEASE NOTE: We must receive verification of your contact information before screeners or other materials can be sent.” This letter was preceded by an introductory email a week earlier telling members that Deluxe was the “preferred industry partner for distribution of awards consideration materials” and would be sending a subsequent email instructing them how to update their contact information and that their privacy would be respected and info remain confidential. The second letter began by saying:
Dear AMPAS Member,
Since 2003, Deluxe Media Management has been producing, manufacturing and fulfilling watermarked and regular DVD screeners for our studio clients. On behalf of our studio clients, Deluxe also distributes screening calendars and various awards materials to AMPAS members worldwide. Please take a moment to confirm your contact information is current in our database. This will ensure timely dielivery of your awards consideration materials.
Nowhere is this letter do they identify who those studio clients are, and some AMPAS members I have talked to were concerned about being solicited directly by an outside vendor requesting personal information. But due to the wording of the letter, they were worried they wouldn’t get screeners if they didn’t comply. READ MORE »
After a judge last week denied a motion to dismiss, a lawsuit is tentatively scheduled to play out in LA Superior Court on August 8 that pits former William Morris literary agent Dave Phillips against William Sherak, president of the 3D conversion house StereoD. Phillips alleges in court papers that after inviting Sherak to be his 50/50 partner on emerging 3D technology that Phillips had been retained to shop in Hollywood, Sherak betrayed him. By the time 18 months worth of meetings culminated in the deal that led to the formation of StereoD, Sherak emerged with a 32% stake in that company and signed a 3-Year $14 million deal to run it after Deluxe acquired StereoD in May. Phillips was offered $30,000 to sign a release and go away.
Sherak, the son of Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences president Tom Sherak, is accused of breaching an oral agreement and his fiduciary responsibility to Phillips. At issue is whether the technology Phillips plugged Sherak into (it originated with Kerner, an offshoot of George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic) led to the deals that formed StereoD and should be counted in the 50/50 3D deal split Phillips said he and Sherak agreed to in an oral (not written) contract. Phillips claims in his complaint that Sherak often assured him their position would be protected because of his father’s industry clout, but that he eventually became evasive after Phillips was offered the $30,000. Stereo D has quickly become a major player in 3D conversions of films that include Captain America, Avatar, Jackass 3-D, and Thor.
Phillips claims that he brought Sherak into the 3D mix because they were longtime friends and he knew Sherak’s father would use his clout to put them in rooms with the Hollywood heavyweights needed for deals that would enrich the duo with finder fees. According to Phillips’ complaint, the elder Sherak orchestrated meetings with the likes of Ron Perelman, Deluxe’s Cyril Drabinsky, Legendary’s Thomas Tull and Lightstorm’s Jon Landau. The elder Sherak also arranged for Fox to provide a print of The Rocky Horror Picture Show to be converted into 3D for demos.
Along the way, the younger Sherak arranged meetings with Christopher Mallick, the financier of Middle Men, a film Sherak produced. These meetings evolved into a focus on 2D to 3D conversion technology called VDX that wasn’t owned by Kerner, but rather a Japanese inventor named Kuniaki Izumi. The filing indicates Phillips and Sherak were involved in bringing Izumi in from Japan to meet Mallick, who shortly after dropped his Kerner pursuit. He struck a deal with Izumi that paid the inventor $1 million for technology that became the core of Stereo D. Mallick gave equal ownership stakes in StereoD to himself, Sherak and Middle Men star Giovanni Ribisi. Phillips was not included. Read More »