ByMark Newton, writer at
Movie Pilot Associate Editor. Email: [email protected]
Mark Newton

Never mind battling zombies, AMC has a much bigger foe on its hands: Frank Darabont.

The former Walking Dead showrunner has once again stepped up his efforts in the long-running legal battle with the AMC Network regarding unpaid profit participation cash.

Darabont, who was central in developing the series based on Robert Kirkman's comics, and the CAA filed a new memorandum with the NY Supreme Court which bites back at earlier statements made by AMC that dismissed Darabont's claims. The 21-page, partially redacted statement, certainly doesn't mince its words regarding AMC's handling of this issue. It states:

Returning once again to its favorite line ‘that contracts are not screenplays’, AMC makes a motion to dismiss consistent with its strategy of trying to litigate this case through pithy, press-ready quotes. AMC‘s motion is its latest attempt to deprive Darabont, the heart and soul of The Walking Dead (the ‘Series’), of his contractual entitlement to profits from the Series. This motion to dismiss arises out of another, equally insidious method of denying Darabont his rightful profits: AMC‘s refusal to acknowledge that Darabont‘s share of profits is, in fact, fully vested.

What Are They Actually Arguing About?

AMC's Head of Original Programming Joel Stillerman
AMC's Head of Original Programming Joel Stillerman

The whole debacle is rather complex, but basically Darabont feels he has not been paid his dues from a profit participation scheme he signed up to before The Walking Dead Season 1. Within the contract was a clause which stated that after acting as showrunner for Seasons 1 and 2, Darabont would be eligible for profit participation for all future seasons, as well as any derivatives from The Walking Dead.

However, Darabont was fired halfway through the production of Season 2, a move which resulted in Jeffrey DeMunn (who played Dale) also walking from the show in protest. Darabont was replaced by Glen Mazzara who continued as showrunner until December 2012, when he was also replaced by Scott Gimple. Sources close to the production claim Darabont was fired by AMC's Head of Original Programming, Joel Stillerman, due to continued arguments regarding the reduced budget for Season 2 (despite massive ratings for Season 1 and a 30% tax credit from Georgia) and claims from Darabont that the cast and crew were "over-worked" and "under-paid."

AMC claims that since Darabont was let go during Season 2, he is not eligible for the profit participation scheme established in his contract. Darabont and his supporters, however, claim that Darabont worked on all the episodes of season 2 on a full-time basis, meaning he technically worked on the entire season, as per the original contract. Darabont and the CAA's memorandum continues:

Defendants’ entire argument hinges upon the mistaken assumption that because Darabont was removed mid-season, he did not work on the season‘s later episodes... In short, the FAC alleges, and deposition testimony confirms, that Darabont worked full-time on all episodes of Season 2. Adding to the deposition testimony of Darabont and his successor Mazzara is AMC‘s own, on-screen, admission that Darabont was the executive producer of all thirteen episodes of Season 2.

The last part of that statement refers to the fact Darabont continued to get "Developed By" and executive producer credits throughout the entire second season. The memorandum also continually references a statement made by the AMC President, Charlie Collier, who admitted it was "impossible to parse where Darabont‘s role ended and [successor showrunner Glen] Mazzara’s began on Season 2."

Check out The Walking Dead Season 2 opening below:

Furthermore, Darabont and his lawyers are also demanding a cut of Fear The Walking Dead, a spin-off series clearly derived from The Walking Dead -- despite the fact AMC went to long lengths to describe it as only a "companion series." Darabont's original contract also stated he would be eligible for any profits made from "derivative productions."

In its final legal broadside, the memorandum also claims AMC engaged in "self-dealing" to create artificially low license fees for The Walking Dead in an attempt to get out of contractually agreed payments. This method involves reworking the license fee structure between AMC studios and AMC Network so that every episode of The Walking Dead appears to make a loss, meaning profit participation points are not paid out. Of course, this is simply the result of some creative accounting and not the actual financial reality.

For its part, AMC has mostly been denying any wrong doing and asserting Darabont's "meritless" claims should be thrown out of court. They haven't, however, at least as far as I can tell, adequately provided rebuttals to Darabont's various claims.

Source: Deadline


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