Deadline Hollywood and Daily Journal Quote Susan Leader on Film Arbitration Dispute Success

Deadline Hollywood has quoted Akin Gump litigation partner Susan Leader in the article “Battle Over Orlando Bloom ‘S.M.A.R.T. Chase’ Pic Ends In Bliss, Literally,” following an arbitration final award in favor of Akin Gump client Bliss Media in its dispute with Das Films.

Das Films first sued Bliss in 2016 in Los Angeles Superior Court for fraud and breach of contract, claiming that it was hired to produce the film S.M.A.R.T. Chase, starring Orlando Bloom, but was ultimately terminated for made-up reasons. An arbitrator, Deadline Hollywood reports, rejected those arguments and awarded Bliss Media $522,787 in damages, plus another $630,000 in reasonable attorney’s fees and more than $65,000 in costs.

According to the article, the arbitrator also stated in the award that Das Films inexcusably delayed the production of the film, and that “Bliss Media likely missed out on revenues it would have reaped had the film been released in Summer 2017.”

Leader said Bliss was vindicated by the decision. “It’s telling,” she said, “that although there was a clear arbitration provision in the parties’ agreement, Das Films initiated this lawsuit publicly in state court, and it did so at the same time Bliss was filming S.M.A.R.T. Chase in China.”

Leader went on to note that Das Films “made a number of statements questioning Bliss’ integrity. Although Bliss did not seek damages for reputational harm, it was important for Bliss to clear its name and set the record straight that it was Das Films that had made misrepresentations to Bliss and breached the contract, and not the other way around.”

Speaking with Daily Journal for the article “Arbitrator sides with filmmakers in Chinese heist movie dispute,” Leader said the film had a unique opportunity if it been released on time as a Chinese co-production since foreign market films are typically excluded from showing in Chinese theaters during the summer months. “That’s what made this project so special for our client,” she said.

Leader predicts other similar disputes could arise between U.S. and Chinese companies as international co-productions become more common. Companies engaging in such co-productions, she warned, should be very thorough when signing contracts.