Kickstarter Woes: Competing D&D Docs

*Please note that I am not an Attorney, I am a Paralegal so I have a little knowledge on these sorts of matters but I am in no way dictating a predicted outcome or giving legal advice here. I’m just shining a light on this matter.*

PLAINTIFF: Westpaw Films Inc., directly and derivatively on behalf of the D&D Production

DEFENDANTS: James Sprattley, Michael Andrew Pascal, and Fantasy Game Films LLC

If you wish to follow the Filings on this case you may do so using these instructions:

  • Step One: Visit the New York State Unified Court System website Link

  • Step Two: Click “Search as Guest”

  • Step Three: Do the CAPTCHA

  • Step Four: Do a Name search for “Westpaw”

A good thing to remember when going over these documents is that everything you read is merely an Allegation.  Even the Affidavits, which amount to sworn testimony, are to be considered “truths” as to the person swearing to them.  I know the situation isn’t really all that fun but it is nice to be able to keep up with it.

A split in the team. On the left, Anthony Savini. To the Right, James Sprattley & Andrew Pascal

A split in the team. On the left, Anthony Savini. To the Right, James Sprattley & Andrew Pascal

Kickstarter is always a risk, as is any investment into an unfinished good or service concept. That’s all part of the deal when you back the various projects offered on the site. You might not get your stuff. Currently I’m very interested in the situation surrounding one of the projects I personally backed, and gave a ton of lip service to back in the fall of 2012. The Kickstarter project I’m referencing is a documentary titled “Dungeons and Dragons: A Documentary”. If you wish to read my original piece on it you can do so here. I was into the project right from the get-go. I believe I was even the third person to back it. I put in at the $75.00 level, not a tiny sum for me at the time, at this level I was aiming to get a 2-disc Blu-Ray with some cool supplemental footage. A bit pricy for a Blu-Ray but I love docs and I love D&D, I wanted to see the film succeed. Now, nearly two years past the funding, that might be a bit in jeopardy.

Not long ago I stumbled across some rumoring online of another Dungeons and Dragons themed documentary headed for Kickstarter so I decided to check it out. I was very surprised to see some familiar names involved, namely James Sprattley & Andrew Pascal. You see, these two were originally part of “D&D: A Doc”. Discovering that they were not only no longer involved in the project I backed but instead now creating a competing project that was also asking for money made me groan audibly. Such a thing did not bode well for film I have been anxiously awaiting for a few years now. I did some digging and discovered that not only is there some competing interests going on, but this has now elevated to a litigated situation. I attach below the Summons & Complaint out of New York.

A short version of the history laid out Plaintiff in this Summons & Complaint tells the tale of a falling out between the three individuals via a split of Anthony Savini, of Westpaw Films, INC. (Westpaw) from James Sprattley, and Andrew Pascal, of Iconoscope Films LLC (Iconoscope). Keep in mind this Factual History comes solely from the Plaintiff, Westpaw. The Complaint alleges that during and shortly after the successful funding of the project Iconoscope began to make financial and creative decisions that sought to omit Westpaw from much of the development. Due to this the relationship between them became strained, mediation was attempted and it failed though attorneys got involved and a Settlement Agreement was reached that was meant to resolve the disputes and move completion of the project forward.

Per the Complaint the Settlement reached had some of the following language:

  • Iconoscope would quitclaim its interests in the video and audio footage to Westpaw.
  • Westpaw would complete the film in good faith.
  • The two companies would each own 50% of the equity.
  • Westpaw would attempt to maximize revenues.
  • Pascal and Sprattley would maintain a shared Executive Producer credit.

Furthering the Plaintiff’s side of the story from the Complaint we are told that Sprattley and Pacal had formed a “secretive” partnership to produce the competing film “The Great Kingdom” under a new production company known as Fantasy Game Films LLC (FGF). After this reveal there is mostly the claim that FGF had been using the work on D&D: A Doc for quite some time to foster contacts for their own competing film for quite some time. We are also told of various situations where it is alleged that work done for the FGF film with various contacts was completed under the assumption that they were helping the D&D: A Doc film. All in all, it is quite the mess.

So namely what we have here is this. We have a falling out of these filmmakers and the question of just what duty Pascal and Sprattley owe to the D&D: A Doc film, their partnership with Savini, and even what they may owe the backers for the Kickstarter for D&D: A Doc. I’m very unhappy to see all of this was going on behind the scenes, and I certainly hope I still get to see the film I paid money to see made. As I mentioned above though, backing anything is a risk and anyone going into a Kickstarter project feeling that once the money has been paid they are guaranteed a finished product is being a bit unrealistic. It can happen, the things you put money toward could fall apart easily. That doesn’t mean I’m excited, but my $75.00 is a sunk cost at this point, I’m not getting it back. The best I can hope for is a finished product someday. It may be a while though, Lawsuits take a long time.

Personally, I’m not backing “The Great Kingdom”. I’ve been burned already by some of the individuals handling it. The actual preview looks really polished, and if it’s ever made I’ll try and catch it but at this point I’m just not confident enough the litigation won’t squash things. Even if it doesn’t, litigation can take a very long time. In a perfect world, both these docs could be made and I’d end up with two great films to see. I just don’t know what is going to happen here sadly. Although, anyone who knows a bit about the tormented history of ownership D&D itself has gone through probably sees the same sort of irony I see here.

In the end I’m in the “D&D: A Doc” crowd out of necessity mostly, my money is already there. I’m very interested to see where this goes. I would hate for nothing to come from all this and we end up having no documentary on this subject because of differences of creative take on the subject. Naturally, there is only so much the people involved in this can tell us, you don’t really want to slip up and breach some sort of confidential material, but we can pay attention to the pleadings which are publically available so I’m keeping my feelers out to see if I can catch perhaps an Answer to the Complaint to get another side of this. I tried to be as Unbiased as possible here. I truly harbor no ill will to any of the players involved, I simply don’t know enough of the behind the scenes stuff yet and I’ll note again that the Factual History came solely from the Plaintiff’s Complaint. I’d love to hear what anyone else may have to say on this, so feel free to comment below. Also, if you feel I’ve misrepresented some information I’d love to handle any corrections.

UPDATE 07-30-2014:

A refresher:

  • In late summer/early fall 2012 a Kickstarter for a Documentary regarding the history of D&D ran, the film is titled “Dungeons and Dragons: A Documentary”.  It funded on September 17, 2012.
  • I wrote a blog piece about it on September 3, 2012.
  • There were two primary groups tied to the project. Iconoscope Films and Westpaw Films
  • A falling out occurred at some point during the making of the film and the primary groups formalized an agreement through the courts that dealt with remaining ownerships and duties to the film so that it could still be made to satisfy the investors (we Kickstarter Backers etc.). This Settlement Agreement was signed December 5, 2013.
  • This Summer another Documentary purporting to be a “true tale of the rise and fall of the creators Dungeons & Dragons” thus a film also concerning at least a portion of the history of D&D appeared on Kickstarter under the title “The Great Kingdom”
  • “The Great Kingdom” is helmed in part by individuals who were involved, and still are to an extent, with “Dungeons and Dragons: A Documentary” as Iconoscope Films.
  • On or about June 20, 2014 Westpaw films filed a Complaint with the intent to keep “The Great Kingdom” from being made, rescind the original Settlement, and other forms of relief (some monetary) to be extracted from the defendants.
  • “The Great Kingdom” funded on July 20, 2014

I’m not going to pass judgment here, as I’ve stated before.  I simply mean to pass along some details to those interested.  Firstly, “The Great Kingdom” has funded so apparently the lawsuit did not detract people from contributing.  This says to me that the lawsuit likely won’t go away as simply as it might have if the second film hadn’t funded.  This is pure conjecture but I think settlement would have been far more possible if there was no Kickstarted second film.  Now though, we certainly have two projects vying for existence here so it may mean that we might see a decision via Summary Judgment or even a full blown trial if there’s an issue of fact.  Things may get really interesting.

Honestly, I know too much about lawsuits to wish this situation on anyone.  There’s going to be a lot of difficult times ahead for both parties and I can only hope they come to a peaceful resolution where no one really comes out a villain here, but that can be hard to achieve.

UPDATE 10-06-2014:

Since July the court case has proceeded.  Both sides presented their story before the court during the month of July.

  • In Early August an injunction was Ordered against the Defendants (those behind The Great Kingdom) that essentially shut them down completely.  They are restrained from “taking any action in futherance of the creration, production, manufacture, etc. for any documentary film about the fantasy role-playing game “Dungeons & Dragons”.
  • Oddly enough (in my opinion) the Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint around that same time despite the Injunction Order. (I say oddly because that Injunction Order seems fairly telling re the opinion of the court.  This is only my inferred feeling though, not anything concrete.)
  • The Defendants have file an Appeal of the Injunction
  • The descision on the Motion to Dismiss has been adjourned to October 29, 2014 marking the date for the Plaintiff to respond to it for October 22, 2014.

UPDATE 05-04-2015:

I’ve not commented on this matter in over half a year. As often becomes the case matters in litigation can become fairly sluggish near the endgame (if my assumption this will end in settlement holds true that is) and that appears to be the case here. Very little of substance has occured in months.

Since October of last year there have been repeated requests by the Defendants to Extend the time required for them to Answer the Complaint filed by the Plaintiff and the Plaintiff has been stipulating to them. It appears that they are likely mired in Settlement negotiations at this time. Seems they’ve been at said settlement negotiations since October of 2014 actually.

The last filing I see was yet another Stipulation to extend time filed on 03-02-2015. Both parties appear to be in agreement that more time is needed, my presumption still lies with settlement negotiations. Hopefully we will hear something soon!

UPDATE 04-22-2016:

The latest development I’ve seen was an Order filed back in January calling for a Mediation to be held on 4-20-16. I don’t see anything in the court system showing that it didn’t go forward so presumably there were settlement discussions held. Hopefully we had a resolution favorable to the fans here. I can’t wait until this documentary stops being held hostage!

-Melvs

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