Film Friday- “Vamprechaun” Film Leeching Off “Leprechaun” Rights?

Happy Film Friday everyone! In light of St. Patricks day, here’s a little article about a cult classic film Leprechaun.

Fans of 90’s horror cult classic, Leprechaun, will be interested to know that the genius behind the franchise is green with anger over copyright-infringement over his new Vamprechaun project idea.

A complaint was filed in California federal court, where director Mark Jones alleges that Lance Thompson lied about being an attorney, causing Jones to lose big money on his film financing.

The concept of a “leprechaun-vampire hybrid” was claimed to be masterminded by Jones in or before 2009 but the development was put on hold when his focus shifted to his movie, Scorned, in 2013. Thompson, the accused, was the one who acted as production attorney for that project and secured funding.

During this time Jones claims that one morning whist discussing the Scorned film at a breakfast meeting, Jones had mentioned the Vamprechaun idea to Thompson but the idea was limited to the concept of a “leprechaun who is bitten by a vampire who becomes one himself” and excluded any discussions of the character or storyline in any further detail. Jones alleges that Thompson was excited about the idea and would be willing to seek financing on behalf of it, but asked to be equipped with a script so that he can approach potential financiers.

Jones in 2013 wrote a spec script which was registered in both the Writers Guild and the U.S. Copyright Office. During this time Thompson’s financing efforts were not successful and Jones claims the two “parted ways” regarding the Vamprechaun project.

Another party who was misinformed about the legal qualifications of Thompson is George Saadi, also a named plaintiff in the suit. George introduced Jones to John Ferraro Sr.,  creator of American Gladiators, and his son about the potential financing of the Vamprechaun project, but the parties were concerned about potential infringement with the original copyright owners of the Leprechaun movies and this is where Thompson comes in. Jones alleges that at this time he contacted Thompson again believing he was an attorney, for legal advice. Thompson sent a letter to Ferraro describing that any infringement claim would be “spurious” and the Vamprechaun was an “original blending of two public-domain characters”.

When Thompson began acting as if he was the production attorney for the Vamprechaun project, Jones and Saadi informed him otherwise and notified Thompson that he should have no “further or ongoing involvement” as there is no indication that he was ever hired for this role. This is when Thompson began to claim ownership over the idea of the Vamprechaun project alleging his involvement during the Scorned project breakfast conversation in 2013.

Upon learning of these claims, Saadi contacted his brother, an attorney, who wrote to Thompson a letter rebutting his prerogatives and notified Thompson that future communications to any third party on the matter would be tortuous interference. Regardless, Thompson proceeded to contact Ferraro’s son claiming to be a partner notwithstanding having no evidence to back his allegations. At that point, the plaintiffs realized that Thompson had never even been licensed to practices law in California and that the license he once held was for Ohio which had also lapsed for over a decade.

Fans will be sad to hear that in the end, due to the intermeddling of Thompson’s wrongful actions the Ferraros pulled their financing of Vamprechaun on December 9th, 2016 and gave notice to Jones and Saadi that since there were unresolved claims with Thompson they could no longer go forward with financing the Vamprechaun film. In the case of many closed-door film discussions, sometimes the best ideas never come to fruition due to intervening circumstances.

However, Jones is snapping back with copyright infringement, slander of title and intentional and negligence interference and possible economic damages and is seeking at least $3, million in damages. So looks like the Vamprechaun project has not entirely been put to eternal slumber and may soon be resurrected once legal troubles have subsided.

Credit: Jessica Wong

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