Deadline reports that former “The Walking Dead” showrunner Frank Darabont and his agency CAA have filed a lawsuit with the New York Supreme Court against AMC over profits for the successful TV drama. The suit alleges Darabont has not received any money as a “profit participant,” and further states not only that AMC has set an unrealistically low license fee for “The Walking Dead” (and participates in questionable accounting practices), but that Darabont was wrongfully fired as showrunner. Further, the suit seeks to reinstate Darabont’s executive producer credit on the show, and states he is entitled to proceeds from both “Talking Dead” and the announced upcoming “Walking Dead” spinoff show.
“Despite four seasons of unprecedented programming success and profitability for (AMC), Darabont has not received and may never receive one dollar in Profits for developing the Series,” the suit reads. According to Deadline, those owed profits from a series are usually paid from Modified Adjusted Gross Receipts, a pool of funds the studio receives minus deductions that include production costs. If a project’s deficit is too high, there’s no money in the pool to pay profit participants. Darabont and CAA’s complaint alleges that AMC’s “sham imputed license fee formula … is clearly designed to ensure Plaintiffs never see that first dollar.” The suit alleges AMC’s current license fee of $1,450,000 per episode for “The Walking Dead” is never enough to fully cover the costs of production, meaning that the show is guaranteed to run over budget for every episode.
As for Darabont’s termination as showrunner, the suit states that he was fired by AMC “without cause shortly before Season 2 aired precisely in order to avoid [AMC’s] contractual obligations to pay him increased Profits (which vested fully at the conclusion of Season 2) and to avoid its obligation to negotiate to hire him as showrunner for Season 3.” Further, “When asked for an explanation of this action, AMC was unable or unwilling to give any specific reasons for Darabont’s abrupt termination. AMC could not explain why Darabont was not given any notice, warning, or opportunity to cure any perceived problems.”
Deadline’s analysis notes that — looking back at the history of similar lawsuits — there’s not a big chance the suit will go to trial. However, the publication correctly notes the unique situation that Darabont was fired from the show early in its lifetime, which both Darabont and CAA use in their case.
Darabont spoke out against AMC’s handling of “The Walking Dead” during an interview in November, promoting his new TNT show “Mob City.”
“If the woman you loved with all your heart left you for the Pilates instructor and just sent you an invitation to the wedding, would you go?” Darabont said. “There’s a deep commitment and emotional investment that happens when you create something that is very near and dear to you, and when that is torn asunder by sociopaths who don’t give a shit about your feelings or the feelings of your cast and crew because they have their own reasons to screw everybody, that doesn’t feel good.”