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Film: A Commodity Easily Caught Up
In The Channels Of Deceit & Reality

Michael Lionello Boscardi Cowan, Managing Director of Spice Factory
Film is a commodity easily caught in the channels of deceit and reality. The correlation is that if a script is good, such as this year's Oscar winner Spotlight, the viewer balances between the issues of deceiving, deceit and the reality.
This duality of issues has long been documented in the film industry. One of the most infamous was the acquisition of Cannon by Giancarlo Parretti - where it 'appears' Parretti was able to deceive the 'best' of 'names' in the international film industry and financial world. We in the industry looked on as viewers balancing the script presented to us, unaware of the deeper realities.
It's not only the majors but independent companies too have suffered the channels of deceit and reality from individuals who are in the necessary financial stream needed to produce films in the business.
The Business of Film (TBOF) is acutely aware that with any ongoing legal process, all the information cannot be fully disclosed. However, the impact of one-sided negative reporting is both unfair and unjust, and the impact on the ongoing business consequences for any film company involved cannot be simply ignored.
In the past TBOF has reported on the stories of a number of the independent companies caught in these channels - and given them a platform and a voice for their side of the situation, of which the investors and industry cannot be aware except having being exposed to negative press concerning the facts.
In an exclusive one-on-one, Michael Lionello Boscardi Cowan, Managing Director of Spice Factory, discusses the issues he has faced with a package of films leading off with the collapse of Henry 5th - and the steps he has taken with investors over the last eighteen months to address and redress the enormity of the problems that were created.

THE BUSINESS OF FILM (TBOF): You have been in business for a long time and produced many films. What was the path to your becoming a producer?

MICHAEL LIONELLO BOSCARDI COWAN: As a young boy I always wanted to be a writer, I visually composed the acts of screenplay easier than writing an essay - the former being more visually appealing as I was able to write scene by scene. It was either medical school or to become a writer. I was fortunate enough to come across a famous English producer, Major Daniel M. Angels (Reach for the Sky, King & Country), who read a number of my works and advised me to go to film school to enhance my gift for writing screenplays, by developing the art of writing, as a writer. It was whilst I was at film school I found putting together the aspects of the process of making films as a producer was something that I was good at.

TBOF: Over the course of some 25 years in the business, how many films have you now been involved with respect to production?

MLBC: I've put together over one hundred films across the spectrum of producing such as Margin Call, Merchant of Venice, Plots with a View (AKA Undertaking Betty), Head in the Clouds, Steal, Iron Sky, Guernica, from studio budgeted pictures to low budgets with each having its own problems.

TBOF: Outsiders to the business see just the glamourous aspect of filmmaking, but it's a vocation where you need to enjoy what you do, and you obviously do?

MLBC: Few people outside of the business realise it's a career that demands a lot of hard work and commitment. I've been lucky to pursue what I've always wanted to do, and build a successful career. It's my life and I am proud of all my accomplishments to date: the films that had problems as well as the films with marginally less - because each film brings along its own set of issues - no two films are alike.

TBOF: In the business generally, it's not unusual for projects to fall apart for any number of reasons. Recently you've had to endure some very bad press over the collapse of the film Henry 5th. What exactly was your involvement in that?

MLBC: Henry 5th was a project an ex business associate Steven Wilkinson wanted to make. He brought the project to me and produced a legal document confirming the attachment of three A list artists. My involvement was to sell the film and with the artists he said were onboard, it was a good project to present to the marketplace.

TBOF: Were you involved in any aspect of raising the finance on that project?

MLBC: No. I was never involved in dealing with investors or the financial aspects. That was Mr. Wilkinson's forte as he had a track record as an executive producer on previous successful projects such as Keeping Mum. To my chagrin, I later discovered that I was named as a director of the company that was established to produce the picture, when my role was purely just that of the sales agent.

TBOF: Mixed in with Henry 5th were another three contentious projects: Riders on the Storm, Gummy Bear and The Passion of Mary. What happened with Gummy Bear, which was promoted with John Travolta as the voice of Gummy?

MLBC: John Travolta was delivered a pay or play offer to voice the character Gummy. He was paid $100K USD which was banked by Constellation Productions Inc for the 'services' of John Travolta as the voice of Gummy Bear. This was a non-refundable advance on his agreed eventual fee of $1M USD. Gummy Bear International Inc also received a payment of $100K USD for the rights option. Neither payments were refunded. Unfortunately, Mr. Wilkinson did not extend the rights on this project and they lapsed. However, I am now trying to get that project back up and running.

TBOF: Riders on the Storm is the true story of the founders of Greenpeace. Were you finally involved with this project?

MLBC: On this project I personally invested money into this film in order to keep it alive. I'm at present in conversations with third parties to get this project fully funded and I am moving it forward for the buyers who have expressed interest.

TBOF: On the Passion of Mary, there were some very unpleasant rumors in the film community concerning Mary Aloe and Mel Gibson. What was the catalyst for the breakdown of this project?

MLBC: At one point I was liaising with Mary Aloe regarding her project, however the chain of title didn't appear clean and I felt there would be issues with the E & O insurance policy and so I moved on with another project that I felt to be more biblically & historically accurate. A pay or play to Mel Gibson was made, but due to negative press confusing both projects, Mel Gibson did not commit. I am currently out to other directors, as this film I believe has huge potential.

TBOF: TBOF's understanding is that there are investors who claim they weren't told about the project change for Mary Mother of Christ to The Passion of Mary?

MLBC: The reality is that I have never dealt with investors but I had informed Steve Wilkinson of the potential problems with Mary Aloe's project and asked him to inform investors that I felt a project change would be for their better interest. I later discovered he hadn't informed all the investors.

TBOF: Digesting the above, one would assume you are not still associated with Steve Wilkinson. And if you are not, what else happened in what looks like a chain of disastrous events?

MLBC: No, I am no longer associated with Mr. Wilkinson. I discovered anomalies within Warlord, the company set up to produce the project, which I confronted Wilkinson about. The upshot of which was that Wilkinson disappeared and my offices were burgled around the same time. All nine computer hard drives were stolen, all the back-ups and the server plus all data. In essence, my entire career had vanished - gone! None of the other floors in the building were affected and there was no forced entry.

TBOF: From a viewpoint of having to continue to conduct business, that must have affected you deeply. Were you able to determine who burgled the office?

MLBC: No, I did determine that the alarm fob used to enter the building was registered to Steve Wilkinson - with this positive proof I called in the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

TBOF: Does anyone or the investors know the current whereabouts of Mr. Wilkinson now?

MLBC: He disappeared for several months at the beginning of 2015 and was finally arrested July of 2015, subsequently bailed until March 23, 2016, nad remains on Bail.

TBOF: Without access to any data of your life's work following the burglary in 2015, how are you managing to continue with your business?

MLBC: It's very difficult. In the course of untangling all this I have also discovered financial misappropriation and my signature has been fraudulently added on multiple cheques, documents, contracts, and even car guarantee forms.

TBOF: That is an unbelievable sequence of events!

MLBC: Unfortunately not. I find myself living a nightmare. You just could not make this up. HSBC have now acknowledged that multiple cheques signed in my name are fraudulent and they (HSBC) have now refunded to those monies to the liquidator for the now defunct production company Warlord.

TBOF: You've had and taken a personal battering in the business and national press yourself. That must be very difficult given the reality of the situation which because of the ramifications you could not comment on - until now.

MLBC: Yes, it's very, very difficult. However I'm still restricted in what I can actually say so I'm unable to publicly speak out - about many other aspects that have unfolded. The positive outcome of this is: I'm in the process of trying to track down the investors who were involved on those four projects in particular and move ahead. I've now been in contact with a considerable number of those investors and most of them are happy that they now have a solid point of contact and that I'm moving things forward.

However there is a percentage who are understandably angry about what has transpired. Unfortunately, much as I would like to, I cannot elaborate anymore than what I have said to you - at this time.

Thankfully those who know me understand what's happened and I'm a firm believer in the truth will out!

At the time of going to Press: The Manchester Appeal Hearing was held on April 19th and dismissed the winding up order that had been wrongly issued against Michael Cowan's company offices. His Honour Judge Hodge said it should not have been issued in the first place. A signature expert will now be brought in to establish who fraudulently signed Michael Cowan's signatures on the car guarantee & HP documents, along with the other multiple documents under investigation.

This story also appears in The Interactive Cannes Bumper Online Magazine 2016.

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