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"Crash" producer sues Oscars for recognition

Written by: Staff
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LOS ANGELES, March 3 (Reuters) A producer of Oscar-nominated ''Crash'' has sued the Academy Awards and a key producers' group in a new round in Hollywood's battle over who gets film production credits during Oscar season.

Bob Yari, whose company put up money to make the race- relations drama competing for this year's best film, filed suit on Wednesday against the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Producers Guild of America.

It accuses them of illegally denying him the chance to take a credit at Sunday's Oscars for making ''Crash.'' In a separate action a day earlier, Yari was sued by former business partners Cathy Schulman and Tom Nunan, who alleged he failed to pay them more than 2 million dollars in ''Crash'' fees and bonuses.

The legal action, coming after months of wrangling between Yari and Schulman, was taken in Los Angeles Superior Court shortly after Oscar ballots were due in, meaning it would have no impact on voting for the movie industry's top awards.

But the lawsuits bring up an issue that has burdened Oscar organizers in recent years as movies have become more expensive and required more producers -- the people who raise money and organize the moviemaking process.

The growing number of producers has caused a problem for the Academy because it often must give out many awards for only one movie. But producers like Yari argue the lack of an award robs them of industry recognition and financial gain.

For last year's Oscars, the Academy deemed that no more than three producers would be eligible to receive the Oscar, which raised a furor over several films, including ''The Aviator'' and best-film winner ''Million Dollar Baby.'' This year, the Academy and the Producers Guild, an association that represents Hollywood producers, agreed on a system to determine producer eligibility for awards. Yari's suit called the system ''patently unfair.'' ''It never reveals who makes its awards-crediting decisions, what evidence is considered, or the basis on which a producer's application for award credit is rejected. That alone is a violation of the law,'' the lawsuit said.

George Hedges, a lawyer for the Producers Guild, called the suit's premise ''bogus'' and said ''credit determinations are made on a confidential basis because people are afraid to step forward and tell the truth because of retaliation. ... That is the norm.

That is the standard in the industry.'' A member of the Producers Guild's determination committee might not want to be known, for instance, because he or she may need the spurned producer for a future job. Hedges said the Writers Guild of America used a similar system for writing.

An Academy spokesman declined comment.

Reuters PR GC0901

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