The Story of the Saga of The Ballad of Maddog Quinn, part two

The problem – and it became quite a big problem in the back half of 2014 – was that there were 43 creditors and almost as many opinions on what needed to happen to their invoices before Inns could get back in the saddle.

Mills wasn’t owed any money at the point things went south. What was due to him had already been paid. Mills didn’t make money on the deal and says the cash he received went to paying his own team. Nonetheless, he says he would have been happy to pay it back into the pot if it helped move the production towards completion.

Part of the deal Stewart was putting together involved the NZFC agreeing to put that $25,000 back in. Blue Harvest stepped away from the production and contributed the final payment on their EP fee (which also covered work on the other Premiere Short, Cradle, selected in the same round as Maddog Quinn). Courtesy of the NZFC, $25,000 of private investment was also found, and a post package put together.

The NZFC maintained that the film had to be completed, free and clear of any legal threats that could prevent it being shown, for its $25,000 to be paid. The NZFC’s opinion was also that 100% of creditors needed to accept whatever offer was made to give investors (including the NZFC) sufficient confidence to proceed.

The Ballad of Maddog QuinnPhoto: Tammy Williams

The Ballad of Maddog Quinn
Photo: Tammy Williams

Crewed did offer Dodds the opportunity to contribute to the article, but – at time of publication – she hadn’t responded. How things got so far out of whack isn’t clear, although a number of things did change close to the shoot. A friend of the production who was going to provide the catering services had to withdraw, so a professional caterer came on at short notice.

Productions negotiate with service providers all the time, but it seems some of the handshake deals weren’t recorded and then weren’t always honoured. Some of the invoicing apparently wasn’t for amounts the production was expecting.

There is agreement that Dodds went to some considerable effort to cover up the hole. Inns said Dodds had acknowledged and apologised that, at least to him, “although I’m yet to be given a clear explanation on how it happened. I think she found herself in a hole, panicked and kept on digging. Unfortunately that was kept invisible to the exec producers, myself and everyone else.”

Nobody’s suggested that she benefitted personally from the situation.

Based on the money Bronwen Stewart and the NZFC were able to bring to the table – plus the $4000 in the bank at the point she took control of things – Stewart put an offer to creditors on 8 August 2014.

The offer gave creditors 100% of hard costs (eg the food the caterer Flying Trestles had bought), 100% of per diems, 50% of fees for labour ($75/day) with pretty much anything else written off, such as overtime. The offer was a take the money and, if not run, walk away deal, requiring everybody to come in before anybody got paid out.

In the month leading up to the offer, some creditors had threatened legal action against the production. Some seemed to expect that legal action would enable them to go through Little Dragon Pictures to the NZFC, and thereby secure full payment of invoices. Others were adamant that they wouldn’t accept anything other than full payment, and rejected the offer on that basis.

Nobody followed through on the threats. In practical terms, a legal action could only have delivered the $4000 in the bank to creditors.

By the time the offer was made, there was a significant difference of opinion between Brett Mills and the NZFC, in particular its CEO Dave Gibson, about the direction the resolution was moving in.

Mills maintains that, regardless of the NZFC’s legal obligations, one of its moral obligations should be a duty of care to crew. He was also unhappy that the money on offer for labour ($75/day) was equivalent to an hourly rate well below the legal minimum wage.

Gibson maintains that the NZFC was never going to offer a blank cheque, nor assume responsibility for any and all costs, because it would be a dangerous precedent to set. A longtime producer himself, Gibson also believed the primary responsibility lay with the producer. Indeed, as part of the cash and services package put together to complete the film, Dodds was expected to put in some funds.

A month after the offer was made, on 9 September 2014, 31 of the production’s 43 creditors had agreed to accept the offer Stewart presented. The number was a long way from the 100% required to trigger the settlement.