Lawsuit Settled, ‘Flea’ Movie Could Surface – June 5, 2012
Kevin L. Hoover
ARCATA – The independent film Flea, written and directed by Suza Lambert Bowser, was hard to avoid two years ago.
In June, 2010, the Flea production turned the Plaza, Tavern Alley and other locations in and around Arcata into a film set, with actors and other film personnel coming and going from a bustling office in the Uniontown Shopping Center.
But since shooting wrapped, Flea has all but disappeared, leaving some cast members wondering when they were going to see themselves on the silver screen.
The delay stems from a just-resolved legal dispute beween Bowser and a major financial backer, Maureen Catalina.
According to court records, on June 15, 2009, Catalina paid Bowser $50,000 to finance her filmmaking efforts and become a partner in Bowser’s Sheep Ranch Productions company, which had just shot Bowser’s film, A River of Skulls.
In a hand-scrawled agreement dated Aug. 10, 2009 and signed by both Catalina and Bowser, Catalina is promised $50,000 of Skulls’ net income after expenses. Another agreement allows Sheep Ranch Productions use of some of Catalina’s creative material in the movie.
But the relationship soured within months of the agreement, with a lawsuit resulting.
Catalina’s lawsuit, filed Oct. 7, 2010, alleges fraud, negligent misrepresentation, sale of unregistered securities, violations of the California Corporations Code, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, unfair business practices and related charges.
The court file includes extensive e-mail correspondence between the two women through late 2009, included to support the plaintiff’s allegation of enticement into a “sham moviemaking scheme.”
The messages offer a fragmentary narrative partly documenting the deterioration of the women’s personal and financial relationship.
The subject matter of the chatty messages mostly covers matters creative, centering around Bowser’s filmmaking activities. Bowser’s messages are full of news and details about her film production needs, punctuated with frequent expressions of love and admiration for Catalina.
A Nov. 8, 2009 message from Catalina to Bowser expresses reservations she has with Bowser’s work. “I feel really unhappy about the movie, Flea,” Catalina writes. “…already I am feeling like I don’t want to invest any further money in it. A River of Skulls isn’t even finished and you want me to invest more money…”
In another section of the e-mail, Catalina writes, “I have given you full use of my money without any questions, because I love and trust you, but I feel things are a bit out of control right now, and you do seem to be on the ‘quantity not quality’ run.”
A Nov. 10, 2009 message begins with, “Oh Maureen…” and includes assurances of creative progress, quality assurance and repayment of funds, and ends with “I will always love you.”
A Dec. 21, 2009 message from Catalina to Bowser notes with alarm Bowser’s formation of a new LLC. “What company is being formed?” Catalina writes. “Where is our company, Sheep Ranch productions, in all this?”
Bowser’s reply to Catalina begins with, “At last you speak to me! I cannot help but be so glad.” Along with the usual news of her creative endeavors, Bowser tells Catalina, “I think about you… and then I am confused. You are always someone I never question as being my beloved friend… in and out of my heart…”
The message then assures Catalina that “Sheep Ranch Productions is alive and well as a company,” that “you and I are the only partners in it… our agreement still stands.”
A final message dated Dec. 27 adopts a more formal tone, assuring Catalina that the only reason she started another LLC was “to cover my ass” because Catalina didn’t want to be part of Flea.
A judgment dated March 16, 2012 and signed by Judge Dale Reinholtsen pecifies a $55,000 payment to Catalina by Bowser.
Catalina didn’t return a phone call. Bowser is facing felony cannabis transportation charges in Illinois after a February traffic stop in Illinois in which she was allegedly carrying 111 pounds of marijuana and $26,000.
Bowser responded to a query about the lawsuit: “The lawsuit has been settled, I am happy to report,” she wrote. “The woman who sued me now has no claim on either A River of Skulls or Flea. There is a judgment against me in the amount of $55,000. (I don’t know how I’m going to pay that at the moment!)”
Continued Bowser: “My Illinois hearing was continued until July. My father just died and I have been helping with my mother in New Hampshire… We are still finishing the Flea soundtrack. I am hoping that, no matter what my situation is, I will be able to present a screening possibly in the late summer or fall.”