(CN) - A screenwriter claims in court that Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions swiped his idea for a Christmas-themed, made-for-TV movie when it inexplicably dropped him as the film's writer and director after hashing out his idea for several months.
Brad Wigor, who lives in Ontario, Canada, claims Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions has been producing a Christmas anthology program for 60 years sponsored by the greeting card company of the same name. However, Wigor says flagging viewership made Hallmark "desperate for quality original content" and "has apparently decided it is more valuable to obtain ideas and copyrighted works by theft and deception rather than to develop and pay for truly original programming."
Wigor, whose past Christmas specials have been nominated for daytime Emmy awards, claims Hallmark "fraudulently lured" him into handing over a treatment and a partial script for his film "The Night Flyer."
Wigor says he submitted the treatment for "The Night Flyer" to Hallmark and McGee Street Productions in 2007. The film is about a boy who meets an angel and sprouts wings before having a holiday epiphany and "finds redemption and discovers the good within himself." In 2011, the company contacted Wigor and the parties began developing the idea over several months, according to the lawsuit.
His treatment and script were reworked several times before the production got the green light, according to the complaint.
By February, the company said it was ready to move forward with the film but had allegedly reworked it without Wigor's permission and asked him to step down as the writer and director in exchange for a "valueless executive producer credit."
"Then, just weeks before the television movie was green-lit for pre-production, defendants refused to engage Wigor," the complaint states. "Instead, defendants simply unilaterally misappropriated Wigor's Work, using it as a basis for the television movie they planned all along ... Even more reprehensibly, and in a devious attempt to cover their unlawful conduct, defendants scrambled to find an obscure literary work with some superficial similarities to Wigor's Work so that they could pretend the Infringing Project was based on something other than Wigor's Work."
In an April letter, a Hallmark representative allegedly admitted that the company was preparing a project with "striking similarities" to "The Night Flyer," although the letter claimed it was based on the 1966 book "entitled 'Black and Blue Magic,' which has nothing to do with Christmas," the complaint states. The letter, according to Wigor, also requested that he refrain from any further exploitation of "The Night Flyer." He says he replied in May and told the defendants to stop developing the production, but they allegedly refused.
Wigor seeks more than $7 million in damages for copyright infringement, breach of implied contract, fraud, unfair business practices and unjust enrichment. He is represented by Bonnie Eskenazi and James Molen of Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger in Los Angeles.