‘The Walking Dead’ Creator Frank Darabont is Suing AMC for Profits

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Former Walking Dead showrunner Frank Darabont The Walking Dead Creator Frank Darabont is Suing AMC for Profits

AMC’s The Walking Dead is currently the most-watched drama series on television, with 12.1 million viewers having tuned in for the recent mid-season finale. Despite the occasional dips, the show has overall been widely well-received by critics and is part of a franchise based on Robert Kirkman’s original comics that is growing ever more successful.

Despite the praise for The Walking Dead, however, there have been some very disquieting events going on between the scenes. In a few short seasons AMC has already fired two showrunners – Frank Darabont and Glenn Mazzara - and reportedly made some rather dubious recommendations to help cut the budget in season 2, including suggesting the the zombies only be heard and not seen in order to save money on special effects make-up.

Darabont has not mellowed in his feelings towards AMC’s executives, recently describing them as “sociopaths” and stating that he cannot bear to watch the show any more. Now Variety reports that Darabont has filed a lawsuit against AMC Networks, on the basis of claims that the company has been “self-dealing” in order to avoid paying Darabont his rightful share of the show’s profits.

Frank Darabont and Jon Bernthal on the set of The Walking Dead The Walking Dead Creator Frank Darabont is Suing AMC for Profits

The main thrust of the lawsuit is Darabont’s claim that AMC is playing the numbers to avoid having to hand out a single dollar to its profit participants. The Walking Dead is produced and aired by two affiliates of AMC Networks, and Darabont’s contract was with the affiliate that produces the show. His original agreement would guarantee him a share of any profits made by the production company, as the original developer of The Walking Dead.

According to Darabont’s lawsuit, AMC Networks is avoiding sharing any profits by having the production affiliate sell the license fee for The Walking Dead to the AMC channel for a very small figure. For example, the AMC license fee is allegedly $1,450,000 per episode, which only covers about 65% of the production costs. This would mean that, on paper, The Walking Dead remains firmly in deficit while the parent company can reap the profits without paying anything to Darabont or any other profit share participants.

The lawsuit also claims that Darabont was unlawfully fired from the show during the second season, despite delivering the episodes within time and budget limitations, and that he is entitled to an executive producer credit. The litigation alleges that Darabont was fired in order to avoid paying him increased compensation and to deprive him of his right of first negotiations to serve as showrunner for the third season.

The Walking Dead season 4 zombie The Walking Dead Creator Frank Darabont is Suing AMC for Profits

AMC has declined comment on the litigation, which Darabont and his agency CAA are requesting be sent to a jury trial in order to determine the monetary damages that Darabont is entitled to. Based on the outcomes of  numerous vertical integration lawsuits of the past, including the recent litigation against Warner Bros. over Smallville financials, this particular dispute will most likely be settled out of court.

In the meantime, this is sure to be a big topic of discussion during the wait for the second half of The Walking Dead season 4. Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter has already weighed in on Twitter with the pithy remark, “go frank. fuck those ghoulish, dead-eyed scumbags in their green-gobbed asses. i ain’t talking about the zombies.” It looks like we might see more than a few people taking Darabont’s side.

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The Walking Dead Season 4, Part 2 premieres February 9, 2014 on AMC.

Source: Variety, Deadline

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  1. Good for Frank.
    I’m not a lawyer nor do I know the ins and outs of how a lawsuit like this works but if Darabont was supposed to be compensated he should be and even if the only thing that comes of this is that a brighter light is shown on the idiotic ways AMC is run I’m all for it.

  2. go frank. He deserves royalties for the show, it was hic concept to bring it to the screen and it was his “baby”, he genuinely cared about the source material and how it would translate on tv.

    and it’s obvious that the show has fallen off since he left. When he was running the show it felt like a movie I was watching, I guess an anthology sort of, you forgot it was based on a comic.

    Now it seems the show ventures into sci fi channel territory

  3. Good for Frank, unfortunately this is a common practice with every network. Don’t be surprised if FX does the same thing as well Frank. I hate the word Frank Darabont, creator, because in reality, he was the pitchman and show runner that was responsible for bringing the material to TV but he is by no means the creator of TWD because that belong to Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore with now the additions of Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn who have now taken over the comic side. I don’t know why but it always irked me when articles claimed that Darabont was “the creator” of the series. That would be like saying David Benioff was “the creator” of Game of Thrones but it was in fact George R.R. Martin. Benioff was the person that helped bring it to the TV side of the business but Martin was the one who created the stories.
    Also, on a side note, Sutter needs to stop running his mouth and focus on his own series. This season of SOA wasn’t the worse but by all means wasn’t anything special, noteworthy, or even close to epic. I am not defending TWD or anything but the thing that guy says at times makes you think he is the person in charge of a show like a Breaking Bad or a Game of Thrones. The SOA series has officially taken the Dexter route IMO and has become just another show.

  4. AMC what are you doing?

    I love this show and more than half the reason why is because Frank sent it on the right path in the first place (Robert Kirkman involved makes up for the other half). This is the man that gave the Shawshank Redemption after all.

    Just pay the man already! He deserves it!

    Freaking Vultures!

  5. Oh my god, I am mad at him! How do we even know Frank is telling the truth and that he doesn’t just want to make some extra cash. Leave AMC alone, they have made some of the greatest television shows ever. If not for AMC, there would be no Breaking Bad. Jeesus, Frank, you originally made the first season of what is now the most popular show, get over yourself.

    • How would YOU understand what’s going on? You should be the one to get over yourself.

    • And you dont think he should be compensated properly for that?

    • You’ve got to be kidding me!

  6. Business and art will never truly get along since business is always trying to suck whatever life it can out of art. AMC seems to have a track record of trying to jerk around the creators behind some of their more popular and profitable shows, and in the long run it may come back to haunt them. Short selling their own product to produce a loss on paper is something that is not even legal in other businesses, and combined with the cost cutting they asked for that prompted Darabont to leave it really makes them seem like the greedy ones in this case.

  7. Go get’em Frank!

  8. I have been following this story since the second season, so here are the facts:

    Frank D. convinces everyone to work for 70% of scale for Season 1, to get the show established.

    AMC promises that they will pay full value after that.

    Between Season 1 and Season 2, retracts their promise saying they will only pay 65% for Season 2, even though he had triple the number of viewers they asked for (as a minimum).

    Frank argues for the first four episodes of Season 2 on behalf of the *entire* cast and production team, and things get really nasty when AMC steals the tax credits the show receives from the State of Georgia, for shooting the show there. Since this is clearly the shows money, and has nothing to do with AMC, Frank takes a hard line with them, and AMC fires him.

    AMC tosses in a replacement showrunner with the ‘helpful’ suggestions that zombies only need to be heard, not seen, and all this moving around is also unnecessary – ‘just stay on the farm’. Eventually, AMC realizes that they are losing fans due to their insane suggestions, and claims they are increasing the budget. This was another AMC lie, since they also ordered another couple of episodes for Season 2, using up that ‘extra budget’. It is assumed that when the showrunner found out that he was not going to get his share of the profits, AMC fired him.

    For Season 3 AMC increased the budget to standard rates, and the new showrunner was fired at the end of this Season as well. Most likely due to his insistence that he get his share of the profits.

    Season 4 rolls along, and with a new showrunner Frank finally gives up trying to negotiate with AMC and goes to court. Hopefully he will form a class action suit with all the others, including the cast and production team.

    What AMC has done is to create multiple companies to pass the money around and make most of it disappear in administrative fees (which means the execs are pocketing some each time it passes hands). They are actually claiming that the show “makes no profit at all”, yet they are getting the highest commercial dollar per minute for a non-major network. When AMC started they were making 60% of what a major network would earn for TWD. For Season 2 that climbed to ~70%, and by Season 4 it is up to ~85%. For a non-major, this is the highest earning (per commercial minute) show that *has ever been*! So for AMC so claim there is no profit truly is demented, and Frank was correct it is sociopathic – as they know what the laws are, they just do not feel they should have to follow them.

    The really interesting thing is that if AMC is doing this to Kirkman then he will be sure to renegotiate before the spinoff launches. If he does not, the Frank’s lawyers will subpoena Kirkman’s records and use them as proof that AMC is lying, that there are profits. Either way, AMC is truly screwed this time. Good to see. If you know anyone invested in their stock, now would be a good time to get out.

    • From what a friend, who is close to the show, tell me is that Kirkman and now Moore receives royalties no matter what(non-negotiable since Kirkman was the true creator of the source materials and now Tony Moore). Now the percentages isn’t really known but he thinks the percentage of what FD was supposed to get is actually now going towards RK and TM. In order for AMC to redirect the financials to them they had to partner up/create a parent company to sway the financial figure from one direction to another(something very common when it comes to having multiple creators of a source material). Now I suspect the true claim here is FD wants a percentage of the royalties from RK and TM but it will all depend on what was used when it came to the first season. Was the comics used in relation to the TV series and thus built upon it, i.e. GOT, or was the plan originally from FD and later RK added onto the original idea of S1? There are soo many variables in the discussion that it’s not all cut and dry. I think in the end FD might get a percentage payout for S1-2.

  9. This is silly. Frank Darabont needs to get over it and move on with his life. He’s like someone that got broken up with that wont stop going on about how unfair it is.

  10. man i realy hate cause you made lee to die i wish you would make again so he would survive

  11. Hey Frank I was all the show from the walking dead I want to know about something when I watch that show I feel that I want to be in it kill walker and everything but not the survival I know how to survive I just want to tell u that because I really want to be there