‘Game of Thrones’ author George RR Martin has filed a lawsuit over the film rights to his werewolf novella ‘The Skin Trade.’
According to the complaint, filed with the Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday, Mike The Pike Productions was granted an option to the film rights of Martin’s novella in 2009. The company subsequently assigned the option to Blackstone Manor, LLC, the named defendants.
Described as a “werewolf noir,” ‘The Skin Trade’ was originally published in 1988 as part of ‘Night Visions 5,’ a horror anthology that also included stories by Stephen King and Dan Simmons. The story follows Randi Wade, a private investigator who is looking into a series of brutal killings in her small town, which eventually leads to her learning about werewolves and other demons. The story won a World Fantasy Award in 1989.
According to the complaint, Blackstone exercised the option on September 2, 2014, and, per the 2009 agreement, it had five years to start principal photography before the rights reverted to Martin.
The complaint alleges that Blackstone “hastily assembl[ed] a bare-bones cast and crew” a day before the 2019 deadline “to shoot a handful of scenes” for no other reason than to maintain the appearance that it was making the progress necessary to retain the rights. Martin says the “token” production was “insufficient,” comparing the move to a contractor hurriedly building a gazebo in lieu of the agreed-upon skyscraper when faced with a deadline.
Attorney Teresa Huggins, a partner at the LA-based law firm Baker Marquart who specialises in intellectual-property litigation and is not involved with the Martin case, says the allegation that this production was an artifice is what makes the lawsuit unusual.
“I think what’s interesting and unique about this case is [Martin is] claiming that Blackstone created this fake principal photography to maintain their rights,” she said. “A lot of it is going to depend on whether Martin can prove that the shoot was an artifice.”
The complaint also alleges that Blackstone has threatened to take legal action against Martin if he seeks to exploit the rights independently, on the basis that it owns the film rights to ‘The Skin Trade’ in perpetuity.
Martin is seeking declarative relief around the film rights as well as damages for breach of contract. The author is currently working on ‘The Winds of Winter,’ the sixth novel of his ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series.