The real-life saga of storyteller Malcolm "Mac" Parker continues to prove itself a better script than the original movie that prompted his legal and financial troubles.
The movie, "Birth of Innocence," is currently only a five-minute trailer online, though a longer version is apparently screened for investors.
As “Fair Game” readers may recall, Parker is under investigation by state and federal authorities for possible violations of securities laws stemming from a more than 10-year film fund-raising effort that netted at least $14 million from hundreds of investors and no finished film.
Parker was charged with violating state securities law and scheduled to go on trial in state court last November, but Vermont Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford delayed the trial six months to allow the feds to complete their probe. That six months has come and gone and no charges have been filed. So officials at the Vermont Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration recently sought, and won, a request to delay the trial until October, so both sides could learn if federal prosecutors plan to file charges against Parker and others involved in the fund-raising scheme.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has interviewed Parker, film investors, Parker's original editor and reportedly others involved in the movie.
Meanwhile, a group of Parker's investor allies are raising money to complete the film, and have hired a couple of Vermont filmmakers to do it. Christopher White, a Parker ally, told Seven Days that the groups needs to raise another $15,000 to $20,000 to complete the film. Per court order, Parker is barred from handling the money.
In addition, the filmmakers are creating a new trailer to show the public and a new teaser to show potential investors. "Our goal is to get this into distribution within a year," said White. "First, though, there are a number of film festivals we hope to enter the film into by late fall and early winter."
The new film editors are re-editing the film and giving it a fresh look, though not changing the overall structure of the film. As for the movie's plot, the five-minute trailer for the film consists of a New Age-style monologue delivered by Parker as images of idyllic natural scenes slowly fade into smiling, peaceful faces.
White said Parker remains committed to getting the film completed and into theaters as a way to repay investors and keep good on his long-ago promises.
"I put Mac on no pedestal, but his commitment has been unwavering," said White. "He is a man who made some really poor decisions."
One such decision was Parker's choice to pay close to $4 million from the amount he'd raised to a Connecticut chiropractor named Lou Soteriou for his input into the film. Parker has intimated that Soteriou had held tremendous sway over Parker's life and dragged out the movie-making process for years.
Now, the film’s co-creator and creative partner, original co-editor and producer Horace Williams, wants to finish the film, too, as it was originally intended to be seen. Williams has the support of some Parker investors, too, and the ear of Sunset Pictures, a Hollywood firm run by Martin Guigui, a former Vermont musician and artist.
Guigui’s studio has agreed to take on the film, prepare it for a studio release and market it — and allow the investors to retain ownership of the film and retain their original contracts with Parker. To date, however, Parker and his allies have rejected Williams’ overtures to let him oversee the completion of the film.
But two disagree about who holds the rights to the film. Earlier this month, Parker emailed his investors, writing: "I can assure you that I have been advised — and Horace has been advised — that I am the sole owner of all copyrights in and to the film, and that Horace has no rights whatsoever."
In a response email, Williams shot back, "I own the only registered copyright of the film. I made an exception in that copyright for the script that Lou [Soteriou] and you wrote. Soon there will be a clear chain of title established from my copyright to the investors, giving them ownership of the film. Your answer very clearly spells out that your perception of sole ownership in this film completely trumps the needs of hundreds of people to whom you owe millions of dollars, many of whom are suffering real hardship."
According to emails obtained by Seven Days, investors seem fairly mixed on whether to side with Williams or Parker. What is clear is that many are frustrated with the lack of progress on the film's completion and the combined loss of millions of dollars. Some individual investors are facing losses of tens of thousands of dollars.
"I am totally supportive of Horace as I have been from the moment he was rejected by Mac after having literally built the film for him. I still believe that Horace is the more capable person to finish the film," wrote Robert Melik Finkle in a recent email. Finkle gave up his life savings to Parker, and is now owed more than $600,000 in principal and interest. "As I have said over and over again, this was an investment for me, not a donation. Mac asked for my trust and as a result I have lost everything."
* This post has been updated.