A lawsuit to liquidate Inversion Productions, a company controlled by Philip Lee and Markus Barmettler, executive producers of “The Revenant”, has begun in Hong Kong.
The action is being undertaken by Sun Entertainment Culture, a Hong Kong-based studio with backing from mainland China.
A winding up petition for Inversion Productions is set to be heard in the Hong Kong High Court in February.
The action stems from Sun’s attempt to recoup a film production loan originally given to Inversion Productions (formerly known as TNC Productions) in late 2014 as part of the project to make an ambitious independent sci-fi film. “Inversion”.
Slated to be produced on a budget of $120 million, the disaster thriller “Inversion” tells the story of a Chinese scientist and an American pilot who must work together to save the world when gravity suddenly disappears.
The project was made by several partners, including Mark Damon’s Foresight Entertainment. At one point, it was to be written by a team consisting of writer, producer and director Paul Haggis, Bragi Schut, David Arata and Michael Finch. In 2019, when Sun Entertainment went public with its commitment to the film, “Inversion” was described as based on a script by Golden Horse nominee Li Wei, who wrote Zhang Yimou’s “Shadow.” Travis Fimmel was reportedly attached to star at one point, and producers were also said to be in negotiations with Samuel L. Jackson.
Speaking on behalf of a company called Facing East Entertainment, Lee said The variety in March 2019 that he and Barmettler had been trying to get the project together for about seven years. Sun Entertainment said it expected to provide a “significant portion” of the production budget.
In notarized communications with The varietySun Entertainment said it provided an initial loan of $7.5 million to Inversion Productions, transferred in four installments between December 2014 and February 2015. An additional installment of $1 million was loaned from Sun Entertainment in March 2019, bringing the principal of the loan at $8.5 million.
Sun says the loans were not repaid by Inversion Productions and the movie “Inversion” was not produced. In its liquidation petition, Sun Entertainment says it is now entitled to $24.1 million, consisting of principal plus agreed interest and “late interest” of 4% per month. Sun’s petition states that Inversion Productions is insolvent and unable to pay its debts.
Although the matter has been discussed by Sun Entertainment and the Hong Kong Independent Commission Against Corruption, The variety understands that, beyond the civil liquidation operation, no criminal action has been taken in any jurisdiction. The variety contacted Lee, Sun Entertainment and the ICAC for comment.
Founded in 2011, Sun Entertainment has participated in Hong Kong co-productions such as “Paradox” in 2017 and “SPL II: A Time for Consequences” in 2015, starring Wu Jing. But after new tax rules in 2018 turned the Chinese mainland film industry on its head, the company began looking to expand in a more international direction. “Inversion”, along with another feature film and a television series, were to be his first trips abroad.
Lee was associate producer on Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, executive producer on Zhang Yimou’s “Hero”, and executive producer on “Cloud Atlas” and “Assassin’s Creed”.
Barmettler was producer of the 2008 Chinese film “Purple Mountain” and executive producer of “Conviction,” “Assassin’s Creed” and “The Captain.”