MIDEAST DRAMA? Hollywood, Palestinian Authority (inset)
Are Arab tycoons controlling what movies get made for American audiences? Maybe not, but one big-name producer was happy enough to give that impression—until his words became public.
Mark Gill, former president of Warner Independent Pictures, blamed his decision not to produce a Syriana-like terrorism flick on his backers—a Saudi sheikh and a financier with ties to the Palestinian Liberation Organization—says the screenwriter for the film.
Jason Ressler first showed his script for Dove Hunting to Gill, now CEO of the Film Department, in December 2006. Citing extensive e-mail correspondence, he says Gill showed strong interest in the project up until May 2007, when he suddenly ceased his discussions with Ressler. The following month, the Film Department announced it had secured $200 million in financing from backers including General Electric, Zeid Masri and Sheikh Waleed bin Ibrahim. Masri's company, Silverhaze Partners, has been accused of investing PLO money through front companies; Sheikh Waleed is chairman of the Middle East Broadcasting Center.
When screenwriter Ressler found out about the financing deal, he e-mailed Gill, telling him he assumed the Film Department's new backers would not want to see Dove Hunting made. "You are one perceptive guy," Gill wrote on June 28, 2007, according to a copy of the message that Ressler retained. Gill then confirmed the project was dead.