Author of Notorious ‘Game of Thrones’ Series Files Suit Over Rights to His Werewolf Novella
Steven T. Lowe
On August 20, 2020, “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin (“Martin”) filed a lawsuit in California state court against Blackstone Manor LLC over the film rights to his werewolf novella entitled “The Skin Trade.” Martin said Blackstone lost its rights to turn his novella into a film when the company took too long to pursue the project.
Martin published the fantasy horror novella in 1988 as part of a collection of short stories titled “Night Visions 5,” according to the complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. The story describes the life of a private investigator who discovers werewolves and other supernatural beings.
In 2009, Mike the Pike Productions Inc. purchased the rights to produce a film based on Martin’s literary work. Mike the Pike Productions then subsequently assigned the rights to Blackstone, who chose to “exercise the option” in September 2014.
Per the 2009 rights agreement, Blackstone had five years from 2014 to begin production on the film adaptation of “The Skin Trade.” If the principal photography of the film did not begin within this timeframe, all of the rights to the work would revert back to Martin. Instead of commencing principal photography by the September 2019 deadline, Blackstone postponed the project. On September 1, 2019, Blackstone reached out to Martin to ask if he would grant an extension of the reversion period. Martin refused to allow the extension and noted that the agreement required an extension to be made in writing and executed by all of the appropriate parties.
According to the complaint, the film company then hastily attempted to shoot a few scenes with a “barebones cast and crew” in a last-ditch effort to hold onto their rights. Martin described this attempt as “insufficient” and could not be considered a substantial step at beginning production. The suit alleges the purpose of this endeavor was to undermine Martin’s rights to the novella by making it unclear whether any reversion of the rights had occurred.
Martin is claiming breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing and seeking declaratory relief concerning the rights to the film.
Martin is represented by Neville L. Johnson, Douglas L. Johnson, and Daniel B. Lifschitz of Johnson & Johnson LLP.
Counsel information for Blackstone was not immediately available.
The suit is George R.R. Martin v. Blackstone Manor LLC, case number 20STCV31575, in California Superior Court, County of Los Angeles.