There aren’t too many Philadelphia stories that involve Martin Scorsese, his daughter Catherine Scorsese, actor Ray Liotta of Goodfellas fame, or pop prince Jesse McCartney. But this Philadelphia story just so happens to involve all of them.
Michael Simon is a 45-year-old filmmaker who lives in Penn Valley, the affluent suburban town where M. Night Shyamalan was raised. In 2010, Simon and his New Jersey-based business partner, Kenneth Waddell, founded JumpView, a web-based interactive video platform that allows viewers certain controls over the movies they watch, essentially creating a choose-your-own-adventure film experience.
The pair needed to create an original movie especially suited for the technology in order to give JumpView a proper launch, so they devised Campus Life, a sci-fi flick about strange happenings on a college campus. Pop singer Jesse McCartney signed on to star.
The JumpView team also brought Catherine Scorsese in on the deal. Waddell and the Scorsese daughter were friends since their days at New York University’s film school. Scorsese was to co-direct and co-produce Campus Life. She also managed to talk her father and Ray Liotta into making cameos in the film. But things quickly fell apart, and now both parties have cases winding their way through Federal Court.
Simon and Waddell were first to strike with a suit that was originally filed in Montgomery County, where JumpView is headquartered.
According to the suit, which is being transferred to Philadelphia’s Federal Courthouse, “Scorsese’s behavior became increasingly erratic and threatening as she felt her contributions were not being appreciated.” It goes on: “Scorsese repeatedly stated to Waddell, ‘Keep Michael [Simon] away from me on set or I’m going to kill him.’ To Simon, Scorsese directly stated, ‘I’m going to beat the shit out of you before this film is over.’”
The partnership continued to deteriorate and in the end, claims the suit, “Scorsese engaged in a concerted effort to undermine the production, distribution, promotion, and overall success of Campus Life and JumpView at inception.” (Scorsese’s Philadelphia legal team told me to direct questions to Los Angeles-based attorney, Martin Singer. Singer, who has represented Charlie Sheen, Jeremy Piven, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Quentin Tarantino, did not respond to my request for comment.)
Meanwhile, Scorsese has a federal case against the Penn Valley company brewing in New York, where she resides. Scorsese’s suit reads like it was written more for a Hollywood script than a real courtroom:
If you want to do business with people who commit fraud, then Defendants are the perfect business partners for you. Similarly, if you want to render valuable services for free despite being promised that you would receive fair compensation, then you should render those services for Defendants. And if you have ever dreamed of working with people who will do anything to benefit themselves at your expense, then Defendants are your dream come true.
Scorsese alleges that Simon and Waddell welched on an agreement that they made concerning payment for her services and her overall financial stake in the partnership. She also claims that she was supposed to have an opportunity to view and approve Campus Life before it was released. That didn’t happen. But Scorsese also concedes that there was no written agreement for any of this. (Apparently Scorsese was too busy watching dad’s movies to have ever seen a single episode of People’s Court or Judge Judy.)
JumpView’s attorney, Justin Wineburgh of Cozen O’Connor, calls Scorsese’s lawsuit “baseless,” as lawyers tend to do. “Ms. Scorsese used her famous father’s last name to engage in a concerted effort to undermine the production, distribution, promotion and success of JumpView and Campus Life,” says Wineburgh. “She struggled both creatively and logistically from the outset … Instead of recognizing her weaknesses, Ms. Scorsese instead embarked on a campaign to destroy any and all chance of success.”
Keep in mind, all of the aforementioned legal wrangling is over this. Look for Liotta and Dad Scorsese cameos at 0:20 and 0:30: