Tuesday, 26 November 2013

I Was Duped by MODA Entertainment ( Richard Zampella & Shannon Mulholland )! Don't Let It Happen to You.

In 2010, all of my dreams were about to come true.

I was going to have one of my plays presented at the Lincoln Center in New York, I was going to direct my first feature film, there were investors willing to finance several projects over the next five years and we started by optioning the film rights to one of my favorite Broadway musicals. The problem was that none of it was real. Everything was an elaborate scheme by Richard Zampella and Shannon Mulholland, of New York, to con me out of a great deal of money.

Anyone who is familiar with Les Misérables would know the characters of the Thénardiers: The husband and wife con artist team that robs you blind while they seem to offer hospitality. Such was the case with Richard Zampella and Shannon Mulholland, owners of MODA Entertainment.
And they got me good.
Myself & my daughter with Richard Zampella and Shannon Mulholland
It started out very well. I was first introduced to Shannon by my literary manager at the time, in LA. He had used MODA Entertainment for Licencing and Merchandising of other projects and wanted them on board a project I was working on at the time. I had done a quick Google search on MODA, Richard and Shannon and read about all their great accomplishments with Classic Hollywood Icons and such.

Invoice from MODA for Lincoln Center deposit
(Links to documents available upon request)
Around that time I was staging an elaborate one-night Dracula production in my home town of Toronto just before Hallowe'en. Richard and Shannon drove up from their office in Manhattan to assist me. They helped with last minute leg work and publicity.The show was sold out and a tremendous success. The next day we traveled back to New York and Richard told me that they had invited some investors who were impressed with what I had accomplished with limited resources. We began to discuss remounting my production at the Lincoln Centre with Frank Langella (who had played Dracula in 1979 both on stage and screen) as the vampire hunter Van Helsing. I had seen on the MODA website that they had worked with Frank Langella when he narrated a documentary about Gary Cooper for them. We were going to make this a joint production with my company and MODA, and we split the cost of putting a deposit down at the Lincoln Centre. Having done many events at the Lincoln Center, Shannon took care of the paperwork. As an added bonus,one of the co-founders of MODA Entertainment, Donna Lee, was now working as Morgan Freeman's publicist and had secured him to make a cameo appearance. I was over the moon.

Wire Transfer to MODA for Lincoln Center
(Links to documents available upon request)
They further assisted me by introducing me to a terrific literary agent from the well established Writers House in New York and that agent tried to straighten out a mess that I had with a former writing partner and the credit that I did not receive on a published novel. Next, Shannon introduced me to Roger Merr, a lawyer who was going to assist me on an intellectual property issue I was also having with my former writing partner. I was told that Roger Merr had worked for Ted Turner and thus very experienced in Entertainment Law. Unfortunately, I was not able to meet Roger Merr face-to-face during that trip as he got stuck in traffic and I had to fly back to Toronto. We did however, e-mail and Skype-text with other investors after that, who offered to foot the legal bill.

In a short amount of time,with their encouragement, connections and legal expertise, I was soon working on
Shannon's promise of the return of my money.
several other joint ventures with MODA Entertainment, including my first feature film (they already had a good script) and we negotiated the film rights to 'Jekyll & Hyde the Musical' through another entertainment lawyer based out of LA: Miles Feldman of Liner Grode Stein Yankelevitz Sunshine Regenstreif & Taylor LLP. A quick Google search verified they are one of the largest entertainment law firms in Los Angeles with an impressive list of clientele. MODA and I split the costs of securing the rights.

Confirmation of wire transfer for Lawyer
for the  Jekyll & Hyde film rights
Shannon's investors were also going to back another deal where I was going to option the film rights of a graphic novel by my friend and colleague Tony Lee. Roger Merr advised me on how to set up an LLC in the United States and Shannon set up the bank account in Manhattan for the investors to wire the money to, rather than going across the Canadian border.

Shannon even set up a publishing deal for my wife's picture book with DK Publishing. Shannon had all kinds of paperwork for us to sign the next time we were in New York. Shannon and Donna Lee later e-mailed me to tell me that their good friend Morgan Freeman had lunch with Kristin Chenoweth to arrange a surprise for my five-year-old daughter who idolizes Miss Chenoweth: She was going to be doing an audio recording of the picture book and wanted to meet my daughter. Needless to say that both my wife and little girl were beyond thrilled. Other projects for my wife popped up, and she provided them with much artwork on spec.
Shannon Mulholland with my daughter.

Success at last! This was all fantastic! Everything was coming together exactly the way I had hoped. But doubts would creep in,and the voice in my head said something wasn't right. I reasoned that they had been so helpful. How could I doubt them?

Then, it began to fall apart.

Little things started to emerge, and chip away at the bubble they had created for me. Any time I was going to meet Roger Merr face to face something would come up. The investors were now covering all the costs of the show at the Lincoln Center and I was supposed to get my$10,000 deposit back but it never arrived. Then the performance date got pushed back a year. I went to NYC because I had two short films in a film festival there. While I was there, Shannon gave me a check from her Wachovia account (the same bank for my LLC) but told me not to cash it right away as her Shareholders had frozen her account. That was odd.

After months of only communicating by e-mail or text Skype, we were supposed to have dinner with all the investors at a restaurant in New York but due to some kind of crisis, Roger Merr cancelled the dinner at the last minute. He was going to meet with me at a restaurant near my hotel to explain. He never showed up because another of his clients had suddenly died and he had to take care of the estate. I tried to arrange another time to meet with Roger and even offered him to call me collect as he supposedly didn't want any record of calling me on his lawfirm's phone bill.

Roger Merr's refusal to give me a phone number.
So, what lawfirm was this? I couldn't find any listing for Roger Merr anywhere. And he didn’t call me collect. We never, ever spoke on the phone. I looked at all the investors' gmail addresses and began to wonder why there were so many near-misses in meeting any of them in person as well.

It occurred to me that neither I, nor my wife, had actually seen or signed any of the recent paperwork. It was supposedly sitting in their downtown office which was now difficult for them to get to, since they were starting a side business in Point Lookout. We hadn’t ever been to MODA’s downtown office, as all our meetings were informal, at restaurants and other venues.

We twice tried to send a courier to pick up the documents on our behalf, which failed both times. We had also never been paid for,or paid back for, anything.

Not too long after that, I heard that Miles Feldman had left Liner Grode Stein, et al, to venture out on his own, so I reached out to him to inquire whether the ‘Jekyll and Hyde’paperwork was following him or staying with the old firm. He e-mailed me back saying he knew nothing of the project. When I forwarded him the above e-mail (with his letterhead that MODA had sent to me), he responded that it was 'a forgery.'
* Miles Feldman's response the e-mail from MODA that I forwarded to him.

Lincoln Center confirming MODA never booked.
I immediately contacted the Lincoln Center. They confirmed my worst fears, in writing, there was no booking by MODA Entertainment for our Dracula show. Before cashing the check that Shannon gave me, I contacted the bank and found out that she had *closed the account* a week before she gave me the check.

I then insisted that Richard, Shannon and MODA return all monies from investments, deposits and loans owed to me, which by now had totaled approx $50,000. Shannon was suddenly too ill to return my calls. Donna Lee chastised me for putting a great deal of stress upon her.

Suddenly, I was alerted that one of the investors, George Levy, was rushed to the hospital on Mar 7, 2011. 
 * Note the date George Levy was rushed to the hospital.

Note the Date of Death.
I was later sent George Levy's obituary which listed his death as (March 6) the day *before* he was supposedly rushed to the hospital.

Roger Merr stopped responding to me entirely, which wasn’t a surprise. I now have written confirmation from the American Bar Association that there is *no Roger Merr* licensed to practice law in Georgia (Turner Broadcasting home state) or New York or any other state.

We received confirmation directly from DK Publishing that there was *never a deal* for my wife's book. Furthermore, Donna Lee hadn't actually been working with Morgan Freeman for a while, nor was he in New York at the time he was supposedly having lunch with Kristin Chenoweth. When contacted directly via her other work’s office, Donna Lee didn’t respond to our messages at all.

MODA’s 'downtown Manhattan office' was a rentable conference room address, not an office space at all.

It was all a façade. All of it.

If one was to Google: "lawsuits" along with "Shannon Mulholland, Richard Zampellaand/or MODA Entertainment" you will find more than the happy, successful websites and news releases they generated themselves to make a lovely internet presence for me to find.

The first is a lawsuit filed by the famous actress Celeste Holm who was "duped" by ShannonMulholland and Richard Zampella.  

The second was launched by the widow of Gene Kelly who accuses Shannon Mulholland of 'forging her signature'.  

Lastly, a lawsuit started by the son of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, who had worked for Shannon and Richard. He was planning on exposing their business practices and claimed that "Zampella threatened to assault him" if he did so. 

Here's a link where the lawyers representing Richard and Shannon requested to withdraw from representing them in this lawsuit. This was around the time that I started to talk to them about staging a dramatic reading.

I wish I had found this information before I was involved with them. Richard and Shannon duped me for$51,835 USD; and they knew my wife and I had a second child on the way. 

I believe they used my money to start up an ice cream shop in Point Lookout called Skipperdees. Richard and Shannon have since started other companies including one that does graphics/webdesign and 'branding' called Trans Multimedia. (The contact page states the same phone number as the ice cream shop.) They also have a restaurant design/consulting company. Richard Zampella is the owner & operator of Idylease Inn located in Newfoundland, NJ.  Idylease Inn is connected with Richard's father: Dr. Arthur Zampella. And finally, Richard Zampella and Shannon Mulholland are listed on the board of directors of the Point Lookout Chamber of Commerce.

After laying low for the last couple of years, I can't help but wonder why there is suddenly a new increase in internet presence by Richard Zampella.

So I’m putting this information out there, for any hapless hopeful like me, who might need to know this information before jumping into any expensive adventures with these folks.

If it is you, dear reader,please search the links I've posted. Please heed the facts in this posting.

Do NOT under any circumstances give these people any money. Their word means nothing. Their documents should be examined closely by a real lawyer that you hire yourself.

I've learned a lot from my experience: Don't take them, or anyone else making these kinds of promises to you, at face value.

Do your research. Dig deep. Then dig deeper.

(Any of the above mentioned documents are available upon request and many, many more including the empty promises of return payments, copies of wire transfers, agreements for projects that never existed.)

Monday, 6 May 2013

Do You Remember Your First?

Do you remember your first? Not your first kiss, or first love but the first novel that you ever read. The first one to capture your imagination. The first one that you just couldn’t put down,  and then when you reached the end, you were sorry it was over. Do you remember your first?
For myself, it was...

(Read the rest on Jen Blood's blog:   http://jenblood.net/2013/05/fan-favorites-do-you-remember-your-first/)

Alexander Galant is the author of the historical thriller novel Depth of Deception (A Titanic Murder Mystery)

Thursday, 14 March 2013

My novel is IndieReader Approved

IndieReader.com, one of the world’s top websites for independent published books, has awarded DEPTH OF DECEPTION (A Titanic Murder Mystery) a five star review and the highly regarded Indie Reader Approved badge, recognizing the book as a quality indie title.

"Alexander Galant makes the past come alive in this spellbinding mystery."

See the full review here:

You can find the links to buy DEPTH OF DECEPTION here:  http://www.depthofdeception.com/

Paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Depth-Deception-Titanic-Murder-Mystery/dp/0987983512

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Chapter 3 of UN-DEAD (Excerpt)

Two individuals in forest near where the Demitry crashed on the shores of Staten Island. They are attacked by some unseen animal.

A multimedia clip used in UN-DEAD (A Modern-Day Dracula Sequel).
A continuing on-line novelization told in the same epistolary style as the original 1897 novel Dracula, but with a new technological twist.   http://www.undead-series.com

Friday, 8 February 2013

Chapter 2 of UN-DEAD (Excerpt)

9-1-1 Incoming Call (Transcript) - July 18, 2012

OPERATOR: "911, What is the nature of the emergency?"

FEMALE CALLER: "Something's happened to my boyfriend. I think he's dead."

OPERATOR: "Ma'am, is your boyfriend with you?"

FEMALE CALLER: "No, he's on a ship."

OPERATOR: "A ship?"

FEMALE CALLER: "Yes, the SS Demitry. They brought something up from the Nazi boat - it killed at least 3 people."

OPERATOR: "A Nazi ship?"

FEMALE CALLER: "Yes! It was on the news! Off the New York coast! Don't you watch the news?"

OPERATOR: "Ma'am, I need you to calm down. Have you taken anything or are you on any medication?"

FEMALE CALLER: "I'm not on anything you moron! My boyfriend is on a boat with something terrible... something they brought up... "

OPERATOR: "What is it?"

FEMALE CALLER: "I don't know!"

OPERATOR: "Do you know your boyfriend's present location?"

FEMALE CALLER: "In the freaking Atlantic! You are no help at all!"

(Disconnected by caller)

Read the rest of the chapter at http://www.undead-series.com

A continuing on-line novelization, modern-day Dracula sequel told in the same style as the original 1897 novel Dracula, but with a new technological twist.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

New Chapter

I posted a new chapter to UN-DEAD, my modern-day Dracula sequel told in the style of the original 1897 novel but with a technological twist.

In this first chapter (after the prologue) we get to know a bit more of our protagonist, Dysis Harker, as she goes to England to find her roots. She is unaware of the history of her family in the late 1800's.



Dysis Harker finds a speacial box with the 'Rose & Cross' logo.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Writing from the Back Burner

As writers, we are often plagued with writers block, other work, commitments or countless other reasons to *not* finish a writing project. Sometimes it simply doesn't take off the way you wanted it to, so you put the idea on the back burner and hope that you can get back to it some time. Some projects get left there, forgotten and cold. Others simmer... always there... bubbling... reminding you that they're still there.

For me, a Dracula TV series concept that I had wanted to develop had been stewing on that back burner since 1992. It was to be a modern-day sequel to Bram Stoker's famous vampire novel. I had written the pilot episode and three other scripts, storyboarded FX sequences (at a time when CGFX weren't available), wrote a series bible which included character backgrounds, backstories and a story arc for five seasons. To battle the 'campy' image that Dracula had acquired from Hollywood, I shot a promo video with Mickey Rooney narrating as Prof Van Helsing, setting up how Dracula survived, based on how Bram Stoker left a loop-hole in his ending. This video was effective in showing that Dracula was not going to be a cliché with a cape and a bad accent. It was perhaps too effective. In the age of political correctness it was deemed "too dark" for television. I was ahead of my time. The following year, 'The X-Files' premiered, followed shortly by 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'. Alas, because of their successes, nobody wanted to compete with them, so my series was backburnered.

I then decided to work in the film industry to learn more about it, and got experience in several departments such as FX, props building, set dressing and art department. I also made my own films, one of which started as an episode from my Dracula series, which I shot as a digital experiment. It did well in film festivals all over the world.

But HE was always there. Taunting me. Trying to draw me back. I found myself involved in other Dracula projects, one of which was as 'historical researcher' for another novel sequel which turned Dracula into a romantic anti-hero. I had argued that the character choice was not true to Bram Stoker's Dracula but was shot down. "It's what the fanboys want," they said.

Well, they were wrong. The true Dracula fans had expected a cold, calculating, blood-thirsty monster and were disappointed with the love story this sequel told. I thought of my series again, and couldn't help but think how much those fans would have liked its references to the original novel.

For anyone who as never read Bram Stoker's Dracula, it is terrific. Told entirely through journal entries, letters, telegrams, newspaper clippings... its mystery unfolds slowly and deliberately. The readers know what the characters don't, and it isn't until they 'compare notes' that they realize what they are up against. For this reason, Hollywood has never been able to capture the true essence of the original novel: Most of it is internal, via private thoughts written in letters or diaries. I had come to realize how difficult it is to show internalization through a visual medium as I created my own films, and listened only vaguely to the bubbling from that back burner again.

Then one sleepless night while battling writer's block on another project, I was doing what a lot of writers do - wasting time on Facebook. While following the banter beneath a Friend's posting, I suddenly realized that I was seeing a new way to tell a story! Inspiration hit, and the lid on that old Dracula pot started to shake.

I went into storage, dug out my old series files and thanked myself for not ditching an old computer that can still read 3 1/4" floppy disks. After a full day of trying to remember what password I had used to protect them, I finally looked at the scripts that I had created 20 years ago. Then I took the opening scenes and 'revamped' them for a new medium and it worked!

Un-Dead disks (1992)

So, it begins anew. I will tell my sequel as if Bram Stoker had written it today: through e-mails, blogs, text messages, memos and social media. All of my previous experiences as a writer, director, props builder, film maker and graphic artist come together to launch 'Un-Dead' at last - as a continuous on-line novelization.

Click on undead-series.com to see the new site and follow along each week.

Un-Dead logo (word 'Un-Dead' hidden in bat)

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Historical Research for the staging of The Diary of Anne Frank

As I was looking through my back-up files for old reference photos I found the folder containing stills from a stage production of The Diary of Anne Frank that I directed in 2004.

It's a clear example of my need for being historically accurate not only in my writing but in the shows I have worked on. During this production I not only had historical books and photos, but also a computer simulation of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. It allowed our actors to virtually 'walk' through the Secret Annex. I designed the set to be as close as possible to the real annex where Anne Frank and her family hid for two years.

Here are some of comparison photos of the Anne Frank House and our multi-level set.

Anne Frank's Room

Anne's real room (left) was duplicated in our set (right). For lighting reasons we didn't cover the windows with the tissue paper.

The pictures on the wall were duplicates of the pictures that are still currently hanging in her room. Even a similar desk lamp was found for our set.

The Main Room
On the left is the real common room for the eight people in hiding. On the right was our set. The door visible leads to Peter's room - which was also the access to the attic. Such was the case with our set as well.

The main room had been a laboratory, which is why the sink was so odd. It's a small attention to detail but a few audience patrons who had been to the real Anne Frank house did notice this.

Opekta was the brand of pectin that Otto Frank's company manufactured.  A year before going into hiding, Otto began stocking the attic with their belongings and supplies.
At the top of the show, the set had some replicas scattered around.

On the left is the real Water Closet (washroom) from the Anne Frank House.

The visible green door led to Anne's room. Likewise, our set had the W/C in the exact same layout.
For a publicity still we recreated a famous photo of the real Anne Frank, taken before she went into hiding.

The talented actress (Jennifer Waiser) who portrayed our Anne Frank was dressed in a replica costume. Note the trim in the blouse and the wrist watch as well. 

There were other tiny historical details that I can't show here ie. recreating the exact chimes of the Westertoren bells which were melted down during World War II. Many such details were never really noticed, but it helped to authentically recreate a dark chapter of our human history. This stage production with an amazing cast of actors was seen by hundreds of school children, in hopes that they learn from history, never forget and never repeat it.

Review of The Diary of Anne Frank from TorontoStage .com