Alert: Scammers Impersonating Major Motion Picture Studios

I’ve written a number of posts about scammers impersonating literary agents and publishers. Writers should be aware that they’re also impersonating major motion picture studios.

Here’s one example, from a scam that does business under multiple names: Orions Media Agency, Fox Media Studios Agency, Silver Fox Media, and Page Turner Press and Media. Despite their apparent US addresses and phone numbers, all are based in the Philippines, where they operate under the umbrella of a company called Innocentrix (you can read more about the huge proliferation of overseas scammers here). (UPDATE: Another name has been added to this scam complex: Experttell, aka Experttell Media.) (ANOTHER UPDATE: Two more new names for this scam complex: InkStone Literary Agency and The Metro Films.)

This is the initial pitch–which arrives, as always with this type of scam, out of the blue:

This is not the way things work: literary agents aren’t “assigned” to represent you without your knowledge, and major film studios don’t randomly stumble on books and reach out to agencies you never heard of, which then cold-call you. In fact, real agents only very rarely reach out to writers directly. For scammers, on the other hand, it’s their main recruitment method.

Any out-of-the-blue solicitation or offer should be treated with suspicion.

If the writer bites, they receive this.

Note Allison’s email address, which doesn’t match Universal’s email address protocol. It’s always a good idea to search on this, and also on the email address itself; you can discover interesting things, such as that the universalpicturesacquisition.com domain was only registered this past March–not very plausible, given Universal Pictures’ long history. In another revealing discrepancy, Allison Gray is a real person…but she works for Paramount.

“Allison” doesn’t mention money. This is strategic: as any scammer knows, it’s harder to say no when an offer is (purportedly) on the table. And money is definitely involved. The writer who responds with excitement to this INCREDIBLE OFFER learns that the “cinematic trailer” will cost them $3,500 (a cost the scammer may promise to share), and the “relicensing” of the book (there’s no such thing) requires a further $1,099.

I shouldn’t need to say–again–that this is not how things work. If a film studio is interested in your work, they will pay you, not the other way around. Plus, the demand for your driver’s license and passport suggests that it’s not just your cash that will be stolen.

Here is the promised “pre-production agreement” (this time from another dba of this scam, Fox Media Studios Agency). “David Benson” does not appear to be an employee of Universal–or any film company. Allison Gray is cc’d, though at a different, and equally bogus, email address. Note also the identical scary pseudo-legal language at the bottom, which is likely intended to discourage writers from contacting people like me:

The money grab in this one is for the “Director’s professional fee” as well as the supposed permits and clearances, which no doubt amount to several thousand dollars. Keep in mind that the writer has already paid nearly $5,000 for a (likely crappy) book trailer and the mythical book re-licensing.

Yet again, this is not how the industry works. Authors are never asked to bankroll their own films (at least, they’re never asked to do so by reputable film companies). To the contrary: if a film of your book has been greenlighted, you will previously have received a considerable sum of money.

A final word. It’s every writer’s dream to have their book made into a movie. But the hard truth is that this is among the rarest of all outcomes of publishing a book. The vast majority of books–even very successful ones–never sell or option film rights. Where they do, it’s via real, reputable agents or entertainment lawyers with track records that can be verified–not unknown parties who contact you out of the blue.

Remember: solicitation is the number one sign of a scam. And there are more scams aggressively soliciting authors than ever. Be careful out there.

UPDATE 8/7/21: The scam is also soliciting as Netflix. Some of the language in the solicitation below is identical to that of the first fake Universal email above; note also the identical scary disclaimer in italics, and the fact that, although this came to the author as a direct solicitation and not through the filter of a fake agency, the scammers were too careless, or too lazy, to remove the references to “your agency”.

As they often do, the scammers are using the name of a real person–except she’s an actress, not a Netflix executive.

UPDATE 9/2/21: The scammers have added a new name: Experttell (aka Experttell Media), which is sending out email “offers” from Universal and Warner Bros. that are substantially identical to the emails above.

UPDATE 11/25/21: The Orions Media Agency website is dead, and writers are reporting that their emails go unanswered. I’m guessing that the abandonment of this particular business name had something to do with its D+ BBB rating, as well as the proliferation of online complaints.

Other names associated with this scam–Page Turner Press and Media, Fox Media Studios Agency, Silver Fox Media, and Experttell–are still alive and well.

UPDATE 3/30/22: They’re still at it. Just heard from a writer who got the Netflix version of the scam soliciation. There’s an Ivanna Martinez who works at Netflix, but not, as far as I could discover, an Ivana Alvarez. Still, the names are similar enough that a hasty websearch might confuse them.

UPDATE 6/3/22: New name for the scam complex: The Metro Films. This one specializes in offering “movie deals” to Page Turner Press and Media clients, which require handing over a minimum of $100,000 for a publicity campaign (supposedly, this is just a fraction of the publicist’s cost, with Page Turner promising to front the rest). I’ve heard from writers who have actually paid six figures. Names associated with this scam include Mark Alvarez and Isaiah Callum.

UPDATE 6/13/22: Yet another new name for the scam complex: InkStone Literary Agency. Rather than fake film offers, InkStone wants writers to pay $3,000 to buy the “license” to their books, supposedly as part of re-publishing offers from Simon & Schuster or Hachette (complete with a fake contract copied from one of the Idiot’s Guides)–but large swaths of its website are identical to that of fellow scam Experttell (portions of which have in turn been plagiarized from the websites of legit agencies, such as The Waxman Agency). Compare and…compare:

28 Comments

  1. TaleFlick isn't a scam, IMO; the question is more whether it's worth the money for what you get.

    They do provide a page of books that have apparently been optioned, but based on the news articles provided on the website, it looks like most of the options are by TaleFlick itself. Founder Uri Singer is a genuine film producer–if a small one–but TaleFlick looks to me like mainly a pool of content in which Singer himself is finding properties. I don't see a lot of evidence that other filmmakers and studios are using it.

  2. Got this the other day (clipped below). I went on their website and did a Google image search on all the pictured personnel, including the Victoria Powell person writing to me. Not surprisingly, all the images I searched for their executives and staff were stock photos from a variety of sources. I will say their website is pretty slick.

    The scammers are out there for sure. What novelist wouldn't get excited about the possibility of having their work adapted for film?

    Be on your guard!

    Film2.JPG

    Dear XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX,

    This is Victoria Powell, a Production Manager from Filmways Pictures Agency. We came across your material "XXXXXXXXXXXXX" on our pursuit of a qualified piece for our sponsorship program for the International film rights acquisition submission for the year 2021.

    We have identified fresh and timely concepts embedded in the framework of your piece that is in demand of our target market. The evaluation report from the Editorial Board shows exceptional remarks that made you qualify for our preliminary screening.

    We hope to carry on with the assessment by first validating the ownership of the rights and some legalities concerning this material. I also need to know any achievements or milestones within your writing journey to help me better assess and identify your degree of sponsorship grant. Moreover, I would also need to check some materials that you may already have that can be of use for this project so then we’ll be to customized an effective project scheme suitable for its subject and target market. I feel that a phone appointment would be extremely beneficial to launch a strong project momentum.

    I prefer you respond to this email with your contact details and a convenient time for a phone call so I may appropriately book our appointment. Generally, I am available around 4 pm to 7 pm Ruislip UK time (GMT+1) at 1-888-214-1757 ext. 189.

    We look forward to building a strong business relationship in the future.

    Best Regards,

    VP SIG 2.JPG

    WHO WE ARE

    Filmways Pictures LTD is a UK-based film and multimedia advertising agency. We specialized in independent film productions, media, and internet advertising, screenplay licensing, and rights management service. We have acquired a vast network of decision-makers from the film and literary industry due to our strict compliance with International Standards for Entertainment and Literacy Rights Management. Please visit us at https://www.filmwayspictures.com to know more about us.

    About Us | FAQs | Submissions | Latest News

  3. Filmways Pictures was a real production company founded in 1952, as the current Filmways website claims. However, it no longer exists: it was acquired by Orion in 1982 and lost its name. The current Filmways (a scam, as you point out–I caught the stock photos too) has appropriated the name and logo of the original company, as well as some of its origin narrative.

    I've heard from a number of people who got the identical email. Given the website's focus on "sponsorships", my guess is that writers are told they must fund the difference in cost between the purported whole price of creating a screenplay, and the "sponsorship" amount supposedly defrayed by Filmways. No doubt thousands of dollars are involved.

  4. I get emails and phone calls exactly the way described. They all have heavy foreign accents (heavier than mine) but use names like "Tom Stevenson".

  5. Just received this email. Does it look legit?

    image001.jpg

    Dear Rossana,

    This is Miranda Fox, a Production Manager from Filmways Pictures Agency. We came across your material "The Perfect Tenant" in our pursuit of a qualified piece for our partnership program for the International film rights acquisition project for the year 2021.

    We have identified fresh and timely concepts embedded in the framework of your piece that is in demand of our target market. The evaluation report from the Editorial Board shows exceptional remarks that made you qualify for our preliminary screening. We hope to carry on with the assessment by checking some technical aspects and rights ownership to fully check your eligibility for our program.

    Filmways Pictures LTD is a UK-based film and multimedia advertising agency. We specialize in media, internet advertising, screenplay licensing, and rights management services. We have acquired a vast network of decision-makers from the film and literary industry due to our strict compliance with International Standards for Entertainment and Literacy Rights Management. Please visit us at https://www.filmwayspictures.com to know more about us.

    You can reach me at +1-888-214-1757 ext. 639 or, you may also respond to this email with your contact details and the best time for a quick call.

    I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

  6. No, it's not legit. Filmways Pictures was a real company, but it was acquired by a bigger company a number of years ago and stopped using the name. A scammer has appropriated the Filmways name and logo, and is claiming to be the original company. It's not: the scheme is to get you to pay for a screenplay that will never be delivered. I've gotten many reports of solicitations by Filmways using the identical email you received.

  7. I received an email from James Wright from Adaptations Tide about adapting my book for movies. It sounded like a scam and I was so glad to find it on your list of scams. Thanks so much for all the work you do to keep writers safe.
    Narjorie Jamison Douglas

  8. This is what I received.
    I'd love this to be real but I don't think so. None of these people can be found online.Neither can Pixar Film Agency.

    After thorough evaluation, we have decided to consider the project below once preliminary requirements are met.

    Project Title: Sherman's March to the Sea
    Applicant's Name: Heather Denniss
    Affiliated Film Agency: Pixar Film Agency
    Film Agent: Cassy Garcia | David Tunner | James Peter

    Total Amount of Funding Secured Up To Date: 89M

    Deadline for Preliminary Submission would be 5 Business Days in receipt of this email.
    Failure to submit Preliminary Requirements will be subject to Project Cancellation.

    Karla Manuel

    Disclaimer: “The information transmitted by this email is intended only for the person or entity to which it is addressed. This email may contain proprietary, business-confidential, and/or privileged material. If you are not the intended recipient of this message, be aware that any use, review, retransmission, distribution, reproduction or any action taken in reliance upon this message is strictly prohibited. If you received this in error, please contact the sender and delete the material from all computers”

    Global Film Communications and Media Relations
    https://www.lionsgate.com/

  9. That's absolutely a scam. They want you to (falsely) associate them with Pixar Studios and Lionsgate. This isn't how production companies or film studios acquire properties.

    If you'd be game to lead them on a bit, I'd love to know what the pitch is (what they'll want you to pay for) and which scammer it's a front for.

  10. November 16, 2021
    Chris Atkins
    Executive Book-to-Film/TV Agent
    680-215-9628
    San Diego, CA, 22400
    Dear Mr. Atkins,
    We are inviting you to officially submit the Film/TV Treatment of the book You Have The Power To Have It All by Natalia Furtuna.
    From the excellent sample content, book manuscript and author
    portfolio submitted to us that garnered excellent results, we are
    happy to announce that the treatment will be sent exclusively to
    and .
    This is unexpected from an independently published book but we are all for the book’s success.
    Looking forward for what your Film/TV Treatment can offer.
    Congratulations!
    Please take note that this endorsement and submission is intended for TV and Film. Deadline for submission should not be later than January 10, 2022.
    Allison Chapman
    Assistant Director
    Motion Films Entertainment

    Is this also the same scam? My friend who is the author of the Book in that letter got this.

  11. Unknown 11/16,

    It's got a different name, and you'd have to go deeper into it to find out which company you'd actually be sending money to (the gambit here is to get the writer to pay thousands for a treatment or script). But it's the same kind of scam. Reputable agencies don't reach out in this way: they are highly unlikely to contact you unless you've contacted them first.

    "Motion Films Entertainment" has a website. The English is better than you see with a lot of these scams–just occasional lapses, but there's no sign that any of the supposed films exist (the scammers are relying on the fact that most people accept claims at face value and don't check).

  12. I received an email about one of my books from 'Nicole King' this morning. I was pretty sure it was a scam, but nice to have it confirmed.

  13. Would a production company ever ask for your proof of identity when drawing up an offer/agreement to acquire film rights for your book?
    Also, is there a difference between Walden Media and Walden Film Agency?

  14. Is it standard protocol for the author to pay attorney fees and registration fees when a film production company buys the rights to a book?

  15. Anonymous,

    The answer to both your questions is No. If a company is going to pay you, it needs your SSN, but "proof of identity"? Nope. And when a film production company buys rights, it _buys_ them…it pays _you_. You do not pay it, for attorney fees or anything else. If there's a demand for money, it's a scam.

    Walden Media is a real production company with substantial web presence that allows you to verify its legitimacy. "Walden Film Agency" has zero web presence and I'm guessing is yet another scam using a similar name to fool writers into thinking it's related to the reputable company.

    Would you please contact me, and share whatever emails or other materials you received from them? beware@sfwa.org. All information shared with Writer Beware is held in confidence.

  16. Landaff Media (Landaff Literary Media LLC in Delaware) are asking USD$250,000 wire transfer to the Philippines to share the cost of a continuation story covering 2 “books to films” for a “pitch” which they claim is necessary to get Paramount Pictures interest in 1 or 2 full films. I can’t find the nominated persons in “booktofilms” or Paramount Pictures Marketing. Landaff claim to have already paid a non-refundable USD$500,000 to “booktofilms” and are spending money on gathering stakeholders from all over for meetings, to get a movie underway in Scotland early next year! I suspect they are a scam…….. Naturally I have not signed up to such a dubious proposal. Have you any background on Landaff? And could you please suggest how to get them off my back?

    1. Hi, Hugh,

      I’m really glad you haven’t sent them anything–this is absolutely a scam, and a really egregious one. This isn’t the way that properties are acquired for films; film rights are optioned or sold via reputable literary agencies with verifiable track records of success that they prominently reveal on their websites. Nor do writers ever have to pay upfront for such services; if this were a real offer, it would come with payment to you, not from you. Everything they’re claiming to you is a lie.

      Increasingly, Philippines-based scammers are demanding wire transfers or that writers use Zelle or Venmo or a similar payment app, because it’s almost impossible for the payer to get their money back (unlike credit card payments).

      I haven’t run across Landaff Media before. But there’s a ton of scamsign here–the solicitation, the absurd money demand, the Philippines location, and on the website, shaky English, claims of expertise that can’t be verified because there’s no meaningful info about the company or staff, and a range of junk marketing. Conspicuously absent: any hint of a track record, which a reputable company would highlight. I’ll do a bit more digging, but I’m confident I’ll be adding this outfit to my scam list.

      Would you be willing to share with me any written material they’ve sent you–emails, contracts, etc.? All information shared with Writer Beware is held in confidence. You can email to beware@sfwa.org.

      As to getting them off your back…that’s a tough one, because these scammers are really persistent, and often use bullying tactics if a potential victim balks, such as threatening to blackball you (an empty threat). My suggestion would be to ignore and delete any email contacts, and to block their phone numbers and hang up them if they contact you from different numbers.

  17. This is what I just received:

    Film Rights Acquisition
    Inbox

    landerssteve@universalpicturesfilms.com
    9:42 AM (3 hours ago)
    to me, gomezsamantha@universalpicturesfilms.com, greenderek@universalpicturesfilms.com

    Good day!

    It is our earnest desire to have your book ” WHAT ABOUT BARNUM ” be adapted into a Full Length Motion Picture that will be based meticulously according to its Genre. Hear us out and provide us your best number to call so we could discuss deliberately about the entire process.

    We need your confirmation the soonest time possible.

    Kindly provide the following:
    • Author’s CV with updated contact details
    • Film Copyright Registration/License
    • Permits and Clearances

    Sincerely,
    Steve Landers
    Global Head
    landerssteve@universalpicturesfilms.com

    UNIVERSAL PICTURES
    http://www.universalpictures.com

    Notice the strange language: “earnest desire” and “We need your confirmation the soonest time possible.” This is translated English from another language. No Studio or valid Agency would write like with such horrible syntax. Little clues. And take a look at the email @universalpicturesfilms.com. That website is a mess and obsolete. Someone should tell Universal Studios this is going on.

    Stay safe, my friends.
    Joss.

  18. Inkstone Literary is my latest…got mail from Bella Courtman, senior literary agent who says 4 out of 10 (lol) mainstream publishers are interested in one of my books. She wants my # to talk about my chance of a lifetime. Bottom of letter has her as Project Manager and when I click on her email I get Margarette Hayes. I emailed her suggesting a scam and she verifies Courtman’s letter saying she’s her Project Manager.
    I’ve already been solicited by another agency who offered film rights and wanted me to pay for a book trailer. When I suggested those costs were their responsibility their interest ended there.
    I’m a former fraud detective and more skeptical than most, but have to admit some of these offers look fairly legit at first glance, although a little research usually reveals the flaws in their pitch.

  19. Yesterday I got a scam email from Author Queries (who work out of a co-working rental) and this morning got one purporting to be from Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron wanting to buy the film rights for my book for Netflix. Not sure where to report the blatant identity fraud.

    Email text:
    I hope this email finds you well!

    This is Alfonso Cuaron, I am a Mexican Film Director of the Movie “Gravity and Great Expectations”.

    Your book reached my office and it was recommended by Hollywood Movie Agents that this material suits International Film this coming 2025-2026

    We have seen great potential with your masterpiece to be an asset in the Hollywood market. We’ve been in the film industry for more than 20 years and we have a strong connection ins and outs of the arena, our partner film production companies like Warner Bros. Pictures, Lionsgate, Searchlight, Paramount, and Netflix are looking for unique stories like yours that we can use for entertainment. We are willing to buy your movie rights if you qualify.

    We hope to conduct a further judgment to formulate a movie project for us to finance. You can reach me at my personal number 1-201 204 9003 or at + 44 20 7097 2287. You may also respond to this email with your contact details and a convenient time to call.

    We look forward to working with you soon.

    Best regards,

    Alfonso Cuaron
    Mexican Film Director | Netflix Director
    9945 Beverly Grove Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210
    Phone: 1 (201) 204-9003 | 44-20-7097-2287
    Email: a.cuaron1961@gmail.com

    1. Thanks for your comment, Kim B. This scam is really doing the rounds–I’ve gotten a number of reports of the exact same solicitation over the past couple of weeks. I’m not certain which scammer is behind it, but as you not, it is absolutely fraud. (Mr. Cuaron has been alerted.)

  20. Watch out for Patricia (not) from Paramount Pictures who in collaboration with agents is confirming a motion picture from a book for a USD$250,000 fee!

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