• Film Company Asked To mediate Biggie Smalls contention

    A Los Angeles judge today ordered two filmmaking companies to arbitrate their dispute with the director of the estate of Biggie Smalls concerning access to film footage for a biopic of the late rapper. Superior Court Judge Alan S. Rosenfield additionally ruled that the singer's widow, Faith Evans, who's also named in the complaint, does not have to take part in the arbitration unless he receives her written consent. Beverly Hills-based Kaushi Entertainment LLC and Dro-Entertainment Inc. filed a breach of contract lawsuit last March 19 against Evans, Smalls estate director Damion Butler and his production company, RocDarling Films.

    The suit alleges the companies paid $30,000 for homemade movies featuring the entertainer, whose real name was Christopher Wallace, and that the deal was approved by Evans and Butler. The clips were to be used in a documentary about the rapper, who was shot to death at age 24 in March 1997 upon leaving a Soul Train Music Awards after-party at the Petersen Automotive Museum, according to the suit.

    The production companies' executives say they never received the tapes and want $1 million in damages. Attorneys for Butler filed a motion to take the case from the courtroom, saying a provision of the contract called for arbitration of any disputes.

    Steven T. Lowe, an attorney for the filmmakers, argued that granting the motion could cause inconsistent rulings in case because the part against Evans, who is not bound by any arbitration agreement, would remain in the courts. Rosenfield agreed with attorneys for Butler, saying arbitration is a valuable tool for alternative dispute resolution.

    Although Rosenfield declined Lowe's request to order Evans into arbitration, the widow's attorney, Staci J. Riordan, said her client would probably agree to participate if Lowe files a proposed agreement with the court.