It wasn't too long ago that media companies like Netflix and Amazon were spending hundreds of millions of dollars on upscale films and television shows, all as a way to drive up subscription numbers. That era seems by most accounts to be dwindling, but probably the strangest story to come out of it is only now being reported by The New York Times, and is the subject of a legal battle between filmmaker Carl Erik Rinsch and Netflix.
Somehow, even with that tack record, in late 2018 Rinsch pushed Amazon and Netflix into a bidding war over an ambitious science-fiction series of his own creation, centered on the theme of artificial intelligence. Netflix won the bidding war. What Rinsch got from Netflix… and what he did with what he got… has turned into a drama that could easily be turned into a multi-seasons drama/comedy Netflix series.
Not only did Netflix give Rinsch an 8-figure budget, it also gave him full control of the final product and full oversight over the production budget. That's where things got really really weird.
Shortly after signing the Netflix deal, Rinsch reportedly began experiencing what appear to be psychotic episodes, possibly brought on by an ADHD medication called Vyvanse. His behavior apparently became extremely erratic and he reportedly did not meet several production deadlines. For example, at one point Rinsch claimed to have "discovered Covid-19's secret transmission mechanism" and was "able to predict lightning strikes."
And yet for some reason, in the years after he signed the deal, Netflix poured $55 million into the series, only to never receive a single completed episode.
By March of 2020, Netflix had spent $44.3 million on the series, which at this point was titled "Conquest." Around this time Rinsch requested more money and Netflix agreed to up the budget by $11 million.
Rinsch allegedly took $10.5 million of that $11 million – which was meant to produce television content – and transferred it to his personal brokerage account at Charles Schwab. He allegedly placed call option bets on various stocks. He allegedly lost $5.9 million of the $10.5 million in just a few weeks.
That's not all.
Allegedly, Rinsch took the production budget and went on a luxury spending spree. He reportedly used production money to buy five Rolls-Royce automobiles and a Ferrari, plus a Vacheron Constantin watch for $387,630 and "millions of dollars' worth of high-end furniture and designer clothing."
At the same time, Rinsch is currently embroiled in a divorce from soon-to-be ex-wife Gabriela Rosés Bentancor, who was also a producer on the Netflix series. According to a forensic accountant hired by Gabriela, Rinsch spent a total of $8.7 million on luxury expenditures.
That's not all.
With $4 million that was still left in his Schwab account, Rinsch allegedly bought Dogecoin.
He did not lose this money.
Incredibly, when he sold his Dogecoin in May 2021, he had somehow turned $4 million into… $27 million.
At least one of those gambles, a hefty $4 million investment in the crypto Dogecoin, actually ended up paying off. In May of 2021, he liquidated his account to the tune of almost $27 million.
His soon-to-be ex-wife claims that he spent $8.7 million on luxury items in part to obscure the $27 million he made investing in Dogecoin, so he could avoid paying her a big divorce settlement.
By now Netflix has written off the entire project and it seems unlikely that it will ever see the light of day. For Rinsch's part, he has reportedly initiated a confidential arbitration proceeding against Netflix, accusing them of breaching their contract. And get this… He claims Netflix still owes him an additional $14 million!