London's Recorded Picture Co (RPC) and its sales arm Hanway Films have become engaged in a bizarre tussle with LA-based Franchise Pictures over hot MIFED title Scheherezade directed by Michael Apted - which both companies appear to be selling.

But according to Jeremy Thomas, the film's producer, and head of Recorded/Hanway, Franchise has never had any rights to the film. "I am amused that Franchise could spin more elaborate yarns than Scheherezade herself," he told Screen yesterday.

RPC chief executive Peter Watson says that Recorded is "mystified" at Franchise's behaviour, has sent a cease-and-desist letter and is now considering legal action.

"As a representative of the production company making the film, I can tell you that Franchise has never had any rights in the film," said Watson. "We were talking to [Franchise partner] David Bergstein about it at one point but never gave him any rights. We are now concerned that they are damaging the project, especially in such a tough time for financing independent films."

Franchise included Scheherezade in its trade advertising and has posters of its stars Laurence Fishburne and Juliette Binoche prominently displayed in its MIFED booth. Franchise has been actively pitching the project to buyers.

Hanway, which has closed deals with Metropolitan Filmexport in France and Eagle Pictures in Italy on the film, quickly got wise to the situation when both those buyers reported back that they were concerned over the validity of their deals since Franchise was also offering the film to buyers.

Franchise staff in Milan referred the matter to Bergstein and Franchise CFO Rick Kwak in the company's Los Angeles HQ, neither of whom were returning calls at time of going to press in Milan.

Scheherezade is something of a labour of love for Apted. The film, named after the king's wife in The Arabian Nights, is a contemporary thriller set in LA with Fishburne and Binoche heading the cast. It is scheduled to shoot next summer.