$12 Million Demand for Reality Show
LOS ANGELES (CN) - A reality show producer claims in a $12 million lawsuit that Ashton Kutcher's Katalyst Media and Creative Artists Agency froze her out of a DMV reality show she helped create, and wrecked her career in the process.
Hedda Muskat and Big Cheese Media sued CAA, Katalyst and its co-owner Jason Goldberg in Superior Court.
Kutcher, who founded Katalyst with Goldberg, is not a party to the complaint.
Muskat claims she has won two Emmys in her 25 years as a producer, during which she received credits on "America's Got Talent," the "Ellen DeGeneres Show," "Dr. Phil" and other shows.
Inspired by a story her daughter told her about a visit to the DMV, Muskat says, she came up with the idea for a reality show based on DMV offices throughout California. She claims she persuaded the Department of Motor Vehicles to allow cameras in its offices, only to see CAA and Katalyst undo her work.
Muskat claims she was a client of CAA for more than four years, and the agency brought its client Katalyst on board after the producer presented her idea for the show.
Muskat claims she was to be the executive producer, but CAA and Katalyst froze her out, pitching the project to networks while she was on vacation.
Initially, CAA and Katalyst, best known for producing the Kutcher show "Punk'd," kept Muskat on board because of the trust she had fostered through her contacts at the DMV, Muskat says.
"It was only plaintiff's assurances that she would maintain creative control of the project while working with Katalyst that mollified the DMV's concerns," according to the complaint.
Muskat claims that Katalyst hijacked and destroyed her work by excluding her from the production, and hiring "inexperienced and/or incompetent" executives and staff to run the show.
"Due to Katalyst stripping plaintiff of control and CAA's failure to protect plaintiffs' interests, the project transformed into the same Hollywood autopilot production that the DMV feared it might become," the lawsuit states.
Muskat claims that things reached a critical stage when Katalyst posted a casting call that made clear the show was "adversarial to the DMV," and leaked DMV employees' personal telephone numbers. DMV then decided end its involvement, according to the complaint.
In the fallout, Muskat says, Goldberg admitted that "'it took [plaintiff] three years to develop this show, and it took [Katalyst] three days to fuck it all up.'" (Brackets in complaint.)
Muskat claims that CAA sold the project to TruTV without telling her that the Discovery Channel, the DMV's preferred choice, had made a better offer.
She also claims that the agency failed to secure her payment for her work on the DMV project and three other reality shows: "Beautiful People" for VH1, "Drama Queens" for Sony Entertainment, and "Kid Agency" for Zodiak USA.
Muskat claims her projects were "consistently torpedoed by defendants' mismanagement," and she accuses Katalyst and CAA of "obliterating" her career and reputation in the industry.
"Plaintiff's name is now only associated with aborted projects, and she is no longer able to attain work in the reality television industry that she successfully participated in for well over two decades," the complaint states.
After the DMV discarded the project, Katalyst sued the agency, in June 2012, and settled for $450,000, Muskat says in the complaint. She claims that Katalyst did not share the settlement with her, though it was based on a "binding contract" she made with the DMV.
Muskat seeks damages for breach of contract, promissory fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, negligent interference and other counts.
She is represented by Steven Lowe with Lowe & Associates.
Neither CAA nor Katalyst Media immediately responded to requests for comment.