Cutthroat Business, Hollywood
LOS ANGELES (CN) - A Pittsburgh company that charges people hundreds of dollars to present their TV and movie ideas to the entertainment industry claims in court that a dissatisfied customer and employee stole its trade secrets and falsely accused its president of murder.
New Show Studios sued former employee Jimm Needle of West Mifflin, Pa. and New Show client Greg Howe, of Canada, in Federal Court. Plaintiffs include New Show Studios president Anthony Valkanas, and Davison Design and Development. They accused the defendants of misappropriating trade secrets, defamation, computer fraud, conversion, privacy invasion and 15 other counts.
The 22-page federal lawsuit claims Needle and Howe are part of an "ongoing scheme" to steal New Show's clients and send them to New Show's competitor, non-party Television Writer's Vault.
Also, according to the complaint, Howe falsely accused Valkanas of committing a double homicide - a claim the Valkanas calls "patently false."
This not the first time the company has gone to court with a defamation claim.
In 2012, New Show Studios accused Television Writer's Vault owner Scott Manville of defamation in San Diego state court, claiming that a commentator on the site had falsely accused New Show of being run by "'scam artists.'"
On its website, New Show Studios claims to target "top networks" ABC, CBS, Fox, HBO and MTV and touts an "exclusive licensing partnership with SFM Entertainment" of New York. The SFM Entertainment website encourages submission of new ideas but directs users back to the New Show Studios' website.
Though the website includes testimonials from eight seemingly satisfied customers, the company does not make clear what successes, if any, it has registered on behalf of its clients.
New Show Studios charges $495 for its service, plus a ten percent commission on any sale, according to the website, checked this morning.
The Better Business Bureau website gives New Show Studios its lowest rating, an F. Explaining its rating, the BBB says that 12 complaints have been filed against the business in the past three years; one complaint was filed but never resolved, and two serious complaints were filed against the company, according to the BBB Western Pennsylvania website, checked this morning.
Howe, having paid New Show to pitch one of his ideas, grew disillusioned with the service when the company asked him to make a pitch reel or pay the company to make one for him, New Show Studios says in its lawsuit.
New Show states on its website that it typically charges $8,000 to $12,000 for the reel, which includes a DVD, brochure and packaging.
According to New Show, Howe adopted an "inexplicably aggressive and vindictive posture" after refusing to make a reel. He wrote "hostile" emails to New Show, the company claims, and posted defamatory comments on the websites scambook.com, complaintsboard.com and YouTube, accusing New Show of defrauding clients and running a Ponzi scheme.
Needle, a former creative producer for New Show's sister company George Davison Studios, met Howe online after posting unflattering comments on YouTube about the company, the company says.
New Show claims that Howe asked Needle to help him "sabotage" the company by stealing its client list and trade secrets so as to divert customers to Television Writer's Vault.
"Throughout the latter half of 2013 and early 2014, Needle pressured his former colleagues to grant him unlawful access to confidential and sensitive information regarding thousands of NSS [New Show Studios] clients and prospective clients as well as information regarding NSS's business plans, pricing and marketing strategies, and other highly sensitive and confidential information," the lawsuit claims.
Howe allegedly persuaded clients to jump ship by accusing New Show of defrauding clients, warning in emails that the company will "'pick your pockets,'" the lawsuit claims.
"Howe's defamation was not limited to NSS. He also told countless NSS clients that Valkanas was guilty of committing a double homicide. Like his other statements, this claim is patently false," the complaint states.
Seeking an injunction and unspecified damages, New Show, Valkanas and Davison Design & Development are represented by Leeor Neta of Newman Du Wors of San Francisco.