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Money Fight Over Food Network Show

LOS ANGELES (CN) - One TV producer sued another, claiming it's "tantamount to extortion" that a producer of the Food Network series "$" refuses to hand over dozens of consent forms signed by people on the show, unless the plaintiff company pays her $14,000.

Custom Television Productions sued Kyra Shelgren and her Los Angeles loan-out company, Another Diversion, in Superior Court.

Custom TV seeks damages for breach of oral contract, conversion, and delivery of about 30 photography releases.

The nonparty Food Network requires the releases for anyone filmed before it broadcasts their segments, and is withholding a payment of $93,000 until Custom delivers them, according to court documents filed on Wednesday.

Custom TV president (nonparty) Steve Stockman hired Shelgren as a producer for a flat rate of $4,000 per week, "and reimbursed for reasonable expenses that were approved by Mr. Stockman," according to the complaint.

The Food Network commissioned Custom TV to produce a "$24 in 24 Hours" pilot episode and 6-episode series, according to the complaint. The show follows (nonparty) Jeff Mauro as he travels to a different city each week to track down the best breakfast, lunch and dinner he can find with only $24 in his pocket.

"The budget of the series was approximately $935,000, to be paid to plaintiff in seven installments as the series progressed," the complaint states.

Custom claims that on Aug. 23, 2012, just before principal photography was completed, Shelgren told Stockman that the project was $45,000 over budget. "Stockman approved this budget overage," the complaint states,

But Stockman discovered on Sept. 3 "that production had actually exceeded its budget by over $90,000," the complaint states. "Included in those overages were over $14,000 in numerous undocumented personal expenses that Ms. Shelgren claims she incurred, including 11 extra work days that Ms. Shelgren assigned herself, as well as upgrades to first class for her airfare as well as upgrades and services for her hotel rooms. None of these upgrades or additional days were approved by Mr. Stockman or anyone at Custom. None of these expenses were included in the August 23, 2012 budget overages that Mr. Stockman approved."

Custom claims that for more than three months it asked Shelgren for itemized receipts and details of the unapproved expenses and extra work days, but never heard back from her.

Stockman learned later that Food Network never received 30 releases for the last episode of the show, shot in Philadelphia, though Shelgren had assured Stockman that she would send all the show's paperwork to the channel, according to the complaint.

"On or about December 5, 2012, Mr. Stockman requested that Ms. Shelgren immediately send him the releases to give to The Food Network. On or about December 8, 2012, Ms. Shelgren stated that she would not return the releases unless Mr. Stockman paid her $14,000 via wire transfer, a demand tantamount to extortion," the lawsuit states.

It adds: "Ms. Shelgren has repeatedly failed and refused to return the releases for over a month, materially breaching the agreement and exposing plaintiff to claims by The Food Network for not fully performing its duties under their contract. The Food Network is indeed withholding the last payment of $93,447.00 until they receive the releases."

Custom TV is represented by Anjani Mandavia, with Weintraub Tobin Chediak Coleman Grodin Law Corp., of Beverly Hills.

Shelgren did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

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