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Caribbean Top Model fiasco- Front line staff blamed
Claims of financial mismanagement and overspending are being levelled against those who worked on the front line of Caribbean Next Top Model (CNTM), as Dionyse Fitzwilliam, executive producer, defends her company in the face of claims it did not pay all the fees owed to those who worked on the production. Fitzwilliam, who shares the executive producer title with sister Wendy, said she did not run the production on a daily basis.
Contacted by phone in New York, where she lives and works as an investment banker, Fitzwilliam said Ian Royer and Shane Ram were the ones responsible for managing the crew. “Ian’s job was to manage the execution of the production and Shane’s job was to assist Ian with HR and government relations.”
Royer, who is credited as the creative director, was the person who bought the CNTM franchise and was responsible for pulling the Fitzwilliam sisters on board. He resigned in December 2011 and the sisters paid him for control of the company, Caribe NTM. When contacted he declined to comment, saying he had signed a confidentiality agreement. Ram was hired as the director of business development on the production.
Fitzwilliam said she was managing everything remotely, as she had to fly back and forth because of her work commitments. As a result, she said, many decisions were made without her knowledge or authorisation. One of them was the decision to allow the crew to work an extra ten days. Contrary to reports, she said she was not at that meeting. “The reason they had to work the extra ten days is because Ian brought in the girls before anything was ready,” she said.
She also said she told Danielle Dieffenthaller, director of the production, she had no money to pay the crew for the extra time. “I never saw or interacted with them until they turned up to get paid on December 5,” she said. She also claimed that at that meeting, the crew signed a document saying what they were paid was the full and final payment for work on CNTM.
Fitzwilliam said there were financial issues from the beginning, when one of the big sponsors pulled out, and at that point she told Dieffenthaller to stop sending revised budgets, as the crew would be paid less. “You can’t keep resending budgets during a process,” she says. “I told Danielle, ‘We have a finite amount.’ She said she and Ian would raise additional funds.”
Fitzwilliam said no money was raised and she had to put up close to a half-a-million US dollars of her own. “I never received a weekly spend—or daily—and CBS was asking for footage repeatedly, which is why I did not sign the contracts. I got no resumes or footage and without the footage, there is no show, so you can’t commercialise it,” she explained.
Describing the filming as the most traumatic thing she has ever experienced, Fitzwilliam said she was pushed around and threatened when she started to put her foot down as she became aware of what was going on. “When I landed in Trinidad I got a s---storm from sponsors,” she said, revealing one hotel claimed the company owed $80,000, while there were bills of $1,200 from Hyatt and a US$900 bill from More Vino.
She said her company is facing a big loss—in excess of US$400,000. The total sum gathered from sponsors came up to US$250,000. On the issue of paying the caterer, Steve Hosein, Fitzwilliam said she never saw any documentation to prove he provided the service and denied any knowledge of the receipts that the T&T Guardian saw. “If I had the finances to do it, I would pay them. But the show has to make money. The company is in a hole.
“I am not spending any more of my money, and not for substandard work,” she said, claiming Blue Collar Productions in Los Angeles had to fill a lot of gaps to put the show together. “I am as much a casualty of this as everyone. The only people who benefitted are Danielle and Alastair Waithe (the assistant producer).”
Fitzwilliam said at this point she is focused on paying the judges, Richard Young and Pedro Virgil. But she says she is also open to talks with the crew, pointing out that if they go ahead with plans to file an injunction, that would decrease their likelihood of getting paid.
“If the goal is to drag it through the mud, there is nothing I could do to stop that,” she said.
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