More flak for Kodak 'Christmas Carol' producer Kevin Von Feldt
Culture Monster readers who have followed the ongoing saga of the Kodak Theatre's troubled holiday production of "A Christmas Carol" have no doubt noticed that, since Jan. 4, some involved in the production have been appending comments to our story about producer/director Von Feldt's difficulties with the show -- as well as to F. Kathleen Foley's review of the production -- complaining that Von Feldt has not paid them for their work.
Culture Monster received a Jan. 4 comment from lead painter Timothy Sellers, who said that he and other painters had not yet been paid. Two Jan. 6 commenters did not make personal claims but said they had knowledge of other artists who had not been paid. Since then, others have also submitted comments accusing Von Feldt of nonpayment. The flow of complaints has continued.
Since the complaints started, Culture Monster has exchanged e-mails with Von Feldt about the comments. The producer/director did not respond to a request for a telephone interview. In his responses, Von Feldt attributed many of his problems to the fact that only 18.8% of the potential ticket revenue was realized for the engagement.
"The show did not make money. It lost over $500,000," Von Feldt wrote to The Times in a Jan. 7 e-mail. "Long before Ms. Foley's review, the delays caused by the difficulty in raising money these days and long before the illness of Jane Seymour, this show simply did not sell."
Von Feldt added in a later e-mail to The Times: "There are some isolated unpaid bills as we sort out the final settlement from the Kodak. ..." He went on to say that he did not have the names and addresses of the painters from the Kodak until Jan. 6 so was unable to send any checks until then.
On Jan. 10, Von Feldt posted his own testy comment on Culture Monster in response to one "Anonymous Set Painter," telling this person to back off: "Addressing the 'anonymous' tripe previously written, I just received the names and addresses of the Xmas Carol painters last Monday and checks have already gone out... It's easy for 'anonymous' to shoot his or her mouth off when they don't know what they're talking about but are too weak to identify themselves..."
Von Feldt told Culture Monster (via e-mail) that he intends to pay painters, carpenters and scenic designers the full amount they are owed. And our first complainer, lead painter Sellers, says that he, indeed, received a check this week but for only 50% of the $2,100 he was owed -- with no note or explanation of when, or whether, he might expect the rest.
Wisconsin-based scenic designer Jeff Hile, who oversaw the painters and carpenters, said Tuesday that he had received a check to cover his expenses but had not yet received any other expected payments. He declined to elaborate but said, "I agreed to take some risk" in terms of the amount his final payment would be.
Hile added that to the best of his knowledge the rest of the painters and carpenters had been mailed partial payments. He said that costume designer Nancy Dutmer, also from Wisconsin, had also received a partial payment.
Painters, carpenters and designers were nonunion contractors, and Von Feldt, not the Kodak Theatre, was their employer.
As we reported previously, this is not the first time Von Feldt has had problems with "A Christmas Carol." In 1994, a Los Angeles city prosecutor said she would ask Los Angeles police detectives to investigate advertising claims for a Von Feldt-produced staging of "A Christmas Carol" at Pasadena's Raymond Theatre. Newspaper ads and promotional fliers for the Pasadena run of the touring production said the show would have "narration by John Gielgud," not mentioning that his voice would be recorded. Creditors, including Gielgud, complained of unpaid bills.
Says Kodak manager Jay Thomas: "When we licensed the Kodak Theatre to Von Feldt Productions for 'A Christmas Carol,' we were aware of Kevin Von Feldt's theater presenting history from the mid-1990s forward. However, it provided us with the deposit we required, and we had confirmation of other entities providing financial investment to the production. This was a considerable amount of money, and enough for us to recognize that they were serious about having performances. We also checked with the talent management, and they said their clients were ready, willing and enthusiastically in support of the production. This process is consistent with all our license agreements with this facility."
There is no theatrical crystal ball that can predict whether Von Feldt's "Christmas Carol" creditors will receive their full payments. Said painter Sellers: "I deposited this check as rapidly as possible."
-- Diane Haithman
Photo of "A Christmas Carol." Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times