I was under the impression that reality show contracts have explicit language about using footage of a contestant in any manner they choose, even if it’s embarrassing or humiliating.
Nevertheless, one of the “joke” contestants from the 3rd and final season of X Factor USA is suing the production companies, according to The Hollywood Reporter:
In a complaint filed Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Sally Hessnice, who auditioned for the show in front of a live audience in May 2013, says the producers of the series manipulated the recording of her performance to depict her poorly. She’s suing the production companies Fremantle, Syco and Blue Orbit, but not the networks ITV (in Britain) or Fox, which aired her audition in the U.S. in September 2013.
States her complaint, “The Audition had been altered in the following ways: a.) Plaintiff’s voice (i.e., pitch, reverb and vocal legato) was altered to sound ‘screechy’ and unprofessional; b.) the positive audience reaction was replaced with footage of a disinterested audience; and c.) the judges’ original comments and reactions to Plaintiff were re-filmed (without Plaintiff present) to show a negative response to Plaintiff.
“In addition, the stage manager prompted the Plaintiff to walk around the entire stage. During the Audition, Plaintiff noticed the surface of the stage was inconsistent, with ‘pillowy’ surfaces scattered throughout. This was an intentional effort by Defendants to disrupt her performance and pre-arrange the outcome of the Audition,” it continues.
It’s not just a matter of hurt feelings. She claims to be a “professional” singer and that her “reputation as a professional singer has been irreparably tarnished.”
She also claims the audition violated a federal law that prohibits “engag[ing] in any artifice or scheme for the purpose of prearranging or predetermining in whole or in part the outcome of a purportedly bona fide contest of intellectual knowledge, intellectual skill, or chance.”
The plaintiff is suing for: intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, false light invasion of privacy, and gross negligence and is asking for $2 million in damages, rescission of her contract with the producers and an injunction against the defendants’ use of her audition footage.
We know how producers play fast and loose with editing. Reaction shots are often completely out of place, or a timeline is played with. The result can make a contestant look better or much worse and is very often not true to what really happened–because reality is not entertaining enough for TV.
But would Simon Cowell actually re-film comments after the fact? I attended an X Factor 2 audition in Providence RI. What wound up on screen was highly edited, but depicted contestants accurately, from how I remembered them. Certainly, if X Factor editors altered Sally’s audition as much as she claims, there would be witnesses from the audience who could back her up.
Besides, bad singers are a dime a dozen. No need to manufacture them.
Check out Sally Hessnice’s audition here. To me, she seems like your garden variety delusional singer. What do you think?