‘Scream Queen’ stiffed musician, lawsuit alleges

??????????????????A Pompton Plains musician is suing actress Abigail Breslin in small claims court in New York City.

The suit says Breslin, who was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in the movie “Little Miss Sunshine” and who now plays a mean sorority sister in the new Fox television series “Scream Queens,” didn’t pay the musician for his services.

Sean Brody said he was recruited a year ago to work as a studio musician for Breslin as she rehearsed for an upcoming album.
But Brody said he and the other studio musicians were never paid for the gig.

“We were under the agreement that we would be paid for our studio practice time, tolls, parking and gas but we have not seen one dime,” said Brody, whose full-time band, The Weekenders, is based in New Jersey. “We’ve been given the runaround like never before. Everybody said they’d fix it, and now nobody wants to fix it.”

Brody is suing for $2,125, a fee he calculated based on the hourly rate he charges his piano students.

Brody said he and the band had a few rehearsals to learn the music before Breslin, 19, joined them in the studio. He said they didn’t expect to get paid for those prep sessions.

cheetahThe band started practice with Breslin in November, he said.

After two sessions, Brody said, he asked Breslin’s manager for more details about how and when the band members would be paid. The manager said he would talk to Breslin and her mother Kim Breslin, and “not to worry about it,” Brody said

The rehearsals went on hiatus for the holidays but picked up again in January, Brody said.

Still, no payments had been made, so Brody said he talked to the manager again.

“He said he’d fix it,” Brody said.

Two more rehearsals came and went, but still, no payment.

So again, Brody asked for an update.

The manager said he didn’t have the chance yet, but “of course you guys are going to get paid,” Brody said he was told.

In the spring, Breslin invited the band to dinner to celebrate her birthday, Brody said, but nobody talked about the money.

Then it got more expensive. Brody said Breslin left an April practice session without paying for the studio time, so he and the rest of the band had to foot the bill. Brody said he talked to the manager again, and he was promised the band would be reimbursed.

Rehearsals continued but payments never started, Brody said.

He again called the manager, but this time, something changed.

“[The manager] had the nerve to tell me I should just be honored to even be playing with her,” Brody said. “Don’t get me wrong — she’s a super talented actress — but I can’t pay my bills with honor.”

Concerned, Brody said he called Breslin’s mother. She told Brody she never expected the band to work for free, and they made plans to talk in person after the next rehearsal.

“We went out to dinner after the following rehearsal and she brought it up. She said she was giving the manager money to pay us and if he wasn’t paying it, she would pay us out of her own pocket if she had to,” Brody said. “We shook Abbie’s and Kim’s hands and walked out feeling like things were resolved.”

Around this time, Brody said, Breslin switched managers.

There was another rehearsal, and then Breslin took off to shoot “Scream Queens,” Brody said. That was around May, and Brody said he hasn’t seen Breslin since.

Brody needed the money. He said he sent a text to Breslin explaining his financial woes — that he was defaulting on his student loans — and that a check would really help.

Breslin responded via text, suggesting he call the new manager, text messages show.

So Brody called the new manager — Justin Siegel — on July 1.

“At first he said we didn’t have a contract and that I had no proof that Abbie said she would pay us,” Brody said, noting he had text messages that showed otherwise. “Then he said he would create a spreadsheet to see what we were owed.”

It doesn’t seem that was done, though, because Brody said Siegel stopped responding to his calls and texts.

Brody said he didn’t want to turn to court, but he didn’t have a choice.

“I live paycheck-to-paycheck. I’m not afraid to admit that I’m struggling, as a lot of people are,” Brody said. “The money I’m owed is just a fraction of what she earns on a daily basis.”

HEADING TO COURT?

We reviewed Brody’s court paperwork, a series of group text messages between band members and Breslin, and communications through other social media sites.

We also took a look at Breslin’s net worth, which is estimated at about $12 million, according to several entertainment industry publications.

Then we reached out to Breslin’s attorneys, Linda Lichter and Melissa Rogal of Lichter Grossman in Los Angeles. They didn’t respond to our calls or emails.

We also tried to reach Breslin’s mother Kim Breslin several times via email, but she didn’t respond, either.

Breslin’s new manager Justin Siegel did answer his cell phone.

“I have no comment about that,” Siegel said.

And Breslin herself didn’t respond to attempts to reach her on social media.

This leaves Brody with little choice but to wait for his Dec. 10 court date.

Of course, working against Brody is that he didn’t sign a contract with the actress or her representatives.

“I didn’t sign a contract because where I come from a handshake means something,” Brody said. “It actually cost me money to play in her band. I was a hired musician. I wasn’t collecting royalties for anything because I wasn’t on the recordings. None of us were.”

Signing a contract is vital, whether you’re signing on with a contractor or a famous person. It’s a lesson we learn here time and time again. It’s not a guarantee you’ll get paid, but it will help if you have to end up in court.

So is saving all written communications — including text messages, which is what Brody did — and you should even keep a detailed log of all phone calls.

Those items should help Brody when he goes before the judge.

We’ll let you know what happens after Brody’s date in court.

Staff researcher Vinessa Erminio contributed to this report.

Have you been Bamboozled? Reach Karin Price Mueller at Bamboozled@NJAdvanceMedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @KPMueller. Find Bamboozled on Facebook. Mueller is also the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com.

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