Couple sues Aspen film producer
A husband-and-wife film-making team filed suit Monday against an Aspen production company, claiming the company failed to properly compensate them for filming the Mount Everest Trilogy Expedition last spring.
Jeff and Kellie Rhoads, of Pocatello, Idaho, in a suit against American Adventure Productions, Inc. (AAP), are seeking a minimum of $60,000 for the 45 hours of video and audio footage they shot of the expedition’s efforts on Mt. Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse. Lhotse and Nuptse are both 7,800-plus-meter peaks situated on the same massif as the 29,028-foot Mt. Everest, which is located in the Khumbu region on the Himalaya, near the border of Nepal and Tibet.
The expedition, led by six-time Everest summiteer Peter Athans, set off with goals to summit all three peaks and conduct scientific research, according to the lawsuit. AAP hired the Rhoadses to document it as the expedition’s two high-altitude filmmakers, the suit said.
“We are contending that [the Rhoadses] fully performed the agreement,” said the couple’s attorney, David Maguire, of Pocatello. “We believe that they are not only entitled to the base money prescribed under the contract, but they’re also entitled to the bonus.”
The contract signed between the Rhoadses and AAP president John Wilcox stipulated that the couple would be paid $15,000 up front (which was paid to them); $20,000 two weeks after the delivery of “professional quality” video and audio to AAP; and a $7,500 bonus, to be paid a month after delivery to AAP, if the couple provided a minute of footage from the summit of Everest.
“Essentially, [AAP] didn’t get the film footage that they wanted,” Maguire said of the basis for AAP’s nonpayment. “And we came up with a figure that we felt was a reasonable value for the footage that was provided. We think Mr. Wilcox got an excellent deal.”
However, the couple did not reach the summit of Everest.
“Jeff and Kellie only made it to the south summit of Everest,” Maguire said. “It’s awfully close, about a quarter of a mile to the top. Kellie was having some real difficulty and they made a decision that it was safer for the two of them to go down.
“Since they didn’t get some footage at or near the summit, [AAP] said that Jeff and Kellie failed to meet their contractual obligation,” he continued. “But they got footage of Athans and Bill Crouse approaching the summit.”
John Wilcox of AAP was out of town yesterday and could not be reached for comment. AAP’s attorney, Bob Francis, did not return a phone call yesterday, however, Maguire reported that Francis contacted him yesterday and attempted to accept a previously offered settlement agreement.
“We made [Francis] a proposal last week to resolve it; he rejected it, so we filed suit,” Maguire said. “[Tuesday] he said now that you’ve filed suit, Mr. Wilcox advises me to take your offer, but I don’t know if my clients are still willing to accept it.”
The Rhoadses are presently in Argentina, participating in the Eco-Challenge event. Their footage was shot to be used by AAP in a television broadcast about the expedition.
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International visitors have traditionally accounted for 10 to 20 percent of Aspen Skiing Co.’s skier visits in recent past seasons. Travel fears and restrictions tied to the coronavirus are expected to wipe out most of that market for 2020-21.