APOPKA, Fla. – Police charged an aspiring reality show director with blocking four women — half of a cast billed as ordinary girls hoping to become "princesses" — from leaving the central Florida house where the show was being shot.
Marc Brilleman, 33, identified as the chief operating officer, director and writer of "Pauper to Princess," was arrested Saturday on a charge of false imprisonment.
According to the show's Web site, its concept was to build the eight women's self-esteem and help them grow physically, mentally and spiritually. As with many reality shows, the women lived in a house while the program was taped. Producers were trying to sell the show to a TV network.
Four of the women told investigators Brilleman blocked and locked a door when they tried to leave the house, where they had been since February and had been able to leave on weekends, said Jerome Miller, a commander for Apopka police northwest of Orlando.
Brilleman initially denied stopping the women when questioned by police, then said "they could not leave because they were being disciplined," Miller said. Brilleman also told them they could not leave because they were under contract, the police report said.
According to the report, the women were also upset that they had not been paid for the past five weeks of filming.
Miller said the case would be forwarded to state prosecutors.
Brilleman posted a $3,000 bond and was released several hours after his arrest. Police do not believe he has a criminal record. Miller said Brilleman is from South Africa, but his immigration status is unclear.
Calls to the telephone number listed on the show's Web site rang unanswered and e-mails sent to company executives were not answered. Brilleman does not have a listed telephone number and it was not known if he had a lawyer.
Jim Johnson, the show's executive producer, told the Orlando Sentinel the women who asked to leave were allowed to do so.
"Nobody was being held against their will at any time," Johnson said. "This show was an honorable show. We took them to the opera, we took them to fashion shows, we took them to modeling training and we took them to etiquette training."
Johnson did say the producers took the women's cell phones away, but he said that was done according to the contract the women signed. Even though the contract said the women had to remain in the house for 13 weeks, the producers had been letting the women leave on recent weekends, he told the newspaper.
Diane Waizmann, whose 23-year-old daughter Alisha was among the contestants, told The Associated Press on Monday that her daughter was not available.
Only five women were left in the house when Brilleman was arrested, Johnson told the newspaper. Two were given permission to leave and one was eliminated as part of the show's competition.
The company producing the show, Dream House Productions Inc., was registered with the Florida Secretary of State's Office on Jan. 17.