Some Los Angeles donors who attended a Sept. 30 fundraiser for Clay Aiken in Los Angeles feel “duped” after the announcement, just hours after he lost his race for a North Carolina congressional seat, that Esquire Network had been producing a “docu-series” about his campaign.
According to Karen Ocamb of FrontiersLA, donors are asking that footage of the event not be included in the documentary. Donors have complained that a film crew following Aiken around that night asked attendees to sign release forms, but told them that it was for a BBC documentary that would not air in the U.S.
The organizer of the Aiken fundraiser, actor-producer Steven Tyler, sent a letter to Aiken in which he wrote, “I am sorry for the loss on your bid for Congress, but apparently you had yourself covered with a reality TV show deal the entire time, just in case you didn’t win. I cannot speak for the NC Voters or contributors, but I can speak for myself and many of your Los Angeles supporters when I say we feel duped, taken advantage of and lied to.”
The Esquire Network announced the unnamed project as a four-hour documentary series from UK documentary production company Lightbox, but they have not called it a reality series. The project is being filmed by Simon Chinn, who won an Oscar for “Searching for Sugar Man,” and Jonathan Chinn, an Emmy winner whose credits include “30 Days” and “American High” through their Lightbox production company. The project is described as “an intimate look at the hope of victory and, ultimately, the disappointment of defeat.” The filmmakers followed Aiken since the announcement of his candidacy in February.
But some donors also have questioned Aiken’s motivations.
In his letter, posted in Ocamb’s story, Tyler wrote that “had the LA donors known you would personally benefit from their donations and appearance at the event — they would not have donated to your campaign.”
According to a source close to the production, Aiken was not paid nor was anyone else who was filmed during the documentary.
Aiken was well received by the crowd, and according to Ocamb, who was there, some of the attendees were impressed enough to write additional checks as they were leaving. The fundraiser was held at the home of Michael Corbett of “Extra.”