A producer on last month’s Gamer’s Choice Awards is suing the co-creator, saying that the video game show which aired on CBS was the latest in a string of shows fueled by broken promises, shifting money, and fraud, according to court documents obtained by Variety.
Victor Borachuk filed suit against Michael Burg, whose previous award show crewations include the Teen Choice Awards, the Southern Sports Awards, and the Kid’s Choice Awards, on Dec. 21 in California State Court.
Borachuk is alleging, among other charges, breach of contract, fraud violations of California state law, and misappropriation of likeness.
In seeking payment of money owed, earnings from three shows and punitive damages, Borachuk argues that four companies run by Burg are essentially just one big company with commingled funds and assets.
Burg did not respond to Variety’s request for comment, but in an interview with Variety last month said he came up with the Gamer’s Choice Awards after being inspired by a rock and roll promoter and denied that Vorachuk was a co-creator. He did acknowledge that Vorachuk and his production company, JupiterReturn, worked on the show. Shortly after reporting began on the story, Burg contacted Variety to say he could no longer talk about Borachuk or his involvement with the show because of legal proceedings. But in the initial interview, Burg said that Borachuk was a great producer.
The lawsuit comes after Borachuk and Burg worked together for three years through a number of Burg’s companies, according to the lawsuit. Over those years, Borachuk says he helped create and produce three shows and was paid little to nothing of the money owed.
The first show named in the lawsuit is “FabLab,” a weekend morning TV show aimed at pre-teen and teenage girls with the aim of sparking an interest in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math fields.
In November 2015, Burg hired Borachuk and his company, JupiterReturn, to help produce the first season of a television show, according to the lawsuit. Borachuk says he helped produce the show, developing episode concepts, coordinating filming and doing post-production. In exchange, according to the suit, Burg agreed to pay Borachuk at least $1,000 a day and a percentage of future profits. Burg also agreed to pay the third-party contractors hired by Borachuk and JupiterReturn for the show.
But in May 2016, WhizBang, one of Burg’s companies, said it needed more time to pull in profits of the first two seasons of the show before it could pay Borachuk back.
Eventually, JupiterReturn paid the contractors out of its pocket and wasn’t able to receive reimbursement for that or other money owed from WhizBang, according to the suit.
In November 2018, JupiterReturn issued a formal demand for the $192,343.15 it said it was owed and also asked for equal ownership of “FabLab,” and an accounting of all revenue earned.
According to the suit, Burg said he couldn’t pay but would pay the amount owed for “FabLab” and provide “additional economic benefit” if Borachuk and his company assisted in a new project and agreed not to sue.
In essence, according to the lawsuit, Burg said he could only pay for the work done on “FabLab” if the production company helped with the creation of a second television show entitled “Jump, Jive, and Thrive.”
That show, which aired on Oct. 21, 2017, used gymnastics, dance, and music to benefit the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
This time, Burg contracted Borachuk and JupiterReturn through Good Entertainment to do the same sort of work the company had done for WhizBang for the “FabLab” show. At the time, according to the suit, Burg promised he would pay the full amount owed to Borachuk and his company by the end of November 2017. Before he would sign the contract, though, Borachuk insisted on a $25,000 payment, which was made by a third company: Teenasaurus.
According to the suit, despite the partial payment and new contract, Burg never paid the money owed from the first project or the second.
When Borachuk approached Burg about the owed money, according to the lawsuit, Burg again said he couldn’t afford to pay him the money owed, now for either “FabLab” or for “Jump, Jive, and Thrive.”
He said that he would be able to pay him back, though, if Borachuk and JupiterReturn helped with the “Gamer’s Choice Awards.” He added that JupiterReturn and Borachuk would make an additional $250,000 based on profits from this new, video game-centric show.
So Burg contracted Borachuk and JupiterReturn through a fourth company, ES&G, to again provide the same sort of work and services that was provided for the first two shows, according to the lawsuit.
In this latest agreement, Burg said he would pay Borachuk $1,000 a day for his time and expertise, Burg would handle paying third-party contractors, Borachuk would be named as co-creator and executive producer on the show, and that JupiterReturn would receive a percentage of profits from the award show. Burg also agreed to pay past due amounts for the two previous shows, according to the suit.
This time, Borachuk said he was part of every sales call and kept records on the amounts being offered for sponsorships. But things started to go awry, according to the suit, when the award show was pushed back from its original air date. Instead, a nomination special was aired in those November time slots, after “Burg failed to follow up with potential sponsors or engage a venue for an award show.” The show itself ultimately aired on Dec. 9.
The venue — which Burg was working to make the Blizzard Arena in Burbank — fell through after “Bug failed to timely respond to Blizzard Arena’s requests for information, which forced Blizzard Arena to back out of the program,” according to the suit. This left the show without a venue as of late October. Around the same time, talks with Twitch fell through for similar reasons, according to the suit.
According to the lawsuit, Burg also didn’t communicate effectively with Borachuk with his team, routinely ignoring emails and phone calls, shifting dates and at one point hiring a different writer and production company for the show.
Borachuk says that the results of all of this the shows were poorly produced and poorly executed. According to the suit, the poor quality of the show tarnished Borachuk and JupterReturn’s reputation.