The Studio, Museum and Santa

(WSVN) - He was Santa in a classic Christmas, he opened a studio in South Florida now run by his son. Now bring in a hot new museum that is thrilling South Floridians. What do they all have in common? A dispute, which is Why Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser was called in.

Remember that movie “A Christmas Story” and that memorable line after a kid asked Santa for a BB gun?

Jeff Gillen (as Santa Claus): “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.”

The Santa is Jeff Gillen, Phillip’s father.

Phillip Gillen, Great Southern Studios: “It’s just a classic to watch each year, to watch that movie as it comes on.”

Not only was Phillip’s father an actor, he also built Great Southern Studios in North Miami. Today, Phillip carries on his late father’s work.

Phillip Gillen: “We build scenery, and we accommodate different production companies that want to use this place for all types of commercials.”

Earlier this year, a museum asked them to create a piece of art.

Phillip Gillen: “It was basically a big gigantic platform with a swimming pool imbedded into it, and it was going to be filled with 7,000 pounds of ice cream sprinkles.”

Phillip charged $25,000 and got half as a deposit. His people built the imitation pool complete with a ladder and diving board, needing only to put the finish on it.

Phillip Gillen: “I kept repeating with texts after texts, please give me specs. They were not able to tell me what they wanted.”

Since the Museum of Ice Cream wanted the piece before Art Basel opened, Phillip put the final touches on the piece and delivered it.

Phillip Gillen: “They were not happy with the final paint job, which they expected to have a bed liner epoxy type of paint. And I advised that I don’t do epoxy spray jobs.”

Phillip says the contract he was given had several options for the finish. Since they weren’t happy, he knocked $1,000 off the $12,500 they owed him, but that didn’t work.

Phillip Gillen: “They just refuse to pay me and refuse to talk to me, and when I tell them I’m going there to collect my scenery, they tell me that they were gonna have me arrested.”

The Museum of Ice Cream opened and, while the piece is a big hit, seeing it on TV takes the Christmas spirit out of Phillip.

Phillip Gillen: “I want to see a check. I want to see the money wired, transferred so I can pay the nine guys that worked for five days on that job.”

Well Howard, the museum was not happy with the finish on this piece but they are using it. So legally, does Phillip get paid the money he is owed?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “This is what the law calls substantial performance, and it means exactly what it says. While the pool may not be everything the buyer wanted, it’s so close it would be wrong to deny paying Phillip the full price. If the museum disagrees, then they can go to court and ask a judge to reduce the amount they owe.”

We talked to one of the owners of the Museum of Ice Cream, named Manish Vora.

He told us they considered it extortion when Phillip contacted Help Me Howard. He also told us he was bringing the chief of police when he came to talk to us.

We offered to interview him any time he wanted. He then said forget it and told us the issue with Great Southern was resolved.

Phillip sent us an email confirming Museum of Ice Cream had made their final payment. He also told us as part of the deal Phillip could not talk on camera to us.

Philip can’t talk, but we can guess what he is thinking about as Christmas nears: his favorite Santa.

Phillip Gillen: “I still feel that [my dad’s] walking around here nodding his head, and he’s going, ‘I can’t believe you are still doing this! This is unbelievable. You are doing a great job.’ Yeah, it is awesome.”

Phillip, now you can pay your workers and everyone can have a nice Christmas. When you sign a contract, if there is a dispute over an unclear or ambiguous term, the law usually sides with the person who did not write the contract: in most cases, the customer.

Of course if you read a contract and something is not clear, straighten that out in writing before you sign it.

Frozen out trying to figure out your problem? Want us to construct a solution for you? Get in touch with us. We won’t arrive in a sleigh, but hopefully we can sprinkle a little satisfaction around you.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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