A tumultuous legal battle is brewing over an abandoned documentary project on the most picturesque house in Los Angeles. Pierre Koenig's midcentury masterpiece, the Stahl House (Case Study House #22), was supposed to be the subject of a new film by Steven Slomkowski, an admirer of the home. However, the movie was abandoned in 2013, and Bruce and Shari Stahl, children of the house's namesake Buck Stahl, are now suing the filmmaker.
The LA Business Journal reports that Slomkowski stopped working on the documentary after a third Stahl sibling, Mark, committed suicide. Slomkowski's attorney then contacted Bruce and Shari Stahl, requesting that they buy the filmmaker out of his contract. Later, Slomkowski filed a lawsuit against the Stahls, alleging that they had forced him to scrap the film because it depicted their father as homophobic. According to Slomkowski, Buck Stahl "physically and mentally poisoned the famous family home." His 2014 suit also makes allegations about Mark Stahl's sexuality.
Now, Bruce and Shari Stahl are countersuing, arguing that the claims made by Slomkowski are "absolutely false, inaccurate, and inflammatory." They also say that he attempted to extort almost $1 million from them during the making of the film.
It's a lot of drama unfolding around one of the most serene houses in all of Los Angeles. Lawyers and filmmakers contacted by LA Business Journal say that it isn't terribly unexpected, though; a lot can go wrong when the subjects of a documentary are also its financiers.
- Siblings in Documentary Accuse Director of Plot [LA Business Journal]
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- Save Your Quarters, Stahl House Winter Schedule Posted [Curbed LA]