The dream of four self-described "paupers" to learn how to become a princess on a reality TV show turned into a nightmare after the director was arrested for allegedly keeping the contestants in a Florida house against their will.
Marc Brilleman, the 33-year-old director of the reality TV pilot "Pauper to Princess," was arrested Saturday by police in Apopka, Fla., and charged with kidnap-false imprisonment of an adult, a third-degree felony. He was freed on $3,000 bond.
The producers' Web site claims the show aimed to put a group of young women -- all from modest backgrounds -- in a house and coach them on becoming refined adults.
During a video on the Web site, a narrator says, "Most little girls dream of growing up to become a princess," and then the person criticizes female celebutantes like Paris Hilton who frequently make headlines for unprincesslike behavior.
"No one aspires to be a pauper," the narrator continues. "But who do they have to look up to?"
The producers had hoped to sell the show to a network.
"We got a call because one of the girls living at the house ran out and said she needed someone to call the police," Cmdr. Jerome Miller, of the Apopka Police Department, told ABC News. "They stated they were upset and trying to leave for the weekend and were told, 'No you're not.'"
Around 11:30 a.m. Saturday, according to the affidavit, four of the show's eight cast members tried to leave the house where the show was being filmed so they could visit their families but they were stopped.
"Brilleman then stood in front of the door and locked it and stated to [the four contestants] that they were under contract and could not leave," the affidavit said. "[A contestant] then tried to reach past Brilleman to leave the residence and Brilleman moved in front of her hand preventing her from leaving."
Authorities identified the four women -- who have all agreed to press charges against Brilleman -- as Alisha Waizmann, 23; Luzmary Pinilla, 28; Katie Kollmansberger, 21; and Inez Gladys, 24. All four are Florida residents.
One of the women pushed past Brilleman and the four women fled from the house, telling a neighbor to call the police. As Brilleman was arrested, he told authorities, "I did not try to stop the girls from leaving," according to the affidavit.
The women also said that the pilot's producers had not paid them for the five weeks they had spent at the house filming "Pauper to Princess."
"A couple of them told us they were in danger," Miller said. "No physical violence had taken place, according to them. What spooked them, I don't know."
Miller also said that none of the women had reported any sexual abuse while staying at the house and that every other weekend, the contestants, who volunteered to give up their cell phones, had been free to leave the house.
Mark NeJame, a Florida lawyer representing the show, told ABC News that he was meeting with his clients today regarding the weekend arrest.
"There's obviously a lot more than meets the eye here," he said. "It's perplexing how a half-dozen women can be present and yet someone held them against their will."
"It's clearly not what they allege," he said.
Under the terms posted on the Web site for applicants, in order to appear on the program, would-be contestants had to agree to remain in the "Pauper to Princess House" for the first half of 2008 and enter into a broader contract with Dream House Productions. Applicants agree to "comply with the rules of Pauper to Princess," according to the terms.
NeJame said that the pilot was being shopped around by Brilleman and partners Jim Johnson and Diana Evans, who have not been charged, but that it had not been picked up by any network yet.
On the Web site, contestants are shown working out and volunteering at a charity.
"Our goal is to show these girls that they are somebody," the narrator says. "To help them grow physically, mentally and spiritually."
A women is shown during her audition being asked what makes her a "pauper." She says because she is "poor white trash" who lived with her boyfriend in a house with no water or power for a year.
"If you can turn me into a princess, I'd like to see you try."
NeJame would not comment on the specifics of the contract signed by the eight contestants on the show.
While the show's producers claim that the concept was hatched in 2007, the pilot shares a similar theme with a British program titled "Ladette to Lady" that had a three-season run in the United Kingdom. It was canceled early this year.
The producers of the show may have been beaten to the punch. Donald Trump, the real estate magnate and personality behind the reality program the "The Apprentice," recently sold an eight-episode takeoff to MTV, in which 15 women vie to for a charm school crown, Daily Variety reported late last month.
They are all variations on an age-old theme; the best example may be the 1913 George Bernard Shaw play "Pygmalion," in which college professor Henry Higgins makes a bet with a friend that he can teach a cockney flower girl named Eliza Doolittle to pass herself off as a woman of high society.
In the case of "Pauper to Princess," the jilted contestants may have been taken advantage of, according to police -- sort of like Doolittle.
"I don't think they really knew what they got themselves involved in," Miller said. "The producer and the owner of the residence convinced them this was going to be sold by major markets."