HOUSTON – It was the one question that kept coming up as Channel 2 Investigates began digging into the Houston Film Commission and L.A. representative Sharon Adams.
How did she get the job?
When we asked Houston First CEO Brenda Bazan if Adams had any film credentials, Bazan said, “I know she has a journalism background. What she is out there doing is selling Houston. Our mission is to sell Houston.”
When Channel 2 Investigates referenced she is selling people in the film industry and asked again regarding any film credentials or film experience, anything along those lines that Bazan might know of? Bazan said, “She is selling Houston."
In late 2015, Houston First produced a Corporate Overview. The Film Commission section lists a two-year plan, with the objective: "Contract with a freelance project-specific representative/coordinator in Los Angeles."
The freelance role rapidly turned into a full-time gig. "This was a priority with my predecessor and I know that that was she was looking for us to have a presence in LA to sell Houston with the decision-makers,” said Bazan, the chief financial officer at the time and the executive who signed off on the deal.
Houston First confirms there was never a job posting for the LA office. However, by October of 2015, Adams had the job, an internal transfer from her role as chief communications officer for Houston First.
Adams earns just shy of $175,000 a year and is provided $4,400 dollars a month in public funds to live and work out of this residential building near Beverly Hills. Adams salary is nearly $42,000 higher than the Film Commission Director for the State of California, and that person doesn't get housing allowance.
Bazan’s reaction? "I can't speak for the State of California, I can only speak for my team and the Houston Film Commission again is doing great work for the Houstonians and we are very proud of that."
Let's talk about Adams' work.
Since arriving in LA in early 2016, she has not landed a single major movie or TV deal for Houston. However, right after our first story, Adams appeared on Channel 13 KTRK reporting "Houston inks major film deal." The agreement is for an LA-based production company to shoot 20 movies in Houston over 24 months.
We asked Bazan for specifics, who said, "I know there are a couple of scripts on the desk of the Houston Film Commission as we speak. That much I do know."
Channel 2 Investigates has learned a lot about that LA production company, Here Media, and the close personal relationship between CEO Paul Colichman -- and Sharon Adams. Emails we've obtained show Adams, a government employee, accepting gifts from Colichman and his partner, TV producer David Millbern. One email from February 2017 reveals Millbern invited Adams and her daughter to spend the weekend at the couple's home near Palm Springs. Millbern writes to Adams -- the home has "a great pool and spa" -- adding he and Colichman look forward to "laughing all weekend."
When asked if Houston First has a gift policy for employees? Bazan said, “I believe there is in the code of conduct."
Channel 2 Investigates asked, “How does staying at a home with a great pool and spa in Rancho Mirage, California, and benefit the Houston Film Commission if there is a policy for gift guidelines?
Bazan responded with the following, “Again, the business model that we use goes to where decisions are made and that is what Sharon is doing, she has got the LA presence to be at the epicenter to be where the decisions are made and wherever the decisions are made that is our business model."
Adams won't talk to Channel 2 Investigates. However emails show that Adams knows Millbern and Colichman very well. Millbern calling Adams "Darlin" and "My Love,” Adams telling Milbern, "You and Paul are the best, love you tons.”
Last Thursday, Adams and Millbern were arm-in-arm dressed to the nine's on the Hollywood red carpet for an event honoring George Clooney. As for Here Media?
Their focus is the small screen, with no widescreen films released over the last 24 months according to a spokesman.
Adam's blockbuster announcement on Channel 13 was ignored by the film industry.
No published press release, no trade write-ups, not even a mention from Mayor Sylvester Turner.
When asked why an industry trade site like “Deadine.com” -- the go-to place for industry news -- had no reference of this deal?
Bazan was silent for several seconds before saying, “We have a couple of scripts on the desk of the Houston Film Commission.”
However, no indication whatsoever of a signed agreement surrounding a 20-film deal.