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BERLIN — News on the first day of the Berlin Festival that film – read Constantin Film  – had helped drive a 2019 full year profits surge at parent Highlight Communications came as little surprise. Few European movie companies enjoy the robust health of Constantin Film. Oliver Berben’s presentation on Monday of Constantin Television’s lineup […]
variety.com | 2/23/20

The continued growth of the games industry has been both a huge surprise and an inevitable certainty: Surprising because very few observers expected it to reach the $180 billion annualized market size it currently boasts, and inevitable because “Fortnite,” “Mario,” “Halo,” “Candy Crush” and Twitch have all become fixtures with audiences in the living room, at the office and on the go.

This year will be critical in the evolution of games. Here are six key trends in the gaming industry to keep an eye on in 2020:

1. Gaming could eclipse the market size of paid TV by 2021 based on current growth trajectories. 
In terms of overall revenue, gaming is now bigger than music and movies combined. Gaming is on track to become the No. 1 entertainment category in the next several years. IDG estimates that gaming reached roughly $180 billion in revenue last year and is on track to exceed $230 billion by 2023. Asia-Pac (led by China, Japan and South Korea) is the biggest overall bucket, followed by North America. But rest of world — led by what we are calling “The Opportunity Markets” of Southeast Asia, Middle East North Africa, Australia/New Zealand, Russia, India, Latin America and Turkey, among others — will post the strongest Compounded Annual Growth Rate in the next 4 years — 13% versus 6% for North America, 9% for Europe and 5% for Asia.

Also Read: 'Sonic the Hedgehog' Breaks Video Game Box Office Record With $58 Million Opening

2. The games market will become more fragmented and more consolidated at the same time.
In other words, there will be growth of cross-play, where a title can be played simultaneously by players of different platforms  (a PS4 “Call of Duty” gamer can play against a friend who has “Call of Duty” for Xbox One). At the same time, there will be growth of siloed walled gardens, where publishers build out their own platforms. The two sub-industries will be able to coexist in 2020.

While these two trends appear to be diametrically opposed to each other, there will be a mix of some new cross-play collaborations above and beyond “Fortnite”/”Minecraft”/”Call of Duty,” while at the same time EA, Ubisoft, Bethesda, Rockstar and others will continue to build out their own siloed platforms to complement their existing external platform partnerships. Sometime in the next 3-4 years, however, IDG believes that there will be a consumer reckoning, whereby having to log into 10+ platform accounts to access all of a gamer’s gaming content will become too cumbersome and cross-play/interoperability will be valued over fragmentation.

3. Gaming represents the next frontier for social media and for traditional media.
Players and viewers spend an increasing amount of time in share of day through game communities. As an example, Netflix’s greatest competitor might not be Disney+ or Hulu. “Fortnite” is a competitive threat, and Netflix said as much last year when the company stated that “Fortnite” was cannibalizing Netflix customers’ screen time. This battle for entertainment share of day is becoming more multi-faceted, and in many fronts of this battle, gaming and esports are winning. When evaluating the games market, it is important to take a community-centric approach. Both competitive and livestreaming platforms are benefiting from this broader trend, and it is reshaping entertainment as we know it.

Also Read: All 46 Video Game Movies Ranked, Including 'Sonic the Hedgehog'

4. Gaming and esports are the new Trojan horse for Gen Z and millennials.
Although there remains a sizable audience and appetite for traditional media and linear TV, those in younger demographics are often discovering content for the first time on Twitch, YouTube and other communities where gaming and esports are primary content drivers. These same audience segments represent the same people that traditional media have termed “cord-cutters,” and the growing share of gaming and esports is beginning to impact traditional media and even traditional sports.

While a streaming viewer of an esports event might hold a different value versus a Super Bowl television viewer, the scale and scope of gaming/esports/livestreaming entertainment can no longer be denied. Even if we split the League of Legends World Championship Series audience in half, since half of the global audience came from China, the remaining half is still pretty in-line with the total audience of this month’s Super Bowl event. And while the growth in viewership for traditional sports events has decelerated and, in some cases, declined year-over-year, the growth in gaming/esports viewership continues apace.

5. Esports is finally growing up and approaching esports 2.0.
In esports 1.0, the ecosystem was beginning to build out, but there was still a focus on short-term opportunities and a more transactional nature to partnerships. Many of the lower-quality companies are beginning to get weeded out of the market, while top-notch esports teams, franchises, brands and leagues are emerging with best practices and credibility to lend long-term strength to this burgeoning market. However, a rising tide does not necessarily lift all boats, and the same can be said in the case of esports.

There will be winners, but there will also be a lot of losers during this consolidation phase, as the market transitions in a flight to quality, with cleaner business models where dollars are tracked more accurately, operating models become more crystallized and less emblematic of the Wild Wild West. The partnership focus will become less transactional and, instead, will emphasize sustainable, long-term relationships.

Also Read: A New Era for Video Game Streaming? Competitors Target Twitch

6. Gaming and esports will benefit this year from a variety of key catalysts.
Next-gen console launches will release sometime in Q4 2020 for both PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X. Although console transitions are always disruptive to some extent, our checks with game developers indicate that there is more seamlessness in building next-gen content this time around versus prior transitions.

Cloud gaming platforms are still finding their footing, but there should be a bit more traction in 2020, although the bigger potential for this market is still a long ways off. VR gaming will also remain on the periphery but begin to establish itself more as we begin to see better VR-focused game content in the form of “Half-Life: Alyx” from Valve, among others. And the most important innovations in the games market will likely come from business model innovations, in addition to content innovations. Anticipate new genre mash-ups but also new ways of monetizing consumers that will provide additional value and engagement to the gaming experience.

Related stories from TheWrap:

'Sonic the Hedgehog' Breaks Video Game Box Office Record With $58 Million Opening

All 46 Video Game Movies Ranked, Including 'Sonic the Hedgehog'

A New Era for Video Game Streaming? Competitors Target Twitch

www.thewrap.com | 2/18/20

The Berlinale Film Festival has renamed its top award, the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize, after a report surfaced that accused the festival’s first director and the prize’s namesake of Nazi ties, the festival announced Tuesday.

The festival will now award a special prize named The Silver Bear 70th Berlinale, in honor of the 70th anniversary of the film festival. It will similarly be awarded by the International Jury.

Late last month, the Berlinale suspended the Silver Bear prize after an article in the German newspaper Die Zeit said Bauer played a previously unknown role in the Nazi film bureaucracy and engaging in National Socialist film politics.

Also Read: Jeremy Irons to Head International Jury of Berlin Film Festival

The Berlinale then hired external historians to conduct an investigation into Bauer’s role during the Nazi era and commissioned the “Institute for Contemporary History” (IfZ). The IfZ was founded in 1949 to academically research the National Socialist dictatorship.

“We are convinced that an external and independent group of historians should investigate Alfred Bauer’s position in the Nazi regime,” Berlinale executive director Mariette Rissenbeek said in a statement. “Moreover, we also agree on this with the Deutsche Kinemathek, which supports this approach. Accordingly, we are pleased that the IfZ can now initiate the necessary research work.”

Bauer was the festival’s first director between 1951 to 1976. He died in 1986 and the prize was named in his honor the following year.

The results of the IfZ assessment are expected in the coming summer.

The European Film Market and the Berlinale Film Festival kick off this week and run through March 1.

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www.thewrap.com | 2/18/20

(Spoiler alert: Do not read this post if you want to remain in the dark on who won Season 2 of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent: The Champions.)

Season 2 of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent: The Champions” is in the books. The champion of “The Champions” is V.Unbeatable.

And here’s a look at that momentous announcement for the dance group:

Give it up for your new #AGTChampion winners, @v_unbeatable! ???? pic.twitter.com/Ov4gkqnaEm

— America's Got Talent (@AGT) February 18, 2020

Monday also featured quite a lineup of guest performers, including a few “AGT” alums. KISS, Travis Barker (with AGT: Champions finalists V. Unbeatable), Lindsey Stirling (with AGT: Champions finalist the Silhouettes), Kodi Lee, Shin Lim and Colin Cloud, and Kseniya Simonova (with AGT: Champions finalists Angelina Jordan and Tyler Butler Figueroa) were all on the season finale’s set list.

Also Read: Watch Filipino Singer Marcelito Pomoy Perform a Duet - by Himself - for 'AGT: The Champions' Semifinals (Video)

Season 2’s Top 10 acts were:

V.Unbeatable – Dance Group – “America’s Got Talent” 2019 – Finalist (Howie’s Golden Buzzer)
The India-based dance group wowed audiences around the globe during season 14 of “America’s Got Talent,” where they finished in fourth place. Founded by Vikas and Om Prakash, the group was originally named Unbeatable. After a horrible accident during a group rehearsal, Vikas was injured and unfortunately passed away. The group renamed itself V.Unbeatable (for Vikas Unbeatable) in his honor and continued to pursue Vikas’ original dreams for the group.

Boogie Storm – Dance Group – “Britain’s Got Talent” 2016 – Finalist (Simon’s Golden Buzzer)
With their iconic costumes and awesome dance moves, Boogie Storm is a force to be reckoned with. Since appearing on “Britain’s Got Talent” in 2016, where they received Simon Cowell’s Golden Buzzer, they have traveled all over the world and have performed at many prestigious film premieres.

The Silhouettes – Shadow Dance Group – “America’s Got Talent” 2006 – Finalist (Alesha’s Golden Buzzer)
The Silhouettes, runner-up on “America’s Got Talent” season six, are a shadow-dance company created and directed by Lynne Waggoner-Patton, whose mission is to help homeless children and children in need around the world. They have been featured in both commercials and television shows and have helped raise millions by creating custom performances for charitable organizations.

Angelina Jordan – Singer – “Norway’s Got Talent” 2014 – Winner (Heidi’s Golden Buzzer)
At 7, singer Angelina Jordan was crowned the winner of “Norway’s Got Talent,” performing Billie Holiday’s “Gloomy Sunday.” Angelina’s videos have received more than 300 million views on YouTube and more than 1 billion views on Facebook. Angelina has performed for Nobel Peace Prize Laureates and raised over 21 million euros for children in need. One of her most memorable performances was performing with the legendary Quincy Jones in London in 2018.

Hans – Singer/Dancer/Musician – “America’s Got Talent” 2018 – Quarter-finalist
An international superstar, accordionist and Berlin boy wonder, Hans has been thrilling audiences around the globe with his own fabulous brand of critically acclaimed cabaret for over a decade, performing for everyone from prime ministers to princesses, taking him all around Australia and across Europe and the UK. In 2018 Hans came to the United States to appear on season 13 of “America’s Got Talent.”

Duo Transcend – Trapeze/Rollerskating Duo – “America’s Got Talent” 2018 – Finalist
Aerial trapeze artists Duo Transcend appeared on Season 13 of “America’s Got Talent.” Following that they have had the opportunity to travel and share their talent with millions around the world.

Marcelito Pomoy – Singer – “Pilipinas Got Talent” 2011 – Winner
Marcelito “Mars” Pomoy is a Filipino singer known for his ability to sing in both tenor and soprano and switch instantly from one to the other. He was the winner of the second season of “Pilipinas Got Talent.” In 2018, he appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” where he wowed the audience and received a standing ovation for his rendition of “Beauty and the Beast.”

Alexa Lauenburger – Dog Act – “Das Supertalent” 2017 – Winner/ “Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions” 2019 – Finalist
Eleven-year-old Alexa Lauenburger’s passion for animals developed at a very young age.  Following in her father’s footsteps training dogs, Alexa secretly worked with the dogs and surprised her family with a dog show at the age of 7. Alexa won “Das Supertalent” in 2017 and her life changed in that moment.  She also participated in “Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions” in 2019 and received the Golden Buzzer from Ant and Dec.

Tyler Butler-Figueroa – Violinist – “America’s Got Talent” 2019 – Finalist
Twelve-year-old violinist Tyler Butler Figueroa touched the hearts and inspired millions of people around the world, including Simon Cowell, who gave him the Golden Buzzer, on season 14 of “America’s Got Talent.” At 4 years old, Tyler was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Looking for a way to express himself after being bullied for his hair loss, Tyler started playing the violin. Inspired by violinist Brian King Joseph from season 13 of “America’s Got Talent,” he started street performing and playing at local events to pay for travel expenses to audition for the show. Tyler is now cancer-free and has been in remission for four years.

Sandou Trio Russian Bar – Russian Bar – “America’s Got Talent” 2011 – Semi-finalist
Sandou Trio Russian Bar performed on season six of “America’s Got Talent.” Since then, the Trio have performed all over the world, including major league sporting events and have appeared in the FX series “Baskets,” and the feature film “The Greatest Showman.” The talented Trio have performed in several shows on the Las Vegas strip and provide entertainment for corporate events parties and more.)

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www.thewrap.com | 2/18/20
Former BBC scripted content portfolio director Liam Keelan has joined the Mouse House. The London-based exec will take on the newly created regional role of VP of original productions for television, where he is to oversee content for both channels and fledgling streaming service Disney+ in Europe and Africa. Leading a team of development and […]
variety.com | 2/14/20

Veteran U.K. presenter Phillip Schofield announced that he is gay on Friday morning, writing in his Instagram story that, “Today, quite rightly, being gay is a reason to celebrate and be proud.”

Schofield (pictured above with longtime “This Morning” co-host Holly Willoughby) has been married to wife Stephanie Lowe for 27 years and the couple has two daughters together.

“You never know what’s going on in someone’s seemingly perfect life, what issues they are struggling with, or the state of their wellbeing – and so you won’t know what has been consuming me for the last few years,” he wrote. “With the strength and support of my wife and my daughters, I have been coming to terms with the fact that I am gay.

Also Read: Angelina Jolie to Executive Produce 'BBC My World' Program to Help Kids Identify Fake News

“My inner conflict contrasts with an outside world that has changed so very much for the better. Today, quite rightly, being gay is a reason to celebrate and be proud. Yes, I am feeling pain and confusion, but that comes only from the hurt that I am causing to my family,” Schofield, 57, continued on Instagram.

The ITV presenter who helms “Dancing on Ice” and “This Morning,” which won a National Television Award last week, went on to talk about his decision with on-air sidekick Holly Willoughby.

“You know this has been bothering me for a very long time,” he said, according to BBC News. “Everybody does this at their own speed when the time is right.

Also Read: BAFTA Winners List: '1917' Scores 7 Awards, Including Best Film

“All you can be in your life is honest with yourself and I was getting to the point where I knew I wasn’t honest with myself. I was getting to the point where I didn’t like myself very much because I wasn’t being honest with myself,” he told Willoughby on the show they have co-hosted since 2009.

“[Coming out] is my decision. This is absolutely my decision. It was something I knew that I had to do. I don’t know what the world will be like now. I don’t know how this will be taken or what people will think.”

Also Read: Joaquin Phoenix Calls Out BAFTAs for Lack of Diversity During 'Joker' Acceptance Speech (Video)

Schofield has been a staple on U.K. television since he began as a continuity presenter for Children’s BBC in 1985. He went on to host children’s Saturday morning magazine show “Going Live!” from 1987 to 1993, before progressing to a lengthy resume of adult-oriented TV hosting gigs on both the BBC and ITV.

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www.thewrap.com | 2/7/20
Sony Pictures Television-backed Eleventh Hour Films has optioned documentary maker Chris Atkins’s prison diaries “A Bit of a Stretch.” The book covers Atkins’s time in notorious U.K. prison HMP Wandsworth – one of Europe’s oldest and largest prisons – where he served a five-year sentence for a tax scheme related to funding one of his […]
variety.com | 2/6/20

40 Actresses Over 40 Who Are Still Conquering Hollywood (Photos)

Amy Adams (1974)

Academy Award nominated Amy Adams, is best known for playing in Disney’s “Enchanted” and “American Hustle.” She most recently starred in Tom Ford’s “Nocturnal Animals.”

Cameron Diaz (1972)

Cameron Diaz first made her mark in Hollywood with films like “There’s Something About Mary” and “The Mask.” She most recently starred alongside Will Smith in “Annie.”

Cate Blanchett (1969)

This two time Academy Award winning actress is best known for her role in “The Aviator.” She has since starred in films like “The Lord of the Rings,” “Babel,” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” Blanchett is currently working on “Ocean’s Eight.”

Catherine Zeta-Jones (1969)

Catherine Zeta-Jones is best known for starring in “Intolerable Cruelty” and “Ocean’s Twelve.” She most recently starred in “Dad’s Army,” a British war comedy.

Famke Janssen (1964)

Famke Janssen is best known for playing Jean Grey in the “X-Men” film series. She also has a recurring role on “How to Get Away With Murder” alongside Viola Davis.

Gabrielle Union (1972)

Gabrielle Union first had her breakthrough role in the cult comedy “Bring it On.” Since she’s starred in films like “Think Like a Man,” “Deliver Us From Eva,” and “Bad Boys II.” She even starred on BET’s first scripted drama “Being Mary Jane.”

Gwyneth Paltrow (1972)

Gwyneth Paltrow has been starring in notable Hollywood films since the early 90’s and it doesn’t look like she’s slowing down any time soon. She most recently starred in “Spiderman: Homecoming” and will be playing in an upcoming “Avengers” movie.

Halle Berry (1966)

Academy Award winning actress Halle Berry was once one of the highest paid actress in Hollywood. She most recently starred in “Kingsman: The Golden Circle.”

Helen Mirren (1945)

One Award short of EGOT status, Mirren most recently starred in “Collateral Beauty” and “The Fate of the Furious.”

Helena Bonham Carter (1966)

Helena Bonham Carter has starred in films like “A Room With a View,” “Hamlet,” and the “Harry Potter” film series. She will also be playing a role in “Ocean’s Eight.”

Jane Lynch (1960)

Lynch is best known for her role as Sue Sylvester in “Glee.” She most recently starred in “Manhunt: Unabomber.”

Jennifer Aniston (1969)

Even though she’s best known for playing Rachel on “Friends,” Jennifer Aniston hasn’t let that role define her entire career. She most recently starred in “The Yellow Birds,” which premiered are Sundance.

Jennifer Connelly (1970)

Connelly made her debut in film with “Once Upon a Time in America.” Since, she has starred in movies like “A Beautiful Mind” and “He’s Just Not That Into You.” Her upcoming projects include “Only the Brave” and “Alita: Battle Angel.”

Jennifer Lopez (1969)

Jennifer Lopez is probably one of few actresses to have both a successful musical and acting career simultaneously. Lopez has starred in films like “The Wedding Planner” and “Monster in Law,” her must recent project is “Ice Age: Collision Course.”

Jodie Foster (1962)

Jodie Foster had her breakthrough role in “Taxi Driver,” but that wasn’t the only notable movie she starred in. She also had roles in “Silence of the Lambs” and “Flightplan,” and is currently working on “Hotel Artemis.”

Julia Roberts (1967)

Quite possibly one of the best actresses of our time, Julia Roberts starred in films from “Pretty Woman to “Erin Brockovich star” and has been cited as the highest paid actress in Hollywood for years. Her latest project is “Wonder,” which will be released later this year.

Julianne Moore (1960)

Julianne Moore most recently won an Academy Award for her role in “Still Alice.” She most recently starred in “Kingsman: The Golden Circle.”

Leslie Mann (1972)

Leslie Mann is most known for her roles in comedy films like “The Other Woman,” and “Knocked Up.” Her upcoming projects include “Blockers” and “The Women of Marwen.”

Marisa Tomei (1964)

Marisa Tomei had her breakthrough role in “My Cousin Vinny.” Since, she’s starred in films like “What Women Want” and “Anger Management.” Her most recent movies include “Spiderman: Homecoming” and “Captain America: Civil War.”

Melissa McCarthy (1970)

This multi-hyphenate first garnered attention as Sookie in “Gilmore Girls.” Since, she’s played in notable films like “Bridesmaids” and “Ghostbusters.” Her upcoming projects include “Life of the Party,” “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” and “The HappyTime Murders.”

Meryl Streep (1949)

Meryl Streep currently holds the record for being the most nominated actor for an Academy Award. She’s starred in notable films since the 1970’s and still has projects coming out next year like “Mary Poppins Returns.”

Monica Bellucci (1964)

Monica Bellucci is conquering both European and American film markets. She gained worldwide attention with films like “Brotherhood of the Wold” and “Malèna.” She was also the oldest woman to be cast as one of the Bond Girls. Bellucci most recently starred in the 2017 “Twin Peaks” series.

Naomi Watts (1968)

Naomi Watts got her big break with David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive.” Since she’s had roles in “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” and “The Ring.” She most recently starred in “Twin Peaks.”

Nia Long (1970)

Nia Long has had almost a lifetime of success in Hollywood. She starred in the 90’s classics “Boyz n the Hood” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” She currently stars in “NCIS: Los Angeles.”

Nicole Kidman (1967)

Nicole Kidman has won just about every major acting award out there and for good reason. She played in “The Hours,” “Rabbit Hole,” and “The Others.” She most recently starred in the HBO hit “Big Little Lies.”

Octavia Spencer (1970)

Octavia Spencer only recently had her big break with her role in “The Help” in 2011 — and she won an Oscar for it. Since, she’s starred in “Fruitvale Station,” “The Divergent” series,  “and “Hidden Figures.” Her most recent projects include “The Gifted” and “A Kid Like Jake” which comes out in 2018.

Oprah Winfrey (1954)

This one doesn’t even need any explanation. It’s Oprah. But she will be starring in Ava DuVernay’s “A Wrinkle in Time” which premieres in 2018. Plus she has an entire television network and produces “Queen Sugar.”

Rachel Weisz (1970)

Weisz is probably best known for her roles in “The Mummy” film series. She’s also had roles in “About a Boy” and “Constantine.” Her upcoming projects include “The Mercy” and “Favourite” which are both out in 2018.

Salma Hayek (1966)

Salma Hayek had her big break portraying Frida Kahlo in the film “Frida.” She most recently starred in “The Hitman’s Bodyguard.”

Sanaa Lathan (1971)

Sanaa Lathan has starred in many cult classics like “Love & Basketball,” “The Best Man,” and “Brown Sugar.” She currently stars in the TV series “Shots Fired.”

Sandra Bullock (1964)

Sandra Bullock has basically starred in all of our favorite movies from “Miss Congeniality” to “While You Were Sleeping” to “The Blind Side.” She will be starring in the much anticipated film “Ocean’s Eight” which is out in 2018.

Sofia Vergara (1972)

Vergara has starred in films like “Soul Plane” and “Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns.” She currently stars in “Modern Family.”

Taraji P. Henson (1970)

Tarji got her big break in “Baby Boy,” and has garnered recognition for her roles in “Hustle and Flow” and ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” She most recently starred in “Hidden Figures.”

Tilda Swinton (1960)

Tilda Swinton is known for her roles in “The Chronicles of Narnia” film series and “The Deep End.” She most recently starred in “Okja” and will be playing in 2018’s “Isle of Dogs.”

Tina Fey (1970)

Tina Fey is best known for her comedic acts on “Saturday Night Live,” but she’s had great success on the big screens too. She’s starred in hit movies like “Date Night” and “Baby Mama.” She most recently starred in “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.”

Toni Collette (1972)

Toni Collette received recognition for her role in “The Sixth Sense.” Since, she’s starred in “About a Boy” and “The Hours.” She most recently starred in “Unlocked” and has a film coming out in 2018.

Tracee Ellis Ross (1972)

Tracee Ellis Ross had her big break in the hit series “Girlfriends.” She currently stars in the popular ABC series “Black-ish.”

Uma Thurman (1970)

Uma Thurman garnered critical acclaim for her role in “Pulp Fiction.” Since, she’s starred in “Les Misérables” and “Kill Bill.” She currently has two films coming out this year, “The War With Grandpa” and “The Brits Are Coming.”

Vera Farmiga (1973)

Vera Farmiga has had success with films like “Down to the Bone” and “The Departed.” She currently has projects lined up until 2019.

Viola Davis (51)

Viola Davis has had minor roles in shows like “Law and Order” and movies like “Kate and Leopold,” but it wasn’t until her role in “Doubt” that she began to receive the recognition she deserved. Since she’s also garnered critical acclaim for her role in “Fences” and “The Help.” She currently stars in ABC’s hit series “How to Get Away With Murder.”

www.thewrap.com | 1/3/20

NBCUniversal will be heading into the streaming era with a different man at the helm. On Thursday, word broke out that NBCU’s longtime CEO Steve Burke would be stepping down next summer, ending a nearly 10-year tenure running the media conglomerate.

And according to experts and analysts who spoke with TheWrap, Burke leaves behind a long shadow, but one that Jeff Shell, who is expected to succeed Burke, seems capable of filling. Tom Nunan, founder and partner of Bull’s Eye Entertainment and a lecturer at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television, said Burke has been “an iconic figure in broadcasting for his entire career.”

“There are few people with his track record of success,” Nunan said. “He’s definitely in that elite circle that [Disney Chairman Bob] Iger is a part of and a few others.

Also Read: Jeff Shell to Replace NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke

“Frankly, I would be surprised if this is the end of his media career, because he’s still relatively young,” Nunan said, “and he comes from classic TV stock being the son of Dan Burke.” Nunan touted Burke’s “humility” as “one of his great assets.” He called Burke “a smooth operator” and “a steady hand” who “doesn’t overreact to things.”

“He’s not an attention-grabbing star executive the way that [Les] Moonves insisted on being,” Nunan said.

“[Burke] is kind of a classic, old-school executive in that regard,” Nunan said. “When I say old-school executive, I mean more from the corporate mold as opposed to the entertainment mold, which is more the impresario.”

Bob Thompson, Trustee Professor of Television and Popular Culture at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, sees Burke’s legacy in the Comcast/NBCUniversal merger and the much more recent Sky deal. Thompson actually believes Burke’s greatest contribution may be an unsung one: jacking up the price of Disney’s 21st Century Fox takeover.

Also Read: NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke to Step Down in 2020

Thompson also offered another, less-flattering way Burke may be remembered by the general public.

“If anybody knows Steve Burke as a household name, it’s got nothing to do with all of that stuff he did to usher NBCUniversal into the Comcast era, which was a significant job, which I think he did pretty adeptly,” Thompson said. “What most lay people would remember would be his name associated with the likes of… Matt Lauer and reports by Ronan Farrow.”

Perhaps the stress of such an association and the calls for heads to roll at the top made this tough decision a little easier for Burke, Thompson wondered.

Burke’s upcoming departure is timed for next August, which would put it right after the 2020 Summer Olympics from Tokyo, which will air in the U.S. across NBCUniversal. It will also come just a few months after the launch of Peacock, NBCU’s streaming play. For one, Nunan is “surprised” by the Burke news — especially considering how close it would happen after Peacock’s debut.

“Peacock is going to become their most important venture in the next two to three years,” Nunan said. “It seems strange to me that [Burke] would walk away from building that at this time, but maybe his interests lie elsewhere.”

Also Read: NBCUniversal President of Strategy Dave Howe to Leave Company After 18 Years

Whether or not Burke is still around to see Peacock take flight, Thompson’s not sure what took them so long.

“If I’m looking in the grand scheme in the history of the media, they strike me as coming kind of late to that fair,” he said. “It seems like an awful lot of people have crossed the finish line, and everybody’s off watching that stuff and nobody’s even watching the race anymore as Peacock comes waddling through.”

Thompson does not share Nunan’s surprise on Burke’s pending departure.

“It seems to be that things have been put in place, ducks have been placed in a row,” Thompson said of NBCU’s recent restructuring moves. “I don’t think it’s sending any industry people in the know into some kind or surprise tailspin or anything.”

Burke has been the only CEO NBCUniversal has known in its decade-long tenure under Comcast, which acquired NBCU from GE at the end of the last decade (though that deal did not close until 2011). While Burke has overseen NBCU during a time period of massive change for the entertainment industry — one that threatens the traditional cable model that has been the lifeblood of Comcast — he has been more than a net positive for Comcast.

NBCU revenue has grown from just above $21 billion in 2011, when he was installed as CEO, to nearly $36 billion in 2018; Comcast will report full-year earnings for 2019 next month. Under Burke, NBCUniversal bought DreamWorks Animation in 2016 for $3.8 billion. Last year, Comcast bought European pay-TV company Sky in a bidding war with 21st Century Fox.

So no pressure, Jeff. But both men believe NBCUniversal will be in fine hands with Shell. Thompson simply pointed to Shell’s successes running his current entertainment assignments.

Also Read: How 'Runaways' Got Caught in the Middle of Marvel TV's Corporate Restructuring

Shell has served as chairman of the Universal film group since 2013. During his tenure leading the studio, Universal experienced four years of record profit, as well as two of the most profitable years in the studio’s 107-year history thanks, in part, to highly profitable franchises such as “Fast & Furious,” “Jurassic World” and Illumination’s “Despicable Me.” Earlier this year, Shell was was tapped to be chairman of NBCUniversal film and entertainment group, expanding his role beyond the film business to include oversight of NBC Entertainment, Telemundo and NBCU’s international operations.

That new appointment alone appeared to groom Shell for Burke’s job.

Shell is “a lot like Steve,” Nunan said. “He has a low-key style, he’s willing to stay behind the scenes, he likes to push the creative people out in front and give them credit where it’s due and give them support when they need it. That’s the hallmark that’s been handed down from Brian [Roberts, Comcast chairman and CEO] and Steve to the rest of the staff is, ‘You’re allowed to fail. You’re allowed to take big swings and if it doesn’t work, it won’t be off with your head.'”

“I suspect Jeff is just going to try to walk in Steve’s footsteps as successfully as he can,” Nunan said.

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www.thewrap.com | 12/14/19

Filed under: Green,Porsche,Electric,sedan

Porsche has taken down payments from 30,000 customers in Europe for its Taycan, the luxury car maker's first fully electric model, CEO Oliver Blume told Germany's Handelsblatt newspaper. Porsche, which is starting shipment of the Taycan to U.S. dealerships this month and to other markets shortly thereafter, is planning to deliver 20,000 Taycans in 2020.

Continue reading Porsche Taycan demand exceeds expectations in Europe

Porsche Taycan demand exceeds expectations in Europe originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 11 Dec 2019 08:16:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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www.autoblog.com | 12/11/19

While Netflix continues to tell the tale of Queen Elizabeth II with “The Crown,” Starz is bringing the story of the first Queen Elizabeth to a small screen near you with a series order for new drama “Becoming Elizabeth.”

Created and written by award-winning playwright and television screenwriter Anya Reiss (“Spur of the Moment,” “The Acid Test”), “Becoming Elizabeth” is the “fascinating story of the early life of England’s most iconic Queen,” according to Starz. “Long before she ascended the throne, young Elizabeth Tudor was an orphaned teenager who became embroiled in the political and sexual politics of the English court. With no clear heir, the death of King Henry the VIII sets into motion a dangerous scramble for power. His surviving children find themselves pawns in a game between the great families of England and the powers of Europe who vie for control of the country.”

“Elizabeth struggles to control her own destiny and take real power as the men around her attempt to claim her sovereignty. Her fascinating and factual journey to secure the crown is filled with scheming, betrayal and illicit relationships that threaten to bring forth her demise at a time in which every man or woman of the court is on the wheel of fortune, which may take them to a position of great power one moment, or the executioner’s block the next.”

Also Read: Claire Foy to Return to 'The Crown' in Season 4 Flashback Scene

Reiss will serve as lead writer on the eight-episode season and be joined by an all-female writing team including Emily Ballou (“Traitors,” “Taboo,” “Humans”), Anna Jordan (“Succession”) and Suhayla El- Bushra (“Ackley Bridge,” “Hollyoaks”). Reiss will executive produce the series alongside The Forge’s George Ormond (“National Treasure,” “Great Expectations”) and George Faber (“Shameless,” “Generation Kill”). Senior vice president of original programming Karen Bailey is the Starz executive in charge of “Becoming Elizabeth.”

“The world of ‘Becoming Elizabeth’ is visceral and dangerous – judgments are rendered quickly and no one is safe,” Starz CEO Jeffrey A. Hirsch said. “This series explores the Tudor Reign and young Elizabeth, who would become England’s ‘Gloriana’ and one of history’s most dynamic figures, through a new lens which we think viewers will find highly engaging.”

“This is Elizabeth as you’ve never seen her before, a teenager finding her way in a treacherous world, and in Anya’s hands she’s a truly electrifying character,” Ormond said. “Starz immediately embraced the ambition and vision of the series and we’re thrilled to be collaborating with them on it.”

Also Read: Gillian Anderson on Why Nailing Margaret Thatcher's Hair Is Key to 'The Crown' Season 4 (Video)

Reiss added: “Drama seems to skip straight from Henry VIII’s turnstile of wives to an adult white faced Gloriana. Missing out boy kings, religious fanatics, secret affairs and a young orphaned teenager trying to save herself from the vicious scramble to the top. I should have found it hard to relate to 500 year old royalty but Elizabeth lived in dangerous, polarizing times and often made terrible hormone-fueled decisions. I’ve found writing her story a thrilling experience.”

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www.thewrap.com | 12/3/19

(Warning: The following story contains MAJOR spoilers from the sixth episode of “Watchmen” titled “This Extraordinary Being.”)

Well, “Watchmen” just went there.

Sunday’s episode was dedicated entirely to unraveling the mystery behind Will Reeves (Louis Gossett Jr.), courtesy of Angela Abar (Regina King) ingesting the entire bottle full of her grandfather’s “Nostalgia Pills.”

And what we found out about Reeves included a pretty major change to Alan Moore’s original graphic novel: Reeves was none other than Hooded Justice, one of the founding members of The Minutemen and the first costumed vigilante in “Watchmen’s” alternate universe.

“I know it’s a scary choice and very radical. To me when I see it, it’s like ‘Oh, of course that would make sense.’ That’s the one character that would never reveal his identity,” Nicole Kassell, who directed a handful of episodes and serves as an executive producer on the series, told TheWrap.

Also Read: 'Watchmen': Jean Smart Reacts to That Doctor Manhattan-Themed Item in Her Briefcase

Hooded Justice was one of the few characters from Moore’s work whose civilian identity was never before revealed. In the world of “Watchmen,” it was believed that Hooded Justice was East European strongman Rolf Muller, who disappeared in the mid-1950s, around the same time that Hooded Justice left the public eye.

Kassell explained that the mystery surrounding the real identity of Hooded Justice made it ripe to ask the question of why, in a world full of masked vigilantes, would that be the one character that we never saw unmasked? “Why was Hooded Justice never revealed? You take that period and you think of the issues in our country. Why would someone hide who they are, forever?” Kassell continued.

The reveal that Hooded Justice was actually a black man, who would put makeup around his eyes so the rest of the world would assume he’s white (in the in-universe TV series, “American Hero Story,” he is portrayed by Cheyenne Jackson), dovetails with Lindelof’s intent to have race relations at the center of his story. Reeves gets the idea for putting a hood and a noose over his face from the fact that as a young police officer he was lynched as a warning from his fellow white police offers to stay in line.

During the Television Critics Association press tour in July, Lindelof said he expected “Watchmen” to have a divided response among fans.

“Whether or not the show feels like it’s ‘Watchmen’ is in the eye of the beholder,” he said. “Some people who have an intense relationship with the source material might say, ‘This feels like ‘Watchmen’ to me,’ [while] others might say, ‘This is an aberration and I wish it never existed.'”

We wonder if he had this specific episode in mind when he said that.

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www.thewrap.com | 11/25/19

The series adaptation of “War of the Worlds” starring Gabriel Byrne and Elizabeth McGovern has landed at Epix for U.S. distribution, the premium cable channel announced on Wednesday.

The series, a loose adaptation of the H.G. Wells classic, is created and written by Howard Overman. It features an ensemble cast including Gabriel Byrne, Elizabeth McGovern, Léa Drucker, Natasha Little, Daisy Edgar Jones, Stéphane Caillard, Adel Bencherif and Guillaume Gouix.

“We at EPIX are thrilled to be working with the teams at Urban Myth and Studiocanal to showcase Howard Overman’s masterful take on this classic story,” Epix president Michael Wright said. “We can’t wait to bring this cinematic and addictive series to our audience.”

Also Read: Epix's 'Godfather of Harlem' Trailer: 'Times Have Changed,' But Forest Whitaker's Bumpy Johnson Hasn't (Video)

The eight-series first debuted in France back in October. Gilles Coulier directed the first four episodes with Richard Clark helming episodes five to eight. Julian Murphy and Johnny Capps serve as executive producers for Urban Myth Films.

“Cinematic, with all the mystery, intrigue and action of the best science fiction, this fresh interpretation is a character drama that considers the myriad fears of today’s world and how potential threats may only be overcome by harnessing our own humanity,” Murphy and Capps said.

The series is produced by Urban Myth Films, in partnership with CANAL+, Fox Networks Group (FNG) Europe & Africa and AGC Television. The deal with Epix was brokered by CAA on behalf of AGC Television.

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www.thewrap.com | 11/21/19

Gaming is on the verge of becoming the biggest entertainment sector in the world.

That was one of the key takeaways from IDG Consulting CEO Yoshio Osaki’s opening presentation on Tuesday at TheWrap’s GamingGrill at Herringbone in Santa Monica. Gaming, according to IDG’s research, already brings in more revenue globally than the music business, movie ticket sales and home entertainment combined. Overall, the gaming industry is on pace to bring in nearly $180 billion in revenue this year — marking a 24% jump in revenue from only two years ago.

By the end of 2020, IDG projects gaming to surpass television as the most lucrative form of entertainment, with annual revenue rising to $195 billion.

Also Read: Quibi Adds Video Gaming and Culture News Show From Polygon and Vox Media

(Courtesy of IDG Consulting)

It’s probably best to think of major video game releases in the same way we think of blockbuster movies, Osaki said. And in many cases, the biggest video games trump the latest comic book epic coming out of Hollywood.

For example, “Avengers: Infinity War” brought in $640 million globally during its opening weekend last year — or about $85 million less than “Red Dead Redemption 2,” from Rockstar Games, made during its opening weekend in October 2018.

What’s behind gaming’s continued rise? There are a few dynamics at play. First off, as illustrated by “Red Dead Redemption 2,” gaming is truly international. Major releases in the U.S. drive huge sales in Europe and Asia. It applies in the opposite direction as well, as the FIFA soccer franchise from EA Sports indicates; the FIFA game sold nearly 14 million copies last year, according to IDG’s research, with 29% of those players coming from North America. Europe, where the game is especially popular, accounts for 69% of the game’s sales.

Also Read: 4 Must-Haves Gaming Livestreamer Caffeine Needs to Compete With Twitch

(IDG)

New industry entrants and new ways for gamers to play are also spurring the industry’s growth. Osaki pointed to companies like Nike, Facebook and Amazon that are traditionally not gaming-oriented but are now venturing into the industry. Amazon’s involvement in gaming has grown exponentially since buying Twitch in 2014. Twitch is now the go-to streaming service for gamers around the world, and the company recently enjoyed its peak concurrent viewership for a single event, with 1.7 million people streaming a Fortnite event.

Snapchat also launched its own in-app gaming arcade earlier this year — around the same time Apple revealed it would also be getting into gaming, too. The smartphone, just as it’s making it easier for users to watch TV shows and movies on the go, is now becoming an integral part of the gaming industry.

Also Read: Twitch CEO Apologizes After Porn Was Promoted on Ninja's Former Gaming Channel

(IDG)

Another gaming trend to watch: esports. More people than ever before are watching people, well, play video games. This may seem like a niche development to those outside gaming, but the numbers are staggering. The Super Bowl pulls in about 100 million viewers at its peak, and it’s still dwarfed by major esports events like the 2019 League of Legends World Championship, which drew 200 million viewers at its peak, according to IDG.

It’s no wonder Twitch, Mixer and YouTube are duking it out — and often poaching popular streamers from their rivals — for gaming viewers.

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www.thewrap.com | 11/20/19

The second week of public hearings in the Donald Trump impeachment inquiry begins Tuesday morning at 6:00 a.m. PT/9:00 a.m. ET with testimony from two people who listened in on the July 25 call between Trump and Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky: Jennifer Williams, a State Department aide to Vice President Mike Pence, and Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman.

After a short break, the proceedings will resume at 11:30 a.m. PT/2:30 p.m. ET with testimony from former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kurt Volker, and former White House Russia adviser Tim Morrison, both of whom are on the list of witnesses requested to appear by Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee.

In addition to broadcasts from the major television networks, C-SPAN will once again air the full uninterrupted hearings. Watch the testimony from Williams and Vindman at the top of this page starting at 6:00 a.m. PT/9:00 a.m. ET; watch Volker and Morrison’s testimony in the video below, beginning at 11:30 a.m. PT/2:30 p.m. ET:

Then on Wednesday at 6 a.m. PT/9 a.m. PT, all eyes will be on Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union who said he personally told Zelensky’s top aide that U.S. aid to Ukraine was linked to the Biden investigations. The afternoon session will include testimony from Laura Cooper and David Hale.

Also Read: 5 Key Moments From Trump Impeachment Hearing Day 2, From Trump's Tweet to a 'Devastated' Marie Yovanovitch

Fiona Hill, a top Russian specialist on the National Security Council, and David Holmes, the aide who heard the conversation between Sondland and Trump, will testify on Thursday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced in September that the House of Representatives would begin a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump.

The decision came in light of a whistleblower complaint that the president sought to use foreign power from Ukraine for his own political gain. During a phone call with Ukraine’s president, Trump reportedly pressured Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the son of former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden; earlier that week, Trump admitted that he had brought up Biden’s family during the call but told reporters that he did so because “we don’t want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine.” The president also confirmed that his administration withheld nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine but denied that it was done for leverage.

Also Read: 5 Key Moments From Trump Impeachment Inquiry Hearing Day 1 (Video)

Week one of the impeachment saw testimony three career public servants: William Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine; George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs; and Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

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www.thewrap.com | 11/19/19

Some of the most beloved shows in TV history feature members of the military. You might remember Hawkeye Pierce and Radar O’Reilly from “M*A*S*H,” the breakout star of the “Andy Griffith Show,” Gomer Pyle, whose spinoff  “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” ran for five years.

Mr. T shot to fame in the early ’80s by playing a veteran in “The A-Team as B.A. Baracus. Younger audiences may remember seeing pop-star Jesse McCartney in the final season of “Army Wives” — and fans of “The Office” can catch one of John Krasinski’s latest roles as the title character in “Jack Ryan.”

With Veteran’s Day taking place this Monday, here’s a list of military-themed TV shows to binge to in honor of our veterans.

“Hogan’s Heroes”

This sitcom aired from 1965 from 1971, and was set in a German Prisoner of War (POW) camp in WWII. It followed Colonel Robert E. Hogan (Bob Crane) who ran a special operations group from the camp along with an international crew of Allied prisoners. Sadly, it’s not streaming anywhere, but you can order the DVDs on Amazon.

“Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.”

A spinoff of the “Andy Griffith Show,” the show followed Gomer Pyle (Jim Nabors), a loveably naive gas-station attendant from Mayberry, North Carolina, who enlists in the Marines. He was joined by Gunnery Sgt. Vince Carter, who as played by Frank Sutton. The series ran from 1964 to 1969. It’s also not streaming anywhere, but the DVDs are available for purchase on Amazon.

“M*A*S*H”

A classic war comedy and medical drama rolled into one, “M*A*S*H” stands for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. It was one of the most popular shows of all time, following members of the surgical hospital during the Korean War. It aired from 1972 to 1983 and lead Alan Alda to become one of the most popular TV actors of his time for his role as Hawkeye Pierce. Other major characters Father Mulcahy (William Christopher), Margaret Houlihan (Loretta Swit), and Maxwell Klinger (Jamie Farr). The 1983 “M*A*S*H” series finale drew 106 million viewers, making it the most watched television broadcast of all time until 2010 when it was replaced by Super Bowl XLIV. “M*A*S*H” can be streamed on Hulu.

“The A-Team”

This one started airing in 1983 just as M*A*S*H was coming to an end, and aired until 1987. The NBC action-adventure series followed the members of a made-up U.S. Army Special Forces Unit that were court-martialed for “a crime they didn’t commit” and then go on the run. Mr. T famously played the character Sergeant First Class Bosco “B.A.”, or “Bad Attitude”, Baracus, coining catch-phrases such as “I ain’t gettin’ on no plane.” He starred alongside the pack’s leader, Lieutenant Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith (George Peppard), Lieutenant Templeton Peck (Dirk Benedict), and Captain H.M. “Howling Mad” Murdock (Dwight Schultz). You can stream for free on Tubi or with an Amazon Prime Video subscription.

“JAG”

A legal drama with a U.S. Navy theme, “JAG” actually is an acronym for Judge Advocate General. The show aired from 1995 to 2005, initially on NBC and later, CBS. It followed Lt. Harmon Rabb (David James Elliott) and Lt. Sarah MacKenzie (Catherine Bell), who solved cases together. You can binge it on CBS All Access.

“NCIS”

You might not have realized that NCIS has military ties, but it actually stands for Naval Criminal Investigation Service. It follows Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon), who leads a group in investigating crimes that are connected to Navy and Marine Corps personnel, from murder to espionage. You can binge it on Netflix and CBS All Access.

“Band of Brothers”

This HBO miniseries was executive produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, who were also behind “Saving Private Ryan.”  The series, which won the Emmy for outstanding miniseries in 2001, followed the “Easy” Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, of the 101st Airborne Division, from jump training in the U.S. to Europe and on through Japan’s surrender and the end of WWII. You can stream it on HBO.

“Army Wives”

Set in Charleston, South Carolina, this Lifetime series ran from 2007 to 2013. It followed the lives of four Army wives, played by Claudia Joy Holden, Denise Sherwood, Roxy LeBlanc, and Pamela Morgan, and one Army husband, played by Sterling K. Brown. Jesse McCartney joined as regular in the 7th and final season. You can stream it on ABC’s website or buy individual episodes on Amazon Prime Video.

“Jack Ryan”

Based on the books by Tom Clancy, it follows Jack Ryan (John Krasinski), an ex-Marine who works for the CIA. Just like classic movies featuring the character like “The Hunt for Red October,” “Patriot Games” and “Clear and Present Danger,” the series does not disappoint in terms of high-octane action sequences.  You can stream Seasons 1 and 2 on Amazon Prime Video.

“The Code”

This short-lived military drama was canceled this year after one season on CBS. It followed soldiers who tackled legal challenges facing the U.S. Marine Corps. Its stars included Dana Delaney, Luke Mitchell, Anna Wood, Ato Essandoh, Phillipa Soo, and Raffi Barsoumian.  Streaming on CBS All Access.

“The Last Ship”

This TNT series starred Eric Dane and aired for five seasons from 2014 to 2018. “The Last Ship” centers around the Navy destroyer U.S.S. Nathan James as its captain Tom Chandler (Dane) and crew navigate life following a global catastrophe that nearly kills off the world’s population. The cast also includes Adam Baldwin, Bridget Regan, Charles Parnell, Travis Van Winkle, Marissa Neitling, Christina Elmore, Jocko Sims, Bren Foster, and Kevin Michael Martin. The series is based on William Brinkley’s novel. Streaming on Hulu.

“The Brave”

Described as “a journey into the world of America’s elite undercover military heroes,” this  2017 drama series lasted one season on NBC. It starred Anne Heche as Deputy Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Patricia Campbell, and Mike Vogel as Captain Adam “Top” Dalton. You can buy individual episodes on Amazon Prime Video.

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www.thewrap.com | 11/8/19

Bob Berney and Jeanne R. Berney have relaunched their label Picturehouse and have acquired the North American rights to faith-based drama “Fatima,” the couple announced on Sunday along with James T. Volk, chairman and founder of Origin Entertainment.

The film is directed by Marco Pontecorvo and produced by Origin Entertainment along with Elysia Productions and Rose Pictures. Picturehouse has set a release date for the film on April 24, 2020.

Bob Berney was the head of marketing and distribution at Amazon Studios and left the company in June of this year. He headed Picturehouse in 2005 as a joint venture between HBO and New Line Cinema, and he and his wife relaunched the label in January 2013 as an independent distributor before he joined Amazon in 2015.

Also Read: Amazon Studios Marketing and Distribution Chief Bob Berney to Exit Company

“Fatima” is a feature film starring Stephanie Gil, Lúcia Moniz, Joaquim de Almeida, Goran Visnjic, Sonia Braga and Harvey Keitel. It’s the story of a 10-year-old shepherd and her two young cousins in Fátima, Portugal, who report seeing visions of the Virgin Mary. Their revelations inspire believers but anger officials of both the Church and the secular government, who try to force them to recant their story. As word of their prophecy spreads, tens of thousands of religious pilgrims flock to the site in hopes of witnessing a miracle. What they experience will change their lives forever.

“Marco Pontecorvo has created a beautiful and inspirational film telling the emotional story of three young children whose visions captured a nation at a time when World War I was ravaging Europe,” Bob Berney and Jeanne R. Berney said in a joint statement. “We are extremely excited to bring this film to North American theatergoers.”

Directed by Marco Pontecorvo and written by Pontecorvo, Valerio D’Annunzio and Barbara Nicolosi, “Fatima” is produced by James T. Volk, Dick Lyles, Stefano Buono, Maribel Lopera Sierra, Rose Ganguzza, Marco Pontecorvo and Natasha Howes. The film features the original song “Gratia Plena” (“Full of Grace”) performed by Andrea Bocelli and composed by Italian composer Paolo Buonvino.

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“Fatima” is the second feature by Pontecorvo following the drama “Pa-ra-da.” He’s also credited as a cinematographer on “Game of Thrones” and “Rome.”

“It is amazing to realize that in 1917, before television, the internet or any reliable mass communication, 70,000 people gathered at this remote site to witness an anticipated miracle,” Volk said in a statement. “It’s truly a remarkable story, based on real events, and we are excited to partner with Picturehouse in the release of this film.”

“Fatima is not a film about religion,” Ganguzza said in a statement. “It is a film about the power of faith in times of conflict and turmoil.”

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www.thewrap.com | 10/28/19

“Pearson” actress Gina Torres said it’s not enough for women of color in Hollywood to be good.

“The cross that we bear as people of color in this industry is that we have to be extraordinary,” she said Friday at the WrapWomen’s Power Women Summit on Friday. She was part of an actors panel that also included Diane Guerrero, Stephanie Beatriz, Sarah Shahi and Kelly McCreary.

Each of the women shared stories of how they were treated when they first started in the entertainment industry.

Also Read: Crystal Kayiza's 'See You Next Time' Wins Telling Our Stories Film Competition at Wrap Women's 2019 Power Women Summit

“My unique perspective here is that I’m Cuban-American. Both parents are Cuban. And I grew up Catholic in the Bronx, so my experience was not that of an African-American youth. Very different experiences, which a lot of people did not or would not understand or recognize, because I present as African-American,” Torres said.

“I [was] growing up as an actress in the ’80s when the urban drama was taking off. You had Spike Lee coming in, John Singleton coming in — and I simply was not black enough. To work meant I had to somehow shut down a very deep part of myself. I had to learn what it was to be black, because there was no such thing as Afro-Latina in the ’80s. That’s completely new. All Latinas looked European. There was no room for me,” she continued.

Torres’ advice: “It’s about being stubborn, being youthful, never saying no, walking into a room and giving what I had to give specifically. It didn’t matter to me necessarily what they thought or what box they were gonna put me in. I was going in as myself.”

Also Read: Rachel Zoe on How 'Rachel Zoe Project' Became About Her - Which Wasn't the Plan

“Orange Is the New Black” star Diane Guerrero said that when she started in television, “the doors were so closed.”

“They were just shut — until there was some prison show and I was able to audition for that,” she joked.

Before “Orange Is The New Black” came along, she said, “I was still not getting [roles like] Gangster Number 2’s Girlfriend.”

“City on a Hill” actress Sarah Shahi said she also learned she would need to work harder than most people.

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“I’m Persian, and as far back as I can remember, it’s never been cool to be Persian. I grew up in Texas with a single mom. My father was a drug addict, so we were on our own. From a very young age, my mom and I were in and out of women’s shelters when I was a kid,” she said. “She taught me that if I wanted to get ahead, I had to be twice as smart and twice as good and I had to not give up.”

“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” actor Stephanie Beatriz said her options for roles seemed limited when she started in television.

“When I moved here and started doing television, I found very quickly that I was either a victim of a crime, a perpetrator of a crime, or had an accent that didn’t belong to me,” she said.

“So I found it really really frustrating for the first huge chunk of my life here in Los Angeles,” she said. “It still is constantly fighting stereotypes.”

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“Grey’s Anatomy” actor Kelly McCreary had a similar experience. When she started in television, she “didn’t always understand that even though they said ‘colorblind casting,’ they didn’t always mean that.”

“My first TV experience was in commercials. I would frequently have people saying to me, ‘Can you do this more urban?” I finally had the audacity and the naïveté of somebody who felt unstoppable… and I said, ‘Do you mean black? Because I am black. And this is what blackness looks and sounds like.”

TheWrap’s 2019 Power Women Summit took place Thursday and Friday at the Fairmont Hotel in Santa Monica. The event brings together the industry’s most influential women to drive “Toward 50/50” equity and inclusivity in entertainment and media.

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The summit aims to inspire and empower more than 1,000 women across the landscape of their professional careers and personal lives. This year, the summit was held at the beautiful Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica with the backdrop of the beach and the hotel’s iconic fig tree.

Presented by WrapWomen Foundation, the non-profit arm of TheWrap, the event will provide two days of education, mentorship, workshops and networking to promote the goal of greater women’s leadership in this industry, and gender balance in media, entertainment and technology overall.

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www.thewrap.com | 10/26/19

It’s the time of year when the number of potential contenders has dwindled to a precious few, and Oscar watchers tick them off one by one: “The Irishman” at the New York Film Festival in late September, “Little Women” on Oct. 23, “Dark Waters” on Oct. 28, “Richard Jewell” at the AFI Fest in November, “1917” at some indeterminate time after that… This week saw one more box get checked — Jay Roach’s “Bombshell,” the story of the fall of Fox News’ Roger Ailes that shouldn’t be confused with the 2018 documentary “Divide and Conquer” or “The Loudest Voice,” the Showtime miniseries starring Russell Crowe as the influential but disgraced Fox maven.

Roach’s version, which screened for the first time on Sunday, first for a SAG audience and then for a mixture of guilds, press and tastemakers at a swanky Pacific Design Center soiree, got awards folks excitedly buzzing for its focus not on Ailes (played by John Lithgow) but on the newswomen he was accused of harassing: Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron, also one of the film’s producers), Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) and a fictional composite who in this telling goes by the name of Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie).

All three actresses are clearly in the awards race, though Kidman may suffer from having a supporting role that’s not quite as meaty as Robbie’s. (In Best Actress, Theron is a potential rival to Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland for the win.) This is the movie that asks a simple question: Will Hollywood liberals vote for a movie that asks them to think of Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson as heroines because they stood up to the repulsive Ailes? Will the spirit of #MeToo trump (no pun intended) the natural distaste much of the Academy has for everybody who’s ever had anything to do with Fox News? Maybe.

By the way, TheWrap was amused to find that in a particularly heated scene in the Fox newsroom, as Carlson’s charges against Ailes are starting to get attention, somebody shouts, “Have you seen TheWrap?” At the reception afterwards, Roach told Sharon Waxman he didn’t know how that line got in the shooting script.

Also Read: 'Bombshell' Trailer: Nicole Kidman's Gretchen Carlson Is Ready to 'Go to War' Against Roger Ailes (Video)

“Parasite”

On Monday, the day after the “Bombshell” unveiling, the Oscar category formerly known as Best Foreign Language Film and now retitled Best International Feature Film kicked off 47 nights of screenings in 57 days with a double bill of Brazil’s “Invisible Life” and Lithuania’s “Bridges of Time.” Attendance at the first few screenings, which are divided between the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills and the Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood, was reportedly on the sparse side, but there’s lots of time left for things to pick up: A full 93 films are in contention, the most ever in the category.

As the screenings began, of course, one question hung over the entire field: Can anything possibly beat South Korea’s entry, Bong Joon Ho’s Palme d’Or winner “Parasite”? And the question became more pointed considering that the official Oscar screenings launched the day after a weekend in which “Parasite” set a box office record for the highest per-screen average of any film not in English.

I suspect that the answer is no, nothing can beat “Parasite” if the film lands key nominations outside the international-film category, particularly if it is nominated for Best Picture and/or Best Director. If it doesn’t have that imprimatur of quality, who knows? Oscar voters in the category can be notoriously unpredictable and sometimes timid in their choices, and “Parasite” is a bold and unnerving film.

Also Read: 'Parasite' Sets Foreign Language Record at Indie Box Office

“The Painted Bird”

Speaking of bold and unnerving… I’ve seen 21 of the international 93 entries so far, starting with “Les Misérables,” “Atlantics,” “Pain and Glory,” “The Whistlers,” “Parasite” and “Homeward” back at the Cannes Film Festival in May. And I have to say, voters had better be prepared, because two of the entries I’ve seen in the last week are among the most brutal filmgoing experiences I’ve had in a long time: the Czech Republic’s entry, Vaclav Marhoul’s near three-hour adaptation of the Jerzy Kosinski novel “The Painted Bird,” and Russia’s “Beanpole,” by young director Kantemir Balagov.

“The Painted Bird” is set during World War II, and follows a young Jewish boy who wanders through Eastern Europe and quietly suffers unspeakable horrors at the hands of almost everyone he encounters; “Beanpole” is set in a ravaged Leningrad just after the war, and contains two lengthy scenes — one of death, one of sex — that are almost unendurable. Both films are gorgeous to look at, both are extremely powerful and it wouldn’t surprise me to see one or both end up on the short list, but they are not easy to sit through.

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Paramount

Here’s what is easy to sit through: “Rocketman.” I saw it in Cannes but revisited it on Tuesday night on the Paramount lot, where the studio tried to jog voters’ memories by holding a screening and a Q&A and reception with director Dexter Fletcher, actors Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell and Bryce Dallas Howard, lyricist Bernie Taupin and Elton John himself.

The audience of guilds and guests loved the actors but went nuts for Sir Elton, who of course dominated the Q&A, charmed everybody and relentlessly plugged his just-published memoir. (When they tried to get him to talk about how horrible his mother was to him, he kept saying, “Read the book.”) Elton went out of his way to praise Fletcher and Egerton and said he would not change one frame of the film — which is saying something, considering how mercurial and insane the movie makes him out to be.

One night is not going to push “Rocketman” into the thick of the awards race, but hope springs eternal for Egerton and for the new song Elton and Bernie wrote for the end credits. (And for those costumes, of course.) If I didn’t find the film quite as winning the second time around, I had fun with it again and credit Fletcher and crew for their very smart choice to make it a full-fledged musical fantasy in which people break into song and the chronology is creative, to say the least. Every time I felt the urge to nitpick — He didn’t do “Crocodile Rock” at the Troubadour, and the door’s on the wrong side of the room! “I’m Still Standing” was written before he went into rehab, not after!! — I had to acknowledge that I was being silly, because this wasn’t supposed to be how it happened but how it felt.

It was a busy week for Elton, who appeared at Walt Disney Concert Hall on Monday night for Brandi Carlile’s wonderful performance of Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” album. (Egerton was there, too, as was Mitchell herself.) And then on Thursday, he was back in action at the Greek Theatre, where he and Egerton performed “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” after a screening with live orchestral music.

Also Read: 12 Documentaries to Check Out This Fall, Including Films by Bruce Springsteen and Agnès Varda (Photos)

“Rolling Thunder”

We’re still a few weeks off from the time when new nominations will be announced almost on a daily basis, but the Critics Choice Association — what used to be the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association — announced its fourth annual Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards this week. I’ve never quite trusted a group of film critics and writers for television, radio and online outlets to keep their fingers on the pulse of nonfiction filmmaking — and I say that as a member of the group and a former member of its nominating committee — but they do provide a look at what docs are getting through to mainstream voters.

And in a year without the doc hits that we saw last year — there’s no “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” or “Free Solo” or “RBG” or “Three Identical Strangers” — you can cross-reference the CCDA, the recent IDA Awards short list and the DOC NYC list of the likeliest awards movies to come up with a decent overview. On that basis, the docs with the most heat are “American Factory,” “Apollo 11,” “The Biggest Little Farm,” “The Cave,” “Honeyland” and “One Child Nation” — though I think that might be slighting “Maiden,” “For Sama,” “Diego Maradona,” “The Edge of Democracy” and “Knock Down the House,” among others.

Also of note, the Critics’ Choice nominating committee became the first to nominate or short-list “Rolling Thunder: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese” as a documentary, which I suppose is easy to do if you’re not paying attention to how much of the time Scorsese and the people he puts on screen are lying to you or trying to mislead you. I’ve gotten flak for saying this before and I’ll probably get more for saying it again, but here goes: It’s a great, wildly entertaining movie, but it’s not a documentary and it shouldn’t be getting doc awards or nominations.

But hey, the quote on the front of the “Rolling Thunder” awards screener that Netflix sent out says “A BRILLIANT ROCK DOC” in all caps, and the Academy’s Documentary Branch has put it on their voters’ streaming site and made it required viewing for 20 percent of the branch. So what do I know?

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www.thewrap.com | 10/18/19

HBO Max has picked up a four-part docuseries about the forgotten leaders of the LGBTQ rights movement from executive producers Greg Berlanti and Jim Parsons, the streaming service announced Wednesday.

Titled “EQUAL,” the four-part series will document the “gripping and true backstories of the leaders and unsung heroes, pre-Stonewall, who changed the course of American history through their tireless activism,” using both documentary footage and “high-end re-enactments,” according to HBO Max’s description of the show.

Subjects tackled on the show will include gay rights activist Harry Hay; lesbian civil rights group Daughters of Bilitis; Christine Jorgensen, a transgender woman who flew to Europe to publicly transition in 1951; and gay rights and African American rights leader Bayard Rustin. The final episode will center on the Stonewall Riots and the first Pride event the following year.

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David Collins, Michael Williams, Rob Eric and Joel Chiodi of Scout Productions will serve as executive producers on the series along with Berlanti and Sarah Schechter of Berlanti Productions and Parsons and Todd Spiewak of That’s Wonderful. Raintree Ventures’ Jon Jashni and Mike Darnell and Brooke Karzen, Warner Horizon Unscripted Television will also executive produce.

“In June, we commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which shepherded in a new era for LGBTQ+ pride. While we know the story behind that fateful summer night, there’s a lot of fascinating, untold history of the patriots, artists, and thinkers who paved the way,” Jennifer O’Connell, executive vice president of nonfiction and kids programming for HBO Max, said. “It’s time to share their heroic tales, and we could not have more perfect partners in Jim Parsons, Greg Berlanti, Jon Jashni and Scout to introduce our HBO Max audience to these historical trailblazers.”

“We are extremely proud to partner with these groundbreaking producers on a subject this important, at a time this critical,” added Mike Darnell, president of unscripted and alternative at Warner Bros. “What a perfect project to launch Warner Horizon Unscripted Television’s new documentary series unit.”

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www.thewrap.com | 10/16/19

I was surprised to learn that Ronan Farrow’s new book, “Catch and Kill,” is not about Harvey Weinstein at all. It’s about Farrow’s failed relationship with NBC News. It’s a love affair between an investigative journalist and the news organization that he trusted, gone wrong.

Once upon a time, NBC News loved Ronan Farrow  — until around August 2017, when network executives cut off his reporting on the Hollywood mogul. Therein lies a tale of how institutions — even those devoted to telling the truth — will sometimes choose self-preservation and the status quo over exposing powerful people in their own social, political and business circles.

I read the book with a rising sense of hurt on Farrow’s behalf, because I recognized the signs of when an institution decides to duck rather than tell the truth. It happened to me on this very subject, when I tried to get the New York Times to publish my reporting about Weinstein and his Disney-paid procurer of women, Fabrizio Lombardo, after reporting in Italy, New York and London in 2004. The eventual story that ran is here, and my account of what happened is here.

I know all too well what it feels like when a news institution you love abandons you. They never tell you what is wrong. There’s just a vague miasma that descends around the reporting, and suddenly a project that is scheduled for the “Today” show — or, in my case, the newspaper — never happens.

Also Read: 4 Women Corroborate Fabrizio Lombardo Procured Women for Harvey Weinstein

Harvey Weinstein arrives at court for new arraignment on August 26

For an institution like NBC News, exposing a Saudi dictator or a corrupt Russian operative is not a problem. But exposing the guy who hangs out with the boss on Martha’s Vineyard in the summer (as Comcast chief Brian Roberts did with Weinstein) or the one who spends $8 million a year in advertising — that’s tough.  (That sum is what I have recently learned Weinstein spent annually in the Times in 2004, from an individual with knowledge of the company’s spending.)

Concrete proof is never possible, by design. Farrow suspects that Weinstein may have threatened NBC News chairman Andy Lack with exposing Matt Lauer’s affairs, but he has no proof. Through his lawyer, Weinstein denied doing so, TheWrap reported last week.

Farrow does chronicle an estimated 15 phone calls logged by Weinstein to Lack, NBC News President Noah Oppenheim and MSNBC chief Phil Griffin in the summer of 2017, as reporting around the topic of sexual misconduct intensified. (Farrow’s source appears to be Weinstein’s former assistant, who quit shortly after the revelations.)

“By late summer, Weinstein’s mood after the calls had again become triumphal,” Farrow writes.

Farrow describes a painful discussion in August 2017 with Oppenheim about whether they really had enough reporting to go to air. His manner was uncomfortable, Farrow recounts.

“As I watched him shift and gaze down, I had a sense that part of his vulnerability to criticism of the story was a sincere belief: that this just wasn’t a huge deal, some Hollywood bully, famous in SoHo and Cannes, crossing a line…

‘If what you’re saying is you sincerely just want more, then tell me,’ I said. ‘There’s more we can get in place quickly.’

He seemed not to hear this.

… He seemed frustrated, like he’d expected this to be easier. His face was going pale and slick, as it had when he listened to the audio.

‘That’s the problem, Noah,’ I said. ‘Every time we try to get more, you guys push back.’

This seemed to make him angry. ‘Well, none of this matters,’ he said. ‘We’ve got a much bigger problem.'”

That “bigger problem” was a supposed conflict of interest because in the early 1990s Weinstein distributed movies by Woody Allen, Farrow’s father. But Farrow points out that this fact was already known and vetted before he started reporting the story and was not considered a conflict.

None of this casts NBC News in a favorable light. NBC News continues to vigorously deny that the network ducked the story, with Lack writing yet another letter to staff last week criticizing Farrow’s contentions as “fundamentally untrue.”

Also Read: NBC News Chief Calls Ex-Anchor Matt Lauer's Conduct 'Reprehensible'

But it’s really problematic that Oppenheim told Farrow to stop reporting, to find something else to write about, when significant reporting was in hand — including the explosive audio tape of Weinstein cornering model Ambra Gutierrez in a hallway and admitting that his predation was a regular thing.

We expect Harvey Weinstein to resort to dirty tactics to kill a story that threatened to, and ultimately did, lead to his ruin. But we didn’t expect that from NBC News.

Also Read: How Fabrizio Lombardo Became Harvey Weinstein's Hustler

“Catch and Kill” is not about the taking down of Harvey Weinstein. It’s about the telling of that story — and the obstacles to getting it out. Of how Weinstein used the ugliest of tactics — hiring “feminist” lawyer Lisa Bloom to cull information, hiring Black Cube ex-Mossad agents to follow Farrow and others — to quash what would ultimately destroy him. To tell that tale, Farrow had to stitch together innuendo, fact, suspicious phone calls and Instagrammed threats.

I’m pretty sure his instincts are correct. The world of media, power and institutions is murky. It is designed to ensure that you never find out who makes the call to kill your story, or weaken it just enough so it has no impact.

My own unease led me to write of my worry to then-editor Bill Keller in September 2004 (an email I have not previously disclosed): “I will soon be back from Europe where I have uncovered a great number of potentially explosive things about Harvey Weinstein and Miramax,” I wrote. “Is the paper behind me? Are we up for this? Am I?”

It wasn’t behind me — despite all my reporting on Weinstein’s man Fabrizio Lombardo, who was paid $400,000 for less than a year’s work “running” Miramax Italy and identified by several sources at the time as the man who procured women for Weinstein at European film festivals.

In my case, I was never told to go do more reporting. And I was not told by my editors that Weinstein later came to the newsroom with lawyer David Boies and spokesman Matthew Hiltzik to see Keller and to get the story killed. I had to learn that from other people. My watered-down story sank like a stone. (Later, the Times tried to nullify my complaints but yet did its own, new, story on Lombardo in 2017 within days of my calling out the past burying of my work.)

Credit goes to Farrow for charting a different course: He took his reporting to The New Yorker, redoubled his efforts — and changed the world.

Related stories from TheWrap:

How Fabrizio Lombardo Became Harvey Weinstein's Hustler

4 Women Corroborate Fabrizio Lombardo Procured Women for Harvey Weinstein

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www.thewrap.com | 10/14/19

Stephen (Steve) J. Lukasik
(1931 – 2019)On Thursday, Stephen J. Lukasik passed away peacefully at the age of 88. He was the legend in a field with no peer. For nearly half a century, he shaped the development of national security and network technology developments at a level and extent that is unlikely ever to be matched. For a great many of us in that arena from the 1960s past the Millennium, he was the demanding visionary leader who set the policies and directions, framed the challenges, approved and funded the projects, and questioned the results. He remained so until his final days — leaving an enormous body of material that he produced himself as an extraordinary writer. For all that he accomplished, he also disdained fame and awards — preferring to give credit to the teams of people that he led. He was The Director.

Having seen the newspaper photos of Hiroshima's destruction as a teenager growing up on Staten Island, he dedicated his career driven to avoid similar destruction in the United States. An avid reader and researcher, he eventually amassed a personal library of nearly 10,000 books relating to every dimension of national security. Along the way, he was the second longest-serving DARPA Director during key technology development periods, having also served as Deputy. He was Chief Scientist at RAND. He was brought into the FCC by its chairman to completely rebuild and lead its strategic technology capabilities. He led and shaped almost every U.S. national security committee that existed at that time. After four years at the FCC, he shifted to hard-core defense technologies at Northrup-TRW to lead stealth aircraft developments. In the 1990s, he was personally supported by SAIC's founder/CEO to pursue whatever he thought was needed. Almost every national security agency joined in to get some slice of his time.

Thus, the past twenty-five years of his life was spent dealing with collateral national security threats that some of his approved projects had created — notably, the DARPA internet. In the mid-90s, he began pulling together expert interdisciplinary teams to effectively create the sectors now known as cybersecurity and infrastructure protection. Among all the networking luminaries contributing to the seminal IEEE Internet Computing Millennium issue, only Lukasik cautioned be careful what you wish for — asking the seminal question "will we be better off." One of his classified reports to DOD largely predicted the Sep 11, 2001 attacks being coordinated via the internet and proposed means of detection. A subsequent report a decade ago, described in amazing detail, the Russian attacks on our socio-political fabric in 2016 and mitigations that were never pursued.

Although most of Lukasik's accomplishments are not relevant to the readership here, many are. The obvious ones are approving, funding, and championing some of the most important network/internet technology and research occurring during their formative years. It is unlikely there would have ever been a DARPA internet if he had not done so. At the FCC, his seminal accomplishments were twofold: enabling the public, commercial use of spread spectrum technology, and setting the policies that enabled internetworking technologies to proceed indefinitely unregulated — known as forbearance.

At the FCC, his presence was immediate and legendary. Every wall of his office was filled with photos and paintings of waves. It represented the importance of capturing and analyzing the signatures of electromagnetic and physical phenomenon that went into the ability to detect adversarial developments. At DARPA, Lukasik envisioned, funded, and led the development of essentially all the sensor systems in the sea, in networks, on satellites. He was also the control on "Dr. Strangelove" through myriad efforts to "secure the nukes." In recent years, his related advocacy of response reciprocity led the defense community away from kinetic weapons and resulted in the formation of the Cyber Command. Few people knew the scope of that work, which is threaded through the histories of national security agencies.

At the FCC, Lukasik was a profound, refreshing change as he imported his management style of omnivorous knowledge development, leveraging of resources at other agencies, and no BS exploration of strategies, challenges, and possible solutions. It was a renaissance period that slowly disappeared after he left, and never returned. However, at the time, it significantly shaped some key network developments for the nation and the world — which other members of the team, like General Counsel Bob Bruce, brought to European and global regulatory policy circles. Through the 1980s and early 1990s, it also facilitated major industry players to pursue global markets through massive participation in intergovernmental bodies, especially the CCITT, CCIR, and treaty conferences for radio, internet, and satellite systems.

Steve also left his mark on all of his many admirers, friends, and colleagues who carry on today in a world where facts, knowledge, and thorough analysis mixed with pragmatic altruism are often not well appreciated. His constant admonition of "what are the challenges and how are you going to deal with them" will always remain with them.

Written by Anthony Rutkowski, Principal, Netmagic Associates LLC

www.circleid.com | 10/6/19

Feminist mystery “Dilili in Paris,” a new feature-length enterprise from French animation legend Michel Ocelot (“Kirikou and the Sorceress,” “Azur & Asmar”) spotlights the prominence of noxious ideologies, misogyny and racism through an occasionally dazzling, though oddly rendered, adventure set during the Belle Epoque period of the late 1800s and early 1900s in Paris.

Dilili (voiced by Prunelle Charles-Ambron in the English dub), a young biracial and bilingual Kanak immigrant from New Caledonia, a French colony in the South Pacific, snuck into a ship to reach Europe, where she now performs her tribe’s daily tasks as exotic amusement for Parisians. Speaking openly about the racially motivated discrimination she’s endured, Dilili shines as a rare heroine of color in a white world. She feels neither fully French nor Kanak, because she is either two fair or too dark depending on where she finds herself geographically.

Intrigued by her linguistic abilities, Orel (Enzo Ratsito), a local courier, befriends the petite erudite and fills her in on the recent abductions of multiple girls at the hands of a sexist sect known as the Male Masters. Its sleazy members wear nose rings and despise women who’ve attained any sort of power within French society. Naturally, the curious and socially conscious Dilili wishes to investigate in order to unclog the ideological sewer that has enabled these culprits.

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Didactic in its tonal approach and narrative construction, Ocelot’s latest gives the impression of being an introductory installment in a property that could yield its own television series aimed at young audiences looking for an entertaining way to learn about France’s historical figures. Elegantly greeting anyone with whom she comes in contact, Dilili becomes acquainted with the likes of Marie Curie, Marcel Proust, Claude Debussy, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and even Gustave Eiffel. While charming and trivia-friendly, the encounters add up as if fulfilling a checklist on a lesson plan more than organically strengthening the tale.

Photorealistic backgrounds consistently stun as they clash with the more low-res CG characters, which emulate designs from early 21st century video games rather than fully accomplished animated characters for a production made this decade. Instead of being translated into more graphic or cartoonish incarnations, landmarks, buildings, and other architectural gems retain their real-life textures and lighting, as do all other elements of the production design. At first sight, their live-action look bewilders the eyes.

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Stylistically, the visual divide between the human figures and their environments makes for a striking contrast. However, once movement comes into play, the precarious confection of the characters is unavoidably noticeable. Instances that surpass these ill-conceived characteristics exist, such as a blue-hued segment featuring singer Emma Calvé performing on a swan boat while inside a palatial structure built on water, or when Paris’ most iconic tower takes the foreground for a climactic action sequence.

As Dilili and the supporters she’s accumulated along her Jules Verne-inspired ordeal inch closer to resolving the mystery of the missing girls, darkness creeps into the plot once it’s revealed that the wicked group they are fighting resembles terrorist organizations like ISIS or the Taliban in the dehumanizing tactics they employ to subdue captured adult women and girls. It’s in the implementation of this twist that the French pedigree of the film becomes obvious, since animated projects there (even those considered children-oriented) dare to touch on adult subjects. American viewers may raise their eyebrows to the revelation of what the kidnappers refer to as  a “four-leg” creature and to the truly disturbing, although unfortunately realistic, conversations men have about women throughout.

Patriarchal subjugation is also addressed in moments involving artists and scientists vowing never to sign their work in their husbands’ names or to allow them to take credit for their discoveries. Dilili herself isn’t shy about her affinity to write or the multiple interests that could result in a career when she grows older. Ocelot’s attempt to rewrite history as her story in this period fiction, as instructional as it is, demonstrates he has his finger on both the pulse of modern culture and the historically unresolved wrongs perpetrated by the white male establishment.

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Overly explanatory dialogue at every step of the way doesn’t help “Dilili in Paris” surpass its information-dispatching structure nor does it complement it with more necessary pathos. Stilted but commendable for its intent, the movie may function as a great conversation-starter if watched with young kids who might be receptive to new material. For fans of international animation, there are sporadic diamonds of craft, but likely not enough to impress viewers accustomed to the quality of the GKIDS catalogue.

Ocelot works independently, and in today’s rapidly changing and saturated animation landscape. that could mean less resources for ventures like this. Still, finding a space within the educational market as an art-house audiovisual tool for elementary history classes could very possibly be “Dilili’s” ultimate destiny, and that’s truly where it’s most needed.

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www.thewrap.com | 10/4/19

IFC Films has acquired the U.S. rights to “The Painted Bird,” a Holocaust drama starring Stellan Skarsgård, Harvey Keitel and Udo Kier that played at Venice and Toronto earlier this year, the distributor announced Tuesday.

“The Painted Bird” is directed, written, and produced by Václav Marhoul (“Tobruk,” “Smart Phillip”) and is based on the novel by Jerzy Kosinski. The foreign language drama will be the official Oscar submission from the Czech Republic. IFC Films is planning a theatrical release for 2020.

The film was praised on the festival circuit for its bleak, unsparing look at Holocaust atrocities and evil, but the nearly three-hour saga, all in black and white on 35mm film, also prompted walkouts among moviegoers and split some critics.

Also Read: 'The Painted Bird' Film Review: Jerzy Kosi?ski Adaptation Is Gruesome, Poetic Epic of Inhumanity

“Marhoul’s film isn’t shy about the steady stream of ugliness, and that’s likely to turn away the terror-sensitive, and yet its immersive aesthetic also allows for the visually poetic and compassionate, even if those moments are few and far between,” TheWrap’s Robert Abele wrote in his review from Venice.

“The Painted Bird” stars Petr Kotlár, Udo Kier, Lech Dyblik, Jitka ?van?arová, Stellan Skarsgard, Harvey Keitel, Julian Sands, Aleksey Kravchenko, and Barry Pepper. The story follows the journey of The Boy at the end of World War II as he’s entrusted by his persecuted parents to an elderly foster mother. The old woman soon dies, and the Boy is on his own, wandering through the countryside, from village to village, farmhouse to farmhouse. As he struggles for survival, The Boy suffers through extraordinary brutality meted out by the ignorant, superstitious peasants, and he witnesses the terrifying violence of the efficient, ruthless soldiers, both Russian and German.

The film is a Silver Screen production in co-production with Czech Television, Directory Films, Radio and Television Slovakia, Certicon Group, Innogy, PubRes, Monte Rosso Production, with producer Václav Marhoul and co-producers, Eduard Ku?era, Milada Ku?era, Igor Savychenko, Vladimír Ma?ík, Karel Kraus, Zuzana Mistríková, ?ubica Orechovská, and Richard Kaucký. The film was supported by the Czech Film Fund, Slovak Audiovisual Fund, Ukrainian State Film Agency, and Creative Europe – MEDIA.

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“‘The Painted Bird’ is a brilliant cinematic achievement with a fiercely accomplished cast to match. We’re incredibly proud to bring such a monumental film to audiences across the country,” Arianna Bocco, EVP of acquisitions and productions of IFC Films, said in a statement.

“IFC Films is committed to providing thought-provoking and challenging films, and this is a prime example of maintaining this core mission and continuing our legacy for nearly 20 years now,” Lisa Schwartz, co-president, IFC Films said in a statement.

“We are delighted to be working with IFC again. Their curation is extremely astute, and they have unparalleled expertise with important, provocative movies. We look forward to this new adventure and to American audiences responding to a 21st-century masterpiece. We are also grateful to Federica Sainte-Rose at CAA for her support throughout the festival and sales circuit this fall,” Hengameh Panahi, president of celluloid creams and VP Charlotte Mickie said in a statement.

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“I am extremely gratified that IFC has acquired ‘The Painted Bird.’ They have demonstrated a deep, sensitive understanding of the message of the movie, which is so important in today’s volatile world. I deeply believe the movie’s advocacy of tolerance, fellow-feeling and community must reach American audiences. IFC will make that happen,” Marhoul said in a statement.

The deal for the film was negotiated by Arianna Bocco of IFC Films with CAA Media Finance and Celluloid Dreams on behalf of the filmmakers.

News of the acquisition was first reported by Variety.

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www.thewrap.com | 9/24/19

Acorn TV, AMC’s streaming service featuring British film and television programs, has passed one million subscribers in the U.S. and Canada, the network has announced, calling it a “major milestone” in their direct-to-consumer strategy.

“Surpassing one million subscribers in the U.S. and Canada is a major milestone which underscores that subscribers love the trusted Acorn TV experience filled with highly entertaining and captivating original and exclusive entertainment,” AMC Networks’ President of Global Direct-to-Consumer Miguel Penella said in a statement.

Acorn TV launched in 2011, offering commercial-free TV shows from Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Canada, and other European countries. Acorn TV currently houses original and exclusive mystery and drama series like ITV’s long-running “Doc Martin” and “Manhunt.” Other titles on the service include “Agatha Raisin,” “London Kills” and BBC One’s “Line of Duty,” a police procedural in its fifth season created by Jed Mercurio, who is also behind the Emmy-nominated “Bodyguard” starring Richard Madden.

Also Read: HBO Max Lands Streaming Rights to BBC's 'Doctor Who,' 'Top Gear,' 'The Office' and 'Luther'

In November 2018, AMC completed a $59 million acquisition of Acorn’s parent company RLJ Entertainment. In a statement during the closing of the deal, AMC Networks President and CEO Josh Sapan said the move was part of the company’s “direct-to-consumer” strategy as it and sister streamer UMC both neared one million subscribers.

Acorn TV is one of several AMC Network streamers dedicated to niche audiences. AMC Networks also runs the horror streamer Shudder, Sundance Now of the Sundance Channel and UMC, which focuses on black film and television.

“Acorn TV’s strong momentum, coupled with the growth of our other targeted SVOD services – Shudder, Sundance Now, and UMC – further underscores that the special interest SVOD market is growing and has vast potential, including some meaningful advantages over general interest SVOD. AMC Networks is just beginning to tap the potential universe for these services,” Penella said.

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www.thewrap.com | 9/19/19
Former HBO Europe producer Gabor Krigler has launched indie producer, Joyrider Television. It goes out of the gate with a non-exclusive development deal with HBO Europe, which has moved heavily into original programming with numerous series out of Central and Eastern Europe, as well as originals from Scandinavia and Iberia The new shingle will be […]
variety.com | 9/9/19
Globecast, a service company for the media, radio and television industry, announced that it is expanding its partnership with telecommunications company Eutelsat Communications to develop a new HOTBIRD platform that, the company claims, will satisfy the increasing move from SD to HD in the market. “We’ve seen increasing demand for capacity across Europe from west [&hellip
Sunday's papers look ahead to Boris Johnson's meeting with the US and European Council presidents.
www.bbc.co.uk | 8/25/19

Ashok Amritraj’s Hyde Park Entertainment Group has launched a new devision called Hyde Park Entertainment Asia, which “will focus on producing high profile film and TV projects created by Indian and Asian filmmakers to spotlight authentic stories for a global audience, helmed by a diverse and inclusive talent pool.”

“Continuing Hyde Park’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, the division’s first slate will have a focus on Indian stories for both English-and local-language audiences,” the entertainment group said Thursday.

And one of the projects currently in development in that initial slate is “Break the Room,” an Indian-American half-hour comedy series from Paul Feig’s Diversity Initiative Powderkeg and ShivHans Pictures, written by Sameer Gardezi (“Modern Family”) and Jimy Shah. Hyde Park likens the potential show to ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat.”

Also Read: Anna Kendrick-Paul Feig Rom-Com Series 'Love Life' Adds 4 to Cast at HBO Max

Hyde Park is also expanding its production operations by adding an Asian base in Chennai, India which joins its European o?ces in London and its headquarters in Los Angeles. According to the company, Hyde Park and Image Nation Abu Dhabi “continue their long-term film financing partnership.”

“Now more than ever the Hollywood dream needs to be multicultural and all inclusive,” Amritraj said. “I look forward to collaborating with wonderful Indian and Asian talent long into the future to tell unique and authentic stories that reflect our global world.”

See below for Hyde Park Entertainment Asia’s initial slate, with the descriptions each in the company’s own words.

Also Read: Paul Feig Inks First-Look Production Agreement With Universal

PASHMINA: A large-scale animated musical feature with Netflix in the vein of COCO. Based on the bestselling graphic novel by Nidhi Chanani, Pashmina is a magical story of family and cultural connection with Gurinder Chadha (“Bend It Like Beckham,” Sundance hit “Blinded by the Light”) on-board to direct.

BREAK THE ROOM with Paul Feig: Hyde Park is developing an Indian-American half hour comedy series like FRESH OFF THE BOAT with Paul Feig’s Diversity Initiative Powderkeg and ShivHans Pictures from writers Sameer Gardezi (“Modern Family”) and Jimy Shah.

MAXIMUM CITY: A sweeping franchise of films in the vein of TRAFFIC based on the Pulitzer Prize finalist book by Suketu Mehta that explores the interconnecting power, politics, and criminal underworld of Mumbai. Auteur filmmaker Anurag Kashyap (Netflix’s “Sacred Games,” “Gangs Of Wasseypur”) will be the showrunner and director and Good Bad Films LLP will co- produce with Hyde Park.

Also Read: Fall TV: Here Are the Premiere Dates for the New Broadcast Series (Photos)

PARADISE TOWERS: A drama series adaptation of Shweta Bachchan Nanda’s bestselling novel about the intertwining lives, forbidden romances, and mounting tensions between neighbors in an exclusive Mumbai apartment complex. One of India’s most celebrated directors, Zoya Akhtar (Amazon’s “Made in Heaven”) brings the project to the screen alongside Hyde Park Entertainment. Shweta Bachchan-Nanda is a columnist for Vogue and daughter of Indian superstars Jaya & Amitabh Bachchan.

THE CONCH BEARER: A YA-Fantasy series adapted from Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s bestselling trilogy that follows a young boy on a magical adventure that has been compared to HARRY POTTER for India. Imtiaz Ali (“Highway,” “Rockstar”), one of India’s most prominent filmmakers will be the show runner and direct the pilot for the series. It will be produced by Hyde Park Entertainment and Window Seat Films, LLP (a JV between India’s premier film studio, Reliance Entertainment & Imtiaz Ali).

DEB: An 8-part television series from renowned writer-director Nagesh Kukunoor, whose film DHANK won the Crystal Bear Grand Prix at the Berlin International Film Festival. In the vein of ‘CONSTANTINE,’ the series is a modern-day, edge-of-your-seat thriller rooted in ancient Indian mythology.

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www.thewrap.com | 8/22/19

Hootsuite is the premier tracker of social media usage around the world. They publish numerous reports annually that track broadband statistics and social media statistic from around the world.

They report the following statistics for the end of 2018. The world has been seeing one million new users online every day since January 2018. That means there are 11 new users on the web every second. There are now 5.11 billion mobile subscribers in the world, 67% of the world's population. 4.39 billion people have access of some sort to the Internet, about 57% of the people in the world. There are 3.48 billion people who use social media.

Mobile subscribers increased by 2% in 2018. Internet users increased by 9.1%, and active social media users increased by 9%.

The US and northern Europe both lead the world in Internet access with 95% of the population using the Internet from a landline or cellular connection. The rest of the world is still far behind. While we talk about the great connectivity in parts of the far east, the region has a 60% penetration of people who use the Internet. That's lower than the 63% penetration in Central America and 74% in South America. The areas with the worst broadband coverage are middle Africa at only 12%, eastern Africa at 32% and western Africa at 41%.

The most considerable growth of Internet users is in India, which saw almost 100 million new Internet users in 2018, a 21% increase. That represents 25% of all new Internet users in the world for last year. Some other countries are growing faster, such as Afghanistan at 156%, Cote D'Ivoire at 69%, Cambodia at 56%, Iran at 29%, and Italy at 27%. Hootsuite has been tracking Internet users since 2014 and has seen more than 1.9 billion people added to the Internet since then.

The World Wide Web turns 30 this year (that's hard for many to believe!). It took 16 years to add the first billion users, six more years to add the second billion. The Internet is now adding a billion users every 2.7 years.

The importance of cellular broadband has grown over time. In 2014, 26% of users connected to the web using a cellular phone. Today that has grown to 48%. The average Internet user worldwide uses the Internet an average of 6 hours and 42 minutes per day. The biggest daily users of the web are in the Philippines, with regular usage of over 10 hours per day. In the US the average is 6.5 hours per day.

Google has the world's two most popular web sites with Google search at number 1 and YouTube at number 2. Facebook is in third, with the top ten rounded out by Baidu, Wikipedia, Yahoo, Twitter, Pornhub, Yandex, and Instagram.

GlobalWebIndex reports that 92% of Internet users (about 4 billion) now watch video each month. To put that into perspective, there are an estimated 6 billion people around the world have access to a television.

It's estimated that more than 1 billion users now stream games, with Fortnite being the number one game in the world. There are also a billion people who watch other people play games, with 700 million people who watch e-sports.

About 40% of Internet users now interface with the web using voice. In China and India, over half of users interface the web with voice.

Social media grew by 288 million new users last year. The US still leads with social media, with 70% of Americans internet users connected to at least one social media site. China also has a 70% social media penetration, followed by 67% in northern Europe and 66% in South America. China added 95 million users to social media in 2018, followed by India at 60 million and Indonesia at 20 million. Worldwide the average social media usage is 2 hours and 16 minutes per day. The Philippines again leads in this category where daily usage is 4 hours and 12 minutes. In the US it's a little over 2 hours per day.

While there are still billions with no access to the web, the web keeps growing at a rapid pace around the world. There are efforts by companies like Google, Facebook, and the satellite broadband providers to bring better broadband to the parts of the world with no connections.

Written by Doug Dawson, President at CCG Consulting

www.circleid.com | 8/21/19

“The Goldbergs” are heading to Disneyland in for the show’s seventh season premiere in an episode that will pay homage to the 1983 film “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”

Anthony Michael Hall and Christie Brinkley, who starred in the film, will guest star in the episode. Hall was the first of many different actors to portray Rusty Griswold, the youngest of the Griswold family. Brinkley played the “Girl in the Red Ferrari” who tempted Chevy Chase’s Clark Griswold.

ABC made the announcement Monday during the Television Critics Association press tour.

Also Read: Kristen Wiig's 12 Funniest Characters, From Target Lady to Patty Hearst (Photos)

Here is a description of the episode, per ABC:

Beverly (Wendi McLendon-Covey) insists the family take a road trip to go on vacation to Disneyland in Anaheim, California, before Erica (Hayley Orrantia) and Barry (Troy Gentile) go off to college. But, like the film, things do not go as planned as they travel across the country. Meanwhile, Erica worries more and more about her relationship with Geoff (Sam Lerner) when he teases “we need to talk” and won’t tell her anything until the family returns from their adventure.

“Vacation” was written by Alex Barnow and Chris Bishop, and directed by Lew Schneider. The episode will feature scenes shot at the actual Disneyland park.

“National Lampoon’s Vacation,” which starred Chase and Beverly D’Angelo, was the first of the “Vacation” comedy film franchise that included “European Vacation,” “Christmas Vacation” and “Vegas Vacation.”

“The Goldbergs” returns for Season 7 on Sept. 25 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.

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www.thewrap.com | 8/5/19

Amazon Prime Video has secured global rights to “Truth Seekers” from Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Miles Ketley’s U.K.-based production company Stolen Picture.

The new comedy horror series will launch exclusively on Amazon Prime Video in over 200 countries and territories, the company announced on Monday morning.

“Truth Seekers” stars Frost and Pegg as part-time paranormal investigators who team up to uncover and film ghost sightings across the U.K., sharing their adventures on an online channel for all to see.

Also Read: Amazon Is Open to More 'Good Omens' From Neil Gaiman, Dying for Another 'Fleabag' Season

However, as they stake out haunted churches, underground bunkers and abandoned hospitals with their array of homemade ghost-detecting gizmos, their supernatural experiences grow more frequent, more terrifying and even deadly, as they begin to uncover a conspiracy that could bring about Armageddon for the entire human race, according the the network description.

Frost and Pegg have previously collaborated on “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz” and “The World’s End,” collectively known as the “Three Flavours Cornetto” trilogy.

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“Nick and I are delighted that ‘Truth Seekers’ has found a home with Amazon Prime Video. We’re looking forward to working closely with them and creating something very special,” Pegg said in a statement. “These are truly exciting times for television and I can’t think of a better partner than Amazon to accompany us on a return to the smaller screen.”

Frost continued: “Simon, Miles and I, and everyone at Stolen Picture, are incredibly happy to be making ‘Truth Seekers’ with our new partners, Amazon Prime Video. It’s been nothing but a joyride in seeing this mad tale of paranormal conspiracy unfold in all its understated brilliance. Amazon’s commitment and support of the show and of original programming generally, showed us that we couldn’t be collaborating with a bigger or better team.”

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“We’re thrilled to be working with Simon, Nick and the entire team at Stolen Picture to make what is set to be the next thrilling Amazon Original series for Prime Video made by leading British talent,” Georgia Brown, director of European Amazon Original Series, added. “I’m excited for audiences around the globe to see what they’re creating, and to meet the fantastic characters on this special, unique, and terrifying quest.”

“Truth Seekers” is co-written by Pegg, Frost, Nat Saunders and James Serafinowicz who Executive Produce alongside Miles Ketley and Jim Field Smith who also serves as Director.

Further cast details and launch date have yet to be announced.

Variety was first to report the news.

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www.thewrap.com | 8/5/19
It did not make any sense to analyze the Saturday rally in Moscow as soon as it happened, but Monday appears to be just the right time to do it.  No one talks about the roots of the protest actions that took place in Moscow over the weekend. Most likely, they are not about the registration of certain individuals by the Moscow City Duma as candidates.The issue of the protest itself is broader. People took to the streets during the arrest of journalist Ivan Golunov, during the construction of an Orthodox temple in Yekaterinburg, etc. All those stories are symptoms of one and the same disease. One could see this disease spreading throughout Western Europe and the United States during the 1960s, but the causes of it were different. In the US, it was the Vietnam War and the killing of Martin Luther King. In Europe, there were protests against events in Czechoslovakia and other internal problems.But we remember that it was violation of social justice that defined all those protests. We also remember that many of those protests became "social elevators" for many politicians, who started coming to power in 15 or 20 years. For a very clear understanding of the situation, one may refer to two graffiti that students of the Sorbonne left in the streets of Paris in 1968: Since 1936 I have fought for wage increases. My father before me fought for wage increases. Now I have a TV, a fridge, a Volkswagen. Yet my whole life has been a drag. Don't negotiate with the bosses. Abolish them." "One cannot fall in love with industrial growth!" It appears that the Russian youth could chant the same slogans today, if the education system in Russia has not degraded since the years after the Soviet power. It was not only education that has degraded. The qualification of people who are responsible for the moderation of internal political processes has gone down the toilet as well. Kiriyenko's 'social elevators' serve primarily managers of large corporations, but in case of social upheavals they will humbly step aside to observe. Mass youth movements of Mr. Surkov, the Reaction newspaper and the Yoki website have been disposed of. If one looks at what  presidential grants are allocated to, one will see that they are not needed today, but could be good during the "lush" times. The United States eventually decided to pull out troops from Vietnam, abolish mandatory conscription and promote the PlayBoy technology (the protests are also known as 'sexual revolution' for a reason). Other countries had their own recipes.It is the internal essence of protests that plays the main role in the struggle that one can see in Russia developing today. If one doesn't know the essence, any struggle with external manifestations of protests will be useless.We know one thing. If the authorities remove all problems with the elections to the Moscow City Duma, the public protest will persist. The protest sentiment began to actively develop during the beginning of the pension reform, so it primarily involves the children of those people, whom the authorities have betrayed shamelessly. It has started snowballing for various reasons afterwards getting an increasing amount of citizens involved. It is 's time to open a tender for a team that would replace Sergei Kiriyenko with new ideas. The current political administrators under his leadership lack qualification to solve the issue of stability in the society.Photo: dw.com

Sally Field, Linda Ronstadt, veteran R&B group Earth, Wind & Fire, “Sesame Street” and conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, will be recognized at the 2019 Kennedy Center Honors, the organization announced on Thursday.

The 42nd annual awards will take place on Dec. 8 and will be broadcast Sunday, Dec. 15 on CBS.

This year’s awards will be the first time an individual TV show has been recognized, and “Sesame Street” co-founders Joan Ganz Cooney and Dr. Lloyd Morrisett will accept the Kennedy Center Honors on behalf of themselves, Muppets creator Jim Henson (who died in 1990), Muppets artists Caroll Spinney and Frank Oz, and the thousands of creatives who have built the program’s 50-year legacy.

Also Read: Sally Field Relieved Burt Reynolds Will Never Read Her Memoir: 'This Would Hurt Him'

Earth, Wind & Fire, which has featured at least over a dozen members in its time as a band, are being honored collectively as a musical group. Members Philip Bailey, Verdine White and Ralph Johnson will be present to accept the Kennedy Center Honors on the band’s behalf.

“The Kennedy Center Honors celebrates icons who, through their artistry, have left an indelible stamp on our collective cultural consciousness,” Kennedy Center chairman David M. Rubenstein said in a statement. “Earth, Wind & Fire’s hooks and grooves are the foundation of a seminal style that continues to shape our musical landscape; Sally Field has brought us unforgettable characters, both joyous and poignant, for more than five decades; Linda Ronstadt is the defining voice of a generation, spanning genres, languages and continents; ‘Sesame Street’ continues to revolutionize how children and adults learn about our world; and Michael Tilson Thomas goes far beyond keeping score – he has shaped American music and musical institutions for the 21st century.”

“In this class of Honorees, we are witnessing a uniquely American story: one that is representative of so many cultural touchstones and musical moments that make our nation great,” Kennedy Center president Deborah F. Rutter said in a statement. “When I look at this distinctive group, I see the hopes, aspirations and achievements not just of these artists, but of the many generations they have influenced and continue to influence. We’re not just looking back – these Honorees are urging us to look forward as well.”

Also Read: Dave Chappelle to Receive Mark Twain Prize for American Humor from Kennedy Center

The Honors recipients are recognized for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts – whether in dance, music, theater, opera, motion pictures or television – and are confirmed by the executive committee of the Center’s board of trustees. The primary criterion in the selection process is excellence. The Honors are not designated by art form or category of artistic achievement. Over the years, the selection process has produced a balance among the various arts and artistic disciplines.

Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss of White Cherry Entertainment will executive produce the special for the fifth consecutive year. Weiss returns as director.

Earth, Wind & Fire (EWF) over their five-decade history have scored eight #1 hits, nine Grammys and sold over 100 million albums worldwide, In 2000, Earth, Wind & Fire was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and the band has also received lifetime achievement honors from ASCAP, NAACP and BET, and have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Also Read: 'September': Taylor Swift Dragged for Countrified Cover of Earth, Wind & Fire Classic

Field is a two-time Oscar winner for “Norma Rae” and “Places in the Heart” and is also the star of “Forrest Gump,” “Lincoln,” “Steel Magnolias,” “Absence of Malice,” “Mrs. Doubtfire” and many more. She’s also a three-time Emmy winner and began her career with the 1964 show “Gidget” before starring in “The Flying Nun” and on the miniseries “Sybil,” among many other roles in TV, film and on Broadway. In 2015, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Obama. Her memoir, “In Pieces,” was published last September.

Ronstadt has sold 50 million albums worldwide and has won 10 Grammys as a versatile singer across pop, country, rock, big band, jazz and opera. She performed her last concert in 2009 and announced her retirement from singing shortly thereafter. She was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2012 and received the National Medal of Arts in 2014. In early 2019, Rhino Entertainment released “Linda Ronstadt – Live in Hollywood,” her first and only live concert album, originally recorded on April 24, 1980.

“Sesame Street” debuted in 1969 on PBS and continues to this day, now on HBO. Ganz Cooney and Dr. Morrisett co-founded the Children’s Television Workshop (renamed Sesame Workshop in June 2000) in 1968, and “Sesame Street” launched the following year. Cooney, a producer and media executive, served as Sesame Workshop’s president and chief executive officer until 1990, and currently serves as chairman of the executive committee of Sesame Workshop’s board. In November 2007, she introduced the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, dedicated to advancing children’s learning in a digital age. Dr. Morrisett is an experimental psychologist by training. After 30 years as chairman of the Workshop’s board of trustees, he is now a trustee and chairman emeritus.

Also Read: 'Sesame Street' Movie With Anne Hathaway Pushed to Summer 2021

Tilson Thomas is music director of the San Francisco Symphony, co-founder and artistic director of the New World Symphony, and conductor laureate of the London Symphony Orchestra. He’s an 11-time Grammy winner and has conducted major orchestras across the US and Europe.The Los Angeles-born musician performed with such artists as Igor Stravinsky and Aaron Copland. He became music director of the San Francisco Symphony in 1995.

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www.thewrap.com | 7/18/19

EuropaCorp, the European movie studio founded by Luc Besson, has resumed talks with junior lender Vine Alternative Investments to have it take over the company.

The deal, which was first reported by French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche, is still being finalized between Vine and EuropaCorp’s senior lender, JP Morgan, and comes after EuropaCorp previously opened talks to sell a majority stake in the studio to Pathe, EuropaCorp’s film distributor in France. According to Dimanche, a deal with Vine is the studio’s current preferred choice.

As part of the deal to take over the studio, the €80 million debt owed by EuropaCorp to Vine would be converted into a stake in the company, and Vine may also move to take full ownership of the studio’s film library.

Also Read: Luc Besson's Financially Troubled EuropaCorp Placed Under Court Protection in France

The new talks come two months after EuropaCorp was placed under a six month court protection in France in order to reorganize its finances after it reported a $125 million loss for the 2018-19 financial year.

The studio currently has no projects in production after its latest release, “Anna,” flopped at the box office with just a $3.6 million domestic opening and $10.9 million grossed worldwide after four weekends in theaters. The poor performance has been attributed both to weak reviews from critics and multiple accusations of sexual abuse against Besson. A nine-month investigation into accusations by actress Sand Van Roy ended with a dismissal in February.

A possible deal between EuropaCorp and Vine depends not only on agreements with senior lenders but also on the approval of a safeguard plan by France’s commercial courts, so no timetable has been set.

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www.thewrap.com | 7/15/19

At the end of 2016, Steven Van Zandt aka Little Steven, was ready to take a deep breath, and some time off. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band toured for the better part of the year in North America and Europe behind the re-release of “The River.” As Springsteen’s guitar soloing consigliere, Van Zandt knew that the band had a string of dates in Australia and New Zealand in early 2017, but nothing after that. It would have given him time to pursue other endeavors, perhaps even a new television project.

As he and his wife, Maureen, were making arrangements to celebrate ex-Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman’s birthday in London, the guitarist/TV mobster from HBO hit “The Sopranos” got an offer that he couldn’t refuse.

“I had no intention of coming back in,” he says over the phone ahead of a tour stop in Buffalo. “There had been no real plan to reconnect with my own work — as silly as that sounds now,” Van Zandt said. As he prepared for his trip, the guitarist was contacted by a promoter who asked him about performing at a blues festival in London on the same weekend as Wyman;’s birthday and asked Van Zandt if he could throw a band together and headline one of the nights. “If it hadn’t been Bill Wyman’s birthday, if I didn’t happen to run into this crazy promoter and he didn’t have this wild idea to have me headline a show, none of this woulda happened,” he said.

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Thus, after 25 years away, Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul were unexpectedly reformed.

Though Van Zandt says that he will “never get back to being the frontman I was in the ’80s” at the peak of his solo career (he left the E Street Band in a performing capacity just before the release of “Born in the U.S.A.” in 1984), the axe man says that his two years on the road with his band has been more than gratifying and that he’s “halfway back” to where he was. In 2017, Van Zandt released “Soulfire,” an album of songs he’d had written for other artists, quickly followed up in 2019 by “Summer of Sorcery,” released earlier this year. It’s his first collection of solo material since 1999’s “Born Again Savage,” which was released right as Springsteen reunited with the E Street Band (the album was actually recorded in 1994 but the record company didn’t release it at the time).

“It’s been a challenge, but a healthy one,” Van Zandt says of relaunching his solo career. “But it keeps you working. ‘Summer of Sorcery’ has been just a wonderful show to do live. It was an accidental circumstance kinda thing, which describes most of my life (laughs), but here it is.”

Also Read: Bruce Springsteen's Unused 'Harry Potter' Song Finally Finds a Home in New Movie

It’s one thing to be known for his work playing Springsteen and having his hand in production on iconic albums from “Born to Run” through “Born in the U.S.A.” (“Nebraska” not withstanding), but getting the affirmation from a legend on his own material was the sign for Van Zandt that resuscitating his solo material was the right decision.

Ahead of his show in London, Van Zandt invited Paul McCartney to swing by (McCartney famously played with Springsteen and company in Hyde Park in 2009 where they went over curfew and had the power clipped) to take it in and hope on stage with him. On the off chance that Macca would take him up on his offer, Van Zandt quickly put together a swinging version of the Beatles’ “I Saw Her Standing There” and rehearsed it quickly with his band during soundcheck. Well, McCartney ended up hopping on stage and they did the revamped version, which was in the vein of rip-roaring rock-n-roll standard “Maybellene”. But, there was something else, though, that stuck out to him.

“It was one of the most thrilling moments of my life,” he says of McCartney joining him and the Disciples of Soul. “Coming on my stage, endorsing what I’m doing, my own personal music, that was just beyond my imagination. That kind of endorsement from a guy who is responsible for me doing this (playing music) — one of them — it was a remarkable moment.”

Also Read: Bruce Springsteen-Inspired Sundance Film 'Blinded by the Light' Given Release Date by Warner Bros.

While reforming the Disciples of Soul has been a way for him to unexpectedly stay busy while Springsteen was on Broadway, Van Zandt also found time to dip back into his catalog to find material to release as a two-volume soundtrack to New York mob drama “Lilyhammer,” which was the first original series to be released on Netflix. The two versions are snippets of the score Van Zandt wrote himself and odds, ends and an assortment of covers that were performed on the show before it ended in 2014.

“You’re always kind of checking to make sure your memory of it is accurate,” Van Zandt said of the music he wrote during those four years. “We all have a bit of narcissism that’s required but you want to make sure you’re not imagining something that isn’t there. There’s great performances and cool melodies and really enjoyed that particular artistic adventure.”

“Lilyhammer” saw him play Frank “The Fixer” Tagliano, an ex-mobster exiled in Norway. Tagliano’s gregarious personality drew in stark contrast to Silvio Dante, the mobster Van Zandt had famously portrayed on “The Sopranos.”

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“On my first promotional tour, I had to explain to people what Netflix was,” he recalls of the show’s launch. “I was like, ‘Well, it’s kinda like Blockbuster but they’re makin’ their own stuff now. People were like, ‘Why would they want to do that? Why would they want to create original content?'”

Instead of it being an uncomfortable foray to an uncharted new world, Van Zandt says it “was the most wonderful business deal” he’d ever done. Originally, Van Zandt was going to bring “Lilyhammer” to Starz since he knew Chris Albrecht from HBO, but by a stroke of luck — or location — Netflix was across the street from the cable network and Van Zandt figured that he might as well go there as well. Starz didn’t have any budget left that year for the show (Albrecht asked him to wait a year), and it ended up being Netflix’s gain.

“I’ll never beat it,” he says. “It was just me and [Netflix chief content officer] Ted Sarandos and there was nobody else in the office, basically. It was a very, very small group of people and Ted was really the only guy I met,” Van Zandt remembers. The company had signed ‘House of Cards,’ at the time, but it wasn’t ready and by default Lilyhammer became Netflix’s first show. “I said, ‘Ted, are you sure you want to take a chance on us for your first show, a show with subtitles?’ Van Zandt asked. “And he was brave enough to say that it just works. I give him a lot of credit to have those kind of balls to take a chance like that on the first show. I took a chance on Netflix and they took a chance on me.”

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Now, 20 years since “The Sopranos” first aired on HBO, Van Zandt isn’t surprised that the show continues to maintain its popularity and cultural importance.

“It comes around every 10 years or five years, it’s there all the time,” he says of the landmark HBO series. “Which is nice because people can discover it, and they do.”

He doesn’t know if Dante will be in the upcoming “Sopranos” prequel, “The Many Saints of Newark,” Van Zandt says he is confident that the film will be rewarding for longtime fans of the HBO mega-series.

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“I think it’s going to be great,” he says of the film. “The fact that David Chase is doing it automatically, in my mind, makes it a really, really safe bet. He’s one of the most brilliant guys I’ve ever met and I love everything he does. I think he’s great and we’ll all find out (about the movie) together.”

As for his day job, Van Zandt has shows booked with the Disciples of Soul through November and is ready to go whenever Springsteen gives the go-ahead. And that could be much sooner than E Street Nation is anticipating.

Earlier this year, Springsteen appeared with Van Zandt at the first show of his tour at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills in May, ahead of a For Your Consideration appearance he was set to make for Netflix the next night. There, Springsteen said he had just finished an album of songs for the E Street Band. (As for “Western Stars,” Van Zandt loved it, saying “he’s so versatile and has a wide range of talent when it comes to his artistic vision. And it’s always interesting when he picks a new hybrid genre to explore and I thought it was wonderful.”)

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Speaking of the mysterious collections of tunes his longtime pal says he has written, Van Zandt said that they’re “still rumblings and we’ll see what happens,” but said that he has left his calendar wide open after his final Disciples of Soul dates in November.

“I certainly am planning on the possibility,” he says of a new Springsteen and E Street Band record. “I wanted to leave room in case he wants to do a record with the E Street Band and we will have time to do it November, December and be able to deliver it in January (of 2020) and then be out (on the road) in the summer of 2020. IF that’s what he wants to do.”

Despite being fairly tightlipped on his knowledge on what’s to come on a future E Street album, Van Zandt said that the recording would be fast, with the band being able to “knock out a couple of tracks a day.”

As for his own foreseeable future, Van Zandt plans on keeping the Disciples of Soul together and not have a 25-year gap between material, calling “Summer of Sorcery” an “unexpected artistic rebirth,” but that “Bruce will always remain a first priority to me and we’ll see what he wants to do,” and that he isn’t quite done with doing TV just yet, especially given his unexpected roles of the seismic shift of that landscape.

“I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time for the two major revolutions in that took place on TV,” he says of HBO and “The Sopranos” and the rise of Netflix Originals. “I’m lucky to be in two of the most unique TV shows in history. The nice thing about the modern world is that people keep discovering them every day. Somehow, in between all of my things, I have to find six months in a row where I can do a TV show again.”

“Summer of Sorcery” and “Lilyhammer Vols. 1 and 2” are out now via Wicked Cool/UMe

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www.thewrap.com | 7/12/19

Forever Dog has found its first CEO in former Turner exec Gary Reisman. The move comes after the company experienced “unprecedented growth” that saw its monthly podcast downloads increase by “more than 1500%,” Forever Dog said in a statement.

Forever Dog launched in 2016 and has since grown to 30+ podcasts, featuring the voices of Patti Harrison (“Shrill”), James Adomian (“BoJack Horseman”), Jamie Lee (HBO’s “Crashing”), among others. Reisman comes to Forever Dog after founding LEAP Media Investments, an analytics company whose worked with the likes of NBCU, FOX and Yahoo.

“At a time in which Forever Dog is adding an energetic new lineup of shows from revered talent, while also expanding its horizons via our television projects with National Lampoon and through new brand partnerships, we’re ecstatic to have Gary at the helm,” the Forever Dog co-founders Brett Boham, Joe Cilio and Alex Ramsey said in a joint statement. “His expertise in multiple facets of a rapidly evolving media landscape, matched with his keen creative instincts and passion for the business make him the perfect candidate to lead Forever Dog into the future of podcasting and the broader entertainment industry.”

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Reisman was vice president of strategic marketing at Turner and vice president of sales and marketing for CNN.com international from 1998 to 2001. During his tenure, Reisman guided the expansion of CNN.com across Europe, Asia and Latin America.

Earlier this year, Reisman oversaw the Forever Dog partnership with National Lampoon, the former humor magazine looking to revamp its brand recognition under newly named president Evan Shapiro. As a part of the partnership, Forever Dog will develop podcasts for television and streaming platforms. Forever Dog will also relaunch the famed “National Lampoon Radio Hour” as a podcast, bringing back the thousands of National Lampoon magazine short stories for the ears of today’s comedy lovers.

“Podcasting has become the preeminent platform for marketers to build relationships with the seemingly unreachable millennial and Gen-Z audiences,” Reisman said in a statement. “As an industry leader in content created by and for those audiences, Forever Dog is in the midst of constructing exciting new avenues for brands to integrate into an ever-growing roster of comedy programming. I’m delighted to be blazing the trail alongside Brett, Joe and Alex, and I’m also pleased to have an executive as proficient as Karen leading our ad sales initiatives, as we usher in a new chapter at the company and navigate the industry’s fertile grounds.”

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In his first move as CEO, Reisman named Karen Bressner the company’s chief revenue officer.

Bressner is a 30-year entertainment ad sales vet who previously held roles at Discovery Communications, Viacom, TiVo, AccuWeather Digital Media and Fox Digital Studio. Before joining Forever Dog, Bressner led ad sales for cable network Z Living.

As CRO, Bressner will oversee all advertising sales, ad sales marketing and ad revenue for Forever Dog.

Reisman and Bressner both came onto the Forever Dog team last December, assuming CEO and CRO roles (roles that were not made official to the public until now). Since December, the duo has overseen a quadrupling of the company’s ad sales year-over-year with new clients including Netflix, Audible and Zip Recruiter, according to Forever Dog.

The growth in ad sales coincides with the network’s growth in listeners. The company touts its network of podcasts getting “millions of downloads a month.”

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www.thewrap.com | 6/27/19

Paramount Network has ordered a new unscripted series, “The Last Cowboy,” from “Yellowstone” creator Taylor Sheridan, the network announced on Wednesday.

The unscripted series, produced by Truly Original and 101 Studios, “spotlights the highly-skilled horsemen and trainers competing in the intense, high-stakes world of professional reining,” according to the network. It will follow eight men and women who “are determined to elevate and preserve the cowboy tradition as they train and engage in the exclusive ultra-competitive sport.”

Derived from the practice of herding cattle, reining is a western-based competition where riders guide horses through a precise pattern of circles, spins and stops, similar to the more European dressage.

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“The grit, beauty and tenacity of the West are linked to America’s legacy and my creative drive has been to explore those, in all their complexities, in film and scripted television,” Sheridan said in a statement. “Now, with ‘The Last Cowboy’ and ‘Run for a Million,’ we’re bringing the real men and women, and their dedication to the sport of reining, to the small screen, an unmasking of the cowboy world that we hope TV audiences will enjoy.”

“Viewers came in massive numbers to watch Yellowstone last season to see the way we showcase modern day western life,” said Keith Cox, president of development for Paramount Network and TV Land. “Now we’re serving up fans an inside look at the lives of real horsemen and their challenges and triumphs within the world of competitive horse reining.”

Added Glenda Hersh and Steven Weinstock, executive producers and co-CEOs of Truly Original, “What many people don’t know is that some of the greatest cowboys in the world aren’t living and working on ranches; they’re competing in one of the world’s most elite sports. Riders, trainers and horses perform at spectacular levels, and the drama and stakes of reining are as intense as any professional sport – with major money also on the line.”

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Hersh and Weinstock will serve as executive producers on the series alongside Sheridan, 101 Studios and David C. Glasser. Tori Socha oversees the production for Paramount Network.

In conjunction with the show, Sheridan will also launch his own reining event called “Run for a Million.” The $1 million competition will take place on August 15-17, 2019 at the South Point Arena and Equestrian Center in Las Vegas, and will be captured in the series finale.

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www.thewrap.com | 6/20/19

Cinereach announced the four recipients of 2019’s Producer Award, a $50,000 filmmaking prize as part of the Cinereach Producers Initiative, on Friday.

The indie film company has selected Jessica Devaney (“Always in Season”), Alexandra Lazarowich (“Fast Horse”), Kishori Rajan (“Random Acts of Flyness”) and Jamund Washington (“Tramps”) as independent producers that have demonstrated vision and integrity, contributed to the film community as mentors and leaders, and enriched the culture through their films.

“This year’s group of recipients is particularly exciting because Jessica, Alexandra, Kishori and Jamund have each created poignant, culturally thoughtful work that breaks down barriers on a multitude of platforms. Their commitment to this type of work is shifting our industry in meaningful ways,” Merrill Sterritt, head of partnerships and creative initiatives at Cinereach, said in a statement.

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“We are proud to continue to support the work of independent producers and are dedicated to finding continued ways to support this vital role in the industry,” Caroline Kaplan, director of film and creative programs at Cinereach, said in a statement.

Previous recipients of the Producer Award include Anish Savjani, Effie Brown, Scott Macauley, Joslyn Barnes, Karin Chien, Julie Goldman, Heather Rae and Jay Van Hoy.

Jessica Devaney is the founder of Multitude Films and is a producer dedicated to telling stories by and about under-represented communities. Her latest film “Always in Season” premiered in competition at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and won the Special Jury Award for Moral Urgency. She recently produced “The Feeling of Being Watched,” which played at Tribeca in 2018, the Cinema Eye-nominated “Roll Red Roll” and the Critic’s Choice-nominated “Speed Sisters,” which is available on Netflix.

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Devaney is particularly devoted to producing films helmed by female directors of color and enabling these voices to bring important stories to the world, thus creating a more inclusive and diverse industry. Jessica co-founded the Queer Producers Collective, she produced Doc Society’s inaugural Queer Impact Producers Lab, and she was a Sundance Edit and Story Lab fellow, Women at Sundance fellow, and Sundance Creative Producing Lab advisor.

Director, producer and screenwriter Alexandra Lazarowich is known for her passionate body of work around indigenous stories. Her most recent documentary “Fast Horse” premiered and won the Special Jury Award for Directing at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Her latest short film “Lake” premiered at the 2019 Hot Docs Documentary Film Festival, as part of the 5 Minute Feminist Film Program. Lazarowich is an outspoken advocate for Native filmmakers, working to dismantle and decolonize racist portrayals of Native people in cinema.

This year, Lazarowich convinced the Flaherty Film Seminar to not only include several Native filmmakers in this year’s festival, but also to remove their logo of “Nanook of the North,” which has been considered an offensive image by some Native people in film. Additionally, Lazarowich was the creative director for the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton, Alberta, where she directed 31 audio and video elements for the museum’s new Human History wing, illuminating the cultures and histories of the Blackfoot, Cree, Denes???né, Dene Tha’, Métis, Nakota and Stoney Nakoda.

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Kishori Rajan is a creative producer who develops work under her newly formed banner, Reverse Osmosis Films. She’s an executive producer of the HBO series “Random Acts of Flyness,” which was nominated for a Peabody Award and was recently renewed for a second season. Kishori has produced several feature films including the upcoming “The SHort History of the Long Road,” which played 2019’s Tribeca, “The Price” from Samuel Goldwyn Films, and “American Fable” from IFC Films. She’s a 2017 Cannes Producers Fellow, a 2017 Tribeca All Access grantee, and the first ever American producer to be selected for the EAVE European Producers Network.

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Jamund Washington’s producing work includes the 2016 Emmy Award-nominated television film, “Silenced,” the SXSW Grand Jury winner “Gimme the Loot” and the Netflix original, “Tramps,” which he also co-wrote. He is an executive producer, writer and director on HBO’s “Random Acts of Flyness.”

Cinereach is currently producing A24’s “After Yang,” from writer and director Kogonada and starring Colin Farrell.

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www.thewrap.com | 6/7/19
How do producers, broadcasters, streaming platforms and distributors best take advantage of what is commonly agreed to be a time of peak content creation for television? That is a question the keynote speakers at the Variety European TV Summit will attempt to address when they gather for a one-day conference on June 13 at London’s […]
variety.com | 6/4/19
Sunday's papers look ahead to the European elections while a Labour MP calls historical claims "lies".
www.bbc.co.uk | 5/19/19

This weekend, a European phenomenon is back — though Americans may have to hunt for clips on YouTube or seek out a VPN and watch via another country’s home broadcaster.

The Eurovision Song Contest, a cross between “The X Factor” and the Miss Universe pageant that offers Yanks a glimpse of what it’s like to be in a culture that doesn’t have jazz and blues as the foundation of its pop music.

For those who’ve never seen — or even heard of Eurovision — before, here’s a quick primer to get you caught up.

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What exactly is this contest?
Eurovision began as an idea back in the mid-1950s as a way for Europe to come together after World War II had ripped it apart. It was a pretty revolutionary effort for its time. Television was still the Wild West of communications and the Olympics hadn’t yet become an international broadcasting event. Eurovision was one of the first major attempts to hold an event that people from a wide range of countries could watch. With that in mind, the organizers wanted each country to showcase a song that was indicative of their culture.

That sounds like a pretty noble goal.
Yes … but it was also very out of touch with what was happening with music at the time. Rock ‘n’ roll was beginning to take root and The Beatles would take the world by storm just a few years after Eurovision’s inception. This meant that Eurovision’s lineup of ballads and cultural pieces quickly felt antiquated compared to the rock revolution that was going on in the charts. And that was six decades ago … the entries would only get weirder from there.

How weird?
For starters, there was once a rule implemented on and off over the years stating that participants could only enter songs that were in their country’s main language. When that rule was in effect, some countries found a loophole: give the song a hook that involves complete gibberish. Songs with titles like “Boom Boom” and “Diggi-loo Diggi-ley” poured out while the home-language rule was in effect.

Then there are the artists themselves. As Eurovision has evolved, more and more ridiculous acts have come out of the woodwork. Finnish monster-rock bands, Russian grandmas and Latvian pirates are among the acts that have performed for a TV audience of hundreds of millions in recent Eurovisions. And that Finnish monster rock band actually won.

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Jeez! So is this just some musical freak show?
Well … let’s be fair. While there’s always been some silly novelty acts, there’s also some solid bits of Europop on hand every year from genuinely talented folks. Sweden won in 2012 with “Euphoria,” a soaring dance track by “Idol” contestant Loreen that went multi-platinum in her country after her victory.

There’s also a small handful of top stars on the winners’ list you might recognize. ABBA used Eurovision as a launch pad to stardom in 1974 with their song “Waterloo,” and French-Canadian Celine Dion’s win in 1988 was her biggest claim to fame before “Titanic” came out. Quality — or at least creativity — does tend to win out at Eurovision.

OK, so how does this contest work?
First, all the countries have a national contest where they vote on which song will represent at Eurovision. The participants are divided up into two semifinals, with the exception of the host nation and the “Big Five” countries — France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the U.K. — who automatically qualify for the final.  They are joined by the 10 countries that get the most votes in each semifinal. In the final, all 26 countries get three minutes to make a good impression, and then the whole continent votes “Idol”-style (not for their home country, of course), as do professional juries for each country.

Then the show transitions to a long procession of national “ambassadors” reading out who each country gave their votes to. The top 10 performers in each country’s vote get points, with 12 points going to the top vote-getter, followed by 10 and then eight down to one for the rest of the order. The same goes with the juries, but with 10 points going to the performer in first place.

And what does the performer with the most points win?
This trophy. Oh, and their country gets to host the competition next year.

What? No prize money? No contract? No vague promises of superstardom?
Nope. The winners do get their 15 minutes of fame and some success on the charts, but beyond ABBA and Celine, Eurovision winners almost never have long-term success. Again, Eurovision long ago moved away from the sort of music that leaves a lasting cultural impact.

Even now, a good chunk of the acts are homogenous power ballads that can blur together when performed in succession. Still, Eurovision is worth watching just for the spectacle of it all. The Disneyland-esque sweetness of the proceedings is charming, and the lack of stakes for the performers keeps it feeling light and fun rather than a battle for wealth, glory, and continental supremacy.

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It has also made headlines in recent years that have allowed it to take steps beyond the realm of annual oddities like the Running of the Bulls. The winner in 2014 was gay Austrian singer Thomas Neuwirth, who performed as drag queen superstar Conchita Wurst. The victory transformed Conchita into an LGBT icon in Europe, even as Russian conservatives raged in fury and used the singer as an example of why Russia shouldn’t be a part of the EU. For all of Eurovision’s platitudes about tolerance and peace, this was a moment where those ideals were actually acted upon, even if it meant breaking the general tone of inoffensiveness.

If it’s supposed to be European, why is Australia a competitor?
It turns out that Eurovision has a major cult following in Australia, and they were invited to compete several years ago as a thanks for all the support down under. The expansion of the European Union means countries like Azerbaijan and Israel get to compete too.

So…if all these countries that aren’t strictly European are competing, does this mean we may be seeing the USA compete in Eurovision soon?
Eh…don’t count on it.

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www.thewrap.com | 5/18/19