The Television Academy has delayed the Emmys voting schedule and banned all “for your consideration” events. The Tony Awards have been postponed. And with the global economy tanking, a big chunk of Hollywood out of work and a pandemic disrupting nearly every facet of everyday life, the Oscar season that would normally kick into high gear in September may well be thrown into chaos.
While movie awards obviously don’t occupy a spot very high on anybody’s priority list at this point, the damage could include the number of films that qualify for awards, the opportunities for contending films to be seen and the ways in which awards season itself will play out.
“This is a situation no one could have imagined,” Film Independent President Josh Welsh told TheWrap. “It’s having unparalleled impacts on filmmakers, festivals and our community as a whole.”
Kathleen McInnis, who programs film festivals and consults with independent filmmakers on release and awards strategy, compared the pitfalls to a favorite movie.
“It’s a dangerous position for everybody,” she said. “I feel like in ‘The Princess Bride,’ when they wander into the Fire Swamp with all sorts of dangers. I think we’re either about to run into flame spurts or lightning sand or be attacked by rodents of unusual size.”
Here are some possible areas that could be dramatically affected, with the caveat that things are clearly in flux on every front.
1. ELIGIBILITY RULES
Film Independent, which produces the Film Independent Spirit Awards, moved immediately to change its eligibility rules so that films would qualify for consideration simply by being chosen for one of several film festivals, whether or not those festivals actually took place. (More than 200 films have now qualified even though their SXSW, New Directors/New Films and Tribeca premieres were canceled.)
The Golden Globes followed suit, suspending two rules to allow films that lost their theatrical premieres to qualify, and substituting screeners and links for the HFPA screenings that once were required. And other awards shows, including the Critics’ Choice Awards, have told TheWrap that they are studying the landscape and determining if they need to make their own rule changes.
For its part, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released a statement that said, in part, “We are in the process of evaluating all aspects of this uncertain landscape and what changes may need to be made.” The organization’s Board of Governors is due to consider vote on new Oscar rules in April; the current rules require a seven-day theatrical run in Los Angeles County for a film to be eligible for the awards.
And according to the South by Southwest Film Festival, the Oscars already made an exception for that festival, which was canceled but still convened juries and gave out awards. A SXSW spokesperson said that the festival was assured by the Academy that its short-film winners still qualified for the Oscars in those categories, even though the festival did not take place.
2. FESTIVAL PREMIERES
Of last year’s 39 Oscar-nominated feature films, for example, 25 first played at film festivals. Three, all documentaries, premiered at Sundance, one at South by Southwest, seven at Cannes (including Best Picture winner “Parasite”), four at Venice, three at Telluride, five at Toronto, one at the New York Film Festival and one at the AFI Fest.
So far this year, Sundance took place but SXSW was canceled and Cannes was postponed, with no way to know if can actually take place in the late June/early July time slot it is eyeing. Given the cancellation of the 2020 Olympic Games, which was scheduled to begin in late July, it seems unlikely: “Everybody in the industry is thinking, ‘How can they possibly go on in June?'” one festival veteran admitted.
An awards consultant who has used Cannes to premiere Hollywood films thinks the major studios will stay away even if the festival does go on. “Who’s going to want to go there in June or July?” the consultant said of the festival that last year launched Sony’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” and Paramount’s “Rocketman.” “I understand that they’d still get international films, but the studios aren’t going to want to go there this year.”
If Cannes is moved, it will disrupt other festival schedules — and if does ends up being canceled, the likeliest destination for many of its films would be the Venice Film Festival in late August and early September. But with the entire country of Italy on lockdown, is that festival any more apt to take place than Cannes is?
What’s more, Venice simply doesn’t have the capacity to absorb significantly more films. That would push additional films to the Toronto International Film Festival, which has been undergoing internal changes and has tried to trim its enormous slate in the past few years, and the New York Film Festival, which typically programs the cream of earlier festivals with no more than three high-profile world premieres of its own.
Another factor is that Cannes helps countries identify the best films to submit to the Oscars’ Best International Film category. Out of last year’s entries from around the world, 15 were films that had screened in Cannes, including three of the five nominees: France’s “Les Misérables,” Spain’s “Pain and Glory” and the Oscar winner, South Korea’s “Parasite.” And with an Oct. 1 deadline in this category (at least for now), the submissions have to be made earlier than other categories.
“What’s happening with the festivals has to change awards season,” McInnis said. “It has to. For so many films, especially documentaries and short films, you use the festival circuit to your advantage, to have people track you and to build excitement and energy. What do you do now? How do you engineer awareness and excitement about titles and move them in front of people who make decisions about awards?”
3. RELEASE SCHEDULES
Assuming that U.S. movie theaters are open in the fall and release schedules are restored, though, more mainstream movies could be released at that time, making what might be a constricted theatrical market more challenging for indies and awards movies. McInnis calls it “a snowball effect,” as films whose spring and summer festivals were canceled will end up competing with films that were always planned for the fall, films that were shifted from summer to fall and films whose production was halted, but who managed to finish in time for 2020 releases. “There will be all these pipelines of films literally falling over each other to get to an audience,” she said.
Waiting for later in the year, another executive speculated, might be a better move this year: “I think November and December releases will have a better chance, because if we’re lucky, they’ll be coming out when things are righting themselves.”
Of course, this assumes that those end-of-year movies can actually be finished in time to meet their current release dates. One studio executive pointed out that while editing can be done in isolation, with an editor and director sharing work without being in the same room, one of the final stages is often recording the film’s musical score — and in most cases, that requires an orchestra sitting in close quarters and playing together.
The question now is how much of that will return, and whether the coronavirus fallout will hasten the Academy’s move to its members-only streaming platform. One potential change could be to the Oscars’ international category, where until now members could only vote in the first round after seeing the films in theaters. That may well change if people are still reluctant to congregate in the fall.
“I know they are delaying official screenings, thinking about VOD and streaming lending an assist,” one Academy member said, noting the high stakes since the awards broadcast is by far the Academy’s largest source of income. “They have to find a way to make the show viable.”
(According to its 2019 financial statement, the organization received $131 million from “Academy Awards and related activities,” about $3.6 million from membership dues and theater rentals, $12 million from net contributions and $23 million from investment income.)
During the days of isolation, the Academy has also been very active on social media, but some members are hoping for more activity on the members’ site. “I’m surprised the Academy portal is not showing movies and doing its own festivals,” one voter said.
“I think it will change for a while,” said Christine La Monte, an Academy member and movie producer who frequents campaign events, particularly for international films. “People might be a little more hesitant at first, but maybe it’ll go back to normal. The need to be with your creative community may eventually outweigh other things.”
Still, few people expect the upcoming season to be as much of a social whirlwind as Oscar season usually is — and some expect the tenor of the campaigns to be more subdued as well.
“The big question is how do you campaign respectfully?” asked one studio executive who has been in the thick of awards campaigns for years. “How do we support our filmmakers while being respectful of everything that is going on? From our perspective, it’s definitely going to change. It might take some of the competitiveness out of awards season. Things might not be as vocal or as competitive.”
Of course, at this point this is all speculation — it’s clear that things will be different, but the ways in which they’ll change depend on so many outside factors. “I don’t think anybody knows what’s going to happen, to be honest,” another awards consultant said. “If things get back to normal this summer, we may still be under some sort of social distancing protocol in the fall.”
Added McInnis, “Usually, when there are things that stop the process, you can see the end. With this, we have no end in sight. The unknown is really unknown.”
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www.thewrap.com | 4/2/20
Cannes President Will ‘Cancel’ Festival if Coronavirus Situation Does Not Improve But Remains ‘Reasonably Optimistic’
Cannes Film Festival president Pierre Lescure said in an interview that he was “reasonably optimistic” the coronavirus situation would improve in France but that he would be prepared to cancel the festival if the situation worsens.
“We remain reasonably optimistic in the hope that the peak of the epidemic will be reached at the end of March and that we will breathe a little better in April,” Lescure told the French newspaper Le Figaro. “But we are not oblivious. If not, we’ll cancel.”
The 73rd edition of Cannes is scheduled to run between May 12-23, and the festival is expected to release its lineup of films on April 16.
However, several French festivals have already been canceled in the country as the number of COVID-19 cases rise. The television market MIPTV scheduled for late March was canceled, and on Wednesday, news came in that the Series Mania festival covering television scheduled for April in Lille was also canceled.
Lescure likewise addressed a story in Variety published Tuesday that said that Cannes would not be covered by insurance in the event of a cancellation. The story noted that Cannes had turned down the right to obtain coverage, but Lescure said that the policy offered to them by insurer Circle Group would not have been sufficient to cover their losses.
“This offer was made to us about ten days ago, but it was totally disproportionate. We were only offered to cover ourselves up to 2 million euros while our budget is 32 million. It was really peanuts,” Lescure said, adding that he remains “optimistic” and that the festival would be prepared to take some losses for this year should the festival be canceled.
“It doesn’t matter because we have reservations,” he said. “The endowment fund that we have set up allows us to face at least one year without revenue.”
France has reported 1,784 confirmed cases of coronavirus with 33 deaths, making it second to only Italy in severity in Europe.
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www.thewrap.com | 3/11/20
Italy saw 168 additional deaths from the coronavirus within the past 24 hours, authorities announced Tuesday, raising the national death toll to a whopping 631 amid the first day of a sweeping country-wide lockdown, the British ITV television channel first reported.
www.foxnews.com | 3/10/20
Monday's papers express fears over flights arriving in the UK from virus hotspots in northern Italy.
www.bbc.co.uk | 3/9/20
Woody Allen’s autobiography, “Apropos of Nothing,” has been acquired by Grand Central Publishing — a division of Hachette Book Group — and will be published on April 7.
“The book is a comprehensive account of his life, both personal and professional, and describes his work in films, theater, television, nightclubs, and print,” Grand Central Publishing announced on Monday. “Allen also writes of his relationships with family, friends, and the loves of his life.”
Allen’s book had previously struggled to find a publisher to acquire the rights. Last year, the New York Times reported that executives at four of the major publishing houses turned down the book in light of allegations that he had molested his daughter Dylan Farrow several years ago. (Allen has repeatedly denied the accusation.)
Amazon Studio’s four-movie deal with Allen was also axed after the streaming service halted the release of “A Rainy Day in New York” due to comments that Allen had made about the #MeToo movement, as well as the accusations against the director himself. Allen filed a $68 million suit against Amazon Studios over the termination of the deal last year but eventually dropped it in November.
Grand Central Publishing has the world rights for the autobiography. In addition to the U.S. release, “Apropos of Nothing” will be published this spring in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain.
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www.thewrap.com | 3/3/20
Ethan Hawke, “Mudbound” director-screenwriter Dee Rees and Emily Mortimer are among the jury members selected for the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, the Sundance Institute announced on Tuesday.
Twenty-five experts were selected to award feature films and short films shown at the upcoming festival, which will take place from Jan. 23 to Feb. 2 in Park City, Utah. Thirty-one prizes will be announced at a ceremony on Feb. 1, while the Short Film Awards will be announced at a separate ceremony on Jan. 28.
The juried Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize was awarded to “Tesla,” which stars Hawke, Jim Gaffigan, Kyle MacLachlan and Lucy Walters.
See the jury members below.
U.S. DRAMATIC JURY
U.S. DOCUMENTARY JURY
E. Chai Vasarhelyi
WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC JURY
Haifaa Al Mansour
WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY JURY
SHORT FILM JURY
ALFRED P. SLOAN FEATURE FILM PRIZE JURY
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www.thewrap.com | 1/14/20
Priyanka Chopra and Richard Madden have been cast as the stars of brothers Joe and Anthony Russo’s upcoming Amazon global-event series “Citadel,” Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke announced Tuesday during the Television Critics Association press tour.
The streaming service’s boss also revealed that a Mexico-based local-language installment has been added to the large-scale franchise, in addition to the previously announced versions set in the United States, Italy and India. Madden and Chopra will star in the U.S. edition, which is the “mothership” show, and will be interconnected with the local-language productions, per Amazon.
Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec, Jeff Pinkner, and Scott Rosenberg of Midnight Radio will serve as writers and executive producers of “Citadel.”
The Russo Brothers, Patrick Moran and Mike Larocca serve as executive producers. The Italian series will be co-produced with Amazon Studios and Cattleya (“Gomorrah”), part of ITV Studios, and the Indian series will be developed by Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K. (“The Family Man”) and produced with Amazon Studios.
Salke previously broke down how the Russos’ series, which is about spies and their double lives, will work. Readers can find out more about that here.
Amazon made several other announcements during TCA Tuesday, including the stars of its “Lord of the Rings” TV series, additional casting for its sci-fi series “The Power,” a “Jack Reacher” adaptation and an overall deal with Steve McQueen.
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www.thewrap.com | 1/14/20
"Imagine how they felt, being photographed." Cohen Media Group has unveiled an official US trailer for the acclaimed documentary called Shooting the Mafia, which first premiered at both the Sundance & Berlin Film Festivals earlier this year. The doc film is a profile of famed Italian photographer Letizia Battaglia, the first woman to ever be employed as a photographer at a newspaper in Italy in the 1960s. She went on to take iconic photos of the Mafia and their many violent crimes during their worst era, receiving death threats and getting entangled in their world. She fought back by showing the public just how bad they were, never letting any pressure stop her from using her camera to tell the truth. This was one of my favorite films at the Berlin Film Festival this year, explaining that it's "a fantastic, powerful doc that is both about a remarkable woman, and also a historical examination of how the Mafia lost its ...
www.firstshowing.net | 11/2/19
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.
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.
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.”
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.
“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.
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www.thewrap.com | 10/14/19
Disney will not be running Netflix ads on its entertainment networks moving forward, escalating the competition between the two companies a month before the Mouse House launches its new streaming service.
The Wall Street Journal first reported the news Friday morning.
Netflix ads will still appear on one Disney-owned channel — ESPN — but will no longer run on ABC and Freeform, according to CNBC.
Disney did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.
“The direct-to-consumer business has evolved, with many more entrants looking to advertise in traditional television, and across our portfolio of networks,” Disney said in a statement to CNet. “While the initial decision was strictly advertising based, we reevaluated our strategy to reflect the comprehensive business relationships we have with many of these companies, as direct-to-consumer is one element.”
Disney’s decision comes a month before its new streaming service, Disney+, is set to debut. The $6.99 per month service will feature original series, Disney classics, and major franchises like “Star Wars” and “The Simpsons.”
Netflix, which laps the streaming field with more than 150 million customers globally, will face a formidable opponent in Disney, according to many industry experts. Needham analyst Laura Martin, in a note to clients in August, said “We project [Disney] will win (and Netflix will lose) the U.S. SVOD battle.”
Martin forecasted Disney will eat into Netflix’s 60 million U.S. accounts and reach 24-30 million domestic subscribers by 2024, pointing to Disney’s price, its “strong balance sheet” and library of content as key growth factors.
Still, there is reason to believe the Netflix-Disney rivalry won’t shape up to be a zero-sum game. More than 70% of Netflix subscribers said they see Disney+ as a complimentary service, rather than a replacement, according to a recent survey from Ampere Analysis.
“Of course the absence of Disney content from Netflix, alongside the pending removal of shows such as ‘The Office’ and ‘Friends’ may have a slight impact on subscriber numbers,” Toby Holleran, senior analyst at Ampere, said. “However, we expect Disney+ is more likely to displace smaller SVOD services.”
Jennifer Maas contributed to this report.
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www.thewrap.com | 10/4/19
“Justified” alum Timothy Olyphant is coming home to FX to join the Chris Rock-led fourth season of “Fargo.”
Olyphant will be a recurring guest star, playing a character named Dick “Deafy” Wickware, an FX spokesperson told TheWrap.
The fourth season of Noah Hawley’s “Fargo” will travel back to the 1950s. FX provided the following summation for the installment:
Along with Rock, previously announced cast members include Uzo Aduba, Jack Huston, Jason Schwartzman and Ben Whishaw, along with Jessie Buckley, Salvatore Esposito, Andrew Bird, Jeremie Harris, Gaetano Bruno, Anji White, Francesco Acquaroli, E’myri Crutchfield and Amber Midthunder.
Written, directed and executive produced by Hawley, “Fargo” will begin production this fall in Chicago. It will air on FX in 2020. Hawley, Joel and Ethan Coen, along with Warren Littlefield, serve as executive producers.
“Fargo” is produced by MGM Television and FX Productions, with MGM Television serving as the lead studio and international distributor.
Deadline first reported Olyphant’s casting.
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www.thewrap.com | 9/17/19
“Orange Is the New Black” alum Uzo Aduba became the latest to join the upcoming fourth installment of FX’s anthology series “Fargo.”
She joins a cast that is headlined by Chris Rock, Jack Huston, Jason Schwartzman and Ben Whishaw. The rest of the cast includes Jessie Buckley, Salvatore Esposito, Andrew Bird, Jeremie Harris, Gaetano Bruno, Anji White, Francesco Acquaroli, E’myri Crutchfield and Amber Midthunder.
The fourth season of “Fargo” will travel back to the 1950s. “Fargo” will begin production this fall in Chicago. It will air on FX in 2020. Joel and Ethan Coen, along with Warren Littlefield, serve as executive producers. “Fargo” is produced by MGM Television and FX Productions, with MGM Television serving as the lead studio and international distributor.
FX provided the following summation of Season 4:
Deadline was first to report on Uzo joining “Fargo.”
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www.thewrap.com | 9/11/19
Academy Award-nominated producer Vincent Landay is partnering with former VICE chief creative officer Eddy Moretti’s Unbranded Pictures in the hopes of building out a multimedia company, it was announced Wednesday.
Under Moretti and Landay’s leadership, Unbranded Pictures will develop, produce and finance original and engaging feature films and episodic television for global audiences. The duo recently collaborated to create VICE Studios.
“Vincent Landay ranks at the top of a rarefied list of creative, innovative, and accomplished producers, not just in Hollywood, but in the world of contemporary cinema. Full-stop,” Moretti said. “He has the rare ability to understand a director’s aesthetic, emotional and philosophical vision. He is an artist whisperer, a director’s accomplice and collaborator. He translates their wondrous ideas into a production solution tailored to bring their dreams to life. I look forward to this new storytelling adventure with Vincent. There could be no better partner and friend for this next chapter. And to top it off, his family comes from the same small town in Southern Italy that mine does, so we’re probably related. It certainly feels that way.”
Landay added: “We are at an inflection point in our industry where there are enormous opportunities for bold content creators and auteurs — the kind of storytellers and artists that I have worked with my entire career. Partnering with Eddy and Unbranded will allow me to use the breadth of my experiences as an entrepreneur and producer to build a slate that we believe will inspire, provoke and engage audiences worldwide.”
Unbranded’s first feature film, “The Report,” will screen at Toronto International Film Festival this month.
Also Read: Xumo Launches on Comcast's Xfinity X1
Prior to joining Unbranded Pictures, Landay spent over 25 years producing with Spike Jonze. Their collaborations have received 12 Academy Award nominations, and have been honored by the Golden Globes, as well as BAFTAs. His credits include “Her,” “Being John Malkovich” and “Where the Wild Things Are.” He has also worked with directors David Fincher, David Lynch and Harmony Korine.
Landay is represented by attorney Michael Adler of Lichter, Grossman, Nichols, Adler, Feldman & Clark. Unbranded Pictures is represented by Endeavor Content.
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www.thewrap.com | 9/4/19
Apple CEO Tim Cook has written a piece for Italy’s most popular newspaper, Corriere della Sera , mourning the passing of Giovanni Buttarelli...
macdailynews.com | 8/23/19
“Good Eats” makes its long-awaited return to Food Network on Sunday with the premiere of “Good Eats: The Return,” the on-the-nose title of Season 15 of Alton Brown’s beloved science-meets-cooking show.
Both the cable channel and Brown have been promoting the stuffing out of the show’s new episodes, with Food Network launching the premiere early online and the celebrity cook hosting a Reddit AMA this week, plus fielding many, many fan questions on Twitter.
And with this level of enthusiasm for the return of “Good Eats,” we had to ask Brown why he stopped making the show, which ran from 1999 to 2012, in the first place — and why he finally decided to bring it back.
“It’s a complicated question,” Brown told TheWrap. “I stopped not because the network wanted me to stop or anybody else wanted me to stop; I kind of wanted to take a break for a few years. I really wanted to concentrate on doing some live-touring and I did a couple of big live tour shows and that was a great thing.”
Brown, who is the host and main commentator on Food Network’s “Iron Chef America” and “Cutthroat Kitchen,” says he “was also waiting on technology.”
“I had a feeling when we stopped making ‘Good Eats’ that the way people were going to consume content was going to change radically and it was just really starting. And I kind of wanted to sit back and see where that was going to go,” he said. “And these new shows are not necessarily made for television. I’ve made these new shows to watch on a phone as much as I have a television set. So I kind of wanted to wait out the changes and see where the writing on the wall was going to end up. And I’m glad I did because the technological evolutions — not only in media consumption, which changed a lot — but the technology that would allow me to do some of the things visually that we’re doing in these shows — we’re using a lot of stuff that just didn’t exist even six years ago. I kind of was waiting, in a way, for technology to catch up with where I wanted to go. And then I was also waiting to see where media wanted me to go.”
OK, so what does AB mean here when he’s talking about all these technological advances that are going to make “Good Eats” even better after its seven-year hiatus?
“One is, most of what I’m talking about doesn’t have to do with food at all, some of it does,” Brown said. “On one level, we’re strictly talking about filmmaking technology. That’s my background and I have a passion for putting cameras where they don’t belong, for designing extremely complicated shots and sequences. So there were things I wanted to do visually that I just had to wait for the technology to come along that would let me do what I wanted to do.”
“The other side, the food side, is number one: availability,” he continued. “There are ingredients that we can use now that five, six years ago we wouldn’t have been able to because people couldn’t get them. Now anybody can get anything anytime they want. So I can use spices, I can reference ingredients that people can simply, with a keystroke, have delivered to their homes. And culinary technology has certainly changed. For instance, we’ve done a show called ‘Immersion Therapy,’ which is about using immersion circulators, which I think is high time most Americans got into. Five, six years ago those devices were still extremely expensive, were not very easy to get and that technology has come a long way. So I guess that’s three examples: culinary technology, food availability and then the filmmaking technology that I needed to do visually what I wanted to do with the shows.”
And now that Brown is in post-production on the 13-episode 15th season — which features episodes about chicken parmesan, grains like amaranth, chia and quinoa, a recipes for sourdough, shakshuka and steak tartare — he told us he did, in fact, get to do what he wanted with the return of “Good Eats.”
“I promised myself the only way I would do this is if I could make one season where there would be no regrets whatsoever — and I did,” he said. “This is the best work that I’ve done in my entire career of any type. I cannot do better than this. And if I were to die tomorrow — I do not want to die tomorrow — but I would say that finally, for the first time in my career, I’ve done something for which I make not one single apology.”
There are a few things that Brown says makes this new season his crowning glory, which is first and foremost the scripts.
“I think overall, or above all, I think the writing is better,” he said. “I have grown a lot as a writer, I feel, so I think the shows, above, all are simply written better. I think there is not one weak recipe in the bunch from all 13 shows, and that’s 12 half hours and a one-hour special. And that’s because they are just better. We had time to work them out and I had a really good crew. So that’s for sure.”
Brown added that — as he said before — “because of technology, we are allowed to do and have the capabilities of doing far more complex, long scenes.”
“There’s lots of long, involved storytelling takes in this that goes on for a while and involves a lot of moving set pieces and cameras moving in a way– we’re using technology that no one has ever used in television before,” he said. “All the DNA though, all the DNA is there. All the stuff that people are gonna go, ‘Yes! That’s what I wanted.’ The characters that we established before, the kind of mix of comedy with science, with practical know-how, those are all there. These are very much ‘Good Eats’ episodes, but they are a lot more sophisticated.”
But don’t worry, because Brown promised us this: “If you are a ‘Good Eats’ fan, you will continue to be a ‘Good Eats’ fan. If you’ve never seen ‘Good Eats’ before in your life, you’ll hopefully become a ‘Good Eats’ fan.”
As TheWrap exclusively reported last week, Brown’s “Good Eats: Reloaded” series — which premiered last October and saw the cook “remix” some episodes from his old catalog — has been renewed for a second season. With that in mind, we asked Brown what it would take for him to do more of “Good Eats” itself.
“That will be determined completely by ratings,” Brown said. “If people watch it, then the answer will be yes. If people don’t watch it, the answer will be a resounding no. Because it’s way too much work to do if nobody is going to be watching it. It’s a very different kind of show. We’re talking about bringing a cooking show back to the primetime on a network that hasn’t been there for a while. In fact, ‘Good Eats’ was the last primetime cooking show on any network, you know, any mainstream network. So we’ll see. It’s a single-camera, narrative program, fully scripted. We’ll see if people are ready for that again. I think that the fans will be, because they haven’t stopped asking for it in the last six years. But will that be enough people to keep it on air? I don’t know. Who knows?”
See below for more from our interview with Brown.
TheWrap: How did you decide what recipes you wanted to include in “The Return”?
Alton Brown: I will admit that some of them were simply things that people had requested so much. Our very first episode, I’m finally getting chicken parm out of the way. People have been asking me to do a chicken parm show for 10 years and, frankly, I didn’t think I had anything to say about it. And then I figured out, “Oh, I actually do have something to say about it.” Because to me the recipes aren’t worth anything if — number one, the food has to be great, but there also has to be a story of significance behind it, and for me it was the understanding and finally coming to grips with the fact that Italian food was actually invented in America, not in Italy. And that kind of changed my whole viewpoint on the subject.
So some of these shows were things that I knew people really, really wanted. Some of them were things that I’ve just been really interested in. But, for instance, our season finale is a post-apocalyptic episode about wild sourdoughs. And six years ago, people didn’t care. But there’s kind of this whole millennial-hipster thing now about sourdoughs. So there is finally an interest. I was always interested, but Food Network was kinda like, “Yeah, no, nobody is gonna watch that.” So there are a few shows where simply popular interest has moved into realms we didn’t have before.
Some of the shows are kind of more historically minded. We do a show about icebox cakes, which I think people should be making left and right. We’ve got a very current-themed holiday special about low-alcohol cocktails, so that’s a very current thing people are interested in. A lot of people are sober-curious. Me, I’m just interested in drinking all day without falling down, so that’s where I kind of came up with it.
Certainly because of social media, because of Instagram, we have a whole different level of awareness about food that we didn’t have five or six years ago and that has opened up an entire world of possibilities for me as a culinary storyteller. So I’m not making it sound like I was sitting on the sidelines waiting for the world to catch up with me — but in a way I was sitting on the sidelines waiting for the world to catch up with me. And by the way, there was no way I was going to start making “Good Eats” again if I couldn’t make it be a lot better than the last time it was on.
TheWrap: What is it that you hope people take away from the new episodes and the particular recipes you selected?
Brown: There is always power in understanding. Understanding what’s going on with the food, understanding what the food wants, understanding what the techniques are and what they do is more important than any recipe. And that’s what actually makes you a cook. Understanding makes you a cook, recipes don’t make you a cook. And so we try, and have always tried in all the episodes, to give people an understanding so that when they’re done at the end of the day and they’ve cooked the food and the recipes, whatever the recipe is gonna be, they’ve actually got something in their brain that they didn’t have before. And I can’t take it beyond that, it’s that general.
TheWrap: Are you finally done with your turkey recipe and will we get a turkey episode this season?
TheWrap: Not a Thanksgiving show, but it’s about cutting up the bird and doing different things with different parts. And I’m done roasting the turkey. I’m finished. I have nothing more to say. By the way, I can’t count the number of people who have come up to me– we did our first roast turkey show in 1999… and still last week I had some folks who could not have been more than 10 years old when that show came out and came up to me and thanked me for that gosh-darn turkey recipe. I don’t know what it is about that turkey recipe. I’m grateful for it! I guess it would be the recipe on my tombstone, if they put recipes on tombstones.
TheWrap: Was it hard getting back into “character” as the Alton Brown you play on “Good Eats” vs. your everyday self?
Brown: I won’t say that it’s hard, it’s an automatic thing for me when I get in front of the camera. I either become the “Iron Chef” version of me, the “Cutthroat Kitchen” version of me or the “Good Eats” version of me. And the “Good Eats” version of me is the closest to actual me, the way that I am in my head. But you’re right, I don’t act that way in the airport. But it’s real close, so it’s not a problem at all. In fact, it’s a very comfortable place for me to go. It’s like an actor who has played a certain Shakespeare role enough to where they own it, I think I finally kind of own me. And frankly, one of the things about doing this job… I’ve watched myself age 20 years on television. I just turned 57 a couple of weeks ago and I cut off all my hair a couple of years ago because I got tired of it looking like crap. I’m not the guy I was then. So you have to be willing to let go of being worried about that kind of stuff because watching yourself age 20 years on TV, that can freak some people out. Me, I’m kinda like really myself. I think I was always meant to be a 57-year-old guy, so I think I’m better now than I used to be because I’m more comfortable with myself.
“Good Eats: The Return” premieres with two episodes on Sunday, Aug. 25 at 10/9c and 10:30/9:30c on Food Network.
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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
Filmmaker Oliver Stone got up close and personal while interviewing Russian president Vladimir Putin, with the two discussing the country’s ban on “homosexual propaganda,” the “behaviours and the thinking of the new generation”… and the possibility of Putin becoming godfather to Stone’s 22-year-old daughter.
Stone — who interviewed the Russian president in June shortly before the July 4 premiere in Italy of his documentary “Revealing Ukraine” — had mentioned pro-Russian Ukrainian politician and Putin ally Viktor Medvedchuk, when Putin said that Medvedchuk asked him to “take part in the christening of his daughter.”
“According to Russian Orthodox tradition, you can’t refuse such a request,” Putin said.
“Oh, you cannot refuse it?” Oliver responded. “Otherwise I would ask you to be the godfather for my daughter.”
“Does she want to become an Orthodox Christian?” Putin asked.
“Ok, we’ll make her that,” Stone responded, according to a transcript released by the Kremlin.
Stone went on to complain about “young people in America,” saying, “they are spoiled to some degree in the western world” and that he is “shocked by some of the behaviours and the thinking of the new generation.”
“And so much of the argument, so much of the thinking, so much of the newspaper, television commentaries about gender, people identify themselves, and social media, this and that, I’m male, I’m female, I’m transgender, I’m cisgender,” Stone said. “It goes on forever, and there is a big fight about who is who.”
In 2013, Russia put a law into effect banning “homosexual propaganda” among minors, which LBGTQ groups have said has caused an upsurge in homophobic vigilantism in the country. Stone said of their new legislation, “It seems like maybe that’s a sensible law.”
“Revealing Ukraine” premiered in Russia Friday and has been touted by Russian state media. Although it was supposed to air on a Ukraine TV channel, the broadcast was cancelled because of protests.
You can read the entire transcript of the interview here, including what prompted Stone to tell Putin, “You are a peacemaker” and “I am very worried about you.”
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www.thewrap.com | 7/22/19
“Fargo” Season 4 really rounded out its cast on Thursday, naming 12 new members of Noah Hawley’s players who will join previously-announced star, Chris Rock.
The cast is led by Jack Huston, Jason Schwartzman and Ben Whishaw, along with Jessie Buckley, Salvatore Esposito, Andrew Bird, Jeremie Harris, Gaetano Bruno, Anji White, Francesco Acquaroli, E’myri Crutchfield and Amber Midthunder.
The fourth season of “Fargo” will travel back to the 1950s.
FX provided the following summation of Season 4:
“Fargo” will begin production this fall in Chicago. It will air on FX in 2020. Joel and Ethan Coen, along with Warren Littlefield, serve as executive producers. “Fargo” is produced by MGM Television and FX Productions, with MGM Television serving as the lead studio and international distributor.
Here is who everyone else is playing, according to FX:
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www.thewrap.com | 7/18/19
“Call Me By Your Name” director Luca Guadagnino unveiled the cast of his upcoming HBO drama series “We Are Who We Are” on Wednesday.
Chloe Sevigny will star in the eight-episode series alongside Jack Dylan Grazer, Alice Braga, Jordan Kristine Seamon, Kid Cudi, Faith Alabi, Spence Moore II, Francesca Scorsese, Ben Taylor, Corey Knight, Tom Mercier and Sebastiano Pigazzi.
Described as a coming-of-age story, the project centers on two American teenagers who, along with their parents, are living on an American military base in Italy. According to HBO, the series explores themes of “friendship, first love and all the unknowns of being a teenager, which could happen anywhere, but in this case, happens to be in this little slice of America in Italy.”
Guadagnino, who is making his first foray into television with the HBO-Sky production, will serve as showrunner, writer and director on the series. Lorenzo Mieli and Mario Gianani serve as producers on the project for the Italian production company Wildside, which also produced “The Young Pope” for HBO.
Production is set to begin on the series later this month.
Paolo Giordano and Francesca Manieri are writers alongside Guadagnino, and Nick Hall, Sean Conway, Riccardo Neri and Francesco Melzi d’Eril also executive produce.
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www.thewrap.com | 7/18/19
Lorenzo Soria was named the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) for the 2019-2020 term, it was announced today at the organization’s annual election meeting led by outgoing president Meher Tatna.
The term will commence on July 1. Soria will be joined by Ali Sar, Janet R. Nepales, Ruben V. Nepales, and Tatna who were elected as vice president, treasurer, executive secretary, and chairman of the board of directors, respectively.
“It’s a privilege to once again be elected to serve as president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association,” Soria said. “Together with my peers at the HFPA, I look forward to continuing our organization’s mission of recognizing the best in film and television, ushering in the next generation of storytellers, and staying true to our roots of giving back through our vast philanthropic efforts. I’ve never been prouder of our organization’s future and ready to get to work.”
Also Read: HFPA Re-Elects Meher Tatna as President
Soria was born in Argentina and moved to Milan, Italy at a young age. He later became a journalist for Italian newsweekly L’Espresso, and has been working for the national daily La Stampa since 1988. He joined the HFPA in 1989 and has served as the president of the organization twice — from 2003 to 2005 and then again from 2015 to 2017.
The past two years, he served as chairman of the board.
The Board of Directors was also announced on Tuesday, which now includes Tatna, Luca Celada, Anke Hofmann, Yoram Kahana, Diederik van Hoogstraten and Tina Jøhnk Christensen. Barbara Gasser and Magnus Sundholm were named to the Credentials Committee.
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www.thewrap.com | 6/4/19
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.
What exactly is this contest?
That sounds like a pretty noble goal.
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.
Jeez! So is this just some musical freak show?
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?
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?
What? No prize money? No contract? No vague promises of superstardom?
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.
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?
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?
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www.thewrap.com | 5/18/19
Woody Allen’s film “A Rainy Day in New York” has been picked up for distribution in multiple European, South American and Asian territories, according to the New York Times.
On Monday, TheWrap reported that Italian distributor Lucky Red acquired the film for release in Italy on Oct. 3. The Times notes that A Contracorriente Films will now also release “A Rainy Day in New York” the following day on Oct. 4 in Spain.
A spokesperson told the Times that Filmwelt/NFP will release the film in Germany and Austria, and Filmwelt/NFP’s managing director Christopher Ott said in an interview with a German newspaper that they would be among the distributors bringing the film to Europe, China, Japan, South Korea, Russia and South America.
Italian news reports said on Monday said that “A Rainy Day in New York” was also likely to be shown in France, the Netherlands and Belgium.
Allen’s film was blocked for release in the U.S. after distributor Amazon Studios terminated its four-picture deal with the director after the resurfacing of old accusations that Allen inappropriately touched Dylan Farrow, his then-7-year-old daughter with ex-girlfriend Mia Farrow. (Investigators found no evidence of abuse and Allen has repeatedly denied the accusations.)
Allen had also announced plans to shoot another film with the backing of Barcelona-based financing conglomerate Mediapro, which previously helped fund “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and “Midnight in Paris.”
“A Rainy Day in New York” stars Elle Fanning and Timothée Chalamet as two young people who arrive in New York and encounter rain and a series of unfortunate adventures. It also stars Rebecca Hall, Selena Gomez, Jude Law, Suki Waterhouse, Liev Schreiber and Diego Luna. Many of the stars of the film, including Chalamet and Hall, agreed to donate their salaries from the film to Time’s Up and LGBT charities.
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www.thewrap.com | 5/9/19