Steve Levitan Honored With Commitment to California Award – Variety – Sharing Variety Magazine


Industry leaders gathered Thursday morning at the Loews Hotel in Hollywood for the 2017 edition of the annual State of the Entertainment Industry Conference, presented by Variety and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.

The morning opened with remarks from Vin Di Bona, CEO of Vin Di Bona Productions and chairman of FishBowl Worldwide Media. Di Bona, who has hosted the conference six times, took the stage to praise women who have bolstered the entertainment business.

“‘Wonder Woman’ taught us that — no surprise — a woman can carry a superhero movie and a woman can direct a superhero movie,” Di Bona said. “A lot has happened for the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce over the past year,” he continued, pointing to late singer Selena’s addition to the Hollywood Walk of Fame as one major highlight. He said that the ceremony had the largest turnout of all time for the Hollywood Walk of Fame, with over 4,500 people in attendance to celebrate.

President Pro Tempore of the California State Senate Kevin de León also delivered a speech that endorsed continual support for the state’s production tax credit program and asserted his drive to keep California’s status as “the entertainment capital of the world.”

There was also a presentation of the Commitment to California Award to “Modern Family” co-creator and EP Steve Levitan. The conference wrapped with an inspiring conversation between Levitan and Variety executive editor, TV Debra Birnbaum. “The more you mind what you’re going through and the more personal it is, the more it will resonate,” Levitan said of drawing ideas from his own family life. He also mentioned that much of the filming for “Modern Family” takes place on the street outside his own house in Los Angeles.

During a talk with Amy Lemisch, executive director of the California Film Commission, Whitaker Entertainment chairman Jim Whitaker shared his excitement for the massive Disney film he produced, Ava DuVernay’s upcoming “A Wrinkle in Time,” which stars Oprah Winfrey, Chris Pine, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Zach Galifianakis, and Storm Reid — and was filmed in California. Whitaker stressed the need to strike a balance between creativity and financial sensibility when producing films as well as the importance of maintaining an emotional well-being of cast and crew. “I know the feeling that goes into filming translates to the screen,” he said, “so a supported cast and crew leads to a stronger product.”

Variety co-editor in chief Andrew Wallenstein delved into “The State of the Stream.” Netflix CFO David Wells, Rachel Webber, National Geographic’s EVP, digital product, Erin McPherson, Verizon’s head of content strategy, acquisition, and programming, and Eric Berger, chief digital officer of Sony Pictures Television Networks and GM of Crackle, discussed how they tackle the complicated and crowded economy of streaming media. If a brand truly “stands for something,” Webber said, its risks will pay off. “There are no borders,” McPherson added, emphasizing the global impact of streaming content.

Other segments during the event included a conversation with attorney Howard E. King about legal territory in the rapidly evolving music industry and a presentation of the inaugural FilmL.A. Soundstage Production Report from Philip Sokoloski, FilmL.A.’s VP, Integrated Communications.



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illy Dee Williams, Omari Hardwick, Tiffany Haddish Honored – Variety – Sharing Variety Magazine


In today’s film news roundup, Billy Dee Williams will receive a Hollywood legacy award, the Art Directors Guild taps three for lifetime achievement, and fan-owned Legion M invests in a Nicolas Cage movie.

HONORS

The American Black Film Festival will honor Billy Dee Williams with the Hollywood legacy award, actor Omari Hardwick with the distinguished ABFF alumni award, and actress Tiffany Haddish with the rising star award.

The awards gala will take place on Feb. 25 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The show celebrates individuals of African descent who have made distinguished contributions to American culture through their work, and salutes the year’s best movies and television shows.

Williams’ credits include “Brian’s Song,” “Lady Sings the Blues,” “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Return of the Jedi,” and “Batman.” Hardwick stars in the Starz series “Power” with credits on “Tyler Perry’s for Colored Girls” and BET Network’s “Being Mary Jane.”

Haddish starred in Universal’s hit summer movie “Girls Trip” and will be seen starring with Tracy Morgan in the new TBS show “The Last O.G.” She just wrapped production on Universal’s “Night School.” Director and producer Ava DuVernay will receive the industry visionary award.

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Scenic artist John Moffitt, Oscar-nominated set designer James J. Murakami, and senior illustrator Martin Kline are joining previously announced production designer Norm Newberry as recipients of the Art Directors Guild lifetime achievement award.

They will be honored at the 22nd annual ADG Excellence in Production Design Awards on Jan. 27 at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood and Highland.

Moffitt’s credits include “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events,” 1984’s “Ghostbusters,” the Batman series and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Moffitt was the Art Directors Guild Associate Executive Director from 2006 to 2014.

Murakami’s has been set designer on nine movies directed by Clint Eastwood including “Gran Torino,” “Invictus,” “J. Edgar,” “American Sniper” and “Sully.” Murakami received an Emmy and two Emmy nominations while serving as art director on “Deadwood” and was nominated for an Academy Award for his work on “The Changeling” in 2008.

Kline’s credits include “Jurassic Park,” “Forrest Gump,” “Spider-Man” and “Polar Express.” He joined Sony Pictures Imageworks in 1995 and spent 12 years as Managing Art Director.

INVESTMENT

Legion M, touted as the world’s first fan-owned entertainment company, has joined producers SpectreVision, XYZ Films and Umedia as a production partner in action-thriller “Mandy,” Variety has learned exclusively.

Starring Nicolas Cage and directed by Panos Cosmatos, “Mandy” has been selected as a Midnight screening at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Part of the Legion M investment will help produce the film’s original soundtrack, written by Oscar-nominated composer Jóhan Jóhannsson.

Producers are Daniel Noah, Josh C. Waller and Elijah Wood for SpectreVision, Nate Bolotin for XYZ, and Adrian Politowski for Umedia, and is being executive produced by Nick Spicer, Lisa Whalen, Todd Brown, Maxime Cottray, Martin Metz, Peter Bevan, Christopher Figg and Robert Whitehouse, with Umedia and Piccadilly Pictures financing.

“When the ‘Mandy’ team shared their unique vision for a surrealist, heavy-metal-soaked revenge story with Nic Cage at his maniacal best, we jumped at the chance to get involved,” said Paul Scanlan, co-founder and CEO of Legion M. “This deserving project is yet another great opportunity for Legion M to activate the immeasurable power of our fan owners, and the news that ‘Mandy’ has been selected to participate in Sundance Midnight strengthens our excitement about our investment in this unique project.”

“Mandy” also stars Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roach, Ned Dennehy, Olwen Fouéré, Richard Brake, Bill Duke and Sam Louwyk. Founded in 2016, Legion M uses new equity crowdfunding laws and has raised more than $3 million in equity crowdfunding.



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California Production Tax Credit Touted by State Senate Leader – Variety – Sharing Variety Magazine


One of the California’s most powerful legislators has offered a strong endorsement of continued support for the state’s seven-year-old production tax credit program.

“The program has been an overwhelming success,” said Kevin de Leon, president pro tem of the California State Senate, in a speech on Thursday. “And we want California to remain the entertainment capital of the world.”

De Leon was the keynote speaker at the State of the Entertainment Industry Conference, sponsored by Variety and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, at the Loews Hotel.

The 2015-16 fiscal year marked a major expansion for the tax credit program, aimed at halting the erosion of California-based production to states with bigger incentives, such as Georgia and New York. The annual allocation rose from $100 million to $330 million, and applications are ranked on how many jobs they will produce, rather than being selected by lottery.

The program expansion, enacted in 2014 by California lawmakers, covers five years and $1.55 billion in tax credits. The credit is set at 20%, but producers are eligible for an additional 5% “uplift” if they shoot outside the L.A. zone, commit to music scoring or music track recording in the state, or to do visual effects in California.

De Leon did not indicate whether new legislation will be introduced when the California Legislature goes back into session in early January. But he noted that several states, including Florida and North Carolina, have dropped or reduced their incentive programs since California’s expansion.

“I don’t believe other states should be in the business of luring production out of California,” de Leon said. “We’ve made it clear that no one is going to out-compete California. Hollywood is here to stay and we have to keep the momentum going.”

De Leon pointed to statistics showing that since the program was expanded, the amount of hours worked by crews has increased by 12% and that the incentivized projects have led to $3.7 billion in direct spending in California.

The expansion of the program included a provision for big-budget studio movies to apply for the credit. Disney’s “Wrinkle in Time” was the first title to receive the allocation. The California Film Commission, which administers the program, selected “Call of the Wild” and Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming Charles Manson movie  as recipients of the state’s production tax credit on Nov. 20. They join other big-budget projects for California, including “Captain Marvel,” “Island Plaza,” “Midway,” “Ad Astra,” and “Bumblebee.”

Thursday’s event included state film commission executive director Amy Lemisch interviewing “Wrinkle in Time” producer James Whiteaker about the shoot. The producer noted it was the first time he’d worked in California on a feature film since “Flight Plan,” and said that shooting in the state — mostly in rural northern California — had a positive impact on the crew.

“You want people to feel good about where they are,” he added.



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Ed Sheeran Confirms ‘Perfect’ Collaboration With Beyonce – Variety – Sharing Variety Magazine


Ed Sheeran’s ballad “Perfect” is already on its way to becoming another major hit for the British singer-songwriter, but an announcement of a guest appearance by Beyonce on a remix of the song is certain to shoot it further up the charts. The duet is set to be released Thursday at 7 p.m. ET.

Sheeran announced the collaboration on Instagram Thursday morning, captioning an edited version of his “Divide” album cover saying, “Got Beyonce to duet with me.” He teased the partnership last Friday on Channel 4 Radio, calling it a “really f—ing big deal.”

The two performed together twice before, once for a rendition of “Drunk in Love” at Global Citizen Festival in 2015, and again earlier that year on a tribute to Stevie Wonder at “Songs in the Key of Life — An All-Star Salute.”

The original song debuted on his third album “Divide,” which garnered two Grammy nominations. The album’s lead single “Shape of You” was the No. 1 consumed track of 2017 (through Nov. 9, according to BuzzAngle Music).

The “Perfect” remix is Beyonce’s third collaboration in recent months. She accompanied J Balvin and Willy William’s “Mi Gente” remix, along with Eminem’s “Walk On Water.”



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Crackle Sets Premiere Date for 50 Cent-Produced Drama ‘The Oath’ – Variety – Sharing Variety Magazine


Crackle announced the premiere date for the upcoming drama series “The Oath” on Thursday.

The series, which hails from executive producer Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson,” will debut on Crackle on March 8. The series stars Ryan Kwanten, Cory Hardrict, Arlen Escarpeta, Katrina Law, J.J. Soria, and “Game of Thrones” alum Sean Bean.

The 10-episode series explores a world of gangs made up of those sworn to protect and defend. It sheds light on corrupt and secret societies that are nearly impossible to join, but once inside, members will do what they must to protect each other from enemies on the outside and from within their own ranks.

Created by Joe Halpin, who worked as a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputy in South Central for 17 years, 12 of which as an undercover officer, the series looks at the complicated dynamics in these organizations and documents the lives of those willing to risk it all, to have it all.

Jackson executive produces via his G-Unit Film & Television Inc.. Todd Hoffman and Dennis Kim of Storied Media Group, and Anne Clements also executive produce. Halpin serves as writer and showrunner. The series is directed by Jeff T. Thomas and Luis Prieto.



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Fats Domino Tributes Pour In From LL Cool J, Samuel L. Jackson, Kid Rock, Rep. Steve Scalise – Variety – Sharing Variety Magazine


Fats Domino, one of the pioneering early architects of rock and roll via hits like “Ain’t That a Shame” and “Blueberry Hill,” died Tuesday at the age of 89. The most powerful, and certainly the most popular, of a generation of great Crescent City keyboardists, Domino rocked into the public consciousness in 1950 with the self-referential single “The Fat Man,” and in 1955 crossed over to pop success with the slamming top-10 hit “Ain’t That a Shame.” He became a pop star of the first rank with hits like “I’m in Love Again” (No. 3, 1956), “Blueberry Hill” (No. 2, 1956), “Blue Monday” (No. 5, 1957) and “I’m Walkin’” (No. 4, 1957).

His biographer Rick Coleman wrote, “As (Domino’s bandleader-arranger) Dave Bartholomew would later put it, Domino was the ‘cornerstone’ of rock ’n’ roll, inspiring many later legends who began their careers as Domino fans: Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Van Morrison, John Fogerty, Bob Marley and Bruce Springsteen.”

In 1986, he joined Presley, Berry, Holly and Little Richard as an inaugural inductee in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Domino’s songs were covered by everyone from Elvis Presley to Pat Boone, from Cheap Trick to Jah Wobble, and as news spread of his passing, social media lit up with tributes. Among the first were from LL Cool J, Kid Rock, Harry Connick Jr., actors Wendell Piece (who starred in the New Orleans-based HBO drama “Treme”) and Samuel L. Jackson, and Louisiana congressman Steve Scalise, who was grievously injured in June when a gunman opened fire on a practice in Alexandria, Va. (He has since recovered and returned to work.)

 

 

 



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British Leader Rebukes Trump Again Over Tweets but Won’t Cancel State Visit – Variety – Sharing Variety Magazine


British Prime Minister Theresa May rebuked President Trump a second time Thursday for sharing videos tweeted by an anti-Muslim far-right group in the U.K., but she said the invitation to Trump to make a state visit to Britain would not be rescinded, as several politicians and commentators have demanded.

The Twitter storm has put May, who is visiting Jordan, in an awkward position as the U.K. prepares for Brexit and is increasingly reliant on the U.S., its closest ally. She said the so-called “special relationship” between the U.S. and Britain remained intact and was “good for the world.”

Quizzed about Trump’s re-tweet of three videos flagged by nativist group Britain First and the ensuing media furor, May said: “The fact that we work together does not mean we are afraid to say when we think the United States has got it wrong and to be very clear with them, and I’m very clear that re-tweeting from Britain First was the wrong thing to do.”

May’s earlier criticism Wednesday of Trump’s re-tweets – which have since been deleted – triggered an angry response from the president. “Don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom,” he tweeted. The retort sparked headlines and was debated in Parliament on Thursday, with several lawmakers condemning Trump and demanding that May scrap the invitation for a state visit.

May rejected those demands. “An invite for a state visit has been extended and has been accepted. No date has been set,” she said.



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Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences Pig Laboratory – #Helping others with #HeathTips and #Research #Videos



For more than 20 years, the Physicians Committee has pushed the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences to stop using animals to train medical students. On Sept. 3, 2013, the university agreed. The video below, obtained by the Physicians Committee through the Freedom of Information Act, shows a live animal training previously performed at the university. In the video, a live pig is tethered to an operating table as a scalpel slices through the animal’s skin and muscle. Later, the pig’s chest is cracked open to allow an instructor to shock and manually manipulate the heart before the animal is killed.

The Physicians Committee is calling on the last three medical schools that continue to use live animals to transition to nonanimal methods: Johns Hopkins University, the University of Tennessee College of Medicine Chattanooga, and Rush Medical College.

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#Helping others with #HeathTips and #Research #Videos

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Tokyo Disney Resort Set for Major Expansion – Variety – Sharing Variety Magazine


Oriental Land, which operates the Tokyo Disney Resort complex that includes the Disneyland and DisneySea theme parks, has revealed plans for a massive expansion. Completion is expected in 2023.

The company plans to invest nearly $2.7 billion to upgrade and expand facilities and attractions, while planning to double visitor numbers by 2020, the year of the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. With the planned expansion the 100-hectare complex is expected to grow 30%.

Oriental Land operates Tokyo Disney Resort under license from Disney. Since its start in 1983 with the opening of Tokyo Disneyland, the theme park, hotel and shopping complex in Chiba Prefecture, has grown to attract nearly 30 million visitors annually.



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Top 10 Takeaways From Variety’s Innovate Summit – Variety – Sharing Variety Magazine


Variety hosted its first annual Innovate Summit Wednesday, providing attendees insight into the future of artificial intelligence, analytics, and virtual reality in entertainment and related fields through a series of discussions and panels. Here are the top 10 takeaways from the summit.

1. VR can be used to turn empathy into action. Baobab Studios CEO and Co-founder Maureen Fan said that in Baobab’s “Mac and Cheez” VR game, players can help out other characters on their mission, and depending on their behavior, those relationships with other characters change. “We can get you to care more about the characters in VR than on a traditional TV screen,” Fan said. “But what can we do with that caring? By letting you actually interact with the other characters, it lets you turn empathy into action.”

2. Sexual harassment must not be tolerated. When it comes to office culture, a company cannot be strong if it does not take action to prevent sexual harassment — and enforce consequences when issues do arise. Leslie Moonves, Chairman and CEO at CBS Corporation, said that the recent firestorm of sexual harassment allegations in media has affected his company’s policies and practices in hopes of making the workplace feel safer.

3. Drive home your company’s values. “At this point, neutrality is problematic,” said Molly Swenson, RYOT Co-Founder and Head of Brand. “But make sure that when you take a stance, you enter the conversation in an authentic way. Although December will be Swenson’s last month at RYOT, the entrepreneur said that the “activist news organization” strives will continue to successfully deliver “less depressing” and “more empowering” news.

4. There are huge benefits of focusing on niche markets. Lionsgate Over-the-Top (OTT) Ventures EVP and GM Julie Uhrman emphasized the advantages of honing in on niche markets. Even if the groups are smaller, the consumers that they include are passionate and, thus, more loyal. “Be authentic to that group to drive action,” Uhrman said.

5. Accept that we live in an era of multitasking. Abbey Thomas, CMO at Tremor Video DSP, referred to our current times as “the age of the modern living room,” noting that reaching consumers through one screen is not sufficient. Audiences often use multiple screens at a time– even when the TV is on, there are simultaneously inundated with information on their phones, tablets, and other devices.

6. Marketing is in great need of diversity. PepsiCo senior consultant Brad Jakeman urged an increase diversity in marketing, advertising, and technology fields. According to Jakeman, 85% of purchases across all industries are made by women, while a majority of the marketing algorithms and content are aimed at straight, white males. “Innovation does not come from homogenous groups of people. Innovation comes when you bring diverse sets of people together who have had different life experiences, who have different backgrounds and have a different lens on the world. You get better results as a consequence of that.”

7. Blind reliance upon raw data leads to incorrect assumptions of human behavior. Jakeman stressed the need to use caution when looking at raw data because blind reliance on data leads to the assumption that consumers behave logically. In reality, human behavior is often irrational. A reliance on data results in advertisements or recommended media that are neither wanted nor useful to the consumer. “Someone knows enough about me to be creepy, but not enough to be useful,” Jakeman said.

8. Decisions about television content are often more driven by emotion than the data. Anthony Accardo, director of R&D for Disney/ABC Television Group, said that decisions made about television content tend to be more driven by the loudest voices in the room rather than what the data about a show objectively indicates. “After the research comes in, the way the conversation evolves from there largely revolves around the words ‘I feel.’ ‘I feel like there’s too much story or this character isn’t on screen enough.’ It takes away from what’s objectively happening with creative and usually what win those conversations are the politics and the relationships, not what the data actually says.” Accardo added that metadata about television ratings can help remove the feelings from decision-making and lead to objective conversations.

9. Streaming companies need to continue to push new content in order to maintain viewership over linear television services. While streaming video on demand (SVOD) services like Netflix draw large numbers of viewers during the initial release of shows, they struggle to retain those levels of viewership over time. Parrot Analytics CEO Wared Seger said that while linear shows like “The Walking Dead” that only release one episode a week might draw smaller premiere audiences than “Stranger Things,” which has all episodes released on the same date, SVOD services tend to lose their viewers after the initial hype while viewership for linear network programs continues to grow over time.

10. Virtual and augmented reality are not only here to stay, but are poised to increase advertising revenue. PwC partner Stefanie Kane said that research predicts that over the next five years, virtual reality will add $4.6 billion dollars in revenue across its applications. Jesse Redniss, chief innovation officer of TNT and TBS, said that while television, porn, and gaming are the first adopters of VR and AR devices, the utility of having VR and AR capabilities in mobile devices will spur “corporate America” to explore the technology within the next 12-18 months. Additionally, Universal Music Group’s SVP of digital marketing Monica Hyacinth urged the entertainment industry to find another way to measure VR experiences in depth rather than by views, given the more immersive nature of the content.

(Pictured: Neil Parris and Monica Hyacinth)

 



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