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Chloé Zhao on Making Oscars History

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 On Monday morning, the day after making history with her two Oscar wins, Chloé Zhao is beaming. Her happiness is detectable even over Zoom. “It was just so, so beautiful to be in the room with people, and to be able to actually talk to them and to celebrate with my peers,” she says.

Not everything went as planned at the 93rd Academy Awards on Sunday night; witness the show not ending with the usual best picture category, instead unexpectedly honoring an actor, Anthony Hopkins, who wasn’t even there, as its climax. But at least one thing went very right: Zhao landed the trophy for best director for “Nomadland” and also received the top prize for picture. She’s only the second woman to win an Oscar for director — after Kathryn Bigelow (for 2009’s “The Hurt Locker”) — and Zhao, who was born in Beijing, is the first woman of color to receive the prize. “Nomadland,” released by Searchlight Pictures, led all films with three Oscars, including actress for Frances McDormand.

Zhao went into the night with four nominations: In addition to producing and directing, she was up for adapted screenplay and editing. And after doing countless virtual panels, particularly with her fellow directors, she was at last together in person with the other nominees on Sunday night. Describing meeting nominee Emerald Fennell — both Zhao and the “Promising Young Woman” director wore sneakers — Zhao says she was able to “finally give a hug.”

“I think there’s a picture somewhere out there of the two of us with our sneakers together,” she says with a laugh.

Zhao’s “Nomadland” journey began in 2017 after McDormand sneaked out of her “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” promotional duties at the Toronto International Film Festival to see Zhao’s second film, “The Rider.” McDormand and producer Peter Spears had the rights to Jessica Bruder’s nonfiction book “Nomadland,” which chronicles the post-Great Recession stories of older Americans who’d been forced out of their homes and into their vehicles, traveling the country in search of work. After buying a van, Bruder immersed herself in the nomads’ world — as Zhao had done for both “The Rider” and her first movie, 2015’s “Songs My Brother Taught Me.” To McDormand, “Nomadland” seemed like perfect material for Zhao.

And it was. “Nomadland” premiered to raves at the September film festivals, where it began racking up awards. Critics prizes, Golden Globes, and Producers Guild, Directors Guild, and Independent Spirit awards followed, making “Nomadland” the most-awarded film in modern history. The movie captured the anxious, melancholy mood of the pandemic year: The isolation of Fern (McDormand) as she travels from place to place — sometimes connecting with fellow nomads, other times choosing solitude — felt authentic to this moment in history. As did the movie’s longing for a better future.

Linda May is one of the real-life nomads in the movie, and accompanied zhao— the “Nomadland” cinematographer and Zhao’s partner — to the Oscars Sunday night. In an interview, May recounts working closely with Zhao to craft her character, as well as the film’s portrayal of the nomad community. “No one could have done better than she did,” May says.

  

It wasn’t only that Zhao had to understand the story of “Nomadland” and its characters on a cellular level. Producer Dan Janvey describes the immense technical challenges of the shoot, which Zhao spread over fall 2018 and winter 2019 — with a rare hiatus in between — so that the movie could appear to capture a full year in Fern’s life.

Zhao was so good at each of her roles on the movie — writer, director, producer, editor — that it was as if different specialists were doing each of them, Janvey says: “And what’s crazy about it is the degree she harmonizes those different skills into one person. That’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.”

A woman filmmaker with a singular point of view? It hasn’t always been seen as a good thing, as Barbra Streisand reminds Variety. “When I began shooting ‘Yentl’ in 1982, I had a clear vision of the film I wanted to make, so I ended up directing, acting, producing and writing,” Streisand says. “A lot of people were upset that I was assuming all those roles, and I remember getting attacked for wanting to have control over my work.

“So it’s wonderful to see Chloé Zhao be in full control of her movie by doing multiple jobs — which ensures the final cut is completely what she envisioned. I’m very happy for her and for the state of women filmmakers today. We’ve come a long way.”

And at 39, Zhao is just starting. Next up is her massively ambitious Marvel movie “Eternals,” based on Jack Kirby’s comic series, with a large ensemble cast featuring Gemma Chan, Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek and Kumail Nanjiani. It’s a huge leap from her first three films, and after several COVID-19 delays, “Eternals” will hit theaters in November.

Zhao — a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the comics from which it originates — approached the company herself. She was originally considered for “Black Widow,” according to Kevin Feige, the president of Marvel Studios, but took herself off the list. Eventually, Zhao and Marvel executive Nate Moore began working together on an “Eternals” pitch, which Feige calls “spectacular.” It was, he says, “a very bold and very ambitious, sprawling 7,000-year story of humanity and our place in the cosmos.”

Andrew Eccles for Variety

In a movie that would be full of visual effects and greenscreen — as all Marvel movies are — Feige says Zhao “was really fighting for practical locations” in accordance with her vision for it. At one point, they cut a sample reel of “Eternals” for Disney higher-ups to watch.

“And I had to keep saying, ‘This is right out of a camera; there’s no VFX work to this at all!’” Feige says. “Because it was a beautiful sunset, with perfect waves and mist coming up from the shore on this giant cliffside — really impressive stuff.” Later, watching “Nomadland,” he saw similar shots. “Oh! That is not just what she wanted to bring to Marvel,” he remembers thinking. “This is a signature style.”

Just hours after the ceremony ended, Zhao met with Variety for a photo shoot and a Zoom interview about her historic journey to the 93rd annual (semi-socially distanced) Academy Awards.

In your speech for best director, you quoted a saying from the Chinese text “Three Character Classic”: “People at birth are inherently good.” How did you decide what you wanted to say?

Just at 2 in the morning in my room alone. We had a really fortunate [awards] season, and I got to thank a lot of people along the way. I thought if I was fortunate enough to win, I wanted to think about where it all started. It’s definitely a sentiment that was very important to me, had an impact on me when I was a kid, and I carry that with me.

On a more trivial matter, people were obsessed with your choice of footwear.

I take a lot of inspiration from Frances McDormand, and I learned a lot from her through this journey. It’s a long night, a lot of walking — and I don’t have the courage to be in heels.

What was your creative partnership like with her?

I think we have a lot in common, Fran and I. We both like comfortable footwear, and also really like to work. Not a lot of words, more like a lot of doing. And through that process, I just learned so much from her. As a mentor, as a person — how she carries herself in the industry.

Linda May told me that money from nomdadland— which is amazing, but it shouldn’t be that way for a 70-year-old who’s worked her whole life. Can you talk about how the real stories of the nomads illustrated the points you wanted the movie to make?

When I read Jessica Bruder’s book — beautiful, beautiful work — there’s so much that she touched on. Almost behind every page, I felt this very universal emotion she captured, which is this collective feeling of loss, a loss of a way of life. And that’s what I wanted to focus on. Having made three films the way we did, by just telling human stories, the audience is going to take away the things that they need to take away. And they could have conversations and discussions like the one you just talked about, which is one that’s very dear to me: how we treat our elders in our society. When we go into each scene, that’s not what I think about. But I think by humanizing these characters, and making their stories universal, it will hopefully make the audience relate with them first, emotionally. And then ask the question you did: Why are they in that situation? You don’t just intellectually think about it, but you’re emotionally invested in it. And, obviously, in a capitalist economy, if you don’t contribute to the survival of the economy, you are disposable.

Zhao gazes onto one of the lingering vistas highlighted in “Nomadland.”Joshua James Richards/Searchlight

What’s been your takeaway from the conversation about how Amazon is por- trayed in the movie?

I love that people are talking about it. I love movies that don’t necessarily tell me how I should feel or how I should think but give me this canvas that I can go away and have a conversation with myself and people around me. And I think we tried to do that with “Nomadland.” And the fact that people are having conversation is a good thing.

Kevin Feige said your original plan was that you were actually going to finish “Eternals” and it was even going to come out before you edited “Nomadland.” But because of COVID, you finished “Nomadland” so that was ready first. Is that right?

Yeah, I think so. I mean they were really back-to-back, those two movies.

That would have changed the course of history! Is it wild to think that if COVID hadn’t hit, “Nomadland” wouldn’t have come out this year?

I have gone through ups and downs in my relatively short career. And one thing I’ve learned is a bit of a cliché, but everything does happen for a reason. We never expected “Nomadland” to resonate the way it did. But everything worked out.

“Nomadland” seems like the kind of experience that would stick with you. Did making it change your life?

I have a whole new group of friends, people who are going to be in my life forever. Swankie is going to go kayaking, and Josh is going to go with her to Channel Islands this week. But also, I have never made a film about people who are elders. And just being around them, and just getting the wisdom from them about life and about mortality, about what’s important — it was life-changing.

This was your first major Oscar campaign. How was it for you?

It was longer than I thought. Look, we’re alone in our homes. We can’t see our family; we can’t see our friends. And being on Zoom, even though we all make fun of it, just seeing Emerald’s face, David [Fincher], Lee [Isaac Chung], Thomas [Vinterberg], and Aaron [Sorkin], doing all these panels with everyone, and seeing their homes, seeing their dogs and their families — it did make me feel less alone in this process, in this whole situation. So I’m grateful for this award season. I’m grateful for the people that came along.

How has it felt to navigate Hollywood as an Asian woman? Have you experienced any obstacles?

I’m sure I have. I know I have. The one thing that I learned really early on is that you’ve got to surround yourself with the right people. Because you can’t change how people think — you can’t control how they’re going to think, how they’re going to behave. But what you can do is make sure the people that are around you not only protect you but want to be with you because of who you are as an individual. I’ve been lucky in my whole career so far. Every single film we’ve made, I’m surrounded by people like that.

So even though I can sense things, and I’ve heard, obviously, people, my peers, experiencing these unfortunate situations, I have been very lucky that I’ve been protected.

What has this year of anti-Asian violence and hate crimes directed toward Asian people been like for you?

We’ve got to check in with each other. And I was very grateful for the phone calls, the messages, the Zoom calls I received. I think Tyler Perry said it really well last night. Sometimes it’s hard to have these conversations, but just by reaching out and to ask, “Are you OK? What can I do?” It means so much. Walk down the street and smile at a stranger — that might just make your day. So I think we have to start with ourselves — the small community and circle that we’re in. And if we all do that, I think we can make a change.

“Eternals” will have Marvel’s first gay superhero, a deaf character, a huge international cast. Did Marvel say yes to all those things?

It’s just been such an incredible experience working with the team at Marvel. I want to be careful saying “my vision,” even though I do want people to know they did support what I wanted to do. I want people to know that. But I also want to make sure they know that I got the support of this incredibly talented team, some of the most talented artists in the world. And it really is a village to make this film, but they did let me lead. Yes.

I know you’ve worked with small, tightly knit crews on your other movies. How different was “Eternals”?

Props to Marvel — from early on, they knew the way I wanted to make this film, how I wanted to shoot. It can’t be hundreds of people standing around. So they very much adapted how to run the set the way that I wanted to work. I’m still surrounded by 25 people. They just have armies, and each of them knew they needed to keep the army away.

During a conversation you had with Barry Jenkins when you were talking about “Eternals,” you said, “Can I put a spin on it while still being true to the essence of it?” How did you do that?

 

 

Jack Kirby and his imagination, his incredible work, is really the foundation of it. On top of that, there is what Marvel Studios has built, this incredible journey they have going on. And then on top of that is me as a fan of the MCU. And then, me as a fan of the genre, but also growing up with sci-fi and manga and fantasy films. And how can we have this big melting pot and cook up something that may just taste a little bit different? It was just an exciting thing; all of us went in wanting to do that. We’ll see.

You’ve said you’re getting a writing credit on it, and I know you’re in post-production now. Are you editing it too?

No. I’m working with two incredible editors, Craig Wood and Dylan Tichenor. And they’ve taught me so much. They were very patient with me, because they know it’s the first time that I’ve collaborated with editors that way. They’ve really helped me find the language to be able to communicate with them in a way that I hadn’t had to do to this extent.

Where are you with “Eternals” right now?

Final stretch. Just like sculpturing, you never want it to end. You just want to keep going until they tell you you can’t keep going anymore.

What can you tell me about your Dracula project for Universal that has been described as a “futuristic sci-fi Western”?

I love that you have the question mark at the end — a “sci-fi Western”?

Those things don’t necessarily go together!

No, I like that. It’s just like looking at Jessica Bruder’s book, and to really see behind the pages, to discover the meanings behind each page and the essence of it. I’m a huge fan of the book. And I wanted to see what essence I can find [in “Dracula”], and then be able to reimagine this really beloved character I love so much.

“Beloved character”? Interesting.

I like complicated characters.

So you love the book “Dracula”?

That was a very important book for me. Immortality is something that I started exploring on “Eternals,” but is something I want to question and understand.

And that’s the next thing that you’re going to do after “Eternals,” right? Or is there something in between?

I don’t know. I think right now I want to go back to my chickens and dogs. Hopefully they still remember me. And then I will see.

You’ve obviously forged your own path. But are there directors whose careers you look at in terms of their scope, and you think, that’s what I want to do?

When you’re talking about the scope of films, Alfonso Cuarón and Ang Lee, what they have been able to do, making intimate films, smaller films, but also films on a bigger scale — but you can see that they were able to bring themselves and those two worlds kind of together in a way that still keeps them true to the type of film they are. But you see a throughline. I love that, and I hope I can do that.

When I asked Dan Janvey what I should ask you, he said: “How quickly are you going back to work, and is that today?”

I think everyone in my life close to me knows that I’m maybe working a little too much. Yes! This afternoon I’m going back to Disney to work on “Eternals.” Right after this interview. I’m probably late.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

 

 

 

 

Article by: Kate Arthur for Variety

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Pete Davidson is gearing up to portray punk rock pioneer Joey Ramone in the upcoming biopic “I slept with Ramone” for Netflix and STXfilms.

The announcement comes on the 20th anniversary of Ramone’s death. The biopic will chronicle the life and times of the legendary musician — born Jeffrey Ross Hyman in 1951 — who cofounded the group in Queens, New York in 1974 and went on to change the sound of rock music by stripping it down to Chuck Berry-level basics (but played twice as fast). The Ramones were arguably the first true punk rock band, and not only helped launch the scene around the downtown venue CBGB but ignited the British punk scene with performances in the U.K. in 1976. The group disbanded in 1996, but their popularity and influence is vast and undeniable.

Joey died from lymphoma in 2001; the other three founding members of the group, Johnny (John Cummings), Dee Dee (Douglas Colvin) and Tommy Ramone (Tom Erdelyi) also have passed away.

“I Slept With Joey Ramone” comes with the blessing from Joey Ramone’s estate. The film is based on the memoir of the same name, written by his brother Mickey Leigh. Leigh will serve as an executive producer.

“When you share a bed with someone — and not just a bed, but a childhood, a family, and a lifetime — you know that person better than anybody else. Mickey Leigh not only collaborated with his big brother’s band — he has irreplaceable memories of and insights into Joey Ramone, having supported him when no one else would and witnessed him overcome adversity in the most dramatic way,” said Adam Fogelson, the chairman of STXfilms Motion Picture Group. “‘I Slept with Joey Ramone’ is a great rock anthem that will make an equally great rock biopic, set apart by a universal story of family.”

The movie reunites Davidson with director Jason Orley, who helmed the 2019 coming-of-age comedy “Big Time Adolescence” and the comedian’s latest stand-up special “Pete Davidson: Alive From New York.” Davidson is also adapting the script with Orley.

Along with Leigh, Davidson will executive produce the film with David Spiegelman and Rory Rosegarten (“Everybody Loves Raymond”).

Netflix previously collaborated with STX on the series “Rise of Empire: Ottomon,” as well as the film “Work It” starring Sabrina Carpenter.

Article by: Rebecca Rubin for Variety

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This year, there were 366 films in Oscar contention, with 50-plus nominated — including three centering on disabled people. While that isn’t much, it’s three more than most years and, sadly, it qualifies disability awareness as an innovation.

The teams behind Amazon’s “Sound of Metal,” Netflix’s documentary “Crip Camp” and live-action short “Feeling Through” all express appreciation at the progress, but they’re aware that authentic depiction is an ongoing issue.

Supporting actor Paul Raci, one of the six Oscar nominations for “Sound of Metal,” says: “We haven’t turned the corner, but there is an opening in the consciousness, an expansion of awareness, and there are some initiatives to open up jobs to the deaf and disabled. We’ve heard this before. All we can do is keep expanding awareness, to make sure that films represent the population that we all live in.”

Jim LeBrecht and Nicole Newnham, co-writers/directors of “Crip Camp,” held a virtual reunion to celebrate the anniversary of the January 2020 premiere at Sundance.

The doc begins in 1971 at Camp Jened in New York, a summer camp for teens with disabilities. The film then traces the activism that was fueled at the camp, through the successful 1990 fight for the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Newnham describes the Sundance standing ovation as an “otherworldly experience. You could feel that people got it.” LeBrecht — who might be the first wheelchair-using director recognized by Oscar — adds: “Something shifted that night. It was like we came into our own. People were seeing us not as ‘invalids,’ but as human beings.”

That’s the goal of those with a disability, who make up 20%-25% of the U.S. population but are wildly under-represented in Hollywood films, despite recent industry vows of inclusion.

Writer-director Doug Roland’s “Feeling Through” shows an encounter between a homeless youth (Steven Prescod) and a deafblind man — played by deafblind actor Robert Tarango, a groundbreaking (and memorable) piece of casting.

Asked what Hollywood executives should know, Tarango says: “Simply don’t be afraid. ‘Feeling Through’ has shown the community at large who we are. They may never have thought of us — other than Helen Keller — as part of the community. We live independently and we’re here. We are part of your everyday life. We walk the Earth, we go to work, we do everything that you do, so why wouldn’t we be represented?”

Marlee Matlin is an exec producer of the short. She won a lead actress Oscar in 1986 for “Children of a Lesser God,” and while many actors have received Oscars for playing a disabled person (Tom Hanks, Daniel Day-Lewis, Al Pacino, et al.), the only authentic honorees are Matlin and Harold Russell (“The Best Years of Our Lives”).

Aside from acting, Matlin has been a tireless advocate. She says: “There are plenty of people who don’t think outside the box. We can approach them and educate them, or we can create our own project. Authenticity is so crucial in all aspects of the entertainment business. Deafness or deafblindness, or any disability, shouldn’t be a costume that an able-bodied person puts on and then takes off. We are people, not costumes. If they listen to us, fine. If not, we’ll find someone who does listen to us.”

Judy Heumann, whom LeBrecht describes as “one of the great civil-rights leaders of our time,” is a Camp Jened alumna and a prominent activist. At the Sundance premiere, an audience member expressed amazement at what the film revealed about disability struggles, asking, “Why don’t we know this story?” Heumann said, “This is an educated audience. If you don’t know, maybe you weren’t listening.”

Next year’s Oscar race might also include disability-themed films. The biggest hit of Sundance 2021 was “CODA,” starring Matlin. CODA stands for children of deaf adults; Raci is one: American Sign Language was his first language, with English coming later.

“Sound of Metal” director Darius Marder questions the idea that disabled people have reached a turning point this year. Marder says, “I don’t think we ever get there. That’s so much of what this film is about. If you passed Ruben [the character played by Riz Ahmed] on the street, you wouldn’t know what he’s been going through. We all look at each other and have no idea that he’s another us. Our call is to continue to be curious and try to be compassionate and open. It’s never-ending.”

Article by: Tim Gray for  Variety

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Ryan Coogler and Proximity Expanding

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Proximity, whose exec ranks include Zinzi Coogler, Sev Ohanian, and Ludwig Göransson, counts its first feature film as the six-time Oscar nominee 'Judas and the Black Messiah.'

Proximity Media— the banner that is run by Black Panther director Ryan Coogler among others— has expanded its footprint behind features and television, into non-fiction content, podcasting, and music.

Along with Coogler, Proximity, which recently released Judas and the Black Messiah is now headed by Zinzi Coogler, Sev Ohanian (Searching), Oscar-winning composer Ludwig Göransson, RCA Records alum Archie Davis and Emmy-winning documentarian Peter Nicks (Homeroom).

The Cooglers and Ohanian will oversee all of Proximity’s operations. Göransson will serve as principal music executive, Davis overseeing marketing, soundtrack, and podcast production, and Nicks spearheading the company's non-fiction division.

In podcasting, Proximity partnered with Radiotopia founder Roman Mars to produce podcasts that are ancillary to their films' subject matter. The first of these efforts is Judas and the Black Messiah Podcast, a six-part series produced by Christopher Johnson and hosted by Elvis Mitchell and Chairman Fred Hampton Jr.

In television, the company has signed a five-year overall deal with The Walt Disney Company. Their first announced project under the pact is a Black Panther Spin-Off series for Marvel Studios and Disney+.

Proximity's first feature film is Judas, which was nominated for six Oscars, including best picture. Upcoming projects include the LeBron James fronted Space Jam sequel and the third Creed film, set to be directed by star Michael B. Jordan.

 

Article by: Mia Galuppo for THR

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Pacific Theatres Owns Cinerama Technology.

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Angelenos are still processing their grief about the closure of the ArcLight theaters. Pacific Theatres announced on Monday that it would close all of its locations which include the ArcLight Hollywood and the historic Cinerama Dome.

Not as well known is that the theater chain also owns the Cinerama technology. The three-camera filming technique was introduced in 1952 in response to the rise of television, and was virtually obsolete by the time the dome opened on Sunset Boulevard in November 1963. The name lived on for a few years after that, in the form of single-camera 70 millimeter releases that were marketed as Cinerama films — including “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” the first film ever shown at the dome.

 

The dome itself was not outfitted with the three-camera projection technology until 2002, to coincide with the format’s 50th anniversary. The same year, the documentary “Cinerama Adventure,” detailing the history of the process.

Strohmaier now lives in Idaho, where he is finishing up a restoration of MGM’s “The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm,” one of just two narrative films ever produced in the original Cinerama process. He has previously restored the other one — “How the West Was Won” — and several Cinerama travelogues.

In an interview, he said he is not worried too much about the closure of Pacific Theatres. The interview has been condensed and edited.

So where do things stand now? Pacific Theatres owns the process, right?

Yeah, and the travelogue films, and they own half of the two MGM films. Me and my team have restored all the Cinerama travelogues by scanning them and combining them together, so you don’t need three projectors. It’s all on a digital DCP kind of thing. I’m finishing up “Brothers Grimm” now. I’m almost done with it. That’s for Warner Bros. and Cinerama Inc.

Do you have any idea what is happening on the Cinerama side, and whether that will affect “Brothers Grimm”?

It shouldn’t, because Warner Bros. is the distributor of record. Cinerama used to be a distributor, years ago. They did a lot of that type of stuff as an outcropping from acquiring the Cinerama process around 1958 or 1959. Then the original Cinerama company went bankrupt, and Pacific Theatres took over. That was probably ‘62 or ‘63.

It seems like they acquired it just as it was no longer commercially relevant.

It was still commercially relevant. The original Cinerama theater in Los Angeles was the Pacific Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. That’s where they installed it. That’s where the big premieres were for the Cinerama travelogues and “How the West Was Won” and “Brothers Grimm.” I believe three-panel was still playing at that theater when they were premiering “Mad Mad World” (at the dome).

Why are there only two narrative three-camera films?

It was a complicated process to even film in, let alone project. A lot of actors didn’t like working in it because your eye-line was always different. It was awkward to work with the system. No director could make his day. The sun would bleach out one of the three panels because it was so wide. You almost had to stage everything so you’re away from the sun somehow. It was decided after “How the West was Won” and “Brothers Grimm” were finished that “Let’s just use 70 millimeter and call it Cinerama.” So they did that. It pretty much fit the same screen. It just didn’t have the same dimensionality. But you could make better movies with it. That’s when “2001,” and “Mad Mad World,” and “Ice Station Zebra” and all those 70 millimeter Cinerama movies came along. They had intermissions and overtures. That lasted until ‘69, when they stopped saying it was in Cinerama.

Do you have a purist’s approach, that the only true Cinerama is three-camera Cinerama?

No. A purist will say that kind of thing — “That’s not real Cinerama, blah blah blah.” Well, they sold it as Cinerama. It fit a similar size screen. It was still incredibly impressive. Hardly any film grain. It was a big, large format way before IMAX. I consider that part of the Cinerama legacy — those 70 millimeter films.

If someone has only seen IMAX, how is Cinerama different?

It’s more immersive. It pulls you in. IMAX is just a giant, big elephant. Cinerama is like an octopus coming at you.

Can you explain your personal connection to it and why this is something this is so meaningful to you?

I saw it as a kid. This is the story you’ll hear from anybody who’s into this stuff. They’ll say, my parents took me. We drove in our station wagon to St. Louis, Missouri, where we saw it for the first time. And all the kids went crazy and they’d go back to grade school and tell all the other kids and they’d beg their parents to take them. It was sort of an early virtual reality experience. It felt like you were in the movie. It felt like, when they had an aerial flying over a mountain, that you were in the cockpit flying, and had that goosebump thing going on.

What was the heyday of Cinerama?

I would say it was from 1952 to 1964. And then it had an afterlife with the 70 millimeter Cinerama productions. When the dome was built and they ran “Mad Mad World,” it was all 70 millimeter. It wasn’t the three-panel process. However the projection booth was actually built for the three-camera process. And there were actually portholes and everything there, but they covered them up with curtains all those years, until 2002, when we cleaned up all those old windows and put the other projectors in. And now we could run the Cinerama process. It happened way after the dome was built.

So now there’s only two theaters that have the capability to show a Cinerama film?

The technology still exists in Paul Allen’s theater in Seattle, except they closed. I’m not sure what’s going to happen there since Paul Allen died. Then there’s one in England, which is part of a museum, the Bradford National Media and Science Museum. I usually go every year, when there isn’t quarantine, for some kind of showing. Then there’s the Cinerama Dome. So there’s those three locations that can do it. You just gotta turn the electricity on and open up.

In an age when you can go to an IMAX theater, does Cinerama offer something unique?

It still has something going for it. I just had a phone call today with a guy from Singapore who wants to revive a Cinerama form of an IMAX kind of thing, with a curved screen. There’s one French guy that started filming some stuff, and he sent me some dailies. So there’s some interest, but I don’t know that it’s anything more than millionaires playing.

When did you become the leading guy on this?

I suppose when I did the documentary. I did it to prove film history experts wrong. They would always equate Cinerama with 3D — “It came and went back in 1953.” I knew that wasn’t true. I saw it in 1957 and 1964 as a kid growing up. So when I started doing some research. I found out that I was right. And then I figured maybe I should make a documentary.

Cinerama was ‘52, and then 3D came along about ‘53. So film historians put those two together, and say those were just gimmicks and they went away. Cinerama — they call it a fad actually. I remember bell bottoms were a fad back in the 70s. If something’s a fad, it lasts four to five years. Cinerama lasted close to 14 years. I call that more of a phenomenon than a fad.

Do you have any feelings about the announcement that the Cinerama Dome is closing?

I’m not taking it that seriously. It’s a registered landmark and all that stuff.  The impression was they’re going to get the rent down and then they’ll stay open.

 

 

Article by: Gene Maddausfor Variety

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Costume Design Oscar Race Period Looks

 

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Dazzling duds dominate the Oscar race for costume design this year.

Ann Roth landed her fifth nomination and potential second win for “Ma Rainey’s Black
Bottom”; the costume designing legend only had a few scarce pictures of the real-life Rainey to use as research but she managed to bring the Godmother of Blues to life.
As Rainey, Viola Davis rocked a show-stopping blue velvet dress over a rubber suit, which gave Davis a big- ger frame similar to the real Rainey. Chadwick Boseman’s dapper Levee also had to make a big impression, especially his shoes, as those items stand in for more than just nice footwear.

“Manks” Trish Summerville is a debutante at Oscar’s ball this year. Despite having worked in black and white before on projects — she dressed Justin Timberlake and Jay Z for the “Suit & Tie” music video — the David Fincher-helmed film marks Summerville’s full feature in monochrome.

 

 

 

She had to create glamourous gowns and suits galore, finding colors that would translate to the specifics of black and white filmmaking.

Summerville dressed a large cast of characters, in a wide range of socio-economic classes, over a decade. Her costumes offer visual shorthand, defining each person before they speak, including dressy costumes at Hearst’s party, homeless people and “Mank’s” support group when he’s writing “Citizen Kane.”
In re-creating the glamour and troubles of Hollywood in that era, her costumes are notable without being showoffy. The only costume designer to win for a B&W film in the past 50 years was Mark Bridges, for “The Artist” (2011), but don’t be surprised if Summerville joins that club.

Another newcomer to the Oscar race is Bina Daigeler, who dressed Disney’s “Mulan” Numerous versions of warrior armor were created for the action sequences, which were further enhanced in visual effects. Daigeler’s costumes allow all the actors maximum mobility — a necessity when you have a film as action-packed with martial arts. The film also runs a wide gamut.

On one side, there is the toughness of the leather and scales of the villains’ armor, in stark contrast to the heroine’s side. And then there are the intricate, beautiful gowns seen in the early matchmaking scene, wildly feminine in contrast to the rest of the film and made of yards of colorful fabric.

Six-time Oscar nominee Alexandra Byrne earned her latest nod for her work on “Emma” Blues yellows, maroons and pinks were the core of Byrne’s color palette for this incarnation of the Jane Austen classic, with the title character, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, given different shades for each season.

Massimo Cantini Parrini’s world of costumes in “Pinocchio” was a blend of traditional, modern and poetic for this version of the fairy tale. Parrini took inspiration from the 18th and 19th centuries with much of the film’s looks echoing his research of those periods. For Pinocchio’s red suit, Parrini used a crepe fabric to reflect the “paper” costume he wears in the book.

 

Article by:Jazz Tangcay for Variety

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Best Cinematography 2020?

8777240100?profile=RESIZE_400xOnly “The Trial of the Chicago 7’s” Phedon Papamichael has been in this race before — for 2013’s “Nebraska.” But watch this award closely, as whoever wins here could signal the director win. The cinematography Oscar has matched director six times in recent years, the last time when Alfonso Cuarón won for 2018’s “Roma.”

Still this is probably one below-the-line race where “Nomadland” is locked to win. DP Joshua James Richards has picked up wins along the way — from fests and critics.

“Judas and the Black Messiah”

Sean Bobbitt

Director Shaka King and Bobbitt spent a lot of their prep watching other films, looking at what they wanted to avoid.

The Cleveland location proved a perfect stand-in for the film’s Chicago of the 1960s action. Bobbitt’s camera and lenses of choice were the Arri Alexa LF with Arri DNA LF prime lenses. He alternated between handheld to capture shootouts, and the demonstrations, while
using cranes and dolly shots for conversational scenes.

 

 

 

Bobbitt says, “As bespoke hand-made lenses constructed from lens elements of classic lenses they a unique vintage look which helped to subtly enhance the period feel we were trying to achieve.” He adds, “The Arri Alexa LF camera was chosen for its great look and contrast ratio. Having shot on it in the past I was confident that it would be able to accurately handle the wide range of flesh tones without having to resort to special lighting for the lightest and the darkest.”

“Mank”

Erik Messerschmidt

Messerschmidt chose the Red Helium Monochrome with Leica Summilux-C lenses for his feature-length debut.

“We think about the timing of the dolly move, the speed of the pan, the speed of the tilt-up relative to the actor standing up,” he says. “There are times when the speed of that actor rising with the tilt affects the audience’s experience differently from the actor’s experience.”

Despite its visual beauty, Messerschmidt says many of the conversations he had with helmer David Fincher were not about the film’s aesthetics. “They’re about storytelling. And breaking the scene apart into the dramatic beats and figuring out what is it that we’re trying to communicate emotionally, if it’s the exposition or if it’s an emotional beat.”

“News of the World"

Dariusz Wolski

This is the first Oscar nomination for Ridley Scott’s go-to DP. For Paul Greengrass’ sweeping Western, he chose Arri Alexa LF and Mini LF cameras, Angénieux Optimo EZ1 and EZ2 zoom lenses, a Panavision Primo 11:1 zoom, and Panavision System 65s.

His influences were the Ken Burns documentary “The West” and old-fashioned Westerns, as well as Roger Deakins’ work on “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.” “You go and see what lights they have and what they used,” Wolski says.

Lighting was important to him, making use of the environment as much as possible, relying on natural lighting for day exterior shots, and enhanced night exteriors with enhanced kerosene lamps for night.
As the film’s protagonists move across the Texas frontier, he says, “it was about playing with color, just to distinguish the dusky sunrise from those other moments.”

“Nomadland”

Joshua James Richards

 

 

Landing his first nomination, Richards picked the Arri Alexa LF with Arri DNA LF prime lenses and Arri Amira. Comfort was key to Richards as he and helmer Chloé Zhao traveled across five states including Nebraska, Arizona and South Dakota following Fern (Frances McDormand), a modern-day nomad.

Richards says he chose the camera for the “ergonomics of the Amira camera coupled with a small mini body meant we were equipped for different situations. We could move quickly and nimbly.”

“The Trial of the Chicago 7”
Phedon Papamichael

Papamichael’s signature style has always been to use older glass from the ’70s and early ’80s. For Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Panavision Anamorphic lenses — C-Series and T-Series with his set of spherical Canon K-35s — were paired with the Arri Alexa LF Mini.

“Our objective was to get the right glass that could cover the large format sensor of the Alexa LF, but also that could give us a vintage quality to the era we were trying to re-create,” he says.

While he opted for a lot of close-ups in the courtroom scenes, Papamichael was conscious of the group dynamic. “I wanted to capture their looks and reactions to each other’s actions. Having the camera up close on our defendants and witnesses without isolating them from their surroundings by maintaining the wider field of view, was made possible by shooting on a large format with wider focal lengths (40mm and 50mm).”

Winner prediction: “Nomadland”

 

 

Article by: Jazz Tangcay for Variety

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Hollywood Responds: Anti-Asian Violence

 
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"Creators and filmmakers can be bolder with dealing with issues and they shouldn’t be afraid to confront them," said the 'Parasite' filmmaker during Chapman University's Dodge College Master Class series.

Oscar-winning filmmaker Bong Joon Ho said he's been watching the wave of Anti-Asian hate and violent incidents across the United States, and he believes Hollywood can respond by being unafraid to tell bold stories that tackle the issues as a way to create change.

“I’m far away in Korea and I have to see everything in the news from an outsider’s perspective, but as someone who is a part of mankind, as a person, it’s quite fearful to watch the hate crimes against Asian-Americans and the BLM movement," the Parasite filmmaker said Thursday night during an appearance as the guest speaker featured on the latest installment of Chapman University's Dodge College virtual Master Class series. "Creating a film takes a lot of time and a lot of money; it’s a big unit that can’t really respond quickly to issues that are currently happening in society. … But ironically, because of that, creators and filmmakers can be bolder with dealing with issues and they shouldn’t be afraid to confront them."

Bong cited Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing as an example, adding that he recently watched it again on Blu-Ray. "That film came out in 1989," he noted. "It was three years before the L.A. Riots but almost predicted the riots were going to happen. That’s the role creators and artists can play, not necessarily to predict what will happen in society but to use your insight to portray the issues that are currently boiling underneath the surface of society that can explode later on. For me, Parasite was a film where I tried to take that approach … [the film] talks about the haves and have-nots of our current society. It began with a question of ‘what does it mean to be poor or rich in our current times?’"

He continued: "As creators and artists, you sort of have to see through the essence and the central questions in our society through the days that you live through and send a reply to those questions through your work.”

The filmmaker was the latest high-profile Hollywood insider to have appeared as part of Chapman's Dodge College Master Class series, following Bryan Cranston, Frank Marshall, Jason Blum, Lena Waithe, and former Warner Bros. communications executive Dee Dee Myers. Bong weighed in on a number of subjects by offering advice on how to stay focused while trying to break into the industry, using camera movement to tell a story and the hot button topic of movie theaters vs. streaming.

Of the latter, Bong said it has become trendy to consider theaters as relics from another time but he doesn't subscribe to that notion. "I still believe in the overwhelming strength and power that theaters have. Last year, there was this anecdote where Martin Scorsese asked his physician if he watched The Irishman and the physician answered that he had been watching 10 minutes of the film every day. But I actually went to a theater in Seoul to watch the full three hours and was unable to press the stop button. I really remember feeling moved after those whole three hours and theater cinemas are still the only way that lets you access that kind of experience."

 

Article by: Chris Gardner for The Hollywood Reporter

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The Sacramento film scene is coming in hotter than ever, as locals in our community have started to make a name for themselves in the entertainment industry.  Feature films have started to come out, with names of directors and producers coming straight from Sacramento. One filmmaker, in particular, Felipe Cisneros, has recently come out with his very first sci-fi feature called "One and the Same".  On March 29th, I received an opportunity to not only talk to Felipe about his come-up in the film industry but of course his new feature film "One and the Same" that is out now!

After watching the CFF breakdown and also doing some digging, I found out you actually started off as an Actor but then later on you became a director and I'm wondering why was that?

I never got that far into acting. I actually took a couple of courses and got a feel into the field of arts. I realized I was interested in movies and figured that that was a good place to start and get used to it (early on). After taking acting, I realized that I wasn't able to apply it to life. I was living in  Oregon, where there were not many acting opportunities- before backstage and actors access that we had to actually hear from somebody about those kinds of opportunities. A few years later, I retraced back to film and acting and that's where for a lot of people stuff can change. Acting was not for me and I think I was interested in it because I glamorized it. I was unsure if I was going to sustain it and I wasn't confident enough to pursue it. Especially because acting is those things where it can be very consuming, and you may have to drop a lot of things. I was past that point where I could have just dropped everything and go to LA to pursue it. 

Once that happened, I had to put my career on pause and I wanted to explore more options that were able to help me add value to film. I thought to myself "What else can I do?" I was proficient in writing and while taking it at school, it came to me naturally - ideas for films. It never struck me that in film this was something I should go and combine together. I ended up doing lots of research by reading, googling, and doing deep dive searches. "This is a program I can use" and I kept flushing out ideas until I finally felt comfortable enough to tell a story. Once my first short film came out, I decided to just go for it. 

Was there a specific film or director that inspired you to work in this industry? 

When I was younger I had a lot of things stick with me. Especially because while I was growing up there was not as much content out so there would be a lot of reruns of the same shows.  One that I was stuck watching a lot was Big Trouble in Little China, and it had a blend of Sci0Fi, humor, drama, and action. I remember thinking that film was larger than life and up to now, it's still stuck with me. 

Genres that you are taking on with things that you do, there are ideas that are also out there as well. I can't pinpoint it exactly to that film, but I do want to say it was very impactful and influential.  I would strive to create at least one piece of work people would like to rewatch from any point in their lives. 

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What are your goals,? For example, do you want to impact the local community, inspire smaller filmmakers? Personally, I love how your recent film, makes it much more meaningful especially to locals that it was created by someone from Sacramento. 

When I first started out, I was lacking because although I was trying I needed somebody to tell me how to get started. It took a minute to find somebody to take me under their wing. Nick Leisure showed me how to be on set and I started to pick things up. Before that point, I didn't know much about it and I was lost and I really wanted to create something but I didn't know-how. Having someone to help and give guidance was exactly what I was looking for because I didn't know what it felt like to create. It can feel discouraging but once you see hope it all clicks and comes together. This leads me to the point I wanted to make which is that I'm all about the community aspect. It's impossible to do everything yourself, there is a role for everybody and also a rewarding feeling when you achieve that unity. Once I started creating, I wanted to feel more of that personal satisfaction of having everyone come together and work with so many parts. 

What aspects of production were something you had to familiarize yourself with/ had assistance with?

The feature film was bigger than any other thing. I've created short films before but there were still pieces that I know that I still had to learn.  On "One and the Same" I had an even bigger picture of the responsibilities. Working with a crew of 30+. There were people on set doing multiple things that I wasn't familiar with and I was back to asking more questions. I didn't know there were so many roles on set, and I realized my scope was small and limited. This new film opened up more possibilities and knowledge that my biggest takeaway was the production process itself. 

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Transitioning into your recent film "One and the Same" what was the plot inspired by and was there a significance of it being set in Sacramento?

Honestly yes. This story was set in 2 places. I wanted to do a small city and one big city.  Sacramento is a big city don't get me wrong, but compared to SF it's different. I wanted a small-town feel like Sacramento, and a big city feels like San Francisco. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get the locations I wanted due to the costs and cutting out a large part of our people. Instead, we took it to Baja, and I got creative and I was able to get locations I wanted while keeping the locations similar to Sac/SF (not identical). I also added in some small details so people could get a glimpse of where the story was set. As an example, one of the newspapers in the film said "Lincoln Newspaper: and I wanted to remind people that these are places I am familiar with and grew up in. 

Knowing that this production only 16 Days, Can you go more into how the experience was like, and the pressure if any you faced?

That's funny because I created two short films in the past and I was also faced with similar situations. I was creating longer shorts of about 20 minutes and due to funding and budgets, I had a 2-day time frame. I was very ambitious and it was hard to do. My back was almost up against the wall, and it's like at that point I HAVE to do it.  It really was impossible, I had to literally do pickup shots in Sacramento. 16 Days allowed no room for error and only some errors had to be made up the next day. Toward the last week, we could no longer spend time on certain things and so right down to the wire there was such immense pressure that I knew I could not come back with failure. Some people can actually excel with pressure, but at this point, I didn't put too much focus on certain things and I pushed past it. Once the filming began, I was like "well I have to keep going I can't focus on it now" almost every day. Something that did help me out, was that the crew had professionalism. I'm glad to be able to have people on my team who lead the way and helped me get through it. They offered me alternatives if certain plans did not work out the way I wanted to, which greatly helped because I was focused on other aspects. Not to mention, as a director you need a crew of experts who can pick you up when you're tired and winded.

 Did "One and the Same" run into any issues due to the pandemic post-production?

 We wrapped up in February 2020 and that's when we began to start submitting to festivals. We were watching the situation unfold, and that was when we had to pull the plug on our festival. We weren't going to throw money out and have it not happen. It was very unknown and we had to wait for feedback and audience testing to see what they thought. This also gave us more of a chance to reshoot and add more additional scenes. We ended up altering the film and making it that much better and accessible. It worked out for the best and things would've been better if we submitted to the festival but it wasn't in our cards. What we worked out then, was pitching to directors and that was a whole other process until we got picked up by a distributor. I think that's what all filmmakers want is for their film to find a home after so much hard work has been put into it.

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Thank you, Felipe, for taking time out of your schedule to have an interview with me. Before you go is there some advice you'd give to someone who wants to break into this industry?

With my experience I feel like doing films is very different when creating in your early 20's versus the '30s. You have a lot of room to play around with and do what feels right for you. Most people in their thirties have jobs, families, and other responsibilities. People spend years doing short films but for those who are trying there is NO rush and anyone can jump into this industry. It all comes down to trying and not getting discouraged. 

Again. Figure out what it is that you want to do and play around with genres you're into until you eventually feel comfortable in your skin. Get more experience on set because that's where you'll learn the jargon and the process of things. It also doesn't hurt to do more research, and if you do a good blend of both you can get it done. There is no reason why you couldn't but use the resources you have, like shooting on an iPhone is possible. Not everyone has expensive equipment. 

Felipe's film, One And The Same, is out on all streaming platforms now.. Check it out!

By Sarai Argueta for CFF

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The Most Anticipated Movies Coming in 2021

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With coronavirus vaccinations rolling out fast, shuttered theaters are reopening their doors, letting film lovers view previously delayed releases and new films. The year will also see the debuts of long-awaited sequels, such as the horror film “A Quiet Place Part II” and “Space Jam: A New Legacy” starring NBA superstar LeBron James.

On March 23, Disney announced an overhaul of its remaining slate of 2021 films. Despite some delays in expected release dates, “Black Widow” will still hit screens come summer. The latest Marvel entry, along with the live-action “Cruella,” will simultaneously release in theaters and on Disney Plus with Premier Access, which costs a $30 rental fee. For Broadway fans, June will bring Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical “In the Heights,” featuring a predominantly Latinx cast.

Read on to see all the highly anticipated films of 2021.

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Women of Color Animation Mentorship

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The Women in Animation (WIA) 2021 spring mentorship program will be taking applications starting March 31, with a special focus on mentoring women of color through its Mentor Circles series. In a new development, the WIA mentorship program is collaborating for the first time with Black N'ANimated and Latinx, and Rise Up Animations to directly advance career opportunities for women of color in the animation industry. While applicants are not limited to people of color, they are strongly encouraged to apply through these partnerships. As part of the collaboration, each organization recruited and referred industry mentors from their networks, adding to WIA’s pool of mentors.

“We’re very excited to be partnering with WIA for their Mentor Circles program,” said Waymond Singleton and Breana Williams, co-founders of Black N’Animated. “By having more mentors of color in these types of spaces it emphasizes that women of color, especially Black women, are leaders in this industry — as they are often overlooked. They are and always have been here, and are an inspiration for up and coming animation professionals.”

Bryan Dimas, co-founder and co-director of Latinx Animation, said: “LXiA is thrilled to partner with WIA in building pathways for more diverse voices in the animation industry, specifically for women of color. Opportunities like these that are intentional and intersectional are often limited to a smaller cohort. With WIA’s reach and the collective communities their Mentor Circles engage, we’re excited to scale our joint impact and support a vibrant generation of animation professionals.”

The program is part of WIA’s commitment to reach 50/50 in 2050 as the mentorship program connects women and gender non-binary individuals at all levels and across a variety of industry roles to mentors who can help them achieve their career goals through guidance on taking the next steps on their professional paths.

“RIse Up Animation is honored to be able to partner with WIA on the 2021 spring Mentor Circles. Mentoring the next generation of creative people of color and especially women of color in animation is a gift that we get to pay forward as industry professionals. We need to raise those diverse voices up now!,” said Rise Up Animation co-founder Monica Lago-Kaytis.

All WIA mentors receive training, experience and support from mentor coach Aydrea Walden. The 2021 spring mentor pool comprises 73% women/non-binary, with at least 48% BIPOC and 40%  based abroad.

“I’m super excited to see this round of circles reflect the amazing range of perspectives, voices, and talents that can help the animation industry continue to grow and thrive. Every single person has an amazing story to share and something unique, personal, wonderful, and important to bring to the table. I wouldn’t have been able to achieve the things I’ve achieved without some amazing mentors, and I’m thrilled to help more women connect to mentors who can help them reach their goals,” Walden said.

Mentee applications will be accepted starting March 31, and for the first time, WIA members and members of any of the mentorship partner organizations can apply for free. “We realize that our members’ financial challenges may be daunting in these pandemic times, and that mentorship support is more valuable than ever in this moment, so we diligently adjusted our budget allocations to allow for wider mentee participation without charging for access to this program in 2021,” said WIA president Marge Dean.

A silver lining to the COVID-19 quarantine was the shift to virtual meetings for Mentor Circles, inspiring WIA’s launch of a proprietary online platform to organize and manage an even wider scale of mentors and mentee groups. With 45 mentors offering their time and expertise to the 2021 program, WIA expects to benefit up to 400 mentees in this round of Circles.

Since its initial operational year of 2014, the WIA Mentorship program has grown exponentially, starting with eight one-on-one pairings and reaching 631 mentees in 2020.

“The WIA Mentorship Program is really at the core of what WIA is about. We’re so proud of the tremendous success of this program and the many careers the program has supported and inspired over the years. We’ve received endless feedback from both mentees and mentors about how the program has had a profound impact on their lives,” added Dean.

 

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8716849479?profile=RESIZE_400xTerry Matalas and Travis Fickett are penning a script for the big-screen treatment of the 1960s sitcom about a witch hiding in plain sight in suburbia.

Sony Pictures is twitching its nose as it orders early development of a movie version of the classic bewitched TV sitcom, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed.

Bewitched ran for eight seasons on ABC, from 1964 to 1972 and starred Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha, a witch who marries Darrin, a mortal (Dick York and later Dick Sargent), and attempts to become a typical suburban housewife.

Terry Matalas and Travis Fickett are conjuring up the script for the movie adaptation. Davis Entertainment is producing via John Davis and John Fox.

Sony, which owns the sitcom's rights, earlier attempted Bewitched TV series remakes, at CBS in 2011-12 and NBC in 2014, which did not go forward. Bewitched was also remade as a 2005 feature film starring Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell.

Matalas is under an overall deal at CBS and co-runs Star Trek: Picard. Matalas and Fickett are also developing the Witch Mountain remake for Disney+, again with Davis and Fox at Davis Entertainment.

Matalas and Fickett created and ran the TV adaptation of Twelve Monkeys for Syfy Channel. The duo are repped by ICM Partners. Matalas is also repped by David Kanter at Anonymous Content.

 

Article by:Etan Vlessingfor Hollywood Reporter

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8799373286?profile=RESIZE_400x“Naked Singularity,” starring John Boyega, “Socks on Fire” and “Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street” are among the selections announced for the 2021 San Francisco International Film Festival, which will take place in an all-new hybrid format.

Running April 9-18, the 64th edition of the festival will incorporate both online and in-person elements. Through the SFFILM website, audiences will be able to purchase tickets for digital screenings, Q&As with filmmakers, film parties, and industry networking events. Additionally, there will be live screenings and performances held at the Fort Mason Flix drive-in theater.

Featuring 103 films from 41 countries around the world, the festival lineup consists of 42 feature films, 56 short films and five mid-length films. Not quite feature-length and not quite a short, mid-length films will run between 30 and 50 minutes. 13 films will be making their world premiere with an additional 15 making their North American premiere. Among the full lineup, 57% of the films were helmed by female filmmakers and 57% by BIPOC filmmakers.

“The challenges of this year provided a creative and logistical obstacle course that the staff has navigated with great optimism and energy,” SFFILM Executive Director Anne Lai said in a statement. “Inspired by the wonderful films we were seeing and motivated to create a fun and easy experience for our audiences and filmmakers, we are not only able to bring everyone together both digitally and in person, but to ensure that our Festival honors and celebrates a sense of community and connectivity. More importantly, as we strive to do every year, we are thrilled to bring together some of the most daring and unique filmmaking from across the country and around the world to our audience.”

This year, “Homeroom” director Peter Nicks will receive the George Gund III Craft of Cinema Award. Established in 2011, the award recognizes a filmmaker’s distinguished service to cinema as an art form. Previous recipients include Claude Jarman Jr., Ray Dolby and Maurice Kanbar. Also, “Cryptozoo” write and director Dash Shaw will receive the Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award. Established in 1997, the award (also known as the POV award) honors artists whose main body of work is outside the realm of narrative feature filmmaking. Previous recipients include Barbara Kopple, Don Hertzfeltd and Guy Maddin.

The nonprofit event was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. First Republic Bank, Netflix, and Dolby Laboratories, Inc. will once again sponsor the event.

See the full festival lineup below:

Big Nights:

Opening Night: Naked Singularity, Chase Palmer, USA — World Premiere

John Boyega cements his leading-man status as an impassioned public defender who stumbles into a drug heist while his reality collapses all around him.

Centerpiece: Socks on Fire, Bo McGuire, USA — North American Premiere

Family tensions flare in this tenderly wrought film, as the filmmaker explores old family wounds between his homophonic aunt and drag queen uncle.

 

 

Closing Night: Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street, Marilyn Agrelo, USA

This fascinating documentary delves into the origins of the beloved children’s show, Sesame Street. With humor, never-before-seen footage, and special guests, Street Gang explores the ongoing emotional resonance of this ubiquitous series.

International Narrative Feature Films:

Abou Leila, Amin Sidi-Boumédiène, Algeria/France/Qatar

Reality becomes increasingly tenuous in this intense, phantasmagoric drama when childhood friends visit the Sahara – one in pursuit of a terrorist – during Algeria’s bloody civil war.

Censor, Prano Bailey-Bond, UK

Film censor Enid’s concern over protecting the public turns into a chilling obsession when one particular horror movie strikes a chord with her past.

Dance of the 41, David Pablos, Mexico/Brazil

Based on true events, Dance of the 41 is the forbidden love story between a politician and a lawyer that became a society scandal that roiled early 20th-century Mexico. Critics Jury Award Eligible

The Dry, Robert Connolly, Australia

Based on Jane Harper’s bestseller, this riveting Aussie mystery stars Eric Bana as an investigator burrowing into a brutal murder-suicide involving a childhood friend.

Fauna, Nicolás Pereda, Mexico

Issues of representation and performance take center stage in Pereda’s wry feature about a couple – one a Narcos: Mexico actor – on a road trip to visit her dysfunctional family. Critics Jury Award Eligible

A Leave, Lee Ran-hee, South Korea — North American Premiere

The employer/employee relationship is explored with great nuance in the story of a middle-aged man who witnesses an accident at his job. Golden Gate New Directors Competition

Nudo Mixteco, Angeles Cruz, Mexico

Converging around a Mexican village’s yearly festival, this powerful drama depicts the upheaval created when three people who left return home in this tense, empathetic drama. Critics Jury Award Eligible

Overclockers, Michal Wnuk, Poland — North American Premiere

Inventing a next-generation blimp is the goal of the brilliant but poor young aviator in this buoyant drama of friendship, romance, and the science of aeronautics. Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Science on Screen selection

The Perfect Candidate, Haifaa Al Mansour, Saudia Arabia/Germany

A female physician challenges Saudi Arabia’s patriarchal society when she runs for local office in Haifaa Al Mansour’s pointed but buoyant and hopeful drama.

Poppy Field, Eugen Jebeleanu, Romania/France

This explosive drama explores how a Romanian policeman’s hidden life impacts his response to a protest at a Bucharest cinema over a film with queer content. Golden Gate New Directors Competition

Skies of Lebanon, Chloé Mazlo, France — North American Premiere

Rich with whimsy and drama, this beautifully deft romance sets the relationship between a Swiss woman and her Lebanese astrophysicist husband against Lebanon’s civil war. Golden Gate New Directors Competition

Son of Monarchs, Alexis Gambis, USA/Mexico

A butterfly researcher in the US returns to his home in Michoacán where he reconnects with family and friends in this rich and romantic visual tapestry. Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Science on Screen selection, Critics Jury Award Eligible

This Is My Desire, Arie Esiri/Chuko Esiri, Nigeria

Using a dual storyline format to portray life in Lagos, this moving drama’s protagonists dream of emigration and flight from the teeming city. Golden Gate New Directors Competition

Tove, Zalda Bergroth, Finland

Shimmering portrait of the irrepressible bisexual artist and illustrator Tove Jansson, writer and illustrator of the globally beloved Moomins children’s book series.

Valley of Souls, Nicolás Rincón Gille, Colombia/Belgium/Brazil/France

Actor Arley de Jesús Carvallido Lobo is unforgettable in this powerful drama as a fisherman searching for his sons’ bodies after paramilitaries abduct them during Colombia’s civil conflict.

The Whaler Boy, Phillipp Yuryev, Russia/Belgium/Poland — North American Premiere

The internet brings the outside world to an isolated Russian whaling village in this involving coming-of-age tale shot through with offbeat humor and surprising pathos. Golden Gate New Directors Competition

U.S. Narrative Feature Films:

American filmmakers reveal their inspired imaginations in a variety of genres in this selection of homegrown features.

Cryptozoo, Dash Shaw, USA

Funny, sexy, and ambitious, Shaw’s hand-drawn feature captivates a far-out story of mythological creatures and the brave souls trying to protect them from harm. SFFILM Supported

Holler, Nicole Riegel, USA

Focusing on promising high-school graduate Ruthie, this coming-of-age drama is a deeply compassionate portrait of the day-to-day struggles present in America’s rust belt. Golden Gate New Directors Competition

Home, Franka Potente, Germany/Netherlands — North American Premiere

 

 

Seventeen years after committing a heinous crime, Marvin returns home, attempting to pick up the pieces of his life and find redemption before he loses his last living family member.

I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking), Kelley Kali/Angelique Molina, USA

Single mom Danny races through COVID-era Pacoima, CA, on roller skates to try to amass an apartment deposit in this poignant and humorous debut. Golden Gate New Directors Competition

Ma Belle, My Beauty, Marion Hill, USA/France

Against the backdrop of a sun-drenched summer in Southern France, a surprise reunion stirs up old memories between two women who were once polyamorous lovers.

Strawberry Mansion, Kentucker Audley/Albert Birney, USA

Whimsical and unique, this story of a dream auditor falling in love with the woman he’s scrutinizing depicts the priceless sanctuary of imagination.

Supercool, Teppo Airaksinen, USA — World Premiere

After Neil undergoes a magical transformation, he and his best friend Gilbert make unexpected alliances that cause pure mayhem in this hilariously profane, teens-gone-wild comedy.

International Documentaries:

Captains of Zaatari, Ali El Arabi, Egypt — North American Premiere

Syrian teens Fawzi and Mahmoud come of age amidst a refugee camp’s harsh conditions, forging a friendship over soccer and shared questions about love in this captivating documentary. Golden Gate Documentary Feature Competition

Cuban Dancer, Roberto Salinas, Italy/Canada/Chile

Tremendous dance sequences and a teenager’s extraordinary talent drive this captivating documentary as a top Cuban ballet student emmigrates and begins to study anew in Florida. Schools at the Festival Inclusion

The Last Autumn, Yrsa Roca Fannberg, Iceland

Director Yrsa Roca Fannberg’s intimate documentary observes a husband and wife’s final season tending their beloved flock on an isolated Icelandic sheep farm.

Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliche, Paul Sng/Celeste Bell, UK/USA

Raucous music adorns this deep dive into the life of Poly Styrene, frontwoman of the pioneering English punk rock band, X-Ray Spex.

Radiograph of a Family, Firouzeh Khosrovani, Iran/Norway/Switzerland — North American Premiere

Iranian filmmaker Firouzeh Khosrovani investigates her parents’ unusual marriage between a secular man and devout Muslim woman in this poetic documentary steeped in bittersweet history. Golden Gate Documentary Feature Competition

Seyran Ateş: Sex, Revolution and Islam, Nefise Özkal Lorentzen, Norway — North American Premiere

A rich portrait of Turkish-German radical feminist, lawyer, and imam, Seyran Ateş unfolds like a rose in a documentary that limns a life devoted to reforming Islam. Golden Gate Documentary Feature Competition

The Spokeswoman, Luciana Kaplan, Mexico

Maria de Jesús Patricio, known as Marichuy, is the first indigenous woman to run for president of Mexico. This powerful documentary follows her fraught campaign, detailing the intricacies of Mexican politics and the critical issues facing the indigenous population. Critics Jury Award Eligible

Writing With Fire, Rintu Thomas/Sushmit Ghosh, India

A trio of fearless female journalists expose rampant sexism and corruption in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh in this moving and triumphant documentary. Golden Gate Documentary Feature Competition, Schools at the Festival Inclusion, SFFILM Supported

Zumiriki, Oskar Alegria, Spain

How do you relive a memory? Oskar Alegria revisits a place from his childhood and tries to answer that question in this poetic and pastoral documentary.

U.S. Documentaries:

After Antarctica, Tasha Van Zandt, USA/Canada — World Premiere

Thirty years after leading the first-ever coast-to-coast expedition across the frigid continent to bring attention to climate change, renowned explorer Will Steger recalls that thrilling adventure. Golden Gate Bay Area Documentary Competition, SFFILM supported

Homeroom, Peter Nicks, USA

Peter Nicks celebrates the resilience and grit of Oakland High School’s class of 2020 during a year of extraordinary challenges with this compelling and immersive documentary. Schools at the Festival Inclusion

In the Same Breath, Nanfu Wang, USA/China

Meticulously documenting the origin and spread of COVID-19, Nanfu Wang’s fourth feature captures the collective trauma of this global pandemic while also celebrating human resilience. Golden Gate Documentary Feature Competition

Lily Topples the World, Jeremy Workman, USA

A young girl’s passion for building and toppling vivid domino creations leads her to YouTube stardom and a career as an artist and entrepreneur. Schools at the Festival Inclusion

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It, Mariem Pérez Riera, USA

Film clips galore unreel on screen as the indomitable Rita Moreno recalls her dramatic, topsy-turvy life and 70-year film career in this hugely entertaining documentary.

Unseen Skies, Yaara Bou Melhem, Australia/USA — World Premiere

 

 

Contemporary artist Trevor Paglen prepares his most ambitious project to date in this intimate and stunningly beautiful journey inside his mind and art. Golden Gate Documentary Feature Competition

We Are as Gods, David Alvarado/Jason Sussberg, USA

Stewart Brand, Bay Area icon and founder of the Whole Earth Catalog, continues to shape culture and technology through his progressive and unconventional approach to the environment and wildlife conservation. Golden Gate Bay Area Documentary Competition, SFFILM Supported

Mid-Length Films:

Cloudscape — Sofia Gallisá Muriente, Puerto Rico — North American Premiere

Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma — Topaz Jones/Jason Sondock/Simon Davis, USA/France/Germany/Italy

Mum Is Pouring Rain — Hugo de Faucompret, France — North American Premiere, Schools at the Festival Inclusion

Sing Me a Lullaby — Tiffany Hsiung, Canada

Tales of the Accidental City — Maïmouna Jallow, Kenya — World Premiere

Schools at the Festival:

Celebrating its 30th anniversary, the Schools at the Festival program introduces students ages six to 18 to the art of international filmmaking while promoting media literacy, deepening insights into other cultures, enhancing foreign language aptitude, developing critical thinking skills and inspiring a lifelong appreciation of cinema. This section is programmed exclusively for teachers and students.

Acorns: Tonko House Presentation — Presented by Bradley Furnish, Toshi Nakumura, and Ryusuke Villemin

Art & Science of Lucasfilm: ILM Art Direction — Presented by Tyler Scarlet

Calamity, A Childhood of Martha Jane Cannary —  Rémi Chayé, France/Denmark

City of Ghosts: Netflix Presentation — Elizabeth Ito, USA

My Octopus Teacher — Pippa Ehrlich/James Reed, USA

Short Films:

Shorts 1

This collection of narrative and new vision shorts shines a tender light on society’s frictions, from single parenting in a new country to patriarchal workplaces to the stresses of a job interview. The program features work from Germany, Ghana, the US, Lithuania, Hong Kong, Canada and Greece.

Bambirak — Zamarin Wahdat, Germany

Benjamin — Benny, Ben, Paul Shkordoff, Canada

Da Yie — Anthony Nti, Belgium/Ghana

Doretha’s Blues — Channing Godfrey Peoples, USA

Dummy — Laurynas Bareiša, Lithuania

The End of Suffering (a proposal) — Jacqueline Lentzou, Greece

Signal 8 — Simon Liu, Hong Kong

Shorts 2

Featuring a boy’s first summer fasting for Ramadan, a face-off with a comically seedy insurance agent and a chance romantic encounter on a late-night train, this fun group of narrative and animated shorts finds joy in the particularities of experience. This program features work from France, the U.S. and Sweden.

Blue Fear — Lola Halifa-Legrand/Marie Jacotey, France

Freezerburn — Sarah Rattay-Maloney, USA

The Night Train — Jerry Carlsson, Sweden

Summer Fasting — Abdenoure Ziane, France

Wiggle Room — Julia Baylis/Sam Guest, USA

Shorts 3

With care and diligence, these filmmakers have created life-affirming films that tell a wide range of stories about reconstructing memories, art therapy, call centers in Mexico and old friends. As a whole, these films address feelings of loss and the comfort we can find in one another. This program features work from France, Mexico and the U.S.

Ale Libre — Maya Cueva, USA

Dial Home — César Martínez Barba, USA/Mexico — World Premiere

If You Hum at the Right Frequency — Daniel Freeman, USA — World Premiere (SFFILM Supported)

Maalbeek — Ismaël Joffroy Chandoutis, France

Mr. Wild — Caleb Wild, USA

Since you arrived, my heart stopped belonging to me — Erin Semine Kökdil, USA — World Premiere (SFFILM Supported)

Wavelengths — Jesse Zinn, USA — North American Premiere

Shorts 4

This selection of documentary shorts features flocks of wildfire-fighting sheep, the pursuit of happiness on behalf of a pet turtle and a prison art activation from a renowned artist. Together, the films explore the effect of people and animals on their immediate environments and their environments’ effect on them.

American Wildlife — Elizabeth Lo, USA — World Premiere

Halpate — Adam Khalil/Adam Piron, USA

Last Days at Paradise High — Derek Knowles/Emily Thomas, USA

Shepherd’s Song — Abby Fuller, USA

Snowy — Alex Wolf Lewis/Kaitlyn Schwalje, USA

Tehachapi — JR/Tasha Van Zandt, USA

Shorts 5

These beautifully crafted animated shorts tell deeply personal stories of father-daughter relationships, impending unrest and finding solace. These films push the form with a shockingly artful eye. This program features work from Canada, Italy, France, China, Portugal and the UK.

The Fire Next Time — Renaldho Pelle, UK

In the Shadow of the Pines — Anne Koizumi, Canada

Sogni al Campo — Mara Cerri/Magda Guidi, France/Italy

Step Into the River — Weijia Ma, China/France 

 

Shorts 6: Family Shorts

This diverse collection of stories is sure to please the smallest members of your family, along with the young at heart and everyone in-between. Featuring a deeply moving documentary exploring race in America, a delicately animated adaptation of a Hans Christian Andersen classic, and a vertically challenged dinosaur longing to give his best friend a comforting embrace. Recommended for ages 5 and up. This section is part of the Schools at the Festival Program.

Broken Bird — Rachel Harrison Gordon, USA

A Concerto Is a Conversation — Kris Bowers/Ben Proudfoot, USA

Intermission — Freddie Claire/Simon de Glanville/Alice Jones, UK

Kapaemahu — Dean Hamer/Joe WIlson/Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, USA

The Magical Forest and the Things — Dave Russo, USA

Tiny T. Rex and the Impossible Hug — Galen Fott, USA — World Premiere

To: Gerard — Taylor Meacham, USA

Tulip — Andrea Love/Phoebe Wahl, USA

Us Again — Zach A. Parrish, USA

Shorts 7: Youth Works

Young filmmakers from throughout the world offer up fresh and daring voices in this selection of narrative, documentary and animated films. From a lighthearted and comedic vision of the apocalypse to a documentary about working and living in Kozan, Adana, Turkey, to earnest treatises on growing up through the COVID-19 pandemic, these films are an introduction to the cinematic future. This section is part of the Schools at the Festival Program.

A Cure for Humanity — Jared Fontecha/Iziyah Robinson, USA

Greta — Sofie Verweyen , USA

I hate winters. — Shivesh Pandey, India — World Premiere

Ilea — Samuel Correa, USA

Just as I am — Arianna Azzaro, Italy — North American Premiere

Kozan — İlayda İşeri, Turkey — North American Premiere

A Loco Vivid Dream — Marak Ścibior, Poland

Music for the End of the World — Emmanuel Li, UK

Stranger Strings — Ava Saloman, USA — World Premiere

Through Their Eyes — Alisha Heng, USA

What’s That Sound — Tanya Cyster, USA — World Premiere

Shorts Paired with Mid-Lengths

These shorts screening before Mid-Length selections inspire and enhance, creating synergistic pairings of bold storytelling.

Al-Sit — Suzannah Mirghani, Sudan/Qatar

Dear Philadelphia — Renee Maria Osubu, UK/USA

Here, Here — Joanne Cesario, Philippines — North American Premiere

The Snail and the Whale — Max Lang/Daniel Snaddon, UK

We have one heart — Katarzyna Warzecha, Poland

Zog and the Flying Doctors — Sean Mullin, UK

 

Article by: Antonio Ferme by Variety

Read more…

As productions gear up again with more cameras starting to roll, it’s likely that sets won’t look the same as before the pandemic. COVID protocols have emphasized working with smaller crews and experimenting with virtual and remote filming.

Location manager J.J. Levine (“The D Cut”) has also seen changes in the way sites are procured.

For the show she’s working on (it’s a dramedy, but she’s not permitted to reveal the title), Levine has mainly communicated over Zoom and FaceTime, since she could bring only a smaller scouting crew with her. “It was hard,” she says. “You’re used to asking each department, ‘What do you need to make this location work?’”

As the 1st vice president of the Location Managers Guild, Levine noted during one of the guild’s recent Coffee Tuesdays that location managers had become more interested in using apps and 3D technology for virtual walkthroughs of potential locations. It’s a technology widely used on real estate sites. But she has found that communication doesn’t always flow as smoothly when everyone isn’t in physical proximity. “There will be 20 to 30 crew department heads gathered, and sidebars will take place,” she explains, “and I’ll hear [after a location has already been scouted], ‘I need roof access.’” 

Levine wonders if she’ll soon be using her new iPhone 12, which has Lidar light detection and ranging capability, to scout locations. “I know I’m probably going to have to use it at some point,” she allows.

“American Gods” location manager John Rakish, the guild’s 2nd vice president, has also noticed a move to virtual scouting. “There’s a lot more digital photography” when scoping out a site, he says. “It’s not like before where 35 people get in a van to look at a location.” Rakish has taken to using drones to capture 3D footage, which he then sends back to directors or the scout team.

Levine says she has witnessed other changes on set, not just in scouting. For instance, before COVID-19, up to 100 crew members at a time would dine on craft services in expandable trailers. “Now we put six people in [the trailer],” she says. “One show I was working on outfitted those trailers with shower curtains as separators, and they were used as hair and makeup stations.”

Levine says that even such basics as the logistics of a car scene are impacted by health considerations. “We would normally drive around with a camera car and the car would be on a tow dolly,” she says. “But putting two people in an enclosed spaced in a COVID world — you can’t do that anymore.”

In one instance — a site in Santa Clarita that was supposed to double for Florida — the space just didn’t work under the existing conditions. But the crew found a solution with CGI: “Virtual shooting plates were used against a blue screen, and the sequence, in which a mother is teaching her daughter how to drive, was shot on a soundstage instead of on location.”

 

Levine points out that it’s not just location managers who are pivoting. Writers, too, are rethinking big background sequences. A scene that was once on the page as taking place in a crowded bar is now just a lone bartender stocking a shelf while a customer walks in. “We’re all adapting to change,” she says.

 

Article by:Jazz Tangcay for Variety

Read more…

Working in entertainment may never look the same again.

To hear numerous executives tell it, the past 12 months have shifted the paradigm for modern office life. Gone are the days of staying tethered to a desk until the boss leaves for the night. Showing up to work with a nasty cold no longer a badge of honor but a mark of disregard for your colleagues. And getting hired for a job that is headquartered in a totally different city or working remotely from a distant location might become more commonplace.

Masks, social distancing and hand sanitizer will become staples of workplace culture in the way that copy machines, water-coolers and desktop computers were once emblems of corporate life. At the same time, companies are reassessing travel budgets. Far-flung set visits, meetings on different coasts or continents, premieres in multiple locations and globe-hopping press junkets may all be a thing of the past even as it becomes safer to travel.

“Face-to-face interaction is still going to be important and can’t be replicated,” says Michael Burns, vice chairman of Lionsgate. “But I still think our approach to travel will be altered. We’ve discovered a lot of problems can be resolved via Zoom.”

To get a sense of the new contours of a business that has been battered by the pandemic, Variety spoke with dozens of entertainment industry players, almost all of whom predicted that the nature of office life and how movies and television shows are made, marketed and distributed will be fundamentally changed.

“People are fooling themselves if they think we’re going back to a pre-pandemic work lifestyle,” says Arianna Bocco, president of IFC Films. “Yes, we all want to be able to gather together again, but some aspects of our virtual existence are going to remain. It’s been an awful year, but it allowed us to think in a more progressive way about how we achieve a work-life balance by giving people more flexibility.”

Big media companies such as WarnerMedia, Disney, Amazon and Comcast have been surveying staff as they contemplate overhauling their workplaces. On the topic of reopening offices, the common refrain is “No sooner than the summer.” And that may be overly optimistic according to various executives who still express a lot of trepidation about going back in the foreseeable future.

ICM partners is a good example of how the back-to-office effort will play out once health officials offer the green light for people to gather en masse. Just a handful of its most essential workers are in office. When the agency reopens its Los Angeles headquarters and New York and D.C. bureaus, only every other workstation in its open-office areas will be occupied, reducing workspace capacity by 50% – and each station will be divided by plexiglass.

The agency’s hallways will be marked one-way-only to prevent people from passing each other in walkways and potentially contaminating airspace. Only four people can be in an elevator at any given time, restroom capacity has been limited and each floor is equipped with hand sanitizer stations. Masks are a must, obviously. When employees trickle back in, they can expect to be welcomed with PPE goody bags on their desks filled with a mask, hand sanitizer, disinfectant spray and a stylus (so they don’t have to touch the buttons in the elevator with their hands). It will also contain a smart thermometer from Kinsa, which has a contract with ICM for no fewer than 600 thermometers; employees must check their temperatures daily and answer a wellness questionnaire two hours before they arrive at the office.

 

Jennifer Dodge, president of Spin Master Entertainment, a subsidiary of toymaker Spin Master, also has a temperature-check system in place. While she’s itching to get back into the studio — and even resume a life that involves trips through airport security — she does not foresee a return to her downtown Toronto office earlier than the summer. For the 20,000-square-foot studio, which employs 70 full-time employees, she has modeled out a few scenarios that include staggered seating arrangements and fewer seats in boardrooms.

“[There’s the] hoteling approach, where people just come in and grab a desk that’s socially distant,” says Dodge. “Then others will be planned out: having certain productions coming in on odd days and certain productions coming in on even days, for instance.”

Former Lionsgate motion picture group chief Erik Feig just signed a five-year lease for a bigger, airier office for his shingle Picturestart, after the pandemic nudged him toward not renewing the lease at the company’s current space. The free-standing building will feature “revamped airflow systems.” And he, like others, is installing distanced workstations and plexiglass dividers, and asking for self-reported temp checks.

But Feig, for one, misses the “casual serendipity” of running into people in the office. “I’ve always found unplanned encounters are the most fruitful kinds of things that end up happening,” he says. “So we wanted to have a place that was a wider space than what we would normally have thought.”

Whether everyone will want to physically come back to work is another matter. Studies suggest that between 15% to 30% of staff would prefer not to return to the office full time, and that desire is leading corporations to come up with novel ways to accommodate their rank and file. Among the ideas being discussed are allowing staff to work remotely for at least one to two days per week or to occupy shared office spaces that they would sign up to use on certain dates. Even those spaces might look different. Instead of a desk, a chair and a phone, there might be collaborative rooms where several colleagues could gather to tackle projects.

Nearly 80% of ViacomCBS’ more than 20,000 staffers will work in a hybrid environment after the pandemic — up from the 70% it previously disclosed — with most employees sharing desks at the office and working part of the week from home. The model is intended to offer flexibility but also give the merged Viacom and CBS the chance to cut real estate costs as it seeks out synergies over the next few years.

Freeform president Tara Duncan, who stepped into her role at the top of the cable network in June, has not yet set foot in the company’s Burbank headquarters. But she connected with her new staff through team-building activities like virtual cooking classes and cocktail nights.

“It’s been completely bizarre,” she says. “I work in my dining room, where I joke with the team that it feels like I’m in an episode of ‘Black Mirror.’ But I have to say, there’s also been something nice about everyone dropping a little bit of the office guard, if you will.”

Hollywood-Post-Pandemic-Workplace-Variety-Cover-Story-2.jpg?w=819https://variety.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Hollywood-Post-Pandemic-Workplace-Variety-Cover-Story-2.jpg?resize=120,150 120w, https://variety.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Hollywood-Post-Pandemic-Workplace-Variety-Cover-Story-2.jpg?resize=240,300 240w" alt="Lazy loaded image" width="819" height="1024" data-lazy-loaded="true" />
Brian Rea for Variety

Industrial Media CEO Eli Holzman had an oracle that sounded the pandemic alarm earlier than most, one that came in the form of colleague Matt Sharp, the CEO of Sharp Entertainment, a division of Industrial Media. Sharp is the unscripted TV powerhouse behind “90 Day Fiancé,” “Man v. Food,” and most notably, a NatGeo show about people preparing for the end of the world. Sharp phoned Holzman in late January 2020; Holzman recalls him saying, “Listen, keep in mind: I created ‘Doomsday Preppers,’ and I’m a little paranoid. But if they close the schools here in New York, my editors won’t be able to do their jobs.”

Industrial Media switched to a remote, cloud-based editing system in February ahead of the lockdowns. Now, Holzman has become more open to conducting business from afar.

“We hired lots of people that we’d never met in person,” he says. “Borders are drawn by people, by government. They don’t actually corral talent. There is a great opportunity to work with people from around the world.”

Hollywood is an industry that runs on power lunches and premieres, where handshakes and hugs are ubiquitous. That will likely change given how much more conscious people are, after months of avoiding COVID-19, of the way diseases spread.

“I’m never going anywhere without sanitizer,” says Eric B. Fleischman, the producer of “Sleight.” “I feel like all of us have become Howard Hughes, washing our hands obsessively with the bar of soap that our mother gave us.”

Fleischman says movie sets, where cast and crew members often spent hours huddled together in confined spaces or combing over the food at the craft services table, were often a hotbed of colds, flus and other diseases. Going forward, productions are expected to take a different approach, encouraging people to stay home if they’re not feeling well.

 

 

But don’t expect those expense-account meals at the Four Seasons to vanish. Many of those interviewed were quick to point out that TV and film is a “relationships business.”

“Lunches are the things that are going come back very strong, very fast, because lunches are where those personal relation- ships are established that go a little beyond just this project or that project but ‘How are your kids doing? How’s your family doing?’” says CBS Entertainment chief Kelly Kahl. “Those things are important. That’s also a great part of our business. The relationships, not just in the company but outside the company. And that really feels like it’s suffering.”

The loss of building a rapport doesn’t just apply to high-powered studio and network executives.

“When I was still an assistant, lunch culture and coffee culture was massive for my network,” says TV writer and #PayUpHollywood co-founder Liz Alper. “There’s such a tremendous loss because it’s so hard to make a personal connection over video. … What you’re missing is energy.”

That extends to post-production work. Filmmakers figured out ways to finish their films remotely even as communities went into lockdown last spring, but they missed the spirit of teamwork that exists in the editing bay.

“Film is a collaborative process, so nothing replaces being in person to exchange ideas and vibe off these artists,” says Diane Paragas, director of “Yellow Rose.” “The editing process in the beginning is the easiest to do remotely since the editor can make their initial cuts, but as it gets more into the finer cuts, I find it better to do it in the same room, where you can audition different takes or alternate shots.”

Zoom may be part of the fabric of the future, but junior execs and assistants are likelier to feel the pang of not being in the office, which can function as a critical milieu for observing industry veterans thriving in their natural habitats. And where a shared elevator ride or break room encounter might have served as a useful way to exchange pleasantries, younger staffers are now challenged with finding new opportunities to get on the radar of top brass.

“I think working from home has been challenging, specifically for younger agents who are building their careers and their relationships,” says ICM partner Adam Schweitzer, managing director of talent and branding. “Not having that in-person [relationship] with the buyers who they typically work with, or want to get to know, is hard.”

The brave new world has made buyers and managers more accessible online, however, and the agency can hold bigger meetings with studios, networks, production and management companies. “You wouldn’t necessarily go out to lunch with someone and bring 10 colleagues along, but it’s easy to put them on a Zoom and give your younger colleagues the opportunity to have access and a bit of face time,” he says.

For TV writers, the marathon video sessions that have replaced physical writers’ rooms have been exhausting. It isn’t the same, many say, in a creative profession that feeds off the energy in the room. Still, says Alper, some writers are discussing the possibility of moving out of state to be closer to family should the virtual environment persist. “I think we’re going to be on the Zoom model for a very long time,” she predicts. “It’s saved the studios a lot of money and they like that. They like having a reason to cut their costs wherever they can.”

Since production resumed last summer at a time when the pandemic showed no signs of abating, movie and TV sets have taken on a very different atmosphere.

“The work got more efficient,” says producer of “Get Out” and “The Purge.” “There’s not a lot of chitter-chatter and socializing. People want to get in there, get the work done and get home so they can take their mask off.”

Keeping the cameras rolling during the COVID lockdown has been excruciatingly challenging, leading filmmakers to be that much more resourceful.

Collaborators and friends Natalie Morales were fed up with quarantine and eager to get back to work after several projects they were supposed to shoot were scuttled or delayed indefinitely as production ground to a halt and forced the actors to remain largely confined to their homes. But last summer, Duplass and Morales were among the first wave of filmmakers who figured out a way to get back to work during the pandemic. Using the advice of health experts, the pair shot a low-budget movie, “Language Lessons,” that used a small ensemble of actors and a skeletal crew. Some precautions, such as applying their own makeup and handling costumes, were a concession to a raging public health crisis. Other elements of the scrappy production helped them shoot more economically and more efficiently in ways that could help shape the industry’s approach to post-pandemic work.

 

 

“As I went forward in this business, the budgets got bigger and the size of the sets grew,” says Duplass. “The pandemic forced me back down to working minimally just to be safe. But it also ended up revitalizing me and reminding me of what it was like when I was making the props myself and hanging the lights myself and doing my own hair and makeup and all of those things. There is a place for that moving forward. There needs to be a resurgence of this kind of streamlined approach, because it will free up budgets and that will free us creatively.”

It’s been nearly a year since the pandemic forced filmmakers like Duplass and Morales off the set and into an unprecedented period of isolation. However, there are signs that society, with the help of critical scientific advances, is sucking the air out of a virus that upended cultural life and reshaped the media and entertainment industry.

Vaccinations are rising, and COVID-19 cases, at least in the U.S., are declining. More movies and shows are going into production than at any time since the pandemic struck, and with cinemas reopening in cities like New York, there’s a sense that Hollywood is easing back into the old ways of doing business.

The COVID protocols that have been instituted on sets have been largely effective, but they are costly, adding as much as $10 million to $12 million to the budget of a major tentpole release, while tacking on an additional 15% to the film’s budget. That’s expected to be the cost of doing business for the foreseeable future. But that’s not the only financial challenge.

Even as the pandemic recedes, there will be no going back to normal anytime soon in the world of film production. Producers have had a hard time planning projects without knowing how exactly they will reach audiences. Even when in-person film festivals return and theaters are fully reopened, there will still be a lag in the production pipeline.

“We’re a good 18 months — even with the best news in the world — before people feel comfortable with the production plan they might have had in place two years ago,” says Jean Prewitt, president and CEO of the Independent Film & Television Alliance.

The IFTA is keenly focused on the issue of production insurance, which affects midrange independent films more than any others. Major insurance carriers are refusing to cover losses associated with the COVID pandemic. And even when vaccines are widely available, insurers will exclude coverage for future pandemics.

“So many indie producers have their hands tied,” says Rob Paris, president of Rivulet Media, which recently produced “Please Baby Please” with Demi Moore. “They can’t get bonded and they can’t find insurance policies that cover them. A lot of movies without major distributors and deep pockets behind them are struggling to get made.”

Brian Kingman, managing director of the entertainment practice at Arthur J. Gallagher, says he got a call from a well- known producer who was planning to have his whole cast and crew vaccinated in Israel, and wanted to know if he could get COVID coverage.

“And my answer is no,” Kingman says. “There’s just no insurance or reinsurance support in the marketplace to allow for coverage of COVID-19 or any other pandemic.”

Some smaller projects have been able to go without COVID coverage. They tend to build into the budget a contingency to cover a possible shutdown, and front-load the scenes with the bigger actors in hopes of getting them to finish their work as quickly as possible.

“And then you’re just running for it, going as fast as you can and just trying to get through it,” Prewitt says.

Movies and shows that have shot during the pandemic also learned to stage ensemble scenes in the first days of filming because those are the hardest to reschedule if disaster strikes.

“You have to get creative and be flexible, because there’s always the danger of getting shut down and not being able to reassemble your actors at a later date,” says Dylan Sellers, president of Limelight, the producer of “Palm Springs.” “It’s a lot easier to find time to get one actor to come back and shoot something. It’s much harder to bring back two or three.”

But that kind of creative scheduling might not be enough for a larger project — say, more than $5 million — that needs financing from a commercial bank, which has always required insurance for such contingencies. Larger studios are able to get along without COVID coverage (though they may not like it), but the projects in the middle are in big trouble.

“The true independent producer is kind of in a jam,” Kingman says. “The unfortunate thing is that’s where some of the best movies come from.”

Another key question is whether film productions can require crews to be vaccinated. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced in December that employers can require vaccines However, Republicans in state capitals around the country are pushing bills that would prevent employers from issuing such a requirement.

“That could result in different rules in different states that companies would have to look at in deciding where to shoot films,” says Ivy Kagan Bierman, a labor attorney who works with several studios and production companies.

Even in liberal states like California, it could still become tricky to fire someone or deny them a job because they refuse to get the vaccine. The person could claim that demand goes against their religion, or that they have an underlying health issue that prevents them from getting vaccinated.

“There’s no protected class for anti-vaxxers,” Bierman says. “But there are other protected classifications. We are already starting to see some claims related to COVID based on age discrimination.”

Trade unions played a critical role in negotiating COVID safety protocols and would likely weigh in on any vaccine requirement. SAG-AFTRA did not comment on whether it would oppose such a mandate.

Hollywood could help shape the cultural understanding of the COVID pandemic, says Joshua Loomis, author of “Epidemics: The Impact of Germs and Their Power Over Humanity.” Loomis pointed to three potential historical parallels: the influenza pandemic of 1918; the polio outbreaks in the ’30s-’50s; and the AIDS epidemic of the ’80s and ’90s. Though the Spanish flu killed more than 50 million people worldwide, few movies or books were made about it in the decades that followed.

“People just wanted to forget it,” Loomis says.

In the case of polio, Hollywood took a leading role in raising money for the March of Dimes and celebrating the medical professionals who fought the disease. During the AIDS epidemic, Hollywood helped foster empathy with the suffering of its victims in films like “Philadelphia” and “The Ryan White Story.” So far, Loomis believes that the polio experience provides the best guide to how Hollywood will address COVID-19. As an example, he noted that the Golden Globes invited first responders to attend the ceremony, much the way that Hollywood celebrated the nurses and doctors who fought polio.

“The focus becomes on these amazing heroes — these frontline workers that dealt with unimaginable hardship,” Loomis says.

In each public health crisis — even in the AIDS epidemic — Hollywood has also avoided the harshest realities of the disease. Loomis expects that will be the case this time as well. A movie could be made about the race to invent the COVID vaccine, but probably not one about the realities of intubation or life inside a nursing home as residents die one after the other. Other producers and filmmakers believe that, at least initially, audiences won’t have much appetite for content that grapples with a plague that society just spent more than a year battling. Instead, many producers are focused on making escapist films or programs.

“Stories that are more uplifting and optimistic will be at a premium,” predicts Milan Popelka, chief operating officer of FilmNation, the company behind “Arrival” and “Late Night.” “There’s more than enough stress in the world. I don’t think people will be interested in watching something that adds to their stress levels.”

What awaits on the other side of this COVID crucible remains to be seen, but everyone seems to agree that many aspects of Hollywood life as it relates to customs and cultural norms will inevitably look different.

“No one has a crystal ball, but I would imagine that nothing will look the same way it did pre-pandemic, and that’s in almost every category you could list,” says Adam Fogelson, chairman of STXFilms.

But as Hollywood focuses on redefining the workplace, more productions get rolling and movie theaters on both coasts begin opening their doors, there is good reason to be hopeful that brighter days are ahead.

“It’s been a very long tunnel that we’ve gone through,” says John Fithian, head of the National Assn. of Theatre Owners, “but we’re finally starting to see the light at the end of it.”

 

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The filmmaker also discusses the creative environment at Marvel, shooting Paul Bettany’s philosophical duel and how time functioned inside Wanda’s hex.

 

[This story contains spoilers for WandaVision.]

In August 2017, Matt Shakman received a fortuitous call from Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige regarding a general meeting. The request was just a few days after Shakman’s directorial debut on Game of Thrones blew away viewers across the world (as well as the Lannister army). From there, Shakman met with Feige and eventually pitched his take on WandaVision, which, at the time, was slated to be the studio’s second series on Disney+. Now, four-and-a-half years later, Shakman is finally able to reflect on the road to WandaVision’s closing credits and the secrets he’s been closely guarding.

After a tragic farewell between Wanda and Vision in Avengers: Infinity War, Shakman was eager to give the two characters a goodbye scene on their own terms. It may have led to another sad parting, but the star-crossed lovers’ final exchange still had a hint of hope and optimism.

“We filmed it relatively early on in the process, actually. It was something that we did in the first third of shooting,” Shakman tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Paul (Bettany) and Lizzie (Olsen) have such chemistry together, and they do so well in every single genre and tone imaginable. We ask them to do all those things, but man, they sparkle when they are just together and connecting. Of course, it’s a heartbreaking scene, and it was a tough one, emotionally. We gave ourselves a lot of extra time for it because it was a tricky one to pull off.”

Since 2008, Marvel Studios has developed the most successful cinematic universe to date, and one of the key ingredients in that achievement has been the synergy between their numerous films in development and production. With the studio’s expansion into television and WandaVision being the first of thirteen (and counting) Disney+ streaming series to come, Shakman ensured continuity by working directly with the creatives behind Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Captain Marvel 2.

“The Captain Marvel 2 producer is the WandaVision producer Mary Livanos, and the writer of Captain Marvel 2, Megan McDonnell, is one of the writers of WandaVision,” Shakman explains. “So there’s a lot of direct connection there, and we were in contact with the team on Doctor Strange 2 as well. Michael Waldron, who’s writing it, also wrote Loki. So we spent a lot of time with him in Atlanta as we were overlapping production on WandaVision and Loki, and before he went off to work on Doctor Strange 2, we talked a lot about where Wanda was at. And then I talked to Sam Raimi a couple of times as we prepared to pass off the baton.”

In a recent conversation with THR, Shakman also discusses the creative environment at Marvel, shooting paul bettanys philosophical duel and how time functioned inside Wanda’s hex.

As the fan theories piled up each and every week, were you a bundle of nerves, or did you remain relatively zen about it all?

That’s an interesting question. I have to say that I was pretty zen. I was so impressed by the level of interaction and the passionate theories that people were creating. We put so much of our hearts into making this show that it was great to see people receive it with so much passion and heart. Some of the memes were hilarious; the Tik-Tok videos were fantastic. I was taken with it; I really was.

Like I told jac even though I love The Devil’s Advocate, I’m glad that the show remained faithful to its essence, which is grief.

Absolutely. I like The Devil’s Advocate too, but I think we had enough of a big bad in grief that we didn’t need Mephisto.

BRD-101-01352_R_CROP-copy-1610663492-e1610738565728-1296x730.jpg

Whenever a director is hired by Marvel, or any franchise for that matter, there are some cynical voices out there that’ll say, “Oh, they’re making a Marvel movie and not an [insert-name-of-director] movie.” But from what I can tell, you had as much autonomy as you’d have anywhere else. Was that indeed the case?

Marvel is a great place to work as a filmmaker. They are hugely supportive. I don’t know how Kevin Feige does it with all the many projects that he has going, but he makes you feel like your project is the only one he's working on. It is absolutely a place where you can be creative and think outside the box. And I think WandaVision is a testament to that. They are not afraid of taking risks, they are behind you 100 percent when you propose crazy, wacky ideas like shooting in front of a live audience. Instead of saying, “No way, we’re the most secretive place in town,” they say, “Yes, let’s figure out how to do it.” And it’s been that way since we started.

You had lunch with Dick Van Dyke at Club 33, and you picked his brain for insight into The Dick Van Dyke Show’s process way back when. Was this the same meeting where you asked for his approval to use footage from his show?

No, we didn’t. We asked about that later on. This one was merely about telling him how much we admired his career in general. Who doesn’t? He’s a legend. And it was also about how much we admired that show. We wanted to know what the secret sauce was. What was the magic behind what made it work? We wanted to see if we could borrow any of that magic for ourselves and figure out how to approach balancing what I think is a timeless show, the way Dick Van Dyke is. You really feel for that couple; you believe in Rob [Dick Van Dyke] and Laura [Mary Tyler Moore]. And yet, there’s room for it to be incredibly wacky — like tripping over ottomans or having a whole show about aliens and walnuts, the one that we referenced. It was about how do you create room for both of those things because we wanted that for Wanda and Vision. This was a love story that people were rooting for, but also had room for a lot of wackiness.

You’ve talked about Senor Scratchy’s demonic moment that was cut. There was also a CSI episode idea that was kicked around in the early days. Were there any other roads not traveled that remain appealing?

There were a lot of different thoughts. When you’re working on something as meta as this, there’s really no bad idea. So many things are discussed and so many ideas are tossed around. But ultimately, I’m really happy with what we ended up landing on. It still has meta commentary; it’s a stand-in for the audience. Jimmy (Randall Park) and Darcy (Kat Dennings) were watching the show as closely as so many people were in the real world and asking many of the same questions. But to make it an exercise in genre, too, felt like a bit of a hat on a hat, ultimately. Especially because there is another genre that we’re playing in there, which is more of the traditional MCU universe.

WFH3095_109_comp_v010_20210130_r709.1031-H-2021-1615574338-compressed.jpg]Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen)"> 

The new Scarlet Witch costume is already one of my favorite superhero costumes ever, but what made the reveal even more effective was that Wanda transitioned to it from her sad sweats. The contrast between the two looks created that extra oomph. Was this effect sheer happenstance since the depression stage of grief came right before the finale?

Not at all. We wanted the idea of this suburban mom fighting this witch. This is very much Wanda’s reality. It’s who she wants to be, and it’s what she’s chosen for herself. And the fight has come to her, but it doesn’t change what she looks like. There were versions that we played around with where she transforms into her Avengers: Endgame look, the Scarlet Witch look that we saw when she came out in episode five, with the drone, and let Hayward [Josh Stamberg] know what she thought of him. We talked about maybe having her transform into that for a few moments, but then we decided, ultimately, that it was far more satisfying to have her be in her look as a mom, a wife and a resident of this little suburban town.

FAM7030_109_TRL_comp_v005.00088192_C-copy-1615328857-compressed.jpgWhen Wanda and Vision were saying goodbye, it was dark outside, but as the magic wall barreled through the town at the same time, the businesses and homes were transformed into daylight. Did time function differently inside the hex?

It did. There are episodes that you don’t get to see, or see clips of, when Darcy and Jimmy are looking at some of the screens in the SWORD base. There are elements of what’s happening on Wanda’s show that you don’t see. It’s always 70 degrees and blue skies inside the hex, whereas outside, it’s muddy, rainy and miserable. We wanted that contrast to be there. And sometimes, it’s daytime inside, nighttime outside and vice versa, because time does work differently. It’s working off of a sitcom clock inside, as opposed to the real-world clock outside. So Wanda has made her hex into nighttime in order to tuck her kiddos into bed, say goodbye to them for the last time, and say goodbye to Vision. But then, when the hex comes over, it’s revealed that you’ve really just been in one long day, the whole day.

“We have said goodbye before, so it stands to reason… we’ll say hello again.” Was the filming of Wanda and Vision’s goodbye scene rather emotional for you and the actors?

We filmed it relatively early on in the process, actually. It was something that we did in the first third of shooting. Paul and Lizzie have such chemistry together, and they do so well in every single genre and tone imaginable. We ask them to do all those things, but man, they sparkle when they are just together and connecting. You see it in the Avenger headquarters in episode eight, when they’re on the bed together. That was the scene that launched a thousand memes, and you see it in that final scene together. It evokes their scene at Edinburgh in Infinity War, and their Civil War scene where they make paprikash. Their connection is so strong and it’s wonderful to see them together. Of course, it’s a heartbreaking scene, and it was a tough one, emotionally. We gave ourselves a lot of extra time for it because it was a tricky one to pull off.

Like all Marvel Studios projects, there was synergy between WandaVision and the other films or shows in development and production. Did the post-credit scenes require the most amount of dialogue between your inner circle and the Doctor Strange 2 and Captain Marvel 2 creatives?

Yeah, we’ve been in dialogue with them throughout, and there’s natural overlap. The Captain Marvel 2 producer is the WandaVision producer Mary Livanos, and the writer of Captain Marvel 2, Megan McDonnell, is one of the writers of WandaVision. So there’s a lot of direct connection there, and we were in contact with the team on Doctor Strange 2 as well. Michael Waldron, who’s writing it, also wrote Loki. So we spent a lot of time with him in Atlanta as we were overlapping production on WandaVision and Loki, and before he went off to work on Doctor Strange 2, we talked a lot about where Wanda was at. And then I talked to Sam Raimi a couple of times as we prepared to pass off the baton.

So just to be clear, the aerospace engineer reference was added late in the game to clarify Monica’s (Teyonah Parris) plan to re-enter the hex?

Yeah, we did reshoot some of that dialogue just to clarify what her plan was. She was getting from Darcy just how difficult the job was going to be, and that gave her the idea of who she could call and how she could get in. And that idea was a rover because Monica is an astronaut, and that’s how you would handle a similar situation in an otherworld environment, which is what SWORD is mostly dealing with. So, yeah, that’s what that was.

I love the Ship of Theseus scene between Vision and White Vision. Was that philosophical duel especially complicated to film since Paul was playing both roles?

It was complicated. Paul has an amazing stunt double, Adam [Lytle], and he went above and beyond the call of duty on that one. Normally, he’s just asked to do difficult stunts, the physical ones. But in this case, we were asking him to perform the scene with Paul and to know both the Red Vision and the White Vision’s sides as well as Paul did. That way, they could alternate, and Adam could take on the role that Paul wasn’t playing on that day. He did a brilliant job and really was a wonderful scene partner for Paul.

WandaVision was originally meant to be the fourth release in phase four of the MCU, but Covid bumped it up to first position. Is there anything you would’ve done differently had you known you’d be leading off this new phase?

No, we were always telling a relatively simple story. It’s a story about this amazing character who was learning to cope with grief, accept loss and move beyond that. So that story didn’t change regardless of when we came out. It did change in terms of the resonance of the story. When we were building it, we never could have predicted that it would come out during a pandemic, and this meditation on grief and loss has extra resonance because of that. But, no, in terms of the overall Marvel mythology, or as the MCU is rolling out, there’s nothing we would have done differently.

What was the final piece that you worked on before handing off the finale?

Gosh, I can’t even remember now. I think it was something SWORD base-related at the very end. It was a scene with Hayward, maybe.

 

Article by: Brian Davids for The Hollywood Reporter

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Star Grace VanderWaal and director Julia Hart are among those returning for a new and original musical journey.

Uma Thurman has joined the cast of Disney's sequel to Stargirl, the YA romantic drama that proved to be early hit for its streamer, Disney+.

Star Grace VanderWaal and director Julia Hart are among those returning for the follow-up, who are now joined by actor Elijah Richardson as well as composer-musician Michael Penn, the latter who is writing and perform original music for the film.

The 2020 movie, which debuted on Disney+ March 13, 2020, adapted the best-selling book by Jerry Spinelli and told of a boy living in Mica, Arizona, who wishes nothing more than an anonymous existence but whose life is turned upside down when he meets and falls for an unusual and colorful girl named Stargirl.

The new story follows Stargirl's journey out of Mica and into a bigger world of music, dreams and possibility.

Thurman will play Roxanne Martel, a musician Stargirl admires and encounters on her journey.

Hart and Jordan Horowitz, who co-wrote the initial adaptation with Kirsten Hahn, wrote the original script. Ellen Goldsmith-Vein and Lee Stollman of Gotham Group return as producers while Horowitz will produce for Hart & Horowitz’s company Original Headquarters. Hahn and Spinelli are executive producers.

Thurman is currently in production on Apple TV+ series Suspicion, a thriller based on the award-winning Israeli series False Flag. The actress, who earned an Oscar nomination for her work in Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 classic, Pulp Fiction, most recently appeared opposite Robert De Niro in comedy The War with Grandpa and in Netflix’s horror fantasy, Chambers, with Tony Goldwyn.

Thurman is repped by ICM Partners, Untitled Entertainment, Jonathan Sanders & Co., Hansen Jacobson

 

 

Article by: Borys Kit for Hollywood Reporter

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"You think it’s a joke and that we shouldn’t be so serious about it. But then there are those who latch onto it with hatred and xenophobia and use it to fuel their fear and contempt until it explodes into heinous acts," says Shannon Lee.

The daughter of the legendary Bruce Lee on Wednesday linked the drastic rise in violence against Asian Americans to the language used about the pandemic, specifically by former President Donald Trump and his supporters.

Trump was heavily denounced for repeatedly calling the novel coronavirus the "China virus" and "kung flu" during rallies; critics said such terms could lead to Asian Americans being targeted for hate crimes.

And after eight people were killed, six of them Asian women, during a shooting rampage in Atlanta Tuesday, Shannon Lee said the rhetoric was connected to the increase in violence.

"This is where 'kung flu' leads," Lee began in her Wednesday afternoon message via several tweets. "You think it’s a joke and that we shouldn’t be so serious about it. But then there are those who latch onto it with hatred and xenophobia and use it to fuel their fear and contempt until it explodes into heinous acts."

Lee continued, "This is what happens when we try to break the oneness into separate parts and decide to categorize and rank the parts as good and bad, better or worse, belonging or not belonging. What would it cost you to decide we are all one family? But really? What is lost by transforming contempt to acceptance?"

Lee concluded, "It’s time to look within and ask yourself, do I want to be at peace? Can I operate from love? Will I stand with my human family and embody the end of hate? You’re invited to the family gathering. Please join us. -Shannon Lee #stopthehate #onefamily #stopasianhate"

Attacks on Asians and Asian Americans attacks have risen dramatically during the pandemic. According to Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition that tracks violence and harassment against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the U.S., almost 3,800 instances have been reported over the past year to the organization's reporting center. The actual number of instances could be much greater.

 

Article by:Ryan Parker for Hollywood Reporter

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Academy Begins 93rd Oscars Voting

The Academy has begun its voting for the 93rd Oscars, and many films and performances are vying for spots in various categories. Nearly 10,000 members could cast their ballots by Wednesday, March 10, with nominations set to be announced on March 15.

This has been an unpredictable awards season, with few consensuses forming in the 23 categories. We may be in store for this most surprising and jaw-dropping set of nominations in quite years, with genres and languages breaking the fabric of conventional awards picks. Here are a few recommendations for consideration as ballots are filled out this weekend.

Best Picture: “Borat Subsequent Movie Film”
(Amazon Studios) – Sacha Baron Cohen, Monica Levinson, Anthony Hines

Baron Cohen made history at the Golden Globes for repeating his best actor and best movie – musical or comedy wins for the original 2006 “Borat” with dual wins in the same category for its sequel. The original “Borat” also scored an Oscar nomination for its screenplay. And with the exception of “The Hangover,” every best picture winner at the Globes has gone on to be nominated since the list expanded to 10. However, some people say that “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” is not “an awards movie” – as though there is some dictionary definition of what does and doesn’t qualify a film for consideration. I think we can dispose of previous perceptions of “awards movies” since a sci-fi flick about a romance between a mute woman and a fish-man creature took the top prize a couple of years ago.

“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” is an astounding feat of filmmaking, a movie that utilizes real people and usually gives its cast only one shot at a good take. It’s a master class in acting, with Baron Cohen and Maria Bakalova veering from outrageous acts of comedy to sweet, tender moments in their burgeoning father-daughter relationship. It’s a feminist anthem, with Bakalova’s Tutar taking the most impressive journey of the year from a sheltered girl literally living amongst animals to her country’s first female reporter. And it does it all with laughter and heart.

And if you think movies need to be “important” (again, that definition is up for grabs), consider the stakes at play: Baron Cohen returned to this character because he saw the state America was in and where we were heading, and he filmed during a pandemic to get this movie out in time for the election. “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” is outstanding entertainment, a call to action and a tale of empowerment that never feels preachy, largely because it uses comedy to highlight the difficult issues at hand. If that’s not an awards movie, I’m not sure what is. —Jenelle Riley

Best Director: Florian Zeller, “The Father”
(Sony Pictures Classics)

Navigating your own source material can be tricky, but stepping into the role of helming your first project with the talents of two former Oscar-winners, Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman, can give the most confident artist the nervous nellies. Debut filmmaker Florian Zeller’s bold vision of a man navigating memory loss blends the human conditions of fear, anxiety or heartbreak, even at times feeling like a horror film. Making a house a character can be very “try hard” to those who attempt it. Still, Zeller brilliantly utilizes his cinematographer (Ben Smithard) and production and set designer (Peter Francis and Cathy Featherstone) to bring the viewer on an enigmatic journey, where the time, place and people disconcert us. It keeps the four walls of the screen tight but never claustrophobic. —Clayton Davis

 

Best Actor: Mads Mikkelsen, “Another Round”

(Samuel Goldwyn Films)

It’s not just about that final dance number – though that alone should guarantee the Danish actor a slot here. Mikkelsen, an extraordinary talent, manages to convince the audience he’s an ordinary man stuck in a rut. So he makes a pact with his three friends to keep their blood alcohol content above 0.05 during the day – essentially, they are day drunk. It’s the kind of setup that could go very wrong or veer into raucous comedy, but Mikkelsen and filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (who previously collaborated on “The Hunt”) strike just the right tone, and the comedy-drama is allowed to soar.–JR

Best Actress: Radha Blank, “The Forty Year Old Version”

(Netflix)

The “Year of the Woman” has been celebrated by critics and on social media, and while we remain hopeful for multiple showings on Oscar nomination morning, here’s a gentle reminder that Radha Blank arrived in this cinematic year like Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) landing in her superhero stance after her crucial confrontation with Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) in episode seven of “WandaVision.” The writer, director, producer and star of “The Forty-Year-Old Version” hits on all cylinders, asserting herself as one of the most exciting, creative, artists this year. What’s been overlooked is how striking her performance is as a New York City playwright approaching her 40th birthday, desperate to have her big breakthrough, who finds inspiration in the blended world of hip hop and theater. While undeniably hilarious, Blank has magnificent moments of emotion, such as moments where she grieves her late mother or in raw discussions with her best friend Archie (played magnificently by Peter Kim). The best actress race would be elevated substantially by her inclusion. —CD

Best Supporting Actor: Will Patton, “Minari”

(A24)

The veteran Will Patton has been a staple of cinema and the theater community for decades. While Lee Isaac Chung’s deeply personal “Minari” looks to be on its way to a historic nomination day, Patton’s marvelous turn as Paul, a religious Arkansas local who is enlisted to help the Yi family, is understated and affecting. While his co-star Alan S. Kim has generated the supporting actor buzz for the film, one of the film’s key takeaways is the face of torment and pain that befalls the viewer as the Yi family passes Paul carrying a cross in the middle of the road. It’s a scene that remains engraved and one that should warrant a vote from his acting colleagues. —CD

Best Supporting Actress: Dominique Fishback, “Judas And The Black Messiah”

(Warner Bros)

“Judas” arrived a little later than some films to the Oscar race, though it hasn’t hurt Golden Globe winner and SAG nominee Daniel Kaluuya. Still, the film is perfectly poised to be at peak momentum as voting is underway, which bodes well for Fishback, who plays Deborah Johnson (later Akua Njeri), the pregnant girlfriend of Black Panther Chairman Fred Hampton. Fishback has long been a standout in projects like “Show Me a Hero” and “The Hate U Give,” and here she elevates what could have been a standard love interest into a complex, strong woman who is more than a match for Hampton. The most horrifying moment in the film plays out on her face, and it will haunt you long after the final credits.–JR

Best Original Screenplay: Alice Wu, “The Half of It”

(Netflix)

There was an embarrassment of riches when it came to original screenplays this year, particularly those written by women (see also: “Miss Juneteenth,” “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” “Palmer” and “Promising Young Woman”) but one that might not spring to the forefront of voters’ minds is “The Half of It,” Alice Wu’s high school-set, queer take on “Cyrano Bergerac.” It came out early in May 2020, and while it was a hit with critics and viewers, films starring teen characters aren’t always viewed as awards-worthy. That would be a huge disservice to the film, which manages to be smart, funny and often painfully insightful about love, sexuality and life in small-town America.–JR

Best Adapted Screenplay: M.B. Traven, Rory Haines, Sohrab Noshirvani, “The Mauritanian”

(STXfilms)

Jodie Foster was one of the Golden Globes’ shockers when she won best supporting actress for her work in Kevin Macdonald’s “The Mauritanian.” With that win possibly bringing it to voters’ attention this weekend, the writer’s branch will see the value in the depth and construction of the film’s narrative beats by co-writers M.B. Traven, Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshirvani. The United States government’s role in the injustice that wreaked havoc on Mohamedou Ould Salahi’s life (played exceptionally by Tahar Rahim) is examined with no political bias, only seeing the sins of his accusers brought to the forefront by its recount. Based on the novel “Guantanamo Diary” by Salahi himself, you find the hope of a better world in its tender moments shared between Foster and Rahim, and again in the motivations and dialogue with co-stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Shailene Woodley. The film demands better from humanity. —CD

 

 

Article by: Clayton Davis and Jenelle RIley for Variety

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“Crazy Rich Asians” screenwriter Adele Lim never thought in her wildest dreams that she would be part of a Disney animated feature, let alone one that is set in Southeast Asia.

But Disney’s newest tale, “Raya and the Last Dragon” (now streaming on Disney Plus), delivers its first Southeast Asian princess, Raya, a warrior who sets out across the mythical realm of Kumandra as she seeks out the last dragon.

Lim, who is of Malaysian descent, says: “To be a part of this where the place where I grew up was going to be the central inspiration and to have a Disney heroine, a warrior princess so that my daughter can look at and see her face reflected, means the world to me.”

The importance of Raya to Lim goes deeper than just seeing her culture represented in the feature. With a career that spans over twenty years, she has always been proud of her Malaysian heritage. “But I felt that part of me was always parked in a box somewhere because there was no space for that story,” Lim says, adding that there was never a chance to write a character that looked like her. “It would be hard to sell those stories.”’

Kelly Marie Tran Talks ‘Wonderful’ Dynamic in ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’
Writing Raya’s world came naturally to her, a process she describes like breathing. More importantly, she wasn’t the only Asian woman in the room. “I can’t tell you the number of amazingly talented artists we had on this movie. They could put their hearts and souls and their history into the film,” Lim says.

Another aspect Lim was delighted to bring to life and see represented on screen was the food which served to the authenticity of the film. “Any scene with Southeast Asians is food. We are obsessed with it,” says Lim. It was head of story Fawn Veerasunthorn who Lim says jumped at any chance to do the food scenes. With a large team of story artists and visual development artists behind the scenes, Lim says, “You can see how lovingly they picked the food. It was wonderful and exciting, but that’s what brings us joy, and that is the language of love.”

The timing of “Raya and the Last Dragon” could not be more relevant as anti-Asian hate crimes rise in America.

Actress Kelly Marie Tran, who voices the lead character, hopes the film will be cathartic for the Asian community and give them something to celebrate. Tran stresses the importance of representation and understands that hope is rare. She says, “What’s so cool with Raya is that [it’s being released] in the midst of this brokenness, and amid this horrible, emotional tumultuous time for people like us and people of Asian descent.” Tran continues, “I’m proud of being part of a moment and a movie that is celebrating where we come from.”

She is hopeful that audiences who watch “Raya and the Last Dragon,” regardless of race or socioeconomic background, will recognize that “human beings are just human beings, and we can all find compassion for one another.”

Screenwriter Qui Nguyen says the notion of any Disney film is about writing a story that is timeless. He is grateful the film will add to the conversation a message of hope. “Just like ‘Zootopia’ helped us talk about bias, and just like a ‘Big Hero 8’ helped us talk about grief, I’m excited and grateful that we get to start a conversation with our families about trust, forgiveness and about healing.”

 

 

Article by: Jazz Tangcayfor Variety 

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