Tuesday, October 17, 2017

News Briefs

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  • Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017
Han Solo "Star Wars" spinoff film finally has a title
In this Nov. 10, 2016 file photo, Alden Ehrenreich arrives at the world premiere of "Rules Don't Apply" in Los Angeles. The young Han Solo Star Wars spinoff, starring Ehrenreich in the role originated by Harrison Ford, finally has a title: “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” It is set for a May 25, 2018 release. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

The young Han Solo Star Wars spinoff film finally has a title: "Solo: A Star Wars Story."

Director Ron Howard announced the title Tuesday in a Twitter video celebrating production wrap on the anthology film starring Alden Ehrenreich as the grumpy space smuggler originated by Harrison Ford.

The film also stars Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke and Thandie Newtown and focuses on Han and Chewbacca before they joined the rebellion.

The film has had some well-known production turmoil. Deep into the shoot directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller abruptly left the project and were replaced by Howard.

"Solo: A Star Wars Story" is set for a May 25, 2018, release.

  • Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017
ASC Honors 3 Student Filmmakers At Heritage Awards
ASC Student Heritage Award winners (l-r)) Logan Fulton, Connor Ellmann, and Favienne Howsepian.
LOS ANGELES -- 

The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) announced its annual Student Heritage Award winners during a presentation at the organization’s clubhouse in Hollywood this past weekend (10/14). Three student filmmakers were singled out for demonstrating exceptional abilities in cinematography. The competition is designed to highlight the work of emerging talent, and inspire the next generation of filmmakers.

The 2017 winners are:

ASC Andrew Lesnie Student Heritage Award, Graduate Category
Favienne Howsepian from the American Film Institute (AFI) for “Snowplow”

ASC Andrew Lesnie Student Heritage Award, Undergraduate Category
Logan Fulton from Loyola Marymount University (LMU) for “Widow”

ASC Haskell Wexler Student Award, Documentary Category
Connor Ellmann
from University of Southern California (USC) for “Forever Home”

A panel of ASC members judged the entries, and the winners were selected from 13 nominees. 

“The level of cinematography we see coming from students these days seems to get more exciting and visually challenging each year,” said Kees van Oostrum, ASC president. “It’s a testament to the quality and commitment of the younger generation of cinematographers, and promises an exciting future.”

The ASC student awards are named in honor of Lesnie and Wexler, revered members of the organization. Lesnie won an Oscar® for best cinematography for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. His work on Doing Time for Patsy Cline earned an ACS Award of Distinction, as well as won the Australian Film Institute and The Australian Film Critics’ awards for best cinematography. He also won the ACS Cinematographer of the Year Award twice, for You Seng and Babe. 
Wexler earned Academy Awards® for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Bound for Glory, and received additional nominations for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (shared with Bill Butler, ASC), Matewan and Blaze. Wexler wrote, directed and shot Medium Cool, which is studied by film students worldwide for its cinéma vérité style. In 1992, he was honored with the ASC Lifetime Achievement Award.

The ASC Student Awards were inaugurated in 1999, with the Documentary category added in 2012. Past winners include Lisa Wiegand, ASC; Lukas Ettlin; Masanobu Takayanagi, ASC; Nelson Cragg; and Benji Bakshi, among many others who have become directors of photography or carved out careers in the filmmaking industry. 

  • Monday, Oct. 16, 2017
Producers Guild starts process to expel Harvey Weinstein
In this March 2, 2014 file photo, Harvey Weinstein arrives at the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. The Producers Guild of America has voted unanimously to institute termination proceedings for Harvey Weinstein. The PGA’s National Board of Directors and Officers said Monday, Oct. 16, 2017, that Weinstein has an opportunity to respond before a final decision is made on Nov. 6. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

In an unprecedented move, the Producers Guild of America has voted unanimously to institute termination proceedings for Harvey Weinstein on disciplinary grounds.

The PGA's National Board of Directors and Officers said Monday that Weinstein has an opportunity to respond before a final decision is made on Nov. 6.

The decision to move forward with the expulsion process was decided on by a group comprised of 20 women and 18 men. It comes just two days after the 65-year-old Oscar winner had his membership in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences revoked.

An email sent to Weinstein's representative Sallie Hofmeister was not immediately returned.

The guild, which has over 5,000 members and represents those in film, television and new media, also decided Monday to institute an anti-sexual harassment task force to research and propose solutions to what it calls a "systematic and pervasive problem requiring immediate industry-wide action."

"The PGA calls on leaders throughout the entertainment community to work together to ensure that sexual abuse and harassment are eradicated from the industry," said PGA presidents Gary Lucchesi and Lori McCreary in a statement.

In 2013 Weinstein and his brother Bob Weinstein were given the Milestone Award by the PGA, which is considered the Guild's highest honor and is intended to recognize those who have made historic contributions to the entertainment industry. Other recipients include Walt Disney, Steven Spielberg and James Cameron.

Weinstein has also been nominated for multiple Producers Guild Awards over the years — twice for films "Gangs of New York" and "Shakespeare in Love" and twice as a producer of "Project Runway."

The guild has terminated memberships in the past for failure to pay dues, but Weinstein is the first to have been voted for expulsion on disciplinary grounds.

  • Monday, Oct. 16, 2017
Vision Films acquires Jay Silverman feature "Off The Menu"
A scene from "Off The Menu," directed by Jay Silverman
LOS ANGELES -- 

Vision Films has acquired Off The Menu for worldwide sales, the all-new foodies’ romantic comedy starring Dania Ramirez (Once Upon a Time, Premium Rush), Santino Fontana (Frozen), Makenzie Moss (Steve Jobs), Maria Conchita Alonso (The Running Man), Jen Lilley (Days of our Lives) and Kristen Dalton (The Departed).

In Off The Menu, an unlikely heir to a Mexican fast-food franchise (Joel portrayed by Fontana) goes “cuisine” hunting for the next culinary big thing, and finds himself in a small, dusty New Mexican town where foodies come from all over the world to salivate over the authentic culinary treats of a local, feisty female chef (Javiera played by Ramirez). In the story Javiera falls for Joel.

The cast is over 50% female and Hispanic, qualifying the production for the SAG diversity agreement.

Directed by Jay Silverman, Off The Menu was written by Jennifer Goldson and produced by Bethany Cerrona and William Newman for Jay Silverman Productions. Silverman has worked as a commercial director for over 30 years and this is his second feature; his previous film Girl on the Edge hit the festival circuit and is currently airing on Showtime.

  • Monday, Oct. 16, 2017
"Game of Thrones" cast gets no scripts, star says
This file image released by HBO shows Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister in an episode of "Game of Thrones." (Macall B. Polay/HBO via AP, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

The need-to-know policy for the "Game of Thrones" cast is going to extreme lengths during filming of the series' final season. When it comes to keeping scripts under wraps, producers are taking no chances, according to Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays Jaime Lannister in the wildly popular HBO fantasy thriller.

Speaking on the Scandinavian chat show "Skavlan," Coster-Waldau revealed the unprecedented measures now being implemented to plug any leaks of top-secret story details.

He recalled that during the first couple of seasons, actors got the usual hard-copy scripts in advance. Then, to tighten security, scripts were distributed on digital files. In recent seasons, actors got their parts through verified email.

Then, a few months ago, HBO was hacked and various show files were stolen. The culprits demanded a ransom of several million dollars to prevent episodes from being leaked online.

According to Coster-Waldau, security for this final "Game of Thrones" season is the tightest yet. Actors in each scene are equipped with earpieces and are fed their dialogue to deliver, line by line.

"We're not even going to get the script," he said.

HBO has not yet announced the airdate for this eighth and final "Game of Thrones" season.

  • Friday, Oct. 13, 2017
Twitter turns over "handles" of 201 Russia-linked accounts
This April 26, 2017, file photo shows the Twitter app on a mobile phone in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
MENLO PARK, Calif. (AP) -- 

Twitter has handed over to Senate investigators the profile names, or "handles," of 201 accounts linked to Russian attempts at influencing the 2016 presidential election. The company has stepped up its efforts to cooperate with investigators after it was criticized for not taking congressional probes seriously enough.

The handover occurred this week, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to speak publicly about it.

What remains unclear is whether posts associated with those accounts have been deleted from Twitter's servers. Politico reported on Friday that the company had deleted the tweets in line with its privacy policy. Twitter had no comment on that report.

The company's policy calls for removing tweets that a user deletes on their own. But that policy also states that some tweets can survive the process. For instance, retweets of deleted tweets will remain live if the retweeter added a comment. Twitter also can't remove tweets that have been temporarily stored, or "cached," by services such as Google or reposted on other sites.

Twitter might be able to recover some information about any deleted tweets, according to another person familiar with the situation who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation. That person added that the company is working with investigators to find information that's useful.

The account handles previously hadn't been submitted in part due to legal privacy issues, the person said.

Twitter is set to appear Nov. 1 before the Senate intelligence committee at a public hearing. Both Facebook and Google have been invited to testify at the same hearing.

Twitter previously uncovered the accounts linked to Russia's Internet Research Agency — a notorious "troll farm" known for pushing out pro-Russian positions via fake accounts — by using information provided by Facebook, which found 470 Russia-linked pages or accounts. After looking for patterns linking those accounts and pages to accounts on its service, Twitter said it had suspended 22 accounts that pushed divisive social or political issues during the 2016 campaign. It found another 179 related or linked accounts and took action against those that violated its spam rules.

The company enforces an anti-spam policy against bots and human users that exhibit unusual behavior. Such flags include having multiple accounts repeatedly retweet the same posts or having multiple accounts follow or block other users.

After Twitter's initial closed-door briefing with the Senate committee late last month, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner — the top Democrat on the committee — called the company's findings "frankly inadequate " and "derivative" of Facebook's work.

  • Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017
Shares of TV providers drop as AT&T warns of video losses
This Thursday, July 27, 2017, photo shows an AT&T logo at a store in Hialeah, Fla. AT&T said Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, that it lost 90,000 video subscribers in the U.S. in the third quarter, a steeper drop than the same period a year earlier. That includes a gain of 300,000 customers in DirecTV Now, an online cable-like service that is cheaper than traditional TV. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

Signs that more people are dropping their traditional TV subscriptions weighed on TV providers' stocks Thursday.

AT&T said it lost 90,000 video subscribers in the U.S. in the third quarter. It's a steeper drop than the same period last year, even though gains from its newer, cheaper online cable-like service, DirecTV Now, are included. DirecTV Now wasn't available in the July-September quarter in 2016.

DirecTV Now added 300,000 subscribers in the quarter, so AT&T lost about 390,000 satellite TV and cable customers.

AT&T, which is also the No. 2 wireless carrier in the U.S., blames tough competition from both traditional TV providers like Comcast and newer digital-video services like YouTube TV. It also blames the impact from hurricanes and stricter credit standards for customers.

AT&T's prediction, issued after the market closed Wednesday, echoed Comcast's forecast in early September of third-quarter losses of 100,000 to 150,000 video customers due. That would be Comcast's largest quarterly loss since 2014. Comcast also blamed competition and weather.

Rising prices for traditional TV bundles and those growing digital options are increasingly driving customers online and away from traditional TV.

"It should be clear that DirecTV, like all of its cable peers, is suffering from the ravages of cord-cutting," MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett wrote in a Wednesday night note to investors.

AT&T stock fell 4.5 percent to $36.48 in afternoon trading. Shares of cable companies Comcast and Charter and rival satellite TV provider Dish also dropped.

  • Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017
Axis Studios launches London shop
A frame from BBC's "Doctor Who," which is among the projects worked on by Axis Studios.
GLASGOW, Scotland -- 

Animation and VFX collective Axis Studios has announced the official launch of its new Hoxton, London location, which will provide greater exposure for Axis Animation, Flaunt Productions and axisVFX across the U.K. capital.

Acting as a branch of the Axis Studios HQ in Glasgow, the London studio will house 10-15% of Axis Studios’ 200-strong workforce. It is located in a custom-built boutique space in Hoxton Square, neighboring London’s major tech and creative Old Street hub. 

The London studio will enable Axis Studios clients and creatives to collaborate from the U.K. capital, delivering complex productions of any volume with the backing, experience and depth of the Axis Studios team across its other Bristol and Glasgow locations.

Upcoming work at the London studio includes Netflix/E4’s Kiss Me First and SyFy’s Happy!

Paul Schleicher, executive producer at Axis Studios, commented, “The London studio is a natural evolution for Axis Studios, it gives us greater access to new and existing clients and of course some of the very best talent in the world.”

Recent engagements include the Emmy Award-winning Lost In Oz for Amazon Studios, the Royal Television Society Award-nominated visual effects for the BBC’s Doctor Who, and the Royal Television Society Award-winning Dawn of War III for Sega. 

  • Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017
Director Kosinski's film on deadly Arizona wildfire comes as California burns
In this July 2, 2013, file photo, firefighter Brendan McDonough embraces a mourner near the end of a candlelight vigil in Prescott, Ariz. McDonough, the only member of an Arizona firefighting crew to survive a deadly 2013 wildfire near Yarnell, Ariz., attended the premiere of "Only The Brave", the movie that chronicles the wildfire that killed 19 of his fellow firefighters. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- 

A movie that chronicles a 2013 wildfire that killed 19 Arizona firefighters debuts next week on the heels of another fire tragedy in California that has riveted the nation.

"Only the Brave" is based on the Granite Mountain Hotshots who died while fighting a wildfire near Yarnell, Arizona.

Actors from the movie appeared at a red carpet event in Arizona on Tuesday as relentless fires ravage wineries, rural towns and neighborhoods in Northern California — an event not lost on the cast and crew of the picture.

"When I turn the news on this morning, to see images that look like they were taken from our film, is surreal," director Joseph Kosinski said.

Fire officials say the wildfires in California have killed more than 20 people and destroyed at least 3,500 homes and businesses since they started Sunday.

Cast members Josh Brolin, Miles Teller and James Badge Dale attended the Arizona premiere with some of the firefighters' families and the lone member of the crew who survived.

On June 30, 2013, the 19 elite Arizona wildland firefighters were stationed in a relatively safe position on a ridgetop that already had burned. But for unknown reasons and without notifying anyone, they moved down the mountainside through an unburned area where they were trapped by a wall of flames when winds shifted the fire toward them.

Kosinski said he didn't want to make a sad movie and that he wanted it to celebrate the joy the men had for firefighting and the brotherhood they shared.

The lone survivor, Brendan McDonough, said seeing the movie was cathartic for him and he thought the movie "did our brothers justice."

"I think they really created an authentic film that really shows just what the job is about, what the lifestyle is, what the families go through," McDonough said.

McDonough served as the lookout for the crew when they descended into the brush-choked area. He notified the crew of the rapidly changing weather that sent winds swirling erratically and caused the fire to cut off their escape route.

Then, he swiftly left his post for safety. Fire managers have said he did exactly what he was supposed to.

Brolin plays Eric Marsh, who was the crew's superintendent and the oldest member of the group.

Brolin said he loves any project that has to do with firefighters and making people conscious that "these guys are putting themselves in peril constantly ... for the safety of their communities."

Jane Marsh, Marsh's mother, said she spent three hours with Brolin before they started filming the movie, which was shot in New Mexico.

"Even though I cried all through it when I first saw it in August, he portrayed Eric really well," Marsh said.

  • Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017
P&G, in early vote, fends off activist investor Nelson Peltz
Trian Partners hedge fund manager Nelson Peltz is interviewed by CNBC's Sara Eisen after Procter & Gamble's annual shareholders meeting, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017, in Cincinnati. (Kareem Elgazzar/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP)
CINCINNATI (AP) -- 

Initial voting results show Procter & Gamble successfully fending off an attempt by activist investor Nelson Peltz to capture a seat on its board, though he did not immediately concede, saying it was too close.

Shares in the consumer products giant are down following the vote at Procter & Gamble's headquarters in Cincinnati on Tuesday.

"We are encouraged that shareholders recognize P&G is a profoundly different, much stronger, more profitable company than just a few years ago," the company said.

Peltz's Trian Fund Management, which owns about $3.5 billion in P&G shares, said moments after the vote that it would await certified results, which appeared to have been decided by a razor-thin margin.

"This was a big fight," Peltz told CNBC outside of P&G headquarters.

Almost 40 percent of P&G shareholders are small investors, and the final result appeared to pit them against institutional investors that backed Peltz.

Trian says that P&G has underperformed its peers for a decade.

But Procter & Gamble Co. says that since David Taylor was named CEO two years ago, the company has been moving in the right direction, and that giving Peltz a seat would disrupt the work that he is doing.

Taylor, also speaking on CNBC, expressed his confidence in the company's board members.

"I think they're doing exactly what we need," he said.

Shares of P&G have jumped 20 percent since Taylor took over. Trian, which invested in the company less than a year ago, said that the shares have been pumped up by its ownership and interest.

Peltz has been on a winning streak and his influence is being felt in a number of boardrooms in the U.S.

On Monday General Electric Co. announced that Trian co-founder Ed Garden would join its board. The investment fund has pushed for years for the company to become a leaner industrial player. Trian became one of GE's biggest investors two years ago with a $2.5 billion investment.

Trian believes P&G's corporate structure has become too convoluted and it had proposed shrinking the number of overall divisions from 10, to three.