Monday, April 22, 2019

News Briefs

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  • Tuesday, Mar. 26, 2019
F2F, Deutsch, Steelhead partner again in grAD SCHOOL for underserved students
Members of the grAD SCHOOL class of 2017 with F2F founder Rachel Miller
LOS ANGELES -- 

Film2Future (F2F), a non-profit organization helping minority students gain skills and connections in the film industry, is re-shaping the advertising business. For the second year in a row, F2F will partner with creative agency Deutsch, and Steelhead, a full-service production studio, to offer it’s "grAD SCHOOL" Program.

F2F provides underserved high school students with an intensive, film-making and production course that leaves them well-positioned to meet the industry’s growing need for more diverse talent.

“I am beyond excited to partner with Deutsch & Steelhead for a second year to achieve Film2Future’s mission of building a direct pipeline of diverse young adults into the entertainment and advertising industries,” said Rachel Miller, founder of F2F. “For our 2019 class of 100% diverse, under-represented young voices, this partnership allows Film2Future to continue to provide our students with hands-on creative and technical advertising experience that directly results in jobs and a portfolio.”

The three-week intensive course, hosted at Steelhead’s state-of-the-art facility in Playa Vista, Calif., featuring a 7,000 sq. ft. sound stage and full pre/postproduction services, will introduce high school grads to the basics of the advertising industry. The summer program, which runs July 8-26, gives 15-20 students the opportunity to learn the campaign-making process from start to finish: from the advertising brief to the production of 30-second spots. The "grAD SCHOOL" course is designed to give students access, knowledge and real-world experience to bolster their portfolios. Participants will also get to produce advertising work for Deutsch clients; last year’s Film2Future students made spots for 7-Eleven which can be viewed here.

Determined to build a pipeline to bring more diversity to the creative industries, Miller founded Film2Future four years ago. Many of the program’s graduates have garnered full college scholarships and paid internships at companies including Shondaland & Netflix. 

Student Algernon Jackson, who just received a full ride into University of Wisconsin-Madison and pitched and directed F2F’s 2018 virtual reality short Do Something!, said of the program, “Film2Future is a phenomenal program that gives students the resources to accomplish their cinematic dreams. This program has motivated me in numerous ways to achieve every dream I set forth for myself. I love Film2Future!”

In addition to educational training and networking opportunities, the non-profit brings in more than 100 guest speakers per year, including entertainment heavyweights Kristen Schaal and Will Forte. Later this month, Sony Pictures Animation will host the students for a screening of Into The Spiderverse, and Q&A with the film’s directors.

Film2Future has also hired Valentia Cardenas as its first director of operations. The former Peace Corps volunteer has spent the past decade working to inspire at-risk youth through the arts.

  • Tuesday, Mar. 26, 2019
Jussie Smollett's attorneys say all criminal charges dropped
"Empire" actor Jussie Smollett, center, arrives at the Leighton Criminal Court Building for his hearing on Thursday, March 14, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
CHICAGO (AP) -- 

Attorneys for "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett said Tuesday that charges alleging he lied to police about a racist and homophobic attack have been dropped.

Smollett attorneys Tina Glandian and Patricia Brown Holmes said in a statement that Smollett's record "has been wiped clean." Smollett was indicted on 16 felony counts related to making a false report that he was attacked by two men.

Among the questions that weren't immediately answered was whether prosecutors still believe Smollett concocted the attack and whether there's new evidence that altered their view of events. Typically, a minimum condition of dropping cases is some acceptance of responsibility. In a statement, the Cook County prosecutors' office offered no detailed explanation.

"After reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case, including Mr. Smollett's volunteer service in the community and agreement to forfeit his bond to the City of Chicago, we believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case," the statement from spokeswoman Tandra Simonton said.

Smollett had made a $10,000 bond payment to get out of jail after his arrest on the charges.

Police and prosecutors have said Smollett falsely reported to authorities that he was attacked around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29 in downtown Chicago because he was unhappy with his pay on "Empire" and to promote his career.

Smollett, who is black and gay, plays the gay character Jamal Lyon on the hit Fox TV show that follows a black family as they navigate the ups and downs of the recording industry.

Smollett reported that he had been attacked on his way home from a sandwich shop. Smollett said two masked men shouted racial and anti-gay slurs, poured bleach on him, beat him and looped a rope around his neck. He claimed they shouted, "This is MAGA country" — a reference to President Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan. He asserted that he could see one of the men was white because he could see the skin around his eyes.

Police said Smollett hired two men, both of whom are black, to attack him. Police said Smollett paid the men $3,500.

The men are brothers Abimbola "Abel" and Olabinjo "Ola" Osundairo, and one of them had worked on "Empire." An attorney for them has said the brothers agreed to help Smollett because of their friendship with him and the sense that he was helping their careers.

Police have also said that before the attack, Smollett sent a letter that threatened him to the Chicago studio where "Empire" is shot. The FBI, which is investigating that letter, has declined to comment on the investigation.

  • Monday, Mar. 25, 2019
High court won't referee dispute over Michael Jordan images
In this Feb. 12, 2019 file photo, Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan speaks to the media about hosting the NBA All-Star basketball game during a news conference in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- 

The Supreme Court said Monday it won't step in to referee a copyright dispute between Nike and a photographer who took a well-known image of basketball great Michael Jordan. That means lower court rulings for the athletic apparel maker will stand.

Photographer Jacobus Rentmeester sued Nike after it used an image he took of Jordan in the 1980s as inspiration for a photograph it commissioned for its own ads. The company's photo, which was used on posters and billboards, then became the basis for the "Jumpman" logo for Nike's Air Jordan shoes. Rentmeester sued Beaverton, Oregon-based Nike in 2015 saying both the Nike photo and logo infringed on his copyright image.

Rentmeester's original photo of Jordan was taken for Life magazine in 1984, while Jordan was a student at the University of North Carolina. It shows Jordan holding a basketball in his left hand and leaping, ballet-like toward a basketball hoop. At the time, Jordan was preparing for the upcoming Summer Olympics, which were being held in Los Angeles. In the photo, Jordan is wearing the U.S. Olympic team uniform.

Both Rentmeester's photo and Nike's photo involve a basketball hoop at the right side of the image and were taken from a similar angle. Jordan's pose is similar in both photos. But in the Nike photo, Jordan is wearing the red and black of the Chicago Bulls, which he joined in 1984, and the Chicago skyline is the background. One other difference: In Rentmeester's photo, Jordan is wearing Converse.

Rentmeester cried foul, argued that the differences between his photo and Nike's were "minor," and said that nearly every original element in his photo also appeared in Nike's. Lower courts ruled for Nike.

  • Sunday, Mar. 24, 2019
Larry Cohen, director of cult horror films, dies at 77
This Oct. 30, 2006, file photo shows writer, director Larry Cohen, left, and wife Cynthia Cohen arriving for the Comcast, Sony and Lionsgate launch party for FEARnet, a multi-platform network dedicated to horror, held at the Boulevard 3 nightclub in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Phil McCarten, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

Larry Cohen, the maverick B-movie director of cult horror films "It's Alive" and "God Told Me To," has died. He was 77.

Cohen's friend and spokesman, the actor Shade Rupe, said Cohen passed away Saturday in Los Angeles surrounded by loved ones.

Cohen's films were schlocky, low-budget films that developed cult followings, spawned sequels and gained esteem for their genre reflections of contemporary social issues.

His 1974 "It's Alive," about a murderous mutant baby, dealt with the treatment of children. Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Hitchcock's frequent composer, supplied the score.

His New York-set 1976 satire "God Told Me To" depicted a series of shootings and murders carried out in religious fervor. Andy Kaufman played a policeman who goes on a shooting spree during the St. Patrick's Day parade. There were also aliens.

In Cohen's 1985 film "The Stuff," Cohen skewered consumerism with a story inspired by the rise of junk food. It's about a sweet yogurt-like substance that's found oozing out of the ground and is then bottled and marketed like an ice cream alternative without the calories. The "stuff" turns out to be a parasite that turns consumers of it into zombies.

"It wasn't just going to a studio like a factory laborer and making pictures and going home every night," Cohen told the Ringer last year. "We were out there in the jungle making these movies, improvising, and having fun, and creating movies from out of thin air without much money."

"You've gotta make the picture your way and no other way," he added, "because it can't be made otherwise."

Cohen's approach — he would often shoot extreme scenes on New York City streets without permits or alerting people in the area — made him, like Roger Corman, revered among subsequent generations of independent genre-movie filmmakers. A documentary released last year, "King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen," paid tribute to Cohen.

"Larry Cohen truly was an independent freewheeling movie legend," the writer-director Edgar Wright ("Shaun of the Dead," ''Baby Driver") said on Sunday, praising him "for so many fun, high-concept genre romps with ideas bigger than the budgets."

The New York-native Cohen began in television, where he wrote episodes for series like "The Fugitive," ''The Defenders" and "Surfside 6." New York would be the setting for many of Cohen's films, including 1982's "Q," in which a giant flying lizard nests atop the Chrysler Building.

Cohen's 1973 blaxspoitation crime drama "Black Caesar," scored by James Brown, was about a Harlem gangster. He and star Fred Williamson reunited the next year for "Hell Up in Harlem."

Cohen later directed Bette Davis' last film, "Wicked Stepmother," in 1989. More recently, he wrote the 2002 Colin Farrell thriller "Phone Booth" and 2004's "Cellular," with Chris Evans.

Cohen was often his own producer, director, writer and sometimes prop-maker and production manager. "Otherwise," he told the Village Voice, "I'd have to sit down with producers, and producers are a real pain in the ass, believe me."

  • Sunday, Mar. 24, 2019
Thousands in Germany protest planned EU internet reforms
People protest against the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market by the European Union in Stuttgart, Germany, Saturday, March 23, 2019. People fear for the freedom of the internet when users content has to pass upload filters to protect copyrights. (Sebastian Gollnow/dpa via AP)
BERLIN (AP) -- 

Tens of thousands of people have marched in cities across Germany to protest planned European Union copyright reforms that they fear will lead to online censorship.

The dpa news agency reports the biggest protest Saturday was in Munich, where 40,000 people marched under the motto "save your internet."

Thousands of others took part in smaller demonstrations in the German cities of Cologne, Hamburg, Hannover, Berlin and other cities against the bill that is being voted on this week.

The most controversial section would require companies such as YouTube and Facebook to take responsibility for copyrighted material that's uploaded to their platforms.

Proponents say the new rules will help ensure authors, artists and journalists are paid.

Opponents claim they could restrict freedom of speech, hamper online creativity and force websites to install filters.

  • Saturday, Mar. 23, 2019
Reel-y? New beer can double as motion picture film developer
In this undated photo provided by Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, cans of Dogfish's SuperEight beer are displayed on a table in Milton, Del. Kodak says the new beer hitting the market can be used to develop its Super 8 movie film. (Dogfish Head Craft Brewery via AP)
ROCHESTER, NY (AP) -- 

Kodak says a new beer hitting the market can be used to develop its Super 8 movie film.

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Delaware created its SuperEIGHT beer after a conversation with people at Kodak, the upstate New York technology company most famous for its photographic roots.

Dogfish learned from Kodak that heightened levels of acidity and vitamin C in certain beers could make them a processing agent for film. That inspired the brewery to design such a beer. Kodak helped by testing it.

Dogfish founder Sam Calagione says he'll document his summer travels on Super 8 film that will be developed in SuperEIGHT beer and turned into a short film.

The beer, made with pear, mango, berries, kiwi, quinoa and salt, is set for national distribution next month.

  • Friday, Mar. 22, 2019
Papa John's scores Shaq to help revive its image
In this June 26, 2018 file photo, Shaquille O'Neal attends the world premiere of "Uncle Drew" at Alice Tully Hall in New York. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

Papa John's has a new pitchman: Shaquille O'Neal.

The chain says the basketball Hall of Famer will appear in TV commercials and promote Papa John's in other ways. He will also join the company's board of directors and invest in nine of its restaurants in the Atlanta area.

Papa John's is trying to revive its image after the company's founder and namesake, John Schnatter, was reported to have used a racial slur during a media training session. Schnatter, who was the face of the company, has apologized for the slur and the company scrubbed his face from the company's logo and advertisements last year. Schnatter is still the Louisville, Kentucky-based company's biggest shareholder.

Papa John's International Inc. says it will pay O'Neal more than $8 million in cash and company stock for a three-year endorsement deal.

Wall Street seems to think it's a winning partnership. Shares of Papa John's soared nearly 6 percent Friday.

  • Friday, Mar. 22, 2019
Fox 2000, arm behind "Hidden Figures," to close under Disney
The exterior of Fox Studios is pictured, Tuesday, March 19, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

Fox 2000, the specialty unit behind such diverse literary adaptations as "Hidden Figures," ''Love, Simon" and "Life of Pi," is closing shop under the Walt Disney Co.

A person familiar with the decision who was not authorized to speak publicly said Thursday that Disney will complete the films currently in production, but that no more will be made under the label. One under way is "The Woman in the Window" with Amy Adams and Gary Oldman.

Fox 2000 films like "The Fault In Our Stars," ''The Devil Wears Prada" and "Marley & Me" will continue to live in Disney's library.

Thursday came with many layoffs for Fox executives in the wake the Disney acquisition, but it remains unclear what's in store for Fox 2000 president Elizabeth Gabler or her team.

  • Thursday, Mar. 21, 2019
MillerCoors sues Anheuser-Busch over Super Bowl corn syrup ads
This undated file image provided by Anheuser-Busch shows a scene from the company's Bud Light 2019 Super Bowl NFL football spot. (Anheuser-Busch via AP, File)
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- 

A fight between beer giants escalated Thursday after MillerCoors filed a lawsuit against Anheuser-Busch that accused its rival of trying to "frighten" consumers into switching to Bud Light with "misleading" Super Bowl ads.

MillerCoors said in the lawsuit filed in Wisconsin federal court that St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch has spent as much as $30 million on a "false and misleading" campaign, including $13 million in its first commercials during this year's Super Bowl . The ad showed a medieval caravan pushing a huge barrel of corn syrup to castles for MillerCoors to make Miller Lite and Coors Light. The commercial states that Bud Light isn't brewed with corn syrup.

Chicago-based MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch have the biggest U.S. market share at 24.8 percent and 41.6 percent, respectively, but they've been losing business in recent years to smaller independent brewers, imports, and wine and spirits, according to the Brewers Association.

Anheuser-Busch's ad drew a rebuke from the National Corn Growers Association, which thanked MillerCoors for its support. In its lawsuit, MillerCoors said it's "not ashamed of its use of corn syrup as a fermentation aid."

Corn syrup is used by several brewers during fermentation. During that process, corn syrup is broken down and consumed by yeast so none of it remains in the final product. Bud Light is brewed with rice instead of corn syrup, but Anheuser-Busch uses corn syrup in some of its other beers, including Stella Artois Cidre and Busch Light.

Responding to the lawsuit, Anheuser-Busch said its campaign is truthful and designed to bring consumers "transparency" about what's in the beer they drink.

"MillerCoors' lawsuit is baseless and will not deter Bud Light from providing consumers with the transparency they demand," said Gemma Hart, the vice president of communications at Anheuser-Busch. "We stand behind the Bud Light transparency campaign and have no plans to change the advertising."

MillerCoors maintains Anheuser-Busch is preying on health conscious consumers who have negative connotations of corn syrup, sometimes confusing it with the high-fructose corn syrup in sodas.

"Anheuser-Busch is fearmongering over a common beer ingredient it uses in many of its own beers, as a fermentation aid that is not even present in the final product. This deliberate deception is bad for the entire beer category," Marty Maloney, a MillerCoors spokesman, said in a statement.

MillerCoors wants a judge to order Anheuser-Busch to stop the ads and to give MillerCoors any profits it earned as a result of the campaign. Besides the television commercials, Anheuser-Busch has spread its campaign through social media, full-page newspaper ads, and billboards placed in Milwaukee.

MillerCoors said its competitors campaign is intended to "irreparably harm" the company's reputation.

The feud threatens to disrupt an alliance between the two companies to work on a campaign to promote the beer industry amid declining sales.

  • Thursday, Mar. 21, 2019
Facebook left millions of passwords readable by employees
In this Aug. 21, 2018, file photo a Facebook start page is shown on a smartphone in Surfside, Fla. Facebook said Thursday, March 21, 2019, that it stored millions of its users’ passwords in plain text for years. The acknowledgement from the social media giant came after a security researcher posted about the issue online. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- 

Facebook left millions of user passwords readable by its employees for years, the company said Thursday , an acknowledgement it offered after a security researcher posted about the issue online.

By storing passwords in readable plain text, Facebook violated fundamental computer-security practices. Those call for organizations and websites to save passwords in a scrambled form that makes it almost impossible to recover the original text.

"There is no valid reason why anyone in an organization, especially the size of Facebook, needs to have access to users' passwords in plain text," said cybersecurity expert Andrei Barysevich of Recorded Future.

Facebook said there is no evidence its employees abused access to this data. But thousands of employees could have searched them. The company said the passwords were stored on internal company servers, where no outsiders could access them.

The incident reveals yet another huge and basic oversight at a company that insists it is a responsible guardian for the personal data of its 2.2 billion users worldwide.

The security blog KrebsOnSecurity said Facebook may have left the passwords of some 600 million Facebook users vulnerable. In a blog post , Facebook said it will likely notify "hundreds of millions" of Facebook Lite users, millions of Facebook users and tens of thousands of Instagram users that their passwords were stored in plain text.

Facebook Lite is a version designed for people with older phones or low-speed internet connections. It is used primarily in developing countries.

Last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg touted a new "privacy-focused vision " for the social network that would emphasize private communication over public sharing. The company wants to encourage small groups of people to carry on encrypted conversations that neither Facebook nor any other outsider can read.

The fact that the company couldn't manage to do something as simple as encrypting passwords, however, raises questions about its ability to manage more complex encryption issues — such in messaging — flawlessly.

Facebook said it discovered the problem in January. But security researcher Brian Krebs wrote that in some cases the passwords had been stored in plain text since 2012. Facebook Lite launched in 2015 and Facebook bought Instagram in 2012.

Recorded Future's Barysevich said he could not recall any major company caught leaving so many passwords exposed internally. He said he's seen a number of instances where much smaller organizations made such information readily available — not just to programmers but also to customer support teams.

Security analyst Troy Hunt, who runs the 'haveibeenpwned.com' data breach website, said that the situation is embarrassing for Facebook, but that there's no serious, practical impact unless an adversary gained access to the passwords. But Facebook has had major breaches, most recently in September when attackers accessed some 29 million accounts .

Jake Williams, president of Rendition Infosec, said storing passwords in plain text is "unfortunately more common than most of the industry talks about" and tends to happen when developers are trying to rid a system of bugs. He said the Facebook blog post suggests storing passwords in plain text may have been "a sanctioned practice," although he said it's also possible a "rogue development team" was to blame.

Bajak reported from Boston.

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