Saturday, May 25, 2019

News Briefs

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  • Monday, Feb. 11, 2019
Michael Jackson estate: New film violates channel standards
In this Jan. 24, 2019, file photo, Wade Robson, from left, director Dan Reed and James Safechuck pose for a portrait to promote the film "Leaving Neverland" at the Salesforce Music Lodge during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP, File)

The Michael Jackson estate has sent a letter to the U.K.'s Channel 4 warning that a documentary on two men who accuse the singer of molesting them as boys violates the network's programming guidelines.

The letter written by estate attorney Howard Weitzman and released Monday to The Associated Press states that "Leaving Neverland," set to air in early March, makes no attempt at getting a response to the accusers from Jackson's estate, family, friends or others who have defended his reputation as required by the channel's standards for factual programming and basic journalistic ethics.

The letter cites a section of the publicly available guidelines that state if a show makes "significant allegations" then "those concerned should be given an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond."

"I think we can all agree that the false allegations being made in your 'documentary' are 'significant allegations,'" the letter states, adding "it is hard to imagine more significant accusations that can possibly be made against anyone."

Yet no one was ever asked to respond, the letter states.

"This includes persons mentioned by name in your 'documentary' as having 'replaced' Robson and Safechuck as Jackson's supposed victims of abuse. Those named persons eloquently and publicly deny ever being abused," the letter states.

Channel 4 said in a statement Monday that the allegations against Jackson are rebutted in the documentary by denials that Jackson made during his lifetime. It says the broadcast meets Britain's official broadcasting code by providing these denials.

"On this occasion the person against whom the significant allegations are being made is deceased. It is therefore appropriate that his denials during life are included in the program," the station said.

The film's director Dan Reed has addressed the criticism from the estate previously, saying in a statement that he intentionally focused on just Robson and Safechuck.

"Anyone who sees the film will know it is solely about hearing the stories of two specific individuals and their families in their own words, and that is a focus we are very proud of," Reed said.

The three-page document from the estate echoes a longer letter it sent to HBO on Friday calling the allegations from Wade Robson and James Safechuck "disgraceful" and urging investigation of the men's backgrounds. A copy of the HBO letter was included with the Channel 4 letter, and applies just as much to the U.K. station, the letter states.

The two channels co-produced the documentary account of how the two men's lives intersected with Jackson's when they were kids at the height of his fame, and how the trauma of what they say happened in their youth started to emerge in their adult life.

It premiered last month at the Sundance Film Festival, where Robson and Safechuck got a standing ovation afterward.

Both had previously told authorities Jackson did not molest them, with Robson testifying as much in Jackson's 2005 trial, in which he was acquitted of molesting another boy. Jackson died in 2009.

Both men later filed lawsuits that were dismissed and are currently on appeal.

The AP does not typically name victims of sexual abuse, but attorneys for Robson and Safechuck have said they have agreed to be named publicly.

Associated Press writer Gregory Katz in London contributed.

  • Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019
Streep joins "Big Little Lies" after being fan of show
Nicole Kidman, left, and Meryl Streep participate in the "Big Little Lies" panel during the HBO portion of the TCA Winter Press Tour on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019, in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -- 

Meryl Streep's self-professed addiction to "Big Little Lies" had the bonus of turning the Oscar-winning actress into a star of the HBO drama's second season.

"I loved this show. I was addicted to it. I thought it was an amazing exercise in what we know and don't know about people — about family, about friends, about how we flirted with the mystery of things," Streep said Friday. "I wanted to do it to be in that world. The world they created was amazing."

In the seven-episode season beginning in June, Streep plays Mary Louise Wright, mother-in-law to Nicole Kidman's Celeste, whose abusive husband, Perry, died at the end of season one.

David E. Kelley, who wrote both seasons, joked that the much-acclaimed Streep had to pass muster to get the role.

"We looked at Meryl's demo reel," Kelley told a TV critics meeting. He noted that the character of Mary Louise was created by Liane Moriarty, whose novel "Big Little Lies" was adapted for the original season.

Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon return as executive producers and stars of the drama set in Monterey, California. Returning co-stars Laura Dern, Zoe Kravitz and Shailene Woodley comprise the so-called "Monterey Five" circle, joined together by dark secrets.

"We had such a good time doing it, and the desire to spend more time together had a lot to do with it," said Kidman, explaining the drama's return. "Also, there was an enormous demand from the audience ... It was generated by the audience, and the desire to see these people still in existence."

She noted the rarity of a series with so many female leads — let alone produced by and, this season, directed by a woman, Andrea Arnold — and the cast said the camaraderie they enjoyed last season was repeated.

Asked who proved the best storyteller in their off-camera moments, Streep's co-stars chorused, "Meryl!"

Streep modestly waved off the compliment, then added: "What happens in Monterey, stays in Monterey."

  • Friday, Feb. 8, 2019
"Wicked" movie musical to fly into theaters Christmas 2021
In this March 8, 2015, file photo, director Stephen Daldry attends the Broadway opening night of "The Audience" at The Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre in New York. Universal Pictures said Friday, Feb. 8, 2019, that the long-awaited movie version of the hit musical “Wicked" will land in theaters on Dec. 22, 2021. It had originally been on the schedule for this December.(Photo by Greg Allen/Invision/AP, File)

The winds have changed again for the long-awaited movie version of the hit musical "Wicked."

Universal Pictures says Friday that the film will land in theaters on Dec. 22, 2021. It had originally been on the schedule for this December.

Stephen Daldry is still set to direct the film, with Marc Platt producing.

Based on a 1995 book by Gregory Maguire, "Wicked" is a reimagining of "The Wizard of Oz" told from the perspective of the witches.

Winnie Holzman and Oscar-winning composer and lyricist Stephen Schwartz are reteaming for the screenplay adaption. Platt, Holzman and Schwartz all worked on the Broadway show which debuted in 2003. The original Broadway production went on to win three Tony Awards.

  • Friday, Feb. 8, 2019
"Free Solo" film about El Capitan conquest gets TV debut
Alex Honnold participates in the "Free Solo" panel during the National Geographic portion of the TCA Winter Press Tour on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019, in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -- 

Makers of the "Free Solo" documentary about Alex Honnold's unaided climb up the rock face of Yosemite's El Capitan say they would have still made the film if Honnold had slipped and fell to his death.

Film editor Bob Eisenhardt said Friday the possibility had been discussed. He said that he believed the film would have been completed to honor Honnold's memory.

"We were going to make it either way," he said at a news conference where The National Geographic network said "Free Solo" will make its television debut March 3. It will be shown without commercials.

The pulse-pounding film about his quest has been nominated for an Academy Award and been a box office smash in a strong year for documentaries, second only to "Won't You Be My Neighbor" in earnings.

Honnold achieved his remarkable feat in just under four hours in June 2017. Without ropes or harnesses, he climbed using his chalk-dried hands and climbing shoes, grabbing onto cracks and crevasses. The danger is obvious in the sweeping views.

Hannold practiced for two years prior to his climb. One particularly challenging spot, known as the Boulder Problem that required some dexterity, he practiced some 50 or 60 times and thought about all the time, he said.

As a result, he said he believed the alternatives were more between success and stopping short of the summit.

"I think the chances of me falling to my death were extremely low, which is why I tried doing it," he said.

The film also turned unexpectedly into a love story, chronicling his relationship with Sanni McCandless, who he met when she attended a book signing in Seattle. They're still together.

He's still climbing, too. But he considered El Capitan the ultimate challenge, and he hasn't settled on a next step.

"Maybe something will inspire me," he said.

  • Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019
Johnson & Johnson will list drug prices in TV commercials
This undated product image provided by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. shows Xarelto. Johnson & Johnson says it will start giving the list price of its prescription drugs in television ads. The company would be the first drugmaker to take that step. J&J said Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019, it would start with its popular blood thinner, Xarelto. (Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. via AP)
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- 

Johnson & Johnson said Thursday it will start giving the list price of its prescription drugs in television ads.

The company would be the first drugmaker to take that step.

The health care giant will begin with its popular blood thinner, Xarelto, said Scott White, head of J&J's North American pharmaceutical marketing. By late March, commercials will give the pill's list price plus typical out-of-pocket costs. The information will appear on screen at the end of the commercial and include a website where people can enter insurance information to get more specific costs.

Without insurance, Xarelto costs $450 to $540 per month, depending on the pharmacy. About 1 million Xarelto prescriptions are filled in the U.S. each month.

J&J's move comes amid growing scrutiny of soaring brand-name drug prices — and follows a Trump administration proposal to require list prices in TV ads. The pharmaceutical industry opposes that, arguing few people pay the high list prices. Some people's out-of-pocket costs, though, are based on list prices.

The main drugmaker trade group instead recommends TV ads start listing a website that gives possible out-of-pocket costs and list prices.  Last month, Eli Lilly started doing so, in ads for diabetes medicine Trulicity.

  • Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019
Woody Allen sues Amazon for ending movie deal
In this July 15, 2015, file photo, director Woody Allen attends a special screening of "Irrational Man," hosted by The Cinema Society and Fiji Water, at the Museum of Modern Art, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

Filmmaker Woody Allen is suing Amazon for at least $68 million, saying that the company ended a four-picture movie deal last year after old accusations against him resurfaced in the press.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday, says that Amazon knew about a "25-year-old" allegation before signing with Allen in 2017, but still used it as an excuse to back out of the deal.

"There simply was no legitimate ground for Amazon to renege on its promises," the lawsuit says.

Allen's daughter, Dylan Farrow, has said that Allen molested her in an attic in 1992 when she was 7 years old, which the filmmaker has repeatedly denied. The allegations were made public in 1992, and Farrow wrote about them in 2014, and then appeared in a TV interview early last year for the first time.

The lawsuit, which doesn't mention Farrow by name, says Amazon ended the deal with Allen in June 2018.

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. The online retailer, based in Seattle, has been producing TV shows and movies in recent years to help boost its online video streaming service.

According to the complaint, Allen finished a film called "A Rainy Day in New York" that Amazon never released, breaching its contract.

The more than $68 million Allen is seeking from Amazon includes additional payments for "A Rainy Day in New York," plus payments for the three other unfinished films.

  • Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019
Stun opens DIGITAL 360 under aegis of Renee Samms
Renee Samms

Content studio and commercial production company Stun has launched a DIGITAL 360 division headed by Renee Samms who had been serving as a digital media, cross-platform strategy, branded content and influencer marketing consultnt in NY, L.A. and Barcelona, working on behalf of such clients as UnInterrupted (Spring Hill), Captiv8, Utopia, De Mille Group, The NoiseHouse, and Trap Nation (The Nations).

The vision behind the creation of Stun’s new DIGITAL 360 division is driven by a Transmedia Branding strategy--delivering the right message to the right person at the right time, and in the right place. As social and digital media have become key to success in today’s mobile-first world--with people moving across platforms every time they sign-in online--Stun’s thinking is that brand messaging should move across platforms too, in an authentic way that aligns with the organic voice of each of those mediums.

Stun’s current DIGITAL 360 clients include: Fox Searchlight/Fox Home Entertainment, Warner Brothers, the NFL, HBO Social, NBCU Snapchat Integrations, WarnerMusic Group, Sony Theatrical, Universal Theatrical, Dreamscape VR, and #SeeHer.
Mark Feldstein and Brad Roth, principals and co-founders of Stun, said that their philosophy is that content alone is no longer king, but rather content and context are king. Their plan is to keep scaling the digital division and continuing to integrate it within the full Stun suite of existing creative services to provide clients with a single, true 360-degree creative marketing agency.

During the course of her career, Samms has been instrumental in developing award-winning digital marketing solutions for such entertainment companies as Lionsgate, IMDb/Amazon, Walt Disney Company, and Maker Studios.

Samms holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, Marketing and Advertising, from USC’s Marshall School of Business.

  • Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019
Republic Editorial launches Threaded Pictures
Brian Hwang

Postproduction house Republic Editorial has launched Threaded Pictures, a full-service production company, and named Brian Hwang as its executive producer.

The strategic decision for Republic Editorial to make the expansion into production comes two years after its formation of design and animation sister company, Infinite Fiction, and answers the growing demand from its clients and the market to provide creative services from start to finish.

Threaded Pictures is housed just steps away from Republic Editorial’s uptown Dallas headquarters, allowing for seamless integration between all partner companies. “My vision for Threaded Pictures is to provide top-shelf production solutions for every client need,” explained Hwang. “With advertisers looking for branded content on every screen, it’s important to have an arsenal of directors who can align with the varied projects I’m bidding. I’m looking forward to working with the very talented teams at Republic and Infinite Fiction and sharing new production offerings in our market.”

Hwang brings nearly two decades of production, post and agency experience to the table, spending 10 of those years at McCann New York. Most recently at 3008 in Dallas, he served as executive producer of both post and production divisions. Currently, Hwang serves as president of AICP Southwest, a role that allows him to monitor the industry issues and trends occurring on both the regional and national levels. 
Republic Editorial partner and sr. editor Chris Gipson said of Hwang, “His unique and varied professional background is a tremendous asset, as he brings a deep understanding of the entire process from initial spot concept to final finish. He is tuned in to what agencies need and is currently assembling a strong roster, which we’ll be announcing soon.”

  • Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019
Owens named chief executive behind CBS' "60 Minutes"
This 2009 photo released by CBS shows Bill Owens, who was named executive producer of "60 Minutes," on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019. (Heinz Kluetmeier/CBS via AP)
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -- 

Incoming CBS News president Susan Zirinsky opted for continuity on television's most popular news program, appointing Bill Owens as executive producer of "60 Minutes" on Wednesday.

Owens has been executive editor at "60 Minutes" since 2008, and has been running it on an interim basis since his predecessor Jeff Fager was fired in September for sending a threatening text message to a colleague writing a story about him.

Zirinsky says Owens is "steeped in the storytelling style audiences have come to expect from "60 Minutes."

It was the first big appointment for Zirinsky, another CBS veteran. She was named news president last month to replace the outgoing David Rhodes.

Owens is only the third top producer at "60 Minutes," which first aired in 1968 with the show's inventor, Don Hewitt, at the helm. Fager replaced him, but was under investigation last summer amid a report that he groped women at parties and tolerated an abusive workplace. That investigation hadn't been resolved when Fager was fired for threatening a fellow CBS reporter who was reporting a story about it.

Owens has been with CBS News since starting at the network as an intern in the summer of 1988.

"I am honored to work alongside the best journalists in the business who cover the most important stories from around the world," Owens said. "I promise that will never change."

The selection has been closely watched in the television industry because of the newsmagazine's influence and at the show itself, where the staff tends to be wary of outsiders. Zirinsky, the longtime executive producer at "48 Hours," had been considered a strong candidate before being appointed as Owens' boss.

Owens has kept the engine running as interim executive producer, with the show airing interviews with President Donald Trump, new Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Elon Musk, potential presidential candidate Howard Schultz and three former presidents who talked about President George H.W. Bush following his death. The show has won four Emmys and a DuPont-Columbia journalism award in the past few months.

  • Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019
BAFTA suspends Bryan Singer nomination amid misconduct allegations
This Dec. 2, 2013 file photo shows Bryan Singer at the Los Angeles premiere of "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." The British Academy of Film and Television Arts says that it is suspending its nomination of director Bryan Singer amid accusations that he sexually assaulted minors. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP, File)

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts says it is suspending its nomination of director Bryan Singer amid accusations that he sexually assaulted minors.

Singer had been among those nominated for his work on the Queen biopic "Bohemian Rhapsody," which he was fired from in late 2017. BAFTA says Wednesday that the organization considers the alleged behavior unacceptable and incompatible with its values and that Singer has been informed of the suspension.

The Atlantic magazine last month published an expose detailing the stories of four alleged victims who said they were seduced and molested by the Singer while underage. Singer has denied the allegations.

The film and others nominated for it will remain eligible for BAFTAs, which will be presented Sunday.

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