Monday, June 24, 2019

News Briefs

Displaying 121 - 130 of 3626
  • Tuesday, Apr. 9, 2019
VFX Legion extends reach, opens studio in British Columbia
James David Hattin
BURBANK, Calif. -- 

VFX Legion, the Burbank-based visual effects company, has launched a studio in British Columbia, Canada. The new division accesses the province’s substantial tax rebates, and the diverse roster of senior artists needed to efficiently craft the high-quality photo-realistic visual effects that feature films and episodic television shows demand.

Although the expansion to B.C. marks the first time that VFX Legion has established a presence outside of L.A., it has been a global company since founder and creative director James David Hattin opened its doors in 2013. With a next-generation pipeline at its core, Legion can render an artist’s location irrelevant, thus establishing its Kelowna, B.C. studio as a creative hub.

The company kicks off the new venture with a skilled roster of in-house talent, along with a scalable collective of specialized visual effects artists based beyond commuting distance to its studio.  Hattin is currently finalizing the signing of a head of production/sr. VFX supervisor to helm the B.C. operation as Legion continues to solidify new relationships with top-tier talent based throughout the whole of the province.

“British Columbia’s dense pool of experienced artists makes it an ideal location for VFX Legion’s first foray into a tax haven,” said Hattin, the architect of the company’s pipeline. “It enables us to take optimum advantage of our infrastructure’s capabilities and bring some of B.C.’s most creative and experienced visual effects artists into our fold.”

Hattin continued, “The impetus behind the launch of VFX Legion was the need for a new generation of visual effects companies with state-of-the-art capabilities, ensuring that establishing a presence in B.C., or any region offering tax incentives, doesn’t come at the cost of limited access to top-tier talent.” 

VFX Legion’s capabilities build on Hattin’s 20+ years of experience as a tech-savvy lead talent helming visual effects teams for Hollywood’s episodic television shows and blockbuster films. The hands-on creative supervises and collaborates with the company’s LA and B.C.-based artists, as well as its worldwide network of talent, working in real-time as a single unit through every phase of production.

Shonda Rhimes’ high-profile series, Scandal (ABC), entrusted Legion to handle all its visual effects needs for three seasons, through last year’s finale.  Currently, How to Get Away with Murder (ABC), Madam Secretary (CBS), and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (CW), are a few of the shows that continue to return to work with the company’s team season after season.  Hardcore Henry, Sinister 2, Insidious 3, Asura, 12 Strong and Superfly are among Legion’s feature film credits.

British Columbia is the first of a series of regions offering tax incentives where VFX Legion plans to put down stakes.  Hattin is in the process of assembling a core team of artists in New York, and plans are in the works to launch a division in the state.

  • Monday, Apr. 8, 2019
Univision unloads Gizmodo, The Onion to private equity firm
In this June 14, 2006, file photo a journalist holds a microphone bearing the Univision logo in Los Angeles. Univision is selling Gizmodo, The Onion and other English-language sites to the private equity firm Great Hill Partners. Terms were not disclosed. The Spanish-language broadcaster bought much of what was then known as Gawker Media for $135 million in 2016 after the gossipy, confrontational media company lost a privacy suit against Hulk Hogan.(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

Univision has sold tech site Gizmodo, satirical-news hub The Onion and other English-language sites to the private equity firm Great Hill Partners. Terms were not disclosed.

The Spanish-language broadcaster bought much of what was then known as Gawker Media for $135 million in 2016 after the gossipy, confrontational media company lost a privacy suit against Hulk Hogan. (The original Gawker.com has a different owner. It is being relaunched by another digital media company, Bustle.)

Just a few years ago, Univision was investing in English-language digital sites aimed at young people. It had bought The Onion in January 2016 and African-American news site The Root in 2015.

But the strategy didn't turn out well. The sites were not profitable and the company has refocused on Spanish TV. Univision, based in New York, put them up for sale last summer.

Several digital-media companies have recently run into trouble. For example, BuzzFeed laid off workers to help it become profitable, while Mic sold itself to Bustle after firing most of its employees. The online-ad business is dominated by tech giants Google and Facebook. Amazon is also encroaching on that space.

Great Hill said Monday that it's calling its new media company "G/O Media." The collection of sites also includes the female-focused Jezebel, sports site Deadspin and pop-culture site "A.V. Club." James Spanfeller, a digital-media veteran who is the former Forbes.com CEO, will lead the company and is also a "significant" investor in it.

Great Hill has previously invested in media companies, including Ziff Davis, the publisher of PCMag.com, which it sold in 2012.

  • Monday, Apr. 8, 2019
Court frees acclaimed Russian director from house arrest
In this image taken from video, Russian theatre and film director Kirill Serebrennikov, center, reacts during a court hearing in Moscow, Russia, Monday, April 8, 2019. The Moscow City Court on Monday overturned a district court's decision to extend house arrest for Kirill Serebrennikov, and ordered him freed on his own recognizance until his trial. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
MOSCOW (AP) -- 

An acclaimed Russian theater and film director was freed from house arrest Monday, a verdict that follows longtime calls for his release from prominent cultural figures worldwide.

The Moscow City Court overturned a district court's decision to extend the house arrest for Kirill Serebrennikov, and ordered him freed on his own recognizance and requested that he not leave the Russian capital pending completion of his trial. Two of his associates were also freed from house arrest.

Serebrennikov has been under house arrest for nearly 20 months on charges of embezzling 133 million rubles (about $2 million) of state funding for a theater project. He has rejected the accusations as absurd, and many in Russia saw the charges as punishment for his anti-establishment views.

Speaking to reporters after the court's verdict, Serebrennikov said he would push for his acquittal.

"I would only be happy when this nightmare ends completely and we prove our innocence," he said.

Serebrennikov added that he would quickly return to work at his Gogol Center theater.

"It's going to be difficult psychologically, but we have so much work to do," he said.

Serebrennikov's ballet about dancer Rudolf Nureyev premiered in Moscow's Bolshoi Theater when he was already under house arrest, and his film "Leto" (Summer) about the country's Soviet-era rock scene was shown at the Cannes Film Festival last year despite his absence.

Top members of the Russian artistic community have continuously appealed to President Vladimir Putin to set Serebrennikov free, and many prominent international artistic figures have joined the call.

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, refrained from comment on the court's decision to free Serebrennikov.

Serebrennikov's productions, ranging from drama to opera and movies, have mocked official lies, corruption and growing social conservatism.

They have been criticized by hard-line politicians and conservative activists, and his arrest in August 2017 has raised fears of a return to Soviet-style censorship.

Serebrennikov's backers have argued that Serebrennikov fell victim to arcane bureaucratic rules that make it very difficult for any director to make theater productions without breaching some of the convoluted official norms.

Mikhail Fedotov, head of the presidential human rights council, hailed the court's ruling as "long overdue" in remarks carried by the Interfax news agency, adding that Serebrennikov shouldn't have been under house arrest in the first place.

  • Monday, Apr. 8, 2019
U.K. plan steps up global crackdown on social media
In this April 18, 2017 file photo, conference workers speak in front of a demo booth at Facebook's annual F8 developer conference, in San Jose, Calif. The U.K. for the first time on Monday April 8, 2019, proposed direct regulation of social media companies, with senior executives potentially facing fines if they fail to block damaging content such as terrorist propaganda or images of child abuse. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)
LONDON (AP) -- 

The U.K. unveiled plans on Monday to vastly increase government oversight of social media companies, with a first of its kind watchdog that could fine executives or even ban companies if they fail to block content such as terrorist propaganda or images of child abuse.

As concerns mount globally over how to monitor internet material without stifling free speech, the British proposal reflects a push by some countries - particularly in Europe but also Australia and New Zealand - to give regulators more power.

The British plans would create a statutory "duty of care" for social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter to protect people who use their sites. The plan, which includes an independent regulator funded by a levy on internet companies, will be open for public comment for three months before the government publishes draft legislation.

"No one in the world has done this before, and it's important that we get it right," Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright told the BBC.

While the United States has largely relied on market forces to regulate content in a country where free speech is revered, governments in Europe have signaled they are willing to take on the tech companies to block harmful content and prevent extremists from using the internet to fan the flames of hatred.

Britain will consider imposing financial penalties similar to those in the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation, which permit fines of up to 4% of a company's annual worldwide revenue, Wright said. In extreme cases, the government may also seek the power to fine individual company directors and prevent companies from operating in the U.K.

Criticism of social media sites has grown amid concerns that extremists like the so-called Islamic State group or far-right political groups are using them to recruit young people, pedophiles are using the technology to groom victims and young people are sharing dangerous information about self-harm and suicide.

Australian last week made it a crime for social media platforms not to quickly remove "abhorrent violent material." The crime would be punishable by three years in prison and a fine of 10.5 million Australian dollars ($7.5 million), or 10% of the platform's annual turnover, whichever is larger.

After the March 15 mosque shootings that killed 50 and wounded of 50 more, New Zealand's Privacy Commissioner wants his country to follow Australia's lead.

European Union lawmakers are set to vote later Monday on a legislative proposal requiring internet companies to remove terrorist content within one hour of being notified by authorities, or face penalties worth up to 4 percent of revenue if they don't comply.

The bill has been controversial, with some lawmakers and digital rights groups criticizing the one-hour rule. They say it places a much bigger burden on smaller internet companies than on tech giants like Facebook and Google, which have greater resources.

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid, whose department collaborated on the U.K. proposal unveiled Monday, criticized tech firms for failing to act despite repeated calls for action against harmful content.

"That is why we are forcing these firms to clean up their act once and for all," Javid said.

Critics say the end result could be that Google and Facebook end up becoming the web's censors. Others suggested the rules could stifle innovation and strengthen the dominance of technology giants because smaller firms won't have the money to comply with such regulation.

"We worry that this attempt at controlling the Internet will entrench big tech players, stymie innovation, and lead to press censorship through the back door," the London-based Adam Smith Institute, a free-market think tank, said in a statement.

As governments press to have the tech giants take on moral accountability, the challenge for the companies will be to translate that idea into the software, said Mark Skilton, a professor of practice at Warwick Business School. Politicians and technical experts need to work on the "shared problem" of providing guidance and control that is not excessively intrusive, he said.

"Issuing large fines and hitting companies with bigger legal threats is taking a 20th century bullwhip approach to a problem that requires a nuanced solution," he said. "It needs machine learning tools to manage the 21st century problems of the internet, combined with the courage and foresight to establish independent frameworks that preserve the freedoms societies enjoy in the physical world, as well as the online one."

Facebook's U.K. head of public policy, Rebecca Stimson, said the goal of the new rules should be to protect society while also supporting innovation and freedom of speech.

"These are complex issues to get right and we look forward to working with the government and Parliament to ensure new regulations are effective," she said.

Wright insisted the regulator would be expected to take account of freedom of speech while balancing against preventing harm.

"What we're talking about here is user-generated content, what people put online, and companies that facilitate access to that kind of material," he said. "So this is not about journalism. This is about an unregulated space that we need to control better to keep people safer."

Kelvin Chan in London contributed to this report.

  • Sunday, Apr. 7, 2019
Netflix teases upcoming Beyonce special "Homecoming"
In this Feb. 19, 2017. file photo, Beyonce sits at court side during the second half of the NBA All-Star basketball game in New Orleans. Netflix on Sunday, April 7, 2019 posted on its social media channels a yellow image with the word “Homecoming” across it. The only other information was a date: April 17. That’s when Netflix is expected to premiere a Beyonce special that may feature her performances at last year’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. (AP Photo/Max Becherer, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

It took just one word for Netflix to send Beyonce fans into a full-on freak out.

The streaming giant on Sunday posted on its social media channels a yellow image with the word "Homecoming" across it. The only other information was a date: April 17.

That's when Netflix is expected to premiere a Beyonce special that may feature her performances at last year's Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Though Netflix declined to share any more information, the font and color and of the announcement was the same as Beyonce's was for her Coachella appearance.

Beyonce also last year launched a scholarship program dubbed the Homecoming Scholars Award Program.

The singer is known for debuting new work shrouded in secrecy. No details were announced before her 2016 HBO special "Lemonade."

  • Friday, Apr. 5, 2019
Lionsgate chair: "The sky is not falling in Hollywood"
Joe Drake, chairman of the Lionsgate Motion Picture Group, addresses the audience during the Lionsgate presentation at CinemaCon 2019, the official convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) at Caesars Palace, Thursday, April 4, 2019, in Las Vegas. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
LAS VEGAS (AP) -- 

Lionsgate's motion picture group chairman Joe Drake says the sky is not falling in Hollywood and the feature film business is not dead. It's certainly a message that the audience of movie theater owners and exhibitors wanted to hear at the final Hollywood studio presentation at CinemaCon.

The studio on Thursday announced a multi-platform deal with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's Point Grey Pictures and a new banner for faith-based films called Kingdom. It also offered a first look at Rian Johnson's crackling Agatha Christie-style whodunit "Knives Out," with Daniel Craig, Chris Evans and Ana de Armas.

The studio brought out stars like Halle Berry, of "John Wick 3," Jamie Lee Curtis of "Knives Out" and Charlize Theron of "Long Shot" to promote its slate.

  • Thursday, Apr. 4, 2019
"Kids in Motion" to be rebooted as new OTT content
LOS ANGELES -- 

The award-winning classic CBS/Fox Video/Nickelodeon series, Kids in Motion: A Creative Movement and Music Show, is being rebooted by original creator, Julie W. Markovitz, and producer George Paige.  They have established a team with digital content experts, Amber Cordero and Steve Smythe, to bring this heritage program back to life as new OTT content targeting kids 2 to 8 years in age. Production for New Kids in Motion is slated to start in early 2020.
 
Movement/dance educator and certified yoga instructor Markovitz, who teaches creative movement and yoga to children, explained, “New Kids In Motion is an OTT network featuring contemporary music and dance videos hosted by fun characters interacting with kids with upbeat sing-alongs, creative movement and activities to get kids off the couch moving and singing. Aside from being based on a successful creative dance program, it’s the uniquely crafted ‘get up and move’ music videos that separates Kids in Motion from any other children’s programs.”
 
The original and “New Kids in Motion” songs consist of a myriad of different musical styles written by well-known songwriters and composers for Disney TV, movies and recognized children’s performing artists. Each song features catchy melodies with interactive action lyrics that encourage kids to use their imaginations to dance and move in their own individual ways.
 
“This unique combination of well-crafted songs with action lyrics is the reason the original Kids in Motion caught lightning in a bottle for parents, teachers and most importantly kids between 2-8 years old for over three decades,” said producer and former educator Paige.
 
Millennials remember the iconic show, which included an original soundtrack, home video, a book and a small stage tour. Fans are now posting videos from the original show on YouTube with millions of views and demanding a comeback for a new New Kids in Motion for their children. The show’s soundtrack is still a top seller in its category on Amazon receiving thousands of 5 star reviews.
 
Originally, Kids in Motion secured a deal with CBS/FOX Playhouse Home Video. Kids In Motion became an instant hit with children, parents and educators, earning the Parent’s Choice Award, Action for Children’s Television Award, Good Housekeeping Award and was endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Shortly after, Nickelodeon came on board and aired the show interstitially for several years as evergreen content. Following that, Good Housekeeping Home Video rereleased Kids in Motion, giving it a whole new life that took the show into the ‘90s.

  • Wednesday, Apr. 3, 2019
Keanu Reeves visits Brazil for new TV series
U.S. actor Keanu Reeves, left, shakes hands with Sao Paulo's Governor Joao Doria, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, April 3, 2019. Reeves is in Brazil with producers to choose locations of a science fiction series that should be launched early next year. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- 

Keanu Reeves is in Sao Paulo to negotiate the shooting of a new TV series in Brazil's largest city.

Reeves met Wednesday with Gov. Joao Doria, whose office said "The Matrix" star could start shooting his science fiction project as soon as June.

Filming has already been done in Los Angeles, Nairobi, Budapest, Kenya and Berlin. The title of the show wasn't released.

The city said in a statement that the negotiations were still under way.

Reeves has also used Brazilian jiu-jitsu training for his role in the "John Wick" series of films.

  • Wednesday, Apr. 3, 2019
Researchers find more cases of Facebook app data exposure
In this Jan. 9, 2019, file photo, media and guests mingle before a tour of Facebook's new 130,000-square-foot offices, which occupy the top three floors of a 10-story Cambridge, Mass., building. Security researchers have uncovered more instances of Facebook user data being publicly exposed on the internet, further underscoring its struggles as it deals with a slew of privacy and other problems. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- 

Security researchers have uncovered more instances of Facebook user data being publicly exposed on the internet, further underscoring its struggles as it deals with a slew of privacy and other problems.

The researchers from the firm UpGuard said in a blog post Wednesday that the data, which included user names and passwords, came from two different Facebook apps that stored their data publicly on Amazon's cloud services. Facebook said the databases have been taken down.

But the episode illustrates Facebook's issues with controlling its users' data, especially once it is in the hands of third-party developers.

The databases were from a Mexico-based media company called Cultura Colectiva, which included more than 540 million records — like user comments and likes — and from an app called At the Pool. The researchers said passwords stored for At the Pool were "presumably" for the app and not for Facebook. Still, storing them publicly could put people at risk if they used the same passwords across different accounts.

While the At the Pool data collection was not as large as that for Cultura Colectiva, UpGuard said it included plain text passwords for 22,000 users. The app itself shut down in 2014, and UpGuard said it is not known how long the user details were exposed.

The discovery comes a little over a year after Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal , in which the data mining firm affiliated with Donald Trump got personal data on millions of Facebook users.

"As Facebook faces scrutiny over its data stewardship practices, they have made efforts to reduce third party access. But as these exposures show, the data genie cannot be put back in the bottle," UpGuard wrote in its blog post. "Data about Facebook users has been spread far beyond the bounds of what Facebook can control today."

  • Wednesday, Apr. 3, 2019
CBS says Bianna Golodryga leaving morning show, network
This Oct. 3, 2018 photo released by CBS shows Bianna Golodryga, one of four hosts on "CBS This Morning," on the set in New York. Golodryga is leaving the show and the network. She was told on Monday that CBS News President Susan Zirinsky had different ideas for the show, and was offered other work, but decided to leave CBS instead. (Michele Crowe/CBS via AP)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

CBS News says that Bianna Golodryga, one of the four hosts on "CBS This Morning," is leaving the show and the network.

CBS on Wednesday confirmed a Huffington Post report about Golodryga's exit. She was told on Monday that CBS News President Susan Zirinsky had different ideas for the show, and was offered other work, but decided to leave CBS instead.

She was added last fall to the three other co-hosts, Gayle King, Norah O'Donnell and John Dickerson.

CBS' morning show had been rising in the ratings with a newsy approach compared to rivals "Good Morning America" and the "Today" show, but lost momentum when Charlie Rose was fired after sexual misconduct allegations surfaced.

Golodryga's agent did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

"We thank her for her many contributions during her time here at CBS News and wish her the very best in her future endeavors," CBS said in a statement. Golodryga has worked at CBS with a job-sharing arrangement with CNN.

Three months into her job, Zirinsky's efforts to create her own vision for the network have become uncomfortably public, occasionally the subject of gossipy stories in the press.

Her top priority has been negotiations to keep King, whose contract expires at the end of the year. King's string of newsmaking interviews, most notably last month with musician R. Kelly about sexual misconduct charges against him, have suddenly made her CBS' indispensable star.

She's also considering replacing "CBS Evening News" anchor Jeff Glor, perhaps with O'Donnell. The show has long been third in the ratings behind ABC and NBC, but the gap has widened since Glor took over for Scott Pelley.

Zirinsky is also expected to name a new executive producer for "CBS This Morning" soon.

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