Monday, August 20, 2018

News Briefs

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  • Friday, Jul. 6, 2018
U.S. English World Cup viewers drop 38% through last 16
Uruguay's Luis Suarez points during the quarterfinal match between Uruguay and France at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, Friday, July 6, 2018. (AP Photo/David Vincent)

U.S. English-language television viewers for the World Cup's round of 16 in Russia were down 27 percent from four years ago, leaving the tournament 38 percent below 2014's level.

The eight second-round matches on Fox and FS averaged 4,858,000 viewers, down from 6,696,000 four years ago on ESPN and ABC, according to Nielsen Media Research. Viewers for the round of 16 were down 4 percent from the 5,042,000 average for the 2010 tournament in South Africa, which had more comparable kickoff times to this year.

The first 56 matches of this year's tournament averaged 2,541,000 on Fox and FS1, down from the 4,083,000 average through the round of 16 in 2014 on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC, and down 10 percent from the 2,836,000 average in 2010.

Ratings were expected to drop from four years ago because of earlier kickoff times and the United States missing the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

The U.S.'s second-round loss to Belgium in 2014 was viewed by 16,491,000 and its round-of-16 defeat to Ghana in 2010 was seen by 15,193,000. Excluding the U.S. matches, the second-round average this year was down 7 percent from 2014's 5,208,000 and up 55 percent from 2010's 3,133,000. Not including the U.S., the tournament average is down 22 percent from 2014's 3,238,000 and up 15 percent from 2010's 2,205,000.

Uruguay's 2-1 win over Portugal was the most-viewed round-of-16 match at an average of 6,268,000, followed by Croatia's penalty-kick victory over Denmark (6,181,000), Russia's penalty-kick win over Spain (5,515,000), France's 4-2 victory over Argentina (5,143,000), England's penalty-kick win over Colombia (4,668,000), Brazil's 2-0 victory over Mexico (4,558,000), Belgium's 3-2 win over Japan (3,773,000) and Sweden's 1-0 victory over Switzerland (1,905,000).

Figures include only television viewers and not those watching digital steams.

  • Friday, Jul. 6, 2018
Art Directors Guild names 2018 scholarship recipients
Henry Haprov (l) and Lukas Mitchell

The Art Directors Guild (ADG, IATSE Local 800) has selected the recipients of its annual ADG/Richard Stiles Scholarships for 2018/19. Lukas Mitchell, son of art director Jennifer Davis ADG, and Henry Haprov, son of set designer Julia Levine ADG, will each receive a $5,000 scholarship towards their academic studies.

In the fall, Mitchell will be a freshman at Northwestern University, majoring in anthropology on a pre-med track. Haprov will be a senior at UCLA, majoring in geography and environmental studies with a geographic information systems minor.

The scholarship recipients are selected based on their academic record, financial need, an essay, participation in school activities and community services.

  • Thursday, Jul. 5, 2018
Scarlett Johansson's plans to play trans man spurs backlash
In this April 23, 2018 file photo, Scarlett Johansson arrives at the world premiere of "Avengers: Infinity War" in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

Scarlett Johansson's plans to portray a transgender man have sparked a backlash from many who object to cisgender actors playing trans roles.

Earlier this week, Johansson was announced to star in "Rub & Tug," a film about prostitution ring leader Dante "Tex" Gill, who was born Lois Jean Gill but identified as a man. Since the announcement, transgender actors and advocates have criticized the production for not casting a trans actor in the role.

Johansson, who's also producing the film, further inflamed critics with a statement to the website Bustle, via her representative, that said criticism "can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman's reps for comment."

Tambor, Leto and Huffman are all cisgender actors who received acclaim for playing trans characters. Tambor won two Emmys for his performance on "Transparent," though he departed the show last year after he was accused of sexual misconduct by two transgender women: actress Trace Lysette and his former personal assistant, Van Barnes. Leto won an Oscar for his performance in 2013's "Dallas Buyers Club." Huffman was nominated for an Oscar for the 2005 film "Transamerica."

Lysette was among those who disapproved of Johansson's intentions. On Twitter, she wrote: "So you can continue to play us but we can't play y'all?"

"Not only do you play us and steal our narrative and our opportunity but you pat yourselves on the back with trophies and accolades for mimicking what we have lived," wrote Lysette.

Jamie Clayton, a transgender actress who stars in Netflix's "Sense8," dared Johansson and the filmmakers to cast trans actors in non-trans parts.

"Actors who are trans never even get to audition for anything other than roles of trans characters," Clayton said in an all-caps tweet. "That's the real issue. We can't even get in the room."

Representatives for Johansson didn't respond to messages for comment.

Johansson has come under fire before for playing a role that prompted some outrage. In last year's "Ghost in the Shell," she played the robot character known in Masamune Shirow's original manga series as Motoko Kusanagi.

Critics called it another example of Hollywood's long history of whitewashing Asian characters with Caucasian actors. Mamoru Oshii, director of the original anime adaptation of "Ghost in the Shell," defended the casting because Johansson's role was a cyborg with no fixed race.

Rupert Sanders, who directed "Ghost in the Shell," is set to helm "Rub & Tug."

  • Wednesday, Jul. 4, 2018
Miles Teller to play Goose's son in "Top Gun" sequel
In an Oct. 25, 2017 file photo, actor Miles Teller attends a special screening of "Thank You for Your Service" at The Landmark at 57 West in New York. (Photo by Brent N. Clarke/Invision/AP, File)

Miles Teller has been cast as the son of Goose in the long-planned sequel to "Top Gun."

Teller was announced Tuesday as the co-star opposite Tom Cruise in "Top Gun: Maverick." He'll be playing the son the of Maverick's wingman. Goose was played by Anthony Edwards in the 1986 original.

The film, which will also returns Val Kilmer as Iceman, is scheduled to be released by Paramount Pictures in July 2019. Directing is Joe Kosinski, who helmed "Oblivion," also with Cruise.

Actors Glen Powell and Nicholas Hoult had been up for the much sought-after part, but Teller won out.

The 31-year-old actor celebrated on Twitter with the first half of a famous quote from "Top Gun": "I feel the need..."

  • Monday, Jul. 2, 2018
Report: Federal Facebook probe now includes FBI, SEC
In this May 16, 2012, file photo, the Facebook logo is displayed on an iPad in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

A federal probe into Facebook's sharing of user data with Cambridge Analytica now involves the FBI, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department, the Washington Post reported.

Representatives from these agencies have joined the Federal Trade Commission in the inquiry, the newspaper reported, citing five unnamed people familiar with the matter. Those people spoke on condition of anonymity because the probes are not complete.

The probe reportedly centers on what Facebook knew in 2015, when it learned that the political data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica had improperly accessed the personal data of tens of millions of Facebook users. Facebook didn't disclose the incident with the political firm, which later worked for the Trump campaign and other Republican candidates, until this March.

The Post said the probe will look at why Facebook didn't inform users or investors earlier. Investigators are examining actions and statements of the company and its executives, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, according to the report.

Facebook confirmed to The Associated Press that it has received questions from these agencies and said it is cooperating with the inquiry.

Representatives from the FBI and Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. An SEC spokesperson declined to comment. The FTC said in March it was looking into whether Facebook engaged in unfair acts that hurt consumers, and which might have violated a consent decree it reached with the FTC in 2011.

Facebook shares fell 1.2 percent in after-hours trading following the report Monday, after rising 1.6 percent in the regular session.

  • Monday, Jul. 2, 2018
Miniseries highlights stories behind Tennessee brands
In this Dec. 5, 2011, file photo, bottles of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey line the shelves of a liquor outlet in Montpelier, Vt. A miniseries that airs beginning July 11, 2018, highlights the personal stories behind six iconic Tennessee brands, including Jack Daniel's. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- 

A miniseries that airs beginning this month highlights the personal stories behind six iconic Tennessee brands.

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development says the companies featured in the series include Jack Daniel's, Lodge Cast Iron, St. Blues Guitars, United Record Pressing, Barrett Firearms Manufacturing and Prophetik Haute Couture.

The miniseries "Remastered" was shot and produced last year. It includes appearances by John Rich of country music duo Big & Rich; Laura Daily, chief merchant for Cracker Barrel; Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show; and Hunter Lewis, editor in chief of Food & Wine magazine.

The first episode is scheduled to air at 7 p.m. CDT July 11 on RFD-TV. New episodes will air on Wednesdays.

  • Saturday, Jun. 30, 2018
U.K. lawmakers slam Facebook's evasive answers
In this March 29, 2018, file photo, the logo for Facebook appears on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York's Times Square. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

The head of the U.K. Parliament's media committee slammed Facebook on Friday for what it described as evasive behavior in answering questions on fake news.

Committee chair Damian Collins said that Facebook's claims that it was unable to distinguish between political and non-political advertising is "difficult to believe." He cited several examples of where Facebook's responses were "found wanting," including their refusal to share how many resources they were devoting to security.

"In these responses, Facebook continue to display a pattern of evasive behavior - a pattern which has emerged over the course of our inquiry," he said. "The company appears to prefer minimal over rigorous scrutiny."

Facebook did not respond directly to any of Collins charges of being evasive, but pointed out that it had appeared before Collins' committee in the past.

"We welcome the chance to help the committee with its inquiry which is why Facebook's CTO Mike Schroepfer gave nearly five hours of testimony to the (media) committee in April and we have responded to every question the committee has sent us," the company said in a statement. It added that it continues to "engage" with the committee to "provide any further information they may need."

Facebook is under scrutiny globally over allegations that political consultancy Cambridge Analytica used data from tens of millions of Facebook accounts to help U.S. President Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign.

Collins has made no secret of his displeasure that Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has declined to testify before the committee. Nor did members of the committee hide their frustration with Schroepfer during his testimony in April.

The unassuming engineer was forced to defend the company against suggestions that it was cavalier with user data and had done little to stem the spread of fake news. The session, which lasted over four hours, covered many of Facebook's perceived sins, with lawmaker Julian Knight accusing the company of "bullying journalists, threatening academic institutions and impeding investigations by legal authorities."

Collins was clearly unimpressed with the follow-up letter Facebook sent to address points raised in the testimony. He attached the letter from Facebook outlining questions that he wanted answered.

"They finish their letter by citing the number of times they have provided evidence to our committee," Collins said. "Highlighting this fact seems to tell us that Facebook seem reluctant to be subject to continual scrutiny, and prefer that their engagement on these issues be limited to only the minimum necessary, or when pressed, despite them being one of the most influential companies in the world with no public accountability or oversight other than to their shareholders."

  • Friday, Jun. 29, 2018
Czech film fest to honor Tim Robbins, Barry Levinson
In this Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016 file photo, actor and director Tim Robbins poses with his Berlinale Camera Award after he is honored for his lifetime achievement at the 2016 Berlinale Film Festival in Berlin. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, File)

An annual international film festival in the western Czech spa town of Karlovy Vary is kicking off with an award for American actor, director, and producer Tim Robbins.

Robbins won an Oscar in 2004 for best supporting actor in "Mystic River" and was nominated for a best director for his 1995 movie "Dead Man Walking." Friday's opening night at the 53rd edition of the festival is honoring his outstanding contributions to world cinema.

U.S. producer and director Barry Levinson who won the Academy Award for "Rain Man" in 1988 will receive the same award at the event's closing night on July 7.

The event opens with the screening of "Loves of a Blonde," a 1965 movie by Milos Forman to honor the Czech born filmmaker who died in April.

  • Friday, Jun. 29, 2018
Beyond politics: Facebook to release limited info on all ads
In this March 29, 2018, file photo, the logo for Facebook appears on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York's Times Square. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Facebook says it will release more information on all advertisements running on its service. The move is part of a broader effort to encourage "transparency" in its operations.

The company said Thursday that it will let everyone see all ads run by a given Facebook "page," which is typically the public profile of a business, organization or public figure. Facebook will also publish information on when pages were created and any name changes they've undergone.

Facebook did something similar with political and election-related "issue" ads following the 2016 election. Fake accounts from Russia gamed Facebook's systems to try to influence the U.S. presidential elections, and the company is trying to avoid similar problems in upcoming contests.

Facebook, however, won't archive general advertisements as it does with political ads.

  • Tuesday, Jun. 26, 2018
NYWIFT executive director Terry Lawler to conclude tenure on December 31
Terry Lawler

Terry Lawler will conclude her tenure as executive director of New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT) on December 31, 2018. Announcement was made by Lawler and the NYWIFT board of directors.

Strategic planning has been underway for an executive director transition for the past two years as part of NYWIFT’s five-year strategic plan. 

A longtime member of NYWIFT, Lawler joined the staff as executive director in June 1997, at the start of NYWIFT’s 20th anniversary year. Under Lawler’s leadership the organization has doubled its membership size, tripled its operating budget, and has spearheaded the creation of numerous innovative programs and initiatives. 

During her tenure, not only has Lawler guided the organization through massive organizational growth, she has also led NYWIFT through enormous change in the industry at large. She guided its move to online communications and the inclusion of the “digital media” industry, alongside film and television, in the organization’s programming and membership outreach. She also significantly enhanced membership diversification across occupations with more members represented in the below-the-line crafts, as well as age, race and ethnicity and, yes, gender. Moreover, she has revitalized NYWIFT’s advocacy initiatives and strengthened relationships with important partners such as the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment, sister WIFTI chapters, and the media.

Lawler’s creativity has led to many of NYWIFT’s groundbreaking flagship initiatives, including The Writers Lab funded by Meryl Streep, From Script to Pre-Production, the Women Calling the Shots Showcase at the Hamptons International Film Festival, Film Financing Day, and the Women Filmmakers: Immigrant Stories Series. Lawler created NYWIFT’s now-iconic Designing Women Awards, and she also established two new Muse Awards categories, the Loreen Arbus Changemaker Award in 2006 and the Nancy Malone Directing Award last year. Recognizing the need to lift women in all areas of the industry, Lawler created the “Jenny Award,” given to an outstanding volunteer member at the annual cocktail party, and the ever-popular Women Below-the-Line Party celebrating female below-the-line professionals.

Always passionate about education, Lawler created the Next Wave NYWIFT membership category with an eye toward the inclusion and mentorship of tomorrow’s industry leaders at the start of their careers. She strengthened the intern/mentor program, now endowed by the Nancy Malone Fund, and worked with the HP Foundation to devise a new job shadowing program for young female crew members, slated to start later this year. NYWIFT scholarships also expanded to include several more schools under Lawler’s leadership, including a special scholarship for high school seniors at the Academy for Careers in Television & Film in Queens. 

Lawler has also brought unprecedented financial stability to the organization with new revenue-generating efforts like the fiscal sponsorship and legacy gift programs. She established funding opportunities for women in the industry such as the Fund for Women Filmmakers, which provides cash and in-kind grants for finishing, marketing and promoting films, and strengthened NYWIFT’s Women’s Film Preservation Fund, which has helped to preserve over 100 films by women.

“I feel extraordinarily fortunate to have worked at NYWIFT for the last 21 years. I was able spend my time advocating for equality for women in film, television and digital media, as well as providing education and information to women and men in the field, which has been deeply satisfying,” Lawler said. “I have met many talented and committed women during my time here and have made life-long friends. Though I am excited to be moving on to new adventures, I will always cherish my time at NYWIFT and the members, donors, board and staff who are responsible for its success.”

Board president Simone Pero said, “In the history of the organization, NYWIFT is the most robust it’s ever been, a testament to the unparalleled contributions of our Executive Director and friend, Terry Lawler. In her two decades as Executive Director, Terry has not only grown and sustained the organization, but she has steered the organization to exceptional heights, firmly establishing NYWIFT as the preeminent professional association for women in our industry. At a time when the importance of supporting women and equality is more critical than ever, we are deeply indebted to Terry’s leadership, vision, and enormous talents in serving our members and setting us up for an exciting and prosperous future. We will miss her dedication, wisdom, tenacity, humor and grit greatly. But, in the spirit of NYWIFT supporting women’s dreams and talents, we wish her much success in her next act.”

The board has hired transition consultant Ellen Gurzinsky from WindowBox Coaching and Consulting to manage the process externally. Lawler will assist with the transition as will the current staff, all of whom will continue in their roles. Applications are due by August 27, 2018. Questions about the position can be directed to Gurzinsky here.

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