Thursday, July 19, 2018

News Briefs

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  • Thursday, May. 31, 2018
Chimney opens NYC post facility, extends global reach
Chimney NYC's (l-r) Sam O'Hare, Vincent Taylor and Lez Rudge
NEW YORK -- 

Chimney, an independent content company specializing in film, television, commercials, and digital media, has opened a state-of-the-art facility in New York City. For over 20 years, the group has been crafting award-winning production and post for some of the world’s most recognized brands, including IKEA, Audi, H&M, Chanel, Nike, Suntrust, HP, UBS, and more. Chimney was also the post partner for the feature films “Chappaquiddick,” “Her,” “Atomic Blonde,” and “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.”

The New York opening is a major development in Chimney’s global strategic expansion efforts--now with 14 offices worldwide--following its founding in Stockholm in 1995.

“Launching in New York is a benchmark long in the making, and the ultimate expression of our philosophy of ‘boutique thinking with global power’,” said Henric Larsson, Chimney founder and COO. “Having a meaningful presence in all of the world’s economic centers with diverse cultural perspectives means we can create and execute at the highest level in partnership with our clients.”

The New York opening supports Chimney’s mission to connect its global talent and resources, effectively operating as a 24-hour, full-service content partner to brand, entertainment, and agency clients no matter where they are in the world.

Chimney has signed on several industry vets to spearhead the New York office. Leading the U.S. presence is Marcelo Gandola, CEO North America, who brings extensive strategic operations and management experience for some of the industry’s most well-known companies. Gandola’s former experience includes chief operations officer at Harbor Picture Company; EVP at Hogarth; SVP of creative services at Deluxe Entertainment Services Group; and VP of operations at Company 3.

“Marcelo has a proven track record of building and growing businesses in rapidly evolving and often turbulent industries,” said Larsson. “Possessing an entrepreneurial mindset and strong leadership instinct is necessary to lead our teams. Marcelo has a vision, which is key to establishing, but also growing Chimney in North America.”

Award-winning colorist and director Lez Rudge serves as Chimney’s head of color North America. As a former partner and senior colorist at Nice Shoes in New York, he is highly regarded as a major player in the industry for his artistic talent and proven success collaborating with some of the world’s top agencies, directors, and DPs. He has worked alongside the likes of Spike Lee and Darren Aronofsky, and on major brand campaigns for Maybelline, Revlon, NHL, Jeep, Humira, Spectrum, and Budweiser.

Managing director Ed Rilli will spearhead the day-to-day logistics of the New York office. As the former head of production of Nice Shoes, he has an impressive rolodex, producing major campaigns for such brands as NFL, Ford, Jagermeister, and Chase.

Sam O’Hare, chief creative officer and lead VFX artist, will oversee the entire VFX team. Bringing experience in live-action directing, VFX supervision, still photography, and architecture, O’Hare’s is a sought-after artist for photorealistic CGI production.

In addition, Chimney has brought on cinematographer and colorist Vincent Taylor, who joins from MPC Shanghai, where he worked with brands such as Coca-Cola, Porsche, New Balance, Airbnb, BMW, Nike, and L’Oréal.

The 6,000-square-foot NYC office will feature DaVinci/Resolve color rooms, Autodesk Flame suites and a robust VFX bullpen, multiple edit rooms, a DI theater, and a Dolby Atmos mix stage through a joint venture with Gigantic Studios.

  • Thursday, May. 31, 2018
Michael Jackson's estate sues Disney, ABC over TV special
In this March 5, 2009 file photo, Michael Jackson announces upcoming concerts at the London O2 Arena in London. (AP Photo/Joel Ryan, File)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

The estate of Michael Jackson sued ABC and parent company Disney on Wednesday, saying a two-hour documentary on the singer's last days improperly used the King of Pop's songs, music videos and movies.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in Los Angeles alleges that last week's special, "The Last Days of Michael Jackson," illegally uses significant excerpts of his most valuable songs, including "Billie Jean" and "Bad," and music videos, including "Thriller" and "Black or White."

It also says ABC used clips from the estate's 2016 Spike Lee-directed documentary, "Michael Jackson's Journey from Motown to Off the Wall," and from the 2009 feature film "Michael Jackson's This is It."

The lawsuit alleges at least 30 violations and seeks unspecified damages and an injunction against further use of the estate's intellectual property.

It frequently cites Disney's aggressive defense of its own copyrights and its normally narrow view of "fair use," the doctrine in copyright law that says short excerpts can be used for news, criticism and research.

"Like Disney, the lifeblood of the estate's business is its intellectual property," the lawsuit says. "Yet for some reason, Disney decided it could just use the estate's most valuable intellectual property for free."

Representatives from ABC said they had not yet reviewed the lawsuit but reiterated a statement from last week that the special was a piece of journalism and "did not infringe on his estate's rights."

As a work of news, the special would be entitled to fair use of excerpts of Jackson's work, but the lawsuit dismisses the idea that the documentary had any news value, calling it "a mediocre look back at Michael Jackson's life and entertainment career."

The lawsuit says warning letters sent to Disney attorneys before the airing went unanswered.

The special focused on Jackson's apparent decline in the run-up to his death on June 25, 2009. The 50-year-old left behind heirs that include his mother and three children.

Jackson died of acute intoxication of propofol, a prescription anesthetic he had been taking as a sleep aid during preparations for a series of comeback concerts.

Former cardiologist Conrad Murray was convicted in 2011 of involuntary manslaughter for giving Jackson a fatal dose of the drug. He served two years in jail, and his conviction was upheld in 2014.

  • Wednesday, May. 30, 2018
Harvey Weinstein accusers attend Pulitzer awards ceremony
Pulitzer Prize winner for public service Ronan Farrow, center, Annabella Sciorra, left, and Rosanna Arquette, right, arrive for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize winners awards luncheon at Columbia University, Wednesday May 30, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

Two of Harvey Weinstein's accusers have watched from the audience as journalists whose work led to his arrest received their Pulitzer Prize awards.

The New York Times and The New Yorker magazine received the gold medal for public service Wednesday for reporting on decades of sexual abuse allegations against the Hollywood mogul.

The stories by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey of The Times and Ronan Farrow for The New Yorker sparked the #MeToo movement.

Joining the luncheon at Columbia University in support of the journalistic work were Rosanna Arquette and Annabella Sciorra. The actresses are among those who have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct, allegations he denies.

Farrow was also joined by his mother, actress Mia Farrow.

Rapper-songwriter Kendrick Lamar was there to pick up his Pulitzer Prize for music.

  • Wednesday, May. 30, 2018
Sylvester Stallone making biopic about boxer Jack Johnson
In this 1932 file photo, boxer Jack Johnson, the first black world heavyweight champion, poses in New York City. (AP Photo/File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

Days after the presidential pardon of Jack Johnson, Sylvester Stallone has announced plans for a biopic on the first African-American heavyweight champion.

Stallone said Wednesday that his newly launched Balboa Productions will start with a film about Johnson. On Thursday, Stallone stood next to President Donald Trump in the Oval Office as he signed a rare posthumous pardon to Johnson, who served 10 months in prison in what Trump called "a racially-motivated injustice."

Trump has said Stallone was instrumental in bringing Johnson's story to his attention.

Stallone's production company said the film will be fast-tracked with Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures.

Stallone has said Johnson was the basis for the character Apollo Creed in the "Rocky" films. The 71-year-old actor is currently in production on "Creed II" with MGM.

  • Tuesday, May. 29, 2018
NAACP commends ABC for cancellation of "Roseanne"
This image released by ABC shows Roseanne Barr, left, and John Goodman in a scene from the comedy series "Roseanne." (Adam Rose/ABC via AP)
BALTIMORE -- 

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) issued the following statement regarding ABC’s decision to cancel the Roseanne television show due to the star’s racist comments on Twitter.

“Roseanne Barr’s comments were appalling and reminiscent of horrific time in our history when racism was not only acceptable but promoted by Hollywood.  We applaud ABC for taking a stand against racism by canceling Roseanne today. We commend the network and its president Channing Dungey for placing the values of diversity, inclusion and respect for humanity above ratings,” said NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson.

NAACP Hollywood Bureau director Robin Harrison believes this move by ABC sends a strong message that’s in line with the Bureau’s continued work to expand diversity in front of the camera and behind the camera.

“This is a strong and decisive move by ABC to refuse to continue business as usual,” said Harrison. “It’s important that Hollywood understands the power of inclusion and continues to take a clear stand against racism and bias within the industry.”

  • Saturday, May. 26, 2018
Morgan Freeman says he did not assault women; Visa suspends marketing with the actor's voice
In this Jan. 6, 2016, file photo, actor Morgan Freeman participates in the "The Story of God" panel at the National Geographic Channel 2016 Winter TCA in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

Morgan Freeman says he likes to compliment people to make them feel at ease around him but that he has never sexually assaulted women.

The Academy Award-winning actor is fighting back against charges of bad behavior made by multiple women in a CNN report this week. He said in a statement late Friday that the report has devastated him and that "it is not right to equate horrific incidents of sexual assault with misplaced compliments or humor."

Following the report, Visa announced it was suspending all of its marketing that features the actor's voice.

CNN's story includes one movie production assistant who said Freeman unsuccessfully tried to lift her skirt. Other women talked about unwanted touching on their backs and shoulders. Mostly, Freeman's accusers say he would comment about their bodies or clothes or make them uncomfortable by staring. A male former employee of Freeman's production company said the 80-year-old actor would behave like a "creepy uncle."

One of the article's authors, Chloe Melas, began working on it following a press junket where she said Freeman clasped her hand, looked her up and down and made comments like, "you are ripe."

"I admit that I am someone who feels a need to try to make women, and men, feel appreciated and at ease around me," Freeman said. "As a part of that, I would often try to joke with and compliment women, in what I thought was a light-hearted and humorous way. Clearly I was not always coming across the way I intended."

He said that he did not assault women, create unsafe work environments or offer employment or advancement in exchange for sex.

His reference to equating his behavior with others was unclear. The accusations against Freeman came out the same day word spread that New York City authorities were filing rape charges against disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

Freeman's statement was reminiscent of an email written by longtime television anchor Tom Brokaw sent to friends recently after a former colleague had accused him of unwanted sexual advances.

"I am devastated that 80 years of my life is at risk of being undermined, in the blink of an eye, by Thursday's media reports," Freeman said.

Freeman won the 2005 Oscar for best supporting actor for "Million Dollar Baby." He was nominated four other times, including for "Driving Miss Daisy" and "The Shawshank Redemption." His voice is familiar on commercials and as a narrator for documentaries and other productions.

Associated Press writer Jocelyn Noveck and Josh Boak, AP economics writer in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

  • Saturday, May. 26, 2018
Daniel Craig to return as 007 in 2019, Danny Boyle set to direct
In this Monday, April 9, 2018, file photo, actor Daniel Craig attends The Opportunity Network's 11th Annual Night of Opportunity Gala at Cipriani Wall Street in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

Daniel Craig is back as Bond, the spy series' producers confirmed, in a Danny Boyle-directed film due for release in 2019.

Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli of EON Productions announced Thursday that production on the 25th official James Bond thriller will begin in December at London's Pinewood Studios.

Craig will reprise his role as 007 and Oscar-winner Boyle ("Trainspotting," ''Slumdog Millionaire") will direct from a screenplay by Boyle's frequent collaborator John Hodge.

Confirmation of Craig's fifth Bond film followed speculation that the 50-year-old actor was about to hand in his license to kill. He said in 2015 that he would rather "slash my wrists" than return to the role — but later backtracked on those remarks, made just after he finished filming his fourth Bond film, "Spectre."

Boyle has directed Craig as Bond once before, in a 007-themed segment for the opening of the 2012 London Olympics.

EON said that after more than a decade at Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures will release the next installment of the superspy franchise internationally. MGM will handle the U.S. release.

Sony's Bond contract expired in 2015 and many of the major studios competed for the chance to distribute the profitable franchise.

As per tradition Bond 25 will open a bit earlier in the U.K., on Oct. 25, 2019, than in the U.S., where it will debut on Nov. 8, 2019.

  • Monday, May. 21, 2018
Sony invests in image sensors, acquires more of EMI Music
Sony Corp. new president Kenichiro Yoshida speaks during a press conference at the company's headquarters in Tokyo Friday, Feb. 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
TOKYO (AP) -- 

Electronics and entertainment company Sony Corp. said Tuesday it plans to invest 1 trillion yen ($9 billion) mostly in image sensors over the next three years, under a revamped strategy to strengthen both hardware and creative content.

Sony also plans to buy for $2.3 billion a 60 percent stake in EMI Music Publishing, from Mubadala Investment Co. EMI has under its wing classics such as the Motown catalog and Queen, and contemporary artists like Kanye West, Alicia Keys and Pharrell Williams.

Sony already owns 30 percent of EMI so once the deal is finalized, it will own 90 percent of the company.

CEO Kenichiro Yoshida told reporters at Sony's headquarters that the company's lead in sensors is key for evolving technologies like self-driving cars and artificial intelligence.

The Tokyo-based maker of the Walkman portable player, Aibo entertainment robot and Bravia TVs has amassed know-how over the decades when it was leading in "analog technology," said Yoshida, who was named president and chief executive in February. He said Sony's CMOS image sensor excels in its speed, lighting range and absence of noise.

Yoshida said the company's main theme was "getting closer to people," by connecting consumer services and content throughout its sprawling operations, which include the PlayStation game platform, music, films and home entertainment, still and video cameras, cellphones, computer chips and financial services.

Yoshida said the initiative to beef up Sony's content was also behind a deal announced earlier this month to acquire a stake in Peanuts Holdings, the company behind Snoopy and Charlie Brown.

But Yoshida topped short of giving numbers for profit goals, saying he was presenting a long-term vision rooted in Sony's founding and ongoing philosophy of emotionally inspiring people.

One area where he is counting on growth is the company's TV content business in India, where the population growth is rapid and TVs are still catching on, he said.

Sony, founded in 1946, has had its share of problems, sinking into the red in recent years. It struggled to adjust to the digital age and was hammered by competition from Apple Inc., Samsung Electronics Co. and other nimbler rivals.

Sony has sold off chunks of its business, including its Vaio personal-computer unit, to turn itself around. Its cellphone operations are still losing money, but the executives promised that will change soon.

  • Monday, May. 21, 2018
George Stevens Jr. adds history to the film academy library
In this Nov. 1, 2017 file photo, AFI founding director George Stevens, Jr. attends AFI's 50th Anniversary Gala at The Library of Congress in Washington. Stevens is adding another chapter to film history with a significant donation of items spanning five generations of his family to the Margaret Herrick Library and the Academy Film Archive. (Photo by Brent N. Clarke/Invision/AP, File)
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.(AP) -- 

American Film Institute founder and Kennedy Center Honors creator George Stevens Jr. is adding another chapter to film history by donating hundreds of items spanning five generations of his family to film academy's Margaret Herrick Library and its archive.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said Monday that Stevens Jr. will be contributing papers, letters, photographs and scripts from his life to the Stevens Family collection. The public collection of over 600 items will cover everything from his Hollywood beginnings working alongside his father George Stevens, the legendary director of film classics like "Woman of the Year," to Washington D.C. where he worked with Edward R. Murrow at the United States Information Agency during the Kennedy administration.

Along the way he also founded the American Film Institute, in 1967 and the Kennedy Center Honors in 1977, which he produced until 2014. He made award-winning films and miniseries like the Sidney Poitier-led "Separate but Equal" and served eight years as chairman of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities under President Barack Obama.

"I'm a great believer in the importance of history as it applies to motion pictures," Stevens Jr., 86, of his decision to add his own papers to the Stevens Family collection, as well as items from his extraordinary family, whose contributions to the entertainment industry span the history of film.

His great grandmother Alice Howell was considered the "female Chaplin," his mother was a Mack Sennett bathing beauty, his father was the Oscar-winning director of "The Diary of Anne Frank," and his late son Michael Stevens was an Emmy Award-winning producer, and those are just a few of the names on the family tree.

Stevens Jr.'s previous donation of a wide-ranging record of his father's distinguished career in 1980 helped turn the Margaret Herrick Library into an internationally respected resource, and has informed books like Mark Harris's "Five Came Back" and Don Graham's account of the making of "Giant."

Collection highlights displayed on the film academy's website include personal photos of Stevens Jr., including one of him standing alongside, Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean (who Stevens Jr. calls Jimmy) and his father in Marfa, Texas in 1955 on the set of "Giant."

"That's kind of a favorite picture," Stevens Jr. said. "I worked with my dad on the script and then went in the Air Force for two years and came back and worked with him on the editing. That was the pace he was moving at!"

The collection is a treasure trove for film buffs, where an ordinary family photo could be on the set of "Shane," at the Academy Awards in 1951, when George Stevens was nominated for "A Place in the Sun," or during the Amsterdam production of "The Diary of Anne Frank" with cinematographer Jack Cardiff. Look closer and you'll see Stevens Jr. being sworn in at the USIA, or speaking with Jacqueline Kennedy.

"It was a life-changing experience leaving Hollywood to run the motion picture service of USIA making documentary films," Stevens Jr. said. "After President Kennedy's death Jackie got all of these hundreds of thousands of letters and she wanted to thank the public and so she asked me to film something for her. I went to the house she was staying in Georgetown and we filmed a message to the people for her in 35 millimeter color."

One particularly important item is a letter from John F. Kennedy that wasn't even written to him, but just about his work. Dated October 21, 1963, Kennedy wrote to Murrow that "The Five Cities of June" is "one of the finest documentaries the USIA has ever done." Stevens Jr. produced the short film detailing President Kennedy's trips in June 1963, including his famous trip to Germany and his "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech. It would go on to be nominated for an Academy Award.

On November 23, Stevens Jr. went to speak to Murrow and was handed the letter.

"It had been in his hands three weeks earlier which was profoundly moving," Stevens Jr. said, who tried to give the letter back to Murrow, but Murrow refused. "He said, 'You made the film, you keep the letter,' which is all you need to know about Edward R. Murrow."

The stories run deep for each photo — there's James Cagney getting an AFI Lifetime Achievement Award, but did you know he wrote his speech on a shirt board that you'd find at a laundry? Or that Stevens Jr.'s first big casting coup was getting Sidney Poitier to star in "The Greatest Story Ever Told" which would lead to a lifelong friendship with the actor?

Stevens Jr. is working on getting it all down in a book too, which he laughs is on track for publication in "early 2030." It's quite a life for someone who originally thought he wanted to be a sportswriter.

He thinks back to the documentary he made about his father nine years after his death in 1984, "George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey," which begins with a quote that he discovered in one of his father's diaries.

"It read, 'Life is a journey and it's most interesting when you don't know where you're going,'" he said. "And that turned out to be true of mine."

  • Monday, May. 21, 2018
Netflix says it has signed Barack and Michelle Obama to multi-year deal
In this Oct. 8, 2016 file photo, President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama wait to greet Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his wife Agnese Landini for a State Dinner at the White House in Washington. Netflix says that it has reached a deal with Barack and Michelle Obama to produce material for the streaming service. Netflix said Monday, May 21, 2018, in a tweet, that the former president and first lady will produce films and series for the service, potentially including scripted and unscripted series, documentaries and features. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

Barack and Michelle Obama are getting into the television business with Monday's announcement that they had signed a multi-year deal with Netflix.

The former president and first lady have formed their own production company, Higher Ground Productions, for the material. In announcing a deal that had been rumored since March, Netflix offered no specifics on what shows they would make.

Netflix said the Obamas would make "a diverse mix of content," potentially including scripted and unscripted series, documentaries or features.

"We hope to cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples, and help them share their stories with the wider world," Barack Obama said in Netflix's announcement.

The Obamas can be expected to participate in some of the programming onscreen, said a person familiar with the deal, not authorized to talk publicly about it, on condition of anonymity. The programming itself is not expected to be partisan in nature; a president who often derided the way things were covered on cable news won't be joining in.

The type of people that Obama — like other presidents — brought forward as guests at his State of the Union addresses would likely provide fodder for the kinds of stories they want to tell.

"Barack and I have always believed in the power of storytelling to inspire us, to make us think differently about the world around us, and to help us open our minds and hearts to others," Michelle Obama said.

No content from the deal is expected to be available until at least 2019, said the person familiar with the deal.

The former president appeared in January on David Letterman's Netflix talk show, "My Next Guest Needs No Introduction." Obama is said to be friendly with Ted Sarandos, Netflix chief content officer, and discussions for other programming were already under way.

"We are incredibly proud they have chosen to make Netflix the home for their formidable storytelling abilities," Sarandos said.

Netflix has 125 million subscribers worldwide. The company has always been reluctant to discuss how many people watch its programming, but it clearly dominates the growing market for streaming services. Roughly 10 percent of television viewing now is through these services, the Nielsen company said.

Forty-nine percent of streaming being viewed now comes through Netflix, and no other service comes close, Nielsen said.

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