Saturday, February 23, 2019

News Briefs

Displaying 1 - 10 of 3441
  • Friday, Feb. 22, 2019
"Empire" producers cut Smollett from season's last episodes
In this May 20, 2016 file photo, actor and singer Jussie Smollett attends the "Empire" FYC Event in Los Angeles. (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)
CHICAGO (AP) -- 

Actor Jussie Smollett's character on "Empire" will be removed from the final two episodes of this season in the wake of his arrest on charges that he staged a racist, anti-gay attack on himself last month in downtown Chicago, producers of the Fox TV show announced Friday.

The announcement came a day after Smollett turned himself in to police, appeared in court on a felony charge of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report, and left jail after posting bond.

"While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays," ''Empire" executive producers Lee Daniels, Danny Strong, Brett Mahoney, Brian Grazer, Sanaa Hamri, Francie Calfo and Dennis Hammer said in a written statement. "We are also aware of the effects of this process on the cast and crew members who work on our show and to avoid further disruption on set, we have decided to remove the role of 'Jamal' from the final two episodes of the season."

The series is on a midseason break and returns March 13 with nine episodes. The last two episodes of the fifth season were still being made when Smollett was charged. At this point, Smollett is part of the seven already completed episodes.

Smollett, who is black and gay, plays a gay character on the show that follows a black family as they navigate the ups and downs of the recording industry.Police said Smollett planned the hoax because he was unhappy with his salary and wanted to promote his career. Before the attack, he also sent a letter that threatened him to the Chicago studio where "Empire" is shot, police said.

As authorities laid out their case against Smollett, the narrative that emerged Thursday sounded like that of a filmmaker who wrote, cast, directed and starred in a short movie.

Prosecutors said Smollett gave detailed instructions to the accomplices who helped him stage the attack in January, including telling them specific slurs to yell, urging them to shout "MAGA country" and even pointing out a surveillance camera that he thought would record the beating.

"I believe Mr. Smollett wanted it on camera," police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told reporters at a Thursday morning news conference. "But unfortunately that particular camera wasn't pointed in that direction."

Smollett's legal team issued a statement Thursday night, calling the actor a "man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence." The statement called Johnson's news conference "an organized law enforcement spectacle."

"The presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon at the expense of Mr. Smollett," the statement read.

Smollett is earning more than $100,000 per episode, according to a person familiar with the situation. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because salary details were involved. The studio declined to comment on the actor's salary.

As is customary with a successful TV series, regular cast members on "Empire" received a boost in pay as part of contract extensions that followed the drama's renewal for a second season, the person said.Smollett is counted among the series regulars.

AP Television Writer Lynn Elber in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

  • Friday, Feb. 22, 2019
Bloys, DuVernay, Herzog, Igbokwe, Madden, Nishimura appointed to TV Academy Exec Committee
Ava DuVernay
NORTH HOLLYWOOD, Calif. -- 

Six thought leaders--Casey Bloys, Ava DuVernay, Doug Herzog, Pearlena Igbokwe, David Madden and Lisa Nishimura--have been appointed by Television Academy chairman and CEO Frank Scherma to the Academy Executive Committee. This diverse, new group of appointees will work closely with the Television Academy’s officers and board of governors to guide and shape the direction of the Academy for the 2019 term.

“We are privileged to have the collective expertise, insights and resources of these visionary executives guiding us through what promises to be another extraordinary time of expansion and innovation in our industry,” said Scherma. “Their leadership provides relevancy and will be vital to ensuring the Television Academy is at the forefront of the industry’s remarkable evolution.”

Here’s a rundown of Scherma’s Executive Committee appointees and their roles and achievements:

--Casey Bloys: As president, HBO Programming, he oversees all of HBO and Cinemax’s programming efforts including scripted series, late night, documentaries, HBO sports and HBO films. Recent series include Barry, Big Little Lies, Insecure, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, My Brilliant Friend, Sharp Objects, Silicon Valley, Succession, True Detective, Veep and Westworld. Upcoming series include Watchmen, Lovecraft Country and The Righteous Gemstones.

--Ava DuVernay: Emmy®-winning and Oscar®-nominated writer, director, producer and distributor. Her directorial work includes the historical drama Selma, the Emmy Award-winning documentary 13th, the Disney children’s adventure A Wrinkle in Time, and her family drama series Queen Sugar.

--Doug Herzog: Former president, Viacom Music and Entertainment Group where he oversaw MTV, VH1, Logo TV, Comedy Central and Spike. Responsible for the launch of South Park, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report on Comedy Central.

--Pearlena Igbokwe: As president, Universal Television, she oversees comedies Will & Grace, Superstore, The Good Place, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Russian Doll and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, in addition to dramas Chicago Fire, New Amsterdam, FBI and Good Girls.

--David Madden: As president of programming for AMC Networks and AMC Studios, he oversees all programming across the entertainment networks AMC, IFC, SundanceTV and BBC America, with popular and critically acclaimed shows including The Walking Dead, Better Call Saul, Killing Eve, The Terror, Lodge 49, Documentary Now!, and Brockmire .

--Lisa Nishimura: As VP of Original Documentary & Comedy Programming at Netflix, she has overseen documentary feature film, shorts and series including Icarus, Quincy, The White Helmets, Making A Murderer, Salt Fat Acid Heat, Chef’s Table and Wild Wild Country. She has also overseen comedy specials including Dave Chappelle: Equanimity & The Bird Revelation, John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous at Radio City, Steve Martin & Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget For The Rest Of Your Life, Hannah Gadsby: Nanette and Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife.

 
Additionally, the Academy’s board of governors have elected the following individuals as their representatives on the executive committee for the 2019 term: Bob Bergen, performers; Rickey Minor, music; Michael Ruscio, ACE, picture editors; and Lori H. Schwartz, interactive media. Completing the executive committee roster for the 2019 term are these Academy officers: Vice chair Steve Venezia, CAS; second vice chair Tim Gibbons; secretary Sharon Lieblein, CSA; treasurer Allison Binder; Los Angeles Area vice chair Mitch Waldow; and Television Academy Foundation chair Madeline Di Nonno.

  • Friday, Feb. 22, 2019
Industry mourns pioneering IMAX filmmaker Toni Myers
Toni Myers
TORONTO -- 

Toni Myers, a pioneering IMAX filmmaker, passed away peacefully on Monday (2/18) at her home in Toronto where she was for final palliative care after being diagnosed with late-stage cancer. She was 75. Her body of award-winning work includes A Beautiful Planet (2016), Hubble 3D (2010), Under the Sea (2009), Deep Sea (2006), Space Station 3D (2002), Mission to Mir (1996), L5: First City in Space (1996), Destiny in Space (1994), Journey to the Planets (1993), Rolling Stones: At the Max (1991), Blue Planet (1990), The Dream Is Alive (1985), Hail Columbia! (1982), Nomads of the Deep (1979), Ocean (1977), and North of Superior (1971). The latter was one of the very first films made in the big-screen IMAX format.

Last September she received the Giant Screen Cinema Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Her work took audiences to--and immersed them in--new frontiers, from the deep sea to outer space. Her early IMAX space films inspired a generation, including several who successfully pursued careers as astronauts; in fact this past December she was awarded NASA’s highest civilian medal. Acclaimed director Christopher Nolan researched Myers’ space films in preparation for his feature Interstellar.

Myers also was presented with the Order of Canada, one of the country’s highest honors. 

Prior to her IMAX achievements, Myers edited music films and TV drama. Her music exploits had her working with the likes of John Lennon and Santana.

  • Friday, Feb. 22, 2019
Documentary about 1939 Nazi rally in New York up for Oscar
This Feb. 20,1939 file photo shows Fritz Kuhn, national leader of the Bund, in the full uniform of a Storm Trooper, as he speaks from the rostrum at Madison Square Garden in New York. The pro-Hitler rally that took place 80 years ago this week at New York’s Madison Square Garden is the subject of a short documentary that’s up for an Oscar this Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019. The film directed by Marshall Curry is called a “A Night at the Garden.” (AP Photo, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

A crowd of 20,000 gives the Nazi salute as swastikas flank a giant portrait of George Washington.

Unimaginable to most Americans, the pro-Hitler rally that took place 80 years ago this week inside New York's Madison Square Garden is the subject of a short documentary that's up for an Oscar.

The seven-minute film shows Fritz Kuhn, the leader of the pro-Nazi German American Bund, decrying "the Jewish-controlled press" and demanding "a socially just, white, gentile-ruled United States."

Documentary filmmaker Marshall Curry said that after learning about the 1939 Bund rally, which he could barely believe had happened, he asked a researcher friend to help him locate archival footage of the Feb. 20, 1939, event.

"Once he pulled it all together and I saw it, I thought it was very surreal and frightening, and I wanted to find a way to make something of it and share it with the world," Curry said.

Curry sees parallels to 2019, when Republican President Donald Trump calls news organizations enemies of the people and anti-Jewish attacks are increasing. The anniversary of the rally comes as New York police report a 72 percent increase in hate crimes in the city over the past year, with anti-Semitic crimes making up almost two-thirds of the total of 55.

In "A Night at the Garden," mounted police officers hold back protesters outside the Garden, about a mile north of the arena's present-day location and where the marquee advertises "Pro American Rally" along with a New York Rangers hockey game the following night.

Inside, people in suits and dresses cheer as Kuhn calls for "gentile-controlled labor unions, free from Jewish Moscow-directed domination." A protester rushes the stage and is tackled and beaten by uniformed Bund troops.

The protester, 26-year-old Isadore Greenbaum, was later arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. Details including his name and Kuhn's are not spelled out in the documentary, which immerses the viewer in the rally rather than having a narrator explain it.

Curry said he considered using a narrator but "ultimately almost on a whim I edited it together as if it were a verite documentary where you dropped the audience into this rally and you had to figure out what was going on. I found that it was more compelling that way."

Daniel Greene, a Northwestern University historian who curated an exhibit at the U.S. Holocaust Museum on Americans' response to the Holocaust, said the Madison Square Garden rally was one of the most important events in the relatively short life of the German American Bund, which aimed to build support for a fascist America.

"You have about 20,000 people inside, and some people estimate that there were about 100,000 protesters on the street outside," Greene said.

Kuhn's rhetoric, Greene said, was "full of stereotypical lies about Jews, anti-Semitic lies like Jews are secretly controlling international finance, Jews are secretly controlling the American media."

"A Night at the Garden" is one of five films in contention for best documentary, short subject, at Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony.

  • Friday, Feb. 22, 2019
Allegations against son led to Time's Up CEO's resignation
In this Sept. 7, 2018, file photo, then WNBA president Lisa Borders addresses media members before Game 1 of the WNBA basketball finals between the Seattle Storm and the Washington Mystics in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

The gender equality initiative Time's Up says its president and CEO resigned because of sexual misconduct allegations against her son.

The group on Friday issued a statement explaining why Lisa Borders stepped down from the organization that was formed last year in response to sexual misconduct allegations in Hollywood. On Monday, Borders cited family issues but did not elaborate.

The group says allegations were made against Borders' son in a private forum.

The Los Angeles Times reports a woman claims Borders' son, Garry Bowden Jr., touched her inappropriately during a "healing session."

His lawyer says Bowden gave the woman a healing massage that she had requested and showed The Times a text exchange in which the woman thanked him.

Borders became head of Time's Up last year after being president of the WNBA.

  • Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019
Victoria Curtis launches Line by Line bidding service
Victoria Curtis
LOS ANGELES -- 

Executive bidding producer Victoria Curtis has launched Line by Line, a service designed to change the process for TV commercial and content production bidding. The new venture brings together a collective of vetted bidding producers to help production companies, agencies and brands facilitate production bids in a more efficient and cohesive way. Curtis brings to Line by Line more than two decades of entertainment industry experience across commercial and digital content production, having worked alongside A-list directors as a bidding producer and head of production in past roles. 

“There’s an enormous onboarding process for executive producers and many simply don’t have the bandwidth to search their network and check availabilities when they are under pressure to book jobs yesterday,” said Curtis. “It’s a vastly inefficient process that hasn’t been challenged. We’re offering an a la carte service that gives EPs and heads of production more peace of mind while giving bidders and line producers more work.” 

Line by Line eliminates the stress of checking freelance bidders’ availabilities by expediting bids through an on-demand team of knowledgeable production specialists that can be available on an hourly basis--even nights, weekends and holidays. The company allows for a hive mind to share valuable data on global markets in real time, keeping clients up-to-date as pertinent information shifts throughout the industry, helping to further accelerate the bidding process.

With a focus on emerging technologies, Line by Line also gives its clients access to an array of experts in new storytelling platforms such as XR (Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality) projection mapping, experiential and other cutting-edge technologies coming to market. 

  • Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019
Lawsuit takes aim at HBO's Michael Jackson documentary
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)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

The estate of Michael Jackson on Thursday sued HBO over a documentary about two men who accuse the late pop superstar of molesting them when they were boys, saying the film violates a 1992 contract to air a Jackson concert.

The lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court alleges that by co-producing and airing "Leaving Neverland," as HBO intends to do next month, the cable channel is breaching a deal to not disparage the singer. The decades-old contract allowed the cable network to air "Michael Jackson in Concert in Bucharest: The Dangerous Tour" and included language that HBO would not disparage Jackson at any future point.

According to the suit, the film implies Jackson molested children on the very tour that the concert footage came from.

"It is hard to imagine a more direct violation of the non-disparagement clause," says the suit, which asks the court to order arbitration and says damages could exceed $100 million.

The film premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival, where its subjects Wade Robson and James Safechuck received a standing ovation and took questions afterward along with director Dan Reed. The first installment of the four-hour documentary will first air on HBO on March 3, with the second half airing the following night. Britain's Channel 4 will air it around the same time.

HBO did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit, but the channel has consistently defended the documentary in the face of complaints from the estate.

The lawsuit states in its opening sentence that "Michael Jackson is innocent. Period," and goes on to recount the criminal investigation and 2005 trial in which Jackson was acquitted, highlighting the conflicting statements through the years of Robson and Safechuck, who are described as "admitted perjurers" in the suit. Both men told authorities that Jackson did not molest them, later claiming they were abused in lawsuits filed after the singer's death and in graphic detail in "Leaving Neverland."

It also reiterates the estate's position that it was irresponsible for the film not to include any defense of Jackson from those who knew him or further fact checks of the men.

HBO responded with a statement saying its plans to air "Leaving Neverland" remain unchanged.

"Dan Reed is an award-winning filmmaker who has carefully documented these survivors' accounts," the network's statement said. "People should reserve judgment until they see the film."

Reed is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

"Michael is an easy target because he is not here to defend himself, and the law does not protect the deceased from defamation, no matter how extreme the lies are," the lawsuit states. "Michael may not have lived his life according to society's norms, but genius and eccentricity are not crimes."

  • Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019
Police official: Smollett suspected of lying about attack
In this Monday, May 14, 2018 file photo, actor and singer Jussie Smollett attends the Fox Networks Group 2018 programming presentation after party at Wollman Rink in Central Park in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)
CHICAGO (AP) -- 

Chicago detectives suspect that "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett filed a false police report when he said he was the victim of a racist, homophobic attack in downtown Chicago late last month, a police official said Wednesday.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi also said Wednesday that detectives and two brothers who were earlier deemed suspects in the Jan. 29 attack were testifying before a grand jury.

Smollett's attorneys, Todd Pugh and Victor P. Henderson, met with prosecutors and police earlier Wednesday afternoon. It's unknown what was discussed or whether Smollett attended the meeting. The attorneys didn't reply to requests seeking comment.

Smollett, who is black and gay and plays Jamal Lyon on the hit Fox TV show, said he was attacked by two masked men at around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29 as he was walking home from a Subway sandwich shop in downtown Chicago. He said they beat him, made racist and homophobic comments and yelled "This is MAGA country" — an apparent reference to President Donald Trump's campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again" — before looping a rope around his neck and fleeing.

Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television issued a statement earlier Wednesday saying Smollett "continues to be a consummate professional on set" and that his character isn't being written off the show. The statement followed reports that Smollett's role was being slashed amid the police investigation into the reported attack.

Investigators went through hundreds of hours of private and public surveillance video from the area where Smollett said he was attacked but couldn't find footage of the beating. They did find and release images of two people they said they wanted to question. And last week, police picked up the two brothers at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport as they returned from Nigeria and questioned them about the attack. They also searched the men's apartment.

The men, who were identified to multiple media outlets by their attorney as Abimbola "Abel" and Olabinjo "Ola" Osundairo, were held for nearly 48 hours on suspicion of assaulting Smollett before being released Friday. Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said last week that media reports about the attack being a hoax were unconfirmed by case detectives, but on Saturday, he said the men provided information that had "shifted the trajectory of the investigation." He also said detectives had requested another interview with Smollett.

The Osundairos' attorney, Gloria Schmidt, hasn't responded to multiple requests for comment from The Associated Press.

Smollett's lawyers have said the actor was angered and "victimized" by reports that he may have played a role in staging the attack.

"Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying," Pugh and Henderson said in a statement Saturday.

Anne Kavanagh, a spokeswoman for Smollett's lawyers, said they would "keep an active dialogue with Chicago police on his behalf." She didn't respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Chicago's top prosecutor, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx, recused herself from the investigation Tuesday, according to a one-sentence statement issued by a spokeswoman.

"Out of an abundance of caution, the decision to recuse herself was made to address potential questions of impartiality based upon familiarity with potential witnesses in the case," spokeswoman Tandra Simonton said. She didn't elaborate as to how Foxx was familiar with anyone in the case and she said Foxx would have no further comment. Foxx's first assistant, Joe Magats, will oversee the case, the office said.

  • Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019
Supreme Court staying out of actor's "Empire" lawsuit
In this Jan. 24, 2019 file photo, the Supreme Court is seen at sunset in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- 

The Supreme Court is staying out of a lawsuit involving the television show "Empire."

The high court said Tuesday it won't take a case involving the Fox show, which follows a black family navigating the ups and downs of the record industry. That means a decision in favor of "Empire" co-creators Danny Strong and Lee Daniels stands.

Actor Clayton Prince Tanksley sued in 2016, claiming that "Empire" was substantially similar to a television show he had pitched at a competition in 2008. The lawsuit said Daniels was a judge at the competition and expressed an interest in the show Tanksley called "Cream," which involved a black record executive. A trial court dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that the shows weren't substantially similar. An appeals court agreed.

"Empire" debuted in 2015.

  • Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019
Twitter tightens up EU political ad rules ahead of election
In this Nov. 6, 2013 file photo, the Twitter bird logo is on an updated phone post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, FILE)
LONDON (AP) -- 

Twitter said Tuesday it is tightening up rules for European Union political ads ahead of bloc-wide elections this spring, following similar moves by fellow tech giants Facebook and Google.

The social media company said it is extending restrictions already in place for federal elections in the United States.

Under the new rules, which will also apply in Australia and India, political advertisers will need to be certified.

It's also taking steps to increase transparency. Ads, in the form of "promoted tweets," from the past seven days will be stored in a publicly accessible database showing how much was spent, how many times it was seen and the demographics of the people who saw it.

Facebook and Google have put in similar systems ahead of the EU vote in May, as the U.S. tech companies respond to criticism they didn't do enough to prevent misuse of their platforms by malicious actors trying to sway previous elections around the world.

"This is part of our overall goal to protect the health of the public conversation on our service and to provide meaningful context around all political entities who use our advertising products," the company said in a blog post .

Hundreds of millions of people are set to vote for more than 700 European Union parliamentary lawmakers.

Political advertisers can start applying now for certification under Twitter's stricter ad rules, which take effect March 11, by providing more information such as photo ID or a company identification number.

Twitter defines political ads as those bought by a party or candidate or that advocate for or against a candidate or party.

MySHOOT Company Profiles