Friday, August 17, 2018

News Briefs

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  • Friday, Aug. 17, 2018
"Black-ish" creator Kenya Barris sets exclusive Netflix deal
In this Jan. 8, 2017 file photo, Kenya Barris arrives at the HBO Golden Globes afterparty in Beverly Hills, Calif.(Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

Netflix says it's signed "black-ish" creator Kenya Barris to an exclusive production agreement.

The multi-year deal announced Thursday makes Barris the latest prominent TV creator to jump from broadcast and cable to the streaming platform.

Barris' Peabody-winning "black-ish" aired on ABC, and he produced the spinoff "grown-ish" for the network's Disney Co. sibling, Freeform.

He ended his ABC Studios contract early after ABC declined to air a "black-ish" episode that reportedly addressed issues including the NFL player protests.

Among other producers who have made Netflix deals: Shonda Rhimes, creator of ABC hits "Grey's Anatomy" and "Scandal," and Ryan Murphy of FX series including "American Horror Story."

In a statement, Barris joked that he'd decided to take a chance on Netflix despite it being what he called a "mom-and-pop shop."

  • Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018
Australian filmmaker goes on trial in Cambodia
Australian filmmaker James Ricketson sits in a prison truck upon his arrival at Phnom Penh Municipal Court in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018. Ricketson has gone on trial in Cambodia on charges of endangering national security after being arrested last year for flying a drone to capture images of an opposition political rally. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) -- 

One of Australia's most famous movie directors testified Thursday in Cambodia at the trial of a filmmaking countryman facing a possible prison term of five to 10 years for flying a drone to capture images of an opposition political rally.

Peter Weir, director of "The Year of Living Dangerously," ''Dead Poets Society" and "The Truman Show," testified as a character witness at the trial of James Ricketson, who was arrested in June 2017 and has been kept in detention since then.

Ricketson, 69, was taken in an orange prison uniform to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for the first official trial session on the charge of endangering national security, which in legal terms is tantamount to espionage.

Before testimony began, Ricketson's lawyer applied for his release on bail, as he had unsuccessfully done several times previously, but was again turned down by the judge.

Weir testified that he has known Ricketson since 1973, when they met at film school in Australia.

Weir, 73, told the court that Ricketson has never been involved with any political parties or government work but worked mostly as a freelancer and spent his life making documentary films, especially focused on Australian subjects, for which he had won several prizes.

"In 1973, I remember that that was the first year James went to movie school and I was his adviser. We have been friends and colleagues," said Weir. "No one knows James better than I."

Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom after he testified, Weir explained why he believed his friend was innocent of the charge.

"What James has done or not done may have been something that in Australia is perfectly normal but here has been seen to be sinister, and it is not, he is just doing everything he does in Australia," he said.

Ricketson was arrested after he used a drone to film the final rally of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party before local elections. The party has since been dissolved as part of a sweeping crackdown on the opposition and media critical of Prime Minister Hun Sen's government.

The crackdown was widely seen as preparation for ensuring a victory by Hun Sen's ruling party in last month's general election, in which it won all 125 seats in the National Assembly. With Hun Sen's extension of power accomplished, there has been speculation the courts — widely seen as under government control — might allow Ricketson to walk free. Ricketson had been seen as sympathetic to the opposition party.

Despite his extended pre-trial detention, the official start of Ricketson's trial has been twice postponed at his request, the first time to inspect further evidence and the second to acquaint a new lawyer with the case. According to his family, Ricketson has been detained in a 6-by-16-meter (20-by-52-foot) cell along with 140 other prisoners, and in May he reportedly became ill with a chest ailment and was moved to the prison hospital.

As he was being taken to a vehicle to be driven back to jail after Thursday's trial session, Ricketson shouted to reporters that he had seen no evidence supporting the charge against him and questioned what country he was supposed to have been spying for. He has made the same points in previous appearances at court.

But in a July 1 letter to Hun Sen published in the pro-government Khmer Times newspaper, he apologized for his "mistake" in his statements about his situation.

"May I please, respectfully, send my sincerest apologies to yourself and the Cambodian government. I now realize that my statements I have made in the press and other media are disruptive and ill informed. These statements were made from a place of foreign naivety and ignorance about the complexities and difficulties of governing Cambodia," he wrote.

"I apologize unreservedly and without condition for any distress I may have caused as a result of my ignorance of Cambodian issues. If there is anything I can do to remedy my mistake, please let me know as I only want the best for you and Cambodia," the letter said.

  • Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018
Paul Walker's brothers open to "Fast" franchise return
In this Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018 photo, Cody Walker, from left, Adrian Buitenhuis and Caleb Walker, pose for a portrait in Los Angeles, in promotion of the documentary film "I Am Paul Walker." (Photo by Rebecca Cabage/Invision/AP)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

Nearly five years after Paul Walker's death, his brothers say they're open to playing his character again in the "Fast and Furious" franchise.

Producers asked Caleb and Cody Walker to fill in for their brother and help complete "Furious 7" after he died in a fiery off-set car crash in November 2013.

His face was digitally superimposed onto his brothers' performances for scenes that Walker had not yet shot and in a modified ending in which his character Brian O'Conner drives off into the sunset.

The character remains alive in the fictional "Fast" universe and is mentioned twice in 2017's "The Fate of the Furious."

"I just hope we get to — I don't know — have a little cameo and bring Paul back to save the day and I get to help create that again," Caleb Walker, 40, said in an interview last week. "That's my dream and I hope we get to do that in one of the future movies."

"I think there could potentially be a way to do it. But it would take a lot of thought and it'd have to be tasteful. It would have to be tasteful," Cody Walker, 30, said in the interview. "He was the real deal, the real car guy. And in his absence, I — you know — I think it's lost its way in a big way."

Caleb and Cody Walker were promoting "I Am Paul Walker," a new one-hour documentary about the actor's childhood, family and career directed by Adrian Buitenhuis. It premiered last weekend on the Paramount Network.

Both Walker brothers became fathers for the first time last year and live in Southern California. They have not re-watched the full "Furious 7" film since attending the premiere in April 2015.

"It's kind of creepy sometimes when you're like, 'Oh, that's me.' It doesn't feel right," Caleb Walker said. "I think one day, when our kids are little older and we are able to share that experience with them and be like, 'Hey look, this is your uncle Paul. He was the greatest guy in the world and here we are being able to portray him and finish up this movie for him.' That's when I think it will really hit that I think it was really worth it and special and all that. But in the meantime, it's still a little conflicted."

Walker was 40 years old when the Porsche Carrera GT he was riding in spun out of control, struck three trees and burst into flames on a street in Santa Clarita, California.

The next scheduled film in the "Fast" franchise is a spin-off featuring Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. It's set for release next year.

  • Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018
"Not an easy time" for Chris Pratt after Gunn firing
In this June 16, 2018 file photo, Chris Pratt arrives at the MTV Movie and TV Awards at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

Chris Pratt says "it's not an easy time" as he and the rest of the "Guardians of the Galaxy" cast look to the future of the hit superhero franchise after Disney fired writer-director James Gunn.

Pratt told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday that he stands behind social media posts saying he hopes Gunn can be reinstated for the next movie.

"It's not an easy time. We all love James and he's a good friend of ours, but we also really love playing the Guardians of the Galaxy. It's a complicated situation for everybody. And you know, we just want to move forward and do what's right and be the best people we can be," Pratt told the AP.

Gunn was fired last month as director of "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" because of old tweets that recently emerged where he joked about subjects like pedophilia and rape. He has apologized for the tweets, which were posted from 2008 to 2011.

Pratt spoke to the AP at a bar in Los Angeles after meeting with seven disabled athletes who are being sponsored to run in the New York Marathon by Michelob Ultra. The 39-year-old actor, a spokesman for the beer brand, said it was "shocking" to hear news of Gunn's firing during Comic-Con in San Diego.

"I love going to Comic-Con but I ended up not doing a lot of interviews around that time just because it was so shocking. All I know is we put a lot of time, thought and effort into the statement that we released about it. And I think we all kind of want that statement to be essentially what we have to say about it. And we were pretty clear and honest about how we feel," Pratt said.

Pratt signed an open letter released 10 days after Gunn's firing, saying the cast fully supports the director and the character he showed both on the set of the first two movies and in the wake of his firing. Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel and five other main stars of the franchise also signed the letter.

Before his firing, Gunn's Twitter account was heavy on left-leaning politics, and some on the right with whom he'd sparred found and promoted the tweets that led to his ouster.

Gunn has been writer and director of the "Guardians of the Galaxy" franchise from the start, taking an obscure Marvel Comics title about a group of misfits and turning it into a space opera decked with comedy and retro music that made Pratt a major movie star. Through two installments the franchise has brought in more than $1.5 billion in global box office.

  • Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018
Kristen Bell narrates cuddly IMAX documentary "Pandas"
This image released by Warner Bros.Pictures shows giant pandas in a scene from the IMAX documentary "Pandas." (Drew Fellman/Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

Anyone who has seen Kristen Bell break down in (happy) hysterics over a sloth knows the actress' affinity for animals, especially those of the cute and cuddly variety. So when the people behind the new IMAX original film "Pandas" asked "The Good Place" star if she would consider narrating the documentary, it was a no-brainer.

"I'm not un-secretive about the fact that I'm an animal lover, or an IMAX lover to be totally honest with you," Bell said. "I think they produce some of the best content out there and I take my kids to the science center every time there's a new IMAX movie. I just think the patience with which they produce particularly their animal documentaries is kind of astounding."

"Pandas," from David Douglas and Drew Fellman ("Born to Be Wild" and "Island of Lemurs: Madagascar"), takes audiences to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China where scientists are working toward a goal of releasing captive-born pandas into the wild, where only about 2,000 remaining pandas live.

The film, which will be in wide release beginning Friday, focuses in on one, Qian Qian (pronounced Chen Chen), from cub stage to her supervised release in the wild and the humans trying to make that happen. Hou Rong, the director of research at Panda Base since 1994, has raised over 200 baby pandas during her tenure and hopes that one day their work will help pandas thrive outside of captivity.

In an inspiring display of cross-cultural solidarity, she travels to New Hampshire to observe how a man named Ben Kilham has for 20 years been successfully raising orphaned black bear cubs for eventual release in the wild. At Kilham's suggestion, Panda Base hires American conservation biologist Jake Owens, whom Douglas calls "the Indiana Jones of biologists" to help supervise Qian Qian's transition from city panda to country panda.

Bell, who got involved later in the process, didn't get to meet the pandas but hopes that one day she will. But that didn't stop her from peppering the scientists like Owens with questions, like how much do they weigh ("150 pounds"), how much do they feel like they weigh ("about 300 pounds") and what do they smell like ("sweet grass and milk")?

An avid watcher of nature documentaries, Bell said that she and her young daughters Lincoln and Delta particularly love David Attenborough and the "Planet Earth" series. The girls saw an early cut of "Pandas" and "loved it," which makes Bell all the more excited for additional kids and families to experience "Pandas," too.

"It's inspiring the next crop of biologists and conservationists," she said.

She thinks the film will connect beyond animal die-hards, too.

"It makes you feel good," Bell said. "It's inspiring, it's beautiful, it's adorable, it's educational and personally I think currently the world could use more things that feel good, you know?"

  • Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018
To fend off Netflix, movie theaters try 3-screen immersion
In this photo taken on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018, a trailer shows a car speeding through traffic as part of a demonstration for ScreenX at Cineworld in London. Instead of one screen, there are three, creating a 270-degree view meant to add to the immersive experience you can’t get from the home TV. (AP Photo/Robert Stevens)
LONDON (AP) -- 

Sit at the back of the movie theater, and it's possible to see the appeal of ScreenX, the latest attempt to drag film lovers off the sofa and away from Netflix.

Instead of one screen, there are three - one at the front, and two on the sides - to add to the immersive experience you can't get from the home TV.

First adopted in South Korea in 2012, the system is being launched in the U.K. and theater chain Cineworld plans to add over 100 new screens to the worldwide count of 151.

The technology is the latest attempt by cinema operators to attract film viewers amid the growing popularity of online subscription services like Netflix and Amazon Prime. They've ranged from 3D screens launched almost a decade ago to ultra-high resolution IMAX projectors and 4DX - which features moving chairs and real-life special effects like snow falling on the audience.

The focus on innovation has helped in the past. Since 3D was popularized at big cinema theaters in 2009 with the release of films like James Cameron's "Avatar," revenue has grown. Global box office revenue has increased by $14.4 billion in the past decade to $40.6 billion, according Motion Picture Association of America.

But that growth seems to be fading and movie theaters are being overtaken by internet video. Revenue from internet video like Netflix is forecast to be the fastest growing part of the entertainment and media industry through 2021, according to consultancy PwC. Its estimated annual growth of 6 percent compares with a projected annual drop in cinema of 1.2 percent.

It's unclear whether this latest innovation will help or stand out.

Cineworld says the idea is "it makes you feel like you're sitting in the action."

Robert Mitchell, a film journalist for Variety magazine, notes that was the point of 3D in the first place.

"In 2009, when films like 'Ice Age' and 'Avatar' were coming out, it was the great new thing," he says. "That lasted for a couple of years until people started to realize that some films were being made that didn't really use the enhancements well. And it started to put people off going."

Love it or hate it, the number of cinemas that offer these new types of experiences grows globally every year.

"We're really confident that by offering customers as much choice as possible that it's going to bring people into the cinemas," says Kelly Drew, an operations director at Cineworld.

  • Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018
ArtCenter/South Florida launches Cinematic Arts Residency 
MIAMI BEACH -- 

ArtCenter/South Florida has launched an initiative aimed at strengthening Miami’s growing indie film community. ArtCenter’s Cinematic Arts Residency will provide two filmmakers with up to $50,000 each to produce a micro-budget feature. Akin to the farm to table movement, this unique initiative enables filmmakers to conceptualize, create and screen their features in the theater--all in Miami.

Through the initiative, ArtCenter hopes to elevate the city’s acclaimed community of short film creators, who frequently screen their work at major festivals like Sundance and SXSW, into the realm of feature films.

“Oscar-winner ‘Moonlight’ demonstrated what we all have known: that Miami has one of the most vibrant indie film communities in the country,” said Dennis Scholl, CEO of ArtCenter. “Our new Cinematic Arts Residency will help these filmmakers by giving them the funds, staff and studio space to make the leap into micro-budget features.”

The program will be led by Miami filmmaker Jason Fitzroy Jeffers, director and co-founder of Third Horizon Film Festival. Jeffers also is the writer/producer of the award-winning short film “Papa Machete,” which had its U.S. premiere at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, garnered international press and received more than 1 million views on NationalGeographic.com.

Applications for the residency, based at the nonprofit’s Miami Beach location, will be accepted through Sept. 18, 2018, Click here to apply.

In addition, Kareem Tabsch of O Cinema and Andrew Hevia, producer of the Oscar-winning film “Moonlight,” who both helped conceptualized this initiative, will work with the residents chosen by a jury of national film experts.

The inaugural two Cinematic Arts Residents will be announced in November 2018.

“Miami is an extraordinary incubator for creative storytellers,” Hevia said. “ArtCenter’s goal is to build opportunities for local voices and further develop Miami’s burgeoning film community.”

While ArtCenter’s visual arts residents have long worked in video and film, the new program is ArtCenter’s first dedicated filmmaking residency, and the beginning of the center’s programming to cultivate the local film community.

Applicants must meet several criteria: They must be a full-time Miami-Dade resident, set and film their micro-budget feature in Miami, and have completed a narrative cinematic project in a key role. Applicants also must be at least 18 years of age, and a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident. They also need to demonstrate the ability to plan and execute a feature-length film on a micro budget.

In addition to funding and studio space, the residents will receive support for a Miami theatrical premiere and a one-week run at O Cinema. To help distribute the film, the initiative will provide access to ArtCenter’s international network of curators, artists and institutional film partners, as well as select film festivals and local art cinemas.

“Whenever Miami filmmakers’ work gets shown nationally, it resonates deeply with audiences. There’s a real hunger for our stories well outside the city limits, and we hope this residency will help our local filmmakers dig deeper and find fresh, expansive new ways to present their stories to the world,” Jeffers said.

  • Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018
SAG-AFTRA partners in initiative to bring harassment counseling to union members
LOS ANGELES -- 

SAG-AFTRA and the SAG-AFTRA Foundation are jointly working together to bring workplace sexual harassment counseling services for members of the union. Now available, the services are administered by trained counselors at The Actors Fund, a national human services organization for entertainment, media and performing arts professionals.

The confidential, supportive services for SAG-AFTRA members impacted by workplace sexual harassment include assessment, crisis and short-term supportive counseling, education on individual rights and legal avenues, referrals to related resources and when needed, referrals for other clinical services. This service is open to all SAG-AFTRA members and is available nationally by phone, as well as in person at The Actors Fund’s offices in Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago.

“SAG-AFTRA is proud to introduce this important service to our members. While our existing Safer Set hotline assures workplace safety issues are addressed, it has become imperative that we make available counseling to our members who have or are experiencing workplace harassment,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris. “We are grateful to partner with the SAG-AFTRA Foundation as well as The Actors Fund and their team of professional counselors to meet this need. In addition to enhancing the union’s capacity to process workplace harassment reports in recent months, being able to offer counseling to our members is one more step in our ongoing efforts to address the sexual harassment epidemic in our industry.”

SAG-AFTRA Foundation president JoBeth Williams stated, “For more than 30 years, the SAG-AFTRA Foundation has been providing a vital safety net to SAG-AFTRA professionals who have fallen on hard times, been impacted by natural disasters, or been hit with unexpected illness or injury. This past year has been a reckoning for sexual harassment abuses in our industry. Our three organizations have come together to ensure that workplaces and working environments in this industry will be safe and secure. No SAG-AFTRA performer should ever feel alone or without recourse when it comes to sexual harassment or assault. We want all SAG-AFTRA professionals to know that they are not alone in this business.” .

Added The Actors Fund COO Barbara Davis, “Throughout our history, The Actors Fund has always responded quickly to the needs of our community. In the past year, the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements have brought issues of sexual harassment and assault to the forefront of the performing arts and entertainment industry. We’re proud to partner with SAG-AFTRA and the SAG-AFTRA Foundation to provide counseling services to people who have been subjected to sexual harassment or assault, and we will continue our outreach so that everyone in our industry knows that these services are available to them.”

To access services over the phone or in person, SAG-AFTRA members can contact The Actors Fund regional office nearest them in Los Angeles, (323) 933-9244, ext. 455; New York City (212) 221-7300, ext. 119; or Chicago (312) 372-0989.

  • Friday, Aug. 10, 2018
Michael Moore's Trump documentary will release in September
In this May 16, 2018 file photo, Michael Moore attends the Turner Networks 2018 Upfront in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

Michael Moore's Donald Trump critique "Fahrenheit 11/9" will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival before hitting theaters September 21.

Moore unveiled the first look at this latest documentary Thursday, releasing a trailer online . The title is an inversion of his 2004 George W. Bush documentary, "Fahrenheit 9/11," which became the highest grossing documentary ever with $222.4 million in worldwide box office. The date refers to when Trump was declared winner of the 2016 election: November 9th.

In the trailer, Moore calls Trump "the last president of the United States."

"Fahrenheit 11/9" was initially to be distributed by The Weinstein Co. but will now be distributed by Tom Ortenberg's newly launched Briarcliff Entertainment.

"Fahrenheit 11/9" will make its world premiere in Toronto on September 6.

  • Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018
Terry Crews: It's "summer of freedom" for abuse victims
Terry Crews, center, a cast member in the NBC Universal television series "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," answers a question as cast members Andre Braugher, left, and Melissa Fumero look on during the 2018 Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.(AP) -- 

Terry Crews said it's "the summer of freedom" for him and others who have gone public with accounts of alleged molestation.

"We can now tell our truth" and not see our lives upended, the former NFL player and actor said Wednesday. He called it "just the beginning of change."

The entertainment industry and beyond will be safer, including for "my wife, for my son and for my daughter," he said.

Crews made his remarks during a panel promoting NBC's sitcom "Brooklyn Nine-Nine." Support from his cast mates made him feel secure enough to "tell my truth and still go to work," he said, also crediting the example of women in the MeToo movement.

He alleged last year that Hollywood agent Adam Venit groped him at a party, and that top executives at William Morris Endeavor failed to discipline Venit. Prosecutors declined to file charges against Venit over the incident, citing the statute of limitations. Crews has filed a civil lawsuit.

Venit, via his attorneys, has denied all of Crews' allegations, saying in court documents that his actions toward Crews were not sexual, and Crews suffered no harm of any kind.

The actor testified earlier this year before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Sexual Assault Survivor Bill of Rights.

Harassment and abuse allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein have led to numerous women coming forward with allegations of harassment and abuse against powerful men, with Crews among the few men who have added their names to the list of those claiming abuse.
 

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