Tuesday, September 25, 2018

News Briefs

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  • Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018
11 producers graduate from PGA’s Power of Diversity Master Workshop
Festivities celebrating the achievements of the latest graduating class from the Producers Guild of America's Power of Diversity Master Workshop
LOS ANGELES -- 

Eleven producers representing 10 projects in TV, film, documentary and web series have completed the Producers Guild of America’s (PGA) 14TH annual Power of Diversity Master Workshop. The eight-week workshop, led by PGA Diversity chairs Julie Janata and Sasheen R. Artis, teaches master classes on pitching, premise development, film finance, line producing, demystifying the writers’ room, agents and managers, packaging, and multi-platform content delivery through VR/AR/MR/360, headlined by some of the top producers in the industry. 

This year’s speakers included: recent PGA presidents Gary Lucchesi and Lori McCreary, producers Dwight Williams, Anne Marie Gillen, Ian Bryce, former TV network executive Tom Nunan, TV showrunner Erica Shelton Kodish, XR producer John Canning, content and acquisitions executive Angela Northington and current PGA president Lucy Fisher.

“The PGA’s outstanding producer training workshop has been spearheading inclusivity through new projects and producers for 14 years, while providing powerful new voices with the essential skills to make themselves heard throughout the industry and around the world,” said Fisher. “I couldn’t be more impressed by the quality of the selection of producers and the projects they are crafting. Their commitment is inspiring, and I was very happy to be part of the workshop’s joyful finale.” 

The Power of Diversity Master Workshop participants also worked with 20 PGA member mentors for the duration of the workshop to prepare their projects for the marketplace. The Class of 2018 is:

  • Rashaan Dozier-Escalante with the TV series “McKenna’s Callings,” a female-driven actioner set in the CIA in 1978 – the dawn of modern day terrorism.
  • Morenike Joela Evans with the mother-daughter TV comedy “F.A.B. (Forty and Broke)” set in Washington D.C.
  • Georgina Gonzalez with the feature documentary, “Soul Mirror,” an in-depth look at the challenges of immigration and disability through the eyes of Larry, a Mexican immigrant who suffers from hypertrichosis, a condition that causes his entire face and body to be covered by hair.
  • Páll Grímsson with the adventure feature “Afterlands,” based on Steven Heighton’s acclaimed novel, as ethnic and nationalist conflicts doom the 1871 USS Polaris expedition to the North Pole.
  • Michael Jenson with the family feature “Up River,” as four young friends from South Central go on a quest to the tony neighborhood of Los Feliz along the Los Angeles River.
  • Sylvia L. Jones with the Chicago-based TV series “Shepherd,” which follows the police department’s Chief of Communications, Jillian Shepherd, as she navigates career, family and corruption within the city.
  • Lisa Leeman with the be four-part docu-series, “American Veda” on the influence and backlash against Yoga and Hinduism in America.
  • John Lowe with the TV comedy “Black Men Waiting,” following the lives and loves of Black gay men in Silicon Valley.
  • Jazmen Darnell Brown & Rashad Mubarak with the digital short-form hip hop series “BLOOM,” following Darnel, a misfit teen who goes to extreme lengths to swap out his geek cred for street cred at his Atlanta high school.
  • Camille Tucker with the TV comedy “Sorority Sistaz,” exploring identity and sisterhood at a fictional university in the South.

“We’re so proud of our graduates, primed to launch their projects, and proud of the Producers Guild’s long-standing commitment to inclusion,” read a statement from Master Workshop co-chairs Janata and Artis, “After so many years, there’s now a groundswell of diverse voices spreading throughout our media. Audiences are eager to embrace stories that reflect their own experience, so we’re convinced industry leaders will be just as eager to embrace these producers.”

PGA Workshop participants have gone on to produce top television shows and major films, including LaToya Morgan (two-time NAACP Image Award-nominee for “Turn: Washington’s Spies,” “Into the Badlands”), Aaron Rahsaan Thomas (“S.W.A.T.”, “Sleepy Hollow,” “CSI: NY,” “Southland”), Ben Lobato (“Ice,” “Queen of the South,” “Justified”), Hollie Overton (“Shadowhunters,” “The Client List”) and Sarah DiLeo (“Bless Me, Ultima”).

The Power of Diversity Master Workshop accepts participants from around the world and is open to members and non-members of the PGA. The Workshop is free. Applications for next year’s program will be available February 2019. For more information, click here

 

  • Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018
Japanese students use VR to recreate Hiroshima bombing
In Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, photo, Katsushi Hasegawa, standing, a computer teacher, watches members of the computation skill research club at Fukuyama Technical High School work on computer graphic software at the school in Hiroshima, western Japan. Over two years, the group of Japanese high school students has been painstakingly producing a five-minute virtual reality experience that recreates the sights and sounds of Hiroshima before, during and after the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the city 73 years ago. (AP Photo/Haruka Nuga)
FUKUYAMA, Japan (AP) -- 

It's a sunny summer morning in the city of Hiroshima, Japan. Cicadas chirp in the trees. A lone plane flies high overhead. Then a flash of light, followed by a loud blast. Buildings are flattened and smoke rises from crackling fires under a darkened sky.

Over two years, a group of Japanese high school students has been painstakingly producing a five-minute virtual reality experience that recreates the sights and sounds of Hiroshima before, during and after the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the city 73 years ago Monday.

By transporting users back in time to the moment when a city was turned into a wasteland, the students and their teacher hope to ensure that something similar never happens again.

The Aug. 6, 1945, bombing of Hiroshima killed 140,000 people. Three days later, a second U.S. atomic bomb killed 70,000 people in Nagasaki. Japan surrendered six days after that, ending World War II.

"Even without language, once you see the images, you understand," said Mei Okada, one of the students working on the project at a technical high school in Fukuyama, a city about 100 kilometers (60 miles) east of Hiroshima. "That is definitely one of the merits of this VR experience."

Wearing virtual reality headsets, users can take a walk along the Motoyasu River prior to the blast and see the businesses and buildings that once stood. They can enter the post office and the Shima Hospital courtyard, where the skeletal remains of a building now known as the Atomic Bomb Dome stand on the river's banks, a testament to what happened.

The students, who belong to the computation skill research club at Fukuyama Technical High School, were born more than half a century after the bombing. Yuhi Nakagawa, 18, said he initially didn't have much interest in what happened when the bombs were dropped; if anything, it was a topic he had avoided.

"When I was creating the buildings before the atomic bomb fell and after, I saw many photos of buildings that were gone. I really felt how scary atomic bombs can be," he said. "So while creating this scenery, I felt it was really important to share this with others."

To recreate Hiroshima, the students studied old photographs and postcards and interviewed survivors of the bombing to hear their experiences and get their feedback on the VR footage. They used computer graphics software to add further details such as lighting and the natural wear and tear on building surfaces.

"Those who knew the city very well tell us it's done very well. They say it's very nostalgic," said Katsushi Hasegawa, a computer teacher who supervises the club. "Sometimes they start to reminisce about their memories from that time, and it really makes me glad that we created this."

The students are working through summer vacation in a classroom without air conditioning, as temperatures reach 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit). With the survivors aging, Hasegawa said, it's a race against time.

  • Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018
Showtime series "Homeland" to end in 2019 with season 8
In this Tuesday, June 5, 2018 file photo, Claire Danes attends the "Homeland" FYC Event at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.(AP) -- 

Showtime says that its acclaimed series "Homeland" will end in 2019 with its eighth season.

The show's conclusion was announced Monday by Showtime Networks chief David Nevins, who called the Emmy-winning "Homeland" a game-changer for the premium cable channel.

Nevins told a TV critics' meeting that creator-producer Alex Gansa will bring the national security drama to what he called its "proper conclusion."

In a statement, Gansa said he was sad to see the series end but said that it's time.

Claire Danes stars in "Homeland," which has taken her bipolar, now former CIA agent Carrie through dangerous conflicts that sometimes mirrored real-world events.

Last season, Carrie struggled to uncover an international conspiracy trying to harm America's democratic institutions.

The final season of "Homeland" will debut in June 2019.

  • Sunday, Aug. 5, 2018
"Murphy Brown" weighs in on MeToo movement in series return
Nik Dodani, from left, Jake McDorman and Candice Bergen attend the "Murphy Brown" panel during the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour at the the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Sunday, Aug. 5, 2018, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.(AP) -- 

"Murphy Brown" will weigh in on the MeToo movement when the series starring Candice Bergen returns to a very different world in September, the show's creator said Sunday.

The 13-episode reboot reunites Bergen as a sharp-tongued investigative journalist and TV anchor with most of the original cast from the CBS show's initial 10-year run that ended in 1998 — before the internet and the rise of 24-hour cable news took hold. Once again, scripts will be inspired by current events, including the fourth episode entitled "(Hashtag) MurphyToo."

Executive producer and writer Diane English told a TV critics' meeting the episode was developed months ago and inspired by the movement against workplace sexual harassment and assault that first gained momentum last fall.

"It's a powerful movement," she said. "We wanted to do it justice."

English said the show's writing staff, comprised of men and women of different ages who are gay and straight, spent days discussing what she calls "a complicated issue."

"We came at it from so many different angles. Just the conversations we had in there, the perspectives that people have from their own particular prism," English said. "I don't think there's probably a woman out here that hasn't had an experience with misogyny and misconduct."

However, English is not one of them. She says she never experienced any kind of sexual misconduct or misogyny at CBS, where CEO Leslie Moonves is under investigation for such behavior.

English said everyone on "Murphy Brown" takes the allegations against Moonves and other network employees raised in a recent New Yorker magazine article "extremely seriously" and fully supports the investigation.

"I'm focusing the show really through the prism of the press," English said. "The First Amendment and the free press is under attack like I've never seen before. The press is not the enemy of the people."

The series debuts Sept. 27.

  • Friday, Aug. 3, 2018
FX plans: Nick Offerman drama and Chris Rock joining "Fargo"
In this March 8, 2017 file photo, Nick Offerman arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of "Kong: Skull Island" at the Dolby Theatre. FX is picking up a drama about a cutting-edge tech company starring Offerman, sinking resources into a series based in feudal Japan and getting Chris Rock to star in a fourth series of "Fargo." The network revealed some of its upcoming plans Friday, Aug. 3, 2018. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.(AP) -- 

FX is diversifying its offerings, picking up a drama about a cutting-edge tech company starring Nick Offerman, sinking resources into a limited series based in feudal Japan and returning for a fourth series of "Fargo," this time with Chris Rock.

The network revealed some of its upcoming plans Friday and they include the eight-episode "Devs" by writer and director Alex Garland, who wrote and directed the 2014 feature film "Ex Machina" starring Alicia Vikander. The upcoming TV series is set at a secretive tech firm in San Francisco that may be responsible for a murder.

"Devs" will star "Parks and Recreation" veteran Offerman as the firm's CEO, Sonoya Mizuno, Jin Ha, Zach Grenier, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Cailee Spaeny and Alison Pill. It will premiere on FX in 2019.

FX is also rebooting "Shogun" as a 10-episode limited series, which it calls its "largest international scale production to date." The series will be based on the novel of the same name by James Clavell that was turned into a 1980 miniseries event by NBC starring Richard Chamberlain.

The plot charts the collision in Japan of two ambitious men from different worlds and a mysterious female samurai. The new version will be written by Eugene Kelly ("Westworld," ''Leftovers" and "Boardwalk Empire") and Ronan Bennett ("Public Enemies," ''Top Boy").

FX has lured Rock to star in a new season of "Fargo," set in 1950, which will begin production in 2019. Rock will play the head of a criminal syndicate who has struck an uneasy peace with a rival group — they've swapped sons. A death forces the unraveling of their plans. Longtime "Fargo" show runner Noah Hawley will again lead the creative team.

  • Friday, Aug. 3, 2018
Tim Allen: Expect centrist "Last Man," not vocal Trump fan
Tim Allen participates in the "Last Man Standing" panel during the Fox Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour at The Beverly Hilton hotel on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP)
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.(AP) -- 

"Last Man Standing" isn't rushing to pick up the "Roseanne" pro-Trump mantle when it starts life at its new network this fall.

Tim Allen, star of the comedy that was axed by ABC and picked up by Fox, said his character is a centrist who would support Trump administration policies that help his business. But Mike Baxter probably isn't a vocal defender of President Donald Trump, Allen told TV critics Thursday.

Series executive producer Kevin Abbott described Allen's character as a conservative Republican, but he said it's unlikely the show will address Trump one way or the other.

Allen chimed in teasingly, saying, "Oh yes, we will."

A change of network won't change the show, which will remain familiar to fans of its ABC run, Abbott said: "The show was beloved by a large audience, and we want to keep that audience and we hope expand it a little bit."

His fellow executive producer, Matt Berry, said "Last Man Standing" and "Roseanne" can't really be compared.

"The only similarities with the 'Roseanne' show is we're a family sitcom and the central character has a more conservative view," Berry said. But the revived "Roseanne" was an "issue-of-the-week" comedy, and "we don't do issues of the week. We consider ourselves a family show with a traditional character at the center."

Barr's series, in which the star's support for Trump was mirrored by her character, was canceled by ABC after one hit season when Barr posted a racist tweet about former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett. Barr has both apologized for and denied knowing it would be seen as bigoted.

A spin-off, "The Conners," will air this coming season on ABC with the "Roseanne" cast minus Barr.

Abbott and Allen said they were surprised by ABC's abrupt 2017 decision to cancel "Last Man Standing" after six seasons, which Allen said was "very poorly handled."

Allen said at the time that his personal politics — he attended Trump's inauguration — might have played a role, and on Thursday he said if there was a political motivation the network certainly wouldn't admit it. But he added that it was a "financial decision on ABC's part."

Allen also said that viewers shouldn't judge him by his TV character and that his stand-up comedy was more revealing of what he believes.

The final season of "Last Man Standing" averaged nearly 6 million weekly viewers, more than some other ABC series that were brought back, including "black-ish," ''Shark Tank" and "The Goldbergs." Fans clamored for more, and Fox announced its decision last May to revive the show produced by sibling 20th Century Fox Television.

Some fans may be drawn to the family sitcom because of Allen's personal political views, but they "aren't really a big feature of the show," Fox Television Group executive Gary Newman said then. "We just think it's a really funny show" with general appeal.

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Newman echoed Allen's description of his character as a centrist and said that producers weren't planning on portraying him as a Trump supporter.

  • Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018
USC Annenberg suspends use of Moonves' name on media center
In this Sept. 19, 2017 file photo, Les Moonves, chairman and CEO of CBS Corporation, poses at the premiere of the new television series "Star Trek: Discovery" in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

he USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism will temporarily suspend the use of the media center's name: The Julie Chen/Leslie Moonves and CBS Media Center.

In a statement Wednesday, Dean Willow Bay says, "In recognition of the sensitivities surrounding recent allegations against Mr. Moonves, he and Ms. Chen have requested that USC Annenberg temporarily suspend use of the media center's name until the investigation concludes."

In an article last week in The New Yorker, six women alleged sexual harassment or misconduct by the CBS Corp. CEO between the 1980s and late 2000s.

Moonves acknowledged making advances that may have made women uncomfortable but said he never misused his position to harm or hinder anyone's career.

The state-of-the-art media center's name was changed in 2015 after a pledged gift from CBS, University of Southern California alumna Chen and her husband, Moonves.

Moonves' alma mater, Bucknell University, has also removed some references to him on its website.

  • Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018
PBS to air "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" about Fred Rogers
This June 28, 1989, file photo, shows Fred Rogers as he rehearses the opening of his PBS show "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" during a taping in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.(AP) -- 

With Fred Rogers' legacy back in the spotlight, PBS wants viewers to remember that public television was the longtime home of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood."

PBS stations will air the acclaimed documentary "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" as part of the "Independent Lens" showcase.

Rogers' "powerful" approach to children's programming is an ongoing influence at PBS, said Paula Kerger, president and CEO of the Public Broadcasting Service.

One direct link: The animated series "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood," from creator Angela Santomero and the Fred Rogers Co.

Kerger said PBS is constantly refining its children's programming to make sure it's entertaining but also helps prepare kids to enter school prepared to learn.

This year is the 50th anniversary of "Mister Rogers" TV debut. An airdate for "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" wasn't announced.

  • Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018
Hardwick will resume NBC roles after assault claim review
In this Jan. 11, 2018 file photo, Chris Hardwick arrives at the 23rd annual Critics' Choice Awards at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

Chris Hardwick's career is getting back on track after a review of sexual assault allegations made by a former girlfriend.

NBC said that Hardwick will serve as a guest host next Tuesday on "America's Got Talent" and will return as host for season three of "The Wall" game show. Production on "The Wall" is set to begin in the fall.

NBC's confirmation Tuesday that Hardwick was keeping the gigs came a week after AMC said he would be back with "Talking Dead" and "Talking with Chris Hardwick" following the review.

In announcing its decision, AMC said it was the "appropriate step" after interviewing a number of people in connection with the allegations against Hardwick.

He is scheduled to resume work on "Talking Dead," companion to drama series "The Walking Dead" and "Fear the Walking Dead" on Aug. 12, the date that the latter show returns for the second half of its fourth season. Yvette Nicole Brown had been named interim host during the review.

Hardwick has acknowledged that an online post by his ex-girlfriend Chloe Dykstra alleging she had been sexually assaulted and emotionally abused referred to him. He has denied the allegations but has said the couple's three-year relationship was imperfect and included arguments.

  • Tuesday, Jul. 31, 2018
PS260 launches creative content studio
We Know The Future's new digs
LOS ANGELES -- 

Creative editorial house PS260 has launched We Know The future, a creative content studio which offers in-house production capabilities and advertising solutions across any channel that uses a screen. These offerings will be available in New York and Los Angles. JJ Lask, PS260’s co-founder, partner and editor, is leading the new content studio from the company’s L.A. office, with support from all PS260 editors and staff across both offices.
 
Currently, PS260’s We Know The Future partners with various creatives, from writers and directors to social media influencers, to support its content production with plans to build out the team in the next year. The first project from We Know The Future is titled American Counselor,  which launched during the first week of July on PS260’s YouTube channel timed to the Fourth of July holiday. Subsequent episodes will post each week throughout the summer. 
 
PS260 and We Know The Future edited and produced American Counselor, respectively, and worked with director of the 14-episode digital series, Brendan Gibbons. The series personifies both the liberal and conservative sides of the U.S. as a husband and wife going through marriage counseling. Actors include Annie Sertich (2 Broke Girls, The Office), Ptolemy Slocum (Westworld, The Sopranos), and Marc Evans Jackson (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Jumanji), who plays the American Counselor
 
In addition to American Counselor, Lask is working on a show directed at fathers, called That Dad Show, that will live on Facebook this fall, and will be produced by the new content studio.
 
PS260 believes that having a stake in the conception and creation of content like American Counselor is a natural merger and progression of PS260’s unique editorial and storytelling talents.
 
“The launch of PS260’s content studio is a response to a new advertising landscape,” Lask said. “PS260’s advantage is our visual storytelling talent. We are now leveraging that talent to develop, create and produce longer format episodic content combined with advertising solutions distributed across all the leading social channels. We’re so excited to kick off We Know The Future’s first project with director and friend Brendan Gibbons, and look forward to seeing how the expansion of our capabilities will better serve our current and potential clients.”

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