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PRODUCEDBY June | July 2019

PRODUCEDBY THE OFFICIAL MAGAZINE OF THE PRODUCERS GUILD OF AMERICA // JUNE | JULY 2019

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volume XV number 3

P. 46

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DUVERNAY

“I find it difficult to spend two years of my life making things I don’t believe in.”

WHAT CAN SOCIAL MEDIA REALLY TELL YOU ABOUT YOUR PROJECT?

P. 64


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AVA DUVERNAY PHOTOGRAPHED BY KWAKU ALSTON

FEATURES 34 THE COVER: AVA DUVERNAY Her new series shows how the criminal justice system robbed five boys of their “personhood.”

46 DREAMING BIG Walter Parkes’ Dreamscape is a VR experience like no other.

58 SHE DEFINITELY “HAS IT” Tonya Lewis Lee is a fighter and art is her weapon.

64 OPINION OVERLOAD Discover how social media informs market research.

70 LIVE FROM DC...IT’S A CAPITOL NIGHT Meet the producer behind the nation’s 4th of July extravaganza.

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FROM THE E M M Y® AWA R D W I N N I N G D I R E C TO R O F 1 3 TH A V A D UV E R N A Y

“ELEGANT ANDWRENCHING.

Ava DuVernay never reduces her subjects to statistics or types. In ‘When They See Us,’ seeing also means witnessing. It means honoring each of the Central Park Five as a discrete human being.” -TIME

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PGA BERLIN FILM FESTIVAL DINNER PHOTOGRAPHED BY JOHANNA BERGHORN

DEPARTMENTS 15 FROM THE NATIONAL EXECUTIVE DIRECTORS

33 PRODUCERS SURVIVAL GUIDE Navigating the writer/agency conflict

Opportunity knocks

19 ODD NUMBERS

44 GOING GREEN Eat, drink and be wary

Dare to scare

21 ABOVE & BEYOND

80 MARKING TIME

22, 53 ON THE SCENE

83 MEMBER BENEFITS 84 NEW MEMBERS

Cannes Film Festival; PGA happenings

85 PGA HEALTH

75 OPEN DOORS

86 FAQ: THE PRODUCERS MARK

Commitment across the country

26 FIRST PERSON Hollywood comes to Manila

Power of Diversity Workshop anniversary How to connect through storytelling

31 IN MEMORIAM

79 COMING ATTRACTIONS

94 BEST ON-SET PHOTO OF ALL TIME Stranger than fiction

Remembering David Picker

PRODUCED BY

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PRESIDENTS Gail Berman

Lucy Fisher

VICE PRESIDENTS, MOTION PICTURES Reginald Hudlin Jon Kilik VICE PRESIDENTS, TELEVISION Gene Stein Lydia Tenaglia VICE PRESIDENT, NEW MEDIA John Canning VICE PRESIDENT, AP COUNCIL Carrie Lynn Certa VICE PRESIDENTS, PGA EAST William Horberg Kay Rothman TREASURER Megan Mascena Gaspar SECRETARIES OF RECORD Mark Gordon Hawk Koch PRESIDENTS EMERITI Gary Lucchesi Lori McCreary NATIONAL EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR/COO Vance Van Petten ASSOCIATE NATIONAL EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR/COO Susan Sprung NATIONAL BOARD OF DIRECTORS James P. Axiotis Lynn Hylden Nina Yang Bongiovi Rosemary Lombard Stacy Burstin James Lopez Yolanda T. Cochran Kate McCallum Donald De Line Chris Moore Mike Farah Bruna Papandrea Melissa Friedman Kristine Pregot Donna Gigliotti Jethro Rothe-Kushel Gary Goetzman Charles Roven Jennifer A. Haire Peter Saraf Marshall Herskovitz Jillian Stein Charles P. Howard Ian Wagner EDITOR Peggy Jo Abraham

PARTNER & BRAND PUBLISHER Emily S. Baker CREATIVE DIRECTOR Ajay Peckham

COPY EDITOR Bob Howells

PHOTOGRAPHERS Kremer Johnson Photography ADVERTISING Ken Rose 818-312-6880 | ken@moontidemedia.com MANAGING PARTNERS Charles C. Koones Todd Klawin Vol XV No. 3 Produced By is published six times a year by the Producers Guild of America 8530 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 400 Beverly Hills, CA 90211 310-358-9020 Tel. 310-358-9520 Fax

www.producersguild.org

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1411 Broadway 15th floor New York, NY 10018 646-766-0770 Tel.


FROM THE NATIONAL EXECUTIVE DIRECTORS

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS This issue of the magazine coincides with one of the most exciting and anticipated events presented by the Guild—the 11th Annual Produced By Conference. As the entertainment industry evolves at lightning speed, we want to offer every advantage when it comes to producing content for the explosion of new formats. In addition to traditional topics such as pitching and financing, the PGA is responding to your suggestions to hear more about the latest trends in streaming, podcasting and new technology. Representatives from the top streaming services (Disney+, Hulu, Epix and Amazon) will be on hand to bring you up to date on their plans for the future. Producers of the hottest podcasts will be discussing the best ways to take advantage of this rapidly growing area of entertainment. In terms of the latest technology, we’ve included a workshop on balancing creativity and costs when adopting and implementing new technology in your productions. We believe this forward-thinking topic will prove valuable to current and future members. As for the hottest content around, nothing scares up success like the new age of horror films. These mind-bending movies are pulling in a wider audience than ever before. Another popular and growing area is “content with a conscience”—important and relevant

projects making a social impact across all platforms. There are no better examples of this than the work of our cover subject, Ava DuVernay, and producer Tonya Lewis Lee, also featured in this issue. And we must crow a bit about the one-of-a-kind Producer’s Mashup. Here some 600 people get the chance to directly question veteran producers and production company executives, while seated in small groups. It’s really an unheard-of opportunity to make a personal connection with some of the best in the business. The industry information is great, of course, but the conference also presents a unique networking opportunity. For two full days, attendees meet, mingle, exchange ideas and advice and perhaps phone numbers. The Produced By Conference is the only event of its kind, created by producers for producers. It is not a moneymaking endeavor, but rather part of the Foundation’s core mission of educating those who work in the producing profession. Producers on the East Coast will have the same opportunity when they gather for Produced By New York on November 9. So wherever you are, the conference is definitely the place to be … for the business you’re in. We are proud to welcome our participants and sponsors to this inspiring event.

Susan Sprung

Vance Van Petten

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O D D NUMBERS

DARE TO SCARE Horror is hot! Seems like there’s no such thing as too much adrenaline when it comes to audiences looking for a fright. And these dedicated fans definitely have opinions about the genre.

WHICH MASKED MURDERER WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE DINNER WITH?

Ghostface Jason Freddy Leatherface Jigsaw

16% 14% 25% 8% 37%

33% Taking shelter in a shed 5% Tripping over a tree root in the forest 20% Hiding under a bed 24% Saying “I’ll be right back” 18%

ILLUSTRATED BY AJAY PECKHAM

WHAT IS THE CHEESIEST WAY TO GET CAUGHT BY A KILLER?

Running upstairs instead of out the front door

WHICH IS THE FREAKIEST CHARACTER?

Twins with French braids holding hands A “Tethered” version of yourself A possessed doll

A masked guy chasing you with a chainsaw A cat that is resurrected and turns on its owners

18% 16% 47% 10% 8% PRODUCED BY

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WE’LL MAKE YOU A

BELIEVER Our collaborative and talent-friendly approach to storytelling achieves out-of-this-world results. Project Blue Book: #1 New Cable Series of 2019

© 2019 A&E Television Networks, LLC. All rights reserved. 1424.


A B O V E & BEYOND

COMMITMENT ACROSS THE COUNTRY IN CITIES EVERYWHERE GUILD VOLUNTEERS ARE GOING THE EXTRA MILE Whether trying to grow a chapter in Austin or focusing on job opportunities in LA, volunteers are continually working to enrich the experiences of their fellow PGA members.

J

ennifer Hutchins was involved with the West Coast PGA before moving to Austin a few years ago. She says volunteering is a great way to make connections with super-busy powerhouse producers because she understands the axiom, “If you need something done, call the busiest person.” Jennifer volunteered for the second Produced By Conference, making calls and sending emails from Gale Anne Hurd’s office. She also remembers volunteering for a PGA Green event where she not only learned tricks and tips to go green but was able to connect with the other volunteers. “We ate lunch together, shared war stories and are still friends.” When work took Jennifer to Texas, she decided to reach out to the local PGA and

C CHRIS PACK

was shocked there was no chapter in Austin, because she was meeting hundreds of qualified producers. “In the spring of 2018, I contacted PGA in Los Angeles and asked if they would like me to gauge local interest, and the response was an enthusiastic yes!” That was all she needed to hear to start organizing some PGA events. “In about six months we threw four mixers and a seminar, and had over 700 enthusiastic producers show up. Turns out there is a ton of interest in having the PGA in Austin. We are continuing to plan some cool stuff and build a leadership team. I’m excited to see where we are this time next year.” When not volunteering, Jennifer produces nonfiction docuseries, and live and stage shows. She’s also produced four feature films.

hris Pack is another volunteer with his ear to the membership. He has been passionate about the PGA since joining in 2008. He currently serves as one of the chairs of the Employment Committee. Chris views volunteering on committees and producing events as “opportunities to build relationships, and learn people’s strengths, skills and experiences, which help us to grow both personally and professionally. We are and can be part of the change in the global entertainment industry,” he adds, “starting with the work we are doing in and through the PGA. There are the seminars and workshops, the important and hard topics we wrestle with, mentoring and supporting each other, recruiting new PGA members from all backgrounds, and volunteering or serving as an employer

JENNIFER HUTCHINS

at a PGA Job Forum. The work our teams are doing will impact the PGA, our membership and the industry, for years to come.”  Chris recently had a memorable experience while volunteering at a seminar organized by the Employment Committee West: Upgrade Your Resume & Enhance Your Interview Skills for 2019. One of the topics brought up was how PGA members are currently experiencing ageism. Chris is launching a series on ageism, while the Employment Committee recently joined a larger ongoing conversation with industry leaders and organizations on Senior Representation In the Media, hosted at SAG-AFTRA. In addition to volunteering, Chris is an Emmy Award-winning producer, writer, educator and social entrepreneur.

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ON THE SCENE PGA/UPC/FILM FRANCE/ PIXOMONDO/RDS RECEPTION MAY 19 CANNES FILM FESTIVAL Celebrating its ninth and largest edition to date, the annual Cannes PGA Producers Mixer was a smash hit with well over 500 guests in attendance, as a constant flow of international producers arrived under cloudy skies. The mood for the gathering was upbeat and guests quickly began networking. The reception was primarily sponsored by Pixomondo, with a supporting sponsorship from Regina Di Santo, whose personal contribution for the second year in a row helped secure another successful event.

Dimitris Anagnostou of Declare on Productions (left) with International Committee Co-chair Kayvan Mashayekh

PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOHANNA BERGHORN

Supporting Sponsor Regina Di Santo (left) and Emilia Henriques Da Silva

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ON THE SCENE PGA INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE DINNER MAY 17 CANNES FILM FESTIVAL IC Co-chair Kayvan Mashayekh curated a global gathering of elite producers (including several members of the International Committee), financiers and technologists for a very special private dinner in Cannes that celebrated the spirit of collaboration. The event was a networking feast unlike any other the PGA had ever assembled at such a prestigious world-class festival. More than 120 guests squeezed in for an oversubscribed dinner planned for 100, as attendees happily mingled at the unique gathering sponsored by powerhouse architecture firm Page Architects, financial services firm Abacus, Declare Productions, Pixomondo and PWB. PGA President Emeritus Lori McCreary flew in from LA specially to lend her support to the event. Several days after the dinner, news trickled out that at least one project has moved past development into pre-production as a result of the incredible connections made by some of the attendees.

IC Member Joyce Pierpoline (left), PGA President Emeritus and dinner Co-sponsor Lori McCreary (center ) with guest

PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOHANNA BERGHORN

International Committee member Nicole Hansen

PGA Director of Operations Jo-Ann West (far left), International Committee member Noel Vega

PGA reception sponsor Regina Di Santo and sister Cristiana Di Santo Host Kayvan Mashayekh

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THE H O L LY W O O D R E P O R T E R

i s a p ro ud s up p o rte r of

PGA March 27, 2019

February 13, 2019

APPLE’S BITE OF HOLLYWOOD A starry launch

January 9, 2019

GLOBES

A M A Z ON EX P O SE D

Bezos, Pecker, Woody Allen and legal battles ahead

and the great ‘rebundling’ of TV

DISnEY-FOX: THE aFTErmaTH

R E A DY FOR A DA N E C O OK C OM E BAC K ?

AGEnTS VS. WrITErS

HOL LYWO OD H IGH A RT

maDnESS!

+

All the drama, dresses and a Bohemian shocker in 15 pages of parties and selfies (Ted Sarandos and Taylor Swift), plus the impact on the Oscars

Worlds collide as L.A. ups its culture cachet

A long-shot plan to end the feud

BY GAVIN POLONE

POWEr LaWYErS 2019

ZUCKErBErG S niGHTmarE

Inside the billion-dollar Facebook privacy lawsuit

Captain Marvel ’s Larson fronts the Disney studio’s first female franchise as the star and fierce gender-equality activist shows superhero fans ‘what strength looks like’

Chris Evans

BR I E

aVEngE D

Values tested, neighbors divided — Venice Beach becomes a flash point for L.A.’s top social issue

SAm JaCKSOn WOn HOLLYWOOD STREaminG’S nEXT STEP

Big bundles gain traction as the future could look a lot like cable TV’s past

BLASTS OFF

Marvel’s politically active Captain America is ready to retire his shield for directing gigs, an Apple series and the fight against Donald Trump (and Tom Brady?): ‘I’d be disappointed in myself if I didn’t speak up’

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F I R S T PERSON

BRINGING MAGIC TO MANILA A PGA member travels across the globe to teach locals the “Hollywood way” Written by Jennifer A. Haire

YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A PERFORMER TO MAKE A LIVING ON STAGE.

Philippines are home to some of the most scenic and beautiful places imaginable, so why wouldn’t you shoot on location? A six-month rainy season, stifling heat and traffic worse than Hollywood on Oscar Sunday pose daily challenges. A training component on how to use the soundstages was needed. I was intrigued by the challenge of creating a never-been-done-before program from scratch. As an indie UPM/ Line Producer, I am an expert at shooting low-budget on practical locations. The logistics are always challenging, the location is usually a creative compromise and at the end of the day had the budget allowed, we probably would have shot on a soundstage. Even though I was coming off two back-to-back productions, I agreed to what was then a 10-month program timeline.

THE BEAUTY OF LOCATION, IN A CONTROLLED ENVIRONMENT In March of 2016 I got a call from my friend and fellow PGA and FilmUSA committee member Jason Hariton. The MBS Group, which owns and operates studios in Manhattan Beach, California, had secured a consulting contract with the largest broadcast network in the Philippines. They were to advise them on the new construction of a massive, 12-stage, state-of-the art studio facility. These would be the first professional soundstages in the Philippines. This network produces more than 10,000 hours of content each year, yet the majority is shot on practical locations. The

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I was the producer, First AD, Second AD, UPM, POC, accountant, payroll ... and since this was a training program, also the dean. That’s a lot of hats!”

ASSEMBLING A FULL CREW FROM SCRATCH IN FIVE WEEKS It started with an intensive management team crash course to introduce the potential scope of training. In five weeks I assembled 41 industry professionals to participate as instructors and guest speakers, helped design 40 “classes” plus nine field trips—all to take place over 15 days on a soundstage at the MBS Media Campus. I was the producer, First AD, Second AD, UPM, POC, accountant, payroll ... and since this was a training program, also the dean. That’s a lot of hats! By the last two days of the program,

ILLUSTRATED BY AJAY PECKHAM

Soundstages are rather unimpressive from the outside—huge box buildings next to more huge box buildings. When empty, they are equally unimpressive from the inside. However, after skilled artisans work their magic, the stage becomes another world. Whether you’ve just stepped onto the Arctic Circle, a cabin in the woods or wall-to-wall green screen that will become the moon, it’s all contained inside those four walls. Pulling back the “curtain,” you’ll see that a whole network of support infrastructure exists. This intricate system is the lifeblood of the stage.


F I R S T PERSON

I had assembled almost a full below-the-line crew that had built, dressed and rigged a sitcom set. It was an immersive demonstration of the Hollywood, multi-camera style of shooting on a soundstage. The company wanted to shoot more content in less time, and this was the way to do it.

environment; 4) the vital role of the television showrunner; 5) the benefits of an efficient production workflow. The training always remained focused on how these methodologies translated to the soundstage.

TURNING ON THE LIGHTS, LITERALLY

STREAMLINING THE PROCESS Cut to August 2018: The first two soundstages are almost complete—only twoplus years behind schedule. After further assessment of the current production practices, we identified missing crew positions that would streamline their process. These recommendations would also support the network’s mandate to improve the work-life balance for their crews, who are accustomed to working 22-hour shifts. I sent a script supervisor, First AD, production safety/ risk awareness expert, two television showrunners and one TV writer to Manila. Class sessions ranged from one to five days, with our mission being to teach the nuts and bolts of how we “do it Hollywood.” That is, 1) the integral role the script supervisor plays in the production and post-production process; 2) the system and support team used to keep the day on schedule; 3) how to recognize and report a hazardous work

Top: Set Construction class in progress; Middle: Successful first hanging of aerial scaffolding on new soundstages; Bottom: Equipment Technical Operations class

The program had now grown so large that I brought in help. For the next round, I hired Producer Dave Fraunces to come on board as the Manager of Production Training Programs. He prepped trainers in LA and eventually joined me in Manila to serve as production support. When 2019 began, the stages were officially complete and ready to be rigged. It was time to put them to work. However, for a vast majority of the Filipino crew, this was the first time they had ever seen a soundstage. Our team of professional lighting technicians and grips put the local crew through a rigorous, 22-day training to fully prepare a stage for production. It was important to start with basic technical operations such as proper handling and function of the lighting fixtures—how not to break the new toys. They learned how to create and execute a lighting design, including installing and powering a dimmer room, running power, data and dimming cable in the catwalk, prebuilding light boxes, and hanging various

PRODUCED BY

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F I R S T PERSON

pipe grids, backings and light fixtures. This required a mastery of basic rigging techniques such as using aerial lifts, tying a knot and safe connection of power—how not to drop the heavy things on people or be electrocuted. Safe work practices were continually reinforced. Select students received two days of advanced training in how to hang an aerial scaffold system—we know them as green beds—and to program lights and operate a lighting console. At the end of the class, the trainees and instructors were both so emotionally invested by what they had achieved, they parted ways with hugs and tears. Yes, grips were crying.

CREATING MULTIPLE “LOCATION LOOKS” The Hollywood art department is a world unto its own. The local crews already had experience in production design, so we introduced them to the efficiencies of the “art department machine.” From detailed, construction-ready set designs and production-friendly set layouts to key staff positions, we taught them how to keep the department on schedule and on budget. Trainees learned creative ways to achieve realistic, practical location looks on a stage. We closed out this round of training with basic Hollywood set construction, including building flats, creating realistic looks with paint and plaster, and construction management and budgeting. We demonstrated ways that sets can be reused and how to set up an efficient mill. Introducing pneumatic tools was a game changer.

CHANGE—IT’S LIKE BEING FORCED TO EAT VEGETABLES. Creating an international program of this magnitude isn’t without challenges. We faced myriad hurdles, such as trying to locally secure specific expendables, tools

and equipment needed for the job. Often we would be tripped up simply over different terms used to describe the same item. When I am shooting an indie movie on location, I sometimes have to source Jennifer Haire breaks down the production processes of local equivalents single and multi-cam TV productions. because the support infrastructure doesn’t exist. That happened during the training. extremely well received, and the crews Picture our suitcases filled with douwere very eager to learn. They excelled ble-headed nails, a Nicopress, colored rolls at almost everything. For the majority, of electrical tape and pneumatic nailers. I this was the only training they had ever had never considered what the standard had. These are practical trade skills—ones manufacturer’s-cut length of lumber was not offered in traditional film schools. The ... until now. Twelve-foot boards versus trainers became so invested in making sure 16-foot boards make a big difference. On trainees succeeded that they would spend an island nation, acquiring new materials, extra time with them on breaks and before especially in bulk, is not a speedy process. and after class. (I’m pretty sure they are all We were also faced with cultural challengsocial media friends now too!) These seaes, such as a hesitation to ask questions in soned Hollywood professionals were caring a group setting. The local crews had a hard and genuine and truly grateful to be a part time embracing the size of a traditional of something that would forever change Hollywood crew. Their crews are more the Filipino motion picture industry. student-film size. So now, in the middle of a small town outside of Manila, sit two fully operaIF WE ALL LEARN A LITTLE, tional, Hollywood-standard soundstages, THAT’S A LOT. ready for a production to give them life. Participation in the program is at the The program continues to grow, and discretion of the network. The intent is to additional training is being developed. enhance their local crew base by ensuring The experience has given me a much that specific target learners master the stronger understanding of how I can professional skills needed to work on the support my production teams to deliver soundstage. In addition, producers were their best work. encouraged to attend the classes. This Yesterday I received an excited text was key, as their understanding of how from one of our trainees. It was a photo to support this next level of production from the set of Idol Philippines. For the is essential to the success of the show. To first time ever, cameras were rolling on date we’ve trained more than 900 local the new stages. We taught them Hollyworking crew members. The classes were wood—now they are making history.

If you’re involved in a fascinating project outside your usual work demands, please let us know. We’d like to highlight your accomplishment. Just send an email about your passion, side job or venture with the topic “First Person” to producedbymag@producersguild.org.

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F YC • OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES

“ TRULY REVOLUTIONARY”


IN MEMORIAM

DAVID PICKER REMEMBERING A TITAN IN THE INDUSTRY AND FIERCE SUPPORTER OF THE PGA Written by peter saraf

David Picker on the set of Escape to Victory with John Huston (1981)

T

o be a film producer is to walk in the very long shadow of David Picker. That’s not just because of David’s tall stature, but because of the towering achievements of his life and career. David was a mentor, friend and inspiration to all who knew him. He was a rare mix of studio head and independent producer and was one of the leaders upon whose shoulders the PGA was built. He personally recruited many of us to not only join the Guild, but to roll up our sleeves and contribute to its future. It was through the PGA that I, and many others, had the honor and pleasure of getting to know this wonderful man. It was a privilege for which I will always be grateful. In addition to his film work, David wrote a wonderful memoir called Musts, Maybes, and Nevers—a book every producer should read and then read again. He was a visionary in the field and a man of impeccable taste. That taste ranged from James Bond to Steve Martin, from the Beatles to Ingmar Bergman, from Robert Altman to Woody Allen, to name a few. David famously once observed that if he had said no to everything he said yes to, and yes to everything he had said no to, it probably would have turned out the same. But the world most certainly would not have turned out the same without David Picker. David Picker died on April 20 at the age of 87. The thoughts and love of the PGA are with his family.

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S URVIVA L G U I D E

PRODUCERS SURVIVAL GUIDE With the ATA (Association of Talent Agents) and the WGA (Writers Guild of America) deep in a legal battle for the foreseeable future, where does that leave producers? Here are some practical tools to help producers connect with writers and navigate the current conflict.

FIND A WRITER This is a link to the WGA’s Find a Writer (FAW) directory: https://directories.wga.org/. The directory’s principal aim is to enable potential employers to contact a writer whose name they already know. For example, producers who have open writing assignments or who are looking to develop material, may want to contact a specific writer. They can do so easily with FAW. In addition, it allows searches by various criteria such as gender, ethnicity, orientation, credit and expertise.

WEEKLY FEATURE MEMO Every Friday, the WGA sends out a Weekly Feature Memo of available specs and pitches to producers and development execs via a subscription email. Guild members submit their loglines to the Guild, up to two submissions per month. In the memo they are organized by genre. Any producer wanting to read the spec, hear the pitch or set a general meeting can contact the writer via a link to the Find a Writer directory. Producers can subscribe to the memo here: www.wga.org/employers/employment/ weekly-feature-memo-subscribe.  

GET YOUR DIRECT EMAIL DELIVERED The WGA can forward emails to specific Guild members via WriterAvail@wga.org.  

OPEN WRITING ASSIGNMENTS The WGA is currently developing a tool to allow producers to advise writers of OWAs and invite them to express interest. An invitation for access to the tool will be sent to producers once it is available. For any general questions, the WGAW Agency department can be reached at agency@wga.org.

PRO

DUCER

PRO

DUCER

It’s clear producers will need to get creative until this situation is resolved, but we know that’s something that comes naturally to them.

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PHOTOGRAPH BY KWAKU ALSTON

THE COVER

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D u V e r n ay M

ost everyone would agree that Ava DuVernay writes, directs and produces very important projects. Yet when you talk to this extraordinary talent, she won’t go so far as to call her subject matter “important.” DuVernay prefers to categorize her body of work as a reflection of what interests her, what she personally cares about. Entertaining audiences is not enough. She won’t, as she puts it, “spend time making things I don’t believe in.” One thing DuVernay definitely believes in is candidly confronting a criminal justice system she feels has “disrupted black lives.” In contrast to what we see and read about in the news, her work personalizes the issues in a very intimate way. For her latest project, a four-part miniseries on Netflix called When They See Us, DuVernay takes a shameful page out of history. She chronicles the lives of five young Black and Hispanic teens wrongfully convicted of raping a jogger in New York’s Central Park in 1989. Although most people know of this story and how it ends, DuVernay delivers a compelling, compassionate portrait of who these boys actually were. She does that through the lens of their families—who, contrary to initial media reports—were very involved in their childrens’s lives. The crushing pain of watching mothers endure the agony of a criminal justice system that’s stacked against their boys in every way makes for a truly visceral viewing experience. When They See Us is the third part of a triptych. DuVernay’s 2012 film Middle of Nowhere debuted at Sundance, where she became the first African American woman to win the Best Director prize. That movie centered on families of the incarcerated. Her documentary 13th took ideas about the criminal justice system and gave them historical, political and cultural context. DuVernay says When They See Us is a marriage of the two, in that it’s designed to speak about families and address the system as a whole. While it is disturbing to focus on the social injustice so prevalent today, we can be grateful that this is what Ava DuVernay personally cares about. Through her heartfelt storytelling, she encourages us to face the problems and search for solutions, no matter how painful.

INTERVIEW BY PEGGY JO ABRAHAM

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DuVernay with Vera Farmiga, who portrays lead prosecutor Elizabeth Lederer

THIS IS THE 30TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE EVENTS YOU DEPICT IN YOUR POWERFUL NEW MINISERIES, WHEN THEY SEE US. WERE YOU TIMING ITS RELEASE TO COINCIDE WITH THIS OR HAD THE PROJECT JUST BEEN ON YOUR RADAR?

dropped the trailer on the exact date of the actual assault in the park was a big triumph for me and for the men involved. They wanted to commemorate the day that their lives changed forever with a different event. They wanted to reclaim that date. And we did.

I really wanted to make the 30th anniversary. As a producer, it was challenging to try to hit that exact date based on when we began our work, but I did want to make sure that we came out this year and as close to the date as possible. So the moment when we

CAN YOU TALK A BIT ABOUT THE TITLE? We had been using the working title of Central Park Five throughout preproduction, principal photography and most of post. But I knew in the back of my mind that I wanted to change it. I feel

like “Central Park Five” was the moniker that was given to them by the press, by powers that be, to group them together and in some ways strip them of their humanity. It’s used as a political term and it’s inflammatory. When you say that, people have all kinds of connotations or associations as to what it is and who they are or aren’t. And I wanted to make sure that this four-part film reclaimed their lives cinematically, and it does that from the very beginning when you hear the title. There’s a lot of brand equity in that first title, but I just felt so strongly that it wasn’t right for the story we were telling.

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THAT’S SO TRUE. IT IS A STORY THAT DEALS WITH MANY ASPECTS OF THESE KIDS’ LIVES. It’s representative of many parts of their lives and their families’ lives. For example, as a mother of non-Black boys, you may watch this and hopefully think it’s just an isolated story about the Central Park Five case. But this series is about family, about community, about personhood interrupted. This is about a lot of things in our culture beyond just that case.

IT WOULD HAVE BEEN EASY TO THINK THESE BOYS CAME FROM BROKEN HOMES AND REALLY DIFFICULT SITUATIONS. YET ALL OF THEM SEEM TO HAVE VERY STRONG FAMILIAL BONDS, WHICH WERE PORTRAYED IN SUCH A TOUCHING WAY. I hope it speaks to that fact that whenever you see a black or a brown person being paraded across the news or being characterized in movies as criminal and as not a whole person, you are ignoring who they are. And ultimately you’re ignoring their community, their culture, their very personhood.

YOU WERE JUST A TEENAGER AT THE TIME OF THE CRIME. BUT DO YOU REMEMBER BEING VERY AWARE OF THE INCIDENT AND THE COVERAGE? Very aware, very aware. I wanted to go to UCLA to study broadcast journalism and ended up being an English Lit major, but with a real interest in news. But the reason why this case caught my attention was because the boys were very close to my age. And there was a word that I didn’t understand in the news called “wilding.” And I thought I was a hip teenager and was like, “Is this a new slang term that I don’t know?” So I called my cousin in New York and I said, “What’s wilding?

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‘Central Park Five’ was the moniker that was given to them by the press, by powers that be, to group them together and in some ways strip them of their humanity.”

Is this a New York thing? What does it mean?” And he said, “It doesn’t mean anything. It’s not a word that we use. I think they mean wilin’, wilin’ out,” which was slang at that time. It meant we’re just hanging out. The fact that “wilin’ out” became “wilding,” became “wolf pack,” became “animalistic criminals” really had an effect on me because for the first time, I realized the news can be incorrect, that this is not something I can blindly trust. And I really recall that moment, because I was so focused on pursuing news as a career at the time, so the case was really formative for me in that way.

DID THE WRONGED MEN ACTUALLY CONTRIBUTE TO THE SHOW? WERE YOU INVOLVED WITH THEM WHEN YOU WERE WRITING IT? Yes. They were my guiding stars on this. I became very close to them, and we’re still very close. I interviewed them with their families, sat in their homes, broke bread and had meals with them over a four-year period. They were on the set quite a bit and literally there with their actors, particularly Korey Wise, who still lives in New York. The actor (Jharrel Jerome, who plays Wise) came to me and said, “Ava, can Korey come to set today? I have a tough scene.” He just wanted to feel his presence and be near him. So we worked very closely with them, the whole writers’ room. We brought them out to LA and they sat with the writers for several days.

SO THIS STORY WAS TRULY THEIR STORY? Yes. I was adamant that this not be culled solely from press clippings and archives, that this was them finally being able to amplify their voices, which they had not been able to do. Even in their trial, they were defending against a lie. Even in their confession, they were coerced to say what they said. So you never really got the moment where they told you how they felt about what was happening, what was going on behind closed doors


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from their perspective.

AND WHAT ABOUT THE RAPE VICTIM, JOGGER TRISHA MEILI? DID YOU HAVE ANY CONTACT WITH HER? I reached out to everyone depicted and said, “I’m telling a story. You’re going to be in it. And I would love to sit down with you to learn more about you and your experience.” And I sat down with everyone who wanted to, and I didn’t with the people who didn’t want to. She declined to be interviewed by me, so most of what I used came from her book—little things like what she would listen to on the radio or her jogging habits. The book was basically my guideline. And then I interviewed people who knew her and was able to get a little bit more.

I READ THAT MATIAS REYES, THE REAL RAPIST, CONTINUED TO COMMIT CRIMES AFTER THE 1989 INCIDENT AND THAT ONE OF THE ACCUSED MEN CALLS THAT THE REAL TRAGEDY—THE ONE THAT’S NEVER TALKED ABOUT. IS THAT TRUE? Yes, Reyes did go on to murder a woman and commit several other rapes, all of which he admitted to. But that could have been prevented if justice had been pursued, truly pursued, that night. He’s walking around the park in bloody clothes. The boys don’t know what they’re saying. They don’t know where they’re supposed to be. People are feeding them their “facts.” I mean, it’s clearly not them. And yet you have to solve this case, and it’s a big media storm, and there are political objectives, and you let the real guy go back into society to rape and kill more people. So that’s what happened.

I REMEMBER TRUMP’S CONNECTION TO THE CASE— HIS CALLING PUBLICLY FOR THE RETURN OF THE DEATH PENALTY. WAS THERE ANY HESITATION ON YOUR PART ABOUT USING THE TRUMP

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DuVernay and Jharrel Jerome, who plays wrongly accused teen Korey Wise

FOOTAGE NOW THAT HE’S PRESIDENT? No. It was an early decision that I made, and there was a lot of thought about how to handle him. But if I stay true to my kind-of North Star, which is to tell the story of the men, that allowed me not to veer off into other things. You could easily have had someone playing Trump and had a whole part of the story around that. But I made the decision at the beginning that this needed to be told through the boys’ perspectives and through their families’ perspectives. At the time they weren’t really aware of Trump. They’re

young black boys, and all they thought was he was a rich guy in New York, which is all he was. And they were going through their own pain and didn’t really understand the depth of what calling for the death penalty meant for them.

WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT WRONGFUL CONVICTIONS AND THE KILLINGS OF YOUNG BLACKS, YOU REALIZE THEY’RE STILL SO PREVALENT TODAY. IN SOME WAYS, IT FEELS LIKE NOT MUCH HAS CHANGED. IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT’S MISSING?


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STATISTIC. That’s because part of the whole mechanism of our criminal justice system is pleading. You take the plea. You take the deal. That’s there because you don’t want everyone going to trial. If everyone went to trial, it would burden the system, and you wouldn’t be able to get through all the cases. But this creates an imbalance and a bias. People who can’t properly defend themselves end up in jail.

YOU HAVE YOUR FINGER ON THE PULSE OF SO MANY SOCIAL AND POLITICAL ISSUES. WHY, AS A FILMMAKER, DO YOU FEEL IT’S IMPORTANT TO SPEAK OUT IN THIS WAY? I don’t feel like that has to be the case for anyone else. But for me, the stories that I want to tell and that I want to put out in the world with my name on, I want them to do more. So that’s how I choose what I’m doing. And if what it does is get people to think about themselves and think about motherhood or family or the criminal justice system, or whatever, that’s just a cherry on top.

WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO TACKLE THESE ISSUES? Well, we’re just putting Band-Aids on a systemic problem. So until you change the system, nothing is really going to change. We need to look at the criminal justice system in this country and rebuild it. We need to look at what prisons were historically meant to do, which was to create a substitute for slavery. We need to look at the ways in which we’re stripping rights from people who are incarcerated. We need to look at the fact that 93% of the people who are currently in jail never had a trial. Yet we say we

live in a just country. So I feel like everything is a BandAid until there’s a real interrogation and a dismantling and rebuilding of the criminal justice system in this country. And that is a long shot, because too many people benefit from it.

YOU CLEARLY DEMONSTRATED IN YOUR DOCUMENTARY, 13TH , HOW SO MANY PEOPLE PROFIT FROM THE INCARCERATION PROCESS. AND WOW, 93% OF INMATES NEVER WENT TO TRIAL. THAT’S A STAGGERING

YOU’VE WORKED A LOT WITH OPRAH. YOU HAVE AN EXISTING SHOW ON OWN TV, A NEW ANTHOLOGY SERIES CALLED CHERISH THE DAY , AND SHE’S A PRODUCER ON WHEN THEY SEE US . IS IT YOUR SIMILAR SENSIBILITIES THAT MAKE FOR AN EASY COLLABORATION? WHAT IS THAT CONNECTION WITH HER? We have the same feeling about the work—that art can be transformative, that art can contribute to the culture beyond entrainment, that it can also help shape identity ideas and empathy. And so that core piece of the puzzle is a big connection that we have. She’s a wonderful, creative producer. She can read a script and tell me “This works,” “You lost me here,” “I cried here,” “What do you think about this?” And in terms of

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casting, she has a great sense of people. She’s interviewed more people than anyone else, so she really can look in someone’s eyes and say, “I can feel them” or, “This is a person I can see that they’re going to be able to portray.” And she’s just a great sounding board in that way.

YOU PAY IT FORWARD IN MANY WAYS. ARE YOU STILL WORKING WITH THE EVOLVE FUND, THE PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN THE CITY OF LA AND THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY? Yes I am, through Array Alliance, a

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nonprofit. Array is a series of companies I’ve had over the last 10 years. Through the nonprofit, we’re involved with a lot of educational initiatives to develop audience around work by women and people of color. We joined forces with the mayor’s office and the Evolve Fund to create curriculum and programming for high school and college students to help them enter our industry and transform it from the ground up. So that was an initiative, and I was in the inaugural program that we launched last year. I’m really excited about its success and its future.

DuVernay directs a courtroom scene from When They See Us.


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WHEN THEY SEE US

FROM THE PRODUCING TEAM

Producing When They See Us was a challenge on many levels. Until now, no one has ever heard the story from the perspective of the five boys who were wrongly accused. And while the rape and trial received a huge amount of media coverage—as producer Jonathan King points out—“The subsequent exoneration got much less attention, to the point that so many people still don’t know the truth.” We spoke to three of the series’ executive producers about what they hope audiences will take away from the emotional drama.

BERRY WELSH There was a moment in prep where Jane, Jonathan and I were sitting with Ava in her office, and Jonathan said something that became a kind of mantra for the show: “When they say ‘boys will be boys,’ they aren’t talking about these boys.” It was an observation about the loss of innocence that touches on every part of the series. You become so emotionally invested in the boys and their families, but their stories also challenge you to think beyond what you know as your own experience.

JONATHAN KING One of the most important ideas When They See Us humanizes is that incarceration affects families and communities, not just the person doing time. And the effects don’t stop upon release. A criminal record stays with a person and impacts their ability to restart their life after release. It’s especially pernicious when a person has been wrongfully convicted, but it applies to all people caught up in the system.

JANE ROSENTHAL There are human consequences to the system’s failures, and that hasn’t changed. The power of storytelling is that we can take a dark part of our history, and Ava’s vision turns it into something ultimately uplifting that can bring about social change. The benefit of having a creative partner like Netflix is that we can reach the largest possible audience and amplify the message.

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EAT, DRINK AND BE WARY HOW TO reduce our appetite for paper, plastic and leftovers Written by Lendi Slover

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or producers, the scenery is always changing. We’re moving fast from set to set, to airplanes, to myriad interior and exterior locations. Sets pop up and get torn down, but one thing remains constant—all the stuff we leave behind. What happens to the trash and food waste we produce? With our domestic recycling system in turmoil, and China refusing to take our plastic waste, it mostly ends up just where we didn’t want it—in landfills, again. Tackling the food and beverage waste problem on sets should be as easy as getting your latte hand-delivered. Think about how many coffee cups, water bottles, utensils and plastic clamshells you used on your last production. What about the mounds of leftover food? Like all the challenges we face, this one starts with you, the producer.

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Being thoughtful about the aftermath of craft and catering reduces your environmental impact and might even save you money. First and foremost, by limiting the amount of items that make it to your set, you are reducing costs. Let’s talk bottled water. One look at those seabirds with stomachs full of plastic waste or sea turtles doomed by the same should be enough to make you think twice. Try to replace those countless plastic bottles with five-gallon refillable water jugs. The estimated cost to fill one jug is just 50 cents. Indicate on call sheets that crew should bring their own bottles—or for cups, choose biodegradable, compostable or reusable options. A great example is 20th Century Fox (now Disney). They have eliminated nearly 3 million plastic water bottles since 2009. Their recent film Call of the Wild banned single-use plastic water bottles


GOING GREEN An affordable, pop-up recycle bin is an easy way to keep bottles and cans out of landfills.

at each of the film’s six locations in favor of refillable ones, which were gifted to the cast and crew. This practice avoided the use of 201,920 plastic bottles, saving more than $33,000—and countless marine creatures too, we hope. As for coffee cups, that divine fuel for your day always calls for refills. Again, reusable is the way to go. Hopefully you’ll get some eco-conscious crew members willing to bring their fave coffee mug to work. Perhaps catering could provide real coffee mugs. If that’s not feasible, go with the biodegradable/compostable option. For smaller productions, get the coffee travelers but buy your own cups. Starbucks cups have a plastic liner making them non-recyclable. In fact most paper cups used for hot beverages contain a plastic liner. Look to provide biodegradable cups, and everybody can enjoy their joe with little to no environmental impact. Let’s talk catering—notably, utensils. You have the choice as to what you use and how much you use. The solutions range from real silverware to fully compostable/biodegradable options, both drastically impacting your carbon footprint. On smaller sets, sometimes real silverware isn’t an option. That said, avoid buying huge boxes of plastic tableware nobody uses. Buy eco-friendly options for the correct number of crew members or buy in bulk and continue to use for future productions. It won’t break your budget, and it won’t remain on Earth for hundreds of years. Finally, let’s get to recycling. What do you do on set when you’re moving locations so often? I imagine the trash cans go with you, so take the recycle and composting bins, too. Make sure they are clearly labeled and announce to the crew you’ll be recycling and composting. Place the bins next to the regular trash cans, including if possible pictures of what is supposed to go in them. To make things even easier, you can purchase an affordable, portable, pop-up recycle bin that takes up virtually no space. Just pop that puppy up on set and you have instant recycling. This will keep bottles and cans from going into the landfills. All U.S. cities should offer some form of recycling where you can empty your bin after the shoot. So use those easy-to-assemble bins and turn in the bottles and cans for some cold, hard cash. It might just pay for your jugs and water—and you can consider that a wash.

By simply working with the caterer or taking your own stand on what food packaging/utensils are allowed on your set, you’ve tackled a good portion of the problem. Now what do you do with the food waste? Compost. Compost. Compost. For those productions reluctant to go the distance and compost, here’s the good news: You can save money there too. Ask people to dump the food before dumping their trash. Find a local composter in your area and hand over those methane-emitting leftovers. They might even arrange to pick it up from you if there is a large enough quantity and return the favor with some new composting bags. If you work with a local organic farm, you can sometimes trade compost for fresh, organic produce! For leftovers that are still in good shape and fresh, consider donating them. The Amazing Spiderman 2 donated more than 5,000 meals and prevented 5,715 pounds of greenhouse gases from going into the atmosphere. Here’s what the Green Production Guide recommends: During pre-production, connect with a local food bank or food rescue organization in each filming location. They must be nonprofit organizations operating for religious, charitable or educational purposes. You must prepare and provide a Food Donation Agreement to be signed by an authorized rep on both sides prior to the first pickup. See greenproductionguide.com for a sample agreement you can download. Put the food organization’s contact information on the Call Sheet distribution list and keep them informed of catering schedule changes to ensure timely pickup. Ask them to provide daily or wrap reports indicating the quantity and value donated, so the production and studio can keep track. Feeding America is a national network of food banks, the largest charitable hunger relief organization in the U.S. They can help you find a local food bank at feedingamerica.org. According to the MPAA, studios donated the equivalent of more than 130,000 meals from production and commissary donations throughout the country last year. Member companies also continued to prevent studio sets and other solid waste from entering landfills, achieving a 64% diversion rate in 2018. On Call of the Wild, craft services provided biodegradable, compostable plates and cutlery. More than 30,750 pounds of food and cutlery were composted. Leftover food was donated to those in need in the California communities where the movie filmed, through partnerships with the Hollywood Food Coalition and Rock and Wrap It Up. Producing movies requires a lot of creativity and innovation to make the impossible possible. We’ve seen epic battle scenes come to life, had dinosaurs roam the Earth and created immersive alternative universes. If we can handle that, I think we can figure out how to be conscious creators who realize the very real environmental impacts of our productions.

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written by Michael Ventre | photographed by kremer johnson photography

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A Captivating VR Experience is Reaching From Dallas to Dubai

IF

ever there was a time to put on magic goggles and experience a different reality, it just might be now. The clever folks at Dreamscape Immersive are hoping to transport as many virtual realists as possible away from the current national and global kerfuffles and toward a burgeoning form of mass entertainment, if only for a brief but fun-filled period. For many years Walter Parkes has been one of the film industry’s foremost experts on non-goggled escapism. Along with his wife and business partner, Laurie MacDonald, he has helped shepherd more than 50 films to the screen as a writer, producer and executive. The duo has had Steven Spielberg as a longtime BFF, and Parkes has received three Academy Award nominations. You practically need a VR headset just to take in the fullness of their credits. Because most movies are twodimensional, and great imaginations know no bounds, a natural conflict exists—which is what led Parkes to create the virtual reality entertainment company called Dreamscape Immersive. (MacDonald is not an active partner in this venture, although she sparkles in a supporting role.) Along with co-founder Kevin Wall, Dreamscape offers the kind of VR experience that prescient nerds once whispered about in awe over what could be possible when the technology was first introduced. “Dreamscape as an idea,” Parkes explains, “sort of operates more in the world of theme park rides and Hollywood motion

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Dreamscape’s first location at Westfield Century City Mall has a travel theme and uses design elements resembling a classic train station.

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pictures than it does in the world of gaming.” In the technical mumbo jumbo department, Dreamscape employs a system called inverse kinematics. In motion capture, the subject wears a suit similar to a surfer’s wetsuit, filled with little dots that record motion to a computer. With inverse kinematics, it’s much simpler: Small square sensors are secured to each hand and foot of the traveler, a backpack is donned, then goggles. What isn’t covered on the rest of the body is filled in by an algorithm. “There is relatively less information having to go through the system because the algorithm is doing a lot of it,” Parkes says, “which is why we’ve had no instances of motion sickness.” The Swiss-based technology was developed by Caecilia Charbonnier and Sylvain Chague and deployed by Dreamscape. Parkes says this technology boasts two very important advantages that other virtual reality methods do not: 1) it renders the entire body without lag or latency, one to one, so you can truly experience yourself in a VR environment, and 2) it accommodates multiple people at one time. “My experiences in VR were not very satisfying prior to this because who wants to go alone in a VR space and look at stuff,” says Parkes. “It’s interesting, but it wasn’t really compelling. “But when we saw this technology,” he continues, “particularly because it was social—because we are social animals and we like to consume our entertainment socially—it struck me as something that could be developed not just as an offshoot of gaming but as a way of telling stories.” The stories being told are brief, with minimal narration and no real subplots, but the VR environment keeps the audience/ participant engaged and riveted. At the Westfield Century City Mall, the Dreamscape location appears like a smaller version of a Cineplex. There is a board displaying showtimes, a small snack area (although there really is no point in trying

to munch popcorn or guzzle a vat of cola; it just wouldn’t work), and pods where the magic happens. Adjacent to each pod is a small “gear up” area, similar to a locker room, with spaces to accommodate six adventurers at a time. Three titles were available at press time, with more in the pipeline: “Alien Zoo,” which is fairly self-explanatory and came from a long-pondered idea for a feature bandied about among Spielberg, Parkes and MacDonald; “The Blu,” a whale-saving undersea adventure; and “The Curse of the Lost Pearl: A Magic Projector Adventure,” which has an Indiana Jones-like flavor and is a collaboration between Dreamscape CEO Bruce Vaughn, and Parkes and his son Graham, a budding wunderkind in the entertainment business. “Bruce had created, built and deployed theme park rides all over the world, ending with the last thing he did there, which was to open Shanghai Disneyland,” explains Parkes. Each works as a distinct and wondrous experience. But these 10- to 13- minute shows at $20 a pop obviously have significant differences from the traditional cinematic products Parkes and MacDonald have produced over the years, including the Men in Black franchise, Minority Report, Road to Perdition and Catch Me If You Can. “The interesting thing,” Parkes says, “if you want to get nerdy about it—there’s two fundamental elements of film language in telling stories: the frame and cutting. If you see a pretty girl, I cut to you looking, I cut back to her, I cut back to you, and it tells the audience you’re looking at her as an object of desire. If I want to know more about what you’re thinking, I go in tight. “Those two fundamental things are taken away (in VR). Basically there’s no cutting and no frame. So you have to find other ways to make up for that. And the other fundamental thing about film storytelling that we’ve found in our many years is point of view. You’re telling somebody’s story. The trick here is that the audience has to be the main character. (That) challenge is

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really interesting and difficult.” The Westfield Century City location is owned and operated by Dreamscape. The next four Dreamscape venues are being done in partnership with AMC and its CEO, Adam Aron. The theater chain is now the company’s biggest investor, and you can probably understand why. Dreamscape is also working with Majid Al Futtaim Group, a lifestyle-leisure group that operates shopping malls throughout the Middle East. Dreamscape is scheduled to open a venue in the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai in August or September. And stateside, openings are planned in Dallas and Columbus, Ohio. In addition, Dreamscape is looking at venues like the British Museum of Natural History, which has the largest blue whale skeleton in the world. “We may install there semi-permanently,” he says. “If we’re able to install near that, it would be pretty cool.” Now put on your goggles and imagine a world where such VR venues have not only original stories, but offshoot tie-ins to big Hollywood features. First up, Men in Black. The latest installment of the franchise, Men in Black: International, which is set for release on June 14, features new stars in Tessa Thompson (Creed, Westworld) and Chris Hemsworth (the Thor series). Men in Black debuted in 1997 with Tommy Lee

Jones and Will Smith on the one-sheet. This new one is the fourth feature release, and there was also a TV series that ran for 53 episodes. The premise involves agents of a secret organization who specialize in rooting out extraterrestrials here on Earth. “This is one more slot in the franchise,” MacDonald says, “but it expands the universe of the whole organization. That’s why it’s Men in Black: International. It posits that we didn’t know there are agents operating all over the world. It’s based in London.” In their semisecret Culver City location, Dreamscape engineers are busy working in a warehouse-like space on new product, including a VR version of Men in Black. The dream is to have the VR experience open before the feature, and then play through and possibly beyond its run. Dreamscape isn’t alone in the VR marketplace. One of its major competitors is The Void, which is aligned with Disney and produces work from Disney titles. “They’re a very interesting and good company that has been around a couple more years than us,” says Parkes. “Their experience is more on the gaming side of things.” And the arena surely will fill with more such companies as VR builds popularity. “Studios have realized that you sort of have to look at your movie as part of a great big ecosystem of your franchise,”

Parkes explains. “And it has to exist in digital, and in mobile, and publishing, and retail, and in all sorts of things. This is nothing new, but there’s more value put on the ancillaries than ever before.” That is putting Dreamscape in an enviable position. Parkes reports that the company’s Century City location is operating at “near 90% utilization, which means it’s 100% on all weekends. It’s operating at almost twice the model in terms of number of tickets sold.” And apparently it isn’t just teenagers out on weekend dates looking for new excitement. Granted this is anecdotal, but Parkes says he recently witnessed an example of how the word on VR may have breached demographic borders. “About three weeks ago, I was there (in Century City) in the morning and there were six ladies I would say between 78 and 82,” he recalls. “They had never done VR, and one of them walked by us and said, ‘We’re gonna do this!’ And I said, ‘I’m sure they’re gonna do ‘The Blu,’ but they said no, they’re doing ‘The Magic Projector.’ “Not only did they love it,” he adds, “but I looked at them, and there was this great sense of accomplishment, like they were able to do something they weren’t sure they’d be able to do.” Could it be that VR will be a key to bridging the technical generation gap?

Chris Hemsworth (left) with producer Laurie MacDonald and Tessa Thompson in London on the set of Men in Black: International


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PGAIC DINNER FEBRUARY 10 BERLIN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL The PGA International Committee rolled out the black carpet at a dazzling dinner for its members at the Berlin Film Festival. The elegant event was hosted by IC Co-chair Kayvan Mashayekh and sponsored by Pixomondo with contributions by Pathbender Media Holdings and Tobias Wulf of d&b audiotechnik. It was a feast to behold, attended by heavyweights in the German and international film industry. Pixomondo EP Lena Bahrs organized the entire affair to perfection. The amazing spirit of collaboration among the guests left everyone wanting more.

From left: Kirsten Niehuus, Christian Alvart, Lena Bahrs, Fahri Yardim

From left: Mark Dayoub, Salvy Maleki, Tobias Wulf, Kayvan Mashayekh, Lena Bahrs

BLOCKCHAIN CURATION: MONETIZATION IN A FRAGMENTED LANDSCAPE FEBRUARY 9 BERLIN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

PHOTOGRAPHS BY SEAN SMUDA

The second of a six-part global series explored the utility of blockchain technology in the film business during the Berlin Film Festival’s sidebar, EFM Horizons. The lively discussion, centered around the need for curation as an increasingly important aspect of SVOD content proliferation. Panelists Stu Levy (Tokyopop), Sam Klebanov (Cinezen) and Irina Albita (FilmChain) debated the merits of rights management of instant payments and the need to generate meaningful revenues downstream for rights holders via a blockchain platform.

Panelist Irina Albita for FilmChain

From left: Panelists Irina Albita (FilmChain), Stu Levy (Tokyopop), Sam Klebanov (Cinezen) and moderator Kayvan Mashayekh

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ON THE SCENE

PHOTOGRAPHS BY SUMAIYA ANANNA

CONDUCT ON SETS APRIL 3 NEW YORK CITY

From left: Mac Gostow, Ali Reza Farahnakian, Susan Sprung, Jaime Aderski, Matt Higgins, Sara Morgan Ashey, Ivy Kagan Bierman

The Producers Guild of America Foundation presented Conduct on Sets: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. This industry-wide training was the first offered by the Guild as a part of the Foundation’s Independent Production Safety Initiative. Members and industry professionals gathered at the SAG-AFTRA Foundation Robin Williams Center. Leading the event was Ivy Kagan Bierman, an entertainment industry expert on cultural issues in the workplace. During the interactive training, Bierman presented scenarios performed by actors from the People’s Improv Theater. The scenarios demonstrated examples of workplace bullying, harassment, discrimination and retaliation. Attendees had the opportunity to ask both direct and anonymous questions throughout the session. The evening was presented in collaboration with the SAG-AFTRA Foundation. Special thanks to SAG-AFTRA and PGA’s Women’s Impact Network.

5TH ANNUAL PITCH TO WIN APRIL 27 LOS ANGELES This year the Women’s Impact Network carried on a tradition started five years ago as the brainchild of then-Chair Carrie Lynn Certa. It was a packed room at the offices of Entertainment Partners for a lively discussion covering: the current market— what’s selling/what’s not; the dos and don’ts of pitching; pitching film versus TV; and being prepared for the unexpected. In one of the most fun segments of the day, attendees heard three practice pitches from volunteers, where they pitched wellknown past shows but flipped them on their ears by rebooting with diversity and inclusion in mind. This event was followed by another session on May 4, where WIN members pitched actual female-centric projects to executives in the market.

From left: Michaline Babich (Invent TV), Julie Winograd (Circle of Confusion TV Studios), Joey Tuccio (Roadmap Writers), Charnay Mather (Covert Media), Seth Renshaw (Benaroya Pictures), Yolanda T. Cochran (WIN National Co-chair)

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ON THE SCENE CAPITAL REGION LEGAL SEMINAR APRIL 30 WASHINGTON, DC

PHOTOGRAPHS BY PETE COUSTÉ

Capital Region members were hosted at the National Association of Broadcasters headquarters in Washington, D.C. for a seminar titled Legal Considerations for Producers. National Geographic Partners Director of Business and Legal Affairs Nicolas Bernasconi and Capital Region entertainment and contract attorney Seth Polansky delivered insights and tips about entertainment industry contracts and what you need to know before you sign. The two attorneys presented the legal perspectives from each side of typical agreements—the producer or production company and the network or studio. They revealed why networks make certain requests on contracts, as well as what producers or production companies might do to protect themselves up front. The presentation triggered a lively discussion about intellectual property rights, appearance/location releases, nondisclosure agreements and indemnification or risk. 

Nicolas Bernasconi (left) and Seth Polansky lead the seminar.

PHOTOGRAPHS BY ERICA SNYDER

PRODUCERS ON PRODUCING MARCH 29 NEW YORK CITY PGA members on the East Coast took advantage of a rare opportunity to hear from two of the most successful producers in the business—Courtney A. Kemp and Tonya Lewis Lee. At the Producers on Producing session, the two women shared frank insights into their careers and discussed the processes and approaches they use to develop content and talent. As the inspiring evening drew to a close, Kemp and Lewis Lee graciously lingered to answer individual questions. The event, held at the SAG-AFTRA Foundation Robin Williams Center, was presented by the One Guild and Diversity East Committees. The One Guild initiative supports inclusiveness in membership, employment, content and depictions.

Producers Courtney A. Kemp (left) and Tonya Lewis Lee headline the NYC event.

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TONYA LEWIS LEE IS A FIGHTER AND ART IS HER WEAPON Written by Sarah Sanders

“I do think of my art as my activism,” says Tonya Lewis Lee early in our conversation—and it’s clear this core belief infuses all aspects of the many kinds of work she does. Whether as a producer, writer or entrepreneur, Lee is deeply committed to the power of telling stories that matter. “I’m very fortunate in that I am mostly able to pick and choose the kind of work that I want to be doing,” she says. “I do it with the intention of trying to make the world a better place, of trying to raise awareness and consciousness—especially around issues of race, issues of gender, equity, of health and wellness. Lee has most recently been shining light on those topics through her work as executive producer for the second season of Netflix’s She’s Gotta Have It, created and directed by Spike Lee (who is, yes, also her husband). The

first season, released in 2017, was based on his 1986 film of the same name. Revolving around Brooklyn-based Nola Darling and her relationships with friends and multiple lovers, the film was groundbreaking in its depiction of an independent, sexually liberated Black woman. The second season continues to follow Nola, now grappling with artistic success and trying to balance her ideals with the demands of the corporate world. While the first season adhered closely to the film, the second branches out, as we “go into Nola’s world and see where she leads us,” Lee says. “For me, it was just really fun to think about and look at a young woman who’s an artist and how an artist figures out how to make it today. Being an artist is not an easy thing, especially when

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SHE DEFINITELY “HAS IT”

you’re first starting out.” The show digs into the difficulty of balancing creative idealism on the one hand with commercial success on the other, asking, “Can you legitimately make money on your art and be true to yourself as an artist, or are you selling out to the corporate structure?” For Lee, the two ideas are not necessarily mutually exclusive, especially in terms of access and reach. “I want [my work] to have commercial success because that means it’s reaching as many people as possible,” she says. That matters to Lee because the projects she works on provide complex, nuanced depictions of people of color—something she believes there should be more of. “Looking at television, looking at film, is how we are informed about who we are, what’s happening in our world,” she explains. “Seeing my children see themselves in this world, this majority-white world that we live in, through television, through

books, I realized there weren’t enough books I was able to read that featured kids that looked like them or TV shows with kids that looked like them,” she says. “I want to be contributing to that in the best way possible, as much as I can.” As another way of bringing politics into art, She’s Gotta Have It also dives into issues of gentrification, something apparent in a Brooklyn that has changed dramatically in the 30 years since the film was released. “Sometimes when I still go back to Fort Greene, I feel like I’m Rip Van Winkle. It’s unbelievable to me how different it is,” Lee says. She explains that showing the effects of gentrification on communities of color was crucial to the remake of She’s Gotta Have It, in a way that ties back to the idea of art as activism. “It was really important, and continues to be important in the show, to show what gentrification is like and what it’s doing to a community. It’s a serious issue and it’s a serious issue for underserved communities. I don’t

know what Brooklyn’s going to be like in another 25 years. I mean, is there a world in which we’re able to work together to keep it at least at this point? Or is it going to be completely whitewashed?” The series does not provide any miracle solutions to gentrification, but Lee says the show does present “an awareness, an awakening, to where they are”—and awareness is a necessary first step toward change. Another way Lee is helping bring about change is making sure the She’s Gotta Have It writers’ room features many women, like Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage (who also produces). Having women on both sides of the camera also matters. While Lee gladly acknowledges that Spike created the character of Nola, she’s been excited by the guidance that women creatives have been able to provide, and what that has brought to the show. “We wanted to put flesh and bones into who she is,” she says of Nola. “And men don’t know what they don’t know,”

PHOTO COURTESY OF NETFLIX

Tonya Lewis Lee and Spike Lee on location reviewing footage from season 2 of She’s Gotta Have It

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SHE DEFINITELY “HAS IT”

she adds with a wry smile. “It was really important to have a room full of women— full of strong women—who were willing and unafraid to say what we really thought about what it means to be a young woman today. To Spike’s credit, and the other guys in the room, I think they really came to understand that.” Helping a director realize the most fleshed-out version of their vision is a large part of what Lee views her work as a producer to be. “A producer’s job is to really be able to listen to a director’s vision, understand what it is they’re really after and figure out how to help them get there,” she explains. Lee was enthusiastic about having that director be, in this case, her husband; while both have been in the business for years, the initial season of She’s Gotta Have It was their first time working together. “We found our groove and how it works, how we work together,” she says. “And I have to say, I really did enjoy it. Even though there were moments, I’m sure, where I was like, I’ll never do this again!” she laughs. In general, Lee’s admiration for her husband’s work and values is apparent, especially in the ways he has opened doors for new, diverse voices. “He’s brought a lot of people with him, and I respect that immensely, and I want to do the same: work with all kinds of people who are trying to do the same kind of work that we’re trying to do.” In order to make more of that kind of work, Lee launched the production company ToniK Productions with her partner, Nikki Silver, in 2012. They have since produced several films, including Monster, which premiered at Sundance in 2018. While producing independently can be challenging, Lee says there are also rewards. “As independent producers today, it’s not easy. You’re sort of out here on your own,” she explains. “But the flip side of that is that we do get to do the work that we want to do, in the way that we want to do it, with the kind of people we want to do it with. It may take a little longer and be a little harder, but you know, we fight the fight.” And fighting is important to Lee, in a way that, again, comes back to art as

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“WE NEED TO BE ARMY-FIT. BECAUSE IF SOMEONE SAYS RUN, I BETTER BE ABLE TO RUN. I DON’T WANT SOMEONE TO HAVE TO PUT ME ON THEIR BACK. I WANT TO BE ABLE TO CARRY MY OWN WEIGHT.” activism. “It’s a battlefield out here,” she says. “What’s my part? How am I fighting? Because it matters to me. The sacrifices that were made for me to be here, matter. And so, what am I doing to further the human race?” It’s a question that clearly guides the work Lee does away from television and film sets as well. “I joke with friends, especially in these days, we need to be army-fit. Because if someone says run, I better be able to run. I don’t want someone to have to put me on their back. I want to be able to carry my own weight. And I’m a survivor, we all are survivors—we’re here. So, being mentally, physically and spiritually strong is critical,” she says. Indeed, Lee has been a public health and wellness advocate for many years. In 2009, she produced the documentary Crisis in the Crib, exploring the issues of infant mortality in the United States. She later launched Movita, a wellness brand offering organic vitamin supplements that address the specific needs of women. In addition to advocating for women’s health, Lee also aims to demystify health practices more generally. “The bottom line: eating well, moving your body and getting your sleep is everything. And when you’re young, if you can start doing that and make it become part of a habit, then you can continue to do the work at the level you want to be doing it … for as long as you want to be doing it.” Lee practices what she preaches: she meditates, eats a mostly vegan diet and

exercises regularly. In fact, members of the She’s Gotta Have It crew would frequently encourage each other to go to the gym after wrapping for a day. “I’m like, my god, if the camera operator can be in the gym after he’s been holding that camera all day, then I should be able to do that!” she says with a smile—though not for vanity’s sake. In addition to the practicality of taking care of one’s body for career longevity, Lee insists that self-care has a political component. She admires writer and civil rights activist Audre Lorde and cites her quote: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” “I do love that, because again, it goes back to art as activism,” she says. As part of that self-care, Lee says she is also working on “going with the flow of life” and not letting herself get stressed about intense production schedules. “I try really hard to be kind to myself,” she says. “I’m at an age where I know what I can deal with and what I can’t. And if I can’t, I’m not going to deal with that.” As for other words of wisdom, “My advice for producers would be find your team, find your people,” she says. “I think it’s great to have collaborative partnerships, people that you trust, who you build relationships with, who you enjoy working with.” She also says to remember that things take a long time: “Never give up. You just gotta hang in there. And if it doesn’t work one way, you’ve got to figure out another way.”


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OPINION

O VERLOAD OVERLOAD WHEN SOCIAL MEDIA MEETS RESEARCH, HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT TO BELIEVE? Written By Ben Carlson

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ILLUSTRATED BY AJAY PECKHAM

W

hen there’s a “wow” moment at an awards show or when a new movie trailer drops online, people around the world grab their phones and race to social media to voice their opinions. Even more people jump on just to read the conversation. And what a conversation it is! On Twitter alone, 500 million tweets are sent each day. That’s 6,000 tweets every single second. Add to that Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Reddit and regional social sites like Sina Weibo (China) and VK (Russia). The conversation is massive, global and nearly instantaneous. But as we all know, social media is not real life. So can you believe the opinions you read when you scroll through social? The answer—not surprisingly—is both yes and no. Social media acts as the world’s biggest, fastest focus group. In near real time, you can see hundreds, thousands and even millions of opinions about any topic imaginable from people around the world. Before social media, this would have been impossible. And one of the largest topics of conversation across social media is entertainment. We have all seen how social can reflect pop culture phenomena such as Avengers: Endgame and Game of Thrones. It can give voice to smaller fan groups as well. Nearly every series and film has supporters on social media. These fan groups can help a show grow audience interest, drive tune-in, and in rare instances, even find a new home. Canceled shows like The Expanse, Brooklyn 99 and The Mindy Project have found new life on other networks or platforms thanks in part to rabid social fans. The instant reactions available on social media can be addictive. Many producers race to Twitter to quickly get a first read on audience reactions to an announcement, the launch of marketing materials or the debut of their show or film. And that is the point where social media can become misleading. From an anonymous perch online, people can lob negative opinions onto YouTube videos or Reddit threads. In the interest of attracting more attention, a negative joke can go viral on Twitter. Or a glance at mentions on Facebook may be glowingly positive, even if most audiences didn’t like something. There are a multitude of ways that social media can frustrate, confuse or mislead. Separating the signal from the noise in social media is challenging. And while it may be tempting to disregard the social conversation because of this, there are valuable insights to be gleaned and a path to closer, faster connections to audience opinions. Here are a few important considerations to keep in mind when evaluating social opinions.


THE BTS EPISODE OF SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE GENERATED

IN THE WEEK FOLLOWING THE RELEASE OF BIRD BOX , 30% OF SOCIAL POSTS WERE VIDEOS. THIS IS A VERY HIGH PERCENTAGE AND REFLECTS THE “MEME CULTURE” SURROUNDING THE FILM.

THE FIRST TRAILER FOR FIFTY SHADES OF GREY GENERATED 83,277

1590% MORE BUZZ THAN THE KANYE WEST EPISODE.

THE FIRST TRAILER FOR MAMMA MIA 2 RECEIVED

16 MILLION VIEWS ON FACEBOOK IN THE FIRST 24 HOURS.

THE WEEK FOLLOWING THE CANCELLATION OF SHADOWHUNTERS , FANS OF THE SHOW GENERATED

806,680 MENTIONS

INTENT MENTIONS

AFTER THE RELEASE OF THE FIRST TRAILER FOR THE JOKER , THE TITULAR CHARACTER WAS MENTIONED IN 41K

ON TWITTER IN THE FIRST 24 HOURS - STILL THE MOST WE’VE EVER RECORDED.

INSTAGRAM POSTS.

FATE OF THE FURIOUS WAS HUGE IN CHINA, GENERATING LARGE AMOUNTS OF CONVERSATION ON WEIBO (A TWITTER-LIKE SOCIAL NETWORK IN CHINA). IN ITS FIRST WEEK IN THEATERS, THERE WERE OVER 450,000

MENTIONS ON WEIBO.

AND VIN DIESEL WAS MENTIONED 2X AS MUCH AS THE ROCK.

THE LION KING CASTING ANNOUNCEMENT ON NOVEMBER 1, 2017, GENERATED

160,731 MENTIONS

THE DAY OF ANNOUNCEMENT.

CAMPAIGNING TO BRING IT BACK.

All data courtesy of Fizziology

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AFTER THE FIRST EPISODE OF THE CURRENT SEASON OF GAME OF THRONES , BRAN WAS THE MOST TALKED-ABOUT CHARACTER, WITH

OVER HALF A MILLION MENTIONS IN THE FIRST 24 HOURS.

Beware the Trolls Some people on social media just want to be negative. Often this negativity is in the interest of being seen as clever or funny. These negative comments can go viral— spreading quickly across social media and influencing the opinions of others. At other times, this negativity comes from a particular worldview that creates a knee-jerk reaction. An example of this occurs when fanboys take sides between Marvel and DC superhero films. Those fans will often be blindly positive to their chosen superhero brand of choice while talking negatively about the other. Stars can also stir “troll” behavior. High-profile talent with strong opinions or political stances can drive neg-

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ative conversation unrelated to the series or film in which they appear. In today’s charged political climate, some audiences have a knee-jerk, negative reaction to a series or film based on issues related to the beliefs of the people behind it. Negative conversation from trolls can be hurtful personally, but it usually does not have a material impact on the property with general audiences. Understanding if a negative opinion is a real reflection of an audience’s reaction or the work of an online troll is a key first step. Context Matters How many tweets does it take for a trailer launch to be considered successful? How

many likes on an Instagram post are too few? There are hundreds of data points around social media. But unlike more straightforward metrics (like box office results or digital downloads, where more is better), there is not a single right way to read the results. For example, higher volume is usually good—unless that volume is driven by negative conversation, which could be a warning sign. So negative conversation is always bad then, right? Well, not for every type of entertainment property. With horror films, for example, a certain amount of negative conversation correlates positively to success. Talented data scientists, digital marketing professionals and research analysts across


OPINION OVERLOAD

the industry are working to define the markers of success. There are many theories and opinions, but one thing almost everyone can agree on is that a number in isolation—without benchmarks, comps or averages—is not a meaningful gauge of failure or success. Owned vs. Organic Almost everyone has some form of social media presence. An individual’s mentions (when someone tags them on Twitter or Instagram, for example) is a quick and easy way to see when someone is talking about them. This is also true for the social accounts of an entertainment property, such as a studio’s YouTube channel where they launch trailers, or a TV franchise’s official Facebook page. These “owned” social accounts, either for an individual or a property, are where fans gather to discuss something they care deeply about. A media investment can boost performance on these owned social channels, increasing views, shares and engagement. Owned social is relatively easy to measure and manage, but it only shows part of the story. Organic social conversation consists of the mentions shared by people with their family, friends and fellow fans. These are posted on an individual’s own social channel and usually done without tagging the individual or property. Examples of this behavior are an Instagram post of a poster at a movie theater or a Facebook post about the latest bingeworthy sensation on a streaming platform. These are the real opinions in social, as people are using their social currency to let friends and followers know what they think. This organic conversation makes up the vast majority—over two-thirds—of the social conversation around the average film or television series. Finding Needles in Haystacks That organic conversation, however, can be very hard to find. Only about 20% of people use official hashtags or “@ names” when talking about a film or TV show on Twitter. So it’s important to search for untagged mentions to understand the full conversation. For a popular property or unique title, this is relatively simple. But it can be very hard for properties with titles such as Us or It. (And a caution against searching online for mentions of the Jason Segal comedy Sex Tape in any fashion!) Each social platform has slightly different search capabilities based on timing, search logic and privacy. Tools of the Trade There are a variety of tools to read and analyze the social conversation: • Social Media Platforms Twitter, Facebook and Instagram all offer notifications for mentions, analytics for owned accounts and search functionality. There are more refined research tools, but this can be the fastest way to read opinions. Just beware that Twitter scrolling in the middle of a sleepless night can provoke nightmares. • DIY Tools Subscription SaaS platforms allow searching in more refined

WHEN THE FIRST TRAILER FOR AVENGERS: ENDGAME WAS RELEASED, THERE WERE 370 POSTS IN THE FIRST 60 SECONDS. THERE WERE 691,568 POSTS IN THE FIRST HOUR. AND THERE WERE 4,364,784 IN 24 HOURS.

and robust ways. These dashboards can yield results but take time to manage. They can be good for quick, specific searches. They are less helpful in creating context and rich insights without a significant investment of time. • Research Companies There are full-service agencies that provide social research of all kinds. These research companies can offer richer analytics and insights but are often more expensive—and thorough analysis is slower than a quick search. The Next Generation of Social Research Facebook launched in 2004. Twitter started in 2006. Instagram emerged in 2010. These platforms have grown and evolved. So too has the research ecosystem that surrounds them. When Fizziology started in 2009, our core research was all performance-based. We answered question like “How did our trailer do?” and “Do audiences like our show?” In the last decade, social research has expanded as radically as the social networks themselves. Some of this has been thanks to technological leaps forward, but much of it has been driven by clients who ask more challenging and important questions. Here are a few of the ways producers are innovating through social research today: IP Analysis and Discovery—Producers can understand the potential of IP through social or even discover the hot new property that specific audiences are talking about. Talent Analysis—From analyzing a star’s fan base to searching for potential issues that could create publicity nightmares, social media research can unearth critical information around talent. Audience Distractions—In today’s fractured media landscape, the scarcest resource is attention. Social research can help producers understand how their property fits into a landscape that includes theatrical releases, streaming series and films, television events and video game launches. Social media gave audiences everywhere a voice. They will continue to use that voice. How to listen to it, interpret it and react to it will be an ever-evolving process. And one that—when done right—can help producers understand audiences better and faster than ever before.

Ben Carlson is the Co-founder and Co-president of Fizziology, a global audience insights company.

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TODD RUNDGREN’S

Todd Rundgren’s Spirit of Harmony Foundation advocates for the moral imperative of music education and music performance for youth, so every child has the opportunity to learn music regardless of socioeconomic status, geographic location, or ability. Please visit our website www.spiritofharmony.org to get involved: • Musical instrument collection drives • Grassroots support for local music programs • Raising awareness about the importance of music education

ESTABLISHED BY TODD AND HIS FANS IN 2013.

www.spiritofharmony.org


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LIVE FROM DC...

IT’S A CAPITOL NIGHT! Producer Michael Colbert continues the family tradition of honoring our country and its heroes written By Rona Edwards

PAUL MORIGI/GETTY IMAGES FOR CAPITAL CONCERTS, INC.

A

s producers, we like to tell stories that have something worthwhile to say and that touch people’s lives. We also produce movies, television and transmedia purely to entertain, and that is also very satisfying. However, it is rare to contribute something so meaningful that the legacy of what you produce has a lasting effect on the people you work with and the people you do the show for—year after year. In the case of Michael Colbert, he’s lucky enough to executive produce not just one, but two shows a year that celebrate our nation and its military heroes … and he has one shot to do it each time, because it’s all produced live. Colbert is the producer of A Capitol Fourth and the National Memorial Day Concert from Washington, D.C., which have become yearly institutions since 1981 and 1989, respectively. Both are ratings juggernauts for PBS. Though the National Memorial Day Concert is a more solemn event, A Capitol Fourth is a celebration of independence and our democracy. Both concerts bring out bipartisan support from the political arena, stars from stage, screen and the music industry, and well-known military veterans. Despite our differences, these two occasions unite us with one goal in mind: to honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice and to celebrate our freedom from mad King George. Let’s rewind a bit to how it all began. Colbert’s

father, Jerry, was House Speaker Tip O’Neill’s media adviser. He taught O’Neill all about television. However, his patriotism for our soldiers and this country dates further back. His family used to run the Memorial Day events in his hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts. They would place flags at graves and organize the annual parade. The meaning of Memorial Day became lost after Vietnam. “That was his mission … to try to bring it back. And now these shows have become national traditions,” says Colbert. “I remember so well the first concert in 1981.” Colbert was a wide-eyed 13-year-old surrounded by legends Pearl Bailey and the great actor E.G. Marshall, who hosted the inaugural show. When the downbeat hit and the national anthem was sung, the teenager looked up at the flag blowing in the wind, the Capitol dome behind it and hundreds of thousands of spectators below, and it took his breath away. “It’s something you never get over,” he says. “My hair still stands up at the back of my neck.” Not wanting to be an SOB (“son of a boss”), Michael ventured out on his own to learn his craft. He worked on variety and awards shows in Nashville, New York and Los Angeles. During that time, Michael met his wife, Jill Jackson, when both were involved with a Grand Ole Opry special, and it was love at first sight. The two still work as partners now via

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their nonprofit company that produces the shows, Capital Concerts. Since the passing of his father in 2017, Colbert heeds his dad’s advice to trust his instincts and stay true to the mission. It’s a massive undertaking and a great responsibility to get it right every time. They produce these concerts for a fraction of the cost of other such comparable shows. The money is raised publicly and privately. Capital Concerts does all the promotion and TV and radio spots, down to social media outreach and websites. They also have to deal with more than 20 government agencies. Their company is small, but they get a lot of help from friends throughout Congress on both sides. The Memorial Day concert is a hybrid of theater, film and performance. “It’s almost like the process of producing a movie or a Broadway show,” explains Colbert. “Every moment must fit perfectly into the next as you put this complicated puzzle together.” In keeping with the original vision, Colbert and his talented team ask these questions at the beginning of each production: “What do our veterans or their

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families need today, and what important anniversaries are there?” This year it’s the 75th anniversary of D-Day. The team worked hard to find powerful stories of veterans and their families. One such story is of that of medic Sgt. Ray Lambert. Prior to landing on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944, Sgt. Lambert was awarded two Silver Stars and three Purple Hearts for his bravery saving his comrades in North Africa and Sicily. At 98, he is still in great shape physically and mentally and was able to see Sam Elliott tell his story at this year’s concert. In addition, a lineup of Vietnam veterans populated the stage and were introduced by General Colin Powell—who served two tours in Vietnam and is the recipient of two Purple Hearts—so the country could finally say what it hadn’t properly said 44 years ago: Welcome home. “They sure deserve it,” says Colbert. “They fought the war they were given. And many are still struggling. But to be able to say that at the Capitol ... we’re very humbled to do so.” The concert always ends with one of the most intimate and solemn moments on television: A lone bugler playing Taps. A Capitol Fourth has a very different tone. Because so many cities no

longer have July 4th events due to budget cuts, Colbert and his team share an immense obligation in bringing this great celebration of freedom into people’s homes. This year they’re doing a special segment about wounded warriors who learned to play musical instruments during their recovery. It’s also the 50th anniversary of both the first moon landing and Sesame Street, so there will be special tributes to those milestones of American life. Also on the program will be an homage to the incomparable Aretha Franklin, who performed several times for A Capitol Fourth. Colbert feels strongly about bringing the great music legends of our time along with younger stars to the concert stage. All genres are covered, including Broadway, country, classical and “lest we forget, patriotic music,” a jovial, upbeat Colbert adds. And to cap it off, of course, will be the perfectly timed 1812 Overture with fireworks exploding over our capital’s monuments and across the Potomac. It’s like covering the Olympics, with cameras all over the city, capturing everything. “All eyes are on Washington, D.C., as Washington becomes America’s hometown.” There are a lot of moving parts to producing these complicated shows. When you’re


dealing with five military services, the mayor’s office, the Capitol and D.C. police, the National Symphony, the National Park Service and the congressional leadership, it really does take the precision and teamwork of an army to pull off the broadcasts. During our interview, members of Colbert’s producing team, Sean Fogel and Barr Weissman, stop by to say hello as does Colbert’s wife, Jill. One thing becomes crystal clear: They love what they do. With A Capitol Fourth celebrating 39 years and the National Memorial Day Concert 30 years, they give shows like Law and Order and The Simpsons a run for their money in longevity. “These aren’t for us. These are for the nation,” Colbert stresses. “And when you look at it, it’s the memorial event for the United States. It’s the official July 4th for the country, and that gives you a lot of perspective as you put these things together.” Though it’s always a wild ride, this is what attracted Colbert to live television— the immediacy of it, having to think on your feet ... and no post production! But they’ve had their challenges to be sure, particularly with the weather. Rain has caused cancellations and delays through the years, so they employ a meteorologist to predict where, when and if the weather will affect the show. There was also the time when Ray Charles missed his flight, causing producers to panic until he finally arrived and blew everyone away with America the Beautiful. Or the first year, when they used an old converted bookmobile as their TV truck, and the program monitor went out. The quick but difficult producorial decision was to broadcast a documentary on the monarch butterfly until they were up and running again. “These shows are as much a way of life for us as anything and, as with any kind of producing, there’s always obstacles and challenges,” Colbert says matter-of-factly. “You just have to trust that you’re doing something that’s good, that you’re doing something that’s right, and you’re going to get through it.” Then he humbly concludes, “If we weren’t doing this, we ‘d find some other way to make a difference.”

Left: John Stamos thrills the crowd. Above: Marines stand guard over the celebration on the National Mall. Below: (from left) Michael Colbert, Sean Fogel, Jon Macks and Jill Jackson backstage

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O P E N D O ORS

REFLECT ON THE PAST, MOVE TOWARD THE FUTURE Power of Diversity Master Workshop celebrates 15 years of cultivating producers Written by Sasheen R. Artis This program gives you the chance to learn in a close-knit setting from some of the brightest minds in this industry, and they all show up with a genuine desire to see you succeed. (Hadjii Hand, Class of 2012)

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his notion of creating a supportive community within an often contentious industry was born when veteran TV producer George Sunga launched the PGA Power of Diversity Master Workshop in 2005. Sunga understood the importance of connecting diverse producers to industry leaders and championed diverse content long before it was de rigueur. Now we see how important—and lucrative—authentic voices can be to our industry. This year we celebrate 15 years of helping producers prepare their projects for the marketplace through master classes and mentorship. Mentoring in the workshop is a fantastic way not just to help others but also to hone our skills and remind us how far we’ve come. And sometimes, there’s cake. (Lisa Kors, Class of 2012; Mentor, 2013-19) Mentors have always been a vital component of the workshop—from offering tips to strengthening a pitch to providing an introduction to an agency rep. I am now a client of an astounding literary management firm, Epicenter LA. Currently I’m developing a TV project for Gary Lucchesi of Lakeshore Entertainment, who was our Workshop opening night speaker. (John Lowe, Class of 2018) I’ve produced two feature films and two award-winning documentaries. Through my involvement with the Diversity Workshop, I was connected with DreamWorks Animation. I am currently head of the Advanced Creative Technology group. (Christina Lee Storm, Class of 2008; Mentor, 2007-2018; Chair, 2014-2017) We’re very proud to welcome the Class of 2019: • Nathan Bennett with the feature The Camp Beauty Queen • Samantha Culp with the docuseries The Futurists

Participants in the Power of Diversity Master Workshop receive personal attention from industry mentors.

• Gabriela Gonzalez and Maria “Candy” Ibarra with the TV Comedy Mentiritas (Little White Lies) • Zimran Jacob with the TV drama The Queen & The Goddess • Tricia Lee with the feature Mother-Daughter • Monice Mitchell Sims with the rom-com Sacked • Sade Oyinade and Deshawn Plair with the feature Better Than I Know Myself • Diana Romero with the TV drama SOLD • Widad Shafakoj with the documentary Caesar (Tsar) • Justine Wentzell with the TV comedy Identity Crisis of a Banana • Delbert Whetter and Jevon Whetter with the feature Flash Before the Bang We look forward to the future and to building an industry that truly represents our global audience. As a Black Muslim, I understand the power of media in shaping people’s thoughts. I produce film and TV content that highlights socially disadvantaged narratives, because everyone deserves to see themselves as being the hero. (Rashad Mubarak, Class of 2018) ¢

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CONNECTING THROUGH STORYTELLING HOW PRODUCERS CAN HUMANIZE A CRISIS Written by Dan Halperin and Lisa Kors

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PHOTO COURTESY OF CHANGE FOR BALANCE

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he Guild’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee partnered for a second time with Amnesty International USA for an event that also included UCLA’s Anderson School of Management and the Promise Institute for Human Rights at UCLA School of Law. The presentation at UCLA’s Fowler Museum in April explored the power of storytellers to shape public opinion. Members of the PGA and WGAW, as well as UCLA students, faculty and alumni took part in the inspiring evening. The impactful discussion and panel focused on marginalized populations, such as contemporary refugees and asylumseekers who are part of the largest migration crisis in human history. Co-chair of the PGA’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Lisa Kors, spoke after opening remarks from Anderson’s Bhavna Sivanand and Promise Institute’s Kate Mackintosh, and a moving introduction by a former Lost Boy of South Sudan, Biar Atem. Panelists included Nina Yang Bongiovi (EP, Fruitvale Station, Dope, Roxanne Roxanne), Nazanin Boniadi (Actress, Hotel Mumbai, Counterpart, Homeland), Brad Falchuk (EP, Pose, 9-1-1, American Horror Story, Glee), Mike Royce (EP, One Day at a Time, Everybody Loves Raymond, Enlisted, Men of a Certain Age), Sanjay Sharma (Founder and CEO of Marginal Mediaworks, an Imagine Entertainment company) and Randall Keenan-Winston (EP, Scrubs, Roseanne, Cougar Town, Grace and Frankie). An important takeaway from the evening were the insights panelists shared about storytelling. Keenan-Winston reminded the group that “the best of us is in what we share, not what we shield.” Sharma added, “The role of storytelling has always been about creating emotional connections. I believe we achieve this in the most impactful way through popular storytelling—stories through the lens of established genres. Our aim is to create agency for outsiders, or ‘the other,’ through culturally resonant, accessible, entertaining stories. Seeing others in normalized, cool, gripping, even fun, settings gives us the ability to have

EP Brad Falchuk (left) and Sanjay Sharma of Marginal Mediaworks take part in the panel discussion.

empathy, to relate. And once we are entertained and feel we can relate, we can dig deeper into underlying systems and subtext.” Films set in World War II such as Casablanca and The Sound of Music helped audiences understand what it means to be under the constant threat of danger and to strive to provide a better life for one’s family. Many producers and writers agree with Amnesty that stories like these capture audiences and help contextualize a large or intimidating crisis by viewing people as individuals, each with their own compelling story. Conversations sparked by the panel continued later when participants gathered on the museum’s rooftop. Hopefully these interactions will encourage the storytellers to address issues of refugees and asylum-seekers, both in their narrative and documentary work. Amnesty International, with its decades of research on this topic, is happy to offer assistance to filmmakers by providing information and resources to all PGA members. ¢


Heaven to Filmmakers. CONTACT

Liz Gilman Executive Producer 515.725.0044 liz.gilman@iowa.gov produceiowa.com

Welcome to Iowa — home of genuine hospitality, talented production crews and one of the lowest costs of doing business in America. If you’re a filmmaker looking for an authentic experience paired with a beautiful location, our state is ready for your story.

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Son and grandson of Don Francisco, Pedro and Michael, sourcing coffee in South America.

© F. Gaviña & Sons, Inc.

Look for Don Francisco’s Coffee in bags, single serve and cans at your grocer.

Locations, Infrastructure & Incentives. It’s all available at www.filmusvi.com ©2019 U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism

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C O M I N G ATTRACTIONS

PGA EAST BRANDED CONTENT PANEL

JUNE 12

PGA EAST ATLANTA WOMEN IN PRODUCTION SUMMIT

JUNE 22

PGA WEST PODCASTING SEMINAR

JUNE 22

Major media companies have been building out brandedcontent studios and divisions in NYC to capture the changing needs of brands and to keep pace with how consumers watch video. In this panel, we will chat with creative leaders from the top media companies— from digital publishers to cable networks—to better understand their roles in creating branded video content for both TV and online. The panel will give insight into what types of projects these studios/departments work on, whom they work with, where the industry is headed and where the opportunities are.

The Producers Guild of America’s Women’s Impact Network will host the 4th Annual Women in Production Summit, in collaboration with Women in Film & Television Atlanta, the Black Women’s Film Network, Film Fatales and the Alliance of Women Directors. Tickets include a full program of speakers, lunch, a coffee break and networking party. The goal of this daylong summit is to help make Georgia one of the most inclusive and women-friendly media markets in the country.

There are now an estimated 660,000 podcasts in production, offering up roughly 28 million individual episodes for one’s listening enjoyment. The first two seasons of the most popular podcast of all time, Serial, have been downloaded 340 million times. Learn the fine points of producing in this rapidly growing field, where content can reach audiences around the world. Just think about it—no editors to convince, no one to pitch and no need to get the green light from anyone. Join us for a panel event in Los Angeles featuring the experts who are taking a deep dive into the challenges and rewards of producing podcasts, from creative through production to eventual monetization of this new media.

PGA MEMBERS: For more information or to RSVP for events, please consult producersguild.org.

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P G A AT YO U R SERVICE

MARKING TIME The Producers Guild proudly salutes the following whose credits have been certified with the Producers Mark. This list includes films released in April and May. Certification via the Producers Mark indicates that a producer undertook a major portion of the producing duties on the motion picture.

AFTER Jennifer Gibgot, p.g.a. Courtney Solomon, p.g.a. Mark Canton, p.g.a. Aron Levitz, p.g.a. Anna Todd, p.g.a.

AVENGERS: ENDGAME

THE PUBLIC Lisa Niedenthal, p.g.a.   Emilio Estevez, p.g.a.

SHAZAM! Peter Safran, p.g.a. Teen Spirit, p.g.a. Fred Berger, p.g.a.

Kevin Feige, p.g.a.

THE WHITE CROW THE BEST OF ENEMIES Robin Bissell, p.g.a. Danny Strong, p.g.a. Matt Berenson, p.g.a.

BREAKTHROUGH Devon Franklin, p.g.a.

THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA Emile Gladstone, p.g.a. Gary Dauberman, p.g.a. James Wan, p.g.a.

Gabrielle Tana, p.g.a. Ralph Fiennes, p.g.a.

THE WIND Christopher Alender, p.g.a. David Grove Churchill Viste, p.g.a.

AD ASTRA Dede Gardner, p.g.a. Jeremy Kleiner, p.g.a. Anthony Katagas, p.g.a. James Gray, p.g.a. Rodrigo Teixeira, p.g.a.

FAST COLOR Mickey Liddell, p.g.a. & Pete Shilaimon, p.g.a. Jordan Horowitz, p.g.a.

HESBURGH Christine O’Malley, p.g.a.

LITTLE Will Packer, p.g.a. James Lopez, p.g.a.

MARY MAGDALENE Iain Canning, p.g.a. & Emile Sherman, p.g.a. Liz Watts, p.g.a.

MISSING LINK Arianne Sutner, p.g.a. Travis Knight, p.g.a.

PET SEMATARY To apply for producers mark certification, visit us online at producersguildawards.com.

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Lorenzo di Bonaventura, p.g.a. Mark Vahradian, p.g.a.

ALADDIN Dan Lin, p.g.a. Jonathan Eirich, p.g.a.

BOOKSMART Megan Ellison, p.g.a. Chelsea Barnard, p.g.a. Jessica Elbaum, p.g.a.

POKÉMAN DETECTIVE PIKACHU Mary Parent, p.g.a. Cale Boyter, p.g.a.

GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS Mary Parent, p.g.a. Alex Garcia, p.g.a.

THE HUSTLE Roger Birnbaum, p.g.a. Rebel Wilson, p.g.a.


P G A AT YO U R SERVICE

THE INTRUDER Roxanne Avent, p.g.a. Mark Burg, p.g.a. Deon Taylor, p.g.a.

MA

TOLKIEN

Tate Taylor, p.g.a. John Norris, p.g.a.

ROCKETMAN JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLUM Basil Iwanyk, p.g.a. Erica Lee, p.g.a.

LONG SHOT A.J. Dix, p.g.a. & Beth Kono, p.g.a. Evan Goldberg, p.g.a. Seth Rogen, p.g.a. Charlize Theron, p.g.a. James Weaver, p.g.a.

Matthew Vaughn, p.g.a. David Furnish, p.g.a. Adam Bohling, p.g.a. David Reid, p.g.a.

THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR Elysa Koplovitz Dutton, p.g.a. Leslie Morgenstein, p.g.a.

Peter Chernin, p.g.a. & Jenno Topping, p.g.a. David Ready, p.g.a. Kris Thykier, p.g.a.

THE TOMORROW MAN Luke Rivett, p.g.a. Nicolaas Bertelsen, p.g.a. James Schamus, p.g.a.

TRIAL BY FIRE Edward Zwick, p.g.a. Allyn Stewart, p.g.a.

UGLYDOLLS Jane Hartwell, p.g.a. Oren Aviv, p.g.a.

THINK GLOBALLY, FILM LOCALLY Gardens, roads, ponds, mature trees, statues, architecture.

THE HUNTINGTON

626-405-2215 | FilmHuntington.org

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P G A AT YO U R SERVICE

MEMBER BENEFITS ■ Discounted registration for Produced By Conference and Produced By: New York. ■ Vote on Producers Guild Awards and receive discount tickets to the event, as well as DVD screeners for awards consideration. ■ Access to CSATTF online safety training videos. ■ Admission to special PGA pre-release screenings and Q&A events.

■ Eligibility for PGA Mentoring Program. ■ Listing of contact and credit information in searchable online roster. ■ Arbitration of credit disputes. ■ Participation in the Motion Picture Industry Health, Welfare & Pension Plan. ■ Free attendance at PGA seminars.

■ Full access to PGA website including events, calendar, social networking tools, members-only video library.

■ Wide variety of discounts on events, merchandise, travel.

■ Access to PGA Job Board, online resume search, employment tools and job forums.

■ Complimentary subscription to Produced By.

From our east coast sunrise to our west coast sunset—

Florida shines.

FL office: 850-717-8990 | LA office: 310-241-0116

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P G A AT YO U R SERVICE

NEW MEMBERS The Producers Guild is proud to welcome the following new members, who joined the Guild in March and April 2019.

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PRODUCERS COUNCIL Margarethe Baillou 1 Jonathan Baker Sandra Bansil Chelsea Barnard Amy Barnes Dori Berinstein David Bernad Brenda Blair Jane Bloom 2 Alex Boden Timothy Bourne Victoria Bousis Brandon Brathwaite Tom Broecker Owen Burke 3 Jordi Caballero Dan Cogan Christopher Cole Ava DuVernay Deborah Evans Amy Goldberg Jonah Goldstein Steve Higgins Scott Holroyd JJ Hook Alexandra Johnes Michelle Knudsen Joe Lessard Jillian Longnecker Robert Lyons Stephen Mao 6

Sharlene Martin Jodi Matterson Martine Melloul Natalie Metzger Christopher Miller Myeshia Mizuno Linda Moran Jenny Morrissey Akiva Nemetsky Chevonne O’Shaughnessy Alex Ott Erica Paige Simone Pero Dax Phelan Richard Purington Scott Reynolds Jessica Rhoades Stephen Schiff George Shamieh Jillian Share Meyer Shwarzstein Rob Simmons Erin Simms Bret Slater Cheryl Staurulakis 4 Christopher Storer Nicole Stott Jenifer Westphal Ivan Williams Olivia Wingate Adam Yoelin Ashley Zalta 7

NEW MEDIA COUNCIL Patricia Adams Amalia Bradstreet Stephan Bugaj 5 Travis Cloyd Lillian Diaz-Przybyl Lori Dicker Cecile Dyer Eric Hanson John Harper Rob Hatch-Miller Christine Karaoglanian 6 Jess Kasza Mark Keizer Scott Michels Melanie Seelinger Stephen Simyak Samora Suber

Heather Hoislbauer Samuel Horton Dawn Johnson Brice Liesveld Nicole London Carolina Mazzoni de Paula 8 Timothy McDaniel Chris Menke Lauren Montuori 9 Paige Pemberton Whitney Prior Rachel Rapkin Amanda Salas Jeffrey Small Wendy Smith James Turek Jennifer Wanamaker

AP COUNCIL Melanie Albin Tansal Arnas Sara Bartkiewicz Jennifer Bergman Pavel Bozhkov 7 Demelza Cronin Brean Cunningham Denise Damian Jessica Distad Laura Habecker Alison Hall Scott Hercman 8

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P G A AT YO U R SERVICE

PGA HEALTH: WHAT’S YOUR STORY?

“I WORK ON A WEST COAST IATSE PRODUCTION.”

“I RUN A SMALL COMPANY.”

“I AM AN INDIVIDUAL LOOKING FOR THE BEST COVERAGE I CAN AFFORD.”

Motion Picture Industry Plan

Open Health MEWA Plan

The Actor’s Fund

Available to: Producers/Produced By, Executive Producers, Associate Producers, Post-Production Supervisors

Available to: Employers and employees of small production companies

Available to: All professionals who work in the entertainment industry

Who: •Work at a company with a minimum of three employees. Company owner may count as an employee if s/he draws a salary from the company.

The Actor’s Fund is the official organization representing the Affordable Care Act to the entertainment industry.

Who: •Work for an AMPTP signatory •Work on theatrical motion pictures, prime-time network series, prime-time, first-run syndicated series •Utilize a West Coast IA Crew •A re credited with 600 hours of work over the past six months. (Assume a 60-hour work week.)

CONTACT: (866) 491-4001 Request information about MEWA (Multiple Employer Welfare Association) plans.

CONTACT: (800) 221-7303 (New York) (888) 825-0911 (Los Angeles) Request a consultation to discuss individual plans available on the open market.

Once qualified, participants must be credited with 400 hours of work in the subsequent six-month period to extend coverage. CONTACT: Your payroll or labor relations department.

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P G A AT YO U R SERVICE

FAQ: THE PRODUCERS MARK those three little letters have a lot backing them up

WHEN I SEE P.G.A. AFTER A PRODUCER’S NAME IN A MOVIE’S CREDITS, WHAT DOES IT MEAN? It means that according to the rules of the Producers Guild’s certification process, that producer performed a major portion of the producing functions on that particular motion picture.

DOES THE P.G.A. AFTER THE PRODUCER’S NAME MEAN THAT THE PRODUCER IS A MEMBER OF THE PRODUCERS GUILD? No. A producer does not need to be a member of the PGA to receive the “p.g.a.” designation after their name. In many cases, the sets of initials you see in movie credits (such as A.S.C. and A.C.E.) indicate membership in an organization. The Producers Mark is different. It’s a certification mark; its purpose is to designate that the producer has met an officially recognized standard of performance on that film.

IF A PRODUCER DOESN’T RECEIVE THE P.G.A. MARK FROM THE PRODUCERS GUILD, WHAT HAPPENS TO THEIR PRODUCING CREDIT? Nothing. The Producers Mark doesn’t control or affect the “Produced By” credit in any way, nor does it invalidate that credit by its absence.

WHAT IMPACT DOES THE P.G.A. MARK HAVE ON AWARDS? Determinations for the Producers Mark and for producer award eligibility are determined at the same time and via the

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same process. In addition to the PGA, AMPAS, HFPA and BAFTA all rely on the PGA process to guide their decisionmaking. However the final selection of nominees is always at the discretion of the organization giving the award. Overwhelmingly, these organizations concur with the PGA determinations, but occasionally, the decisions diverge.

WHAT’S THE PROCESS? The process is initiated by the copyright owner of the film. After the postproduction process has commenced, but four to six weeks before credits are locked, the owner submits a film for consideration via ProducersGuildAwards.com. Within two to three weeks, the PGA sends out eligibility forms to every producer credited as “Produced By” or “Producer” on the film and sends confidential verification forms to a wide variety of third parties associated with the production of the film: the director(s), writer(s), department heads, company executives and key crew members. Once forms have been returned, the PGA convenes a panel of arbiters, each of them active and experienced producers with numerous (and recent) credits, typically in the genre or category of the film under consideration. (I.e., if the film is a major studio tentpole, we try to utilize arbiters with considerable experience in making those big-budget studio pictures. If the film is a smaller indie movie, we rely on producers familiar with that type of production, etc.) An initial arbitration panel typically has three arbiters. The arbiters review all materials

returned to the PGA by the producers and third parties, with all names of individuals credited on the film redacted, so that arbiters can arrive at a judgment based on the testimony provided rather than the name recognition and perceived reputation of the producers. Following the determination, the PGA staff informs the producers of the decision. Producers who object to the decision have five days to notify the Guild of an intent to appeal. After giving producers the opportunity to add to or clarify their testimony, the PGA will convene a new panel of arbiters. All appellate panels consist of three producers. If the initial decision was unanimous, the appellate panel will consist of one producer from the original panel and two new producers; if the initial decision was not unanimous, the appellate panel will consist of three new producers. The decision of the appellate panel is final.

SO WHEN ARBITERS ARE LOOKING AT THESE FORMS, WHAT ARE THEY SEEING? The eligibility form filled out by producers asks them to indicate their level of responsibility for a variety of producing functions spanning development, preproduction, physical production and post-production. The form also includes a free-response section for the producer to more fully elaborate on the specifics of the production and their role on the film. The verification forms filled out by third parties typically ask the respondent questions related to the nature of their collaboration with the credited producers.


P G A AT YO U R SERVICE

(For instance, the verification form for editors asks the editor to designate which producer(s) consulted with the editor regarding dailies, gave notes on cuts or participated in screenings.)

WHO SELECTS WHICH ARBITERS VET THE CREDITS OF WHICH MOTION PICTURES? That determination is made by the PGA’s Associate General Counsel in consultation with the National Executive Director/COO.

WHAT IF THE PGA SELECTS AN ARBITER WHO (UNBEKNOWNST TO THEM) IS BIASED AGAINST A GIVEN PRODUCER OR FILM? The Guild takes proactive measures to prevent that from happening. Prior to convening the panel, the PGA provides all producers with a list of potential arbiters. Producers are free to strike any arbiter for any reason. Such arbiters will not be empaneled for that particular film. Furthermore, all arbiters are asked to affirmatively state that they have no interests in the films to be arbitrated that might result in a biased judgment. Even if all of those hurdles are cleared, an arbiter will be removed from the process if they or the PGA administrator feels that bias is affecting their judgment.

WHY CAN’T THE PGA BE MORE TRANSPARENT ABOUT THE PROCESS? We maintain the strictest confidentiality around the identities of the producers, third parties and arbiters involved because such confidence is the only

p.g.a. way we can hope to get accurate and truthful information. Many producers are powerful figures in this industry and this might put pressure on third parties and arbiters to achieve a desired decision. Keeping those identities confidential is the only way to maintain the integrity of the process.

ONCE A PRODUCER’S CREDIT IS CERTIFIED WITH THE P.G.A. MARK, IS THAT CERTIFICATION APPLIED PERMANENTLY TO ALL OF THE PRODUCER’S FILMS? No. A Producers Mark appended to a producing credit applies to that film only. It represents the nature of the work performed on that film alone and does not “carry over” to future productions.

WHY DO SOME FILMS CARRY THE P.G.A. MARK, BUT NOT OTHERS? The Producers Mark is voluntary. Each of the major studios—Universal, Disney, Warner Bros., Sony, Paramount and Fox—has signed a contractual agreement to submit their films to the Guild for credit certification, as have Lionsgate, DreamWorks and DreamWorks Animation, Lucasfilm, Marvel, MGM, New Line and Pixar. If an independently owned film elects not to participate, we can’t

force them to submit for certification. The Producers Mark also is recognized by the WGA, DGA and SAG-AFTRA. The PGA has agreed not to license the Producers Mark for use with any combined credit (e.g., “Directed and Produced By …”)

WHO DOES THE PRODUCERS GUILD REPRESENT? The PGA is composed of over 8,200 professionals working in motion pictures, television and digital media throughout the United States and around the world.

HOW IS THE PGA DIFFERENT FROM ITS FELLOW GUILDS? Unlike the DGA, WGA and SAG-AFTRA, the PGA is not a labor union. This means that we can’t go on strike, set wage minimums, or negotiate collective bargaining agreements on behalf of our membership. As we are now the largest professional trade organization in the entertainment industry, the PGA provides numerous benefits for its members, including educational and training events, employment opportunities, social and networking functions, and a collective voice that represents and protects the varied interests of producers and their teams, including the Producers Mark. ■

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WOMEN IN FILM ADVOCATES FOR AND ADVANCES THE CAREERS OF WOMEN WOR ING IN THE SCREEN INDUSTRIES – TO ACHIEVE PARITY AND TRANSFORM CULTURE.

JOIN US WWW.WIF.ORG

Join our diverse community of over 7,000 Members who support artist-driven storytelling.

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Learn more and become a Member at filmindependent.org/join

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PRODUCEDÂ BY CONFERENCE 2019 STAFF

CONFERENCE CHAIRS BETSY BEERS IAN BRYCE TRACEY EDMONDS MIKE FARAH GENE STEIN

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PROGRAM DIRECTORS MADELYN HAMMOND & ASSOCIATES MADELYN HAMMOND JAVIER INFANTE

CONSULTING PRODUCER MIRACULI ENTERTAINMENT MATTHEW SKUROW

COORDINATING PRODUCER DAVID HENDRICK SPONSORSHIP DIRECTOR SIX DEGRESS GLOBAL DIANE SALERNO MARKETING DIRECTOR GREENHAT DIGITAL JULIE GILES PUBLICITY SUNSHINE SACHS KELEIGH THOMAS MORGAN BROOKE BLUMBERG MATTHEW LAWRENCE ALYSSA FURNARI ALEXANDRA ANDERSON KIMBERLY CHRISTMAN

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THE BEST ON-SET PHOTO OF ALL TIME

STRANGER THAN FICTION

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f you think this shot is fantastic, the story behind it is out of this world. The photo was taken on the set of the 2015 film Phoenix Incident—produced, directed and written by Keith Arem. The plot of the faux documentary was based on conspiracy theories surrounding the actual sighting of a series of lights in the night sky over Phoenix in March of 1997. The film’s clever viral campaign was like an updated version of The Blair Witch Project, gaining some 20 million followers along the way. Arem created four fictional characters who witnessed the event, documented it on tape and then mysteriously disappeared. Their missing-persons website was so convincing that the real Department of Justice contacted the filmmakers, thinking they were bounty hunters trying to locate actual missing people. The characters in the movie were risk-takers obsessed with recording their dangerous stunts and adventures, like this wild motorcycle maneuver. The trick was performed by Shane Trittler, a professional stuntman. Arem says, “The crew was so impressed with having a private stunt performance, we spent the majority of the time hanging out under the ramps. By the time we were ready to shoot, Shane was exhausted from performing for the crew.” The perfectly timed shot was taken by the on-set still photographer, Erica Parise, in the Estrella Mountain Range outside of Phoenix. Turns out there was a technical flaw with the scene that only a sharp-eyed viewer who knew about freestyle motocross could have spotted. The segment in the film was supposed to take place in 1997. The filmmakers later learned that freestyle motocross rider Mike Metzger landed the very first backflip ever—in an X Games competition in 2002. So in reality, the trick in the movie had not yet been invented! Phoenix Incident became a bit of a cult film and was one of the 10 most-pirated movies during the year it was released. Arem says he’s currently working to develop the concept and footage into a pilot for a television series. ■ We know what you’re thinking. “Best of all time? No way. I’ve got an on-set photo way better than that.” If that’s the case, we dare you to prove it. Submit it to BOSPOAT@producersguild.org. Before you submit, please review the contest rules at producersguild. org/bospoat. Because no matter how great your photo is, we have no desire to get sued over it.

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Profile for Moon Tide Media

Produced By June | July 2019  

The Official Magazine of the Producers Guild of America

Produced By June | July 2019  

The Official Magazine of the Producers Guild of America