WGA West President Chris Keyser sent a “private” email today to select members of the guild in a pitch for money to support the WGA political action committees’ lobbying efforts. Guild leaders, who oppose virtually all media mergers, used Fox’s proposed takeover of Time Warner as the drumbeat to scare up money to support its PAC’s ongoing political activities.
According to the guild’s latest filing with the Department of Labor, its political action committee spent $347,037 last year on “political activities and lobbying,” and it wants to raise even more this year. The PAC was formed in 2009, and the guild says that it is funded solely from voluntary contributions from its members. “WGAW assets will not be used to fund contributions to the WGAW PAC,” the guild told the Department of Labor. “WGAW PAC will solicit and raise voluntary contributions from the WGAW members, which will be used to support political activities on behalf of writers.” The guild’s PAC is administered by an 11-member committee that includes the guild’s elected officers and executive director. Day-to-day operations are delegated to a firm of election law attorneys.
Related: Time Warner Changes By-Laws To Help Block A Hostile Takeover
In the supposedly private email, Keyser and negotiating committee co-chairs Chip Johannessen and Billy Ray pointed to a New York Times headline about the proposed Fox takeover of TW (“$80B Offer From Rupert Murdoch Puts Time-Warner In Play”) saying, “If this headline scares you — and it should — then consider this a call to arms.” The email said the pitch letter was “paid for” by the guild’s political action committee. Read More »
Cable news networks would not allow for Teddy Roosevelt or Franklin Delano Roosevelt to become POTUS today, the creators of PBS’ new Roosevelt family documentary suggested at TCA today. Teddy was too eccentric, and FDR was stricken with polio.
“I’m not sure they could have been president now,” Geoffrey Ward, an authority on FDR and longtime Ken Burns collaborator, told TV critics at Summer Press Tour, where they’d come to plug The Roosevelts: An Intimate History. “TR was very eccentric, and FDR was physically helpless, and in the modern world in which everything is fair game. … I think TV cameras would compete with each other to see who could get the most ‘helpless’ footage of FDR.” Ward said he doubted the U.S. will ever see another physically challenged president.
FDR was maybe the most press-accessible president, holding nearly 1,000 news conferences during his White House tenure, Burns and Ward said. The press “understood” they were not to write about FDR’s polio or vie for the “worst-looking Roosevelt” shot and wrote “more substantive pieces” than they might have otherwise, the producers said.
Asked why, then, they had scoured various sources to find footage of Roosevelt struggling with his polio-stricken limbs – Burns mentions spending a great deal of money after the documentary was wrapped after discovering four seconds of footage of FDR struggling to get off a train in Bismarck, ND — Burns responded, “We’ve got an obligation to do that,” because it illustrates what an effort it was for FDR to get through a day and speaks to his character. Read More »
After True Detective, toplined by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, the casting bar for HBO‘s new drama series is pretty high. Enter the pay cable network’s pilot Westworld, which has locked in Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins and Evan Rachel Wood for lead roles. The project, inspired by Michael Crichton’s 1973 sci-fi movie set at an amusement park, hails from from J.J. Abrams‘ Bad Robot, Person Of Interest creator Jonathan Nolan, writer Lisa Joy Nolan, producer Jerry Weintraub and Warner Bros TV. It landed at HBO a year ago with one of the biggest commitments ever for the premium network, a pilot production commitment, and now has been officially greenlighted to pilot with Hopkins and Wood on board. Described as a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the future of sin, the series will keep the setting of the movie, which starred Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin and James Brolin and introduced new digital visual techniques. Read More »
TLC is rolling out a new multimillion-dollar brand campaign and tagline, “Everyone needs a little TLC”, via print spreads and on-air spots across key media outlets nationwide, the network said today. They include People magazine, US Weekly, USA Network, E!, A&E, TNT, TBS, ABC Family, Dish and DirecTV as well as Discovery Communications’ portfolio of networks.
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Frozen, already the all-time animation box-office champ and an Oscar winner, has added another jewel to its icy crown: Rentrak says the Walt Disney Animation feature topped the charts for the first half of 2014 in digital movie purchases and rentals on VOD and electronic sellthrough. Nearly all the other films in the top 10 were Oscar nominees too, even the Jackass-produced comedy Bad Grandpa, which snagged a nomination for best makeup and hairstyling. It appears everyone spent that very chilly winter of 2014 catching up on the Oscar contenders they didn’t watch in theaters.
There is one important caveat to this list, however: It does not include any films from NBCUniversal, nor from indie studios (whatever size studio we count Lionsgate as these days, its Hunger Games sequel made the list at a not-that-surprising No. 2). Rentrak said that though it couldn’t include individual Universal films for the list, the studio’s products as a whole were No. 1 for both overall transactions and retail revenue during the period, which ran from the week of January 5 to June 29.
Under the multi-year overall production deal, High School Musical alumna Ashley Tisdale and her sister Jennifer, Blondie Girl Prods‘ VP Development and Production, will create and develop scripted and unscripted content for Asylum Entertainment. The announcement was made today by Asylum president and CEO Steve Michaels.
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Taking questions from TV critics about his performance for PBS in Douglas Carter Beane’s Tony-nominated play The Nance, Nathan Lane got asked if he thinks gay characters should be played only by gay actors. In The Nance, Lane plays Chauncey Miles, a nance performer working during the period when New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia was trying to do away with burlesque.
“No,” he replied. “We just had The Normal Heart [with] Mark Ruffalo — fantastic job. … I certainly don’t think that. That way madness lies. Only gay actors can play gay parts and straight actors can play straight — then I wouldn’t have played Nathan Detroit — one of the great joys of my life – or Max Bialystock.”
Another critic at TCA today wondered what getting another Emmy nomination, for guest starring, on ABC’s Modern Family, “has meant for your career.” Lane laughed, then responded: “It’s a tribute to those writers. … They’ve been able to maintain the quality, which is not easy. I can only say it’s been a great pleasure. … I have just to go and play with them a couple times a year. And stuff like an Emmy nomination is always icing on the cake.
“I’m hoping I’m a sentimental choice, since I’ve been nominated six times and never won,” Lane continued, He noted that he’s in the running with Jimmy Fallon and Louie C.K. for guest hosting Saturday Night … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Elisabeth Rohm, who played Assistant DA Serena Southerlyn on NBC’s Law & Order, is taking on a other DA role, this time on the new CBS drama Stalker. Rohn will play a series regular on the Kevin Williamson series, which stars Dylan McDermott and Maggie Q as detectives from the Threat Assessment Unit who investigate cases of stalking. Rohm will play Amanda, a Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney who works with the Threat Assessment Unit and a mother to a 10-year-old boy, whose attempt at a new life in L.A. suddenly is derailed when she discovers her past (aka McDermott’s Jack Larsen) has followed her cross-country. The role was listed as a lead on the pilot’s breakdown, but the character only briefly appears in the pilot and ended up as a guest spot played by Elizabeth Bogush. Rohm, who co-starred in American Hustle, is with Mavrick Artists, Untitled, Hilary Shore and Felker, Toczek,.
A day after FX series Tyrant made the decision to permanently relocate production of its freshman season from Israel to Turkey, USA Network limited series DIG too is officially pulling out of the country torn by the violence in Gaza. “Given the current situation and after careful consideration, we are relocating the production of Dig partly to Albuquerque and are continuing to explore other locations,” USA said in a statement. “Our experience filming in Israel was very positive and we are grateful to have had the opportunity to capture such an authentic landscape that will be threaded throughout the series.”
When the Gaza attack started a week ago, DIG extended its planned hiatus by week while the network and producers were exploring alternatives and holding conversation with the project’s insurance company. The series, starring Jason Isaacs as an FBI agent investigating a troubling murder of a young woman archeologist in Jerusalem, took a break after filming the first episode of its six-episode order. The pilot episode was shot throughout Israel, including Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem. The decision comes as FAA this morning banned all flights to Israel for the next 24 hours following reports of a Palestinian rocket strike landing close to Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport. And yesterday, the US Department of State warned Americans against traveling to Israel and the Gaza Strip. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Matt Piedmont (Saturday Night Live, Vibe) has been tapped to direct AMC‘s half-hour comedy pilot, We Hate Paul Revere, written, executive produced and starring Ethan Sandler and Adrian Wenner. Production is set to begin soon on the pilot, which was greenlighted in March. Dakota Pictures is producing, Allison Jones is casting and Troy Miller is set as a non-writing exec producer. Piedmont most recently penned and directed six episodes of TV mini The Spoils Of Babylon. He was a writer on Saturday Night Live from 1996 to 2002. His other TV directing credits include Funny Or Die Presents and Casa De Mi Padres.
Downton Abbey’s fifth season will debut on January 4, PBS chief Paula Kerger said this morning. She boasted the fourth season was up 16% year over year — among the reasons PBS will not consider an airdate that more closely coincides with the British play-pattern — and that the Masterpiece franchise within which Downton Abbey airs is up 24%. “We’re extremely proud of this growth and continue to focus on Sunday night drama,” she told TV critics at TCA Summer TV Press Tour 2014.
As for Sherlock, Kerger said PBS did not yet have word as to when it would be ready for air. “Because it’s coming from our partners in the UK, we have to wait to know when it will be finished,” Kerger said. “But, whenever it comes we’ll put it in a wonderful place and we know the next season is going to be terrific,” she added.
Likewise, Kerger said she had no airdate for the return of Mr. Selfridge, starring Jeremy Piven. That franchise’s renewal for a third season was announced by its British producer in February, saying only that it would air in 2015. Read More »
Less than a year after Tim Pastore joined National Geographic Studios, the production arm of the National Geographic Society, the veteran producer is moving to the National Geographic Channel as President of Original Programming & Production. Pastore’s hire completes the overhaul at the top of the National Geographic Channel, which started in April when CEO David Lyle and president Howard Owens stepped down, and the network’s head of marketing, Courteney Monroe, was upped to CEO, with David Hill, Senior EVP of 21st Century Fox and a member of the National Geographic Channels Board of Directors, regaining oversight as Chairman of National Geographic Channels U.S. Pastore, who will oversee development, production and production management, fills the void left by the departure of Owens as the network’s top programming executive. Working closely with Pastore will be Heather Moran, EVP, Programming & Strategy, who will continue to manage the network’s production team, and Alan Eyres, SVP, Programming & Development, who will continue to spearhead the development team. Both of them will now report to Pastore. (Geoff Daniels remains EVP and General Manager for Nat Geo WILD, reporting to Monroe.) Read More »
Ambyr Childers (Ray Donovan, We Are What We Are) and Beau Mirchoff (Awkward) have been cast as recurring in NBC‘s upcoming series Aquarius, a gritty 1960s drama about a cop (David Duchovny) who goes undercover to track Charles Manson and the Manson Family before their infamous murder spree. Childers, repped by McKeon/Myones Management and UTA, will play Susan Atkins, who lures Emma’s boyfriend away as part of Manson’s plan to recruit her. Mirchoff, repped by APA, Velocity Entertainment Partners and Ginsburg Daniels, will play Rick Zondervan, a fictitious UCLA student who takes his girlfriend to a drug party in Laurel Canyon where they run into infamous Charles Manson.
Miguel Sandoval has been upped to a series regular on NBC’s single-camera comedy Bad Judge. It centers on a hard-living, sexually unapologetic woman (Kate Walsh) whose life on the edge is constantly in balance as she also happens to be a judge in the criminal court system. Sandoval, who guest starred in the pilot, plays Judge Connors, her boss on the San Bernardino County bench, who gives her extra work because he believes in her as a judge. He is repped by Greene & Assoc. and manager Ben Levine.
PBS chief Paula Kerger this morning made a slew of announcements from TCA Summer Press Tour 2014:
– Call The Midwife will be back for a fourth season. BBC announced in February it would produce a fourth season of the period drama about a group of nurse midwives working in the East End of London in the 1950s — only it will be set in the 60′s for the next season.
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Alejandro González Iñárritu‘s MRC series is taking shape, with Ed Helms, Hilary Swank and Ed Harris in various stages of negotiations to topline the hour-long project. In his U.S. TV debut, the Oscar-nominated Iñárritu will direct the series, titled One Percent, which he co-created with Alexander Dinelaris, Nicolas Giacobone, and Armando Bo. The four recently collaborated on the script of Iñárritu’s latest feature, black comedy Birdman Or The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance, which has been selected to open this year’s Venice Film Festival in its world premiere and as the closing-night title for the New York Film Festival.
One Percent is set against the backdrop of the organic farming community. Helms and Swank would play a husband and wife who are struggling professionally and personally to keep their business afloat, while Harris would play the family patriarch. MRC is expected to take the project out to buyers in a few weeks, likely seeking a straight-to-series order, which has been the company’s strategy. It has been able to secure two-season pickups for its Emmy-winning David Fincher-Kevin Spacey drama House Of Cards at Netflix and the Seth MacFarlane comedy at Starz.
One Percent, which … Read More »
3BlackDot – a hybrid entertainment company with gamer and social-media-marketing roots and composed of video production, game development, online influencer and integrated marketing units – has officially come out of stealth mode this morning. Company principals include two former Machinima executives (Angelo Pullen and Luke Stepleton) and two prominent YouTube personalities (SeaNanners, aka Adam Montoya, and TheSyndicateProject, aka Tom Cassell).
As well, Stepleton’s older brother, former Duck Dynasty co-executive producer Hank Stepleton, will join the organization as partner and head of Pickaxe, the company’s video-content production company. The first Pickaxe project will be a live-action short based on Zombie Killer Squad, the mobile title developed by the company’s game unit and released last November to substantial success. The trailer for the short will be shown at San Diego Comic-Con this week, at a lounge 3BlackDot will be running for its online influencers and others.
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NBC and cable networks led by USA “were trading at a 20% discount to our competition” in the cost-per-viewer of ad sales before the recent upfront market, NBCU chief Steve Burke told analysts this morning. “We’re now at about a 10% discount.” Comcast‘s entertainment arm says it bucked a trend in the upfront — seen as generally down 5% vs last year — as it benefits from the growing popularity of its shows, and a decision to sell broadcast and cable ad inventory together. “If the industry was down 5% and we were up 10%, that’s a 15% difference vs what we would have done” if NBCU had sold broadcast and cable separately. “It’s a swing of $750M” that will go “a long way toward closing monetization gap.”
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Comcast has become so big and complex that its earnings are almost always mixed — and Q2 was no exception, although the combination of soft revenue growth with strong profits sent shares up 2.1% in pre-market trading. The cable giant reported net income of $2.03B, +16.1% vs the period last year, on revenues of $16.84B, +3.5%. Analysts expected the top line to come in a little higher, at $16.95B. But earnings at 76 cents a share handily beat the consensus forecast of 72 cents.
NBCUniversal also seemed to have a split personality with operating cash flow +20.4% to $1.43B while revenues were +0.3% to $6.02B. The main Cable Networks operation saw sales grow 2.6% to $2.48B with affiliate fees +4.2% while ad sales fell 2.2%. Still, by controlling costs, the unit’s operating cash flow rose 6.3% to $914M. The Broadcast Television unit told a similar story: With rising retransmission consent fees, its revenues increased 4.9% to $1.8B. But ad sales fell 1.7%, which the network partly attributes to having fewer hours of The Voice than it had last year. Still, broadcast operating cash flow increased 16.2% to $240M reflecting, the company says, “a slight increase in operating costs and expenses.” Theme Parks proved to be NBCU’s most consistent performer despite the increased costs for Orlando’s The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley attraction which opened this month. Attendance and spending were both up, resulting in a 12.8% increase in revenues to $615M with … Read More »