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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Producers Guild 2012 Awards

Producers Guild Awards: 'The Artist' takes home top honors

The Artist
The Producers Guild of America gave its top prize to "The Artist" Saturday night, confirming the black-and-white film's status as an Oscar front-runner heading into the nominations for the 84th Academy Awards Tuesday morning. The PGA and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have agreed on best picture winners the last four years.

Producer Thomas Langmann, the son of acclaimed French actor, writer and director Claude Barri, accepted the Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures for "The Artist," which took home the Golden Globe for best motion picture, comedy or musical, earlier this month.

Directed by Michel Hazanavicius, the film is a love letter to Hollywood's Golden Age, telling the story of the intersecting fates of silent film star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) and plucky song-and-dance gal Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) at the dawn of the talkies. Since making its debut at the Cannes Film Festival last year, the movie has been collecting accolades and acclaim.

"When Michel and I dreamed of making 'The Artist,' we dreamed of writing a love letter to American cinema," Langmann said. "We just didn't know that we would get a taste of the American dream."

But "The Artist" wasn't the only recurring presence on the awards season circuit to take home a prize Saturday at the 23rd annual PGA Awards gala at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Steven Spielberg's 3D performance capture film "The Adventures of Tintin," based on the work of Belgian artist Herge, won in the PGA's animated film category -- it, too, won a Golden Globe. The director accepted the statuette with his producing partner Kathleen Kennedy; "Tintin's" third nominated producer, Peter Jackson, did not attend the ceremony.

Spielberg, whose other 2011 feature, the stately World War I drama "War Horse," had been nominated alongside "The Artist," also was honored with the David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures. In presenting the award, DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg said of Spielberg, "He's a great storyteller. He's maintained a deep affinity with his audiences."

During his acceptance speech, Spielberg credited his career to the fact that he came across producers who believed in him, refueled his confidence when it ran low and took a chance on him. He explained that an important aspect in making films is "being able to take chances on men and women who deserve a break. No one can succeed alone."

He continued, "For every film and television show nominated tonight, someone reached out and gave a hand. I am grateful to feel all of yours holding mine right now."

Actor Michael Rapaport certainly seemed both grateful and terribly surprised when his documentary about the groundbreaking hip-hop collective A Tribe Called Quest, "Beats, Rhymes and Life," took home honors for Outstanding Producer of Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures -- Rapaport, Edward Parks, Frank Mele and Debra Koffler were the honored producers.

"I really can't believe we won," a visible shaken Rapaport said, before coming out with an off-the-cuff expletive.

On the television side, the Norman Felton Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic TV-drama went to HBO's Prohibition era drama "Boardwalk Empire," while ABC's popular sitcom "Modern Family" won the Danny Thomas Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic TV, Comedy.
After collecting the first prize of the evening, "Modern Family" producer Danny Zuker appropriately made the audience roar with laughter. "I have to tell you, all through the streets today there was Producer's Guild fever and it's just such a relief for it to all be over."

Comedian Stephen Colbert and the team from Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" won for Outstanding Producer of Live Entertainment & Talk Television, though Colbert was not on hand to accept. PBS' Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning miniseries "Downtown Abbey" and its trio of producers, Julian Fellowes, Nigel Marchant and Gareth Neame, took home the PGA's long-form television award.

The prize for competition television went to CBS' globe-trotting contest "The Amazing Race" -- honored producers were Jerry Bruckheimer, Elise Doganieri, Jonathan Littman, Bertram van Munster and Mark Vertullo. PBS' "American Masters" duo Susan Lacy and Julie Sacks won for Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction TV.

Among the evening's other honorary awards, "Spider-Man" star Tobey Maguire presented comics icon Stan Lee with his Vanguard Award, while television veteran Don Mischer accepted the Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television. Both men received a standing ovation in the ballroom, as did actress Angelina Jolie, who was given the Stanley Kramer Award for her feature directorial debut, "In the Land of Blood and Honey," a love story set against the backdrop of the Bosnian war.

CBS Corp. Chief Executive Leslie Moonves won the Milestone Award, which was presented to him by George Clooney. After his own standing ovation, Moonves quipped that "there is no one in the world I would change places with, except this guy," and promptly pointed to Clooney.

The evening also saw Alicia Keys perform a rendition of her Jay-Z duet "Empire State of Mind" and her song "No One."

-- Susan King and Jasmine Elist

The Preceding is from The LA Times 24 Frame Blog. 

Below list of winners and nominees, plus photos. from Celebrity Click read more below or click here to read the results.

Legal Attempts Possible to Block SAG-AFTRA Merger

Instructor Art Lynch, who sits on the Screen Actors Guild National Board of Directors, is acting in the merger process, and is the editor / author of this blog (author where not indicated by a source).

SAG Merger Skeptics Retain Law Firm

“This is a merger that’s inevitable,” says an expert on the subject of union mergers.
What a SAG-AFTRA Merger Means for Actors

It’s unclear whether the anonymous group will actually bring suit or be able to delay a SAG-AFTRA merger referendum even if they do; meanwhile, the process moves forward, with union board meetings tomorrow and next weekend.

From the Hollywood Reporter (click here for access to the full story and other news).

Declaring themselves “hesitant” to support the proposed merger of SAG and AFTRA, a group of unnamed SAG actors posted a statement saying that they have retained a local law firm “to represent us in our legal quest to compel SAG to conduct a feasibility/impact study [regarding the effect of merger on the SAG pension and health plan] and publicly announce the results of the study prior to the merger referendum vote.”
The previously unreported statement, which appears on the site and is undated, goes on to say that “we now believe we must take legal action in order to secure the information all members MUST have before voting on the merger question.”

In response, SAG first vice president Ned Vaughn told The Hollywood Reporter “Democracy is the answer – not litigation.” Alluding to SAG member support for pro-merger candidates he added, “this group is hoping to take the decision out of members’ hands because there’s been so little support for their goal of keeping us divided.”

Whether such action has real potential to delay or derail the merger process is unclear. Indeed, it’s unknown whether a lawsuit will even materialize: the website and recent emails are soliciting donations to pay the lawyers, and there’s no indication of how much has been raised. Also difficult to determine is whether such a lawsuit would also name the SAG pension and health plan and/or AFTRA.

Meanwhile, the merger process continues. The SAG and AFTRA boards are meeting tomorrow in Los Angeles and New York for a videoconference briefing on the merger package approved last week by the unions’ joint Group for One Union. The session will be informational; the board votes are scheduled for next weekend. Approval by the boards is a virtual certainty, and a high-profile balloting kickoff announcement by SAG president Ken Howard and AFTRA president Roberta Reardon is expected at next Sunday’s nationally-televised SAG Awards.

Ballots would then likely be sent to roughly 150,000 voting members of the two unions in mid- to late-February, with a return date in March. A court might hesitate to spark chaos by issuing an injunction once the ballots are in the mail, but litigation prior to the board votes next weekend would run the risk of being dismissed as premature.

Taken together, these factors suggest that an anti-merger lawsuit or other legal action, if any, would most strategically be filed in the first couple weeks of February – probably early in that time frame, in order to ensure that the suit reaches a courtroom before the ballots have a chance to hit the mail.
Again, to emphasize: it’s unknown whether legal action will be filed at all.

Attempts to reach the anti-merger website’s owners were unsuccessful, and the named law firm, Wasserman, Comden, Casselman & Esensten, did not respond to several emails.

Opposition to merger, or skepticism, is by all indications a minority position. SAG Hollywood voters handed pro-merger board candidates a victory in 2008 and have voted consistently – and, in the past two years, overwhelmingly – for candidates from the Unite for Strength group, who have run on a platform focused on merger.

Previously, the guild’s Hollywood division was home base for the anti-AFTRA MembershipFirst group, which controlled the union from 2005-2009. MF collapsed, although a few of its members, including two of its former leaders, Anne-Marie Johnson and David Jolliffe, remain on the guild’s national board.

In contrast to SAG Hollywood, the guild’s New York and regional branch divisions, and AFTRA, have been perceived as largely pro-merger for many years. In 1998 and again in 2003, AFTRA voters approved merger proposals by over the requisite 60% threshold. The SAG votes fell short, with the guild tally hitting about 58% in 2003 – a majority, but not the required supermajority.

UFS, in combination with New York’s United Screen Actors Nationwide and allies in the regional branches, have controlled the union since early 2009, although they didn’t attain the presidency until later that year, when Howard won a plurality in a three-way contest against Johnson and Seymour Cassell. Howard was easily reelected last fall in the face of token opposition.

Speaking of the merger proposal, Howard and Reardon said last week, “What we have accomplished over the last year is tremendously gratifying.” They added, “We are confident our members will agree that we have created something we can all be proud of.”

A merger opponent aware of some details of the proposal had a different view:  this proposal “makes AIMA look like a gift,” the source told The Hollywood Reporter, referring to the 2003 plan that was derided by opponents and narrowly defeated.

Opponents and skeptics have highlighted pension and health issues, claiming that the new union’s P&H plans are destined to be worse than the existing SAG plans. However, it’s not obvious why this would be so: federal law provides certain protections in the pension arena and, beyond that, the issue is so shrouded in economic uncertainty and actuarial miasma that firm conclusions are difficult.

Supporters also point to P&H issues, arguing that more actors will reach the qualifying thresholds for pension and health coverage when their work is no longer split between two unions. That will probably be true, though not until the unions’ pension and health plans also merge – a separate process, since the plans are legally distinct from the unions themselves.

Merger opponents claim that AFTRA is a weaker union and cuts deals too favorable to producers. They fear that a merged union would thus be less likely to stand up to studio demands, and also argue that merger would dilute SAG’s brand name and what they contend is the guild’s higher status.

In addition, some claim that much of AFTRA’s jurisdiction in the acting field is illegitimate, pointing to legal decisions and other matters dating to the dawn of commercial television in the early 1950s. (AFTRA also represents broadcasters and sound recording artists.)

The jurisdictional overlap between the two actors unions is unique, says Clark University professor Gary Chaison, and in his view, it makes no sense. “This is a merger that’s inevitable,” says Chaison, who’s an expert on the subject of union mergers.

That may turn out to be true – certainly the SAG elections over the last four years suggest as much – but without scientific polling, it’s impossible to know. Turnout could be key, and vigorous campaigns by supporters and opponents may drive participation above the 20%-25% that’s typical for union votes.

Of course, that’s assuming that a lawsuit doesn’t prevent the vote or inject a lengthy delay. Although expensive for all concerned, internecine SAG litigation would not be unprecedented: in 2009, then guild president Alan Rosenberg and three board members including Johnson sued the union in an attempt to stymie the newly-elected pro-merger majority. The litigation – which sought to block the new board from moving forward with studio negotiations and a change of guild staff leadership – was repeatedly rejected by the courts. The legal action delayed negotiations only by about two weeks, but nonetheless ground on for almost 18 months before fizzling out.

From the Hollywood Reporter (click here for access to the full story and other news). 

Super Bowl ad mania kicks off with a commercial for a commercial

Barking Good Fun!

More than two weeks before the big game, buzz is beginning to build around what advertisements are going to kick off during the Super Bowl.
One prominent ad agency -- Deutsch LA, the Marina del Rey firm that does the creative work for Volkswagen -- has set a particularly high bar for clever Super Bowl spots. Last year it rolled out "The Force," a heart-warming commercial that featured a little boy dressed as Darth Vader who used his "powers" to start his parents' VW Passat.

"The Force" immediately became a fan favorite. Over the last year, the VW Super Bowl commercial has attracted nearly 50 million views online and won several prestigious advertising awards.
So how does the agency top that?  This week, VW and Deutsch LA took the unusual step of releasing a "teaser" ad for its upcoming Super Bowl spot. "The Bark Side" is a commercial for the upcoming VW Super Bowl commercial.

The teaser spot continues in the "Star Wars" theme with a menagerie of canines that bark the "Imperial Death March," the ominous tones that introduce Darth Vader. The howling and barking dogs sport various outfits from the sci-fi sensation.

The teaser has attracted more than 1 million views since going online Wednesday night.
"It's trending faster than 'The Force' did, and this isn't even a Super Bowl ad," Mike Sheldon, chief executive of Deutsch LA, said in an interview.

The stakes are incredibly high for Super Bowl commercials. This year, companies are paying an average of $3.5 million for 30 seconds of advertising time in the big game, which NBC will televise Feb. 5.  Instant polls put additional pressure on the agencies to come up with catchy ads.
"The Super Bowl is one of the most effective advertising platforms you can have, and it has become more competitive than ever," Sheldon said. "'The Bark Side' was our way to try to stay one step ahead and trump the 70 other advertisers who will be in the Super Bowl. We wanted to get people talking about Volkswagen."

Relativity joins three other studios advertising in the Super Bowl
O.C. native a finalist in Super Bowl commercial contest
Michael Sheldon, CEO of Deutsch LA: How I Made It

-- Meg James

The Bark Side: 2012 Volkswagen Game Day Commercial Teaser

Disney CEO earns big bucks. On Line Gambling gains high profile competitor. Superbowl ads to premiere in movie theaters.

Kia Super Bowl Ad
 Kia Motors USA advertisement in the 2012 Super Bowl features fashion model Adriana Lima, fighter Chuck Liddell and Motley Crue. Credit:  Kia Motors USA

From the LA Times Company Store Blog (click here).
Kia Motors to Premiere Superbowl Ad in Movie Theaters. The Super Bowl has become television's biggest stage. Within days, Kia Motors USA will begin touting its Super Bowl commercial on big screens.

To kick off its football championship advertising campaign, Kia Motors will release a teaser trailer for its upcoming Super Bowl commercial in 18,000 movie theaters, beginning Jan. 27.  Then, four days before the big Feb. 5 game, the car company will introduce the full-length 60-second commercial, called "Drive the Dream," on the same 18,000 screens.

It is believed to be the first time a Super Bowl commercial will premiere in movie theaters.
The move by Kia is part of a growing trend by marketers to give sneak peaks or unveil their entire ads before the Super Bowl to get a jump on competitors and gain traction in the increasingly important social media platforms.

"We are trying to continue to push the envelope,” Michael Sprague, vice president of marketing for Kia Motors America, said. “Consumers at the movies will start tweeting about the ad, and that should help us build momentum and awareness.”

Kia's Optima sedan ad -- created by the car company's longtime agency, David & Goliath of El Segundo -- features super model Adriana Lima, MMA fighter Chuck Liddell and the rock band Motley Crue.  The concept for the commercial came during research sessions in which a consumer on a panel said the Optima was his dream car, said David Angelo, chief executive of David & Goliath.
Kia doesn’t think the early release will spoil the freshness of the ad, which will make its television debut during the Feb. 5 championship game broadcast by NBC.

“Every year, the Super Bowl audience grows. And if we can tap 5 to 10 million people who see it early, there will still be 100 million people who haven’t seen it when it breaks during the Super Bowl,” Sprague said. “We are simply trying to create the buzz and get people talking.”

The Kia ad will be distributed in theaters by National CineMedia, which describes itself as the largest in-theater network in North America.  The company -- a joint venture between AMC, Regal and Cinemark -- also programs sporting events and concerts.

The Super Bowl ad stakes are increasingly high. This year, companies are paying NBC an average of $3.5 million for a 30-second spot, and more than $6 million for a 60-second spot. 

Zynga Casino
Zynga General Manager Lo Toney, speaking at a Zynga event in October.

Angry Bird's Zynga to move into on-line gambling. Zynga may be weighing its odds of succeeding in the online gambling business, but the smart money is on the San Francisco company staying out of the potentially lucrative but legally murky world of online betting -- at least in the near future.

The maker of FarmVille and Zynga Poker stirred up a great deal of discussion when it issued the following statement Thursday to AllThingsD:

“We build games and experiences that our players want and love. Zynga Poker is the world’s largest online poker game with more than seven million people playing every day and over 30 million each month. We know from listening to our players that there’s an interest in the real money gambling market. We’re in active conversations with potential partners to better understand and explore this new opportunity.”

A Zynga spokesman would not elaborate beyond the statement. But company officials who declined to talk on the record said the social gaming company is merely exploring the option of online gambling and that it has no plans in place to dive in.

Part of what is holding Zynga back are the legal uncertainties. While some 39 states, including California, allow online betting games with cash prizes, others do not. The U.S. Department of Justice in December issued a legal opinion that stated proposals by states to sell lottery tickets online would not violate the 1961 federal Wire Act banning sports betting.

Some argued that the opinion paved the way for states to move into online gambling, but others aren't so sure the narrowly crafted opinion would extend beyond state-sponsored lotteries. Until the legal boundaries are clarified, Zynga is unlikely to cash in its virtual chips for the real deal, company executives said.

Another potential area of concern is the stigma associated with gambling. Historically, many online game companies take pains to distance themselves from online casinos and betting sites, preferring to align their brands as more wholesome, family-friendly entertainment.

That hasn't stopped some daring entrepreneurs from exploring the boundaries, including Richard Branson, who partnered with, a Canadian online start-up, to launch Virgin Gaming, which lets video game jockeys compete for cash prizes.

But Branson's move into online betting is rare within the games industry, which is struggling to prove itself as a media, entertainment and art form that is just as legitimate as movies, music or books.
Still, Zynga has broken the mold before -- by eschewing hard-core gamers and successfully going after mainstream consumers who previously had not spent much money on games. Who's to say it won't throw out a few more traditions and delve into online casinos?

Zynga is already partially there. The company last year said it was building a "casino franchise" that would aggregate its current and future competitive games such as Zynga Poker and Zynga Bingo.

Disney top man earns over $31.4 million a year. Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Bob Iger received nearly $31.4 million in total compensation last year, an 11.9% increase from 2010, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger
The board's compensation committee laid out the case for Iger's package, noting that 90% is tied to Disney's performance. It said the Burbank entertainment giant achieved record net income, revenue and earnings per share in fiscal 2011, and initiated a number of projects that would contribute to the company's future growth -- including expanding attractions at Disney theme parks in Florida, California and Hong Kong, and the joint venture to create a new park in Shanghai.

Media executives' salaries have come under scrutiny in recent years, with media mogul Sumner Redstone and his top lieutenants at Viacom Inc. drawing especially lucrative salaries and compensation packages in 2010.  Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman earned the distinction of drawing the largest one in corporate America that year: $84.5 million.

At Disney, the board said it wanted to make sure it retained Iger's expertise through the end of his employment contract, in June 2016, to assist with the transition to a new chief executive. Iger will also assume the title of chairman in March with John Pepper's retirement from the board.
According to a summary of his compensation, Iger collected a base salary of $2 million and stock awards worth $8 million. He received $4.8 million worth of stock options and $15.5 million in bonuses. His corporate perquisites -- personal travel, security and other items, such as vehicle expenses, a health club membership or exercise equipment -- amounted to $962,932. The value of Iger's pension also grew by more than $2 million in the year.

Alan Braverman, Disney's general counsel, collected total compensation of $6.9 million last year, an increase of 3% over 2010.  Kevin Mayer, the head of strategic planning, saw a 15% cut in his total compensation, which dropped to $3.6 million for the year.

The company's chief financial officer, Jay Rasulo, received $9.9 million for the year, a gain of 2.5%.
In a note to shareholders, Iger wrote that 10 board members would stand for reelection, signaling that Disney would not replace the late Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs, who died in October.

From the LA Times Company Store Blog (click here).