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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Class Project goes mainstream. 

Al Jazeera America details lineup. Hollywood wins China tax fight. 'Duck Dynasty' cast signs new deal.

After the coffee. Before jumping on the Dodger bandwagon.

The Skinny: I got homesick for New York watching the Democratic mayoral debate Tuesday. I can't decide who I would vote against more. Wednesday's headlines include a win for Hollywood in a tax fight with China and the cast of "Duck Dynasty" signing a new deal with A&E.

Chris Dodd
Former U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, Chairman and CEO of The Motion Picture Association of America, attends a seminar as part of the 14th Shanghai International Film Festival in 2011. (Eugene Hoshiko / Associated Press)

Found money. A tax dispute between Hollywood and the China Film Group has been resolved and should put more money in the industry's pockets. The debate was over a value-added tax studios were paying out of their own take of box office in China. In protest, several studios had not accepted any payments for movies released there. Movies that should see some extra box-office dough from China include "Life of Pi" and "Skyfall." Details on the resolution from the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Joie Chen and John Seigenthaler
Joie Chen and John Seigenthaler will anchor shows for Al Jazeera America. (Al Jazeera America)

Al Jazeera America details programming lineup.

Will Americans watch "the enemy," as many still consider the Arab based network? What will happen to Al Jazeera English? How will it sit on the spectrum of FOX to MSNBC, CNN to PBS?
Al Jazeera Media Network detailed programming plans for the American news channel it is launching next week, which includes several high-profile evening news magazines.
Set to debut Tuesday, Al Jazeera America will be available in about 50 million homes. It was able to secure that distribution after acquiring Current TV, the news and documentary channel that was co-founded by Al Gore.
Time Warner Cable, the largest pay-TV distributor in Los Angeles and New York, does not have an agreement to carry Al Jazeera America.     
Among the familiar faces who have signed on with Al Jazeera are John Seigenthaler, a former anchor at NBC News; Joie Chen, best known from her stint at CBS News; and ex-CNNfinancial correspondent Ali Velshi.
Seigenthaler will anchor "Nightly News," an 8 p.m. recap of the day's top stories. That will be followed by Chen's "America Tonight," which will feature more long-form programming with stories that could run for 12 minutes.
In a recent interview, Chen said her show will look at "stories and themes we are not seeing elsewhere." She has no plans to go tabloid either.
"Our mandate is specifically to stay away from the sensational," she said, adding that Al Jazeera's stylebook even says, "Do not sensationalize in your writing."
Other shows include "Real Money With Ali Velshi," in which the former CNN financial correspondent will cover the economic news of the day.
Documentary programs include "Fault Lines," which will air on Sundays and promises to look at stories that are "often off the radar of mainstream news" and put a "face to those who have fallen through the cracks."
Al Jazeera America is headquartered in New York, which is also where much of its programming will originate. "America Tonight," which is considered its flagship show, will be done out of Washington, D.C., from a studio in the Newseum, a museum devoted to journalism. The network has also opened up 10 other bureaus, including in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump is not happy about missing golf on CBS this past weekend. (Ben Nelms/Bloomberg August 13, 2013)

Just get this done. The longer CBS and Time Warner Cable go without a distribution deal, the more opportunity it provides for lawmakers and provocateurs to weigh in on the matter. Earlier this week, California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein urged the two companies to end their dispute, and Donald Trump on Tuesday took to Twitter to complain. Well, if Trump is upset, then it is time to get serious about a deal. There's nothing new of substance in the story, but here's the latest from the Associated PressUSA Today and the Los Angeles Times.
(photo at top of this entry or click here)

The convergence of politics and entertainment was in evidence again last week when President Obama took a shot at the excessive lifestyles of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West -- and Kim’s mother, Kris Jenner, shot back.
In bygone days when Hollywood and Washington, D.C., were firmly planted on two separate coasts, presidents of the United States positioned themselves well above mere entertainers.
Now, that has changed. Presidents appear on late-night talk shows, comedians testify before Congress, popular politicians adopt the style of celebrities and Hollywood luminaries bankroll the Democratic Party.

It is also a marker of our era that Obama delivered his broadside, not to the L.A. Times, the Washington Post or NBC News, but to something called Kindle Singles. In an interview, the president talked about the American Dream and how it is being distorted by the ultra-conspicuous consumption of the rich and famous. When he was a kid, children were not as aware of how the top 1% lived, he said, and so, for his generation, success was not defined by purely material measures.
“We weren't exposed to things we didn't have in the same way kids these days are,” the president said. “There was not that window into the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Kids weren't monitoring every day what Kim Kardashian was wearing, or where Kanye West was going on vacation, and thinking that somehow that was the mark of success."
Arguably, Obama was just picking Kardashian and West as random examples and not meaning it personally (although the president in the past has very intentionally singled out West as a “jackass”).
But Jenner interpreted his comments as a direct attack. The mama bear of the Kardashian clan, the woman who turned the lives of her children into a reality show dedicated to the flamboyant display of all that money can buy, seized the opportunity to criticize Obama on “Kris,” her E! Channel talk show.
Jenner said the president seems perfectly comfortable hanging out with rich celebrities in their ostentatious homes when he is raising millions of dollars for his campaigns, so she found it odd that he would accuse her daughter and rapper boyfriend of “influencing a generation of youngsters to be obsessed with wealth and celebrity.”
After five years in office, Obama thought he had it tough dealing with obstructionist Republicans and tea partymilitants.
Now, he’s got a new set of enemies who not only have super-sized mansions and vast wardrobes, but also have their own TV shows: the Kardashians.

Stop quacking and start producing. While CBS and Time Warner Cable continue to struggle to get a distribution deal done,  cast members of A&E's hit show "Duck Dynasty" have signed new deals with big raises. The show's new season starts Wednesday night, and if recent history is any guide, the ratings will be huge. More on the new agreement from Deadline Hollywood. Also, USA Today on what makes this show about the Robertson family and their duck-call business so popular.

Get Ready to Pay More to Watch Sports, thanks to FOX Sports 1. As we mentioned in Monday's column, this Saturday Fox launches Fox Sports 1, a new national cable network that will try to compete with ESPN. This means lots of preview stories about the network and the sports media landscape. The new issue of Variety looks at Fox Sports 1ESPN and the marketplace overall.

Dodger Blues: Everyone is excited about how hot the Dodgers are, but KCAL-TV Channel 9 has to be bumming a little. Much of the Los Angeles market couldn't see the boys in blue win Tuesday night because of the fight between Time Warner Cable and CBS. That means smaller ratings for KCAL. The station is owned by CBS and is in what is likely its last season carrying the Dodgers because the team signed a new deal for a channel with -- wait for it -- Time Warner Cable, which is set to go into effect next season.

Pending further review. Airline mergers aren't the only thing regulators are concerned about. The Federal Trade Commission was expected to sign off on Nielsen's deal to acquire Arbitron. But the merger of the biggest TV and radio ratings firms is getting a little extra scrutiny, according to the New York Post.

The Zynga headquarters in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

Zynga's David Ko and Colleen McCreary leaving in shuffle.

At struggling casual video games company Zynga Inc., the name of the game appears to be "Restructuring With Friends." 
Chief Operations Officer David Ko, Chief People Officer Colleen McCreary and Chief Technology Officer Cadir Lee are leaving the company, which is best known for games such as"FarmVille" and "Words With Friends," said Chief Executive Don Mattrick in a blog post Tuesday. In his note, Mattrick also announced multiple other leadership changes.
The management shuffle comes as Mattrick, who took over for Zynga's founder Mark Pincus as CEO last month, tries to get the company back on track after it has lost users of its online games. Mattrick said the three executives are leaving to pursue "other interests." 
"Each person has contributed to the growth of Zynga," he wrote. "We appreciate their contributions to Zynga’s first chapter and wish them well in their future endeavors."
Mattrick said last month that he expects two to four quarters of "volatility" as he attempts to turn around the company, which has lost ground to competing makers of social and mobile games such as, of "Candy Crush" fame.  
Tuesday's announcement marks the company's first major restructuring move since Mattrick took over.
"With the above in place, I believe that we will have the best chance to grow, build a world class executive team and culture, establish cadence and really become committed to important priorities and opportunities for our long term success," Mattrick said. 
Last month, the company announced that it will not try to get into the online gambling business in the U.S. 

Cimarron Group
Cecilia Wu, a business administration student at USC, researches ways to promote entertainment using Chinese social media networks. Cimarron Group hosted USC students from China as part of a summer internship program. (Arkasha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times / June 22, 2012)

Hollywood marketing firm Cimarron Group to shut down.

Cimarron Group, one of Hollywood's leading brand strategy and marketing companies, is closing its doors after more than three decades in business.
"It is with much regret that I announce the closing of Cimarron Group," Bob Farina, chief executive of the Cimarron Group, said in a statement. "I want to thank the incredible executive team and staff that has served this agency with their creativity and dedication. Over the past 33 years, our clients have meant everything to us and we appreciate all of them beyond measure."
About 120 employees will lose their jobs. On Monday, many had already been laid off or took jobs at other rival agencies.
Cimarron did not cite the reasons for the announcement, but a source close to the company said the decision came about after efforts to secure a loan to meet its obligations fell through. Cimarron failed to meet its payroll obligations last week.
Insiders said the company has faced mounting financial difficulties in recent years after expanding overseas and seeing a falloff in business from studios, which have cut back the number of movies they release annually and slashed what they spend on marketing campaigns.
Founded more than three decades ago, the Hollywood-based company creates movie trailers and TV commercials as well as print and digital ad campaigns for major studio movies.
Cimarron, which has offices in Singapore, Italy and Beijing, had recently worked on Fox’s “The Heat,” “Epic,” “Taken 2,” and “Ice Age: Continental Drift,” as well as DreamWorks’ “The Croods,” which was also released by Fox; and Universal’s “Identity Thief.”
The company's clients include MGM Grand, Cirque du Soleil, the consumer products division of 20th Century Fox and Village Roadshow.
Warnings of the company's financial distress have been evident for months. In June, SAG-AFTRA accused Cimarron of reneging on payments to performers as well as contributions to pension and health plans. The guild temporarily ordered its members not to work with the company until it reached an agreement to resolve the dispute.
And in April, Cimarron discreetly closed its Beijing office after less than a year in operation in China, laying off six employees who said they were not paid any severance and were owed back wages. Cimarron disputed the claims and said it would retain a presence in China.
Company executives said the decision became necessary after its client MGM Grand pulled out of a planned casino project in Vietnam. They also told The Times that progress had been slower than anticipated in building up its film marketing business in China.

MGM Holdings Inc., the parent of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., reported net income of $35.9 million for its fiscal second quarter ending June 30.
The Beverly Hills-based film and television company's revenue rose dramatically -- by 164% -- to $339 million.
Net income was down 15% from the $42.1-million profit the company posted for the same quarter a year earlier. However, that 2012 figure includes a one-time gain related to an asset sale.
Excluding that gain, which came from the sale of Latin American pay-television assets to Chellomedia, MGM's net income was up $30 million.
“I continue to be very pleased with our strong performance to date in 2013 and look forward to the year ahead,” Chairman and Chief Executive Gary Barber said in a statement.
MGM, producer of last year's “Skyfall” and “The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey,” is privately held. However, the company filed a draft registration statement for an initial public offering with the Securities and Exchange Commissionin July 2012. 
The company's second film in the J.R.R. Tolkien series, "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” is scheduled to be released by Warner Bros. on Dec. 13. Among MGM's films slated to open in 2014 are a "RoboCop" reboot and "22 Jump Street," a sequel to "21 Jump Street." 
MGM emerged from bankruptcy in December 2010. 

Film made by students secures  commercial distributors
With the help of faculty members who had ties in Hollywood, students at John Paul the Great Catholic University in San Diego recruited professional actors and crew members to help make "Red Line," about a terrorist attack that takes place on a Red Line subway in Los Angeles. Above, on the set of the movie, most of which was shot on a soundstage at the university. (Redline the Film LLC / August 14, 2013)

Class project yields a feature film with commercial distributors.


The prospects of finding a distributor for a $220,000 movie, produced mainly by college students at an obscure San Diego Catholic university, could hardly be worse.
But about 60 students at John Paul the Great Catholic University who embarked on a quixotic class project two summers ago to make and release their own movie beat the odds.
With the help of faculty members who had ties in Hollywood, the students recruited professional actors and crew members to help make their film. Students wrote the script — about a terrorist attack that takes place on a Red Line subway in Los Angeles — raised funds and worked behind the camera, finding props and costumes and building sets.
And they accomplished something many independent filmmakers would envy: They managed to secure deals to distribute the movie through iTunes, andRedbox last month. Starting in October, DVDs will be sold through Wal-Mart and Target.
Student film shoots are a common sight in Los Angeles — which has a plethora of local film schools — and occasionally generate more production days than feature films. But most are for film shorts, not full-length feature films, and rarely do those movies find commercial distributors.
"Most industry professionals said it couldn't be done and that we had no hope of making it look like a professionally produced feature or attracting a stellar cast," said Dominic Iocco, former dean of the film and media department and a producer on the film. "But we did it and we couldn't be more proud."
"Red Line" began as a senior class project that would give film students hands-on knowledge to apply what they learned in the classroom, with the hope they might get a film credit to their names.
"We had this idea that if the students could do a feature film and do it from a commercial standpoint, they would learn more than anything they would get in the classroom," Iocco said.
He and other professors at the small Catholic university challenged students to pitch ideas for a screenplay that could be filmed almost entirely on an enclosed space on the university's soundstage.
Student Tara Stone, the film's screenwriter, initially proposed a story about people getting trapped in a wine cellar during the London Blitz in World War II. Shooting a period drama, however, was deemed too expensive. So, at the suggestion of her professors, Stone recast the story to take place in a more contemporary setting of a subway in Los Angeles.
Stone completed a 93-page draft in three weeks.
"It was really hard because while I was writing it I had a full course load," said Stone, 27, who now works for a film production company. "It was basically, every moment I had I was writing."
Iocco and his colleagues used their contacts in the industry to attract a professional director (Robert Kirbyson) and working actors, including Nicole Gale Anderson, who has a recurring role on CW's"Beauty and the Beast" and played Macy Misa on the popular Disney Channel show "Jonas LA," and Kevin Sizemore, who plays Jared in the television series "Under the Dome." The actors worked under an ultra-low-budget SAG agreement.
Filmed over 25 days in summer 2011, "Red Line" included some scenes filmed at the Hollywood and Highland subway station. But most of the production was shot on a soundstage at the university, where the students spent several weeks building a replica of a crashed subway car. The students used camera equipment donated by the university's film program and worked under the guidance of professional department heads, many of whom deferred their fees.
Colleen Monroe, who doubled as the art director and costume designer, worked with a team of 30 students to help build the subway car set. With a budget of just $10,000, Monroe hired a construction crew to build the 75-foot-wide car and scoured junkyards for materials. A junkyard in Riverside donated 15 seats from an old bus, which doubled as subway car seats. Monroe persuaded a demolition company to "donate" a dumpster full of debris to simulate the look of a crashed subway car. She hired a team of makeup artists from the Paul Mitchell hairstyle school in San Diego to work as makeup artists.
Monroe, who now works in the costume design department on HBO's "Boardwalk Empire," credits the experience for helping her pursue a career in the movie business. "It definitely gave me the confidence and the contacts to work on bigger projects and helped me start thinking about how I can make a career of this."
The movie was financed through private donations, including friends and family of the students, faculty members and the university itself.
The motto of the school, founded in 2003, is "Impact Culture for Christ." Most of the students at the small university are film majors. Students also study business and theology.
Although the university supported the film, the movie does not have a specific theological message, said Chris Riley, a producer on the film who teaches screenwriting at John Paul the Great Catholic University.
"I felt like it was in line with the school's mission," Riley said. "It looks at ideas that are alive in our national dialogue about torture and what we do to prevent a terrorist attack. It's a much more humanistic kind of theme."
Where the cameras roll: Sample of neighborhoods with permitted TV, film and commercial shoots scheduled this week. Permits are subject to last-minute changes. Sources: FilmL.A. Inc., cities of Beverly Hills, Pasadena and Santa Clarita. Thomas Suh Lauder / Los Angeles Times

FishBowl Worldwide Media Chief Executive Bruce Gersh, right, has exited the production company he launched with TV veteran Vin Di Bona.
FishBowl Worldwide Media Chief Executive Bruce Gersh, right, has exited the production company he founded with veteran TV producer Vin Di Bona. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times / June 4, 2013)

FishBowl Worldwide Media President and CEO Bruce Gersh exits.

The former ABC executive who helped "America's Funniest Home Videos" producer Vin Di Bona bring his vast repository of amateur videos to the Web has left the company they founded amid differences over the future direction of the company.
Bruce Gersh, who together with Di Bona launched an independent production company to capitalize on the surging popularity of YouTube videos, said he is departing FishBowl Media Worldwide with the end of his contract.
Di Bona said he and Gersh met Thursday to discuss the future of FishBowl Worldwide Media. After three years of pumping money into the production company, Di Bona said, he was looking for a leaner, more fiscally responsible operation.
"I had to say, 'I think this is the point where I don't think I can fund it as heavily as I did before,'" recalled Di Bona, who is chairman of FishBowl Worldwide Media. "If that's a disappointment, we both have to come to grips with that. Bruce was a total gentleman."
Di Bona and Gersh said they decided to part ways as a trimmed-down FishBowl Worldwide Media focuses on producing scripted and reality series -- and finding new ways to license its library of amateur videos on digital platforms and through syndication.
"All my goals have been met, as far as building FishBowl the way I envisioned," Gersh said. "At some point, you have to build a bigger company or you decide to maintain exactly what you've built and try to grow it at a different pace.
"Vin and I came to the agreement that maybe his pace and mine weren't equally aligned."
In the wake of Gersh's departure, Chief Financial Officer Paul Lapointe has been named executive vice president and chief operating officer of FishBowl Worldwide Media. The executive, who began working with Di Bona 15 years ago, will oversee day-to-day operations, as well as foreign distribution.
Television veteran Beth Greenwald will assume the newly created position of president of creative affairs, overseeing development of scripted and unscripted shows.
Greenwald joined FishBowl Worldwide Media in 2010 as senior vice president of unscripted programming, and produced such reality TV shows as TruTV's "Upload With Shaquille O'Neal" and "I'm Married to ..." for VH1.  She currently is overseeing 10 projects in various stages of development.
Di Bona said FishBowl Media will retain its digital presence, with an emphasis on mining its "America's Funniest Home Videos'" library. He said Lisa Black will oversee this part of the business as executive vice president of content and business development.
"We're really experimenting with new ways of trying to get into the marketplace with lower-cost programming," Di Bona said. "That makes sense for everybody."
Di Bona and Gersh met when the younger executive was overseeing digital business for network shows including "America's Funniest Home Videos."  The duo launched FishBowl in January 2010 and assembled a creative team with experience developing scripted and reality programs.
FishBowl sold several original series for the Web and TV, and used "America's Funniest Home Videos" massive library of video clips to launch five YouTube channels: Petsami, Toddletale, CuteWinFail, Lindo Victoria Fracaso and AFV.
"I  came to build a company -- that's exactly what I've done," Gersh said. "I came to create a solution for monetizing the library, and we're definitely well on our way."

Fred Melamed
Actor Fred Melamed stars in a new movie "In a World..." (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / July 24, 2013)
Inside the Los Angeles Times: Fred Melamed, costar of the voice-over comedy "In a World ..." has found success late in life. 

Join us for Friday night on-camera and auditions acting class, 5:30 to 9 PM...Beginners at 5:30, on camera acting at audit.

Casting Call Entertainment,
2790 E. Flamingo Rd Ste. F
Las Vegas, Nevada 89121
Today 12:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Phone (702) 369-0400
Join us for Friday night on-camera and auditions acting class, 6 to 9 audit.

Casting Call Entertainment, 
2790 E. Flamingo Rd Ste. F
Las Vegas, Nevada 89121
Today 12:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Phone (702) 369-0400

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