Fox Searchlight Bosses Say Disney Had No Problems with ‘Jojo Rabbit’

ut Nancy Utley and Steve Gilula admitted Taika Waititi’s Nazi satire had been a “big test.”

When details of Jojo Rabbit, in which director Taika Waititi plays an imaginary comedic version of Adolf Hitler, first emerged earlier this year, some concern was raised about how the film might go down with Fox Searchlight’s new family-friendly owners at Disney.

As it turns out, this concern was also felt at Fox Searchlight.

Speaking on Friday at the BFI London Film Festival in a wide-ranging discussion celebrating their 20 years at the helm of the prestige banner, co-chairs Stephan Gilula and Nancy Utley admitted that Jojo Rabbit had been a “big test” following Disney’s $71.3 billion takeover of Fox.

“When we first screened it for Bob Iger and Alan Horn, I didn’t know what they were going to say about our Nazi satire,” said Utley. “But they really appreciated it and its message, and what it’s trying to do.”

Gilula added that, for all the noise, made about Disney’s squeaky-clean image, the studio had a long track record of putting out un-Disney films on their other labels.

“Disney owned Miramax, and released all kinds of movies,” he said. “And back in December 2017, when Bob Iger first announced the [Fox] deal, we had just released Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and The Shape of Water. Those are not Disney films.”

The execs both pointed to Disney’s forward-thinking movements in streaming as a hugely positive opportunity for Fox Searchlight, with Utley admitting that Fox was “not as highly evolved.”

Although Gilula said that theatrical was still the “core business,” the banner will begin making content for streaming, and has launched both TV and short form divisions. And when its output deal with HBO runs out in 2022, its library will move to Disney’s Hulu service. Utley also suggested Fox Searchlight would make start making films directly for Hulu.

As for changes since the Disney purchase, whereas Fox has seen swinging cuts, little has altered for its prestige imprint.

“There are some procedural changes,” said Utley. “But the actual way we work is the same. We’re on the same lot. Our building is actually quite important to us. It’s a shabby bungalow, quite un-corporate. And we have things you’re not supposed to have… like dogs.”

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‘Joker’, is the very definition of a ride on the wild side. Starring Joaquin Phoenix

Todd Phillips‘ and Scott Silver‘s take on one of television and the silver screen’s most debilitating antagonists, ‘Joker’, is the very definition of a ride on the wild side. Starring Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck / Joker, the film is a not-so-subtle take on the intricately disturbing beginnings that shaped the sadistic existence and actions of Gotham City’s crime syndicate creme.

I was priviliged to watch an advance screening of ‘Joker’ at the ANGA IMAX cinema, thanks to film distributors, Crimson Multimedia.

The year is 1981, and Arthur is an impoverished middle-aged man living with, and taking care of his mother. While his job as as an ‘invisble’ clown parading the streets of Gotham often sucks, primarily because of the mistreatment he experiences at the hands of the citizens of the fast paced metropolis, he genuinely deduces pleasure from making other people laugh.

As fate would have it, his life begins, more accurately would be continues, to fall apart in a rather rapid series of unfortunate events, and he finally snaps. With all restraint perfunctorily dissipated, it’s astonishing to see the rise to fame of Arthur, from someone who does not matter, to one of the most important people in a city that’s grappling with its fledgling identity of industry, crime and disatisfaction.

In the midst of the chaos, there are instances of hope and redemption however, as the Joker finds someone who can tolerate his quirkiness, perhaps to tame his insatiable needs. It was rather quirky to me to see Sophie Dumond (played by Zazzie Beetz) as Arthur’s love interest, purely because I’ve been conditioned to match Joker to Harley Quinn, who by the way will feature in her own origin story ‘Birds of Prey’, early next year.

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Bob Esty, Producer on adult female Summer’s “Last Dance,” Dies at seventy two

He worked at Casablanca Records and collaborated with Cher and Barbra Streisand, as well.
Bob Esty, the songwriter, producer and arranger best known for his hit collaborations with Donna Summer, Cher and Barbra Streisand during the disco era, has died. He was 72.

Esty died Friday in Los Angeles after a short battle with metastatic cancer, his friend Dorian Hannaway announced.

Esty co-produced and arranged Summer’s disco sensation “Last Dance,” which reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1978, won two Grammys and — featured in Thank God It’s Friday — captured the best original song Oscar at the 1979 Academy Awards.

(The song was written by Paul Jabara and produced by Jabara, Esty and Summer’s regular collaborator, Giorgio Moroder. Esty always thought he should have received a co-writing credit and said he “learned a bitter lesson from that.”)

Esty also handled the arrangements for Summer’s Once Upon a Time album released in 1977 and produced songs and albums by many other artists during his stint at Casablanca Records, including Cher’s 1979 release Take Me Home, for which Esty and his writing partner, Michele Aller, penned most of the songs. (He co-produced the LP with Ron Dante.)

He also worked with such acts as Jabara, Brooklyn Dreams (featuring Bruce Sudano, Summer’s husband), Patti Brooks and D.C. LaRue at the label.

Esty served as Streisand’s vocal coach on “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough),” her hit 1979 duet with Summer, and arranged and produced the title song for Streisand’s film The Main Event (1979), having co-written it with Jabara and Bruce Roberts.

He also produced the Streisand single “The Main Event/Fight” and co-produced and arranged “I Have Dreamed/We Kiss in the Shadow/Something Wonderful,” The King and I medley on Streisand’s 1985 Broadway album. And he provided the orchestrations and choir arrangements and conducted the choir for Streisand’s 2000-01 world tours.

Robert Malcolm Esty II was born on April 20, 1947, in Springfield, Massachusetts. Raised in Baltimore, he played the organ in his family’s church when he was barely tall enough for his feet to reach the pedals. As a teen, he won a Mr. Junior Baltimore contest after he continued playing a piano that was sliding off a slanted stage.

Following a stint at Baltimore City College, Esty moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1965 to study theater and music at Franklin & Marshall College, then was hired as a musical director for the Armstrong Flooring Co. in Lancaster. (The company would stage shows for the salesmen who sold ads for its flooring products to network TV shows.)

He relocated to New York in 1969 and became a musical director for the off-Broadway musical Lyle, written by Eddie Cantor’s daughters Marilyn Cantor Baker and Janet Gari. Its backers included Dick Cavett and Woody Allen, but it closed in three days.

Around this time, Esty also served as musical director for future Earth, Wind & Fire songwriter Allee Willis and worked with cabaret singer John C. Attle, an original castmember of Fiddler on the Roof, and the trio Gotham.

In 1974, Esty began a lifetime association with actress-singer Sally Kellerman. (Their mutual manager was Rudy Altobelli, who encouraged Esty to relocate to Los Angeles. Once there, he lived in Altobelli’s guesthouse on the property where Sharon Tate had been murdered five years earlier.)

After Esty accompanied Kellerman when she appeared in 1975 on The Smothers Brothers Show, Tom and Dick Smothers hired Esty to work with their musical guests.

He also collaborated with such artists as Harry Wayne Casey (the frontman of KC and the Sunshine Band), Ava Cherry, Jeff Stryker and Roberta Kelly during his career.

Survivors include his brother-in-law, Judson; niece Gwyn; and nephews Jud and Luke.

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WarnerMedia Inclusion Report Shows personnel Gender Parity, space for Improvement Elsewhere

Whereas the company is close to gender parity in the workforce, there is a wider divide when it comes to executives of color.
As promised, WarnerMedia has published its internal diversity and inclusion data as part of its industry-first Production Diversity Policy.

In September 2018, the company — which comprises Warner Bros., HBO and Turner — announced its commitment to increasing the number of people from underrepresented backgrounds in its ranks and pledged accountability and transparency via an annual report on its progress.

The company is close to gender parity among employees, with a 53-47 percent male-female ratio in the U.S. and 54-46 worldwide. This proportion is fairly consistent at all levels, with women representing 43 percent of vice presidents and above and 50 percent of new hires and promotions.

WarnerMedia examined racial representation only among its U.S. workforce, where white people represent 61 percent of all employees and 80 percent of vice presidents and above. Approximately 13 percent of WarnerMedia employees are black, 11 percent are Latinx and 11 percent are Asian. More people of color were hired or promoted in 2018 (41 percent) than currently exist at the manager or executive level, signaling that those ranks will grow more inclusive over time.

Qualitatively, the company recognized its 28 employee affinity groups, which include Black Professionals @ Turner, HBO Alianza, Women of Warner U.K. and the military veteran-focused HBO Salute, which curate programming, networking and mentorship opportunities for its members.

WarnerMedia Hires Chief of Enterprise Inclusion
The report also examined representation in its content, both onscreen and behind the scenes. Here, women lagged farther behind men, representing just 34 percent of actors in scripted television and 28 percent of those in film. Behind the camera, the numbers were lower — 23 percent and 24 percent, respectively. White actors were featured in 76 percent of roles in scripted TV and 84 percent of movie parts, while white crewmembers represented 77 percent and 80 percent of those mediums, respectively.

WarnerMedia’s report touted several case studies across the company as examples of inclusive triumphs in content creation and marketing, including Warner Bros.’ Crazy Rich Asians (despite a pay parity issue between its two screenwriters); HBO’s Random Acts of Flyness and Insecure; CNN’s on-air talent; TNT’s Claws; The CW’s Supergirl; HBO Latino’s Sr. Avila; Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe; and TBS’ Full Frontal With Samantha Bee.

“Diverse content is what connects both creatively and commercially with our audiences, and we know the only way we can put the best content out there is to not only have the most diverse and inclusive workforce, but to work with the most diverse and inclusive group of stakeholders,” WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey said in a video accompanying the report’s release. “We’re proud of the work we’re doing, and we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished, but we know we have much more to do.”

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KKR-Backed German Film cluster Finally Picks a reputation Leonine CEO Fred Kogel

Leonine, meaning lion-like, is the name of the new holding company made up of film firms Tele Munchen Group (TMG) and Universum and TV production shingles Wiedemann & Berg and i&u TV.
Germany’s latest mini-major finally has a name.

Leonine is the brand name for the media group created by private equity company KKR through the merger of indies Universum and Tele-Munchen Group, as well as TV production shingles Wiedemann & Berg and i&u TV, the company announced Friday.

The word, meaning lion-like, is intended to reflect the group’s Bavarian origins —the lion is the state symbol of Bavaria and TMG,Universum and Wiedemann & Berg are all based in Munich, the state capital—as well as its ambition to become a king of the German content business.

Company CEO Fred Kogel said the name “describes for us above all an attitude – courage, energy, confidence and a strong sense for team play…we aim to establish Leonine as a continuously reliable ‘One Stop Shop’ for premium content.”

Alongside Kogel as CEO, Leonine Holding’s executive team includes Chief Operating Officer Markus Frerker, CFO Joachim Scheuenpflug and Chief Distribution Officer Bernhard zu Castell. The company will be sub-divided into Leonine Production, Leonine Distribution and Leonine Licensing divisions.

Production subsidiaries, including Wiedemann & Berg Film, TMG-owned Odeon Film and i&u TV, will keep their names, as well as the TMG-owned television channels Tele 5 and the SVOD channels Filmtastic, Home of Horror and Arthouse CNMA.

The new group has been active in snatching up high-profile titles for the German market, recently acquiring Toronto buzz films Hustlers and Knives Out for the Germany and Austria.

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