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CHRIS MOORE - Cover Story: Chris Moore Has Some Ideas About The Entertainment Industry. He'd Like To Share Them With You

Posted By Chris Green, Thursday, June 9, 2016
Our cover stories are generally pretty retrospective. We usually take some time with a subject’s backstory, being sure to hit the requisite career highlights, how they got to where they are, and all that.

This one doesn’t do that.

And that’s not for lack of a backstory, because Chris Moore’s includes playing lacrosse for Harvard, selling a sequence of blockbuster scripts as a young agent, setting out as an independent producer and within the space of three years, delivering a pair of legit modern classics, in the Oscar-winning buddy drama Good Will Hunting—his second-ever feature—and the considerably less refined but equally bighearted teen comedy American Pie. And then comes the part where Chris Moore decided to not just produce movies, but produce them in public, as one of the creators of HBO’s seminal doc series Project Greenlight and more recently on the Starz series The Chair. Honestly, before this magazine came along—and arguably even since then—the best way to learn what the producer’s job looked like was to watch those first seasons of Project Greenlight and pay attention to whatever that big guy was doing. Chris Moore has been carrying the banner for producers for a long time, since before we even had a banner, honestly.

We’d have loved to cover all that stuff here. We didn’t.

Now in the middle of his career, Moore has emerged as one of Hollywood’s truly restless minds, a furious, almost compulsive analyst of the changes that technology has wrought upon the business, and of the ways the machinery of the industry have failed to serve the interests of storytellers and creative entrepreneurs. No one breaks down the shifting tides and big-picture paradoxes of contemporary film distribution, finance and marketing as accessibly (and zealously) as Moore does. If his diagnosis is subtle, his means of expressing it are a good deal less so. Chris Moore does not do sugarcoating, and readers of this interview should be prepared for some aggressively informal language throughout.


Moore joined Produced By editor Chris Green (and a trio of lucky PGA interns) at the PGA offices in beverly hills, and all but refused to leave until he’d answered every single question posed by anyone else in the room. It was quite a morning. But when all was said and done, we had recorded a one-man cyclone of an interview, which managed to connect the dots between the misplaced priorities of the industry’s marketing arm, the commercial implications of binge-watching Perry Mason, the fracturing of the movies’ "contract with the audience” and the reparative prospects of radical transparency.

So, as one of the guys who got Good Will Hunting made, what would it take to get Good Will Hunting made today?

I’ll start by saying I think it would be impossible to get Good Will Hunting made now, assuming it’s with two guys no one has ever heard of, like Matt and Ben were back then. If it was trying to get it made today with Matt and Ben starring in it, it would take one phone call. But if you wanted to make it today with two unknowns and a non-commercial script, I think it would be almost impossible. Nobody has any idea how to sell those movies today. Nobody has any idea how to get anybody to come see them. That means people putting up the money have no idea how to get their money back, which makes them totally paralyzed to make those kinds of movies.

So what happened? Did we just forget how to reach that audience? It’s not like that audience evaporated.

What I would say—and I’m probably going to be a zealot for this point over the next few years—is that we as an industry did ourselves a disservice because we blew up what I affectionately call the "contract with the audience.” People are super busy, but they love seeing movies. However, they don’t want to have to do a shitload of research to figure out what movies they want to go see, because they’re super busy, remember? In the ‘90s, when we were doing Good Will Hunting, there was very clear communication with the audience about what different kinds of distribution meant. There were theaters. After theaters there was pay television, then home video, and then after that, regular TV, where you watch it with ads, or on the plane. In the theatrical category you had art house, independent theaters. Everyone who is reading this article who saw Good Will Hunting in the theater remembers which theater they saw it in, the theater where they’d go see the Miramax-type movies. And you had guys like the Weinsteins pushing those kind of movies. So the audience understood, if I’m the kind of person who likes Cinema Paradiso or Howard’s End, these are the dudes who are going to find those movies for me, and these are the theaters I’m going to watch them in. It was fundamentally a different experience than if I was going to go see a big movie, like Star Wars.

But we’ve lost that. There’s no contract with the audience anymore. Now, the audience thinks, "Well, do I need to see it in a theater? I can get Netflix. But if I subscribe to Netflix, what if they don’t get the movie? But wait, I can always buy everything on iTunes. I’ll just wait for it to be on iTunes. But wait, Amazon Prime just sent me an ad saying that for eight bucks, I get 40,000 titles along with free shipping. So maybe I should watch it there. So how am I supposed to pick what I want to watch?”

So what all that means is the audience for the "Good Will Huntings” is hard to find at one place at one time. Look, I thought Spotlight was a great movie. I was happy it won the Oscar this year. But it’s made less than 25% of what Good Will Hunting made, and we didn’t even win the Oscar. It’s not that Good Will Hunting is a better movie than Spotlight. It’s that when Good Will Hunting came out, we flipped two switches and that told every person on earth who likes that kind of movie, "Here’s Good Will Hunting!” Today you have to flip 50 switches and all 50 of those switches are aiming people at different things all the time. So the audience is totally confused. They have no idea what to listen to, so they’re sitting around waiting for one of their friends to tell them what movie is good. Fandango is giving me nothing. Fandango will email me and say, "Hey, Keanu is coming out this weekend.” I already know Keanu is coming out this weekend. The chance of me going to see Keanu is zero unless my kids want to go see it.

What Fandango should say is, "Hey, Keanu is the big moving coming out, and here are the four specialty movies coming out too.” But nobody takes that role. The problem isn’t that the audience disappeared. It’s that nobody can find them in a single place over a controllable period of time.

That’s our first problem. What used to be our contract with the audience has turned into just letting them fly out in the wind and figure it out for themselves. That’s bullshit. We’ve got to help the audience figure out how to find the movies they like. Secondly, we make too much stuff. I hate to say that, as a producer. But back in the day you’d have maybe one or two big movies a year, with smaller movies in between. Now every weekend there’s a big movie. Half the time there’s a big movie that comes out in theaters but also there’s another big movie that’s coming out on your pay-per-view that you’d like, but you think, "I don’t have time to see both.” The sheer numbers are astronomical. I heard there was something like 700 movies and 4,000 new hours of television that got made last year. There’s not enough hours in the day for somebody who’s interested to watch it all. So that compounds the problem, because there’s nobody communicating with the audience to say, "Hey, there’s a ton of content over here. Let’s divide it up and explain it to you.”

For instance, do you know what I binge-watched over the last two months because a friend told me about it? Perry Mason. A friend of mine said, "Do you like crime shows? Well, Perry Mason was the first one, and it’s awesome.” And I thought, "You know, I do like that show.” I watched a couple of episodes and thought, "This show is great.” So I binge-watched all 200 episodes.

Now, if you’re a guy who spent the last two months trying to convince me to watch a new show on TV or to go watch a movie in the theater, and you read this article and you learn that I, as your core audience, spent five hours each week over the last 10 weeks watching Perry Mason, you want to shoot yourself! You’re thinking, "Perry fucking Mason? What are you doing? We have Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders! We spent $70 million dollars to make that show!” Well, I haven’t watched one episode. But yeah, I watched all of Perry Mason.

Everything is available. We’ve flooded the market with old stuff and we’re making too much new stuff. And remember, on top of that, we’ve literally destroyed all the communication with the audience. Back in the day, if a movie got released straight to DVD, what did that mean? It must have sucked! Today, if a movie premieres on Netflix for its first run, it’s probably awesome. So how are we, as a business, telling the audience, "That movie wasn’t that good—this one is great”? We’re not.

So if you’re an audience member, you get overwhelmed. You end up feeling like you only have one option: going to films that will make your kid happy, like seeing The Jungle Book in IMAX 3D, on its first weekend. Would that have been my choice for those four hours of my life? No. But I know my kids want to go see it, so I’m going to go see it. And fact is, someone will be talking about that movie at work the next day. When you pick your kids up from soccer practice, those parents had to go see it too. It becomes your "water cooler” thing. Those movies are getting more people because the guy who probably wouldn’t have gone and seen it back in the day—

Now feels compelled to go see it.

It’s even more than that. They’re so overwhelmed that they feel like they have no other option! So when the kid goes, "Dad, I want to go see Civil War,” Dad doesn’t say, "Well, how about going to see Good Will Hunting?” because he’s never heard of Good Will Hunting. He has no idea it’s out there. So they go see Civil War. Every ad he sees is for Civil War. There’s not going to be a square on a ticketing website that says, "Oscar winner Spotlight, still in theaters.” There’s not a chance he’s going to stand up to his kids and say, "No, I don’t feel like watching two superheroes fight each other,” when he doesn’t know there are other options. So the things in the Jungle Book/Civil War category make huge bank and everything else is making a fraction of what it used to make, because nobody knows how to get their audience to behave in a consistent way.

Because what’s Netflix saying? Netflix doesn’t want you to behave the way you used to behave. They’ve got a huge marketing campaign saying, "Don’t watch movies the way you used to.” Meanwhile, the theaters are out there going, "No, no, do it the way you used to do it! " And then you’ve got all the TV channels, which each have their own theories. Some say you can binge-watch it. Others say you can watch it anytime you want, 12 hours after it first airs. So naturally, audiences think, "I don’t have to follow any shows. I can just catch up later.” Circling back to Good Will Hunting, I think today if somebody was doing it, the first thing they’d suggest is turning it into a television series. For a story like Good Will Hunting, you could’ve done that.

Still, for a movie that’s got those emotional high points, there’s something to be said about having seen it in a theater.

I do think there’s a unique experience, and maybe this makes me old, of watching shit with other people. I think it’s fun. When people laugh, more people laugh. People cry, and then more people cry. You’re having a communal experience; it’s just different, psychologically. If you watch it by yourself on your iPad, you still might like the movie but it’s a totally different experience than if you’re watching it with other people.

Like, I had some rough things happen in my childhood, and Star Wars bailed me out. Over two days, I saw that movie 11 times in the theater. My parents were getting divorced, and there was something about Luke Skywalker and Han Solo that just calmed me down. Didn’t matter that it was a fantasy world, I looked at it and thought, "You know, the world is okay.” That experience of going into a story and escaping my life really helped me get through it. And yeah, you could do that with an iPad. You plug those earbuds in, and there’s escape happening, for sure. But the thing that I would miss is the communal aspect—feeling like you’re not alone. That helped me through it as much as the movie did. So to me that’s the basis for this deep belief in storytelling and in community.

But not every movie needs to be seen that way. For instance, I did The Adjustment Bureau with Matt. That’s a perfect example. People love that movie. But it didn’t do that well in theaters. If Matt and the studio had sat down and said to the audience, "You know what? This movie is great. You’re gonna like it. But it’s a little cerebral. You know what? We’ll put it in theaters for a little while because we know some of you like to see it that way. But we really hope you guys watch it at home with your families.” And so then we take the marketing money that we would’ve used for the theatrical release and really push it when it’s on Netflix and Amazon. It’s not that we don’t believe in the movie. But we don’t believe it requires the theatrical experience to enjoy it. I think there would be just as many people who would go to see it in the theater, because we were so honest about it, as there would be people who would watch it at home. Then you’re living on whether the movie is good or not, not how much you spent on marketing.

Is there a way to find that audience that we just haven’t figured out yet? Or on the other hand, if we are dealing with a permanently confused audience, is there any means, other than sheer Civil War-level volume, to reach anyone?

I believe we can do both. But the entertainment business has to get its head out of its own ass. We’ve been so spoiled because we’ve owned this space for 100 years. Only Hollywood gets to sell its products just because we’re us. We own the straight pipeline to the theaters. Now they’re realizing they’re a real consumer products business. That’s why Disney is killing it—they have the best consumer products in the entertainment business. Because Walt was a genius and he realized we’re in the consumer product business before anyone else did.

Disney is going to crush everybody until these other idiots figure that out. That’s what’s behind "Available anywhere on any device.” That’s not actually what you want to be saying. The filmmaker doesn’t want anyone watching their movie on a phone. They didn’t make the movie to be on a phone. But the studio—even Disney—will put it up for a little while in theaters and then pretty soon the ad is going to come out and say "Any device you want to watch!” It’s driving filmmakers crazy. But the studios don’t know what to do because they know there’s a ton of kids out there who are ready to watch the movie on their phones. They used to be able to tell all of those kids, "You know what? You’re going to the movies to see this.” Today they’re petrified because most of those kids are going to say, "Screw that, I’m just going to wait a couple days then watch it on my phone.”

I think we have to push back a little bit on the audience. We have to stand firm that we are smarter than the audience about how to watch a movie. It’s okay, in my opinion, for Disney to say, "This movie is only going to be available in theaters for the next six months. You want to see this movie? Go to the theater. If we’re wrong, and you didn’t have a good time, then we’ll lose money and won’t make another one. But if we’re right, you’re going to have a blast, and you’re going to be happy you were in the theater.”

But for the same reason, they’ve got to be really honest when they make something small, and say, "You don’t have to watch this in the theater. This is a great movie. We love it. It’s going to be just as good on your iPad, on your phone, whatever. We just wanted to tell this story. Watch it however you want.” If they aren’t honest about the smaller movies, no one will trust them about the big movies.

What would it take to make something like that happen? Is there an exec, or a company EVEN, that’s capable of pivoting like that?

Well, there are legacy problems for the big companies, because they have deals with theaters. It made sense in the 90s, because the film business was totally internal. You, as a producer, didn’t have to sit in your office and figure out how a movie was going to sell. That wasn’t your problem. Your problem is how you’re going to sell your movie to the 10 guys who might pay for it. It’s a shitload easier in your life to think about only selling to 10 guys, versus selling to 20 million people or whatever. You had other people to figure out the marketing.

Today it’s the producer who has to figure out the marketing because A) there’s not 10, there’s 50 guys, and B) each one of those guys has a bit different view of what’s going to sell. I don’t think you’ll ever see Netflix saying "We’re going to make the next Star Wars and it has to be in the theaters for a period of time before it comes on Netflix.” They know where people are watching Netflix: on their phone, on their laptop, on their TV. So they’re making stories that fit on a smaller screen. They know that their push isn’t, "Come see House of Cards in Dolby surround sound IMAX 3D!” But a company that has a deal with Regal will be looking to put their stories in IMAX 3D. And as a producer, you have to sell to both of them.

So today, if you’re a producer, you have to think about marketing. And right now, it’s hard to pin anyone down on how to do the marketing. But what I fundamentally believe is the biggest problem—and this just me alone on this; I will take the bullets as they come—is Hollywood got spoiled, because even though we’re in the consumer product business, we controlled it. And what we controlled was that consumers had to pay us before they ever sampled the actual product. Try and name any other business where you get to do that. There’s not one. You test drive a car. You try shoes on, you walk around in them, you see if you like them. I can go to any ice cream shop and say, "Can I taste that?” and try a flavor before I buy it. Name another business where all you’ve seen is an ad and then they make you pay for it.

That’s the entertainment business for the last hundred years. Here’s a 30-second ad for a movie. Now pay me my $11 and walk in the theater. If you hate it and walk out, you don’t get a voucher for another free movie. Think about the psychology behind that view of marketing. In the entertainment business, marketing is not driven by what’s good about a specific movie. We just lie to you! I’ve been on movies where we actually shot extra days of bullshit that’s not even in the movie, just for the trailer. I’ve seen all kinds of lying. Because all we’ve got to do is get you to buy the fucking ticket. Why is the whole film business built around the opening weekend? Because that’s the longest the lie can last.

Now, that was the industry 10 years ago. Today, because of social media, there are dudes who go to the first show on Thursday and they’ve already blogged it out and tweeted by 10 p.m. that evening, ahead of the midnight "premiere.” [laughs] So literally by the nighttime show on Friday, it’s pretty obvious how good the movie is. Rotten Tomatoes already has what everybody thinks. The industry has never had to deal with that kind of word of mouth. And they are petrified. Because none of these marketers has been selling quality, ever. The thing about the conversation with the audience is that you’ve actually got to get the audience to trust you.

So what are they selling, if not quality?

Most of the time, they’re just selling the stars. Time after time, marketing campaigns are built around who the stars are. It’s not that the audience said, "Oh, tell me who the stars are. That’s what I care about.” It’s clearly not. I have movies in my career that were huge hits that didn’t have anybody in them that anybody had ever heard of. And you see movies with the "safest” stars in the world tank all the time. The reason they do that is they have no idea how to sell the movie, and it’s easier to just throw Matt Damon’s face on a poster and say, "Oh, everybody loves Matt. They’ll come see the movie.” Audiences can see right through that.

So coming back to that question—How do producers or marketers connect with the audience in a way that’s authentic?

We’ve lost the audience’s trust. Someone is going to have to stand up and say, "We spent $100 million dollars on this movie. We thought it was going to be good at first, but didn’t turn out that way. Watch it on your iPad.” Just be honest. Right now, the marketers’ loyalty is to the wrong people. Their loyalty is to the filmmaker or the studio or the stars— not to the audience.

But any exec or producer in today’s industry who came out and said that would be accused of not "standing behind the movie.” Do we have to re-frame what it means to support a film?

Maybe. If a person is taking on the job of marketer, they put themselves squarely in between the audience and the film. And over the last 20 years, because of good agents and smart filmmakers, these guys are way more nervous about pleasing the filmmaker, to the point of outright lying to the audience. The truth of the matter is there are no filmmakers who have consistently been worth more than the relationship to the audience. Maybe Clint Eastwood and Warner Bros. have a relationship that’s lasted long enough and been good enough to say that they should lie for Clint. But that’s about the only relationship in the business worth lying for.

But we’ve gotten addicted to lying, even though being honest is smart business! You see some smaller filmmakers who’ve done it and it’s wildly successful. Kevin Smith is a perfect example. Kevin can do whatever the hell he wants. He talks directly to the audience. He goes out and he raises money for his $3-5 million movies. Kevin has figured out the math of his life so that everything works and his fans show up. Someone will say, "Well, he’s fringe.” Kevin isn’t "fringe.” He’s made big movies for Universal and Miramax. He just decided, "Fuck it. I’m going to start talking honestly to these people. My relationship to my people is more important than any of these Hollywood assholes.” That said, he has a ceiling, because he has a pretty specific audience. But Howard Stern did the same thing in radio. He decided that his relationship with his fans was more important than CBS, so he went to satellite. If Howard Stern was 20 years younger, he’d have the biggest podcast in the world right now. The Internet would’ve given him the ability to distribute his material, market his material, sell his own advertising. He could’ve done whatever he wanted because that guy has 50 million people who listen to him. And Howard Stern knows that those 50 million people are way more important to him than whoever’s in charge of CBS Radio.

That’s true, but these people you’ve mentioned, Howard and Kevin, have pretty public profiles, which is not something a lot of producers have.

That’s why my big message to producers is get the fuck out there. That’s actually my first step. Tell people why you’re doing it. For me, I love the experience of telling stories. I still get people who walk up to me today and talk about how much Good Will Hunting affected them. It makes me happy to have created a meaningful experience for those people. So that’s why I do it. And what my name hopefully stands for is simply quality. It doesn’t mean that I can’t make a movie about a guy drinking a glass of cum and throwing up in a bathroom. But honestly, if you try to do that in a meaningful way, that movie will carry over. I still get people stopping me to say, "That one time, in band camp…” I hope that what I make is quality, and that you know that I gave a shit about you, the audience member, when I was making the movie.

Another example: J.J. [Abrams] has done a great job of putting himself out there. If J.J. declared, "I’m only making stuff for Amazon Prime now,” I actually think 10 million people would sign up for Amazon Prime because they want to see whatever J.J. is doing. There aren’t a lot of those guys. Everybody’s trying to become a brand, but it’s just really hard. Sometimes your products don’t turn out the way you want them to. Sometimes you put your name on too much content and you start to lose control of what your name means in the marketplace.

But filmmakers are curious. They want to make different kinds of movies. And even though marketers try to lie about it, there are still artists out there that are totally honest with the audience. Peter Jackson does it. You watch the extra features on The Lord of the Rings stuff, and he’ll tell the audience, "This shot didn’t work. It was a bad idea.” And when it comes to marketing, Peter Jackson will say, "The Lovely Bones isn’t the same as Lord of the Rings. So if you want guys jumping on horses and fighting with swords, none of that happens in this movie. But here’s why I made it.” But because we’ve been getting away with lying to everybody for the last hundred years, the industry at large doesn’t know how to be honest with audiences.

So you get a business that’s so risk-averse that they literally can’t help themselves from marketing it as the "The Lovely Bones! From the director of The Lord of the Rings!”

Right. What Hollywood still hasn’t accepted is that entire dialogues now happen between people before anyone buys a ticket. Audiences know who Peter Jackson is. They know who the stars are. They’ve looked at Rotten Tomatoes. No one is walking into a movie anymore where the only thing they know is the title and the three lines on the poster. Instead of hiding behind a marketing campaign, the industry needs to embrace that the more the audience knows, the more they’re going to buy. It’s why you can test-drive a car. They’ll tell you how they built the engine! If the film industry did that, we’d actually get more people back into our business. And yes, some things would fail. But they’d fail because they sucked, not just because nobody heard of them.

There’s nothing wrong with telling the audience, "Look. This is a smaller movie.” or "Maybe you don’t need to see this movie right away.” I know a lot of people right now who would love to see Room. Everybody knows Brie Larson won the Oscar. People say it’s really good. But there wasn’t a lick of marketing. No one was out there telling anybody how to see Room. The guys who owned Room, they’re not involved with the marketing because they sold it to another company. And the other company is now marketing the next movie. They would probably make more money on a per-dollar basis by telling people how to go see Room than they will on whatever new movie they’re about to put out, because that new movie is competing against all the other new movies. Room is not. So tell the audience how to find Room.

I truly believe that there is a way to open up this dialogue with the audience. It’s going be ugly and violent at first. Some people are going to lose their jobs, some companies are going to be the last ones to do it, and some filmmakers will never do it. But over time it’s going to re-create this contract with the audience again where they know how to pick.

Right now, there’s so many layers of distrust. We can trick the audience. We can lie to the talent. We’re here just raking in money by screwing everybody over. But what’s happening now, which I love, is that the audience is getting smarter. We can’t lie to them like we used to. And talent is starting, like Kevin Smith, to go out there and talk to their fans directly about their work. There’s a friend of mine in the marketing world that came up with the phrase, "radical transparency.” That’s the goal. Everybody feels like they’re being conned, all the time. So people in our industry have to figure out a way to be authentic, because that’s what the audience wants.

Now, I’m sure people reading this article will say "Chris has an agenda. He’s trying to sell me something.” And you know what? You’re right. I want everyone to trust me and go buy the shit that I put out there. Yes, I want that. I’m admitting that. Does that make me more authentic? Does that make me more honest? I don’t know. I don’t know how to make people trust me except to be truly honest and talk about stuff that didn’t work, stuff that did work, whatever it is. But it’s going to get easier. Old farts like me are going to figure out how Instagram works. I have a chance to learn how things go, and catch up to the audience. And that’s why it’s a fun time to be a producer right now. ¢

 

The editor wishes to acknowledge the work of Kelsey Hockmuller in preparing this feature.

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HOLDING COURT - How Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson Rediscovered The Trial of the Century

Posted By Michael Ventre, Thursday, June 9, 2016


The key locations connected to the 1994-95 trial of O.J. Simpson—two houses in Brentwood, a courthouse in downtown LA, a white Bronco on the 405 freeway—have gained an almost iconic status over the past 20 years. Historians can now add another pivotal venue to this storied gallery, that being ... a nondescript bookstore in Vancouver?

FX’s celebrated limited drama series The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story had its roots in that establishment’s used book section. Producer Brad Simpson was browsing one day and came across a copy of Jeffrey Toobin’s best-seller, The Run of His Life. The big story here isn’t that bookstores still exist, but rather how the chain of events that began in that store led to Simpson and producing partner Nina Jacobson developing a project that at first blush, may have sounded like played-out subject matter but in practice proved to be scintillating and well-received by critics and audiences alike.

The series also stands as testament to an extraordinary friendship and working relationship between the two PGA members.

"Nina and I are both fans of really good long-form non-fiction,” Simpson explains. "Just for fun, not as part of any strategy for the company. We’ve swapped a lot of articles and books. I bought the Jeffrey Toobin book not because I was particularly interested in reading about the O.J. case—because I watched it happen—but because I was a fan of Jeffrey Toobin. I loved his writing in The New Yorker. I loved his books on the Supreme Court.

"I was reading it on set and a) it was such a great page turner, but b) it also exploded everything I thought I knew about the O.J. Simpson trial. It had all the behind-the-scenes machinations. And Jeffrey, from the very beginning, has claimed this was a story about race. I sat there and said to Nina, ‘You gotta read this book.’ She read it and had the same reaction. We both loved it. But we didn’t think anything else about it. We didn’t think of it as a movie. It was a big sprawling story and you couldn’t really tell it in a movie.”

Of course, there are many ways to tell a story. In some ways, this one starts at that Vancouver bookstore. In another, it starts, of all places, at Disney.

Jacobson and Simpson have known each other for years. Their paths had crossed when Jacobson was a Disney studio executive and Simpson was producing elsewhere, including a stint running Leo DiCaprio’s Appian Way Productions. They first worked together when Simpson had a project called Wednesday set up at DreamWorks and Jacobson was called in to work on it.

"They put her on my project. At the time, I was really upset when they did it,” laughs Simpson. "It was a blow to me. Here I was feeling cocky, with this great project, and I knew with Nina’s reputation that she’d come in and take over the project. I remember going to my bedroom and crying thinking it’ll end up being terrible. But Nina has actually been one of the better things to happen to me in my career.”

As fate would have it,Wednesday was shut down right before the most recent writers’ strike. But the two bonded and established an outstanding working relationship as well as a friendship. They are now together at Color Force, founded in 2007 by Jacobson, who remains its CEO. Color Force has since churned out such high-profile material as The Hunger Games and Diary of a Wimpy Kid franchises.

It was only a matter of time before the company heard the siren call of television.

"In 2012, when we decided to move aggressively into TV—a move that was driven both out of our desire to survive as producers but also creative jealousy at what was happening in TV—we did a first-look deal with FX,” Simpson said. "We thought they were the smartest place in town, making TV that we love. In our very first meeting with Gina Balian, who had just come over as an executive from HBO, she said, ‘Do you have any ideas?’ We told her about the Jeffrey Toobin book. She said, ‘We’ll do that.’”

Recalls Jacobson: "We were like, ‘Whoa, did that just happen?’”

The first step was to find a writing team. They compiled their list, and at the very top was the veteran duo of Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, the pair behind such notable titles as Ed Wood and The People vs. Larry Flynt.

"I’d known them forever from my executive days,” Jacobson said, "and Scott was in my brother’s class in high school. We wanted writers like them. So we started with them, figuring that after they turned us down, we would then go after writers like them. But we got them! Again, it was just very fortuitous.”

When the writers came on board, the whole team—including prolific director-producer Ryan Murphy (American Horror Story)—had several discussions about doing a delicate tonal dance. The People v. O.J. Simpson was material that was powerful high drama, but in key moments, it also needed a sense of humor.

"Scott and Larry have a very distinctive tone and that’s why they were who we wanted,” Jacobson states. "They are able to take on the subject matter and treat it with respect, and to have compassion and affection for all of their characters. But they were also able to find the kind of intelligent sense of humor in the work all at once. That’s very hard to do. It takes a rare talent, what they accomplished tonally. It was absurd, and yet it was a tragedy.”

The casting process was relatively smooth, both agreed, with the producers landing almost all of their first choices. Courtney B. Vance was clearly Johnnie Cochran, especially after he related to the producers a story about how he was once raided by police in his own home in an upscale neighborhood because they thought he was a burglar. Sarah Paulson (Marcia Clark) was apparently told outright by Murphy, "You’re doing this.” Cuba Gooding Jr. had the star power and charisma the project needed to play the larger-than-life O.J., Jacobson and Simpson both observe.

The casting of John Travolta as Robert Shapiro, though, was hardly a quick touchdown.

"I had worked with Travolta a couple of times when I was an executive at Disney,” Jacobson explains. "We have a very good relationship. He was a fan of Ryan’s. We met up with him for a meal ... just talking for an hour or two. He was very unsure about coming back to television after all of this time.” Travolta, of course, hadn’t done a TV series since his star-making turn on Welcome Back, Kotter in the late 1970s. "Clearly many fantastic actors have done so,” Jacobson continues. "He wanted to be very careful about what he chose to do if he was going to make a return.

"I got his attention in that meeting, and he was engaged,” she adds. "But it took us quite a long period of him processing the decision before he said yes. Brad thought we were out of our minds to think we could get him. I thought we had a good shot.”

Even beyond the producer’s most optimistic hopes, The People v. O.J. Simpson was embraced by audiences and critics alike. A project that very easily could have been dismissed as a 20-year-old rerun instead seduced viewers, building an uncanny amount of human drama into a story that most of the home audience—like Brad Simpson in that bookstore—thought they already knew by heart.

"Obviously it’s a dream to capture an audience’s attention and the respect of critics,” Jacobson smiles. "In giving people emotional access to these characters and really helping people to understand how this verdict was reached—­ no matter what side you were on, no matter how you felt about the outcome—we hoped people would come out with an understanding of the process and what the people involved with it went through.

"I don’t think anyone could have ever anticipated how it played out, the amount of talk and conversation,” she marvels. "We were watching people watch it live on Twitter. From 7 p.m. when it started in the east to 11 p.m. when it finished in the west, we sat there obsessively and read what was being said. We got enormous gratification and many lost hours watching people watch the show.”

The pair has a full slate in the works including: a new edition of American Crime Story with Murphy aboard that will focus on Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath; a film adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s debut novel, Crazy Rich Asians; an adaption of Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Goldfinch; and a series for FX based on the cult hit graphic novel, Y: The Last Man.

"We’re interested in authorship,” Simpson declares. "We want writers with a strong voice to bring stories to the screen we like to watch. We don’t want to be constrained by genre.”

Jacobson agrees, "Whether it’s the author of a book or a screenwriter or a director, if they look at the thing they did with us as some of their best work and feel that it represented their voice, and the ethics of their intentions were honored, that’s our definition of success. It’s not about putting our stamp on it. It’s about getting their stamp right.”

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FOR LOVE AND MONEY - Black Label Media Stakes Its Turf On The Abandoned Middle Ground Of The Film Business

Posted By Cecelia Lederer, Thursday, June 9, 2016


"Art people are the good rich people”...   That’s something my brother said to me whenever we bemoaned the state of things. In a world where The Donald is poised to manage this country like a giant hotel/casino development opportunity, it’s not hard to toy with the idea of giving up all worldly possessions and getting your kicks by endlessly raking sand.

But there is hope, oh human race, and Black Label Media is its beacon.

Molly Smith and twins Trent and Thad Luckinbill came together as Black Label Media in 2013 and instantly asserted themselves in Hollywood as aficionados of artistically ambitious, storytelling-driven cinema.

Smith got her start on set as a PA for Alcon Entertainment, Thad as cold hearted ladies-man J.T. Hellstrom on long-running soap opera The Young and the Restless and Trent in the Justice Department, of all places. Today they have a small staff of seven, a stable of billionaire investors (including Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale and Smith’s father Fred, the founder, chairman, president and CEO of FedEx) and close relationships with fellow producers and companies.

The elements were put in motion toward the end of 2009, when Trent moved west from Washington D.C. Thad had brought Smith their first projects, which the two developed at Alcon, where Smith still worked as a production executive. Initially the plan was to set up a specialty division under an established umbrella, but due in part to Alcon’s fixed yearly outputs, the trio decided they could forge a clearer path on their own. So they raised a film fund and Black Label Media was born.

Black Label’s relationship with Alcon remains strong, but with their own staff, backers and vision, the company is able to push forward the kind of filmmaker-driven films too often ignored by the big studios. The two companies partnered in 2014 to make The Good Lie, a true story of a young Sudanese refugee coming to America, starring Reese Witherspoon and written by Emmy nominee Margaret Nagle.

The relationships with Alcon and companies like it are crucial to Black Label’s success. Since Black Label doesn’t distribute, getting their films into theaters and homes always requires collaboration. Right now they’re partnered with Lionsgate on La La Land, a musical comedy-drama starring Hollywood dreamboats Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, and written and directed by Whiplash wunderkind Damien Chazelle. All it took was seeing some footage from Chazelle’s homage to classic silver screen fare for the three to jump on board. It’s that kind of bold choice that defines the Black Label Media brand.

In their ability to supervise a given production, Smith and the Luckinbills consider themselves interchangeable. But in their strategic planning, all three voices are indispensible. All Black Label Media decisions are joint; there is no one creative mind, nor is there one financial whiz. The three work together on everything. They’re able to achieve this unlikely mind-meld thanks to their singular goal, which is always front and center: to produce the types of films that have a hard time getting traction at the bigger studios. So when a unique story-telling opportunity comes along like La La Land or the 2015 documentary Breaking a Monster ,about teenaged speed-metal band Unlocking the Truth, Black Label is primed and ready to help them over the towering Hollywood Hills and into a theater near you.



On the surface, Black Label’s filmography may appear to have little in the way of common ground. The producers are only too happy to ricochet between fiction and non-fiction, between tear-jerkers and toe-tappers and edge-of-your-seat thrillers like Denis Villeneuve’s Oscar-nominated (and $81 million grossing) masterpiece Sicario. But all their work shares one important characteristic—they belong to the family of films without representation at Comic-Con but with loftier ambitions than can be captured on an iPhone. They’re the films that would otherwise languish in mid-tier limbo: too small for wide release, too big for Vimeo.

Black Label acquires films in addition to developing them. It’s not important where the film comes from or how it ends up on their doorstep. What matters is the content and the artistry. They find films that they’re passionate about and go after them. Black Label’s first acquisition was John Carney’s Begin Again ,the romantic drama starring Keira Knightly and Adam Levine, that they found at Sundance in 2013. Next they got their hands (all six of them) on‘ 71 and helped tell the story of a British soldier (played by Jack O’Connell) abandoned by his unit in Belfast, written by Gregory Burke and directed by Yann Demange.

The types of movies they buy are the ones they feel they would have made, though in the past two years, they’ve been making more. Black Label only produces three or four films a year. Being creative producers in addition to financiers requires Smith and the Luckinbill twins to live with their projects 24/7. So although we may not be able to look forward to an entire multiplex full of Black Label’s progeny, we can be sure that each one we come across will be powerful, relevant and just plain old entertaining works of art.

So with all these projects coming in, with different needs and at different stages, how does the team turn them from ink on paper to flickers on the screen?

It begins with a fundamental orientation: they take an honest look at the needs of the story with the goal of making important art on the same level as making money. The team’s creative and financial goals live in the same space. "It’s not about a number,” Smith insists. "It’s about looking at the whole thing and asking where does it live?”




These producers have real love and respect for the needs of the narrative. When putting a film together they first look at what they call "the economics of the story.” Black Label is here to make art, but they never forget that they’re also running a business. Consequently, they look for films with commercial potential, but commercial potential overlooked by the big studios.

Sicario, they explain, could have taken any number of shapes. It could have been a Michael Bay-style explosion romp starring a bunch of jacked 20-somethings. Or it could have been a quietly sociological study of Mexican-American relations with a documentary feel. The truth, as they say, proved to be somewhere in the middle. Smith and the Luckinbills fought for the truth that they saw in Taylor Sheridan’s script and Villenueve’s vision. The result was an Oscar-worthy prestige piece that delivers both edge-of-your-seat entertainment and a poignant, unflinching study of humanity on both sides of the border.

Inside producers, writers, directors and actors burns a need to create something worthwhile. Though the worthwhile stories aren’t always the obvious choices from a marketing point of view, these bold stories are what the essential artists in this industry want to be a part of. Sicario attracted Roger Decans, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Emily Blunt and Daniel Kaluuya, not because they knew it would be nominated for an Oscar or Producers Guild Award, but because it fulfilled their need to be a part of a story that matters.

Talented artists who want to make powerful and relevant cinema are often ready to sacrifice the colossal bucks for creative fulfillment. Meanwhile, the ability to finance and produce independently means that nimble, director-driven Black Label is able to make projects like Sicario for less money than the machinery of a large studio would require. With a completed film handed over to a partner for widespread distribution, Smith and the Luckinbills can have their cake and eat it too.

The most recent of Black Label Media’s works of art to hit the cinema was Jean-Marc Vallee’s Demolition, about an investment banker who loses his wife, goes off the rails and pulls himself back together, starring our current master of the passionate understatement, Jake Gyllenhaal. There’s plenty more coming out of Black Label’s gourmet movie oven.  A Sicario sequel, also written by Sheridan with the same cast of heavy hitters, is currently in development. We can also look forward to Jerry Bruckheimer’s Horse Soldiers, which they’re producing with Lionsgate (evidently happy with the gamble they took in releasing Sicario). It’s a story of special forces soldiers in Afghanistan after 9/11, riding into battle against the Taliban. Last month the company began production on J.D. Salinger biopic Rebel in the Rye and this summer they’ll start on Joseph Kosinski’s No Exit, teaming with producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura to tell the story of a deadly wildfire in Arizona. Next comes 105 and Rising, an ensemble piece written by Andrew Cypiot and directed by Antoine Fuqua, set in the nightmare chaos of the fall of Saigon as the Vietnam War lurched to an end.



For those who want top-notch entertainment without leaving home, we can be excited for the first-look deal Black Label has with ABC. Jon Schumacher heads up their television department, which for its first foray into small-screen storytelling, has teamed up with director Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow, Black Snake Moan), who Smith knew from her hometown Memphis, on music-themed period drama Beale Street Dynasty,about the birth of the blues.

Meanwhile Black Label owns stacks of books and other IP, which they’re pairing with filmmakers and preparing to hit our screens. But whether their next hit is watched in movie theaters or living rooms, Smith and the Luckinbills’ track record has already established them not only as the people with the checkbook, but as artists in their own right. Just as audience members seek out a movie or TV series based on their attachment to stars, directors and writers, Black Label Media is attracting a loyal audience of cinephiles who know where to go for art they can talk about at the water cooler.

So when you look around and worry that capitalism is ruining the world, see what Black Label Media is up to, and remember all the good money can do.

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GOING IN CIRCLES - A Primer On Virtual Reality Production

Posted By Brian Seth Hurst, Thursday, June 9, 2016

When I was a kid and we went to the movies my dad would say, "Let’s sit towards the back. I want to watch the movie not be in it!” My how times have changed. Welcome to the world of immersive entertainment and welcome to "Live Action VR 101.” Producing for VR is a virtual hack-a-thon right now but hopefully this primer will give you some insights into the production process, the technology and the workflow. Imagine if you will what filmmakers did when the first motion picture cameras came out. First, they learned the technology and then they brought artistry to the medium. This is exactly what is happening with VR. As with any new technology there is a "tail wagging the dog” tendency and when that happens the result is bad VR. As any great producer knows, the technology needs to serve the story.

The greatest strides in the art of what I prefer to call "immersive narrative” (also called cinematic VR) are being made by independent filmmakers who "hack” the technology - from cameras and lenses to sound and light- in order to create the story-driven experience they know will move the immersed viewer. Today’s hacking is tomorrow’s automation and these filmmakers are informing the evolution of VR production tech.

As storytellers, we want to emotionally impact the viewer and even leave a lasting impression. Virtual Reality offers an unprecedented opportunity to do exactly that, sometimes in extraordinary ways. In what I consider to be the fastest moving industry ever, we are now transitioning from the wow of an immersive experience to the compelling content and artistry of narrative. Getting there involves experimentation, hacking and learning a new language of cinema that borrows from traditional film, video games and believe it or not theater. Consider this brief a snap shot of where production is today.

You will need a lot more moving up to professional high quality VR filmmaking. Right now it’s the Wild West. Something new seems to come out every day. Part of my job as a producer is staying on top of all of it! Processes that took a lot of patience, time and resources just a year ago are now taken care of with software. Examples: A year ago, synching a 16 Camera GoPro array to shoot in 360 meant a single Wi-Fi remote, a handclap for sound and a shot sync. Timecode Systems just released SyncBac at this year’s NAB Show. It allows multicam sync via a time code generator that fits on the back of GoPro Silver and Black cameras.

There’s a timesaver in post! Also at NAB Show, Deep, Inc. launched Liquid Cinema, which allows for "forced perspective” allowing the content creator to direct the audience’s attention inside the VR experience at any time as well as live rendering graphics and even some visual effects. These features are big leaps in VR production. Finally, when it comes to workflow and stitching, meaning putting the output from multiple cameras together into a spherical image, more tools are coming out all the time from companies competing to be the gold standard like Video Stitch, GoPro’s Kolor, Jaunt and Ozo.

The Story

Story first. There are great differences in approach for production in immersive journalism, live streaming, sports, documentary and animation. For our purposes, we are going to be considering narrative drama or comedy. Remember, you are working with an entirely different medium that actually can fool the brain and the body physically and emotionally into what is called "presence.” This places the viewer in the environment that the characters are experiencing, can allow the viewer to stand in the shoes of a specific character, or even change characters. Sight, sound and light as well as superb acting will allow you to create a first person experience. The what of good storytelling does not change. You still need a great story with the elements of character, time and place, canon and a story arc. It is the how that changes and to master the currently evolving how is like working with mercury. The best advice, really learn the medium and the tools. A good rule of thumb is that if you can tell the story in traditional 2D film then that’s what you should do. If your story can only be told in virtual reality using and pushing the limits of the medium then in my humble opinion, you’re on the right track. You’re going to learn a lot but you are also going to shape a new and exciting new storytelling medium. It’s a green field right now with lots of room for experimentation. But, as far as consumers go, we should only release our best in VR.

Writing for a 360 environment is revolutionary. For example instead of just setting a descriptor for the movie scene in front of the viewer, or describing shots, you are setting the scene and action around the viewer. You are also blocking the camera and positioning the actors in relation to the camera and each other in the round, which figures prominently into your narrative and character relationships even when nothing is being said. Depending on the number of cameras being used you’ll have multiple "stitch lines.” These are areas where the images captured by the cameras overlap. As example, if your actors are too close to the camera and on the stitch line you may have an uneven match that splits their face right down the middle in a Picassoesque way. Not so easy to fix in post.

Personally, I write to a circular blocking form. It’s literally a pie chart with each segment representing a camera lens where scene descriptions, actions and dialogue are written in the inside of each segment. You are also deciding where and when to direct the viewer’s attention in a manner that serves the immersive story. The form even allows me to create transition shots easily understood by the director. It’s my contention however, that the writer is part writer, part director, part cinematographer and part sound designer when scripting VR. It’s exceedingly helpful if you have a background in gaming or theater. Years ago while touring with "Fiddler on the Roof,” Theodore Bikel taught me how to "act with your back” for theater in the round. Who knew that would come in so handy?

As you might guess, some new professions are immerging including immersive sound designers and directors of virtual photography (DVP) as well as specializations in stitching and editing.

The Difference Between
360 and VR

On the consumer distribution side, you’ll hear these terms used together or interchangeably but many purists in the industry will tell you they are not the same. While most VR is 360 not all 360 is VR. Think of 360 as something at arms length and VR as something in which the audience is immersed. Thanks to relatively inexpensive consumer cameras that shoot in 360, and the world of advertising, 360-video is surging. You can see it on Facebook, YouTube, Vrideo and Littlstar and thanks to Google’s "Magic Window” technology released last month, anyone can iframe, i.e. embed 360 video into any web or mobile site. On desktop you use your mouse to navigate to reposition the spherical video and on mobile you use your finger to slide around the scene or you turn your body with your phone. You’ll see a lot more 360 commercials coming. Some say 360 is the gateway to immersive experiences. But for VR you need some sort of Head Mounted Display (HMD). Even Samsung has acknowledged this migration path and now offers 360 MilkVR content in a mobile app for specific Android phones compatible with their GearVR HMD. If you tap the on screen headset icon you are prompted to place your phone in the GearVR and voila!, you are in an immersive experience. With other 360 mobile vids you tap the Google Cardboard icon and drop the phone into your Google Cardboard or other stereoscopic viewer and the image splits for stereoscopic view.

You can imagine how confusing this is getting for the consumer who thinks they are watching VR when they are not.

The "immersion continuum” illustrates the degrees of immersion from 360 to consumer HMD’s right on up to the fully immersive and interactive Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Sony PlayStation VR and ultimately 3D/4D dark rides and VR domes. You can of course create content across the entire continuum or even scale what you create for one to work on all but it’s best to decide what your anchor platform will be. Here we will be talking about Virtual Reality production for HMD’s.

Format

You have choices as to what shooting format you will use.

360 2D. This is exactly what it says. An image that surrounds, well that is really spherical but in 2D. Nothing leaps off the screen or beckons you to interact. This is not truly cinematic VR. It is 360 video in a VR HMD. Your viewer is immersed and can see all around and depending on camera rig can see in detail. This is the least expensive option depending on the cameras you choose. More on that when we get to camera rigs which by the way can contain as many as 24 cameras.

360 Stereoscopic VR. This is more how our eyes see, is in 3D and closer to reality. For every one camera that you would have in 2D you will now have two cameras. This creates greater presence and has more emotional impact.

360 Algorithmic 3D. Advanced computational photography is used here and creates superior VR and is as close to reality as we can get right now except for touch and smell.

Production

Now that you have your story, it’s time to look at the best way to film it. Flexibility is in order as is research. Choosing the right camera and the right rig is as much of an art as the filming itself. We do a lot of camera tests to check performance in relation to what we want to accomplish. In a recent production meeting on a new project the director said "Wouldn’t it be great if we could do this?” He was ready to hack a camera and lenses but we also knew of a camera in development. Days later we talked to the company and we’ll have that camera by July. My motto however is "if you can’t find it, hack it!”

Immersive Sound

Video and image get a lot of attention in VR but sound is just as important to get right. Most onboard camera microphones will not allow you the flexibility that you’ll need to create object oriented spatial audio that captures a realistic sound field. This is where Ambisonic microphones and field set microphones come in. Ambisonic mics record a 360 sound field that can then be decoded into 7.1, 5.1 or the binaural sound used in VR experiences. This allows the viewer to be immersed in sound as well as visual circumstances. Some VR sound designers are placing microphones not just on actors but also around the area of the sound filed and then editing into a 360 immersive environment. Startup "Two Big Ears” has launched 3Dception for both cinematic VR and Games that is a well-reviewed end-to-end solution for spatial audio.

From Shoot to Distribution

When producing for film you know what your delivery format will be and you leave transcoding to the distribution folks. But as mentioned before, you’ll need to take that immersion continuum into consideration.

Depending upon what cameras you have decided to use your tasks may change, as may aspects of your workflow. Preparation will make all the difference and save you a lot of time in post. For our purposes let’s just say you are using a GoPro Odyssey 16 camera rig. Briefly, to prepare, you will need to number all your cameras as well as numbering the SD Cards that you will be using. This is so you can keep track of the cameras and the shots when you are stitching them together in a spherical image. With this rig you probably won’t want to run on the in-camera batteries but rather get a large battery to power all of them. And of course, use the new SyncBac product for synchronization. You’ll need storage in the field, at least 2 TB(terabytes) Think of the math. You have 16 GoPro’s each with a 64gigabyte SD card. That’s about 2 hours of high-resolution (1080/4K) high frame rate (120fps/30fps).

Rehearse Rehearse Rehearse

This is just not rehearsal for your actors, which is vitally important considering that they will be in a long take but also that acting for VR is different. It’s whole body and wholly authentic. A bit like acting in theater in the round but intensely intimate. More than a few potentially great VR pieces have been destroyed by bad acting. You and your crew including camera, lighting and sound must also be well rehearsed. I suggest using a consumer 360 camera or the new Orah 4i during rehearsal so that you can use playback to work with the crew and the actors. Where you place the camera in relation to your actors is important especially if you want to maintain the correct perspective. If your viewer is looking directly into the eyes of your character you don’t want the character’s head to be twice as small as the viewer’s.

Contrary to popular belief you don’t just plunk a 360 cam down and act around it. A year ago no one wanted the camera to move now there’s camera blocking, transition shots and moving cameras. There are single POV stories, multiple POV and moving from 2D into 3D stereoscopic. The art form is developing. Having witnessed brilliant independent VR filmmaking, I’d say we are only limited by our imaginations, not the technology.

File Management

After the shoot, it’s time to get all your ducks i.e. SD cards in a row. Fortunately you have mapped the cameras and numbered them as well as the SD cards so you know the shots and where they came from and now with SyncBac they are timecoded. And, fortunately there is some great software to help with file management. CamMan from 360Heros has a great intuitive interface and there is also ManyCam, which is a bit simpler. This may save you a bunch of renaming and reorganizing files but you still need to be vigilant and attentive to make sure you get it all right.

Stitching

Now that your files are set you can move on to stitching the shots into a spherical video. Some consumer and professional cameras have "on-board” stitching. As a matter of fact, if you are using the GoPro Odyssey you can use it in combination with Google Jump, which automates the workflow. But, if you want to be more hands on you can use GoPro’s Kolor or VideoStitch. Now it’s time to export into editing.

Editing

Once you’re all stitched up you’re ready to edit! There are choices here too. You want to be able to output to Spherical or Cubic Monoscopic (for the web and mobile 360) and Stereoscopic VR for specific or all HMD’s. Your choice of course depends on your distribution and with these software programs you can specify the output device. There are choices here too. One of them is Mettle’s Skybox, which has a nice suite of tools for 360/VR editing for Adobe Premier Pro. Think After Effects for VR- you can tilt, pan and roll the sphere and edit to have an even horizon line, direct the scene start field of vision, correct the stitch line seams and much more, all key frame editable. Maxon’s Cinema 4D also has a great VR Workflow that works with Adobe Premier and After Effects. You can learn more about Maxon’s Cinema 4D workflow at cineversity.com. Finally, Dashwood’s 360VR Toolbox allows for in HMD VR editing and monitoring as a plug-in suite for Adobe Premier Pro, After Effects and Final Cut Pro.

Sound Editing and Mixing

We spoke earlier about Two Big Ears end-to-end spatial audio solution 3Dception but you can also visit Ambisonic.net to learn more about the approach to spatial audio.

Live action VR production is both challenging and rewarding. Best practices are emerging. Courses are being taught in universities. Hardware and software solutions are empowering filmmakers to be more creative. My advice, get inside an HMD (GearVR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and soon Sony Playstation VR) and watch as much content as you can as any film student would. Know what can be done and then hack and push the limits

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This is intended as a fast overview rather than a dive into the technical weeds. But if you want to get started in the basic A.B.C’s of VR my recommendation is 360Heros.com. Michael Kintner, CEO and founder of 360Heros has made getting started in VR easy with a ton of guidance and products. The VR starter kit will have you off and running and you will be joining an open and informed community of VR enthusiasts and professionals. 360Heros offers workflow solutions and hits every point on the content value chain even offering storage and distribution for your work. Working at the basic level you’ll gain a greater understanding of filming, editing, and producing in VR. If you’re in Los Angeles you can even take their VR classes at Village Workspaces in West LA. More cities are coming.

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Camera Rigs

Your choice of rig depends on many factors including the format as described above, the story you want to tell, how you want to tell it and your budget. Some vendors offer end-to-end solutions including image stitching and editing. The cost range can go from say $2,000 up to $60,000+. There are also of course consumer cameras such as the Ricoh Theta and forthcoming LG 360 Cam that shoot in 2D with onboard stitching for under $500. Some basic things you need to know if you’re up to shooting higher quality VR. Define your criteria for camera selection.

  • Choose the camera(s) that best serves your story and the environment in which you are shooting. Decide how many cameras you want to use based on desired coverage, final resolution and of course budget.
  • You’ll be shooting "oners” or long takes. While there is "framing” of shots in VR it is not shot framing in the traditional sense. Length of scene, lighting, environmental conditions- all matter.
  • You will have to use natural light, sometimes low light or light from the outside in in a studio setting. You cannot light like you would a traditional movie. (Nor, can you have crew standing about- everyone has to hide!)
  • You’ll need to shoot in at least 4K and at least 60fps for top quality VR.
  • You’ll don’t always need to shoot in 360 sometimes 180 will serve your story.
  • The lenses you choose will determine your field of view and coverage (as will the number of cameras).
  • Cameras must be synched with each other and all settings must be the same. You cannot mix and match cameras in a rig.
  • Battery power and cooling can be an issue.
  • The higher the resolution the more data which means bigger files.
  • The more cameras the more data.
  • Monitoring your shot isn’t easy. Some cameras like the OZO have real-time monitoring. Many filmmakers are hacking solutions together. Recently the Orah4i camera launched for live 360 streaming and filmmakers are actually using it in addition to their camera rigs for previz and monitoring. Incidentally, previz is highly recommended

----Brian Seth Hurst is Co-Founder and Chief Storyteller of StoryTech where he works with networks, studios and storytellers in all aspects of VR from strategy and packaging to production and distribution. He is also creator and executive producer of the forthcoming "determiNATION” from Bunim-Murray productions

Tags:  Brian Seth Hurst  immersive  stitching  Virtual Reality  VR 

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PRODUCE AT YOUR OWN RISK! - When The Threat To Your Safety Is What You Don't Know

Posted By Mark Shelton, Thursday, June 9, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, June 7, 2016


"What? What do you mean, I was supposed to arrange for that? How was I supposed to know that? It’s gonna cost HOW much?”

This is a one-sided phone conversation no producer wants to have when it comes to safety programs and provisions to make their film and television production sets safe. Unfortunately, many producers are unaware of the responsibilities they assume when starting a project.

Set safety is everyone’s business and responsibility.

OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) guidelines, which apply to all workplaces, require that "employers … provide a safe workplace … free from serious recognized hazards”, and that "all employers must provide safety training” for specific skills that their job may entail. Fall protection, hearing protection, respiratory protection, environmental awareness and general safety measures are just a few of the types of safety training that producers are responsible for providing to employees. The Contract Services Administration Training Trust Fund (CSATTF), also known as Safety Pass, provides a wide variety of safety classes specifically for members of the Hollywood locals of IATSE, Teamsters Local 399, Camera Local 600 (for nationwide members) and, in conjunction with the DGA (but only as a training entity and only at the behest of the DGA), for Assistant Directors and Production Managers.

Union crews are required to take safety training classes before being hired on an IATSE signatory production (or at least become compliant within a specified and authorized time frame). The certification received from the classes means they have been safety-trained to perform the duties required by their positions. Safety training and skills training are two distinct processes, not to be confused with each other. Non-union "reality” programming or non-fiction crews also require safety training. All are performing the same jobs as their union counterparts, often in remote, uncontrolled and hazardous environments. Where does that leave the producer? How do we ensure we are hiring a competent crew, providing a safe work environment and avoiding hazards on our own sets?

As a follow-up to the Produced By Conference discussion panel "20 Seconds to Disaster” held in June at Sony Studios, we want to make producers of all formats aware of some of the responsibilities that come with the job. Here are a few things you may not know that you don’t know.

"Somehow, it’s easier to create when you’re out there in real places on real streets, no matter what the hardships are while shooting.” Gale Anne Hurd

In the world of Non-Union/Reality/Non-Fiction (NURNF) production, producers are required to have a safety program in place, which includes providing safety training to their employees. To accomplish this, they often look to freelance individuals and/or companies who are OSHA-certified and can provide such training services to companies or individuals. What are some serious recognized hazards? Well, in addition to the aforementioned fall, hearing, respiratory training and environmental awareness, recognized hazards include working in confined spaces, welding and cutting, dealing with compressed gas usage, high electrical currents, scaffold usage, aerial booms, noise exposure, blood-borne pathogens, and many others. These are actually situations surprisingly common on NURNF productions. Do we have you thinking about your last shoot? Good. Now you know what you don’t know.

To be clear, the term "producer” here is referring to the production company or primary employer. A "hired gun” producer (who may or may not be an owner or officer of the production company) is usually charged with implementing the safety program by making sure their technical crews have the appropriate safety training for the job(s) they are undertaking. If an accident or incident occurs over the course of the project and said accident results in death, dismemberment, or requires a hospital stay of 24 hours or more, then OSHA will almost certainly investigate the circumstances. One of the first questions asked will be, "What type of safety training did your employee(s) involved in this accident have?” A producer’s assumption that a freelance employee had previous training elsewhere does not protect them from potential fines or actions in association with an employee’s culpability. Head off a potential problem by conducting a thorough interview at the outset, specifically asking the question, "What is the extent of your safety training?” If the answer is "not much,” you or the company will be required to provide it before employing that person’s services.

Insurance agencies can be a good source of information regarding what type of safety training may be required for a particular show or project. Those agencies will insist on proof that certain safety measures are in place before binding the production insurance. Does your show have stunts? Pyrotechnics? Firearms? Are you working in or around water? Does your script call for an attic or basement, maybe a water tank (which could be considered a ”confined space”)? Each one represents another set of OSHA requirements. Again, it’s what you don’t know that can hurt or kill you or someone else on the set. For instance ...

DID YOU KNOW...
Sure, part of a producer’s job is to put out fires, but did you know they need to be trained and authorized to do so? That is, when a real (not just metaphorical) fire breaks out, simply having a fire extinguisher on set is not enough. You must have someone who has been "hands-on” trained to know what type of extinguisher might be required as well has how to use it effectively for putting out a small fire. If properly used and administered, a fire extinguisher rated for the type of materials that may ignite (wood, paper, gasoline, combustible metals, chemicals, etc.) will extinguish a small "incipient stage fire” (fire within the first two minutes), but an incorrect type of extinguisher or one used improperly can cause a small fire to grow into a larger, more dangerous and headline-grabbing incident on your set. The employee who uses a fire extinguisher must also (in advance) be authorized to do so by the employer. Not just anyone can grab an extinguisher and go to town putting out a fire. This has led to calamity in the past.



DID YOU KNOW...
that employers must ensure their employees have proper training in the use of hand and power tools? In this instance, a "reasonable assumption” of safety training can apply as long as the employer confirms that their employees are 1) properly trained and/or experienced; and 2) using tools that are safe and in good working order, regardless of whether they belong to the employer or the employee.

 

DID YOU KNOW...
that an employer is responsible to have a written fall protection program on their work premises, well as provide suitably rated and inspected fall protection means or equipment when their employees are working at an elevation of 6 feet or more? This applies to a short steel deck platform, scaffolding or even when standing on a table or a chair. The employer can enforce safety standards that are different than OSHA’s, but no less stringent.

DID YOU KNOW...
that a California-based employer must also have a written heat illness prevention program that conforms to the recently passed guidelines and requirements of the State of California? The guidelines require you to provide suitable shade for 100% of the attending employees when the temperature reaches or is forecast to reach 80 degrees. In addition, you must provide a minimum break of five minutes in a cool, shaded area for each employee who may require it when working in the sun and/or heat.


DID YOU KNOW...
that hazard communication and the Global Harmonizing System that affects labeling of products or materials have new, stricter requirements that took effect June of 2015? These requirements can affect many things common on your set, from window cleaner and dry-erase markers to hairspray.

DID YOU KNOW...
an employer must have in writing a proper emergency action plan (an E.A.P.) not only for their offices but for each individual shooting location? An E.A.P. lists specific actions or policies to be followed when an emergency or evacuation occurs. The producer must designate a "competent*” person to implement and/or oversee the employer’s safety policies.

DID YOU KNOW...
that hearing protection—administrative, engineering, or PPE (personal protective equipment)—must be provided to your employees when the ambient noise levels reach or exceed 90 decibels (which is only slightly over normal human conversation)? Or that even moderate noise levels over extended periods can result in hearing loss and require protective measures?

DID YOU KNOW...
an employer must select and authorize a "qualified*” rigger to plan, execute, and create rigging for any tasks required for the project? This includes suspending lighting truss or scenery, or even fabricating a ladder or platform where one doesn’t normally exist.

So even after you labor long and hard to find the perfect projects to create, rack your brain, patience, and intestinal fortitude to provide the talent, financing, distribution outlets, and production logistics to get the project made, you STILL have to make sure you create and sustain a proper safety program that includes training. Otherwise one small or not so small accident (they are never called "on purposes”) could undo and possibly destroy all the hard work and best-laid plans you made in mounting your dream project.

With all that in mind, happy safe producing. n

*As OSHA defines them; A "competent” person is someone charged with being able to recognize and identify an existing danger or hazard and has the authority to implement steps to alleviate said hazard or remove people from harm’s way. A "qualified” person is someone who has been designated by the employer who has demonstrated their abilities via training, experience or certified instruction to safely perform the assigned duties and is (when required) licensed.

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GOING GREEN - A Green Ambassador: Hit CBS Drama 'Madam Secretary' Is The Latest Series To Embrace Green Production

Posted By Written by Claudine Marrotte and Christina Delfico, Thursday, June 9, 2016


Madam
Secretary portrays a strong, smart and compassionate woman dedicated to protecting the citizens of the world and her loving family.

That mission plays out behind the scenes as well. Lori McCreary, Executive Producer of the series, has implemented a sustainable set that has impacted the cast, crew, environment and surrounding community in a positive way.

McCreary hired Eco Supervisor Emellie O’Brien, founder of Earth Angel, to help implement her plan and track the costs and benefits to the bottom line, as well as the environment.

O’Brien says that being sustainable just means being more resourceful. She believes that communication is the core of a successful sustainability plan. When the cast and crew are given guidelines and support, "You set the team up for success.” In preproduction, memos were emailed to the team describing how to support the green initiatives. During actual production, Earth Angel guided waste reduction measures and also set up a contest to award an Eco-Ambassador, someone on the cast and crew who put in extra effort to help each episode be green.



 top: cast member and producer Eric Stolz talks green production; Earth Angel's Grace Hendricks and Emellie O'Brien.

Co-Executive Producer, director and actor, Eric Stoltz, admits he was a wee bit skeptical of going green on set but had a change of heart when he noticed how it united the company and the crew. They would egg each other on to become more thoughtful and give each other "guff” if someone didn’t recycle. There was a playful, competitive attitude to win the Eco-Ambassador prize each episode, which was a reusable tote bag made out of recycled plastic with the words Eco-Ambassador printed above the 


Madam Secretary logo.

The results are in. Madam Secretary to date has diverted over 74% of its waste from landfills and fed over 4,000 hungry in New York City in season two alone.

Stoltz feels proud that he is part of a green production. He believes the best way to implement a strategy is to lead by example. If the Executive Producer is recycling their soda can or composting their lunch and compostable plateware, the crew will follow.

Grace Hendricks of Earth Angel, who provides direction and support to the cast and crew on set, told us that she completely understands that most of us are just used to throwing away the trash as a one-step thing, and now we actually have to think about where everything goes. At first there were a lot more signs to instruct whether what you had in your hand was for compost or recycle but, like any habit, it is quickly learned and embraced.

Tim Daly, co-star, feels that you don’t have to be passionate about the environment to recycle. "It’s easy and it’s the right thing to do; it’s as simple as walking over and putting it in the correct bin! If you can change a habit and make a new habit you don’t think about it. Being on a green set is the same as any other set—you just feel better about yourself that you’re not wasting a lot of stuff.” He reflected on the fact that our industry brings a lot of money into the economy so why not do it in a way where we don’t waste a lot of resources.


The series' sustainably snazzy water bottle


In addition to paperless digital distribution of scripts and call sheets, and basic recycling and composting food and beverages, the art department has embraced the plan by creating less waste to begin with. Art director Marissa Kotsilimbas reports the biggest challenge for the art department on a television series is short prep time between episodes. Her department’s approach is to reuse and repurpose materials as much as possible. "We evaluate the creative, time frame and costs for each build and make the best decision for each set that we create,” she says. For example, there was a scene that required a large cargo ship for a refugee scene and instead of building it they found one in Long Island and had it brought to Silvercup East to shoot it.

Repurposing the ship avoided using new materials for the build and gave the set layers of authenticity that would have been difficult to replicate with such a small turnaround. She suggests to consider what you can use from something else you’ve already built and think how you could apply that to future sets you design.

McCreary believes that the cost of implementing a green strategy is small in relation to the big impact it has. We asked this passionate producer about what advice she has for her peers. "Producers have the power to go green; there is no reason not to anymore.”

McCreary is most proud of donating excess food to the hungry via Rock and Wrap it Up, a New York based nonprofit anti-poverty think tank that distributes food to those in need. The most unexpected benefit of the greening of the set was that the crew really bonded over the sustainable goals. "So many of the studios and production companies are involved with PGA Green, the more we all do it the more everyone will, because crews leave one set and go to another production and say, ‘Why aren’t we recycling?’”

Her last piece of advice for producers, studios, and network executives is to visit the PGA Green website greenproductionguide.com, which provides detailed information about the financial and environmental benefits that can be tailored to your production to help you build a sustainable plan.

-Written by Claudine Marrotte and Christina Delfico 

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RISK TAKERS - All About The Upside: When A Great Project Comes Along, The Business Side Takes Care of Itself

Posted By Administration, Thursday, June 9, 2016




BASIL IWANYK
Thunder Road Pictures | Santa Monica, CA

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
The Expendables

PRODUCER
Sicario
John Wick
The Town
Every producer has at least one "movie that changed my life.” What’s yours and why?
The first is Star Wars. It blew my mind back then, and it still does. It was the first time I understood movies as a shared experience. The second is Ordinary People. My parents were going through a divorce at the time, and I really related to the Timothy Hutton character as he tried to make sense of his situation.It taught me that not every film exists to entertain but sometimes to give us insight into ourselves.

Lord knows, there are easier and more reliable ways to make a living than by making films.What draws you to film as a business opportunity?
I think the business, when you look at it globally, is vibrant and healthy, but only when you have something that people want. So we have poured an enormous amount of resources into development, which has given us an asset base and allowed us to sustain momentum in the marketplace. When we are blessed with a great project that we control, all of the sudden the business side takes care of itself.

What’s the most recent project you’ve backed?
Wind River, starring Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen and Jon Bernthal. It’s the directorial debut of Taylor Sheridan, who wrote Sicario. He is a massive talent. It was financed independently with no distributor, which is code for "The producers barely got paid.” Some movies are all about the upside—creatively and financially.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken on a project?
John Wick was my biggest risk. I had a lot of money on the line. And for what? A movie about a guy avenging his dead puppy? It felt like a failed career suicide attempt. Then we saw the movie. Thank god for Keanu and the directors! And now it’s a franchise ... what a business.

What’s a story you saw or read over the past year or so that really connected with you?
I absolutely loved Creed. Even aside from the amazing filmmaking and performances, the actual experience of watching that movie in a packed house, with my own kids cheering alongside me, was something I hadn’t experienced in a long time.

What’s the quickest way to make sure you will NEVER back the script I’m pitching you?
If it contains something along the lines of "Then our hero pulls out his sword and fights the scary CG-created monster.” The market has spoken; "Please, Thunder Road, no more sword-and-sandal-and-monster movies!” Believe me, we hear you.

 


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MENTORING MATTERS - In Praise of Nice People: Want To Develop Great Reality TV? Love The Format.

Posted By Brenda Brkusic, Thursday, June 9, 2016

Over the last decade, I’ve had many rewarding experiences as a producer, and I’ve been fortunate to work with some great mentors along the way. As the Executive Producer of Program Development and National Productions for PBS SoCal, I am responsible for directing the development, production, national distribution and promotion of high-quality programming on public broadcasting. I’ve been the executive producer on many programs and series for which I have won multiple Emmy Awards. But after a decade in this very specific world, I was curious to know how this type of work is handled by executives outside of public broadcasting. I applied to the PGA Mentoring Program with the hope that this knowledge would help me take my career to the next level.

I was thrilled when I found out that David Eilenberg, SVP of Unscripted Development, Late Night, and Specials for TNT and TBS, agreed to be my mentor. Prior to working there, David was involved with the development of shows such as Shark Tank, The Voice, and The Apprentice for Mark Burnett. Working with David was exactly what I needed to give me the different perspective I was seeking.

During our mentorship, David took the mystery out of the unknown and gave me a better understanding of the "big picture.” We talked about the benefits and challenges of developing programming for a production company versus a network or studio. David described the qualities he looks for in a development executive; "I like working with nice people,” he said, noting that personality, confidence and enthusiasm for the genre are all important. We discussed the value of my experience and the typical compensation for this type of industry work. Between meetings, David took the time to look at my written work and video productions, and offered feedback and recommendations. In comparing best practices and strategies, I found that we shared many similarities. There were also areas where we differed in structure and approach and it was beneficial to analyze the pluses and minuses of each method. For instance, we discussed how my current role requires me to oversee a series from development through production, post-production,distribution and marketing, and we discussed how the dynamics of my job would change if I was only responsible for one of those areas.

In the end, I was most inspired by David’s leadership style, kindness and willingness to extend himself to others. David has continued to stay in touch with me since the conclusion of the program, and now at his new post as President of ITV Entertainment. I am grateful that the PGA paired me with a mentor who has taken an ongoing, genuine interest in my professional development. Thank you to the PGA Mentoring Committee and to David Eilenberg for giving me this very rewarding mentorship experience.

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ABOVE & BEYOND - An Auspicious Turn of Events: A New Set of Volunteers Takes The Reins

Posted By Administration, Thursday, June 9, 2016

In this installment we want to highlight our two new Co-Chairs of the PGA’s Events Committee, Carla Mitchell and Joe Morabito. The Events Committee has recently been restructured as a kind of "umbrella committee” overseeing a wide variety of different PGA benefits and opportunities from all three membership Councils. Going forward, they’ll be responsible for everything from the On The Lot lunch program, to Thirsty Thursdays, to Morning Council Mixers, as well as the Guild’s spectacular Oscar Party and Holiday Party.

Carla Mitchell has been involved with not only the Events Committee, but also serves as a member of the Women’s Impact Network and has been a part of the PGA Green Habitat for Humanity Builds. Joe Morabito has been very involved with the PGA Holiday party for the last few years. He also has been a part of the Oscar Recruitment Party, New Member Breakfast events, Casino Night, and the Producers Guild Awards, as well as serving on the AP Council’s Nominating Committee. Between the two of them they make a great team.

Why do these two special members volunteer? Carla says, "If I’m a member of a group, I have to be more than just a‘bench member,’ as my grandmother would say. Being active is the best way to learn more about our industry and to grow as a person.” Joe calls volunteering "a great way to network within the entertainment community and to learn from others working in our field. It is a good way to build relationships with other members and have fun in the process. It’s rewarding to offer your time and expertise to an organization that you choose to be a part of."

Outside of volunteering, Joe is a production manager in different genres and recently wrapped on Celebrity Apprentice; he’s currently working on an extreme sports event for Red Bull. Carla works as a talent producer on many awards and competition shows, as well as working the red carpet as a field producer for Grammy Awards events. It’s the start of a new era for the Events Committee, and we can’t wait to see what Carla and Joe have in store for their fellow PGA members.

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BOSPOAT - Best On Set Photo Of All Time

Posted By Administration, Thursday, June 9, 2016


"A 15-hour work day doesn't seem quite so long when there's 20 hours of summer daylight," producer and PGA member Daniel Lawrence Abrams reminds us.  Dan's photo, "10:00 pm in Alaska," was taken on the set of his feature Mining For Ruby, which shot in Fairbanks, AK in 2013.  "Our brilliant and heroic director Zoe Quist was actually five months pregnant during production," Dan continues, "and yet we couldn't stop her from lugging gear herself in order to maximize the shoot's resources.  Every day, she inspired us all to work even harder."  You can find Zoe (also a producer on the film) in the shot just left of center, white top, arm raised.  Mining For Ruby's third producer (and screenwriter) Daniel Ponickly stands second from the left, facing the camera.

There are all sorts of payoffs to being a producer. One is the opportunity to see extraordinary things—like the late afternoon sun at 10:00 pm—that you’d never have seen otherwise. Another is the feeling of being part of a dedicated team, pulling together to make something great. We think both of those rewards are very much on display in this shot. Thanks for sending it in, Dan.

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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ALL GROWN UP - From The Associate National Executive Director

Posted By Susan Sprung, Thursday, June 9, 2016

Many of you will be reading this column at this year’s Produced By Conference at Sony Pictures Studios. If so, I sincerely hope that you’re enjoying the event. The PGA and the production team put a great deal of time, thought and hard work into Produced By. I’ve been lucky enough (or crazy enough) to oversee that process for the last several years.

The growth of the Produced By Conference, along with its counterpart event, Produced By: New York, has turned a task that was originally conceived as seasonal into a year-long endeavor, involving a wide variety of personnel on both coasts. The scope of our event this year at Sony should give some sense of the challenge involved. This summer, we are presenting conference sessions on everything from what kind of content streaming services are buying, to collaborating with the U.S. military, to exploring on-screen diversity via STEM-based storylines, to ensuring safety on set and in the entertainment workplace. It’s a 12-month juggling act that requires close collaboration between the conference chairs, the PGA staff, and the professional team hired to produce, staff and execute the event.

The more people we can bring to Produced By, the better we represent the PGA and the producing profession.
Over the last few months, one of our "chief jugglers” has been programming director Madelyn Hammond, who has recruited the lion’s share our speakers… and then recruited their replacements when schedule conflicts compel a speaker to withdraw from the program. Our other juggler-in-chief has been supervising producer Barry Kaplan, whose attention leaps between a half-dozen production challenges each day, every time proposing creative solutions to maximize the conference experience for our attendees and speakers alike. Meanwhile, our sponsorship manager Diane Salerno has consistently delivered top-flight backers to make up the gap between our registration revenues and our event costs, making sure our bottom line is covered.

So what is that bottom line? Rather than striving to make the conference a profit center for the PGA, our only directive from the National Board of Directors is simply to break even. So long as we cover our costs, we are cleared to extend the conference’s offerings as far and wide as we can. That’s 100% in keeping with the mission of the PGA and the PGA Foundation (the Guild’s charitable arm through which the conferences are financed), both of which are not-for-profit corporations.

Instead, our goal is to bring as many people to Produced By as we can, through steep discounts for PGA members, students, industry colleagues and group rates. The more people we can bring to Produced By, the better we represent the PGA and the producing profession. If we’re lucky, some of our non-member guests will turn around and support the Guild by becoming full-fledged members themselves. But from the National Board to our volunteer staffers, everyone on our team takes as a point of pride the fundamental premise behind Produced By: A strong professional community means far more than a number on a spreadsheet.

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