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The Nice Guys

Posted By Administration, Thursday, December 20, 2012

The work of producing is famously hard to pin down. For those who do the job on a daily basis, the position can seem like part general contractor, part story editor, part accountant, part psychologist, part salesman, part diplomat, part camp counselor ... the list goes on. But hand it to Stephen Chbosky, writer-director of Summit’s fall sleeper hit The Perks of Being a Wallflower, who came up with a formulation we haven’t heard before.

 

"Being a great producer,” he suggests, "is like being a great international spy. If they’re doing their job right, you don’t even know they’re there.”

 

Meeting Chbosky’s producing team, you can see why he might think so. Perks, Chbosky’s feature debut, was produced by the determinedly self-effacing team of PGA members Lianne Halfon and Russell Smith, along with John Malkovich, their partner in their 14-year-old company Mr. Mudd. Even the name of the company leans toward the secret agent vibe, without even so much as a "Productions” or "Entertainment” to tip off an unsuspecting public. Probably the only place that the pair can’t hide in plain sight would be the independent film community. With credits like Crumb, YoungAdult, GhostWorld and the Oscar-winning sensation Juno, Halfon and Smith can credibly claim membership in the small group of producers whose work has effectively defined American indie film over the past two decades.

 

Characteristically, Halfon backs away from the prestige label that so many of her peers rush to claim. "‘Creative Producer’ seems like a strange title for us,” she admits, "since we’re very interested in and driven by practical concerns. It’s not just about assembling the elements, but actually making the film all the way through, on the line. We like to know what cameras we’re shooting on, where we’re mixing. Those are places where a producer can really make a difference.”

 

The sentiment is backed up by their fellow PGA member Mason Novick, who produced the two Jason Reitman/Diablo Cody collaborations, Juno and Young Adult, alongside them. "They’re not the we’ll-call-you-and-let’s-do-lunch kind of producers. They’re the let’s-go-make-movies producers. They can talk to the camera department. They can talk to production design. They can talk to the writer. They can talk to post-production. They literally are on top of everything.”

 

And though Halfon shies away from the creative producer title, the duo is deeply engaged in the creative producer’s chief task: finding great stories. The source for Perks of Being a Wallflower turned out to be close at hand. "After Juno,” relates Halfon, "we were looking for something to do. We really wanted to adapt a book. So we asked our assistant if he could pick one book that he’d want to see turned into a movie, what would it be? And this was the one.”

 

Neither had heard of the book before, but both were immediately won over by its openheartedness, its precisely rendered voice and achingly tender coming-of-age story. "We started tracking it,” Smith continues. "I think we may have tracked it longer than anything else we’ve ever tracked. But sometime after that, we were in a general meeting at WME. They were running down a list of their clients, and tossed out Stephen’s name. And it was one of those ‘wait, wait, wait — back up!’ moments.”

 

Chbosky by this time had been working in the industry for over a decade, adapting Jonathan Larson’s Rent for director Chris Columbus, and serving as creator and exec producer of the passionately admired but short-lived CBS drama Jericho. His primary reputation, however, rested on The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which had swiftly attained "modern classic” status in the YA literary canon after its publication in 1999. Over the course of Smith and Halfon’s tracking the property, Chbosky had been working intermittently on a screenplay adaptation, which he was determined to direct.

 

There was no consideration of trying to pry the story away from its author. Rather, the producers and would-be director entered into a careful dance to determine whether they had the same movie in their heads. "The book has a beautiful pitch to it,” Halfon observes. "It’s so delicate. But of course, directing, like writing, is a skill set. And we were concerned that he might not be able to render that delicate picture on a screen the way he had on the page.”

 

"With a first-time director,” adds Smith, "you want to get a sense of what they’re focused on, and what’s likely to throw them off their game.”

 

For his part, Chbosky was immediately impressed by his potential collaborators’ bona fides. "Most producers I’d met didn’t stand out for me the way Russ and Lianne did,” he explains. "First of all, they’re very intelligent, overtly so. Right away I could appreciate their encyclopedic knowledge of movies, and our common appreciation for favorite directors. And they had done work that I personally admired, both separately and together.”

 

The trio took their time, meeting several times before determining to try and get Perksoff the ground. All three testify to the honesty and forthrightness with which the group laid out its priorities. "They wanted to know that I was going to be a director who collaborated, who listened,” Chbosky continues. "And I wanted to make sure that they understood that for me, this was more than a movie; it was a mission.” After a few meetings, Halfon, Smith and Chbosky determined that it was a mission they’d undertake together.

 

All parties understood that Chbosky’s initial draft, a robust 168 pages, would need some revision, but the development process was refreshingly non-contentious thanks to the filmmaker’s trust in his producers. It was made easier by the fact that, length aside, Halfon and Smith liked the script. "We sat right down to it,” Chbosky recalls, "I listened to what they had to say, saw the wisdom in it, and did the rewrite.”

 

Though the script development process was a gentle one, the producers knew that the unique circumstance of having a director adapt his own novel posed some pitfalls. "We had to make sure that Stephen was in a place where he knew that he was not shooting the novel,” Smith notes. "We’re shooting the script. Just this. Just the script.”

Concurrently, the group began to assemble their cast. In this task, their source material provided unique advantages and disadvantages. "In 97% of the movies where a teenager is the star,” observes Smith, "they’re comedies or horror films; they’re not dramas. So we had to get over that hurdle. We had to cast it beautifully, and we had to cast it in a way that would sell.”

 

On the plus side, adapting a novel that’s become a touchstone for a rising generation of talented performers carries built-in benefits. Emma Watson, best known as the HarryPotter franchise’s Hermione Granger, was a fan of Chbosky’s book and signed on to play the leading female role of Sam. And in signing Watson, Chbosky readily leaned on his producers’ reputations to assuage any fears of working with a neophyte director: "If she had doubts about me,” he recalls, "I could point to Juno, I could point to Ghost World. And that took away all the doubts.”

 

For the story’s sensitive protagonist and narrator Charlie, the filmmakers turned to another kids’ fantasy veteran, Logan Lerman, who had played the title role in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. "The moment we saw Logan on tape.” Recalls Smith, "we knew he was the guy.”

 

For the last of the film’s three central roles, Sam’s flamboyant, living-out-loud stepbrother Patrick, the group had to dig a little deeper, watching readings from scores of young actors. "It was a very difficult role,” reflects Halfon. "We already had the other two, but casting the third member of the group changes things. Ensemble casting means that it isn’t simply a matter of picking your favorite people.”

 

Despite seeing many more familiar faces, the producers found themselves drawn to a compelling reading from relative newcomer Ezra Miller, at that point best known for a preternaturally chilling performance opposite Oscar winner Tilda Swinton in We Need to Talk About Kevin. "Ezra’s reading was so distinct, so different,” Halfon continues. "There was something really striking about it.” Despite Miller’s lower profile and the pressure to cast a more recognizable face, the producers’ intuition told them that this was a lead worth pursuing. To fortify their hunch, they took advantage of a tool they’d never utilized before.

 

"We pushed Stephen and Ezra really hard to have a Skype session together,” explains Smith. "Ezra is a fun-loving, wild-child, brilliant guy. You could see a little of it. But we wanted to find out if we could see more of that.”

 

"Skype turned out to be one of our great allies,” shares Chbosky. "It helped me a lot ... Ezra’s one of those truly inspired actors; he’s so unpredictable. And Russ and Lianne were very, very smart to make sure we spoke the same language.”

 

As the filmmakers settled on Miller, recalls Halfon, "it was like finding the missing note that created a major chord. In that moment, you could see that it shifted Stephen’s view of the character. And that’s a real tribute to him as a director. You don’t want to be bound by preconceived notions, but adjusting as you go, and he clearly adjusted to what he saw with Ezra.”

 

Simultaneously, the producers engaged in very much the same process with the behind-the-camera team. "We like to cast the crew in the same way we cast the movie,” Smith notes. "So we had to make certain of two things: that they could deliver the work, and that they could communicate well with Stephen. So we often found ourselves saying, ‘Yes, he’s good. But is he right?’”

 

It’s in this process that Chbosky locates "the invisible brilliance of Russ and Lianne. They did the vetting that I didn’t have time to do, and they were incredibly patient with me. Finding our DP and editor, I met with a dozen of each, and I never felt unreasonable pressure on Russ and Lianne’s part. They knew what I needed to do the job right, and there was no ego in any of it ... I felt guided and protected, which is the very best thing you can do for a first-time filmmaker.”

 

When it came time for the cameras to roll, the producers found other ways to support their filmmaker. The first was taking advantage of the state and local production incentives that allowed the team to shoot in Pittsburgh, where Chbosky’s story was set, and even in the neighborhood where the director himself grew up. "We wanted to get the feeling of that place,” says Halfon. "It’s a kind of resource; it gives the crew and actors access to a unique set of responses that they can rely on to inform the work that they do over the course of the shoot.”

 

Another was the meticulous attention to detail required of a period piece — even when the period is as recent as 1990. "It’s amazing, how many things you have to change,” marvels Halfon. "Just shooting a high school dance ... you have to clothe all those people! We wound up using just a little bit of costuming there, and asked all of our extras to bring ‘vintage clothes.’” And creating the sense of period wasn’t just a matter of costumes, she continues. "It’s the way kids carry their books to school. It’s the fact that there’s no cell phones. It’s a subtle difference, but it creates a huge impact in terms of the way characters relate to one another.”

 

Chbosky particularly appreciates the complementary strengths of the team. "Lianne has such a great grasp of detail and tone, while Russ has this tremendous sense of size and scope,” he says. "For instance, in the scene where the kids are walking up to the first party ... I felt under a lot of time pressure, trying to make the day, and I was ready to make it a smaller moment. Russ was the one who said, ‘We can go bigger on this. Don’t worry about the time.’ And he was absolutely right. That scene could have felt like television, but Russ’ input made it into a movie. He really understands what the camera can do, and whenever he could encourage me to go wide, he did.”

 

The director came to treasure the soft touch of his producers. "Any director who also writes is bound to overshoot by at least 10%,” he admits. "A less sensitive producer would fight you tooth and nail to prevent you from shooting an extraneous scene. But Russ and Lianne knew how important each piece has been to me, and they let me learn on my own ... When you get into the editing room, that’s when you realize that it’s okay to let go of that scene that they knew wasn’t going to be in the movie six months ago.”

 

Over the course of post-production, Chbosky appreciated the degree to which the role of his collaborators mirrored his own, and how their collective experience allowed him to translate his story to the screen. "During production,” he explains, "the director’s job is to look at the different cast members and speak the different ‘languages’ of those actors, particularly if they’re driven by one method or another ... You have to be the person who lets them go to that place, or pull them back. But in post, I became that actor, the emotional standard-bearer of the story, and Russ and Lianne became that fixed pole for me. I counted on their perspective to bring me back to solid ground.”

 

When it came time to unveil the finished product, the producers admit to some trepidation. "We had an additional hurdle,” notes Smith, "that being people who had read the book. Because Stephen has a trunk full of letters — a literal trunk full of them — from people who have read the book and responded so deeply to it. But there was a moment when we did a screening in Orange County, with a focus group afterward. We had 20 people in the group, 10 of whom had read the novel. When we asked them to compare the two, all 10 of them said that the film was even better than the book. When they said that, we looked over at Stephen, and we knew we had accomplished everything we had wanted to do."

 

"It’s what we hoped we would deliver,” agrees Halfon. "It’s very different than the other high school movies we’ve done, Juno and GhostWorld. Yes, it took a lot of discussions about how to get there,” she smiles, "but we all had the same place in mind.”

 

The director is ultimately (and somewhat mischievously) unrestrained in his gratitude to his producers. "I love giving Russ and Lianne compliments,” Chbosky laughs, "because it makes them so uncomfortable. I can only imagine what everything I’ve said here is going to do to them.

 

"Because the truth is,” he continues, "I’m getting more credit than I should be getting. This movie just wouldn’t exist were they not so supportive, so sensitive and so patient, which is a quality that often gets overlooked. This is a movie where nice guys finish first. Russ and Lianne ... They’re the nice guys.”



 

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Novel Idea

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, December 19, 2012

From the first moment you arrive at the Lizzie Bennet website, you know you aren't just there to watch a typical Web series. The website states:

"Welcome to the home of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries an online modernized adaptation of
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Developed by Hank Green and Bernie Su

You have two choices.

1. Enter the world of Lizzie Bennet by going to her

Tumblr or YouTube

2. Stay on this site and find out more about the show and/or catch up on the story so far.

Catch up on the story from the beginning"

--------------------------------------------------------------------


It’s not often that classic literature is adapted into a Web series (or anything in digital for that matter). But that’s exactly what Bernie Su and Hank Green set out to do with their innovative video blog based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It has been blowing up on YouTube, with more than 2 million views in its first six weeks, and has received numerous press articles, developing a large and loyal online audience. It was also one of the biggest hits at Vidcon this year, where actress Ashley Clements was recognized as one of YouTube’s hottest rising stars.

 

The Web series stays true to the Jane Austen novel’s main characters and to the story as a whole, but it does lean into the world of digital, and while the "foundational” narrative strain is exposed through episodic video, there is a proscenium of story dispersed to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and other social platforms. This approach, while not entirely new, does set a new standard in terms of execution. Creators Bernie Su and Hank Green are doggedly determined to tell a great story, and leveraging digital platforms is a tremendous asset in extending the backstory, side-story, and another other ancillary stories that surround the world of Lizzie Bennet.

 

Su says of his new media endeavor, "Why digital? I guess because of the accessibility. Everyone talks about connectivity to your audience. That may be a canned answer but it’s true ... I like to tell stories. I didn’t come here to say it needs to be television, or it needs to be a film ... that doesn’t matter to me. I like to tell a good story, regardless of platform, but we connect to our audience pretty regularly on Facebook, Twitter, because we can. In this current marketplace it’s very freeing. I don’t have the interest to go onto a TV writing staff, not to say because I don’t want the money, but because the creative freedom here [in digital] is awesome.”


The effect of this freedom is pretty obvious. Lizzie’s YouTube channel boasts more than 93,000 subscribers and more than 7 million views. Her Facebook has more than 15,000 likes, Lizzie’s Tumblr has 17,805 followers and on Twitter, @theLizzieBennet has 15,000 followers. In total, they have more than 7.4 million views and get about 1.4 million views a month - without a single media buy to drive traffic. And on top of that, this Web series is actually paying its talent — not a fortune, but at least their model is sustainable and helping the cast and crew to make a living instead of hoping that sweat equity will pay off with a roll of the dice and a lot of production hours.

 


 

Point of View

Social media distribution is nothing new for content in the digital space, but smart storytelling that leverages these digital platforms is, as Su says, "smart.”

 

"The world is our stage and social media allows us to reach our audience. Pinterest was a big part of one of our campaigns. When we had two characters following each on Twitter, that was a big deal in our universe. I’m not going to say it’s the future. I will say that it’s different. It’s new. It excites the audience and it excites us.”

 

That excitement has translated into a core storyline that is exposed through the ongoing video blog. Each segment is short, just like a video blog would be in real life. Then the Lizzie team complements that content through various social methods, allowing the audience to see the story from multiple perspectives.

 

"I have this thing where I like to see points of view. In shows like 24, you are limited by what the editor shows you. For us, the audience can choose who they want to follow.”

 

This multi-perspective approach has its challenges, though. The writing team is constantly considering what is too "meta,” and what rules apply. Lines of where the "world” of Lizzie Bennet ends can quickly become unclear, and the staff must push the limits while still maintaining character and story integrity. Lucky for them, they have Jane Austen’s story as a template to work with all along the way.

 

Kate Rorick, one of the staff writers, is very familiar with complex storylines. Having served as a staff writer for Law & Order: Criminal Intent and as a story editor for Terra Nova, she knows how to manage story points and where to break certain moments. She also draws from her background as a romance novelist (under the pseudonym Kate Noble).

 

"To tell this story that has so many universal themes in modern day, you absolutely have to tell it using social media and transmedia to properly make these characters come alive. And that’s not something that traditional TV is currently set up to do as well as they could.”

 

When it comes to sustaining disbelief using all these "transmedia” toolsets, there is a constant conversation with the writers. It is part of the DNA of the show, because in their version of Pride and Prejudice, Lizzie is creating a video blog as part of the storyline. Everyone knows that she has follows and posts in the social space all the time. They are very aware that the fourth wall is entirely broken, and when they are breaking story, they are thinking a great deal about how they can leverage various tools for exposition. Rorick suggests, "We can break that beat with a ‘tweet,’ and we can post something on Tumblr that can set something into motion.”

 

Su explains, "When we are writing, almost every prop has to be considered as a potential transmedia piece.”

 

In one story, Lydia, Lizzie’s sister, posts a resumé online. Su has the prop department create a physical resumé as a prop. Lydia the character has social media at her disposal, and if she wanted to, could, for example, post it on LinkedIn.

 

"It’s a really silly resumé,” Su says, "but these are the things we consider.”

 

It has to be right for the characters though. The small, close-knit team carefully considers the ramifications of posts and tweets within the boundaries of the world of Lizzie Bennet and do not take leveraging social media lightly. If something doesn’t feel right or isn’t something a character would do, perhaps because it is too private to share, they keep it so.

 

Su cautions, "It’s a balance you have to find between being cool and posting something, and whether or not you should.”

 

A Little Too Meta

So is there the possibility that LBD could go too far down a digital path? The producers believe that there are several considerations that keep a balance with their experience. One big one is resources. Because they can’t make a Facebook page for every character, nor tweet every storyline beat, resources and budget become a natural limiter. When the story can expanse the entire Internet with many different social platforms, the curation of story material becomes a concern. It takes people and time to do it. They stick to the essentials and perhaps a "nice to have” once in a while. But otherwise, it’s all about driving core story.

 

Su notes, "When we launched, Pinterest hadn’t even hit its stride and leveraging it became kind of like an afterthought. Then it became the hot thing so we absolutely included Pinterest. But at the same time, one of the characters is a fan of Spotify, and we don’t have that. If we spend time to create these destinations, the fans would love it, but it comes down to "can” and "should.” I don’t know if an ancillary character’s list on Spotlify gives you anything. The Pinterest campaign, that gave us a ton. It is whether the return is worth the resources.”

 

When it comes to returns on investment, Hank Green believes in the quality and quality of fans. "We give the fans an opportunity to go deeper. Not all of them will, but the ones that do will become higher quality fans, people who are more invested in what you are doing, and that has value just beyond your two eyeball impressions. It has value in terms of merchandise, it has value in activating those people for various things like a new Kickstarter effort, and that won’t go well if we don’t have high-level, evangelistic fans of the show. If they become fans of the characters, then they become fans of the actors and of the creators and the writers and that gets deeper than a one-show experience. It becomes an investment.”

 

Su agrees and suggests, "We all want to make the show the best that it can be, but there is a life beyond the show. Investing in fans, keeps them involved.”

 

It’s paying off for them. They continue to see new fans come in droves. And many brand-new viewers (the series has been live since April) are binge viewing, watching two or three hours of content in one sitting.

 

Su says, "Episode one is about 50 videos ago, and it still plays as well as it ever did. In fact, it’s stronger now because there’s so much content that follows it ... Our daily view counts are where there were at the start, and growing.”

 

Su and Green want the show to be watched a year from now, five years from now. All the humor and all the heart of their show should come from their writing and characters, not current pop culture references. Instead of riding the wave of what’s trending, they want to set a trend by making content as good as they can.

 

Ashley Clements (who plays Lizzie) suggests, "The show is built that way and not only do we hear from viewers how they started and watched all the episodes from beginning to end, but now want to binge view when they re-watch all the episodes.”

 

Transmedia, Not Required

Su has a very strong opinion about transmedia, one he isn’t shy about explaining, "My view is that transmedia enhances but is not required.” He explains that should a social platform disappear, fall out of favor or be replaced by something else, his content would remain intact with the exception of a few pieces of ancillary content — all of which he indicates are archived as best possible on the main website.

 

Su continues, "A lot of my colleagues disagree with this. If you watch the episodes and never follow Lizzie on Twitter or on Pinterest and all that stuff, you will still get it all. You will have a great viewing experience, you can lean back, let the playlist run for 31/2 hours, and you will have a good time. Those that want to dive in can consume the ancillary content and it will help make the characters feel alive, but it is not required.”

 

Green and Su know that the major investment is in the episodes themselves. There, they are guaranteed a strong return on investment and aren’t shackled to emerging platforms that could disappear in the blink of an eye. And this, it would seem, is the thread running through their secret sauce: evident and consistent quality of story.

 

It sounds so simple, but with technology always beckoning producers to focus on the tech, the latest gadget, the most current platform, story can sometimes get lost. The producers of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries keep that in mind at every turn. For their fans, it’s working. The quality, the immediacy, and the interaction — all of it is paying off, not just for the show, but also for the entire production crew and cast who aspire for careers beyond Lizzie Bennet and have hopes that this show is their springboard. As Clements notes, "It’s incredibly rewarding to have this immediate interaction with fans. Because the show drives them to Twitter and drives them to Tumblr. As of this morning, I had more than 5,600 Twitter followers, and when the show started I had zero. Those are all fans, and those are hopefully fans who will follow me for the rest of my career.”

 

"It’s exciting to be part of an adaptation of a novel that I love,” says Rorick. "I’m just as eager as our die-hard fans to see how things are being adapted to the digital world. We are not just doing a modern version of Pride and Prejudice; we are doing a Web version of it that is very conscious that it is on the Web. It’s a little meta that the show is part of "the show.” The discovery of the vlog [video log] by other characters within the story is an event that is unique to our version of the story.”

 

Michael Wayne, CEO of DECA, who is partnering with The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, shares his enthusiasm for how well things are going, but makes it clear that he is in this for the long haul with the show creators. "Our relationship isn’t just with Lizzie Bennet,” says Wayne, "It’s a long-term deal. We got together with Bernie and Hank to build a long-term business here. Hollywood, in general, has always been about having the biggest possible business, from the audience to the actor to the producer ... I think it’s a hard thing for people that grew up with just movies and television to understand that this platform, this content and producer and writers and actors, are the exact opposite. The premium [experience] is in the connectedness and the one-on-one relationship. The Internet and YouTube have completely disrupted that entire way of producing and making content and storytelling.”

 

Su sits comfortably in his chair and looks at the crew in the room and pauses for a beat. "I like trailblazing, and I like doing things that people don’t normally do.”


 

 

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Guild and Grapes 2012 Recap

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, December 19, 2012

by Brandon Grande

On Friday, October 19th PGA Northwest, hosted their 4th annual "Guild and Grapes" event, in the heart of San Francisco. The day kicked off with a delicious luncheon on the patio of Sen’s Restaurant over looking the Bay, which was followed by an incredible exclusive behind the scenes tour and decadent dessert reception at Pixar.

Guests continued the adventure up to the renowned Napa Valley traveling in eco friendly style thanks to Bauer Transportation. Silverado Resort and Spa provided the weekend accommodations and Friday night’s reception and dinner at Raymond Vineyards was nothing short of spectacular. The fun continued Saturday with private tastings and custom tours from Keever Family Vineyards, Trinchero Napa Valley, Charles Krug, and Niebaum Coppolla. Along the tour TurnkeyHD provided a tasty picnic lunch while showing off their bio diesel production sprinters.

The weekend was a complete success and it would not have been possible without the generous donations of our sponsors Advanced Systems Group, DTC, Beyond Pix and The San Mateo/Silicon Valley Film Commission.

Everyone had a fantastic time while making new friends and connections reminding us of why Guild and Grapes is such a special event.





See also: Guild and Grapes preview and video

 


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Going Green

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, December 19, 2012

PGA Green: Do you consider it part of our responsibility as producers — with our access and reach — to take the lead with being green? Lesley Chilcott: Ours is an inherently wasteful industry. We create temporary worlds and we tear them down, so the trick is to try and minimize your footprint in any way possible. I do think that part of your responsibility as a producer is to give back or mentor. That can be volunteering at a non-profit, or sometimes it’s just easier to do little green things every day.

Tell us about your non-profit unscrewamerica.org.I started it in 2008 to encourage people to convert your regular, now old, incandescent light bulbs to LEDs. Unscrew your regular light bulbs and screw in more energy-efficient ones. The site is also to educate that CFLs are a stop-gap measure until more great LED lighting is available. If you must use CFLs, then use the low-mercury options (two micro-grams of mercury or less). We provide links to both CFLs and LEDs that we like in the light review section. I bought 50 different light bulbs and tested them and found about 18 to 20 that I liked and that had a nice quality of light.

Do you use a carbon offset calculator on your productions? Yes, I use one from Native Energy. When we calculate certain things in our industry, we don’t often calculate all the pollution and waste we create. More so than other industries, we have the opportunity to reinvent ourselves every time with every new job. How are we going to do this and be mindful of the environment? Say we learn that people from different departments didn’t mind carpooling to the set or location — it saves us money and it’s less waste.

If there’s not a reduction in emissions, then are carbon offsets really a solution?If you’re just buying carbon offsets at the end of a job — then you’re not really doing anything. But if you’re doing everything you can to reduce your carbon footprint, and you buy carbon offsets at the end of the job, then that is effective because you’re thinking about ways to reduce as you go. I advocate the idea of having an Eco-Captain on every job. It can even be a P.A./Eco-Captain. One of the biggest successes I’ve had is to ask my crew on the first day of shooting, "What could we do differently? What can we give you to help you to use less waste?” And the Eco-Captain gives me a report at the end of the job.

Tell us a little bit about An Inconvenient Truth and carbon offsets.An Inconvenient Truth was the first movie to put carbon offsets in its end credits. What you want from your carbon offset company is a company who can prove that their donation actually made an offset project happen, as opposed to it was happening anyway and they gave it a little bit of money. It’s an eco project that would not have happened without the funding from carbon offsets. In the industry it’s known as "additionality.”

What’s the journey been like with An Inconvenient Truth?Laurie David, Lawrence Bender, Scott Burns, Davis Guggenheim and I had this project. Starring: Al Gore ... Subject: global warming ... Format: slide show. (laughs) No one, least of all us, expected this to turn into an Academy Award– winning movie, a screening at Cannes, standing ovations at Sundance. Now, six years later, the movie is required viewing in several countries—in junior high and some high school curricula. Other countries have always been ahead of us on reducing their carbon footprint and realizing their connection to the environment. They have instituted concrete steps to lower their impact.

Has there been a shift in awareness?When we came out with the movie in 2006, magazines were doing their first "green” issues and the timing was very good. There were new reports from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and multiple articles from The New York Times and people were more vocal about it. Environmentalists had been working on this for years, but in May of 2006, this sort of all came to a head. All of the polls indicated that awareness increased drastically. Now six years later, there’s definitely been a huge slip. What remains positive now is that most large companies have sustainability officers and people have realized it’s good for the earth and good for their bottom line to put green practices into their business plan. The cat’s out of the bag and can’t be put back in ... but there’s still a lot of work to do.

Do you see producers — especially those concerned about the environment — as pushing boundaries? I do. I am a person who finds producing very gratifying. I think that with all of the entrenched interests and historical ways of doing things, you do have to push boundaries in production and come up with less wasteful ways. One of the biggest conflicts right now is that all of the projects, no matter the medium, happen so last-minute. When things happen last-minute, you tend to skip the eco-step because you don’t have time; you’re busy just trying to pull off the job. If you have your standby things that you always do on a project no matter what, then continue to do those things — but take a few seconds during the job to ask what else you can do.

Is it personal accountability that ultimately makes the difference?It is — it’s definitely personal accountability, but I don’t think you should do it in a vacuum. You know if you have your Eco- Captain or you have a couple of other people who are just as concerned as you are, then four heads are going to come up with a better way than one.

Tell us about your work in documentaries — what inspires you?I think that when you have a chance to tell a story or someone’s story and you’re able to show a type of truth — a side of them that people didn’t know — or even an experience — there’s something so gratifying in doing that. Once you get to show somebody’s truth that maybe people didn’t know about—that in a way is the ultimate story.

What would be your ultimate green story?I would like it so that phrases like "greening your production” no longer exist. Ultimately, PGA Green and other initiatives disappear because being eco-minded is inherent in all of the decisions that we make. The Eco-Captain would be obsolete in 10 years because all of these things would be designed into what we’re doing ... not only because it’s good for the environment, it’s good for the budget too.

Thanks, Lesley!

Thank you! Please keep up the good work!


 

Lesley Chilcott’s 3 Easy Green Tips

If you are not already, try using a file-sharing program like Dropbox. If everyone has access to the same files for a particular job, it cuts down on printing needs, especially color printing, as all the files are accessible to everyone who needs them.

Elect someone on your crew to serve as the Eco-Captain; on longer jobs, you can rotate this role to different team members. Get feedback from your crew on what can be done.

Eat/serve less meat in catering and craft services. I’m not saying to eliminate it, just replace some of the meat options with healthier non-meat ones. This cuts down on food waste, food miles, and environmental impact.



 

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PGA Poker Tournament 2012

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, December 19, 2012

by Chris Debiec

On October 7, 2012, the PGA held its 5thannual No-Limit Texas Hold 'em Poker Tournament at Hollywood Park Casino in Los Angeles. The turnout was exceptional. We had more then 100 members and guests attend the event and over 70 players participate in the tournament itself. The competition was hot and heavy, but in the end, only 10 players were "in the money." The top three money winners were Gordon Bressack ($950), Aye Jaye ($1,470), and in a stunning reversal of fortune, Dan Kuba came from behind to win first place for a total of $2,780!

 

We could never pull off an event like this without our paid sponsorships. For the second year in a row, SafeCig, a great alternative to quit smoking, was a platinum sponsor, along with Andromeda Studios, the best little soundstage in LA. The silver sponsors were VER (Video Equipment Rental) in Glendale and Chainsaw Post in Hollywood. And we'd like to acknowledge Media Distributors and Culver Studios as our bronze sponsors.

 

In addition to the paid sponsors, we would like to thank Hollywood Park Casino for hosting the tournament, GDC Technology for the awesomely huge gift bags, and the comedic genius of our MC, "New Jersey's Bad Boy", Mike Marino.

 

Our catering was provided by Doughboys. Thanks to them for the delicious sandwiches, salads, and of course, those incredibly delicious red velvet cakes that I could not put down to save my life.

 

Without the help and continued dedication of sponsors like these, guild events like this could not happen.

 

The PGA events committee has some of the most dedicated members in the organization. We would like to recognize those who helped us put this event together.

 

Thanks to Vicente Williams and Leonard Koss, who joined me in chairing the event. Much appreciation to our illustrious volunteers: Briana Aeby, Karyn Benkendorfer, Mandy Carranza, Deen Dioria, Rikki Hughes, Joseph Morabito, Todd Serlin, and Rose Testa. And a big thank you to Michael Q. Martin for coming out and photographing the event for us!

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The PGA would like to congratulate the winners on their valiant efforts. We look forward to seeing all of you next year at the 6th Annual PGA Poker tournament!

 

 

 

 


Left to Right: Leonard Koss, Gordon Bressack, Aye Jaye, Dan Kuba, Chris Debiec, and Vicente Williams


The final 9 players bask in their glory with the event organizers


Shuffle up and Deal.... the tournament begins.


The stakes are high as the players size up their opponents.


The SafeCig girls are always a favorite of the players.


The final 9 players received a personalized PGA chip case and goodie bag filled with the best the PGA has to offer.


The luckiest man in the world (Chris Debiec) poses with the beautiful Dealer Dolls and SafeCig girls.


Our MC for the day "News Jersey's Bad Boy" Mike Marino and event chair Chris Debiec ham it up for the camera.


Our wonderful host, the Hollywood Park Casino.


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