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Beau Willimon Elected WGA East President

2 hours ago

Beau Willimon, the playwright and showrunner who launched Netflix’s “House of Cards,” has been elected to a two-year term as president of the Writers Guild of America East, following an unopposed campaign to succeed Michael Winship.

The results were announced Tuesday evening in New York. Incumbent vice president Jeremy Pikser and secretary-treasurer Bob Schneider were also re-elected after running unopposed.

Winners of the six open Freelance seats are incumbents Bonnie Datt, Susan Kim, and Courtney Simon along with Amy Sohn, Tracey Scott Wilson, and David Simon. Andrea Ciannavei, the runner-up for the six open Freelance Council seats, was elected to a one-year term on the council to fill the vacancy created by  Willimon’s election as president.

Incumbent Phil Pilato was re-elected for an open Staff seat along with Kim Kelly and Hamilton Nolan.

Willimon and five other incumbents won re-election to two-year terms for council seats last year. He »


- Dave McNary

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Sierra/Affinity Signs First-Look Deal With Smb Films

2 hours ago

Sierra/Affinity has entered into a first-look agreement with production company Smb Films.

Founded and run by Scott Bernstein since 2014, the agreement calls for Sierra/Affinity to be Smb’s first stop as it develops and produces feature films for a global audience.

“As both a seasoned executive and producer, Scott has a strong track record of identifying material that resonates worldwide and distilling it into a feature film product that appeals to audiences both domestically and abroad,” said Sierra/Affinity’s Nick Meyer in announcing the news with Marc Schaberg. “Combining Scott’s talents with Sierra’s strength as a producer, financier, and sales entity presents a potent content generating combination.”

Smb Films has produced several successful films including the commercially and critically acclaimed music biopic “Straight Outta Compton,” as well as “Ride Along 2” starring Kevin Hart and Ice Cube. It’s currently producing “The Turning” at Amblin with Floria Sigismondi attached to direct.

“The »


- Justin Kroll

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Director of Unreleased Mel Gibson Movie Sues Producer for Defamation

2 hours ago

The legal fight over “The Professor and the Madman,” the unreleased Mel Gibson film about a dictionary, is heating up, with the director filing a defamation suit against the production company.

Director Farhad Safinia, who wrote the script for Gibson’s “Apocalypto,” filed a suit in Los Angeles federal court on Tuesday accusing Voltage Pictures of defamation and copyright infringement.

Gibson sued Voltage in July, alleging that the company had breached the agreement giving Gibson approval of the final cut of the film. Gibson also alleged that Voltage had not budgeted adequate production days in Oxford, England, which he argued was essential to telling the story of the composition of the Oxford English Dictionary.

The L.A. Times followed up with a story about the dispute, in which Voltage issued a statement saying that “Mr. Gibson and the film’s director consistently failed to live up to their professional and contractual responsibilities to Voltage.”

Safinia »


- Gene Maddaus

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Amblin Partners’ Michael Wright Steps Down as CEO

3 hours ago

Michael Wright is stepping down as chief executive officer of Amblin Partners and becoming executive producer of two of the company’s forthcoming films, the company said Tuesday.

Steven Spielberg, chairman of the company, will step into the CEO role after Wright’s exit. Wright oversaw films like “The Girl on the Train” and “A Dog’s Purpose” while at Amblin.

“I have always enjoyed working with Michael and the unique creative collaboration we’ve shared going back to his days at Turner Broadcasting,” Spielberg said in a statement. “I am very pleased to continue our relationship and that he is joining our upcoming projects, ‘The Talisman’ and ‘The Wand,’ as an executive producer. I also want to express my gratitude to Michael for helping us launch our company and creating a strong foundation to build on in the future.”

Jeff Small will remain president and co-chief executive. Holly Bario, president of production, »


- Ricardo Lopez

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Dozens Dead, Buildings Collapse After Mexico City Earthquake

4 hours ago

Widespread destruction has been reported in Mexico City after an earthquake registering 7.1 magnitude struck the country just after 1 p.m. local time. The country was still reeling from a stronger 8.2 tremor south of the capital on Sept. 7.

At least 61 people have been killed, with rescue efforts just getting under way.

“I have never felt anything that intense,” said Variety‘s Mexico City correspondent James Young. Multiple buildings have collapsed in the densely populated city, Young reported. The city is in a full state of emergency.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported that the earthquake’s epicenter was near the Puebla state town of Raboso, some 76 miles southeast of Mexico City where buildings have collapsed, gas lines have ruptured, power outages are widespread and the city’s chaotic traffic is even worse than normal.

The venerable Churubusco Studios, where hundreds of films have been shot, has suffered some damage: “Some walls of the studio have collapsed and some »

- Anna Marie de la Fuente

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Israel’s ‘Foxtrot’ Sweeps Ophir Awards to Become Country’s Oscar Entry

5 hours ago

Samuel Maoz’s “Foxtrot” swept the Ophir Awards — Israel’s version of the Academy Awards — on Tuesday night, taking home eight statues including best picture of the year. The film will now represent Israel in the race for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film.

Earlier this month, “Foxtrot” earned the Silver Lion grand jury prize at the Venice Film Festival, and had been widely tipped to win at home long before the ceremony opened. The film also picked up trophies for best director, best actor, cinematography, editing, music, artistic design and soundtrack.

Israel’s Ophir Awards, held in the port city of Ashdod just before the country takes a communal pause to celebrate the Jewish New Year, is the annual holy of holies for the Israeli film industry, and its most anticipated gathering.

But most noticeable about Tuesday night’s audience was who was not present: Miri Regev, the nation’s firebrand culture minister, was »


- Debra Kamin

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International Newswire: San Sebastian Bids to Become Sales Mecca

6 hours ago

In today’s International Newswire, fall festivals like San Sebastian bid to become movie rights biz bazaars; Disney’s Patagonik and Adrián Suar score another box-office victory in Argentina with soccer comedy ‘My Love or My Passion’; and Modern Times Group conspires with Pinewood TV and Eccho Rights on global arms trade thriller ‘Conspiracy of Silence.’

Adding a frisson for copy editors, reputed Spanish screenwriter Jorge Guerricaechevarría and Brazilian cinematographer André Szankowski have joined the main competition jury of Spain’s San Sebastián Film Festival, headed by John Malkovich. The festival kicks off on Friday with Wim Wenders’ “Submergence,” starring James McAvoy and Alicia Vikander.

The highest-profile movie event in the Spanish-speaking world has already 1,611 industry participants, up 3% on 2016’s final figure and 64% on 2010.

Trading at Toronto looked slow on not only the U.S. domestic market but also on all but the biggest international titles with many sales agents leaving the Canadian festival still in desperate »


- John Hopewell and Leo Barraclough

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Kirsten Dunst Calls Filming ‘Woodshock’ With Mulleavy Sisters ‘Emotionally Draining’

7 hours ago

Woodshock” directors Laura and Kate Mulleavy, who are known as the founders of fashion line Rodarte, stepped out Monday night at the ArcLight Hollywood theater for a red carpet premiere of their first film.

Actresses Rowan Blanchard and Tessa Thompson and model Kara Del Toro were among those who came to show their support, dressed in items designed by the Mulleavy sisters. Stars of the film Kirsten Dunst, Steph DuVall, and Susan Traylor were also in attendance.

“We started out wanting to tell a story about the redwood forest in Humboldt County,” said Laura Mulleavy. “From that landscape we developed the character of Theresa (Dunst), and think of her as a creation myth: a woman who was birthed out of the landscape and beauty and destruction.”

Kate Mulleavy likened the process of creating the film to their entrance into the world of fashion.

“We didn’t go to school for fashion. When »


- Matt Fernandez

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TF1 Studio Broadens Slate with Film Projects From Borsalino, Dimitri Rassam

8 hours ago

Paris– TF1 Studio, the vertically integrated film subsidiary of France’s top commercial network, is pursuing its ambitious acquisition strategy with projects set up at Borsalino Productions and Dimitri Rassam’s On Entertainment, among others.

TF1 Studio is partnering up with Laurent Baudens and Gaelle Nouaille at Paris-based banner Borsalino Productions to co-develop and co-produce the French-language remakes of a pair of hit Latin American movies, Gaz Alazraki’s 2013 Mexican dark comedy film “Nosotros los nobles,” and Juan Taratuto’s 2008 romantic comedy “Un Novio para mi mujer.”

Nosotros los nobles”‘s high-concept plot follows three spoiled children who are forced to get a job after being cut off from their family fortune. Laurent Turner, a popular French screenwriter who notably co-wrote Fred Cavayé “Radin” with Dany Boon, one of 2016’s highest grossing French films.

Cyril Gelblat, whose credits include “Dad in Training” with Manu Payet, is set to direct the French makeover of “Novio para mi mujer »


- Elsa Keslassy

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‘Croods 2’ Revived as Animated Sequel and Jason Blum’s ‘Spooky Jack’ Get Release Dates

8 hours ago

DreamWorks Animation’s “The Croods 2” and a new original feature, “Spooky Jack,” were both added to Universal’s release calendar on Tuesday.

The sequel to 2013’s “The Croods” had been taken off the release schedule and thought to be possibly scrapped. But it is now back on track for a Sept. 18, 2020 release.

The first installment of “The Croods” made $587 million worldwide pointing towards signs of an obvious sequel. Leslie Mann is set to join the returning cast that included Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Cloris Leachman, and Clark Duke.

Plot details are unknown at this time.

Spooky Jack,” which will be exec produced by Jason Blum, is set to open on Sept. 17, 2021. The story follows three siblings who move into an eerie new home and discover that all the creatures we’ve been told don’t exist actually do. They must handle some unusual squatters from mischievous leprechauns and the elusive Big Foot to »


- Justin Kroll

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Film Review: ‘Caniba’

8 hours ago

“This is not fun yet,” a man says halfway through “Caniba,” shortly after piercing his own skin with multiple knife blades. The audience for Verena Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor’s severe, baldly shock-strewn documentary may feel something similar, while suspecting that the “yet” is probably unnecessary. A 90-minute wallow in the intimate company of Japanese cannibal Issei Sagawa — poring over the salacious crimes of his youth, the grim death wish of his future and the love-hate relationship he has with his brother and carer Jun — this latest unidentified factual object from Harvard’s convention-busting Sensory Ethnography Lab project makes a proud point of its unpleasantness. Audiences are invited to consider the nature of their revulsion, and whether it’s rooted simply in fear of the other, or recognition of the abject in themselves.

How illuminating or challenging “Caniba” proves for viewers will depend on their amenability to Paravel and Castaing-Taylor’s amoral stance and literally up-in-your-face technique »


- Guy Lodge

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Matt Damon to Star as Con-Man Doctor in ‘Charlatan’ (Exclusive)

10 hours ago

After headlining two movies that debuted on the fall festival circuit — “Suburbicon” and “Downsizing” — Matt Damon has found a new project. He’s set to star as John R. Brinkley, a real-life 20th century doctor who conned his patients into thinking that he had discovered the cure to impotence, in the drama “Charlatan,” Variety has learned.

The movie marks another collaboration for Damon as a producer with Kimberly Steward, who worked together behind-the-camera on the Oscar-winning drama “Manchester by the Sea.” Steward’s company K Period Media, which she launched in 2013 with a mandate to tell edgy stories, will co-produce the movie with Damon’s Pearl Street Films alongside Jennifer Todd.

Related

Venice Film Review: ‘Suburbicon

The independent film is based on a best-selling 2008 non-fiction book, “Charlatan: America’s Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam,” by Pope Brock. The screenplay will be adapted by the writing team of Brian Koppelman and »


- Ramin Setoodeh

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Brazil Choses ‘Bingo – The King of the Mornings’ as its Foreign-Language Academy Award Submission

10 hours ago

Brazil has selected “Bingo – The King of the Mornings,” one of its most awaited debuts of 2017, as its entry for next year’s foreign-language Academy Award.

Produced by Brazilian production powerhouse Gullane, “Bingo – the King of the Mornings'” candidature also marks a victory for Warner Bros. whose Brazilian office co-produced the title, which will be distributed in Latin america by Warner Latin America.

The submission, voted on by a commission of over 200 film specialists, was announced by the Brazilian Film Academy. It appears to have avoided the polemics of last year’s choice when the publicly declared animosity of one member of the candidature jury towards Cannes competition title “Aquarius” caused three filmmakers to refuse to submit their film for consideration.

Long-anticipated, “Bingo – The King of the Mornings” was chosen from among 22 contenders. It marks the first feature as a director of Daniel Rezende, an award-winning editor on Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life,” José Padilha »


- John Hopewell

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Are You Ready for the Most Exciting Oscar Race in Years?

10 hours ago

The leaves are turning. The Emmys are behind us. The crowds in Venice, Telluride, Colo., and Toronto have dispersed. Oscar season is officially here.

As the industry spins out of the late-summer film festival circuit, which annually grinds the gears of the season to life, this year’s race is shaping up to be one of the most exciting ever observed in the early stages. There are plenty of strong contenders, but no out-and-out frontrunner. There isn’t even an agreed-upon trio of frontrunners, as there was last year when “Manchester by the Sea,” “La La Land” and “Moonlight” burst out of this corridor.

Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” was the first slam-dunk on the scene in July. Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” was the first major festival splash after that, premiering on Aug. 31 within hours of another instant player, Joe Wright’s “Darkest Hour,” though they debuted thousands of miles apart; “Shape” landed in »


- Kristopher Tapley

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Lady Gaga Opens Up About ‘Fear, Body Pain, Anxiety’ in Trailer for Netflix Documentary (Watch)

12 hours ago

Lady Gaga is vulnerable and reflective in the trailer for her Netflix documentary “Gaga: Five Foot Two.”

“When producers wanted me to be sexy, I always put some absurd spin on it that made me feel like I was still in control,” she says in the trailer, as images flash of the pop star in wild costumes.

Later in the trailer, she says she lives with “paranoia, fear, body pain, [and] anxiety.”

Related

Toronto Film Review: ‘Gaga: Five Foot Two

The footage shows Gaga being mobbed by fans, appearing to cry in bed, receiving medical attention, and preparing to perform at the Super Bowl. The football game and production and release of her latest album, “Joanne,” are the film’s primary focus. But it also covers her role on “American Horror Story: Roanoke,” relation with her family, and feud with Madonna.

Chris Moukarbel, a visual artist and documentarian, directed the project.

In »


- Seth Kelley

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BidSlate Teams With Premiere Digital on Delivery Platform (Exclusive)

12 hours ago

Year-old global content rights specialist BidSlate has launched a partnership with leading distributor Premiere Digital, Variety has learned exclusively.

The companies are touting the partnership as an alternative method for filmmakers who rely on film markets and sales agents to sell content. The deal was announced Tuesday by Roland Rojas, president and co-founder of BidSlate and Erik Anderson, president and founder of Premiere Digital Services.

The alliance comes less than a month before Mipcom opens in Cannes on Oct. 16, followed by the Oct. 31 launch of the American Film Market in Santa Monica, Calif.

“It’s our mission to provide every vital tool a filmmaker needs for distribution, from seamless online transactions to post production, delivery and distribution,” said Rojas.  “Our new relationship with Premiere Digital gives us the ability to do just that, allowing filmmakers to concentrate on the important business of making films, while BidSlate and our partners handle the rest.”

BidSlate »


- Dave McNary

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France Sends Robin Campillo’s ‘Bpm (Beats Per Minute)’ to Foreign-Language Oscar Race

14 hours ago

Robin Campillo’s sprawling AIDS activist drama “Bpm (Beats Per Minute)” has been chosen to represent France in the foreign-language Oscar category.

“Bpm” world premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, where it earned widespread critical acclaim and won the Grand Prize from the jury headed by Pedro Almodovar. Represented in international markets and co-produced by Playtime, “Bpm” was acquired by U.S. distribution company The Orchard at Cannes.

“Bpm” marked Campillo’s first foray into Cannes’ competition and proved one of the best received films of the festival’s 70th edition. A topical film which is both universal and deeply rooted in French society, “Bpm” has been sold worldwide to mainstream distributors and is meant to reach audiences well beyond the Lgbt niche.

Variety’s Guy Lodge called the film a “sprawling, thrilling, finally heart-bursting group portrait of Parisian AIDS activists in the early 1990s…and a rare and invaluable non-American view of the global health crisis »


- Elsa Keslassy

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Toronto Film Review: ‘Razzia’

18 hours ago

If political courage were a measure of artistic merit, Moroccan director Nabil Arouch’s “Razzia,” a kaleidoscopic drama about intolerance and social tumult in Casablanca, would be a formidable achievement. As it stands, Arouch’s decision to keep courting controversy after his last film, “Much Loved,” was banned from Morocco for its depiction of prostitution in Marrakech is laudable in a country where the censors hold sway. Yet the everything-is-connected framework, linking five stories across a 30-year span, plays like a multipronged pitchfork wielded against the establishment, with each character sharpened to a point. The message-first approach drains the film of spontaneity and depth, despite the rousing passion of its director. A prime spot in Tiff’s Platform competition will raise its profile, but “Razzia” may struggle to find a home, inside and outside Morocco.

With repeated references to “Casablanca,” Arouch draws a contrast between the romantic and rebellious spirit of the Humphrey Bogart-Ingrid Bergman classic »


- Scott Tobias

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Toronto Film Review: ‘Jane’

19 hours ago

Few living figures outside the realm of religion, politics or entertainment have enjoyed such widespread affection and respect for as long as primatologist Jane Goodall. So it’s somewhat flummoxing to be reminded in Brett Morgen’s new documentary how she was originally treated as a public person: as a “girl scientist” “playing Tarzan” in the jungle, with more ink spilled on her blond hair and long legs than on the breakthrough research that would change how we viewed not only chimpanzees but humanity.

That condescending tenor, sampled in fleeting flashback, is dismissed with a snort by the now 83-year-old subject of “Jane.” Never particularly interested in talking about herself — a matter on which she is characteristically straightforward and plainspoken here — she used the celebrity thrust upon her, then as now, strictly to gain support for her work and causes. Nonetheless, “Jane” provides as much insight as we might hope for (in visual media at least) into »


- Dennis Harvey

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Warner Bros. Signs First-Look Deal With French Company Marvelous Productions (Exclusive)

20 hours ago

Paris – Warner Bros. has signed a first-look deal with Marvelous Productions, the Paris-based outfit launched at Cannes by former top-level execs at Pathé, Romain Le Grand and Vivien Aslanian and producer Marco Pacchioni.

Under the pact, Warner Bros. will have the opportunity to board any French-language project produced or co-produced by Marvelous Productions. The agreement underscores the Hollywood studio’s aim to increase its footprint in local production with strong partners.

“We have a deep respect for the talent and professionalism of the founders of Marvelous Productions, and we are convinced of their ability to deliver quality films that have a wide appeal,” said Iris Knobloch, president of Warner Bros. France.

Over the last few years, Warners Bros. has backed several French movies, most notably Michel Hazanavicius’s Oscar-winning film “The Artist” (pictured).

Le Grand and Aslanian were at the helm of Pathé for 19 years before exiting in 2016. Together, they produced and distributed many franchise-based French comedies »


- Elsa Keslassy

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