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June 22, 2018

June 15th News Report from your Los Angeles Representative

Happy Friday everyone,

There is a lot to discuss this week.

I spent last weekend at the Producers Guild of America conference, but before I comment on that, first story up surely needs to concern Tuesday's landmark ruling which paved the way for the takeover of Time Warner Inc. by AT&T. As reported in the Los Angeles Times below, the merger will transform AT&T into one of Hollywood’s biggest players and could reverberate for years to come by turning the media industry into a land of fewer giants.

In closely related news Comcast made its move this week, unveiling an all-cash bid for large chunks of 21st Century Fox, valued at about $65 billion, trumping The Walt Disney Co.'s deal that was originally valued at $52.4 billion deal for the same parts of the conglomerate. As detailed in the Hollywood Reporter below, the formal bid is expected to lead to a bidding war with Disney.

But back to the Produced By Conference, which was held on the Paramount lot this year and appeared noticeably smaller than in years past.

I always attend every year because while opportunities to actually network with decision-makers have become almost non-existent, the sessions and panels still feature Hollywood royalty and provide a useful 30,000 foot view of industry issues and trends.

This year I attended a session looking at the success of The Handmaid's Tale which featured show runner Bruce Miller, costume designer Ane Crabtree, producer Warren Littlefield, casting director Sherry Thomas and Hulu exec Beatrice Springborn. Although the focus was on the production's creative elements and Ontario itself was not lauded as much as I had hoped, I was struck by the intense level of excitement around the panel and the show. There was a waiting list to get inside and audience members were rapt and hanging onto every word. Ontario stakeholders who work on this show should know that they are contributing to something which has uniquely captured the zeitgeist of fear and uncertainty during this period in North American history.

Another huge takeaway for me last weekend was just how much the Me Too movement has pushed issues around diversity and gender parity to the forefront. I cannot stress enough how important the conversation around diversity is now, as compared before October 5th, 2017 when a New York Times article about Harvey Weinstein's alleged abuses opened the floodgates.

A question from an audience member during a conversational panel with Marvel producer Kevin Feige exemplified this sea change for me. The 75-minute session was essentially a love-in for Feige who has made an astonishing 19 number one movies for Marvel in the past 10 years, and he was undeniably charming and humble. Feige said all the right things when asked about his commitment to gender parity, but the tone still shifted rapidly when a brave audience member asked whether this meant that since every one of his last 19 movies had male directors, we should expect that his next 20 would feature a woman at the helm.

It was a truly electric moment which brought scattered applause and noticeably rattled Feige, who pointed out that Anna Boden was co-directing the upcoming Captain Marvel. Feige went on to say that in the past agents had submitted for directing consideration nearly all men, but these days up to 90% of the candidates he was seeing were female, which was sure to result in many more female directors to come.

On that note, actor Brie Larson made headlines this week at the Women in Film Los Angeles Crystal + Lucy Awards when she announced that t he Sundance and Toronto film festivals will both allocate 20 percent of press credentials to underrepresented journalists going forward. Deadline has details below.

A new study released by the Milken Institute this week indicates that California continues to have a hard time keeping up with the competition when it comes to film and TV tax incentives. As reported in the LA Times below, the study recommends that California increase its annual financial incentives to match or exceed New York’s $420 million a year.

Finally this week, I'm pleased to once again finish up with good news for Ontario stakeholders. As detailed in Playback below, during a panel discussion at the Banff Media Festival this week, it was evident that Canadian companies are increasingly scaling up and developing the ability to commission their own projects without relying on a green light from a traditional broadcaster.

Warmest regards,

Kelly Graham-Scherer
Los Angeles Representative
Toronto/ Ontario Film Office

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