PBS's POV, New York Times Pact on Digital Documentary Series

By Todd Spangler, Variety

POV, the long-running PBS documentary series, and The New York Times Co. have formed a partnership to present a series of online-only documentaries, with companion articles and interviews, over the course of 2014.

Terms of the deal weren't disclosed. The new docus will be available on both organizations' websites, at pbs.org/pov and nytimes.com.

Partnership will kick off this Saturday, March 8, with half-hour film "The Men of Atalissa" by New York Times columnist and reporter Dan Barry and Kassie Bracken, a video journalist at the paper. The docu tells the story of a few dozen men with intellectual disabilities in an Iowa farming community who lived in an old schoolhouse on top of a hill — and the day-to-day abuse they endured.

In addition to the film, the Times will publish an article by Barry online, and POV will feature a behind-the-scenes online interview with the journalists. Barry's article will appear in the Sunday print edition of paper. "The Men of Atalissa" is produced by Bracken, Barry and John Woo, senior staff editor for video at the Times and former editor with POV Digital.

"Documentaries and journalism are natural allies, and our collaboration with The New York Times represents the best of both worlds," Cynthia Lopez, co-exec producer of POV, said in announcing the deal. "With this initiative, nonfiction filmmakers will join forces with the newsroom's top journalists to inform and engage the public about critical social issues."

POV and the New York Times have previously worked together, including in a special forum held in 2011 about the Pentagon Papers with Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the classified documents to the newspaper in 1971. That became part of POV's Oscar-nominated film "The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers."

POV, produced by American Documentary, is in its 27th season on PBS, making it the longest-running documentary series on U.S. TV.

Can the Wrong Tweet Destroy a Showbiz Career?

By Randee Dawn, Variety

It's not always easy to know the exact moment when your job shifts gears, but Prime co-founder and partner Joy Fehily is pretty sure she has a good idea: It was a few years ago, when one of her clients was rumored to be the next Bond girl. Suddenly, the publicist recalls, the actress was "inundated with Twitter inquiries and congratulations." Working together, the pair dispelled the rumor with a tweet of their own.

"And that was the end of it," she says.

It was an ending that couldn't have been written 10 years ago, when Facebook was in its infancy and Twitter still to be born. But today's social-media revolution has changed all that, turning consumers into reporters, and reporters into high-metabolizing information machines. Along the way, it has also transformed the role of the publicist by giving anyone who has access to the Internet some influence over the flow of information.

Today, mitigation, damage control and corrections are major staples of publicists' diets.

A series of negative or positive tweets on a movie's opening weekend, for instance, "can literally affect the outcome of your weekend box office," says Dennis Rice, CEO of Visio Entertainment. "You have to take the lead and manage the information out there; otherwise, someone else will manage it for you."

Education is the watchword for publicists, who need their clients to be savvy about social media. If clients are interested in using some of the platforms, 42 West founder and partner Leslee Dart says they guide them with "some 'best practices' to ensure they understand how best to use each platform to communicate with their friends and the public."

Adds fellow 42 West partner Amanda Lundberg, "For directors and producers who tweet, it can be very impactful when they want to get a message up out there.' " She recalls a director who was on the blunt end of a stick wielded by audiences who did not care for his adaptation of a beloved book. During the promotion for his next film, he opened up on social media with his explanation.

"My job is, No. 1, support their projects; No. 2, help brand them and help them understand what's appropriate; No. 3, make sure they know it's not all about selfies — be a well-rounded person online; and No. 4, be aware of security concerns," says Howard Bragman, founder of Fifteen Minutes PR and vice chair of Reputation.com. "Don't say something if it puts you in danger. I've absolutely had to have them delete a tweet."

But the real education has been in publicists teaching themselves to use social media as a promotional tool.

Kelly Bush, CEO and founder of ID-PR, notes that many actor contracts, particularly ones that deal with endorsements, now come with specific language about the timing of their posts. She also enthuses about using less ubiquitous social media platforms, such as Reddit's "Ask Me Anything."

ID-PR's creative department wrote the creative for Dannon's "Full House" Super Bowl spot and did all the teaser and additional content around that effort. The unit also crafted a "Netflix adultery" campaign, which involved commissioning a survey on viewing habits of couples who secretly watch shows before their partner.

"If you're strategic about it," says Bush, "you can use social media to tease details to your advantage and lay the groundwork for a long campaign."

Lauri Metrose, senior VP of communications for CBS Television Studios, says they've done everything from pairing the cast of "NCIS: Los Angeles" with iPhones and Instagram accounts, to posting pictures from backstage, to putting "NCIS" showrunner Gary Glasberg on Facebook to explain directly to perturbed fans why a favored actress was leaving. "Social media used to be the gravy in our campaigns," she says. "Now, it's the meat. It has to be part of our campaigns."

"It's an inevitable evolution of technology," says Visio's Rice. "Regardless of how hard it makes your job, you have to embrace it. I'm sure it's taken several years off of my life, worrying about how things will go. But it's also part of what makes this job so exciting."

What State Is the Movie-Making Capital of the World? Hint: It's Not California or New York

By Todd Cunningham, The Wrap

When it comes to major movies, California is no longer the world's production capital - that would be Louisiana, according to a new study released Thursday.

Eighteen of the 108 films released last year that were produced by the major studios and the five biggest independents were shot in the Bayou State, according to the 2013 Feature Film Production Study from FilmL.A., the region's non-profit permitting agency. Paramount's "G.I. Joe: Retaliation," Focus Features' "Dallas Buyers Club" and Warner Bros.' "Grudge Match" were among the movies shot in Louisiana.

California and Canada were next with 15, followed by the U.K. with 12 and the state of Georgia with nine. Surprisingly, New York was the primary filming location for just four films in the study, but was used as a secondary location for seven. California served as a secondary site for 10 films.

The surveyed films represent $7.6 billion in direct spending and tens of thousands of jobs in an array of professions, the report found.

The United States is still the No. 1 nation for film production, with 70 features shot here. But California is now sharing its former wealth with a number of other states that offer more lucrative tax credits and film incentives. Twenty different states and foreign countries were used as primary production locations. 

And things would look even more bleak for California were it not for animated movies like "Monsters University," "The Croods" and "Frozen." In terms of just live-action, California now ranks fourth behind Louisiana, the U.K. and Canada in feature projects, spending and jobs.

The numbers confirm what most people in California's film and TV industry feared. The state's share of projects has been steadily eroding since 1997, when Canadian provinces began offering significant tax credits for TV producers and filmmakers. Now, more than 40 U.S. states and a dozen foreign countries offer incentives and it's taken a serious toll on the state.

California produced 68 percent of the top 25 movies at the worldwide box office in 1997. In 2013, it was down to eight percent. Of the 26 live-action films with production budgets over $100 million, just two — "The Hangover Part III" and "Star Trek: Into Darkness" — were filmed primarily in California.

The state hosted only nine other live-action movies in the study, and they had a combined budget value of $194 million in spending. Five of these films (accounting for $161 million in spending) were only able to film in California because of the state's tax credit program.

(It won't get any better this year. Only two films with budgets over $100 million that are set for release in 2014 — "Captain America: Winter Soldier" and "Interstellar" – were shot in the state.)

There's a solution to the state's runaway production problem, according to FilmL.A. president Paul Audley.

"Considering California's vast filmmaking talent, the state should be exporting films for global audiences, not jobs to global competitors," he said. "State policymakers have the opportunity to make a difference this year by expanding California's film and television tax credit. We hope they give the strongest possible signal to the film industry that they want to keep film jobs in California."

The state Legislature is considering a bill introduced last month that would expand the state's incentive program that was launched in 2009 to make big budget movies and network TV shows eligible for the tax breaks for the first time.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, a proponent of the legislation, said the survey made clear how important the industry was to the region and state.

"The film and entertainment industries are absolutely essential to California's middle class, and this underscores the importance of our work to level the playing field against the other states and countries who are luring our jobs away," said Garcetti. "These jobs not only support California families, they generate revenues that pay for schools, infrastructure, and other state services."

The FilmL.A. study focused on films that were produced by the six major studios in Southern California — Disney, Warner Bros., Universal, Paramount. Sony and 20th Century Fox — and five of the best-known independent studios: DreamWorks, Lionsgate, the Weinstein Company, Film District and Relativity.

The 108 films sampled included 10 animated films and 98 live-action features, most of which were filmed in 2012 and 2013, though 23 were shot in 2011 or earlier. The production budgets ranged from $1.25 million to $225 million, and the average was $71 million.

Call for Entries: SAG Foundation NY Shorts Showcase

The Screen Actors Guild Foundation is now accepting submissions from all states east of the Mississippi for its June 2014 NY Shorts Showcase – now in year five!
The deadline for submissions is 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 24th. All entries received after that date will be placed in contention for our October 2014 event.
Webseries produced under a union contract are also eligible for consideration.
There is no entry fee, nor is there a cost to attend the screening, which is held in New York City, three times a year.
All shorts MUST be produced under a SAG-AFTRA union contract, and not run more than 20 minutes, including credits – no exceptions.
The showcase is open to all types of cinematic expression, and is designed to encourage union members, and others, to create their own projects. In addition to the screening, the evening includes a Q+A with the directors and producers, and an opportunity to network with those in attendance.
Filmmakers may submit a regular DVD copy of their film – no Blu-Ray, please -- which should be clearly labeled with a title, the director's name, an email contact address and the project's SAG-AFTRA production number to:
1900 Broadway – 5th Flr.
New York NY 10023
You will only be notified if your film has been selected for the screening.  DVDs will not be returned. 

Stars Speak Out For Inclusive Hollywood at NHMC Impact Awards Gala

From LatinoLA

The National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) honored Cesar Chavez director Diego Luna, Academy Award-nominated Demian Bichir, legendary actor and filmmaker Edward James Olmos, actress Emily Rios, American Hustle and Nebraska executive producer George Parra, and Comcast NBCUniversal on February 28 at the 17th Annual NHMC Impact Awards Gala at the historic Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills. Filly Brown star Gina Rodriguez and former Miss Universe and star in 2013 film 200 Cartas Dayanara Torres were the evening's masters of ceremonies.

The NHMC Impact Awards Gala recognizes the outstanding achievements and contributions to the positive portrayals of Latinos in media, and is one of the premiere Latino entertainment events in the country, hosting Hollywood's most influential figures.

At the gala, Diane Kruger presented her The Bridge co-star Demian Bichir with the Outstanding Performance in a Television Series award for his performance in the F/X series. Accepting the award, Bichir recognized the importance of fighting stereotypes, lauded the role of Latino arts leaders in developing Latino talent, and urged the Latino community to support Latino films, saying, "We need to go to the theaters, and fill up [those theaters], so everyone knows we are making those films." Bichir also affirmed his support to immigration reform advocates, saying "Count on me please." Bichir continued, "We are telling everyone in Congress that immigration reform is about...human things," reminding the country's lawmakers that immigration reform is about real people-the large and diverse immigrant community.

Rosario Dawson, star in the upcoming Cesar Chavez, presented the Outstanding Direction in a Motion Picture award to the film's director, Diego Luna. Luna accepted the award saying, "I feel honored," and dedicated it to those working for immigration reform, and who recognize "those who are feeding this country, who are building this country, who are working to make America what it is today."

Luna also dedicated the award to his two children, including his California-born son, who inspired him to make the film, saying "I realized how important it is to tell every kid in America who Cesar Chavez was, and what the farmworkers movement achieved in the 60s and 70s," and expressed his hope that viewers of his film leave the theater "thinking and asking themselves where their food comes from. If we do that, we've achieved something big." Luna also joined Bichir's call to the Latino community to support films like the upcoming Cesar Chavez to "send the message that we want Latinos to be represented in films," including "the stories of our heroes."

Michael D. Olmos accepted the Lupe Ontiveros Indomitable Spirit Award on behalf of his father, Edward James Olmos. Inaugurated in 2013, the Lupe Ontiveros Indomitable Spirit Award is presented to media and entertainment leaders for their outspoken and relentless commitment to advocacy and increasing the visibility of the Latino community's achievements and contributions to this country.

In a message delivered via his son, Edward James Olmos thanked NHMC and said, "To my dear, passionate, fierce Lupe: I am humbled and proud to accept this award so correctly named after you, for you are and forever will be an indomitable spirit. I miss you my friend." In a pre-recorded acceptance speech, Edward James Olmos expressed hope that more artists start to take action to support the Latino community, saying, "whenever the National Hispanic Media Coalition calls on you, you help them." Recalling past moments, Michael D. Olmos said that he learned that his father's courageous advocacy was based on his belief that "that is the way we should all live our lives, that we should be willing to sacrifice everything for those who need it the most, and that the Indomitable Spirit we're talking about starts at home."

Matthew Lillard presented his The Bridge co-star Emily Rios with the Outstanding Performance in a Television Series award for her performance in the F/X series. Rios accepted the award saying, "I understand our public responsibility in this industry, as a Latina," and recognized the "dignity" of the show's production and distribution company for breaking ground with its inclusion of bilingual dialogue.

NHMC also honored George Parra, executive producer of American Hustle and Nebraska, with the Excellence in Motion Picture Producing award. In accepting his award, Parra acknowledged the difficulty he had as a Latino to achieving a firmly established 28 year-long career in the film industry, and affirmed that Latinos are in all facets of the media industry and "should be given equal opportunity and recognition." Parra, who also thanked his Colombian and Spanish immigrant parents, said he hopes that the evening's honorees are a "testament that there is a growth of Latinos in mainstream Hollywood."

NHMC also presented Comcast NBCUniversal with the Outstanding Diversity Practices award. NHMC recognized Comcast for its successful efforts to increase diversity in the workplace. David L. Cohen, Executive Vice President of Comcast Corporation, accepted the award on behalf of the company.

Other special guests and presenters included: Adam Rodriguez (CSI: Miami); Rosario Dawson (Cesar Chavez); Diane Kruger (The Bridge); Matthew Lillard (The Bridge); Judy Marte (NYC 22); Arturo Rodriguez, President of the United Farm Workers of America; Sonny Skyhawk, veteran Hollywood actor and Founder & CEO at American Indians in Film & Television; Nick Ontiveros, son of iconic actress Lupe Ontiveros; Tony Hernandez, co-founder and executive producer of the Immigrant Archive Project, and recipient of the inaugural Lupe Ontiveros Indomitable Spirit Award; and NHMC President & CEO Alex Nogales.

For more information about the 17th Annual NHMC Impact Awards, visit: www.nhmc.org/impactawards

The Filmmaker's Guide to Using the Top Social Media Sites

My latest post for MovieMaker Magazine covers social media basics for the top 5 social channels. I have written posts regarding social media basics before, but this piece will include Pinterest and Instagram which I did not cover last time. As you may know, I do not view social media as a campaign oriented endeavor. Campaigns are only conducted for a set amount of time (usually for a sales promotion), but I think it is important to understand that social channels are an every day effort; they should be integrated into your creative life indefinitely. The sooner you start using them professionally, the easier it will be to gain benefit from them, especially if you are thinking of self distributing or crowd funding. Here are some highlights:

#1 Facebook 750 million unique visits per month

What do you do with it? Use it to start and maintain an ongoing relationship with your audience. Ask for feedback, start a discussion, or post your views on a current event.  Try to remember, if you only talk about yourself and your work, it’s a boring conversation for everyone else unless you are a celebrity that they are truly interested in. Champion your followers and other artists.  As opposed to the fleeting nature of Twitter, Facebook pages are meant for deeper discussions and closer relationships with your supporters.

The indie documentary DMT: The Spirit Molecule is a good Facebook example to follow
#2 Youtube 450 million unique visits per month

What do you do with it? Build a video subscriber base.  View counts on videos are great and definitely have a use in securing optimal placement in Youtube search and publicity attention (though it will take many millions of views for it to have an impact on press coverage), but your subscribers are the ones who will see your new videos in their homepage newsfeed and receive an email when you post something new.  Also, encourage Likes, comments and shares of your videos as that impacts how Youtube ranks your channel in its search results. If you aren’t prepared to fill this channel with regular content that is HIGHLY compelling, don’t use this social tool.

FreddieW's YouTube Channel has over 6.5 million subscribers.
#3 Twitter 250 million unique visits per month

What do you do with it? Use it to post short (less than 140 character) messages that are funny, informative, or reflect your outlook on life.  Not only will you be connecting with the audience of your work, you will also find Twitter a great industry networking tool (for jobs!) and a place to connect with journalists (for media coverage). Make sure that your Twitter handle is posted on all of your communication including email signature and newsletters, website, other social channels, business cards and any About You section where your name is included.

#4 Pinterest 85 million unique visits per month

What do you do with it? Use it to post photos and videos found or created online. Pinterest runs on  well made and captivating images. People who use this social channel are looking for visual masterpieces or images that speak to their lives and emotions. Filmmakers may use Pinterest to tell a visual story about how they became the artists they are; influences, professional tools, and the tastes, style and personality behind the work. For individual projects, Pinterest can be used to tell a backstory on characters (individual boards set up to further explain a character), information on the setting of the story, and mood boards that give the audience a sense of what the film is, apart from just a trailer or poster.

Indie film producer Ted Hope uses Pinterest to show the world who he is and what he cares about professionally.
#5 Instagram 50 million unique visits per month

What do you do with it? Use it to post photos and videos taken with a mobile device as your visual representation of every day life rather than a place to post high quality images. Instagram is being used to post on-the-fly photos and short videos taken on the set and making 15 second short trailers and character teaser clips specifically for mobile viewing. Feedback is instantaneous so you will know very quickly if your project is capturing attention and gaining followers.
The full article details how to set up accounts on each social channel and some examples of independent filmmakers to emulate because they excel at building an audience on these channels.

San Diego Latino Film Festival Announces Complete Film Line-up & Schedule

MEDIA ARTS Center San Diego is proud to announce the complete FILM line-up & SCHEDULE of its' 21st Annual San Diego Latino Film Festival (March 13-23, 2014). This year's film festival will take place at UltraStar Mission Valley Cinemas Hazard Center and the organization's very own Digital Gym CINEMA in North Park 

Search complete festival line-up & film schedule by visiting:  Complete list of films (A-Z)By Specific Festival DatesSearch by specific genre or country, &/or byShowcase 

This year's film festival consists of over 150+ films from throughout Latin America, Mexico, Spain, & U.S.  Comediesfamily filmsU.S. Premiereshorror flicks, award-winning documentaries & much more!

Plus, new films with Latino Cinema's biggest stars Gael Garcia BernalJohn Leguizamo,Martha HigaredaKuno BeckerHector JimenezAna SerradillaEmilio RiveraMiguel RodarteKarla SouzaPlutarco HazaEdith Gonzalez y más! 

Individual movie tickets can be purchased in advance on-line via each specific film's webpage.  Also, advanced tickets will be available at the UltraStar Box office and Digital Gym CINEMA box office starting on March 1st.  


$200 FESTIVAL PASS – Click here to Purchase Online!
Includes OVER 100 programs, no waiting in lines, VIP seating, 4 workshops, 1 year FREE MEDIA ARTS CENTER SAN DIEGO Amigo membership, and entrance into all three Festival Galas. Show your Membership Card for special benefits during the festival! The Festival Pass is NON-TRANSFERRABLE – a $1,400 value


$100 FILM PASS - Click here to Purchase Online!
Includes entrance to 11 films, no waiting in lines and VIP seating. The Festival Pass is NON-TRANSFERABLE – a $126.50 value

$45.00 5-MOVIE TICKET PACK Click here to Purchase Online!
See any 5 movies for only $45! Get the Movie Ticket Pack today. - a $57.50 value!  

More Info619-230-1938gheath@mediaartscenter.org

Report Urges Spain to Take Advantage of Hispanic Surge in U.S.

From EFE

A report presented by The Hispanic Council says that in 2025 one in every four Americans will be of Latino origin and that there are already more Hispanics in the United States than Spaniards in Spain, and it urges this European country to strengthen relations with that U.S. community.

The conclusions of the study entitled “El auge de la comunidad hispana en EEUU” (The rise of the Hispanic community in the U.S.) were discussed at the Casa de America in Madrid when they are presented by The Hispanic Council, a think-tank with offices in the U.S. and Spanish capitals.

“Spain should not let this historic opportunity to strengthen its Atlantic links pass by,” said Hispanic Council director Daniel Ureña, since “it has a competitive advantage compared with other countries” thanks to cultural ties such as a common language.

The study emphasizes that the influence of the Hispanic community on U.S. policy will be decisive in the future, given that the 52 million people comprising the most important U.S. minority could have cast 24 million votes in the last elections but only 12 million of them went to the polls, thus making the social group a “sleeping giant.”

The report notes the importance over the past decade of the great increase in the number of Hispanics who have registered to vote in states other than traditional Latino strongholds such as California, Texas, Florida and New York.

INDUSTRY INSIGHTS: Do Your Actors Own Your Film?

By Mark Litwak Esq., Attorney at Law

Novice actors are generally thought to have very little power in Hollywood.  Many wait tables and drive taxis while awaiting their big break.  Even top stars usually have little control over their films, compared to producers, directors and the studios that finance and distribute them. However, all that may change as a result of a recent court decision.

In a case that may have far-reaching implications for the movie industry, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found that an actress had established a likelihood of success in her claim of copyright infringement, on the basis she had an independent interest in a film by virtue of her performance in it, without signing any document granting rights to the producer.  

Cindy Lee Garcia had agreed to perform a minor role in an independent film with the working title "Desert Warrior." She thought she was playing a character in an Arabian adventure story and worked for three days and received $500 dollars for her performance.  However, Garcia's scene was never used in the film she thought she was appearing in.  Instead a five-second clip was used in a controversial anti-Islamic 13-minute video trailer titled the "Innocence of Muslims." Her performance was partially dubbed so that her character appeared to be asking, "Is your Mohammed a child molester?" 

Not surprisingly this film caused outrage in the Muslim world, with protests and violence injuring hundreds and killing more than 50 persons. One Egyptian cleric issued a fatwa, calling for the killing of all those involved with the movie, and Garcia received numerous death threats.  She was forced to take extensive security precautions when traveling and relocated her home and business as a precaution.  This is the film that sparked international media attention when the Obama administration mentioned it as possible cause for the 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

The case is precedent setting because it acknowledges that an actor can have a separate copyright interest in a film they are hired to perform in.  Under this rationale, if a producer has not secured the rights to their actors' performances, a single actor could conceivably halt distribution of a blockbuster film causing enormous losses to its owners.

Producers generally secure rights to their actor's performance either on the basis of 1) the actor being an employee working within the scope of their employment; 2) with a written work for hire agreement; or 3) by having the actor sign an assignment of their rights.  However, considering the exigencies of production, it is not unusual for the production to fail to sign up a few actors. The repercussions for failing to have signed legally binding agreements with every actor may be more profound than previously thought.

In this case, the actress contacted Google and attempted to have the film removed from YouTube. Google refused, because they did not think that she had any ownership interest in the film. After filing eight takedown notices under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to no avail, she brought suit. The trial court denied her request for an injunction to remove the film from YouTube. While she did not claim copyright ownership in the entire film, she did assert that her performance within the film was independently copyrightable and that she retained an interest in that copyright. That, she argued, should be enough to force Google to take down the film from the Internet. 

Her performance was based on a script given her, so her creative contributions were only her body language, facial expression and reactions to other actors in the scene.  Judge Kozinski, writing for the majority, found that "An actor's performance, when fixed, is copyrightable if it evinces "some minimal degree of creativity . . . 'no matter how crude, humble or obvious' it might be."  He explained, "That is true whether the actor speaks, is dubbed over or, like Buster Keaton, performs without any words at all." 

The court reasoned that an actor's performance that's part of a larger film, may itself constitute an independently copyrightable "work." Admittedly, the actress did not write or have any ownership in the script or other scenes in the movie. The court noted that "Where, as here, an actor's performance is based on a script, the performance is likewise derivative of the script, such that the actor might be considered to have infringed the screenwriter's copyright. And an infringing derivative work isn't entitled to copyright protection." The court then reasoned that because the producers gave her the script they implicitly granted her a license to perform the screenplay. So while Garcia did not have any claim on the underlying script, and her contributions were minimal, they were likely sufficient for her to prevail and secure an injunction stopping distribution of the movie.  

The case is also extraordinary for what it says about the status of actors as employees. It is generally thought within the industry that cast members should be characterized as employees of the production company. This is certainly the position that the IRS takes when it comes to penalizing producers who attempt to hire cast as independent contractors.  California has cracked down on employers who mischaracterize employees.  As of January 1, 2012, a new California law creates large penalties for employers who misclassify their workers as independent contractors.  Labor Code Section 3357 creates a rebuttable presumption that a worker is an employee.

The key issue in determining whether a person is an employee or an independent contractor is the extent the employer controls the work of the employee.  Actors have very little control over when, where and how they perform their roles. That is why the industry almost always pays them as employees. However, the Ninth Circuit found that because the actress was hired for a specific task, worked only three days and received no health or other traditional employment benefits, she was not an employee.  This is contrary to other cases, which have found that actors should be classified as employees rather than independent contractors.   Furthermore, if actors are not employees, then they may not be covered by worker's compensation insurance and the producer can be liable for their workplace injuries.

While a producer can secure ownership of a performance with a work for hire contract, Garcia did not sign one, and she claims a purported agreement signed by her is a forgery.  The court dismissed the argument that Garcia granted the producer an implied license to use her performance by performing in the film. Since Garcia was told she'd be acting in an adventure film set in ancient Arabia and that was not the case, the court concluded that the scope of any implied license was exceeded. "The film differs so radically from anything Garcia could have imagined when she was cast that it can't possibly be authorized by any implied license she granted…" according to Judge Kozinski.  In other words, because the producer misled Garcia as to the nature of the film, any consent was void. Under this rationale, producers who mislead cast members about a film could find themselves without any rights to their performance.  Many day players and extras are never given the entire script to review when hired. 

This single decision is remarkable by changing a number of basic principles on which the movie industry operates. It provides the basis for an actor to claim copyright ownership in his or her performance in a film that they did not write, direct or produce. It creates doubt as to whether cast members working for just a few days should be classified as employees rather than independent contractors. And it raises the specter that if a film is significantly changed by its producers, or if they don't make full disclosure to an actor, they could end up without consent to use their footage absent a signed agreement.  Moreover, while professionals in the movie industry make a concerted effort to secure signed releases from cast and crew, that is not the case with amateur filmmakers who upload millions of homemade videos onto the internet. This decision could provide the basis for anyone appearing in such a movie to demand that YouTube remove it if they don't approve of their performance. 

Judge N.R. Smith criticized the majority decision in his dissent pointing out "We have never held that an actress's performance could be copyrightable."  The author of a work is the person who exercises creative control over the creation of a work and fixes it in a fixed tangible medium of expression.  Garcia "was not the originator of ideas or concepts. She simply acted out others' ideas or script. Her brief appearance in the film, even if a valuable contribution to the film, does not make her an author," he wrote.  And Garcia did not record her performance into a tangible medium of expression, one of the criteria for copyright protection. 

This is not the first case where a minor contributor to a film claimed copyright ownership in it. In Aalmuhammed v. Lee , a consultant for the movie "Malcom X" brought suit against Spike Lee and his production company, claiming to be a joint author. The consultant maintained that he reviewed and made revisions to the script, which were included in the film.  The Ninth Circuit in a 2000 decision said, "[m]ost of the revisions . . . were to ensure the religious and historical accuracy and authenticity of scenes depicting Malcolm X's religious conversion and pilgrimage to Mecca." Although the consultant claimed he had directed Denzel Washington and other actors, created two new scenes, supplied his own voice for voice-overs and edited parts of the movie, the court concluded that in order for a joint work to exist, each author must make an independently copyrightable contribution. And while this consultant provided valuable input for the film, the court held that was not copyrightable.  

The Supreme Court as far back as 1884  held that a photographer who took a picture of Oscar Wilde was its author for copyright purposes. The person who controls the creation of a work is deemed its author, not the subject who poses for a picture. In another case a person who closely supervised the filming of a movie was deemed the author of the movie, not the person who actually photographed it. The author had created storyboards for a film documenting the underwater wreck of the Titanic, identified specific camera angles and shooting sequences, and directed the underwater filming from a ship on the surface.   So the person who exercises creative control over a work has been considered its author, not those employed to fulfill his vision.

Although Google has taken down the film, it has filed an emergency motion to stay the decision pending a rehearing before a larger panel at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Google argues that "Under the panel's rule, minor players in everything from Hollywood films to home videos can wrest control of those works from their creators, and service providers like YouTube will lack the ability to determine who has a valid copyright claim." 

This is that rare decision which unites Internet companies, movie studios and First Amendment advocates in opposition. 

About Mark Litwak: Mark Litwak is a veteran entertainment attorney and producer's rep based in Beverly Hills, California. He is the author of six books including: Dealmaking in the Film and Television Industry, Contracts for the Film and Television Industry, and Risky Business: Financing and Distributing Independent Film. He is an adjunct professor at USC Gould School of Law, and the creator of the Entertainment Law Resources with lots of free information for filmmakers (www.marklitwak.com). He can be reached at law2@marklitwak.com

Internet Libre: A Webinar on Network Neutrality

"Imagine if one day you were restricted from using your favorite websites and applications. A recent court decision jeopardizes the freedom we have all come to enjoy on the Internet." -Edward James Olmos

A recent federal court decision did away with Network Neutrality, a set of rules that ensured that we were able to tell our own stories, organize and conduct business online. Latino journalists, creators, small business owners and activists depend on an open Internet as a platform to share our stories and distribute our work. For all communities, the Internet is critical to apply for jobs, to our children's education and to access vital services. 

The court decision clears the path for Internet service providers to collude with big businesses to lift up the voices of the rich and powerful and minimize the voices of all others, reintroducing the barriers that have kept Latinos and other people of color away from accurate and meaningful mainstream media representation throughout history.

An Internet without Network Neutrality puts Latinos at a disadvantage to participate in our economy and democracy.

That's why we need your help.  Join this webinar to learn more about Network Neutrality and to find out how you can help save the Internet. 

This webinar is hosted by the Voices for Internet Freedom Coalition, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the National Association of Latino Independent Producers.


Date: Thu, Mar 6, 2014
Time: 1:00 PM EST
Duration: 1 hour
Host(s): Voices for Internet Freedom


Michael Scurato
Michael Scurato is the Policy Director at the National Hispanice Media Coalition and works out of their Washington D.C. office. 

Ruth Livier
Ms. Livier is perhaps best known for her role in the groundbreaking, award-winning hit TV series Resurrection Blvd. She is an award winning actress, writer and new media pioneer.

Rosa Alonso
Rosa Alonso is Founder and Creator of the technology lifestyle blog "Mi Vida Tec" and President of Forache Productions LLC, a marketing, mobile/digital, multimedia and multicultural business consulting firm.

Hugo Balta
Hugo Balta is the president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalist. Balta is an experienced Broadcasting and Digital Media Professional who has directed frowth, change and innovation in several markets, divisions and business cycles. 

Vanessa Martinez Bell
Vanessa Martinez Bell is a bicultural Latina, who together with her husband is raising two biracial/bicultural children. She blogs at DeSuMama.com on topics of personal identity, positive parenting, bicultural life and legacy building.

Axel Caballero
Axel Caballero is the executive director for the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP.) He is also the founder of Cuéntame and the Spanish language opinion site Metaforapolitica.

Alfonso Cuaron First Latino to Win Best Director Oscar

By Christian Deverille, Liberty Voice

Alfonso Cuarón has become the first Latino to win the Oscar for Best Director, winning it for the sci-fi film Gravity. Cuarón beat fellow nominees David O. Russell, Martin Scorsese, Alexander Payne, and Steve McQueen to win the Oscar at the 86th Academy Awards. The director was the hot favorite to win the Best director Oscar, having won the Golden Globe, the Directors Guild of America Award and the BAFTA.

Cuarón, a Mexican, was the fourth Latino to be nominated in the Best Director category after Hector Babenco for Kiss of the Spider Woman, Fernando Meirelles for City of God and Alejandro González Iñárritu for Babel. The Oscar for best director was not Cuarón’s first Oscar either, he won for best editing for Gravity earlier on in the night.

Gravity tells the story of Dr. Ryan Stone, played by Sandra Bullock, whose shuttle is destroyed in space. George Clooney also stars in the movie as astronaut Matt Kowalsky. Cuarón himself dreamed of being an astronaut when growing up and his love of space is evident in the beautifully shot science-fiction space drama.

It only took Cuarón seven feature films to become the first Latino to win the Best Director Oscar. His previous works included the highly successful Y tu Mama Tambien and Harry Potter: The Prisoner of Azkaban. It was also his first feature film since Children of Men in 2006, for which Cuarón received an Oscar nomination for best adapted screenplay. That year, he was also nominated for best editing for the same film. Four years before, in 2003, he was nominated for best original screenplay for Y tu Mama Tambien.

Becoming the first Latino to win the Best Director Oscar was an emotional moment for Cuarón. In his speech, he gave a special thanks to Sandra Bullock, telling her she was the film. He also thanked the two administration teams at Warner Bros  who were involved in the production, a reference to the years it took to get it made. Those years were a transformative experience, Cuarón said. He then joked that for many involved in the film the transformation had been wisdom while for him it has been the color of his hair. Cuarón went on to end his speech with some words in Spanish to those closest to him,  as the occasion overwhelmed him.

Understandably too, considering the magnitude of Cuarón’s achievement of not only winning the Oscar, but for becoming the first Latino to win the Best Director Oscar. Cuarón received a tweet offering congratulations from the Mexican president after receiving the award and said he hoped the win would help bring more Mexican filmmakers and culture into the limelight.

The limelight is where Cuarón will be right now after his Oscar win, which could prove to be as transformative as the making of Gravity itself. Cuarón was already a very successful director both at home and abroad before becoming the first Latino to win the Best Director Oscar, however the Oscar will elevate him into the elite. That status might mean he does not have to wait so long for his projects to get made and it will increase expectations of his performance. Cuarón will next write a screenplay titled A Boy and his Shoe, a story set in Scotland, written alongside his son Jonas. That project will be eagerly awaited by movie fans keen to see if Cuarón can deliver another film as poetically dramatic and successful as Gravity.

HBO Orders 'The Brink' TV Series With Esai Morales

HBO has given a series order to the dark comedy "The Brink," which means Esai Morales will be the the next Latino President of the United States (his pal Jimmy Smits held that office first on TV).  The pilot script was written by Roberto Benabib and Kim Benabib, directed by Jay Roach and exec produced by Jerry Weintraub.

The series revolves around the geopolitical crisis effect on three men US Secretary of State Walter Hollander (Tim Robbins); lowly Foreign Service officer Alex Coppins (Jack Black); and an ace Navy fighter pilot named Zeke Callahan (Pablo Schreiber). They must pull through the chaos around them to save the planet from World War III.  Morales play Julian Navarro, the President of the United States.

Morales has been a very busy actor lately.  He is currently playing Chief Mateo Cruz in a multi-episode arch in "Criminal Minds."  He recently principal Jose Marti in Robert Townsend’s  Playin’ for Love which is directed Townsend, who also produces along with Lydia Nicole.  He is also rumored to be making his directorial debut on a film entitled Precious Cargo.

10 Famous Film Scripts and What You Can Learn from Them

By Alison Nastasi, Flavorwire

Thanks to the glory of the internet, we no longer need film school to offer us a peek at the minds behind some of cinema's greatest works. Scripts for classic movies are available online and can teach us a thing or two about visionary writing. We looked at the scripts of ten famous films for a few pointers on compelling stories, fascinating characters, and the power of words.


Film schools around the world look to Robert Towne’s masterful Chinatown script to teach students about the essentials of screenwriting. The story about a private detective caught up in a web of corruption and murder is celebrated as one of the best (“perfect” is the word you’ll usually hear) in cinema history, made during an era of bold studio filmmaking. The screenplay contains lessons in constructing compelling character conflict and mystery, showing restraint, and more. Study the full script over here.

Blue Velvet

After the resounding failure of David Lynch’s Dune, he wanted to return to a more personal place with his filmmaking. The director started forming his thoughts for what would become Blue Velvet, about a mysterious nightclub singer and group of deranged criminals, with only three ideas: a severed ear in a field, a “feeling” (and the film’s title), and Bobby Vinton’s version of the song “Blue Velvet.” After several drafts, he pursued a deal. Sometimes a fragment or a seed is all it takes. Read the full script over here.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

“I made it as a B-movie… I didn’t see the film as anything more than a better made version of the Republic serials,” director Steven Spielberg once said of his script for Raiders of the Lost Ark. The homage to old adventure serials perfectly captures the lighthearted aspects of those yarns with effective characterization and a likable hero who drives the action — not the other way around. Read the full script over here, and see what notes star Harrison Ford added to his copy of the screenplay during the making of the movie.

Taxi Driver

Screenwriter Paul Schrader was at the top of his game when he penned the script for Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. The story about an unhinged cabbie who seeks to do away with the scum on the streets of New York City is a powerful character study. Schrader doesn’t steer us toward an opinion about Bickle. The ambiguous characterization fits the conflicted, confused tone of the troubled figure and makes the movie’s equivocal ending feel like a dream. Read the full screenplay.

Pulp Fiction

A lesson in breaking all the rules, Quentin Tarantino’s screenplay forPulp Fiction will put your script’s dialogue to shame. Defying traditional structure (and just about everything else), Tarantino’s epic of post-modern cinema proved that there was a place for operatic violence, and pushed the boundaries of unconventional characters and storytelling. The film changed the face of modern cinema. Read the full script and an oral history of the movie for more.


Lauded as another one of Hollywood’s “perfect” scripts, the screenplay for Casablanca boasts powerful drama, intrigue, memorable characters and witty dialogue. Here’s what writer John Yorke had to say about one of the story’s central elements:

The crisis occurs when the hero’s final dilemma is crystallised, the moment they are faced with the most important question of the story; just what kind of person are they? This choice is the final test of character, because it’s the moment where the hero is forced to face up to their dramatic need or flaw. . . . in Casablanca Rick has to confront and overcome his selfishness (“I stick my neck out for no man”). . . . you can see the cleverness of the structural design, where the external antagonists are the embodiments of what each protagonist fears most. To overcome that which lies without, they must overcome the chasm within.

Read the full screenplay.

2001: A Space Odyssey

“I had been a great admirer of your books for quite a time and had always wanted to discuss with you the possibility of doing the proverbial ‘really good’ science-fiction movie,” Stanley Kubrick wroteto author Arthur C. Clarke in 1964. The two met weeks later, chatted about science fiction for eight hours, and proceeded to make a movie together. 2001 was originally conceived as a novel, but Clarke wound up writing the book while simultaneously working on the screenplay. For a movie with almost no dialogue, the two showed considerable restraint, vision, and trust in their audience. Read the full script.


Godard’s Breathless is one of the leading French New Wave works that introduced the auteur theory — the concept that a director’s film was a personal creation, and could be crafted as such, akin to a novel or painting. Godard worked on the script each morning, as he went along during the shoot, feeding actors their lines from behind the camera. This method reinforced his view that a film should reflect its “author” and the production, lending a spontaneous quality to the work. Here’s an example of how Godard issued the “script” to his actors.


It defined what the word “blockbuster” means today and managed to pack a wallop without the help of CGI and viral marketing. Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb delivered a tension-filled intro, rich characters, and solid structure in the screenplay for JawsRead it here.

Citizen Kane

See Orson Welles’ personal working copy of the script for what many believe is the greatest movie ever made. “The Citizen Kane script is the most important screenplay of all time,” said Leila Dunbar, Director of Sotheby’s Collectibles Department. “It was a collaboration where Herman Mankiewicz set the foundation and Orson Welles added the emotion, depth and power, raising the text to a much higher level. Mankiewicz gave the story life but Welles made it immortal.”

NALIP Discount for NHMC MediaCon Featuring Network Heads of CBS, NBC and ABC

The National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) MediaCon will take place at the Hilton Universal City Hotel on Thursday, March 27, 2014. Come hear from industry insiders, network executives and digital content outlets discuss opportunities for Latinos in media! It's the perfect opportunity to network with media executives, corporate diversity and marketing representatives, producers, directors and writers 

NHMC has just announced that the heads of entertainment of ABC, CBS and NBC - Paul Lee, Nina Tassler, and Jennifer Salke - will be the keynote speakers.

NALIP members: Register now for 2014 NHMC MediaCon and get 40% off registration www.nhmc.org/mediacon

POV Hackathon in NYC and LA, May 2014

Fast Company recently called POV's digital nonfiction lab one of the "most anticipated events" of 2014. Documentary filmmakers, multimedia journalists, new media artists and web technologists interested in reinventing nonfiction storytelling can now apply for POV Hackathon 5 (New York City, May 10-11, 2014) and POV Hackathon 6 (Los Angeles, May 17-18, 2014). POV provides matchmaking and mentorship as teams collaborate to create working prototypes. Teams have showcased their projects at high-profile events such as the Tribeca Film Festival and the New York Film Festival, while other teams have attracted new funding, from organizations such as the Knight Foundation.

Deadline: March 26, 2014

To apply or learn more, visit http://www.pbs.org/pov/hackathon/

Robert Rodriguez On Why He Launched a TV Network To Reflect Diversity In Front of And Behind The Camera

By Alison Willmore, Indiewire

El Rey, the cable network filmmaker Robert Rodriguez launched in December, feels a bit like the channel he's always wanted to watch. It debuted with a schedule packed with old grindhouse movies, including a lot of Quentin Tarantino favorites, and "Starsky & Hutch," which Rodriguez used to watch growing up -- curated programming, as the director described it, reflecting a particular sensibility.

But there's more to the idea behind the network than just film and pop culture geekery -- El Rey is a network aimed at English-speaking Hispanic audiences, and specifically aims to bring diversity to who's on screen and behind the camera. "It felt like a network like this has been needed for so long," Rodriguez said when addressing journalists today at a breakfast to promote the channel as it approaches the premiere of its first original drama, a series adaptation of the director's 1996 "From Dusk Till Dawn" with D.J. Cotrona and Zane Holtz in the roles played by George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino in the film.

The series, which debuts on March 11th, represents Rodriguez's first project for television -- he directed multiple episodes. He spoke to the press today about the idea behind the network. Here's an excerpt from what he said.

The movies I made, I wasn't even trying to make them diverse. It's just when you're a filmmaker of any ethnicity, you're going to write from your own experience. So all my scripts started with "Hispanic character..." then I'd be like, "Oh, gosh, now I have to find an actor to play this," and then I'd find there were no actors in Hollywood. It was puzzling.

When I was doing "Spy Kids," the Weinsteins asked me -- not that they were being jerks at all, they were just wondering -- "Why are you making the characters Hispanic? It doesn't make any sense, isn't this supposed to be for everybody?" "Well, it's based on my family."

They'd just never seen it. Hollywood is very much... no one wants to do it first, because what if they screw up? If someone else does it first and it's successful, then that's something we can imitate. It just makes business sense for people not to constantly be putting themselves out there.

[Weinstein] said that, and it really put me on the spot to come up with a reason. "Why not just give them American names? It's America, it will confuse people." I said "They are American -- they're based on my family, so they're Hispanic, but they're going to be speaking in English. It's going to be for everybody." But no one had done it before, so there was nothing to point to.

"But why?" They couldn't understand why I was doing it that way, and I couldn't come up with a good answer. And I realized, wow, if I wasn't Hispanic, I would have folded, I would have changed the name. That's why there weren't more scripts like that. Somebody would have asked them at some point "Why are you doing it that way?"

Finally, I came up with the right answer. I said "You don't have to be British to watch James Bond. Making him British actually makes him more universal because it makes him very specific." And they were like, okay, that makes sense. And we did it, and "Spy Kids" was a big hit. And those who were Hispanic, it really meant a lot to them. People have come up to me for a lot of years since and said "You changed my kids' whole life. They see little kids who are Hispanic that are spies and they saw your name as the writer and director and you changed their idea of what their future could be." The ripple effects of that one movie were enormous.

[FactoryMade Ventures CEO and former William Morris agent] John Fogelman came to me and said "I just started a network called The Hub, and I think we can do it again. There's an opportunity at Comcast where they're giving away networks." They have to give them away! In order to merge with Universal, they have to give away 10 networks to independent owner and operators. The first four have to be minority. "You should come with us to put in an idea for a U.S. English-language Hispanic network." And my hand went up, right away.

It really spoke to me personally. I have five kids, and even though they grew up bilingual, they live and converse in English like most second and third generation Hispanics. I realized there wasn't anything on television that represented who they were in this country. And I thought it was important -- there was not a network like that, and we were growing as a population.

It's something that I've kind of been doing over 20 years -- "Spy Kids," "Desperado," "Machete" or "Dusk Till Dawn" or "Sin City," you don't think of them as Hispanic films, because everybody can enjoy them. But for those who are Hispanic -- they are. I wanted to do something like that -- a network that was for everybody, yet had an eye toward more diversity. 

And be able to reach in a bring more filmmakers and give them a voice, give them a chance. I had made "Rebel Without a Crew," this book I'd written about how to make "El Mariachi," and it showed people how to make a movie for no money, 20 years ago. And "Blair Witch Project," "Paranormal Activity" -- people followed that, and it was revolutionary as to how people could just make their own movie. I was always surprised, though, that there weren't more Hispanic filmmakers like myself. It's puzzled me, why?

As I started thinking about this network, it started to make sense. Anybody else who saw what I did, said "I'm going to try that, I'm going to get two of three of my friends together, make a $50,000, $100,000 movie!" They probably went to start writing and were like, oh, shit, this is a Hispanic character -- because it's based on themselves -- it's going to be labeled a Latin film. What three or four distributors can I take this to that are going to have a bidding war and want to buy my movie? Nobody -- nobody's putting out that stuff! It would be labeled as something. They would have folded like I almost folded on that "Spy Kids" thing.

So they need a place to go. That's why "From Dusk Till Dawn" is our first show -- it ends up in Mexico at one point, and half the cast being Hispanic, naturally, because of the story. But people get drawn in because it's like a "Walking Dead" show -- it's cool, it's got a lot of action, a lot of fun, there's Quentin Tarantino dialogue and characters. That's what I wanted to do, is make something that's mainstream, reaching a total audience and giving people who feel like they haven't been represented in the media, opening up the doors of the network so we can find new voices, find new filmmakers. We have a lot of feature directors, a lot of Hispanic directors, writers, but also they're just top talent in Hollywood -- I wrangled the best of the best together. Some of our directors are guys I'm giving a chance to that are really fantastic and doing a great job and that will be our future filmmakers.

WGAW Panel Discussion on 'Switched at Birth,' Mar. 5

NALIP members are invited to join the WGAW's Writers with Disabilities Committee for a special event, a panel discussion on the ABC Family hit series "Switched at Birth."

Join us for an inside look into the groundbreaking, Peabody Award winning series on the ABC Family Network that tells the story of two teenage girls who discover they were accidentally switched as newborns in the hospital. The series is the first mainstream TV show to have regular deaf and hard of hearing characters and actors. One of the leads, Daphne Vasquez, played by Katie Leclerc, contracted meningitis and became deaf at an early age. How a deaf teenager deals with the real world is one of the central themes of the show.

Wednesday, March 5th, 7:00pm
WGA Headquarters
7000 W. Third Street, Los Angeles 2nd Floor Multi-Purpose Room

Parking will be available in the WGAW parking structure. Enter off of Blackburn Avenue, which is one block south of Third Street.


Lizzy Weiss - Creator/Executive Producer 
Paul Stupin - Executive Producer 
Linda Gase - Co- Executive Producer 
Joy Gregory - Co-Executive Producer 
Chad Fiveash - Co-Executive Producer 
James Stoteraux - Co-Executive Producer 
Terrence Coli - Consulting Producer 
Henry Robles - Co- Producer 
Bekah Brunstetter - Story Editor 
Jennifer Gerstenblatt - ABC Family Programming Director.

Writers with Disabilities Committee Chair Allen Rucker will moderate the panel. A dessert reception will follow.

Please put "Switched at Birth" in subject line; include the number of guests you'll be bringing in body of the e-mail.

Jennifer Lopez To Topline 13-Episode FBI Drama Series At NBC

By Nellie Andreeva, Deadline.com

In one of the highest-profile packages this year, NBC has given a 13-episode straight-to-series order to Shades Of Blue, a drama toplined by Jennifer Lopez, which she will executive produce with her American Idol co-star Ryan Seacrest. Written by Adi Hasak (From Paris with Love), the project will begin working on scripts in June with an eye toward a 2015 production start and will be for the 2015-16 season, not the one that starts in September. Shades of Blue  is a complex police series that centers on Harlee McCord (Lopez), a single mother and detective recruited to work undercover for the FBI's anti-corruption task force. Part of a close-knit unit known for its conviction record, Harlee has become compromised by her colleagues — all of whom also pitch in to help her raise her daughter — and finds herself faced with the moral dilemma of working against her cop brothers in order to redeem herself. Lopez and Seacrest executive produce with Nina Wass, Hasak, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas and Benny Medina for Universal Television, Lopez's Nuyorican Prods., Ryan Seacrest Prods., EGTV and H's Films. Search is underway for an experienced TV writer-producer to serve as co-showrunner alongside former Israeli journalist-turned-screenwriter Hasak. This marks reality powerhouse RSP's first drama series. Its first scripted series, ABC comedy Mixology, which it joined at the pilot stage, premieres next week.

"Whether its producing, acting, singing or any of her other many entrepreneurial activities, Jennifer is an extraordinary talent and life force, and we're delighted to be in business with her and Adi Hasak on this sophisticated show," said NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke. "We're especially excited that Jennifer is returning to her acting roots from such great movies as Out of Sight, and we know that she will create this complicated character in a vivid way that will breathe new life into the cop show genre. Ryan Seacrest is part of the NBCU family and doing his first scripted drama series with us makes perfect sense."

Hasak wrote the script on spec and gave it to Goldsmith-Thomas. The two approached ABC, which wouldn't commit, so Hasak showed Shades of Blue to RSP's head of scripted Wass, with whom he shares a lawyer. "Nina Wass loved the script from the moment she read it," Seacrest said. "The script is so powerful and ambitious, we can't wait to see Jennifer take on this remarkable role," said Seacrest, who I hear was key in getting his friend Lopez to board the show and whose relationship with NBC helped get the project a series order at the network.

After a couple of brief TV series stints in the early 1990s, Lopez transition into features with her breakout starring roles in 1997′s Selena and 1998′s Out of Sight. For the past two decades, she has largely stayed away from scripted series sans a couple of guest starring stints, including Will & Grace and How I Met Your Mother, while become a reality star as a judge on American Idol. As a producer, she has a hit with ABC Family's drama series The Fosters. Shades of Blue was packaged by CAA. Hasak is repped by attorney Patti Felker.

Call for Entries: Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles

Organizers of the nonprofit Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles announced that the sixth edition of the annual festival will be held July 9-19 in venues throughout downtown L.A.'s historically rich and culturally diverse communities.

At the same time, the festival announced its official call for entries, and invited filmmakers everywhere to submit films in all genres including narrative and documentary, feature-length and shorts. The festival uses the international online service Withoutabox.com, and more information is available about submitting films online here.

Last year's programming was comprised of more than 100 screenings of features, documentary and short films, an exhibition during ArtWalk of award-wining digital shorts, a 3-D film program devoted to French cinema, workshops on film finance, distribution and music supervision, and showcases devoted to feminism, Latino-American filmmakers and a special, free-to-the public Closing Night Film program of Roman Polanski's "Chinatown" held at Los Angeles' landmark Union Station.

"Downtown Film Festival L.A. reflects the independent side of Los Angeles' film industry and embodies the creative spirit of downtown L.A. and its surrounding communities," said festival co-director Henry Priest. "It's no accident that this area boasts more indie filmmakers than anywhere else in the world, and we believe they deserve a festival like ours that takes chances with the art of making movies."

The festival celebrates DTLA's diversity by bringing programming to its various neighborhoods and by collaborating with a wide variety of businesses and arts organizations. Last year the festival utilized 13 separate venues for screenings and events – from the Fashion District to Chinatown and from the Historic Bank District to South Park. Over the years, the festival has partnered with 80 separate profit and nonprofit organizations in DTLA.

"The creative nexus of downtown L.A. emanates today in many directions – film, food, the arts, fashion. Our goal during the festival is to immerse our festival goers in a total DTLA experience, using film as a catalyst, " says festival co-director Greg Ptacek.

Festival ticket sales will be announced at a later date. More information about the festival: www.dffla.com

Latinos Get No Respect on Vanity Fair's Hollywood Cover

By Tony Castro, Voxxi

Johnny Depp, Ethan Hawke, Al Pacino, Viggo Mortensen, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones and among the older generation of Hollywood actors Marlon Brando, Eli Wallach, Charlton Heston and many more.

What do they have in common besides their thespian professions?

They all were fake Latinos in films in Hollywood's well-known history of rarely casting Hispanic actors in major roles, the most recent film being the Oscar-winning Oscar where Ben Affleck cast himself as the heroic Latino CIA operative who helped free American captives during the Iran hostage crisis.

Could that somehow have been Latino karma payback in Affleck being snubbed for a best director Oscar nomination?

It's Oscar time again, and the issue of Latinos sometimes not having even a token place in Hollywood is alive and well. You need to look no further than the 20th annual Hollywood issue of Vanity Fair magazine.

Of the eight actors on the cover and inside cover, five are black, three white. On the extended inside cover, there is a black actor and three white actresses.

Not even poor Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón, Oscar nominated for "Gravity," could crack the Vanity Fair cover, and you have to figure he's as recognizable as some of those actors on the front whom I can't even name, much less care about seeing their own ethnocentric films, which brings us back to Latinos and why they can't seem to get much respect in Tinseltown.

Vanity Fair could easily have passed on having Chadwick Boseman of "42" in the cover photo since he isn't a nominee, and substituted Cuarón. Or, better still the magazine could have used either Javier Bardem or Penélope Cruz – or both — from Ridley Scott's "The Counselor," one of the most anticipated films of the year, or Jessica Alba from Robert Rodriguez's "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For."

As Sharon Waxman, editor-in-chief of the online industry daily The Wrap, so eloquently put it:

"Let's talk about Hispanics. Let's talk about Asians. They're nowhere to be found in this Academy Awards season, and so I think there's a lot of work we have to do in this filmmaking culture to include not just the African-American experience but their experiences, and that's going to take time."

Some are suggesting that Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong'o, nominated as best supporting actress for her role in "12 Years a Slave," is Latina because she was born in Mexico City.

But both her parents are Kenyan, and she was born in Mexico because at the time of her birth, her father was a visiting lecturer in political science at El Colegio de Mexico in Mexico City.

Does that make her Latina?

Nyong'o moved back to Kenya with her parents when she was not even a year old, though she did return to Mexico for seven months as a teenager to study Spanish.

The problem, of course, goes beyond the cover of Vanity Fair and is deeply rooted in how Hollywood — the major players at the big agencies and the top casting agencies and production companies – see Hispanics.

Actor Esai Morales says Hollywood's patronizing formula for Latino actors includes what he calls the "four H's of Hollywood" that he believes is the reason why Hispanics rarely are cast as heroes or get leading roles.

"Latinos are either cast as either the overly hormonal ('Oh mamacita, I have to have you!'), overly hysterical ('Lucy!'), overly hostile ('I'll cut you sucka!'), or overly humble ('We are a poor people')," Morales told CNN in a recent interview.

For the stereotype cycle in Hollywood to be broken, some believe, something unusual needs to happen, such as major power players like director Steven Spielberg telling stories of the Latino experience similar to films about the Jewish experience in the Holocaust.

Morales hopes something like that has already started happening.

He plays the president of the United States in an upcoming HBO pilot, although didn't Martin Sheen portray the president years ago in the TV series "The West Wing"? We saw what that did for other Latino actors.

"It's up to us (Latino actors) now," says Morales. "There are a lot more Latino characters on TV now. The key is to not let it just be a 'Latino wave,' and to be undeniably good."

Or Carlos Slim could just buy a chunk of Hollywood. Or, for that matter, Vanity Fair.

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