TheWrapWaxword – TheWrap Covering Hollywood Tue, 16 Jan 2018 17:30:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor Close to Investment by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince (Exclusive) Tue, 16 Jan 2018 02:15:21 +0000 Matt Donnelly and Sharon Waxman WME’s parent company, Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor, is poised to get a significant investment from Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman, an individual familiar with the discussions told TheWrap on Monday.

Bin Salman has been seeking to open up Saudi Arabia to new forms of industry as oil is increasingly regarded as a diminishing asset over time in an energy-conscious world.

The investment would represent a minority share in the company, which comprises the WME talent agency, the sports franchise Ultimate Fighting Championship and the fashion and live events megaproducer IMG.

The crown prince has drawn international scrutiny to the oil-rich kingdom for a harsh crackdown on corruption, involving mass arrests of 200 relatives in an “anti-corruption” sweep.

The individual with knowledge said that Endeavor CEO Emanuel visited Saudi Arabia twice in 2017 to discuss the prospect. He was there in the spring and again near the end of the year, including for a conference in Riyadh. The investment would come through the kingdom’s public investment fund. The investment is expected to close in the next two weeks. Some Hollywood insiders speculated that Emanuel was actually seeking an outright sale of Endeavor, but a knowledgeable individual said that categorically was untrue.

Endeavor is expected to go public at some point, having acquired IMG for $2.3 billion in 2013, and UFC for $4 billion in 2016. The company got a $1 billion cash infusion in August 2017 from the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Government of Singapore Investment Fund.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Graham Taylor, Chris Rice Named Co-Presidents of WME and IMG's New Division Endeavor Content

WME-IMG Owner Renames Parent Company Endeavor

Legendary Hires Former Endeavor Agent Greg Siegel to Develop Digital Series

]]> 0
Viacom and CBS Are Seeking to Merge, Insiders Say (Exclusive) Fri, 12 Jan 2018 20:43:03 +0000 Sharon Waxman and Matt Donnelly Viacom and CBS vice-chairwoman Shari Redstone is pursuing a merger of the two media companies that split more than a decade ago, according to multiple insiders who spoke to TheWrap.

With the Hollywood landscape quickly shifting, Redstone, president of the privately-held National Amusements that controls both media companies, has concluded that a bigger footprint is necessary for the companies to thrive. CBS’ core business is broadcast television along with multiple digital properties, while Viacom holds cable channels like Nickelodeon and Comedy Central along with the Paramount movie studio.

A time frame for any potential merger is unclear, but three individuals with knowledge of the companies said that Redstone is actively moving in that direction, which represented another shift in her back-and-forth mindset on the matter.

Viacom and National Amusements declined to comment, and CBS had no immediate response to a request for comment.

CBS chairman Les Moonves, who has long resisted talk of recombining the companies, is now open to the possibility, the insiders said. He would be the most likely person to run the merged companies, though Redstone is considering other candidates, according to two insiders.

An individual close to Moonves acknowledged the process to TheWrap: “He’s having active discussions with Shari and the board on a wide variety of issues all the time, including this one. And those discussions continue with regard to looking to merge the two companies.”

One insider told TheWrap that Redstone was looking at other candidates because Moonves was demanding an ownership stake and she thought his demands were too rich. The individual close to Moonves disputed this, saying: “At no time has he asked for an ownership position.”

The move to merge the companies represents another reversal for Redstone, who directly appealed to CBS and Viacom to merge in September 2016, then retreated from this in the following months, presumably because of Moonves’ opposition.

In a letter in September 2016 to both boards from her parent company National Amusements, she touted the potential of “substantial synergies” that a merger would bring. She called on the boards to “respond even more aggressively and effectively” to combat the challenges they both faced.

Redstone later reconsidered after ousting Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman and replacing him with Bob Bakish — whom she installed after successfully wresting control of Viacom in a bruising boardroom and legal battle over succession plans involving her father, Sumner Resdstone.

“We talked about it, and what became apparent to me very quickly was that our assets were severely undervalued, which I had understood, but what I didn’t understand at the time was the significant upside that existed in our businesses once we had a good management team in place and the culture came back,” Redstone said at last May’s re/code conference.

The new merger talk comes amid a new period of consolidation in the entertainment and media industry. In December, Disney announced plans for a $52.4 billion acquisition of the bulk of 21st Century Fox’s movie and TV assets, while telecom giant AT&T is attempting to complete the $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner announced more than a year ago.

Meanwhile, the rise of streaming giant Netflix — whose $83 billion market cap far exceeds both Viacom and CBS combined — as well as the ambitious moves by tech giants like Amazon and Apple into the entertainment content space have set off a period of strategic change in the sector.

The market cap of Viacom is $12.7 billion, while the market cap of CBS is $23.2 billion.

In February 2016, the then 92-year-old Redstone stepped down as chairman of both Viacom and CBS amid questions about his age and mental competency. Moonves assumed the chairman title at CBS, while Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman was ousted and ultimately replaced by Robert Bakish.

Viacom and CBS had merged into a single company in 1999, which Sumner Redstone split in 2005 in an attempt to maximize shareholder value.

The Redstones control both the CBS and Viacom through their supervoting shares held by National Amusements.

As of December 2016, National Amusements, directly and through subsidiaries, holds approximately 79.8 percent of the Class A (voting) common stock of Viacom Inc., constituting 10 percent of the overall equity of the Company, and holds approximately 79.5 percent of the Class A (voting) common stock and 2.4 percent of the Class B (non‐voting) common stock of CBS Corporation, constituting 9.1 percent of the overall equity of the Company.

Related stories from TheWrap:

John Dickerson to Replace Charlie Rose on 'CBS This Morning'

CBS Diversity Showcase Cleans House, Second Co-Head Also Exits Program

CBS Network, Syndication Group Begin Buyouts and Layoffs (Exclusive)

]]> 0
Inside the Warner Bros Shakeup and What It Means for AT&T Merger Wed, 10 Jan 2018 02:50:46 +0000 Sharon Waxman The shakeup at Warner Bros. on Tuesday seems aimed at making the studio nimble enough to deal with the uncertainty in its immediate future: corporate merger, standalone sale or none of the above.

But, for the record, Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara went out of his way to deny that this was the case.

“It has zero to do with AT&T,” he told TheWrap in an interview after the restructuring was announced. “It has nothing to do with the contemplation of the merger happening or not happening — it’s what we thought was in the best interest of Warner Bros. short-term and long term.”

What is indisputable is that a cloud of uncertainty hangs over the studio because of the lawsuit by the Department of Justice against AT&T’s $85 billion bid to buy Warner Bros. parent company Time Warner. This necessarily means the studio has to prepare for conflicting eventualities in the near future.

An individual close to the company told TheWrap that there is no internal clarity over whether the merger will happen or not. But if the merger fails, this executive said, Time Warner is expected to be broken up into parts and sold separately as Warner Bros., HBO and Turner.

Another individual told TheWrap that the fact AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson recently went out of his way to praise President Trump’s tax bill, citing the creation of thousands of jobs for his company, was significant. This knowledgeable observer suggested that Stephenson’s statements were an olive branch intended to facilitate a settlement with the Department of Justice.

No one involved in the deal seems to believe that divesting CNN is in the cards. An AT&T spokesperson did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the matter.

Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara’s own future is unknown, and he has two more years on his contract. He placed the studio under the clear leadership of Toby Emmerich, who made his reputation at Warner’s New Line Cinema division where he found low-budget cultural hits like the Stephen King adaptation “It.”

By transitioning studio marketing-distribution veteran Sue Kroll to a producing deal — she was in the running for the top job as well — he removes the possibility of political gamesmanship among his senior team.

The new executive configuration may well reflect the most streamlined version of the film studio to make it attractive to potential buyers. There was a sense that a previous triumvirate structure involving Emmerich, Kroll and former production president Greg Silverman left too much uncertainty about who was leading the studio.

With increased autonomy, Emmerich will be expected to stabilize the studio’s DC Films unit. It’s a content shop responsible for at least six superhero tentpoles in active phases of development, production and postproduction, including Jason Momoa and Nicole Kidman’s “Aquaman,” due this December, and a planned 2019 sequel to Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot’s “Wonder Woman.”

It will take time for Emmerich to fully realize his increased influence and marching orders for the studio’s slate, but Tsujihara is sure of at least one thing — his company cannot and does not want to be Disney.

“Warner Bros. needs to continue doing what it’s always done: producing the biggest, most diverse slate in the business. That’s what’s made us successful. We can’t do what Disney’s done,” he said.

“It’s worked really, really well for them, but it’s not who we are,”  Tsujihara said. “We need to continue to create a balanced slate of all types of movies and all genres.”

Matt Donnelly contributed to this post.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Warner Bros CEO Kevin Tsujihara: 'We Face Headwinds in Every One of Our Businesses'

Warner Bros Leadership Shake-Up: Toby Emmerich to Run Studio, Sue Kroll Steps Down

'Animaniacs': Hulu, Warner Bros. Partner on '90s Cartoon Reboot

]]> 0
A Wolff in the West Wing – How ‘Fire and Fury’ Was Reported Sat, 06 Jan 2018 20:05:46 +0000 Sharon Waxman I’m still trying to wrap my head around this image: Michael Wolff, middle-aged, bald-headed guy with screaming “I’m a New York media elite” glasses sitting on a crumb-strewn couch in the West Wing hallway, taking notes.

Not one day, not two days, but according to his account, week after week over the first eight months of the Trump administration. Sitting, watching, more than occasionally getting briefed on the soap opera going on around President Chaos. And (did I mention) taking notes?

“Shortly after January 20, I took up a semi-permanent seat on a couch in the West Wing,” he writes in the introduction to his book. “Since then I have conducted more than 200 interviews.”

Hmm. No chance somebody — say Kellyanne Conway, or Hope Hicks, or Sean Spicer — buttonholed the guy with the notebook and the vaguely familiar face who was not in the White House press corps and asked, “So, dude, what exactly are you doing here?”

There are a lot of layers to unpeel in the saga of how Wolff’s new — and now notorious — book came to be. The most significant single takeaway of the book is the terrifying conclusion that Trump’s own advisors believe that he is not fit for the presidency. “Semi-literate,” in Wolff’s words, someone who doesn’t read, who makes policy off of Fox television talking points, who blindly believes in his own untested instincts on matters of global importance.

It’s not an utter surprise to learn this, but to hear so many of those on Trump’s team — along with the likes of Rupert Murdoch — confirm this impression while privately calling him a “moron” and “idiot” is certainly sobering. The book opens with Roger Ailes pressing Steve Bannon on whether Trump gets it, and Bannon saying Trump “gets what he gets.” 

We should not lose sight of the importance of this insight and what it brings to the national conversation. It should light a fire under efforts to bring stability and sanity to our highest office, and by the way, it’s an incredibly saddening reality.

But the book is also a microcosmic look at the vicious New York media game displaced to Washington DC and, of all places, The White House. In that world, friends and enemies are all the same thing. Murdoch and Trump are buddies and supplicants, and Trump — even once elected — is still the supplicant, in Wolff’s telling. In this ecosystem, Hillary goes to Trump’s wedding, Trump gives her money for every campaign until he decides to run against her, then calls to lock her up when it’s convenient. That’s the game.

And Michael Wolff — the man who invites Roger Ailes and Steve Bannon to dinner and takes notes for his hit job book after the baba au rhum is finished — is just the man to do it. (Calling Tom Wolfe. Different wolf. Same bonfire of the vanities.)

That is the very Murdoch-Ailes-Trump-Kushner feedback loop that runs through Wolff’s book, in which the players as often dump on one another as vacation on each others’ yachts – an insight that is frightening and nauseating at the same time. (This just in passing caught my eye: Ivanka and Jared were on uber-Democrat David Geffen’s yacht in Croatia when they were called back to serve in the campaign in summer of 2016, the book tells us.)

It’s a world where media careers live on a par with the national interest. From the book: “Trump’s longtime friend Roger Ailes liked to say that if you want a career in television, first run for president. Now Trump, encouraged by Ailes, was floating rumors about a Trump network. It was a great future.” That was during the campaign, when Trump was intending to lose.

Except the New York games that risked careers and fortunes now risk national security and millions of citizens. They now have a nuclear button.

The fact that Michael Wolff — not Bob Woodward, not Doris Kearns Goodwin – gets to be the stenographer, er, chronicler of it all tells you everything you need to know about that through-the-looking-glass cultural shift.

With all that, I am riveted by the idea that someone could, on the basis of a loose friendship/acquaintance with the president, get the kind of access and cooperation that Wolff did.

In the book’s introduction and interviews, Wolff assures us that he did not do anything particularly noteworthy to achieve that. He just showed up to the White House.

In an interview on Saturday he said: “I literally think you go in there and say, ‘I’m writing a book,’ and they go, “‘Oh. A book.’ It’s like a cloak of invisibility. And then also they would do this thing that would be like, ‘Oh, this is off the record.’ And I would say, ‘I would like to use it for the book.’ And they would say, ‘Well, when does that come out?’ And I would say, ‘Next year.’ ‘Oh, oh, yeah, OK, fine.'”

Wolff and Trump deserve each other in every way. They are both symptoms and products of the toxic sick ward where the values are money and fame, and hubris and backstabbing are the norm. The crown jewel is a winning headline in Page Six.

In one of his savviest passages in “Fire and Fury,” Wolff points this out:

“Media is personal. It is a series of blood scores. The media in its often collective mind decides who is going to rise and who is going to fall, who lives and dies. If you stay around long enough in the media eye, your fate, like that of a banana republic despot, is often an unkind one — a law Hillary Clinton was not able to circumvent. The media has the last word.”

]]> 0
Letitia James, Shelley Zalis, Sarah Ann Masse Join BE Conference 2018 as Speakers, Mentors Thu, 04 Jan 2018 20:08:27 +0000 Sharon Waxman Letitia James, the public advocate for the City of New York and a rising star on the Democratic political scene, joins TheWrap’s 2018 BE Conference at SXSW in Austin on March 11-12, 2018 as a featured speaker.

Also joining the stellar line-up of speakers and mentors are:

  • Girls Lounge Founder Shelley Zalis
  • Actress and Harvey Weinstein Accuser Sarah Ann Masse
  • Best-selling Author Karen Walrond
  • Elastic Minds Founder Claudia Carraso

Zalis, Walrond and Carraso are all returning for the second annual conference, which TheWrap launched in 2017 to allow outstanding millennial women to be mentored by leaders in entertainment, science, politics, media and business on how they can push boundaries, innovate and be game changers.

As the Public Advocate for the City of New York, Letitia James is the second highest ranking elected official in the City and the first woman of color to hold a citywide position in New York City history. “Tish” her nickname, is a strong advocate for criminal justice reform and led the push for police body-worn cameras in the NYPD. Throughout her lifelong commitment to public service, she has distinguished herself as an advocate and leader on some of the most pressing issues of our time.

Shelley Zalis is CEO, The Female Quotient and Founder, The Girls’ Lounge. She has gone against the grain most of her career, starting in 2000 when she left the corporate world to pioneer online research. Her most recent endeavor includes launching The Female Quotient and Girls’ Lounge which supports and mentors women to find their voice, embrace their feminine leadership powers and work together to transform corporate culture. Shelley is also the host of a new Bloomberg series titled “Walk The Talk” focused on gender equality and the critical importance of women in executive leadership.

Karen Walrond is an author, speaker & photographer. Her bestselling book, “The Beauty of Different,” is a chronicle of imagery & essays on the concept that what makes us different makes us beautiful. She’s the creative mind behind the award-winning website Chookooloonks, an inspirational source for living with intention, creativity & adventure. Her second book, “Make Light,” will be released Spring 2018.

Claudia Carraso is a communications management consultant, creative director, and marketing leader with more than 20 years’ experience in developing major global brand platforms, growing dynamic start-up companies, and advising NGOs on communications policy, issues and challenges. She is currently founder and managing partner of Elastic Minds, LLC, a consulting group based in Los Angeles with presence in San Francisco and New York City.

Actor, Writer, Producer, Comedian, Singer and Activist, Sarah Ann Masse is a hilarious woman on a mission; not only is she continuing the trend of breaking stereotypes and proving that females are funny but doing so as she sites unhealthy social norms and boxes society places women in. In 2017, Sarah Ann joined the #MeToo movement as a survivor of sexual harassment by Harvey Weinstein and an activist for change.

The BE Conference is a premier conference that connects change makers seeking to make an impact with game changers at the top of their fields who want to inspire and mentor the next generation of leaders. The audience consists of 350 millennials, including entrepreneurs, influencers and rising stars in their respective worlds, along with 50 mentors who are eager to teach and learn from each other.

Launched in 2017 by TheWrap founder and CEO Sharon Waxman, BE Conference offers keynote interviews, panel discussions, workshops, networking and mentoring sessions that build meaningful connections, encourage constructive change, and empower the next generation to BE the best possible version of themselves.

More information on attending, sponsoring or mentoring at BE is available at

]]> 0
Hollywood in 2018: The Old Order Ends, a New One Rises Sun, 31 Dec 2017 17:27:40 +0000 Sharon Waxman Three months ago, I wrote that the change that has been years in coming to the entertainment industry was upon us.

“The new world has been a long time coming, but it seems to be here,” I wrote at the opening of TheWrap’s annual Grill conference on October 1. “The outlines of the new entertainment ecosystem are becoming clear… The next 12 months will be decisive in defining the contours of what the content industry looks like for decades to come.”

As we face 2018, those changes are about to come barreling through the established order of Hollywood, leaving companies in pieces, shattering long-accepted norms, scattering talented executives to the winds and anointing a new set of power brokers.

It will be a time of disruption and transition, and I am not referring to Harvey Weinstein (more on that later). Here is what looms on the horizon.

1. The End of the Major Studios

Two major mergers are hanging in the balance — the AT&T acquisition of Time-Warner and Disney’s purchase of Fox’s movie and TV assets. Both signal an end to the major studio system that has reigned for more than 50 years, and a new era of consolidation at the topmost levels of entertainment and media.

The significance of Rupert Murdoch’s decision to sell the precious pieces of his carefully built entertainment empire to Disney’s Bob Iger, rather than bequeath them to his sons Lachlan and James, cannot be overstated.

To some observers, this represents a kind of surrender by one of the most combative and ambitious media titans of our time. To others, it reflects a canny assessment of the media landscape and a bold move to cut the losses of a mammoth operation that lacks the technology prowess to compete over the long term with the new power players.

Up for discussion are whether CBS and Viacom will ultimately re-merge and whether Sony will let its own entertainment assets go. As the new order rises, these changes will matter less.

2. The New Order

We know who the emerging power players are: Facebook, Google, Netflix, Apple, Amazon. For years, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has led a rising challenge to Time-Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes. Now Bewkes is set to retire as soon as the AT&T deal closes and Hastings just got a $30 million stock grant to keep his growth going.

In the last three months, Netflix has continued to swell in size, with a market cap now at $83 billion, making it bigger than any media company besides Disney, including Time Warner. Just as important, the streaming service has signed deals with some of the most talented showrunners in Hollywood, Shonda Rhimes and Jenji Kohan, women who are on the cutting edge of where pop culture is going. Netflix also signed a deal with Jerry Seinfeld in the past week — and I hear that guy is pretty good.

The other new tech challengers in the entertainment space will have to play catch up to Netflix, but no one doubts that they have almost limitless means to do so. The only question is: How big are their ambitions?

In 2017, Facebook announced plans to invest $1 billion in new entertainment content and has been busy striking deals across town. Apple has done the same with the same initial 10-figure investment, a figure that everyone seems to believe is a drop in the bucket of what they intend to spend on programming in the future.

In my opinion, though, Amazon is the one to watch. Jeff Bezos has utterly cleaned house at his eight-year-old Amazon Studios division, kicking out studio head Roy Price, comedy chief Joe Lewis and head of alternative Conrad Riggs. (Price resigned shortly after a series of sexual harassment accusations surfaced; the other exits appear to be coincidental.)

With the imminent changes at Fox and Warner Bros., Bezos has a rare opportunity to dip into a deep talent pool to restaff and reboot his content operation. Word on the street is that he has been looking to hire top female executive talent. And thanks to the recent corporate upheavals, there may soon be some heavyweights in play, including Fox TV honcho Dana Walden, Warner Bros. marketing/distribution wiz Sue Kroll, Fox film head Stacey Snider and HBO/Annapurna TV veteran Sue Naegle.

So what does the new power landscape of Hollywood look like when all this shakes out? I believe there will be about six major players dominating the space, led by Comcast, AT&T, Netflix and Disney. I’ll leave blank spots for one more technology titan and one wild card because you just never do know.

Another thing: These so-called  “technology” firms need to be recategorized as media and content companies, since they both distribute and/or create the stuff of popular culture. They also need to shoulder the same responsibilities that the old order did — enforcing standards and practices, serving the community and offering accountability to not just shareholders but to consumers.

3. The Indies

In the world of independent studios, the business models are scary and the future rocky.

Lionsgate has already merged with Starz after completing an earlier merger with Summit (which gave the company the now-dormant “Hunger Games” franchise). It’s unclear if this new move makes that company big enough to compete.

The Weinstein Company, already financially challenged, is effectively over — the new incarnation will face serious hurdles (Lionsgate is one bidder to buy the outfit, mostly for its library and development slate).

It’s unclear if Fox Searchlight will survive the move to Disney, which already once declared its disinterest in art-house film and is clearly (and correctly) focused on launching its own streaming service to challenge Netflix head-on.

That leaves Focus at NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures Classics and the unknown unknowns around A24.

4. Women and the Future

As should be obvious by now, the culture of Hollywood shifted in 2017. The casting couch, the permissive atmosphere on sets, the casual and constant sexual assaults and harassment of the (apparent) past are no longer tolerated as we look to 2018.

Dozens of bad individuals were drummed out of the entertainment and media industry in 2017. (TheWrap’s rogue’s gallery now has a stunning 68 people in it, all men.) The shock waves of the most heinous behavior are still reverberating, spilling over to harm the reputations of icons like Meryl Streep or companies that canceled every Louis CK sketch ever created.

The pendulum is still swinging far to one side, as the latest round of “he tapped my butt/she tapped by butt” nonsense suggests, and eventually it will swing back, hopefully coming to rest somewhere around the midpoint of decency and common sense.

But “the reckoning,” as it is aptly called, has been necessary. Like all revolutions, it has been painful and not always just.

There are calls across the industry for gender parity, not just equity, in the decision-making suites and behind the camera. There are early signs that the savviest of companies — such as United Talent Agency — are adopting these goals or considering doing so. This year’s biggest box office hits — “Beauty and the Beast,” “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and “Wonder Woman” all had female leads — a positive sign for the future.

Hollywood in 2018 will be about change. Disruption — both on the business side and the cultural side of the entertainment business — will be the guiding theme. Happy New Year.

Related stories from TheWrap:

At TheGrill 2017, A Tipping Point: Tech Platforms Have Arrived on the Shores of Content

Disney's 'Star Wars' Movies Have Already Earned Back $4 Billion Lucasfilm Investment at Box Office

9 Biggest Billion-Dollar Entertainment and Media Deals in 2017 (Photos)

20 Biggest Movie Letdowns of 2017: From 'Life' to 'Justice League' (Photos)

2017 Box Office Hits and Misses, From Marvel Blockbusters to Matt Damon's Many Duds

]]> 0
Sasha Alexander, CAA-GBG’s Kendra Bracken-Ferguson Among Speakers at 2018 BE Conference for Millennial Women Tue, 19 Dec 2017 22:28:42 +0000 Wrap Staff Actress Sasha Alexander, CAA-GBG Chief Digital Officer Kendra Bracken-Ferguson and Women’s March LA Foundation founder Emiliana Guereca are among the speakers and mentors who will participate in TheWrap’s 2018 BE Conference at SXSW in Austin on March 11-12, 2018.

In addition, NASA scientist Andrea Razzaghi and PrismWork Founder & CEO Lisen Stromberg will return for the second annual conference, which TheWrap launched in 2017 to allow for outstanding millennial women to be mentored by leaders in entertainment, science, politics, media and business on how they can push boundaries, innovate and be game changers.

Sasha Alexander is a talented and versatile actress in both film and television, a director and producer known for playing Dr. Maura Isles on TNT’s hit drama “Rizzoli & Isles,” and for her role as Special Agent Caitlin Todd in the first two seasons of the popular drama “NCIS.”

She is also heavily involved with the UN Foundation and their programs for empowering and educating young women around the world, including GirlUp and the Shot@Life Campaign.

Kendra Bracken-Ferguson is chief digital officer for CAA-GBG and an expert in navigating digital space. Prior to creating The BrainTrust, she co-founded Digital Brand Architects, which has grown into the go-to firm for influencer management.

Emiliana Guereca is the founder of Women’s March LA Foundation. She is also an award-winning event producer who devotes much of her time to advocacy programs for women’s rights, Latino education and gender equality. In 2016, she founded the Women’s March LA Foundation, a nonprofit organization that was the driving force behind last January’s official Women’s March in Los Angeles.

Andrea Razzaghi is deputy director of Astrophysics, NASA Science Mission Directorate overseeing the Agency’s research programs and missions necessary to discover how the Universe works and to explore how the Universe began. Among many roles, she manages a portfolio of over 20 NASA missions and/or international partnerships including the U.S.’s great space observatories Hubble, Chandra and Spitzer, which have transformed an understanding of the cosmos.

PrismWork Founder & CEO Lisen Stromberg is an author, culture innovation consultant, and widely regarded speaker who empowers people and companies to reimagine the future of work through work/life success.

She and her team at PrismWork partner with companies, leaders, and advocates, to ensure women and millennials thrive in the workplace. She is currently serving as the acting COO of the 3% Movement, committed to changing the ratio of women in leadership roles in the advertising industry.

BE is focused on connections, experience and mentorship, matching industry leaders with young female professionals to help them connect and grow and succeed in their professional lives.

The BE Conference is a premier conference that connects change makers seeking to make an impact with game changers at the top of their fields who want to inspire and mentor the next generation of leaders. The audience consists of 350 millennials, including entrepreneurs, influencers and rising stars in their respective worlds, along with 50 mentors who are eager to teach and learn from each other.

Launched in 2017 by TheWrap founder and CEO Sharon Waxman, BE Conference offers keynote interviews, panel discussions, workshops, networking and mentoring sessions that build meaningful connections, encourage constructive change, and empower the next generation to BE the best possible version of themselves.

More information on attending, sponsoring or mentoring at BE is available at

Related stories from TheWrap:

The Scene at BE Conference 2017: Kristen Bell, Soledad O'Brien, Mentors and More (Photos)

Watch Kristen Bell Talk Entrepreneurship, Kick Off BE Conference (Exclusive Video)

TheWrap and BE Conference Aim to Expand Opportunity for Women

]]> 0
Behind the Disney-Fox Merger: 7 Things We Still Need to Know – and 3 We Already Do Thu, 14 Dec 2017 20:10:23 +0000 Sharon Waxman The merger of 21st Century Fox’s main entertainment assets with The Walt Disney Company announced on Thusday is one of those deals that come around once in a generation.

It signals a major change in the balance of power in Hollywood, as well as serves as a reflection of the seismic shift that has happened over the past decade with the rise of technology platforms.

WaxWord will weigh in on that a bit later, but in the meantime, here are seven questions that weigh on our minds with this mega-merger:

1. What happens to top executives?
Dozens of top-notch executives are thrown into limbo by the merger, a talent pool the likes of which has not been available for decades.

Will streaming giants Amazon and Netflix swoop in to poach Fox executives? I think yes. Among the chief targets are studio chief Stacey Snider, production chief Emma Watts, Fox 2000 lead Elizabeth Gabler, marketing veterans Pam Levine or Julie Rieger — all on the movie side alone.

And it’s anybody’s guess the next corporate home for the unique management and programming skills of Dana Walden and Gary Newman — partners of two decades — not to mention the couple dozen of top rated television chiefs who work for them.

2. What about Peter Rice?
Rice, president of 21st Century Fox as well as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Fox Networks Group, is one of the top executives at Fox.

He has been Rupert Murdoch’s favored non-biological son for two decades, often seen as someone who could lead the company. Will he be left in the cold, or groomed to succeed Bob Iger?

3. What exactly happens to Hulu?
Hulu is sticking around. Iger has made clear that whatever Disney’s new streaming service is — it’s not this. So now Disney will own a 60 percent stake in Hulu — the combined stake of Disney and Fox — and will need to decide about the future of the streaming service.

The streaming service has had some significant success in the past year but has also been plagued by infighting among the owner-parents — which also include Comcast (through NBCUniversal) and Time Warner (through Turner Broadcasting).

4. Does Fox Searchlight have a future?
The prized indie film studio, which won Best Picture with “12 Years a Slave” and has a major Oscar contender this year with “The Shape of Water,” is a source of prestige but not great revenue or profits at Fox.

Will Disney keep it as a standalone label after its rocky 17-year experience with Miramax, which it sold in 2010? Will it be relegated to making movies for the streaming service?

5. Will Disney have an appetite R-rated fare?
Fox has built the model for R-rated superhero action with “Deadpool,” and fan-friendly horror fare like Ridley Scott’s “Alien.” Can this comfortably live with the Disney brand of filmed entertainment? Fans are going to hope so.

6. Will this media mega-merger pass muster with Donald Trump’s regulators?
With the Trump-era Department of Justice suing AT&T over its planned acquisition of Time-Warner, many will want to see the same scrutiny of this mega-deal.

It seems Rupert Murdoch’s friendship with Donald Trump might smooth the path, although many will be watching the space closely. (Personally I see zero chance of Donald doing anything to discomfit Rupert’s plans. He needs Fox News too much.)

7. How will exhibitors react?
This move further weakens theatrical exhibition, since it creates fewer sources of movie content and thus diminishes their leverage. The struggling chains are now being confronted with the pressure of MoviePass — a flat fee subscription service — and now the overwhelming force of Disney plus Fox.

The three things we know are:
• Hulu is staying put for the moment.

• X-Men and the Fantastic Four are likely to hook up with other Marvel superheroes in the not-too-distant future.

• Rupert and Donald will stay tight buddies, and Bob Iger ain’t running for president next cycle.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Writers Guild West Warns Fox-Disney Merger Will Be at 'Expense of Creators'

Why the Disney-Fox Deal Won't Be Good for Nerds, or Anyone Else (Commentary)

X-Men, Fantastic Four Fans Rejoice at Prospect of Mega-Avengers Movies With Disney-Fox Merger

]]> 0
Elvis Costello, T Bone Burnett, Common and More to Talk Up Their Oscar Song Contenders Mon, 11 Dec 2017 23:56:06 +0000 Sharon Waxman Common, Diane Warren, Common, T. Bone Burnett and other top songwriters will gather Monday to discuss their work on some of this year’s most buzzed-about films.

TheWrap is sponsoring the 2018 Oscar Song Contender event, which includes a screening of clips from films featuring the songs as well as a panel discussion moderated by TheWrap Awards Editor Steve Pond.

Participants include:

• Multiple award-winners Diane Warren and Common for “Stand Up for Something” (from the film Marshall)

• Academy Award-winning singer/songwriter Ryan Bingham for “How Shall a Sparrow Fly” (from the film Hostiles)

• Raphael Saadiq and Taura Stinson who along with Laura Karpman wrote “Jump” (from the film Step)

• Academy Award-winning actor, writer and director Kenneth Branagh who now adds songwriter to his list of accomplishments by writing the lyrics to “Never Forget” (from the film Murder on the Orient Express) written with Patrick Doyle

• Music chameleon and raconteur Elvis Costello will discuss “You Shouldn’t Look at Me That Way” (from the film “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool”)

• Legendary songwriter, producer and musician T. Bone Burnett & OneRepublic Frontman Ryan Tedder for “Truth to Power” (from the film “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power”)

Exclusive video from the evening will be available on TheWrap’s Facebook page.

The program, hosted by TheWrap founder and editor-in-chief Sharon Waxman and presented by Dolby Laboratories, will also be re-broadcast on Monday, December 18, at 7 p.m. on SiriusXM’s music talk channel Volume.


Related stories from TheWrap:

'Jumanji: Welcome to The Jungle' Sets Exclusive Early Screening for Amazon Prime Members

First 'Phantom Thread' Screening Unveils Another Obsessive Daniel Day-Lewis Performance

Disney Defends Banning LA Times From Screenings: 'Complete Disregard for Basic Journalism Standards'

]]> 0
How They Saved Ojai: A Letter From a Town to Its Firefighters Sun, 10 Dec 2017 17:47:31 +0000 Sharon Waxman They saved Ojai. That’s the short version.

But how one of the worst fires in California history burned right up to the edge of this small, spiritual town and then stopped, leaving it virtually intact, is one of the great dramas in the tableau of ferocious natural destruction we’ve been watching.

On Saturday, all along the road into Ojai, homemade signs dotted the path: “Thank you for saving our town,” one read. “Thank you to the first responders,” and just “Thank You.” And more thank yous.

Not everyone was lucky. The charred remains of something called the Ojai Prayer Club stood like a wounded sentry on the mountain above the valley. The fire blew through every inch of this retreat, which up to a week ago had majestic views.

But in the main, this gentle valley of ex-hippies, orange groves and spiritual seekers survived untouched. A few hundred feet from the prayer club, purple bougainvillea danced at the windy entrance of a neighboring estate.

Remains of the Ojai Prayer Club

It was not a certain outcome by any means. The fire began on Monday in the mountainous eastern part of town, as firefighters were busy battling another blaze that was coursing through Santa Paula, not far away. Fed by dry chaparral and an unpredictable wind, the fire raced toward Ojai, a town of 8,000 nestled in the shadow of the Topa Topa mountain range.

“The second fire that started in upper Ojai was a separate start. That took on its own life and then moved into Ojai proper,” explained Steve Swindle, the public information officer for Ventura County Firefighters. He is also a firefighter and was battling the blaze in Santa Paula on Monday when the Ojai fire started.

He described what became a nightmare for residents, as the first fire circled back and joined the second one to create a burning noose around the town:

“The first fire moved down the canyon into Santa Paula. It caught easterly  winds and headed west into east Ventura, across Ventura proper, then to west Ventura, jumped highway 33, and got into the backside of the coastal range and burned through there. It went up into Casitas Spring, and then came around the front side of Ojai. It literally did a circle.”

For two days, the fire was zero percent contained, burning to the south, the east and the north, as residents watched and decided whether to evacuate.

At a private boarding school to the east of the downtown strip, the realization of what could happen began to take hold. In a letter to the school community, Thacher head of school Michael Mulligan began to share increasingly alarming developments:

“It has scorched the eastern and southern hills of the Ojai, and it has worked its way to the eastern border of the Thacher campus,” he wrote on Monday. “The terrain on both sides of the Gymkhana Field is now burned off; the chaparral on Huntington Trail has effectively been cleared; and the fire has crept over to the borders of our new solar field but has left them untouched thanks to the barren horse corrals. Tonight there are embers glowing throughout these hills but no active flames.”

The embers were a serious threat, because the wind drove them ahead of the fire, and as Swindle explained, created a vacuum effect that exponentially increased the speed of the flames spreading.

And for the first 12 hours, firefighters in Ojai were on their own.

“The fire was just raging and we couldn’t catch it.,” Swindle said. “Normally we’ll flank a fire and knock it down. On this one, because it was burning so crazy, we were just following it and cleaning up behind it. You can’t stop it — it’s an amazing force of nature that you cannot stop. It’s like a death wish if you get in front of that.”

The authorities ordered strike teams in, and in a military-style operation, moved hundreds of men and women into place. Reinforcements flooded in by Wednesday, even as the fire and wind raged on the mountainsides. A total of 5,000 firefighters from a half-dozen states mobilized to fight the Ventura fires.

In the Topa Topa neighborhood, firefighters made a stand at the base of the foothills and held back the flames. Resident Sharon Maharry said homeowners broke into sobs when they realized the fire was being beaten back.

“My hat goes off to these three dudes and the other firemen who stood their ground,” a grateful resident Erik Wilde wrote on his Facebook page, under a photo of silhouetted firefighters.

Thacher evacuated its 300 students ahead of the official call by the county for everyone to get out. Mulligan described “huge billowing smoke plumes” coming out of the hills and right up to the border of the campus on Thursday. “The fire crew watches them carefully, sets back fires, and uses a little water here and there. And everything turns out just fine,” he wrote.

Myself, I’m here because I bought a home here a few months ago, eager for a quiet place on the weekends and holidays. Ojai is special, as most residents here will tell you. Friends are easy to come by, and so is solitude if you want that. The natural beauty is breathtaking.

But it was all close to going up in smoke.

Around the town on Saturday, residents shared stories of homes that burned, and how theirs miraculously survived.

The haze hung heavy in the air, a few rogue fires were still burning by the side of the road and high up on a mountain ridge. In town, the evacuation notice had been lifted and air quality — yesterday “hazardous” — was just “very unhealthy.” A group called “Direct Relief” handed out face masks.

Everywhere was the evidence of the raging wind and fire that encircled this town just a few days ago.

The once-green mountains were stripped bald, like a brutal scalping had taken place. And the black soot of burned trees tiptoed right up to the 33 highway, the main artery that links the Ojai valley to the Pacific Ocean at Ventura.

Once you get into Ojai, the soaring eucalyptus trees are back.

“More than anything it’s just luck,” said Swindle, reflecting on why Ojai was spared. “The second thing is in this county we have a well established weed abatement program, where you have to clear 100 feet of brush all around your house. It creates a defensible space for us to get in and defend your home against fire. “

He continued: “And also because the valley (pauses to cough from smoke), where it sits, it’s sheltered from the east winds by the mountains.”

He added, almost as an afterthought:  “And the valiant efforts of our firefighters. They got in there in horrible conditions.”

Yeah, how about those guys. #Gratitude

Related stories from TheWrap:

Ellen DeGeneres Evacuates as California Wildfires Spread Through Santa Barbara County

LA Wildfires: Bel-Air Residents Return to Survey Damage After Thousands Forced to Evacuate

See the Shocking Devastation of the SoCal Wildfires (Photos)

]]> 0
Matt Lauer, Russell Simmons, Garrison Keillor and the Upending of Everything Fri, 01 Dec 2017 01:07:40 +0000 Sharon Waxman We’ve stopped panicking in Hollywood. Now we just stand around in confusion, jaws agape at the news that continues to swarm around us like an angry, buzzing hive.

Three more icons of media and entertainment have fallen in the past two days. We woke up on Tuesday to Matt Lauer, the boy-next-door of morning news, being summarily fired from NBC, followed by the defrocking of midwestern uncle Garrison Keillor. And then Russell Simmons — the guru of Hollywood yoga — apologized for being a jerk and quit all his businesses after an accusation by the screenwriter daughter of Sidney Lumet and granddaughter of Lena Horne.

All of these men were accused of, and admitted while not admitting to, misbehaving sexually with younger women.

Who knows what to expect anymore?

We’ve come some distance from figures like Harvey Weinstein and Brett Ratner and Kevin Spacey, who looked and acted the part of bully, Lothario or predator (in no particular order).

Now we have to think of Matt Lauer wielding a sex toy. No wonder Katie Couric is dumbstruck — though eventually she too will need to speak up.

Since last I wrote in this space, John Lasseter has been banished from Disney, producer Gary Goddard has lost his perch, the showrunner of Supergirl has been fired by the CW and police investigations continue apace against Weinstein and Spacey.

The uprising started by the Weinstein revelations is now everywhere in media and politics. (One wonders when finance and tech will join the conversation.)

I happened to be in New York and Washington DC this week, and there is no more comprehension of this cultural cluster bomb here than on the West Coast. Precious few — okay, nobody — wanted to comment officially about the paroxysms at NBC over Lauer and CBS with the ouster of Charlie Rose. One staffer at MSNBC whispered to me that she gets all her news about Ronan Farrow’s reporting from other news outlets. Neither NBC nor MSNBC touch the story, it was noted.

Why the silence, I asked? “Nobody knows,” came the response.

At a screening for a new documentary about Ben Bradlee, an auditorium full of media and political elite started hissing when footage appeared of Charlie Rose interviewing the venerable Washington Post editor in years past. (Though one might wonder how Bradlee would fare in the current climate, having left two wives for new lovers.)

We can’t keep up with the rogue’s gallery of men, once paragons of trust, and now disgraced.

Getty Images

Washington is in utter turmoil, with accusations of sexual misconduct flying between Republicans and Democrats, all against the backdrop of the chaotic Trump presidency.

It’s hard to sort the politics from the misconduct, as charges and countercharges fly. What resonates is the testimony of women coming forward, speaking out with confidence and poignancy, whether against Democratic Congressional veteran John Conyers or Senate candidate Roy Moore. It’s hard for even Ivanka Trump and Nancy Pelosi to stand by them.

My Twitter feed is full of women cheering on survivors of sexual assault as they come forward one by one, a digitally assembled Greek chorus, demanding justice.

Every news organization has a list of people about whom they have “heard things.” Many of those on TheWrap’s list have been exposed, and have exited their jobs. There are others.

Meanwhile, our president continues his tirade against the media. His own accusers of sexual misconduct go unanswered, while the leaders of our media and entertainment landscape lose their positions, one by one.

]]> 0
Hollywood Panics as Post-Harvey Housecleaning Continues Mon, 13 Nov 2017 03:10:22 +0000 Sharon Waxman No one dares leave their email for more than a few minutes. God forbid they miss the latest report of sexual misconduct, or the latest project to be canceled because of a new accusation.

Moment by moment, hour by hour, bad actors (by which I mean Bad Actors) are being exposed and excised from the Hollywood body politic like cancerous growths.

Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Brett Ratner, Louis C.K., the accusations come fast and the consequences faster. Harvey was dumped by every organization in the entertainment industry including the Motion Picture Academy but it took more than a week.

By the time last Friday rolled around, Louis C.K. — whose skeevy behavior apparently did not include rape — was fired by more Holllywood entertainment companies in 24 hours than he had monologue jokes. HBO, Netflix, FX, Universal Pictures and The Orchard all declared him persona non grata — down to removing his old shows from streaming platforms — even though the guy apologized.

It’s a new day and the rules that prevailed for decades are out the window. Zero tolerance for sexual misconduct is the order of the day, with Rose McGowan leading the revolutionary army. (Or, as she calls it, #RoseArmy.)

But now, admitting wrongdoing and promising to change is not sufficient anymore. Louis C.K. tried that and it didn’t help him. Prosecution and due process is completely irrelevant. If you’re accused, best to pack your bags.

Panic at what seems like a certain hysteria is gripping the industry.

Those still undiscovered — the other bad actors — inwardly cringe and figure out how to get out of town for that urgent meeting in Shanghai. Everybody else is wondering — what is happening? What just happened?

Friends from far-off places and family call to earnestly ask: Why now? Why the avalanche of accusations, why the roaring rejection by companies, why the seeming lack of distinction between obnoxious flirting, a too-insistent proposition and rape?

I will tell you why. It’s because — if I may speak for all womankind — women are over this s—.

Because for too many decades, there has been a cold disconnect between publicly stated values of gender equality and this seedy behavior toward women. For too long, women were afraid to come forward because they felt they would be disbelieved. Some of them figured they may as well take the money and shut up, since that was the best they could hope for.

Then Bill Cosby — beloved Bill Cosby — was revealed to be an abuser of contemptible proportions, for decades, while we publicly adored him. (He’s not been convicted of anything at this time, but raise your hand if you think three dozen women are lying.)

Then Donald Trump’s “Access Hollywood” tape was released, and decent people thought it would disqualify him for the presidency. And it didn’t. Now we have a p—y-grabber-in-chief in the White House.

What we are seeing today is the pent-up rage of women disrespected and disbelieved, objectified sexually and expected to take it in stride, honey — not just in Hollywood but across the spectrum of Western society.

And the collateral damage includes the movies that were made by the now-pariah people, TV projects now put on hold. Awards-season movies that Weinstein can’t release. Sundance titles they’ll never champion. This means innocent peoples’ jobs and liveihoods, this has implications for shareholders of media and entertainment companies. The ripple effects will continue for months.

It’s a different day in Hollywood, that’s for sure.

I don’t know where this ends up. I can’t help but feel that contemporary porn culture, contemporary dating culture — all those years of obsessing over male pleasure instead of authentic sexual connection — has something to do with it.

What I know is that this isn’t ending anytime soon. The cleaning of Hollywood’s house continues.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Hollywood Hair-Trigger: 11 Films and TV Shows Impacted by Sexual Harassment Accusations (Photos)

George Takei 'Shocked and Bewildered' by Sexual Assault Claims

'Arrow,' 'The Flash' Executive Producer Suspended Over Sexual Harassment Accusation

Top DC Comics Editor Accused of Sexual Harassment

]]> 0
Hollywood Reels From Post-Harvey Flood of Sexual Misconduct Accusations Mon, 06 Nov 2017 02:03:41 +0000 Matt Donnelly and Sharon Waxman Across Hollywood, industry veterans are grappling with shame, anger and fear as sexual assault and harassment accusations continue to break everywhere in the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s personal and professional implosion.

Conversations with more than a dozen industry insiders in the past several days reflect frank embarrassment over the sordid revelations of sexual misconduct, fear over the cascading revelations that continue to emerge and worry at the spillover effect into their own organizations.

“I knew that this s— happened, but did not want to think my industry was so complicit with these abusers,” said one production executive currently working on a big live-action adaptation of an animated property. “We have enough to deal with: crazy locations, schedules, rigid studio budgets. And you have to worry about people molesting you.”

Within the industry, people have gone from shock over reports of Weinstein’s serial predatory behavior to concern that bad behavior is more widespread than anyone previously believed.

A talent manager who handles cable stars said both he and his clients were “sick over this news breaking every day. It’s not one explosive story, it’s something new every day. It’s hard on your spirit.”

It’s been less than a month since two exposés ran accusing Weinstein of sexual misconduct. The stories rocked show business and almost immediately sparked an avalanche of similar accusations against figures like Amazon Studios head Roy Price, director James Toback, actor Kevin Spacey, producer Brett Ratner, journalist Mark Halperin, agents and managers like Tyler Grasham and David Guillod and more.

Many of them have taken leave or been removed from their jobs, with ripple effects across the industry. “House of Cards” production has been suspended, for example, and the future of the next and final season is in question.

Several individuals called the daily barrage of sordid stories a “nightmare,” creating a climate that has placed a damper on the enthusiasm for the upcoming awards season and sparked nervous conversations at talent agencies, production companies, studios and PR firms about their own clients.

In the case of CAA, this led to a decision to drop Spacey as a client last week, as did his publicist Staci Wolfe. That in turn has raised questions about how talent and PR agencies might respond in the future to accusations against other clients — from Dustin Hoffman to Casey Affleck to names who have yet to emerge.

“Who isn’t looking at everything right now?” one exasperated agency staffer said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “If you’re not, you have a different problem.”

Past legal settlements are being dusted off and scrutinized anew out of concern that any leaks that might embarrass the institutions at best, or leave them liable at worst, said one public relations expert who works closely with the talent agencies.

“You can be sure that human resources departments all over town are carefully reading any legal settlements they’ve made,” said this veteran.

While none of the big four talent houses — CAA, WME, UTA  and ICM — would comment on specific reviews, individuals at CAA and WME said the companies are evaluating internal policies and outside relationships for any problematic ties. At UTA, CEO Jeremy Zimmer sent an internal email clarifying that harassment in any form is intolerable and underscoring that any employee confronting the issue should feel comfortable in coming forward.

Even those who have been most outspoken about reforming Hollywood culture may have Achilles heels in their past work with individuals who have fallen under the spotlight for bad behavior.

Cathy Schulman, an Oscar-winning producer and the president of Women in Film, sits on the executive board of the management company Primary Wave Entertainment — whose co-CEO David Guillod resigned Saturday after facing accusations in TheWrap that he drugged and assaulted a female client. Schulman has declined multiple requests to comment.

According to many individuals TheWrap interviewed, what’s most unsettling is the speed at which the accusations are flying — as well as the consequences landing.

The dismantling of Weinstein’s legacy took several weeks, from his firing by The Weinstein Company Board to his ejection by the Motion Picture Academy and the PGA to the escalating threat of criminal charges.

But last week’s Kevin Spacey scandal played out in just five days: After more than a dozen men accused Spacey of sexual misconduct, including several who were minors at the time, Netflix severed ties with the star of its hit show “House of Cards” and even jettisoned a Gore Vidal biopic that was already in postproduction. His agency CAA fired him, as did his publicist, Staci Wolfe.

Spacey, whose lawyer has denied most of the allegations, ended the week by retreating from Hollywood to seek unspecified “evaluation and treatment.”

“Everyone knew about Kevin Spacey, which is why the response was so swift,” a producer told TheWrap. There are “lots of other names floating around.”

Many Hollywood executives are also conducting a personal inventory of their own behavior in interacting with colleagues. One insider at a talent management firm said some staffers were asking, “Where does it end? Did I do anything that I have to worry about?”

A top corporate executive in TV was even nervous about playing matchmaker at the office, wondering in hindsight if any intrusion in employees’ personal lives was out of bounds in this post-Harvey world.

Related stories from TheWrap:

David Guillod Resigns as Co-CEO of Primary Wave Following Sexual Assault Accusations

Uma Thurman's Reaction to Question About Flood of Sexual Assault Allegations Will Give You Chills (Video)

WME Places Adam Venit on Leave After Sexual Harassment Accusations

]]> 0
‘American Idol’ Producer Peter Hurwitz Pushed Out as Core Media CEO (Exclusive) Mon, 30 Oct 2017 22:29:37 +0000 Matt Donnelly and Sharon Waxman Peter Hurwitz, the CEO of “American Idol” producer CORE Media Group, is stepping down and transitioning to an advisory role, two insiders familiar with the matter told TheWrap.

Hurwitz is the second former Weinstein Company lawyer in the last week to exit a top role at a prominent company. He was pushed aside to make room for executive chairman Dennis Miller, a former Turner Networks executive, who quietly joined the company in September, the insiders said.

Hurwitz has previously served as general counsel at The Weinstein Company, and one insider said there has been anxiety within CORE about whether he knew anything about Harvey Weinstein’s payouts to women who accused him of sexual assault. But a spokesman for CORE said there was “no inquiry whatsoever” into his work at Weinstein.

Hurwitz did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for CMG said, “No one at the company ever expressed any concern about Peter’s prior association with The Weinstein Co., and there is no  “insider” at Core who could truthfully say such a thing.”

Hurwitz served as general counsel for The Weinstein Company from 2006 to 2009. Former Lionsgate International COO Andrew Kramer departed that company last Thursday. He had served as TWC’s president of business affairs and later general counsel.

ABC, which will air the upcoming “American Idol” revival in March, declined to comment on the matter.

Shortly after the Weinstein scandal broke in early October, an insider close to the revamped “Idol” told TheWrap of “lots of quiet concern…  about what Peter might have done in the name of Weinstein.”

The insider continued: “But a general counsel would and should know all. So the answer that ‘I didn’t do the settlements’ can be misleading. The question being asked is what did he know while in that job and what steps did he take to stop the further victimization of women.”

CORE Media was originally jointly owned by 21st Century Fox and Apollo Global Management. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Summer 2016 and reorganized by late September that year, a process that Hurwitz led. The current owners are Tennenbaum Capital Partners and Crestview Media Investors.

The company eliminated about $385 million in debt with the help of the new lenders.

]]> 0
How Fabrizio Lombardo Became Harvey Weinstein’s Hustler Wed, 25 Oct 2017 16:44:32 +0000 Sharon Waxman My in-box and physical mailbox have been inundated with messages from people eager, finally, to reveal the real story behind former Miramax Italy head Fabrizio Lombardo and Harvey Weinstein.

Many of them are heartbreaking. They mostly involve models who say they were recruited, stalked and otherwise pushed into having sexual encounters with important people in the entertainment industry, Weinstein among them. I have already shared the stories of four such people, but there is a lot more to know.

Let us begin with what more I’ve learned about Lombardo.

“I met the overly ambitious street hustler Lombardo as a naïve young model first in Milan and then later in Paris where he stationed himself and operated his procurement talent… out of the apartment of Jean Luc Brunel of Karin Models,” a former model who wants to remain anonymous told me.

Jean Luc Brunel is the founder of a modeling agency who in news reports, including a 1988 exposé on “60 Minutes,” was connected to Jeffrey Epstein, a Florida billionaire convicted of seeking sex from a minor. Brunel subsequently sued Epstein in civil court in 2015, accusing him of being the cause of his losing millions of dollars because of his tarnished reputation.

Back to Lombardo. According to the model, he “learned the game from some of the best playboys and hustlers Europe produced…. He was a maverick at meeting rich, powerful men who liked his thick Italian accent, brash behavior and predominantly his talent to wrangle pretty girls. Unfortunately I was also one of them.”

She said that Lombardo moved to New York, which is where Lombardo befriended Weinstein in the early 1990s. Lombardo himself corroborates this in an interview he gave to the New York Times published on Tuesday, saying he first met Weinstein on St. Bart’s and became friends in New York.

A spokeswoman for Weinstein said they met during the making of “Pulp Fiction,” “when Mr. Lombardo was dating the actress Uma Thurman.” (“Pulp Fiction” was shot in 1993.)

Lombardo declined to respond to multiple emails and phone calls to his cell from TheWrap. His lawyer Bruno della Ragione sent a general statement: “I have been retained by Dr. Fabrizio Lombardo, who has already denied involvement in the ‘Weinstein case’ through the appropriate communication channels, to inform you that all news, third party interviews, statements and hypotheses that refer to Dr. Lombardo are unfounded and, accordingly, do not accurately represent the facts.”

He then said he would prosecute anyone “promulgating false information” about Lombardo.

According to the model, Lombardo moved to Los Angeles from New York a couple of years later seeking to become a film producer. “But after a few months of very bitter and cold reception,” she said, he realized that he would not be successful at that.

By the late ’90s, Lombardo was back in Europe. “At this point, Harvey owed him and at the same time needed him for his endless zest,” she said. “The timing was perfect considering how many new projects were being scheduled to shoot in Europe.” For example, “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” shot in Italy, came out in 1999.

The model added, “He could deliver any girl or any actress as the proudly crowned head of Miramax Europe.” (Correction: Actually, Lombardo was head of Miramax Italy.)

In the Times, a former Miramax Italy executive said she received a call from her superiors urging her to use Lombardo in everything she did.

“I thought this was a way to legitimize his involvement in the company,” Elizabeth Dreyer told the Times, adding that his responsibilities amounted to setting up meetings and translating. (This tracks precisely with my reporting from 2004, by the way.)

The model described the activities of Miramax Italy, which she said had two female employees: “Endless castings for ‘upcoming’ movies, parties, dinners and of course all the notorious European movie festivals… Lombardo was in charge, looking important, moving the chess pieces as he pleased all blessed by HW. Everybody knew what was going on and a lot of the power players were rewarded by invitations to all this entertainment courtesy of Miramax Europe [sic]. Harvey would travel to Rome more frequently than ever, staying at the Eden Hotel. The game was on.”

This comment also tracks with what Dreyer told the Times. Years earlier, she recalled trying to book a room for Weinstein at the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc outside Cannes and being told “that he was barred because the owner said he ‘brings too many girls.'”

The model observed what has been stated to me by Asia Argento, Zoe Brock, Sacha Voski and a producer who declines to be named, that Miramax in Italy “was basically a procurement operation to please its head Harvey Weinstein and all of his cronies courtesy of his ‘Boy-Friday’ Fabrizio Lombardo.”

For the record, Lombardo denied such allegations to the Times. “That’s absolutely not true. I completely deny it. It’s false,” he said, when asked whether he was “he was employed in part to help satisfy Mr. Weinstein’s voracious appetite,” as the Times put it.

A spokeswoman for Weinstein denied it too. “As the executive in charge of Rome and parts of Europe, Mr. Lombardo made contributions that generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues for the company,” she said.

Those are words that are easy to throw around. So far, in my years of reporting on this in the past and in recent weeks, I have seen no evidence of this at all. And Weinstein has never claimed this to me before.

In the Times, Lombardo did claim credit for getting Miramax to acquire North American rights to Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore’s 2000 film “Malèna,” which went on to gross $3.4 million domestically.

More to come.

Related stories from TheWrap:

4 Women Corroborate Fabrizio Lombardo Procured Women for Harvey Weinstein

That Time Harvey Weinstein Visited New York Times' Top Editor to Kill My 2004 Expose

'Harvey Weinstein's Media Enablers'? The New York Times Is One of Them

]]> 0
Jennifer Salke, Kelly Bush Novak, Claire Forlani, Lauren Sivan Join Power Women Breakfast LA Tue, 24 Oct 2017 19:02:54 +0000 Wrap Staff TheWrap is pleased to announce a landmark gathering of industry voices committed to positive change and influencing society’s response to sexual assault at the Power Women Breakfast LA on Thursday October 26.

The program will include the panel: “Embracing Inclusion: Telling Stories that Champion the New Narrative,” that will feature NBC Entertainment chief Jennifer Salke.

Survivors of sexual assault or harassment will speak at the event including journalist Lauren Sivan, actress Claire Forlani and a soon-to-be-named prominent figure. Numerous guests of honor who have survived sexual assault in Hollywood will also be present in the audience.

“We must use this opportunity to have an honest conversation about the allegations of sexual assault rocking our industry,” said Wrap founder and CEO Sharon Waxman. “We are committed to working together to listen to survivors and move to create the change needed for a healthier ecosystem in Hollywood.”

The breakfast will offer two panels devoted to creating positive change, including a conversation about embracing inclusivity in storytelling that will include NBC Entertainment chief Jennifer Salke.

A courageous group of sexual assault and harassment victims including actress Claire Forlani, Fox 11 news anchor Lauren Sivan and others to be named will talk about how to encourage a gender-balanced landscape where women can thrive.

The day will also feature rising star Brooklynn Prince, actress in “The Florida Project” and Courage in Journalism Award-winner Saniya Toiken of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Kazakhstan, where journalists are routinely threatened, beaten, or killed because of their work.

The speaker program will be followed by a special #MeToo Town Hall that will be live streamed and moderated by Producer Hilary Shor and Producer, Director and Photographer Jeff Vespa. An expert panel will offer actionable steps for dealing with difficult situations of sexual assault and harassment in the workplace and an open forum for sharing stories in a safe environment. Confirmed speakers include Greenberg Glusker Partner Priya Sopori and Women in Media Executive Director Tema Steig and others to be announced.

A live auction to benefit the Joyful Heart Foundation, a national organization aiding women victims of sexual violence will take place during the event. Founded by Mariska Hargitay, their mission is is to transform society’s response to sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse, support survivors’ healing, and end this violence forever.

Connecting and inspiring the leading influential women of entertainment, media, technology and brands in the key cities where those women work, create, gather, network and connect.

TheWrap in 2017 has brought its successful Power Women franchise to DC, SF, NY, and now LA, building a broad network and community of professional women who are decision-makers and mothers, leaders and wives, innovators and activists.

]]> 0
Peter Bart Denies Covering for Harvey Weinstein: I Was Protecting Variety Thu, 19 Oct 2017 22:10:07 +0000 Sharon Waxman Peter Bart, who for 20 years ran Variety as its top editor, called to discuss the accusation that he covered for Harvey Weinstein when both men were among the most powerful folks in Hollywood.

It’s not as simple as that, he explained.

“Because Harvey had so many ferocious business enemies over the 20 years that I was running Variety, every year at this time of year I’d get at least one or two reporters come tell me that ‘Harvey will never make it through the season, he’s bankrupt, he won’t pay his bills,'” Bart said.

“Whereupon my policy was to say: ‘Let’s run the story if you can nail it. But if you can’t, then let’s not,'” Bart said. “The trouble is over a period of decades at the last minute he always pulled it together, so we couldn’t run the story that Harvey was out of business.”

He went on: “The trouble is we couldn’t nail it. Was that protecting Harvey? I was protecting Variety from being sued.”

In the Tuesday piece, “The Most Powerful Journalist In Hollywood Protected Harvey Weinstein For Years,” HuffPost reporters Jason Cherkis and Maxwell Strachan said that Bart reveled in his access to Weinstein and enforced a widely known — but unspoken — newsroom rule against negative coverage of the film executive and his companies, first Miramax and then The Weinstein Company.

A Variety insider told TheWrap: “The trades were kind of a gray area of journalism in the ’80s and ’90s. Today if you look at the kinds of reporters and editors at [the Hollywoood Reporter] and Variety, they’re top-notch journalists.”

The role of a trade editor is a delicate one, and I’m in no position to judge what Bart did or did not do. But I can vouchsafe that stories of the mogul’s imminent demise — usually financial — would frequently surface. And Harvey Weinstein would always pull it out.

Bart is now in his 80s, and is a columnist for Deadline. He ran Variety in its heyday, from 1989 to 2009. It’s worth pointing out, as others have, that Miramax published two of his books, “Dangerous Company: Dark Tales from Tinseltown, a collection of short stories” and  “Boffo! Hollywood in the Trenches: How I Learned to Love the Blockbuster and Fear the Bomb.”

If Bart didn’t cover for Weinstein, I asked him, why does he think that former staffers are saying that he did? “I have no idea,” said Bart. “It’s absurd.”

As for the sexual assault allegations against the disgraced mogul, Bart said, “I did not know this other character existed. That’s the sad thing.”

Related stories from TheWrap:

Peter Bart Accused of Coddling Harvey Weinstein as Variety Editor

Harvey Weinstein Under LAPD Sexual Assault Investigation

Here's Every Harvey Weinstein Accusation of Sexual Harassment and Assault

Victims No More: How Harvey Weinstein Accusers Are Taking Charge

]]> 0
That Time Harvey Weinstein Visited New York Times’ Top Editor to Kill My 2004 Expose Wed, 18 Oct 2017 19:46:14 +0000 Sharon Waxman It’s so funny about the truth. It’s so simple. And yet it’s really hard to tell.

Last week, New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet blithely knocked down questions about whether the paper gutted and then buried an investigative story about Harvey Weinstein and the head of Miramax Italy, Fabrizio Lombardo, that I wrote in 2004, as I charged in a post on TheWrap.

It was “unimaginable” to him that a paper as august as the Times would cave to “pressure from Harvey Weinstein,” he said.

“After all, The Times is an institution that has published investigative reporting that caused our Chinese-language website to be blocked in China,” he wrote.

Couldn’t be. Not possible.

Baquet further cast doubt on my assertion that Weinstein had visited the newsroom to get the story killed, as I was told at the time. “The top two editors at the time, Bill Keller and Jill Abramson, say they have no recollection of being pressured over Ms. Waxman’s story,” he said.

Really? That’s weird. Because now three people affirm that that’s exactly what happened, and one of them is my former editor. According to these individuals, Weinstein, his lawyer David Boies and spokesman Matthew Hiltzik all came personally to the newsroom to meet with Executive Editor Bill Keller about the story.

Michael Cieply, who had recently joined the Times and became my direct editor, recalls the meeting: “I do remember Harvey and Boies and possibly Mathew [sic] coming to a meeting with Keller in the building early in the process,” he wrote in an email. “Keller never took any steps that I was aware of to kill the story. But I do remember defending your right to report the story in several heated exchanges with Harvey afterwards.”

This story lines up with what Ross Johnson, then a freelance writer, wrote me about visiting the newsroom on that day in fall 2004. He said the visit by Weinstein, Boies and Hiltzik was the talk of the newsroom.

Johnson said Cieply, his editor at the time, told him that Weinstein, Boies and Hiltzik had been circling the building in a town car, pushing to get a meeting with Keller, which they eventually secured.

Johnson sets the date at early September 2004, shortly after I returned from my trip to Rome and London to report my story that Lombardo, according to multiple accounts, had no film experience to be running Miramax’s Italian office and that his real job was to organize evenings with escorts and procure women for Weinstein.

Johnson’s freelance piece about Hollywood lawyers was published on October 6, 2004.

A third person who was in a position to know about the meeting but who declined to go on the record told me a similar account of Weinstein’s attempts to shut down my story: “There was definitely a meeting with Bill Keller … and I think Jill [Abramson] was there too,” the individual said.

I asked Keller and Abramson if they were sure there was no such meeting. Keller declined, twice, to answer directly: “I don’t recall the date or subject, but I do remember Harvey and David Boies coming in to complain about something,” he wrote via email. But then he said he thought it was in 2007 about a David Carr piece and gave a bunch of details about that meeting. When I asked again to confirm his recollection of the 2004 meeting he did not respond to the question.

Keller now leads The Marshall Project, a nonprofit online journalism organization focusing on issues related to criminal justice.

Abramson answered with one word: “Untrue,” when I told her an individual with knowledge of the 2004 meeting said he thought she was there.

A rep for Weinstein said she was checking. Hiltzik declined to comment. And a spokeswoman for the Times said Baquet stood by his response.

So there we have it — a bunch of vague, indirect denials about a story that the Times’ former top editors, and current top editor, presume was not subject to pressure by Weinstein even though they can’t give definitive accounts.

Keller wrote in a follow-up email that my writing about this issue now amounts to sour grapes: “Ten-plus years later, the NYT and the New Yorker scooped you, and I’m sure that feels awful. But don’t blame editors or Harvey’s bullying for the fact that you failed to nail the story.”

Sadly, it’s not about being “scooped.” It’s about whether the Times did the best job it could to serve its readers and the women who were being preyed upon in the years subsequent to the fate of my story. Certainly I would not have raised such a fuss if I did not believe that I had valid reporting that should have appeared in print at the time.

Meanwhile, more ugly information has emerged about Lombardo. I’ve already written about four women who confirm that Lombardo procured women for Weinstein in Italy and France. And that he was on the Disney payroll in 2003 and 2004 for a job that paid $400,000 annually but carried few film-related responsibilities.

I should note that Lombardo has stepped forward recently to deny the allegations. 

I should also note that my next post will share more sad, sordid details about his work for Weinstein that suggest just the opposite.

Related stories from TheWrap:

'Harvey Weinstein's Media Enablers'? The New York Times Is One of Them

65 Stars Who Have Condemned Harvey Weinstein (Photos)

4 Women Corroborate Fabrizio Lombardo Procured Women for Harvey Weinstein

NY Times Columnist Writes 'Defense of Sorts' of Harvey Weinstein, Internet Revolts

]]> 0
4 Women Corroborate Fabrizio Lombardo Procured Women for Harvey Weinstein Fri, 13 Oct 2017 23:22:12 +0000 Sharon Waxman Four women have stepped forward to corroborate my New York Times reporting on Harvey Weinstein from 2004 that the former head of Miramax Italy, Fabrizio Lombardo, acted as a procurer of women rather than a film executive.

Actress-director Asia Argento — who alleged in the explosive New Yorker piece published on Tuesday that she was orally raped by Weinstein during a 1997 encounter outside Cannes, France — tweeted on Tuesday night that Lombardo brought her to the mogul’s room in 1997.

“He told me it was a Miramax party,” she wrote. “Only Harvey was there.” It’s unclear if she was referring to the same incident she described in the New Yorker — in which she said an unnamed “producer” lead her to Weinstein’s room — or a separate one.

In addition, Sacha Voski, a model based in Italy in 1988 and 1989, has come forward to say that Lombardo “relentlessly stalked” her at that time, and Zoe Brock wrote a post on Medium describing a frightening stalking by Weinstein, citing Lombardo.

“He just kept coming after me…..calling me 12 times a day…..convincing convincing convincing me….offering me one of his many empty apts he just happens to have laying around Milano,” Voski wrote in an email to me. “And the ‘good life’ to go along with it…considering I had no aquaintence with him, this all was quite psycho in my eyes. I was definitive with my no’s….it just didn’t matter….he just kept coming….”

Voski said she never met Weinstein and did not let Lombardo get close enough to know who employed him. She said she went to the police to denounce Lombardo, and shortly thereafter left Milan and quit the business for a time.

Update on October 12: Lombardo was reached by the Guardian newspaper and denied being a procurer of women for Weinstein.

“I did not hunt for him,” Lombardo said in direct response to an allegation by Zoe Brock, accompanied by his attorney. “It is not my style … it is not my relationship with Weinstein,” he added.

Voski reached out and at first would not go on the record, but reconsidered, writing me: “I want to help remove the evil. You can put me on record.”

A third woman, a producer, contacted TheWrap to say that Weinstein and Lombardo were a pair seen year after year at the Venice Film Festival.  “That was his playground,” she said, referring to Weinstein. “He and Fabrizio set up court at the Excelsior Hotel bar. Girls would come by.”

Zoe Brock, a former model, wrote a vivid post on Medium about her encounter with Weinstein and Lombardo, describing a terrifying encounter with Weinstein at the Hotel du Cap in Monaco in 1997. She describes how Weinstein cornered her in his suite, she locked herself in the bathroom and told him to be ashamed of himself. When she came out she found Weinstein sitting on the bed, crying. Lombardo was there earlier that evening.

Writes Brock: ” I saw him again later that week and he claimed to have no idea and was so apologetic about what happened. He had a really lovely girlfriend and they both invited me to visit them in Rome a couple of weeks later. I arrived late in the day and discovered they had only had one bed. When i made it clear I was not going to be their third wheel I slept on a sofa and had to endure the sounds of them having really loud sex. It was too late to train back out and I was too broke to get a hotel and too scared to sleep on the streets.”

The New York Times and I have been on a tear in the past few days as people debate why the paper stripped out any reference to Lombardo procuring women in my 2004 story, and then buried it on an inside page. I stand by my position, and I am glad to see these women step forward to help bring clarity.

Who was Lombardo, you ask? His official job was head of Miramax Italy. From my 13-year-old piece: “According to an executive who has seen the internal payroll records, Mr. Lombardo was paid 335,895 euros, or $403,000, from Nov. 1, 2003, to July 31, 2004, based on an average exchange rate from the first half of 2004. Miramax executives disputed that account, saying the company last paid him in March 2004, seven months after the Italian division closed.”

And this: “Miramax kept the executive, Fabrizio Lombardo, on its payroll for months after closing the Italy office in August 2003.”

Argento, long rumored to have been a victim of Weinstein, came forward this week to charge Weinstein with rape. Here’s how Argento describes her first encounter to the New Yorker:

At the time, Argento was twenty-one and a rising actress who had twice won the Italian equivalent of the Oscar. Argento said that, in 1997, one of Weinstein’s producers invited her to what she understood to be a party thrown by Miramax at the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc, on the French Riviera. Argento felt professionally obliged to attend. When the producer led her upstairs that evening, she said, there was no party–only a hotel room, empty but for Weinstein: “I’m, like, ‘Where is the fucking party?’ ” She recalled the producer telling her, “Oh, we got here too early,” before he left her alone with Weinstein. (The producer denies bringing Argento to the room that night.) At first, Weinstein was solicitous, praising her work. Then he left the room. When he returned, he was wearing a bathrobe and holding a bottle of lotion. “He asks me to give a massage. I was, like, ‘Look man, I am no fucking fool,’ ” Argento said. “But, looking back, I am a fucking fool. And I am still trying to come to grips with what happened.”

The bottom line is that 13 years later we know: We should have printed what we had. How many women might it have prevented from abuse?

One other thing: Matt Damon gave an interview on Tuesday in which he explained the call he made to me at Weinstein’s behest about Lombardo.

The actor and I do not disagree on this. It was a brief call and I did not tell him what my story was about, since it did not concern him. My point was that Harvey Weinstein was using any tool he could — including getting his celebrity friends to vouch for Lombardo — to get me to back off the story.

It did not work and Matt Damon is not responsible in any way for how the story turned out. So let’s just leave him alone, please.

For those who want the full background, here’s the original post. 

Related stories from TheWrap:

Cara Delevingne Describes Harvey Weinstein Harassment: 'I Felt Very Powerless and Scared'

Harvey Weinstein's BAFTA Membership Suspended

Ronan Farrow Dings NBC for Blowing Harvey Weinstein Scoop

The 'Darth Vader' Strategy: How the Weinstein Co. Can Defend Against Harvey's Fallout

'Harvey Weinstein's Media Enablers'? The New York Times Is One of Them

]]> 0
Weinstein Company Board Won’t Pay Harvey, Ex-Mogul Goes to War in NY Times Thu, 12 Oct 2017 13:42:13 +0000 Sharon Waxman

The Weinstein Company board has set off a war with fired co-founder Harvey Weinstein by deciding to sue him for damages instead of paying out his stake in the company, The Wrap has learned.

The disgraced mogul, fired by the board on Sunday, was informed on Wednesday that his 23 percent stake in The Weinstein Company will not be paid out, according to an individual with knowledge of the matter.

Instead, the company directors decided that since Weinstein’s actions have significantly damaged the company, they will seek legal remedies to recoup the losses sustained.

A representative for Weinstein did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

Harvey Weinstein’s stake is estimated to be worth somewhere between $50 million to $100 million, given an estimated value for the entire company of $400 million to $500 million.

Harvey and his brother Bob have a combined 42 percent stake in the company, which was founded in 2005 after the duo left their previous venture, Disney-owned Miramax.

Harvey Weinstein had already angered the board by unleashing lawyer David Boies to tell the New York Times in a story published late Wednesday that he had informed them of monetary settlements to women long before an emergency meeting called last week just before the Times ran its exposé detailing decades of sexual misconduct.

According to Megan Twohey’s Times story on Wednesday, “David Boies, a lawyer who represented Mr. Weinstein when his contract was up for renewal in 2015, said in an interview that the board and the company were made aware at the time of three or four confidential settlements with women.”

Board member Lance Maerov told the Times that the board was informed of previous settlements without detailing when those payoffs took place or what they consisted of “but said that he had assumed they were used to cover up consensual affairs.”

Most of Weinstein’s settlements appear to have occurred during the Miramax era, when the company was owned by Disney. Ahead of signing a new employment contract with Weinstein in 2015, the TWC board wanted more direct reassurance on his conduct in the wake of a complaint by an Italian model, Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, who filed a police report claiming Weinstein groped her during a 2015 meeting at the company’s Tribeca headquarters. (Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance did not file charges.)

According to the Times, the board hired an outside lawyer, H. Rodgin Cohen from the white-glove firm Sullivan and Cromwell, who examined Weinstein’s personnel file and found the complaint from Emily Nestor, an employee who accused Weinstein of pressuring her to accept sexual advances.

Cohen “assured the board in a September 2015 letter that it was legally safe to retain Mr. Weinstein because there were no unresolved complaints or threats of litigation against him,” Twohey wrote.

The story has the telltale stamp of Harvey Weinstein’s fingerprints, pressuring the company by leaking damaging information in the media spun to maximum effect.

So does his call on Wednesday to Page Six lamenting that he was “devastated” to lose his wife Georgina, and various reports in TMZ — including video of a distraught Weinstein leaving his daughter’s house on Thursday, with reports of him being suicidal.

Four members of the Weinstein board resigned in the past week after the revelation of serial instances of sexual harassment and assault by the former chief executive. Four others are hanging on, including Bob Weinstein, but the board may be out of its league in fighting the media avalanche.

Apparently Harvey Weinstein has decided to burn his own house down.

Related stories from TheWrap:

NBC Spiked Harvey Weinstein Story Despite Passing Network's Fact-Checking, Legal Hurdles (Report)

Harvey Weinstein Scandal: 9 Things We Still Don't Know

Harvey Weinstein Says He's 'Profoundly Devastated' That His Wife Is Leaving Him

Motion Picture Academy to Discuss Harvey Weinstein's 'Repugnant' Actions at Special Meeting

The 'Darth Vader' Strategy: How the Weinstein Co. Can Defend Against Harvey's Fallout

]]> 0
Harvey Weinstein Scandal: 9 Things We Still Don’t Know Wed, 11 Oct 2017 22:54:25 +0000 Sharon Waxman It’s day five of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and we know a whole lot more than we did a week ago.

With the explosive allegations of rape and serial assault and harassment from The New Yorker, we know a great deal: Three rape allegations, more than a dozen stories of sexual harassment and assault — and more coming out by the minute, it seems.

But there remains a great deal that we do not know.

The questions that remain to be answered will spell the future for The Weinstein Company and its viability, those who surrounded the mogul and of course Harvey Weinstein himself.

Here are the major questions that still need to be addressed:

1. What did Bob Weinstein know and when did he know it?

Harvey’s younger brother and co-chairman has been by his side since they started Miramax in 1979.

Ronan Farrow, author of The New Yorker exposé, and others insist he must have known about his brother’s lewd conduct. That’s not necessarily clear at this point, and Bob should clarify it.

2. What did TWC COO and president David Glasser know and when did he know it?

The same applies to Weinstein’s deputy, David Glasser, who has been by his side since 2008 with the exception of a brief break during a dispute over the renewal of his contract.

Glasser is the likely choice to be named CEO of TWC — or whatever post-Weinstein name the company finds for itself — but this becomes more complicated with a cloud hanging over his head.

He needs to find a way to dispel any sense that he had knowledge of Harvey’s inappropriate conduct happening right under his nose. According to one company insider, Glasser has insisted that he knew nothing beyond Weinstein’s tumultuous temper, penchant for verbal abuse and extramarital forays — rather than harassment, and worse, of employees or actors.

3. What did the board of directors know and when did they know it?  

Four of the company’s nine directors resigned last week and have not given any explanation for doing so. (Harvey Weinstein lost his seat on the board when he was fired on Sunday.)

They may have been disgusted with Weinstein, or exasperated by his attempts to dictate the terms of his departure, but in the end they had the power to fire him. Are they worried about criminal or civil liability?

4. What did the Walt Disney Company know?

The publicly traded conglomerate was the parent company of Weinstein’s previous enterprise, Miramax, when most of the known settlements to female accusers appear to have been paid out.

According to multiple individuals knowledgeable about the company, there was little fiscal discipline around Harvey and Bob’s spending during Miramax’s Disney era, so is the entertainment giant so very sure that no hush money was spent from its coffers?

5. Who handled the payouts?

Suspicion and rumors are flying around that some former Miramax executives might have been privy to payouts. This information, however legal the payout, could leave a tarnish on reputations.

Last Thursday’s New York Times story reported that Steve Hutensky, one of Miramax’s entertainment lawyers, was sent to London to negotiate a settlement with a former employee named Zelda Perkins over a 1998 incident. Hutensky, who declined to comment to the Times, is now a producer with two films in postproduction.

6. Where did the payout money come from?

Insiders at TWC insist that the money for settlements did not come from the company and that annual audits by Ernst & Young would make that impossible.

But that may not be the case when Weinstein worked at Miramax, which was a division of Disney beginning in 1993 (the brothers left in 2005).

7. Will there be criminal charges?

Harvey has hired a criminal lawyer, and the board issued a statement Tuesday night saying it would cooperate with any criminal investigation. Sounds like police involvement is not out of the question.

8. How many settlements were there, really?

According to an individual with knowledge of the situation, Weinstein’s lawyer told the board last week — just before the New York Times story broke — that there were between “eight to 12” settlements to women.

Which means that company insiders think there’s probably more than that.

9. And finally: How many victims were there really?

It seems like the number of women who feel that Weinstein either assaulted or harassed them increases by the hour, not the day.

The numbers could be huge, and we may never indeed know how many lives he touched in an unwanted and destructive way.

Related stories from TheWrap:

That Time Harvey Weinstein, Woody Allen and Donald Trump Worked Together

Harvey Weinstein Says He's 'Profoundly Devastated' That His Wife Is Leaving Him

Motion Picture Academy to Discuss Harvey Weinstein's 'Repugnant' Actions at Special Meeting

4 Women Corroborate Fabrizio Lombardo Procured Women for Harvey Weinstein

]]> 0
The Weinstein Company Expects to Change Name After Harvey Firing (Exclusive) Mon, 09 Oct 2017 03:55:03 +0000 Sharon Waxman The Weinstein Company is set to change its name after the firing of disgraced chief executive Harvey Weinstein, TheWrap has learned.

An individual with knowledge of the company said the Weinstein name has been irretrievably tainted by the scandal, which led to the departure of one of the most iconic moguls in modern-day Hollywood.

“TWC will need a new name,” the individual told TheWrap, adding that the decision has not been formally made but has been discussed by the board members and is expected to happen.

Bob Weinstein, Harvey’s younger brother and co-Chairman, has stepped in with COO David Glasser to run the company in the interim. Glasser seems to be the most likely pick to be CEO in Harvey Weinstein’s place, as he has been the executive’s deputy for a decade and was lured back after leaving over a contract renewal dispute two years ago.

Bob Weinstein has mainly focused on running Dimension, The Weinstein Company’s genre division.

The board terminated Harvey Weinstein after meeting yet again in emergency session on Sunday, following three days of turmoil and scandal after The New York Times published an investigative piece about his sexual misconduct.

Since then, even more lurid stories have emerged, making it difficult to justify Weinstein’s promises to take a leave of absence to get help.

Insiders tell TheWrap that Weinstein resisted their demands that he take a significant leave from the company to deal with his sexual problems and modify his behavior.

It remains to be seen what will happen to the nature and culture of the independent film company so closely tied to Harvey Weinstein’s personality and brand. The individual said the name change would likely happen this awards season, although Harvey Weinstein himself was said to be making edits to “The Current War,” the company’s awards hopeful, as recently as last week.

Said the individual: “If you do it, you do it right away.”

]]> 0
‘Harvey Weinstein’s Media Enablers’? The New York Times Is One of Them Sun, 08 Oct 2017 21:43:31 +0000 Sharon Waxman Update:

Actress Asia Argento, long rumored to have been assaulted by Harvey Weinstein, finally told her story to The New Yorker on Tuesday, saying that she was orally raped by him.

Weinstein denies any instance of coerced sexual activity.

But she tweeted on Tuesday evening that Fabrizio Lombardo, the procurer of women I referenced in the story below, brought her to Weinstein’s room in 1997:

In addition, a model who asked to remain anonymous wrote me this morning about Lombardo.

“I confirm his role in Weinstein’s life as a “procurer of women”……I believe that completely, just from my own experience of him,” she wrote. As a young model in Milan, she wrote, “He just kept coming after me…..calling me 12 times a day…..convincing convincing convincing me….offering me one of his many empty apts he just happens to have laying around Milano…..and the “good life” to go along with it…considering I had no aquaintence (sic) with him, this all was quite psycho in my eyes. I was definitive with my no’s….it just didn’t matter….he just kept coming…”


A whole lot of fur has been flying since last Thursday, when The New York Times published a game-changing investigative story about Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct that in lightning speed brought the mogul to his knees.

He apologized and took an immediate leave of absence from the company he co-founded, but that wasn’t enough. His board members and

legal advisers have been resigning en masse. And as new, ugly details emerge of three decades of settlements for sex-related offenses, he’s quickly becoming a national pariah.

I applaud The New York Times and writers Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey for getting the story in print. I’m sure it was a long and difficult road.

But I simply gagged when I read Jim Rutenberg’s sanctimonious piece on Saturday about the “media enablers” who kept this story from the public for decades.

“Until now,” he puffed, “no journalistic outfit had been able, or perhaps willing, to nail the details and hit publish.”

That’s right, Jim. No one — including The New York Times.

In 2004, I was still a fairly new reporter at The New York Times when I got the green light to look into oft-repeated allegations of sexual misconduct by Weinstein. It was believed that many occurred in Europe during festivals and other business trips there.

I traveled to Rome and tracked down the man who held the plum position of running Miramax Italy. According to multiple accounts, he had no film experience and his real job was to take care of Weinstein’s women needs, among other things.

As head of Miramax Italy in 2003 and 2004, Fabrizio Lombardo was paid $400,000 for less than a year of employment. He was on the payroll of Miramax and thus the Walt Disney Company, which had bought the indie studio in 1993.

I had people on the record telling me Lombardo knew nothing about film, and others citing evenings he organized with Russian escorts.

At the time, he denied that he was on the payroll to help Weinstein with favors. From the story: “Reached in Italy, Mr. Lombardo declined to comment on the circumstances of his leaving Miramax or Ricucci, saying they were legal matters being handled by lawyers. ‘I am very proud of what we achieved at Miramax here in Italy,’ he said of his work for the film company. ‘It cannot be that they hired me because I’m a friend.'”

I also tracked down a woman in London who had been paid off after an unwanted sexual encounter with Weinstein. She was terrified to speak because of her non-disclosure agreement, but at least we had evidence of a pay-off.

The story I reported never ran.

After intense pressure from Weinstein, which included having Matt Damon and Russell Crowe call me directly to vouch for Lombardo and unknown discussions well above my head at the Times, the story was gutted.

I was told at the time that Weinstein had visited the newsroom in person to make his displeasure known. I knew he was a major advertiser in the Times, and that he was a powerful person overall.

But I had the facts, and this was the Times. Right?

Wrong. The story was stripped of any reference to sexual favors or coercion and buried on the inside of the Culture section, an obscure story about Miramax firing an Italian executive. Who cared?

The Times’ then-culture editor Jon Landman, now an editor-at-large for Bloomberg, thought the story was unimportant, asking me why it mattered.

“He’s not a publicly elected official,” he told me.  I explained, to no avail, that a public company would certainly have a problem with a procurer on the payroll for hundreds of thousands of dollars. At the time, Disney told me they had no idea Lombardo existed.

A spokeswoman for the Times had no comment on Sunday.

I was devastated after traveling to two countries and overcoming immense challenges to confirm at least part of the story that wound up running last week, more than a decade later. I had met in person with a woman who said she’d been paid off for an unwanted sexual encounter and thus proved she existed.

Update: Several have asked why I did not pursue the story once I started TheWrap. Fair question. Five years later, 2009, the moment had passed to go back and write the missing piece about Lombardo, who was no longer on the scene and whose story had been half-published in the Times. Miramax was no longer part of the Walt Disney Company. And I did not have sufficient evidence to write about a pay-off, even though I knew one existed. My focus was on raising money, building a website and starting a media company. In the subsequent years since then I did not hear about further pay-offs or harassment and thought the issue was in the past. Weinstein had made a big effort, supposedly, to curb his temper and behavior, which was reflected in other areas of his public life.

Today I wonder: If this story had come to light at the time, would Weinstein have continued his behavior for another decade, evidenced by the scathing 2015 memo by former staffer Lauren O’Connor unearthed by Kantor and Twohey.

Writes Rutenberg: “Mr. Weinstein had his own enablers. He built his empire on a pile of positive press clippings that, before the internet era, could have reached the moon.”

The New York Times was one of those enablers. So pardon me for having a deeply ambivalent response about the current heroism of the Times.

Editors note: A previous version of this story stated that Jon Landman was a deputy managing editor at the Times. He left that position in 2013 to become an editor at large at Bloomberg View. TheWrap regrets the error.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Trump Is 'Not at All Surprised' by Harvey Weinstein Sexual Harassment Allegations (Video)

Harvey Weinstein's Scandal Turns Him From Democratic Player to Political Pariah

TV Reporter: Harvey Weinstein Masturbated in Front of Me

What Does the Harvey Weinstein Scandal Mean for The Weinstein Co.?

]]> 0
Harvey Weinstein Speaks: My Apology Is Sincere, But I’m Still Suing NY Times Fri, 06 Oct 2017 02:06:34 +0000 Sharon Waxman In an interview with TheWrap, disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein said he was sincere in his apology for sexual misconduct, but that he still intended to sue The New York Times for its bombshell story about his sexual misconduct over the years.

“I mean every word of that apology,” he told TheWrap. “The reason I am suing the New York Times is they didn’t give me enough time to respond.”

Weinstein and one of his lawyers, Lisa Bloom, both told TheWrap that they received the detail of allegations of sexual misconduct two days ago, and were told they had until 1 p.m. today to respond.

“We said, ‘What is it, tell us the allegations, we will respond. Harvey is going to be admitting some stuff,'” said Bloom, who was with Weinstein in his New York office.

“Two days ago, after begging, they gave us a couple dozen allegations that spanned 30 years and a dozen countries. They said we have until 1 pm today. We said ‘Why?’ They never said.”

“We are confident in the accuracy and fairness of our reporting,” a New York Times spokesperson tells TheWrap. “Mr. Weinstein had ample time to respond to specific allegations, which dealt with events that he had first-hand knowledge of, before our story published. We published his entire response, which acknowledges a history he now regrets. But the real issue is whether the story is accurate. Mr. Weinstein has not challenged any facts in our story.”

Weinstein and Bloom said they had no intention of suing any of the alleged victims. “We have made a decision we are not going after any women or accusers,” Bloom said. “But we have witnesses who said that some of this didn’t happen.”

The Times broke a lengthy investigative piece on Thursday alleging three decades of sexual misconduct by the Hollywood mogul, and said that eight women had received monetary settlements over the years in exchange for their silence.

Many who read Weinstein’s mea culpa, which included an unusual declaration that he would devote his energy to go after the National Rifle Association, as mitigated by the fact that his attorneys announced plans to sue the paper.

In apologizing, Weinstein said: “I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it.”

He added: “I’m going to give the NRA my full attention. I hope Wayne LaPierre will enjoy his retirement party. I’m going to do it at the same place I had my Bar Mitzvah.”

Bloom, whose advocacy for Weinstein has raised eyebrows since she is best known for representing accusers in high-profile sexual harassment cases, said the two were unrelated.

Weinstein said that he wrote the apology himself, contrary to a report from inside his own company that said Bloom wrote it.

“Harvey dictated it and I sent it right out,” said Bloom, whose book “Suspicion Nation” is being adapted by TWC into a TV miniseries.

The Weinstein Company board was meeting on Thursday night to decide the CEO’s fate.



]]> 0
Inside Weinstein Company Crisis: Execs Blindsided, Harvey Paid Settlements Himself (Exclusive) Thu, 05 Oct 2017 23:38:47 +0000 Sharon Waxman For the past two weeks, Harvey Weinstein has been hunkered down with lawyers, advisers and supporters trying to fight his way out of career-threatening allegations that he engaged in decades of sexual misconduct.

Despite a stilted statement of contrition on Thursday combined with an unusual vow to go after the National Rifle Association, Weinstein is said to be combative, unwilling to accept responsibility and eager to go after The New York Times for its bombshell report that at least eight women received monetary settlements after making claims of inappropriate behavior by him over the last several decades.

Weinstein’s statement of contrition was written by lawyer Lisa Bloom and not by Weinstein himself or anyone at the company, according to a company executive who declined to be identified.

Bloom did not respond to requests for comment; The Weinstein Company declined to comment.

Inside the company’s New York headquarters on Thursday, executives and other staffers were said to be in a state of shock. The news was all the more upsetting since many top Weinstein executives are women.

According to an individual familiar with the situation, senior executives  including Harvey’s brother and co-founder, Bob, were “floored” by many of the details in The New York Times story — including actress Ashley Judd’s claims that Harvey had sexually propositioned her two decades ago.

While many believed he strayed outside his marriages, the individual said, senior executives were not aware of the many payoffs to make allegations of sexual harassment go away.

The company took seriously female staffer Lauren O’Connor’s 2015 memo alleging sexual advances, the insider said, but then dropped the matter when the complaint was withdrawn within 48 hours.

At an emergency meeting of TWC board on Tuesday, board members pressed one of Weinstein’s lawyers for how many payoffs there had been over the  year and were told “eight to 12,” the individual said. The New York Times only cited eight payoffs.

At that meeting, the board decided to ask Weinstein to take a leave of absence, the individual said.

All the payoffs were made by Weinstein personally, not by the company, according to the insider — which might explain why top executives were unaware of the scope of the issue.

When the company first learned of the Times’ investigation several weeks ago, the individual said Weinstein was advised to get ahead of the story by writing an op-ed and acknowledging past misconduct.

Instead, the insider said the mogul decided to hole up with his lawyers David Boies, Lisa Bloom and Charles Harder and try to fight the story — a combative stance to public controversy that has previously served him well.

According to at least two executives, Weinstein has not been seen at his Tribeca headquarters in about two weeks.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Weinstein Company Board to Meet Thursday Night Over Harvey Weinstein's Fate

Harvey Weinstein Mocked for Quoting Jay-Z in Sexual Harassment Apology

Gloria Allred on Daughter Lisa Bloom Working for Harvey Weinstein: 'I Would Have Declined'

Gawker-Killer Lawyer: I'll Sue NY Times Over Harvey Weinstein Report

Harvey Weinstein Bombshell Report Says He Reached Sexual Misconduct Settlements With at Least Eight Women

]]> 0
At TheGrill 2017, A Tipping Point: Tech Platforms Have Arrived on the Shores of Content Mon, 02 Oct 2017 01:13:46 +0000 Sharon Waxman Those who are riveted by the spectacle in Washington, D.C., may be missing the moment happening in entertainment and technology.

Some time this year streaming and tech platforms went from distant travelers just over the horizon to well-supplied invaders storming the beaches of Hollywood.

This year Facebook announced plans to invest $1 billion in content. Apple has done the same, and both seem likely to grow their investments. AT&T is about to swallow Time Warner, a crown jewel of the content world, on the logic that Ma Bell phones are not such a great business anymore. Good call.

Disney has placed its bet on a streaming service and removed its content from Netflix, announcing itself as a competitor in this space while acknowledging that ESPN has an uncertain future on cable.

Netflix continues to grow at a robust pace, its stock price showing remarkable staying power and market cap now at $78 billion — about the same as Time Warner’s.

And Hulu, a streaming service — albeit one backed by traditional media companies — won the Emmy with its first ambitious original series, “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

The new world has been a long time coming, but it seems to be here. The outlines of the new entertainment ecosystem are becoming clear.

Distribution matters more than anything, and it is now the tech platforms that own the present and future of how content gets delivered. Platforms like Apple, with its ubiquitous smartphones, Facebook with its 2 billion daily users, and Amazon with its reach into every household in the nation, have scale that no theater chain can rival. Cable networks are holding on to their customers for dear life while chasing the streaming audience with their own new platforms.

I daresay this ecosystem will look very different five years from now, and what we now call “tech companies” may well look like entertainment companies as they move into content.

Is the change good? Depends on who’s asking.

That makes it a flush moment for screenwriters, showrunners, producers and actors. Those with the best content are in a strong position. But it makes it a moment of high-risk transition for the studios and networks.

At this year’s Grill, being held Monday and Tuesday of this week at The Montage hotel, we will be digging into this fundamental shift that is happening before our eyes. The savviest players have already begun their moves, and we have many of them here at the conference.

We will be talking to producers, marketers and leaders of the content companies to hear how they are navigating these changes on a daily basis.

One thing seems certain: The timing could not be more critical for a gathering of thought leaders. And the next 12 months will be decisive in defining the contours of what the content industry looks like for decades to come.

Related stories from TheWrap:

YouTube Star Grace Helbig, ICM's Chris Silbermann, Director Rick Famuyiwa Join TheGrill 2017!

John Singleton Joins TheGrill 2017 as Spotlight Interview

Darren Throop, Nina Jacobson & More Join TheGrill! See Full Schedule Here!

Fox Television Group CEOs Dana Walden, Gary Newman Join TheGrill 2017 as Featured Speakers

TheGrill 2017 Welcomes Paramount's Megan Colligan, Lionsgate's Sandra Stern and Beatriz Acevedo of Mitu

]]> 0
Let’s Stop Calling Hugh Hefner a Feminist Hero Thu, 28 Sep 2017 19:29:21 +0000 Sharon Waxman Now that he’s gone, can we talk about who Hugh Hefner was?

(Spoiler: If you loved the guy, or dreamed of being him, don’t read any further.)

I’m sure it was really cool when Hef was in his heyday in the 1950s and ’60s, all those girls in bunny outfits and guys in suave smoking jackets. By the time I came of age in the 1980s, Hugh Hefner was no longer relevant. It was the age of Jazzercise and Jane Fonda’s workout videos, while in the porn world the hard core stuff had taken over.

I started to pay attention in the late 1990s during Hef’s comeback tour. He was in his 70s by then and managed to convince everyone — including some of my editors — that he was the original feminist. Hollywood alphas and wannabe alphas flocked to the newly energized Playboy Mansion out of a sense of nostalgia and a desire to touch the legend.

The post-feminist logic was that Playboy was always about championing sexual freedom for both men and women, not just for the men who were being served by girls in itty-bitty outfits showing off grandioso breasts. Feminist Camille Paglia pronounced him “one of the principal architects of the modern sexual revolution.”

This point was proven, apparently, by Hef trotting out a half-dozen blonde girlfriends a quarter his age. (Were all of them named Brandy or was that just my imagination?) They gave “interviews” in which they talked about how in love they all were.

In an interview I did with Hef in 1999 for The Washington Post, he was loving this legacy:

“This is the best time of my life,” Hefner says in an interview a few days after the party. He is in his library, where an oil painting of him dressed as a Renaissance prince hangs above the fireplace. He’s in Hefwear — that same burgundy silk pajama jacket over black silk pants — and, despite jowls, is still a handsome man.

“The golden years for me are the golden years,” he exults. “Society has been taking stock. . . . I’ve been getting recognition. Celebration. As good as my life looks from the outside, on the inside it’s better.”

But as I dug into the reporting on that story, I found a lot of things that were odd, and not feminist at all. Some of his personal sexual habits seemed almost cruel, and his personal predilections weird.

As I reported then, Hef would keep videos of his sexual encounters, and play them on two big screen TVs while he was having sex with new partners. Even when the women objected.

Equally odd, he kept stacks and stacks of legal pads chronicling every single one of his sexual acts.

“There were stacks of them,” his live-in girlfriend of many years Carrie Leigh told me at the time. “On the left, it would say the names of the people. Next to that, it would say the type of sex . . . and to the right of that, he would grade it. A-plus-plus-plus was the highest grade, down to C-minus.”

When I asked Hef about this during our interview — an awkward encounter, as I recall —  he said it was totally normal and maybe I was the uptight one. “I’m a writer-editor. I’ve done that kind of thing since early childhood,” he told me.

But honestly, what does it say about the sexual confidence of someone who needed to write every act down and give his partner a grade? That’s not very feminist to me.

I don’t care now and didn’t care then that Hef loved beautiful blonde women a fraction of his age. The women who chose to be Playmates or his sexual partners or both may have loved their choices. Or they may have felt used, but that was on them.

But I object to calling him an icon of women’s sexual liberation, and I object to calling him a feminist.

Hef seemed to me to be an Epicurean in the formal sense of the philosophy, embracing experience and sensuality in a rebuke to the harsh Puritanism of American society. In this I agree with him — we are very uptight about sex in this country.

But Hef’s lifestyle was all about the man’s pleasure. This does not make him a feminist.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Hugh Hefner Sex Diaries: Who Gets Mythical Videotapes, Logs of Mansion Romps?

10 Major Moments from Hugh Hefner's Career (Photos)

Hugh Hefner's Wives and Girlfriends Through the Years (Photos)

Hugh Hefner's Young Widow Crystal Harris 'Won the Jackpot,' Say Twitter Trolls

Stars Remember 'True Legend' Hugh Hefner: 'Carpéd the Heck Out of the Diem'

]]> 0
Facebook and the Future of Democracy, News, Free Expression and All That Stuff Sun, 24 Sep 2017 15:46:32 +0000 Sharon Waxman Facebook has a “D.C. problem,” says everybody: the Washington, D.C.-based news sites and pundits, Axios and Politico and Rachel Maddow.

Everybody’s up in arms that Facebook took months to disclose that it received $100,000 in political ads from Russian fronts during the 2016 election. Facebook finally fessed up to this fact in September — eight months after having denied it.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg last week rushed to offer an empathetic video in which he confessed that “for a while we had found no evidence of fake accounts linked to Russia running ads” but the platform suddenly found 3,000 fake ads that have since been handed over to Congress.

And the site is planning to “to make political advertising more transparent,” in Zuckerberg’s words.

I’m starting to have a real problem with this. Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg are nice and all, and built a behemoth monopoly over our time and Madison Avenue’s ad dollars with us barely noticing how they dominate our news feed and now our elections.

It’s not even clear that Facebook has noticed this.

We are deep into the twilight zone here. Facebook doesn’t have a “DC problem.” The nation has a Facebook problem. Facebook has a Facebook problem.

Like Google and Amazon, Facebook has become a monopoly, with its 2 billion monthly users. To understand the scale of this power, the sheer, stunning breadth of this platform, pay attention to this paragraph from John Lanchester in the London Review of Books:

“Facebook’s biggest rival for logged-in users is YouTube, owned by its deadly rival Alphabet (the company formerly known as Google), in second place with 1.5 billion monthly users. Three of the next four biggest apps, or services, or whatever one wants to call them, are WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram, with 1.2 billion, 1.2 billion, and 700 million users respectively (the Chinese app WeChat is the other one, with 889 million). Those three entities have something in common: they are all owned by Facebook. No wonder the company is the fifth most valuable in the world, with a market capitalisation of $445 billion.”

Monopolies are something that democracies and capitalist societies have long deemed problematic. But they are a sought-after end in Silicon Valley, as tech billionaire and journalism-slayer Peter Thiel says in his book, “Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future.” He thinks they’re what’s needed in a technologically innovative society.

I happen to think monopolies are dangerous in a democracy because they allow for a concentration of power — however benign and initially well-meaning — in which lack of accountability leads to abuses and arrogance.

Facebook is in the midst of that right now.

News publishers are among the most important victims of the monopoly Facebook has created. Free and fair elections may well be the next.

In a powerfully incisive analysis of how traditional publishers have crumbled before the power of Facebook and Google called “How to Boil a Frog,” media analyst Kunal Gupta observes how clueless publishers have been party to Facebook slowly but surely taking all their business.

From ‘How to Boil a Frog’ by Polar

“The troubling insight from my own research is that Facebook has a repeated pattern of inviting you in by providing a benefit, and then once you are hooked, turning up the heat at the next thing you know, you’re being served as the next course,” he wrote.

“Publishers have been motivated by short-term outcomes such as growing referral traffic, monthly uniques and delivering more audience to high-valued branded content destinations. Facebook, on the other hand, is guided by a long-term vision, where they control and influence who gets access to their audience. “

What does this have to do with Russia hacking the election? Facebook’s massive influence is the commonality, along with the lack of accountability from the havoc that has resulted.

After encouraging publishers to move all their readers to Facebook, Facebook essentially takes all the ad revenue driven by content creators. Their attitude seems to be: Wait, what did we do?

Similarly, Facebook has shirked its responsibility for vastly altering the political landscape. The polarization that has beset the U.S. electorate is a result, at least partially, of the algorithmic approach to feeding people stuff they seem to want and reinforcing their existing beliefs. Wait, Facebook says, did we do something? The company really wants you to know that its intentions were super good.

I can’t say with confidence that Facebook is a cynical company that has set out to undermine legitimate news publishers by powering the proliferation of fake news. But I can say that it has done very little to own the fact that it has allowed this to happen.

All of my sources knowledgeable about doings at Facebook suggest that there’s been a deliberate head-in-the-sand approach to recent events. The company’s value has exploded on Wall Street. It has insistently wanted to be a tech company and washed its hands of any responsibility for the content on its platform.

That time now comes to an end.

Like other media and entertainment giants — including broadcasters that have to hew to standards at the FCC to be granted their licenses — Facebook is in fact a content provider. It is the biggest content provider in the world, with the exception of Google.

And now Congress is paying attention.

Democratic senators Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Mark Warner (Va.) have circulated a “Dear Colleague letter,” obtained by Axios, seeking co-sponsors for legislation that “would formalize, and expand, the transparency commitments Facebook has made.”

Conservatives are even more upset even though it was Hillary Clinton who paid the price for those fake news ads. “Conservatives in Washington and around the country, famous for pushing back on government, plan to be increasingly vocal in arguing that self-regulation isn’t working with the tech giants,” Axios’ Mike Allen wrote last week.

source: How to Boil a Frog, by Polar

Writes Lanchester:

“For all the corporate uplift of its mission statement, Facebook is a company whose essential premise is misanthropic. It is perhaps for that reason that Facebook, more than any other company of its size, has a thread of malignity running through its story….

… In the open air, fake news can be debated and exposed; on Facebook, if you aren’t a member of the community being served the lies, you’re quite likely never to know that they are in circulation. It’s crucial to this that Facebook has no financial interest in telling the truth. No company better exemplifies the internet-age dictum that if the product is free, you are the product. Facebook’s customers aren’t the people who are on the site: its customers are the advertisers who use its network and who relish its ability to direct ads to receptive audiences.”

Related stories from TheWrap:

Did Mark Zuckerberg Successfully 'Diffuse the Potential Explosion' Around Facebook's Ad Biz?

Facebook to Turn Over 3,000 Russia-Bought Ads to Congress

How Facebook Has Swiped Digital Ad Revenue From Publishers (Guest Blog)

Facebook and Fake News: Flagging Posts Does Little to Combat Lies

Facebook Is in the Hot Seat From Both Dems and GOP on Russian Ads

]]> 0
John Singleton Joins TheGrill 2017 as Spotlight Interview Wed, 20 Sep 2017 17:00:21 +0000 Sharon Waxman Writer, producer and director John Singleton has joined the outstanding lineup of speakers at TheGrill 2017 conference.

The eighth annual leadership conference, to be held on October 2-3 at the Montage Beverly Hills, will feature a spotlight interview with Singleton sharing his insights on the impact of his filmmaking on American culture, from “Boyz N the Hood” to “Snowfall.”

In 1991, John Singleton blew Hollywood away and opened America’s eyes with “Boyz N the Hood,” a powerful, sensitive and insightful look at life on the streets of South Central L.A.

This year, he went back to L.A. with “Snowfall,” FX’s deep-dive series exploring the rise of crack in the 1980s. In between, he has expanded the scope and imagination of screen storytelling with films ranging from “Rosewood” to “Poetic Justice,” and action hits like “Four Brothers” and “2 Fast 2 Furious.”

And he has elicited unforgettable performances from cultural icons including Janet Jackson, Tupac Shakur and Ice Cube. Last year he reunited with “Boyz N the Hood” star Cuba Gooding Jr. to direct the most shocking episode of FX’s acclaimed “The People v OJ Simpson” — an episode all the more incredible because it stayed so close to the facts.

Notable speakers already announced for TheGrill include Fox Television Group’s Dana Walden and Gary Newman along with Kathleen Grace of New Form, Darren Throop of Entertainment One, Jason Hirschhorn of REDEF, Sandra Stern of Lionsgate Television, Rich Greenfield of BTIG Research, Michael Bloom of First Look Media, Megan Colligan of Paramount Pictures, Beatriz Acevedo of mitú, Dave Shull of The Weather Channel and more. A complete schedule and speaker line-up for TheGrill 2017 are available online.

TheGrill leads the conversation on convergence between entertainment, media and technology, bringing together newsmakers to debate the challenges and opportunities facing content in the digital age.

Diverse programming anchored by versatile talent and supported by big brands has always been the hallmark of Hollywood.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Darren Throop, Nina Jacobson & More Join TheGrill! See Full Schedule Here!

Fox Television Group CEOs Dana Walden, Gary Newman Join TheGrill 2017 as Featured Speakers

New at TheGrill Day 1! Speakers Announced for Focus on China

]]> 0
Film – the 35 MM Kodak Kind – Resurges at Toronto Festival With 17 Titles Sun, 17 Sep 2017 19:46:11 +0000 Sharon Waxman I ran into the President of Kodak Steve Bellamy at the airport on my way to the Toronto Film Festival, and he told me something amazing: film, that 20th century emulsive format that supposedly gave way to 21st century pixels, is coming back.

Bellamy cited a significant increase in movies shot on film stock at the festival. Upon further checking (which is why this post took awhile), it turns out the increase is modest. But unmistakable. Film stock is on the rise over digital when compared to the past two years.

Seventeen movies competing in the Toronto Film Festival were shot on film, an increase over the 14 in competition in 2016 and 15 in 2015. (I tried to verify this with the festival, they said they weren’t sure.)

“There’s a lot of directors who are moving back to film,” said Bellamy. “A lot of directors are unsatisfied with the images they are getting on video. The world is waking up to how much better analog mediums are.”

“The Florida Project”

Whether that is true industry-wide remains to be seen, but it is borne out by the entries at Toronto this year that were shot on film.

That includes not just the 70 mm “Dunkirk” by Christopher Nolan, a well-known purist, but also movies by leading directors Darren Aronofsky, Dan Gilroy, Scott Cooper and Yorgos Lanthimos.

By Kodak’s tally, the list includes: “Roman Israel,” “The Florida Project,” “Kodachrome” (naturally), “mother!”, “I Tonya,” “Battle of the Sexes” and others. “The Florida Project” is particularly interesting since director Sean Baker previously shot “Tangerine” on an iPhone.

Toronto Movies Shot on Film 2017

“The best directors are using this medium,” Bellamy said, noting that Steven Spielberg is also shooting his new project, “The Post,” on film.

Ironically, there was a touching movie about the end of Kodak film processing in the actual festival, which served as the backdrop to the story of a dying father (Ed Harris) seeking a final gesture with his son (Jason Sudeikis). The climactic scene in “Kodachrome” takes place at a Kodak processing lab in the heartland on the day it is about to close forever. Photographers from around the world have gathered for the valedictory. Netflix acquired the film. 

After a press screening, director Mark Raso said he had trouble finding a crew to shoot in 35 MM, but he preferred the experience as well as the result. “There’s no playback,” he said. “It made everyone very present, paying attention to detail, and it created trust to make sure we were all focused.”

Is analog better? That’s an ongoing debate. As a company, Kodak was left for dead as a buggy whip a few years ago, declaring bankruptcy in 2012.

Meanwhile, digital moviemaking has improved by leaps and bounds in the past decade and costs a fraction of what cans of film stock cost. Competitors like Red and Arri have devoured the marketplace as young filmmakers streaming out of film school find their cameras financially accessible with image quality improving all the time.

But Bellamy, the founder of the Tennis Channel and innovator who joined the company a little over two years ago, says even young directors are turning back to film.


He put it down to the realization that even 4K digital cameras cannot provide the subtlety and sophistication that a strip of film can. That, he believes, is at the heart of what creates the emotion of a moviegoing experience.

Then there’s the longevity issue. No one can say with certainty how long digital video will last. “If you store film correctly today you’ll have it in 800 years,” he said.

Meanwhile, Kodak has pivoted to a strategy to rise from the dead, recently opening labs in New York, London and Atlanta and seeking a ground-up strategy for a revived business model.

Said Bellamy: “For anyone to say film is dying, they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. They’re sheep.”

Related stories from TheWrap:

'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri' Wins Audience Award at the Toronto Film Festival

Toronto Film Festival Thanked Native Tribes for Use of 'Their Land' at Every Gala Screening This Year

117 Amazing Portraits From TheWrap's Toronto Studio, From Angelina Jolie to Jim Carrey (Photos)

Toronto Movie Market Update: $50 Million Spent So Far, But No Mega-Deals

Toronto So Far: Women Rule But Oscar Race Still Up in Air

]]> 0
Darren Throop, Nina Jacobson & More Join TheGrill! See Full Schedule Here! Wed, 13 Sep 2017 16:58:14 +0000 Sharon Waxman TheGrill 2017 announced the complete schedule for the eighth annual leadership conference to take place October 2-3 at the Montage Beverly Hills.

Joining a stellar lineup of previously announced speakers are veteran producer Nina Jacobson, Entertainment One President & CEO Darren Throop, Paramount Futurist Ted Schilowitz and Skydance Interactive President Peter Akemann.

The two-day event is packed with more than 40 speakers over 18 sessions, networking opportunities, two receptions and multiple product presentations.

Highlights of TheGrill schedule include a block of sessions focused on VR/AR and the outlook on doing business in and with China. There will also be panel discussions tackling the challenges of diversity in the entertainment business, building a next stage media company, the revolution taking place in entertainment marketing and the coming wave of consolidation. A panel of powerhouse producers will also take the stage.

Returning this year is the invitation-only Silicon Beach Roundtable, bringing together leading digital media entrepreneurs, financiers, big media executives exchange ideas, solve problems.

New this year is an invitation-only Independent Producers Roundtable, a forum to tackle the challenges indie producers face across the spectrum of content.

Today’s newly announced speakers join Fox Television Group’s Dana Walden and Gary Newman along with Jason Hirschhorn of REDEF, Sandra Stern of Lionsgate Television, Rich Greenfield of BTIG Research, Michael Bloom of First Look Media, Megan Colligan of Paramount Pictures, Beatriz Acevedo of mitú, Dave Shull of The Weather Channel and more.

Sponsors supporting the event include Abrams Artists Agency, Cinelytic, Cubic Motion, Entertainment One, Fox, Greenberg Glusker, ICM, Lionsgate, Loeb & Loeb, mitú, NBCUniversal, New Form, Ooyala, Paradigm,, The Weather Channel, Topic, and ZoneTV.

TheGrill leads the conversation on convergence between entertainment, media and technology, bringing together newsmakers to debate the challenges and opportunities facing content in the digital age. Diverse programming anchored by versatile talent and supported by big brands has always been the hallmark of Hollywood.

As technology brings new models to the fore — in production, distribution, display and monetization — TheGrill is a platform for the leaders, the deciders and the disrupters to explore this reconfigured landscape as it continues to transform around us.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Fox Television Group CEOs Dana Walden, Gary Newman Join TheGrill 2017 as Featured Speakers

TheGrill 2017 Welcomes Paramount's Megan Colligan, Lionsgate's Sandra Stern and Beatriz Acevedo of Mitu

New at TheGrill Day 1! Speakers Announced for Focus on China

TheGrill Special Event With Kevin Smith: AMC and SundanceTV President Charlie Collier Joins

]]> 0
Fox Television Group CEOs Dana Walden, Gary Newman Join TheGrill 2017 as Featured Speakers Thu, 07 Sep 2017 17:03:31 +0000 Sharon Waxman Dana Walden and Gary Newman, the co-chairmen and CEOs of the Fox Television Group, will be featured speakers at TheWrap’s TheGrill 2017. They join a stellar lineup of speakers at the eighth annual leadership conference set for October 2-3 at the Montage Beverly Hills.

In a rapidly changing TV landscape, Walden and Newman oversee a consortium of top media and content companies. Their portfolio includes Fox Broadcasting Company, 20th Century Fox Television, Fox 21 Television Studios, Fox Consumer Products and Twentieth Television.

Together they have grown the company into a major content provider with the Fox blockbuster,”Empire,”  the celebrated new series “This Is Us” on NBC and “Modern Family,” ABC’s No. 1 comedy. Their leadership has reimagined the boundaries of TV storytelling, broken old business models and developed new ones. 

TheWrap founder and editor-in-chief Sharon Waxman will lead an in-depth conversation with these two important voices in the television industry.

Walden and Newman join previously announced speakers including Jason Hirschhorn of REDEF, Sandra Stern of Lionsgate Television, Rich Greenfield of BTIG Research, Michael Bloom of First Look Media, Megan Colligan of Paramount Pictures, Beatriz Acevedo of mitú, Dave Shull of The Weather Channel and more.

TheGrill leads the conversation on convergence between entertainment, media and technology, bringing together newsmakers to debate the challenges and opportunities facing content in the digital age. Diverse programming anchored by versatile talent and supported by big brands has always been the hallmark of Hollywood.

As technology brings new models to the fore — in production, distribution, display and monetization — TheGrill is a platform for the leaders, the deciders and the disrupters to explore this reconfigured landscape as it continues to transforms around us.

Related stories from TheWrap:

TheGrill 2017 Welcomes Paramount's Megan Colligan, Lionsgate's Sandra Stern and Beatriz Acevedo of Mitu

New at TheGrill Day 1! Speakers Announced for Focus on China

The Scene With Kevin Smith, AMC Boss Charlie Collier at TheGrill Special Event (Photos)

]]> 0
Is Apple Too Late to Win at the Content Game? Wed, 30 Aug 2017 20:17:20 +0000 Sharon Waxman All over Hollywood, people are talking about Apple’s decision to pour $1 billion into making original content.

This is the company that wins at everything it does. The biggest company in the world and the most successful company ever built.

But it has never done this particular thing before: make entertainment.

Is it fair to presume that once Apple trains its sights on making movies and films that it will win at that too?

Not everybody thinks so.

“They’re not a leader in the media space and they can’t hope to be a leader with that kind of budget,” said one veteran executive, formerly with a rival tech company.

With Netflix playing for big stakes in the production sandbox, spending $6 billion a year, Apple’s so-far-unconfirmed $1 billion is low for a newcomer seeking to make a splash. Amazon is spending billions on production and marketing, and those are just two examples.

Unlike when Netflix started making original content, this is now a massively crowded space. In the past four years, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and Facebook — all of which have deep pockets — have jumped into the deep end of creating content. They come in addition to all the studios and networks, HBO, Starz, FX, AMC, Showtime, you get the idea.

Enter Apple. Late.

“It’s okay to wait and build up your library, but you’re already behind — way behind,” said the executive.

Apple’s philosophy has always been to focus on a few things and make them fantastic. Steve Jobs showed everybody how to sell a few, incredible products and change the world by so doing. This is the dogma of Jobs — whose office still stands empty, a symbol and in-house shrine — and it still guides Apple today.

But entertainment content isn’t like that. My inside sources tell me that Apple intends to make a handful of incredible entertainment programs and place them on its own devices, so you have to be in the Apple ecosystem to watch. From what I’m being told, they don’t want a library, aren’t intending to license old movies and will do it their way: create a few, must-watch projects.

If only. Making hit movies and television is not like dreaming up the iPod. Of course everyone sets out to make “Seinfeld” or “Star Wars.” Who doesn’t plan in the greenlight process to end up with “Sopranos” and “Game of Thrones?”

Unfortunately, down here in the shallow part of California, we all know it doesn’t work that way. You have to try and fail a lot to end up with one “Spider-Man.” (The good one. No, not that one. The other one. See what I mean?)

One other thing. Steve Jobs knew about content in his lifetime, and he stayed away. Remember, the guy helped start Pixar and was on the board of Disney for years. Even as Apple started a music streaming service ahead of the curve, it stayed away from entertainment content.

What did he know, and why did Tim Cook turn in a different direction?

“For a long time Apple wanted to work with the legacy ecosystem and partner with cable companies,” said Rich Greenfield, the media analyst at BTIG. “And they found the legacy ecosystem so fraught with problems and restrictions that it became too painful for that ecosystem to shift. And they’re moving ahead.”

Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But another knowledgeable player said the company has a shot.

“I don’t think they are late at all. We are in the middle of a revolution, and they have more than enough time to get in the game. They just need to make hits,” he said.

“They have more than enough money,” he added. “If they want to compete with Netflix in terms of output, they can. They just need to build the machine to develop, market, etc. Right now the team is still super lean, and miniscule compared to Netflix’s originals operation.”

Personally, I believe that experience has showed that “building the machine” is a lot harder than it looks. After 100 years no single Hollywood studio gets it right all the time. Even Disney, now the golden child, had its dark periods. As the naysayer I spoke to suggested, it might be better for Apple to go out and overspend to buy a finished, guaranteed hit — how about the next “Avatar”? — and keep it for its customers for a month before it ever goes to theaters.

Greenfield believes it’s just over for legacy entertainment, and Apple sees that — even as it realizes that it needs something to induce customers to keep buying iPhones.

“Now it’s just time to replace them,” he said, referring to the dinosaurs. “This is the acknowledgement that the legacy ecosystem is in secular decline, whether they realize it or not. It’s over for the TV industry. And Apple is moving ahead.”

]]> 0
TheGrill 2017 Welcomes Paramount’s Megan Colligan, Lionsgate’s Sandra Stern and Beatriz Acevedo of Mitu Wed, 30 Aug 2017 18:08:29 +0000 Sharon Waxman TheGrill is pleased to announce new speakers and topics for this year’s conference on October 2 and 3.

Lionsgate Television President Sandra Stern, Megan Colligan, Paramount Pictures president of worldwide distribution and marketing, and Mitu President and founding partner Beatriz Acevedo join the stage at TheWrap’s eighth annual media leadership conference.

The three executives join other business thought leaders and innovators including Jason Hirschhorn of Media REDEF, Rich Greenfield of BTIG Research, Chris Williams of, Dave Shull of The Weather Channel, and Thai Randolph of Kevin Hart’s Laugh Out Loud who will debate the future of entertainment and technology at Montage Beverly Hills on October 2-3, 2017.

New topics added to TheGrill include: The Diversity Challenge — Hollywood and Silicon Valley face a clamor of criticism over entrenched sexism and lack of diversity in casting and the executive suite. With rising awareness in support of inclusivity, many believe that it is still not evolving fast enough. TheGrill brings together influential voices and people on the front lines of this challenge to discuss solutions.

The conference will also cover: The Revolution in Entertainment Marketing — The tried and true formulas are no longer reliable, but do you really want your whole opening weekend campaign on Twitter? The marketing of entertainment is about cutting through the media cacophony. Hear from the smartest minds in the industry about how to do that, and where change is happening.

Also previously announced are new product demonstrations by ZoneTV and VR studio Cubic Motion.

TheGrill 2017 returns with two full days packed with hard-hitting conversations, high level networking and industry icons discussing the edge of content and tech.

Now in its eighth year, TheGrill leads the conversation on convergence between entertainment, media and technology, bringing together newsmakers to debate the challenges and opportunities facing content in the digital age.

Other Hot Topics at TheGrill

  • How to build a next stage media company No silos, no walls!  Hear from the people who are successfully leading the way forward and leaving traditional systems for producing and distributing content behind.
  • What makes for good VR experiences? The logistics are complicated, the cost is high and the audience is still small. TheGrill welcomes the best minds in the biz as they grapple with whether VR and AR represent the next big thing.
  • Is there trouble in China? - Three panels take on Chinese deal financing, the streaming boom and digital fast forward.
  • Returning this year — The Silicon Beach Roundtable brings leading digital media entrepreneurs, financiers and big media executives for an exchange of ideas and find solutions to shared problems.
  • New this year — The Independent Producers Roundtable brings together leading producers to tackle the challenges facing independent producers across the spectrum of content platforms and formats.

ThGrill offers you access to two full days of panels and networking conversations and also includes the opening night cocktail party, keynote panels, a working lunch and closing night Innovators List Celebration.

Buy your ticket today before prices increase on August 31.

Diverse programming anchored by versatile talent and supported by big brands has always been the hallmark of Hollywood.

As technology brings new models to the fore — in production, distribution, display and monetization — TheGrill is a platform for the leaders, the deciders and the disrupters to explore this reconfigured landscape as it continues to transforms around us.

Related stories from TheWrap:

New at TheGrill Day 1! Speakers Announced for Focus on China

Jason Hirschhorn, Rich Greenfield, Thai Randolph Join TheGrill 2017

TheGrill Special Event With Kevin Smith: AMC and SundanceTV President Charlie Collier Joins

4 Takeaways From TheGrill 2016: DVDs and VR Headsets Are Out but China Is Everywhere

]]> 0
New at TheGrill Day 1! Speakers Announced for Focus on China Tue, 29 Aug 2017 18:10:16 +0000 Wrap Staff Tang Media Partners Founder and CEO Donald Tang who recently purchased Open Road Films among other entertainment properties, video streaming giant and Alibaba property Youku Tudou Inc. Director of International Content Cooperation Catherine Zhang and Hollywood lawyer Sky Moore, a partner at Greenberg Glusker, will be featured at a brand-new China Track when TheWrap’s eighth annual TheGrill kicks off on Monday, October 2 at Montage Beverly Hills.

They will be joined by Stanley Rosen, China expert and professor of political science at the University of Southern California; Chris Fenton, president of DMG Entertainment Motion Picture Group & General Manager, DMG North America and Dan Clivner, co-managing partner, Sidley Austin LLP for three panel discussions addressing some of the biggest issues facing the entertainment industry as it relates to China.

(Dan Clivner, Co-Managing Partner, Sidley Austin LLP; Stanley Rosen, Professor Political Science, University Southern California; Sky Moore, Partner, Greenberg Glusker)

After years of double-digit growth, the Chinese box office flat-lined in 2016. It lagged in 2017 until a domestic blockbuster was birthed with the $800 million gross of “Wolf Warriors 2.” Is that a sign of things to come? Chinese companies are as keen as ever to partner with Hollywood’s iconic entertainment giants.

But after a string of overvalued Hollywood acquisitions the government has cracked down on investment abroad, especially as regards entertainment. How can Hollywood companies continue to partner with China? China has leapfrogged the United States on technology when it comes to streamed entertainment. Online video is a massive category, what can the U.S. learn from Chinese innovation?

During three panels in The China Track, the two-day TheGrill conference will delve into the rapidly changing rules and norms of partnering with the fastest-growing market for entertainment. Key topics to be covered include: Box Office: Which Way is Up?; Making Deals with China — How to Get It Done; and Digital Fast Forward: What’s Next in Online Entertainment?

Hot Topics To Be Covered At TheGrill

  • The diversity challenge From Silicon Valley to Hollywood Boulevard, everyone is talking about how to make a diverse workforce a reality. We’re filling this panel with influential voices who are driving change.
  • How to build a next stage media company No silos, no walls!  Hear from the people who are successfully leading the way forward and leaving traditional systems for producing and distributing content behind.
  • What makes for good VR experiences? The logistics are complicated, the cost is high and the audience is still small. TheGrill welcomes the best minds in the biz as they grapple with whether VR and AR represent the next big thing.
  • Returning this year — The Silicon Beach Roundtable brings leading digital media entrepreneurs, financiers and big media executives for an exchange of ideas and find solutions to shared problems.
  • New this year — The Independent Producers Roundtable brings together leading producers to tackle the challenges facing independent producers across the spectrum of content platforms and formats.

Buy your tickets before prices go up on August 31!

Further distinguished speakers and special guests will be announced shortly, stay tuned!

About TheGrill
TheGrill 2017 returns with two full days packed with hard-hitting conversations, high level networking & Industry icons discussing the EDGE of content and tech.

Now in its eighth year, TheGrill leads the conversation on convergence between entertainment, media and technology, bringing together newsmakers to debate the challenges and opportunities facing content in the digital age.

Diverse programming anchored by versatile talent and supported by big brands has always been the hallmark of Hollywood. As technology brings new models to the fore — in production, distribution, display and monetization — TheGrill is a platform for the leaders, the deciders and the disruptpors to explore this reconfigured landscape as it continues to transforms around us.

]]> 0
Dear Hope Hicks: Are You Sure You Want Your New White House Job? Thu, 17 Aug 2017 10:42:20 +0000 Sharon Waxman Dear Hope,

Congratulations on your appointment as interim White House communications director. You might want to consider resigning.

You work for the president of the United States. That’s the good news and the bad news.

The job puts you in the spotlight of history. This position will define you. It will cement your image in the eyes of the public — and the eyes of history. What happens to this administration will follow you in the job that comes after this one, and the next one, and the next one.

Coming in at this particular moment in time — the day after the president affirmed that there was “blame on both sides” when a white supremacist gathering turned violent in Charlottesville, Virginia killing a protester — does not bode well for your tenure.

Please consider: At the age of 28, do you want to tie your reputation, your name, your credibility and your future to a man who loudly nods support to racists and neo-Nazis?

Understand the choice you’re making, because you cannot unmake it.

Here is what happened Tuesday: By creating an equivalency between white supremacists and those who opposed them in Charlottesville, the president validated the views of the former. He offered comfort to the forces of hate and division.

Make no mistake, that press conference will embolden and unleash forces of evil — we should not shirk from calling it what it is — because of his words: “I think there is blame on both sides,” he said. “You look at, you look at both sides. I think there’s blame on both sides.”

Donald Trump is not the first president, perhaps, who has supported racists and anti-Semites. But he is the first president in living memory who has had the audacity to speak those views in public, from the pulpit of the presidency. That is what is so stunning. And that is why this is a moment for each person of conscience to make a choice.

Hope, as (interim) White House communications director, you will need to defend this position. You will be presumed to endorse it. You will repeat these views, many times. Can you live with that?

And one more thing: This will follow you for the rest of your life.

To be sure, the choice facing you is unfair. You had no reason to expect that you would end up in this position when you agreed to take the join the Trump campaign, an ingénue with no political experience and no particular expectation that your guy would win.

But you knew the Trump Organization, where you’d worked since 2014, and you knew the man himself.

As many other campaign and then administration officials were hired and fired, you stayed. You stuck it out. You earned Trump’s trust by making him the center of attention, not yourself.

For months, you have been quietly in the thick of things. Your desk is right outside the Oval Office. You have proximity to the president. As a trusted adviser you were present for that stunning the New York Times interview a few weeks ago in which Attorney General Jeff Sessions got shredded.

And of course you want to be loyal. You have been with Ivanka and then Trump since you were barely an adult yourself. You don’t want to quit. And you don’t want to be pushed around.

All I’m saying, as someone who has worked in the media for three decades, as someone who has children around your age, and as someone who has heard you are an honest person with a conscience and a moral center, is this: Understand the choice you’re making. You will not be able to take it back.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Get to Know Hope Hicks, the New White House Communications Director

Hope Hicks Named as Interim White House Communications Director

]]> 0
Diving Deep Into The Grill 2017 Topics Wed, 16 Aug 2017 18:07:34 +0000 Sharon Waxman Los Angeles, CA, August 16 – Today TheGrill has announced a first look at some of its 2017 conference topics. Attendees will gather on October 2nd-3rd at the Montage Beverly Hills Hotel to hear leading industry insiders delve deep into this pressing subject matter.

How to build a next stage media company No silos, no walls!  Hear from the people who are successfully leading the way forward and leaving traditional systems for producing and distributing content behind.

The diversity challenge From Silicon Valley to Hollywood Boulevard, everyone is talking about how to make a diverse workforce a reality. We’re filling this panel with influential voices who are driving change.

What makes for good VR experiences? The logistics are complicated, the cost is high and the audience is still small. TheGrill welcomes the best minds in the biz as they grapple with whether VR and AR represent the next big thing.

Is there trouble in China? - Three panels take on Chinese deal financing, the streaming boom and digital fast forward.

Returning this year — The Silicon Beach Roundtable brings leading digital media entrepreneurs, financiers and big media executives for an exchange of ideas and find solutions to shared problems.

New this year — The Independent Producers Roundtable brings together leading producers to tackle the challenges facing independent producers across the spectrum of content platforms and formats.

The schedule’s falling into place! Buy your tickets before prices go up on August 31!

In case you missed The Grill Special Event with Charlie Collier, Kevin Smith, and Jason Hirschhorn check it out here!

]]> 0
Donald Trump Gives Us a Dose of His Truth – When Moral Clarity Fails Wed, 16 Aug 2017 04:07:52 +0000 Sharon Waxman Nobody puts Donald Trump in a corner.

Forced on Monday to call out white supremacists and the KKK to quell the rising din among civilized people in this country, the president had to fight back.

He’s his own man. He knows his mind. He’s not afraid to say what he thinks.

So he came down that elevator in Trump Tower on Tuesday, and told us his truth about the  violence last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia:

“You had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, okay? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly. Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people, but you also had troublemakers and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats – you had a lot of bad people in the other group too.”

That’s our president.

According to the journalists who were there, jaws dropped. His own assistants were caught off guard. The soldier whose job it is to have his back, John Kelly, set his jaw and stared at the floor. (We won’t even mention the two Jews to his left — Gary Cohn and Steve Mnuchin. OK, we did.)

And Trump was not done. He had a lot in his gut, and he was going to let it out.

“You had a group on one side that was bad. And you had a group on the other side that was also very violent,” he said. “And nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now. You had a group — you had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit, and they were very, very violent.”

Trump was angry. He was passionate. His demeanor was different from yesterday, when he read a canned statement off the teleprompter condemning the KKK. He got the words out, but they obviously stuck in his throat.

Because today he took it all back. Today it’s back to assigning blame all around. Alt-left. Alt-right. Bad folks on both sides.

“I think there is blame on both sides. You look at, you look at both sides. I think there’s blame on both sides,” he said, continuing his tour of moral equivalence between the white supremacists at the rally and the people who opposed them.

Then he moved on to the removal of Confederate monuments, bemoaning “changing culture.”

“So this week, it’s Robert E. Lee, I noticed that Stonewall Jackson’s coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop? … Where does it stop? Was George Washington a slave owner? Are we going to take down statues to George Washington?”

In TheWrap newsroom, a groan arose from among the editors and reporters watching this in real time.

Writers for the late night shows dropped their lattes and raced for their laptops.

On MSNBC, Republican anchor Nicolle Wallace asked who from the White House was going to resign over this.

Even Newt Gingrich couldn’t defend the guy on Sean Hannity’s show: “It’s perfectly reasonable for an African-American to be offended that someone who defended slavery should have a monument,” he said.

David Duke tweeted his thanks.

My son goes back to college on Monday. Tonight I took him to dinner and I warned him that he should expect white supremacists to come out of the woodwork on campus.

He has a choice, I told him. He can fight back. He can raise his voice. It’s going to get uglier before it gets better.

In the spirit of standing up for what we believe in, let us not forget the words, the tone and the conviction of the man we put in the Oval Office.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Jimmy Kimmel Calls Trump 'Unhinged,' Prefers Cersei Lannister to Run the Country (Video)

Trump Fan Misidentified as Charlottesville Protester Speaks Out About Death Threats, Lost Business

Watch CNN's Don Lemon Go Off on 'Real Donald Trump Proving All His Critics Right' (Video)

Trump Equates Robert E Lee to George Washington, Twitter Revolts: 'Profoundly Ignorant' (Video)

]]> 0
Finalists Announced for 2017 ShortList Film Festival, Including New Student Category Tue, 08 Aug 2017 17:10:36 +0000 Sharon Waxman TheWrap is pleased to announce the 12 finalists in the sixth annual ShortList Film Festival, launching today on

The award-winning finalists, hand-picked from the world’s top film festivals over the last year, will stream on the site starting today through August 22, 2017 — allowing visitors to vote on their favorites.

Winners will be announced during a ceremony to take place at IMAX’s corporate office in Playa Vista, California, on Wednesday, August 23.

For the first time, TheWrap has expanded the ShortList to include a student film category. Eight student films from top colleges and universities included in TheWrap’s ranking of film schools have been named finalists in a sidebar competition.

The contenders come from filmmakers who studied at UNCSA, USC, UCLA, AFI, LMU, Chapman, Emerson and SCAD.

The films in the main competition are a mix of foreign language, comedy and stop-motion from filmmakers that hail from around the globe including China, France, Italy, Poland, Germany and the U.K.

The finalists include prize winners from the Sundance Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, South By Southwest Film Festival, and one short by Hu Wei entitled “What Tears Us Apart” features a performance by 2016’s Oscar-nominated and Golden Globe-winning actress Isabelle Huppert.

Three prizes will be awarded this year, the Audience Prize chosen by TheWrap’s voting audience on and presented by First Look Media/Topic, with a $5,000 cash prize.

The Industry Prize winner, selected by our distinguished jury, will be awarded a week-long RED Epic Dragon $6,000 rental package provided by RED and AbelCine and lastly the student category prize which will also be selected by the audience.

Here are the official finalists in the 2017 ShortList Film Festival:

1. “Alone,” Garrett Bradley
USA, 13 mins.

With her fiancé in jail, single mother Alone Watts must decide whether to go through with their wedding. A documentary short filmed in black and white, “Alone” mines layers of mass incarceration and its shaping of love within the modern African-American family.

2. “American Paradise,” Joe Talbot
USA, 18 mins.

A grandfather attempts to pull his two grandsons out of their collective boredom with a twisted fairy tale out of Trump’s America. Inspired by true events, “American Paradise” is a story of desperation and disguise that features characters from the upcoming Sundance-supported feature, “The Last Black Man in San Francisco.”

3. “Broken,” Volker Schlecht and Alexander Lahl
Germany, 7 mins.

Based on interviews with former prisoners, this animated documentary provides a glimpse into the most notorious women’s prison in east Germany. A film about political imprisonment, forced labor and enormous profits on both sides of the former Iron Curtain.

4. “Chekhov,” Jack Dunphy
USA, 5 mins.

A secretly recorded phone conversation between the director and his sister, laced with bitter honesty, familial messiness and complex affections that only siblings can provide.

5. “Close Ties,” Zofia Kowalewska
Poland, 19 min.

Zdzisław Torhan left his wife of nearly 45 years, Barbara, to live with his lover — but returned home seven years later. Putting their relationship back together becomes extremely difficult for the both of them. Now, the unfaithful husband suggests organizing their 45th anniversary in order to make amends.

6. “The Geneva Convention,” Benoit Martin
France, 15 mins.

As Hakim is waiting for the bus after class, he is caught in a vendetta between teenagers. He is not exactly keen to get into a fight, but how can he possibly avoid an awaited confrontation?

7. “Lucia, Before and After,” Anu Valia
USA, 15 min.

After traveling 200 miles, a young woman waits out Texas’s state-mandated 24-hour waiting period before her abortion can proceed.

8. “No Other Way to Say It,” Tim Mason
USA, 7 mins.

Director Tim Mason pulls the curtain back on the glamorous world of advertising in this short comedy about a voiceover actor trying to nail the right tone for a pair of indecisive ad creatives selling a fictitious children’s ice cream brand. Or is it a short tragedy about a pair of ad creatives trying to coax the right tone out of a distracted voiceover actor?

9. “Promise,” Tian Xie
China, 16 mins.

In a remote Chinese village, a young boy forms a bond with a pig.

10. “The Silence,” Farnoosh Samadi and Ali Asgari
Italy, France, 15 mins.

Fatma and her mother are Kurdish refugees in Italy. On their visit to the doctor, Fatma has to translate what the
doctor tells to her mother but she keeps silent.

11. “Wednesday With Goddard,” Nicolas Ménard
U.K., 4 mins.

A personal quest for spiritual enlightenment leads to romance and despair.

12. “What Tears Us Apart,” Hu Wei
France, 18 mins

After a long separation, an encounter. Two families. One child. Featuring Isabelle Huppert.

Here are the Student ShortList Finalists:

1. “Chester” — Shaun Swift, UNCSA
USA, 15 mins.

When a furry guy named Chester offers comfort to a lonely girl, he either makes the worst move of his life, or the best one.

2. “Fanny Pack” — Uttera Singh, USC
USA, 10 mins.

A comedy about a young Indian-American girl who wants to follow her dreams, and a fanny-pack-clad Indian father who chases his daughter through an airport hoping that she will follow.

3. “Noble Creatures” — Daniel Lafrentz, UCLA
USA, 20 mins.

Set in the swamps of rural South Louisiana, this short pits two adversarial escaped convicts — with different ideas about how to hold onto their freedom — against a tortured, but resolute female corrections officer known as “Put-Down.”

4. “Benny Got Shot” — Malcolm Hayes Washington, AFI
USA, 19 mins.

A coroner faces her fear of loss when her younger brother goes missing on the same day an unidentified local boy is shot by police.

5. “Curiosities of the Quiet Boy” — Quran Squire, LMU
USA, 11 mins.

A partially deaf 12-year-old undergoes a series of supernatural phenomena in the midst of mourning his mother.

6. “Gardeners of the Forest” — Ceylan Carhoglu and Nicole Jordan-Webber, Chapman
USA, 15 mins.

For generations, Laos was known as the Land of a Million Elephants. Today, there are around 400 elephants left. This short explores how the Chinese market, deforestation and tourism all play a role in the imminent extinction of elephants in Laos.

7. “This Year’s Angel” — Bethany Spreadborough, Emerson
USA, 8 mins.

It’s Christmas time and Matthias finds himself all alone — that is, until a beautiful angel appears atop the Christmas tree.

8. “Rosie, Oh” — Andy Koeger and Apple Xenos, SCAD
USA, 9 mins.

A one-shot short film following an unsupervised little girl as she wanders into her neighbor’s house looking for her lost dog.

The ShortList Film Festival has the support of partners IMAX, Red Digital Cinema, AbelCine, Topic.

Watch, vote, and share your favorite festival short film using #Shortlist2017 for your chance to win two tickets to the ShortList Film Festival award ceremony.

Related stories from TheWrap:

MEET: The ShortList Film Festival Jurors! Matt Ross, Misha Green, Lisa Bunnell and More!

The Inspiring Story of Maimouna Doucoure – TheWrap's ShortList 2016 Jury Winner

ShortList 2016: Finalists Talk About Selling Wedding Rings to Pay for Projects (Video)

ShortList 2016: Film Insiders See 'Appetite for Experimentation' in Shorts (Video)

The Scene at ShortList 2016: TheWrap's 5th Annual Short Film Festival (Photos)

]]> 0
The Decline of President Donald Trump – in Real Time Mon, 31 Jul 2017 03:48:43 +0000 Sharon Waxman Dare I say it? I will. It feels like we may have turned a corner on the Trump presidency and that an end may be in sight.

This is not the wishful thinking of someone horrified by the degrading tone and chronic chaos of a presidency that has been worse, far worse, than we feared the day after the election.

Something has shifted. This past week has felt like a significant milestone in the decline of Donald Trump’s power.

Notwithstanding his continued popularity in his right-wing base outside of Washington D.C., Trump is losing the backing of members his own Republican Party and the executive branch of government. They are pushing back on his directives despite threats of retribution, and are telling the president publicly that they will reject his policies until required to implement them.

This means the president is weak. Weaker than we’ve ever seen him. Even Vladimir Putin did not wait for Trump to sign the bill imposing new sanctions on Russia to announce retaliatory expulsions of American diplomats on Sunday.

Consider the series of rejections Trump has experienced just in the past few days:

  • Senate Republicans have made clear that they will not brook the dismissal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who Trump has derided for recusing himself from the Russia investigation. Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Charles Grassley have both said publicly there is no room in the Senate’s schedule to consider a recess appointment. This boxes Trump into a corner and narrows his options if he wants to lean on the Department of Justice to dismiss special prosecutor Robert Mueller.
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that “any effort to go after Mueller could be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency unless Mueller did something wrong.”
  • Three Republican senators voted down the repeal and replace Trumpcare bill. Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski was impervious to threats by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke that her state would be made to pay the price if she dared to vote against the bill. She did.
  • John McCain rose from his sickbed in Arizona to give a dramatic, after-midnight thumbs down vote on Trumpcase. Karma’s a bitch.
  • The Pentagon pushed back on Trump’s impetuous fiat banning transgender people from the military via Twitter. Senators urged the Department of Defense to hold off too.

Trump is now flailing. This weekend he threatened to take away health care from members of Congress because of their vote on Trumpcare. He threatened to stop federal funding to insurance companies. He blamed the Democrats. He harangued the Republicans, calling them “fools.”

I’m probably forgetting some things, my God who can keep up, but his cycle of bully-then-blame is exhausting everyone, even people who are nominally on his side.

This does not play as a sign of strength, it plays as weakness. You threaten when you have no other options.

The ongoing chaos in the West Wing of the White House contributes to the smell of blood in the water.

Last week Trump replaced the hapless Sean Spicer with “Wolf of Wall Street” slickster Anthony Scaramucci. That seemed like an improvement for literally one day, after which “the Mooch” vomited all over himself in a vulgar interview with The New Yorker. He’s been low profile since then. Update: He got fired on Monday. (See my point?)

And in the latest twist of last week, Reince Preibus — accused of being the “leaker” — is out as chief of staff, replaced by General John Kelly, with no sign of a replacement for Kelly in the Department of Homeland Security. Plenty of pundits are predicting that the buttoned-down Kelly will be a bad fit for the most undisciplined president in anyone’s modern memory.

Meanwhile, Robert Mueller steadily continues his investigation: drip, drip, drip. Trump is keenly aware of this ticking time bomb and it appears to be driving him to ever-worse decisions.

Bad judgement, bad behavior, mob-style threats and an inability to learn from his own mistakes. Watch where this goes.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Cop Explains Viral Anti-Trump Tweet: Police Should Be 'Held to a Higher Standard'

'Veep' EP Says It Seems Like Trump White House Is 'Doing a Rival Comedy'

Twitter Lawsuit Against Trump for Blocking Followers Just Got a Boost

Trump Calls Senate Republicans 'Fools,' Rants About Filibuster Reform

]]> 0