Tag: Warner Bros.

Aretha Franklin Estate Reaches Agreement with Producer to Release Documentary ‘Amazing Grace’ After 46 Years

by Chris Willman via Variety.com

Forty-six years after an Aretha Franklin gospel concert film was shot and abandoned, amazement is truly in order. The Franklin estate and producer Alan Elliott have reached an agreement to release the perpetually delayed Amazing Grace project, Variety can exclusively reveal. Although no distribution deal is yet in place for a planned general release in 2019, the film will premiere next Monday at the DOC NYC festival, followed by week-long Oscar-qualifying runs this month in Los Angeles and in December in New York.

“In recent weeks, Alan presented the film to the family at the African American Museum here, and we absolutely love it,” said Sabrina Owens, the late star’s niece and executor of her estate, in a phone interview from Detroit Sunday. “We can see Alan’s passion for the movie, and we are just as passionate about it. It’s in a very pure environment, very moving and inspirational, and it’s an opportunity for those individuals who had not experienced her in a gospel context to see how diverse her music is. We are so excited to be a part of this.”

The premiere is a very late addition to the long-since-announced DOC NYC festival; tickets for the Nov. 12 screening at the SVA Theatre go on sale this afternoon. “Amazing Grace” is then set for a qualifying run at the Laemmle Monica Nov. 20-27, followed by a week at Manhattan’s Film Forum Dec. 7-14. Official premiere events for L.A. and Detroit are in the early stages of being planned for next year. The Franklin family and Elliott believe a distribution deal will come quickly but wanted to get the film ready for awards consideration first, then cross that bridge.

Very quietly, the film had already snuck onto the Oscars’ voting-member viewing site, and Elliott has been receiving calls of congratulation from Academy members who’ve streamed it there. The producer said he’d gotten advice from agents and prospective publicists that they should wait to put it out for another year, to allow time for a multi-million-dollar Oscar campaign — but he and Owens hope it will contend now, without that, as a word-of-mouth underdog, and not just in the documentary category but for best picture.

The film was originally scheduled to premiere at the Telluride and Toronto festivals in 2015, before Franklin’s lawyers were granted an injunction in court in Denver halting the showings. Her attorneys argued the singer had the right to deny the use of her likeness in the movie, while Elliott maintained that all rights had been granted when he bought the uncompleted footage from Warner Bros. Following the Telluride standoff, Elliott and Franklin’s team agreed to negotiate in good faith with the aim of making the singer a partner in the movie; as Variety reported, separate distribution deals with Lionsgate and Concord were on the table before talks stalled as Franklin grew more ill.

The legal wrangling created the appearance of enmity between camps, and the late singer was not always an easy read when it came to business matters. But in the midst of the imbroglio, Franklin told the Detroit Free Press that she “loved” the movie, a DVD edit of which Elliott had sent her years ago. The quality of the film itself was never at issue, as it straightforwardly documented what many Franklin buffs consider to be her greatest performance, a two-night stand of pure gospel music recorded with an ace band of Atlantic Records musicians and the Rev. James Cleveland’s choir at a South-Central L.A. church in January 1972 — as released in audio form later that year on what is still the bestselling gospel album of all time.

Elliott had been friends for years with Owens, who invited him to Franklin’s funeral in Detroit Aug. 31. Two weeks later, he went back to the Charles Wright African American Museum to screen the movie for Franklin’s family and their friends, who were all seeing it for the first time. The reaction there, they both say, was jubilant, with a feeling of urgency coming out of the screening about getting it before the public sooner rather than later.

“I think the movie stands by itself, so it would have a good run whether it’s next year or it was two or three years ago,” says Elliott. “But obviously, her singularity and her absence are really felt right now, so I think there is that energy toward rediscovering things that she did. And I feel that this performance is really her crowning achievement — and I think she felt that way too. As much as anything, I wish she had been here to be a part of it, especially since she said she loved the movie.”

Elliott hopes for a Detroit premiere in April, with plans to involve the Poor People’s Campaign and Clean Water for Flint on a charitable level. “Detroit is a powerful home base, I think, for ‘Amazing Grace’,” he says, “even though I think it’s a Los Angeles thing. too. We’ve been working with Superintendent Mark Ridley Thomas to get historical status for the New Missionary Baptist Church (where the album and film were made).”

The picture was locked for its would-be Telluride premiere three years ago, but late last week, Elliott was back in a Hollywood studio working on separate stereo and 5.1 mixes of the audio with Jimmy Douglass, a well-known engineer and mixer. Douglass is most renowned nowadays for his work on hip-hop albums like Jay-Z’s “4:44” and as Timbaland’s long-time right-hand man, but he started out in the early ‘70s working on rock, pop and R&B albums at Atlantic, where one of his first assignments was helping mix the “Amazing Grace” album.

Douglass worked on the movie, like a lot of participants, on his own dime a few years ago. Is he surprised to be working in 2018 on something he started in 1972? “I’m never surprised,” Douglass laughs, taking a break while Franklin’s perspiring image appears frozen above the mixing board. “Am I happy I’m working on it one more time? Of course I am. Always. Alan tracked me down years ago and showed up with this amazing project, and as far as I was concerned, I was the only person on the planet who should have my hands in it. There’s nobody else around who was as close to that whole school that’s actually still out there slaying the beast and still making hits that should be touching this. I was like, ‘That’s mine, I’m sorry.’ And here we are.”

(photo via Detroit Free Press)

Viewers might quibble over whether it’s technically a concert movie or a church service movie, but it’s foremost a music movie. “Aretha says six words in the movie,” Elliott points out. “She says,  ‘What key is it, E?’ and then she says, ‘Water.’ So, obviously getting the music right is the thing we can do best by her legacy, I think.”

Douglass has worked on the movie over a period of about eight years. Elliott, considerably longer. “I’m really excited for people to get it because I think it is the premiere document of American popular music that was ever filmed,” says the producer, “and I could never figure out why we never got to see it. And it started 27 years ago when Jerry Wexler (the album’s late producer) said to me, ‘By the way, we filmed “Amazing Grace”.’ Twenty-seven years is a long time to wait to see a movie.”

Years before director Sydney Pollack’s death in 2008, he encouraged Elliott to buy and complete the footage he had shot in 1972; the filmmaker went to Warner Bros. and gave them his blessing to sell Elliott the film, which had languished in storage for decades after problems synching visuals and audio make it impossible to edit with the existing technology. The film is going out without a directorial credit, after years of debate about whether Pollack would want to be credited on a project he wasn’t able to see through after the initial shoot.

For Owens, the film “shows Aretha in a very different light. She’s very youthful, very shy, and her voice is just beautiful throughout, at an age when her voice was absolutely crystal-clear and very pure. It’s very moving and inspirational, and I enjoy it as a fan of the church and gospel music beyond just the fact that it’s my aunt singing. This just seems like the best time, because I think any time an artist passes, they’re fresh on people’s minds and hearts. But also, I think people want something in a very spiritual mode, and I think this is a feel-good movie that could be very uplifting in a time of turmoil in our country.”

Source: https://variety.com/2018/music/news/aretha-franklin-estate-amazing-grace-film-premiere-1203019833/

Michael B. Jordan Teams With Warner Bros. to Launch Diversity and Inclusion Policy for All Future WarnerMedia Productions

Michael B. Jordan will star in “Just Mercy.” (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

WarnerMedia, the parent company of Hollywood studio Warner Bros., announced Wednesday a company-wide policy aimed at increasing diversity and inclusion in front of and behind the camera. The initiative, established in partnership with actor Michael B. Jordan, is to apply to all productions going forward, beginning with Jordan’s “Just Mercy.”

“The WarnerMedia family has introduced an approach that accomplishes our shared objectives, and I applaud them for taking this enormous step forward,” Jordan said in a statement. “I’m proud that our film, ‘Just Mercy,’ will be the first to formally represent the future we have been working toward, together. This is a legacy-bearing moment.”

Since April Reign and #OscarsSoWhite took over headlines beginning in 2014, the entertainment industry has openly grappled with calls for more accurate and representative portrayals of more communities.

But it was, for many, Frances McDormand’s fiery speech at the 2018 Academy Awards ceremony (she won an Oscar for her lead role in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) highlighting the concept of inclusion riders that drove some people to action.

(First coined by Stacy Smith, director of USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, an inclusion rider is a provision that can be placed in stars’ contracts to mandate equity in casting and beyond.)

“Inclusivity has always been a no-brainer for me, especially as a black man in this business,” Jordan said. “[But] it wasn’t until Frances McDormand spoke the two words that set the industry on fire — inclusion rider — that I realized we could standardize this practice. It allowed me to formally pledge my production company, Outlier Society, to a way of doing business.”

WarnerMedia’s policy, which will also apply to HBO and Turner, focuses on having women, people of color, members of LGBTQ communities, folks with disabilities and other underrepresented groups in greater numbers in front of and behind the camera.

Along with the help of his agent, Phillip Sun at WME, Jordan worked with WarnerMedia to launch the policy with “Just Mercy.” Jordan is also an executive producer on the film, which is set to begin production in Atlanta this week.

“I’m proud that Warner Bros., and our sister companies HBO and Turner, are willing to state unequivocally that this is where we stand on diversity and inclusion,” Kevin Tsujihara, Warner Bros.’ chairman and CEO, said in a statement.

“Our policy commits us to taking concrete action to further our goals, to measure the outcomes and to share the results publicly,” he added. “I’m also thrilled that we were able to work with Michael B. Jordan to craft a meaningful policy and framework that will apply to all of our productions, across all of our divisions, going forward.”

Though the policy as written does not include specifics, the company does commit to “in the early stages of the production process, [engaging] with our writers, producers and directors to create a plan for implementing this commitment to diversity and inclusion on our projects, with the goal of providing opportunities for individuals from under-represented groups at all levels.”

“And, we will issue an annual report on our progress,” it said.

“Just Mercy” is a legal drama about a gifted young lawyer’s defense of the most vulnerable in this country and his fight for equal justice in a flawed legal system. It’s based on the book Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” by Bryan Stevenson.

Source: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/la-et-mn-warner-bros-michael-b-jordan-20180905-story.html

Michael B. Jordan to Star as Equal Justice Lawyer Bryan Stevenson in Drama ‘Just Mercy’ at Warner Bros.

by Justin Kroll via Variety.com

Michael B. Jordan has set legal drama “Just Mercy” as the next feature he will shoot, as Warner Bros. picks up the rights for the story.

The film was originally set up at Broad Green Pictures, but after the studio shuttered earlier this year, producers began looking for a new home, and Warner Bros. was eager to work with Jordan.

Sources say that Jordan would shoot “Just Mercy” at the beginning of 2018, and would follow that up with “Creed 2,” where he would reprise his role as Adonis Creed. “Creed 2” is slated to bow on Nov. 21, 2018. It’s currently unknown if it will stick to that date, but as of now, there’s no plan to move the release.

“Short Term 12” director Destin Cretton is helming and co-wrote the script with Andrew Lanham. Jordan will produce with Gil Netter. Niija Kuykendall will oversee for the studio.

Based on the book “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption,” it follows the true story of Bryan Stevenson, a gifted young lawyer’s defense of the most vulnerable in our country and his fight for equal justice in a flawed legal system.

Along with “Just Mercy,” Jordan also recently set up his directing debut with “Stars Beneath Our Feet.” The actor is also gaining traction as a producer, as he is on board to produce a reboot of “The Thomas Crown Affair,” “Raising Dion,” and and untitled project with Tarell Alvin McCraney for OWN.

To read more, go to: http://variety.com/2017/film/news/michael-b-jordan-just-mercy-warner-bros-1202627412/

GBN “Unforgettable” Giveaway: Enter for Chance to Win Free Copy of Warner Bros. “Unforgettable” Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack

On Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD July 25th, Unforgettable is a thriller directed by Denise DiNovi and written by Christina Hodson and David Leslie Johnson. The film stars Katherine Heigl, Rosario Dawson, Geoff Stults, Isabella Rice, and Cheryl Ladd.

What’s it about?

Tessa Connover (Katherine Heigl) is barely coping with the end of her marriage, and learns that her ex-husband David (Geoff Stults) is now happily engaged to Julia (Rosario Dawson). Trying to settle into her new life, Julia believes she has finally met the man of her dreams, the man who can help her forget her troubled past. Soon, Tessa’s jealousy starts to consume her, and she will stop at nothing to turn Julia’s paradise into the ultimate nightmare. Love will not be forgotten.

How can I win the prize?

Simply email us at goodblacknewsgiveaways@yahoo.com and list your name, email and mailing address for your chance to win the Unforgettable Blu-ray/DVD combo Pack. Contestants must be at least 18 years old. One entry per email. The winner will be notified by email. So hurry and enter by July 25th!

Trailer:

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GBN and Warner Bros. “Unforgettable” Movie Giveaway: Enter For Chance to Win Free Tickets and “Unforgettable” Prizes!

In theaters April 21st, Unforgettable is a thriller directed by Denise DiNovi and written by Christina Hodson and David Leslie Johnson. The film stars Katherine Heigl, Rosario Dawson, Geoff Stults, Isabella Rice, and Cheryl Ladd.

What’s it about?
Tessa Connover (Katherine Heigl) is barely coping with the end of her marriage, and learns that her ex-husband David (Geoff Stults) is now happily engaged to Julia (Rosario Dawson). Trying to settle into her new life, Julia believes she has finally met the man of her dreams, the man who can help her forget her troubled past.

Soon, Tessa’s jealousy starts to consume her, and she will stop at nothing to turn Julia’s paradise into the ultimate nightmare. Love will not be forgotten.

How can I win the prize?
Simply enter your name, email and mailing address at goodblacknewsgiveaways@yahoo.com for your chance to win the Unforgettable prize package including a wine glass, phone wallet, phone wipes & Fandango movie ticket codes for two seats. Contestants must be at least 18 years old. One entry per email. The winner will be notified by email. So hurry and enter by April 23rd!

Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil Team Up With Greg Berlanti for ‘Black Lightning’ Superhero Series at Warner Bros. TV

DC Comics super hero Black Lightning (image via shadowandact.com)

article via shadowandact.com

According to DC Comics Universe lore, Black Lightning (real name Jefferson Pierce) – created by Tony Isabella and Trevor von Eeden, first appearing in “Black Lightning #1” (1977) –  is a super-hero with the ability to generate and control lightning. Originally he was a high school principal and Olympic-level athlete who became a vigilante to take down organized crime in Metropolis’ Suicide Slum.

Eventually he would become a member of Batman’s team of Outsiders for many years, although he retired briefly to become secretary of education underneath president Lex Luthor. Returning to crime-fighting, he has also been a member of the Justice League. His two daughters operate as the super-heroes Thunder and Lightning.

And now a live-action series based on the superhero is set to come to your TV screens – The CW specifically – in a collaboration between Mara Brock and Salim Akil and Greg Berlanti, the man behind all of the CW’s DC universe series.

Salim Akil and Mara Brock Akil will write and executive produce the series with Berlanti Prods.’ Greg Berlanti and Sarah Schechter, for Warner Bros. TV (recall the Akils inked a 3-year deal with Warner Bros. after exiting BET last year; “Black Lightning” will be their second project under the new deal; the first, announced a week ago, will be a comedy series titled “Documenting Love” which will center on a modern-day power couple navigating life, love and family.

To read full article, go to: Mara Brock & Salim Akil Team Up With Greg Berlanti for ‘Black Lightning’ Superhero Series – Shadow and Act

‘Space Jam’ Sequel Starring LeBron James to be Directed by ‘Fast and Furious’ Helmer Justin Lin

LeBron James Space Jam 2
LeBron James (AP/CARLOS OSORIO)

article by Justin Kroll via Variety.com

“Fast and Furious” franchise director Justin Lin is in talks to direct “Space Jam 2,” starring LeBron James, for Warner Bros.  The original starred Michael Jordan, who teamed up with the Looney Tunes cast to battle a group of aliens in an epic basketball game.  Lin and Andrew Dodge are writing the script for the film.

Rumors of a “Space Jam” sequel sparked last summer after James and his company SpringHill Entertainment signed a deal with Warner Bros. James has been compared to Jordan since the NBA all-star entered the league in 2003. Following Jordan’s footsteps on the big screen makes sense for James, as well as the studio, which is constantly looking for material with established brand value.

James made his acting debut in the Judd Apatow comedy “Trainwreck,” where he played himself. He received strong reviews, especially for his comedic timing opposite seasoned vets like Amy Schumer and Bill Hader.

To read more, go to: http://variety.com/2016/film/news/space-jam-sequel-lebron-james-justin-lin-1201764478/

Prince’s 1st Film ‘Purple Rain’ Returning to U.S. Theaters This Weekend

Warner Bros. to Address Hollywood Diversity Issue with New Directors Workshop

warner bros WP Warner Brothers
(COURTESY OF WB)

article by Justin Kroll via Variety.com

Warner Bros. is continuing its efforts to tackle Hollywood’s diversity problem by launching an emerging film directors workshop, a talent incubator designed to give access and voice to new and underrepresented talent.  The studio will begin accepting applications next month and hopes to have the workshop up and running by the end of the third quarter.

The emerging film directors workshop will provide aspiring helmers from underrepresented communities with the opportunity to showcase their work to the film world after an intensive nine-month fellowship at Warner Bros. participants will be partnered with a Warner Bros. executive mentor as they work through the entire film production process, from pitch to final cut to premiere. The inaugural class will have five filmmakers.

“Our emerging film directors workshop continues Warner Bros.’ commitment to being the industry’s most talent-focused studio,” said Greg Silverman, Warner Bros.’ president of creative development and worldwide production. “There are so many bright, creative individuals at the threshold, who just need access to bring their vision and voice to a bigger audience. By providing that access, as well as a professional network and funding for a short film, Warner Bros. will play a small part in developing the next generation of great storytellers, whether they work in film or television, at our studio or elsewhere.”

Silverman came up with the plan and spearheaded the program, which has been in development for about two years.

Designed to re-create the features production process on a micro level, the workshop will have participants pitch, write or work with a screenwriter, and develop a script for a short film that’s three to 10 minutes long and budgeted at $100,000. Once they have a final screenplay, filmmakers will work with physical production to prep, create a budget, cast, shoot on the lot and edit with a full post-production process. Warner Bros. will cover all production costs and salary for filmmakers for the duration of the workshop.

The workshop will culminate in a film festival showcasing the directors’ work that will be held for agents, managers, producers and film executives from across the industry. More information on the program and the application process can be found here.

To read more, go to: http://variety.com/2016/film/news/warner-bros-film-directors-workshop-1201727406/

“Creed” Director Ryan Coogler Named as Warner Bros. Creative Talent Ambassador in U.K.

'Creed' Director Ryan Coogler Named as
‘Creed’ Director Ryan Cooler (GREGORY PACE/BEI/SHUTTERSTOCK)

article by Leo Barraclough via Variety.com

Ryan Coogler, director and co-writer of “Creed,” has been named as the first Warner Bros. Creative Talent Ambassador in the U.K. The news comes as the studio’s Creative Talent program welcomed participants of its third season.

Coogler was supported early in his career by the Time Warner Foundation in partnership with Sundance Institute, which enabled him to develop his first feature film, “Fruitvale Station.” The film went on to win the Grand Jury Prize and the audience award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.

Coogler said: “Having experienced firsthand the support and impact of programs similar to Warner Bros. Creative Talent, it is fantastic to know that passionate young people of all backgrounds are being given the chance to follow their dreams here in the U.K. This can be a tough industry, and so we need to do what we can to bring talented young people into it.”

Josh Berger, president and managing director, Warner Bros. U.K., Ireland and Spain, said: “I am thrilled that Ryan has become an ambassador for Warner Bros. Creative Talent, as he is the perfect example of the effect that a program like this can have on one’s life and career. We’re already seeing our talented young people taking strides into the industry, just a couple of years into the program, and I can’t wait to see what season three will go on to achieve.”

Warner Bros. Creative Talent participants will receive funding and training opportunities as part of a multilayered program that includes scholarships at some of the country’s top higher-education institutions. These include three Prince William scholars in film, television and games in partnership with BAFTA; apprenticeships at Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden and Warner Bros. Television Production U.K.; trainee positions on every Warner Bros. film production in the U.K.; training-course places for young people at inclusive theater company Chickenshed; work-experience places for students at a school local to Warner Bros.’ London HQ; and work placements on the London West End musical “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”