MPAA Welcomes Ryan Coogler, Writer and Director of “Fruitvale Station”

by MPAA 06/28/2013 07:32 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

When 2013 Sundance favorite Fruitvale Station hits your theater next month, there may not be a dry eye in the house. At least there weren’t many on Tuesday evening at an MPAA-hosted screening of the drama. The MPAA welcomed the film’s young up-and-coming director, Ryan Coogler, to speak about his profoundly moving film and the true events that inspired it.

Karen Finney, host of MSNBC’s Disrupt with Karen Finney, joined Coogler to moderate a discussion about the critically acclaimed film, the impetus behind its production and the societal context of its powerful message.

Coogler is a director and screenwriter from the San Francisco Bay Area, where Fruitvale Station is set. He graduated from USC School of Cinematic Arts in 2011, where he directed several award-winning short films. Fruitvale Station, is Coogler’s debut into feature film, marking the 27-year-old director’s break into the big leagues. Fruitvale won both the Grand Jury Prize for dramatic feature and the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. It was also screened at the Un Certain Regard section at this year's Cannes Film Festival and awarded the Prize of the Future.

The movie tells the true story of 22-year-old Oakland man Oscar Grant (played in the film by Michael B. Jordan), who was fatally shot by a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) police officer, while unarmed, at the Fruitvale subway station on New Year’s Day 2009. At the screening Tuesday, Coogler said the story of Grant, which deeply affected residents of the Bay Area, resonated with him due to his proximity to Grant and their shared experience as young, African American men growing up in the Bay Area. “I was born the same year as Oscar … If he were here today, he’d be 27 as I am right now,” Coogler said.

Coogler talked about Fruitvale Station’s focus on telling the story from Oscar’s perspective, which he said he hoped would afford viewers a chance to get to know Oscar on a more personal level. Coogler said the story-telling potential inherent in filmmaking is one of the things he loves most.

“Film can trigger empathy in you for characters that you haven’t met, and it’s kind of a way to have an out-of-body experience,” he said. “You get to live as somebody else; you get to see different perspectives.”

As Finney, MPAA Chairman and CEO Senator Chris Dodd and several audience members pointed out, Coogler’s success with Fruitvale Station comes at the early stages of his career. So what’s next for the young director? “I want to get better, improve and continue to work,” Coogler said. “What I really hope to do is continue to make films about subject matters that affect me on a personal level.”

Fruitvale Station stars Michael B. Jordan (The Wire), Melonie Diaz (Be Kind Rewind), Kevin Durand (Dark Angel, Lost) and Octavia Spencer (The Help). The film, produced by Academy Award ®-winning actor Forest Whitaker, opens in select theaters July 12.

Karen Finney and Ryan Coogler

Ryan Coogler and Senator Chris Dodd

Photo Credit: Joy Asico

Keeping Score: The Music in Movies

by TJ Ducklo 06/18/2013 13:34 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

The music in movies can often be as important as the characters themselves. What would Jaws be without the iconic “Duh duh” string melody? Who couldn’t hum the Star Wars theme right now on cue? And would 007 look as awesome jumping from trains without his signature accompanying tune? In the latest in a series of events that celebrate the creators and makers behind film and television, the MPAA, together with CINE, hosted two experts in the field of music scoring and supervision to share their knowledge and discuss their craft. Dan Carlin and George Clinton, each the Chair of the Scoring for Motion Picture and Television department at University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music and Boston’s Berklee School of Music respectively, joined Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday for an educational and fascinating conversation on the music scores and soundtracks we hear in movies.

Clinton is a composer by trade whose work on film scores has appeared in the Austin Powers series, Mortal Kombat series, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, and many others. Carlin is an Emmy® award winning music editor, conductor, music supervisor, and soundtrack producer on such Oscar®-winning films as The Black Stallion and Last of the Mohicans. They each brought a different perspective to the discussion to give the audience a complete view on how it all works. 

Clinton described his creative process and some of the new challenges he faces as a composer:

“The most important meeting a composer has is the spotting session- where we actually pick where the music should go in the movie. After that meeting, I’ll go away and I’ll write for two weeks. I’ll sit at my house at my studio at the piano, and after I’ve seen the movie several times, start to come up with some thematic material. I’ll pick a scene I think is going to work, and I’ll jam to that scene over and over again, trying to emotionally connect and have it be an instinctive reaction rather than an intellectual one.

And I’ll show it to the director and producers, and we’ll go back and forth until I record with the orchestra. But one of the unfortunate things about film these days is that they keep editing right up until the very last minute. There used to be a thing called a locked picture, now there’s not even a latched picture. Scoring these movies now is like trying to fit clothes on a running man.” 

Carlin, as an editor, producer, and music supervisor, has a different musical role than Clinton and is often tasked with searching for the appropriate existing song that evokes the desired emotion or fits the right cinematic moment. He emphasized the importance of working with other creative minds in this process:

“Collaboration is what I love about Hollywood. You’re on the team. If anyone’s got an idea, throw it out and if it’s good, it sticks and if it’s not, we move on. But let’s involve as many people as possible.”

When asked by Hornaday if there is any song he cannot stand to hear again, Carlin answered in the same spirit of his previous answer: “If it’s been a good experience, if you do it right through collaboration, you never get tired of hearing it.”

Dan Carlin and George Clinton serve as important examples of the thousands of dedicated, talented people who work every day to entertain audiences across the globe using their craft. The industry is full of gifted artists like Dan and George, and the MPAA looks forward to continuing to celebrate the creative community’s work through future events. 

 

From left to right: Ann Hornaday, George Clinton, and Dan Carlin

From left to right:Dan Carlin, Ann Hornaday, and George Clinton

Photo Credit: Joy Asico

The Film and Television Industry: A Network of Small Businesses

by Kate Bedingfield 06/17/2013 11:18 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Today is the first day of National Small Business Week, a time set aside by Presidential proclamation to honor the important contributions of American small business owners and entrepreneurs.  When most people think of the film and television industry, they think of their favorite director crafting a scene or their favorite actor delivering a powerful monologue.  What most people don’t realize is that behind the scenes, a network of 95,000 businesses helps create and distribute that final product they see at the theater. Hundreds of thousands of real people behind the screen depend on a healthy and vibrant entertainment community for their livelihood.  

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, more than half of Americans either own or work for a small business – in the network of businesses that comprise the film and television industry, 81% employ fewer than 10 people. In 2010, the film and television industry paid $42.1 billion in wages directly to nearly 700,000 workers, who earn an average income  32% higher than the national average. These are the talented, fiercely creative professionals who are directly responsible for the magic every one of us enjoys on the screen. People like legendary makeup artist Steve LaPorte, the former clown school student who has worked on films and television shows like Terminator 2, Lost, and Oz: The Great and Powerful; or film composer Atli Örvarsson who grew up in a town of 18,000 but has worked on The Pirates of the Caribbean series, NBC’s Chicago Fire, and the recent box office smash Man of Steel. For every story like Steve or Atli’s, there are thousands more who work tirelessly behind-the-scenes and are often self-employed.

The production and distribution of movies and TV programs also requires quite a bit of help from vendors outside our industry. The industry made $37.4 billion in payments to nearly 278,000 businesses across the country in 2010. Of those vendors, 93% were local businesses. As we’ve seen again and again from local productions, when a film or television project comes to town it creates jobs in the area and generates hundreds of thousands of dollars for state and local economies. A perfect illustration of that significant economic impact: the North Carolina production of Marvel’s Iron Man 3. A recent MNP LLP study commissioned by the MPAA found the film created over 2,000 jobs and was responsible for $179.8 million in spending- all just from one film production.

We join leaders across the country this week in celebrating the vital role small businesses play in moving our economy forward, and are proud to do our part as we continue to support the 2.1 million people in our industry who work every day to deliver one of the nation’s most valuable cultural and economic resources—the stories on the big screen. 

The Importance of Creative Content to the Economy

by MPAA 06/07/2013 08:20 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

The World Creators Summit convened this week in Washington, bringing together creators from a wide range of industries along with creative rights organizations from across the world, to discuss the global importance of copyright laws. The speakers represented a diverse array of interests and perspectives, but they all made one crucial fundamental point:  protecting American creativity is critical to both our national economy and our national identity.
 
Artists, directors, Administration officials, and Members of Congress were among those in attendance to discuss copyright and its fundamental protection of our nation’s great ideas. In her keynote address, US Register of copyrights, Maria A. Pallante, emphasized the importance of creative content as “essential to our culture, commerce and progress as a people”. Representative Bob Goodlatte stressed during a panel discussion with Representative  Anna G. Eshoo, “creativity is bound to technology, as it is through this that cultural products are mainly delivered. Therefore, promoting and protecting creators goes hand in hand with promoting and advancing technology.” Rep. Eshoo echoed that sentiment and observed that “no nation is great without valuing and protecting creativity of its citizens.”
 
Paul Williams, songwriter and President and Chairman of the Board of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), stated emphatically, ”Copyrighting is intended to give composers, authors and publishers the security that their work will not only connect with audiences and make the world a richer and more enjoyable place for everyone, but generate the sort of fair compensation that recognizes that contribution.” Echoing that sentiment, Victoria Espinel, United States Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator for the White House, added "creative content enriches our lives and is a top export around the world."
 
The summit was a valuable exploration of the crucial role that copyright and intellectual property protection to the creative process. It was an important reminder that creators from all industries need copyright to provide incentive to transform ideas into innovation -- innovation, in turn, that leads to economic growth.

Geena Davis, in “A League of Her Own”

by Melanie Gilarsky 06/03/2013 10:22 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Academy Award®-winning actor and advocate Geena Davis was back in Washington on Wednesday, but not as the President of the United States (her character from the award-winning television series Commander in Chief). Davis was the special guest of the MPAA for a discussion focusing on her outstanding acting career and her ongoing advocacy work, which was moderated by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro [CT-03].

During an acting career that has spanned over 30 years, Geena Davis has played many strong and iconic women – the title role in the consummate female friendship movie, Thelma and Louise; the team leader in the celebrated women’s baseball drama, A League of Their Own; Muriel, the part for which she won an Academy Award® for Best Supporting Actress in The Accidental Tourist; and the first female President of the United States in the television series Commander in Chief (2006 Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series — Drama).

A long-time advocate for women, Davis is becoming as recognized for her tireless efforts on behalf of girls and women as for her acting accomplishments. In 2004 she founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media along with its programming arm, See Jane. The Institute conducts research, education, and advocacy programs to spotlight gender inequality and works within the entertainment industry to alter how girls and women are reflected in media.

Davis used Commander in Chief as an example of the power of positive female roles. “There was a study done after the show was over; people familiar with the show were 68% more likely to vote for a female candidate for president. Just seeing me behind the desk 18 times was enough to massively transform people’s thinking. That is why what we see on the screen is so important, because it makes it normal.”

Cong. DeLauro lauded Davis and the Institute, reminding the audience that change starts with them. “It [the entertainment community] is not unlike the Congress, there are lots of people internally that are doing the right thing; Geena Davis is doing the right thing. She has put an Institute together to provide the data to change policy, but it is external pressure on these institutions that make change. That is absolutely clear in the Congress. When you shut the system down and overwhelm it with letters and calls then change happens.”

CEO and Chairman of the MPAA Senator Chris Dodd concluded the evening praising Davis and Cong. DeLauro and their work in championing women’s equality. He spoke on Davis’s fight for women in the film industry by saying, “in the case of Geena, you have just been terrific, all the work you have done, all the startling statistics you have uncovered; we all need to become more familiar with this information.” Dodd also thanked Cong. DeLauro for all her hard work, “Rosa, not only did you work for me as my Chief of Staff, but because of you, the very first piece of legislation that President Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, thank you Rosa DeLauro.”

In addition to her work with her Institute, Davis was recently appointed Special Envoy for Women and Girls in ICT for the UN's International Telecommunication Union (ITU).  She is an official partner of UN Women and Chair of the California Commission on the Status of Women.

 

From left to right: Senator Chris Dodd, Geena Davis, and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro [CT-03]

From left to right: Girl Scouts of America, Geena Davis, and Congresswomen Rosa DeLauro [CT-03]

Photo Credit: Joy Asico


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