The Business: “The Handmaiden’s Tale”

On May 6th, 2017, Kim Masters spoke with Margaret Atwood and Bruce Miller on the new Hulu series based on Atwood’s novel of the same name. “The Handmaiden’s Tale” (1985) tells the story of a woman attempting to survive in a totalitarian regime.

Atwood noted that the book was something that she did not expect to take off and due to the numerous adaptations, she was happy to be working with a television writer, because she had numerous problems with the 1990 film. “Harold Pinter, who wrote the script, wrote in voice over, which the director then took out, after the actress had played against her own voice over. That left, as you might have imagined, her looking quite flat, where as [Bruce Miller] put it back in…” (Masters, Atwood, and Miller 2017).

In the wake of the election of President Donald J. Trump, showrunner Bruce Miller noted that he was worried about his own safety when it came to writing the show. Margaret Atwood states rather correctly however, that even though she, and consequently Miller, benefit from the relevancy of the show due to the themes that it portrays and the sentiment of some people in the country carry: “It’s quite a horrible admission… it’s a mixed benefit, because of course we’re all part of society and if society doesn’t benefit and you’re part of it, then we’re ultimately not going to benefit” (Masters, Atwood and Miller 2017).

Shows such as “The Handmaiden’s Tale” may be relevant now because of the political polarization that exists in the United States, but it is important to remember a keyword that the podcast seemed to not say: Hope. It’s going to be okay, it’s not the end of the world. The extremist regime of this fictional story cannot happen because of Congress and The Constitution, besides, that extremist regime already exists in North Korea. So yes, it’s relevant in that sense.


Work Cited

Masters, Kim, Margaret Atwood, and Bruce Miller. “The Business .” Audio blog post. The Business. KCRW, 6 May 2017. Web. 10 May 2017.

In the Spirit of Howard Ashman: Bill Condon on “Beauty and the Beast”

Kim Masters interviewed Bill Condon, director of “Dreamgirls” (2006), who also directed the new adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast” (2017) on Saturday, March 25th, 2017. Speaking on the film, Bill Condon noted how he wanted to make the remake in the spirit of the original lyricist of the 1991, Howard Ashman, who died before the premiere of the original animated film in March of 1991 due to AIDS:

“Here, you are dealing with something that is not only a classic, but something that is nearly perfect in the form that it’s in… and so that the original animated film was based on musical theater and live action…. [Howard] was this kind of guiding force for us, because he’s the one who came up with the objects who sing and dance, that hadn’t been there before he arrived” (Masters and Condon 2017).

Condon did not wish to make a shot for shot remake of the film, instead, he wanted to make a film that appeared realistic and felt real. The production design consisted of large sets, some of which took five minutes to cross, and the Wardrobe character, which was actually constructed, had pulleys and various traditional mechanisms similar to “Mary Poppins” (1964 Stevenson) (Masters and Condon 2017).

In terms of the “gay moment”, the widely publicized issue that spoke of Disney including a gay moment in the film, this sparked an international issue, with Russia outright banning the film but allowed it to be played to audiences 16 and over. “Malaysia demanded cuts to the film, which would eventually allow an uncensored version to a PG-13 rating. Obviously, this became a distraction from Disney’s point of view, as they had invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the film and probably just as soon had avoided any further discussion of the controversy” (Masters and Condon 2017). Condon notes that he certainly did not intend for this to be an issue, and was originally intended to be a surprise. According to Condon, a reporter leaked the information without the full context resulting in the widely publicized news which lead to overreactions: “I feel that it’s a conversation that’s happening outside of the context of people having seen it… It’s turning animation into real life, and you try to get to the human aspects that make people behave the way they do and the story’s been around for three centuries* now and it keeps getting told and it’s about this basic thing of looking beneath the surface, and looking deeper and accepting people for who they are and if you’re going to make that in 2017, you have to been more inclusive…” (Masters and Condon 2017).

*To correct Condon, just for fun, the story of Beauty and the Beast can be dated back to 16th century Italy.

However, the problem that the remake has is that it is essentially a shot for shot remake of the 1991 film. It does Howard Ashman a wonderful service, but it attempts to make something, like the “gay moment” (which was hardly noticeable in the film to begin with) and turns it into nothing spectacular. While the film broke box office records and is a continuation of the new trend that the Disney Company is taking, the film has an interesting production history, even if the film itself is nothing groundbreaking, in terms of technological innovation, like the original was.


Work Cited

Masters, Kim, and Bill Condon. “Bill Condon on the challenges of adapting a ‘tale as old as time'” Audio blog post. The Business. KCRW, 25 Mar. 2017. Web. 25 Mar. 2017.

 

Michael de Luca Interview: Oscars Producer on the Best Picture Mistake

On Tuesday, February 28th, 2017,  in an exclusive interview, Kim Masters of The Business spoke with Michael de Luca who produced “The Social Network” (Fincher 2010), “Moneyball” (Miller 2011), and “Captain Phillips” (Greengrass 2013), and worked with Jennifer Todd to produce the 89th Academy Awards which took place of February 26th, 2017.

Despite the mistakes made at the ceremony, Michael de Luca described the experience of the producing the ceremony as something that he would likely do again (Masters and de Luca 2017). When asked about what had happened with the Best Picture mistake, de Luca spoke of the moment and the feelings he had going through his head:

“…it was kind of like the Hinderburg report, I heard ‘oh my god, oh my god, he got the wrong envelope!’ and then it was slow motion, you perceive things slowly as your adrenaline rises and the cortisol floods your system and by then the course correction was in progress and I just kind of watched as everybody else has, the mistake was corrected” (Masters and de Luca 2017).

de Luca spoke of what should have happened at the ceremony, and notes that: “It’s one of those mistakes that everyone says ‘will never happen’… to tell you the truth, we didn’t in our wildest dreams think we had to have a conversation about what if the worst that could ever happen, happens, and even when someone brought up ‘what if this happens?’ everyone’s like, ‘don’t worry about it, there are protocols, it’s a foolproof system’. I think they said the same thing about the Titanic cornering on icebergs” (Masters and de Luca 2017).

The Oscars this year had historical moments and mistakes, but producer Michael de Luca seemed to be ecstatic about doing the show again next year. As for the Academy and the ties with the two accountants responsible for the Best Picture mistake, they are no longer working with the Academy but remain in their positions at  PricewaterhouseCooper.

Work Cited

“Oscars producer Michael De Luca on that fateful mistake.” Interview. Audio blog post. The Business. KCRW, 4 Mar. 2017. Web. 4 Mar. 2017.

The Illegal Practice of Hollywood Casting Workshops: Pay to Play

On February 25th, 2017, Kim Masters of “The Business” podcast interviewed Gary Baum, who in 2016, investigated the practice known as casting workshops. According to Baum, a casting workshop is “… an educational experience put on by a casting director, an associate, where an actor can learn how to audition better. It practical terms, it is often times really just an audition…” (Masters, Baum and DaMota). These “casting workshops” usually run around $50 and if an actor goes to these places several times a month throughout the year, “it adds up,” Baum says. “If you’re main gig is a barista at Starbucks, that’s a lot of money” (Masters, Baum and DaMota).

These workshops have become so common that Baum says that “a struggling actor found that this was really the benchmark, the cornerstone of how you became an actor, really how you got those initial gigs… it became part of the system, it became central to the system so that there really was no way to maneuver other than to engage with this problem” (Masters, Baum and DaMota ). For the fist time, Los Angeles city attorney Mike Feuer filed criminal charges against this practice earlier this month, “naming 25 people involved in running 5 pay to play workshops” (Masters,  Baum and DaMota). As Feuer states: “It is unlawful to charge anyone, any performer, for an audition. Even if that supposed activity is disguised as some educational workshop” (Masters, Baum and DaMota).

Billy DaMota, a casting director, spoke on the podcast about his opposition to casting workshops. He speaks of when he served on the Board of Directors of the Casting Society of America. “One night in the mid late 90s, we talked about the problem of casting directors charging for these workshops and there were certain rules that we had in place in our bylaws that were continually being violated… so the fact is, they literally threw all of the rules out in 1996” (Masters, Baum and DaMota).

The issues plaguing Hollywood, besides political biases, is the illegal practice of paying to audition. Fortunately, this issue is hopefully being solved and in the future will be an issue that will be diminished in the future and with legitimate workshops surging back into the fray of getting that foot in the door.

Work Cited

 “Cracking down on pay-to-play auditions & a bonus Oscars banter.” Interview. Audio blog post. The Business. KCRW, 25 Feb. 2017. Web. 25 Feb. 2017.

How Social Issues Helped Change “Zootopia”

Over the weekend, Kim Masters of The Business podcast spoke with “Zootopia” directors, Rich Moore and Byron Howard, who have been in the industry for 25 years, over the production history of the film and how the events of Ferguson and the emergence of Black Lives Matters affected “Zootopia” and it’s story. The film is now nominated for Best Animated Feature for this year’s Academy Awards.

Before the directors spoke about the film, they mention how despite traditional animation no longer being a norm at the Walt Disney Company, the attitude is the same with CG. As Rich Moore mentions: “I think as far as personalities, the people involved in animation have been exactly the same… despite the change in medium, the personality and characteristics  of animators, I don’t think that changes” (Masters, Howard, and Moore 2017).

Originally, Jason Bateman’s character, Nick Wilde, was the main character of the film, and about a year before release, the main character switched to what the film is now. Also originally the film was to be a spy film. Byron Howard noted that early on they noticed a predator and prey relationship and wondered “could we use an animated film to talk about bias, prejudice, and stereotype?” The idea was supported throughout the company and had a darker tone than the final product.

Similar to the production history of “Toy Story” (Lasseter 1995), the film’s main characters were unlike-able, the setting was dark, the scenario was dark and the film wasn’t working. Due to this problem the team flipped the film’s main character’s and wanted to make it more contemporary and relate-able, using subtle bias instead of explicit bias (Masters, Howard and Moore 2017).

One of the main issues of this film was going too far and becoming too dark with the subject matter. One scene in particular involved a shock collar element and due to the darkness of the scene, it made the filmmakers question what this film really was about: “Some people loved individual scenes,” Moore said, “but they knew that as a whole, it was not coming together…” (Masters, Howard and Moore 2017).

As the film dabbled into uncertainty, it was the social issues brought up Ferguson that made the team change and finalize the vision of the film despite being far into the production stage:

“We were in production of the movie when the crisis of Ferguson began and it really hit home that what we were working on thematically, an animated film about talking animals, it was happening in our real world, in our country and suddenly it went from a theoretical observation of the world around us to, no, this is real and to me, that’s when the whole thing kind of crystallized and it made it so much easier to tell this story.”

The end of the podcast grew political but despite the political biases of the directors, they managed to create a piece of work that showcases that animated film can talk about modern social issues in a way that makes an impact to a mass audience.

The Academy Awards are February 26th, 2017 and other contenders for Best Animated Feature include: “Kubo and the Two Strings”, “Moana”, “My Life as a Zucchini”, and “The Red Turtle”.

Work Cited

“‘Zootopia’ directors on finding their story, late in the game.” Interview. Audio blog post. KCRW, 18 Feb. 2017. Web. 19 Feb. 2017. <http://www.kcrw.com/news-culture/shows/the-business/zootopia-directors-on-finding-their-story-late-in-the-game&gt;.

#oscars #zootopia #animation #thebusiness

OscarsSoWhite and Why It’s Still an Issue

On February 4th, 2017, Kim Masters spoke with Oscar nominated director Raoul Peck on his “I Am Not Your Negro” in a weekly podcast called The Business.

“I Am Not Your Negro”, which is nominated for Best Documentary in this year’s Academy Awards, tells the story of James Baldwin, a writer and activist who spoke on black equality and opportunity in the United States. In the podcast, Masters and Peck spoke of not just the film but also the issues facing the United States, namely, is the immigration executive orders a concerning factor and if OscarsSoWhite is still a thing to be worried about.

Mr. Peck, when answering a question about whether he would go to the Oscars due to the immigration issues that are currently facing the U.S., stated: “The situation is a very delicate one, and I hope that the majority of people in this industry will find a way to make it clear to everybody that we cannot go on like this” (Masters and Peck 2017). He continued by saying that life is more important than filmmaking (Masters and Peck 2017). It is this position that I can agree and sympathize with, it is difficult in this industry to deal with the current politics in a way that is constructive because so many people in said industry are from various parts of the world. Not to give Meryl Streep any more screen time than she deserves but she made a valid point at the Golden Globes – the film industry is diverse. However, Mr. Peck believes that it is not diverse enough. At the end of the podcast, Mr. Peck mentions that the OscarsSoWhite issue is still prevalent and will not go away despite the diversity of Oscar contenders this year:The 

Masters: We mentioned earlier that you believe OscarsSoWhite is still a thing. Three of the Oscar contenders are about black life in America, your life, the OJ film, and The 13th. That’s not going to cut it for you? It’s going to help?

Peck: Nope, nope, it’s going to help. You know, filmmakers, we know the story. In particular, black filmmakers or women filmmakers. It’s not because that for some chance we have four films this year in the documentary category and so many actors nominated that anything substantial has changed; because we all know how hard we had to fight to make these films. You know, they were not granted, they were not the result of some decision from any studio. The Academy (has) done structural change, which I think are important, but the key is how do we share the power of being able to greenlight a movie? That’s the decision. As long as we don’t have the right people on the leverage, that important decision, there will not be any structural or relevant change (Masters and Peck 2017).

While I can sympathize with Peck and his concern for diversity, I have to disagree. OscarsSoWhite can be disproven and while the concerns of black filmmakers and women filmmakers and diversification is legitimate and necessary for proper civil discourse, I would like to propose that the film industry has and is continuing to improve over the last few years when it comes to this issue. An example being that for the last few years, the Best Cinematography and Best Director categories have gone to Mexicans. The Academy is moving into the direction of diversity, but we shall see what is to come of it on Oscar Day.

Work Cited

“The Business: Director Raoul Peck “I Am Not Your Negro”.” Interview. Audio blog post. N.p., 04 Feb. 2017. Web. 4 Feb. 2017. <http://www.kcrw.com/news-culture/shows/the-business&gt;.