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2019-12-06
Harvey Weinstein, Clutching Cane and Looking Enfeebled, Appears in Court Ahead of Rape Trial
By Elizabeth Wagmeister LOS ANGELES (Variety) – Exactly one month ahead of his criminal trial, Harvey Weinstein appeared in court for a bail hearing that was necessitated by changes in the law. The former head of Miramax and the Weinstein Company, once alternately feared and celebrated as one of the most powerful men in movies, hobbled into the downtown courthouse limping and relying, at times, on a cane or the help of an assistant. He was dressed in an ill-fitting light grey suit, his hair was thinning, and he looked pale and enfeebled. “This is tough,” said Donna Rotunno, one of Weinstein’s defense attorneys. “This is tough on anybody going through this and dealing with the scrutiny not only in the courtroom, but in the court of public opinion.” She added that Weinstein has been dealing with back issues. A New York judge said Friday that Weinstein’s $1 million bail will remain the same for now. Another hearing to determine his bail will continue on Wednesday. Weinstein was forced into court, due to an overhaul to New York’s criminal justice system, set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, just a few days before the disgraced Hollywood mogul’s high-profile sexual assault trial is set to begin. The new changes in New York will include eliminating bail for nonviolent felonies and expediting the timeframe for prosecutors to supply evidence to the defense. Prosecutors argued that Weinstein presents a flight risk due to his wealth and that his bail should be increased to $5 million. They noted that he has had dozens and dozens of violations with his ankle monitor and that investigators have been sent to his home in Bedford, N.Y., on multiple occasions. “He is flagrantly disregarding the bracelet monitoring system,” said Joan Illuzzi, one of the prosecutors. Weinstein’s defense attorneys said the violations were often the result of faulty cell service, as well as issues related to wearing the monitor due to a leg injury. “I think the bracelet should be removed,” said Rotunno, noting that Weinstein had been compliant with court orders and had appeared on time at hearings. She noted that her client was eager for the trial to commence, because he maintains his innocence. “He appreciates the court’s position,” said Rotunno. “He wants to come to court.” Prosecutors said Weinstein could use his financial resources to flee the country, noting that he had sold $60 million in real estate over the past two years and has a penchant for flying in private planes. Rotunno said Weinstein flies private because his ankle monitor presents difficulties getting through security. Defense attorneys said much of Weinstein’s wealth was tied up because his company went bankrupt due to his legal issues and he has to pay alimony to two ex-wives. Prosecutors handed his defense attorney financial forms asking for a complete rundown of Weinstein’s assets. Photographers and videographers flanked the outside of the courthouse and lined its corridors, cordoned off behind barricades. During a brief hearing, prosecutors asked Judge James Burke to issue a gag order so that Rotunno cannot appear on TV, which they argued can sway the jury ahead of the trial. The judge denied the gag order. Weinstein faces five sex crimes charges of rape and sexual assault from two separate incidents in 2006 when he was alleged to have performed a forcible sexual act on a woman, and in 2013 when he was alleged to have raped a different woman in a Manhattan hotel room. In addition to the two alleged victims, the jury is expected to hear from other alleged victims, including “Sopranos” actress Annabella Sciorra, whom the judge has allowed to testify that Weinstein raped her 26 years ago. Jurors were recently told that the upcoming trial will last up to two months. Weinstein has pled not guilty, and maintains that any sexual activity was consensual. If convicted, Weinstein could face life in prison. The allegations of sexual abuse against Weinstein set off a widespread reckoning in the media and entertainment business, galvanized the Me Too movement, and inspired a larger debate about how to make sets and offices safer. In the weeks and months following Weinstein’s fall, other influential figures such as Brett Ratner, Les Moonves, Charlie Rose, Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K. were hit with allegations of abuse. Thus far, Weinstein is one of the only men accused of abuse to face criminal charges. During his decades at the epicenter of indie film, Weinstein backed Oscar-winning hits such as “Shakespeare in Love,” “The English Patient” and “Pulp Fiction.”
2019-12-06
Women Who Man the Boards: Five Engineers Powering Today’s Hitmakers Sessions
By Charlie Amter LOS ANGELES (Variety) – Women behind the boards at recording studios is hardly a new phenomenon. Susan Rogers famously engineered some of Prince’s most beloved albums in the 1980s; Linda Perry first made a name for herself as a producer at the turn of the millennium; there wasn’t a console Imogen Heap didn’t command; and, last year, Emily Lazar became the first woman to win a Grammy for mastering engineering. While the world of audio engineering still tilts disproportionally towards men (only 2% of working music producers are female), lately more women with more diversity are injecting fresh blood into a niche profession that is only growing in importance along with the constant need for content. Here are five leadings ladies manning the boards. Yang Tan Yang Tan, or “Young Tan” as she is sometimes called by her co-workers at Paramount Studio in Hollywood, has a unique background as a specialist in recording orchestral arrangements (she worked with the Chinese National Orchestra back in her native China), but the now Los Angeles-based engineer has become a favorite of urban artists lately. Tan has worked with such names as YG, Wale, Kanye West and J. Cole over the past few years, and the 28-year-old has recently moved into K-pop. “I just finished mixing an album for a K-pop artist Jackson Wang from Got 7,” she tells Variety (Tan is a mixer as well as a vocal engineer). Tan says she likes to work fast, which artists often appreciate in the studio. “I love to do vocal producing and I will constantly be editing their vocals in real time as they record,” she says. “What I usually like to do is make the demos as good as possible that night [of the recording].” Ann Mincieli Best known as the co-founder of Jungle City studios in New York, where everyone from Justin Timberlake to Depeche Mode has laid down track, Ann Mincieli is herself a gifted recording guru. She has won multiple Grammy Awards for her work with Alicia Keys, with who, she has a longtime studio relationship that continues to this day. Says Mincieli: “The best thing about [being an engineer] is being able to trade gear in for even older gear to paint the sonic picture for each song.” Maria Elisa Ayerbe Miami-based Maria Elisa Ayerbe may be new to the proverbial “scene,” but she has been perfecting her craft both in the U.S. and abroad for over a decade. The Colombian born audio professional honed her engineering skills near Nashville, where she procured a master’s degree at Middle Tennessee State University, then the 35-year-old went on to work with Julio Reyes Copello at his Art House studio in Miami. There, she did everything from comp vocals for Laura Pausini, to record Latin giants like Juanes. Ayerbe was recently honored by the Latin Recording Academy as one of four “Leading Ladies of Entertainment.” Kesha Lee A credit on a No. 1 hit can change a career. Just ask Kesha Lee whose work capturing vocals on Migos and Lil Uzi Vert’s “Bad and Boujee” launched her bookings into overdrive. The Atlanta Institute of Music and Media alumni counts Childish Gambino and Gucci Mane among the artists she’s worked with. In 2018, she landed on Forbes Magazine’s ’30 Under 30’ list and was awarded the top engineer award Spotify’s Secret Genius event. Simone Torres The Grammy-nominated engineer and vocal producer, who has worked on records for Cardi B and Camila Cabello, has a stellar reputation and was most recently credited on Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj and Normani’s “Bad To You” from the Grande-produced “Charlie’s Angels” soundtrack (she worked on Normani’s vocals on the track). “The engineer’s job is to help bridge the gap between the technical side and the creative side,” the Atlanta-based 26-year-old tells Variety. The Berklee college of music graduate is known for her deft touch when it comes to working on vocal production directly with artists. “The trust between a vocalist and their vocal producer is of the utmost importance,” she adds.
2019-12-06
Women Who Man the Boards: Five Engineers Powering Today’s Hitmakers Sessions
By Charlie Amter LOS ANGELES (Variety) – Women behind the boards at recording studios is hardly a new phenomenon. Susan Rogers famously engineered some of Prince’s most beloved albums in the 1980s; Linda Perry first made a name for herself as a producer at the turn of the millennium; there wasn’t a console Imogen Heap didn’t command; and, last year, Emily Lazar became the first woman to win a Grammy for mastering engineering. While the world of audio engineering still tilts disproportionally towards men (only 2% of working music producers are female), lately more women with more diversity are injecting fresh blood into a niche profession that is only growing in importance along with the constant need for content. Here are five leadings ladies manning the boards. Yang Tan Yang Tan, or “Young Tan” as she is sometimes called by her co-workers at Paramount Studio in Hollywood, has a unique background as a specialist in recording orchestral arrangements (she worked with the Chinese National Orchestra back in her native China), but the now Los Angeles-based engineer has become a favorite of urban artists lately. Tan has worked with such names as YG, Wale, Kanye West and J. Cole over the past few years, and the 28-year-old has recently moved into K-pop. “I just finished mixing an album for a K-pop artist Jackson Wang from Got 7,” she tells Variety (Tan is a mixer as well as a vocal engineer). Tan says she likes to work fast, which artists often appreciate in the studio. “I love to do vocal producing and I will constantly be editing their vocals in real time as they record,” she says. “What I usually like to do is make the demos as good as possible that night [of the recording].” Ann Mincieli Best known as the co-founder of Jungle City studios in New York, where everyone from Justin Timberlake to Depeche Mode has laid down track, Ann Mincieli is herself a gifted recording guru. She has won multiple Grammy Awards for her work with Alicia Keys, with who, she has a longtime studio relationship that continues to this day. Says Mincieli: “The best thing about [being an engineer] is being able to trade gear in for even older gear to paint the sonic picture for each song.” Maria Elisa Ayerbe Miami-based Maria Elisa Ayerbe may be new to the proverbial “scene,” but she has been perfecting her craft both in the U.S. and abroad for over a decade. The Colombian born audio professional honed her engineering skills near Nashville, where she procured a master’s degree at Middle Tennessee State University, then the 35-year-old went on to work with Julio Reyes Copello at his Art House studio in Miami. There, she did everything from comp vocals for Laura Pausini, to record Latin giants like Juanes. Ayerbe was recently honored by the Latin Recording Academy as one of four “Leading Ladies of Entertainment.” Kesha Lee A credit on a No. 1 hit can change a career. Just ask Kesha Lee whose work capturing vocals on Migos and Lil Uzi Vert’s “Bad and Boujee” launched her bookings into overdrive. The Atlanta Institute of Music and Media alumni counts Childish Gambino and Gucci Mane among the artists she’s worked with. In 2018, she landed on Forbes Magazine’s ’30 Under 30’ list and was awarded the top engineer award Spotify’s Secret Genius event. Simone Torres The Grammy-nominated engineer and vocal producer, who has worked on records for Cardi B and Camila Cabello, has a stellar reputation and was most recently credited on Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj and Normani’s “Bad To You” from the Grande-produced “Charlie’s Angels” soundtrack (she worked on Normani’s vocals on the track). “The engineer’s job is to help bridge the gap between the technical side and the creative side,” the Atlanta-based 26-year-old tells Variety. The Berklee college of music graduate is known for her deft touch when it comes to working on vocal production directly with artists. “The trust between a vocalist and their vocal producer is of the utmost importance,” she adds.
2019-12-06
Chuck Lorre Talks Streaming Vs. Broadcast, WGA-Agency Battle at Innovate Summit
By Will Thorne LOS ANGELES (Variety) – With “The Kominsky Method,” Chuck Lorre ventured out of his broadcast comedy comfort zone and took a leap into the world of streaming, an unknown quantity for him. During a keynote conversation at Variety’s Innovate Summit presented by PwC, held Thursday at the 1 Hotel in West Hollywood, Lorre talked about how making a show for a streaming platform changed him as a writer. Rather than presiding over the large writer’s rooms of his many classic broadcast shows, doing “The Kominsky Method” for Netflix meant that Lorre was writing solo for the first time in many years. “I hadn’t written alone since 1987, it was a little scary but also liberating,” Lorre said during his Q&A with Variety business editor Cynthia Littleton. “I was doing it because I believed in it, there was no census being taken in a room of comedy writers, I’m not looking for anyone to say it’s OK. If I believe in this, let’s shoot this.” In terms of the differences between broadcast and streaming, Lorre compared the latter to a book: the audience can read one chapter at a time and put the book down after one, or read the entire thing in a single sitting. “It changes the way the story unfolds, it’s not so episodic, the 30 minutes don’t have to wrap everything up,” Lorre said. The prolific producer’s most recent broadcast venture is “Bob Hearts Abishola,” a CBS multi-cam about a Nigerian immigrant nurse (Folake Olowofoyeku) and the patient (Billy Gardell) who falls for her. Lorre said the show presented an opportunity “pay homage to immigrants,” something that he had rarely had the chance to do on his shows. However, he revealed the show would never have gone forward if it wasn’t for Gina Yashere, a stand-up comedian and actor of Nigerian descent who was brought on to consult and eventually co-star in the series. “She made it viable, otherwise I wouldn’t have done it because I don’t want to pretend I know something I don’t,” Lorre explained. “I’ve seen the immigrant experience, I lived in Miami in the 1970s and I saw the Cuban immigration and it was exciting. It was the same idea with this, people come to this country full of enthusiasm and determination to find some ground under their feet and it’s worth writing about.” Later, the conversation turned to current state of comedy and what makes a comedy writer these days. Pinpointing what many comedy writers have in common, Lorre said it’s “a mutated gene” born out of a terrible childhood. “As a group, comedy writers are broken, that’s why we need agents. If we represented ourselves we’d be crying all the time,” Lorre joked. “You can either become a bitter son of a bitch or write about mass murder, or you channel it into laughing at whatever it is. And if you had a wonderful childhood, you become a network executive, and that’s fine.” Speaking of agents, the conversation was bookended with Lorre’s thoughts on the Writers Guild of America standoff with Hollywood’s largest talent agencies, which is in its eight month. The sides will meet in federal court in Los Angeles on Friday morning for the first hearing in the dueling lawsuits filed earlier this year by the WGA and WME, CAA and UTA. Although Lorre said he felt he wasn’t in the best place to comment on the wider stalemate at large, he did admit that packaging, one of the issues at the crux of the writers-agents disagreement, was an issue he encountered from his early days in the biz and that he has learned to refuse on his own shows. “Over time I’ve been able to say, ‘No you don’t get a package because you get a story editor on the show.’ The package is credible only if you’ve put together all these elements and made this thing happen, but generally that’s not what happens. It’s kind of a form of extortion,” Lorre said, half-jokingly in his reference to “extortion.” “It’s really simple to me, you want to put the money on the screen. If people are getting paid to do nothing, that doesn’t make a better show. If people are doing something and contributing, yeah sure, step up to the buffet, have some shrimp. But there has been traditionally in this business many hands in the pot. Sometimes it’s credible and legitimate, and sometimes it’s just greed,” he added.
2019-12-06
From YouTube to TikTok, ‘AFV’ Embraces Emerging Platforms to Stay on Top at 30
By Rob Owen LOS ANGELES (Variety) – Even as technology caught up to ABC’s “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” the 30-year-old clip show found a way to co-exist with online viral videos. “We’ve worked with YouTube and Snapchat and other platforms to embrace how we can utilize what we do and what they do,” says “AFV” creator Vin Di Bona. Since it began in 1989, “” has been a showcase for funny videos — guys getting hit in their groins, wigs falling off, pranks caught on tape, pets getting into mischief — with each episode’s most-liked videos, as judged by the show’s studio audience, winning cash prizes. “AFV” survived the dawn of YouTube and the existential threat it posed to the TV show by looking at such platforms as potential partners, rather than challenges. “The public loves it,” says Di Bona. This started about seven years ago, although Di Bona admits it was an adjustment. When he first learned of YouTube — while watching a CBS News report — it looked not only like a competitor but also a thief. Out of the six clip examples on that news package, “four of them were from my show,” he recalls. “I went nuts. I was perturbed. For the next two to three years we kept saying, ‘We have to combat this, we have to protect our IP.’ We had stuff taken down when that was pretty next-to-impossible.” However, the attitude soon shifted to “if-you-can’t-beat-em, join-em,” says Lisa Black, executive vice president of content, revenue and business development at Prods. Black arrived at the company in 2012, when she says the official “AFV” online presence was limited to a Facebook page. Her background in digital media at Telepictures helped “AFV” embrace the increasingly digital world. “I really couldn’t believe they were sitting on this gold mine of viral video and not exploiting it,” Black says. Black focused on coming up with “a strategy that would allow us to connect with our audience and new audiences in different ways and in different experiences than they were used to [which was] the lean-back experience of watching the show in their living room.” Now “AFV” has a YouTube channel, multiple Facebook pages and a presence on Instagram and TikTok. “As new platforms have evolved, we have jumped on them,” Black says, noting that “AFV” now has 19 million fans on Facebook compared to 100,000 in 2012 and utilizes different pages on that platform to “go after different demographics” and “customize the content a bit more.” “AFV” executive producer Michele Nasraway, who has worked on the series since the first season, says enthusiasm for user-generated content as entertainment, no matter the platform, has contributed to the show’s continued success. “The other thing that the proliferation of viral videos has done for us is that it’s really perpetuated trends in technology or just the way people shoot things,” Nasraway says. “Slow-motion video, face-swapping and face filters and various apps like Snapchat and TikTok have really resulted in a boom of material for us.” Nasraway says the TV show has adapted to the pace of short-form content, as well, by cutting videos much shorter than they did in the early years of the show. “People are used to seeing things happen very quickly,” she says. “As a result we use more videos per episode.” The TV landscape has changed dramatically since “AFV” first hit the airwaves as a special in 1989, based loosely on a segment in the Japanese variety show “Fun TV With Kato-chan and Ken-chan.” “At the end of the [Japanese] show they showed home videos and asked celebrities which of the three was the funniest, and that was the germ of the idea of what the show was going to be,” says Di Bona. “Certainly in America in 1989, variety was deader than a doornail. When I looked at it and saw the potential of these home videos and the contest, I said, ‘We don’t really need anything else.’” A long-running TV staple was born, but it hasn’t been without bumps in the road. The series briefly ceased airing weekly, sitting out the year 2000 as a weekly show. It resumed in 2001 with Tom Bergeron taking over hosting duties. Prior to him, Bob Saget had originated the host role, staying with the show from 1989 to 1997, but Daisy Fuentes and John Fugelsang also had a brief stint in the position from 1998-99. “I think what they found was a fallow period when Bob left,” says Rob Mills, ABC senior vice president of alternative series, specials and late night. “It left huge shoes to fill because he’s a comedy icon. They went in a different way by having more straight-down-the-middle hosts in John and Daisy. When Tom came in, he was a funny, warm presence, which is also what [current host] Alfonso [Ribeiro] is.” Already renewed through the 2020-21 TV season, Mills credits executive producers Di Bona and Nasraway with keeping “AFV” on track, in part through the way they curate and order the show’s clips. “What separates this show is that they know funny and funny videos better than anyone,” he says. “The fact that they rate every video and know how to shape a show [and order the videos] makes it impervious to anything that’s similar.” As equally important as curating for funny, Di Bona says “AFV” intentionally targets multi-quadrant co-viewing. “That’s the key to our show,” he says. “Parents can rest assured that if they go on the ‘AFV’ app on the iPad and select ‘dogs’ or ‘kids’ — you can actually select subject matter any time you want — they know it’s family-friendly, and they don’t have to worry about it and it’s the same thing within our show.” Being welcoming to many demographics can be helpful with ratings, as well. Mills notes more viewers tune to “AFV” whenever an NFL game on a rival network ends. “You’ll see this huge spike,” he says. “It’s the perfect show for anyone who was watching football to turn to. It moves quickly and it gives you the same kind of enjoyment as watching people get tackled on the field.” As “AFV” enters its third decade, celebrated on-air with a docu-style anniversary special airing Dec. 8 on ABC, the show will continue to embrace new digital platforms as they develop. A new linear, quasi-spinoff is already in the works: Saget returns to host “Videos After Dark,” a slightly more risqué take on “AFV” that’s expected to air on ABC in 2020. Producers say that in the current viral video era there’s no shortage of viewer interest in the type of short, funny video clips “AFV” accustomed viewers to watch, which only benefits the “AFV” brand. Adds current show host Ribeiro, who took the reins in 2015: “Viral videos really started with ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos.’ ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos’ was YouTube before YouTube. One supports the other now. ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos’ doesn’t change, it just takes [viewers] out of their head-down-in-their-phone or computer or laptop or iPad [experience] and has them sit next to family members and bring it back to TV.”
2019-12-06
‘The Irishman’: A Closer Look at the De-Aging of De Niro in Scorsese’s Mob Epic
By Jazz Tangcay LOS ANGELES (Variety) – Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” hits Netflix today and it stars Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci. De Niro plays Frank Sheeran, a truck driver who meets Russell Bufalino (Pesci). Spanning several decades, the film follows Sheeran as he gets involved in the greatest unsolved mob mystery – the disappearance of union boss Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino). The film is a masterpiece from one of our greatest directors of all-time, starring some of the greatest actors of all-time. It required hundreds of costumes from designers Sandy Powell and Christopher Peterson, over 297 shooting locations in the New York/New Jersey areas and brand new technology courtesy of the team at ILM. Visual Effects Supervisor Pablo Helman was working on Scorsese’s “Silence” when he first heard about the story. “Marty emailed me the script overnight after we had talked over Thanksgiving dinner.I read it and we were shooting, and I said, “I was in.” Marty said, “Be careful what you wish for.” Helman knew and was told by Scorsese that De Niro was “not going to go for markers on his face. He’s not going to wear grey pajamas, and he’s not going to be outside the set.” I said no problem and that’s why we work at ILM. I’ve been there for 24 years. You’re allowed to sit at a table and come up with stuff. It was a great challenge.” He consulted fellow ILM colleague Dennis Muren who agreed it was a risky project to take on, but Muren had also worked on “Jurassic Park.” Helman says, “I asked him,”Do you remember when you did “Jurassic Park?” He was quiet for a while. We did a test in 2015, and it was on a scene from “Goodfellas” Bob was 74-years-old doing the Cadillac scene. We knew if we weren’t going to have markers. We needed as much information from the set as possible.” Helman worked with three cameras and no markers to do a test that they presented to De Niro and Scorsese. “It’s a textbook example where you go for a project and come up with bold solutions. You will get your wish.” The de-aging software took two years to develop. Without using markers, Helman’s only reference was lighting and texture. They also had to create new cameras with new technology to work alongside Scorsese on set. “We had to design a new camera system with three cameras. We had to implement infra-red technology on the camera next to the director’s camera. There were three cameras, the director’s camera and two “Witness” cameras. We implemented all kinds of science in terms of technology. ” Helman explained. He continues, “It was really important that the technology was away from the performances. The actors were on set with no markers and no intrusion. It was important for the characters to be in front of each other.” With several years in development and nine months of post-production, Helman jokes about the run time that it felt like they were making two movies. “The VFX shots just kept coming shot after shot after shot because we were working with three actors. We did 1750 shots for the movie.” He says. Scorsese’s “” is an achievement in the world of visual effects Helman is proud to say. “The achievement here is giving the actors the freedom to do what they do. Any achievement is measured against what it’s going to do to the industry. I can’t wait for actors to look at this and say, “Does that mean I don’t have to wear 138 markers on my face?” More from “The Irishman” 
2019-12-06
‘Two Popes’ Walk Into Abbey Road Recording Studio (No Joke)
By Elizabeth Shaffer LOS ANGELES (Variety) – The soundtrack to Netflix’s “The Two Popes” is the tonally diverse product of Grammy Award-winning musician Bryce Dessner who was tasked by director Fernando Meirelles to score the film, generating large-scale cinematic energy to unseen, intimate moments between religious figures.  Scheduled for release on Friday, Dec. 20, “” explores the friendship between Pope Benedict and Cardinal Bergoglio (the future Pope Francis), two pivotal figures in the recent and highly turbulent history of the Catholic church. The story of conservative-leaning Benedict’s decision to resign (from a position typically served until death) was placed in contrast to forward-thinking Bergoglio’s apprehension towards the papacy. The film exposes the two clergymen’s fundamental differences as they deal, together, with surfacing corruption and the future of the Catholic church.  Recorded at Abbey Road, Dessner’s soundtrack gracefully merges two disparate sonic identities — one characterized by an energetic nylon string guitar sound and another by a more traditional, romantic orchestral treatment — that accentuate and complement the opposing ideologies Variety caught up with Dessner, a guitarist with major successes in both the classical and alternative music worlds, talks about how he finds the right tone for experiences that are out of view.   How did you come across this project? I’m a really big fan of Fernando Meirelles, like “The Constant Gardener” and “City of God.” I think “City of God” is one of the best movies I’ve seen, really. I think he is an extremely music-minded director. It came up where he and one of his producers were shooting in Rome already, and I believe they played some of my music as temp music and started taking up the idea of me working on the project. I think that Fernando liked the diversity of my background, in particular, some of my classical music and music I write for voices, so he reached out.  I went to meet them in Rome on set, actually and had a really great day. And then just from there, it got started. You’re putting music to such intimate moments that have never really had a soundtrack before. How did you approach a setting that usually requires silence? I think that the screenplay was originally written by Anthony McCarten as a play. It does have this incredible intimacy about it, almost like a Samuel Beckett kind of play, which is largely these conversations about theology between two old men, two incredible actors. I think to stage that in a cinematic way was a challenge–to figure out how you make a movie out of dialogue between these two characters. Music, among other tools that Fernando had, was one of the ways to make it cinematic and to bring energy into certain scenes. I worked really hard on finding sounds that both felt like they belong in the film, but were also surprising, because Fernando doesn’t ever do the obvious didn’t want me to write straightforward Hollywood film music. The challenge was to find an intimate sound with a lot of character that matched the quality of the action that was on screen. How did you approach these sounds you would hear at a Catholic mass–grand organs and strings–without it coming off as cliche? The film has a surprising use of score, but also source. There’s a lot of humor in the movie, that’s a big part of what Fernando was bringing into this, as a sense of levity. You think of a movie about two popes and humor is not really the first thing you think of. But this movie is quite funny, actually, and the use of music accents that. I think one example is that the use of the saxophone is a sound that is totally unexpected and happens in two key religious moments for Bergoglio. In general, some of the sounds we associate with Benedict are slightly more expected, which are bigger orchestral moments that relate to him pushing himself and has very much a kind of romantic orchestral music associated with them, which I wrote to that characteristic in my language. The sound that we associate with Bergoglio is much more intimate and folkloric and uses primarily the South American nylon string guitar as the center of that sound. The film has different sonic identities, and I do think that the source music as well plays into that. ABBA is a group whose music I didn’t think I’d be hearing. What’s the genesis of that music cue? Was it referenced in the script or did you help incorporate that? I don’t know if ABBA was in the script or Fernando put it in the movie and then they put it in the script. I know that Abbey Road and The Beatles were in the script.  We recorded the score at Abbey Road, which I knew from the start of working on the movie, which is really quite an incredible experience. That was something that was really surprising to me but I grew to love it. When I first heard it, it was a bit of a challenge to figure out which version of [Dancing Queen] we would put in. I did work on a version of The Beatles’ “Blackbird.” The ABBA is taken from The Royal Philharmonic in London. Was the decision to record at Abbey Road made before you came onto the project? Pope Benedict’s album was actually recorded there. Is that just a coincidence? It does seem like a perfect fit with “Blackbird” and The Beatles references. I helped them decide that we would record at Abbey Road since record production was based in London. That is one of two places that you do scores like this in London, the other being AIR Studios, but the fact that it’s mentioned so much in the movie just made it so much fun. For all the producers, and the main editor, and Fernando to come, it was really great, we had a really great day there with the London Contemporary Orchestra–it was a complete dream. I think for a musician to be able to do that–you know, my life is full of memorable moments, but to do that was kind of next level.  You’ve incorporated plenty of Argentinean guitar sounds, representative of Pope Francis’s home country of Argentina. As someone who is a classically trained guitarist, how do you integrate the guitar alongside a full orchestra? What is that like?  It’s not the first thing I tend to do, but I did do a couple of cues like that and Fernando immediately responded to it and didn’t want that kind of grandiose orchestral sound necessarily for Bergoglio/Francis. Eventually, I was able to arrange Pope Francis’ election scene and that starts with this intimate guitar sound and then becomes a kind of massive orchestral piece, so that was fairly natural to get there and go from one to the other. My next question was going to be, how did you take on that culturally significant music? But you had already you had a bit of a background in it already just by growing up playing the guitar. Everything I am doing is not necessarily Argentinian, I should be clear, but it is the use of the nylon string guitar, which I guess is really Spanish in a way, although the origins of those guitars goes further back than that. The guitar music you hear is not based on any South American folk music. I did spend some time recording some South American traditional pieces, one of which is on the soundtrack and in the film, called “Siete de Abril.” It is an example of a Colombian traditional melody, and I had a really good time learning some of that music and recording with this incredible bandoneon player. But for the most part, I used the guitar in my own language. Similarly, there’s the use of the bandoneon in places on the score, which is again associated with Piazzola or traditional tango music, but I use it in a more orchestral way, it’s not used to play traditional themes. There’s this really heartwarming scene between Pope Benedict and Cardinal Bergoglio when they’re chatting at the pope’s summer residence and Benedict starts to play the piano. It’s a moment of kinship that’s pretty seminal in the development of their friendship. Anthony Hopkins can indeed play the piano, and he’s even worked on some of his own music. How did you work with him to pick and choose the pieces that he would play, or was it already in the screenplay before? Anthony is a really good piano player and those are pieces that he actually had in his repertoire. Director Fernando Meirelles had him try those out on set, it actually wasn’t my choice. As far as I understand, he is kind of an active pianist.  The recent influx of streaming platforms leads to more opportunities for more films and more opportunities to score more films. From winning Grammys for your classical compositions, and for your work with The National, you’re very uniquely and impressively well rounded. Looking ahead, would you like to do more films or create more music for screens? I think to work on projects like “The Two Popes” or say on “The Revenant” are dream situations where you get to work in large collaborative environments with so many incredible artists. I very much enjoy it and it’s something I’m really learning about. It is an industry that’s shifting and expanding and movies like “The Two Popes,” which might not get made by a giant, regular studios like that is very interesting. It’s really based on really quality acting and great directors that are given pretty much creative freedom. It was a dream situation for me to work on a project like that where I wasn’t necessarily feeling the pressure you might feel on something five times bigger. But we had obviously the resources to go to record and orchestrate at Abbey Road. So it was an incredible experience.  Dessner’s soundtrack for “The Two Popes” is slated for release on December 6 via Milan Records.
2019-12-06
Prosecutors seek to up Harvey Weinstein's bail, citing violations
By Brendan Pierson NEW YORK (Reuters) – Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein has at times failed to wear a required electronic tracking device, New York prosecutors said Friday, asking a judge to increase his bail to $5 million, from $1 million, as he awaits trial on sexual assault charges. Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi made the request at a hearing before Justice James Burke in Manhattan state court. She said Weinstein had failed to wear an electronic transmitter that works in tandem with his ankle bracelet on “numerous” occasions. “It is the people’s position that none of those ‘bracelet gone’ violations were accidental,” she said. Weinstein’s lawyer, Donna Rotunno, said the violations were a “technical” problem and that her client had never tried to flee, arguing that there was no need to increase his bail. She noted that he had always appeared on time for every court date. Burke did not make a decision, but scheduled another hearing on the issue for next Wednesday. Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to charges that he sexually assaulted two women, one in 2006 and another in 2013. His trial is scheduled to begin on Jan. 6, 2020. Weinstein has been accused of sexual misconduct dating back decades by more than 70 women. He has denied the allegations, saying any sexual encounters were consensual. The accusations against Weinstein helped spark the #MeToo movement in late 2017, in which hundreds of women have claimed sexual misconduct by powerful men in entertainment, business, media, politics and other fields. In addition to the two main accusers in the case, prosecutors have said they intend to call other women to testify at trial in order to establish a pattern of behavior. Weinstein has sought to block some of that testimony. Burke has not ruled on the issue. Weinstein could face a life sentence if found guilty. Burke last week denied Weinstein’s bid to dismiss some of the charges. (Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Richard Chang)
2019-12-06
R. Kelly Faces Charge of Bribery for Obtaining Fake ID to Wed Underage Aaliyah
By Chris Willman LOS ANGELES (Variety) – Among the many numbers that R. Kelly is finding do matter: the growing number of charges pending against him. One more significant one has been added: a charge that the singer bribed a public employee to obtain a fake ID for his then-15-year-old bride, Aaliyah, in 1994. Her marriage to Kelly, who was 27 at the time, was annulled a few months later. The new charge has been added to a portfolio of existing ones in a federal indictment in Brooklyn, which already has , now 52, facing possible convictions for racketeering and sex trafficking. He’ll face all those charges in May — after he first goes up on trial on separate federal charges in April in Chicago, where he’s being held without bail. This marks the first time that the illegal R. Kelly/ wedding of 25 years ago has resulted in a federal charge. Aaliyah is not mentioned by name in the new documents filed by prosecutors, but the Associated Press and others have confirmed that the late performer is the “Jane Doe” referred to as having been given a “fraudulent identification document” for the Illinois wedding. The wedding took place the same year that Kelly served as her producer, co-writer and overall mentor on Aaliyah’s debut album, “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number.” Kelly’s Brooklyn lawyer released a statement, saying in part, “The 1994 Allegation that my client procured a fake ID is an absolute absurdity, backed by more innuendo and baseless accusations,” said Douglas Anton. “This additional charge smacks of the same ‘she said she said’ (yes SHE twice) that makes up the totality of the baseless claims in the New York Federal Indictment. …  Oh, and my client had absolutely no involvement with this, if it ever even happened at all.” The singer’s Chicago attorney, Steve Greenberg, released a less combative statement, reserving comment until he’d read the full indictment but saying that “at first look it does not appear to materially alter the landscape. We continue to look forward to the day he is free.” After Kelly’s federal trials in Chicago in April and Brooklyn in May, he’ll then return to Chicago in September to face a third trial, on Illinois state charges of sexual assault and abuse.
2019-12-06
Billie Eilish Makes Her Directorial Debut With ‘Xanny’ Video (Watch)
By Jem Aswad LOS ANGELES (Variety) – In a week with lots of other Billie Eilish things going on — including Variety’s two cover stories , her acoustic performance at Apple’s headquarters and, not least, reports of a multi-million-dollar documentary deal with Apple — a new video from the 17-year-old singer has also arrived. The clip — for the song “Xanny,” from her multiple Grammy-nominated album “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go” — is Eilish’s directorial debut, but it follows a similar theme to many of her previous ones, in that she’s in a state of physical discomfort. Where “Ocean Eyes” saw her smearing makeup across her face; “When the Party’s Over,” showed her with black liquid pouring from her eyes like tears; and in “All the Good Girls Go to Hell,” she’s a winged reptile who emerges from an oily swamp while explosions erupt around her, for this one she’s sitting in an off-white room, in a very-Xanny-like state, while unseen people’s arms stab out lit cigarettes on her face. Ouch! The video’s message may be anti-smoking, echoing that of the song, which is actually anti-Xanny (“I don’t need a Xanny to feel better”). Yesterday at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California, Eilish played stripped-down acoustic set with her brother and writing/producer partner Finneas on guitar and piano, featuring a custom, one night-only production design from acclaimed creative director Es Devlin (Adele, Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar). The staging surrounded Eilish and Finneas (who performs under his first name) with trees and alternately brooding, horror-movie lighting that created a fitting enchanted forest environment to accompany the songs from Eilish’s debut “When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?”