“In the past two months, we have lost two remarkable members of the Caribbean literary community. Recently, Derek Walcott, 87, passed away in St. Lucia. There has, even in the short time since his death on 17 March, been much written in tribute to Walcott’s legacy and I expect there will be much more to come as we remember the work he has left with us and mourn the work that we hoped would yet come. An extended tribute of note is #AWeekinWalcott by Trinidadian Shivanee Ramlochan.
“The second, earlier loss is more difficult to write about because it is closer to home. Giselle Rampaul, lecturer at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, and creator of The Spaces between Words podcast, died suddenly in Trinidad on 9 February. Giselle and I often crossed paths at conferences and shared information via e-mail; she recently reviewed Roydon Salick’s monograph Ismith Khan: The Man and His Work for us here at sx salon. She was young, only forty, but had already contributed much to Caribbean literary studies via her teaching and scholarship and her archiving of the voices of a wide range of Caribbean writers. Many of us benefited from her generosity, her enthusiasm, and her dedication. She will be missed.
“Giselle coedited two books and published several print articles, but her contribution to Caribbean literary studies is primarily digital. The Spaces between Words has published almost one hundred podcasts, providing an extensive resource for other creative writers and for scholars and students of Caribbean literature. The future of the project, however, is now in question. As I write this introduction, the Spaces site has expired and is “pending renewal or deletion.” The large archive of valuable recordings, painstakingly curated and edited over the past five years, is currently unavailable to us. There were other people involved with the project, so there is reason to expect that the archive will be available again in future; but Giselle was the energy and organizing force behind Spaces—what will the project be, if it is to be, without her?
“This potential ephemerality, this tenuousness, of digital projects is one of the concerns that had prompted me to organize a roundtable on digital publishing at the West Indian Literature Conference last October. With the revamping of the sx salon platform last August and the launch of sx archipelagos a few months prior, I was forced to contemplate access to sx salon’s archives and to speculate about the shape of work we might publish in future. Seeking inspiration, I invited other editors of Caribbean digital platforms—Evelyn O’Callaghan, Kaiama L. Glover, Laurie N. Taylor, and Patricia J. Saunders—to join me in a discussion about managing the potentials and pitfalls of digital platforms. In this issue’s discussion section, we publish an edited version of that session…..”
Sometimes, when you’re documenting history, you still have to make your own moments.
“When the camera’s rolling and when I yell cut, I made sure my team knew, ‘Don’t ever cut until the subject is off the set,'” Hughes said.
Some of the most satisfying moments in the new HBO docuseries, “The Defiant Ones” — an expansive, four-part history of the last four decades of popular music, premiering Sunday night on HBO — are candid ones. Interview subjects occasionally tinker away on a keyboard or wander around a living room. Stevie Nicks plunks out a tune on a baby grand. Eminem strolls right onto set and starts dishing. As Hughes described in a recent interview with IndieWire, those moments were part of the plan from the beginning.
“There’s always a veneer,” Hughes said. “People are being guarded about their image. From early on, I said, ‘Start the cameras rolling before they even get mic’d up, so they’re not even sitting in their chair.’ It was trying to find the real person between the lines.”
Hughes explains that most of these assorted interviews with legendary music acts — including Bruce Springsteen, Bono, Trent Reznor and Tom Petty — happened before the centerpiece chats with the series’ twin subjects: Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine. Saving the two big gets for last was specifically by design, based on what Hughes already knew of their personalities.
“The thing that Jimmy and Dre have in common is that they don’t have a rearview mirror. So they don’t ever look back and reflect back on shit that’s hard for them. So to get them to do it, you’re not going to get it from them. You have to go find out, put it together yourself, and then bring it to them,” Hughes said.
Another way the “The Defiant Ones” fills in Dr. Dre and Iovine’s histories is through a treasure trove of in-studio gems, footage of music history happening that few people knew even existed. For the series’ chapter on the rise of N.W.A., one particular discovery was the fulfillment of a decades-long mythology that Hughes grew up with. The late Steven Yano, long a keeper of West Coast hip hop history at Compton’s Roadium Swap Meet, had never-before-seen footage of rapper Eazy-E recording his first solo album.
“I thought that was the most precious footage, to see Eazy-E in the studio. We heard stories coming up: I remember when I was 16, we heard that Eazy was being punched on every line and no one believed it, because he was so incredible. To see that footage of Dre taking him through line by line is just ridiculous, man. And it’s extraordinary because Eazy is such a rock star,” Hughes said.
Hughes knows that when you’re a documentarian and your main subjects are Dre and Iovine, you become a rock star yourself. But he also knows that a singer without a band is just a guy in front of a mic.
“Let’s start with Doug Pray, my partner on this and fellow executive producer, co-writer and editor. Our creative brother in this endeavor, who also co-wrote and edited, young gentleman by the name of Lasse Jarvi. These guys are off the charts brilliant, as far as their technique,” Hughes said. “It was like a rock band. We had a great drummer. I was the solo on vocals and Doug was on electric guitar. We’re all three music lovers and we’ve all done docs in that medium before, but never has the technique that was applied here been done before.”
The product of that central trio is a documentary series that occasionally remixes interviews the same way that Dr. Dre and Iovine have done so many times in the booth themselves. When they talk about times when they would slow a recording down, pan a track from the left ear to the right, or crank up the volume at key moments, Hughes follows their lead by doing the same with the interviews themselves.
Hughes is no stranger to filmmaking, having previously directed films in three different decades with his brother Albert and helming 2015’s “Broken City.” But getting all of these individuals to open up about their experiences was a process that he admits was intimidating.
Despite having a record deal with Iovine’s Interscope, Hughes explained that being in the room with the executive for their first interview was a nerve-wracking experience. After a while, Hughes realized that keeping interviewer and subject on equal footing would lead to less tension on both sides of the camera.
“People interview these people and they have a clipboard with questions and a pen and pencil in their hand and that’s very threatening. And I didn’t know that. It feels like you have weapons. All these questions and the artist is left sitting naked. They don’t have a pen and a pad in their hand or a recorder. I like to talk and have a conversation. So once I started dropping that clipboard, that’s when the magic started happening,” Hughes said.
Getting artists like Diddy, Snoop Dogg, and Patti Smith to talk candidly about their experiences with Dre and Iovine meant having a full and complete understanding of what the public already knew. Hughes likened that preparation process to a fishing trip.
“I’m a fisherman. We go out in the Sea of Cortez and we’re looking for a 50-pound, 75-pound tuna. We’re good, man. Those are the questions. We want to get that 50 or 75 pound tuna and we’re focused on that. And we prepared for that. When we’re on the boat, we hooked into a 375-pound. Are you, for a second, gonna fish for the 75-pound tuna? You have to have the presence of mind and not be so dogmatic. Some people get really rigid, as far as their questions: ‘This has to be answered.’ It’s like, fuck that 75-pound tuna. We got a 350-pound tuna on the line and this bitch is getting to the boat. Once it gets here, somebody get the goddamn bat and hit in the head very quick. Cause I haven’t heard this one before,” Hughes said.
Of all the famous musicians and industry pros that Hughes interviewed, one trend seemed to emerge: Everyone had a Jimmy Iovine impression at the ready.
“will.i.am gets the fucking trophy for the best Jimmy impression. My God, he’s almost like a method actor,” Hughes said.
The fact that everyone had their own individual interpretation only validated one of the series’ best soundbites.
“Bono’s description of him in Part 2: ‘Jimmy’s like a virus — he happens to you, he enters your system uninvited, works all the major organs, works his way up to your brain.’ That quote is Jimmy. A virus that’s good for you. He’s a probiotic,” Hughes said.
“The Defiant Ones” premieres Sunday, July 9 at 9 p.m. on HBO. All four parts will be made available to stream at that time via HBO NOW, HBO Go, and HBO On Demand. It will also air nightly between July 9 – 12.
“Dunkirk” is officially less than three weeks away, and director Christopher Nolan has begun making the press rounds in advance of the release of his WWII drama. In a first person essay penned for The Telegraph, Nolan gets into the difficulty that went into trying to get the movie made in the first place and the pitch that sealed the deal with Warner Brothers.
The biggest obstacle facing “Dunkirk” right now here in the states is that most American audiences are probably not familiar with the real events of Operation Dynamo, in which the British Air Force and Navy had to come up with a plan to rescue thousands of Allied soldiers surrounded by German forces and stranded on Dunkirk beach. The story is inherently British, but in order to make the movie it required the scale and the budget of an American epic.
“The studios are interested in films about Americans, and there were no Americans involved,” Nolan writes. “So I didn’t want to try and take on this subject until I had enough trust from a studio that they would let me make it as a British film, but with an American budget. That’s the opportunity that I’ve earned and the one I’ve taken.”
What ultimately convinced Warner Bros. to sign off on a British war movie with an American-sized budget was Nolan’s immersive pitch. He knew in order to get the budget needed he was going to have to make a new kind of war movie and not just a traditional drama. And so that’s exactly the kind of experience Nolan pitched:
My pitch to Warner Bros was: we’re going to put the audience into the cockpit of a Spitfire and have them dogfight the Messerschmitts. We’re going to put them on the beach, feeling the sand getting everywhere, confronting the waves. We’re going to put them on small civilian boats bouncing around on the waves on this huge journey heading into a terrifying war zone. It’s virtual reality without the headset.
A Christopher Nolan virtual reality war movie? It appears the trailers aren’t going to be able to properly sell the experience that “Dunkirk” will ultimately end up being. For more from Nolan’s essay, head over to The Telegraph.
Warner Bros. opens “Dunkirk” nationwide in theaters July 21.
This year, there are over 20,000 people who get to select the nominees and winners of the Emmys, and hundreds of shows are vying for their attention. In 2016, we were struck by some of the creativity that studios and networks used in pushing out the word about various shows.
Things seemed more subdued on a street level in 2017, though Emmy campaign expert Rich Licata told IndieWire that the networks did seem plenty active when it came to advertising buys.
“A lot of it unfortunately has turned into white noise,” Licata said, “because there were so many programs and so many networks that I don’t know how a responsible voter can really focus and say, ‘OK, I’m going to watch all this.'”
Up against nearly impossible odds, there were some shows that were able to stand out, thanks to either completely rejecting the system, redefining what awards season campaigning might look like, or trying a new twist on a old favorite.
The Political Statements
Making probably the most headlines out of all the different campaigns was CBS’s “Mom,” which made a bold move during a highly political time to donate $250,000 — its awards season budget — to Planned Parenthood. Per The Hollywood Reporter:
Lorre said when he was discussing “Mom’s” Emmy campaign with the show’s studio, Warner Bros. Television, he “blurted out, ‘Let’s give the money to Planned Parenthood.’ And they took me seriously.”
He later added, “It’s not a statement about the Emmys, we’d love to be included, but it just seemed like such a better way to put that money to work.”
Star Allison Janney, already a seven-time Emmy winner, did visit Planned Parenthood headquarters in New York with co-executive producer Gemma Baker and met with Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards to discuss the issues which drove them to make this donation. Whether intended or not, it got at least as much attention as a normal campaign event would have.
But it’s very much in the spirit of this year, which featured many examples of campaigns that weren’t afraid to invoke the current political climate.
This stood out particularly for Los Angeles residents who might have noticed some very blatantly themed billboards. There was Trevor Noah’s invocation of the recent past, with the slogan “Half White, Half African. Let’s Do It One More Time.”
“At first I thought it was a swipe at ‘The Crown,'” Licata said about the “House of Cards” art, “but then I remembered that that’s a Netflix show too, and they wouldn’t sabotage a show that may actually win. Then it occurred to me that they may be pointing out the irony between the ‘HOC’ characters and Trump, that they both act more like autocratic, corrupt kings than democratic leaders.”
However, the winner might be the FYC posted for “Billy on the Street” star Billy Eichner:
Amazon and Netflix both pushed the boundaries of what an FYC campaign can look like by creating semi-permanent installation spaces featuring life-size dioramas of their flagship shows. The spaces also served as the venues for their FYC panels — of which there were many — though Netflix took the extra step of rebranding their campaigns as “FYSee” (clever).
Amazon served up drinks at the “Goliath” bar, let attendees play cards in a room themed for “Sneaky Pete,” and sift through “Patriot” documents. You could even curl up in a Marfa-esque bedroom as seen on “I Love Dick.”
Netflix also included some fun interactivity in their set-up, rolled out during an opening night event. It included a “Luke Cage” exhibit where attendees could walk though a corridor and emerge on the other side with Luke Cage-esque super-strength, as demonstrated by showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker below.
And of course, there was a photo op area where kids and adults alike could pose on the iconic bikes of “Stranger Things” — as demonstrated below by the show’s cast.
…as well as the cast of “13 Reasons Why” (who look happy to appear in a show that’s not quite as heavy as their own).
(There was one wall in the “Stranger Things” room, by the way, that you never wanted to touch. Let’s just say things would move.)
What Was the Most Memorable Of Them All?
“American Housewife” held an enjoyable FYC event right at the beginning of the season where, instead of a screening, voters and their families were invited to the Lucky Strike bowling alley in Hollywood, where after a short panel people simply enjoyed the bowling experience — with star Diedrich Bader going from lane to lane to bowl a frame.
But the most joyful and exuberant moment of the Emmys FYC campaign so far may have been one of the first events we saw this year. The panel for “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” hosted by the Television Academy, eschewed the traditional screening and Q&A format to bring live performance to Emmys voters.
Performing eight of the original songs which the CW musical has embedded in our brains, it was one of the most interesting approaches to the Emmy campaign we saw during the initial first phase of television’s most prominent awards season.
“The music is part of what makes our show unique, so it feels great to showcase that aspect of what we do, but we also wanted to talk about how the overall show is created,” showrunner Aline Brosh McKenna told IndieWire after the event, which involved a lot more planning and preparation than your standard FYC night out. “We had a rehearsal at Rachel’s house. The cast did a lot of work, in some cases like David Hull, singing parts they’d never sung before and in Pete’s [Gardner] case, brushing up on his ukelele skills.”
“You hear about some TV shows or movies in which the actors are very precious and afraid to take risks, but this cast couldn’t be more opposite of that. They give 100 percent to everything on this show, including this one-night-only FYC concert,” Bloom added.
Whether any of these campaigns end up helping these shows score Emmy nods is a question to be answered Thursday, July 13.
As for next year? As an Emmy voter, Licata admitted, “I have 55 boxes that I’m standing over as I’m talking to you. They all arrive in May and it was like, ‘How am I going to watch all this stuff?’ I think next year people do have to get even more creative and innovative to get voters to focus on our shows.”
Pixar’s “Cars 3” and Illumination’s “Despicable Me 3” are what pass for good news this summer: They opened to $53 million and $72 million, respectively, placing them among the five best starts of summer releases. They’re also ahead of domestic disappointments such as the latest entries in the “Aliens,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Transformers,” and “The Mummy” franchises.
That’s also damning with faint praise: Success relative to other 2017 disappointments is not the same as relative to past successes. By that gauge, the two most recent animated films suffered the same shortfalls as their live-action brethren.
Animation loves the July 4th weekend; usually, we see two major releases around the holiday. (Usually one just before, the other after.) This year it was “Cars 3” and “Despicable Me 3,” which opened to $125 million combined. In 2016, “Finding Dory” and “The Secret Life of Pets” opened to $245 million; in 2015, “Inside Out” and “Minions” opened to $221 million.
That’s a massive drop of nearly 50%, from a date and genre considered to be as surefire as any combination in the business. Without context, it’s as unsettling as any disappointment this summer.
The “Cars” series never provided top grosses for Pixar, and “Cars 3” will end up 17th of 18 Pixar films in domestic totals and grossing about 60 percent of “Cars 2.” “Despicable Me 3” has a similar decline. In 2013, “Despicable 2” grossed $143 million its first five days. In 2015, “Minions” opened to $124 million across five days. While $73 million for “Despicable 3” is respectable, it reflects a steep decline in domestic results.
“The Secret Life of Pets”
“Despicable 3” shows strong signs of life, grossing $26.5 million Monday and Tuesday and reaching $99 million in five days. Still, that’s a 30 percent drop from the second “Despicable,” and an even bigger one from “Minions.”
Best guess as to why? There’s the matter of sequel resistance — especially for “Despicable 3,” which is the third Minions film in four years. And if reviews are a guide, there’s the possibility that the movies just weren’t that good. (Illumination never strived to achieve Pixar-level creative, but this “Despicable 3” had the worst reviews of the series.)
Pixar Animation Studios
Animated films can be very leggy, and these have the animation audience’s undivided attention until Sony’s “The Emoji Movie” opens July 28. And “Despicable 3” will be very profitable, with a strong domestic gross plus foreign returns.
Still, if two DC Comics and Marvel films opened in May and fell far short of past performance, it would have raised questions about their ongoing momentum. For now it’s an anomaly, but the drop is significant when the animation genre is among the top movie moneymakers in the world.
The world of independent television remains a complicated one with no easy path to success, but many creators are finding that the best way to sell their visions is to make the pilots themselves. And a festival like SeriesFest, held last week in Denver, Colorado, can be a powerful opportunity to put that vision on display.
From reality-soaked drama to heartfelt comedy to genre fare, the range of projects was remarkable. IndieWire took note of the promising projects while attending the festival, and the eight below are the ones which stood out immediately as potentially ready for wider exposure.
[SeriesFest Award Winner: Best Drama, Best Directing of a Drama, Best Actor, Audience Award] A tonal cousin to “The Wire,” but with an intimate and personal core to it, the heart of “Up North” is centered around an innocent teenager arrested for a crime he didn’t commit and gets trapped in the New York prison system as a result. Nuanced, real, and heartbreaking, “Up North” promises to be a real dramatic powerhouse.
“The Vampire Leland”
Network That Should Buy It: Netflix
Directed by Tijuana Ricks, this comedy about a vampire with an existential crisis and the unexpected new friend he makes (figuratively and literally) had professional gloss, plenty of fun plot threads to explore, and a wry tone that had us hooked. It’s enough of a genre mashup to perhaps be difficult to place, but that’s exactly what Netflix and other streaming platforms are built for.
Network That Should Buy It: IFC
[SeriesFest Award Winner: Best Comedy, Best Directing for a Comedy] The story of a not-so-young artistic couple who find themselves up against a deadline to “make it” in New York City proves to be a funny and very relatable story about dreams, as well as how hard it can be to give up on them. The dark quirks to the humor, including throwing a “wake” for Mo and Ira’s ambitions, only add to the nuance of the series.
“The Gay and Wonderous Life of Caleb Gallo”
Network That Should Buy It: The CW
[SeriesFest Award Winner: Best Writing for a Comedy] We wrote about this show in its web series form a while back, but Brian Jordan Alvarez’s series was equally charming as a half-hour pilot, one that could easily expand out to an hour to fit with the CW’s tradition of celebrating unique, diverse voices. Alvarez’s flair for dialogue makes the show a true standout, as is its intriguing approach to sexuality and relationships.
“Running With Violet”
Network That Should Buy It: Lifetime
Best described (loosely) as “‘Thelma and Louise’ meets ‘Fargo,'” this dramedy could use a bit more polish, but the quirks embedded in this story about a single mom, an abused housewife, and a girls’ weekend away with a body in the trunk give this show a fresh voice.
Based on a Penny Arcade web comic and funded by a $473,494 Kickstarter campaign, “Automata” features lush production and a fascinating mash-up of ’30s noir and sci-fi (with an emphasis on the “noir” side). Featuring the voice of Doug Jones as robot Carl, director Van Alan packs a lot of world-building into the first episode, one it’d be fun to see evolve further.
“Lost and Found”
Network That Should Buy It: TBS
Tonally, this series lacks the narrative thrust of TBS’s “Search Party” but otherwise feels very similar. The pilot, which features a Los Angeles couple deciding to “consciously uncouple” surrounded by friends and family, could have been a clever short film, but there’s enough planted for further storylines, especially as the relationship between Stella (Melonie Diaz) and Ian (Will Janowitz) doesn’t quite appear to be over.
“According to My Mother”
Network That Should Buy It: Hulu
[SeriesFest Award Winner: Best Actress in a Comedy] This deeply felt, haunting, yet hilarious story about a mother and son who can’t connect but need each other very much would feel right at home alongside shows like “Casual” and “Difficult People,” while also adding some welcome diversity to the platform. While the details of this Asian-American family are specific and well-observed, the overall story is deeply universal.
“Partnered with the Digital Library of the Caribbean(DLOC) and housed in Northeastern University’s NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks (NULabTMN), the Early Caribbean Digital Archive (ECDA) is a highly interactive digital scholars lab for the collaborative research and study of pre-C20 Caribbean literature. The ECDA seeks to engage both scholars and students in a shared, critical study of the textual, material, and cultural histories of the Caribbean by providing them with innovative digital technologies and newly emerging discursive platforms for generating new knowledges of the Caribbean’s rich body of materials.”