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Fats Domino Dies: Rock & Roll’s ‘Blueberry Hill’ Pioneer Was 89

Fats Domino, rock & roll pioneer, died yesterday at age 89 in Louisiana. His death was announced today by Mark Bone, chief investigator with the Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, coroner’s office. Domino died of natural causes at 3:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Domino’s best-known for his piano-based hits of the 1950s and early ’60s like “Blueberry Hill”, ”Ain’t That a Shame”, “Blue Monday”, “Walkin’ to New Orleans” and “I’m Walkin'”. Domino was born Antoine “Fats” Domino Jr. in New…

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CBS Developing ‘Whistleblower’ Drama From Chris Silber & Jerry Bruckheimer TV

CBS has put in development drama Whistleblower from NCIS: New Orleans executive producer/co-showrunner Chris Silber, CBS Television Studios and studio-based Jerry Bruckheimer Television.
Written by Silber, Whistleblower centers on a former whistleblower who lost everything — career, family, reputation — when he stood up against a conglomerate to expose wrongdoing. He now runs a firm dedicated to exposing wrongdoers while protecting those who have the courage to stand up…

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Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints Will Stand For National Anthem On Sunday

What players will do during the national anthem this week has become as big a part of NFL games as who will win. Today, a key player from the Dallas Cowboys said his team will stand with hands over hearts, while the New Orleans Saints quarterback indicated they will kneel as a team before the anthem and then stand together during the song.
A report in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram quotes Dallas receiver Dez Bryant saying the team will not be doing any more anthem…

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Don Ohlmeyer Dies: ‘Monday Night Football’ Producer, Former NBC West Coast President Was 72

Don Ohlmeyer, former NBC West Coast president and the man who transformed Monday Night Football into a pop culture phenomenon, died today at age 72. Sportscaster Al Michaels announced the news during the telecast of the Giants-Cowboys game on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.
Ohlmeyer was born in New Orleans on February 3, 1945 and grew up in Chicago. He began his career with ABC Sports, working on Wide World Of Sports, and was the first producer of Monday Night Football. He…

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‘Girls Trip’s Will Packer, Malcolm D. Lee & Regina Hall On How The Comedy Celebrates Black Women

Ahead of Girls Trip‘s July 21 wide release, Universal world premiered its female-led comedy last night to open the American Black Film Festival in Miami. The pic stars Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith and Tiffany Haddish as lifelong friends who travel to New Orleans for the annual Essence Festival. There, sisterhoods are rekindled; wild sides are rediscovered; and there's enough dancing, drinking, brawling and romancing to make the Big Easy blush.
On…

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ESPN Bringing Hank Williams Jr. Back to 'Monday Night Football'


A new version of the song will debut before a Sept. 11 game between the New Orleans Saints and the Minnesota Vikings.

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New InventTV To Develop Unscripted Content & Live Events

Sergio Alfaro, Michaline Babich and Los Angeles Media Fund have formed InventTV, a new entertainment company to develop, produce and finance unscripted series and other content for television and OTT platforms. The new company also will include production of live events worldwide.
Current projects include a series for Nat Geo partnered with The Weinstein Company as well as Southern Charm New Orleans (pictured) on Bravo.
Alfaro and Babich, along with Los Angeles Media Fund…

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Longtime Sony Distribution Exec Rory Bruer Retiring From Studio

Rory Bruer, president of worldwide distribution at Sony Pictures Entertainment, is retiring. This comes as no surprise as Bruer had been talking about stepping back for a long while. What is surprising is that Bruer has only worked at one company in his lifetime — he began in the mailroom at Columbia Pictures in 1977 and moved into distribution a year later in the New Orleans office. During his 40 years, he had survived many management changeovers — at least seven going…

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Mario Lopez & Sheryl Underwood To Host 44th Daytime Emmy Awards

Mario Lopez and Sheryl Underwood have been tapped as hosts of the 44th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards set for Sunday, April 30 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, CA.
Lopez is in his ninth consecutive year as host of Emmy-winning entertainment news program Extra. As an actor, he recently guest-starred on NBC’s breakout This Is Us, as well as NCIS: New Orleans, Still the King and Nashville.
Underwood is a host of The Talk, CBS's Daytime Emmy-winning talk show that…

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CNN's Don Lemon Gets Ear Pierced Live During New Year's Eve Coverage


The anchor downed shots before having his left ear pierced while on remote from a bar in New Orleans.

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CNN's Don Lemon Gets Ear Pierced Live During New Year's Eve Coverage


The anchor downed shots before having his left ear pierced while on remote from a bar in New Orleans.

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Cavaliers-Warriors Ratings Surge As NBA Games Battle Football On Christmas Day

Two of the U.S. top professional sports leagues, the NBA and the NFL, went head-to-head yesterday. With Christmas falling on a Sunday, the traditional five-game Christmas Day basketball lineup faced the two Sunday football matchups.
The only NBA game not to go against NFL football, the Boston Celtics' victory over the New York Knicks in the noon window on ESPN, drew a 2.4 overnight rating, up 4% from last year (New Orleans-Miami) and the highest-rated ESPN Christmas noon…

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Marriott Content Studio Launches Half-Hour Reality Series 'Hotel Countdown' (Exclusive)


The series spotlights various hotel openings around the world, including Moxy New Orleans.

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Van Williams Dies: TV’s ‘Green Hornet’ Was 82

Van Williams, known for his starring role as the Green Hornet (aka Britt Reid), in the 1960s TV show, died November 28 in Scottsdale, Ariz., of kidney failure, according to Variety. He was 82.
Williams was a diving instructor in Hawaii in the mid 1950s when he was discovered by producer Mike Todd. He was first signed to contract by Warner Bros. in 1959, with his big break coming that same year as co-star of ABC series Bourbon Street Beat. The New Orleans-set series aired…

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The Film Industry’s Favorite Local Sports Bar & Catering Service: Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar

by: Liz Glauser

New Orleans has never come up short of reasons to bring people together for a good time. With the city’s film industry presence, there’s one more reason to let the good times roll. Visitors to ‘Hollywood South’ and locals can get that iconic NOLA combination of culture and cuisine with Louisiana’s home grown favorite, Walk-On’s Bistreaux and Bar.

With every production comes a reason to celebrate and why not take advantage of ESPN’s No. 1 Sports Bar in America to do so? Appearing alongside classic bar food favorites, are Cajun inspired dishes like gumbo, po’boys and seafood platters. For a more private experience, the New Orleans location offers The Rampart Room.

“Whether you’re interested in a meeting space or somewhere to host your company’s next party, The Rampart Room offers versatile indoor and outdoor spaces showcasing New Orleans’ charm,” shares Kyle Brechtel, President of Brechtel Hospitality. “Our convenient Poydras Street location offers in-house catering and beverage services, rental inventory, ample space for a live band and AV capabilities to make things easy.

Located just above the Poydras location of Walk-On’s, The Rampart Room offers a unique environment for New Orleans natives and visitors alike. The second floor space offers a 980 square foot balcony overlooking street with the Mercedes Benz Superdome and Smoothie King Center in the background. The space is rounded out with a Billiard Room and private Study, each with its own access to the balcony.

“We have a number of intimate spaces to host guests,” shares Bechtel. “The intimate areas with separate, private entrances within The Rampart Room allow comfort for any special guests or VIPs in attendance.”

The past decade has seen several productions filming in New Orleans from blockbuster movies like
Jurassic World to the Emmy nominated TV show, American Horror Story. Walk-On’s is able to offer visiting productions an authentic New Orleans experience with A-List amenities. New Orleans-based Brechtel Hospitality took ownership of Walk-On’s earlier this year. The group was able to bring its extensive film industry experience from Fulton Alley to the restaurant and create not only a great event space, but expand its experienced catering services as well.  


“Louisiana catering has never been so easy or delicious! Brechtel Hospitality and its catering are sure to satisfy your requests as we specialize in tailgate parties, crawfish boils, corporate events, wedding rehearsals, receptions, the film industry and more,” says Brechtel. “As a full-service catering company, we are a versatile team of chefs and event coordinators will handle every detail of your event with one goal in mind – to transform your party’s dreams into reality.”

The Brechtel Hospitality Team’s reach extends beyond Walk-On’s to include Fulton Alley, a bowling lounge, as well as the McAlister’s franchise for the New Orleans area.  “From Fulton Alley wrap parties, filming, viewing parties meet and greets and McAlister’s on-set box lunches, we know how to service the industry. Brechtel Hospitality has had plenty of film industry exposure and partnership with its multiple concepts to take care of any need when a film or production comes into New Orleans,” says Brechtel.

Visit www.walk-ons.com to learn more about Walk-On’s Bistreaux and Bar. For special or private events, or catering in the New Orleans area, email rampartroom@brechtel.co or call 504.517.7050.

 

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New Orleans’ French Quarter Gangster Past Getting TV Treatment From Vermilion & Rubicon

EXCLUSIVE: Vermilion Entertainment is teaming with Rubicon Entertainment to develop and produce a TV series based on The French Quarter: An Informal History of the New Orleans Underworld, a book in author-journalist Herbert Asbury’s early 20th century crime series that included Gangs of New York and The Barbary Coast.
Vermillion and Rubicon will serve as executive producers on French Quarter, and they are beginning discussions with potential directors, writers and…

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Locally Set, Shot & Produced ‘Dark Meridian’ Wraps Production

Dark Meridian,” a Big Easy-based crime thriller featuring a solid cast of native talent, has recently completed production in New Orleans. The locally-produced independent film shot throughout the summer and marks the directing debut of Rankin Hickman, who also penned the script.

In “Dark Meridian” Detective Spencer Soleno (James Moses Black, “Terminator Genysis”) finds himself in the middle of a dispute between warring crime families. Entrusted to protect one of the crime lord’s sons, Tevi Marek (Dave Davis, “True Detective”), the two must work together to unravel the identity of a captive man (Billy Slaughter, “The Magnificent Seven”) before a killer on the loose reaches his other targets.

Rounding out the ensemble are Paul Rae (“True Grit”), Christopher Berry (“The Free State of Jones”), David Kallaway (“The Magnificent Seven”), Clint James (“Salem”), Jody Mullins (“NCIS: New Orleans), Alexander Babara (“Triple 9”), Oscar Gale (“The Big Short”), and Daneen Tyler (“Deepwater Horizon”).

Jimi Woods (“White Rabbit”), Jacky Lee Morgan (“Camera Store”), and Rankin Hickman produce under their Good Fly Productions banner, in association with Panta Rei Productions. Ronald M. Lamarque and Billy Slaughter executive produce.

The film has recently inked a deal with international sales outfit, Reason8 Films, toward a 2017 release.

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Scene In Georgia: ‘The Founder’

by Elizabeth Glauser

Before the Dollar Menu, the McFlurry, all-day breakfast, and even basic chicken nuggets, McDonald’s was a simple SoCal burger restaurant. Enter milkshake maker salesman Ray Kroc and that simple story becomes the premise of the big-buzz summer movie The Founder.

Michael Keaton continues his recent run of award-worthy roles playing Ray Kroc, the man responsible for supersizing the small-town chain from its simple beginnings. Joining Keaton onscreen are Parks and Recreation fan favorite Nick Offerman and American Horror Story’s John Carroll Lynch playing brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald.

The story centers on Kroc as he attempts to get the brothers to franchise their small hamburger stand known for its fast food service, a novel idea for the 1940s. The ensuing feud between Kroc and the brothers over the expansion of their restaurant is the main focus of the film.

Kroc discovered McDonald’s when he learned the restaurant had purchased a number of his milkshake machines. After visiting the California location, he saw the potential of the fledgling burger business and its then one-of-a-kind high-speed format. The film follows him as he maneuvers his way into the top position, eventually taking control of the multi-million dollar company.

Bringing the story to the big screen is director John Lee Hancock, whose most current films included critical and commercial hits like Saving Mr. Banks and The Blind Side. Those two, like The Founder, take stories from real life, proving the director’s prowess in biopics. The script has been lauded as one of the best of the last few years, prompting Hancock to sign off after originally refusing the project twice.

Though the original McDonald’s location was in Southern California, much of the production took place in Georgia with a replica of the original McDonald’s restaurant being constructed from scratch. Vintage Golden arches went up around the state to replicate the original designs of the chain.

Catch the dramatic story behind the happiest fast-food chain on the globe when The Founder premieres in theaters on Friday, August 5.

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William Baldwin Gets ‘Cut Off’

by Micah Haley

 

For more than a quarter century, William Baldwin has been a working actor. Along with his three brothers, Baldwin left New York and barnstormed Hollywood in the late 1980s, starring in blockbusters like Flatliners, Backdraft and Sliver. He appeared in Warren Beatty’s Bulworth, the thriller Virus, and in Noah Baumbach’s acclaimed film The Squid and the Whale.

As the entertainment industry entered the second Golden Age of Television, so did Baldwin, starring as Patrick Darling in Dirty Sexy Money and as Dr. William van der Woodsen in Gossip Girl. He also appeared in Parenthood, Hawaii Five-0, 30 Rock and Hot in Cleveland.

Recently, he trekked to New Orleans for a role in Cut Off, a new thriller from director Jowan Carbin. His co-stars include Oscar nominee Brad Dourif, John Robinson, Lew Temple, Laura Cayouette and Jean-Marc Barr. During a break from the independent film’s busy schedule, we met in New Orleans’ Central Business District to talk about his relationship with the city and his long list of upcoming projects.

You’ve been in town for what, two days?
Two days. I’ve been working in New York, here for a few days, and then I head back this weekend.

Have you enjoyed it? Good times?
Yeah, I’ve been here before. I’ve never made a film here before, but I’ve made a commercial here. Been down for the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras. I’ve been down for fun and culture and sight-seeing. This is such a different, unique place. There’s nothing like it on Earth. I don’t mean to insult New Orleans, but it’s kind of like Vegas. When you’re in Vegas, there’s nothing else really like it. And when you’re in New Orleans, I can’t think of anywhere else – and I’ve never been anywhere else – that’s anything like this.

It’s kind of this hodge-podge of Vegas, somewhere in Mexico and Europe, all in one weird city.
It’s just got really great energy, food, people, culture, history – and it all collides. It’s awesome. It can be intense, too. And I’m from New York. A lot of people go to New York and say, “It’s very intense.” But I think there’s something about the Cajun/Creole flavor and all that stuff down here, but also just being in the South when you’re from the North. There are some towns in the South, like Austin or Nashville, that I’m a little bit more comfortable in. New Orleans is a place I love to visit, but it’s so culturally intense, I feel like I don’t fit in or something.

I think that’s the best way to experience New Orleans: to make a movie. Be here for two or three months and enjoy it. You can do so much in such a short period of time. It’s a small city with a lot going on.

Let’s talk about Cut Off.
My friend Bruno brought me the script not long ago. I read it and loved it. I think Jowan [Carbin] is very talented. He’s very bright, very literate and very sensitive. He isn’t a lifer down here, which is amazing because he captures the spirit and the ghosts and the cultural gravitas of New Orleans and the region as if it’s in his DNA. It feels like he’s lived it. There’s stuff going on in the script, but there’s also stuff that’s going on specifically with my character. Some of the dialogue is beyond the dialogue. There’s almost a melodic, rhythmic quality to the dialogue. But very specific to this New Orleans/Mississippi Delta, jazzy/bluesy sort of energy to some of the things I say, and the way I say them.

That’s interesting. Do you have musical training in your background?
Not really, but I’m married to a musician and songwriter. My wife’s in a band and I’m around music a lot.

Tell me more about who your character in Cut Off is.
He’s a character named Haskell, who’s sort of a Southern transplant. He settled down here and has been here for a while. He’s kind of a sheep in wolf’s clothing, rather than the opposite. He looks kind of more menacing and intimidating than he is. On the outside, he’s judged and misunderstood. On the inside, he’s more of a gentle soul.

What other characters inspired you as you molded the character of Haskell?
The only character I thought of was Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver, who was not a gentle soul! There were some loose parallels there. And also De Niro’s character in Cape Fear. There’s a lot of tattoos on my character, so visually referenced the thought of those two characters. But I was more interested in the rhythm and the language and the objective of my character. What it is I’m trying to impart on the lead character, Clive, and also the audience. That was more emotionally important to me.

Tell me about the tattoos. Did you have any input on them?
A little bit. We talked about it, but we didn’t have a lot of time. It’s a low-budget film, and we were under the gun. We talked about it a little in advance. If we were shooting this for three months and I was working twice a week or something, playing the third or fourth lead, it would have been great to go all the way, wall-to-wall with the tattoos. Like De Niro in Cape Fear. Hand-select each one based on the backstory of the character. We didn’t have that, unfortunately. But I had tattoos up my neck and behind my ears, a sleeve down my arms, and across the front of my body.

How much time did that require of you in the hair and makeup trailer?
We moved pretty quickly. The first day we did it in about three hours. I rolled the dice and risked sleeping in them so we wouldn’t have to take them off and do them all over again the next day, just to see what they would look like. And they held up. They just needed a minor touchup. They lasted. Some of the tattoos, just a few, had to be replaced. We re-did the scarring every day. Scars on my torso and my face. That won’t last overnight. Well, it could, but I wasn’t interested in having the glue stuck to my face every night! That’s a quick add-on…you can do that in ten minutes.

Where have you been shooting primarily?
The Irish Channel. We’ve been shooting in a very colorful neighborhood.

Home of some great parades! You just missed one.
I heard there was a great parade for David Bowie’s funeral. I wish I could have been here for that. I wish I could have marched in that parade to pay tribute to him.

What a loss.
Surprised I didn’t hear through the grapevine that that was coming.

Yeah, they kept it really quiet. Apparently it wasn’t something he wanted to go through publicly.
They did keep it quiet.

What else have you been busy with recently?
I just finished a film in Torino, Italy called The Broken Key with Michael Madsen. I just did a little film in South Carolina called Chronology. And I’m about to go up and produce and star in another cable movie up in Toronto. It’s my second or third cable movie up there. I’m a working actor, just scrambling around.

Tell me about the movie in Toronto.
I’ve done a couple of Hallmark movies and I’ve developed a really strong relationship with them. I like it because it’s very different than this. Much more family content. I starred in one for them called Be My Valentine, and then I pitched an idea to them, one that I would star in and produce, which we did last year. And now we have the third one in the pipeline now. The script has to come in. We don’t have a script yet.

I’ve worked on some MOWs (movies of the week) and they were always fun. And now, the quality is incredible. There’s little difference in the production values of MOWs vs. theatrical films in the same genre.
Television is really better than films now. The best material – the best scripts – are in cable television now. The best project, long-form miniseries, original movies… the studios, from a substantive standpoint, most of the time can’t touch what HBO and Showtime and those guys are doing. The problem with television is this: the best stuff in television is going on right now, and the worst stuff in television is going on right now. When you have six hundred channels, and you have to fill all of that with content, you’re going to get a lot of great stuff and a lot of crap.

I agree. Thanks for the talk.
Enjoyed speaking with you, Micah.

Let’s talk about Cut Off.
It’s an interesting, complicated story. It is being told in a very psychological, dramatic way. There’s a lot of opportunities for us to fall into the traps of the story. Our task is to avoid those pitfalls. Cut Off is a small community in Southern Louisiana in Lafourche Parish.

And it’s aptly named.
Yes. And it’s a community of heritage and culture that I wouldn’t say is fading, but it’s not a culture that’s rising. That’s an old culture from the past. That “Cajun,” that French that was spoken, has maybe dissipated over a generation or two. As it relates to our story, that’s a place where a group of us have built our own community. Without judgment, we’ll call this community the Morning River group. It’s a group of people who have experienced some sort of despair. That might be a bit disenfranchised and be available to be brought into the fray of a charismatic leader.

Tell me about your character.
I am (maybe) his sidekick. I play a gentleman named Bobby who hails from Texas, comes from an abusive childhood, has some secrets of his own, and is drinking the Kool-Aid. Without judgement, the important thing is that we have to realize why people do things. There’s a mission that our charismatic leader would like to have us go on, and he needs one more recruit. The story’s really built on this recruit being part of the plan. And this new recruit is doubting, and maybe not drinking all of his Kool-Aid. That’s problematic.

This is very paramount to what’s happening in the real world. We experienced this in Brussels, in France and we experience it in our movie theaters and our schools. And with ISIS. By doing a very harmful, violent attack, we call attention to how we think the world should change.

My character Bobby might be akin to that guy Tex in the Manson group. He might be that essence: can-do, will-do type of guy. Gets his hands dirty. Follows orders. When you get an ensemble of artists together, discovery is great. It becomes the titillation, the thrill of what we do. It’s called fishing, not catching. We call it “Hide and Go Seek” not “Hide and Go Find.” We go hunting, we doing go killing. We adore the discovery, and that’s what this is about: the discovery.

As an actor, how much discovery do you leave until you get to set? How much preparation do you do?
I do a lot of character preparation. I do a lot of research because it’s my favorite thing. The performance is actually my least favorite thing of what I do. I enjoy rehearsal. I enjoy conversation. I enjoy research. I enjoy the effort of building. I enjoy the build.

I do come in with preparation, but I’m also very available to someone else’s preparation. The magic that we hope to contain, to capture on film, happens with the unknown. I give a lot over to the wisdom of the unknown. So when William Baldwin or Jean-Marc Barr and I crash in the context of a scene, something’s gonna happen! Something fuzzy. Sparkly magic is going to happen. Didn’t see that coming but that’s cool. And that’s when our director Jowan will say, “Yeah! That’s what I was looking for!”

Do you have a background in theater?
I do! Just down the road in Houston, Texas. The Alley Theater. It’s a good space. There’s so much to be learned on stage because of all the preparation you do to get up on stage. The rehearsal, the blocking, the lighting, the tech. All of these things are natural progressions to performance. In the medium of film and television, we take for granted those natural progressions.

Also as an audience, I think there’s a natural progression to experience something. Sometimes I think as we’ve moved into this technological age, we lose a little bit of that natural progression. If the grid goes down, we’re going right back to the camp fire, once upon a time. Around the story. It all gets back to that. It’s never changed. I think that’s important to understand it. It’s why I do it. I like telling a story, I like listening to a story! I can just as easy listen to a story, as I can to tell you one. We hold that as the essence and we do ok.

It’s puzzling to me why even on studio films, they are just cutting out pre-production. They are cutting down days of prep.
William Baldwin and I were just talking about that. We go far enough back that we remember rehearsal. We used to rehearse these things weeks ahead of shooting. And then shoot for a couple or three months on an independent movie.

And it’s ridiculous, because prep saves you money. Movies are made in prep.
It does, I feel like the quality control of the product has been diluted so much for the product’s sake. Quantity control is probably more important. We’ve got to get product out there for our various platforms. Netflix, Hulu, cable, our networks. We’ve just got to get something and keep pumping it out there. I don’t think reality television did us any favors because it was a formula that took our quality meter and really dropped the bar. We swallowed a bunch of that and now we’re a little bit lost.

We started this conversation talking about generations in Lafourche Parish. As that dissipates, I think our quality of entertainment does as well. So, producers are less inclined to say, “Let’s get a really good product and call it The Revenant and win an Oscar.” They are more likely to say, “Let’s just get it in the can so we can get it out there. Somebody will watch it.”

They are making a commodity of an art form, but to the detriment of the art form.
I have always said that I’m not sure that commerce and art ever find a common ground. I think they crash and fall by the wayside. But we do get to supply a lot of commerce.

But then we take heart in the idea that the independent film world has found a place on digital platforms. That we are telling really cool stories on television. That our storytellers are being invited to go do long format. Many movies, in the form of episodic: True Detectives and Breaking Bads and Walking Deads. All these things that give us the capability to tell a story in a long format, as opposed to landing in the cutoff of ninety minutes.

In the best cases, the market makes a space and gives artists the opportunity to fill it. It gives them a certain number of parameters and then you get to do your thing, and hopefully you make something that’s great.
I feel like we are in a good time continually to tell your story. I do think that because we’re in a good time, you have to be really good to tell your story. Just because you’re Jamaican and you have a bobsled team, you’re still in the Olympics. You still have to compete. You don’t get a waiver because, “We don’t have any snow.” If you’re making independent movies, you do get an opportunity, but you still have to make them good, because everyone else is doing them good. They’re better than they ever have been. The shot lists are dynamic. The sound designs, the scores, the technical aspects of camera moves…all of these are better than the skateboard dollies that we started with.

And it’s so cheap now, you can experiment without letting any of your crap see the light of day. And as the equipment keeps becoming cheaper, I’m hoping that it continues to throw the spotlight on the good stuff. I hope it gives an opportunity for content not to complete just on production value, but on the quality of the story.
This is the perfect example. Cut Off is a great script that is well crafted and it’s entirely an interesting story. And with Jowan Carbin, it’s in good hands. As it was birthed from the written page to executing it in moving pictures. For a filmmaker like him, it’s a great time to do this. This is why we come in and do this, avail ourselves to come to his party. We believe in this story that we’re going to tell. I think you still do have got to have a story. Again, it gets back to the camp fire.

Follow the cast and crew of Cut Off on the film’s website at cutoff-movie.com.

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Q+A with ‘Free State of Jones’ Donald Watkins

by Nicole Cronley

photo by Vicki Miller

What made you want to become an actor?

When I was kid, I used to watch a ton of movies. It didn’t really matter if they were good or not, I just used to love the stories. We would also take trips in school to see shows or there would be a touring show that would come and perform. I was so interested in these characters and their journeys and the people behind them. I fell in love with it all before I ever knew it.

Who are your inspirations?
My parents are definitely my biggest inspiration. I was fifteen when my mom married my stepfather. Before then, I watched my mom make countless sacrifices and work so hard to take care of my sister and me. By the time my stepdad came, the foundation was set, but he really molded me and taught me what it means to be a young man. I always say, “I get my fire from my mom and my ice from my dad.” They’re both extremely dedicated, but my mom’s very passionate while my dad’s more calm and collected. If I possess half of what they have, then I’m going to be in good shape.

Where are you from? And what made you choose to start your career in Louisiana?
I am from Greensboro, North Carolina. I was in LSU’s MFA program from 2010-2013 — that’s what brought me to the state. One of the reasons I chose LSU because of its ties to the film industry. I remember thinking, “Man, they’re shooting everything down there.” I came for a visit, they fed me and I stayed! The culture is so strong here and it’s very different from L.A. and New York. That’s what I needed to grow — not only as an artist — but as an individual. To this day, I’ve never second guessed it. I’ve always felt like I made the right decision.

What was your formal education like?
My undergrad courses were vital. From Voice and Movement to Dance to Acting for the Camera and Acting Techniques, they really preached the essentials. Who are you? What do you want? Why are you saying what you’re saying? Then, you build. Also, theatre forces you to be prepared. There is no, “Cut. What’s my line?” If something goes wrong, you find a way to justify it and make it work. It also teaches you how to truly connect with your acting partner. It’s a give-and-take relationship. I always try and give as much as I can to my scene partners but at the end of the day, it’s all acting. The muscles may be different but it’s all a part of the same body, working towards a common goal: to live truthfully in imaginary circumstances.

How long have you performed professionally?
I’ve done film professionally for five years now. I signed with my agent Brenda Netzberger of Open Range Management in May of 2011, so we have an anniversary coming up. Theatre’s a little longer. I had my first professional contract with the Barter Theatre in 2007.

After starting in the theatre, why did you shift to film?
Yeah, theatre will always be my first love. That’s where I started. And there’s no substitution for a live audience going through a journey with you from start to finish. But I always knew I wanted to do both in a way to affect change. Film is so widespread and you could reach so many off of one project. I’ve never met Viola Davis or Dustin Hoffman or Denzel, but they’ve changed my life. These artists have made me laugh, cry, contemplate, question, they’ve given me hope. And I think that’s the power and beauty of film that attracted me. It still does.

When you decided to shift into the film market, how did you choose a local agent? How has your agent helped guide your career?
I knew I needed an agent if I wanted to do anything. My buddy Alex was a third year at LSU at the time. I just remember it seemed like he was always auditioning for something. I asked him who he was with and he said Brenda. He actually sent her an email that night about me and I immediately followed it with one of my own to set up a meeting. And it worked out! You know how they say God puts people in your life for a reason? Well that’s how I feel about Brenda. She’s always been there for me and had my best interest at heart. It doesn’t feel like actor-agent these days. It honestly feels like a family. We work so well together and I love it because she never tells me what she thinks I want to hear. She always gives me the facts. She is the one person who I’ve trusted with my career and she’s never let me down. Things are different these days but up until now, save my friends and family, no one knew I acted cinematically. Not like now. But since day one, she’s fought for me with vigor and passion and I completely respect that. I always told her the word I want synonymous with my career is longevity. I remember her telling me that if I were truly serious about this business, not the celebrity but the business, and if I were diligent, then I would go far and she’d always be there. Five years later, we’ve come a long way, but still have a lot to prove. All we ever need is the opportunity, and neither one of us will disappoint the other.

What have been the fruits of your education and hard work?
My first film was Pitch Perfect. I was in the Treble group, but I was an Opening Treble which meant that I was a senior when the movie started. That kicked everything off. I had no idea that it was going to take off the way it did. Then, 22 Jump Street was next, I was on the team and in the frat. 22 actually taught me to wait for the cut. It came out the day before my birthday, and my girlfriend at the time surprised me for my birthday and took me to see it in New Orleans. We’re having dinner and drinks in the theatre and, as an actor, you know where you might appear on screen. Those scenes came and went and she’s smiling and I’m like, “Oh no!” Haha. So I had to lean in and break the news. It’s funny now but I was bummed for a few days. I was an infantryman in Get On Up. I was Silverman in a Popeye’s commercial. But I think my most notable performance was the first thing I ever did. I was in the fourth grade and we performed a live commercial at our winter concert for a fictional toothpaste called Mud Mouth Be Gone. There was some grade A acting happening. That’s the performance I’m still trying to live up to! Haha.

What are some of the big names you have worked with?
Well with Mud Mouth Be Gone, it was the infamous Michelle Hardy. After that, Matthew McConaughey, Mahershala Ali, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Keri Russell, Erica Tazel, Anna Paquin, T.I. and many others.

What else do you have coming up that hasn’t been released yet?
Roots just premiered on Memorial Day, Free State of Jones, which hits theaters on June 24,  and a film called Bolden, with the release date currently TBD.

photo by Steve Dietel

Let’s talk more about Roots, where you booked a lead role. What was it like working on such a high profile project?
It was amazing. Still such an honor. I often look back at the projects I’ve been able to do and I realize how fortunate and downright blessed I am. I saw the original Roots a few times when I was younger, but as kid, you just don’t grasp the magnitude of what you’re watching. You just can’t. The first time I saw it fully as an adult was after I was cast and I watched them all the way through. I couldn’t stop. The cast navigated the story beautifully and I’m hoping our reboot has a similar effect for our generation.
I play Virgil. Chicken George and Matilda’s oldest son, and great grandson to Kunta Kinte and Belle. The thing I enjoyed the most was that it actually felt like a family from the top down. Rege and Erica did a fantastic job as the pillars of our family. They set the precedent from day one and I believe that was key to our vibe and success. Every day, the level was raised, for myself, Sam, Frankie, Carlacia, Sedale, Brittany, Kesha. And no-one needed any extra motivation. This is Roots. That’s motivation enough. But everyday, every take, there was new energy from all of us that no one could explain. We came to the conclusion that our job was to get out of our own ways and let these characters tell their stories. I’m excited to see it all come together. Though the time period is different, I believe the themes are still very much relevant to today. There are things we still struggle with as a community and society as a whole, but the ability to fight and love and persevere is central to the human spirit. I’m honored to be a part of it.

You booked a supporting lead role as Wilson in The Free State of Jones. What was it like working on that set and with the cast?
It’s funny because the first thing people say when they ask about Free State is, “How was it working with Matthew McConaughey?” Then they’re like “I’m sorry I know you probably get that a lot.” And I don’t mind it at all because I know he’s probably getting the same questions: “How was it working with Donald Watkins? Were you nervous? Did you shake his hand or play it cool?” Haha!
But Free State was another blessing. I booked Free while I was still shooting Bolden so I had about a week between the two to shift gears and focus. I’m always nervous the first day, no matter the project. I may not look it but I’m like a little duck. It looks like I’m just gliding on the water but I’m actually kicking for my life underneath. Two things you can count on the first day is that I’m prepared and nervous. But the cast was phenomenal. It was like being in a master class for three months. Many times I would just catch myself watching and being in awe of my peers: Matthew, Mahershala, Gugu, Chris, Sean, Troy, everyone. The mark of a great actor is to make it look easy, and they all made it look so easy.
I play Wilson, who I like to describe as second in command in the Maroon camp. Maroons were runaways who lived off the land and survived as free men by any means necessary. Wilson’s a strong young man and he really looks up to Moses (Mahershala Ali) for guidance, survival and how to conduct himself as a man in their circumstances. From day one, Ali took me under his wing and I can’t thank him enough for that. He really was like my big brother on set. It got to the point where if Hersh wasn’t in my scene, I didn’t feel right. I think that speaks to the dynamic and I hope it comes across on screen. He’s very genuine. The Maroons in general were all pretty tight: myself, Artrial, Charlie and Greg. I think my favorite part about the process would be our mini-rehearsals before we started filming. Gary Ross is definitely an actor’s director. He has such an appreciation for the process and really works with your choices and what you bring to the character. Before our calls, he’d have the Maroons and Rachel get together and discuss and build the world and our reality, and it opened up so much more for me and character choices that I hadn’t even thought of until that point. He was very collaborative and I loved that. I would be very excited to work with him again.

Bolden was a big project for you! I hear you had to learn to play the guitar. Tell me about that experience. Who did you study with? How long did it take to learn? Tell me about your role and who you worked with?
It was. That was actually my first big one. First time cracking top ten on the call sheet. I played Brock Mumford who was the guitarist in the Buddy Bolden band. I never played the guitar before so I was literally starting from scratch: this is the neck, these are frets, etc. We rehearsed for a month in New Orleans and I’m telling you, it felt like musical boot camp with cool instructors. When I tell you my fingers were killing me, oh man. Right after I was cast, I took a quick lesson with Brian Breen and he told me what to expect. But it’s difficult once you’re trying to apply it to the actual instrument. I would tell my fingers to do one thing and they’d completely do their own thing! But I had absolutely the best instructor, Mr. Anthony Brown. He’s really a solid dude and a family man and a beast musician. I got a chance to go to a few of his performances and, my God, effortless. I was thinking to myself, “I have to do that!?” He was so patient and giving. We worked out this sheet music system that really stuck and just started plowing through music. He’s a fantastic teacher. And if Brown couldn’t be there then Carl LeBlanc, another absolute beast on guitar, was right there with me. They had a lot of faith in me and I put a lot pressure on myself to get it right because I didn’t want to let Mr. Brown down, let Carl down, or my cast mates. I made it my mission to really be able to play all of the songs and I did it. Now that only pertains to Buddy Bolden songs. If you ask me for “Free Bird” it’s not happening. That’s another project I’m looking forward to. Another project where I grew immensely as a person. We had a solid cast and there’s a lot of good performances. Those band scenes are what I’m looking forward to the most. We all worked so hard on the music: myself, Breon, Korey, Justin, Ser’Darius, Calvin and Gary, so I’m excited to see how it translates. Plus, just to see Dan Pritzker’s work come alive. You read the script over and over but you’re not present when they shoot everything. To know how hard the cast and crew worked just makes it that much more special.

Free State of Jones is in theaters everywhere now.

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Commercial Casting Notice

Seeking individuals to be featured in a commercial.

We will feature Louisianans with skilled jobs who attended a two-year university or certification program or taken a career and technical educational pathway and who are now planning to surprise their family or loved one(s) with an amazing gift or experience. For example, surprising their partner with the honeymoon they never had, paying off someone’s student debt or loan, or buying a service dog for a person in need.

This is a paid commercial and will film possibly in July, or August, 2016 with some flexibility dependent on the candidate.

The candidate must meet the following criteria.

  • Be able to complete the surprise in July or August 2016.
  • Have a job they love.
  • Have attended a two-year college, earned a certification or credential, a NCCER or AWS approved program, or taken a career and technical educational pathway to attain their current job and career pathway.
  • Be willing to let us film their special surprise moment to air on TV.

This is for real people with real stories. You and your story have the chance to be the example that will inspire fellow Louisianans to achieve their life’s calling.

Example careers that the candidate could include the following: paramedic, welder, process technician, med tech/ physical therapy assistant, employees in oil, gas, plastic, healthcare, technical or other skilled trade.

Production will come to you and film in your Louisiana town.

Open casting sessions will occur at

Saturday, July 16, 2016 from 1:00-3:00pm
Second Line Stages Film Studio
800 Richard Street, New Orleans LA 70130

Monday, July 18, 2016 from 4:30-7:00pm
Fletcher Technical College in the BP Integrated Production Technologies Building
Room 101 (1st floor)
224 Weatherford Drive, Schriever, LA 70395

Tuesday, July 19 2016 from 4:30-7:00
SOWELA
The Arts and Humanities Building
Room 144
3820 Senator J Bennett Johnston Avenue
Lake Charles LA 70615

Wednesday, July 20, 2016 from 4:30-7:00pm
Baton Rouge Community College-Acadian Campus
2nd Floor
3250 North Acadian Thruway
Baton Rouge, LA 70805

Thursday, July 21, 2016 from 4:30-7:00pm
Northwest Louisiana Technical College
Building A-2nd Floor
2010 N Market Street
Shreveport, LA 71107

To participate, please contact Naomi at nomdeguerrefilms@gmail.com.

 

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‘American Crime’ Composer Mark Isham On Writing His Score For Show’s Second Season – Awardsline

EXCLUSIVE: Mark Isham has been scoring film and television since the 1980s, ringing of a stack of interesting credits that includes Reversal of Fortune, Point Break, From the Earth to the Moon, Crash, The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, among many others. His haunting score for the second season of ABC’s John Ridley-created drama American Crime is one of the season’s big stand outs, a continuation of the chamber-music style he brought to season one with hints of…

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‘NCIS: New Orleans’: Vanessa Ferlito Cast As New Regular In Season 3

Graceland alumna Vanessa Ferlito has signed on to CBS’ NCIS: New Orleans as a new series regular for the upcoming third season.
Ferlito will play a sexy, tough and acerbic FBI Special Agent who is sent down to New Orleans from DC to investigate the NCIS team. A by-the-book bureaucrat, she’ll bring a completely different way of doing things (as well as a mysterious past) to New Orleans, which will put her at odds with both the team and the town. Her character will be…

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Stars To Realign For ‘American Crime Story’ Katrina Tale, Producers Confirm

Many of the original cast of American Crime Story‘s debut season — The People V. O.J. Simpson — are expected to reassemble for the next chapter in the Ryan Murphy-produced anthology show. Producers Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson confirm to Awardsline that writers went to New Orleans last week on a research trip for Season 2, which will tell of the American response to Hurricane Katrina. And O.J.‘s Marcia Clark, Sarah Paulson, says she fully intends to return to the…

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Best of Boston Calling Music Festival

In the past music festivals were sporadically strewn throughout the spring and summer. Events like New Orleans Jazz Fest, SXSW, and Lollapalooza were mainstays and people rarely traveled from their locals to attend. Now it seems like there is a festival each weekend and more and more are being created. In such a saturated environment, the independent Boston Calling Music Festival stood out as a uniquely curated showcase featuring artists from all genres.
The seventh festival, which will be relocated to the larger Harvard University athletic fields in 2017, brought thousands of guests to the three stages in City Hall Plaza. While headliners like Sia, Robyn, Disclosure and HAIM garnered attendees, it was the midday acts that drew on their cult followings to pack the plaza. When interviewing the crowd, many in the front row stated they had been there since the gates opened so they could see The Vaccines, Courtney Barnett, BØRNS and Janelle Monáe. One guest bought a three-day pass just to see Christine and The Queens.

The acts were as diverse as those in attendance. On Friday, Sia wigs littered the crowd in anticipation of the Australian singer’s performance. Though Sia stood in the corner during her entire act, her vocals coupled with the intensity of her dancers closed the night on a strong note. Earlier, Sufjan Stevens destroyed the stage (and his banjo). He opened his set wearing massive angel wings and neon war paint. During the performance he transitioned from wearing the wings, to a balloon costume to become a large, silver-tinseled monster.
Lizzo opened the jetBlue Stage on the hot and sweaty Saturday. The rapper/singer brought her bad girl mantra of self-adoration and background dancers complete with gold super soakers. The talented and raucous guitar playing of Courtney Barnett made people forget about the ninety degree heat. The Australian singer-guitarist does not converse with the crowd when she is on stage and instead, plays a tight set allowing her songs to do the talking. She writes conversational lyrics that describe precarious situations and colorful characters we all want to meet.  ODESZA held the last slot on the Xfinity Red Stage Saturday night. Two keyboard and drum setups anchored the platform against hypnotic panels as the American duo hammered out tribal beats to electronic tracks. The horn section peppered throughout the performance added a unique layer so not to create a traditional DJ set.

Prior to Robyn taking the stage, it was announced that during upcoming performances Robyn would be playing all remixes of her music. She stated in a press release that “Remixes make me listen to a song in a different way; they stretch you out as a listener and leave space for other things that a pop song usually doesn’t.” Once Robyn floated on stage in her red Adidas jacket and ruffled pants and the first remix of “Who Do You Love” started, the audience understood her message- this would not be a sing-a-long set, but a fast-paced, dance your face off night.
Christine and The Queens stole Sunday with their 1:30 PM set. The performance- complete with choreographed dancing- was reminiscent of Michael Jackson at his height, but Christine’s music and presentation is all her own. On stage, the French singer, delivered a heart-felt speech about acceptance and how each of us contribute to the overall beauty of the world. She compared different artists like herself and Beyoncé, to the flowers she held in her hand and stated each artist contributes to make a beautiful flower garden. The set was one of the most talked about shows of the weekend.
Rapper Vince Staples followed. The Long Beach native brandished the microphone with authority and instituted perfectly placed pauses so the audience could take in his lyrics. Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires played the most emotional set of the festival.
The “Screaming Eagle of Soul,” who was homeless for a time and released his first album at age 62, seduced the audience and then brought them near to tears during “Changes.” Years of hardship are seen on his face and when he belts out is tracks you can feel the pain and joy behind the lyrics.

The witty Elle King raised a glass to the crowd, downed some whiskey and launched into a bluesy journey of self-expression, humorous tales and brutal honesty. Janelle Monáe was wheeled onto the stage and presented to the crowd in a bird-like straight jacket. As soon as her wings opened she began belting hits like “Yoga.” HAIM entered the smoke filled stage amped. Este (bass) began the banter early (giving a shout out to the photographers who “make [her] look pretty”) and then launched into “If I Could Change Your Mind.” The sister trio brought out Christine and The Queens during a Prince cover of “I Would Die 4 U” and all individuals on stage broke into a choreographed dance. Disclosure finished the weekend with a manic electronic set that left the crowd on a high that will carry them through to Boston Calling 2017.

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