Category Archives: Backstage Hollywood

Nickelodeon in the News

According the The Hollywood Reporter, “The U.K. Government will allow a number of film and television productions to be exempt from following quarantine rules and resume filming safely this summer” cites Casting Networks.

Nickelodeon Reports: 

Nickelodeon bakes up a birthday surprise with Cake My Day, a one-of-a-kind special executive produced by television host Rachael Ray and culinary expert Amirah Kassem.  Hosted by Kassem, founder of Flour Shop in New York and creator of the sprinkle-filled Rainbow Explosion Cake, the special gives a deserving kid the opportunity to bake the cake of their dreams.  Cake My Day airs Friday, July 17, at 7:30 p.m. (ET/PT) on Nickelodeon.

Said Ray, “With my favorite unicorn Amirah Kassem spreading her signature sprinkles and smiles, Cake My Day is a delicious celebration that I can’t wait to share with families everywhere.  This is a show guaranteed to fill your day with color and cake!  And will leave you racing into the kitchen to use Amirah’s tips and tricks to whip up some crazy creations of your own.”

Said Kassem, “I’m so, so excited to show the world how we can all use birthdays to create more joy for everyone around us. Cake My Day was born out of a way of life I like to call the ‘Birthday Lifestyle,’ where we live everyday like it’s our birthday by being with our favorite people, dressing in our favorite clothes, and of course, eating our favorite foods!  It’s more important than ever to remember that we can all create happiness through celebration, and no matter what is happening in the world, we need to celebrate one another.  Full of surprises, my hope is that Cake My Day will inspire kids, and adults, to live the birthday lifestyle and celebrate their family and friends.  We need to keep spreading magic, rainbows, glitter, unicorns and eating cake!”

In Cake My Day, Kassem invites Charlotte, a triplet who has never had a birthday that felt like her own, to her colorful kitchen to bake a Rainbow Explosion Cake together.  Charlotte, however, has no idea that her brothers Oliver and Sam have secretly planned for the day of cakemaking to turn into the biggest surprise birthday celebration she has ever had.  The special also features an appearance by DIY content creator Karina Garcia and a performance by dance superstars The Lab.

Cake My Day is produced by Propagate, with Ben Silverman, Howard T. Owens and Kevin Healey executive producing, and Watch Entertainment, with Rachael Ray and Jonny Umansky serving as executive producers. Amirah Kassem also executive produces, along with Nickelodeon’s Unscripted Content executives Rob Bagshaw, Mandel Ilagan and Stacey Carr.  Production of Cake My Day for Nickelodeon is overseen by Rob Bagshaw, Executive Vice President, Unscripted Content.

About Propagate

Founded by Ben Silverman and Howard Owens, who pioneered the global format business in the late 1990s, Propagate has offices in Los Angeles, New York and Paris. Its recent credits include the “Hillary” documentary that premiered at Sundance and Berlin and now streams on Hulu as well as the unscripted “November 13: Attack on Paris” “Haunted” and “Prank Encounters” for Netflix, “In Search Of” and “Kings of Pain” for the History Channel and the upcoming Notre Dame Documentary for ABC, and the scripted “Blood and Treasure” and “Broke” for CBS, “Charmed” for The CW and “Emma” and “Wireless” for Quibi.  Propagate’s expanding portfolio of companies includes Electus (“You vs. Wild”, “Running Wild With Bear Grylls,” “Jane the Virgin,” “Fashion Star”), Big Breakfast (“Adam Ruins Everything”, “Hot Date”), Notional (“Chopped” franchise), and talent management firms Artists First, Authentic Talent & Literary Management and Select Management. Silverman and Owens previously founded Reveille, producing hits including “The Office,” “The Tudors,” “Ugly Betty” and “MasterChef.” Silverman went on to serve as Co-Chairman of NBC Network and Studio and form Electus. Owens served as President of National Geographic Channels Worldwide.

It’s Pony 

Nickelodeon announced this month that  it has greenlit a 20-episode second season of its new hit animated series, It’s Pony, which follows the comedic adventures of Annie and her best friend, who just so happens to be an enthusiastic, impulsive, and carefree pony. Season two will premiere domestically in 2021, followed by a rollout across Nickelodeon’s international markets.

It’s Pony is currently one of the top three animated series with Kids 2-11 across all TV, only behind Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants and The Loud House. The premiere of It’s Pony (1/18/20) was Nickelodeon’s highest-rated animation launch with Kids 2-11 since 2018.

“The overwhelming reaction to the first season of It’s Pony has been phenomenal, and fans have been champing at the bit for a second season,” said Nina Hahn, Senior Vice President of Development and Production, Nickelodeon. “We are thrilled to greenlight season two of a show where no matter what happens, everything is better when Annie and Pony are together.”

In season two of It’s Pony, Annie and her ever-loving, ever-funny Pony take their city by storm. Whether they are crashing a comic convention or battling a swarm of revenge-seeking flies, Annie and Pony’s adventures test the limits of their friendship like never before. Pony’s unpredictability may be a lot to handle, but Annie wouldn’t have it any other way. Throughout everyday life and extraordinary shenanigans, Annie’s life is better with Pony around.

The series stars Jessica DiCicco (Adventure Time) as Annie, an optimistic and determined farm girl living in the city with her family and best friend Pony; Josh Zuckerman (Strange Angel) as Pony, who is naïve and impulsive, but loves Annie more than anything; Abe Benrubi (E.R.) as Dad, who treats Pony as a nuisance, but recognizes the special bond he shares with Annie; and India de Beaufort (All Hail King Julien) as Mom, who loves Annie and Pony’s relationship and always has a new prank in the works. Created by Ant Blades, It’s Pony is inspired by a short from Nickelodeon’s 2015 International Animated Shorts Program.

About Nickelodeon

Nickelodeon, now in its 41st year, is the number-one entertainment brand for kids. It has built a diverse, global business by putting kids first in everything it does. The brand includes television programming and production in the United States and around the world, plus consumer products, digital, location based experiences, publishing and feature films.  Nickelodeon and all related titles, characters and logos are trademarks of ViacomCBS Inc. (Nasdaq: VIACA, VIAC).

Card Sharks, ABC’s reboot of the classic game show, is the latest broadcast network series to head back into production, according to Casting Networks.

Hollywood Needs to Maintain Reason With Reaction to Covid19

Image: Scarlett_Johansson_@_Hollywood_Walk_of_Fame_10. Photo credit:
mbtrama from Upland, CA, USA – May 3, 2012. Courtesy of WikiCommons, fair use.

As the Hollywood Studios and film, TV and Game Industry discusses new policies and procedures in dealing with Covid19, and attempting to mitigate spread of the virus when production resumes, we urge caution in not evading logic and reason.

We have been reading about some very disturbing ideas being tossed around by studios and producers which are preposterous. For example; forcibly temperature testing actors and crew before they are allowed to work, Covid19 screening, having no craft service menus but rather pre-packaged, wrapped food, not having kissing or love scenes, and not using shooting equipment more than once, among more.  This is all insanity,  and needs condemned.

Let’s start at the top of that list–temperature testing. Temperature testing does nothing, because from the data we now know, a person can be a positive carrier of Covid19 while being asymptomatic. In other words, fever is not necessarily an indicator for being a carrier or super-carrier for the virus. Secondly, many cases of active Covid19 have a only a very mild fever, so mild in fact that they are in the normal range of body temperature. Thirdly, even if a person runs a high fever, they may knowingly try to trick temperature testers by taking medications which are ‘fever blockers,’ or may unknowingly have said results while  being on such medications without covert intent.

As for testing, concerning the Lateral Flow Assay, or antibodies tests, with approximately 14 on the market, only 4 of the 14 tests are at or above the 80% range of accuracy, and even the most accurate tests are still showing false-positives. In other words, the best antibody tests are not necessarily accurate.

Secondly, not all Covid19 cases even show antibodies whatsoever, depending on the duration and severity of the case.  In the case of MERS, antibodies were seen to exist up to two years after infection. Covid19 is too “novel”  (new) to have enough accurate data as to any correlative duration.

As for the Covid19 tests themselves, let us look at the PCR test, where they shove a cotton swab up your nose that hits the back  your throat–real fun. That one has a whopping failure rate of 30%.  Some clinicians claim now it’s wrong only 15 to 25% of the time. Yet that depends on what company swab kit you use,  who does the testing–if they are doing it correctly or not–and who reads it (whether it is being read correctly or not). That’s still pretty terrible quality control.

Self-appointed health czar Bill Gates claims that the swab can be as accurate if someone just swipes their own nose, and not as deep. That analytical data has not been made public as far as we know, and regardless, still succumbs to the failure ratio noted above.

Other new in-clinic tests are too experimental, with not enough data as to their accuracy. They are also not very practical for the insane ideas being suggested by some, for the film industry.

Do studios force workers to get an AIDS/HIV test like the sex industry does? Or tested for strep throat, flu, or other communicable diseases for example? What about psychological testing, to determine someone is not a terrorist, considering terrorists can cause mass casualty? Certain “religions” statistically have a higher number of “terrorists” within their ranks. Should religious tests begin in the name of the “public good?” Some races and ethnicity are more prone to certain disease, drug abuse, and absenteeism than others. This may also extend to sexual orientation. do we next forcibly test based on gender orientation and race?  Some may say that New Yorkers are more prone to speeding and hypertension, whereas those from Iowa hold up lines and are more lazy. Do we start discriminating against those based on their geographic orientation next? Politicians are known to lie and many are low on the ethics scale. Should we give ethics tests and lie detector tests to anyone considering becoming an elected public official?

Forcing Covid19 tests–whether at late or early stages are neither practical,  accurate, or constitutional.  What would happen if someone was declared a Covid case, but were not, treated like a lepar, and sent home based on a faulty test? Covid19 tests–even if they were accurate–which they are not–do not test when a person still may be a carrier or super-carrier when they are asymptomatic. Antibodies tests–which are even less accurate–do not determine the onset of infection and thus–do not determine the time period of potential zero communicability factor.

As for food, while logic tells anyone that something that can survive in the air or on a table for hours, must surely last on food for some time. Insanely, the CDC claims there is no proof that Covid19 can last on food, which makes no sense. Then again–neither does the CDC. They were after all, the ones that initially told us Covid19 was nothing to worry about, then they said that masks did nothing, and not to wear them.

Regardless, as long as food prep is handled in a sanitary manner, which it should be anyway, than there should be no changes to food. Chefs can serve food, wearing gloves, or individual items can be taken or bought.  Buffet food lines are often unsanitary and disgusting anyway.

Another insane bit of data, is that experts claim that Covid19 can transmit through the air, on hands, etc,  yet many same experts claim that there is no proof of Covid19 transmitting sexually. Considering that children have reportedly been born with the virus–if we can believe this, then this surely must be inaccurate that it can transmit sexually.  Regardless, we are not talking about the sex industry here, we are talking about mainstream Hollywood, where any love scenes are supposed to be simulated–not real.  Actors who do love scenes or kissing scenes do so of their own volition anyway.  The same must be true of any love scene or kissing scene during the pandemic. If two actors feel like kissing or doing a love scene and the script calls for it, then that is their decision and must be up to them and to the producer.  They need to make up their own minds as to who they feel safe with, if they do, and under what circumstances.

To prevent anyone’s artistic expression under the guise of “public health” is a crime against a free society, and against the free expression of art.

One’s ability to choose what role they take or to choose what actor to work with, is arguably far less dangerous than standing in the line at the grocery store after touching a pile of groceries other shoppers put their hands on, if we are to believe the communicability factor of the disease.

As for not using rental equipment for shooting more than once, this too is madness. Everything has germs. Literally–everything.  A person can be walking in their shoes at home and walk in  invisible Covid19 germs on their living room floor, then walk on set, tie their shoe, accidentally touch the bottom of the shoe, go to the bathroom, touch the sink handle, blow their nose, and then touch the sink again. 50 people later touch the sink. Germs. Covid19.

Unless a person wants to go try hide in a cave or in their house without touching any mail, money, food outside of their home, packages, or other things for the next year or more, it is possible that every human being on plant Earth may eventually be exposed to Covid19–just as they are exposed to other viruses such as the cold (also a coronavirus) or the flu.

Trying to hide from germs and think that anyone can keep germs away forever is not based in reality.  It is not logical or sane to think one can hide from what is essentially in the air.

Those that are weak, ill, or too afraid to be out functioning in society have the right to stay home, and should if they want to.  Those that are healthy, strong, and want to be outside, at the office, at the studio, or on set working and shooting should have that right–unencumbered.

Studios, producers and filmmakers have one obligation to their cast and crew and one main one only; providing factual education on the actual numbers of deaths of Covid19 in the world, and in their city, provide the factual data on how it is transmitted, provide information on halting its spread, and provide CHOICES to those who want them. Most importantly, they owe their cast and crew the FREEDOM TO WORK.

1, Those that want Covid19 tests can have them, Employees that are large enough may pay for them for their workers.

2, Those that want an antibodies test can have them. Employers that are large enough, again may elect to pay for them for their workers, cast and crew.

3, Those that want to wear masks in crowded areas or gloves can. Employers that can find them and afford to, can supply N95 masks to those who ask for them, considering most other masks are basically useless.

Those that do not want to wear masks must have the right NOT to. If masks actually worked, then those that wore them wouldn’t have to worry about those that didn’t anyway. 

4, Those that want to work must be allowed to.

5, Those that do work must sign a legal release stating they will not sue if they contract the virus, whether real or alleged.

Ultimately, the best decisions of how to handle and manage operations during the continuation of the virus should best be done with education, reason, and consensual freedom. Not panic, not false data, and not anything that unduly impinges upon the freedom of the worker or the artist.  Stop the panic in Hollywood–and please-let those who want to safely do so–get back to work!

–Bruce Edwin

Bruce Edwin is publisher of Hollywood Sentinel, CEO of Starpower Management, and managing publicist with Hollywood Sentinel PR. He has served as publicist for a half a year for a U.S. Department of Homeland Security Infectious Diseases specialists treating Wuhan Coronavirus (Covid19) patients.  Bruce Edwin may be contacted at 310-226-7176 or StarpowerManagementLLC@gmail.com 

Nickelodeon Viewership Soared With Kids Home from School During Lockdown–Greenlights 2 New Shows 

Nickelodeon is challenging the medium with two brand-new virtually interactive greenlights premiering this summer–Group Chat: The Show and Game Face (working titles). Hosted by social media stars Annie LeBlanc and Jayden Bartels, Group Chat: The Show is a video chat rundown of the week’s latest hot topics, taken directly from what the show says kids love and are talking about across social media.  Game Face is a game show that features a star-studded panel that must guess the identities of virtually disguised celebrity guests.

“Group Chat: The Show and Game Face will bring together kids’ favorite celebrities and topics in a format meant to live across all Nickelodeon screens,” said Ashley Kaplan, Senior Vice President, Digital Studios. “The virtual filming of these shows will provide the fun escape kids crave, but also let them know that we understand what they’re going through and are listening to what they have to say.”

Group Chat: The Show (six episodes) is a new pop culture talk show hosted by Annie LeBlanc and Jayden Bartels, co-stars of Nickelodeon’s Side Hustle.  Each episode will also feature Hayley LeBlanc (Mani), along with fan-favorite stars, as they talk about the hottest trend topics of the week based on what kids are currently discussing across social media, play games and compete in challenges–all via video chat.  Group Chat: The Show premieres Saturday, May 23, at 8:30 p.m. (ET/PT).

In Game Face (six episodes), celebrities’ true identities are hidden behind an animated filter and voice changer in the game show, while a star-studded panel is given wacky clues and competes to decipher the mystery guest.  Viewers can get in on the fun by downloading the show’s filters to transform into the same characters as their favorite celebrities. A host will be announced at a later date. Game Face will begin remote production this month, with a premiere slated for Saturday, June 13, at 8:30 p.m. (ET/PT).

Since March 16, at the start of the lockdown in LA, with all the kids home from school, the Nickelodeon portfolio (Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., Nicktoons and TeenNick) has posted double-digits gains with Kids 6-11, up +24% versus prior four weeks and +5% year over year. Over the last month, Nickelodeon has posted double-digit gains, up +22% with Kids 6-11 (1.1/148,000) versus prior four weeks.

Nickelodeon’s YouTube channels (Nickelodeon, SpongeBob, All That, America’s Most Musical Family, Nick Animation, NickRewind, Henry Danger, The Loud House and The Casagrandes) have posted double-digit increases in consumption. The weekly average for the week of 3/15/20 – week of 4/19/20 was up +75% in views, and +95% in watch time compared to the 10 weeks prior (week 1/5/20 – week 3/8/20).

Production of Group Chat: The Show and Game Face for Nickelodeon is overseen by Ashley Kaplan, Senior Vice President, Digital Studios; Luke Wahl, Vice President, Digital Studios; and Paul J. Medford, Vice President, Unscripted Current Series.

Renee Zellweger’s Triumphant Return

One of the most charming, lovely, and talented stars of our time; Renne Zellweger is back, and hotter than ever with her Oscar winning part with Actress in  a Leading Role for “Judy,” about the legendary and iconic Judy Garland.

Directed by Rupert Goold
Screenplay by Tom Edge
Starring Renée Zellweger, Jessie Buckley, Finn Wittrock, Rufus Sewell, and Michael Gambon

Winter 1968 and showbiz legend Judy Garland arrives in Swinging London to perform a five-week sold-out run at The Talk of the Town. It is 30 years since she shot to global stardom in “The Wizard of Oz,” but if her voice has weakened, its dramatic intensity has only grown. As she prepares for the show, battles with management, charms musicians and reminisces with friends and adoring fans, her wit and warmth shine through. Even her dreams of love seem undimmed as she embarks on a whirlwind romance with Mickey Deans, her soon-to-be fifth husband. Featuring some of her best-known songs, the film celebrates the voice, the capacity for love, and the sheer pizzazz of “the world’s greatest entertainer.

Renée-Zellweger-as-Judy-Garland-in-the-upcoming-film-JUDY-Photo-Credit-David-Hindley-Courtesy-of-LD-Entertainment-and-Roadside-Attraction.

Acclaimed director, Rupert Goold, a 2019 Tony Award nominee, commented: “I had always wanted to make a film that explores great performance and its cost. The most fertile ground for such exploration seemed to be at the end of a lifetime of performance. For over 40 years Judy Garland had laughed and loved and entertained no matter what life threw at her, and her public adored her for it. But she paid a price in a childhood lost to Hollywood, an emotional exhaustion and a yearning for a “normal” life beyond the rainbow. It is a powerful and moving story that I hope will inspire new audiences to discover Judy Garland’s joyous legacy.

I felt Renee was uniquely qualified to play Judy. First, because she is a great, Oscar-winning dramatic actress. Second, she is a wonderful comedienne. And third, I knew from CHICAGO that she could sing. I made it clear to Renee that I wasn’t looking for an impersonation of Judy Garland’s inimitable voice, but what I wanted was for Renee to make the songs her own and this she did to thrilling effect.”

Director Rupert-Goold-and-Renée-Zellweger-on-the-set-of-JUDY-Photo-credit-David-Hindley-Courtesy-of-LD-Entertainment-and-Roadside-Attractions.

Renne Zelleweger answered interviewers questions Backstage at the Oscars last night, with kindness, and charm. An excerpt follows here:

Q (…) What was it about Judy that connected you so closely by so in heart that you basically became her? I know you’ve done a lot of research, but was there anything else that you felt very close to with her that you were able to deliver such an incredible performance and become her, essentially?

Renne Zellweger:  The only things that I would do by myself are sing in the car on the 405 in traffic, you know, for a year. So that was a lot of practice for anybody who’s tried to drive down the 405. But — and, you know, the reading and things, that was by myself.

But what you’re talking about, that connectivity, that was a consequence of everybody’s work on that set. Everybody was motivated by the same thing. We just appreciate the importance of her legacy and who she was as a person and we all wanted to celebrate her. And everyday we came to work and we just tried things, we just kept trying things.

And the director, Rupert Goold, called it “mining for treasure.” We were all digging around in sort of the materials of her legacy, her music, her books, interviews, her television show. You know, just everything that we could find that seemed essential in conjuring her essence to tell the story. And that was everybody’s work, you know. And it was, you know, the partnership with every single department throughout. And it really was a celebration. We just came to work every day. You could feel the love, the love for Ms. Garland, and that was what we had hoped, so — And I thank you for your question.

Q. How is this award different from the first one you won in 2004, and how have you changed as a person, as an actress?

Renne Zelwegger:  Oh, my goodness, how much time do you have? Well, at that time, I think I was so busy that I wasn’t actually in the moment. I think I had just flown home from something for BRIDGET JONES two or something. It’s different, different perspective. I’m a little more present now. I think that the time away and the time in between has helped me to appreciate it in a different way. I just look at it in a different way, what it represents is a little bit different. And, obviously, this isn’t ultimately — you know, this is about this wanting to tell that story and to celebrate Judy Garland and to shine a light on, perhaps, the nuances of the circumstances of her life, which people dismiss as tragic. And, you know, the opportunity to tell a story that challenges that narrative and says, “Oh, no, no, no, no, you can’t know how extraordinary a person is until you know what they struggle with and what they overcome.” And, to me, that, you know, that’s what this is.

Text©2020 A.M.P.A.S.® provided with kind courtesy of A.M.P.A.S.®

Congratulations to HollyShorts and their founder Theo Dumont, whose members’ films “The Neighbors Window” and “Learning To Skateboard In A War Zone (If You’re A Girl)” won Best Short Live Action and Best Documentary Short at this year’s Academy Awards. HollyShorts has always been an amazing festival with great talent nurtured by a fantastic festival and kind and charming founder.

The 16th Annual HollyShorts Film Festival runs August 13-22, 2020 in Hollywood, California.

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

The movies are officially coming home to the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures® as it opens to the public on December 14, 2020 at Wilshire and Fairfax.

©2020, The Hollywood Sentinel.