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Introducing industry leader, Geneva Wasserman, SVP, Condé Nast Entertainment

Friday, March 13th, 2020

Today in our third installment of our CSuite Interviews, we’d like to introduce you to Geneva Wasserman, SVP Motion Pictures, Condé Nast Entertainment.

Wasserman, a nearly 20-year veteran of the entertainment industry, previously was co-founder and executive producer of Project Z Entertainment where she is credited for producing Door Man and Godfrey.  While there, Wasserman and Tim Marlowe struck a deal with Microsoft to develop and implement proprietary artificial intelligence software tools to better predict market reaction to entertainment and advertising content.

Previously, Wasserman was president of Whitener Entertainment Group, a film/TV production house focused on family and animation, and president of WV Enterprises, Wilmer Valderrama’s film and television production company, where she produced Seoul Searching and Gnome Alone. She also co-founded publishing and advertising platforms True360VR and 360 AdSpots.

Wasserman started her career as an attorney with law firm Gray Cary. She has worked as an entertainment licensing attorney and in business development, finance and production roles on projects at Disney, Lionsgate, Oxygen, DreamWorks Animation, Fox Searchlight, 20th Century Fox and Discovery, among others.

Condé Nast Entertainment (CNE) is an award-winning next generation studio and distribution network with entertainment content across film, television, premium digital video, social, virtual reality and OTT channels. CNE develops, produces and distributes video content across 17 brands, including Bon Appétit, Glamour, GQ, Vanity Fair, Vogue and Wired. We can’t wait to see what Ms. Wasserman brings to life at CNE.

Interview by Nathalia J., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

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Who is VFX Whizz Scott Ross?

Monday, March 2nd, 2020

In our second C-Suite Interview, KIDS FIRST! introduces you to Scott Ross, a maven of the Visual Effects Industry. Veteran KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. recently met with Scott in his southern California home to discuss the history and future of VFX. Take a look and learn!

Marvel produces films full of actors in green suits running on green treadmills in front of green walls. Yet, audiences never see these films, because of the thousands of people working in an industry called visual effects (VFX), the art of cinematic illusions. VFX ranges from mirrors and double exposure to making ghostly images on film, to complex supercomputers processing 3D models that mimic reality.

Few know the VFX industry better than Scott Ross, former general manager of Industrial Light and Magic as well as co-founder of Digital Domain. His work has garnered an incredible seven Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects, Technical Achievement Awards and more.

When Scott first entered the VFX industry in the 1980s, computer technology still had years of development ahead. Thus, the industry relied on photochemical processes, optical printers and optical illusions to achieve the desired effects. “Everything was film-oriented, and everything was organic,” Scott explained.

When computers did arrive, the VFX industry had a brand-new issue: “there were no… true artists that understood how to work within a computer.” So, the pioneering VFX artists were computer scientists from top institutions such as UC Berkeley. As expected, mixing computer scientists with traditional cinematic artists, “didn’t work all that well,” Scott commented.

While technology has certainly improved with the release of sophisticated programs like NUKE by Foundry or Adobe After Effects by Adobe Systems, the industry still has many problems to solve. Marvel’s most recent hit, Avengers: Endgame features characters made digitally, worlds made digitally and even the outfits of main characters are made digitally. This has caused many to argue that VFX has become overused as the average film becomes increasingly digitally made. Yet, production companies have a reason to put in as much VFX as possible.

Scott explains that international markets have become an increasingly larger portion of a film’s profit and, “you’re not going to have Driving Miss Daisy [a dialogue-heavy period piece] play very well in Beijing or Shanghai.” Yet, characters turning to dust? Volcanoes erupting? That has far more international promise than a film with two characters talking.

While there may be an ever-growing demand for VFX, VFX companies continue to go out of business due to production companies constantly asking for changes, increasing the time needed to perfect their work. The pressure-riddled VFX artists suffer as they work long hours with little rest due to razor-thin time constraints (Avengers: Endgame finished VFX less than a month before premiering) and, do their work inside in darkness, often across the world from where production takes place. Sometimes, they don’t even appear in the credits of the film.

While technology continues to improve to make the lives of VFX artists easier, it also invariably has caused the industry to “bifurcate,” making many artists obsolete while only the world-renowned artists maintain demand. For example, take the field of rotoscoping. This animation technique revolves around cutting out objects from the rest of a frame and, based on personal experience, maybe the most monotonous step in the filmmaking process. Because it can be done by anyone, it has been outsourced to countries with cheaper labor like India and China, and has increasingly been replaced by sophisticated computer programs.

Visual Effects continues to be an increasingly important step in filmmaking. Despite the industry being in its infant stage, it has already felt the blunt impact of technological innovation and will continue to do so as lifeless computers become more involved in the emotional process of making cinema.

By Gerry Orz, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17
Author’s Page – Amazon
World According to G

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Registration Open for KIDS FIRST! Film Critics Boot Camp 2020 @ Klein College of Media and Communication at Temple University, June 22-27

Saturday, February 29th, 2020

The One and Only KIDS FIRST! Film Critics Boot Camp
Coming This Summer to Philadelphia, June 22 to 27, 2020
Tweens and teens learn to critique films, interview celebrities and speak on-camera

The KIDS FIRST! Film Critics Boot Camp will meet at the Klein College of Media and Communication at Temple University this summer, June 22 to 27. Taught by leading educators, film critics and media specialists, children ages 9 to 16 learn to become entertainment reporters through this intensive program. This camp has taken place in previous years on the Disney lot in Burbank (CA), Discover Communications World Headquarters in Silver Spring (MD), Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network’s Headquarters in Brooklyn (NY) and other locations. 

I found KIDS FIRST! by online research and never imagined it was going to be a total life-changing experience for my daughter. KIDS FIRST! is not just a way of living for us; it is a unique  experience to be part of the KIDS FIRST! Film Critics team.  I’m grateful that KIDS FIRST! provides us with such an engaging experience where we can share our love for films with others. I love seeing my daughter strive to be better everyday. (Mariana M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic parent)

The KIDS FIRST! Film Critics Boot Camp offers young people the opportunity to learn the skills they need to critique and review films, present their reviews on-camera and interview celebrities. “Children learn a variety of behind-the-scenes film industry skills as they watch and critique the latest films, write reviews, present their reviews on-camera and learn interview techniques. During camp they meet and learn from working film critics as well as actors, directors and producers of films designed for youth and families, both in person and via Skype interviews,” says Ranny Levy, KIDS FIRST! Founder and President.

We believe that learning and fun can be one. As campers watch and review films, they are learning skills that will last a lifetime including improved critical thinking skills, improved writing and vocabulary skills, interviewing skills, improved team building and listening skills, and of course building self-esteem and confidence.

“KIDS FIRST! Film Critics Boot Camp definitely helped me improve my vocabulary and writing. I used to not like writing and now I do,” said Angel David Gonzales who participated in one of the camps in Brooklyn, NY. Gonzalez’s teacher, Madeline Rodriguez noted that participating in the camp boosted his confidence as well.  “It was really nice to see him open up from his shell and really embrace this experience and opportunity,” she said.

Following the camp, campers have the opportunity to join the KIDS FIRST! Film Critics team of reporters.

Reviews by KIDS FIRST! Film Critics are watched and read by more than seven million people every month through broadcast, print and online publications including YouTube, Kidzworld.com, Kidsville News, GRAND Magazine, Press4Kids, SoCal City Kids and many more. 

KIDS FIRST! FILM CRITICS BOOT CAMP 2020 DETAILS:

Age: 9 to 16
Date: June 22 through 27, 2020.
Time: Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily; Saturday (Parents included): 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Location: Klein College of Media and Communication, Temple UniversityTuition: $399
Partial Scholarships are available.
Learn more, register and apply for a scholarship at: https://www.kidsfirst.org/become-a-juror/2020.BootCamp.html

Watch Sandy Kenyon’s coverage of our 2017 Camp on ABC Eyewitness News .

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What Makes Brian Schultz, CEO of Studio Movie Grill, Tick?

Friday, January 31st, 2020

KIDS FIRST! launches a series of C-Suite interviews with leading entertainment industry executives who are true role models for young people. This week we feature KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. interviewing Brian Schultz, Founder and CEO of Studio Movie Grill. Schultz shares his story of how he got started in the entertainment world, what he looks for in employees, advice to young people, and explains SMG’s motto: Opening Hearts And Minds One Story At A Time.

Having just opened a new 60,000 square feet theater in Glendale, CA with a high tech cinema that amps it up to give moviegoers a first class dining experience with a full-service restaurant and bar, while enjoying first-run movies. This location will host premieres, special events and fundraisers, as well as SMG’s legacy Special Needs Screenings and Chefs for Children program which benefit local charities.

Enjoy Gerry O.’s Interview with Brian Schultz, Founder and CEO, Studio Movie Grill

From one screen in 1993, to over 250 screens today, Studio Movie Grill and Brian Schultz have come a long way together. It wasn’t long ago that Brian was working every position on a Friday night, to leading a Top 20 theater chain today with thousands of team members. Despite the challenges of building a business, one thing has remained the same…positively impacting lives through the power of movies and sustainable deeds is good business for everyone. Brian Schultz’s vision raises the bar for cinemas nationwide.

For more information and to find a location near you, visit https://www.studiomoviegrill.com/locations

By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17
Author’s Page – Amazon
World According to G

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Oscar Nominated Shorts – Saria, Sisters and Walk Run Cha-Cha

Tuesday, January 28th, 2020

While feature films with A-list actors garner the most attention at the Oscars, the award show also has three short film categories that seldom receive the attention they deserve. For that reason, the Malibu Film Society held a free screening for Saria (Nominated, Best Live Action Short), Sister (Nominated, Best Animated Short) and Walk Run Cha-Cha (Nominated, Best Documentary Short). 

Each film coveys wildly different topics but shares a universal goal of showing something that needs to be discussed. Saria’s haunting story shows that outside the developed safety of western nations, there exists corruption, injustice and innocents powerless to defend themselves, with humanitarian disasters occurring frequently that never receive the spotlight of the western world. Sister examines the very real and emotional connection between siblings and forces the audience to carefully consider the value of human life. Walk Run Cha-Cha mixes the passion of dance and shows how love can beat the boundaries of time and space.

Each film deals with loss in its story. Saria follows the true story of a group of children in an orphanage in Guatemala that suffer from constant abuse and their eventual revolt against their abusers, ultimately leading to a tragedy. Sister uses the beautiful expressionism of stop motion animation to creatively show the relationship between a big brother and little sister and by the end, it inspires careful thought about who has a right to be born. Walk Run Cha-Cha tells the story of a couple that falls in love in Vietnam before the Vietnam War, become separated by the political turmoil, only to reconnect a long six years later and have incredible talents as professional dancers.

Saria developed its main characters in a way that ensured the audience connected to the children’s suffering: the film took time to portray its young characters as normal teenagers. They felt jealousies, had their first loves, shared silly rumors and had colorful dreams of the future, which only helped further the pain of seeing such injustices committed against them.

Sisters, made by students at Cal Arts, shows how excellent stop motion can be. The movements look as smooth as digital animation and have as much possibility as digital animation. The short, eight-minute story develops its characters perfectly and feels authentic and relatable to anyone watching. Yet, its large reveal at the end could have been done better – minutes before the narrator unveils the twist, the visuals foreshadow the twist. By having this slow unveiling of the surprise at the end, it lowers its emotional impact on the audience. Yet, it perfectly tackles what can be considered a political topic in a very unbiased way, allowing viewers from any point of view to enjoy it.

Walk Run Cha-Cha perfectly connects the audience to the couple on-screen by examining their lives, habits and most importantly, their story. While the scenes of the couple dancing would warm anyone’s heart, the documentary poorly connects them to the story of how political turmoil separated their love, creating an odd contrast between the film discussing their past and their present love of dance.

All three films have many lessons for adults to learn but may be difficult for younger children to understand, so I recommend all three films for ages 14 to 18. While Saria may be intense for children as young as 14, it should be remembered that the youngest victims in the tragedy were 14 years old. Showing films like this can help children understand early on how people in the west have it much easier, compared to those in other parts of the world. 

Because of Saria’s exceptional reenactment of a heart-aching tragedy, I give it 5 out of 5 stars. Sisters portrays a real-life relationship between siblings, realistically and maintained and impressively neutral in a deeply partisan political issue but fails in the delivery of the most important twist of the story and so I give it 4 out of 5 stars. While Walk Run Cha-Cha shows the human consequences of global conflicts such as the Vietnam War quite well, it fails to connect its two subplots – the history of the couple’s relationship and their dancing, in a meaningful way. Hence, I give it 3 ½ out of 5 stars. All three are nominated for an Oscar, so keep that in mind when you watch the award’s show on February 2, 2020.

By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

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