NOT DEADLINE

Not Deadline’s spidey senses tingled when it was announced that Rian Johnson’s company had made a two picture ‘put’ deal with Warners Bros to finance and distribute two projects that both sides could agree on in the name of what Rian and Ram called  Warner Bros. “renewed committment to the theatrical experience” (which is interesting since Rian and Ram gave KNIVES OUT 2 and KNIVES OUT 3 to a distributor with the exact opposite philosophy). Otherwise, in the article, there was no mention of exclusivity or terms or timeframe or of who will bring what financing to the table or who will own the copyright. There’s no mention of anything beyond an agreement to try to agree on two projects. Because of the vagueness (and because of some other things), we get to speculate about the future of KNIVES OUT 3.

The film that launched Rian as a talent to be reckoned with was a very, very small but respectful 45 screen theatrical release given the film’s left-of-center style and a cast of young ‘unknown’ actors. The next film, Brother’s Bloom, was intended to have a wider theatrical release beyond 209 screens, but it didn’t test well enough to inspire the studio to go wider. It wasn’t until LOOPER exploded into the wide 3,000 theater screen release that Rian’s dream came true…followed by STAR WARS which released on everything with a white background (including bedsheets). And then came KNIVES OUT, the widest release of Rian’s ‘original material’ career. 3,500 screens. On the eve of this eagerly anticipated milestone, Rian emphasized the importance of theaters when he told CINEMABLEND:  These days, it’s much more about attention. For me, it’s about the fact that if I’m in a theater I know that I can’t pick up my phone and look at it. I’m going to be able to zero in on that experience. I’m in the dark, and I’m with an audience of people who are having the same experience. I know I’m going to get the actual experience of the movie.

…and then, reinforcing his allegiance to the theatrical experience, Rian doubled down to THE INDEPENDENT: I think, ultimately, I do have this kind of doe-eyed optimism that when you sit down in the theatre and the lights go out, all of that garbage disappears. You’re having a pure experience of a movie. Whatever happens in those two hours in the theatre is between you and the screen….(cinemas) are a haven where you can believe for a few hours”. As easy as it is to lose hope – and as understandable (and sometimes necessary) as cynicism can be – there is a magic to cinema that lifts up the veil of darkness and dares to lay the path to a better future.

…which is why audiences and experts were both baffled and stunned when Rian moved not just KNIVES OUT 2, but also KNIVES OUT 3 from Lionsgate’s wide screen theatrical release strategy to Netflix’s anti-theatrical streaming model. Not just a theatrical opportunity was lost. It’s eighteen months later and counting that KNIVES OUT 2 is still not available for rent or purchase or streaming by anyone who doesn’t subscribe (or share passwords) to Netflix…which is unfortunate because the film would have inevitably found its way to Netflix anyways AFTER everyone around the world who didn’t subscribe to Netflix had the chance to see it by now.

Which brings us to KNIVES OUT 3. Rian recently tweeted out a KNIVES OUT 3 teaser with the title and the release year (2025) with the Netflix logo at the end (https://deadline.com/2024/05/rian-johnson-next-knives-out-installment-1235937714/). Soon after, actors were announced as starring in the film. Jeremy Renner, good call. Josh Brolin, better call. Glenn Close, best call. 

This must mean that Rian’s wish for a wide theatrical release by Netflix (booking theaters directly or via an existing distributor…or how about the acquisition of a distributor? That wouldn’t happen, but cool to think about.) has been granted. Why? Because even though KNIVES OUT 2 had a token theatrical release (which Rian lamented privately and publicly), a newly discovered theatrical commitment by Netflix will reinforce everything Rian previously and recently stood/stands for as an artist. (Side note: since Netflix is going with the theatrical release model, good luck to them landing high profile film packages without contractually committing to as wide of a theatrical release as KNIVES OUT 3, which will blow up the Netflix business model and possibly the stock price.)

Ok. All set. Right? Not necessarily. This is where ‘what if?’ comes into play. What if Netflix sticks to its business model and does what it has always said, and does not do anywhere near the 3,000+ screen wide release? Rian has two choices. Do nothing and roll with it (which is his right of course…but, it would just seem counterintuitive to the passion he’s expressed for theatrical)…OR do unto Netflix what he did unto Lionsgate. Take the Knives Out sequel away from Netflix and put it through Warner Bros. (or through some other theatrically committed distributor).

Can Rian do this? Of course! Recall at Lionsgate’s pre-Golden Globes party in early January 2020 when Rian told the Hollywood Reporter he wanted to be in production on KNIVES OUT 2 within a year. Chairman of the Motion Picture Group, Joe Drake, said he couldn’t wait to read the script when it was ready.  Soon after that, the CEO of Lionsgate (Jon Feltheimer) announced to the world that KNIVES OUT 2 was officially greenlit and, subsequently in another call, he stated that the production would start filming soon…

…until the announcement was made in late March 2021 that Netflix had acquired the sequel rights. How could this happen? Jon Feltheimer said (in 2022) that Rian had always retained the sequel rights and decided to shop them elsewhere. Rian added during an interview with ScreenDaily on Dec. 16th 2022 that the deal with Lionsgate was only a single picture license and that his team had been shopping and pitching the sequel around town. Ok, if what both parties say is true, then how farfetched is it to suspect that Rian has a similar ‘out’ in his Netflix contract that allows him to shop Knives Out 3 before the film comes out. And no, it’s not too late even if a teaser trailer has been released with the Netflix logo at the end. That’s child’s play.

Another angle regarding this Warner Bros. announcement has to be pointed out. If Rian isn’t adding KNIVES OUT 3 to the ‘put’ deal or to any other theatrically attracted distributor and is instead reserving these ‘puts’ for new filmmakers, it will just seem odd that Rian is putting a priority on theatrical for others and not himself (ie. Knives Out 3). Second, it will put the agencies who represent the filmmakers of these films on the spot to assess early on if they want their client’s film to forego an open auction (if the film is good enough) for a premature  ‘put’ at Warner Bros. which could mean less money for the agency and for their clients. Third, the ‘put’ slots will give the films created by newbies additional opportunities to release culturally significant material that perhaps has a bit more of a cultural impact than Rian’s recent material. AMERICAN FICTION being the perfect example.  Smart. Irreverent. Pitch perfect execution (except for the ending…too many chefs overthought it) with a lot of insightful things to say about a lot of things. An Oscar worthy adaptation (it should have also won Best Picture hands down as well as a Best Actor Oscar for Geoffrey Wright), the resonance for years to come of this little gem will shine for a long time to come. Is this what Rian wants? Is it what he needs? Wouldn’t he rather aspire to be Christopher Nolan aka the gold standard for singularly devoted (to themselves in the sense of removing outside distractions) filmmakers in the spirit of Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson, Fincher, Tarantino, Villeneuve, Aronofsky. (random side note: T-Street has to be commended for rolling the dice on AMERICAN FICTION. It does speak to a knack for betting on the right talent)

Time will tell which format KNIVES OUT 3 is widely released on/in (and by whom), but regardless…Not Deadline’s wish is for Rian to return to that fertile ‘imaginative world-building inhabited by brand new characters’ mind of his and leave Star Wars and any more Knives Out sequels in the rear view mirror. It’s time.

Not Deadline LOVES a good mystery and this story has Agatha Christie meets Succession meets the boardgame Clue in spades. We can thank the uber-dysfunctional Presley parents and former Presley spouses and children and cousins and aunts and uncles and soon to be more children for this excitement. It’s got it all. An iconic icon. Musicians. Lots of money. Drugs. Alcohol. Celebrity. Artistry. Actors. Actresses. Embittered siblings. Embittered half-siblings…but, before we circle back…

…let’s set the table with specific facts (apologies if they are a rehash, but it’s important) from the Priscilla Presley lawsuit in 2023 and from the Riley Keough lawsuit a few weeks ago (May 2024) because history repeated itself in a purposeful way that no one has focused on. 

Lisa Marie Presley inherited all things Elvis (including Graceland) on her 25th birthday and named Priscilla Presley and former family business manager Barry Siegal as co-trustees. Upon Lisa Marie’s death, it came to light (Barry Siegel had voluntarily stepped down as a co-trustee in 2019 amidst a brutal and ugly lawsuit with Lisa Marie) in a 2016 amendment to Lisa Marie’s will, that Priscilla and Barry had been swapped out as co-trustees for Lisa Marie’s children, Riley and and Benjamin Keough. With Benjamin having already passed away, Riley became the sole trustee of Promenade Trust LLC which oversees Graceland as part of its portfolio.

Priscilla filed suit in January 2023 challenging the 2016 amendment on three primary grounds. First, the signature on the amendment was not Lisa Marie’s, but rather a forgery, in part, because the signature mispelled Priscilla’s first name. Second, Lisa Marie’s signature had not been witnessed or notarized. Third, Priscilla had never received or been notified of its existence until after Lisa Marie’s death, which was eight-ish years after the amendment had been drafted.

After months of legal wrangling, it was announced in mid-May 2023 that Priscilla and Riley had reached a financial settlement whereby Priscilla (no longer the trustee) and her son and grandkids would be paid different amounts of money for different reasons at different times.

And then, at some point between May and October 26th 2023, the overall ‘final’ settlement was reached and filed with the court. In addition to the agreed upon financial terms, Riley agreed to use best efforts to allow Patricia to be buried as close to Elvis as possible and to allow Priscilla’s son, Navarone Garcia (the half-brother of Lisa Marie who hated Lisa Marie and who hated him. We don’t know what Riley secretly thought of him. Probably not his biggest fan given he publicly insulted her mother at every turn), and others to participate and/or attend the memorial at Priscilla’s election. Riley also “agreed to use best efforts to ask Elvis Presley Enterprises and successors not to pursue litigation against Priscilla over name and image and likeness issues.” 

The fact that these personal, non-financial terms (with specific shout-outs to people like Navarone) were codified at all is intriguing. On their face, these clauses suggest, Priscilla’s 100% distrust of Riley (and the others involved with the LLC that oversees Graceland et al) as much in death as in life. Based on reports and articles over the years, this distrust could be rooted in Priscilla’s dysfunctional relationship with Lisa Marie and the controlling way in which Priscilla oversaw the estate and Lisa Marie’s life.

Fast forward to earlier this May 2024. Out of nowhere, a notice is published referencing an impending foreclosure sale of Graceland because, allegedly, Promenade Trust (now overseen by Riley Keough) defaulted on repayment of a $3.8 million loan to Naussany Investments & Private Lending, LLC (which was associated with Gregory Naussany and Kurt Naussany).

Riley’s lawyer filed for an injunction on three primary grounds. First, Lisa Marie Presley’s signature on the loan documents were forgeries. Second, the notary signature belonged to a notary who never met Lisa Marie or witnessed anything that was allegedly signed.  Third, certain legal documents had never been filed with the appropriate department. Do these three primary grounds for fraud sound familiar?

Turns out that the LLC and its alleged owners were complete fictions who, upon being sued, let the world know that they were withdrawing the notice and not moving forward with the foreclosure.

Which leads to two important questions that have not yet been satisfactorily answered. Who was credibly behind this foreclosure hoax and what was the motivation for doing it?

Some reports and experts suggested that random fraudster financial opportunism was to blame. Other outlets wrote that they had been contacted by a scamming network claiming responsibility. The New York Times reported that it was contacted by someone on behalf of a Nigerian fraud ring who claimed that the scam was all in the name of ‘just having fun’.

Not Deadline doesn’t buy what any of these alleged fraudster groups are selling. It definitely wasn’t about money because the property in question was too high profile. The perpetrator was a fictitious company overseen by fictitious people who could never survive a lawsuit as soon as the foreclosure notice was posted. As for the ‘just having fun’ angle…if it was 100% about fun, why did the perpetrators throw in the ‘fun’ towel so quickly and not play out the publicity and legal string until every ounce of fun had been had? They could have kept everyone’s heads spinning for days and even weeks or months instead of just saying ‘we give up.” Simple answer: it may have been ‘fun’ for the person or group behind it,, but it wasn’t just about that.

To the contrary, this hoax felt personal. Deeply personal. It felt like a staunch supporter of someone in the Presley family who’d been offended by the dubious 2016 amendment and/or the publicly reported terms of the 2023 settlement. Someone wanted to give Riley/the trust a taste of the same medicine that someone else had taken. Was it perhaps a staunch supporter of Priscilla’s (because trust oversight was taken away as well as the ‘buried next to Elvis’ clause in the 2023 settlement that she thought had to be included along with other things related to money and control)?…of Navarone Garcia’s (not just because he will get 1/9 of a specific amount of money outlined in the Priscilla/Riley 2023 trust settlement, but because of how embarassing it must be for Navarone that the world gets to learn that he is only going to his mother’s memorial because the daughter of the half-sister he hated has been kind enough to allow him to attend)?…of Barry Siegel’s (who had an all out legal brawl with Lisa-Marie where she accused him of bankrupting her and essentially ruining her life)?…of Michael Lockwood’s (he has every reason to hate Riley given all the PR she gets as the doting aunt of Michael’s two children from Lisa Marie and Michael’s disastrous divorce–.not to mention he was persona non grata after Lisa Marie’s death and sued the trust/Riley to get a piece of the action ‘for the kids’)?

The reader is probably asking what the basis is for this contention. Consider the fact that a forged Lisa Marie Presley signature was at the center of Priscilla’s lawsuit and Riley’s lawsuit. That an unnotorized Lisa Marie Presley signature was at the center of Priscilla’s lawsuit and Riley’s lawsuit. That the question of proper filing/notice of legal documents was at the center of Priscilla’s lawsuit and Riley’s lawsuit? That typos were at the center of Priscilla’s lawsuit with the person who drafted the amendment and Riley’s lawsuit with respect to the self-proclaimed fraudster having typos in their emails. Oh, yes. Whoever orchestrated this hoax followed the same roadmap from the challenged 2016 amendment in the 2023 suit. Nice try, faux scammer from Nigeria. This was the work of a meticulous, insightful copycat fraudster with an axe to grind.

Ok, so now what? Where does this leave us? Let’s do what the Nigerian scammer claimed and ‘just have fun’! Get the whiteboard out and put up pictures of the suspects— everyone related to or formerly married to or a close friend to or a business associate to a Presley who despises Riley/the trust and guess which room in the Graceland mansion it happened in and with what object. Let the game begin!!

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. The Steve Cohen-owned Mets are not good. There’s no sense of urgency from the players on the field. The manager has failed to get the most out of the players who aren’t playing with urgency. The roster as constructed by the GM is not working..and the owner is tweeting way too much and will instead need to do some soul searching after the season is over…which leads to this post. Why are we talking about the Mets when there’s nothing newsworthy about them?

Well, there actually might be…and it’s worth telling a story.

CAA and Range Media Entertainment (financially backed, significantly, by New York Mets owner Steve Cohen) share literary and talent clients, co-represent domestic rights deals for a number of independent feature film projects, and have their respective actors/actresses starring in each other’s filmmakers’ films and television shows.

And recently, to secure additional financing/investments in the pursuit of expansion and growth, Range Media Entertainment retained CAA’s former film finance executive, Rick Hess as well as TPG executive David Bonderman who was a significant cog in the TPG machine that once owned a majority interest in CAA.

It’s surprising to see CAA embracing Range Media given CAA’s long history of frowning on (and sometimes suing) CAA employees/agents who defected to competitors (UTA) or who founded competing upstart entities (Michael Ovitz).  

Ok…that introduces two of three in this arranged marriage, but how about the third?

Steve Cohen, the Wall Street hedge fund guy, made a fortune. He says he did it by the book. The SEC said he didn’t. His company Point72 paid a $1.8 billion fine. Undeterred, Mr. Cohen went on his merry way and poured billions of dollars into any and all companies involved in ‘tech’ (Fintech/AI/Cybersecurity/Defense/Consumer)..and yet, none of this stroked his ego. These were all just ‘things’ that people with too much money do in an effort to make ‘way too much more’ money. As Sheelah Kolhatkar was quoted in a New York Times article as saying about Mr. Cohen–(August 30, 2020) ‘He (Mr. Cohen) is “always someone who cared a great deal about his image, and he was determined to show the world he won…”

Say hello to the New York Mets. A majority interest in the team was up for sale in 2019 and Mr. Cohen saw it as a legacy defining opportunity (after he’d lost out on buying the Los Angeles Dodgers). Author, Sheelah Kohatkar, said in the same New York Times article (looking back on Steve Cohen’s will to win)…”Owning the Mets would be a ‘capstone’ in those efforts (to show the world he won)” Sure enough, looking backwards, in December of 2019, a deal for the Mets and Mr. Cohen was imminent. $2.6 billion for 80% of the team with the Wilpon’s maintaining control for the next 5 years…until the deal fell apart when impatient Steve Cohen came to his senses and pulled back because worried about the Wilpons making decisions that could further devalue the team on and off the field.

Unrelenting, Steve Cohen continued a dialogue with the Wilpons into 2020 as nonexclusive negotiations against other bidders spilled over into the spring.

And then an interesting thing happened…

In late April 2020, it was reported in the press that CAA-repped Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez would make a run at buying the Mets. Around this same time, it was reported that former longtime CAA agent Pete Micelli was leaving a large entertainment conglomerate called Eone to contemplate the next stage of his career.

Between April and July/August 2020 amidst Steve Cohen’s nonexclusive negotiation with the Mets–it was reported in different media outlets that CAA-repped JLo and A-Rod had would put up a lot of their own money, that they wouldn’t put up much of their own money,  that they were pulling out of the Mets negotiations entirely, that they met with billionaire Wayne Rothbaum, that Wayne Rothbaum passed, that their official bid had a different billionaire involved, that they would toss in $100 milion as a World Series bonus, that the Mets owners wouldn’t part with the cable station as part of the deal, etc. Surely, no one, especially the Wilpons, could rely on this pair.

Meanwhile, during this same time period, Pete Micelli (formerly of Eone as mentioned above) and the other agents-turned-managers-to-be-named-later had assembled all but one of the pieces needed for what would become known as Range Media Entertainment. The last piece was the most important:  pinning down the group of really wealthy people who would finance the venture. 

As for Steve Cohen during this time, his bid of at least $2 billion for the Mets remained a constant like the North star and he was willing to spend a lot more if necessary. The Wilpons knew it as did the others, but that didn’t stop Steve Cohen from biting his nails to the nub because JLO or another group might pull a magic rabbit out of their hat.

All of these people and companies converged publicly in late August 2020 when, on August 23rd, it was announced on Deadline.com that Pete Micelli had launched a new management and production company called Range Media Entertainment with significant financial backing from none other than Steve Cohen who had never before or since invested in a startup entertainment management company that had nothing to do with tech or AI or any forward thinking ‘growth’ space…and then on August 28th, 2020, JLO and A-Rod announced on instagram they were officially bowing out of the Mets bidding sweepstakes, thus leaving a clear path for Steve Cohen to exclusively negotiate to buy the Mets.

Let’s have some fun and play the game of hypothetical ‘what if?’ because we’ll never know the actual truth unless someone has the courage to spill the beans before they die.

The Mets auction was fast and furious. JLO and A-ROD were in and then out and then in. It infuriated Steve Cohen to no end because he’s feeling the heat. And then, at some point during this craziness, Steve gets contacted (a call? a meeting? a letter written in invisible ink? a heads up from SIRI?) by someone who knows one of the bidders “So, you want the Mets…that’s funny because JLO wants the Mets.” “Yes. I know.” “You think you know, but you don’t know…” “What don’t I know?” Steve asks. “There’s a path to victory for you.” The man (or woman) says. “I’m listening.” “All we ask is for you do someone a favor in the very near future.” “A favor? What is this, the Godfather?” Steve asks, exasperated. The man (or woman) dismisses the snark and continues. “A new management company in the entertainment business is being formed by a group of former agents from all of the big agencies.”  “…and?” “All you have to do is invest millions (possibly tens of millions? possibly more?) of dollars in this ‘startup’ and agree to some other things…and the odds of you getting the Mets will increase significantly.” “Why would I ever invest in an upstart talent management company? I’m a tech guy.” Long silence. Longer silence. The man (or woman) wants Steve to figure it out on his own. Steve plays through all the scenarios. Who else knows about this ‘offer?’.  It makes Steve’s head spin.

Clarity finally emerges through the foggy part of Steve’s brain. Three scenarios. The worst case scenario is that he dismisses the offer and loses out on the Mets while wondering for the rest of his life if accepting the offer would have made the difference. The middle case scenario is that he accepts the offer and loses tens of millions of dollars in a startup management company and still has a fair shot at owning the Mets. In the best case scenario, he accepts the offer which turns out to be a significant talent management company that becomes something important someday AND HE OWNS THE METS!

Sure enough, the best case scenario wins out…

Post script: **Range Media is valued at $300 million after an additional round of funding.

                    **CAA and Range Media continue to make beautiful music together.

                    **Steve Cohen’s daughter meets and falls in love with one of CAA’s agents. 

Before we go, there are a few looming questions…and Not Deadline does not yet have the answer.

What is the end game for Range Media?  Continue growing into the global player that makes people like its ally, CAA, proud? Continue growing the company into something that cashes in its chips for mid to high nine figures when the right company at the right time makes the right offer for the right price?

One other interesting thing to revisit is the ‘why?’ of it all. If CAA was involved in any way whatsover with Range Media’s birth, what was the motivation? It’s often about money and/or power, but how? In what form? One thing’s for sure– when Range Media came into existence, the entertainment business was being ravaged by Covid and by the elimination of packaging fees that forced agencies to shrink, take on outside investors, or merge with other agencies…so, there’s a lot to dig into.

This whole thing is fascinating because 99% of the world plays checkers. 1% plays chess…and only a handful out of that 1% are the Grand Masters…

…stay tuned…

Would you bet for…or against someone who is the CEO of AMC if Not Deadline told you the following about them?

–this person fanned the flames of his publicly traded company’s meme stock price increases (meme stock increases are when the value of a stock is artificially inflated because of a coordinated effort by individual investors to buy that stock at the same time) so he could unload the majority of his shares (to the justifiable shock of retail investors) before the value of the stock came crashing down to its actual value.

–this person, in spite of his company’s consistently terrible financial performance, was granted tens of millions of dollars in stock in 2023, which he claimed were once but no longer worth millions and instead worth pennies on the dollar, so that he could tweet out to the world how selfless he is, when in reality, the ‘once allegedly valuable’ shares that were worthless all along..will be the perfect tax writeoff when he decides to sell or abandon the shares.

–this person, in spite of his failing company’s business and a hemorrage of hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, invested $28 million of the company’s money in a gold-mining outfit that has dropped in share price since then from just above $12 per share to just above $3 per share (Not Deadline hopes to devote a special article to this highly suspect investment down the road).

–this person has insisted, since the end of the Covid pandemic, that company earnings would get on the right track and the company would thrive instead of dive…only to see it continuing to dive as of the day this blog is being written…and as a result, he has to consistently raise more funds by selling more and more stock in the company to the horror of investors who didn’t realize he would put himself above what was best for the company.

–this person knows the theatrical business will never make a consistent return to its pre-pandemic ways because Covid accelerated the theater-going public’s pivot to streaming after previous pivots to television, videotapes, DVDs, and cable television as content distruptors. 

–this person stacked his Board of Directors with individuals who, for the most part, are not adept at looking under the hood of the business to trust, verify, and challenge every financial and moral move he makes. Instead, the vast majority of the board members specialize in domestic and foreign relationships with creative talent and investment entities and theatrical entities. Exhibit A: this person somehow kept his job after sexting with someone (not his wife) and geting blackmailed for it. He then referred his situation to the FBI so that no one will ever learn the sordid details. No CEO has ever or ever should survive this absurd breach of morality (and, for sure, a morals clause which may or may not be in his contract). Other CEO’s get canned for far less.

Bottom line: this person inspires financial and moral distrust.

And yet, some still say ‘don’t bet against Adam Aron…at least not yet.’

Not Deadline says ‘bet the house against Adam Aron right now and force him out so his replacement can file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and start the inevitable rebuild of financial management and trust between not just the company and its stakeholders…but, with regular everyday investors who will no longer be suckered into buying shares of the Titanic before it leaves port.

 

Someone’s ears were burning (talk about having a finger on the pulse…) when Not Deadline emailed a draft of its blog about the Black List to a 3rd party for editorial input (the draft blog email is attached below)...because a few days later, this above PR announcement touched exhaustively on the reintroduction of the writing contests that the Black List and its merry band of inclusivators (Yes. The word is made up, but it sounds so cool) had previously tossed aside.

The Black List and its conspirators had no choice but to overcorrect because–

CAPE and the Black List haven’t announced any Asian Pacific winners since 2020.

EASTER SEALS/WGA DISABILITY PROGRAM and the Black List haven’t announced any disabled writer winners since 2020.

GLAAD and the Black List haven’t announced any LGBTQ+ winners since 2022.

Muslim Public Affairs and the Black List haven’t announced any Muslim winners since 2022.

NALIP and the Black List did not announce winners for 2024.

Bottom line: the Black List and its partners hijacked inclusiveness in the name of perception..and, when it dawned on them that the public might catch on—they scrambled for cover like vampires at sunrise and put out a press release efforting to convince the public that ‘there are no vampires here’.

What would be really cool is if the paying members of these inclusive groups stood up and collectively said “Wait a minute. Why am I paying hard earned dollars for membership in exchange for exposure as a writer when these contests are nothing more than illusory opportunities? I want my money back!”

According to its own website, The California Hall of Fame was launched in 2006 to celebrate the Golden State’s legends and trailblazers whose achievements made history and changed the state, the nation and the world.

Induction into the California Hall of Fame (for Arts and/or Entertainment (and for the other fields) requires candidates to meet the following criteria:

  • Have lived in California for five years;
  • Have transcended the boundaries of their field to make lasting contributions to the state, nation and world;
  • Achieved accomplishments that inspire people to pursue their own dreams.

Visionary storytellers from the film/tv world like Spielberg, Lucas, Eastwood, Nicholson, Streisand, Cameron, Beatty, Warner Bros, Coppola, Redford, Fisher (Carrie) have been nominated and inducted over the years. All talented and transcendent artists. But, also predominantly white and male. Not exactly California’s proudest achievement.

For the 2024 class, the Hall of Fame recognized its shortcomings and admirably selected someone who was nominated outside the Hall of Fame’s exclusionary past–Ava Duvernay. Unfortunately, while the intention was good, the choice was less so.  Yes, Ava Duvernay is a lifelong Californian (check box #1). Yes, she has made lasting contributions to the state/nation/world with arguably her best film SELMA (which was nominated for Best Picture and several Golden Globes (including one for Ava Duverney for Best Director) as well as 13TH, WHEN THEY SEE US, and ORIGIN (check box #2). Yes, she has achieved accomplishments that inspire people to pursue their own dreams (her unequivocable support for minority hiring in all of her projects as well as charitable contributions checks box #3).

HOWEVER, there are other visionary storytellers more worthy of nomination and induction–one of whom Ava herself referred to in a tweet (after his death) as “a giant among us…his films broke ground…his films mattered”.  John Singleton, too, was a lifelong Californian. He also transcended the boundaries of his field as the first African American nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director—and at age 24, he was also the youngest person recognized for that award, The Oscar nod for directing (and writing) came for his feature film debut, Boyz n the Hood (1991) (which had a 95% African American crew). After that, Singleton wrote and directed other films such as the romantic drama Poetic Justice (1993), the socially conscious drama Higher Learning (1995), the historical drama Rosewood (1997), and the coming-of-age drama Baby Boy (2001) amongst others. In fact, his legacy survives in the form of the scholarships in his name given by FX Network to deserving minority writers each year to inspire them to pursue their dreams. Furthermore, there is a full area at the Academy Museum devoted to Boyz n the Hood.  Bottom line: It is John Singleton’s groundbreaking work that opened the door for Ava to walk through.

The other equally compelling ‘visionary storyteller” who should be nominated and in the Hall of Fame ahead of Ava Duvernay is writer/director/actress Kasi Lemmons. As a filmmaker, she burst onto the scene with a film entitled Eve’s Bayou in 1997 (which was later inducted into the National Film Registry), followed by other noteworthy films like TALK TO ME (about a culturally significant radio station DJ in Washington D.C. in the 70s) and HARRIET, the true story about an African American slave (Harriet Tubman) whose courage in a time of slavery made her arguably the most admired and influential person in American history. A more exhaustive and excellent summary of the history and indelible mark that Kasi Lemmons has left as a ‘visionary storyteller’ can be found at this link: Profiles in Black History: Kasi Lemmons — Oceanside Sanctuary

Not Deadline hopes that someone, ideally Ava, nominates John and Kasi for California Hall of Fame consideration in the name of ‘paying it backwards’.

Dan Lin is a nice guy, if not the nicest. His blood, sweat, and tears built a topflight production company called Rideback, which signed a five year first look deal with Universal Studios in January 2021 because he (Dan) per a press release said he was “happy to align with a studio that had boldly innovatived new approaches to making and distributing movies.” Then, midway through the Universal deal, as the world emerged from the pandemic, Dan doubled down and said that theaters still turn movies into “cultural moments” more than streaming movies, which “come and go.” (He was spot on about this. Inject truth serum into anyone with a film streaming on Netflix and they’ll tell you it’s where feature films go to die.)

SO WHY NOW, in spite of everything Dan believed in, did he jump aboard culturally averse, theatrically allergic Netflix and tell the world it was because the streamer’s philosophy aligned so strongly with his own personal and professional values and what he was building at Rideback?

Not Deadline wants so badly to take Dan at his word, but at some point when an SEC filing and/or quarterly report is filed by Netflix, we will know how much money and stock options it took to convince Dan to abandon his mantra. Don’t get us wrong. Not Deadline is fully aware of the challenges and all consumptive lifestyle this sort of career can have on someone. Dan has been a grinder in this business for decades and balances that with a wife, kids, and charitable endeavors. Running a company, chasing financing, and pleading for green lights is a fool’s errand at a certain stage of life.  Maybe, it was time to smell the roses! If so, Dan Lin should have said that producing is a wonderful thing, that he has accomplished his goals to this point, and that he wants to shift gears and decide which movies to make rather than convincing others to make his.

In the meantime, Not Deadline will hope and pray that, long before his lucrative contract expires, Dan’s nose tires of that deceptively attractive rose scent and he comes and goes from Netflix just like the feature films that stream there.

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