The Art Directors Guild (ADG, IATSE, Local 800) announced Jan. 20 that filmmaker Baz Luhrmann and his wife and long-time producing partner and collaborator, production and costume designer Catherine Martin, will receive the esteemed 2023 Cinematic Imagery Award.

The couple’s 30-year collaboration has produced decades of successful and innovative entertainment for film, television, and the stage. They will be presented with the honoree award at the 27th annual ADG Awards on Feb 18. at the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown.

The announcement was made by ADG president Nelson Coates and awards producers Michael Allen Glover and Megan Elizabeth Bell.

“We are incredibly thrilled to honor Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin with the 2023 ADG Cinematic Imagery Award. Since their first collaboration, the extraordinarily creative and impactful pairing of these groundbreaking filmmakers has continued to dazzle audiences, stretch the imagination and push the cinematic boundaries while also remaining excitingly contemporary,” said Coates.

The ADG’s Cinematic Imagery Award is given to those whose body of work in the film and television industry has richly enhanced the visual aspects of the viewer’s experience. Previous recipients include Jane Campion, Ryan Murphy, Chuck Lorre, Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, Martin Scorsese, John Lasseter, George Lucas and Clint Eastwood.

American Film Institute Selects Budding Filmmakers for Year-Long Directing Workshop

Participants have been chosen for this year’s class of AFI DWW+, a year-long directing workshop for underrepresented filmmakers, the American Film Institute announced today.

Following an arduous selection process, finalists Vanessa Beletic, Chloë de Carvalho, Desdemona Chiang, Naomi Iwamoto, Huriyyah Muhammad, Joanne Mony Park, Kerry O’Neill and Roxy Toporowych will have the opportunity to create a short film with hands-on guidance from industry professionals. The aspiring filmmakers were handpicked by a Final Selection Committee, which consisted of AFI DWW alumni Shaz Bennett, Tessa Blake, Maggie Kiley, Katrelle Kindred and Amber Sealey as well as AFI graduates Steven Berger and Ava Berkofsky.

AFI DWW+ is integral to creating a pipeline of highly trained, diverse voices who have the power to drive culture forward and shape the future of the entertainment industry,” said Susan Ruskin, dean of the AFI Conservatory and AFI’s executive vice president. “We are thrilled to welcome this new class of accomplished artists to the AFI DWW+ program and guide them on their journey as directors and storytellers.”

Initially launched in 1974 as a directing workshop for women, AFI DWW+ will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2024 and continues to put a spotlight on future award-winning creators. Previous participants in the program include Academy Award winner Siân Heder (“CODA”) and Emmy nominees Dime Davis (“A Black Lady Sketch Show”) and DGA president Lesli Linka Glatter (“Homeland”).

Parapod Brings Paranormal Documentary Film Festival and Award Ceremony to Santa Clarita

The inaugural Parapod Festival, a celebration of all things paranormal, is taking place March 31-April 1 at various Santa Clarita locations.

“Although there is an abundance of paranormal content with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of views, we never really see these creators — filmmakers, podcasters, investigators — being honored,” said Tony Sweet, Parapod leader as well as executive producer and host of paranormal video podcast “Truth Be Told.” “That is why I wanted to develop a platform where all forms of paranormal content could be celebrated.”

Parapod will screen documentaries at the FilmFreeway Gold film festival, taking place the night of March 31 at the Regal Edwards Cinema Valencia, followed by stargazing at the Vasquez Rocks Nature Area.

April 1 will be filled with guest lectures at the Hyatt Regency Valencia and ParaPod Awards in the evening. Guest lecturers include Dr. Robert M. Schoch from “Ancient Aliens,” Patti Negri of “Ghost Adventures,” Ben Hansen of “Fact or Faked Paranormal Files” and Char Margolis of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

Jimmy Church, podcast host of “Fade to Black,” will lead the awards ceremony. The Pioneer award will go to best-selling author and producer Billy Carson, whose work includes serving as founder and CEO of streaming network 4BiddenKnowledge TV. The Media Legend award will go home with Emmy and Peabody award-winning investigative journalist Linda Moulton Howe, whose work includes “Ancient Aliens” and “Truth Hunter.”

Documentaries and podcasts to be considered for the festival awards may be submitted through Feb. 24 via FilmFreeway and the festival’s website, respectively.

DNEG Taps VFX Artist Adriano Rinaldi as General Manager for Vancouver Studio, Releases Open Source xStudio

DNEG, the visual effects and animation company behind upcoming films including Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer,” Bong Joon Ho’s “Mickey 17” and Justin Simien’s “Haunted Mansion” announced the hire of Adriano Rinaldi as general manager of the company’s studio in Vancouver, Canada.

“To have the opportunity to join DNEG’s Vancouver studio and to contribute to the company’s success in creating world-class visual effects and animation is thrilling,” Rinaldi said. “I look forward to working with the talented teams at DNEG and to the continued delivery of innovative and outstanding work to our clients.”

Rinaldi is entering the position with over 16 years of experience in the entertainment industry as a senior manager and a creative supervisor. Most recently, he served as an additional VFX supervisor on Marvel’s “Eternals” and collaborated with director Dante Lam on 2020’s “The Rescue” as an on-set VFX supervisor.

The studio executive will oversee a team of over 600 employees as DNEG attempts to expand and strengthen its Vancouver studio. DNEG has previously received seven Oscars in eight years for visual effects, including last year for Denis Villenueve’s “Dune.”

“I am delighted to welcome Adriano to DNEG, to lead our Vancouver studio,” said Jeannette Manifold, executive vice president of VFX operations at DNEG. “Adriano’s combination of senior creative leadership experience and hands-on operational knowledge and know-how will be a great asset to our Vancouver team as we continue to scale and invest in our crew and infrastructure to take advantage of the opportunities before us. I look forward to working closely with Adriano to further expand Vancouver’s role as a vital part of our global network of studios.”

On Jan. 19, the company also disclosed the approaching launch of the open source beta version of xSTUDIO via the Academy Software Foundation (ASWF) GitHub repository. The project’s codebase will be released by Sony Pictures Imageworks in the coming months. 

The open source project will be hosted and managed by the Academy Software Foundation as part of the Open Review Initiative and will operate under the oversight of the Open Review Initiative alongside Open RV.

“In launching xSTUDIO as an open source project, we hope that it will become a useful and standard tool in our industry. We encourage our clients, industry colleagues and partners to use and develop xSTUDIO so we can all benefit as a community,” said Paul Salvini, Global Chief Technology Officer, DNEG.

Easterseals Disability Film Challenge Celebrates 10 Years of Leadership and Advocacy for Diversity, Equity + Inclusion in Entertainment

Celebrating a decade of leadership advocating for diversity, equity and inclusion in the entertainment industry, the 2023 Easterseals Disability Film Challenge opens for registration Jan. 21, with the competition to be held March 28-April 2. The awards ceremony will be held May 4 at Sony Pictures Studios.

In 2013, actor, comedian and producer Nic Novicki launched the Disability Film Challenge in response to the under-representation of talent with disabilities both in front of and behind the camera. Novicki’s challenge has given aspiring filmmakers meaningful exposure and the opportunity to showcase their work. In 2017, Novicki joined forces with Easterseals Southern California — the nation’s leading nonprofit supporting people and families with disabilities — to expand the event, now known as the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge.

Registered filmmakers are given a span of five days over the challenge’s designated timeframe to write and produce short films, in effort to promote disability inclusion. The films are each based on the year’s announced genre and submitted to judges in competition to win one or more awards from the six award categories: best film, director, actor, writer, editor and awareness campaign.

“I created the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge to help accelerate change within Hollywood and to provide filmmakers and actors with tangible work experience and with an opportunity to tell authentic stories. We are proud of the amazing films produced over the past 10 years — viewed around the world — and the successes our participants have gone on to achieve,” Novicki said.

Those who win will receive access to entertainment leaders and resources, as well as receiving a variety of prizes to help them achieve their career goals, including: $2,000 grants provided by NBCUniversal, Dell Technologies computers, one-year membership to IMDbPro, one-year subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud, mentorship meetings with entertainment industry executives and talent and screenings at the Heartland Film Festival, HollyShorts Film Festival and NewFilmmakers L.A.

Premier Music Group Announces Its Second Round Of Financing, Led by Leading Media Investment Firm MEP Capital

Premier Music Group, music strategy and supervision agency led by Josh Deutsch and Randall Poster, announced Friday the close of its second round of financing, led by media investment company MEP Capital. This financing shift will power Premier’s ongoing acquisitions, including its recent acquisition of Listen (We Are Listen), a leading sonic identity and sound design firm.

The financing follows previous acquisitions of music supervision firms Wool & Tusk (2019) and Search Party (2020), founded by acclaimed music supervisor Poster, known for his collaborations with directors Wes Anderson, Todd Haynes, Martin Scorsese, Noah Baumbach, Richard Linklater. Premier has also entered a partnership with Q Factory by Robert Etoll, to administer the premiere catalog of music and sound design — specifically crafted for film and television advertising.

Music supervisor and Premier Music Group’s creative director, Randall Poster said “Josh and I joined forces to build a 21st century music agency. This new partnership is an important step in Premier’s evolution, as we continue to bring on the best people in music supervision to work on the most interesting and ambitious projects.”

“Josh, Randall, and the Premier team have done an outstanding job growing Premier into a market leader in music supervision and licensing and have quickly become the go-to resource for rights holders as well as film, TV, and brand clients,” said Matt Cohen of MEP.

Premier Music Group CEO Deutsch said, “Premier’s mission is to deliver full-service solutions that harness the power of music. Our partnership with MEP will power future acquisitions in new business segments and technologies to accelerate this goal.”

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