Fest Track On Sirk TV Advance Print Interview: CINEFEST [Sudbury, Ontario]

 

Situated in Northeastern Ontario, close to the Georgian Bay, Sudbury is a small town only a small jump away from Toronto. With production elements ramping up with projects like “Letterkenny” as well as “Carter” starring Jerry O’Connell (check out our interview here with Jerry) already filmed and in the public eye, the area is only growing. Cinefest, which happens in Sudbury every September, is a natural continuation after the onslaught of Toronto International Film Festival just weeks before. Patrick O’Hearn, executive director at Cinefest, sat down with Fest Track at the company’s HQ in Sudbury to discuss initiatives, connection and evolution.

Every festival has an identity. Every festival has an idea who they are and who they want to be. Can you sort of talk about Cinefest in those terms?

We branded ourselves as the people’s festival about five years ago, and it’s a brand that we’ve tried to maintain and stick with because it’s true to who we are. It’s first and foremost about films, about engaging people with films, about making sure that our audience is, whether they’re here from Sudbury or whether they’re visiting from elsewhere, [that] they have a chance to interact with the films, with the filmmakers. They can take in as much as they want because we’re all in one venue. So the festival experience is really something that you live almost like you’re at a resort, secluded in a space, and you move from film to film throughout the week. People’ll take in to 30, 40 films because they’re film lovers.

Can you talk about the community of film first from the film festival perspective?

For sure. We see that, while people are waiting in line at the festival, while they’re sitting in their seats waiting for the films or afterwards at the reception, it’s all about reacquainting with people that maybe you meet on a year-to-year basis whether they’re here from Sudbury or from elsewhere, and sharing that kind of passion. Sometimes that passion reflects itself in, “Man, I really hated that film I just saw.” And that’s part of the dialogue. I think that’s what makes festivals anywhere, when they’re clicking and really taking off and doing what they’re striving to do. It’s about ensuring that that dialogue is taking place, that people are really experiencing and talking about art and what it means to them.

What does art in terms of film mean to you at this point?

It means a lot of different things. It depends on the type of film. As a programmer, having the opportunity to experience a number of different genres and styles, seeing a film with a limited resources really be successful and take off, and then seeing a film where they made a great film because they had all the resources they needed to pull off what they planned to do, it’s a feeling of excitement of knowing that achievement took place, that there was a artistic achievement that the story has moved me. [From there] I can picture it moving other people. It’s just always about trying to look at it through your audience’s eyes and see what they’re going to think.

Can you give a recent example that maybe was a Canadian-made film?

We had a great film: “Never Steady, Never Still”. It’s just a powerful performance. It had a number of powerful performances. [It was a] Canadian film that came from the west coast. It’s about a woman who’s fighting with Parkinson’s and she actually has to transition into taking care of herself because her husband dies unexpectedly. When I saw the film, I knew that it was perfect for our audience. I knew that they were going to connect with that emotional impact. There was a very high emotional impact. But they also were going to be really drawn in by the commitment of the acting and what was taking place. The storytelling was phenomenal. And it was a first-time director. I think that’s when you really know this is special. This is somebody that we’re going to be able to trace for 5, 10, 15 years because they’ve nailed it the first time they tried .

But they’re learning like we’re all learning. And that’s the key in any festival is that most people come into it either having done it for 20 years or if it’s the person’s first year. it’s about learning it and having that curve because you can always pick up new things. Can you talk about the educational aspect of the festival in that way?

What we try to do is bring those filmmakers into town, and make sure that they’re talking to some of our emerging artists. That’s been a commitment of ours since the very beginning is to kind of take the city of Greater Sudbury and transform it, to let people know that there’s opportunities to tell their stories, to show them behind the scenes how that process takes place, where they access funding, where they access some of the infrastructure or the tools that they need whether it’s crew-based or cameras or things like that. [It’s about] trying to educate them about the evolution of all that because it’s constantly evolving. For us [though], it’s really about taking that first kernel of an idea. Our job is to really light a fire and say, “Go off and tell that story”…write it, spend time with it from an editing standpoint. But also make sure that you’ve got critical eyes and ears right away who are looking at it, and who are being honest with you and upfront. I think one thing we try to get across to the filmmaker is not to worry when they fail in the original drafts as they’re looking at developing their concept. Failure can lead to opportunities. It can lead to new sparks of ideas. But it can also teach you that that won’t work. And you have to just move on from it as quickly as possible.

Discussion is very important. And that’s the great thing you get at film festivals. Could you talk about Cinéfest in that way especially since Cinéfest happens so closely after TIFF [Toronto International Film Festival]?

TIFF is neat because a lot of the discussion does start at TIFF. We see that with a number of programs who visit from other centers in Ontario. They’ll start to compare notes on films, and then they’ll actually drive each other to see some of the films that we’re showing that overlap. I think our festival is unique going back to a People’s Festival concept. One of the things we try to instill and reinforce is that you’re going to be able to access films. The cost is extremely affordable. You see one film, you move into the next theater and you’re seeing the next film. A lot of people inherently travel together. The dialogue never stops.

And are there places for people to stop in between the theaters to discuss. I mean, there’s obviously probably some local places.

We do see a lot of people stop in the corridors. Milestones is a great sponsor of ours. They take really good care of our client base. Sometimes you don’t have time necessarily to stop and grab lunch or even an order. So the conversation takes place in that movement and while people are traveling. It’s really neat to see especially if from a programming standpoint. From a logistics standpoint one of my roles during the festival is actually to move people as safely and quickly as possible [from point to point]. It can look like a just a very well coordinated ballet, but it’s chaos.

We’re talking about art. We’re talking about logistics. But it also comes down to commerce. The thing is that this is a business. Filmmaking is a business and, overall, film festivals are a business but it’s also about connecting the right people to move up to the next level. And considering what’s going on today in the distribution networks, film festivals I think are more important than ever for new talent without a bias. Can you talk about that and the evolving role of film festivals in that way especially here in Canada.

Our primary focus when it comes to promoting and fostering growth of the Canadian film industry is to market the films that we’re showing, to make sure that people know, first of all, what they’re going to have a chance to see and to really encourage them to go out and see it. But also who the artists are behind the film.

Does that balance in your programming in terms of what you select?

We definitely try to make sure that we’re introducing new filmmakers. I think that’s one thing that separates us from other Canadian festivals. We have a commitment to working with new filmmakers who are still honing their craft. Maybe it’s not a perfect work but it’s important that they’re able to test with an audience and see how their work translates with them. From a commerce standpoint, we just want to see the industry continually be successful so that also means making sure that our distribution partners — that we’re treating their product with a lot of respect and that we’re promoting their product in a way that makes sense for them and works for what their goals are. It’s about just continuing to drive and advance the industry. We have a lot of production activity that’s taken place here in Northern Ontario so it also becomes making sure that people are aware of the opportunities to work in the industry. It’s amazing how much job creation actually comes out of a film production. It’s something that we were always aware of but until it came into our backyard we didn’t have the full sense of the scope. Just in terms of hotel rooms that are booked. In terms of service supplies, crafts, catering, things like that…electrical. The incentives that some of the public sector puts into some of the production, and I know that’s different in the United States — it’s been a driving force to allow our Canadian industry to maybe actually compete with the American industry or at least to allow us to tell our stories and not be perhaps oversaturated with some of the American product. [That product is] fantastic. We love American films here as well. But it’s really important that each country’s able to tell their own stories.

By Tim Wassberg

Cinefest runs September 15th-23rd. To purchase tickets, visit this link.

 

Advertisements

IR Print Interview: KUNG FU PANDA: THE EMPEROR’S QUEST [Dreamworks Theatre – Universal Studios Hollywood]

Coming in June this summer, the newly re-invented Dreamworks Theatre and the release of a specially-made short film: “Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor’s Quest” are being introduced at Universal Studios Hollywood. It took a year and a half to get to this long- awaited moment where kids from all over the world will be completely immersed in a 360 degree visual and sound adventure. Jon Corfino, Project Director & Show Producer at Universal Studios Hollywood Creative, sat down to discuss bringing together this new experience

What is truly unique about this new Kung Fu Panda attraction?

Jon Corfino: We have spent lots of time and effort to re-create the Dreamworks Theatre. It has a Mission Revival architecture with a touch of Art Deco from the 1920s. Guests line up at the entrance of the theatre and pass a ticket booth meeting a sleeping-on-the-job Pinocchio (from the “Shrek”. Movies). [They will] discover a very lavish outdoor garden with details from the many animated features produced by Dreamworks. In the lobby, they will also experience a mural show with the various familiar Dreamworks characters explaining that it’s time to go on a “Kung Fu Adventure”. The whole point is to immerse guests into the world of Dreamworks with lots of visual illusions projected onto all the surfaces and the walls. In normal time, all of the walls are solid grey, but as you enter this place, an amazing set of visual effects [is projected] giving the guest the illusion you are in fact in a lavish theatre from the Golden Age of Hollywood. What is unique is the use for the first time of the integration of interior projection mapping in order to immerse guests in a 180 degree adventure. It is as if the whole theatre comes to life in front of your eyes. We are also be using 7 Christie 4K boxer cinema projectors and a 360 degree surround sound audio. And, as an extra bonus, we will have sweeping physical effects from water to wind in order for the audience to truly be part of this adrenaline ride!

It’s the perfect illusion?

JC: Absolutely! We have created a total illusion of a world that is not just here but only projected into this reality. This is also the only show where it’s worth sitting a little bit in the back since you are surrounded by an action evolving from the front screen to the side walls. You will see “Kung Fu” fighting right under and on each side of your eyes.

What was the biggest challenge putting together this attraction?

JC: Usually when you have this type of mapped projection it’s done outside on buildings having a specific geometry. Therefore, you can use the angle and the bumps of such geometry [to establish the image]. But here, we have flat walls and we had to create a sense of volume, of depth. We had to do almost a 3D mapping projection. Therefore the task was quite complex. But, at the end, I know we made it work and you will be fooled by what you see. You will believe! Like you believed in the magic we had created in the Harry Porter Castle main attraction. By the way, this is not a 3D attraction because 3D is better used when the action comes at you from the center and front of the theatre. But here, because the action is taking place all around you, it would not have been as effective with 3D and therefore we decided to use the mapping technology of projection instead. This is all about your peripheral vision and about immersing yourself in the Kung Fu Panda world!

Special Thanks To The Universal Studios Team [Athenia Veliz-Dunn & Heather Mann]

By Emmanuel Itier

Fest Track On Sirk TV: SUNDANCE MIX 2018 (Quick Look) [Park City, UT)

IR Print Interview: Jim Parsons For “Young Sheldon” [WBTV Studio Day – TCA Winter Press Tour 2018]

Imparting knowledge and passing on the possibilities in an interesting exercise when the character you play on a major international TV show is that of Sheldon Cooper, played with finesse and specific approach by Emmy winner Jim Parsons. Visiting the set of “Young Sheldon” as part of the Warner Brother TV Day at Warner Brothers Studios during the TCA Winter Tour 2018, Jim sat down to talk about the evolution of the character, his perceptions and the living on of Sheldon’s legacy.

Your understanding of Sheldon has evolved over the years including unforseen aspects of compassion. Can you talk about that?

Jim Parsons: Well, what’s interesting to me is — and again, why I’m not a writer is because I don’t see things like this. But what they touched on, how we’re seeing, of course, [in this show] is how Sheldon evolves into who we know him to be on the adult older show. And I made a joke with [the younger actor], “Eventually you’ll get to be more irritating,” I said today to him. But it’s really kind of the truth about it. It’s like we’re going to see the slings and arrows – I’m sorry – of life and just growing turn him into even more of the person I’m playing. I don’t know. It’s interesting.

And yet there is more a transformation as the older Sheldon has become engaged…

JP: I do agree with that. I think that it’s one of the journeys they’ve really worked to take him on. We’ve had several different episodes, it feels like, where Amy is coaching him in the ways of being empathetic — we’re working on an episode right now, not to give anything away, where he realizes that she doesn’t do certain things that she wants to do because she knows how he’ll react to it. And he doesn’t like it. And so he begins — it’s another example — he starts trying to work on not complaining about what she wants. It lasts for a couple of pages (laughing) I’ll be honest, as an actor, I really thank God for it because it’s one of the fences that they straddle so well as writers is keeping everything true enough to keep the audience there, but moving it along enough to keep everybody working on it interested, I think including themselves. It’s a major gift and the longer we’ve gone on our show, the more evident that’s become.

Now the overarching journey, especially with your — Sheldon’s relationship with his mother in “Young Sheldon” — I mean, obviously that affects how you relate in present time

JP: Well, I feel like, if I’m being honest, the writers keep doing the thinking about it. So not to sound like…

But you inhabit him.

JP: Without a doubt. But so much of the inhabiting process for me is just saying the words out loud in rehearsal. And once you’ve done that, how IT makes you feel to say it, how it affects the person that you’re saying it to…that kind of instructs it along. And I also will say, I’ve tried to be — I don’t overthink this, but I have always tried to be very conscious of — it’s kind of what they teach you in acting 101 — don’t judge your character or whatever. I try to leave myself enough at the whims of him to be able to do kind of a 180 from one script to the next if it’s just not that happening in that week or whatever the mood is that Sheldon’s in. I don’t know. At the same time, I guess, I’m not thinking about it too much.

So they’ve talked about writing the end of the show. Can you see going several more seasons?

JP: I think anything is possible. But that’s the thing. I just think anything in thisv– it’s getting into really odd territory as far as less and less examples [of places] to go. “Well, they did this. And there’s this other show did this.” It’s really getting into a very individual state of how does everybody feel and whatever. And that includes the writers, who we’ve not had some major discussions with. There hasn’t been a cast and producer discussion about the future of our show or whatever. I will tell you that, for whatever reason, they’ve all been enjoyable seasons. But as far as camaraderie goes, the frivolity on the set, and just the jovial atmosphere has never been at a more pitch degree than it is this season. And I don’t know if that’s because they’re always like, “I think the end is near”. Or just because it’s uncertain now where we’ve gone through so many seasons, we’ve been lucky enough to just know certainly what’s going on.” But I don’t know. I think it’s related to some sort of appreciation of each other that you were able — kind of like family — to just kind of take it for granted that they’re going to be there next week. They’re going to be there. And now the weeks are might be getting short. You just don’t know. So because of that, I could see making things go further. It’s really hard to say. And there’s so many people making their own decisions and all.

How has your appreciation for TV evolved?

JP: Well, you know what’s funny is the day and age we are in I feel is, in a good way, overwhelming. I think we’re in a wonderful time in the entertainment industry in general as far as everything goes. But it’s still so in flux, and changing, and moving, and growing. Just the sheer amount of options is just– it’ll be really interesting to see because you can’t help to feel like everything is still evolving.

How much time do you spend on doing the voice-over for the show?

JP: Very little. I can do anywhere from three to seven episodes in a 45-minute period. I mean, even on a heavy episode. What I enjoy about this process [is that] it’s different version of using timing and a different version of putting a pause here or whatever there that will make it funnier, hopefully, or just change it. And when it’s not timed to visual, it’s just less of that.

Can you talk about imparting appreciation to Ian? So he knows sort of what to expect in terms of the impact of Sheldon as a character. You’ve said that you’ve sort of guided him. But how do you maintain that sort of mentorship?

JP: Well, if it’s happening at all, it’s happening as organically as it can, and it’s happening a lot through his mother. Lee Armitage, his mother, and I, we are usually texting and incontact with each other a bit, like quite frequently and not for a pointed purpose. We just enjoy talking. But as you do with relationships, the specific questions get snuck in, not snuck in, but they just come up. Like, “Have you ever been to one of these events before?” And so it just happens very organically like that. There’s no real preparing for anybody for some of the more, oh God, recognizable type aspects of this and the celebrity of it or whatever, just the being noticed. Any preparation, especially with young people, and really, for adults, too, has to happen before. And, in these kids’ cases, they really do have a remarkable set of parents. They’re all different. They’re all unique.

Does that allow the kids to be naturalistic, do you think, in their acting? Or does it have to be nuanced?

JP: I don’t know if that’s a direct relation, but I do, now that you say that, I have to think that, yes, none of them have a kind of like – I don’t know – squeaky little cutesy thing that they came in doing. They all just kind of, as the adult actors do, read the material, say it, and see where it goes.

But as creator Chuck Lorre has, you found the way to make somebody like Sheldon so likable despite some of his characteristics. There’s an art to that.

JP: Well, I think, though, that it’s partly, too, a point of view that a lot of actors come in with to varying degrees and is, in their own special way, seeing what is redeemable about my character? Because coming into it with over-obvious assumption, of course, that my character doesn’t want to do harm. Of course, my character wants other people to like him or her in one way or another. And when you kind of approach it through that, I think that’s really the way around in how things are, if not softened, the audience can be able to identify in like, “I’m a good person, and I say nasty things sometimes!” (laughing). I don’t know.

By Tim Wassberg

IR Exclusive Print Interview: Peter Giraldi Of Blue Ribbon Content [WBTV Studio Day – TCA Winter Press Tour 2018]

The aspect of the diversifying element of digital and conventional is a continuing discussion that permeates both the marketing but also the creative and production ends of new material. Peter Giraldi, who serves as Executive VP, both of Blue Ribbon Content, Warner Brothers’ digital platform, as well as Alternative Programming at Warner Animation, has a unique perspective in both looking at the tastes of millennials and older but also to the new consumers presently consuming digital entertainment. Giraldi spoke with Inside Reel at the WBTV Studio Day at the Warner Brothers lot in Burbank, California about evolution, creative decision making and instinct.

We spoke before about animation and how animation feels. Can you talk about the different ideas and styles of how that fits into the bigger idea of what Blue Ribbon versus Warner Animation proper which has evolved from its shorts beginnings.

Peter Giraldi: That’s right. I split my time between Blue Ribbon and Warner Bros. animation, so a lot of what I do is still in the animated world, and I took that with me. Both Sam Register and I took that with us when we started Blue Ribbon. It is important. The thing is that animation is very expensive when it’s done well, and it’s all super long production time. So part of the thing that we’re doing is trying to figure out new methodologies, new partners to kind of condense that. Not the quality, but the — maybe it’s paperless animation, maybe it’s digital, maybe we’re doing more stuff in Harmony or a program like that, so we can condense that a little bit.

Does itcome down to the timeframe of it? Where you got 5 minutes first in terms of lenth, 10 minutes. You’ve got everything from Samurai Jack back to Teen Titans Go!.

PG: Yes, for sure. And I’m comfortable in the short form in between 7 and 11 minutes. I do a lot of stuff for Adult Swim, and those are quarter-hour formats. It’s more about, first of all, what the story is. Secondly, what that vision is, the art direction or the creative direction of whatever it is, and how you get that across, with the budget and the runtime. Is it very stylized, is there a lot of held frames, is there a lot of motion graphic trickery? Or is it full-on just drawing, drawing, drawing, drawing, drawing. There’s two different ways. We did a show called Ginger Snaps — it was on ABC digital– actually Ashley Simpson does the voice for that, but it’s a young writer named Sono Patel. And for that we used — we were very smart – we used an animation facility in New Zealand because it worked for us. We missed no turnaround time. Because by the time we got in in the morning, all the shots were ready for us to look at [from the day before], and that really condensed the budget for us. So, because of my experience in animation, I can look into it a little bit and understand the pre-pro and how to work it out for the budget.

How active are you guys in development? In going after, taking those meetings, finding those new voices…

PG: Very active. A lot of times, it’s like, how do we take what they’re doing and — maybe it doesn’t need anything from us. We just give them our support and let them keep doing what they’re doing. Sometimes, they want to learn more and elevate a little bit, so we bring some more “traditional” talent into the party. Or sometimes they actually say, “You know what, I’m done. Can I mess around with the Hair Bears or Snagglepuss?” Sometimes what helps attract talent as well, isnot us pushing…it’s people coming to us and saying, “I’ve been a Huckleberry Hound fan my whole life.” It’s like, “Well, come on over.” And to be open to able to try new things with it…within reason.

I was able to see Killing Joke finally, but I saw it Joke on my tablet. Nothing else beyond that. Can you talk about that, and talk about people consuming that way, especially animation, not just live action.

PG: I think, for animation specifically, it’s fantastic because it’s backlit — and I’m talking pure technical now — it’s a backlit medium. [So the tablet is] fantastic for animation. It’s perfect. That’s the way we create it, half the time, either on a lightbox, or a [Cintiq or something like that. It’s great, the range of color, the range of effects, the range of — and even in the pre-production of how it’s actually created — it’s great. Digital has done great things for animation. What has not done great is people thinking they don’t have to draw anymore. There’s no getting away from drawing. It takes a lot of drawings to make a lot of good animations.

We don’t want 2D to go away.

PG: That’s not where my tastes lie in CG. I’m a 2D guy. In a 3D world.

By Tim Wassberg

IR Print Interview: David S. Goyer For “Krypton” [SyFy – NBC TCA Winter Press Tour 2018]

Very few Hollywood writers have had the kind of interaction with both comics lore and top tier filmmakers in honing the craft. David Goyer is one of the elite few. He worked on The Dark Knight Christopher Nolan Trilogy but also on Man Of Steel & Batman Versus Superman. On top of that, he is actively working on “Fantastic Voyage” for Jim Cameron as well as being in the writers room for the new Terminator trilogy as soon as the right reverted back to the legendary director. His TV work is also very accomplished. Most recently he created “Constantine for NBC and “DaVinci’s Demons” for Starz. Next might be the most high stakes challeng”e for him via TV: “Krypton” on SyFy which follows the exploits of Seg-El, Superman’s grandfather. After completely a panel for “Krypton” at the NBC TCA Winter Press Day, Goyer spoke with The Inside Reel about texture, family and responsibility within his new series.

Can you talk about integrating Adam Strange as a sort of perceptor point for “Krypton” as a series?

David Goyer: Jeff [Goyer] and I always have a soft spot for him. As Jeff said, he’s a guy who ping-pongs around the world. I think he’s got an interesting backstory in and of himself, so maybe there was a possibility for an interesting spin-off or something like that. And we just thought we needed an audience proxy for the show. We needed somebody to represent people that aren’t comic book fans, that maybe don’t know anything about the Superman mythology. It seemed like a good match, and as Jeff alluded to, in terms of some of the other comic book arcs– there’s just some interesting things that we can do with him, particularly looking forward to season two and season three.

Can you talk about casting Seg-El and what compelled you about Cameron Cuffe as the character?

DG: It’s funny because I saw his early audition in the UK, and I called Jeff and I said, “I think he’s the guy. Check him out.” I don’t know. He’s calm and he’s heroic. He’s instantly likable as a person when I met him. I was joking about the talk, but that was a very real talk that we had in London. I said [to him], “You’re going to be under a tremendous amount of pressure, and it doesn’t mean you have to be a choir boy, but it does mean that you are an ambassador on a different plane than most comic book worlds.” And he got it. And he’s a genuine fan. He genuinely wanted to be there, which is also really important, because when you cast someone like that, you are thinking about, “Okay, this has to go hopefully for eight, nine years, and [we’re] at the beginning of it.” But he’s going to be front and center, doing all this press, meeting all these people in real life, and he will be an ambassador for us as a show. So he’s a great actor and he’s mature for his age, or it just doesn’t happen.

Now how did the whole idea, when casting, how far along were you in the writing process, and how did that sort of inset to the psychology of Seg-El as a character?

DG: I mean we were — if we hadn’t cast Cam, we would’ve had to push filming. We were right up against start. We’d already seen over 500 people and we cast sort of everyone but him.

And all 10 episodes of Season One were written at this point?

DG: No. Not all 10 were written. We’d written the first three. So we were literally talking about pushing production because we hadn’t found him, the guy. We’d already cast Georgina, who plays Lyta Zod, and the only reason she’s not out here, too, is because they’re both in so many scenes– we’re still filming — It was impossible to get them both here at the same time.

Did you ever worry, I mean chemistry-wise, that you hired the most important guy last? What if he doesn’t match up?

DG: Well, that’s why we had a screen test with Georgina. I mean, because they have to work together, because there’s a Romeo-and-Juliet aspect to the show, which I shouldn’t talk about. And so their relationship is the central relationship in the show.

This must be an intense production…

DG: It’s definitely intense. In terms of Warner Horizon, it’s by far the biggest budget — or Syfy. In terms of science fiction, it is the biggest budget show we’ve ever been on.

Could you talk about the family aspect? The whole thing with Zods. You can’t give too much away, but can you talk about the intersection of that?

DG: It’s a big, big aspect of the show, and the show is — it is as much about the House of Zod as it is about the House of El, and so family lineage, and what families stand for, and the family name, is an enormous part of the show.

By Tim Wassberg

Perceptive Comedy & Identifiable Motivation: The 2018 NBC Network TCA Winter Press Tour

The essence of comedy is making the balance between heart and sarcasm, reality and fantasy a texture of perception. The different structures and ideas within NBC’s new series point to interesting and conscious form of diversification both in stories and in casting while still playing to its strengths. During the main NBC presentations at TCA Winter Press Tour, the rhythm of the ideas rings true.

Good Girls This crime comedy about 3 women pulling a heist for each of their own personal reasons speaks to the different kinds of chemistry and dynamics between the characters. Creator Jenna Bans explains “It definitely leans into the fun and chemistry of these 3 women. These character need to say what they are doing is for good so they will be able to cross the line. They are definitely breaking rules and laws.” Christina Hendricks, known for her role on “Mad Men”, plays Beth. She explains: “We have carved out our own little space. That blend of desperation and comedy. The tone is tricky and we play every moment as real. Sometimes they are over the top, hysterical and bizarre. [When these characters] experience crazy things, you can be funny. I feel like Beth in this situation is making decisions to protect her family. But unlike Joan [in “Mad Men”], she enjoys it. Beth is selfish. She likes adrenaline. She likes power.” Mae Whitman who plays Christina’s younger sister Annie also explains: “In every episode there comes up an element of moral justification. The fun thing is to see how far into that we go. Is what they are doing right or wrong and who is getting hurt in the process. To me one thing is that Jenna creates a whole world without it being preachy. I felt like I knew the people.” Bans also comments on the style of performance needed: “I am a hug fan of improv in these shows. The best are when [these girls] are shooting the shit.” Retta, best known from “Parks & Recreation, plays Beth’s best friend Ruby, speaks about what interested her: “It is rare I read a pilot and I cry and I get into it.” Hendricks had her own reservations: “I was worried about being on network. It was so edgy and dark. We have many discussions. I said you have to promise you won’t back down from this and it was going to be what it was going to be. I could also feel myself [as a person] in the role.” Whitman’s approach was slightly different: “I feel like I am always the weird girl. One thing I loved about this show is that it is 3 interesting people in the leads and they happen to be bad ass women. And so much of the comedy of it comes from the absurdity of it.” Bans concludes her perception of the show itself: “This show becomes about these characters balancing their personal lives. They are trying to keep going with life as normal…but they are in a buttload of trouble.

Rise By comparison, the musical/drama examines the texture of a drama department within the high school and the struggles therein. Jason Katim, exec producer who also worked on “Friday Night Lights”, explains: “Having a show like “This Is Us” has cleared the path. Shows that are very character driven, are the shows that appeal to me as a viewer but also those I like to tell. [But] I also wanted it to be a show where you were amazed to see the singing but that you connected into the singers with what was going on in their lives so it would weigh on another level.” Damon J. Gillespie, who plays Robbie Thorne, one of the students who is between the two worlds of football and the theater program in the show, talks about his approach to the role: “I kind of changed my lifestyle. My uncle is a personal trainer so I wanted to get physically fit. However when you are a dancer you already do those things. That aspect felt at home but relearning how to do a blocking rehearsal.” Katim continues about how to balance the perceptions of the different areas within the school in terms of the story but also the challenges of telling certain aspects (like which musical that could be performed): “I really felt that I needed to make it my own story. In terms of the football angle, what I love about the show is that as much it is about high school theater, it is about the football team. I like the idea of striking a balance. When I took on the show, they happened to be doing “Spring Awakening” at Pacific Palisades High School. I talked to the director afterwards and she told me about the challenges like the school wanting to censure certain parts.” Gillespie continues on the parallels in his education but also the differences in showing theater on stage versus shooting it for television: “In theater, you have 2 ½ half hours to get to the aspect of the story while with TV you are doing it sporadically. So it becomes…what makes me cry…what makes me happy. It was very layered. My cousin went to public high school. It was the normal every day high school student. For me at an arts school, it was completely opposite. There was only 40 in my graduating class. So I only know the arts school but it shaped who I am and how I think.

A.P. Bio This show from Mike O’Brien who wrote for “Saturday Night” would seem to come from a more sardonic point of view especially with its casting of Glenn Howerton (known for “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” as a Harvard philosophy professor turned interim science teacher. Howerton talks about the challenges with having a successful show but also creating a new character: “I did officially leave “Sunny”. The hard thing about people seeing you in the same thing is that they have a hard time seeing you in about everything else. I think there is some real heart [this character which is] key. I don’t think he is as hardened as Dennis [his character in “Philadelphia”. I am compartmentalizing. There is a little more tenderness to this guy although he doesn’t want people to realize it. [But] I am always looking for some sort of truth. This is about a man who is a grieving but doesn’t believe that he is grieving. I like to think that he is a guy who has big feelings who has to play it like he just doesn’t care. Because it stop serving you to feel things so openly. That’s funny right?” O’Brien speaks to the design of the character to match Howerton: “I was very excited about the idea of having a fun silly playful show that has an extremely intelligent lead. Not that it hasn’t been done before. I have many character [integrated] in the size and shape that Jack does. You friends that abandoned you when you were stalling out.” To the idea of philosophy as a construct within the character, Howerton continues: “You can use a philosophy to justify almost any behavior…if I am ever called out on it. What I love is that Mike wrote a character that is intellectually smart but emotionally immature.

Super Bowl LII The greatest show on earth at times always can have the essence of Al Michael’s voice. Like John Madden, his calls have become synonymous with the NFL. Michaels reflects on the many years he has called the fields his home: “I have always said the NFL is the greatest unscripted show out there. I think back to the first one we did where James Harrison ran back the interception 100 yards [in Super Bowl XLIII]. In a way the Super Bowl is the easiest game to do. [You] just let the game break. I am a production junkie too. We all work hand and glove. [But] at the end of the day, I am a fan like anyone else. I like to watch games myself.” However, he explains the difference when he is with friends and family watching a game: “If you go to a party, there is always a guy who thinks he knows more than you do.” He also speaks of some of the more challenging games he has called: “There was a Skycam game when we had the fog in New England. And, at that point, we couldn’t see the field from our upper field camera. We had to watch from the point of view of the quarterback. It really gives you a different perspective but you couldn’t do the whole game that way. However, that night in Foxboro was cool.

The Voice In this upcoming season, Kelly Clarkson, famously known as the main breakout from the original “American Idol” show, adds her perception moving to the reverse side as a judge. Clarkson speaks on the irony and competition in this new role: “It is definitely awesome to fight the three other coaches. I still feel like the same kid that entered this industry. [But] I can’t hide excitement. My favorite part [so far is] to be a coach. I hate to be a judge. I feel shitty afterwards. When I started singing I started by singing opera music. But, at the core, people like talent over aesthetics.” She continues about her interaction with the other judges, obviously all music stars in their own right: “It is hilarious how much we grovel. They constantly remind me they all won.” But she then explains her own rise to stardom: “I don’t fit the pop star image that people have had in their mind. [But] it is a different world now. Success is rated differently with streaming. What happened in my life was incredible. People dream for that moment and not everybody gets to achieve it.

By Tim Wassberg