Life Notions & Impact Personifications: The PBS TCA Summer Press Tour 2012 – Feature

PBS always tends to find the balance between notions of life represented in hope along with the tragedies and personifications present in our past. From the notions of planetary exploration to the impact of the Dust Bowl to new arts initiative in (of all places) Vegas, the network continues to support and represent the best in our tendencies.


Within the texture of “American Experience”, “Death & The Civil War” examines the aspect of this war which changed the fabric of America. The idea of informing next of kin and handling of the dead in war was made strategic in later conflicts simply because of the emotional harm it wrought in this war.

Ric Burns, director of this “Experience” who also made “The Civil War” for PBS with his brother Ken, saw the expansion inherent in this exercise. He explains in terms of visual representation that “we didn’t want to use physical re-enactments but more the physical realities of war” continuing that “the [balance] between life and absence is a very powerful theme”. The idea was that “things are going to come to an end and how do we hold on to those things”. Elements such as “lockets of hair that are pulled off [and still exist] are profoundly moving”. He admits that “we were dedicated to showing the war in its full gruesomeness” because “we must understand what war is before we again undertake something so ghastly”. He strongly pleads that “we need to know what it costs” which in the series “became a moral imperative to be encompassed”. Cutting his teeth of “The Civil War” with Ken in 1990, “the emphasis was someplace else”. Making this series, using the battle at Bull Run as an example, “it was about the fact that they [the commanders] didn’t know what they were getting into” because “there was an utter lack of preparation for casualties of that tremendous number”. In terms of connecting the audience, “if it is not death, it is a mortifying constraint” because “I think there is a powerful way to connect to this basic human urge” in the essence of the fact that “the dead and living are [constantly] having conversation”.

Drew Faust, the current President of Harvard University and author of the book: “Republic Of Suffering” on which this film is loosely based, says that “this was a war in which there was a vividness” and “that had to do with the arrival of photography”. This was specifically true because “far more dramatic were the battlefield photographs after the battle that showed mostly the dead”. The book that she wrote “deals with questions of meaning and religion”. The death toll of the Civil War “as inflated for today was 7 million and half of them were unidentified”. She adds that “as a sister or as a wife, you would never know what happened to your loved ones”. She finds it interesting that “people asked me when I wrote the book if it was depressing? Not at all.” Rather she “found it inspiring to see people’s response in dealing with death tolls”.

Balancing in structure to an element of domesticity, “Martha Stewart’s Cooking School” offers a more intimate approach to the domestic maven’s ideals of normalcy. Stewart is quick to angle saying “I really think people need to know how to cook”. She likes this program in terms of making it “because it is basic and informative”. In terms of her own approach, “I talk about buying organic when you can”. She relates a story about one of her housekeepers saying “that I brought a big basket to her and she almost cried”. Relating the organic structure, she takes note of “what is going on in Texas with the starving cattle” saying that “we are going to see all of this reflected in the prices.” She encourages people “to grow something to eat”. Then she talks about the growth of her empire saying “I originally started with KMart which was a great store in 1987” but that “we have been up and down the retail pyramid”. She also addresses who might be good to play her eventually in a movie saying “Meryl Streep’s too close to me and I will live longer than anybody”. When she is asked about her hobbies, she says she has lots of them but most “are babies because of my grandchildren” but adds that “babies are another business”. In terms of a quick fix fast food in today’s marketplace she says that she has “eaten 1 Burger King and 2 McDonalds” though she admits coming into LA that morning “I had an In N’ Out burger today”. Her parents, according to Martha, were “original organic people” though she says that “every once in a while I snuck down to a friend’s house” (whose father worked for Pepsi) “and put whipped cream” on the drink. In terms of her legacy, Stewart says “you can edit your life which I do more frequently than ever” which, for her, means “simplifying it”. This translates for her into “making things to add to your home and yourself” adding that “I don’t plant any annual flowers for example”. Overall, she explains, “my story is that I am the daughter and one of six kids”. In terms of her life occupation, “I centered on a subject matter that I could actually excel in” though she half jokes that “Oprah and I are very different people”.


Showing a propensity for the balance of many things, Kenneth Branagh always remains faithful to his roots in returning to “Masterpiece”. In coming back to his Swedish-set vision of “Wallander” in its third incarnation, he explores the notion of character structure with his always specific eye. Branagh finds Wallander “thoughtful and meditative” but supposes “the distinction of him is the rather lack of vanity” in that “he doesn’t have the machismo swagger as much”. His perception is that Wallander “seems to just live for the job” but “he has a kind of empathy for crime that is dangerous to him because it is dehabilitating”. In terms of ticks, Wallander “doesn’t have the coat or the toothpick or the weird obsession with cars”. The location in Scandinavia where the series is set is also important for Branagh in that “I felt it was a landscape that I was not familiar with” in that “it feels like everything has been composed by God”. Remaining faithful to the character is important “though, in terms of closeness to the ‘Wallander’ novel, with the author’s permission, we try to do that nebulous sounding thing of staying within the circumstances [of it].” Branagh has recently become Sir Ken which he was informed of “a full six weeks before the Queen’s birthday” joking that “I thought I was really in trouble”. Right now, he is working what he calls “the Jack Ryan origin story” (at Paramount) which he will also have an acting part in. He continues that “he is always in search of good work” adding that “I have come at directing that way” because “I enjoy directing actors”. The satisfaction of doing certain projects is different. For him, “sometimes in a film, you can have ownership” but “you give yourself differently in film than you do in theater”. Looking at his roots, he admits “working class Belfast is what we were” and that “my father was a joiner”. Both his parents were “of the idea that money doesn’t make you happy” and “they were concerned because they couldn’t help me [in that way].” In terms of his father’s influence, he says “I made a garden bench that sits in my garden to this day” admitting that “it is unsafe” but “I had a design” though “it was terrible”. Now, “it sits in a rackish garden with a sense of mockery” and “shows my uselessness as a practical man of the house”. Looking at his progression to “Wallander”, Branagh speaks that “my first job was in television” so “there was a sense of returning home”. He admits that “it is remarkable to come back and learn a little bit more about a role that is quite naked” because “you are trying not to have schtick”. In playing the character, “you feel upset as Wallander alot of the time” though he continues that “the third time I was better in dealing with it but not devaluing what I was doing creatively”. The key relies in that “when I don’t know, I don’t think the audience quite knows”.


With a dexterous number of Emmy nominations, “Downton Abbey” broke through the structures of British/American crossover by finding a way to speak to both angles of the youth and the mature at the same time. Many adhere this thought to the inflection of modern perceptions in an otherwise period setting.  Julian Fellowes, the exec producer and showrunner who also wrote the Robert Altman film “Gosford Park” says “we like our laughs” but “this season, in a way, is about redemption from the war”. What has been most fulfilling for him in terms of the show’s crossover is that “there is a liberation in it being original” but “that you must be careful to give [it] reasonable action and emotional resonance”. The effectiveness relies in that “it looks like a classic period drama of the 70s but the energy is much more modern”. He indicates one of his influences in the “trollop novel”. In terms of writing, “the language is more what we hear as modern” but “colloquial language is much older than you think”. However, he has yet to find one colloquialism complaint that has been correct. He explains that the latest example was the word: “kids” which was first used in the 15th Century. He jokes that “there isn’t a strange place called ‘period’ where people dress in funny clothes” but admits that “it is true that as life changes, disciplines change”. For specifically the family in “Downton”, “these were tough years” because “even though the ways of keeping up these estates became easier, it was a toss up for many families if it was indeed worth the struggle”. Focusing on the characters, he thinks “[Lady] Mary is one of those people who gives into society” but “she is not a rebel”. In terms of production for “Downton”, each series takes about 2 years to make. Looking to the future of the story, he says “the 1920s is a very interesting period for me” in that it is a “much more nebulous time” because “it is a transition between the Old World and the time before the 2nd World War”.

Approaching Lady Mary Crowley, actress Michelle Dockery thinks her character “started out as a bit of a brat” and “was far colder [at the inset]”. Leading into the most recent series, she says “her incident with the Mook softened her in that something actually happened to her which made her more vulnerable”. Initially, because of Fellowes’ “Gosford Park” history, “I thought initially she was going to be like Kristin Scott Thomas [in that movie]” but now “I really enjoy this journey I wasn’t expecting”.


Balancing out as Robert Crawley, the Earl Of Gratham, Hugh Bonneville says that his reaction to the series’ impact was “gobsmacked” but that in looking at the simple progression of the characters: “[Robert’s] destiny was predetermined” because “his marriage was a business transaction” though he happened to fall in love.

Elizabeth McGovern plays Cora, the wife of Robert and Countess Of Gratham. Her intention balances this trajectory which reflects in the next coming series when Shirley MacClaine joins the cast as her mother Martha Levinson. In the progression of this casting, McGovern speaks that “I think there is a light that mothers give to their daughters” but “it became very clear that the journey of Cora had gone from Shirley”. Shirley’s character Martha “is a more old fashioned idea of woman’s strength” which “is good to resurrect if it is correct”.

MacClaine, always outspoken, relates that “Downton Abbey” “definitely creeps into your pores” but that the shooting process “was increasing [difficult] in stamina and work ethic”. As to why the show is such a hit, she heard about it from her hairdresser. MacClaine also relates when she first met one of her co-stars on “Downton”: Maggie Smith, saying “We met at the Oscars. I guess I lost. There was this big chocolate cake. I came off [the stage, grabbed a piece of the cake] and said “Fuck! I don’t care if I’m thin ever again”. She says that Smith remembers it but that “she’s younger…by one year”. In seeing this world, she makes an interesting observation explaining that “the corsets were so demanding” adding that “I realize, of course, that there was a class system” but that was because “you couldn’t get dressed” on your own.


Heading into the following intention, “Half The Sky“, inspired by the book of the same name by Nicholas Kristof and his wife/co-writer Sheryl WuDunn, explores the notion of women’s persecution in the world. Enlisting the eyes of several well known activists including Meg Ryan, Diane Lane and America Ferrara, they attempt to put names to the faces to expose and educate people on some of these actions around the world.

Maro Chermayeff tries to put a picture within the structure saying that with these specials “we are not trying to elect someone” but rather to “tell stories on the ground” that “people might not otherwise be thinking about”. She adds that “it makes a difference but sometimes with this subject matter, there is commitment that is already there”. In approaching the celebrities to this cause, she explains that “it was not that Meg [Ryan] or Diane [Lane] should be experts but that they would be the eyes and the ears” or rather “witnesses”. The balance remains in what is seen to which Chermayeff states “there is a moment when people say “we cannot stay that long” because it is too much for them. However, she continues “if you give people a chance, people will come” because by “opening that door, people come in”.

Kristof, the author of the book, reflects this ideal encouraging that “there are real issues here” and “no one can ignore that fact”. The aim “is that we try to focus on organizations that are on the ground”. WuDunn, his co-writer as well as wife, speaks of her personal connection to this plight, recollecting stories of her family. She begins by saying “my grandmother’s feet were bound [as was tradition]. It happened that there were some Westerners [visiting] in China who thought [the action] was horrific”. These Westerners began talking to some Chinese intellectuals, which initialized an intervention to stop the practice at the least in that area. WuDunn echoes her husband’s intentions saying “we are not trying to tell people what they should do” but that by exposing a viewing audience to this material, “they can choose what they are drawn to”.

Diane Lane gives her perception of this outreach by connecting it to her own work relating that “many years ago, I did a film called ‘Unfaithful’ and everywhere I went, they enjoyed the movie. [Because of the subject matter], I was conflicted about that.” She saw that disconnect in that “there was an acceptance of another world which is forbidden in their culture”. Through her experiences within charities and projects like this “there is forgiveness” and “it is separate from being a woman and citizen of the world” but she also stresses that “education is the key through and through”. For her, “the legal right to say no is a physical experience” along with “a convergence of influences”. Her faith becomes one of connection as she adds that “my grandmother was a Pentecostal preacher” but that the horrors some women face in the world are just “a question of the odds of one’s birth”. She concludes speaking that “it is really unfair that people have to be saved rather than have an opportunity”.


Moving into a more artistic-based terrain, “American Masters” continues to examine different interflowing personas. The intrinsic subject of the most recent incarnation revolves around a business and creative mogul with as many stories as the artists he shepherded: David Geffen. Retrieved from his boat off Sardinia, the notoriously media shy Geffen made his presence heard in a relatively angled way. He begins succinctly saying “I had successes [but] I think failure is the great motivator”. His mother, he relates, came from Palestine in 1931 and that both his parents were socialists. He was bar mitzvahed but didn’t have much of a religious upbringing. He initializes a conception of his early days in the music industry saying “when I was a kid, all my peers wanted to play guitar and be in a band”. Switching quickly to film, Geffen relates that “the demise of the DVD has had an extreme impact” but “that it is very hard to get into the movie business both then and now”. What began changing his life is when he was misdiagnosed with bladder cancer in 1976, commenting that “I just stopped working” and “I took my eye off the ball at Geffen Records”. That said, he explains “I always thought it was fun to get to the office” though “I never thought I was the smartest guy in the room”. He recollects that “I’ve had any number of jobs I was fired from” but in order to create a true company, “it takes time to create an infrastructure” which was the case in the rise of Dreamworks. Moving back to discussing film [Geffen tends to jump around], “the business has changed dramatically” in that “in the world today, the story means more than the cast”. “There are not many big stars [now, in both music and film],” he continues, “because you need repetition. [Especially in music], you need to hear things alot”.


Rounding up structures comes back to the history of broadcasting which is inevitably reflected in the always effective “Pioneers Of Television“. Focusing on the impact of miniseries along with shows such as “Knots Landing”, the reconnection of Rachel Ward and Richard Chamberlain of “The Thorn Birds”, who last made an appearance 30 years ago, speaks to the impact of television with such a TV event that is still remembered.

Ward relates that originally “I came from England but I had been working for a little bit before I got ‘The Thorn Birds'” She arrived in the US in 1981 and the “stars were in my favor”. She says “when I originally read ‘The Thorn Birds’ I did not want to do it but my agent was insistent” explaining “I was kind of half-hearted about it” because “it did not have a natural rhythm” and “read stiffly”. In terms of the audition process, she said that she was disdained for her acting ability but “everything else was kind of right about me”. She says she took her luck “for granted” but that “I got it right with Richard [Chamberlain] at the next audition”. As production began, “I definitely struggled with it” because “you need a bit of talent” and “enormous guts”. Chamberlain, sitting next to her, beaming, says “the whole structure of the miniseries is wonderful” connecting that “series television moves a little too fast and movies were a bit too slow”. He relates that “for ‘Shogun’ we were 6 1/2 months shooting in Japan” but “I had a lot of trouble remembering lines”. Lou Gossett Jr., on hand representing “Roots” (by far one of the most watched miniseries of all times, relates “[with ‘Roots’] lo and behold, we stopped the world. [It was] an opener and put us on the map.”

PBS continues to reflect life with both legends passing on knowledge and perceptions to a younger age and, with a hit like “Downton Abbey”, is connecting to the cross-section of America like never before.

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PBS TCA Summer Press Tour: Cameron Crowe For PEARL JAM TWENTY

Promotional Still Pearl Jam Twenty "PJ20"

Pearl Jam: Matt Cameron, Eddie Vedder, Jeff Ament, Mike McCready, Stone Gossard

The Inside Reel’s Tim Wassberg got a chance to speak with director Cameron Crowe at the TCA PBS Summer Press Tour this past weekend about his new documentary Pearl Jam Twenty. The doc marks the 20th anniversary of Pearl Jam’s tenure as juggernauts in the music industry. “PJ20” spans the band’s history from their inception in the Seattle grunge scene of the early 90’s to their position today as a monument to the musical idealism that is too often sacrificed for money or individual praise. Read on for the brief interview with Pearl Jam Twenty director Cameron Crowe.

TIM WASSBERG: As a community of musicians that both make up Pearl Jam and surround them as well, how has that social interaction affected how their sound and music has evolved over the years from your perspective?

CAMERON CROWE: The band has changed and they talk about that pretty openly in the film. The band started out as Stone Gossard’s group and really evolved into Eddie’s band. And one of the things that Jeff Ament, the bass player of the group, told me early on is “I hope this movie is like group therapy. I want to learn about us”. So we really tried with the interviews to discuss all that as well as the dynamic and how the songs have changed. I know Eddie [Vedder] in particular says “I don’t work so hard at trying to get every song to be three dimensional and mean so much…I just want to breathe right now with the music” which is all part of it. The song “Just Breathe” is a fantastic journey because, I think, it is about being true to your roots while still moving on. 

TW: Could you also talk about achieving a visual style for the doc. After a short while following “Ten”, Pearl Jam stopped making music videos. Because of the lack of that visual representation, could you talk about capturing who they are now? For example, within the footage in “PJ20” of them performing “Release Me” in Verona, you really get to see who they are now which is not possible to a mass audience now that often.

CC: I love that “Release” performance that you mentioned. It’s so much about Eddie and his own relationship with his father…still. That’s one of the things we tried to capture in the film is that, with all these songs, Eddie still means them when he sings them. The band still feels it. And some of these songs are pretty aching content-wise. They [Pearl Jam] don’t just go through the motions. The live footage [thereby] is generally riveting in that way.

Pearl Jam Twenty will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film is part of PBS’ “American Masters” series.

Exacting The Story: The PBS Winter 2010 TCA Press Tour – Feature

PBS always understands the importance of relevant arts and science programming although sometimes its approach appeals more to a bygone generation settled in their ideas with a continual approach to knowledge but not a new approach to thinking in terms of process solving. The reflected programs take on a structure of life gained but still being maintained which in a good way provides a sense of both contentment and warmth in a constantly scitzophrenic state.

American Masters: When You’re Strange This documentary on The Doors which optimizes never-before-seen footage made its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009 and has gone a tightening including a new narration by actor Johnny Depp to replace the temp track by director Tom DiCillo.

John Densmore, the drummer for The Doors, had always been a major proponent force in maintaining their culture relevance whereas other surviving members Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger seemed to want the music to speak for themselves. Despite a very public discernation of the use of the name “The Doors” in terms of touring a couple years back, this new ideal between them seems to translate into the want to create a museum piece to accurately represent the band. John says that he is honored that they have been included in the American Masters series making the joke that “now I know why I wear a cape”. He speaks of the process of The Doors from his perspective. He and Robbie had been living together and Jim [Morrison] came to the top of the hill and was depressed. He sat outside looking above the LA skyline and wrote the lyrics (People are strange/when you’re a stranger/Faces look ugly/when you’re alone) before he came back inside which in turn reflects the ideal behind the title. Densmore says that much of the footage in the docu he has seen before but with this incarnation “there is more depth to the story for me”. He speaks that when they played the Hollywood Bowl, Harrison Ford was a grip on the crew. In terms of the actual idea of the band, he likes the confusion. Some of the new footage brought in which he talks about is “The Highway” footage which was shot when they first got big. In “Strange”, Jim is driving in this footage and the radio comes on to say that Jim Morrison had just died which was trippy. He admits that doesn’t remember all the gigs that they played and honestly didn’t “realize what a dangerous force we were”. That came to a culimination he said at the New Haven concert: “Jim was backstage with some fan and the cops maced him”. The band headed onstage and start playing “Back Door Man”. Jim stopped the song and started talking about “the little blue man in the little blue cap”. That was the end of the show. Manzarek got on the mike and told everyone to go to the police station. While Densmore admits Morrison “couldn’t play one chord on any instrument”, “he was a genius with words” and “he had the melodies” and “could do them arpeggio”.

Densmore talks about the long sections of instrumental they would have in pieces like “The End”. He explains it as “very jazzy” but that “creativity sometimes comes in the same package”. In terms of the legacy of Morrison, Densmore says that he looks to him now and sees that “his destiny was to have this quick shooting star” adding that “he was channelling the angst, the music and the magic”. In reference to the Oliver Stone film in the 1990s which was based on his book, he said “Val Kilmer should have been nominated” because his performance “gave me the creeps on set”. He does admit that the Stone movie was “excessive” but as “Oliver says, ‘If you don’t like my film on your chest, don’t go see my movie'”. Densmore makes reference to the aspect of doing commercials because “Jim blew up” and that because of this “The Doors have never done a car commerical”. In terms of influence, he says “you can hear a little of us in U2” though “we didn’t have a bass player”. He admits that they did two albums after Jim died but they eventually realized: “What are we doing?” saying “we didn’t want to replace those leather pants”. Densmore says that Ray and Robbie tried to sing but it “didn’t give us the synchronicity”. The one aspect that he sees in “People Are Strange” which is not in Stone’s movie is “a humor and lightness”. Jim Morrison, he says, “was a blast in the beginning before his self-destruction” because “he became an alcoholic really”. The Doors’ time together he describes more now “as some kind of beautiful dream I had” but with “Strange” now he looks and “it is right there on the screen again”.

Dick Wolf, the TV magnate who was instrumental in getting this new film made, speaks to the addition of Johnny Depp’s voice over after the film was picked up at Sundance in saying “Johnny made one astounding change by personalizing it and using the [band members’] first names”. Wolf continues that “it gave a magnificent shift to evidence for the film” which is “something you can’t buy”.

Independent Lens: Dirt The Movie This film which also came out of Sundance in 2009 talks about the essence of what this specific resource does for the planet.

Jamie Lee Curtis, who was brought in to narrate the doc after its pick up, explains that Bill Benenson [who directed the film] is a neighbor of hers. She admits they “both live surrounded by dirt” but that they “also ended up at the same school as parents”. Her actions in the film are “not on camera” but she “acts as the voice of reason if you will”. It is good now she says that everybody understands the importance of green. She and her husband Christopher Guest were selected to be the EV1 family in terms of getting the new hybrid but admits “they came and stole it back”. Now they got a Honda Clarity but explains that “we’re all trying to do something”. For her, it is about “educating”. She hopes that “one of our kids will fix [the mess we made]” confessing that “we fucked up”.

Gene Rosow, the co-director of the production with Benenson, says that every facet has an effect. He uses the example that a chef he knows in NY mentioned a difference in the tenderness of pork based on certain properties of the dirt it consumes. He speaks to the analogy present in “how we treat dirt is how we treat ourselves”. He does think that awareness is growing but that the generation of kids right now will have to be the ones to see it through. The paradox for him through is that he sees the US as being a divided country. A certain energy emerges because everyone has their own separate tribe though people are starting to understand the fundamental urgency behind the economic and environmental obstacles society is starting to face. Rosow’s belief is that there is starting to be “an awakening to a real crisis” but that there is “a lack of literacy on this issue” that will soon cause people to “wake up”.

Executive Briefing: Sarah Eaton The former Fine Line Features topper displays her key element of processing the different elements necessary to maintain public television on a national scale yet the key still is balancing an aspect of the baby boomer mentality but still bringing in some new viewers.

“Masterpiece” has always attracted a stable of names to its roster. Eaton announced that they are now working on a new production of “Emma” which will be created as a four-hour miniseries for the “Classic” brand while Kenneth Branagh will be working on “Mr. Mollander” for the “Mystery” brand which will also be undertaking three new “Foyle’s Wars”.

Masterpiece Classic: Anne Frank The new intentions of a classic literary anti-hero always revolves around the tendencies of the actress playing her and whether intended awareness is either subtle or oblique.

Ellie Kendrick, who plays the title character, explains, via satellite from London, that the transition of this young woman was difficult to play but “the reason she is so popular is because she is someone that we can identify with”. She sees Anne as “spirited and funny” but that “the diary became her only friend” which she professes “is the kind of woman you run into in this girl’s soul”.

Deborah Moggach, who adapted this new miniseries, explains that it took more than two years to persuade the Anne Frank estate to allows them to pen this new perception and that “it is a testimony to the BBC that it held”. She admits that it isa complicated work to do through Anne’s eyes” because she had to give the characters life “with their own journeys”.

The Tavis Smiley Show Smiley, in headlining a show both boosted by an integrity brand and, by certain accounts, immune to ratings and late night wars, has scored many exceptional interviews over the years especially with his no nonsense style of interviewing.

Smiley begins by talking about the parallel between Afghanistan and Vietnam. Specifically, he pinpoints the idea as “a call to conscience”. He says he was talking that morning with staff about they can get at the aspect of where the money is going in this conflict. The question he begs to ask is “Are we beyond the corruption and the damage done?”.

One of the new angles he is approaching this season is a behind-the-scenes view of Secretary Of State Hilary Clinton at work. Smiley has known her for many years but he was interested in how she would approach the ideal of rivals becoming allies. He says “I whittled it down and what I learned is that it is harder than I thought”. He doesn’t understand why she wants this job at 62. There is a point in the piece he did where he believes she might get out before 4 years is done but knows, for sure, she “will not have 8”. He “cannot think of a woman who has been more demonized by the press” but “was surprised how affable she was with the press pool” that travels with her but he did make the point that he was “the only person of color”.

In terms of other people he has met and interviewed he says Fidel Castro was the most interesting in that “there is a charm to him” and that “he is extremely well read and a witness”. He explains that Castro has a “a unique and strategic type of thinking” but that “there are games he plays in conversation” which had Smiley himself “most on edge”.

Smiley also comments on the late night melee that is occurring first indicating that he doesn’t know Conan but that Jay is “a personal friend”. In terms of his opinion, he says “it was a mistake to push him out of the time slot” citing that this move “will go down as one of the biggest mistakes in the history of television” but that “it has been fascinating to watch”. Smiley indicates that “television is changing in alot of ways” but that “there is a comfort in consistency”. The problem is that “NBC ran up against something they couldn’t figure out”.

In terms of new initiatives, he and Jonathan Demme are working together on some piece in regards to the recent New Orleans & Haitian crises. Smiley has been to Haiti a number of times and says that “no country should have to endure the hell they have gone through”.

Demme says that as far as the initial footage they shot in regards to New Orleans “what we have going for us is the people” who have returned to the hard hit Ninth Ward. Demme explains that this is where Brad Pitt’s initiative was launched. The experiment in filming is being done over a 5 year period of which they are in year 2 . The parallel of Haiti he says “is on his mind right now” because of “what you discover when the structure is inadequate”. In comparison, he admits the initiative to rebuild New Orleans which was a distinct hope, did not happen. For him, it is “a humanist canvas of real life and real people” calling this project for him “a wonderful amazing challenge”. One of the most interesting aspects for him is the idea of what “big belief” and “forced faith” is. The reality as he sees it is that “it is take your medicine time but how do you circumvent that” which is the “struggle”.

NOVA: The Pluto Files This new perception and dissertation on the nature of modern astronomy and the changing view on the nature of the universe is elevated by the distinction of personalities, both dissecting and far ranging, that inhabit this new incarnation of the popular science series.

Mark Sykes, Director of the Planetary Science Institute, says the debate of Pluto as a planet or extrasolar object is “about fear”. His perception of the discussion is about points. He says Pluto “is round…it has an atmosphere…it has seasons”. The problem in the modern scientific community is that “the discoveries outstrip the vocabulary to slow them down”. He uses the analogy that the word “manufacturer” used to describe an object “made by hand” but “that definition has evolved”. With the definition of a “planet”, “it depends on what is useful” and if there is “independent importance”. He believes in the thinking “that more is not upsetting to people” but “less is” but that there should not be simply “abitrary change”.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist as well as host of the show, has his own ideas in regards to this mode of thought. His vector revolves around the the fact that you want a word in regards to a universal body that classifies an object in terms of its commonality. He revels in the fact that he believes that there is still “an insatiable appetite for the cosmos” and that there are “certain aspects that tap us all”. The frustrating anglet in terms of the education for him is the idea that the solar system is taught in a certain way which is viscerally outdated. However, in persistence of this specific subject, he says “even if Pluto had been demoted, it wouldn’t have tipped the apple cart”.

The Buddha On the other end of scientific speculation, this series examines a spiritual perception enlisting the eyes of a highly placed subject who is both indicative of the teachings but also is allowing himself to be aware of the world that inhabits new ideologies but that everything remains cyclical.

David Grubin, the filmmaker behind this endeavor which is narrated by Richard Gere, describes Buddha, in his mind “as really the first psychologist” and explains that “Buddha, like Freud, was a realist” in that “he saw an experience for what it was”. The message for the film he hopes is that “it is possible for everyone to be the Buddha”.

The Venerable Metteyya Sakyaputta himself was brought into the world in the same place as the Buddha and, although he was born Hindu, he became an ordained Buddhist Monk. Metteyya relates that the key to the question of Buddha is to become a better human being. In relation to modern ideals, he believes that there is always something in the mind from cultural ideas but that one must always take a closer look. In looking at Western culture, he sees that the people are getting something unique but that they are specifically looking for the direct benefit it brings them. This was the first time he had visited the United States. He had requested from his Dharma Mother some ways to see this country. One of the first TV series he saw was “Friends”. The next was “The Simpsons”. He describes the fact that Lisa Simpson takes on all the elements of a Buddhist which is a very adept statement.

In terms of being interviewed for this film (“The Buddha”), he explains that he had no idea what it would be like but that it was important. He looks and wants to understand what Western Buddhism is missing. He sees that people are much more tense here. They want to accomplish something in a ten-day course and “get on with it”. One of the recent books he read examines human intelligence versus IQ intelligence and that we are just starting to understand these connections. Patience is essential. Metteyya relates that “Buddha gave us a path to develop human qualities of sharing, loving others, having patience and not complaining about every single thing”. “The Buddha”, he says, “sees that you are now a seed with many potentials”.

The Venerable Sakyaputta understands that, through Buddhism, people think that they will find “keys to happiness”. However, he sees that “as a Western ideal” that is mired in something “very complex” because “in order to have peace in the heart, you have to think of the mind”. He goes on to say that “Buddha says that the mind and the matter is a unique phenomena that has impact on each other”. The perception he believes is that “mental thoughts have influence where we have emotion in our mind”. He reminds through teachings that “patience is a virtue but that doesn’t mean we have to be waiting and waiting and never get any work done.” The realization has to be “Buddha is not a rock…but a human being.”

Emotions, Space & Revolution: The 2009 TCA PBS Summer Press Tour – Feature – Part II

PBS’ consistency is initiated in its relevance to the volume of life. Like the aspect of nostalgia, music also takes an exceptional approach yet the essence of the stars, both above and on Earth, draw us in.

Executive Session – Paula Kerger The President/CEO of PBS revitalized that they are pushing more towards internet and cross program pollination with shows such as “Front Line”. In terms of “American Masters”, they are working on Johnny Carson for the Fall 2010 scheduled to coincide with a new book on him. They will also be airing the Broadway version of Cyrano De Bergerac starring Kevin Kline and Jennifer Garner. PBS is also moving further in merchandising through their Discover/Hasbro connection though Kerger says that she is concerned about “the distinction between learning and advertising”.

This Emotional Life PBS is premiering “This Emotional Life” in early 2010 which includes such interviews as Richard Gere, Alanis Morissette and John Leguizamo raised around distinct themes within three two-hour programs, two of which are “negative emotions” and “happiness”. Some of the distinction are made by Dr. Daniel Gilbery who is a Harvard psychologist. He discusses that the single best progression of happiness is social contact and encourages the public discussion of therapy. He believes in shows and media that normalize the aspect of this kind of changing but admits that the film “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” severely hurt the profession while “Good Will Hunting” and “Ordinary People” had a positive effect.

Latin Music USA The essence of the evolution of music within the Latino vision is peppered with spice and rhythm. Narrated by Jimmy Smits, the doc series, Smits believes, will be “a big revelation for the PBS American audience”. In terms of his own love for the music, he says it permeated throughout his career especially involving his move from New York to Puerto Rico. He grew up listing to Three Ocho Pansos which indicated an eclectic musical background which contributed he says to “my all inclusive angle to genres of music”. He says his mom met his dad in NY in one of the clubs playing this music doing the mambo. He says the series “reinforces how we are interconnected” citing that when they talked to Dizzy Gillespie you realize “how latin music inspires you on what jazz could be”.

Musician Bobby Sanabria then got up and started playing the bongos with aplomb running with beats and changing the essences from latin to rock to hip-hop before refracting into a simple African beat. Sanabria relates that every heavy metal guy uses a Latin beat on the heavy drums before referencing that “Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones is based on the cha-cha-cha. Every rock club, he continues, was based on The Palladium in NYC which started with mambo. Sanabria explains in his own exceptional way that “alot of Latin music comes from the influence of Arabia since Spain was part of that empire for 800 years”. At this point Sanabria actually demonstrates how Muslim chanting can be based or integrated off the Latin beat.

Adriana Bosch, the series producer, adds that the interrelation of Latin music is all about the intersection of cultures. Emilio Estefan is of Lebanese descent, she explains. Shakira shows up at his studio and she has Lebanese descent as well but with Colombia roots. The influence of this is that, after World War I, a lot of Turks came over to Central America which allowed the ability of Latin music to blend and evolve eventually making its way to the United States.

NOVA: A Last Mission To Hubble This PBS documentary which reflects the Hubble 3D IMAX movie to be released next spring relates the intense work incumbent in repairing this massive telescope in orbit. Astronaut John Grunseld, who related his intense love of digital cameras and electronics, says that all Hubble Missions are difficult. He explains that back in 2002, the director of NASA thought the mission was too risky. However it is a story that has to be told. Grunsfeld says that initially there was a very big possibility that they might not complete the repairs on the gigantic piece adding that “sometimes you spend 12 hours in the pool and you don’t get it done”. He also explained the aspect of having the IMAX camera on the shuttle with them. He said he just flipped a switched to get it rolling inside its compartment but the mystery of how much film rolled still remains elusive. Speaking to him informally after the presentation, the question was when we will see some handheld HD footage from outside the shuttle looking past someone’s feet 100 miles below to earth. Grunsfeld relates that he is a tech head and brings his digital cameras up there with him but that all the liquid has to be removed from the gears in order to blast off in the shuttle. In that perspective, cameras (of a more personal nature) don’t seem to be taken outside the shuttle into the vacuum of space. This would be killer footage but their possibility again remains a mystery clouded under a classified wire. Space tourism will however perceive why in a few years despite Grunsfeld’s obvious enthusiasm despite his NDA.

Playing For Change This series follows the inception of music crossing boundaries in very specific ways in the essence of recording sounds to conceptualize symbiotic and natural similarities in rhythm around the globe. When filmmaker Mark Johnson first approached TV mogul/philanthropist Norman Lear with the idea, Lear said “I was creative enough to recognize a great idea and great execution”. Lear showed the aspect of the music to his friend Bono of U2 who helped bring it together. Using his Concord Music blanket which is compromised of a bunch of different labels, Lear was able to steer the project. He admits that “music is partly what my life is all about now” although he admits that “being an exec producer is how one gets names connected”. Creatively, he says, Johnson is getting the job done and he is just “fanning the embers”. The key he has found in recent years is that “music and laughter are not mutually exclusive” but that “one feeds the other”. He had the company which could help Mark and controlled a relationship with Starbucks which allowed for the music release extension. Lear continues that “the best conversations are all about questions”. This idea, he says, encourages discusssion “beyond the stained glass rhetoric you only hear on Sundays”. The music performers themselves gathered from all over the world, will tour. He sees their tonal creations as “a combination of feelings and melody” because “they have so much talent and so much soul that express a message”.

Lear, when asked to reflect on the incumbent impact of different mediums, says he wonders “if TV reflects or does it lead?” which is the same question he says can be asked of the mass media. He admits that he might never know the answer. One interrogative he states is if Obama caught a wave of a need for effectiveness across the globe as a vessel for change? The further question becomes, within his character, does Obama become that symbol?

Patti Smith: Dream Of Life (P.O.V.) This doc gives a vision of another musical intensive from a quintessential basis of American folklore which has been contained a mystery. Smith, full of smiles, says that she withdrew from the limelight in 1979 to raise her family. When her husband died in 1994, she realized she had to start a new life. She relates about when Bob Dylan asked her to tour with him which was a reflection of a conversation he had shared with Allen Ginsberg who spoke with Dylan about Smith’s faith. She admits that the film, directed by Steven Sebring, is a very accurate portrayal of her between the ages of 50 and 60 including her kids, her peers and her protests of the Bush Administration. She loves rock n’ roll but her close friends know that her favorites are Glenn Gould and Maria Callas. In terms of the subjects covered in the doc, Smith says she never told Sebring what parts of her life to focus on. He simply became part of what they did. He could have gone straight to the rock roots but she explains that “he had no design to which he gravitated towards”. In returning to her lost years, Smith explains that she and her husband moved to Detroit in 79 and lived in its heart at the Book Cadillac Hotel which was still cleaning up from the 68 riots. She loved her husband and considered him a great man. However she couldn’t walk in Detroit like she did in NY so she had to learn to be behind the wheel. She relates that she is in the middle of recording a new album which will have guests like Flea and Lenny Kaye which will be out in February 2010.

When asked about the current state of rock music, Smith relates two angles. She admits that the music “business” is in shambles despite the fact that the state of the talent is fine. However this era is not one of the rock gods. There is no Jim Morrison…Jimi Hendrix…Bob Dylan…or Grace Slick. She says that “rock n’ roll is the people’s cultural voice” which can be “revolutionary”. In terms of technology, she uses You Tube to watch Glenn Gould which is something her kids taught her. She admits to having a taste for Nirvana and My Bloody Valentine as well. In terms of her love of Maria Callas, she likes to study her as a performer in that “the way she delivers an aria” motivates “an inner narrative” that distinctifies “an emotional interpretation”. She says watching Callas build to an emotional peak is like “pissing in a river” because “you have to release at a certain time.” She admits that her voice, like Callas, “is not always perfect”. However she follows this by saying that her voice is much stronger than when it was when she was younger. She cites that Joan Baez, whom we talked to earlier, was “a real singer” with “a voice that was flexible with perfect pitch” while she herself was more a performer. She says that her time in the 60s was “more like a bridge between traditional music in the most revolutionary sense and the punk movement”. Her clan wanted to “remind people of the innate power of it all” and that “it belonged to the people”. She admits that they lost some of the great artists in the 70s and that they thought that “celebrity and drugs would engulf it all”. They wanted “to break through it”. She also says she always thought “they” were like Moses. They could see the ground but relishes that the “next wave of kids made it”. The one progression she admits to being proud of is that she is as loud as some of the major guitar players. She also addresses her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe saying that their relationship as artist and muse was “based on trust…never thought”.

In terms of her sacrifice leaving the public eye, she says that “I am ‘Mom’ first”. She set aside time each day when she retreated from public life to write poetry and songs with her husband but states that she was never bored. She liked to study with a creative impulse saying “it was a nice life”. When she examined her vision of music, she saw some structure through John Coltrane and Roland Kirk’s music. She likes the “idea of improvising and having a base root” but “talking to the stratosphere” while “returning to your root consciousness”. In continuing with an almost psychological base, Smith relates that, in her childhood, her mother was a waitress and her father was a factory worker. She says that they didn’t have alot but they were well loved. Her sense of rebellion in later life had nothing to do with her parents at all. She felt confined by the government, not by her home life. The questions were spiritual but reflected more culturally. They lived in South New Jersey where there was no cultural base. She just felt the need to break out of it,

As Patti sings “The Blackian Years” in essence of her husband followed by “One Common Wire”, the reflection of hope and a wisp of Dylan reflect in the fading of the afternoon.

Puppets, Nature & Trains: The 2009 TCA PBS Summer Press Tour – Feature – Part I

Public broadcasting is always based within the aspect of education but the key of all is to essentially make learning fun. The key is structure and a fresh new face.

Sesame Street The stalwart of years is reaching its 40th anniversary which was marked in the inset of the meeting with a taped introduction from President Obama endorsing the importance this program has had over the years. The initial perception was in making the elements modern without sacrificing imagination. Mr. Snufalpagus as pointed out was created with the inception of never being real until people started believing. The reality is that nature is age appropriate although modeling science is challenging. The angle of parody is also of essential relevance with the new season taking intrinsic looks at “Mad Men” focusing on “being mad”. They also did a piece called “Desperate Houseplants”. The anniversary show will follow Big Bird changing his habitat following the psychology that imbues this character.

Electric Company The yin to Sesame’s yang has always balanced on the vision of the Company. Even from its sizzle reel, the show seems a little more up to date incorporating some elements of hip-hop directly. This integration of more urban culture is reflected in Shock, one of the hosts, who raps his way into the presentation with a beat box straight up like Michael Winslow from “Police Academy”. The key with upping the freshness of EC was how to keep it in the now. The online component which focuses them in a very specific world, they said, was key to incorporating 10 new learning games which uses Shock’s phonetics and beat boxes to help kids learn. Building on this component, Shock is going on a 20-city outreach program aimed at optimizing literacy viability. In this structure there will be less parody and more direction within the process since Shock admits that the new learning has “to key at the You Tube generation”.

Inventing LA: The Chandlers & Their Times The Chandlers had an undeniable impact on Los Angeles culture especially within the publishing industry with their leadership of The Los Angeles Times. This documentary, which premiered at last year’s Santa Barbara Film Festival, offers an insight within the dynasty. Harry Brant Chandler, son of the former LA Times publisher, speaks of his father’s intent in that bringing less-than-optimal people into the fold was like bring in pilots that had no flight training. Harry relates that his father was so focused that he literally didn’t care about his son until he went back to the LA Times to help start the internet division. At a certain point, the reality had to settle in where he had to let himself be pushed aside. The key angle was strengthening the news content of the paper. Gaping holes could be too easily spotted. Recently, the LA Times in his mind, as a result, has abandoned almost all its suburban coverage so now there is very little perception within a print context of what is going on in Pasadena or the San Fernando Valley. At one time, Harry Brant explains, his father was on over 26 directors boards which encompassed a reach much further than the newspaper. In perception, Los Angeles might still be a desert town without the Chandlers. The questions that show perception is the discussion decades ago which included the need for an intrinsic mass transit system which still has not been accomplished.

The Human Spark Alan Alda has always had a soothing presence about him especially where the art of learning is concerned because he seems genuinely respective of the avenues he is exploring. Alda jokes that within his point of learning on “Spark”  he realizes that he “is not human yet” but still admits “I use a knife and fork myself”. Graham [Chedd, the series producer at “Nova”] puts him in the middle of this discussion and creates the basis with the scientists. Alda says he is just in it to have fun but the angle is figuring how that will turn out on screen. The challenge is making it so the scientists can explain to him what they are seeing in a functional form. One example is the human socialization concept and being able to read people’s faces. Alda explains that he was trained in improvisation and you “were taught to relate”. The reality, he says, is that we have found no other animals that relate to each other the way humans do. In addition, the traits of working together as a group towards a common goal and being able to cooperate are also quite rare. Certain emotions like spite and envy are also quite visceral to explore. John Shey, an associate at Stonybrook University who collaborated on the series, relates that “evolution is a conservative process”. He says that Alda is like “a very difficult student”. He admits though that one of the nice benefits within the process is that you have to work alot harder to make your points clearer. He says that “chimps don’t have the same sense of getting pissed off” continuing that it would be different if they put Alan in a cage since he would share his raisins (if he were given some). Chimps, he says, just take what they can get.

Ken Burns’ The National Parks The ultimate documentarian takes his vision into a singular perception of the preservation of beauty from a nature standpoint. Ken Burns begins saying that we have reached a level of existentialism in the United States where the “nature deficit”, he says in reference to Dr. Phil, is a real thing. The worst result you want to have at a national park is no one coming. He hopes in a way, like with his Civil War films, that there will be a renewal of interest. People from all over the world come to see the national parks here in the US because we, as a culture, created the model. For him personally concerning this subject matter, he says that “my nerves are so close to the surface”. He first started shooting this new film in the spring of 2003. A moment of clarity for him though dates back to 1959. His mother at that time was dying of cancer and his father was not really around for him. His dad never played catch with him. However during that time this father took his son on a drive through Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and sang a song which he remembers to this day. Burns quotes John Mayer in saying that he “surrendered myself to this beauty”.

Dinosaur Train This new perception from Henson Studios spearheaded by Lisa Henson works on the auspice of combining elements of biology with sociology. Lisa admits that it is a changing subject emphasized by the challenge of not using superlatives. She reminisces about when she was a child and “Sesame Street” launched. The selling point quality of The Muppets was encompassed in their creation. Letters today within the structure, she explains, are sold with a gotcha quality. She explains that her father (Jim Henson) always stayed away from the “birthday party mentality”. She also proudly states that Henson never gave up, citing his groundbreaking progression in learning stop motion animation and incorporating the Moog synthesizer to make certain sounds for The Muppets and other productions.

The new form currently coming into play on the market is currently 3D. “Dinosaur Train” is envisioned through 3D animation. Jim Henson himself was working at it up until 1990 and the R&D angle has been in play for close to 20 years. As a company, they have just started their first steps into this world. When she was growing up, their family had no limit on the TV they were allowed to watch. She used to memorize alot of the “Looney Tunes” she would see but her parents weren’t so much into animation at that time. Her perception was of their necessity in putting together TV pieces and getting them up live. Her parents had 5 children and they were all drawn into the business since much of their childhood involved being around The Workshop. One of the earliest pictures of Lisa is her in a basket while her parents’ backs are to her performing their puppets.

Masterpiece Contemporary: Hamlet David Tennant, presently leaving BBC’s “Doctor Who” takes on the perception of the Bard with the irrefutable Sir Patrick Stewart playing his father. Tennant says that it is difficult to be objective about such an iconic figure. There is a weight, he says, where every line is in quotations and you try not to be weighed down by it. However, he says, it is an iconic role he has always fantasized about. He says that the challenge is trying to keep things behind you.

Endgame This production takes the real life drama of Michael Young who broached African politics in a corporate strategy which angled into the dangerous elements of apartheid. Jonny Lee Miller who plays Young says that the main angle of the talks back in those days is that no one knew they were going on as they were held in secret in the English countryside. The visceral attraction to the piece, he says, is that one remembers the events but with no conception of how they came about. The real Michael Young, sitting right beside him, says with genuine sarcasm that “you realize how easy it would be to do if you had templates to follow” in terms of the talks. Now the format is being used in Northern Ireland and the Middle East in peace talks indicating those certain conceptions of time.

American Masters: Joan Baez The key of representing this woman is her interrelation of the events she was witness to. Baez relates the first time she went to the Newport Music Festival. She says she “felt like dying and scared” but admits that it was very well received which motivated her to come back for a number of years. She remembers flying over Woodstock with her mother and Janis Joplin as the storms were looming but explains she was not aware of the impact it would have later. In terms of her politics in relation to the day, Baez says they have not changed especially in regards to her mentality to non-violent acts for social change. She knew early enough with politics not to expect too much but admits that “we didn’t give ourselves enough credit for what got done” which also applied to Vietnam. She says that “Nixon did not make that decision…we forced him to”. She does says that she has made a familial change in an attempt to spend more time with her family then she did in the 70s and 80s despite the fact that she still does 60 to 80 dates a year. The key to this longetivity she says is “honest reinventing” and “doing it with integrity”. In regards to her singing voice, she admits “I became mortal!” adding “What a nuisance!” She says that her voice is now lower in pitch and states that she will never have that high vibrato voice again that she enjoyed for so many years. As far as current voices that move her, Jonas Kaufman, a tenor, was the last person she truly listened to and remember liking.

And the melody continues…