Will Publishers Stop Fearing Facebook and Start Demanding Change?

Thanks to Nellie Bowles’ reporting for The New York Times this weekend, we have a window into the obscure role played by the head of news partnerships at Facebook, Campbell Brown.

Bet you didn’t realize Facebook had a head of news partnerships, right?

There’s a lot of fresh intelligence in this well-reported piece about what goes on inside the Facebook fortress, but the upshot is that Brown’s clout inside the organization is unclear at best. She and Anne Kornblut — a former Washington Post reporter turned aide de camp to COO Sheryl Sandberg –  are meant to promote relationships with publishers, with Brown convening salons and cocktail parties for the Manhattan media elite to make everybody feel better about all the money Facebook isn’t sharing with them.

Also Read: Facebook Now Says 87 Million Users Hit by Cambridge Analytica Leak

But as far as impacting Facebook’s self-awareness around its impact on the news ecosystem, Brown is more outward-facing PR, and less an influence on policy. “Almost all question what influence she has at a company where the chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, has viewed news — both making it and displaying it — as a headache,” writes Bowles.

And despite plans by the platform to spend $90 million on news shows, in this revealing passage, Bowles says:

“When it comes to decisions related to publishers, the power at Facebook has traditionally been more with the product staff, who tend to be aligned more with Mr. Zuckerberg and cloistered from meetings with partners, according to several media executives. Google, in contrast, has a similar power dynamic but, publishers said, a more robust partnership structure and easier contact with product teams.

“She’s smart, but we’re different beasts,” Richard Gingras, the vice president for news at Google, said of Ms. Brown. “I’m in a fortunate position where I’m involved with the product. I can make change. I feel for her, I really do.”

Mr. Gingras, please save your sympathy for us publishers, ignored and disrespected. And Facebook — how about you keep your cocktail parties and start meaningfully sharing revenue with those of us who inform your users and keep our democracy alive?

The power brokers in my circles of entertainment and media are scared to call Facebook what it is — naïve, duplicitous, opaque, unaccountable and arrogant.

Also Read: Facebook Is ‘Rotten,’ Privacy Is Its ‘Kryptonite,’ Says Ex-FTC Advisor

They’re afraid because Facebook is so powerful, a monopoly for all practical purposes that has already brought down or fatally diminished many digital publishers, that it’s been better to wait and see if they will ever start sharing meaningful revenue as they’ve repeatedly promised. (And haven’t.) And as far as entertainment, Facebook has billions to spend and has only just started down that path — why should Hollywood piss them off?

Just a few months ago, CEO Mark Zuckerberg dealt a harsh blow to publishers when he adjusted the feed for his 2.2 billion users to downplay news and favor content by friends and family on his platform. That was billed as a return to Facebook’s roots of community, but actually it was a transparent reaction to the trouble Zuckerberg has had dealing with all that fake news we’ve seen in those Congressional hearings.

Quite apart from failing to protect the private data of 50 million — no, sorry, make that 87 million, no wait, maybe it’s more — from politically motivated groups like Cambridge Analytica, Facebook has also worked hard to avoid accountability as a publisher. Indeed, only recently — in those Congressional hearings — has Zuckerberg made public noises about being responsible for the content on his platform.

For what it’s worth, last November I practically begged Facebook to join a panel conversation about the dangers to the First Amendment that are facing our country in the age of Trump… and Facebook. I wrote Sheryl Sandberg and stalked the corp comm executive. I finally got some polite responses but zero buy-in. I am told this is commonly the case when Facebook is invited to be part of this conversation.

Also Read: Mark Zuckerberg Is Russia, Trump and Cambridge Analytica’s Useful Idiot

But well before that pivot in its feed, Facebook mounted a brilliant, years-long bait and switch with publishers and so-called influencers. They lured us all to their platform, then gradually cut off access to our own subscribers unless we paid. The instructive research paper “How to Boil a Frog” (which I’ve cited before) chronicles this insidious process.

They convinced publishers to put all our content into “Instant Articles” so their users could have easy access to the news we create — and also would never leave the social platform — and pay us a pittance. They touted video and more video — but there’s no money for those creating the video.

I can count back three years and as many social media and business development folks in my organization who would regularly show up to meetings and say they just talked to Facebook, and we should expect a monetization strategy to come together in about three months. Every three months.

This is accurate. The way FB has lured newsrooms into disastrous strategies promising “revenue-sharing” has been the unmaking of journalism’s digital business model for the past two years. The catastrophic “pivot to video” was Facebook’s greedy, badly planned idea. https://t.co/NeL4yymbgc

— Heidi N Moore (@moorehn) April 22, 2018

Meanwhile, Facebook made $40 billion in revenue last year, and $16 billion in net income. 

So Campbell Brown, good luck fighting the good fight at a place like Facebook. Unlike the journalists who put their news on your platform, your company has no credibility to be a “news partner.”

Thanks to Nellie Bowles’ reporting for The New York Times this weekend, we have a window into the obscure role played by the head of news partnerships at Facebook, Campbell Brown.

Bet you didn’t realize Facebook had a head of news partnerships, right?

There’s a lot of fresh intelligence in this well-reported piece about what goes on inside the Facebook fortress, but the upshot is that Brown’s clout inside the organization is unclear at best. She and Anne Kornblut — a former Washington Post reporter turned aide de camp to COO Sheryl Sandberg –  are meant to promote relationships with publishers, with Brown convening salons and cocktail parties for the Manhattan media elite to make everybody feel better about all the money Facebook isn’t sharing with them.

But as far as impacting Facebook’s self-awareness around its impact on the news ecosystem, Brown is more outward-facing PR, and less an influence on policy. “Almost all question what influence she has at a company where the chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, has viewed news — both making it and displaying it — as a headache,” writes Bowles.

And despite plans by the platform to spend $90 million on news shows, in this revealing passage, Bowles says:

“When it comes to decisions related to publishers, the power at Facebook has traditionally been more with the product staff, who tend to be aligned more with Mr. Zuckerberg and cloistered from meetings with partners, according to several media executives. Google, in contrast, has a similar power dynamic but, publishers said, a more robust partnership structure and easier contact with product teams.

“She’s smart, but we’re different beasts,” Richard Gingras, the vice president for news at Google, said of Ms. Brown. “I’m in a fortunate position where I’m involved with the product. I can make change. I feel for her, I really do.”

Mr. Gingras, please save your sympathy for us publishers, ignored and disrespected. And Facebook — how about you keep your cocktail parties and start meaningfully sharing revenue with those of us who inform your users and keep our democracy alive?

The power brokers in my circles of entertainment and media are scared to call Facebook what it is — naïve, duplicitous, opaque, unaccountable and arrogant.

They’re afraid because Facebook is so powerful, a monopoly for all practical purposes that has already brought down or fatally diminished many digital publishers, that it’s been better to wait and see if they will ever start sharing meaningful revenue as they’ve repeatedly promised. (And haven’t.) And as far as entertainment, Facebook has billions to spend and has only just started down that path — why should Hollywood piss them off?

Just a few months ago, CEO Mark Zuckerberg dealt a harsh blow to publishers when he adjusted the feed for his 2.2 billion users to downplay news and favor content by friends and family on his platform. That was billed as a return to Facebook’s roots of community, but actually it was a transparent reaction to the trouble Zuckerberg has had dealing with all that fake news we’ve seen in those Congressional hearings.

Quite apart from failing to protect the private data of 50 million — no, sorry, make that 87 million, no wait, maybe it’s more — from politically motivated groups like Cambridge Analytica, Facebook has also worked hard to avoid accountability as a publisher. Indeed, only recently — in those Congressional hearings — has Zuckerberg made public noises about being responsible for the content on his platform.

For what it’s worth, last November I practically begged Facebook to join a panel conversation about the dangers to the First Amendment that are facing our country in the age of Trump… and Facebook. I wrote Sheryl Sandberg and stalked the corp comm executive. I finally got some polite responses but zero buy-in. I am told this is commonly the case when Facebook is invited to be part of this conversation.

But well before that pivot in its feed, Facebook mounted a brilliant, years-long bait and switch with publishers and so-called influencers. They lured us all to their platform, then gradually cut off access to our own subscribers unless we paid. The instructive research paper “How to Boil a Frog” (which I’ve cited before) chronicles this insidious process.

They convinced publishers to put all our content into “Instant Articles” so their users could have easy access to the news we create — and also would never leave the social platform — and pay us a pittance. They touted video and more video — but there’s no money for those creating the video.

I can count back three years and as many social media and business development folks in my organization who would regularly show up to meetings and say they just talked to Facebook, and we should expect a monetization strategy to come together in about three months. Every three months.

Meanwhile, Facebook made $40 billion in revenue last year, and $16 billion in net income. 

So Campbell Brown, good luck fighting the good fight at a place like Facebook. Unlike the journalists who put their news on your platform, your company has no credibility to be a “news partner.”

About That Saudi Tsunami That Just Washed Through Hollywood

The verdict is in about the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia after four days of top -evel dinners, lunches, meetings and audiences in Hollywood: He’s smart, he’s charismatic, he’s charming — and we just hope nothing bad happens to him since he lives in a dangerous neighborhood.

On that thought, apparently the 32-year-old Mohammed bin Salman is surrounded by more security than any leader on the planet. A mogul I spoke to this week said: “I’ve met presidents and heads of state for decades, I’ve never seen this kind of security — you couldn’t get near him.”

Those who got to visit the potentate (monarch, dictator, benevolence) at his mansion up on Coldwater Canyon were non-plussed at the phalanxes of bodyguards, armed security, machines and body searches to which esteemed visitors were subjected.

Also Read: At Glitzy Promo, Saudi Arabia Invites Hollywood to Join Its $80 Billion Leap Into Entertainment

Still, many were impressed at MbS’ vision for a more open and modern Saudi Arabia. “He’s a big believer in the spread of culture around the world,” said one power player who spoke to him for more than an hour. “He talked a lot about culture being brought to Saudi Arabia — with cinemas being opened, and women driving. Some people would define these as small steps, others would define them as bold steps. I would say some of the steps are pretty bold.”

Personally, I have to suppress every urge I have to ask: What took you guys so long? As a country, Saudi Arabia has wasted decades of precious time, billions of dollars and countless human resources in the service of super-luxury consumerism and rigid traditionalism (which most citizens were more than happy to cast off as soon as they were outside the borders of the kingdom).

And also this big plan to spend $80 billion to build entertainment infrastructure is no panacea. Driving change at lightning speed has its hazards. Trying to buy your country culture is not as easy as writing a check.

Also Read: Saudi Crown Prince Charms Haim Saban, Jonathan Nelson, Dan Senor at Private Dinner (Exclusive)

Real, authentic culture comes at a cost. Sure, money and bandwidth and determination helps. But by its nature, creating culture takes time. Roots have to be put down. They need to be watered and tended.

Authentic culture requires an ability to tolerate opposing opinions, differing perspectives and sometimes uncomfortable points of view. Saudi Arabia does not currently have that in its plans.

Sure, you can build cineplexes and show “Black Panther.” What other movies will Saudi Arabia be prepared to exhibit? And what movies will Saudi  Arabia be prepared to make? One skeptical mogul who met MbS told me: “He wants to make ‘Lawrence of Arabia.’”

Great. But his young people will probably want to see “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

Also Read: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Buys Out Four Seasons Hotel for Hollywood Visit (Exclusive)

I’ve seen this movie before. A decade ago, Dubai and Abu Dhabi and Qatar were racing one another to build massive cultural and entertainment infrastructure. I visited the emirates a few months before launching TheWrap to see for myself: a branch of the Louvre, a Guggenheim, theme parks, universities, artificial islands (one of which was given to then-power couple Brad and Angelina).

When I landed at the Dubai airport and was handed a map, about half of the emirate was listed as “U/C”: under construction.

Then the economic downturn hit in 2008, and many of those planned projects never happened. Dubai and Abu Dhabi have pulled through the worst of the economic downturn, but they are not the cultural crossroads between Europe, Asia and Africa that they intended to be.

Also Read: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to Meet With Hollywood Executives, But Protesters Aren’t Impressed

And let’s not even talk about the women issue. I’ve never visited Saudi Arabia, though I’ve spent time in nearly every other country in the Middle East. Why would I want to visit a country that advertises its disdain for women? For what it’s worth, I didn’t see a single Saudi woman at Wednesday’s Hollywood presentation at the Four Seasons, either on stage or in the working entourage.

Dear Crown Prince: Hollywood and the rest of the world is working toward 50/50 gender equity. Maybe you need to invite Lady Gaga to a big concert.

For me, I can’t ignore the deep cognitive dissonance between the big plans being dreamed by the Saudi crown prince, and what it takes to create a society amenable to change, embracing culture at all levels and with arms open to the world (including half its population).

 

The verdict is in about the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia after four days of top -evel dinners, lunches, meetings and audiences in Hollywood: He’s smart, he’s charismatic, he’s charming — and we just hope nothing bad happens to him since he lives in a dangerous neighborhood.

On that thought, apparently the 32-year-old Mohammed bin Salman is surrounded by more security than any leader on the planet. A mogul I spoke to this week said: “I’ve met presidents and heads of state for decades, I’ve never seen this kind of security — you couldn’t get near him.”

Those who got to visit the potentate (monarch, dictator, benevolence) at his mansion up on Coldwater Canyon were non-plussed at the phalanxes of bodyguards, armed security, machines and body searches to which esteemed visitors were subjected.

Still, many were impressed at MbS’ vision for a more open and modern Saudi Arabia. “He’s a big believer in the spread of culture around the world,” said one power player who spoke to him for more than an hour. “He talked a lot about culture being brought to Saudi Arabia — with cinemas being opened, and women driving. Some people would define these as small steps, others would define them as bold steps. I would say some of the steps are pretty bold.”

Personally, I have to suppress every urge I have to ask: What took you guys so long? As a country, Saudi Arabia has wasted decades of precious time, billions of dollars and countless human resources in the service of super-luxury consumerism and rigid traditionalism (which most citizens were more than happy to cast off as soon as they were outside the borders of the kingdom).

And also this big plan to spend $80 billion to build entertainment infrastructure is no panacea. Driving change at lightning speed has its hazards. Trying to buy your country culture is not as easy as writing a check.

Real, authentic culture comes at a cost. Sure, money and bandwidth and determination helps. But by its nature, creating culture takes time. Roots have to be put down. They need to be watered and tended.

Authentic culture requires an ability to tolerate opposing opinions, differing perspectives and sometimes uncomfortable points of view. Saudi Arabia does not currently have that in its plans.

Sure, you can build cineplexes and show “Black Panther.” What other movies will Saudi Arabia be prepared to exhibit? And what movies will Saudi  Arabia be prepared to make? One skeptical mogul who met MbS told me: “He wants to make ‘Lawrence of Arabia.'”

Great. But his young people will probably want to see “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

I’ve seen this movie before. A decade ago, Dubai and Abu Dhabi and Qatar were racing one another to build massive cultural and entertainment infrastructure. I visited the emirates a few months before launching TheWrap to see for myself: a branch of the Louvre, a Guggenheim, theme parks, universities, artificial islands (one of which was given to then-power couple Brad and Angelina).

When I landed at the Dubai airport and was handed a map, about half of the emirate was listed as “U/C”: under construction.

Then the economic downturn hit in 2008, and many of those planned projects never happened. Dubai and Abu Dhabi have pulled through the worst of the economic downturn, but they are not the cultural crossroads between Europe, Asia and Africa that they intended to be.

And let’s not even talk about the women issue. I’ve never visited Saudi Arabia, though I’ve spent time in nearly every other country in the Middle East. Why would I want to visit a country that advertises its disdain for women? For what it’s worth, I didn’t see a single Saudi woman at Wednesday’s Hollywood presentation at the Four Seasons, either on stage or in the working entourage.

Dear Crown Prince: Hollywood and the rest of the world is working toward 50/50 gender equity. Maybe you need to invite Lady Gaga to a big concert.

For me, I can’t ignore the deep cognitive dissonance between the big plans being dreamed by the Saudi crown prince, and what it takes to create a society amenable to change, embracing culture at all levels and with arms open to the world (including half its population).

 

Saudi Crown Prince Charms Haim Saban, Jonathan Nelson, Dan Senor at Private Dinner (Exclusive)

The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia continues his charm offensive in Hollywood, dining privately on Tuesday evening with Israeli-American media mogul Haim Saban, Republican strategist Dan Senor and private equity media investor Jonathan Nelson, TheWrap has learned.

According to an individual with knowledge of the meeting, the four-hour dinner had Mohammed Bin Salman al Saud expounding on his vision of an economically diverse, culturally significant Saudi Arabia, a message he has been selling hard in a jam-packed trip to Hollywood and later in the week to Silicon Valley.

The evening was more intimate than some of the other events this week, including those hosted by Rupert Murdoch or Brian Grazer. It took place at the crown prince’s Beverly Hills mansion, and was limited to the four men. (A fifth invitee, billionaire and Los Angeles civic philanthropist Eli Broad, fell ill and did not attend, the insider said.)

Also Read: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Buys Out Four Seasons Hotel for Hollywood Visit (Exclusive)

Saban is a noted Democratic donor and devoted Israel supporter. Senor is an investor, author and former foreign policy advisor to Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. And Nelson is the founder of the $40 billion private equity firm Providence Equity Partners, which has invested in media companies including Hulu, The Chernin Group, Warner Music Group and Univision.

The crown prince, according to the insider, talked about bringing culture to Saudi Arabia. Dalian Wanda-owned AMC announced Wednesday it would open the first two cineplexes in the country’s modern history, and the laws have been loosened to soon allow women to drive.

The 32-year-old monarch has embarked on a strategy to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy as oil becomes less reliable, and to open the country’s harsh Islamic restrictions.

Also Read: AMC to Open Saudi Arabia’s First Movie Theater

The Tuesday dinner combined learning and promotion by the crown prince, who was described by the insider as “visionary” and “super-smart.”

The conversation turned, not unexpectedly, to Saudi relations with Israel, as this is a major concern for Democratic donor Saban, who also holds Israeli citizenship.

The crown prince suggested the time had come for a new era of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, the insider said, and that a “rapprochement” could happen once there is “significant progress at the Palestinian-Israeli level,” though he did not specify what that would mean.

The crown prince has won points with Israel in recent weeks by allowing Israeli flights to India to pass through Saudi air space — something that had previously been forbidden and extended flights by several hours.

According to the individual with knowledge of the dinner, there was no discussion of any political opening in the Saudi kingdom nor of the crown prince’s recent moves to shut down rivals by arresting members of the royal family.

The Saudi consulate and Saban had no comment. Señor did not respond to a message requesting comment. Nelson could not be immediately reached for comment, and his office said they would get back to TheWrap.

Oh, right — and the menu for the meal? Italian.

 

Related stories from TheWrap:

Kristen Stewart, Chloe Sevigny Crime Drama ‘Lizzie’ Picked Up by Saban Films

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ‘Killing Gunther’ Snagged by Saban Films

AMC to Open Saudi Arabia’s First Movie Theater

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Buys Out Four Seasons Hotel for Hollywood Visit (Exclusive)

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to Meet With Hollywood Executives, But Protesters Aren’t Impressed

The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia continues his charm offensive in Hollywood, dining privately on Tuesday evening with Israeli-American media mogul Haim Saban, Republican strategist Dan Senor and private equity media investor Jonathan Nelson, TheWrap has learned.

According to an individual with knowledge of the meeting, the four-hour dinner had Mohammed Bin Salman al Saud expounding on his vision of an economically diverse, culturally significant Saudi Arabia, a message he has been selling hard in a jam-packed trip to Hollywood and later in the week to Silicon Valley.

The evening was more intimate than some of the other events this week, including those hosted by Rupert Murdoch or Brian Grazer. It took place at the crown prince’s Beverly Hills mansion, and was limited to the four men. (A fifth invitee, billionaire and Los Angeles civic philanthropist Eli Broad, fell ill and did not attend, the insider said.)

Saban is a noted Democratic donor and devoted Israel supporter. Senor is an investor, author and former foreign policy advisor to Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. And Nelson is the founder of the $40 billion private equity firm Providence Equity Partners, which has invested in media companies including Hulu, The Chernin Group, Warner Music Group and Univision.

The crown prince, according to the insider, talked about bringing culture to Saudi Arabia. Dalian Wanda-owned AMC announced Wednesday it would open the first two cineplexes in the country’s modern history, and the laws have been loosened to soon allow women to drive.

The 32-year-old monarch has embarked on a strategy to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy as oil becomes less reliable, and to open the country’s harsh Islamic restrictions.

The Tuesday dinner combined learning and promotion by the crown prince, who was described by the insider as “visionary” and “super-smart.”

The conversation turned, not unexpectedly, to Saudi relations with Israel, as this is a major concern for Democratic donor Saban, who also holds Israeli citizenship.

The crown prince suggested the time had come for a new era of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, the insider said, and that a “rapprochement” could happen once there is “significant progress at the Palestinian-Israeli level,” though he did not specify what that would mean.

The crown prince has won points with Israel in recent weeks by allowing Israeli flights to India to pass through Saudi air space — something that had previously been forbidden and extended flights by several hours.

According to the individual with knowledge of the dinner, there was no discussion of any political opening in the Saudi kingdom nor of the crown prince’s recent moves to shut down rivals by arresting members of the royal family.

The Saudi consulate and Saban had no comment. Señor did not respond to a message requesting comment. Nelson could not be immediately reached for comment, and his office said they would get back to TheWrap.

Oh, right — and the menu for the meal? Italian.

 

Related stories from TheWrap:

Kristen Stewart, Chloe Sevigny Crime Drama 'Lizzie' Picked Up by Saban Films

Arnold Schwarzenegger's 'Killing Gunther' Snagged by Saban Films

AMC to Open Saudi Arabia's First Movie Theater

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Buys Out Four Seasons Hotel for Hollywood Visit (Exclusive)

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to Meet With Hollywood Executives, But Protesters Aren't Impressed

Judd Apatow on the ‘Deep Spiritual Underpinning’ to Garry Shandling

I’ve often wondered why the name Garry Shandling sparks a near-worshipful reverence from his fellow comedians. Within the profession, Shandling is regarded as a trailblazer, but also as someone who reached back to help the careers of his fellow artists.

Shandling, who died on March 24, 2016 at age 66, was the star of the fourth-wall breaking sitcom “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” on Showtime from 1986 to 1990. He also starred on “The Larry Sanders Show,” an HBO hit that ran for six seasons from 1992 to 1998, and sent up the late-night talk-show format. His neurotic persona on both shows paved the way for other sitcoms like “Seinfeld,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and The Sarah Silverman Program.” Not to mention Apatow’s own recent show, “Crashing,” about the stand-up scene.

Apatow relied on Shandling’s personal diaries to create a two-part documentary airing on HBO. Apatow credits Shandling with giving him his start as a prolific and multi-talented comedy writer and director.

Also Read: How Garry Shandling’s Dying Wish for ‘The Larry Sanders Show’ Was Granted

WaxWord spoke to the director as the two-part doc was going up on HBO.

Why is Garry Shandling so beloved among comedians?

One reason is he was the funniest. And the most innovative and daring. From a creative standpoint everybody has always looked up to him. He did something that most people would like to do but find very difficult to do,  which is he carved his own path, he always seemed like he was in his own category. He played by his own rules, he didn’t follow trends.

Actually, he created trends in comedy, right? The comedian starring as his own alter ego came from Shandling…

He did “The Garry Shandling Show” for Showtime when in it was in its infancy, then it was picked up by Fox in their infancy. And “The Larry Sanders Show” was one of the first groundbreaking shows HBO did. It indicated the type of programming they wanted to do in the future.

As a friend, he was always available to everybody, both personally and professionally. There are not many people out there who are that generous.

From the outside, he seemed rather cantankerous. Wasn’t he?

He was everything. In production, he was very intense. He was obsessed with making something of the highest possible quality, and of the deepest depth. If things didn’t look like they were going to come out well, he wasn’t happy. But he could also be fun, and hysterical to hang out with.

He seemed to have a much more easygoing relationship with the actors than the writers. He was very supportive of his cast, and more of a boss with the writers.

So you started out with him on his writing staff?

I started writing jokes for him when he hosted the Grammys. I was doing “The Ben Stiller Show,” and when that was cancelled he asked me to write for “The Larry Sanders Show.” Then he asked me to direct, which I had not done before. He gave me my big break, but he gave me the confidence to believe I could do it. I was probably 28. I had avoided it for a long time out of terror. The week I did it, he basically co-directed the episode with me. The episode came out well, and it gave me a lot of confidence going forward.

How did he influence you in your writing?

He felt the most important thing writers should do is search for truth.  To create as much complexity as possible when creating characters, and that everything would flow out of that. If it’s people in an office, they’re well-drawn characters with specific problems and wounds that help him illuminate his theme.

Which is?

The way peoples’ egos prevent them from being as kind and loving as they should be. That’s what he was interested in writing about. It’s as if he’d seen so much selfishness in show business, and in himself, and he wanted to satirize the way ego screws everything up.

He used to say, the difference between him and Larry Sanders is Larry Sanders couldn’t write “The Larry Sanders Show.” He didn’t have enough self-awareness to do it.

A lot of what I’ve done has been about looking at my life, the lives of people around me, blurring the line between fiction and non-fiction. “Funny People” is clearly inspired by Garry’s work, “Crashing” follows and is inspired by “Larry Sanders” — in the way a comedian follows his spiritual life in a sometimes treacherous business.

Garry was kind of fearless in making himself look like an ass.

He had a very clear message in his work. He was interested in religion and Buddism, and he found a way to express those ideas in all the ways that people have trouble in their work and personal lives, because they’re valuing the wrong things. So when he shows Larry Sanders obsessed with his ratings, his point is – he should be more obsessed with being kind.

Also Read: 9 Garry Shandling Writers Who Went on to Huge Success (Photos)

He would talk about that explicitly?  

He talked about it all the time. For instance, there was an episode where Hank (Jeffrey Tambor) was trying to get a raise. And he wanted Larry to support him in his contract negotiatins.  To Garry that was about friendship, and how hard it is to find out if people are actually your friends. So it was really about: Is this person really a friend? Am I just an employee, or does he really care? That’s what he wanted to explore. It’s a show that took place in an office, but to Garry it was about how people treat each other.

There’s a deep spiritual underpinning to the show. It’s about a man who’s conflicted. At some level he knows he needs to leave the show or he won’t evolve, but it’s really hard. There was a season when he moved to Montana. But ultimately he couldn’t resist the spotlight and came back.

Garry started the show before Letterman and Leno had their drama. He anticipated all of this before it happened. When all of that was going on, “The Larry Sanders Show” was just starting its second season.

The jockeying for these talk show jobs — these machinations are accurate today. Just as we saw Larry get pushed off his show by Jon Stewart at the end of the last season of the show.

How did you know about his diaries?

Garry had begun a project where he was considering using his diaries as a jumping off point. So I knew about them. He knew there was something that would be educational and inspiring.

The documentary is so personal because we are able to show his thoughts in his diaries. It’s not just about his comedic evolution, it’s about his personal evolution. And how through the course of his life he grew into being a mentor, and to value other people above all else.

Were you shocked when he died?

I was. I didn’t see it coming at all. I had been speaking to him a lot before then, because he was trying to get “The Larry Sanders Show” bought by HBO so they could run it on their streaming services. He was very concerned about making sure it had a permanent home. And I had done a bunch of shows on stage with him at Largo we would just chat and he was as riotous as ever.

Garry was informed they closed the deal with HBO and he died that same morning.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Judd Apatow Justifies 4-Hour Garry Shandling Doc: ‘OJ Got 7 Hours and He Murdered People’

How Garry Shandling’s Dying Wish for ‘The Larry Sanders Show’ Was Granted

How Garry Shandling Helped Conan O’Brien Move on After Losing ‘The Tonight Show’ (Video)

I’ve often wondered why the name Garry Shandling sparks a near-worshipful reverence from his fellow comedians. Within the profession, Shandling is regarded as a trailblazer, but also as someone who reached back to help the careers of his fellow artists.

Shandling, who died on March 24, 2016 at age 66, was the star of the fourth-wall breaking sitcom “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” on Showtime from 1986 to 1990. He also starred on “The Larry Sanders Show,” an HBO hit that ran for six seasons from 1992 to 1998, and sent up the late-night talk-show format. His neurotic persona on both shows paved the way for other sitcoms like “Seinfeld,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and The Sarah Silverman Program.” Not to mention Apatow’s own recent show, “Crashing,” about the stand-up scene.

Apatow relied on Shandling’s personal diaries to create a two-part documentary airing on HBO. Apatow credits Shandling with giving him his start as a prolific and multi-talented comedy writer and director.

WaxWord spoke to the director as the two-part doc was going up on HBO.

Why is Garry Shandling so beloved among comedians?

One reason is he was the funniest. And the most innovative and daring. From a creative standpoint everybody has always looked up to him. He did something that most people would like to do but find very difficult to do,  which is he carved his own path, he always seemed like he was in his own category. He played by his own rules, he didn’t follow trends.

Actually, he created trends in comedy, right? The comedian starring as his own alter ego came from Shandling…

He did “The Garry Shandling Show” for Showtime when in it was in its infancy, then it was picked up by Fox in their infancy. And “The Larry Sanders Show” was one of the first groundbreaking shows HBO did. It indicated the type of programming they wanted to do in the future.

As a friend, he was always available to everybody, both personally and professionally. There are not many people out there who are that generous.

From the outside, he seemed rather cantankerous. Wasn’t he?

He was everything. In production, he was very intense. He was obsessed with making something of the highest possible quality, and of the deepest depth. If things didn’t look like they were going to come out well, he wasn’t happy. But he could also be fun, and hysterical to hang out with.

He seemed to have a much more easygoing relationship with the actors than the writers. He was very supportive of his cast, and more of a boss with the writers.

So you started out with him on his writing staff?

I started writing jokes for him when he hosted the Grammys. I was doing “The Ben Stiller Show,” and when that was cancelled he asked me to write for “The Larry Sanders Show.” Then he asked me to direct, which I had not done before. He gave me my big break, but he gave me the confidence to believe I could do it. I was probably 28. I had avoided it for a long time out of terror. The week I did it, he basically co-directed the episode with me. The episode came out well, and it gave me a lot of confidence going forward.

How did he influence you in your writing?

He felt the most important thing writers should do is search for truth.  To create as much complexity as possible when creating characters, and that everything would flow out of that. If it’s people in an office, they’re well-drawn characters with specific problems and wounds that help him illuminate his theme.

Which is?

The way peoples’ egos prevent them from being as kind and loving as they should be. That’s what he was interested in writing about. It’s as if he’d seen so much selfishness in show business, and in himself, and he wanted to satirize the way ego screws everything up.

He used to say, the difference between him and Larry Sanders is Larry Sanders couldn’t write “The Larry Sanders Show.” He didn’t have enough self-awareness to do it.

A lot of what I’ve done has been about looking at my life, the lives of people around me, blurring the line between fiction and non-fiction. “Funny People” is clearly inspired by Garry’s work, “Crashing” follows and is inspired by “Larry Sanders” — in the way a comedian follows his spiritual life in a sometimes treacherous business.

Garry was kind of fearless in making himself look like an ass.

He had a very clear message in his work. He was interested in religion and Buddism, and he found a way to express those ideas in all the ways that people have trouble in their work and personal lives, because they’re valuing the wrong things. So when he shows Larry Sanders obsessed with his ratings, his point is – he should be more obsessed with being kind.

He would talk about that explicitly?  

He talked about it all the time. For instance, there was an episode where Hank (Jeffrey Tambor) was trying to get a raise. And he wanted Larry to support him in his contract negotiatins.  To Garry that was about friendship, and how hard it is to find out if people are actually your friends. So it was really about: Is this person really a friend? Am I just an employee, or does he really care? That’s what he wanted to explore. It’s a show that took place in an office, but to Garry it was about how people treat each other.

There’s a deep spiritual underpinning to the show. It’s about a man who’s conflicted. At some level he knows he needs to leave the show or he won’t evolve, but it’s really hard. There was a season when he moved to Montana. But ultimately he couldn’t resist the spotlight and came back.

Garry started the show before Letterman and Leno had their drama. He anticipated all of this before it happened. When all of that was going on, “The Larry Sanders Show” was just starting its second season.

The jockeying for these talk show jobs — these machinations are accurate today. Just as we saw Larry get pushed off his show by Jon Stewart at the end of the last season of the show.

How did you know about his diaries?

Garry had begun a project where he was considering using his diaries as a jumping off point. So I knew about them. He knew there was something that would be educational and inspiring.

The documentary is so personal because we are able to show his thoughts in his diaries. It’s not just about his comedic evolution, it’s about his personal evolution. And how through the course of his life he grew into being a mentor, and to value other people above all else.

Were you shocked when he died?

I was. I didn’t see it coming at all. I had been speaking to him a lot before then, because he was trying to get “The Larry Sanders Show” bought by HBO so they could run it on their streaming services. He was very concerned about making sure it had a permanent home. And I had done a bunch of shows on stage with him at Largo we would just chat and he was as riotous as ever.

Garry was informed they closed the deal with HBO and he died that same morning.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Judd Apatow Justifies 4-Hour Garry Shandling Doc: 'OJ Got 7 Hours and He Murdered People'

How Garry Shandling's Dying Wish for 'The Larry Sanders Show' Was Granted

How Garry Shandling Helped Conan O'Brien Move on After Losing 'The Tonight Show' (Video)

Scene From the March for Our Lives in Santa Monica – Anger, Passion, Hope

On a brightly sunny March day, thousands of people in Santa Monica joined one of the many March for Our Lives demonstrations across the country to demand legislative change in gun laws. These are some images that speak for themselves, I think.

On a brightly sunny March day, thousands of people in Santa Monica joined one of the many March for Our Lives demonstrations across the country to demand legislative change in gun laws. These are some images that speak for themselves, I think.

Related stories from TheWrap:

How to Watch Saturday's March for Our Lives in Washington D.C.

Fox News Contributor Asks Shooting Survivor If March for Our Lives Is 'Just a Way to Goof Off' (Video)

Justin Bieber to Amy Schumer: Stars Throw Their Support Behind #MarchForOurLives

Power Lunch With Heather Graham: ‘It’s Exciting That People Are Listening to Us’ (Exclusive Video)

Every day seems to bring something new around here. The latest new thing is totally fun and inspiring, and allows me to use the word “totally” in my lead paragraph. Which is also new.

Here’s the gig: I get to go to lunch with a group of smart and talented women in the entertainment industry and you get to watch us do it. Seriously, the conversation is right on the edge of what’s happening, because entertainment is what makes the change, right? And women in Hollywood are leading the way, right?

Right.

Also Read: ‘Half Magic’ Director Heather Graham Explains the Power of Making a Wish (Exclusive Video)

Heather  Graham has directed her first feature, “Half Magic,” a comedy about dating and love, from the perspective of the women. (Roller Girl is all grown up, and Heather took it in stride when I made that terrible joke.)

“I wanted to write a movie that was empowering to women and I wanted to empower women,” said Graham during the lunch. “And I wanted to find humor in all these thigs that had upset me – bad relationships, sexism in Hollywood.”

Also Read: Heather Graham Says Israel Horovitz Forced a Kiss After She Dated His Son, Beastie Boys’ Ad-Rock

She, like the rest of us, feel like the moment is right to see women rise to a position of equity in the industry.

“It’s just exciting that people are listening to us,” she said.

Check out the video above. And stayed tuned for our next episode featuring Dakota Fanning!

Related stories from TheWrap:

BE Conference 2018 Portraits: Rachel Bloom, Andrea Razzaghi and More Mentors (Photos)

What I Learned at TheWrap’s BE Conference on Mentorship

‘Half Magic’ Director Heather Graham Explains the Power of Making a Wish (Exclusive Video)

Heather Graham Says Israel Horovitz Forced a Kiss After She Dated His Son, Beastie Boys’ Ad-Rock

Every day seems to bring something new around here. The latest new thing is totally fun and inspiring, and allows me to use the word “totally” in my lead paragraph. Which is also new.

Here’s the gig: I get to go to lunch with a group of smart and talented women in the entertainment industry and you get to watch us do it. Seriously, the conversation is right on the edge of what’s happening, because entertainment is what makes the change, right? And women in Hollywood are leading the way, right?

Right.

Heather  Graham has directed her first feature, “Half Magic,” a comedy about dating and love, from the perspective of the women. (Roller Girl is all grown up, and Heather took it in stride when I made that terrible joke.)

“I wanted to write a movie that was empowering to women and I wanted to empower women,” said Graham during the lunch. “And I wanted to find humor in all these thigs that had upset me – bad relationships, sexism in Hollywood.”

She, like the rest of us, feel like the moment is right to see women rise to a position of equity in the industry.

“It’s just exciting that people are listening to us,” she said.

Check out the video above. And stayed tuned for our next episode featuring Dakota Fanning!

Related stories from TheWrap:

BE Conference 2018 Portraits: Rachel Bloom, Andrea Razzaghi and More Mentors (Photos)

What I Learned at TheWrap's BE Conference on Mentorship

'Half Magic' Director Heather Graham Explains the Power of Making a Wish (Exclusive Video)

Heather Graham Says Israel Horovitz Forced a Kiss After She Dated His Son, Beastie Boys' Ad-Rock

Mark Zuckerberg Is Russia, Trump and Cambridge Analytica’s Useful Idiot

What I’d like to know is why any of us are on Facebook anymore.

I’d also like to know when we are going to stop treating Mark Zuckerberg like some benevolent potentate in the magical land of Tech, and start holding him responsible for what he is, and what he has done to our democracy.

This weekend the New York Times revealed that Cambridge Analytica, the data science firm funded by right-wing ideologue Robert Mercer and hired by the Trump campaign to run social media campaigns and analysis in 2016, snookered Facebook into handing over the private information of 50 million users.

“The firm harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, according to former Cambridge employees, associates and documents, making it one of the largest data leaks in the social network’s history,” wrote the Times, God bless those investigative reporters every one. “The breach allowed the company to exploit the private social media activity of a huge swath of the American electorate, developing techniques that underpinned its work on President Trump’s campaign in 2016.”

Also Read: Facebook Suspends Data Analytics Firm With Ties to Trump Campaign for Harvesting Voter Data

How’d they do it? Per the Times:  “Cambridge paid to acquire the personal information through an outside researcher who, Facebook says, claimed to be collecting it for academic purposes.”

Said researcher is — wait for it — a Russian-American!!

And how did we learn all this? Did Facebook conduct an internal inquiry into how the platform may have been inappropriately or illegally used to influence the 2016 election? Since we already know that it was?

Haha: I’m joking, of course.

The Times said Facebook “downplayed the scope of the leak” as its reporters pressed for answers. And when the social media giant actually checked — suddenly they were really alarmed! (There are also lots of other questions: Why would Facebook release this to an academic anyway? Wouldn’t an academic who could pay for that kind of scaled information raise alarm bells?)

“This was a scam — and a fraud,” Paul Grewal, Facebook’s vice president and deputy general counsel, said in a statement to the Times, adding that they’d suspended both Cambridge Analytica and the researcher, Aleksandr Kogan.

In the words of Russian spyspeak, Zuckerberg now counts — like our president — as a “useful idiot.” He has contributed, and apparently continues to contribute, to the corruption of our democratic process. The Times reports that Cambridge Analytica still has “most or all” of the data.

Meanwhile, Facebook rakes in billions of dollars in profit each quarter — $7.3 billion in the last quarter of 2017 — while sucking advertising dollars away from digital media companies that do actual journalism, like Vox and Mic and Buzzfeed.

Do I sound furious? I am.

I’m sure I don’t need to remind anybody that when the government asked Facebook to check on Russian-backed ads during the presidential election, Zuckerberg at first said he didn’t think it was a thing. The notion that fake news on Facebook influenced the election is “a pretty crazy idea,” he said in November 2016. (No, really: Watch the video.)

Then Facebook checked and found that hundreds of fake Facebook accounts, probably run from Russia, spent about $100,000 on ads about divisive issues such as gun control and race relations during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. By now we’ve all seen those ads trotted out in Congressional hearing rooms.

Once again we must thank the Fourth Estate, in this case the New York Times, for digging out information that Facebook would rather not have shared.

Mark Zuckerberg, the Times has exposed you for your naivete and cowardice. We, your users, need to take action — like getting off your platform.  Your actions are tepid, late and lacking in credibility.

Sheryl Sandberg, you know better, what are you doing to fix this?

I’m not a fan of government regulation in general, but we need it here, and now comes word of a U.S. Attorney General investigation. That’s a start. We need our legislators to step in and regulate Facebook. Stick their nose in. Pass rules. Make Facebook accountable, because for the moment, it’s just a wild oligopoly driven by mad growth and madder profit.

Also Read: US Attorney General to Investigate Facebook Over Data Leak to Group Linked to Trump Campaign

Public accountablity becomes harder when our government is paralyzed, divided and utterly broken. And it is that way — in part because of the divisions that foreign actors sowed on Facebook during our election.

Our democracy is precious. It is strong, but it has fault lines that Russia has clearly exploited. The geniuses of Silicon Valley, changing everything in our world, need to get a lot more transparent, a lot more thoughtful and a lot more accountable for what they have wrought.

Until they do, I recommend we give Facebook a wide berth.

What I’d like to know is why any of us are on Facebook anymore.

I’d also like to know when we are going to stop treating Mark Zuckerberg like some benevolent potentate in the magical land of Tech, and start holding him responsible for what he is, and what he has done to our democracy.

This weekend the New York Times revealed that Cambridge Analytica, the data science firm funded by right-wing ideologue Robert Mercer and hired by the Trump campaign to run social media campaigns and analysis in 2016, snookered Facebook into handing over the private information of 50 million users.

“The firm harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, according to former Cambridge employees, associates and documents, making it one of the largest data leaks in the social network’s history,” wrote the Times, God bless those investigative reporters every one. “The breach allowed the company to exploit the private social media activity of a huge swath of the American electorate, developing techniques that underpinned its work on President Trump’s campaign in 2016.”

How’d they do it? Per the Times:  “Cambridge paid to acquire the personal information through an outside researcher who, Facebook says, claimed to be collecting it for academic purposes.”

Said researcher is — wait for it — a Russian-American!!

And how did we learn all this? Did Facebook conduct an internal inquiry into how the platform may have been inappropriately or illegally used to influence the 2016 election? Since we already know that it was?

Haha: I’m joking, of course.

The Times said Facebook “downplayed the scope of the leak” as its reporters pressed for answers. And when the social media giant actually checked — suddenly they were really alarmed! (There are also lots of other questions: Why would Facebook release this to an academic anyway? Wouldn’t an academic who could pay for that kind of scaled information raise alarm bells?)

“This was a scam — and a fraud,” Paul Grewal, Facebook’s vice president and deputy general counsel, said in a statement to the Times, adding that they’d suspended both Cambridge Analytica and the researcher, Aleksandr Kogan.

In the words of Russian spyspeak, Zuckerberg now counts — like our president — as a “useful idiot.” He has contributed, and apparently continues to contribute, to the corruption of our democratic process. The Times reports that Cambridge Analytica still has “most or all” of the data.

Meanwhile, Facebook rakes in billions of dollars in profit each quarter — $7.3 billion in the last quarter of 2017 — while sucking advertising dollars away from digital media companies that do actual journalism, like Vox and Mic and Buzzfeed.

Do I sound furious? I am.

I’m sure I don’t need to remind anybody that when the government asked Facebook to check on Russian-backed ads during the presidential election, Zuckerberg at first said he didn’t think it was a thing. The notion that fake news on Facebook influenced the election is “a pretty crazy idea,” he said in November 2016. (No, really: Watch the video.)

Then Facebook checked and found that hundreds of fake Facebook accounts, probably run from Russia, spent about $100,000 on ads about divisive issues such as gun control and race relations during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. By now we’ve all seen those ads trotted out in Congressional hearing rooms.

Once again we must thank the Fourth Estate, in this case the New York Times, for digging out information that Facebook would rather not have shared.

Mark Zuckerberg, the Times has exposed you for your naivete and cowardice. We, your users, need to take action — like getting off your platform.  Your actions are tepid, late and lacking in credibility.

Sheryl Sandberg, you know better, what are you doing to fix this?

I’m not a fan of government regulation in general, but we need it here, and now comes word of a U.S. Attorney General investigation. That’s a start. We need our legislators to step in and regulate Facebook. Stick their nose in. Pass rules. Make Facebook accountable, because for the moment, it’s just a wild oligopoly driven by mad growth and madder profit.

Public accountablity becomes harder when our government is paralyzed, divided and utterly broken. And it is that way — in part because of the divisions that foreign actors sowed on Facebook during our election.

Our democracy is precious. It is strong, but it has fault lines that Russia has clearly exploited. The geniuses of Silicon Valley, changing everything in our world, need to get a lot more transparent, a lot more thoughtful and a lot more accountable for what they have wrought.

Until they do, I recommend we give Facebook a wide berth.