Alfonso Cuarón, Kenya Barris, Tina Fey and 750 More Sign Letter Backing WGA in Battle Against Agencies

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More than 750 screenwriters and showrunners, including Alfonso Cuarón, Kenya Barris, Tina Fey and Adam McKay, have signed a letter supporting the Writers Guild of America in its battle against and the Association of Talent Agents over packaging fees and conflicts of interest.

“We are voting YES to support Guild implementation of an Agency Code of Conduct after the current AMBA expires on April 6th, if there is no negotiated settlement,” read the letter. “We agree a new agency agreement should 1) Confront practices that constitute a conflict of interest: agency packaging fees and agencies functioning as producers and 2) Require the agencies to work with the Guild to protect writers’ interests by providing writer contracts, invoices and other information.”

Fede Alvarez, Ike Barinholtz, Amy Berg, Greg Berlanti, Kay Cannon, Peter Farrelly, Simon Kinberg, Mindy Kaling, Barry Jenkins, Patton Oswalt, Amy Poehler, Issa Rae and Colin Trevorrow, among many more, signed the letter as well.

Also Read: ATA Sticks With Packaging Fees in Latest Counterproposal to Writers Guild

Over the past week, the WGA and one of the top agencies in Hollywood, United Talent Agency, have published dueling reports on the impact that packaging fees have had on how much writers get paid. UTA argues that by including writers in packaging deals instead of taking a 10 percent commission, they have been able to save their writer clients an average of $2,439.

But in its own report published Thursday, the WGA argued that TV writers with producer credits have not seen their pay increase in relation to inflation rates over the past 20 years.

For example, the WGA report notes that a supervising producer on a one-hour drama in the 1990s made an average $17,500 per episode, “That would be $27,300 in today’s dollars,” the report said. “But again, 17 years later, supervising producers at the median were making only $17,500 per episode.”

The WGA also said that while its members’ total earnings hit an all-time high of $1.4 billion in 2017, median wages are dropping. That is something the guild blames agencies for, claiming that agents “have not kept up their end of the bargain by fighting for increases in their clients’ over-scale payments.”

Also Read: Writers Guild Casts Doubt on UTA Report in Packaging Fee Dispute: ‘A False Premise’

ATA’s counterproposal, posted to its official site Thursday, doesn’t differ much from the informal counterproposal made public on March 12. Talent agencies aren’t backing down on their commitment to package deals. However, the latest document explains in greater detail how agencies would provide transparency and greater consent for writers when it comes to packaging.

Packaging fees, the guild argues, have allowed agencies to capitalize on the demand for more TV programming by increasing the fees they receive for packaging deals for shows that can run for years, rather than operate on a commission system that directly ties how much agents earn to how much money they secure for their writers.

The WGA has scheduled a four-day membership vote that will begin on March 27 to authorize the guild to enforce a new Code of Conduct requiring agencies to remove all package fees from their deals in order to represent writers. If the vote is approved, the Code will be enforced on April 7, with the WGA calling on its members to leave any agency that refuses to comply.

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Netflix Orders Mindy Kaling Coming-of-Age Comedy

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Netflix has ordered a coming-of-age comedy series from Mindy Kaling.

The untitled series, which is created by Kaling and Lang Fisher, is about the complicated life of a modern-day first-generation Indian American teenaged girl, inspired by Kaling’s childhood. Howard Klein and David Miner will executive produce with Kaling and Fisher.

Kaling is attached only as a co-creator and executive producer at this time.

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The series, which was ordered for 10 episodes, is under Kaling’s deal with Universal TV, which she is leaving for a multi-year deal with Warner Bros. TV.

Kaling had been with Universal Television since getting her start on NBC’s “The Office.” She went on to create “The Mindy Project” for the studio, which ran for a total of six seasons on Fox and Hulu, as well as the short-lived NBC comedy “Champions.” She also has a limited series adaptation of “Four Weddings and a Funeral” in the works at Hulu.

Kaling’s most recent project is the feature film “Late Night,” for which she serves as executive producer, writer and star opposite Emma Thompson. The movie debuted at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and was acquired by Amazon Studios for a hefty $13 million.

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‘Late Night’ Trailer: Mindy Kaling, Emma Thompson Strike Comedy Gold In Upcoming Amazon Feature

Read on: Deadline.

Mere seconds pass before several people are fired in this first trailer for Amazon Studios’ Late Night, with Emma Thompson as a monstrous boss and talk-show host doing the head-chopping. The assistant-firing Murphy Brown at her most ruthless was …

Mindy Kaling Takes Over Emma Thompson’s All-Male Writers’ Room in ‘Late Night’ Trailer (Video)

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Mindy Kaling is a “splash of color” on an otherwise gray slate in the first trailer for “Late Night,” the Sundance hit that stars Emma Thompson as a legendary late night talk show host.

The only problem is, in what’s meant to be her final year on the air, Thompson finds her entire writing staff is white and male, so she makes a point to clean house and takes on Kaling as her first female writer. It’s up to Kaling to help Thompson transform her show before the network feels she’s grown stale. She “needs” Kaling.

“You love me … I mean not in those words,” Kaling says. “No, I didn’t say it in any of those words,” Thompson barks back.

Also Read: ‘Late Night’ Breakout Director Nisha Ganatra to Direct Romance ‘Covers’ for Universal

“Late Night” was written by Kaling and directed by Nisha Ganatra, who has already been tapped to direct a romance called “Covers” for Universal after a long career in TV.

Amy Ryan, John Lithgow, Reid Scott and Ike Barinholtz also star in the comedy, which Amazon felt so strongly in, they nabbed it out of Sundance for $13 million.

Now they’re hoping it will be a summer hit, releasing it in theaters on June 7.

Watch the first trailer for “Late Night” above.

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Mindy Kaling’s ‘Late Night’ Lands June Release Date

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

“Late Night,” the Sundance comedy written by and starring Mindy Kaling, will open in theaters on June 7, Kaling announced in a Twitter video on Thursday.

Amazon Studios is releasing the film directed by Nisha Ganatra that also stars Emma Thompson.

“Last season of ‘Game of Thrones’ will be done by then, so you have no reason not to see it,” Kaling said in the announcement video, which you can watch below:

Also Read: Mindy Kaling’s ‘Late Night’ Might Just Be the First Commercial Hit at Sundance This Year

You heard it here first. @LateNightMovie in theaters June 7th ???? pic.twitter.com/2LTToPsU0W

— Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling) February 28, 2019

Amazon acquired the film for $13 million following its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. “Late Night” stars Thompson as a legendary late-night TV host who is accused of being a “woman who hates women,” so she puts affirmative action on the to-do list, and — presto! — Molly (Mindy Kaling) is hired as the one woman in Katherine’s all-male writers’ room.

John Lithgow, Amy Ryan, Paul Walter Hauser, Reid Scott and Ike Barinholtz also co-star in the film.

Kaling also produced with Howard Klein, Ben Browning and Jillian Apfelbaum. Alison Cohen, Milan Popelka, Micah Green and Daniel Steinman are the executive producers. 30WEST financed the film with FilmNation. FilmNation produced with Imperative Entertainment.

Also Read: Emma Thompson Explains Her Refusal to Work With John Lasseter: Why Give Him a ‘Second Chance’?

“Late Night” will open opposite Fox’s X-Men movie “Dark Phoenix” and Universal’s animated “The Secret Life of Pets 2.”

The film’s director, Nisha Ganatra, has already landed her next project, directing a romance set in the musical world of Los Angeles at Universal called “Covers.”

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Mindy Kaling’s ‘Late Night’ Gets Summer Theatrical Release Date From Amazon

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Amazon Studios said Thursday it will bow Late Night in theaters nationwide on June 7, with the news coming after the streaming service made a splashy deal at the Sundance Film Festival for the comedy directed by Nisha Ganatra and written and produced b…

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‘Late Night’ Breakout Director Nisha Ganatra to Direct Romance ‘Covers’ for Universal

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

“Late Night” breakout director Nisha Ganatra is in talks to helm Universal and Working Title’s “Covers,” an individual with knowledge of the project told TheWrap.

“Covers” will be a romance set in the Los Angeles music world. Working Title’s Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner will produce and Working Title’s Alexandra Loewy will serve as executive producer.

Flora Greeson penned the script. Universal Executive Vice President of Production Erik Baiers and Creative Executive Lexi Barta will oversee the project on behalf of the studio.

Also Read: Mindy Kaling’s ‘Late Night’ Might Just Be the First Commercial Hit at Sundance This Year

Ganatra most recently directed the comedy “Late Night,” which premiered at Sundance Film Festival and was swept up by Amazon Studios for a whopping $13 million. Her additional credits include episodes of “The Last Man on Earth,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “Love,” “Girls” and “Better Things.” She also served as a consulting producer on “Transparent,” which earned her a Primetime Emmy nomination in 2015.

Universal recently pledged to joined Time’s Up’s 4 percent challenge to work with more female directors.

Ganatra is represented by ICM Partners and Morris Yorn Barnes Levine Krintzman Rubenstein Kohner & Gellman.

Variety first reported the news.

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Amazon spent more money at Sundance this year than any other studio has before

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Sundance’s Haves and Have Nots: Can Traditional Indie Distributors Still Compete?

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Sundance 2019 brought into sharp focus the two-tiered reality that now dominates the world of independent content.

It’s a story of the haves and the have-nots.

The haves are those giant tech-based companies like Netflix, Amazon and Apple that can plunk down many millions of dollars on a movie they like without a second thought.

Also Read: Sundance 2019: Every Movie Sold So Far, From ‘Late Night’ to ‘The Farewell’ (Updating)

The have-nots are everybody else — scrappy distributors who still do the Old Math: adding up the P&A costs, the ancillary rights like TV and international and, um, airlines to figure out how to protect their downside and maybe make a profit.

But there’s no such old-style nonsense for the tech giants — and Amazon is the colossus of choice at this year’s Sundance, blithely buying multiple movies for $15 million without so much as entering a bidding war. Who does that? (Netflix, which wasn’t in the game this year.)

“Late Night,” the broad comedy by Mindy Kaling and co-starring Emma Thompson, went to Amazon for $13 million on Day One of the festival. “The Report,” a gripping drama about the Senate investigation into U.S. torture after 9/11, went to the streamer for $14 million.  And by week’s end Amazon went after a comedy titled “Brittany Runs a Marathon,” starring Jillian Bell, buying it for $14 million.

There isn’t math behind these sales that make any particular sense, despite the fact that the tech giants are supposedly driven by data, according to a number of individuals in the know. Amazon is looking for subscribers to its Prime service, and needs a credible lineup of entertainment to compete with the crushing volume of original content now coming from Netflix. (Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)

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Amazon chief Jeff Bezos is capable of spending anything he needs to compete in the entertainment space, having just reported yet another behemoth quarterly earnings triumph.

That leaves the second-tier of buyers to compete over the rest. The noble task of finding movies, buying them at a price and then marketing them to (hopefully) success is left to the likes of Sony Pictures Classics, which bought a David Crosby documentary by producer Cameron Crowe.

Or the taste-making indie distributor A24, which bought a Tilda Swinton starrer “The Souvenir.” Or The Orchard (now known as 1091 Media — but why? please change the name back), which bought Frédéric Tcheng’s documentary “Halston.”

IFC acquired U.S. rights to “The Nightingale,” the latest film from Jennifer Kent, the Australian director of “The Babadook.”

Scrappy Neon, which has shown distinctive taste in choosing movies in the last few years, was probably the most aggressive indie in the “have-not” space, punching above its weight to buy a number of films.

One agent I spoke to who sold a number of films disputed this thesis, saying that a couple of films went to traditional distributors over the streamers — including Netflix — who wanted to pay more.

“What the streamers can often offer is greater or more immediate reach to consumers, which sometimes make sense for that particular film,” said Rena Ronson, co-head of UTA’s  Independent Film Group. “So a lot has to do with knowing your film and making the right choice not just financially, but creatively and strategically.”

But many other distributors I talked to were coldly realistic about their chances to nab the buzziest movies premiering at the festival.

Also Read: Neon Acquires Naomi Watts’ Sundance Film ‘Luce’ in Partnership With Topic Studios

“We’re buying what we can,” said the head of one art-house distribution company. Most of the second-tier sales did not announce the prices in their news releases, a sure sign that the figures were modest.

Notably absent from the buying activities (at least at time of publication) were more traditional art-house studios based at the majors like Focus Features and Fox Searchlight. (Weirdly, WarnerMedia’s New Line stepped up to by Gurinder Chadha’s ’80s-set teen movie “Blinded by the Light” for $15 million).

This makes for a strange dynamic in the indie space, especially since many of the tech giants have now hired veteran executives who are used to competing in the scrappier world.

But then — why should the world of indie film be any different than the rest of the country?

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Sundance So Far: Hollywood’s Own State of the Union Address, From ‘Late Night’ to ‘Native Son’

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

The Sundance Film Festival is always a barometer of the times to some degree, with often-topical indie films alternating with documentaries about the hot-button issues of the day. But there’s something particularly timely about this year’s Sundance, which has made a point of embracing diversity and in its first four days has showcased a slate of films that constitute its own (non-delayed) State of the Union address.

Screening at a festival that gave 63 percent of its press credentials to underrepresented groups and booked nearly half its slate with female directors, the films that have gotten the most buzz at this year’s festival almost all have a significant amount of contemporary resonance.

The biggest sale, by far, was for “Late Night,” a comedy written by Mindy Kaling and directed by Nisha Ganatra that beneath the laughs tackled the underrepresentation of women in television writers’ rooms. The most acclaimed films include Scott Z. Burns’ “The Report,” which deals with the Senate investigation into the CIA’s torture policy after 9/11 — and celebrates investigative journalism and congressional oversight at a time when both are under fire from the Trump White House.

Also Read: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Joins Sundance After All, by Webcast

Other highlights over the first weekend include “Native Son,” a searing and timely adaptation of Richard Wright’s acclaimed novel, and “The Last Man in San Francisco,” Joe Talbot’s very different take on race and class.

And the landscape of this year’s films is one of dramatic inclusion, with stories ranging from a Chinese-American woman in conflict with her family’s culture (“The Farewell”) to a story about a Pakistani teen in Britain who finds his voice by listening to Bruce Springsteen (“Blinded by the Light”). (And those aren’t even in the World Cinema sections of the festival.)

There’s also a coming-of-age story with a transgender twist in “Adam,” taking one of the classic Sundance styles in a new direction, a feminist twist on dystopian science fiction in “I Am Mother,” and a revenge story that detours into a searing examination of the subjugation of women and indigenous peoples in “The Nightingale.”

Also Read: Why Hilary Swank Is So Optimistic About Filmmaking’s Diverse Future (Video)

And then there are the documentaries, with highlights in the first weekend including “Knock Down the House,” about insurgent political candidacies epitomized by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; “The Inventor,” about Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes and the “fake it till you make it” culture of Silicon Valley; “Untouchable,” about Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual misconduct and “Where’s My Roy Cohn?,” a doc so timely that one of its talking heads, Cohn protégé Roger Stone, was arrested the day of the premiere.

That’s the tip of the iceberg, and it’s hardly new to Sundance. But when you add up this year’s offerings, in many ways they amount to a portrait of a fractured country, and a prescription for change and healing.

In addition, the festival highlighted an unusually rich slate of music docs, including “David Crosby: Remember My Name,” “Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love” and “Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool,” along with “Ask Dr. Ruth” and “Halston,” and some films that have gotten lots of attention without fitting too snugly into this narrative (the Michael Jackson documentary “Leaving Neverland” and the Ted Bundy biopic “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile”).

On the whole, the docs have been stronger than the narrative films, but that’s par for the course at Sundance. And together, the docs and narratives add up to a comprehensive look not only at the state of independent film but the state of the union itself.

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