★ Actress Jill Clayburgh died at age 66 at her home in Lakeville, Connecticut.
★ The show “The Whole Truth” staring Mass. native Maura Tierney has been axed by ABC.
★ Brookline’s Conan O’Brien prepares for his return to TV, and opens up about the shake-up with fellow Mass. native, Jay Leno.
★ Massachusetts and Connecticut could be possible contenders for landing a new TV show on HBO.
★ Ben Affleck aging over the years; a timeline.
★ New England Patriots star Tom Brady gets a raise, but is it enough to compete with his supermodel wife?
As part of a series of “Cinematique” lectures sponsored by the Boston University College of Communication, Gregg Fienberg, the co-executive producer of the hit HBO series, “True Blood,” took some time to speak to a packed auditorium of BU students on the process of how an episode of the show progresses from its original development to broadcast; during a Q&A session he also gave advice to the future employees of the film and television industry.
Fienberg is a true veteran of film and television, served as creative producer for the hit television series, “Twin Peaks,” beginning in 1990 and lasting through 1991, and producer of the 1998 film Gods and Monsters, among others. The main difference between film and television, he says, is that “with movies, you have two hours to work with; you shoot, edit, then prep and you’re done. But with television you never know how long you’re gonna go. Sometimes you’re shooting, editing, and prepping all at the same time. It’s chaotic.”
According to Fienberg, in television series usually involves around 20-22 scripts per season. With “True Blood,” however, there are only twelve episodes per season, which puts a lot of pressure on the writers. “Every single script better be damn good,” says Fienberg. “It is very sophisticated writing, the tone is shifting all the time.” HBO is also different than other television networks because “the people who develop the script, buy the script, and put it on the air are all the same people. Usually it’s a bunch of different studios. This makes the whole process more cohesive; it really works well.”
“True Blood” is one of the top 5 of all shows — both cable and regular broadcast — for the 18- to 49-year-old demographic. Fienberg says it is all because “we’re able to get a little more real, a little more deep ; the audience doesn’t have to be spoon-fed.”
Fienberg became co-executive producer of “True Blood” during its second season in 2009. The series was created in 2008 by Alan Ball, who is also responsible for “Six Feet Under.” Says Fienberg of Ball: “Alan is an extremely free thinker and a ton of fun.” Fienberg will continue to work with the show through its fourth season, debuting in the summer of 2011.
Watch Fienberg’s live speech below:
This Thursday, May 27, every shoe fanatic, fashionista, and Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte-wannabe will be at the theaters to see the new Sex and the City 2 movie. The highly anticipated film, starring all the familiar favorites from the now iconic HBO series, has been gearing up for weeks, being promoted almost everywhere you look.
On Thursday, May 20, at the Cambridgeside Galleria, 200 lucky VIPs celebrated the coming attraction with a fabulous soiree that included free cocktails, dessert samples courtesy of Finale, beauty treatments by Elizabeth Grady, and massive swag bags filled with beauty products, gift cards, and promotional items from the movie. Party guests were also entered into a raffle for dozens of prizes like “Sex and the City” DVDs, CDs, books, special edition Skyy Vodka, and Jee Vice Optic Couture designer sunglasses as seen in the movie, that were given away throughout the night. The event was even covered by reports from Dirty Water TV. For more photos from the fabulous event, check out our Facebook page!
Attendees were invited to dress as their favorite character, with the look-a-likes winning passes to a sneak preview screening of the film on Monday, May 24, three days before the film is officially released. HEC was there for the preview, which played to not one, but two packed screens at the Loews Boston Common theater.
The film didn’t disappoint die-hard fans, with many saying it felt more like a super-sized episode of the show, rather than a stand-alone movie, as the original feature film did. With much of the film taking place in Abhu Dabi (though filmed in Morocco), the eye-intoxicating array of haute couture and vintage fashions seemed at home in the exotic setting. The movie was not without some local connections however. Actor Mario Cantone, who plays Charlotte’s gay best friend and wedding stylist Anthony Marantino, was born in Boston. Most of his scenes in the movie take place in Connecticut, though they were actually filmed in New York City.
★ Cast of the Bay State film, Fury Vengeance talk about real life animal encounters at the premiere (above).
★ Two-time Tony Award winning actress Frances Sternhagen, also known as Cliff’s mom on Cheers and Bunny MacDougal on Sex and the City, performs at the Salem Theatre Company.
★ Katie Holmes to star as Jackie Kennedy in HBO miniseries.
★ Scott Brown’s daughter, and former “American Idol” contestant, Ayla, gets job on CBS’s “The Early Show”.
★ “Project Runway” contestant, designer Kara Janx, to appear at the May 12th and 13th Stylefixx event in Boston, previewing her spring 2010 line.
★ The New England Patriot Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen drop $20 million to build the their ideal home in Brentwood, California.
HEC: How did you get your first part in a movie?
I was living in Budapest, Hungary, teaching English and acting. In the summer of 1997, I was heading home for a few weeks to visit family and friends. Two days before I was scheduled to depart, I read an ad for an open audition for an HBO film called When Trumpets Fade. There had been a rumor that due to low-production costs (Hungary wasn’t EU back then), film companies would be making more and more movies locally, and using native-English speakers to fill bit parts. Typically, you had to network with the smaller, local production companies to arrange an interview. When Trumpets Fade was the first I saw advertised so publicly. So I went to the open audition and landed the highly-coveted role of “Flashback Controller.” I’m still bitter the Academy overlooked my four lines.
HEC: What kind of work have you done here in the US and Massachusetts?
When I came home at Christmas in 1998, I visited my then-girlfriend in NJ. We went to NYC for an afternoon to shop, etc. I saw in the acting tabloid, Backstage, an ad for a national tour of Don Quixote. I auditioned, and although half the play was in Spanish – and I spoke none – they were fascinated I lived in Budapest and had been in a play in Hungarian (without speaking that either). If I could recite Hungarian lines phonetically, I could recite lines in Spanish. I got the part and toured the country for the first five months of 1999. I moved a month after I got back.
Fast forward to now. I’ve done student films and small indies like Working Stiff, which filmed around Boston. The student films I found out about through Larry Stark’s Theatre Mirror online and were mostly through Emerson. I tried to write/direct/produce a trailer for a film called Treasuring, and actually got it filmed, but couldn’t get it edited. Now, whenever Maura Tighe calls, I audition, and look forward to continuing to work with them as I have since I moved home.
HEC: Has your schooling, degree, or any other background experience helped you at all when you’ve worked in the entertainment industry?
Well, my undergraduate degree was in Government, so maybe? Given current events, both industries seem to excel at make-believe.
HEC: What is your most memorable experience working on a film or commercial?
When I was cast in my second movie, When Trumpets Fade, the Budapest-based production company didn’t give the production team where we were filming (a little town in the country called Balatonfured) any background info on me. They assumed I’d been flown in from LA. I had one line – and it was cut – but if they thought I flew over with Timothy Olyphant, Ron Eldard, Bobby Canavale, and Zak Orth, who was I to correct them? I had my own trailer, a staff of two (wardrobe and someone to run errands), and a driver. I’ve attempted to adapt to not having staff ever since. I don’t think I’m succeeding.
HEC: Have you done anything lately related to film or television work?
The last thing I did was a commercial in November of 2008 (I think). I audition through Maura Tighe casting for non-union commercials every few months or so. I booked that commercial through them and the last three I’ve done – they’re fantastic.
HEC: What kind of commercials have you been in, and where were they filmed?
The local commercials I’ve been in have all been through Maura Tighe – I did a “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” spoof that aired during the Athens Olympics (filmed at the Jordan’s Furniture in Natick), an insurance commercial where I played a carpenter and kept hitting my thumb back in 2004, which was filmed in Plymouth, MA, and most recently, a spot for a hospital in Connecticut, that was filmed in Braintree. Before that, I was in a series of non-union ads for Carmax, none of which aired locally, unfortunately. I lived here but would commute down to NYC on the Fung Wah bus.
HEC: We heard you’re friends with a recent Emmy winner; how did that relationship begin?
My friend Mike Sucsy and I met at Deerfield Academy – I did a post-graduate year, for drama. He and I were actually in the “Merchant of Venice” together. He found his calling a few years after we graduated and about ten years ago went west to start his career as a director. While buidling his resume with commercials, he was working on a “project,” and every so often he’d email with updates, or he’d see me and the gang at our annual get-together on the Cape or here and there. That “project” turned out to be a script he wrote and directed called Grey Gardens, which won a slew of Emmys and a couple Golden Globes this past year. We still give him grief for thanking everyone but his friends and family during his acceptance speech! Seriously, I think he even thanked the key grip. Unreal. But remember that name – he will be huge! Then I can sell his Christmas cards to my wife and I on eBay.
These days, people do just about everything online—from banking to booking, and shopping to soul mate searching. So why are you still glued to that antiquated TV in your family room? As computers become increasingly multi-purpose and progressively more hi-def, it’s only a matter of time before the boob tube becomes obsolete. ClickZ writer Jack Aaronson recently commented on this trend in his article “ITV’s Commercials”: “The stars are aligned for ITV. The world is going digital. The notion of the ‘central media server’ is slow becoming a reality. The desktop is quickly converging with the TV.”
Greenlight360—a Greater Boston-based internet television network expected to launch later this year—is riding the wave of this cultural phenomenon, answering their homepage statistic that “a U.S. audience of 131 million watches an average of 3 hours of video online each month.”
While some online video is available on network websites like HBO or ABC, the vast majority of internet video out there is pirated, low-quality material. But forget the amateur videos on YouTube and the distracting Japanese subtitles; Greenlight360 aims to remedy the void in high-caliber, online television with the development and broadcast of up to 20 episodic shows over the next three years. Greenlight360 CEO Ricky Berger recognizes how crucial it is to produce excellent television: “iTV Networks featuring original content will live or die by the quality of that content.”
Greenlight360 hopes to ensure quality by eliciting feedback from the general public. Viewers will vote to help decide which episodic shows and films are renewed, further promoted, or canceled. However, the network will serve as a platform for emerging-but-unsigned talent as well. Users will have the opportunity to upload, promote, and capitalize on their own shows, even if they are unaffiliated with the official network programming. Berger is enthusiastic about the interactive potential: “We will…become THE destination for emerging artists to promote their content on the web. As the Greenlight360 brand evolves, we expect the volume of inquiries and ‘pitches’ from emerging artists to continually rise.”
But according to Greenlight 360′s unique production model, such high quality content doesn’t necessarily require costly production budgets. The “Green Team” plans to leverage a low-cost, scalable model that will help the network platform move to profitability much earlier than other iTV competitors. The network has already entered the preproduction stages of a show about returning war veterans. Check out Craigslist for Greenlight360’s open casting call announcement and production crew job opportunities. To stay posted on everything Greenlight360, follow them on Twitter: @greenlight360.
You can subscribe to HollywoodEastConnection.com by e-mail address to receive news and upates directly in your inbox. Simply enter your e-mail below and click Sign Up!