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FRIDAY, Jan. 8

GKIDS will release Studio Ghibli’s highly-anticipated new feature “Earwig and the Witch” in both theaters and on streaming in early February, followed by a home entertainment release in the spring. The release means “Earwig and the Witch” will still qualify for awards consideration.

The film will open in select theaters on Feb. 3, in both Japanese subtitled and English dubbed versions. Starting Feb. 5, “Earwig and the Witch” will also be available to stream in the U.S. on HBO Max.

“We are thrilled to be bringing Goro Miyazaki’s magical new film to North American audiences next month,” said GKIDS president Dave Jesteadt. “’Earwig and the Witch’ is the first new Studio Ghibli release in four years, and is the studio’s first foray into computer animation. Working together with HBO Max, Fathom Events, and other theatrical partners will enable GKIDS to bring this wonderful film to the widest possible audience.”

Fathom CEO Ray Nutt added, “Once again Studio Ghibli has created a visual and storytelling masterpiece. Fathom is excited to continue our partnership with GKIDS, and bring the premiere of Earwig to theaters and fans nationwide.”

“Earwig and the Witch” is directed by Goro Miyazaki (“Tales from Earthsea”) and produced by studio co-founder Toshio Suzuki, with planning from Academy Award-winner Hayao Miyazaki. Based on the children’s novel by Diana Wynne Jones (“Howl’s Moving Castle”), the film marks Studio Ghibli’s first CGI animated feature and first feature film production in four years.

THURSDAY, Jan. 7

Stage Directors and Choreographers Receive Emergency Assistance Grant

The Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation (SDCF), the not-for-profit foundation of the theatrical union Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC), announced Thursday that it received a $200,000 gift from an anonymous donor to support its Emergency Assistance Fund.

“This unexpected and incredibly generous gift, from an unknown ‘patron saint’ of directors and choreographers, will prove to be a lifesaver for many of our Members in the difficult months ahead,” says SDCF President Mark Brokaw.

The Emergency Assistance Fund was established in April 2020 to help Members of SDC who are experiencing financial hardship due to the devastating impact of the COVID-19. Funds are available to assist with basic needs such as health care, rent, food, and utilities. When combined with SDC’s 2020 Income Relief Fund, which was established in the wake of the shutdown to offset lost employment, the total support available to distribute to SDC Members now surpasses $550,000, with more than $200,000 granted to date. This extraordinary gift also allows SDCF to increase the grant amount for SDC Members to $750 and newly provides an opportunity for SDC Associate Members to apply for grants up to $300.

Donations to the SDCF’s Emergency Assistance Fund can be made here.

Producers Guild Sets Dates

The Producers Guild of America (PGA) today announced key dates for the innovation award for the 32nd Annual Producers Guild Awards. The award honors entertainment endeavors across VR, AR, experiential and other emerging media.

The application period is open now and the deadline for submission is February 28, 2021. Programs released between January 1, 2020 and February 28, 2021 are eligible for the honor.

“This award honors disruptive entertainment created with a clear purpose and vision, that meaningfully pushes the boundaries through the merging of technological innovation and effective storytelling,” said Jenni Ogden, VP of the PGA New Media Council, and Chris Thomes, New Media Council Delegate, who are also Co-Chairs of the PGA Innovation Award Committee. “The Producers Guild is proud to present this award in its second year, and we’re highly anticipating submissions from the inventive producers, artists, and engineers that make immersive entertainment an amazing reality.”

Last year, the PGA awarded the inaugural PGA Innovation Award to the team behind “Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series – Episode 1.”

Entries will be reviewed and voted on by a jury of blue-ribbon experts in the field of new media. Programs that cannot be viewed linearly via the existing submission procedure, a video demonstration may be submitted instead.

The Innovation Award, along with other key awards, will be given out at the PGA Awards Breakfast prior to the Producers Guild Awards show. Confirmed details about that event, which will happen prior to the awards ceremony on March 24th, are forthcoming.

Applications may be submitted at the Producers Guild website.

UCLA Film & Television Archive Names May Hong HaDuong as Director

UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) has named May Hong HaDuong, director of the UCLA Film & Television Archive.

HaDuong, an alumna of the university, will become the fourth director in the organization’s 55-year history and the first woman and person of color to lead the archive, which is a division of UCLA Library. The archive is also the second-largest repository of moving images in the United States, after the Library of Congress.

“I am delighted that May will be joining the UCLA Library as director of the UCLA Film & Television Archive, and I am confident she will provide outstanding leadership in this vital role,” said Virginia Steel, the Norman and Armena Powell University Librarian. “As we seek to broaden access to and representation across our collections, May’s experience in public access, her scholarly interests, and her personal biography, as both the daughter of immigrants and as an active proponent of underrepresented communities, uniquely positions her to move the film archive forward at this critical moment in its history.”

HaDuong who has over 15 years of experience in the film archiving world, is currently senior manager of public access at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, will start her new role on Feb. 22.

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 6

‘Happily’ Gets March Release

BenDavid Grabinski’s “Happily” is now slated to be released on March 19. The film was originally set to make its world premiere at Tribeca earlier this year, and released on Feb. 5.

The film stars Joel McHale (“Community”, Deliver Us from Evil), Kerry Bishé (Red State, “Halt and Catch Fire”, Argo), Emmy Award Nominee Stephen Root (“Barry”, “King of the Hill”), Paul Scheer (Long Shot, “Black Monday”), Breckin Meyer (Road Trip, Clueless), Natalie Zea (“The Unicorn”, “Justified”), and Natalie Morales (“Dead to Me”, “Parks and Recreation”).

“Happily” is a dark romantic comedy that follows Tom (McHale) and Janet (Bishé) who, after 14 years of marriage, still can’t keep their hands off each other. When they discover their friends are resentful of their constant public displays of affection, the couple starts to question the loyalty of everyone around them. Then, a visit from a mysterious stranger (Root) thrusts them into an existential crisis, leading to a dead body, a lot of questions, and a very tense couples’ vacation.

Awards News

The Latino Entertainment Journalists Association has announced the key dates for its 3rd annual Latino Entertainment Film Awards.

The ceremony will be a social media event, announced on Sunday, March 14, 2021. The LEJA Board of Directors voted to extend the eligibility period due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Clayton Davis, LEJA Founder and President, and Variety’s Awards Editor said, “It has an extremely difficult year. Our love for cinema and the arts has remained constant, even magnified. With an outstanding year of film, we should all choose to celebrate it.”

Ballots will be sent out on Feb. 26, 2021 and final ballots will be due on March 13.

TUESDAY, Jan. 5

Casting

MTV’s “Awkward” alum Monty Geer is set as the lead opposite Lili Simmons in the feature “Clive Boomer’s Success,” a comedic thriller from Leader Media and written by Charles Lawrence.

“Success” tells the story of intrigue, murder and a five million dollar heist. Geer will play Clive Boomer, a cherubic budding stand-up comedian and bank teller who owes a small fortune to the mob. In a cruel twist of fate, he is forced to turn to murder to pay off his debts.

Directed by Carlo Liconti and cast by Donald Paul Pemrick, “Clive Boomer’s Success” is filming near Toronto.

Geer is repped by Connie Tavel at Forward Entertainment and Mavrick Artists Agency.

MONDAY, Jan. 4 

Animation Acquisition

Animated feature Oscar contender “My Favorite War” has been sold to Spain and France for European distribution. Based on the director’s Ilze Burkovska-Jacobsen’s childhood memories, “My Favorite War” recreates her own escape route from the totalitarian regime that was Soviet Latvia.

The feature, which is a documentary, sold to Versus Entertainment in Spain and Destiny Films in France. “My Favorite War” emerged as a winner from Annecy’s Contrechamp competition, and it will enter the Annie Awards  be submitted in the animate feature race at the Academy Awards.

“The film has been a labor of love for Ilze for more than nine years,” says Norwegian producer Trond Jacobsen, who produced the film with Ego Media’s Guntis Trekteris (Latvia) with whom he negotiated the sales deal with Versus Entertainment and Destiny Films. “To see her personal story of freedom head to Spanish and French audiences and the wider animation community during its awards campaign is truly rewarding.”

Marjo Bernay Dies at 79

Longtime union leader Marjo Bernay died of a heart attack on Sunday, it was announced by the Art Directors Guild (ADG, IATSE Local 800). She was 79.

Chuck Parker, national executive director of the ADG, said, “Today we remember Marjo Bernay as a special voice that spoke truth to power in our industry. In one sense Marjo has left us. But in another sense, she is still here, because she has touched and affected so many of us — peers and superiors, women and men, everyone she greeted warmly and whose voice she recognized when they called on the phone. Her spirit lives on in our collective hearts and actions, today and every day.”

Bernay was a former trustee of the Set Designers Council and member of the Board of Directors of the Art Directors Guild. She was appointed by various elected officials to the California Film Commission, the Los Angeles Film Development Committee and to the Los Angeles County Film Commission. She was especially proud of her service as a trustee of the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plans, where she was the first woman from the labor side to chair the Health Plan.

Over the years, Marjo worked closely with her sister Casey, who remains with the ADG as director of education and special projects.

In addition to Casey, Marjo is survived by her brother Mark and brother-in-law Dennis Lotka. They ask that any donations in memoriam be sent to the Lange Foundation for Animal Rescue, Care and Placement at https://langefoundation.org/donate