Ellen DeGeneres Exit, NewFest Pride Series, Black Superman and more – Industry News Roundup

A lot happened last week. From the end of a nearly two-decade leading daytime talk show to the search for Black Superman, here are some of the biggest production industry news stories from last week.

The Ellen DeGeneres Show to End After 19 Seasons

The announcement of Ellen DeGeneres ending her daytime talk show was as messy as the show’s past year, with the news leaking prematurely to tabloid The Daily Mail. DeGeneres’ current contract takes the show through the upcoming 2021-2022 season, the show’s 19th, and it will now be the program’s final chapter.

Last Spring and Summer brought a string of reports of a toxic workplace on the show, which prompted WArner Bros to conduct an internal investigation. In August, three high-level producers were terminated: Ed Glavin, an executive producer; Jonathan Norman, a co-executive producer; and Kevin Leman, the head writer.

Last September, DeGeneres started the 18th season of the show with an apology -- “As you may have heard this summer, there were allegations of a toxic work environment at our show. And then there was an investigation. I learned that things happen here that never should have happened. I take that very seriously. And I want to say, I am so sorry to the people who were affected.”

While viewers tuned in for the apology, they tuned out for the rest of the season. The show lost more than a million viewers since September, according to Nielsen.

Ellen DeGeneres told Savannah Guthrie on Today show on May 13 that media attacks on her were “too orchestrated” and felt “very misogynistic.” However, she said, that’s not why she is ending the show.

“If it was why I was quitting, I would have not come back this year. I really did think about not coming back. It was devastating. I am a kind person. I am a person who likes to make people happy,” DeGeneres said.

We’re curious to see what’s next for DeGeneres.

Inaugural NewFest Pride Series Kicks Off June 4-7

NewFest, a New York-based LGBTQ+ film and media organization, is kicking off the inaugural NewFest Pride film series June 4-7. The series will showcase six feature films along with a short-film program co-presented with Vimeo, LGBTQ-focused panels and special events.

The event will also include a virtual live-read of Legally Blonde featuring an all queer and trans cast. Proceeds raised will go towards The NewFest Future Fund. The event will be available to stream for free with a suggested donation across NewFest’s Facebook and YouTube channels.

“Despite a year that has seen tremendous loss, collective trauma, and a societal reckoning with systemic injustice, the LGBTQ+ community has never lost touch with its Pride-ful spirit,” NewFest executive director David Hatkoff told Deadline. “We are thrilled to kick off Pride Month with a virtual program that celebrates the very many things we are — rebellious, romantic, riveting and radical. And, for good measure, a queer Elle Woods!”

The NewFest Pride screenings include Marion Hill’s Sundance NEXT Audience Award winner Ma Belle, My Beauty, Carlos López Estrada’s L.A. poetry showcase Summertime executive produced by Kelly Marie Tran, Todd Stephens’ comedy Swan Song starring Udo Kier, Harri Shanahan’s and Siân A. Williams’ documentary Rebel Dykes, Daniel Sánchez López’s Boy Meets Boy and Mari Walker’s See You Then. The full lineup including the to-be-announced shorts will be available to ticket holders via NewFest’s on-demand platform.

Let’s be honest, a queer Elle Woods is a dream come true! And we can’t wait to see all of the featured films.

The Black List and Google Assistant Announce Recipients for Storytelling Fellowship

Six fellows for the 2020-21 Black List and Google Assistant Storytelling Fellowship were announced on May 10. The first six fellows are Anna Khaja, Alan Jenkins, Leslie Nipkow, Urvashi Pathania, Matteo Caprio Gomez, and Kareem Aya.

The program will provide support to the writers in the development and execution of a new original feature film script or TV pilot under the condition that the project tells a contemporary story from the perspective of historically underrepresented communities.

Each of the recipients will be awarded $20,000 (two are part of one writing team and will receive $10,000 each) and will receive creative support from a matched screenwriting mentor. Confirmed screenwriting mentors include Max Barbakow (Palm Springs), Andy Siara (Palm Springs), Marja Lewis Ryan (The. L Word, The Four-Faced Liar), and Erica Rivinoja (South Park, The Last Man on Earth, Marry Me).

The Black List founder Franklin Leonard told The Hollywood Reporter:

“We are grateful to be in partnership with Google on our first-ever Storytelling Fellowship to help invest in and champion the work of diverse, underrepresented creators, part of the Black List’s core mission. The talented Storytelling finalists announced today vary by age, race, background, and interests, but have one thing in common – their exceptional ability to tell authentic stories. The Black List and Google can’t wait to see their finished products and help share them with the world.”

We are glad to see that these diverse and creative individuals will have an equitable opportunity to be heard in Hollywood.

Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit Entertainment Teams with The Jim Henson Company for Film Adaptation of The Conductors Novel

Deadline reported that Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit Entertainment is partnering with The Jim Henson Company to develop a film adaptation of The Conductors, the fantasy debut novel by Nicole Glover.

The book, released in March, introduces Hetty Rhodes, a former conductor on the Underground Railroad, who uses magic and, with the help of her husband Benjy, solves crimes in post-Civil War Philadelphia.

Latifah wrote in a statement:

“We are so excited to partner with Lisa, Blanca and the whole Jim Henson Company on bringing Nicole Glover’s story to life. From the moment I first read the book, I was captivated by the world Nicole created and we are eager to tell a story that will drive forward the importance of diverse and inclusive storytelling.”

Henson, CEO of The Jim Henson Company, added:

“Nicole Glover has written a post-Civil War story full of historical themes that continue to be relevant today, in a fantasy setting with a deep mythology that will be exciting to realize as a feature film. Partnering with Flavor Unit Entertainment is an amazing opportunity to strengthen our commitment to telling culturally and ethnically diverse stories.”

Finally, the Search for Black Superman Continues

A Black Superman is long overdue.

After enlisting Ta-Nehisi Coates to write the latest feature on the superhero, Warner Bros. is searching for its director and star as it kick-starts the next phase of its DC universe.

Who will play the Man of Steel? Arguably, a more pressing question is: Who will direct?

According to The Hollywood Reporter’s May 5th article, sources said J.J. Abrams, who is producing the film, is not among the many possibilities being considered. Insiders told THR that Warners and DC are committed to hiring a Black director, with one source adding that putting Abrams at the helm would be “tone-deaf.”

Justice League director Zack Snyder recently shared his thoughts on the Black Superman with Radio Times:

“My feeling is that I love JJ [Abrams], I love what he’s done in the past. I’m interested to see what happens, it’s a bold and cool and probably long overdue move. But I love Henry [Cavill] as Superman, of course I do. He’s my Superman. I’m not really involved in any of the decision-making at Warner Brothers in any way, so I guess for me it’s just wait and see what they do with this and how it manifests itself. But on the surface, it seems interesting.”

Hopefully, with the release of the new movie, many Black children will be able to recognize the heroes within themselves, too.

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