Digital Production Buzz
August 7, 2014
[Transcripts provided by Take 1 Transcription]
Tony Cacciarelli, Product Marketing Manager, AJA Video Systems
Lydia Cornell, Actress
Jonathan Handel, Entertainment/Technology Attorney & Labor Reporter, TroyGould and The Hollywood Reporter
Voiceover: The Digital Production Buzz is brought to you by Blackmagic Design, creators of the world’s highest quality solutions for the feature film, post production and television broadcast industries.
Voiceover: Live from Ralph’s Maytag Museum and Podcast Studio in beautiful downtown Burbank, it’s the Digital Production Buzz.
Voiceover: Production, post production, distribution.
Voiceover: What’s really happening now and in your digital future?
Voiceover: The Buzz is live now.
Larry Jordan: And welcome to The Digital Production Buzz, the world’s longest running podcast for creative content producers covering media production, post production, marketing and distribution around the world. My name is Larry Jordan and joining us is our co-host, is the exceedingly handsome Mr. Mike Horton.
Mike Horton: Hello, Larry.
Larry Jordan: It’s good to see you back. We missed you last week. Or were you here? I can’t remember.
Mike Horton: No, I was here. Wait a minute.
Larry Jordan: You were?
Mike Horton: I was here, Larry.
Larry Jordan: I thought there was a photograph sitting in the chair.
Mike Horton: Yes, I just didn’t say anything. I just let you do the whole show and it was really good, by the way.
Larry Jordan: Thank you very much. I very much appreciate the contribution you made for that show.
Mike Horton: I was just giving you little hand signals.
Larry Jordan: Yes, but we won’t talk about them in polite company either. We’ve got a great show this week as well. We’re going to start with Tony Cacciarelli. He’s a Product Marketing Manager for AJA Video Systems and recently he’s been doing a lot of work with 4K and 8K video.
Mike Horton: 8K?
Larry Jordan: 8K.
Mike Horton: Holy cow.
Larry Jordan: So we invited him to join us to talk about the future of extremely high resolution media and that future is coming sooner than we expect.
Mike Horton: High Def. future’s here, isn’t it?
Larry Jordan: Well, 4K is and 8K is showing up really soon.
Mike Horton: Oh, it’s insane.
Larry Jordan: Michael, you remember Lydia Cornell?
Mike Horton: Yes I do.
Larry Jordan: She came to fame for her role on ABC’s ‘Too Close For Comfort’. Since then, like yourself, she’s developed a successful career as an actress, although you’re probably an actor not an actress. Nonetheless, the concept is the same. This week, she joins us to talk about what it takes to create a successful career when you are multitalented.
Mike Horton: Hey, I’m a successful actor. Look where I am. Digital Production Buzz co-host. That’s right at the top of my resume.
Larry Jordan: We are delighted to have you as the co-host of the Digital Production Buzz wherever it is on your resume. And Jonathan Handel, entertainment labor reporter for the Hollywood Reporter is also a lawyer of Counsel at TroyGould and he’s been following with interest the legal sagas of both the Bryan Singer and Sarah Jones cases. Tonight, we talk with him about what we as producers need to know to avoid problems with sexual harassment and unsafe working conditions on set.
Larry Jordan: Just as a reminder, we are offering text transcripts for each show, courtesy of Take 1 Transcription. Now you can quickly scan or print the contents of each show, as well as listen to it. Transcripts are located on each show page. Learn more at take1.tv and thanks Take 1, for making the transcripts possible.
Larry Jordan: Michael…
Mike Horton: Mhmm?
Larry Jordan: …I don’t know if you know this, but IBC is coming up.
Mike Horton: Yes, I do know this very well.
Larry Jordan: Is everything planned?
Mike Horton: Yes, we have a Supermeet, and thank you for asking. And, oh, you know that I was going to make this big announcement last week…
Larry Jordan: Right.
Mike Horton: …and I couldn’t…
Larry Jordan: Right.
Mike Horton: …until I got home and…
Larry Jordan: Because you forgot
Mike Horton: No, I couldn’t make the announcement until about an hour after the show was over, but now I can make the announcement.
Larry Jordan: And that is?
Mike Horton: So for those of you who are going to IBC and going to the Supermeet, you will be able to meet the two film editors who are editing right now in London, ‘Star Wars Episode VII’ directed by JJ Abrams and that is Mary Jo Markey and Maryann Brandon, two wonderful ladies, wonderful editors, and they will be our keynote speakers.
Larry Jordan: That is so cool.
Mike Horton: Isn’t that fun?
Larry Jordan: How did you manage to get them?
Mike Horton: I wrote them. Really.
Larry Jordan: You asked, huh?
Mike Horton: I asked.
Larry Jordan: And JJ let them off to be able…?
Mike Horton: Absolutely. Well, the Supermeet’s a Sunday night, so they have the weekends off, and then we just have to fly them early back to London on Monday morning.
Larry Jordan: That is so cool.
Mike Horton: It just worked out really well and they’re delighted to do it and they’re sweet people.
Larry Jordan: Are they going to show clips?
Mike Horton: Well, no, not of ‘Star Wars’, but we will show clips of some of their other movies like ‘Mission Impossible 3’ and ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’ and all the other movies that they’ve done and the TV shows and it’s going to be so much fun.
Larry Jordan: That is great. Supermeet, supermeet.com…
Mike Horton: Yes.
Larry Jordan: …and be sure to sign up. We’ll talk more about it in just a minute.
Mike Horton: Ok.
Larry Jordan: We’ve got Tony Cacciarelli coming right after this.
Larry Jordan: Blackmagic Design is now shipping its production camera 4K, a super high resolution 4K digital production camera for Ultra HD television production. Featuring a large Super 35 sensor with a professional global shutter, it also offers EF and ZE compatible lens mounts and records to a super fast SSD drive. Capturing high quality ProRes files, the Blackmagic production camera 4K gives customers a complete solution to shoot amazing high resolution music videos, episodic television productions, television commercials, sports, documentaries and much, much more.
Larry Jordan: The Blackmagic production camera 4K also features an incredibly tempting price of $2,995. Learn more about the Blackmagic production camera 4K that is definitely priced to move. Visit blackmagicdesign.com today. That’s blackmagicdesign.com.
Larry Jordan: Tony Cacciarelli is a Product Marketing Manager for AJA Video Systems. He’s also a media and entertainment industry veteran, with over 25 years’ experience as an editor, visual effects artist and facility designer with a special emphasis in workflow. Hello, Tony, welcome.
Tony Cacciarelli: Hi Larry, how’s it going?
Larry Jordan: It is going great because I have a feeling I know what we’re going to talk about, because this conversation started over dinner Tuesday night in Santa Clara at the Flash Memory summit and I was so blown away by what you had to say that I demanded that you come on the show – and we’ll let your kids go in just a minute now that you’re here – but before we get there, set the scene by describing what AJA Video Systems does.
Tony Cacciarelli: Sure. AJA Video Systems is a hardware manufacturer primarily. We build a lot of the pieces that go into broadcast, post production and production workflows, everything from mini converters to IO devices to get video in and out of computer systems. We’ve got acquisition products – our Ki Pro line was one of the first products to really start this whole file based revolution and be able to capture video directly as files onto removable drives so that you can get them into your edit quickly – and our latest and greatest is we’re now in the camera business. We announced at NAB that we are making a 4K and HD capable camera called CION and we’re in development on that and it’s due to release later this year.
Larry Jordan: I was at the press release for the CION camera and there were a lot of jaws on the floor when Nick Rashby, the President of AJA, made the announcement. That’s a cool thing. We’ll talk about it a little bit later, but I want to come back to this Flash Memory summit that you and I were both speaking at on Tuesday. It was a gathering of more than 5,000 engineers learning about the latest technology related to flash memory and storage. What were you talking about during your presentation to this group?
Tony Cacciarelli: Well, during my presentation I was really trying convey a sense of the priorities for AJA as a company, building products that are used in the media and entertainment industry. There’s a lot of emphasis within the flash memory area for enterprise products and larger scale or even consumer, at the other end but I don’t know that they really pay a lot of attention to the media and entertainment industry and we’re a gigantic consumer of media and specifically flash media as we start to move into SSD drives for acquisition of all of our video. So really I was trying to give them a perspective from a manufacturer’s standpoint of the challenges we have in trying to build devices that operate inside the media and entertainment world.
Larry Jordan: Why is flash so important to video?
Tony Cacciarelli: We’ve been upping resolutions and upping frame rates as we’ve been climbing from standard def to high def to 4K now and even possibly beyond that, and that increase in the amount of data that we’re presenting in an image, we need to store all of that. So our media demands keep going up and in order to record things in real time, we have to be able to do it very, very quickly and flash media right now is the primary way to do that, because the record and playback speeds are faster using fewer devices than if we go to standard high drives, where we have to get a lot of platters involved in order to get the bandwidth to be able to handle all that data.
Larry Jordan: And the reason is because there’s more data because there are more pixels in the image?
Tony Cacciarelli: There are more pixels in the image. The jump from high definition to 4K is four times the number of pixels in an HD image; and then also we’re starting to see higher frame rates where, instead of 25 or 30 frames per second, we’re now recording at 50 and 60 frames per second to really smooth out that motion, especially in the sports world and anything with fast moving imagery. We need those higher frame rates in order to have a nice smooth picture, so all of that is added data and it all has to go somewhere.
Larry Jordan: That gets me to a trend that I see happening at the high end of the industry, which is that our resolutions are rapidly escalating. We sort of take for granted shooting at a 4K image, but we’re shooting, with some of the RED cameras, at 5 and 6K and we’ve got 8K camera tests going on and even higher resolutions being talked about. How is AJA involved in these higher resolutions?
Tony Cacciarelli: We’re actually taking on a few different angles for this. At the very high end, as you said, there’s an increase in resolution need. We’ve seen some 8K work happening through NHK in Japan. We’re expecting to see 4K and 8K work on the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020 and we’re working with companies along those lines. But I think one of the interesting things too is, we’re also approaching not just a 4K end to end workflow – where you acquire at 4K and then you distribute 4K – but also taking into account the fact that there is still a lot of HD production going on, but 4K as an acquisition format can actually still be useful even in HD workflows, so we’re experimenting a lot with that.
Larry Jordan: One of the things you were talking about as we were at dinner Tuesday night is this concept of regions of interest – as opposed to moving the camera, we move the frame within the camera. Tell me what that’s all about.
Tony Cacciarelli: Yes, that’s part of what I was talking about. If you can acquire a 4K resolution, you’re acquiring a much larger image than you’re going to need for your HD output. For example, in the sports world, tracking movement on a field. Say a football game or a baseball or basketball game or even hockey, we can use a wider shot at 4K and then be able to extract down in real time, regions of interest within that 4K frame so we can actually reframe our shot based on where the action might have been, or be able to create alternate replays because we want to be able to see multiple angles. We can do that all from a single 4K camera. We’re still outputting HD as our final output, but because we have this higher resolution acquisition format, we have the ability to really reframe and zoom in on any area of the frame that we want to and kind of create the framing and the timing that we’re looking for, for any particular replay or even multiple replays.
Mike Horton: Holy cow. We can’t do this on the fly, though. Is this for playback? This is amazing.
Tony Cacciarelli: The system’s called ‘True Zoom’ and it’s a combination of some hardware and software that we’ve come up with. It actually does operate in real time, but a typical sports situation right now is done primarily for replay. We’re recording everything as we go and then we can use a timeline to control our playback speed. We can pause, slow down, speed up and be able to then create our moves around the frame and it’s all done through a touchscreen interface. It’s all really nice and interactive. From an operator’s standpoint, it’s incredibly intuitive to use.
Mike Horton: So we’re seeing that now?
Tony Cacciarelli: That’s being used now in a few different areas. We’ve done some work with NFL, major league baseball and NHL hockey. All of them are working with the system and finding different ways to incorporate it into their live broadcasts. So yes, that’s all happening now.
Mike Horton: Oh my Lord. That’s amazing.
Tony Cacciarelli: Well, it’s actually interesting as well, because outside of the sports arena we’ve got this being used in local government, where they have all of their representatives sitting at a table and they can point a 4K camera at them and create presets, not for moving between them, but just to be able to isolate individual speakers and representatives. So that during a broadcast of their proceedings, they can have presets set up for each of their representatives and whoever’s speaking, they just punch a preset and we extract out that piece of the 4K frame and that’s what goes out to air.
Mike Horton: Oh, I love that. You can catch their bad behavior too. That’s wonderful.
Tony Cacciarelli: We have the whole 4K frame there of it all.
Mike Horton: Exactly.
Tony Cacciarelli: You can see everything. Absolutely.
Larry Jordan: So essentially what we’re doing is we’re not panning the camera any more, we’re leaving the camera locked down and we’re panning the portion of the frame that we want to see within a locked down shot.
Tony Cacciarelli: That’s correct. Exactly.
Larry Jordan: What kind of gear do we need to pull this off?
Tony Cacciarelli: You need a 4K camera. We’ve done some work initially with the Canon C500. We’re able to take the raw data off of that camera and process it in real time to extract out the 4K images from that. But we also have our CION camera that we’re working on right now and that’s become a part of this system as well. By sending raw data over SDI back to our ‘True Zoom’ system, we can actually record up to 120 frames per second at 4K, and that allows us to have a nice smooth playback. As I was talking about, even 60 frames, you can jump up to 120. Now you can get really nice smooth slow motion playback as well. So for the sport folks, they’re loving that, to be able to have that kind of temporal resolution and then the 4K image to work with is pretty incredible and it’s helping them out a lot to be able to cover games and have an interesting angle on things.
Tony Cacciarelli: There’s some hardware involved, obviously, with being able to do all the image process. We’ve got our scaler technology that we’ve worked on over years and years of doing up and down conversion and we’ve applied that to this to get some really nice clean scaling. So even if you’re taking a region of interest that’s smaller than an HD sized window on your 4K monitor, you’re still able to blow that up to HD and have a nice looking image that can go out to broadcast.
Larry Jordan: So we’ve got the camera, which is essentially being used as the lens and the image sensor; we’re taking a feed out of the camera, feeding that via an HD SDI cable into your hardware, and is ‘True Zoom’ the hardware or is it something else that’s hardware for the processing of this?
Tony Cacciarelli: ‘True Zoom’ is the name of the software. The actual hardware device is called ‘Corvid Ultra’. It’s part of our development partner technologies. We have a whole slew of technology that we use in conjunction with development partners. So we have other folks that are taking this and using it as well to perform the same function. That’s the bit of hardware that we have there, and then obviously there’s a storage component to it which, again, getting back to our flash memory discussion, we have a tremendous need for very fast storage and a lot of it with a system like this, and then it runs off of a PC which controls all the software and interfaces to everything.
Larry Jordan: Roughly how much are we looking at in terms of cost?
Tony Cacciarelli: The ‘True Zoom’ system, I believe is in the $20,000 range, which is actually an order of magnitude cheaper than a lot of other systems that do the same thing. So it’s a fairly affordable system for what it’s doing and that’s also another reason why it’s been really popular with folks.
Larry Jordan: I was just thinking, I remember EVS systems, which would cost close to $100,000 to do something very similar to what you’re providing, which is high quality slow motion and being able to have random access to any part of the frame and any part of the video stream. For 20k, for people that do this, that’s, I’m not going to say dirt cheap, but it’s a whole lot cheaper than it has been.
Tony Cacciarelli: It certainly is, yes, and it certainly is helping them with their smaller budgets. Even on the bigger productions, they’re still having to watch their pennies. So anything we can do to make it more affordable, they’re certainly all for that. But it’s a pretty powerful system and, yes, we’ve managed to put it all together and it’s really getting some good traction. So we’re pretty excited about it.
Larry Jordan: Are you seeing any interest in resolutions higher than, say, 8K, which NHK is working with?
Tony Cacciarelli: Not yet. Anything that’s in the 8K and above range is pretty much a pretty big science project at this point still. There’s a lot of stuff being done there, but it is still all very experimental. We’re still seeing 4K getting into the mainstream. We’re seeing a lot more of it but I think we’re a way away from seeing any 4K broadcasts and we’re really starting to just see people get into the 4K acquisition side. We have cameras now that are in the range where, if you’re going to buy a new camera, you may as well look at a large format camera and start acquiring your stuff at a higher resolution. Even if you just want to future-proof it, even if you’re not going to be delivering 4K right now, just to be able to have that on the shelf to go back to in the future. A lot of people are really interested in that as well.
Mike Horton: Tony, you’re working with all these cutting edge people and you’re doing cutting edge stuff and you’re off in a secret lab somewhere in Japan or Los Angeles or something like that. You know what’s happening and we’re talking about 4K as a distribution resolution. When do you think that’ll be viable and sustainable? Three years? Five years? Ten years?
Tony Cacciarelli: I think a lot of that’s going to really depend on the compression technology and if we can get compression technology that can sit within the broadcast bandwidth limitations that we have without compromising the image quality to the point where we lose the benefits of 4K, so I think we’ve got some work to do there. I’m pretty sure, in my own opinion, I would say we’re at least three to five years away from seeing anything mainstream with that.
Mike Horton: Would you go out and buy a 4K television?
Tony Cacciarelli: I’m probably not going to rush right out and get one. Actually, I’m looking at one more for using with my laptop rather than for television.
Mike Horton: For editing.
Tony Cacciarelli: I did a little experiment and plugged my MacBook Pro into a 4K monitor and then had to send the 4K monitor back and, boy, I miss it now.
Mike Horton: I bet.
Tony Cacciarelli: I really got used to all that real estate. But I think it will start coming and the prices are certainly coming down, you know, we’re starting to see 28 inch 4K monitors that can handle 60 frames per second in the 500, 600, 700 dollar range right now.
Mike Horton: Yes, isn’t that amazing? Wow.
Tony Cacciarelli: Yes, that’s certainly going to drive adoption and for people, when they do need to buy a new TV set, they may just end up buying a 4K set just because there’s really no cost difference.
Larry Jordan: Interesting.
Tony Cacciarelli: I think the last HD TV I bought ended up being a 3D TV, just because there was no price difference between buying a 3D capable one and not.
Mike Horton: Yes. I bought one of those 3D capable ones. I’ve never seen 3D on it since I bought it and that was four years ago.
Larry Jordan: Tony, I want to talk quickly about the CION camera. It’s still in development. Are you guys going to be releasing that in our lifetime?
Tony Cacciarelli: Absolutely, yes. Barring any major tragedies that happen to us overnight, yes, we plan to be releasing that. Our current timeframe is the summer of 2014, so we’ve got a little bit of time left. We’re still developing it, we’re still working on some of the image quality aspects of it. With any CMOS based camera, a lot of the development effort goes into the mast that takes that raw data and actually turns it into an RGB image. So we’re spending a lot of time on that to make sure we’re going to have great looking pictures once it comes out. But we are planning on releasing pretty soon and things are moving along really well. We’ve made progress from what we had at NAB and work continues, as they say.
Larry Jordan: Now, you’re not going to shoot uncompressed image. You’re shooting to ProRes. What version of ProRes and why did you select it?
Tony Cacciarelli: Yes, the camera records to an SSD drive, which is our Pak media drive, it’s the same one that we used in our Ki Pro Quad. That goes right into the camera. We’re recording ProRes and we can do ProRes 444, 422, LT and Proxy. So we have the ability to change to different quality levels within ProRes, depending on your particular situation. If you’re shooting a talking head or an interview or something that doesn’t have particular motion in it, you may be able to shoot at 422. Also, if you’re going to step up to the higher frame rates, we can do 4K at 60 frames per second at ProRes 422 right onto those Pak media drives. So that’s a really nice compact way of being able to record directly onto camera.
Tony Cacciarelli: ProRes is a great format. It’s become a pretty well received format in the industry. It balances high quality imagery with a good amount of compression for storage so that we’re not chewing up a lot of drive space. It really strikes a nice balance there, so that was our primary reason for choosing that. We do also have the ability to output, over four SDI outputs we can output RAW data or high frame rate SDI broadband 4K. So we can output out of the camera as uncompressed or RAW data and then on the camera itself we’re doing a real time ProRes encode right on the camera; and then you have a removable drive that you can throw into a little dock on your editing system. Since it’s a ProRes file, most of the editing systems out there talk to it natively so you don’t have any of the transcoding or ingest or logging time that you would have had if we want to hark back to the days of tape and having to log things. It really speeds up the workflow of being able to get from camera into your edit really nice and quickly and we think that’s a huge advantage especially in 4K workflows.
Larry Jordan: Tony, what website can people go to learn more?
Tony Cacciarelli: Well, www.aja.com is our website. From there, you can get all of the products. All of our brochures are online, all the information on all the products is there.
Larry Jordan: Tony, thank you so very much. Tony Cacciarelli is a Product Marketing Manager for AJA Video Systems at aja.com. Tony, thanks for joining us today.
Mike Horton: Thanks, Tony.
Tony Cacciarelli: Thanks for having me, guys. Appreciate it.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
Tony Cacciarelli: Bye.
Larry Jordan: Michael can get down off the table now.
Mike Horton: I love that music.
Larry Jordan: He always dances during that music. Lydia Cornell won the People’s Choice Award for her role as Sara Rush in ABC’s ‘Too Close For Comfort’ and has worked non-stop ever since. Her professional career extends beyond acting in theater, film and television, as she has just about finished a new novel. Welcome back, Lydia, good to have you with us.
Lydia Cornell: Oh, hi Larry, I’m so happy to be back. I missed you.
Larry Jordan: Ah! Well, we miss you. Michael was saying…
Mike Horton: I know. You were on three years ago.
Larry Jordan: …it seems like just a few months ago.
Mike Horton: I thought you were on two months ago.
Lydia Cornell: Oh my God! I know, time goes way too fast.
Mike Horton: No, that’s how well I remember you.
Lydia Cornell: Warp speed. Thank you.
Larry Jordan: Well, how can you forget Lydia? That’s my question.
Lydia Cornell: Ah, thank you.
Larry Jordan: You know, Lydia, you’ve been acting since the 1980s. Michael, I think, has been acting since the 1950s but nonetheless…
Mike Horton: No, it was the 1890s.
Lydia Cornell: Hi, Michael.
Larry Jordan: What are some of the projects that you’ve worked on? I know you started with ‘Too Close For Comfort’, but what are some of the other things you’ve done?
Lydia Cornell: ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’, ‘Full House’, ‘Quantum Leap’, the pilot, 250 other shows. Every show you can name from ‘Hunter’, ‘A Team’, ‘Knight Rider’, five ‘Love Boats’, three ‘Hotels’, all those Stephen J Cannell shows where I played a race car driver, ‘Dukes of Hazzard’… you know, action adventure shows and I’m in a Ferrari or jumping out of a race car. It was crazy. Oh, ‘Simon and Simon’ was fun and ‘Hunter’ and a show called ‘Hardball’ with Richard Tyson from…
Larry Jordan: What was it that got you started as an actor?
Lydia Cornell: My obsession with Walt Disney. I wanted to be Disney. I came to Disneyland when I was five and I got lost in the Sleeping Beauty Castle and I never wanted to come home. I wished I, you know obsessed with Disney. Now my son goes to CalArts, it’s a great college. Walt Disney standards.
Mike Horton: Oh my God, he does? Oh.
Lydia Cornell: Yes.
Mike Horton: What is he studying up there?
Lydia Cornell: And John… just spoke at the graduation for, my son’s a junior going into junior year, he does graphic design.
Mike Horton: Oh, cool.
Lydia Cornell: Graphics designer and he’s going to be developing video games and his girlfriend is a year above.
Mike Horton: Well, you don’t get much better than that school.
Lydia Cornell: I know, it’s really cool.
Larry Jordan: Looking at Michael, who is a case study in something, but how have you managed to keep your career going all these years? Getting a job as an actor is hard enough, but staying as an actor is a huge amount of work. How did you do it?
Lydia Cornell: Well, I took a lot of time off to have children. I call it raising… Life with Boys, that’s one of the titles of one of the books I’m doing. I took time off. You can’t just stay in a career as an actor forever and ever. You have to morph into some other being and I had a family and I had to get sober – I’m 20 years sober on September 11th, which is a great thing because it gets you focused back on your creativity and if you’re a creative person, you’re always excited by life. I’m always discovering new things. So I’m developing five new shows.
Larry Jordan: Wow.
Lydia Cornell: One, I’m working with Naval Intelligence on a very cool show, kind of a mysterious show. I’m also doing an adventure show, I’m doing a bunch of comedies and I just did a series… that was here last night I did a play in Hollywood called ‘Hollywood Shorts’.
Mike Horton: Oh, cool.
Lydia Cornell: The Whitefire Theater and we just had our last performance last night and it was with all these Emmy award winning actors, writers and TV producers and we just picked this on Facebook. A bunch of our friends… owner of the theater contacted all of us and he said, “Be in my play,” so Marcus Dinas was my co-star, he’s the host of the Hallmark Channel ‘Home & Family’ Show and he was the Entertainment Tonight co-host for 20 years. He’s a really recognizable face. So we played husband and wife, bickering, in this funny little bit. They were ten minute short plays and we just finished doing six weeks. I just like to be constantly creating something. If you have a curiosity about life, you’ll be happy working all the time. You have to create your own work nowadays, though.
Mike Horton: Yes, and it’s especially difficult, and I don’t want to age you but I imagine you’re a woman over 40 and a woman over 40 in Hollywood is considered somewhat invisible and if you don’t make your own traction, you will remain invisible. So good for you.
Lydia Cornell: Yes, I play 20 years younger, for some reason. See, I don’t really believe in aging unless you believe in it. That is… I just don’t. I don’t even think about it.
Mike Horton: Well, it’s a good attitude.
Lydia Cornell: Well, actually it does work in a weird way to avoid being typecast, because the play I was in last night, clearly there were lines in there that implied that I’m a lot younger and my child is 20 now so, you know, it’s great. It’s great. If you think that you’re old, you’re going to be old. If you’re worried about your food and you’re constantly hyper vigilant about everything you eat and drink, I think that you kind of bury yourself, you limit yourself or you stay stuck in your own limitations. Do you know what I mean?
Larry Jordan: Mhmm, I do.
Mike Horton: When women come up to you and talk to you about career and acting, is that a common response that you give to them?
Lydia Cornell: It’s very difficult to keep yourself happy and excited and positive if you don’t create your own work. I’m always writing and writing is a great release. I’d rather produce and write and direct – I’m going to be directing a show that I wrote and I have a couple of investors already who are dying to put money into it, which is really interesting because I wasn’t even thinking in that direction last year. I was a little bit rudderless, so I was actually floundering around going, “What am I going to do next? I have all these books that I want to morph into TV series,” and basically I just laughed. I want to laugh my way through life. I turn every tragedy into comedy.
Lydia Cornell:, So the past three years have been a really big learning process of coming out of a divorce and having been betrayed by my husband and then betrayed by this stalker, who I thought was a federal agent and a war hero, and it turns out that nothing’s true. So how can I make this sustainable and funny and not die underneath it? You could actually go down a bad spiral if you’ve been betrayed and you’ve lost all your money or you’ve been abandoned. Life is a creative process. You have to keep turning into something good. It’s corny, but you have to somehow get out of depression and pick yourself up and see the good around you and just move forward. Progress.
Larry Jordan: I was just reflecting, enthusiasm is a part of it, but also doing different things. You’ve forced yourself not to do the same thing. You’ve been expanding into different areas and it seems that learning something new is a huge part of your creative challenge.
Lydia Cornell: Exactly. Learning something new, exactly, and not going back to the old. The old stereotypical feeling an actor gets is that there’s a limited amount of roles for me. I have to stay with typecast and the industry’s changing really fast. There are no more gatekeepers. You don’t really need an agent any more, you don’t really need a network any more you can create your own. So while I do want to work with a network, it seems that the audiences are dwindling for each network or they’re spreading out. I started a podcast of… with Hell’s Kitchen chefs and these sports guys and MTV stars and they asked me to be on their podcast network and wanted me to be on a radio show. After that, we saw the model and there are some of these podcasters that are making a fortune just talking to one segment of the audience.
Mike Horton: Yes. Oh, that’s Larry.
Lydia Cornell: That’s Larry. That’s Larry!
Mike Horton: He’s making a fortune.
Lydia Cornell: Well, actually, you are exactly talking to the market that you most want to deliver your message to, right?
Mike Horton: Absolutely.
Lydia Cornell: Good. You’re doing the right thing.
Mike Horton: And so are you, and that’s why we had you on.
Lydia Cornell: Thank you. Yes, but it’s not always easy, believe me. It’s not easy to stay out of the artistic depression or whatever, but you have to figure out a way. I actually believe in higher consciousness.
Mike Horton: Well, you are a human being.
Lydia Cornell: Yes, exactly.
Larry Jordan: In the little bit of time we’ve got left, if you were to give yourself advice when you were starting out, what would be the most helpful advice you could have given yourself?
Lydia Cornell: To stop caring what other people think of you and to go with your true north, to really sit inside yourself quietly and ask, “What is the most exciting, fun thing I can do in life? What am I passionate about?” and do not ever do anything half measures. Don’t ever do anything just to make someone else happy that isn’t in your heart as far as a career goes. Does that make sense?
Larry Jordan: Of course it makes sense.
Lydia Cornell: I was mistaken for a hooker by my mother and the police on my way to a movie audition wearing a dog collar and leather thigh high boots. I got into a car accident on Coldwater and I had to get out of the car looking like this and I had to say, “I’m an actress, I’m not a hooker,” and I was thinking, “I don’t want to play roles like that any more, unless they’re really well written,” you know?
Larry Jordan: Yes. Anywhere else, they would not buy that excuse; but in LA, they probably would.
Mike Horton: Write your own, now, Lydia. It’s democratized out there. Write it, produce it, direct it and put it up there for the whole world to see.
Lydia Cornell: Exactly. I love you for saying that. That’s what I’m doing and the writing is so much fun when it’s truly your own voice and you know what works. I mean, I really know what fits me at this point.
Mike Horton: Great.
Larry Jordan: For people who want to keep track of you and your writing and all the other things that you’re doing, what website can they go to?
Lydia Cornell: Lydiacornell.com.
Larry Jordan: That is the Lydia Cornell herself. Her website is lydiacornell.com. Lydia Cornell started as an actress and now is just fascinated by everything. Lydia, it’s been wonderful chatting with you. Thanks for joining us.
Lydia Cornell: Thank you.
Larry Jordan: Take care.
Mike Horton: Thanks, Lydia.
Lydia Cornell: Thanks, Larry.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
Lydia Cornell: Lots of love. Bye, Michael.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan Handel is an entertainment technology attorney of Counsel at TroyGould in Los Angeles. He’s also the Contributing Editor on entertainment labor issues for The Hollywood Reporter. He’s got a blog at jhandel.com and Mike and I took a vote before the show and we are convinced he does not sleep. Hello, Jonathan, welcome back.
Jonathan Handel: Well, thank you. It sounds like I won that vote.
Mike Horton: Yes, you did, you did, so I’m going to sleep during this interview.
Jonathan Handel: Ah! Well, I hope not, not because of me.
Larry Jordan: No, no, it would never be because of you. It’s because of the host. I know how that works.
Mike Horton: Yes, ask Jonathan about codecs or something, Larry.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan knows everything about codecs and he’s polite enough not to talk about it.
Mike Horton: He probably does. He probably could intelligently discuss ProRes codecs.
Jonathan Handel: I’m just enjoying listening to the two of you discuss what I can discuss.
Mike Horton: Yes, ok.
Jonathan Handel: I think it’s a meta discussion.
Mike Horton: It could be a meta discussion.
Larry Jordan: I’m changing the subject.
Mike Horton: All right.
Jonathan Handel: Fair enough.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan, there are two legal cases which are fascinating Hollywood that I think have potential implications for producers around the world. There’s the Bryan Singer case and the Sarah Jones case, because both of these touch on key issues that we all need to be aware of. One is sexual harassment and the other is unsafe working conditions. I want to start with sexual harassment. Give us a summary of the Bryan Singer case.
Jonathan Handel: Well, the allegations were that Bryan Singer and three Hollywood executives – some of whom have done some producing, others of whom were TV executives – sexually abused and harassed the plaintiff, who at the time was a teenager. Now, a couple of things to know. One is that – and I know we’ll get this into more deeply in a minute as you ask me about it – but we should say at the top that a lot of those allegations have been brought into great question due to credibility issues and contradictions that have emerged. But the other thing to think about is that, although everyone looks at this and says, “Ok, this is a high profile allegation of teen sex abuse and sex parties and stuff.” There is something that’s important for producers to be thinking about, and that is that among the allegations was that there were promises that, if you do certain sexual things, you’ll get a job with us and also threats that if you don’t do certain sexual things that you won’t work in this town again. Now, those take this into the realm not just of alleged sexual abuse, but also into the realm of sexual harassment from a job standpoint. And I know that that’s the aspect that we want to focus on here in terms of meat and potatoes question for producers.
Larry Jordan: That’s exactly right. I mean, the casting couch has long been emblematic of sexual harassment in the media. What can producers do, first, to prevent it occurring in the first place; and second to prevent from being accused of participating in sexual harassment?
Jonathan Handel: The answer to that is several fold. One of the answers, of course, is don’t have non-consensual sex with people. Don’t tell people that, as was alleged here but again it’s important to note that the allegations have fallen under a great cloud…
Larry Jordan: Just a second, stop right there. Tell us what the cloud is so you can be more direct about that.
Jonathan Handel: Yes, absolutely. The allegations were that these things happened over a period of 1997 to ’99 in mansions and Encino, California, the Los Angeles area, and Hawaii. But it turned out that the same plaintiff had actually sued in 2000 and in 2003 had given a deposition in that case and he had sued the owners of the Encino mansion. So he didn’t sue any of the people that he now sued in 2014, he sued different people; and in his deposition he said several things that were very important. One is he said he’d never been to Hawaii with these people or actually apparently never been to Hawaii at all. His mother wouldn’t let him go on such trips, and yet in 2014 he sues four people for sexual abuse that allegedly occurred in Hawaii.
Jonathan Handel: The other thing is that in 2003 in his deposition, he said that no-one other than the people he was suing at that time had participated in these kinds of actions, and yet a decade later he sues four other people for exactly those kinds of activities. In 2003, he signed a sworn statement, a statement under the penalty of perjury, that one man in particular had never touched him and had never had sexual contact with him, and yet ten years later that man was one of the four people, one of the three executives in addition to Bryan Singer, who was sued. Finally, as the 2014 suits wound around, the defendants presented their own evidence in the form of credit card receipts, cell phone receipts, and sworn declarations from people who booked their travel and things like that to demonstrate compellingly. One would have to say, that they were never in Hawaii during this time period.
Jonathan Handel: So, as all of that emerged, what happened was that the plaintiff, Michael Egan, withdrew three out of the four complaints that he’d filed, complaints against people other than Bryan Singer. Then his lawyers sought to withdraw from the remaining case, the Bryan Singer case. That motion was granted in the last day or so. In addition, Egan sought to dismiss the Bryan Singer case, but Bryan Singer objected. Now, why did Bryan Singer not want the case against himself dismissed? The answer is that Egan wanted to withdraw it with what’s called without prejudice, in other words so he could re-file it at his discretion some other time. Singer has a motion pending to dismiss the case with prejudice. So the whole thing would be done and gone, and that’s important from a legal standpoint because it provides for vindication, if granted, and it also provides a stronger foundation if Bryan Singer wishes – and there’s indication that he does – to bring a malicious prosecution lawsuit against Michael Egan and his lawyer, Jeff Herman.
Jonathan Handel: In fact, one of the other men who was sued, Garth Ancier, has already brought exactly that sort of a lawsuit. The cases have appeared to have largely collapsed, but there’s a caveat which is that there were cases filed against four anonymous defendants in California that appear to be the same four who were sued in Hawaii by Egan and these cases have sort of lain fallow for a bit, but Egan has engaged new Counsel and it’s not clear if that new Counsel intends to activate the Los Angeles cases and bring these cases back up to speed and back in active state again or whether they are here because Egan wants to sue his former lawyer Herman or whether they’re here for some other reason altogether. We don’t know.
Larry Jordan: Ok, well, let’s take it back up a step again. Regardless of the merits of this particular case, as producers we need to protect ourselves against both unwarranted behavior and unwarranted accusations. What would you advise?
Jonathan Handel: That’s exactly right and there are several things that producers can do. One of them, of course, is not to have sexual relations with someone who doesn’t want to have sex. That should be obvious but we know that throughout the history of Hollywood this sort of thing has happened and whether it’s gay or straight, male on male, female on female, whatever combination of genders you’re talking about, the same principles apply. The second thing is don’t have sexual relations where you’re supervising someone or where there’s a power differential. Now, when you’re a producer, you’re an employer and that means that you should not be having sex, intimate relationships, romantic relationships, whatever it might be, whatever guise you might think it is, with anyone on the production. Now, I know that goes against what often happens. People are thrown together in very intense circumstances, a motion picture production is sort of like a political campaign, it’s a pressure cooker. Everyone a lot of times is on location. There are a lot of reasons why people are in close quarters.
Jonathan Handel: A lot of people in the business, of course, are very physically attractive. They get attracted to each other and one thing leads to another. But there is a very distinct downside to that, which is that it can lead to hurt feelings which in turn can lead to disagreements as to what was consensual and what wasn’t and when breakups happen, memories often differ for better or for worse as to what happened and it can lead to lawsuits; and it’s not just the two people involved. It’s also everyone else. If someone else in a given department is not getting those romantic attentions from the boss, the producer, are they not getting the plum assignments? Their work’s not being showcased, perhaps. They’re not getting overtime, perhaps. They’re not getting as large a trailer or as nice accommodations or whatever it might be. Sexual harassment doesn’t just involve the two people who are engaged in sexual conduct. It also can involve the disfavoring of other people who did not receive sexual attention from the supervisor or boss, so it’s a very fraught situation.
Mike Horton: Yes, but in the case of Bryan Singer, this supposedly never happened. This never happened and there’s some guy accusing him of it happening and so his reputation is forever tainted because he has been accused.
Jonathan Handel: That is right. His reputation is in many ways going to be forever attached to those.
Mike Horton: Right!
Jonathan Handel: As is, by the way, the other three people who are lumped with Bryan Singer and it may be that certain people do certain things and other people don’t do certain things, but they’re all lumped together. Taking this back to producers, it’s very difficult because this is a business where you are going to be spending late nights with people, you’ll be alone with people sometimes. So the circumstances are always there for someone to say, “We were alone and there was no-one else who saw and he attempted to kiss me or he touched me here or he did this or he did that.”
Mike Horton: Yes. Are we supposed to spend the rest of our lives not being alone with people? It’s just, ah, I don’t know.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan, how does the law define sexual harassment?
Jonathan Handel: I can’t give you the literal legal definition off the top of my head, but basically there are several different types of sexual harassment, as I indicated. And one of them is creating a hostile working environment, a working environment that is sexually charged; another is literally harassing someone, unwanted touching, repeated comments, repeated staring at sexual portions of a person’s body, those kinds of things. There are gray areas when you’re dealing with adults. Is it sexual harassment if a supervisor asks a person out once and they say no and then it’s never brought up again? That would not be a very good ask for a producer to make of someone in their company. Is that sexual harassment? Well, you really want to consult a lawyer who’s completely expert on it and the answer may vary by state, but is it a bad practice and a great way to find yourself on the receiving end of a sexual harassment complaint, a sex discrimination complaint? Absolutely.
Larry Jordan: All right, so let’s shift gears. Give us a summary of the Sarah Jones case.
Jonathan Handel: Yes. The Sarah Jones case involves allegations of a deliberate lack of concern or a deliberate recklessness, anyway, regarding safety. What’s alleged in the Sarah Jones case is that the producers, including the producer/director, of the film ‘Midnight Rider’ told the cast and crew to film on a train bridge and ushered them onto a train bridge to shoot footage, that allegedly there was no permit for the shooting, there was no permission, allegedly, from the railroad company, the cast and crew allegedly were told that trains were not expected but that if one did come by, that they would have 60 seconds to get off the bridge. In the event, as it happens, a train did come and they had allegedly less than 60 seconds to get off the bridge and Sarah Jones was killed. About six or seven other members of the company were injured and at least one of them somewhat seriously.
Jonathan Handel: They reportedly had to run towards the oncoming train in order to get off the bridge, because that was the closer side of the bridge apparently. Now, the lessons here for producers are, number one, when you don’t have a permit, you don’t have a permit. Don’t do it. When you’re just stealing a shot in a dangerous situation, what you’re doing is putting people’s lives at risk and you may find yourself on the receiving end of a criminal prosecution as well as civil lawsuits, and both of those kinds of legal actions have been brought in this case.
Larry Jordan: What I find especially interesting is that the producers of the film are exactly that. They’re charged with a criminal indictment, which carries the potential for jail time, not just financial penalties. That makes it especially difficult.
Jonathan Handel: That’s right, and again the allegation here is, in fact, that they requested a permit from the railway and were denied one and filmed anyway. That involves, according to the prosecutors, both some species of negligent homicide – I forget the exact charge that was brought and the kind of terminology varies from state to state, but in essence here they’re not alleging that obviously the producers intended anyone to get killed, but there was negligence and that did happen – and secondly they’re alleging criminal trespass. It’s not legal to walk on train tracks when you’re not allowed, when you don’t have a permit, and there’s no evidence as well that there were any people stationed a mile or whatever down the tracks in either direction to warn of an oncoming train. It was allegedly a very guerrilla kind of shoot.
Jonathan Handel: There are non-binding safety guidelines in this industry that relate to all sorts of things. It’s an almost darkly humorous catalog of the dangers of the world, from reptiles that bite and poison, to sunstroke, to airplanes and helicopters and, you know, a sort of Murphy’s Law compendium of guidelines with specific guidelines as to each of these bad sorts of things. And there are safety guidelines regarding shooting on train tracks and among the very first things that that guideline says – and I’ve read it – is that you need to coordinate and obviously get permission from the railway and local authorities. The allegation here is that those things were not done.
Larry Jordan: Where can producers go to learn more about how to keep their crews safe? Where can they get those safety guidelines?
Jonathan Handel: They’re online. IATSE Local 80 coordinates this. I think if you Google for motion picture safety guidelines, it’s a website whose name I don’t remember, it’s an unusual website, but if you Google for that sort of terminology you’ll find them and, as I say, there are dozens of safety guidelines and they’re all available to download and to follow.
Larry Jordan: What it sounds like to me is that there’s no magic protection. Because we’re working on film, producers are treated like employees and crew is treated like staff and we have to recognize that and act like it, even if the production only lasts for four weeks.
Jonathan Handel: Yes, producers are treated like employers, to be specific, and cast and crew are employees, and that’s exactly what they are. There is no cinematic immunity from danger and, in fact, on the contrary. To get interesting shots, people are more likely to do things like stand on cranes that are 25 feet in the air and lean over with cameras and shoot on train tracks that normal people don’t do. So it’s quite the opposite of cinematic immunity and that’s why every shot has to be a safety shot, because no shot should be someone’s last.
Larry Jordan: A very, very good point. Jonathan, where can people go on the web to learn more about the stuff you’re writing and thinking about?
Jonathan Handel: They can go to jhandel.com, which is my website. It relates to my legal practice and has links to my writing as well.
Larry Jordan: That’s jhandel.com and Jonathan Handel himself is the voice we’re listening to. Jonathan, an excellent set of advice. Thanks for joining us today.
Mike Horton: Thanks, Jonathan.
Jonathan Handel: Thanks very much.
Larry Jordan: Take care. Bye bye.
Jonathan Handel: Bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Michael, I was just thinking of the productions that I’ve worked on and, I’m sure, ones that you’ve worked on and it’s always a balancing act between trying to get all the paperwork done, and keep everybody safe, and get the shots that you need and it’s often easier to just sort of ignore safety because this is just one quick shot.
Mike Horton: I tell you, I’ve done a lot of television shows and movies and a lot of them had a lot of action and that sort of thing, and yes, there is the adrenaline rush where you might be doing something that’s a little unsafe. But if you have a bunch of professionals on the set, there’s always one or two that are going to just calm everybody down and make sure that everybody is safe and if there’s an out of control director, if there’s a stuntman on set, that stuntman will knee the guy in the nuts before he lets him do anything stupid. So the case of Sarah Jones is just one of those horrible tragedies where there was probably somebody on the set yelling, “You know, we shouldn’t probably do this,” but yet it’s not that everybody was complicit or one person was responsible. It’s just one of those horrible, horrible tragedies, but there’s always, especially when it comes to shooting films, on something with a budget anyway. A lot of people very, very concerned with safety. There are a lot of veterans on a set, they’ve seen everything and they’ll be very concerned with safety before anything else and they’ll make it known, believe me. Believe me, you know, they want everybody to go home safely.
Larry Jordan: Well that I think is something that a young producer and a young director needs to learn, is that the goal is to get everybody through the shoot.
Mike Horton: Yes. Maybe a young producer and young director, but if they were smart to hire veterans, those veterans will keep them in line. But there are tragedies that happen. I mean, they just happen.
Larry Jordan: I want to thank our guests for this evening. We started with Tony Cacciarelli, a Product Marketing Manager for AJA Video Systems; Lydia Cornell, the successful actor; and Jonathan Handel, entertainment labor reporter for The Hollywood Reporter and of Counsel for TroyGould in Los Angeles.
Larry Jordan: There’s a lot happening at The Buzz between shows. It’s all posted to our website at digitalproductionbuzz.com. You can talk with us on Twitter, @DPBuZZ, and Facebook at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Music on The Buzz provided by SmartSound; The Buzz is streamed by wehostmax.com. Text transcripts are provided by Take 1 Transcription. You can email us at email@example.com.
Larry Jordan: Our producer is Cirina Catania, our special guest engineer Tori Hoefke. On behalf of the Mike Horton…
Mike Horton: Tori, you did an awesome job.
Larry Jordan: …my name is Larry Jordan and thanks for listening to The Digital Production Buzz.
Mike Horton: Goodbye, everybody.
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