‘Getting Grace’ Is a Family Affair for Director

Getting Grace is not only a family film, but for director Daniel Roebuck (who also stars) it’s also a family affair — starting with the title character.

The film, due on DVD Nov. 6 from Random Media, follows Grace, a teenage girl dying of cancer who crashes a funeral home to find out what will happen to her after she dies. Along the way, Grace ends up teaching the awkward funeral director, Bill (Roebuck), how to celebrate life. Not only did Roebuck star in and direct the movie — his feature film directorial debut — but he helped rewrite the script by Jeff Lewis, infusing it with his own experience.

“Grace, as written, is my daughter Grace, who’s never been sick, thank God, but the personality of the kid is my daughter,” said Roebuck, whose face will be familiar to audiences from his long acting career. “My daughter, I watch how she interacts with the world. Sometimes people are a little bit afraid of her, but she always wins them over.”

He lifted an actual incident about his daughter for some dialog in the film about parent teacher conferences and how some teachers found her a pleasure and some hard to teach.

“My actual ex-wife said, ‘Some people get Grace and others never will,’” Roebuck says, noting the same line is recited by Grace’s mother Venus in the film. “That’s how it became Getting Grace.”

Roebuck’s daughter, who wants to be a filmmaker, was a production assistant on the film. But she’s not the only family member involved in the project. Roebuck’s son Buster plays him in a flashback in the film, his wife is one of the producers, his father appears in the movie, his mother’s voice is in the movie, and his brother in law, Cory Geryak, an experienced director of photography, shot the film.

Roebuck also angled his way into shooting Getting Grace in his hometown of Bethlehem, Pa. Bethlehem, founded in the colonial era, took a hit after the collapse of the steel industry, but the city has been able to remake itself as an art hub with such events as Musikfest.

“I just liked that Bill, the character that I played, was old-fashioned in the story and he had to change,” Roebuck said. “I thought that Bethlehem would be the perfect backdrop.”

One scene in the film was shot in “the oldest continually operating book shop in America” located in the city, Roebuck noted.

Roebuck also looked outside Hollywood for his cast.

“Those kids, not one of them had ever been in a movie, and a few of the adults had never been in a movie,” he said.

That includes the titular character played by newcomer Madelyn Dundon.

“She’s terrific,” he said. “She’s a force of nature. She’s something else that kid.”

The film has been well-received by audiences, including those in his hometown, Roebuck said, noting that it elicits big laughs (it’s a comedy after all) and has also inspired people, with at least one viewer saying it helped him handle a cancer diagnosis.

The film, of course, is about getting grace in more than one sense.

“It’s an allegory for God’s grace. That’s what it is to me,” Roebuck said. “I wanted it to represent something greater, which is that God’s grace is available to all of us whether we recognize it or not.”

Special features on the DVD include “Making Grace,” a behind the scenes featurette in which Roebuck looks back on the casting and filming of Getting Grace in his hometown, including interviews with the cast and select cast auditions; Getting Grace Lehigh Valley charity premieres, featuring the cast at three premieres benefitting local charities; commentary from Roebuck; a deleted scene; and the theatrical trailer.

DEG Presents Hedy Lamarr Awards to VR Pioneer, Carnegie Mellon Student

DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group presented its second annual Hedy Lamarr Award for Innovation in Entertainment Technology to Emblematic Group CEO Nonny de la Peña, a leader in virtual reality, in Santa Monica, Calif., Nov. 1. The award recognizes female executives in the fields of entertainment and technology who have made a significant contribution to the industry.

The DEG also presented the Hedy Lamarr Achievement Award for Emerging Leader in Entertainment Technology to Carnegie Mellon University student Cassidy Pearsall, who will receive a financial award to continue her education.

“Thank you for thinking about women and technology,” de la Peña said in accepting the award. “The numbers are appalling. In 2017, 98% of venture funds went to men. In 2016, in 2015, the same — it’s brutal. To celebrate women’s contribution to technology helps change their story to venture capitalists. They always say they invest in founders of the company. Putting women out there like this and talking about Hedy Lamarr and putting people like me and Cassidy out there, you start to change that story, you start to change what they expect a founder to look like, so it’s really important what you’re doing here. This work is important, and I really appreciate that I’ve been able to be a representative of that ongoing attempt to show the world how much we can contribute.”

DEG president and CEO Amy Jo Smith said the awards were created “to celebrate the memory of Hedy Lamarr,” who was both a Hollywood actress and an inventor.

“Louis B. Mayer famously was one of the first people to call her the most beautiful woman in the world and of course many people followed thereafter, but Hedy wasn’t just a beautiful, talented film star,” Smith noted. “She came up with a way of actually making sure torpedoes would hit their destinations during World War II. This highly secure technology, radio frequency hopping, is the foundation on which technologies such as wi-fi, bluetooth and cellular technologies, technologies that we use every single day, are based.”

After reminiscing about finding his mother’s patent as they went through boxes of magazine covers and photographs in the attic, Lamarr’s son Anthony Loder congratulated the 2018 winners.

“Cassidy, my mother would be very proud of you,” he said to Pearsall. “She’d be a fan, and she’d be impressed.”

“To be compared to someone as talented and as driven as Hedy is really an incredible honor,” Pearsall said in accepting her award.

De la Peña was named “The Godmother of Virtual Reality” by The Guardian and Engadget, while Fast Company recognized her as one of the people who made the world more creative for her groundbreaking work in immersive journalism. A former correspondent for Newsweek magazine, de la Peña founded Emblematic Group in 2007. The company became an innovator in walk around virtual reality with the first-ever VR documentary, Hunger in Los Angeles, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012. Emblematic has also produced Project Syria, which was commissioned by the World Economic Forum, Use of ForceOne Dark NightOut of ExileAfter Solitary and Greenland Melting.

Pearsall is a student in Carnegie Mellon’s Theatrical Video and Media Design program, and a recipient of the university’s prestigious Presidential Scholarship. She is training as a theatrical designer and technician in scenic design and construction and lighting design and programming.

Deluxe Entertainment Services Group hosted the reception and Sony, including Sony Electronics, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Sony Corp. of America, was a presenting sponsor.

See photos from the event here.

DEG Presents 2018 Hedy Lamarr Awards

DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group presented its second annual Hedy Lamarr Award for Innovation in Entertainment Technology to Emblematic Group CEO Nonny de la Peña, a leader in virtual reality, in Santa Monica, Calif., Nov. 1. The DEG also presented the Hedy Lamarr Achievement Award for Emerging Leaders in Entertainment Technology to Carnegie Mellon University student Cassidy Pearsall, who will receive a financial award to continue her education.

Radio Station Documentary ‘New Wave: Dare to Be Different’ Coming to DVD and Digital Dec. 7 From MVD

New Wave: Dare to Be Different, the story of influential radio station WLIR, is coming to DVD and digital Dec. 7 from MVD Entertainment Group.

U2, the Talking Heads, Depeche Mode, Blondie, Duran Duran, Tears for Fears, The Clash and The Cure were boosted by a small suburban radio station on Long Island, NY, WLIR. In August 1982, a small group of radio visionaries knew they couldn’t compete with the mega-stations in New York City, so they changed the sound of radio forever. Program director Denis McNamara, the WLIR crew and the biggest artists of the era tell the story of how they battled the FCC, the record labels, corporate radio and all the conventional rules to create a musical movement that brought the New Wave to America.

The soundtrack includes more than 50 songs from the era and a new original theme song by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.

The film features Joan Jett, Debbie Harry, Billy Idol, Nick Rhodes, Denis McNamara, Jim Kerr, Vince Clarke, Curt Smith, Fred Schneider, Thomas Dolby, Midge Ure, Gary “Baba Booey” Dell’ Abate, Seymour Stein, Paul McGuinness, Dave Wakeling, Annabella Lwin, Miles Copeland, Joel Peresman, Larry Dunn, Donna Donna, Max Leinwand, “Malibu Sue” McCann, Michael Pagnotta and Steve Thompson, among others.

Hulu Expands Fox TV Content Deal With Animated Hits

In a deal that further expands its licensing agreement with 20th Century Fox Television Distribution, Hulu has added all 13 seasons of Emmy Award-winning “King of The Hill” exclusively to its service.

In addition, the company has locked in the exclusive post-broadcast streaming rights to Emmy-winning comedies “Bob’s Burgers” and “Family Guy,” as well as “American Dad!,” and all episodes of library series “The Cleveland Show” and Emmy-winning “Futurama.”

Hulu is now the exclusive subscription streaming home to the largest offering of animated programming from 20th Century Fox Television, according to the service, as well as animated shows from other content partners including “South Park,” “Rick and Morty,” “Robot Chicken,” “Adventure Time.”

‘I Am Paul Walker’ Coming to Digital Nov. 30, DVD Dec. 4 From Virgil Films

Virgil Films will release I Am Paul Walker, a documentary exploring the life and legacy of the actor, on digital Nov. 30, for the five-year anniversary of his death, and on DVD Dec. 4.

I Am MLK Jr DVD Wrap

The film explores the short life of the Southern California native who cut his teeth as a child actor before breaking out in the blockbuster “Fast and Furious” movie franchise. It features interviews with those who knew him best both professionally and personally, using an extensive archive of rarely seen candid video and still photographs provided by family and friends of the late actor. I Am Paul Walker also explores Paul’s private side, including his devotion to his family, his fascination for surfing and auto racing, his passion for marine biology and sharks, his dedication to humanitarian work through his NGO Reach Out Worldwide, and his love for his daughter.

The film features interviews with Tyrese Gibson, Rob Cohen and Wayne Kramer.

Dish Announces ‘Anticompetitive’ AT&T Has Pulled HBO and Cinemax From Its Services

Dish late Oct. 31 announced that AT&T had pulled HBO and Cinemax content from Dish and Sling TV subscribers, calling the move “anticompetitive.”

The Dish release states that the “AT&T-DirecTV-Time Warner mega merger has allowed the giant conglomerate to relentlessly exert power and influence over competing pay-TV providers and consumers.”

Dish announced the action came after AT&T made “untenable demands designed specifically to harm customers, particularly those in rural areas, as well as damage competing pay-TV providers.”

The U.S. Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit to block the AT&T-Time Warner lawsuit and Aug. 6 appealed the court’s decision to allow the merger. Following the merger’s approval, subsidiary WarnerMedia announced plans for a subscription streaming service.

“There were no guidelines set in place to ensure that AT&T ‘played fair’ for HBO and Cinemax subscribers, regardless of their pay-TV provider,” according to Dish.

“Plain and simple, the merger created for AT&T immense power over consumers,” said Andy LeCuyer, Dish SVP of programming, in a statement. “It seems AT&T is implementing a new strategy to shut off its recently acquired content from other distributors. This may be the first of many HBO blackouts for consumers across the country. AT&T no longer has incentive to come to an agreement on behalf of consumer choice; instead, it’s been given the power to grab more money or steal away customers.”

The blackout “is exceptionally harmful to rural Americans who don’t have the same broadband access as customers living in large cities,” according to a Dish release. “Customers with sufficient internet service can substitute HBO Now, the direct-to-consumer streaming offering from HBO. The majority of DISH’s HBO subscriber base is located in rural areas with limited broadband access and likely won’t be able to watch HBO or Cinemax without a satellite connection,” the release stated.

“AT&T’s actions are a deliberate slap in the face to rural Americans,” said LeCuyer in a statement. “And furthermore, they are anticompetitive. AT&T, a company worth more than $200 billion, is intentionally punishing those who don’t have big-city broadband access, in an attempt to push customers to the only other satellite provider, its own DirecTV.”

AT&T is demanding Dish pay for a guaranteed number of subscribers, regardless of how many consumers actually want to subscribe to HBO, according to Dish.

“AT&T is stacking the deck with free-for-life offerings to wireless customers and slashed prices on streaming services, effectively trying to force Dish to subsidize HBO on AT&T’s platforms,” said LeCuyer in a statement. “This is the exact anticompetitive behavior that critics of the AT&T-Time Warner merger warned us about. Every pay-TV company should be concerned.”

“Dish would welcome binding, baseball-style arbitration to determine the fair market value of HBO and Cinemax,” the Dish release states. “During the arbitration process, AT&T would be required to restore its channels to Dish customers.”

“Rather than trying to force consumers onto their platforms, we suggest that AT&T try to achieve its financial goals through simple economics: if consumers want your product, they’ll pay for it. We hope AT&T will reconsider its demands and help us reach a swift, fair resolution,” said LeCuyer in a statement.

Dish and eligible Sling TV customers will be credited on their bill for time they do not receive HBO or Cinemax, Dish announced, adding the company is also offering customers a free preview of HDNET Movies.

PBS’s ‘Dark Money’ Hits Amazon Prime Ahead of Election

The documentary Dark Money from PBS Distribution is now available to stream exclusively through Amazon’s Prime Video ahead of the election.

Dark Money is also available on digital, DVD and Blu-ray.

The documentary examines one of the greatest present threats to American democracy: the influence of untraceable corporate and union money on our elections and elected officials. The film takes viewers to Montana — a frontline in the fight to preserve fair elections nationwide — to follow a local journalist working to expose the real-life impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision, uncovering the truth of how American elections are bought and sold.

The recipient of the Sundance Institute/Amazon Studios’ Producers Award, Dark Money is directed and produced by Kimberly Reed. The film was recently nominated for top documentary awards at the Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards (winners announced Nov. 10) and the International Documentary Association’s IDA Awards (winners announced Dec. 8).

Dark Money was released theatrically in July and broadcast on PBS’s documentary series “POV” Oct. 1.

Cinedigm Will Launch Chinese Content Channel Bambu in First Quarter 2019

Cinedigm announced it will launch Bambu, its Chinese content entertainment channel, in the first quarter of 2019, unveiling the channel’s logo.

Bambu will be available as both a free, ad-supported service and an ad-free subscription-based service providing content for $3.99 a month.

“While the network will appeal to Americans of all ages, Bambu’s primary focus is on Gen Z viewers ages 16-24, and Millennial viewers ages 25-35,” according to the Cinedigm announcement. “These ‘digital natives’ have been exposed to global culture from an early age, and hunger to stay at the forefront to discover the latest global trends — as evidenced by the unparalleled rise of Anime and K-Pop in North America in recent years.”

These viewers represent more than 27 percent of the U.S. population, according to Cinedigm, and Bambu aims to provide Chinese entertainment previously unavailable to American audiences.

Curated offerings will span beyond martial arts and period epics to contemporary action epics, serial dramas, romantic comedies, sci-fi, horror, fantasy adventure sagas, music and reality series, and educational programming ranging from instructional Chinese language courses to cultural cooking shows, according to Cinedigm.

The company billed the site as “the only complete Chinese entertainment platform in the United States.”

Cinedigm will provide content for Bambu from licensor partners, as well as from Chinese licensors and distributors, according to the announcement. Content will potentially include hundreds of hours of first-run television programs, made available through Cinedigm’s partnership with state-run broadcaster Central China Television and others, the company announced. Select titles include the bomb squad thriller Shock Wave, starring Andy Lau; the sci-fi epic Kung Fu Traveler; and Donnie Yen and Chow Yun-Fat in the 2016 fable The Monkey King: Havoc in Heaven’s Palace. Bambu will also feature such series as the most watched show in Chinese TV history “Journey to the West”; “Nirvana in Fire”; the thriller “Lost in Translation”; the popular food/cooking documentary series “A Bite of China”; the fantasy crime show “The Four”; and new shows such as “The Advisors Alliance” and “Diamond Lover.”

“Young Americans are incredibly culturally savvy, and proudly receptive to the latest global trends,” said Erick Opeka, Cinedigm’s president of digital networks, in a statement. “Bambu allows these modern tastemakers to stay at the cultural forefront, introducing them to a roster of new series and up-and-coming artists that they can discover and show their friends. It also presents tremendous potential for substantial marketing opportunities, opening up China’s prolific and profitable content industry to a massive American audience. This is phase one in what we envision as a fruitful partnership between the United States and China, enriching both cultures by providing them with the absolute best in Chinese and American entertainment, respectively.”

“Bambu is another very important step in our bilateral content distribution strategy for China and North America,” said Bill Sondheim, president of Cinedigm Entertainment Group, in a statement. “We have made tremendous progress in that regard over the last year with the key Bison, Starrise and Youku agreements, as well as many other important content and distribution deals with key Chinese media companies either announced or in final stages. Bambu is the perfect vehicle to expose undiscovered quality film and TV content to North American audiences and provide vital feedback to Chinese producers, which should help them create Chinese content with the potential to be much more successful abroad.”

Bambu is “an important vehicle to provide immediate and invaluable” audience feedback to Chinese producers working to produce films and television for a global audience, according to Cinedigm, and the consumer data should help better inform the development process in China about the categories of entertainment content, stories and characters that appeal most to an American and eventually a global audience.

Thriller ‘A Simple Favor’ to Be Offered on Digital Dec. 11, Disc Dec. 18

A Simple Favor will be offered on digital Dec. 11 and 4K Ultra HD combo pack (plus Blu-ray and digital), Blu-ray combo pack (plus DVD and Digital), DVD and on demand Dec. 18 from Lionsgate.

The film earned $52.3 million in theaters.

Anna Kendrick (Pitch PerfectTrolls) and Blake Lively (The ShallowsThe Age of Adaline, TV’s “Gossip Girl”) star in this thriller from director Paul Feig (BridesmaidsGhostbusters, TV’s “Freaks and Geek,” TV’s “The Office”), based on the novel by Darcey Bell. The film also stars Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians), Andrew Rannells (TV’s “Girls,” TV’s “The Knick”), Linda Cardellini (TV’s “Freaks and Geeks,” Hunter Killer) and Rupert Friend (TV’s “Homeland”).

The story follows Stephanie (Kendrick), a mommy vlogger who seeks to uncover the truth behind her best friend Emily’s (Lively) sudden disappearance from their small town. Stephanie is joined by Emily’s husband Sean (Golding).

Special features on digital, 4K UHD and Blu-ray include three audio commentaries with the cast and crew, eight making-of featurettes, a gag reel, deleted scenes, and an alternate ending. The DVD special features include all of these except there are six making-of featurettes, instead of eight.

The 4K UHD includes Dolby Vision HDR.