Netflix Gives $620,000 to Aid Unemployed British Stage/Theater Workers

Subscription streaming video pioneer Netflix has heeded the call from Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) to financially assist unemployed British stage/theater workers due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic — jumpstarting a non-government aid campaign with $620,000 (£500,000) in seed money.

The fund, which includes fiscal input from Mendes, The Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, offers upwards of £1,000 to anyone who worked in British theater from 2019 through March 31, 2020.

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The funding seeks to assist personnel not covered by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s $2 billion (£1.57 billion) cultural relief program, which includes independent movie theaters.

“Playwrights and directors, theater artists and performers, composers and comedians, are the lifeblood of our industry too and, while Netflix has been more fortunate than many, in the end we are only as strong as the people we work with,” Anne Mensah,VP of original series at Netflix, said in a statement.

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Before joining Netflix in 2018, Mensah was director of drama at Sky Studios in the U.K. She also was head of independent drama at the BBC in a previous position.

Indeed, Netflix has profited during the COVID-19 pandemic, generating record first-quarter (ended March 31) subscription growth and users with much of the entertainment industry shutdown. The streamer reports Q2 (ended June 30) results on July 16.

Mendes, in an op-ed last month in The Financial Times, implored entertainment businesses doing well during the pandemic to contribute.

“It would be deeply ironic if the streaming services —Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, et al — should be making lockdown millions from our finest acting, producing, writing and directing talent, while the very arts culture that nurtured that talent pool is allowed to die,” Mendes wrote. “Is there anyone among those people willing to use a fraction of their COVID-19 windfall to help those who have been mortally wounded?”

‘1917’ Back Atop U.K. Home Video Chart

Entertainment One’s 1917 returned to the No. 1 spot on the Official Film Chart following its release on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K UHD. The three-time Oscar-winning World War I movie from Universal Pictures and director Sam Mendes sold 146,000 DVD/Blu-ray Disc units for the week ended May 27, knocking last week’s chart-topper Bad Boys For Life from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment down to No. 2.

Disney/Pixar’s Onward maintained  the third spot while Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker climbed two places to No. 4. Little Women (Sony Pictures) dropped one spot to No. 5.

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Disney’s The Call of the Wild entered the chart in sixth. The Harrison Ford-starring reboot about a dog named Buck whose life is uprooted when he is removed from his home and ends up in the wilds of the Alaskan Yukon during the 1890s Gold Rush, was released on disc in the United States on May 12 by Disney/Fox.

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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment’s Cats debuted at No. 7 featuring Taylor Swift, James Corden, Jason Derulo and Dame Judi Dench as a tribe of cats, with one of them ascending for yearly reincarnation.

Finally, Disney’s Frozen II (8), Sony Pictures’ Jumanji: The Next Level (9) and Dinesy/Fox’s Jojo Rabbit (10) remained in the Top 10 for another week.

1917

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Universal;
Drama;
Box Office $ 159.23 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray, $44.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for violence, some disturbing images, and language.
Stars George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch.

Director Sam Mendes’ 1917 puts viewers in the midst of World War I with a personal story about two messengers sent to the front lines to prevent a slaughter. Or, at the very least, delay it.

Mendes co-wrote the film, Krysty Wilson-Cairns, based on stories his grandfather told him about serving in the trenches. The plot is simple enough. With the German army having moved its lines to set up an ambush, two British messengers are sent with intelligence from aerial surveillance to call off an attack by another division before 1,600 men are needlessly killed in a battle they have no chance of winning.

The journey proves a harrowing one, filled with booby traps, dogfights, snipers, and stray enemy soldiers lurking about. Of course, the underlying threat is always the nature of war itself, and the prospect of those potentially saved being killed anyway the next time they’re ordered into an attack.

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The main gimmick of the film is that it is presented in one continuous shot for the two hour-duration, following the soldiers as they receive their orders and throughout the ordeals they encounter. Technically it’s more like two shots, given there’s a very clear break in the story to allow for a time jump, though the camera seemingly holds its position for the duration while it waits for the action to resume.

The key to the film is its technical mastery, from the camerawork to the visual effects, in re-creating a French countryside devastated by the effects of one of the bloodiest wars ever waged. The set design and lighting are impeccable, making this one of the most beautiful war films to hit screens in a long time.

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Pulling off the single take involves some visual trickery in stitching together sections of footage blended by wipes and pans, and trying to identify the transition points on subsequent viewings is part of the joy of it.

Oscar-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins points out the seams in a very technical-minded solo commentary in which he discusses in great detail the processes used for filming. This is a must-listen to anyone interested in the process of filmmaking.

The other commentary is by Mendes, which also delves into some of the technical details but focuses more on the origins of the story and the performances of his actors. Interestingly, Mendes advocates anachronisms that reflect the time in which the film is made, admitting to purposefully depicting racial minorities serving alongside white soldiers in a segregated army because he wanted to reflect the diversity of modern times.

The only other extras on the Blu-ray are five making-of featurettes that run a total of 38 minutes, and can be played individually or using the disc’s “Play All” option. These cover pretty much all aspects of the production, from Mendes’ conception of the story to creating the WWI period, with extensive interviews from the cast and filmmakers, including a video about Thomas Newman’s amazing musical score.

Oscar-Winner ‘1917’ Coming Home to Digital March 10, Disc — Including 4K — March 24

Director-writer Sam Mendes’ Oscar-winning war epic 1917 will arrive on digital March 10 and 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD March 24 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film, which has earned $327 million at the global box office, won Academy Awards for Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Mixing.

In 1917 at the height of the First World War, two young British soldiers, Schofield (George MacKayand Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) are given a seemingly impossible mission. In a race against time, they must cross enemy territory and deliver a message that will stop a deadly attack on hundreds of soldiers — Blake’s own brother among them.

The film also stars Mark Strong (Tinker Tailor, Kingsman, The Imitation Game), Andrew Scott (“Fleabag”, Sherlock, Spectre), Richard Madden (Netflix’s “The Bodyguard”, Rocketman, HBO’s “Game of Thrones”), Colin Firth (The King’s Speech, Kingsman, Bridget Jones) and Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, Dr. Strange, The Imitation Game).

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Special features include:

  • “The Weight of the World: Sam Mendes,” in whichSam Mendes discusses his personal connection to World War 1;
  • “Allied Forces: Making 1917,” in which viewers learn how the one shot, 360-degree format was executed and the pivotal role Academy Award winner Roger Deakins served in bringing Mendes’ vision to life;
  • “The Music of 1917,” in which composer Thomas Newman and filmmakers discuss the important role of the Academy Award-nominated score;
  • “In The Trenches,” in which viewers go behind the scenes with the cast of 1917;
  • “Recreating History,” in which filmmakers offer a detailed look at the production design challenges of recreating the First World War;
  • feature commentary with Mendes; and
  • feature commentary with Deakins.