Category Archives: Television

Treat Williams Explores Politics in ‘The Congressman,’ ‘Confirmation’

Politics has provided a backdrop to Treat Williams’ acting career dating back to his breakout role as anti-war hippie Berger in Hair. Now, Williams appears on-screen in this election year portraying members of the elected class—both historic and fictional—in a pair of films exploring divisive discourse in Washington, D.C.

In The Congressman, the Closing Night Film for the Sarasota Film Festival, Williams portrays principled Congressman Charlie Winship, a politician who finds himself in a public relations nightmare after declining to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to start the workday. Sarasota cinephiles saw the only festival screening of the comedy on April 9 at the Sarasota Opera House. The film will open in New York and Los Angeles on April 29. But before that, Williams fans can see the actor portray the late Sen. Ted Kennedy in Confirmation, a film exploring the controversial Clarence Thomas confirmation to the Supreme Court that premieres on HBO this Saturday, April 16. We spoke with Williams at the Longboat Key Club Resort about both roles. Continue reading Treat Williams Explores Politics in ‘The Congressman,’ ‘Confirmation’


Michael Eisner Supportive of Florida Animation, Video Streaming

Disney no longer has an animation house in Florida, but former CEO Michael Eisner still thinks having one here would be a great idea. “I though Florida was a great place for an animation studio,” he told SRQ. While he said having a working animation department at Disney Hollywood Studios when the park opened was mostly so people knew the studios weren’t all phony, he was pleased the Florida team produced such content as Brother Bear and Lilo and Stitch. “Florida became a great hotbed of creativity. It still is, with many animators coming out of Ringling, out of all parts of Florida. And there are all kinds of production still in Florida.”

Eisner discussed the matter during a media roundtable shortly before a speech at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, where he also touched on video streaming, social media and leadership. He was the first guest this year for the Ringling College Library Association Town Hall Lecture Series. Today, Eisner runs his own company, The Tornante Company, which involved in a range endeavors from global sports media branding at Topps to creating entertainment content such as Netflix exclusive show BoJack Horseman.

But while he wades these days in new video, the former Paramount Pictures president said reports of network television’s death were premature. “People though television would kill movies; movies are still alive,” he said. “It doesn’t happen. What happens is one and one adds up to 2.5. The audience just grows bigger, and the is more available access to programming. But when that transition happens, existing media gets very nervous.”

Streaming video has changed plenty of things in terms of the lifespan of content, he says. He noted that Bojack Horseman has started winning critics awards as the show prepares for a third season. “It took a year and a half for people to say the show is fantastic,” Eisner said. “Years ago, they would say that in the third week, but it would be off in the third week. It takes so much longer to attract an audience, but when you do, they are very loyal.”

The biggest change from streaming outlets, though, is the sheer volume of content. He noted 300 new television shows will premiere on some outlet in the next three months, an amount that dwarfs what happened in the days when putting Roots on ABC as a mini-series seemed an unprecedented act for television. “There’s a lot of junk,” he joked. “We always seem to maintain our level of junk.” Of course, he also acknowledged that demands weeding through plenty of broadcast detritus.

As for that, while he acknowledged the power of social media and uses Instagram himself to keep up with grandchildren, the best way for a show to find an audience is no different than it has always been. “People are agonizing over Snapchat or Twitter or whatever, but I don’t think that has replaced verbal reach,” he said. “People still do get together on occasion. They go to school on occasion. They still have families. Word-of-mouth is still the most part of marketing.”

Detert preparing ‘film reform package’ to empower moviemaking in Florida

As state Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, gears up for her last regular session in Tallahassee, she says film will be one of her personal top priorities. But she does plan on taking a different approach this year, one that learns from “past mistakes” and which seeks to encourage filmmakers to headquarter permanently in the Sunshine State. “Film should be an indigenous industry in the state of Florida,” Detert said. “I don’t think you should fly in here and make a movie, get paid and fly back to Los Angeles. We should do more to recruit the film industry as a permanent industry in our state.”

Detert made the remarks to Sarasota City Commissioners Monday night as she briefed them on upcoming issues in the Legislature. The Venice Republican has been one of the state’s most vocal champions for film, but in the last two sessions saw film incentives legislation she sponsored eventually die. Film incentives were last funded by the state in 2010, but state officials have since spent the $296 million set aside for wooing film projects. Detert last year sponsored legislature to restore some funding, but it ultimately was left out of the budget when the session ended abruptly amid a budget battle between the House and Senate.

Along the way, she has made enemies with the Koch Brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity political committee (see video below), but she remains convinced a bigger film industry in Florida means jobs in a variety of sectors.

She notes the industry has been especially kind to the Sarasota area, where Ringling College of Art and Design just broke ground on a production facility. From familiar film work for actors and camera techs to indirectly supported industries like caterers, florists and a host of other work, a production can spread a substantial amount of wealth in a region. And while the average annual pay for jobs created by companies receiving state incentives runs around $44,000, that figure for the film industry is around $70,000. “It makes perfect sense to me.”

But Detert wants more than incentives. In a “film reform package” she plans to introduce in session this year, she is expected to call for a substantial shift in operations for the Florida Film Commission, moving it out from the Department of Economic Opportunity and instead putting it under the auspices of Enterprise Florida. Among other changes, that would mean relocating the agency to Orlando. “I want to see an empowered film commissioner, and one who has a passion for the industry, who reaches out and brings film into Florida,” Detert says.

Those remarks come a couple weeks after Detert dressed down Florida Film Commissioner Niki Welge at a Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee.

And improvement must occur for Florida to maintain a competitive stance. With Georgia actively wooing studios and Atlanta becoming a film center of its own, Florida has lost some embarrassing bids in the past year. Detert noted the Ben Affleck production Live By Night, where filmmakers decided it would be cheaper to rebuild a full set of Ybor City in Georgia than to film in the Tampa community, and the upcoming The Unknowns: Talent is Colorblind, a film about the Fort Pierce-based Florida Highwaymen that will be shot in Savannah. “That’s a Florida story,” she said of the Highwaymen film, “and it should be filmed in Florida.”

Of course, the growing industry in Georgia means more than just successful tax incentives. As film productions like The Hunger Games and television series like The Walking Dead set up shop in Atlanta, a pool of experienced professionals and the availability of high-end facilities and technology encourages further prosperity. In addition to improving teaching facilities for Ringling students, the improvements at the Sarasota art school are expected to boost the local film infrastructure.

“You have conducted a coup in that area,” Detert told Sarasota leaders. “It’s thrilling what Ringling is doing. One of the things Americans are still great at is creativity, and you are ahead of the curve in that area.”

Now, Detert says, the focus should be on making sure film productions don’t simply set up shop for temporary stints. To make incentives work, there may need to be more strings attached, she said. Those could ensure more studios establish here. “Half of them have house here anyway, and like everybody, they want to work where they live,” she said.

Luisa Leschin to discuss modern TV distribution at Sarasota event

Luisa Leschin

As episodic television explodes on the small screen across a growing variety of distribution channels, the Sarasota County Film and Entertainment Office is bringing in writers who have created content to air on network, cable and internet outlets. Luisa Leschin and Max CiVon, the husband-and-wife team behind Tortuga Productions in Los Angeles, will speak Tuesday at a film mixer hosted by the film commission at the Ringling College Auditorium.

Jeanne Corcoran, Film and Entertainment Office director, said Leschin can offer solid advise to local creatives because she has continued to be a successful writer even amid a paradigm shift in the way episodes are consumed by the public. “She has been involved in traditional outlets,” Corcoran said, “but is also now actively earning a living from these new channels of distribution. Leschin, one of the top Latina writers in Hollywood over the past couple decades, has written for network shows including George Lopez and Everybody Hates Chris, as well as for cable shows such as Disney Channel’s Austin and Ally and TBS’ Are We There Yet? Right now, she works as a consulting producer for El Rey Network on the Netflix series From Dusk Til Dawn and through Tortuga Productions is writing the upcoming Amazon Prime series Just Add Magic. Continue reading Luisa Leschin to discuss modern TV distribution at Sarasota event

Andrew Greenwell’s ‘Million Dollar Listing San Francisco’ To Debut on Bravo

A Sarasota native could soon transition from real estate mogul to television star. Andrew Greenwell,  CEO and principal of Venture Sotheby’s International Realty, will serve as the face of Million Dollar Listing San Francisco, a reality show premiering at 10pm tonight on Bravo. But before the world gets to watch the show, Sarasotans can get a sneak peak of at a red carpet event being hosted by Community Youth Development at Lakewood Ranch Cinemas at 6:30pm. Continue reading Andrew Greenwell’s ‘Million Dollar Listing San Francisco’ To Debut on Bravo

David Bromstad: From Animation Dreams to Design Stardom

Juggling the roles of fashion designer, decorator and television personality, HGTV star David Bromstad leads a colorful life. Before delivering the commencement address to this year’s Ringling College of Art and Design graduates, the alum talked with SRQ Backlot about his own experiences with Disney, television and movies. Now a world-famous interior designer, Bromstad’s career began with a very different dream. “I actually wanted to be a Disney animator,” he said, “ever since I was five years old.” The Little Mermaid was the first film to spur him to be an artist, hooking him with the music and a new style of animation. “I think I watched it five times in the theater,” he said, confessing he wanted to be a mermaid too. But two months into classes at Ringling College, Bromstad took his first animation course and quickly realized it was not for him. After dreaming about this for 15 years, he had no idea what was next. “So I just rolled through it and said I’m going to be the best drawer and the best painter I can possibly be,” he said. “We’re going to let God figure the rest out and just go with my instinct.” He later followed those instincts, working for Disney in a different way. Crafting everything from window displays to sculptures for the Orlando theme parks, he learned the art of perfection from the happiest place on earth. “Do you ever go into Disney and see a flaw in anything?” he asked. The skills he acquired there led to the chance of a lifetime: to be a contestant on HGTV’s first season of Design Star. “I’d never planned on being on TV – It was not in the cards,” he said. “I knew I wanted to be famous for my craft; I didn’t think I was going to actually be famous.” While the first few days of Design Star were terrifying, Bromstad loved every second of the challenging show. Without their phones, TV, music or magazines, “it was like boot camp for designers on steroids,” he said. Coming from a highly competitive family, he excelled at the competition, knowing he had to reach the final four and once he achieved that goal, win the competition. “I went in a very insecure person and I came out knowing exactly what I was,” he said. “TV doesn’t usually do that to you, it usually tears you down.” After winning, Bromstad launched his own HGTV show, Color Splash, which ran from 2007-2013 as one of channel’s most successful shows. In the 11 seasons based in San Francisco and then Miami, he became known as ‘The Color Guy’ for his bold transformations and original artwork. But when Bromstad has time off, his guilty pleasure is being lazy. With a crazy schedule of television, travel, events and design, he can’t wait to stretch out on the couch and catch up on some TV. “When I come home I just don’t want to move, I don’t want to talk, I don’t want to do anything,” he said. “I just want to watch my shows, my DVR, movies.” Bromstad is obsessed with movies. A self-professed fantasy and science-fiction dork, he loves both the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit series. Some of his recent favorites include Pitch Perfect and the “deliciously tantalizing” Fifty Shades of Grey, but he also loves animated movies, particularly Disney’s Big Hero Six, which he falls asleep to regularly. Now Bromstad hosts a new HGTV show, My Lottery Dream Home, where he’s responsible for finding the perfect property for recent lottery winners. “We get to find them their dream house of craziness,” Bromstad said. The show feels like the eccentric and wealthy relative of sister show House Hunters. Each episode follows a buyer like the California couple of the pilot, who won $180 million and when they found their dream home, bought the entire mountain it was located on. The first two episodes premiered in March to solid ratings, and it is now being picked up for a full season later this year.

Corcoran Pursues TV Opportunities at Realscreen Summit

jeanne.d.corcoranNumerous reality shows have been conceived and pitched from personalities in Sarasota County. Now Jeanne Corcoran, director of the Sarasota County Film and Entertainment Office, is in Washington, D.C. at the Realscreen Summit trying to get some power players in the cable world to bring some of these shows to the small screen. Continue reading Corcoran Pursues TV Opportunities at Realscreen Summit