Report: Made in Hollywood, Censored by Beijing

As the Trump administration orders retaliatory bans on Chinese tech companies such as Tik Tok and WeChat, officials and civic groups have growing concerns about the influence China has over Hollywood.A new report says that Hollywood companies have been censoring films to avoid losing access to China’s lucrative box office market, adding that China was effectively influencing movies released in cinemas around the world.The 94-page report, published Wednesday, was compiled by the New York-based free speech organization Pen America, and said key players in Hollywood are increasingly making decisions about their films “based on an effort to avoid antagonizing Chinese officials who control whether their films gain access to the booming Chinese market.”It said that in some instances, filmmakers or directors have directly invited Chinese government censors onto their film sets to advise them on “how to avoid tripping the censors’ wires.”A new normThe report concluded that appeasing Chinese government investors and gatekeepers has “become a way of doing business in Hollywood.”Hao Jian, a visiting scholar at Harvard’s Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies and a former professor at the Beijing Film Academy, told VOA he agrees with that conclusion.“Because of long-term censorship, many production companies choose not to cross the red line when considering films for the Chinese market,” he said, “The Great Famine in 1959, the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989, the (Cultural) Revolution that lasted 10 years…all taboo topics.”According to the report, even if a foreign film has been released China, if the government doesn’t like certain lines or actors in the film, it could be banned, leaving the producers with no avenue for appeal.Hao used the 2012 Quentin Tarantino movie, “Django Unchained,” as an example. “One day after it was released in Chinese theaters, the American production company received a notice from China’s National Radio and Television Administration that the film would be immediately removed from theaters. No reasons given,” Hao told VOA.Actors Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Selena Gomez and Sharon Stone are presumed to be blacklisted for participating in films critical of China, the report says.  According to Hao, Hollywood companies will avoid casting these actors when preparing a movie for the Chinese market.Mike Gonzalez, a senior fellow at Heritage Foundation who has done extensive research on China’s attempt to infiltrate American culture, said Hollywood studios should insist that any version of a film adapted for the Chinese market does not become the default version issued for global release.”At least to our audiences, Hollywood studios should be able to say to China, ‘No, we are not going to censor our content,’” Gonzalez said. “Especially when Hollywood feeds itself so much on its support of freedom in this country. It’s constantly saying it’s fighting for justice here in America, but then went along with injustice in China.”Banned, censored and cutChina has world’s second-largest market behind the U.S.According to the authoritative Hollywood Reporter, American films earned $2.6 billion in China last year, with “Avengers: Endgame,” making $629 million. Based on the Marvel Comics superhero team, the Avengers, the movie, produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, earned $2.795 billion worldwide.But not every film is welcomed in China. In 2016, “Deadpool” was banned for “excessive graphic violence and nudity [that] could not be removed without affecting the plot.” Two years later, “Christopher Robin” was banned because the main character, Winnie the Pooh, is a figure that Chinese netizens use to mock China’s President Xi Jinping. The list goes on.For favorable treatment by Chinese censors, Hollywood movies sometimes incorporate elements to appeal to Chinese audiences, altering characters and story lines, and casting Chinese actors in secondary roles.In 2012, the producers “Red Dawn” planned to feature Chinese troops invading the United States. Then China’s largest newspaper published editorials accusing Hollywood of “demonizing China” and the North Korean army invaded instead.In 2017, producers cut a kiss between two male androids in the 2017 movie, “Alien: Covenant.”Gonzalez said it is unacceptable that American audiences watch movies censored by a foreign power.“I would like to see a call for Hollywood studios to have, for best practices, to say in their credit, this movie has been submitted to Chinese censors, and we made changes” to conform to with their requests, he said.Meanwhile, U.S. officials are also speaking out about China’s attempt to spread pro-China propaganda in the world’s entertainment center.“In Hollywood, not too far from here – the epicenter of American creative freedom, and self-appointed arbiters of social justice – self-censors even the most mildly unfavorable reference to China,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a recent China-focused speech at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California.U.S. Attorney General William Barr last month blasted the movie business in a speech at the Gerald Ford Presidential Library and Museum in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He accused the industry of giving the Chinese Communist Party a “massive propaganda coup” by self-censoring content to appease Beijing censors.Meanwhile, Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas introduced legislation in June that would cut off U.S. government cooperation to American filmmakers unless they agree not to censor their movies to gain entry into the Chinese market.   

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Broadway Shows Won’t Return Until 2021

NYC’s famous Broadway shows were put on hold when the coronavirus pandemic hit the US. And though the bright signs with pictures of “Aladdin” and “The Lion King” are still there, the actors and audiences won’t come back into the beautiful halls to enjoy the performances until at least the winter of 2021. Evgeny Maslov has the story, narrated by Anna Rice.
Camera: Michael Eckels

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Grammy-Winning Producer Detail Accused of Sexual Assault

Grammy Award-winning music producer Detail was arrested Wednesday on more than a dozen charges of sexual assault, authorities said.
The 41-year-old producer was held on nearly $6.3 million bail, according to a statement from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Detail, whose real name is Noel Christopher Fisher, was charged on July 31 with 15 counts of sexual assault and five counts of felony assault, the statement said. He is accused of crimes between 2010 and 2018.
Detectives submitted the case to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office in January, the statement said. It didn’t provide other details.
“Mr. Fisher was just arrested some hours ago and I have not had an opportunity to speak to him or look at the charges. I am quite certain he will enter a not guilty plea and contest to the fullest all of these allegations,” his attorney, Irwin Mark Bledstein, said in an email late Wednesday night.
Detail won a Grammy in 2015 for co-writing the Beyonce and Jay-Z hit “Drunk in Love” and has also produced hits for Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj and Wiz Khalifa.
Last year, a model and aspiring singer was awarded $15 million in a Los Angeles lawsuit that accused the producer of abusing and raping her.
She is one of six women, some established professionals and others music-industry newcomers, who have spoken out publicly against what they said was Fisher’s sexual aggression.
At least two, both former assistants, have filed their own lawsuits. Fisher has said in court documents filed in those lawsuits that all the allegations against him are false, and have led to his losing all work and being evicted.

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What It’s Like to Encounter a ‘Karen’

When two strangers walking by stopped to accuse James “Jamie” Juanillo of defacing private property, the San Francisco man immediately took a defensive posture. He started recording the encounter, which eventually went viral, garnering more than 23 million views. “I came up recording not because I thought there was a potential for a viral video, but because I believed that I was going to need to prove my innocence, that they were going to accuse me of a crime,” says Juanillo, 50, a Filipino American. James “Jamie” Juanillo stands in front of the Black Lives Matter wall art that prompted a woman to question whether he was defacing private property at his San Francisco home. (Courtesy James Juanillo)His “crime” was chalking a Black Lives Matter message on the retaining wall in front of the Pacific Heights home he shares with his husband and some friends. In the video, the woman, identified as Lisa Alexander, along with her male partner, approach Juanillo and question whether he lives at the property. They say they know that he does not and suggest he is breaking the law. Juanillo is heard calmly refusing to answer any questions while challenging the woman’s apparent insinuation that a person who looks like him could not belong in the wealthy enclave. “What I experienced is this kind of polite, everyday, ubiquitous, accepted racism where it’s delivered gift wrapped and politely, stipulating your acceptance of their superiority and their supremacy,” Juanillo says. “The presumption is that they are entitled to whatever answers [to questions] that they feel like posing to a random person of color in whatever situation.” A white couple call the police on me, a person of color, for stencilling a James “Jamie” Juanillo stands in front of his San Francisco home. (Courtesy James Juanillo)Back in San Francisco, the police who responded to the call about Juanillo recognized him as a longtime resident and left without incident. Alexander and her partner released a public apology after the encounter went viral. Juanillo decided to release the video of his Karen moment to highlight what everyday racism can look like. “Racism just doesn’t mean being executed on the streets of America. Sometimes it just means being questioned for why you exist and where you exist,” Juanillo says. “Someone can call the cops — men with guns — on you for innocuous actions like designing chalk art on property that’s not theirs, that they have no vested interest in. They don’t feel threatened by you and yet, they’re still willing to bet your entire life.” The term and people who embody it will continue to exist, but people like Juanillo who might have previously felt helpless or vulnerable during such encounters, now have a powerful weapon of their own to deploy. “This is no longer a world where it’s ‘he said versus she said’ or ‘he said versus he said.’ It is now a world where technology is a great equalizer,” Juanillo says, “and we all have the ability and the technology to record the truth, and justice will be visually on our side.”

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Modi Lays Temple Foundation Stone Marking Victory for Hindu Nationalist Party 

In a ceremony watched by millions of Indians on television, Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered prayers and laid the foundation stone for a grand Hindu temple to be built in the northern town of Ayodhya on the site of a mosque demolished by Hindu radicals. 
 
The ceremony marks a historic triumph for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, whose rise to political prominence was propelled by the three-decade campaign to build a temple to honor the revered Hindu deity Rama. 
 
“It is an emotional moment for India. A long wait ends today,” Modi said after the ceremony that was held even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in India. 
 
The temple is being built on the exact spot Hindus believe is the birthplace of Lord Rama. The demolition of the 16th century mosque that stood there in 1992 sparked deadly Hindu-Muslim riots and became a deeply divisive issue in the Hindu-majority country, where many Hindus want the temple to be built. 
 
The Supreme Court approved the temple’s construction last November when it handed the bitterly contested plot of land to a Hindu group after a long legal battle.  
 
Modi said the site had been liberated and a “grand house” would be constructed for Lord Rama.  Devotees walk past the pillars that Hindu nationalist group Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) say will be used to build a Ram temple at the disputed religious site in Ayodhya, India, Oct. 22, 2019.Building the temple in Ayodhya has long been a rallying cry of the BJP, which critics accuse of pursuing a Hindu nationalist agenda. Wednesday’s groundbreaking ceremony coincided with the first anniversary of the scrapping of the special status for Muslim majority Kashmir — another core promise that was made by the party. 
 
The response of the Muslim community to the temple project has been muted with some saying it is time to “move on.” 
 
“Whatever happened are things of the past,” said Iqbal Ansari, one of the Muslim litigants in the Supreme Court case, who was invited to attend the ceremony.   
 
The small, sleepy town of Ayodhya was given a makeover for the ceremony. Saffron flags fluttered in the streets and houses got a splash of yellow paint, both believed to be auspicious colors.Policemen stand guard before the arrival of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of the foundation laying ceremony for a Hindu temple in Ayodhya, India, Aug. 5, 2020.Paramilitary soldiers guarded the streets as COVID-19 restrictions kept people indoors. Many, however, stood on rooftops in the pilgrim town dotted with temples.   
 
Wednesday’s ceremony marks the consolidation of Hindu nationalism under the BJP during its six-year rule, say analysts. 
 
“A constellation of forces has allowed them to take advantage now, they have a favorable court judgment and all groups have come to believe that let us resolve the issue,” says Sandeep Shastri, a political analyst and Pro Vice Chancellor of Jain University. “This also seems to be the voice in the minority Muslim community that in order to buy peace if this is what we need to agree to, it is all right.” 
 
The proposed five-domed temple spread over nearly 8,000 square meters, is expected to be completed in three-and-a-half years and could yield political dividends for the BJP when it faces the next general election in 2024. 
 
“This reinforces Modi’s persona, the halo, he is the man who has delivered the temple,” says political analyst Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay. “This is the moment of Hindu supremacy, and Muslims recognize, and there is very little they can do by law after the Supreme Court rejected their petition for a review of its judgment.” 
 
A prominent Muslim lawmaker questioned the prime minister’s attendance, though, at the ceremony, saying that it violated his constitutional oath in India. “Secularism is part of the Basic Structure of Constitution,” Asaduddin Owaisi wrote on Twitter. 
 
There is unease among the Muslim community and some fear the construction of a temple at Ayodhya could pave the way for similar demands in other towns where Hindu groups claim mosques have been built on sites holy to Hindus. 
 
“The larger question would be, would it end here or is this the starting point of other developments. That is the more serious question,” said Shastri.  People watch a live screening of the stone laying ceremony of the Ram Temple by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Ayodhya, in New Delhi, India, Aug. 5, 2020.Some questions also have been raised about holding the ceremony during a pandemic in India when there have been repeated warnings by health experts that large gatherings should be avoided. 
 
The venue of the ceremony, attended by about 175 prominent BJP leaders and Hindu priests, was cordoned off and chairs kept at a distance to maintain social distancing.   
 
The ceremony became a moment of celebration across many homes in the country, where the temple campaign turned into a deeply emotive issue. Hindus make up about 80 percent of the population. 
 
Devotees are reported to have sent silver and gold coins to pay for the temple’s construction. 

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In Heartland of French Impressionism, Locals Miss Americans

The roses, dahlias and daisies are in full bloom at the home of 19th-century artist Claude Monet. So are colorfully clad tourists, posing for pictures in front of Monet’s iconic lily pond.But one popular perennial is absent: the Americans.The coronavirus pandemic has put on indefinite pause a century-plus pilgrimage here by U.S. artists and tourists — the leading foreign visitors to this heartland of impressionist painting. Instead, it is mostly the French who are flocking to Monet’s home and garden amid the ongoing pandemic, as they rediscover their heritage.With coronavirus cases soaring in parts of the United States, polls show many Europeans, including French, do not want American tourists entering their countries right now. Chances are remote at any rate, current European Union restrictions bar travelers from the United States, along with many other countries.But in this tiny Normandy village, nestled between rolling hills and the Seine River, the Americans are sorely missed.Nestled between rolling hills and the Seine River, Giverny has long been a hub for American tourists. (Photo: Lisa Bryant/VOA)Giverny is the region’s second most popular tourist attraction after Mont Saint-Michel island. And Americans are among the top foreigners flocking here — accounting for one-fifth of those visiting Monet’s home alone.“They love everything from Normandy, everything that’s local— the aperitifs, the digestifs,” said Gregory Laisney, director of the nearby La Musardiere restaurant, who estimates U.S. diners made up 40 percent of his clientele last year.“The Americans,” he added, “come here to discover France.”The French are backMany French are wandering through Giverny’s streets and Monet’s garden, revisiting old memories. With the coronavirus battering France’s economy and sparking fears of further infection, some 70 percent of its citizens are spending the summer in-country, according to government estimates.“It’s been 20 years since I was last at Monet’s house and I’m rediscovering the garden,” said Anne-Marie da Silva, from the Val d’Oise department north of Paris, sporting a mandatory mask as she admired the flowers.Anne-Marie da Silva snaps a photo of Monet’s garden. French tourists like herself are rediscovering their heritage this summer. (Photo: Lisa Bryant/VOA)It’s a sharp U-turn from normality. U.S. visitors have long been a fixture here, braving August crowds that French residents would normally shun.Indeed, Americans arrived shortly after Monet moved to this village in 1883. The founder of the impressionist movement, with his 1872 masterpiece “Impression, Sunrise”—of a red sun burning through fog at Le Havre port— gardened and painted here until his death.It didn’t take long for the American acolytes who had moved to Paris to study painting, to follow him. They joined an artists’ colony established in the village, extending their visits beyond the summer months—even though Monet reportedly soon tired of them.Only a few, including celebrated portrait artist John Singer Sargent and Willard Metcalf, were allowed to paint with Monet and visit his grounds.A photo of Claude Monet in his kitchen. (Photo: Lisa Bryant/VOA)Today, the French impressionist would likely be horrified to see the hordes making his home a must-see stop on their way to D-Day beaches or the French capital.Good clientsThat’s not so for abstract painter Chantal Lallemand, who exhibits her work from a small gallery down the street.“The Americans buy quite a lot of my paintings, especially the big ones,” said Lallemand, who has two shows booked for New York and Florida, pending the coronavirus’s trajectory.“They love impressionism,” she added, “but we also feel there’s an opening to modern art.”The U.S. imprint on Giverny has endured in other ways. Monet’s paintings hang in nearly a dozen major American museums.The impressionist museum in Giverny – formerly known as the American museum. (Photo: Lisa Bryant/VOA)In 1992, an American art museum was founded in Giverny. Seventeen years later, the facility morphed into an impressionist museum under French control.Work from American artists like John Leslie Breck still hangs there. These days, however, there are few fellow citizens to admire it, except for a smattering of expatriates.Indeed, EstrellaGiverny-based artist Chanal Lallemand sells a lot of her work to American clients – but not this year. (Photo: Lisa Bryant/VOA)Garcia from Madrid counted among the few foreigners touring the museum one recent afternoon.“We’re here because we weren’t able to see Monet’s house,” she said. “We’re returning home without having had a chance to see it.”Tourists check out opening hours at Claude Monet’s house, which reopened in June following France’s two-month coronavirus lockdown. (Photo: Lisa Bryant/VOA)

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Notre Dame Cathedral’s Organ Getting 4-Year-Long Cleaning

Pipe by precious pipe, the organ that once thundered through Notre Dame Cathedral is being taken apart after last year’s devastating fire.The mammoth task of dismantling, cleaning and re-assembling France’s largest musical instrument started Monday and is expected to last nearly four years. It will take six months just to tune the organ, and its music isn’t expected to resound again through the medieval Paris monument until 2024, according to the state agency overseeing Notre Dame’s restoration.Amazingly, the 8,000-pipe organ survived the April 2019 fire that consumed the cathedral’s roof and toppled its spire. But the blaze coated the instrument in toxic lead dust that must now be painstakingly removed.And while the organ didn’t burn, it did suffer damage from a record heatwave last summer and has been affected by other temperature variations it’s been exposed to since the 12th-century cathedral lost its roof, the agency said.Experts started removing the organ’s keyboards Monday and will then take out its pipes in a dismantling process that will last through the end of this year, according to the restoration agency. The pieces will be placed in special containers inside the huge cathedral, where the cleaning and restoration will take place.The general who leads the agency said the organ, which dates from 1733, will next play again on April 16, 2024, marking five years since the fire.President Emmanuel Macron hopes the cathedral can reopen in time for the 2024 Olympics in Paris. But it’s taken more than a year to clear out dangerous lead residue and scaffolding that had been in place before the fire for a previous renovation effort, and reconstruction of the landmark has yet to begin. 

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Musk: Aliens Built Pyramids, Egypt: He’s Hallucinating

Egypt’s minister of international cooperation has extended an invitation to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk after a Musk post on Twitter that the pyramids were built by extraterrestrial beings.  Musk tweeted Saturday: “Aliens built the pyramids obv.” Aliens built the pyramids obv— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 31, 2020Musk’s posting prompted Rania Al Mashat, the international cooperation minister, to tweet: “I follow your work with a lot of admiration.  I invite you & Space X to explore the writings about how the pyramids were built and also to check out the tombs of the pyramid builders. Mr. Musk, we are waiting for you.”I follow your work with a lot of admiration. I invite you & Space X to explore the writings about how the pyramids were built and also to check out the tombs of the pyramid builders. Mr. Musk, we are waiting for you 🚀. @elonmuskhttps://t.co/Xlr7EoPXX4— Rania A. Al Mashat (@RaniaAlMashat) August 1, 2020It was not immediately clear whether Musk’s tweet was serious or tongue-in-cheek. However, extraterrestrial entities as builders of Egypt’s ancient pyramids is the premise for several television shows and books.   Egypt Today reports on its website that famed Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass also weighed in on the topic on social media, saying that Musk’s tweet was a “complete hallucination.” Hawass added that he had “found the tombs of the pyramids builders that tell everyone that the builders of the pyramids are Egyptians and they were not slaves.”  He said ancient Egypt’s pyramid building was “a national project of the whole nation.” Musk had an apparent change of mind and eventually provided a link on his Twitter account about the building of pyramids.  He tweeted: “This BBC article provides a sensible summary of how it was done.”  

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Arts Students Lament COVID Shutting Down Practices, Performances

A typical school day for Elon University junior Skyler Sajewski began at 7 a.m., starting with ballet, history, economics and tap classes, then rehersal for the upcoming musical. She would get back to her apartment around 11 p.m.  
 
Then, the COVID pandemic hit.  
 
The musical theater major who was used to “constantly running from place to place” returned home to Florida to shelter in place. She’s worried about missing out on “literally all of it” in terms of preparing for her future career.
 
“To be a well-rounded musical theater performer, you have to have a certain set of skills and be really good at them,” Sajewski said. “And you know, I go to a school to constantly get better. And this year, if I reach a plateau of no growth it could be potentially harming versus someone who went all their four years.”
 
Sajewski is not alone in her anxieties for the future. She has friends who are considering taking a semester — or even a year — off, realizing that an online arts education may not be worth it.  
 
When she returned home, Sajewski and her peers were faced with “Zoom University” — what many students are calling online classes — as musical theater majors. In last semester’s acting class, she and her fellow “MTs,” were “literally screaming in each other’s faces” when they were working on Greek theater.  
 
Into the screens of their laptops.  
 
For a “pretty demanding” class “where you really have to get into your body and your voice,” moving to remote learning required adjustments.  Skyler Sajewski“In acting, there’s a lot of, with permission, there’s a lot of touching,” Sajewski said. “We do partner warm ups, to get the voice open and ready by, patting them on the back really hard and doing all of this physical activity with your partner where you’re in very close corners. [Then], the pandemic hits. We are now home, my lovely scene partner and I, that we’re working on the Greek [acting class] and are now doing it over Zoom, which is incredibly hard because you can only see their face.”
 
Sajewski said it wasn’t ideal for acting class.  
 
“How can you see what my face is doing? You know what I mean? So we acted right up to the camera. So even though the Greek piece is supposed to be a whole body experience, we were mostly just using our face. It’s hard to act over Zoom. Like the whole point of acting is to react. And when you’re reacting over a camera where someone could be frozen one second, it’s just, it’s not organic. It doesn’t feel like it’s supposed to feel, but you know, we did our best with it.”
 
Sajewski said she considered taking a gap year.  
 
“When I found out that classmates of mine were doing that, and that idea became real to me, it honestly freaked me out because I’ve always known that I was graduating in 2022 when I was going to move to New York and start my life. And for that to be affected by this unprecedented pandemic is, is really scary to me.”
 
Sidney Rubinowicz said she plans to take a gap year from her production design studies at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Productions at Carnegie Mellon were canceled for the first semester and are planning on a double season for the second.  
 
“Next year, I was going to start getting lead stage manager assignments,” Rubinowicz said. “And I would be really, really sad if I didn’t have those. And for me, production is a bigger part of my education and my classes are, and I think a lot of people agree with that. So I will just be back in a year, hopefully things are better.”
 
The would-be junior at Carnegie Mellon says that she’s always been “five years ahead” in knowing what she wanted to do. Before middle school, she knew where she wanted to attend high school and in high school, she immediately knew where she wanted to go to college.  
 
“It’s so weird to be like, ‘I have no idea what I’m doing,’” she said. “I think I’m just a little more open minded now. And I think it’s not even that, I was like, ‘You have to have a plan’ but … now everyone is thrown for a loop.”
 
Carnegie Mellon is not offering a refund on housing or tuition, but they will allow students to choose to stay or withdraw after 10 days on campus.  
 
At Tisch School of the Arts at New York University — like many other universities — students are asking for partial reimbursement from the spring semester.
 
“NYU ignores the fact that us art students will be paying full price for an education that lacks the facilities, equipment, technology, services and hands-on experience we are explicitly paying for,” the petition stated.
 
“While we appreciate the concerted efforts of our professors to salvage what’s left of our education, we reject the assumption that an online Zoom education is equitable in content and value.”  
 
Students wrote testimonials to represent the studios that they are a part of at Tisch. Dancers, actors, filmmakers and writers alike came together in a series of Google documents to tell the administration how they were feeling.  
 
One student in dance program wrote that “these technique classes require specific equipment and a certain amount of space in order to be able to execute the exercises efficiently. Dancers also require physical attention and corrections from our instructors which is almost impossible to do on Zoom.”
 
Tisch later issued fee refunds.  
 
When performing arts curriculums will resume in person at schools nationwide is unknown. Sajewski and her colleagues say they realize you don’t have to go to school to work in the arts. But a bachelor of fine arts has its benefits.  
 
“You could very well just go out there and try your best, people can do it. They made [in the industry], they didn’t go to school and they’re fine,” she said. “But those of us that choose to go, further their education because we want to learn and better ourselves in the best way we know possible, which is through schooling. And if we can’t, you know, why am I going to school?”
 
Future job prospects, not always robust for artists, are fewer because of the pandemic.  
 
“There’s so many artists without a job right now. And it’s scary.”
 

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Wilford Brimley, ‘Cocoon’ and ‘Natural’ Actor, Dies at 85 

Wilford Brimley, who worked his way up from movie stunt rider to an indelible character actor who brought gruff charm, and sometimes menace, to a range of films that included “Cocoon,” “The Natural” and “The Firm,” has died. He was 85.Brimley’s manager Lynda Bensky said the actor died Saturday morning in a Utah hospital. He was on dialysis and had several medical ailments, she said.The mustached Brimley was a familiar face for a number of roles, often playing characters like his grizzled baseball manager in “The Natural” opposite Robert Redford’s bad-luck phenomenon. He also worked with Redford in “Brubaker” and “The Electric Horseman.”Brimley’s best-known work was in “Cocoon,” in which he was part of a group of seniors who discover an alien pod that rejuvenates them. The 1985 Ron Howard film won two Oscars, including a supporting actor honor for Don Ameche.Brimley also starred in “Cocoon: The Return,” a 1988 sequel.For years he was pitchman for Quaker Oats and in recent years appeared in a series of diabetes spots that turned him at one point into a social media sensation.“Wilford Brimley was a man you could trust,” Bensky said in a statement. “He said what he meant, and he meant what he said. He had a tough exterior and a tender heart. I’m sad that I will no longer get to hear my friend’s wonderful stories. He was one of a kind.”Barbara Hershey, who met Brimley on 1995′s “Last of the Dogmen,” called him “a wonderful man and actor. … He always made me laugh.”Though never nominated for an Oscar or Emmy Award, Brimley amassed an impressive list of credits. In 1993’s John Grisham adaptation “The Firm,” Brimley starred opposite Tom Cruise as a tough-nosed investigator who deployed ruthless tactics to keep his law firm’s secrets safe.John Woo, who directed Brimley as Uncle Douvee in 1993′s “Hard Target,” told The Hollywood Reporter in 2018 that the part was “the main great thing from the film. I was overjoyed making those scenes and especially working with Wilford Brimley.”A Utah native who grew up around horses, Brimley spent two decades traveling around the West and working at ranches and racetracks. He drifted into movie work during the 1960s, riding in such films as “True Grit,” and appearing in TV series such as “Gunsmoke.”He forged a friendship with Robert Duvall, who encouraged him to seek more prominent acting roles, according to a biography prepared by Turner Classic Movies.Brimley, who never trained as an actor, saw his career take off after he won an important role as a nuclear power plant engineer in “The China Syndrome.”“Training? I’ve never been to acting classes, but I’ve had 50 years of training,” he said in a 1984 Associated Press interview. “My years as an extra were good background for learning about camera techniques and so forth. I was lucky to have had that experience; a lot of newcomers don’t.”“Basically, my method is to be honest,” Brimley said told AP. “The camera photographs the truth — not what I want it to see, but what it sees. The truth.”Brimley had a recurring role as a blacksmith on “The Waltons” and the 1980s prime-time series “Our House.”Another side of the actor was his love of jazz. As a vocalist, he made albums including “This Time the Dream’s On Me” and “Wilford Brimley with the Jeff Hamilton Trio.”In 1998, he opposed an Arizona referendum to ban cockfighting, saying that he was “trying to protect a lifestyle of freedom and choice for my grandchildren.”In recent years, Brimley’s pitchwork for Liberty Mutual had turned him into an internet sensation for his drawn-out pronunciation of diabetes as “diabeetus.” He owned the pronunciation in a tweet that drew hundreds of thousands of likes earlier this year.Brimley is survived by his wife Beverly and three sons. 

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Remembering the VOA Broadcaster Who Sparked Worldwide Interest in Jazz

One of the most famous American broadcasters of the 20th century was largely unknown at home, but Willis Conover, host of the VOA Jazz Hour, was a celebrity from Warsaw to Moscow during the Cold War.  Mike O’Sullivan recalls Conover’s influence on the 100th anniversary of his birth.

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How Musicians Are Changing Their Tune During Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on professional musicians. With concerts, festivals, tours and award shows all around the world canceled or put on indefinite hold, many professional musicians and composers who had relied on performances for their income found themselves in a difficult situation. But some say that these challenges present the opportunities to grow. Mariia Prus has the story, narrated by Anna Rice.
Camera: Kostiantyn Golubchik

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