Last December, Viacom’s UK-based Channel 5 screened a 90-minute documentary, Slum Britain: 50 Years On, which cleverly compared the housing and homeless crisis of today with the situation 50 years ago. It was a powerful piece of television created through a rewarding partnership with housing charity Shelter using unique photographs of the slums commissioned by the organization from the 1960s.
Producers Marcel Mettelsiefen and Stephen Ellis (who incidentally were nominated for an Oscar for their film, Watani: My Homeland, on Syrian refugees in Germany) combined a strong human interest story with a powerful argument, making Slum Britain: 50 Years On essential viewing.
At 90 minutes, with black-and-white visuals and a seriously angry point of view about the conditions many of our fellow citizens endure in 2016 Britain, the project was a risk. The film rated better than we anticipated, with more than 1 million people tuning in for the whole film.
Slum Britain – Images sent to Shelter by Nick Hedges in January 2016 for the 50th anniversary. Nick Hedges was commissioned by Shelter to cover poor housing conditions and abject poverty in the UK between 1968 and 1972. According to a 1965 White Paper, ‘three million families were living in slums, near slums or grossly overcrowded conditions’ in the UK. The Hedges archive is part of the National Photography Collection at the National Media Museum in Bradford.
The reaction from viewers across social media was amazing – I don’t think we’ve ever seen such a powerful, immediate and supportive response.
And not just from viewers. In partnership with Shelter, we had previewed the film and held a discussion chaired by David Mackintosh MP (Member of Parliament), chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Ending Homelessness, who has an ongoing campaign to raise the issue of Britain’s housing crisis in the House of Commons.
This biracial princess knight slays gender norms. Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon.
Equal parts glam, girly-girl and brave warrior, Nella lives in a castle and gossips with her pet unicorn about fashion—yet she’s not afraid to get her pink gloves dirty when trouble arises.
Nella grabs her glittering sword and dons pastel armor, embarking on treacherous quests to save her kingdom.
Oh, and she’s biracial.
Since the show premiered earlier this month, Nella’s attracted legions of fans (besides Nick Jr.’s target audience of preschoolers).
Nella is a hero. Not just for the citizens of her fictional village, but for parents, journalists, television critics, African-American bloggers, college students, women’s studies professors, and child media advocacy groups.
According to People, “[Nella] stands for everything our world needs.”
Top fashion bloggers, designers, celebs and SpongeBob himself were in attendance at the SpongeBob Gold fashion collection launch party at London Fashion Week on Saturday Feb. 18.
To kick off a year-long SpongeBob Gold international campaign, Nickelodeon and Viacom Consumer Products have collaborated with six international designers on an innovative fashion collection. Featuring designs from Peter Jensen, Bobby Abley, Salar, Maria Francesca Pepe, Suecomma Bonnie and Bad Denim, the SpongeBob Gold fashion collection includes clothing for men and women as well as footwear, accessories and jewelry. SpongeBob Gold will be available at retail exclusively outside of the U.S. beginning in May.
LONDON, ENGLAND – FEB. 18: A general view at Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob Gold 18th Anniversary at LFW in collaboration with the LFW Design collective on Feb. 18, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Nickelodeon)
Designer Maria Francesca Pepe, who designed a range of charm-adorned SpongeBob jewelry, said of her involvement in the collection, “I’ve always felt the concept of pop defined the core of my creations. Developing an exclusive capsule collection of jewelry featuring the pop sensation SpongeBob felt such a match.”
As a boy, Jean de Meuron would rise in the dead of the European night to cheer the Academy Award recipients ascending gilded stages on the far side of the Atlantic. He relished this annual celebration of a world he deeply admired: he was a student of Hollywood history, a fan of Spielberg’s Indiana Jones, a dreamer gripped by the allure of the American entertainment industry.
So here he came, from Switzerland, in 2008, embedding himself in studies at the New York Film Academy, USC, UCLA and the New School; bunking down in internships at the Weinstein Company, MTV, Viacom International Media Networks and Paramount. He would go anywhere – New York City, Los Angeles, Mexico, Buenos Aires – as he produced student films and peppered executives with questions at every stop. He learned about marketing campaigns, about the importance of everything from color schemes to timing to creating effective trailers.
It was an immersive course in filmmaking and marketing, fueled by an unwavering vision of what his life ought to be. It was this resolute focus that led him to the 2012 Basel Gässli Film Festival in his native Switzerland, where he met a young director named Timo von Gunten, a preternatural talent whose work – the editing, framing, storytelling – echoed legendary Amelie director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. And it was his partnership with von Gunten, as executive producer (along with Bela Bök) on the short film La Femme et le TGV, that last month opened up the Oscars in a way de Meuron’s boyhood self would not have believed: live, at the event, as a nominee.
Jean de Meuron (right) with La Femme et le TGV producer Giacun Caduff and director Timo von Gunten at a luncheon for Oscar nominees. Photo courtesy of Jean de Meuron.
It would be the culmination of a lifelong ambition, the highest professional acknowledgement in one of the most prominent creative industries in the world. But like an artisan crafting a beautiful piece of furniture, a filmmaker does not spring wholly into the existence with the knowledge of his art, but learns it through a long apprenticeship. For de Meuron, his time at Paramount would prove crucial to plan, produce, edit and promote La Femme et le TGV.
A rich, nostalgic world
It helps to understand, first, what they have made, for an Oscar nomination is reserved for those things that are exceptional.
La Femme et le TGV is set in an idyllic mountain landscape pancaked with cliff bands in the green and field-dotted wilderness outside the impossibly quaint town of Monbijou, Switzerland. At the center of this world is Elise Lafontaine (Jane Birkin), and hammering through it in a shimmering streak of steel and noise is the twice-daily TGV high-speed train. Every day for 32 years, at 6:18 a.m. and again at 7:13 p.m. Lafontaine has leaned, Swiss flag waving, from the window for these joyous passings.
Who brought music industry legends Joni Mitchell, Clive Davis, Neil Diamond, Quincy Jones, Britney Spears, Stevie Wonder, Russell Simmons; rising stars such as Chance the Rapper and Lorde; Apple CEO Tim Cook; Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas; and a slew of Kardashians to the Beverly Hilton on Saturday, Feb. 11?
BET CEO Debra L. Lee.
BEVERLY HILLS, CA – FEBRUARY 12: (L-R) Debra Lee and Stephen Hill attend BET’s Pre-Grammy Brunch at The Four Seasons Hotel on February 12, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Earl Gibson III/Getty Images for BET)