A Secret Language Written on Viacom’s Walls – Art at Viacom Continues with Marela Zacarias

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

The colors ripple like some secret language across the objects’ surface, arrayed in geometric patterns as elegant as a circuit board and as mysterious as ancient hieroglyphics. They sit on a series of banners and bulging sculptures in the south lobby of Viacom’s Times Square headquarters, dancing along the walls, each with a unique pattern of colors and lines.

Sculptures by Marela Zacarias hanging in Viacom’s lobby at 1515 Broadway as part of the latest Art at Viacom installation.

The expansive and varied texture of the work reflects the deep cultural influences of their creator, Marela Zacarias, a Mexico, Montana and Brooklyn based artist who was the latest exhibitor for Art at Viacom, an ongoing program that showcases rising artists at our offices around the world.

Huffington Post contributor Isa Freeling wrote this about Zacarias’ exhibit in April: “Her show, Echoing Forms is impressive in its ability to sensually exact beautiful pieces by casting sheets of mesh into sensuous folded blankets, by using plaster and polymers and are so exquisitely executed and rich in texture and strength, it is a pleasure to look at the work.”

Zacarias’ installation follows a parade of Art at Viacom projects: the striking metallic oil paintings of Kip Omolade, the geometric wizardy of Tahiti Pehrson, the cartoonishy wondrous works of Australian duo Dabs Myla, the mammoth swirling tablecloth sculptures of Crystal Wagner, the multicolored yarn meadows of HOTTEA, and massive ceiling-dangling floral display from Rebecca Louise Law.

The tricycle was an existing work that Marela Zacarias incorporated into her
Art at Viacom exhibit in Viacom’s Times Square headquarters lobby.

Zacarias partnered with Viacom after high-profile installations at the Brooklyn Museum, Praxis Gallery, Brooklyn’s William Vale, and other places. She is constantly on the move. When I spoke to her over the phone the week after the exhibit opened, she was already down in Mexico City, preparing for a gallery show. Below is a condensed and lightly edited version of our conversation:

Stuart Winchester: How did you decide to use the banners, which are a departure from your typical work?

Marela Zacarias: There were challenges in terms of how much weight I could hang, and the sculptures are 135 pounds, so I couldn’t do my usual work, because there was nowhere to hang it from. And then I thought of the banners. I’ve been doing sculpture for about six years, and I really haven’t gone back to canvas for a while, so it felt really liberating to return, and I don’t know if I would have made that strategic choice if it wasn’t for the lobby’s structural situation. The technical problems led me to real artistic growth.

Hanging the banners at 1515 Broadway for Marela Zacarias’ Art at Viacom installation.

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MyViacommunity Stories: Fostering Hope, By Design

We caught up with Katie Dominguez, senior art director at TV Land, to talk about her volunteer work through Viacom’s pro-social branch, Viacommunity.

Eli Musser: How do you volunteer? What are you involved with?

Katie Dominguez: I’ve volunteered for a few different organizations through Viacom’s skills-based Talent for Good program, donating design and branding services. One organization is Graham Windham, a foster care agency in New York City that also offers schooling, health care centers and after-school programs. Another organization is called Integrate, and they provide services for those with autism who have gone to college and can’t land jobs. They also educate companies about autism and offer recruitment to help candidates with autism.

EM: How do you feel when you’re volunteering?

KD: I take it as a serious job. I always give 100 percent when I’m doing my work, so when I’m volunteering, even though I’m not getting paid for it, I’m definitely trying to do the best job I possibly can. At the end of the day, I’m just glad that I can help give my services to something that’s worthwhile.

EM: How do you feel about Viacommunity’s presence at Viacom?

KD: I think it’s great. I’ve been taking full advantage of it. Being able to share your skill sets is really nice. I think it’s great that Viacom has this opportunity for people to get out there and give back. I hope a lot of people do it and continue to do it. I think it makes Viacom a better company because it enriches their talent and provides a great service.

Get Schooled and the Chainsmokers Celebrate Tulsa School’s Soaring Graduation Rates

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Fresh off topping a billion and a half YouTube views of their smash hit Closer, the Chainsmokers used their ever-growing profile to acknowledge something special happening in Tulsa: soaring graduation and college acceptance rates at Webster High School.

In a partnership with Get Schooled, an organization founded through a partnership between Viacom and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the duo crashed senior day at the Oklahoma high school, where 90 percent of a diverse student body is eligible for free or reduced lunch. After dazzling students at an assembly, the band gave every member of the school’s senior class a ticket to their concert that night at Tulsa’s BOK Center.

“We wanted to inspire them to go off and do an art, or whatever it is after this, and if we can be a part of it, that’s great,” the Chainsmokers’ Andrew Taggert told Marty Kasper of News on 6, a local television news show, as he stood alongside bandmate Alex Paul following the assembly.

The Chainsmokers’ Andrew Taggert and Alex Paul address students at Webster High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Photo courtesy of Tulsa Public Schools.

Over the course of an ongoing four-year partnership with Diplomas Now, a national organization dedicated to improving retention and graduation rates, Webster’s graduation rate has jumped to over 75 percent from just over 50 percent, while the number of college-bound seniors has risen by 33 percent.

“The Webster High School community, in partnership with Diplomas Now, united the school around a common goal:  improved graduation,” said Get Schooled Executive Director Marie Groark. “Incredibly, they engaged every teacher and student in this work and in doing so have demonstrated to the nation what is possible when schools and partners work together. We are excited to recognize their hard work and success.”

The students seemed thrilled with the encounter. “I’m really excited,” Darius Arney told News on 6’s Kasper. “I can’t believe they’re actually here.” Check out the station’s full report from the school:

NewsOn6.com – Tulsa, OK – News, Weather, Video and Sports – KOTV.com |

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The Daily Show with Trevor Noah Records Most Watched Week Ever

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Like a farmer welcoming rainclouds, Trevor Noah has turned something most of us would prefer to do without – the unending tumult pouring from Washington, D.C. – into a building block for something essential: humor.

It is a resource that appears to be especially welcome at this moment of astonishing political turmoil. Last week was The Daily Show with Trevor Noah’s most watched ever, with 1.045 million total viewers, a 36 percent increase over the same week last year. The achievement nudges the program closer to recording eight consecutive months of year-over-year growth among total viewers.

Noah may have had a little help driving ratings. “Noah’s ratings run this week is most likely due in no small part to the problems plaguing Trump,” wrote Variety’s Joe Otterson, referring to the president’s dismissal of the FBI director, ongoing investigations into Russian influence in the presidential election, and other issues.

Indeed, as the pace of news has accelerated under the new administration, The Daily Show has adapted. “Things have definitely sped up,” head writer Zhubin Parang told Vulture’s Jen Chaney in February. “We used to be able to predict what the show would be the afternoon before the day, and now we just can’t ever assume that the show we have planned at 7 p.m. the night before is going to be anything like the show that’s ultimately going to air the next day.”

What Noah and team do ultimately air is unfailingly an incisive examination of the day’s headlines. When news broke early last week, for example, that President Trump disclosed classified information to high-ranking Russian officials on a White House visit, Noah was ready:

“This sounds like a story that we would invent, right?” an astonished Noah asked his audience. “Trump invites the Russians into the Oval Office, and then, in his meeting, starts bragging, ‘I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day.’” Watch the full take below:

The day after that, the Justice Department appointed a special counsel – former FBI chief Robert Mueller – to investigate allegations that Trump campaign aides had colluded with Russia to influence last fall’s presidential election.

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A Celebration of Motherly Love: Ratings Soared for VH1’s Dear Mama Special

For the second year in a row, VH1 celebrated Mother’s Day with Dear Mama: An Event to Honor Moms. Halle Berry, Gladys Knight, Taraji P. Henson and Robin Thicke were among the A-list stars present at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California earlier this month, taking the stage to give thanks to their own moms and mothers everywhere.

With 1.7 million viewers tuning in to watch the amorous ceremony, it seems these stars aren’t alone in their insurmountable love and gratitude for their moms. Dear Mama was also among the top five most-tweeted shows the day it premiered.

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Everyone Loves Dwayne Johnson – and Seven Other Reasons You Must See Baywatch

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

With Memorial Day weekend, summer arrives in the American conscience. And what’s more summer (or more American), than Baywatch, that 242-episode icon that lives in everyone’s collective slow-motion memories of the 1990s?

The last episode wrapped a long time ago, but Paramount is bringing Baywatch back, refreshed and updated for the cinema, next Thursday, May 25:

Long-time fans likely don’t need a lot of incentive to don their red swim trunks and life jackets and get in line outside the theater. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Baywatch, however, here are eight reasons why you should stake out a spot in your favorite beach chair now:

1) Everybody loves Dwayne Johnson

The People’s Champion. The Rock. The Rock Obama. The future U.S. president?

Johnson is so perfectly suited to be so many things that when Paramount released G.I. Joe: Retaliation in 2013, he was the natural pick to star as heavy machine gunner Roadblock, one of the most popular Joes of all time.

And he plays a starring role as Mitch Buchannon, the jetski-riding, bad-guy chasing, refrigerator-carrying man about beach who leads the Baywatch lifeguard team. Who else would dive underneath a raging fire and emerge in the bowels of a burning yacht to save someone? And who doesn’t want to see that?

The answer: no one.

“In an age when it’s cooler to hate things than enjoy them, Johnson has carved out an improbable niche for himself, as someone it’s safe to like,” GQ’s Caty Weaver wrote recently. “Maybe you like him because he’s big and does fast things in slow motion. Maybe you like him because he had one song to sing in the children’s musical he was cast in, and he sang it with his whole heart. Undeniably, he is likable…”

2) Dwayne Johnson love Zac Efron (and so will you)

Johnson, who is People’s reining Sexiest Man Alive, recently endorsed costar Zac Efron – who plays Olympic gold medalist Matt Brody in the film – as a candidate to assume his title next year.

“Do I get a vote? Then yes, absolutely I could see that,” Johnson told People. “I could see one out of five happening, I can’t divulge that right now, but he’s in the top five.”

(L-R) Dwayne Johnson as Mitch Buchannon and Zac Efron as Matt Brody in Baywatch by Paramount Pictures, Montecito Picture Company, FlynnPicture Co., and Fremantle Productions. Photo credit: Frank Masi © 2016 PARAMOUNT PICTURES. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

And what’s not to like? While Brody saunters onto the beach as a hotshot international swimming star, he reprises the role of affable dufus that Efron excels at. Buchannon mocks him as “One Direction” and makes him haul tandem refrigerators across the beach to prove himself. But that doesn’t stop Brody from leading monster parties, chasing criminals in “lifeguard pursuit” down the boardwalk, and, you know, leaping off a freaking motorcycle into the ocean.

3) But then again, the Rock loves everyone

The Baywatch beach is big, and there’s a lot of talent filling it up. On the Forces of Good side of the credits, Alexandra Daddario plays Summer Quinn, Kelly Rorhbach reprises the role of C.J. Parker, and Ilfenesh Hadera plays Buchannon’s second-in-command Stephanie Holden. Meanwhile, Priyanka Chopra, a former Miss World and one of the most popular Bollywood celebrities in India, tries out her evil cackling as Victoria Leeds, whose materialization in the Baywatch environs has directly corresponded with an uptick in violence and drug smuggling. The Rock, peering down from his lifeguard chair, nods approvingly at them all:

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Remembering Brad Grey

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Brad Grey, who led Viacom’s Paramount Pictures for a dozen years and left a rich legacy at the studio, passed away on Sunday evening following a battle with cancer. He was in his home in Holmby Hills, California with his family by his side. He was 59 years old.

“Brad Grey was an extraordinary talent with a passion and gift for storytelling that won’t be forgotten,” said Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish. “He has left an incredible legacy at Paramount and across the entire entertainment industry, from the beloved hit franchises he developed for both film and television, to the countless individuals he mentored and supported throughout his career. All of us at Viacom and Paramount mourn his passing, and our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.”

Grey’s commitment to delivering poignant, compelling stories to audiences around the world bolstered the 105-year-old studio’s deep library with films across many genres. Starting with the smash hit Transformers in 2007, Grey guided Paramount into the franchise era with the original Paranormal Activity and continuations of the classic Mission: Impossible and Star Trek series. The studio complemented these releases with a parade of must-see standalone films, including the cerebral Interstellar, the gripping World War Z, and the gonzo Wolf of Wall Street.

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 27: Alec Baldwin, Tom Cruise and Chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures Brad Grey attend the New York premiere of "Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation" at Times Square on July 27, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

NEW YORK, NY – JULY 27: Alec Baldwin, Tom Cruise and Chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures Brad Grey attend the New York premiere of “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation” at Times Square on July 27, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

Aside from box office success – eight of Paramount’s 10 top-grossing films came over Grey’s tenure – this varied slate earned many accolades for the studio, including at least one Academy Awards Best Picture nominee in 11 of Grey’s 12 years. Most recently, Paramount earned a pair of Oscars in February: Viola Davis took Best Supporting Actress for her work in the widely hailed adaptation of August Wilson’s Fences, while the gorgeous Arrival earned the award for Sound Editing (both earned Best Picture nominations). At the 2008 Academy Awards, Paramount’s No Country for Old Men won four Oscars – Best Film, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay.

 

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 22: Paramount Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Brad Grey (R) and Cassandra Grey attend the 87th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 22, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by George Pimentel/Getty Images)

HOLLYWOOD, CA – FEBRUARY 22: Paramount Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Brad Grey (R) and Cassandra Grey attend the 87th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 22, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by George Pimentel/Getty Images)

 

“All of us at Paramount are deeply saddened by the news of Brad Grey’s passing,” said current Paramount Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos. “He was at the helm of the studio for over a decade and was responsible for so many of the studio’s most beloved films. I was proud to call Brad a friend, and one I greatly admired. He will be missed by us all, and left his mark on our industry and in our hearts.”

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The Daily Show with Trevor Noah: Where Fake Correspondents Become Real Stars

The Daily Show With Trevor Noah puts a surrealist spin on American politics with its daily takedowns of all that is obscene, absurd and inexplicable in Washington, D.C. By doing so, the satirical news source not only fills a vital role in U.S. entertainment and media, but it also incubates a steady stream of rising on-air talent. Lately, those correspondents who report alongside Noah have been showing up all over the place, re-affirming the show’s role as one of the premier talent incubators on TV today.

The Daily Show’s Jordan Klepper is breaking out into a new role as host of a late-night show of his own, which will air weeknights following The Daily Show, while Hasan Minhaj entertained a constellation of elite journalist, celebrities, and politicians at the 2017 White House Correspondents’ Dinner (WHCD), an event typically attended by the president.

But Trump opted to skip the dinner in favor of holding a rally in Harrisburg Pennsylvania, after announcing in February that he would be the first president to skip the event since Ronald Reagan (who was recuperating after being shot) in 1981. Journalists predicted this year’s soirée would be unconventional. And it was.

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Pick Your Passion: 8 Divine Insights From MTV Star and Author, Charlamagne Tha God

MTV star and author Charlamagne Tha God recently took a break from his busy schedule to talk to employees at Viacom headquarters in New York City. The host of MTV’s Uncommon Sense and the recently-published author of Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It told employees about his journey to stardom, from growing up in the small town of Moncks Corner, South Carolina, to working for Jay Z, to finding his truth and passion in radio and on-air TV.

Charlamagne’s close friend, radio host Lawrence Jackson, moderated the discussion, which was followed by a question-and-answer session with employees.

Watch the video:

Charlamagne emphasized finding truth and authenticity in your work, no matter what you do. He considers getting fired (by Jay Z, nonetheless) to be a necessary part of his life—a “divine misdirection.” He thinks everybody should follow their passion, but keep an open mind if their passion doesn’t fit their skillset—not everybody has the voice to sing, for example, but if your passion is music, there are many opportunities to make a career in the industry without trying to rap.

Here are some more of Charlamagne’s insights from the conversation:

On being an author: “I honestly feel like that’s the most fulfilling thing I’ve done so far. I’m from a small town in South Carolina. In order to transcend your circumstances, books and hip-hop music are what allowed me to dream. Looking at a book full of experiences I’ve been through, and hoping somebody will be empowered and touched by the way I was touched by literature is a real dope feeling.”

On privilege: “White privilege is very real. But as a black man, I feel privileged to be black. I feel like when you’re talking about black privilege, you’re talking about something spiritual. When you’re talking about white privilege, you’re talking about something systemic. When you tap into black privilege, it gives you that divine ability to prosper in life in spite of everything thrown in our face to hinder us.

“I grew up hearing about black men being kings and black women being queens and goddesses. For us, we need to get back to that way of thinking. My skin is not a liability. My skin is my strength. For anybody marginalized or oppressed, that’s your privilege. Tap into your unique privilege. Whatever you are, embrace that. I choose to embrace my black privilege.”

BURBANK, CA - MAY 08: Charlamagne Tha God, co-host of The Breakfast Club on New York's Power 105.1,autographs copies of "Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It" at the iHeartRadio Theater LA in Burbank, California on May 8, 2017. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)

Charlamagne Tha God autographs copies of Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It at the iHeartRadio Theater LA in Burbank, California on May 8, 2017. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)

On superheroes: “I grew up with Marvel comic books, and recently worked with them. I was a big Luke Cage fan, and it was a big thing for me when Netflix decided to do the series. They recently re-issued the Power Man Iron Fist comic books, and the guy who did the illustrations for those books did the illustration for me. It’s like a vision board of sorts. We were marginalized, now we’re superheroes.”

On making it in New York City: “It’s not the size of the pond, but the size of the hustle.

“Even though I was in a small pond, the ripples were making their way to New York City. I cultivated my craft in that small pond, and made a splash.”

On living your truth: “When people say things about you, or have a perception about you, that’s fine. That’s not your true character. If you’re aware of who your true character is, you can be self-aware, self-deprecating. What can people say to you then?

“As a young black man growing up, we often see men who look like us who are successful in athletics or in entertainment. If that’s not your dream, don’t do it.”

On producing top-notch content: “In the TV world, you have executives who know TV and that’s good, but do you know culture and content? You have to know both.

“Give everybody in the room credit. The know-it-all knows nothing. I tell people in radio, you’re never going to beat the internet.”

On being a fan: “I’m always a fan. Once you stop being a fan, you think your word matters a little too much, and people start saying, “Who does he think he is?” I always try to keep that fan perspective.”

On the value of success: “I admire success, but I admire what you do with success. For example, people like Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith, and Jay-Z. They’re doing a lot for culture, they’re moving things forward. Those are the people I admire—not for their fame, or money, but what they do with their prosperity. Like Jay Z’s Kalief Browder documentary [on Viacom’s Spike network] – I can’t attribute that whole documentary to why Rikers is closing, but it brought a lot of attention to the vile conditions at Rikers. I don’t think that story gets told without somebody like Jay Z.”

The Golden Age of Golden Popcorn: Highlights From the 2017 MTV Movie & TV Awards

The 2017 MTV Movie & TV Awards was a gender and genre-bending revolution. The 26th annual iteration was held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on May 9, and hosted by Workaholics star Adam Devine. For the first time, MTV’s celebration of mega-hits included television juggernauts alongside cinematic blockbusters. It also banished gendered categories, a first for American award shows besides the Grammys.

Beginning in 1992, the MTV Movie Awards lit up Hollywood’s award show circuit. Its edgy and unique categories such as Best Kiss became as iconic as the network itself. As an arbiter of youth culture, MTV knows how to adapt to an ever-changing world—and this year’s ceremony was no exception.

Rolling Stone called the network’s decision to omit gender distinctions “a simple but radical switch,” citing Best Actor winner Emma Thompson’s acceptance speech.

“The first acting award in history that doesn’t separate nominees based on their sex says something about how we perceive the human experience,” Watson said. “Empathy and the ability to use your imagination should have no limits.”

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