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Entertainment Industry Pushes for New COVID-19 Relief Package

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A letter to Congress on Monday from the Motion Picture Association, SAG-AFTRA and other groups calls for hiring incentives, changes to the tax code and a new federal insurance program.

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise sharply in many states including California, Hollywood is demanding that federal lawmakers step up with new legislation to help save the entertainment business. In a letter that went out on Monday to Congressional leaders, prominent industry groups have outlined policies from hiring incentives to a federal insurance program they’d like to see enacted.

“These policies would help jumpstart domestic film and television production, encourage hiring and ameliorate the higher costs that must be undertaken to protect our industry’s workforce,” states the letter signed by the leaders of the Motion Picture Association, the Directors Guild of America, the Independent Film & Television Alliance, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and SAG-AFTRA.

The specific call comes as lawmakers get ready to debate a third major COVID relief package. Previously, the CARES Act provided direct payments to Americans earning below a certain income as well as forgivable loans to small businesses, among other facets.

This time, entertainment groups are supporting broad incentives to employers hiring workers. They say that work opportunity tax credits should also be available to employers who rehire workers who had previously worked for them.

The letter to federal lawmakers, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, also includes directed proposals that would be of particular benefit to the entertainment sector. For example, lawmakers are being called upon to modify an aspect of tax code pertaining to domestic production. Under Section 181, any production that meets certain basic qualifications can deduct the first $15 million of the cost against federal tax obligations. One idea thrown out is that this section be expanded with the cap changing to $15 million or 50 percent of overall production costs, whichever is greatest. Another option deals with Section 168(k), a full expensing allowance for bonus depreciation that is set to be phased out in the coming years. The entertainment industry puts this portion of the tax code on the table with proposed modifications like allowing production costs to be deducted as incurred (instead of when films are exhibited), eliminating a 44-episode limit for television production, and allowing application to acquisition of so-called “used” films.

The goal would be to quickly inject liquidity into the business.

Additionally, SAG-AFTRA and other industry groups have an eye on allowing performing artists to deduct their own unreimbursed employment expenses. At the moment, the tax code permits this only for low-income workers ($16,000 or less), but the letter states, “We ask Congress to pass the Performing Artist Tax Parity Act (HR 3121), which will raise the maximum income cap to $100,000 for individual filers and $200,000 for joint filers.”

Perhaps the biggest proposal pertains to the request for a new federal insurance program to cover pandemic-related losses. Although the letter doesn’t go into detail, it sets up a larger conversation.

“The ability of our industry to return to active production, whether on set or on location, is severely compromised by the inability to purchase insurance to cover losses stemming from communicable diseases amongst cast, crew, and others involved in the production,” states the letter. “This insurance has been available in the past and is essential to the decisions by banks and others to risk investment in a film or program that may be shut down while a single member of the cast recovers from illness or as a result of civil authority order unrelated to the specific production. Without it, production – especially independent production – cannot resume on a significant level. We urge Congress to develop a program of federal insurance (or guarantee to fill this gap) to cover pandemic-related business losses in the future.”

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Trump BANNED TikTok! Just HOURS Left To Enjoy??

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President Donald Trump is barreling ahead with his vanity project distraction tactic Gen Z revenge plot plan to ban TikTok.

The Trump administration announced on Friday that the ban on the video app (and WeChat, a popular messaging app) will officially begin on Sunday, September 20. The stated reason for the ban is that the Chinese Communist Party collects user data from the app, which poses “unacceptable risks to our national security.” (Data mining from American companies like Facebook, which apparently gets sold to foreign powers who have actually meddled in our elections is OK though, we guess!)

Related: TikTok Responds To Trump’s Summer Threat To Ban The App

If you’re already an avid TikTok user, the ban won’t affect you at first. The initial ban going into effect on the 20th will only prevent new users in the US from downloading the app and current users from getting any updates to it.

However, a full ban WILL go into effect on November 12 when the government with stop internet service providers from “enabling the functioning or optimization of the mobile application in the US,” meaning TikTok will basically stop working for everybody right before Thanksgiving.

The best case scenario to keep TikTok up and running in the US is for ByteDance, the Beijing-based company that owns TikTok, to sell its US operations or partner with a US company. Microsoft was initially in talks to do so, but the deal fell through. Now, ByteDance has been in conversations with Walmart and Oracle in an attempt to save the app. Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison has ties to the president, which might work in TikTok’s favor. (We know Trump loves to get kickbacks for himself and his pals — and he spoke favorably about the company’s chances back in August.)

Related: Trump Accused Of Sexual Assault… AGAIN

Still, there are a lot of variables at play here. Considering ByteDance doesn’t even agree with the administration’s decision, and in fact claimed to have already offered “unprecedented levels of additional transparency and accountability well beyond what other apps are willing to do,” it’s hard to say agreement will satisfy all parties — and what will satisfy Trump’s capricious demands.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross released a statement saying:

“Today’s actions prove once again that President Trump will do everything in his power to guarantee our national security and protect Americans from the threats of the Chinese Communist Party.”

Let’s be clear here: if Donald Trump was actually passionate about data security, there are a LOT of steps he could take that don’t start with full-on banning a video app popular with young people. More likely this is a way to give the president an easy “win” that makes him feel powerful and stirs the pot of the international community. Which, um, we would really rather he not do!!!

There’s a LOT of money on the line right now for TikTok creators and advertisers who have built entire businesses out of the app. In a pandemic with unprecedented levels of unemployment and a teetering economy, it’s hard to believe the President of the United States would shut that down.

Except, you know, when you remember who the POTUS is right now…

[Image via TikTok & WENN/Instar]

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Residue review – haunting drama on the dangers of gentrification | Film

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Residue is a fleeting and haunting lament for what is lost to gentrification, and other tolls on black life in America. But at the same, it’s exhilarating and monumental, laced with the sensation that we’re discovering a bold and sensitive new voice.

Writer and director Merawi Gerima’s debut, released by Ava DuVernay’s independent film collective Array, tells a prodigal son story, about a man returning to his old stomping grounds. And in that story, Gerima experiments with performance and vérité, intimate narrative and poetic abstractions. His artistry is thoughtful. But more than anything, it’s emotional.

Gerima comes from black film-making royalty. His father is Haile Gerima, the Bush Mama and Sankofa director who collaborated in the late 60s with fellow black UCLA graduates like Charles Burnett and Julie Dash. There are traces of Burnett’s Killer of Sheep in Residue, as well as Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. That’s just one way the past echoes throughout the young Gerima’s debut.

We can assume the film’s lead character is fashioned after the young director himself, at least on a practical level. Obi Nwachukwu plays Jay, a film-maker who travels from Los Angeles to Washington DC. He wants to make a movie about DC’s Q Street, his childhood home and the friends he used to roam with.

Residue’s grave terms are spoken early on. A disembodied voiceover asks whether Jay’s camera is a weapon trying to save the community or whether the film-maker is actually an archaeologist coming to unearth bones from the concrete. As if resigned to the inevitable, the film documents black culture in the city as if it needs to be fossilized on camera. The opening is a rush of images and sounds from a DC block party. The black community dances on the street while local rap group CCB’s Roll Call bumps on the soundtrack. Then come the police and white residents walking their dogs. That prologue sums things up.

Upon arriving in his old neighbourhood, Jay is “greeted” by a white resident who tells him to turn down the volume on his truck stereo. That command is followed by a loaded warning should he not comply: “Don’t make me have to call the cops.”

For sale signs litter the street. Realtors leave repeat voicemails at Jay’s parents’ house, eagerly offering cash for their home. Jay lurches through the neighborhood, his brow permanently furrowed, as if he’s blinded by all the whiteness he’s seeing. But Gerima purposefully obscures white faces or keeps them out of frame. Unlike these neighborhoods, his film centres black people.

Jay searches for friends at the homes or on the corners or stoops they once occupied. Some moved. Others are locked up. The spaces in Residue feel full with absence. They carry memories, and the film has a hypnotic way of slipping in and out of them. At times, scenes have an impressionistic autumn sheen that borders on antique, like the present is rushing to become the past. At others, they have that 16mm grain or digital video motion smoothing. Residue’s aesthetic is as nimble as its state of mind. Moments fade into muffled memories and one memory bleeds into another. People too are violently turned into memories. And like Jay, we desperately search for something or someone to hold on to.

Gerima does a lot with a little. And he’s supported by an exceptional cast made up of mostly non-professional actors who, put simply, own these roles. In the most powerful scenes, the performers are quiet, using their eyes and breathing to communicate feelings, anxieties and empathy. They show an understanding among black men that some words just don’t need to be spoken.

Dennis Lindsey is a standout among them. His Delonte is a survivor hardened by experience. He’s suspicious of Jay, whose probing questions come off as opportunistic. When Jay tries to explain that he wants to make a film to give a voice to the voiceless, Delonte snaps back, guardedly: “Who’s voiceless?” Delonte sounds hostile and looks distant, but there’s an unforgettable sense of guarded warmth in Lindsey’s performance. And there’s overwhelming guilt rattling around in Nwachukwu’s Jay, which perhaps belongs to Gerima. At the very least, it suggests the film-maker’s cognizance of his own privilege and his relationship to a space that he left behind.

Despite spending his childhood on Q Street, Jay is as much an intruding presence as the new residents who dubbed the area “Noma”. His subsequent emotions are messy and complicated. Gerima wades through them confidently. His film doesn’t say much that hasn’t already been said in work by Burnett and Lee. But as the racial reckoning of the past few months made clear, these issues persist. And Gerima explores new ways to dwell on them. If nothing else, the feelings he drums up in Residue linger.

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Brielle Biermann Defends Sitting on Stepdad Kroy’s Lap

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Don’t Be Tardy star Kim Zolciak-Biermann’s daughter Brielle Biermann, 23, hit back at commenters who had a lot to say about her photo with stepdad Kroy Biermann.

On Sept. 14, Brielle posted a photo to Instagram of her sitting on adoptive father Kroy’s lap, which she shared in honor of the former NFL player’s 35th birthday celebration at Bone’s restaurant in Atlanta.

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the most amazing father & man I’ll ever know. I couldn’t imagine a life without your hardworking, selfless, loving, caring self! I’m so proud of you and all you’ve accomplished,” Brielle wrote on Instagram. “We had too much fun last night i forgot to post yesterday. love love love you dad!”

While the first photo features just Brielle and Kroy, the second pic in Brielle’s slideshow includes Real Housewives of Atlanta cast member Kim. Still, some commenters accused Brielle of getting too close to the reality star’s husband.

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