Secretary John Kerry on Jimmy Kimmel Live – Ready to Bring Together Taylor Swift and Kanye West

Posted: 12:23 am EDT
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Last week, when Secretary Kerry had a meeting in Hollywood after the summit with Asian leaders in Palm Springs, he also made an appearance at the Jimmy Kimmel show.  He was introduced as the guest who “has been to almost 80 countries and logged more than a million frequent flyer miles.”  

The transcript of the appearance on February 16 is here: Interview on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!;  Secretary of State John Kerry; Los Angeles, California.

 

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Wolverine vs. ISIS? Secretary Kerry Chats With Hollywood to ‘Counter’ Islamic State

Posted: 2:42 am EDT
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Via the Daily Press Briefing:

QUESTION: And then – I’m wondering if you can give us any more detail at all about this meeting that the Secretary had out in Hollywood with these film studio executives. He, in his tweet, said that he was there hearing perspectives and ideas on how to counter the Daesh narrative, and I’m just wondering if you can be more specific. I mean, is – was he asking their advice on how to do this, or was he suggesting things? I mean —

MR TONER: Sure. I think —

QUESTION: Does this – is he looking for the next Wolverine movie to be Wolverine vs. ISIS? What’s the —

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, flanked by Universal Filmed Entertainment Group Chairman Jeff Shell, meets with a group of movie industry executives during a visit to Universal Studios in Burbank, California, on February 16, 2016. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, flanked by Universal Filmed Entertainment Group Chairman Jeff Shell, meets with a group of movie industry executives during a visit to Universal Studios in Burbank, California, on February 16, 2016. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

MR TONER: I mean, kidding aside –

QUESTION: What was it? No, no, I’m not —

MR TONER: No, no, of course. I mean, look, he – it was – he had the chance to meet with a number of senior executives in the entertainment industry. I mean, these are the people, I think, widely recognized who are some of the best communicators out there, and they run a highly profitable industry that is expert at conveying messages to a worldwide audience. So I think he sought their – not I think – he sought their perspectives and input about how the United States and the rest of the coalition – the anti-Daesh coalition – can better counter the propaganda that’s being put forward by ISIL.

I mean, a lot of it was a discussion and a give-and-take on what’s – what they think works and what doesn’t work. And I can’t – I don’t want to get into the details because it was just an introductory meeting, but I think it’s – I think the Secretary felt it was worthwhile to have the opportunity to meet with these folks and get their input on what they think is an effective strategy.

QUESTION: Okay. So he was soliciting them on ideas about how to counter their messaging, not the other way around? He wasn’t saying, “Hey listen, we think it would be a great idea if you guys did X, X, and X to help in the —

MR TONER: No, no. I think – I mean, look, no, no. I think he was seeking their perspectives on our own efforts to counter Daesh and ISIL in terms of messaging.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, but you’re not planning on, like, outsourcing the whole CVE message to Hollywood film studios, are you?

MR TONER: No, no, gosh. But I think – I mean, it’s important that they’re part of this conversation. I mean, they’re – again, they have more so than diplomats and even public diplomacy professionals like myself. I freely admit that folks in Hollywood and Silicon Valley and – who are – who are really experts in conveying messages, whether it’s through film or through entertainment, are worthwhile to listen to and to seek – we should be seeking their advice on how we can do our job better.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Can you cite an example where actually Hollywood and the government were able to sort of coordinate together to have a powerful message or film done, I mean, in the past? Is there anything —

QUESTION: World War II.

QUESTION: World War II, okay.

MR TONER: John Huston.

QUESTION: Since World War II, I was going to say.

MR TONER: But no, that’s okay. I mean, it’s —

QUESTION: Since World War II. I mean, during the Vietnam War —

QUESTION: Vietnam, yes.

QUESTION: — I mean, there was the Green Berets, for instance.

QUESTION: Top Gun.

QUESTION: Or Top Gun or something.

QUESTION: Top Gun?

QUESTION: But —

QUESTION: This is going – can we move on to something a little bit more —

MR TONER: No, I – no, no. Yeah, I mean —

QUESTION: Is he going to have more meetings with these people?

MR TONER: Again, I don’t want to say that yesterday they were inking deals on movies that will come out. All he was doing was he was taking advantage of the fact that he was there just outside of Hollywood in LA where the movie industry exists. He wanted to seek their input on how we can message better.

QUESTION: All right.

MR TONER: I mean, these guys, as I said, are professional —

QUESTION: You did say it was an introductory meeting. So are —

MR TONER: It was an introductory meeting, exactly.

QUESTION: So are there – is this going to be —

MR TONER: I have nothing to announce, but I think – it was a first meeting. I think it would we —

QUESTION: So there will be a sequel?

MR TONER: — we would like to see more.

QUESTION: Sequel. (Laughter.)

Variety reported that the meeting was organized by Jeff Shell, who is chair of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). Those in attendance were identified by Variety as Jeff Shell, who is also chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group; MPAA Chairman Chris Dodd; Warner Bros. Entertainment CEO Kevin Tsujihara; DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg; 20th Century Fox Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos; 20th Century Fox Co-Chair Stacey Snider; Sean Bailey, president of Walt Disney Motion Picture Production; Universal Pictures Chairman Donna Langley; Tom Rothman, chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Motion Picture Group; Universal Pictures President Jimmy Horowitz; Amblin Partners CEO Michael Wright; and NBCUniversal Vice Chairman Ron Meyer.  Rick Stengel, under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs (the new Charlotte Beers), reportedly suggested that they set up a meeting with Secretary Kerry in Los Angeles after the summit with Asian leaders in Palm Springs.

Just days before this meeting, University of Chicago researchers told ABC News that terrorists are taking pages from a Hollywood playbook to recruit new members in Chicago and across the U.S.  Apparently, the “creators of these propaganda videos are following a famous 12-step Hollywood guide on how to tell the story of a hero — a scripting formula used for decades in blockbuster movies including “Titanic,” “Wizard of Oz” and the first “Star Wars.”

Also last fall, when Hollywood was first talked about:

 

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US Embassy Seoul: The Terminator and the Mother of Dragons Visit South Korea; Grigsby Gets a Kiss

Posted: 1:03 am  PDT
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Arnold Schwarzenegger and  “Game of Thrones” actress Emilia Clarke arrived  in Seoul to promote the fifth installment in the “Terminator” franchise, “Terminator Genisys“ directed by Alan Taylor. They visited Ambassador Lippert, at the COM residence, and Grigsby got a kiss from Terminator man.

 

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ProPublica: As Hollywood Lobbied State Department, It Built Free Home Theaters for U.S. Embassies

by Robert Faturechi ProPublica, July 2, 2015, 5:15 a.m.

This story was co-published with The Daily Beast.

Hollywood’s efforts to win political clout have always stretched across the country, from glitzy campaign fundraisers in Beverly Hills to cocktail parties with power brokers in Washington.

Last year, the film industry staked out another zone of influence: U.S. embassies. Its lobbying arm paid to renovate screening rooms in at least four overseas outposts, hoping the new theaters would help ambassadors and their foreign guests “keep U.S. cultural interests top of mind,” according to an internal email.

That was the same year that the Motion Picture Association of America, which represents the six biggest studios, reported it was lobbying the State Department on issues including piracy and online content distribution. Hollywood’s interests 2013 including its push for tougher copyright rules in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact 2013 often put the industry at odds with Silicon Valley.

The only public indication of the embassy-theater initiative was a February 2015 press release from American officials in Madrid, titled “U.S. Embassy Launches State-of-the-Art Screening Room.” It credited “a generous donation” from the MPAA.

Asked about its gifts to the State Department, the lobby group declined to say how many embassies got donations or how much they were worth.

“Because film is a great ambassador for U.S. culture around the world, MPAA assisted with the upgrade of some embassy theater facilities,” said spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield. “All gifts complied with the law as well as with State Department ethics guidelines.”

Nicole Thompson, a State Department spokeswoman, said at least three embassies besides Madrid received between $20,000 and $50,000 in entertainment upgrades last year 2013 London, Paris and Rome. The revamped screening rooms, she said, aren’t intended to entertain U.S. officials, but rather to help them host screenings to promote an American industry and sow goodwill.

Thompson said the donations were proper and that all gifts to the department are reviewed to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. “The department has explicit authorities to accept gifts made for its benefit or for carrying out any of its functions,” she said.

The State Department routinely accepts gifts from outside groups, Thompson said. She couldn’t provide any other examples of major gifts from groups that simultaneously lobby the agency. Thompson declined to list the items given by the MPAA or their total value, and wouldn’t say whether the group had made similar gifts in the past.

There was at least one precedent. A spokesman for Warner Bros. Entertainment said the studio helped pay for the refurbishment of the screening room at the U.S. ambassador’s home in Paris in 2011. “This donation was coordinated with the State Department and complied with all appropriate rules and regulations,” the spokesman said.

State Department policies posted online specifically permit gifts from individuals, groups or corporations for “embassy refurbishment, ” provided that the donors are vetted to ensure there’s no conflict or possible “embarrassment or harm” to the agency. The posted policies include no caps on the value of donations, nor any requirements for public disclosure of foreign or American donors. The rules also say that the donations can’t come with a promise or expectation of “any advantage or preference from the U.S. Government.”

Obtaining an advantage, albeit a nonspecific one, sounded like the goal when a Sony Pictures Entertainment official wrote to the studio’s chief executive officer, Michael Lynton, to relay a request to fund the screening rooms from Chris Dodd, the former U.S. senator who heads the MPAA. The executive writing the note 2013 Keith Weaver 2013 sought to assure the CEO that such a donation wouldn’t be improper.

“The rationale being that key Ambassadors will keep U.S. cultural interests top of mind, as they screen American movies for high level officials where they are stationed,” reads the message, included in a cache of emails hacked from Sony and which were posted online by the website WikiLeaks.

“The cost implication is estimated to be $165k (aggregate of $$$/in-kind) per embassy/per studio. Apparently, donations of this kind are permissible.”

Besides Sony, the MPAA represents Disney, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Studios and Warner Bros. Entertainment. The e-mails suggest that Sony executives decided against contributing to the project for budget reasons.

The MPAA has long been a powerful presence in the nation’s capital, spending $1.34 million on federal lobbying last year, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. One of its flashier tools has been to host exclusive gatherings at its Washington screening room, two blocks from the White House, where lawmakers get to watch blockbuster films, rub elbows with celebrities, and up until several years ago, enjoy dinner 2013 a perk scuttled because of stricter rules on congressional lobbying.

Hollywood studios depend on foreign markets for much of their profit but the MPAA’s interests don’t always align with those of other major American constituencies. For example, Hollywood studios have moved some film production to Canada to cut costs. American film workers have tried to get the federal government to stop the outsourcing of jobs, but have been met with resistance from the MPAA.

The trade group has also pushed federal officials to pressure foreign governments into adopting stricter copyright laws. An MPAA-funded study found that in 2005 worldwide piracy cost American studios $6.1 billion in revenue. That number has been disputed by digital rights advocates.

For the TPP trade deal, the MPAA has discouraged the American government from exporting “fair use” protections to other countries. In a hacked message from Dodd to the U.S. Trade Representative, the MPAA chief warned that including such provisions, which in American law allow limited use of copyrighted materials without permission, would be “extremely controversial and divisive.” Digital rights activists have characterized the efforts as overzealous.

“They’re basically encouraging other countries to adopt the most draconian parts of U.S. copyright law and even to reinterpret U.S. copyright law to make it more stringent,” said Mitch Stoltz, an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “Broadly speaking broadening copyright law harms free speech in many cases by creating a mechanism for censorship.”

The state-of-the-art screening rooms are a relatively minimal investment by Hollywood as it works to strengthen connections abroad.

This spring, the U.S. ambassador to Spain, James Costos, brought a group of foreign officials to Los Angeles for a meeting hosted by the MPAA. Among them were representatives from the Canary Islands, who came prepared to discuss filming opportunities and tax incentives for American studios in the Spanish territory. The State Department touted the trip as an opportunity to “expand bilateral trade and investment, including through ties between the entertainment industries.”

It’s not known whether the path to that particular meeting was eased by the new screening room in Madrid. At the theater’s debut in February, the ambassador’s guests were treated to a dark tale of corruption, lobbying and double-dealing in Washington 2013 the Netflix series “House of Cards.”

Related stories: For more coverage of politics and influence, read ProPublica’s previous reporting on secret political dealings by Sony, a reversal by the higher ed lobby and an imploding super PAC.

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.

Republished under Creative Commons.
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Buzkashi Boys: When U.S. Taxpayers Almost Won an Oscar (Or Smartifying Capacity Building)

The film was nominated for an Oscar in the Short Film (Live Action) category but lost to Curfew.  A couple says ago, the State Department announced a big do in WashDC, a Panel With Stars and Producer of Oscar-Nominated Afghan Short Film “Buzkashi Boys.”

The U.S. Department of State will host a screening and roundtable discussion with the producer and stars of the Oscar-nominated short film Buzkashi Boys on February 28 at 12:30 p.m. in the Marshall Center Auditorium.

The making of Buzkashi Boys was supported through a grant from U.S. Embassy Kabul to the Afghan Film Project. The goal of this project is to help revitalize the Afghan film industry, which was once a vibrant part of Afghanistan’s cultural life.

During the filming of Buzkashi Boys thirteen Afghan interns were trained in all aspects of film production. Afghan media organizations, which until recently were forced to rely on foreign expertise, will benefit from this training for years to come. Almost all of the trainees continue to work in the local media or television industry. Some are making their own films, strengthening national identity by telling their own stories.

Here are some photos of the stars of Buzkashi Boys during their visit to Foggy Bottom for a screening and Q and A on February 28, 2013.

The stars and producer of the Oscar-nominated film Buzkashi Boys visit the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., for a screening and Q and A on February 28, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

The stars and producer of the Oscar-nominated film Buzkashi Boys visit the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., for a screening and Q and A on February 28, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain] (click image to view a slideshow)

What was not included in the announcement is the 29-minute film’s unusual distinction.  According to the WSJ, the film was “funded almost entirely out of a $150 million State Department campaign to combat extremism, support Afghan media and burnish the U.S. image in Afghanistan.”

As part of the public-diplomacy project, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul gave Mr. French and his Afghan Film Project more than $220,000 in 2010 to make “Buzkashi Boys” and use the production to train aspiring Afghan filmmakers.

Tara Sonenshine who currently serves as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs for State recently blogged about the BB in DipNote touting this as one of the “innovative examples of our many public diplomacy programs in support of a peaceful, prosperous, stable Afghanistan”:

In the case of “Buzkashi Boys,” we supported the Afghan Film Project — the non-profit NGO whose creation was integral to the movie. A grant from the State Department funded the training of 13 Afghan interns in all aspects of film production. Those graduates are now among the best-trained filmmakers in Afghanistan. Most of them have gone on to work in the local media or television industry, or have begun to make their own films.

While the movie didn’t win an Oscar, it sent out powerful messages about a future we can all support: an Afghanistan where ethnic and linguistic divisions can be transcended through a common love of culture, where aspirations are possible, and where the playing fields are level for everyone. On the economic side, it showed foreign movie and television investors and artists that Afghanistan is open for business and growing its people’s capacity to become a vibrant center of national self expression.

Okay, now that you’ve read that, let’s take a look at this item from El Snarkistani of the Republic of Snarkistan, who probably won’t get any invite to embassy events anytime soon:

So to review:

– US government funded film
– Filmed in Afghanistan
– Afghan streetkid star

– Total funding: around $260,000

I say again: that’s a pretty big shoestring.

By way of comparison, remember Clerks? That cost $27,000. And the first Paranormal Activity? $15,000. So why was it so expensive to make this film in a country where median monthly incomes are a few hundred dollars? Your main star’s a street kid who sells maps and “bodyguard services” to foreigners on Kabul’s Chicken Street, so I’m guessing he wasn’t that expensive. Must have been all that capacity building.

Which is what’s missing from the narrative surrounding this film: at no point are we hearing how that money went to help the Afghan film industry. In fact, in a story for the National, Lianne Gutcher reports that French and his team made choices that would virtually ensure that whatever skills were learned would not translate to the Afghan film scene once the movie was completed.

French also insisted on shooting with RED cinema cameras – an American brand that is expensive to hire and insure. That offered little benefit to Afghan filmmakers, who cannot afford RED. Afghanistan’s film and TV industry mainly uses MiniDV, a far lower standard.

Completely absent from the photos taken of the cast and crew by the media during this Oscar season are the filmcrew that French and his team were supposed to train in the first place. Any publicity photos feature French (prominently, and why not, with those eyes, that hair, and that beard?) and the two co-stars, but noticeably absent are any other Afghans. Based on how much the US Embassy in Kabul has been falling all over itself on social media to promote this thing, one would think that the goal of telling the “good news” about Afghanistan has been achieved. With…buzkashi.

[…]

No, what you need is a story that’s going to make foreigners feel good about Afghanistan. And if, along the way, you hire an Afghan as your “Assistant Chef,” well, that’s all to the good, isn’t it?

Make no mistake: this film isn’t directed at Afghans. I don’t think it’s even been screened for an Afghan audience at this point, as the only publicity here in Afghanistan around the film has focused on showings at foreign embassies. When the Soviets used to do this, we called it propaganda. Since it’s the 21st century, and we’re Americans, somehow this is…capacity building. Or, as David Ensor, who headed up the US public diplomacy effort in Kabul at the time, told the Wall Street Journal, 

“I was in the hope business, and we were making investments in Afghanistan and its people that were designed to make life better and create a perception of change in the right direction,” he said.

“Create a perception of change”? Perish the thought that we’d create any actual change. Whether you’re calling it public diplomacy, public affairs, information operations, or propaganda, it all boils down to the same thing: creating the perception that things are going to be just fine. What’s troubling is that telling the real stories of average Afghans would do just that. For a quarter of a million dollars, you could find a whole lot of Afghans whose lives have been directly and positively changed by the US presence here.

Coming from me that may be a surprising statement, but it hasn’t all been bad here. The problem is that the Department of State and other government organizations here are so focused on making sure everyone knows that the billions they’re dumping here is doing some good, that they forget that it’s really not that complicated, after all. Instead of making a film about how American dollars have made real change in the lives of actual Afghans, the State Department would rather dump even more money into things that “create a perception of change.”

So we funded a film that’s disconnected by and large from the country in which it’s filmed. We didn’t really build the capacity of the Afghan film industry, unless you count beefing up the resume of an American director and his non-Afghan crew. And we just cross our fingers and hope that somehow people think we’re doing some good here. Marvelous.

Read in full here: Buzkashi Boys: When Propaganda Becomes Capacity Building.

Photo via US Embassy Kabul/FB

Buzkashi Boys actors under the Great Seal at the US Embassy Kabul with Ambassador James Cunningham.
Photo via US Embassy Kabul/FB (click on image for a slideshow)

On a related note, we saw this tweet from US Embassy Kabul and we could not walk away:

U.S. Embassy Kabul ‏@USEmbassyKabul

In the 1940s, the Office of War Information & @StateDept worked w/Hollywood to produce films to aid the war effort.

@USEmbassyKabul @StateDept Which ones?

U.S. Embassy Kabul ‏@USEmbassyKabul

@diplopundit One infamous film that comes to mind is ‘Mission to Moscow’ (1943). The War Dept during WWII had a number of others.

Which led us to dig up ‘Mission to Moscow’, a film directed by Michael Curtiz in 1943 based on a book by former U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union Joseph E. Davies.  According to Wikipedia, this film has also been called  “unquestionably the most blatant piece of pro-Stalinist propaganda ever offered by the American mass media”.

Oh, dear!

Once you start digging into the Office of War Information (OWI), it’s almost impossible to stop – there’s an ‘um, richness of material there just so hard to ignore. Several OWI-connected films got nominated for Academy Awards and one even starred an actor who later became a U.S. president:

Some other USG-connected movies received nominations and won some awards:

A longer list of Allied propaganda films for World War II is available here.

About the OWI:

“The Office of War Information (OWI) was a U.S. government agency created during World War II to consolidate government information services.   […] In 1943, the OWI’s appropriations were cut out of the fiscal year 1944 budget and only restored with strict restrictions on what OWI could do domestically. Many branch offices were closed and the Motion Picture Bureau was closed down. By 1944 the OWI operated mostly in the foreign field, contributing to undermining enemy morale. The agency was abolished in 1945, and its foreign functions were transferred to the Department of State.  The OWI was terminated, effective September 15, 1945, by an executive order of August 31, 1945.”

Perhaps the most instructive item we found rummaging around is from Elmer Davis, the director of OWI in 1942 who said: “The easiest way to inject a propaganda idea into most people’s minds is to let it go through the medium of an entertainment picture when they do not realize that they are being propagandized.”

There. Got that?

Now given all that history with Hollywood, should we really call this ‘innovative?”  In the meantime, since the stated goal of the Buzkashi Boys project is “to help revitalize the Afghan film industry,” we asked over in the Twitters the following question:

@USEmbassyKabul @TOLO_TV Curious – how many of the 13 AFG interns fm BB are currently wrking in AFG film industry?

That’s not really an unreasonable question to ask, is it?
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