Behind the Screen: Oscar Secrets

If you're anything like us, you've already seen the stars' outfits, and digested all the recaps there are to read from this year's 88th Academy Awards. One member of our BYT team, LOUIS CHESLAW, was lucky enough to be in attendance at the this year's ceremony, and discovered some things that the reports don't mention...

  • The Red Carpet has a fast lane: It's reserved exclusively for A-Listers who've chosen not to make themselves available for red carpet interviews, and permits the biggest names in the industry to speed past the crowds and reach the theatre unscathed by questions, or fans requesting selfies.
     
  • The presenters don't read actually read the nominee's names: Rather, the announcements are pre-recorded by the respective presenters to ensure that there are no errors in pronunciation (and to take some pressure off their shoulders!) 
     
  • Take too long in the bathroom and you're shut out of the theatre: ...but only for a few minutes. During the numerous breaks for commercials, guests will frequently hurry out for a drink, or to use the restrooms. However miss the two-minute time allowance and you'll have to watch on a screen in the bar outside the theatre. This, however, isn't such a bad thing - many of the night's biggest names choose to spend their evening having conversations in the downstairs bar. Turns out the place to be at the ceremony isn't inside the ceremony at all! 
     
  • There are surprisingly few rules: This list might have been far more extensive, however there are actually surprisingly few rules for attendees. The Academy clearly trusts its members to comport themselves appropriately, and thus places few limitations on its guests. For example, if for whatever reason you wanted to go and stand around the first few rows, and pretend to be nominated while eavesdropping on celebrities wishing Leonardo DiCaprio good luck, you're free to do so. Not that anyone here would ever do such a thing...

The BYT Interview: Bridget Arsenault and Fatima Martinez-Moxon

This month, we point our pens at the film club's founders...
 

How did the two of you meet? 
Fatima: I had wanted to organise a film screening for about two years but something would always keep coming up that stopped me, until one day I said: enough I am going to do it! - but I didn’t know where to start. Then I remembered I had been invited to a film screening by Vanity Fair so I thought of giving them a call to get the manual on “How To Screen A Film". I was put through to Bridget, who I then found out had organised the screening I attended. I told her about my plans, she kept asking questions and I just wanted to get the manual! We decided to meet in person, and the rest is history.


How did the idea for the film club come about?
Bridget: That's a loaded question! It came about in a round about way. Fatima and I hosted a screening of the documentary Mary and Bill at The May Fair hotel. We did it for fun, and out of our love of the film, with the intention of it being a one-off event. We even donated all of the money raised from ticket sales to the director of that film. After that event two unexpected things happened. Firstly, we kept getting asked, by people who attended, when our "next event” was. And we met two filmmakers that night who approached us about working with them to screen one of their films. Our heads filled with ideas, we started to think that perhaps we really had a good idea on our hands. We went back and met with all of the brands who had supported us from the beginning, put together a proposal, and in December 2013 we officially registered The Bright YoungThings Film Club as a company.


You're stranded on a desert island with only three films. Which do you choose?
Fatima: In The Mood for Love: For introspection. The story is magnetic and poetic and emotionally resonant; it’s visually stunning and the soundtrack is incredible.
The Goonies: For a happy ending and to make me feel good. I love those coming-of-age films from the 80's. Full of adventure, friendship, geeky characters and supernatural circumstances.
Dumb and Dumber: If I am on a desert island I need something to make me laugh and get my mind off ofthings, right? 

Bridget: A League of Their Own: It's funny, feel good and has a strong dose of feminism.
Kids: It was a seminal film when I was growing up and just never gets old.
Annie Hall: Great script, great character: a pretty perfect film.


Who is your dream Q+A subject, dead or alive?
Fatima: Tough one! If we’re talking about film, I'd choose Guillermo del Toro. There is a child’s fascination with the supernatural that infuses his early work, I find it captivating. He uses fairy-tales as powerful symbols to describe the human condition.  I’d love to ask him how he creates imaginary worlds and how living abroad changed his perspective and impacted his work.
Bridget: I'm an SNL junkie. When they get it right, I think there's no one doing political and social comedy in the same league. I would love to interview Lorne Michaels, but in the old school way where you shadow the person for a couple weeks, integrate yourself into their world, ingratiate yourself with their friends and colleagues, like Meryl Streep in Adaptation (without the hallucinogenic drugs). I would love to know how he's stayed so sharp and fresh for so many years. That's someone who knows how to reinvent the wheel. 
 

What's been your favourite thing about running the Film Club so far?
Bridget: The people! The people we have met and worked with. Both those who attend the events and help us at the events, our sponsors and the filmmakers, many of whom I now consider to be friends. I have always been someone who finds inspiration in others and I love meeting and surrounding myself with talented people. The film club is like a petri dish of talent. 
FatimaI agree with Bridget, it’s the people. We’ve met wonderful people and the only reason our paths have crossed is because of the film club. It’s also incredibly exciting to come across these amazing films that you just want the world to see. You’ve just finished watching one of them and you think, "OK what do we have to do to make sure people find out about itcome and see it and tell their friends." Scary, but worth it!

The BYT Interview: Abbie Lucas

Abbie Lucas is a film and theatre director based in London. Her most recent film credits include Repeat Until, a distorted romance, and the black-and-white online series A Quick Fortune, which has been included in the official selection of several festivals around the world, including London’s Raindance. Lucas is also a co-founder of the Concorde Theatre Company, a transatlantic theatre exchange where she currently serves as UK Artistic Director.


You're a director based in London. How has living in the city influenced your filmmaking?
When I first moved to London I had that experience that I think many new Londoners have, of not knowing how the areas in this city connect to one another. I think that left this residual impression that the people in London exist and experience the city in many different, individual bubbles. A lot of my work is quite intimate and often set in a fixed location, and that's how I feel about London, it's busy and bustling, but the more interesting stories are going on behind closed doors.

You recently screened Repeat Until at 01zeroone in Soho. What are some of your favourite places to see films in the capital?
London has a lot of great film events going on. Cinema-wise I like to see what's going on at the BFI, the Curzon and the ICA, and smaller places like The Cinema Museum and Whirled Cinema. Sometimes the best nights are the small, one-off ones, where filmmakers have pitched together to screen their content wherever they can. And of course, BYT Film Club is a must! 
 
You also direct plays. Do you learn things when directing for the stage that inform how you direct films and vice versa?
Absolutely. Directing for the stage is all about delving into it with the actors, so you become better at the ins and outs of directing performance, which should be top priority in film as well, but it can sometimes fall by the wayside because of all the technical elements that need attention.
 
A cursory Google search reveals that you're known to be called "Lady D" by your actors. Can you reveal how that nickname came to be?
That's one of those things where the mystery is probably better than the real story! I was directing a short play in 2012, and as we were about to start a rehearsal one of the actors said  "So D (for Director), where do you want to start?" and the actress Billie Vee (a good friend of mine and the writer and star of Repeat Until) snapped back with "You can not call her ‘D’! She is a lady! You must call her 'Lady D'!"  Somehow it stuck and spread to other casts. I now frequently receive emails from actors and producers that start with 'Dear Lady D'. Some people who don't know what the D stands for speculate that it might be something more risqué... I'm happy to keep them guessing.


"The line between commercial viability and artistic integrity is a fine one."

You're the Artistic Director and co-founder of the wonderful Concorde Theatre Company. What was one of the main challenges in setting up the business that you couldn't have anticipated?
Have you ever seen a corporate tax return? It may as well be written in Mandarin for all I was able to understand of it. I had never set up a business before, so all aspects of the process were a challenge. I think one of the most difficult things for people trying to make a business out of art is keeping in mind that for it to be successful it has to make money, and many of us are so used to putting the art first and the money second because we get so much fulfilment from the process. The line between commercial viability and artistic integrity is a very fine one. It's a slow, intensive process getting a business off the ground, but we've just had our British play SHARDS go through some exciting development opportunities at the Park Theatre and the Criterion Theatre, and there has been some interest in our next American play Eudaemonia, so... baby steps!    
 
Can you tell us about any projects you're currently working on?
I've been guest directing and editing a new comedy sketch series by comedian Dan Tambling called 12 Sketches in a London House (find out more at www.dantamblingcomedy.com). I'm also going to be working on a few episodes of another series with writing duo Hunt the Vigan (Erin Hunter and James Gavin) called God's Design Studio, which shoots early next year, and then there are a couple of short films planned… a busy year ahead!    

The BYT Interview: Stefan Georgiou

Stefan Georgiou graduated from the National Film & Television School. His debut feature film, the romantic comedy Dead Cat was selected by Film London to screen at the BFI and went on to win a host of awards, including Best Emerging Director at the Oaxaca Film Festival. Selected as a Star of Tomorrow by Screen International magazine in 2011, Stefan's short film Sexlife was chosen for this year’s prestigious Tribeca Film Festival in New York, the only British short film to be selected out of 3,000.

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Huge congratulations on SexLife being selected for Tribeca. Do you have any particular films or people you're looking forward to seeing when you're out there?
I've got a few meetings with producers out in New York that I'm looking forward to. It's an ambition of mine to direct in the US so to talk to potential future collaborators about what I'm working on is exciting. Festivals for me are about watching and discovering those films you never thought you would.

Your graduation film, Ratios was awarded a special commendation at the TCM London Film Festival. What would you say is the main thing you learned from making that film that you still keep with you today?
Ratios was such a long time ago! In all honesty, at that stage of my development of making shorts I feel that you learn as much about what not to do, and that certainly rang true for me. Looking back I guess it gave me the confidence to believe that I could take a story that originated in my mind, put a version of that on screen and not be embarrassed of it, which is important...

Is there a defining moment, or are there any defining films that made you want to be a filmmaker?
I remember one of the first film projects I worked on at school, having a vision in my mind of what I wanted to achieve and chasing that. Once it all came together I got a buzz that I'd never experienced working on anything else. At that point a teacher/mentor of mine told me he thought it was very good and hearing that gave me a belief in my ambitions. I haven't looked back since.

You've worked for clients as varied as Amazon, Adidas and the Tate. What's the most surprisingly enjoyable thing about working with such huge companies?
I think the most surprisingly enjoyable thing about working with big clients is that at its core it's no different than smaller clients. It's always about the idea and executing that to it Oaxaca Film Festival s maximum potential. Those companies are really interested in exploring the possibilities of what can be achieved, about being passionate about what they do and not settling and I think that's key to their success.

Even though SexLife is a short film, you also recently directed a feature, Dead Cat. What are the differences, if there are any, between the way you prepare for a feature versus a short?
I think fundamentally the preparation for the project/material in terms of its content is the same. The difference is the level of logistical organisation and the pressure on you to deliver. There's a much higher investment in time/finance/skills and I think people have bigger expectations for a feature film, and so you have to deal with delivering that. But the positive is the length of the project also gives you a wonderful opportunity to find a filmmaking rhythm, which is more difficult to find on a short.

What advice would you give to any young filmmakers trying to get noticed in the current climate?
The advice I try to follow is to keep putting yourself in a position to make things. Everything is there for filmmakers to go out and tell their stories; I've found that what works best in the industry is a completed project, a tangible, visual product that best expresses your filmmaking voice. Keep trying to show audiences what you believe makes you special and different from every other filmmaker.
 
Is there any chance you can tell us what you're working on currently? Just so we can start getting properly excited!
I'm currently writing and developing a comedy/drama TV series with my co-writer Sam Bern, that's an extension of the themes and characters from our feature film Dead Cat. I have a short film called Guide Me Home that I'm excited about and looking to be the next film I direct. I'll then concentrate wholeheartedly on my next feature. I’m writing the script at the moment, and I can’t wait to make it.

Our 2015 Interviewees Favourite Christmas Films

How better to mark the occasion, then, asking all of our past interviewees about their favourite Yuletide flicks? Read on to find out which films our Bright Young Things are going to be returning to this Christmas...

Mat Kirkby: My favourite Christmas film is Roadhouse. Not because it’s set at Christmas time. And not because it’s ever on at Christmas. There’s not even any snow in it. It’s because it’s awesome. Patrick Swayze pulls a man’s heart out right through his chest.

Stefan Georgiou: My favourite Christmas film is It's a Wonderful Life. For me it's perfection. However, assuming someone else will put that forward I'm going to say Bad Santa. Its twisted world outlook certainly makes it not a film for everyone, but I think it's uncompromisingly hilarious, and it always manages to move me. It presents a Christmas story with values in a unique way, plus it has one of the all-time best child performances in it. 

Nick Weiss: Bad Santa. Christmas cheer + a womanizing, thieving, pants-urinating jerk in a Santa costume = good comedy.

Penny Lane: I would nominate Emmett Otter's Jug Band Christmas. A little-known early 1980s made-for-TV Jim Henson Christmas movie culminating in a battle of the bands, it has the most amazing soundtrack, including a badass heavy metal act called The River Bottom Nightmare Band. I know all the songs by heart!

Jack Wylson: I hope a short film counts because my favourite would be The Snowman. Seeing it at Christmas still has a magic and a sadness to it—even now—and the score instantly brings back so many memories. It's a very nostalgic film for me.
 
Abbie Lucas: 
Perhaps it's a cliche, but my favourite Christmas film has to be It's a Wonderful Life. I love it because the themes of the film are so complex and bittersweet and relatable, you are completely invested in George's life. I once went to see it at the Curzon as part of a Christmas outing for a production company I used to work for; the entire audience was tear streaked when the lights went up... Except for our producer, who was then jokingly berated for having no heart.

The BYT Interview: Tina Brown

Few names today are as respected in the world of publishing as Tina Brown's. Taking the helm of Tatler Magazine at 25, Brown went on to serve as Editor-in-Chief of both Vanity Fair and the New Yorker during the 1980s and 1990s, reviving both titles and recasting them into the formats that they continue to embody today.

      Now in its seventh year, Brown's organisation, Women In The World, promotes women's issues with the help of some of the world's most powerful female leaders. Click her to lear more about Tina's  next Summit 

A simple question to start: what does Women In The World hope to accomplish?
Women in the World is a live journalism summit, which I started in 2009 after meeting the incredible women from emerging countries who were fighting on the front lines for their basic rights. Their courage and gusto was so impressive we wanted to bring them to a wider audience. The idea is to combine on stage these unknown heroines with celebrated women everyone has heard of and command attention to bring them the spotlight they deserve. For instance Hillary Clinton, Angelina Jolie and Meryl Streep, who have all joined us many times. But also, the women rescuing girls from sex trafficking in India, the brave Yazidi women working in the refugee camps in Iraq, the young North Korean girl who escaped by walking across the Gobi desert with her mother. From the first year, it became clear how much energy and momentum the summit was generating and that we had stumbled on a rising global women's movement with extraordinary, inspiring voices taking action to change their lives and cultures.
      But what actually happened was something I didn’t expect, was that the women in America who watched them became reignited in their own feminism. It was like “wait a minute we’ve forgotten here about what still needs to be done.” I actually think that the global women’s movement has helped to re-ignite women’s movements in the West. I feel a rising excitement about it in England, where young women especially find activism on behalf of women cool and courageous.
 
You’ve stated, about Women In The World, that "we read the headlines in the news, but we seldom get to hear individual stories". Are there any films about women's individual struggles that have particularly moved you recently? We’re excited to see that you’re spotlighting Suffragette at your London summit. 
Yes, Suffragette is absolutely inspiring. Another inspiring film about women is Saving Face, the incredible Oscar-winning documentary by Pakistani journalist Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, that follows two women in Pakistan who were victims of acid attacks and their journey through healing and finding justice. The new film about Malala, is another that makes you leave the cinema so humbled by her incredible courage.

The London summit will be taking place in early October, featuring the likes of Meryl Streep, Nicola Sturgeon, Carrie Mulligan and countless others. Do you find that the tone of the summits differs across countries?
Very much so. The important thing is to feel the pulse of the city that you’re in. For us to come to London without bringing stories of the Syrian refugees pouring into Europe would be unthinkable. At the same time, Cara Delevingne is a young woman who is a role model to millions of followers, so she will be joining us too. Similarly in India, the question of work life balance and how a woman strives with the difficulties of leaving the old traditions for the modernity of independence is a major topic and so that’s something we will for sure cover when bringing the summit to New Delhi on Nov 20.
 
Amy Pascal famously opened up about her experiences at Sony at a WITW summit. Do you feel that these summits offer a venue for women to be more candid than they perhaps would be during interviews with mainstream media?
Absolutely, women feel in the right setting to speak the truth about themselves at our summit because they know they will be heard and appreciated in ways they cannot be elsewhere. Amy was so candid because she felt safe and as a result she got a great reception. We have had similar experiences with Hillary Clinton and Christine Lagarde in conversation together, and Condoleezza Rice who spoke so movingly about the death of her father at one of our summits, a side of her we had not seen before when she was in politics.
       The London summit has really amazing, inspiring women, and plenty of great young role models too, such as Sonita Alizadeh, an 18-year-old Afghan Rapper who escaped child marriage and wrote a song about her experience and Abibatu, a teenage girl from Sierra Leone who survived Ebola, but lost her father and brother to the disease. She now devotes her time tending to homeless children orphaned by the Ebola virus.

BYT Spotlights: London's Best Coffee Stops

BYT Spotlights: London's Best Coffee Stops

The Little One
115 Regent's Park Road, NW1
Be sure to head over to Primrose Hill for this cafe's consistently delicious coffee, freshly made muffins and crepes, making it a weekend must!

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Raw Press
32 Dover St, London W1
Why come? For the best almond cappuccino in town! Abbey and the crew deliver the friendliest service; they also serve up a mean vegan lunch.

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Kaffeine
66 Great Titchfield St, W1
This well-established specialty shop has an impressive range of coffee from different provenances—don't miss their amazing banana bread with melted butter.

The BYT Interview: Eve Gabereau

Eve Gabereau is a film producer and the Managing Director and co-founder of independent distribution company Soda Pictures. Since its inception in 2002, the company has grown to boast a collection of more than 100 films, many of which have won strings of high-profile awards. Prior to starting Soda, Gabereau worked in film journalism.

Would you say there are any recurring themes within the films Soda distributes each year?There seem to be natural cycles of themes that we notice in festival programmes and films being made around the same time. I'm never sure if this is symbiosis or coincidence but it's always interesting to reflect on and participate in it. One drawback is that there isn't always room in the distribution marketplace for multiple films around the same themes to be released. But, we don't really look for specific themes, we look for originality, bravery and intrigue from all corners of the world and walks of life.

You've also worked as a producer. Has producing taught you any particular skills that you've carried over to distributing, or vice-versa?
Production and distribution are natural friends in the film value chain and constantly inform each other. Most of my production work has been in association with very skilled and experienced producers who come to me for a distribution partnership first. If it makes sense for us to get on-board early then we tend to play an Executive Producer role, helping raise the last of the finance and having an input on casting and the editing process. We don’t tend to get involved on the physical production side. That said, we now have a parent company who are a strong production house so we plan to expand our remit in this area. This past year, I produced an artist feature project that was shot in Paris, São Paulo and Toronto and it had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. It is niche, but it is beautiful and a true test of the senses—it is an homage to the City Symphony films of the 1920s. I am extremely proud of this work. I also co-produced an adaptation of the cult novel Remainder by Man Booker Prize nominee Tom McCarthy, directed by Omer Fast and starring Tom Sturridge. On the complete other end of the spectrum, our parent company, Thunderbird Films, are Executive Producing the upcoming Blade Runner sequel to be directed by Denis Villeneuve and star Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford. Now, that’s exciting!


Soda collaborated with Somerset House Summer Screen to premiere Gemma Bovery this summer. Are there any other great film events in the capital that you’d recommend to London cinephiles?
The Summer Screen season at Somerset House is a truly visionary event—it brings people together in the most incredible setting, in August when the weather should be good, to watch films on a huge screen outside. And because it is run by Film4, the marketing, and therefore turn-out, is phenomenal. Besides big ticket film events like Secret Cinema and the BFI London Film Festival, I recommend film screenings with talks because the viewing experience is much richer when you get to hear more about the where, how, when, why it was made. Anecdotes bring a lot to one’s cinema knowledge and understanding, and are fun to listen to and reflect on. Picturehouse, Curzon and the Everyman Group all put together a great, diverse programme of films and Q&As. I love what is now called “event cinema” and think there is much scope in this area.

Where does the name "Soda" come from?
Flashback to 2002. The name Soda first comes from a book called Color and Meaning, which my business partner Edward Fletcher and I were flipping through in hopes of finding our company name. We wrote down endless colour names and words related to colour theory, mostly they were rather esoteric given the book’s sub-title is Art, Science and Symbolism. I being Canadian misheard Edward say “Solar Orange” as “Soda Orange” so I ended writing them both down on our brainstorming list. I speak Japanese and suddenly had a revelation that “So-da” means “That’s it” or “That’s right” so we dropped the Orange, added Pictures, registered the URL and the name was born!

How did you meet your co-founder, Edward Fletcher?
We met when I was programming for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and Edward was working in distribution at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA). I needed to watch a few films they had in their line-up so I contacted him. After that, we got talking and found we had a lot of shared favourites and influences and became quick friends. It seemed like forever that we talked about setting up a company together, but in reality it was only about a year. Our first film was the French-Chinese adaptation Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, which we saw in Cannes a few months prior to setting up the company but felt it was the right one for us to start with. 
             Thirteen years later, Edward and I have realised that we have more differences than similarities and that this is what has strengthened our business relationship and kept us going and growing. We now have 15 full-time staff, 300 films in our library and an office dog. Oh, and last year we merged with the film and television media group Thunderbird Films and are now taking the company to a new phase of increased budgets in terms of acquisitions and releasing—and territories we cover which now includes the UK, Ireland and Canada. It’s a great time for us personally and for Soda.


You can learn more about Soda Pictures' current projects by visiting their website, here.

The BYT Interview: Nick Weiss

The BYT Interview: Nick Weiss

Nick Weiss is an up-and-coming writer and director, currently working with ABC Studios. Nick is best-known for directing Senior Skip Day (2008), and for both writing and directing his latest film Drunk Wedding, released this summer by Paramount Pictures. 

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Despite it being a comedy, there are a lot of truly heartfelt moments in Drunk Wedding. Was it difficult to decide when to bring those moments out?
From the start we wanted the movie to balance big laughs with authenticity and connection between the characters. I think it's less about trying to put heartfelt moments into the movie, and more about creating authentic characters who genuinely care about each other and putting them in some tough spots, and hopefully some real emotion comes out of that. I think if you try to force a "heartfelt moment" into a movie for its own sake, it can feel forced or cheesy or phoney.

Did the inspiration for any of these characters come from your own peer group?
Honestly, a lot of it came from the actors themselves. We started with characters and situations we thought would be funny, but once we found these actors we loved, we rewrote the characters to take advantage of who they were and what they had to offer. It was very collaborative and gratifying. Casting is really the most crucial part of the process. When you have a talented actor who's right for a role, they're a gift that keeps on giving in every take in every scene. Conversely, when you have the wrong person in a role (something, thank god, that didn't happen in this movie), there's often nothing you can say as a director to get the performance you need. You live and die by your casting choices. This was a really talented bunch.
 
Do you think having a relatively small budget helped at all? For example, did it make certain decisions easier?
It certainly simplifies a lot of things. You need to be very clear in your head about what's important and what's minor, because both your money and your time are so precious. You stay focused on what you're confident will be in the final cut, and will matter in the final cut. That's a good clarifying force.
 
The film has, of course, drawn many comparisons with the Hangover series. Were there any decisions that you made to try and differentiate your film from that? 
At the time that we started working on the film, the idea of using found footage in a comedy was pretty fresh. It had been done famously in a few horror movies (and has now been used so much in horror it's probably just about run its course), but we thought bringing the immediacy and sense of reality of found footage to a raunchy comedy could support the laughs in a cool way by heightening the sense that this was actually happening. Judd Apatow's comedies, especially The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up ushered in an era of grounded comedies that felt more real. We felt like found footage could be a way to take that even further.
 

Was the New York Times article (chronicling the film’s distribution struggles) vindicating for you at all?
It was nice to get the exposure, and I hope interesting for people to read about some of the ins and outs of the movie biz. Also, my wife liked the picture of me, so that was a big win.
 
If I’m not mistaken, you're now working with ABC Studios. Are there any specific projects you can tell us about so that we can start getting excited?
It's really hilarious to have just done this filthy R-rated movie and now be working with a network dedicated to relatively wholesome family comedies. It's a testament to how awesome ABC is for seeing something in my work they want to bring into their brand.