The B-Roll

Love her or hate her, it’s hard to deny that Lena Dunham has gone from art world progeny to entertainment force, in no small part because of the very festival she spoke at today. The creator of HBO’s Girls delivered an inspiring (and slightly self-deprecating) address aimed at encouraging new storytellers to keep going. Recounting her path through an initial South By rejection, later acceptance to the festival, and then on to HBO, the 28-year-old writer was quick to highlight her early career missteps, describing her initial work as “about as watchable as public access minus the jazzy graphics.”

Dunham’s turning point came the second time she submitted her hour-long film, Creative Nonfiction, to the festival. While screening in Austin for the first time, Dunham saw “all these low-budget filmmakers with a level of craft and style that I didn’t really know was possible given the constraint of making small movies. I suddenly realized that lack of budget was no longer an excuse not to hone your skills as a filmmaker.” 

Dunham also adamantly pushed creators in the audience to get to work.

Don’t wait around for someone else to tell your story,” she said. “Do it yourself by whatever means necessary. … Tell the story that only you know because it makes the world feel smaller, it draws people to you, and I think it connects you in mystical ways.”

Nicolas Cage

But the learning never stops, at least according to Nicolas Cage. In a panel with Joe director David Gordon Green, the actor waxed philosophic about pushing yourself to improve, even when it’s tempting to keep doing the same work.

I try to pick and choose my material based on what can I do, where I can challenge myself and I can make myself uncomfortable,” Cage said. “That way, hopefully, [I can] always stay a student, never be a maestro. Always have the mind of a student and try to learn something.”

Cage delved into the perils of fame in the digital age, his position as king of the memes and his rejected request to add a scene in which his Joe character plays the pan flute naked. Undoubtedly, the most interesting point in the panel came from a fan. When one woman openly discussed a DUI she got last year and asked Cage about how he’s overcome his own mistakes, Cage openly discussed his own arrest while filming Bad Lieutenant in 2011.

You’ve got to be an alchemist, and by alchemist, I mean you’ve got to turn the lead into gold,” Cage stated, adding that his arrest helped him better understand his ex-con character in Joe. “It’s a life experience that’s going to deepen the way you receive the people around you in the world.”

Pete Holmes

Embrace the mistakes was also the theme for The Pete Holmes Show crew, who gave an insider’s look into the comedian’s TBS series.

Everybody else can have the perfect show. We want you to see the show as it is, as f’ed up and multi-layered and flawed as it is,” said comedian Pete Holmes, who was joined by head writer Karen Kilgariff and executive producers Oren Brimer and Nick Bernstein. “It doesn’t really interest me to be a perfect host with vaseline teeth. … I’m not the smartest guy or the perfect person. Let’s see what happens when that’s let loose.”

It’s a creative decision that both engages audiences and helps differentiate the show in a sea of steep late-night competition. Focusing on producing intimate, oftentimes straight-up bizarre interviews a la Holmes’ You Made It Weird podcast is also part of the strategy. Holmes uses a number of tactics to ensure that guests feel comfortable enough to let loose, including skipping pre-interviews done on many late night shows, conducting the interview in a small room that can only accommodate a few people, and offering guests the ability to remove material they feel uncomfortable admitting to the public. Holmes is also quick to expose himself (metaphorically of course) in the process.

A lot of creativity, I think, is fueled by a strange, hard-to-pin-down guilty feeling,” Holmes said. “When I’m really hoping to connect is typically when I feel a little bit isolated. … If I’m trying to prove to somebody, as I often do on the podcast, that I insist I’m a good person even though I did this or did this or felt this or thought this, that gives it a good sort of kinetic energy. … People love sharing, especially if someone’s willing to reflect back to them that vulnerability.”

More SXSW goodies headed your way tomorrow. Stick with us here and on Twitter @GetInMedia for updates.

Mindy Kaling (left)Mindy Kaling (left)Any day that kicks off with a strong dose of Mindy Kaling is bound to be good. In a panel hosted by Marie Claire, the writer/actress/showrunner of FOX’s The Mindy Project touched on increasing diversity in television, the show’s “gentle and loving” writers room, and creating endearing characters. When asked about how Kaling is as a boss, show regular Ike Barinholtz jokingly stated that she’s “like Kim Jong-Un. She rules with an iron fist, but sometimes in that fist is a rose.”

There’s no doubt that Kaling has to get things done. The series was recently renewed for a third season and in between shooting, Kaling is also working on a follow-up to her best-selling book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns). As is the case with any woman who’s successful in Hollywood, the panel also included an onslaught of questions about whether she struggles as a woman and minority in a television landscape dominated by white men. The solution, she says, is to keep achieving and try to ignore the meta-commentary about what it all means.

One of the things that’s been helpful to me is that I try not to think too much about the fact that I’m Indian-American,” she said. “I can’t think about my legacy too much because it’s not productive. … You can get so hung up on being like ‘Am I the victim in this situation?’” Besides, Kaling added later, “no one asks [male showrunners] why they don’t have women or people of color on their shows.”

From there we slipped by the Gaming Expo to catch the live action Mario Kart race going on outside, as well as some exclusive footage from the Kickstarter-funded documentary, Video Games: The Movie. Backed by Garden State director Zach Braff and narrated by Sean Astin, the actor best known for his role as Samwise Gamgee in the Lord of the Rings series, the film chronicles the history of gaming from its early days at MIT through now and includes in-depth interviews with industry legends including Atari founder Nolan Bushnell.

Of course AAA studios like Marvel sit at the forefront of high-budget gaming today. Marvel’s next major gaming endeavor is a tie-in with their upcoming film, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, due to hit theaters April 4th. The comic behemoth unveiled their revamped augmented reality app and debuted exclusive clips from the movie—hint: there’s a boatload of action and enough familiar faces from the S.H.I.E.L.D. universe to make the film feel like a family reunion. As far as the game, TQ Jefferson, Marvel’s head of gaming, told Get In Media that one of the secrets to creating a game spin-off of a film is keeping the storylines separate.

It’s just my own personal belief and experience that a ‘movie-based game’ should never be about the movie. It should always be its own thing,” he said. “You avoid a lot of those landmines of [the film side saying] ‘Oh, we rewrote the third act.’ … We dodge a lot of bullets by going the route of original storytelling.”

Speaking of original storytelling, we also caught up with Juan Antonio Bayona, director of the 2012 film The Impossible. Bayona is showing his directing prowess at SXSW with the debut of Penny Dreadful, an upcoming Showtime horror series for which he directed the first two episodes. Combining classic horror creatures like Dracula, Frankenstein, and Dorian Gray, Penny Dreadful won’t officially hit the airwaves until May, but South Byers got a sneak peek at the mish-mash of monsters to come.

We decided to go back to the original, to the books, and try not to create something new, but  something respectful and truthful to the soul of these characters,” Bayona said in a one-on-one interview. “These characters have been done so many times that somehow they had lost their original souls.”

Fresh characters are the theme of the day tomorrow when we hit up talks by Lena Dunham and more. Stick with us for our continuing South By Southwest 2014 coverage.

Neil DeGrasse TysonNeil DeGrasse TysonRain may have shut down the Super Mario Kart racetrack outside the SXSW Gaming Expo, but it didn’t stop anyone else. The second SXSW day was packed with more panels, demos, and a flurry of people rushing to events.

For us, the day started in space with a joint panel led by NASA and Kerbal Space Program. Sidenote: If you haven’t strengthened your science skills by playing Kerbal yet, head to Steam and do so right now. The game has oh-so-rightly garnered praise from gamers and astrophysicists alike for its nearly spot-on aerodynamics and space simulations. And that won’t stop any time soon. Today NASA and members of Kerbal development firm Squad unveiled first glimpses of the game’s new Asteroid Redirect Mission, which is based on NASA’s endeavor of the same name. Implementing virtual versions of real rockets and space equipment, the new mission is designed to strengthen the game’s educational and practical components and to help NASA reach a wider audience.

It’s really about being able to communicate as broadly [as possible] what’s really going on out there,” said Jason Kessler, NASA’s Asteroid Grand Challenge program executive.

Kerbal panel

Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson is working on that too. With the launch, or rather re-launch, of the educational series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Tyson and the FOX team are also seeking to bring STEM lessons to a broader audience.

There’s a hunger out there. There is an appetite that has not been filled,” Tyson said in a keynote address just hours before the series premiered yesterday. “Cosmos is landing on fertile ground because science is becoming mainstream.”

Tyson’s address enthusiastically touched on everything from exobiology to the Tooth Fairy, but the real heart of both the speech and the show lies in helping everyone question and explore their own world.

On lighter note, the Inside Late Night With Seth Meyers panel immediately following Tyson focused largely on Meyers’ transition from Saturday Night Live to his new series, but also included some savvy advice for aspiring comedy writers.

When you’re starting, when you’re young, that is the perfect age to fail all the time. You learn so much from your failures,” Meyers said. “Even now, I’m very happy to say that the last sketch I wrote at SNLplayed to silence. I’ve been here 12 and a half years. I’ve probably written 1,000 sketches and my last one is a total zero. … Perfection is a crazy idea, but the thing that’s important is improvement.”

The material that new writers put on social media is vital too. When hiring new writers, show reps first read through the jokes in a candidate’s submission packet, then read several months of their Tweets to see if they’re consistently funny.

Maybe the ten jokes they sent in as a submission are the best jokes they’ve had in the last ten years,” Meyers said. “You can see how prolific they are.”

Seth Meyers

The panels wrapped with a joint session by Gearbox Software and Telltale Games as they debuted new material from their upcoming episodic game series, Tales from the Borderlands. In perfect Pandoran style, the game stars a cyborg and a con artist and will require players to piece together a truthful narrative from two untruthful perspectives. Incorporating classic Borderlands characters, including Claptrap and (plot twist!) Handsome Jack, the game will balance comedy and wackiness with darker back stories. Like previous Borderlands games, the choices Tales players make impact how the game pans out. When asked how the development studios created the turning point choices in the game, Telltale designer Harrison Pink said it largely relied on finding scenarios that could passionately divide opinions amongst developers.

If one person in the room is like, ‘No way. There is no way I would ever do that’ and there’s someone else who says the opposite … write that down. That’s a great choice,” he said.

Stay tuned for more continuing coverage of South By Southwest 2014.

Virtual reality with Oculus RiftVirtual reality with Oculus RiftSouth By Southwest opened today with a bang as movers and shakers from across the gaming, digital, film, and tech communities gathered to strut their stuff. For us, it meant heading straight to the Palmer Event Center to check out the delightfully free-to-the-public Gaming Expo, which included playable demos of everything from World of Warplanes to That Dragon, Cancer. In between snagging as many sessions as possible on the Oculus Rift-rigged virtual reality bike, we hit up Casey Lynch’s (former Editor-in-Chief of IGN) and John Davison’s (Red Robot Labs Director of Content and Publishing) panel on AAA versus indie games. For indie fans, the good news is that there’s a lot more space on the  market for new, experimental games. The bad news is that the rules for making your game a success are changing.

With smaller games, it really comes down to grassroots activity,” said Lynch. “The really smart, active indie people are out at events.” They also have Twitch channels, an active Twitter presence, and transparency about their development process he said.

Davison added that success in the new era is also about identifying who your paying customers are. Statistically, 0.1 percent of paying customers for freemium games generate about half of the game’s revenue.

Steve Perkins (center)Steve Perkins (center)

Bethesda Softworks also led a panel on creating the distinct auditory universe of their upcoming reboot of the classic Wolfenstein series. Launching May 20, the much-anticipated Wolfenstein: The New Order takes place in an alternate universe where the Nazis have won World War II and will include a context-accurate soundtrack.

We started thinking about what would popular music sound like if the Nazis did win,” said Bethesda Director of Global Marketing, Steve Perkins. “If they started co-opting [music] for their own uses, what would popular music sound like?”

Judging from the samples we heard, it will sound like a mish-mash of hit songs from the 1960s with somber undertones of racial cleansing and propaganda mixed in. You can check out a bootlegged clip right over here.

Having distinct music isn’t enough. To really fill out the new Wolfenstein universe, the Bethesda crew created fake bios for the soundtrack artists, launched a fake record label, created infomercials for said label, and plan to throw a 1960s record release party at PAX East in Boston this coming April.

With strong innovation came drawbacks, warned Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson in an interview with Fast Company’s Noah Robischon later in the day.

I want to work for a company that pushes the boundaries day in and day out,” Wilson said, “but the reality is that you’re going to get some things wrong if you do that.”

Wilson addressed qualms critics have with the Battlefield series and put in a few plugs for Dragon Age: Inquisition, a new trailer for which was recently released, but the real meat of the interview came when Robischon asked about how EA would continue to attract talent in an age where developers can crowdfund their own projects.

Money isn’t what makes a great game. Being surround by creative people who challenge you makes a great game,” Wilson said.

Josh Larson is proof that you don’t need a major game studio to do that. Larson is the co-creator of That Dragon, Cancer, an Ouya game based on the true experiences of Ryan Green and his son’s battle with pediatric cancer. The game puts players into scenarios Green and his wife faced, like listening to doctors give the devastating news that their son is terminal, all while hearing the couple’s heartrending inner monologues.

Larson stated that the game was “ultimately about hope,” adding, “the battle that’s taking place is an emotional and spiritual battle.”

It’s not clear whether the game is truly “great,” but it is undoubtedly innovative and ripe with potential. We hope to see more projects of the same caliber tomorrow.

At a SXSW panel today on music in video game marketing, Steve Perkins, director of global marketing for Bethesda Softworks, premiered new music from Wolfenstein: The New Order. On selecting the soundtrack, he had this to say: “We started thinking about what would popular music sound like if the Nazis did win. … If they started co-opting it for their own uses, what would popular music sound like?” He goes on to warn, “Basically, with this trailer, we want to get you pissed off. … We want to get you ready to kill some Nazis with some big heavy guns.” 

We’ve got an exclusive listen to one of the new tracks:

South By Southwest is underway in Austin, Texas, and we’re bringing you bite-sized nuggets of information and advice from this year’s festival. Check back often, as we will update throughout the week. You can also watch the SXSW official live stream online

March 7, 2014

If you’re thinking about making your game free to play, it pays to identify your pay audience fast, says John Davison of Red Robot Labs, maker of the MMO Life is Crime, which has been downloaded by over 4 million users. “0.1 percent of an audience for a free to play game is responsible for 50 percent of the revenue,” he says.  

Game developers don’t necessarily need tons of press, but they do need a strong online presence, says Casey Lynch, former editor-in-chief of IGN. “Developers have realized, ‘Hey, we can go out and control the message,’” he says. “We can [use] Twitch, use Twitter, stream stuff and we don’t necessarily need press.”

Steve Perkins, director of global marketing for Bethesda Softworks, on the music in the upcoming Wolfenstein reboot: “We started thinking about what would popular music sound like if the Nazis did win. … If they started co-opting it for their own uses, what would popular music sound like?” He goes on to warn, “Basically, with this trailer, we want to get you pissed off. … We want to get you ready to kill some Nazis with some big heavy guns.”

Click here to listen to a new track from Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Related: An interview with Wolfenstein 3D creator John Romero

March 8, 2014

Neil deGrasse Tyson was at SXSW to deliver a keynote address and promote Cosmos, the FOX reboot of the Carl Sagan series. Ahead of the festival premier, he laid down some science with a dash of charm: “The dinosaurs didn’t have opposable thumbs. They didn’t have a space program. I’d like to think that if they did, they would have deflected that asteroid. … Space can render us extinct. The universe is one of the greatest killer of life.”

What is the most frustratingly misunderstood scientific fact? According to Tyson, “There are so many to choose from. … People think that it’s summertime because the Earth is closer to the sun. They’re not thinking that in Australia, it’s their winter and they’re as close to the sun as you. People don’t think that through. … I got another one. It’s darkest before dawn. No, it’s not! … I’m sorry, it’s false. What goes up must come down? No, you’re just not throwing it hard enough. If you throw that sucker hard enough, it’s going to go to the edge of the atmosphere and it’s gone.”

Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Designers from Telltale Games and Gearbox offered a tease of Tales From the Borderlands, including screenshots from the game and a first look at characters. When asked how the development studios created the turning point choices in the game, Telltale designer Harrison Pink said it largely relied on finding scenarios that could passionately divide opinions amongst developers. “If one person in the room is like, ‘No way. There is no way I would ever do that’ and there’s someone else who says the opposite … write that down. That’s a great choice,” he said.

"Tales from the Borderlands" screenshot

March 10, 2014

Coming off her hosting gig on Saturday Night Live, Lena Dunham returned to SXSW to deliver a keynote address aimed at promoting women in film and television, but also encouraging young artists to stay the path.

“Don’t wait around for someone else to tell your story,” she said. “Do it yourself by whatever means necessary. … Tell the story that only you know because it makes the world feel smaller, it draws people to you, and I think it connects you in mystical ways.”

Dunham’s first film, Creative Nonfiction, was made with $5,000 of babysitting money and was “promptly rejected” from South By Southwest. Charmingly, she admitted her first submission to the festival was “about as watchable as public access minus the jazzy graphics.” 

Her 60-minute short was finally accepted in 2009, and Dunham recalled “all these low-budget filmmakers with a level of craft and style that I didn’t really know was possible given the constraint of making small movies. I suddenly realized that lack of budget was no longer an excuse not to hone your skills as a filmmaker.”

March 11, 2014

Kim Sherman, producer of You’re Next and V/H/S, appeared on the “How NOT to Produce Movies” panel at SXSW today. While warning aspiring filmmakers about the perils and pitfalls of poor production, Sherman shared that finding the cash for a horror flick is less a teeth-pulling endeavor. “I don’t know if you know this, but horror movies are easier to finance than just about anything else. People love horror movies.”

March 12, 2014

What’s the best way to get your music into film trailers? Sign on with a third-party company, says Toddrick Spalding, director of music at Trailer Park. Artists have a much better shot of getting into trailers if they’re pitched by companies the trailer house already trusts.

Pop music, orchestral pieces, covers and remixes are hot in trailers right now, but trends shouldn’t define your music. “If you do hear a trend, write a few cues that are like that, but don’t write 100,” says Natalie Baartz, music director at Ignition Creative.

Sean "Diddy" Combs

Sean “Diddy” Combs took the stage at the Austin Convention Center for an interview hosted by Forbes senior editor Zach Greenburg to discuss Revolt and his long career as an entertainment mogul. Despite his elevated status, Diddy insists that he sees himself as a relatable figure for the younger generation. “I like to say that I specialize in millennials or I specialize in youth culture. … I call myself a curator of cool.”

The thing that’s real about me and the thing that I hope inspires people is I come from a neighborhood that you can relate to,” Diddy said. “I come from a type of personality that you could relate to. I’ve always been an introvert in an extravert’s body.”

Greenburg countered that everyone can’t have a fashion label or their own vodka, but Diddy jumped in, “That’s a thing that people put in people’s heads … that I am doing something that’s special. I think I’m doing a good job, but what I’m doing you could do too, you just have to work as hard as me and believe as hard as I believe.”

On the evolution of the music industry and indie artists, Diddy admitted that the landscape has changed and so must the Old Guard. 

The days of major labels and the days of the regular type of traditional marketing, those days of the traditional type of distribution and the power you may have as an executive in any of these forms, whether it’s advertising companies or it’s tech companies or music companies or even films, your time is ticking unless you embrace and align yourself with the independent movement.”

So what is Diddy looking for when he recruits new members into his empire? “I’m looking for a certain level of passion that’s unique. I’m looking for people that are smart and people that are fearless in the sense of they have an idea of what it’s going to take for us to accomplish our goal.”

The highlight of the talk, at least for one lucky attendee, came when Diddy invited an audience member to take him out to lunch after having a member of his team evaluate her project on the spot. There’s certainly something to be said for taking initiative and being fearless in the face of your idol.

March 13, 2014

The focus turned to music today, with industry descion-makers doling out advice to artists clawing their way to popularity.

On Getting Noticed:

You have to be a badass at what you do. Cream rises. … You need to either be so amazing that you cut through everything or you need to align yourself with good companies and good people who can help you reach people like me,” says Eric David Johnson, executive producer of Search Party.

When I’m listening to something, I’ve got about 15 seconds and I move on. I’ve got a really short attention span,” David Shing, AOL’s “Digital Prophet,” on how long bands have to capture audience attention.

On Touring:

The best way to tour is to start cheap, says Randy Nichols, who has managed Bayside, The Starting Line, and Say Anything. “Stay with friends, build a network of people in different cities and crash on their floor. … You don’t need to be in a hotel until you can afford to be in a hotel.”

Those services that buy you “likes” and plays on social media? They don’t work, says Nichols. “If I see a whole bunch of likes but no activity on [a band’s] page, I automatically go, ‘This is a band that’s lying and cheating.’ … If you have a million plays on SoundCloud and not one comment? Your plays were bought.”

Do your due diligence and research and see bands that are pulling 200, 300 tickets a night and do a mini-tour with them… those strategic alliances are super, super important,” Victoria Camera, VP of music industry relations for ReverbNation. 

The strongest and most important thing you can do, especially if you’re trying to break into a new city, is network with other bands,” Peter Sotos, owner of Epic Proportions Tour LLC.

IGN reported on Tuesday that Amy Hennig, creative director and writer of the Uncharted series, left Naughty Dog on March 3. Sony later confirmed the news in a comment to IGN.

“We can confirm that Amy Hennig has left Naughty Dog,” Sony told IGN. “Amy has made significant contributions to the game industry and we appreciate all she has done for Naughty Dog. The development timeline of Uncharted will not be impacted.”

The initial report pointed the finger at Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley and stated that sources claimed Hennig was “forced out” by the Last of Us developers.

Today, Naughty Dog released a statement answering the rumors. Here’s the full text:

Earlier this week we had to confirm the regrettable news that Amy Hennig has left Naughty Dog.  She will be missed and, as we stated before, we appreciate the significant contributions that she has made to Naughty Dog and the industry in general.  We wish her the best.

However, we feel it necessary to clear up a very important point that was unprofessionally misreported when the story broke.  Bruce Straley and Neil Druckmann were NOT involved in what transpired.  It was very upsetting to us that dozens of stories were run, linking back to the same hurtful accusations in the original report.  As co-presidents of Naughty Dog, we are responsible for all studio affairs.

Normally, we wouldn’t respond to rumors and speculation on matters that are internal to Naughty Dog, but because the personal reputation of two of our employees is being damaged we needed to set the record straight.  There is nothing left to be said on this subject.  Now we’re going back to what we should be focused on – making games.

Evan Wells and Christophe Balestra

Naughty dog screen cap

Johnny Vy / ©A.M.P.A.S.Johnny Vy / ©A.M.P.A.S.Seconds after Jamie Foxx and Jessica Biel presented the Oscar for Best Original Song to Robert Lopez and his wife, Kristen Anderson, a curious acronym likely popped up in your Twitter feed.

Vulture tweet

EW tweet

Last night, Lopez became one of only 12 people to earn a competitive Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award. Not only is he the youngest to have clenched the EGOT, he did so in record time.

His road to joining the exclusive club began in 2004 with the Tony for Best Original Score for Avenue Q, the show he premiered Off-Broadway with creative partner Jeff Marx. Lopez scored a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction and Composition for Wonder Pets in 2008 and again two years later. 2011 was the year of Book of Mormon, for which Lopez took home Tony Awards for Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score for the show he developed with South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker. Book of Mormon’s original cast recording also won Lopez the Best Music Theater Album Grammy in 2012.

So what do you do when you’ve reached the pinnacle of your field before the age of 40? Well, Lopez could aim for a Pulitzer Prize. Two EGOT members, Marvin Hamlisch and Rochard Rodgers, have achieved the honor. For now, Lopez and Anderson are developing Up Here, a new musical that he describes as “kind of like Annie Hall meets Cirque du Soleil. It’s a romantic comedy with a huge theatrical twist.”

See below for a list of other EGOT recipeints:

Richard Rodgers, composer 
Emmy: 1962 – Best Original Music, Composed, Winston Churchill: The Valiant Years
Grammy: 1960 – Best Show Album, The Sound of Music
Oscar: 1945 – Best Song, “It Might as Well Be Spring” 

Tony: 1950 – Best Musical, South Pacific

Helen Hayes, actress
Emmy: 1953 – Best Actress, Schlitz Playhouse of Stars
Grammy: 1977 – Best Spoken Word Recording, Great American Documents
Oscar: 1932 – Best Actress, The Sin of Madelon Claudet

Tony: 1947 – Best Actress, Drama, Happy Birthday

Rita Moreno, actress and singer
Emmy: 1977 – Best Supporting Actress in Variety or Music, The Muppet Show
Grammy: 1972 – Best Recording for Children, The Electric Company
Oscar: 1961 – Best Supporting Actress, West Side Story

Tony: 1975 – Best Supporting Actress in a Play, The Ritz

John Gielgud, actor and director
Emmy: 1991 – Best Actor in a Miniseries or Special, Summer’s Lease
Grammy: 1979 – Best Spoken Word, Documentary or Drama, Ages of Man
Oscar: 1981 – Best Supporting Actor, Arthur

Tony: 1948 – Best Foreign Company, The Importance of Being Earnest

Emmy: 1993 – Best Informational Programming, Gardens of the World with Audrey Hepburn
Grammy: 1994 – Best Spoken Word Album for Children, Audrey Hepburn’s Enchanted Tales
Oscar: 1953 – Best Actress, Roman Holiday

Tony: 1954 – Best Actress, Drama, Ondine

Marvin Hamlisch, composer and conductor
Emmy: 1995 – Best Music Direction, Barbra: The Concert
Grammy: 1973 – Song of the Year,  “The Way We Were”
Oscar: 1973 – Best Original Dramatic Score, The Way We Were

Tony: 1976 – Best Musical Score, A Chorus Line

Jonathan Tunick, composer and music director
Emmy: 1982 – Best Music Direction, Night of 100 Stars
Grammy: 1988 – Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocals, “No One Is Alone”
Oscar: 1977 – Best Original Score, A Little Night Music

Tony: 1997 – Best Orchestrations, Titanic

Mel Brooks, director, screenwriter, composer, lyricist, comedian, actor, producer
Emmy: 1967 – Best Writing, Variety, The Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris Special
Grammy: 1998 – Best Spoken Comedy Album, The 2000 Year Old Man in the Year 2000
Oscar: 1968 – Best Original Screenplay, The Producers

Tony: 2001 – Best Musical, The Producers

Mike Nichols, director, writer, producer, comedian
Emmy: 2001 – Best Directing for Miniseries, Movie or Special, Wit
Grammy: 1961 – Best Comedy Performance, An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May
Oscar: 1967 – Best Director, The Graduate

Tony: 1964 – Best Director, Drama, Barefoot in the Park

Whoopi Goldberg, actress, comedian, producer, director, writer
Emmy: 2002 – Best Special Class Special, Beyond Tara: The Extraordinary Life of Hattie McDaniel (Daytime Emmy)
Grammy: 1985 – Best Comedy Recording, Whoopi Goldberg
Oscar: 1990 – Best Supporting Actress, Ghost

Tony: 2002 – Best Musical, Thoroughly Modern Millie

Scott Rudin, producer
Emmy: 1984 – Best Children’s Program, He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin’
Grammy: 2012 – Best Musical Theater Album, The Book of Mormon
Oscar: 2007 – Best Picture, No Country for Old Men
Tony: 1994 – Best Musical, Passion

In the first feature film to include second screen content as part of the theatrical experience, App tells the story of Anna, a psychology student caring for her brother after he suffers a traumatic motorcycle accident, and the mysterious app that appears on her phone following a dorm party. IRIS is SIRI’s Bizzaro World counterpart, an evil and all-powerful consciousness with a hot temper. When the app begins meddling in Anna’s personal relationships—posting candid video online and sending disturbing photos to her friends—she tries to delete the creepy app. And like breaking up with a homicidal sociopath, IRIS doesn’t take too kindly to this.

As director Bobby Boermans told Indiewire, “The notion of technology taking control of our lives is a concept that has always fascinated me.”

The real-life IRIS app listens in during the movie and vibrates when additional content is available to view, timed to the action on screen. While use of the app isn’t necessary to follow the narrative, playing along is intended to enhance the story.

Here is the first trailer for the Dutch film, subtitled in English:

In a letter posted to the company’s website, Irrational Games co-founder Ken Levine announced that he is essentially dismantling the BioShock studio, stating that all but about 15 of the current staff are being laid off.

“I am winding down Irrational Games as you know it,” the letter reads. “I’ll be starting a smaller, more entrepreneurial endeavor at Take-Two.”

He goes on to say that his new creative passion is focused on a “different kind of game” from those in the Irrational archives, aimed at the core gamer.

The unedited letter is below: 

When Jon Chey, Rob Fermier and I founded Irrational Games seventeen years ago, our mission was to make visually unique worlds and populate them with singular characters.

We built Rapture and Columbia, the Von Braun and The Rickenbacker, the Freedom Fortress and some of the nastiest basements a SWAT team ever set foot into.  We created Booker and Elizabeth, the Big Daddy and the Little Sister, MidWives and ManBot. In that time, Irrational has grown larger and more successful than we could have conceived when we began our three-person studio in a living room in Cambridge, MA. It’s been the defining project of my professional life.

Now Irrational Games is about to roll out the last DLC for BioShock Infinite and people are understandably asking: What’s next?

Seventeen years is a long time to do any job, even the best one. And working with the incredible team at Irrational Games is indeed the best job I’ve ever had. While I’m deeply proud of what we’ve accomplished together, my passion has turned to making a different kind of game than we’ve done before. To meet the challenge ahead, I need to refocus my energy on a smaller team with a flatter structure and a more direct relationship with gamers.  In many ways, it will be a return to how we started: a small team making games for the core gaming audience.  

I am winding down Irrational Games as you know it. I’ll be starting a smaller, more entrepreneurial endeavor at Take-Two.  That is going to mean parting ways with all but about fifteen members of the Irrational team.   There’s no great way to lay people off, and our first concern is to make sure that the people who are leaving have as much support as we can give them during this transition. 

Besides financial support, the staff will have access to the studio for a period of time to say their goodbyes and put together their portfolios. Other Take-Two studios will be on hand to discuss opportunities within the company, and we’ll be hosting a recruiting day where we’ll be giving 3rd party studios and publishers a chance to hold interviews with departing Irrational staff.*

What’s next?

In time we will announce a new endeavor with a new goal: To make narrative-driven games for the core gamer that are highly replayable. To foster the most direct relationship with our fans possible, we will focus exclusively on content delivered digitally.

When I first contemplated what I wanted to do, it became very clear to me that we were going to need a long period of design. Initially, I thought the only way to build this venture was with a classical startup model, a risk I was prepared to take. But when I talked to Take-Two about the idea, they convinced me that there was no better place to pursue this new chapter than within their walls. After all, they’re the ones who believed in and supported BioShock in the first place.

Thanks to Irrational and 2K’s passion in developing the games, and the fans who believe in it, BioShock has generated retail revenues of over a half billion dollars and secured an iconic place in gaming. I’m handing the reins of our creation, the BioShock universe, to 2K so our new venture can focus entirely on replayable narrative. If we’re lucky, we’ll build something half as memorable as BioShock.

We do our best to update an FAQ in this space as questions come in.


-Ken Levine

*If you’re a 3rd party interested in interviewing some of the best game developers in the world, please contact


A Message From Ken Levine