Former “Lord of the Rings” star Viggo Mortensen has a very personal story to tell in his directorial debut.
The Watertown High School graduate writes, directs, produces, scores, and stars in “Falling” as John Peterson, who lives with his partner (Terry Chen) and their daughter (Gabby Velis) in California, far from the rural life he left behind at the family farm in Upstate New York. Worlds collide when John’s father Willis, struggling with dementia, comes to stay and refuses to change.
“Aliens” actor Lance Henriksen plays the older version of Willis, a codger who angrily calls his ex-wives “whores” and often makes homophobic comments in front of his gay son. Viggo lookalike Sverrir Gudnason, best known for playing tennis legend Bjorn Borg in “Borg vs. McEnroe,” plays the younger version of Willis, driving John’s mother away. Scenes flash back and forth between the past and present, to illustrate Willis’ struggles with memory and his many failed relationships.
The movie was largely shot in Ontario, but many scenes are set in Northern NY with locations resembling where Mortensen spent his formative years.
“Southern Ontario looks a lot like the other side of the St. Lawrence river,” Mortensen, 62, explained in an interview with syracuse.com | The Post-Standard.
“Just a landscape that I’m familiar with, which is why I set it in that place,” he added. “I used things that I knew very well. Landscapes, seasons, what things looked like in the ’60s and ‘70s up around there: Cars, clothes, people, houses, farms, and to some degree what they look like now.”
“In an indirect way it is a salute to the North Country and to New York state. You’ll see it when you watch it.”
The film will be especially compelling to those who know someone with dementia, which afflicts more than 50 million people worldwide. The World Health Organization projects three times as many people will be living with dementia by 2050, with symptoms that include forgetfulness or getting lost and confused.
“We’ve had a lot of that in our family,” Mortensen said. Both Mortensen’s mother and father had dementia, as well as his stepfather and grandparents on both sides of the family.
Mortensen currently lives in Spain but still has family in the North Country and returns often. He was spotted at the Mustard Seed Natural Market and Cafe in Watertown around Christmas 2019 and he made extended stays helping take care of his mother, Grace, when she died in 2015 and his father, Viggo Sr., when he died two years later.
On his website, Mortensen said his father started to confuse Viggo with his own father, “slipping now and then into the distant past of his childhood and adolescence, speaking to me in Danish instead of English.”
But while the movie’s dementia battle and John’s hometown — the Watertown Daily Times newspaper is even featured in some scenes — are based on real experiences, the rest of the story is largely fictional. Mortensen started writing “Falling” shortly after his mother’s funeral.
“When my mom died, I just wanted to remember everything about her. I loved her and I still love her and… I just wanted to write them down, these ideas, these memories,” he told Stephen Colbert on “The Late Show” last week. “I started writing and it became a story, a fictional story. Which I guess I felt freer to write than the documentary thing where I would have to call my brothers and say ‘Did this happen? When did that happen? Who said that?’ I said, ‘I’m just going to make it up and use the feelings, a few memories, a few incidents, but it’s a made-up story.’”
One scene that’s drawn from a real experience is a quirky flashback where young John shoots a duck on his first time hunting with his father, but wants to keep the animal for a bathtub toy or a stuffed animal, not dinner. Mortensen says he did just that when he was 4 years old, though he wasn’t in Watertown at the time.
A notable fictional scene shows teenage John angrily knocked off his horse by his father, leading to a scar on John’s upper lip in adulthood. Mortensen has a scar in real life, but actually go it while attending college at St. Lawrence University.
“That was a stupid thing. I had just turned 18. It was Halloween 1976, my first year of college and I was out partying with friends… I got shoved into a barb wire fence (in a) stupid accident. But it did sever my lip badly and I had to get it sewn up,” Mortensen recalled to syracuse.com. “And I thought, well, I’ll use it. I’ll make a story about that.”
“Boonville’s the ugliest town in New York state”
Mortensen also wants viewers to know that he doesn’t mean anything ill towards the Oneida County village of Boonville, which is referenced in one of Willis’ ornery rants: “Boonville’s the ugliest town in New York state,” Henriksen snarls, much to the chagrin of John’s sister (played by Laura Linney).
“Apologies to Boonville,” Mortensen said. “Sometimes people watch a movie and think, ‘This guy’s saying all this and that and that must mean the director thinks that or the writer’ — in my case, both. But no. Boonville is beautiful. I know it really well, having spent my adolescence in the area. It was just one of those random things that gets stuck in (the character’s) head. Ridiculous…”
“It’ll probably get a rise out of people from Boonville,” he chuckled. “But I don’t think that (it’s ugly). That’s the character that thinks that.”
Boonville, Lowville and Utica are thanked in the credits for “Falling.” The film is also dedicated to Viggo’s brothers Charles and Walter Mortensen; he doesn’t have a sister, another point where the story deviates from reality.
“Oh sh-t. It’s the middle of winter and I’m in Watertown, New York.”
Viggo Mortensen was born in Watertown, N.Y., on Oct. 20, 1958. His mother was from Watertown and met his father, a Danish farmer, on a trip to Norway. Young Viggo spent part of his childhood in Argentina, but moved back to Watertown at age 11 when his parents divorced. He graduated from Watertown High School in 1976 and St. Lawrence University in 1980.
Today, he’s best known as the Oscar-nominated actor who played Aragorn in Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, as well as roles in “Eastern Promises,” “Captain Fantastic,” “A History of Violence,” “Hidalgo” “The Road” and “Green Book.” He’s also a poet, photographer, painter, publisher (through his own Perceval Press), and has released more than 20 albums featuring collaborations with guitarist Buckethead.
He turned down playing Wolverine in the first “X-Men” movie (a part that later went to Hugh Jackman) due to a scheduling conflict, and reportedly came close to roles in the 2013 Superman movie “Man of Steel,” 2012′s “Snow White and the Huntsman,” and as Batman’s dad, Thomas Wayne, in 2019′s “Joker.”
But Mortensen’s classmates probably wouldn’t have predicted that the captain of the swim team at Watertown High School would one day be world famous.
“I always kept to myself,” Mortensen told syracuse.com. “I had friends, but… I wasn’t so big on going to parties or dances. I would never have thought public speaking would be in my area of activities as an adult.”
Bill Wallace, who was Mortensen’s swim coach at Watertown High School, says he never imagined little Viggo would one day be a movie star.
“Never crossed my mind,” Wallace told syracuse.com | The Post-Standard. “He was quiet around me, but the other kids said he could raise a little hell now and then.”
Mortensen did try out for a musical once in junior high after someone recommended he try acting, but the audition didn’t go very well.
“You just had to go up and read something… and I think I was reading the opening page of Dickens’ ‘David Copperfield’ and they kept saying ‘Louder! Louder!’ And I just freaked out. They couldn’t hear me because I was mumbling, and I just closed the book and ran out and said that was the end of that,” Mortensen recalled.
“I never would’ve thought (I’d become an actor), but I always loved movies. My mom took me to movies all the time… in Watertown, we went all the time. I was always fascinated by moving stories and I wanted to be sort of involved in that world somehow,” he continued. “You watch a movie. It transports you or takes you somewhere, and the lights come up at the end. You walk out on the street and you’re like ‘Oh sh-t. It’s the middle of winter and I’m in Watertown, New York. I’m not in Arabia on a camel.’”
Mortensen also speaks seven different languages — no, Elvish is not one of them — which helped him land a job as an interpreter for the Swedish and Danish hockey teams at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. He saw the “Miracle on Ice” in person and included a reference to U.S. speed skater Eric Heiden, who won five gold medals that year, in “Falling.”
Lord of the Rings
“Falling” marks Mortensen’s first foray into directing and he’s been nominated for three Academy Awards for acting, but he’s well aware that he’ll always be associated with “The Lord of the Rings.” Jackson’s adaptations of “The Fellowship of the Ring,” “The Two Towers” and “The Return of the King” are among the top 75 highest-grossing movies of all time, and led to another movie trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit.”
An Amazon television series is currently in production that will reportedly explore the Second Age of Middle-earth’s history, and may include Sauron’s forging of the One Ring and the fall of the Nine Kings into becoming Ringwraiths. Mortensen’s Aragorn won’t be in it, but he still plans to watch.
“I’m curious as to what they’re doing with it. I mean, Tolkien has so much material – not just ‘Lord of the Rings.’ Those worlds and mythology and stories” are interesting, he told syracuse.com.
Mortensen also briefly reflected on his favorite scenes from “Lord of the Rings.”
“The relationship I had with the actor Sean Bean, who plays Boromir. I like that relationship. There’s a scene where he dies… towards the end of ‘The Fellowship of the Ring.’ That’s an important moment for both those characters,” Mortensen said. “It’s beautifully done and it’s very true, it’s really in the spirit of how the books were written by Tolkien.”
He also had fond memories of scenes that weren’t in the original theatrical cuts of the trilogy. Mortensen was glad to see them in Peter Jackson’s extended versions, and highly recommends fans watch them.
“Falling,” released by Mortensen’s film company Perceval Pictures, is available to rent or buy on Video On Demand (VOD) and digital starting Friday, Feb. 5.
The Hollywood Reporter called the movie “As intelligent and sensitive a directing debut as you’d expect, and a highlight of Henriksen’s career,” and The Guardian gave it a four-star review: “Really valuable work, beautifully edited and shot, with a wonderful performance by the veteran actor Lance Henriksen.” GFN’ critic applauded the brief comic cameo by Mortensen collaborator David Cronenberg playing a proctologist, helping balance a movie “keenly aware of the effort involved in reconciling the parent we have with the one we might have wished for.”
Barry Levinson reveals that Robin Williams was ‘struggling’ during making of ‘Good Morning, Vietnam’
Earlier this year, the internet’s collective mind was blown by the viral rumor that we were denied an NC-17 rated cut of the 1993 Robin Williams favorite Mrs. Doubtfire. That bubble was inevitably burst by the movie’s director, Chris Columbus, who noted that the comedian’s improvised on-set riffing occasionally got R-rated, but never crossed into NC-17 territory occupied by movies like Showgirls. Likewise, Good Morning, Vietnam director Barry Levinson tells Yahoo Entertainment that there’s only one version of his seminal collaboration with Williams… and it’s the R-rated cut that premiered in theaters on Dec. 23, 1987.
“It’s odd in a way, because Robin could certainly go off on any topic at a moment’s notice,” Levinson says of the late actor, who died in 2014. “Certainly, there was more material than we could have ever possibly have used. But I don’t remember language being an issue at all, to be honest with you.” Much of that extra material comes from the movie’s best-remembered scenes, when Williams — playing real-life Vietnam War-era DJ Adrian Cronauer — is seated in front of a microphone, tossing off one-liners and racing through hilarious impressions while his co-stars, including Forrest Whitaker and Robert Wuhl, repeatedly crack up. “I’d love to see what the heck was in those outtakes,” Levinson says. “I haven’t seen any of them since we made the movie.”
Unfortunately, the director isn’t able to head to the Buena Vista archives to see if there’s any X-rated material: Levinson believes that the defunct distributor — which has since been folded into its parent company, Walt Disney Studios — destroyed the negatives at some point in the recent past. “There was a period where they were getting rid of what you might call the extraneous footage. I think there’s some stuff left from Good Morning, but I know that when I asked about one of my earlier films, Tin Men, they said they had destroyed everything.”
But the movie itself still exists, and will be shown as part of this year’s virtual TCM Classic Film Festival, streaming May 6-9 on TCM and HBO Max. Good Morning, Vietnam is part of the “The Masters of Filmmaking” program, and Levinson will introduce the film and share recollections of its production with TCM hosts like Ben Mankiewicz. “I love TCM, because they highlight certain things in the movie to pay attention to,” the directors says. “It’s one of the few places that actually discusses film.”
TCM has also taken an active role in the ongoing conversation about evaluating the problematic pop culture of yesteryear via series like Reframed: Classic Films in the Rearview Mirror. And Good Morning, Vietnam has its own moments that play differently today. In one of Williams’s riffs, the actor does an impression of a Black soldier he calls “Roosevelt E. Roosevelt.” Even though Williams doesn’t say anything overtly offensive, the scene could be viewed as an example of the kind of “spoken Blackface” that’s proven controversial on shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy.
Asked whether a moment like that would be harder to include in a contemporary version of Good Morning, Vietnam, Levinson replies, “I think it’s harder to do everything right now in general. There’s nothing about that scene that you would look at and say, ‘Well, this is really offensive.’ Adrian is trying to explain something in the context of what he’s doing.”
“It’s hard to qualify where we are now, in terms of what’s permissible or not,” the director continues. “So you end up with a lot of stuff that just lacks a certain degree of playful humor. It’s probably one of the great confusing eras that we’ve ever entered into, because so many people you talk to say, ‘I don’t know what you can say or can’t say.’ God knows I’m not going to be the expert to explain it all.”
Levinson does think that Williams would have a better handle on how to navigate our current climate it terms of creating humor that’s funny, without being hurtful. “He was always an extremely kind humorist. It’s very seldom that you’d ever see him really attacking anything or anyone. He could talk about the absurdities of the world in a playful way with whomever he’s imitating, whether it’s someone Scottish or someone else. He just enjoyed characters and the nature of [their] absurdity, and he could do it in a way that even when people didn’t quite understand him, they could still enjoy him. He had some connection that was beyond words at times.”
In an extended interview with Yahoo Entertainment, Levinson shared other stories about how Williams’s specific genius shaped Good Morning, Vietnam, and why the comedian was “struggling” during the making of the movie.
Yahoo Entertainment: It’s interesting to reflect on where Robin Williams was in his career at the point where you made Good Morning, Vietnam. He’d been making different kinds of movies like The World According to Garp and Moscow on the Hudson, and this one fused both dramatic moments and wild comedy, setting the tone for a lot of roles he’d do going forward.
Barry Levinson: Yeah, he was really struggling in terms of films at that time, and was wondering if he was going to be able to make it as a film actor. I think he was nervous about that this movie could be his last shot. He called me one day and said, in his insecurity, “Listen, if the radio stuff doesn’t work, I’m willing to pay for reshoots, and we can redo it.” I told him, “Robin, there’s more here than we can possibly ever use.” I was struggling to get him to believe me that we were on solid ground. So it was a time of insecurity for him, because he hadn’t had the kind of success in movies that he did when he exploded on television with Mork & Mindy. And we all felt a little pressure, because there had never been a film about Vietnam that had any humor in it. We weren’t doing goofball comedy, but he was nervous about that and the fact that he hadn’t had a breakout film.
The arc that Adrian Cronauer has in the movie isn’t entirely dissimilar from his Dead Poets Society character two years later. You can see the seeds of that performance in what he’s doing here.
Yeah, that one is more of a drama, but I think he went into it was a lot more confidence after making Good Morning, Vietnam.
Watching the movie again, I found myself really noticing Forrest Whitaker and Robert Wuhl in the radio scenes, because their reactions seem so genuine. And I’m sure they really were reacting to his jokes in the moment.
Yes, what you see on film is what happened on set. The camera was drifting and picking up things, because it was important to see their reactions to him. It made it more cohesive and more real. There needed to be a looseness to those scenes, and they had to feel spontaneous, but we also had to hold the story beats together. I’ll give you an example of why Robin was so great. We were doing a scene in his English class, where he’s teaching the Vietnamese students. It was stiff and I didn’t believe it — there wasn’t any spontaneity. I said, “All right, let’s take a break,” and went outside in the one hundred degree heat. I saw Robin on the porch and he was sitting in a shaded area with a lot of the extras from the class. They were all laughing as he was talking to them, and I could see them enjoying themselves.
When we came out of the break, I went over to Robin and said, “Look, what you were just doing was so much more alive than what we’re doing. So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to give hand signals to the camera guys, and you just start talking. Wander around, pick up the main points of the scene, but let’s not be bound by the script.” Because the key to Robin as a person, and in the film, is that he’s able to relate and connect with people. He was a warm person who could have conversations that would draw everybody in. So I would give a hand signal, he’d talk to someone in the class and we’d build those scenes out of those conversations.
That also happened in the softball game scene. I didn’t want to explain how to play the game; one of the Vietnamese actors was holding a melon, and he asked me, “I’ve seen a softball, and this is not that.” I said, “Listen, I’m not in charge of the equipment — Robin is in charge of the equipment.” And he said, “Well then, I shall speak with him.” I indicated to Robin that he was coming over, and then I gave a hand signal to the camera guys and they filmed it as it was going on. And what he’s talking to Robin onscreen is literally for real: he doesn’t think that the equipment is correct for what we’re going to do and that’s just a real sequence. But it also serves the film, because you’re getting the personality of these people, as opposed to lines that they’re trying to say. It was Robin’s ability to connect to people that I think really served the film. Otherwise, I do believe it would have been much more of a mechanical piece of work.
Apparently, there was supposed to be a sequel called Good Morning, Chicago that would have taken place during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. What happened to that film?
I can’t remember the specifics anymore. Robin and I were talking about it, but I don’t know exactly what happened. In this business, a lot of things you talk about never happen! I would have liked to have revisited the character, although I don’t know what setting it would have been in. The Chicago convention would have been interesting. It’s a character you could have taken down the road and played with more, for sure.
Speaking of never-made sequels, did you ever consider making a follow-up to Wag the Dog? That film was so prescient at the time, and it would be fascinating to see what the characters would make of our current political climate.
I can say this: the initial reaction at that studio when we did that film was not exactly positive. It was like, “Oh boy, we have a satire here.” They were not so thrilled about it. [Laughs] So the movie came out and did well, but I don’t think anyone was like, “Oh yeah, we’ve got to do more of this.” That never came up, at least to me. But it was a fun piece to work on, and it turned out great. It’s nice when you do something that people continue to reference in some fashion. Sometimes you hit on things that have a little staying power.
It’s also the 30th anniversary of Bugsy this year, which is famous for being the movie where Warren Beatty and Annette Bening met. Did you have a sense of the chemistry they’d have when you cast them?
I’ve told this story before, but it’s true: I met Annette for lunch, and afterwards I called Warren and said, “Look, I met with Annette Bening. I think she’s really terrific and you should meet her.” So he met her, and the next day he called me and said, “I’m going to marry her.” That was the first line out of his mouth! I laughed and said, “All right, let’s make a deal with her,” just ignoring that comment and taking it as “Yeah, she’s great for the role.” Then we made the deal and during the course of the movie they get closer and married sometime during post-production! It’s all pretty funny.
After Good Morning, Vietnam, you collaborated with Robin again on Toys in 1992. What’s the thing you miss most about him now?
He was an incredibly special talent, and also a very special individual. Even if he had never been in movies, you would have a great relationship with him if you met him. I always remember the days where we’d be sitting around, just talking about things. The curiosity that he had, and his sensitivity to things in life in general is what made him that special in that regard. And there are a couple of moments of his in the movie that I think are extremely effective. I really like the scene with the Louis Armstrong song, “It’s a Wonderful World.” At the end of it, there’s a quietness from him that allows for this introspective moment. I know some people might say, “When is that? What is he talking about!” But that’s the moment that sticks in my head.
Good Morning, Vietnam is currently streaming on HBO Max; the TCM Classic Film Festival runs May 6-9 on TCM and HBO Max.
Read more from Yahoo Entertainment:
Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment’s Screen Media
6-Part Series Will Have World Premiere on June 3, 2021 as a Crackle Original Series
Series from Creator and Rising Docu-auteur Dexton Deboree and producers DLP Media Group, Falkon Entertainment, RTG Features, Interscope Films, and Waffle Iron Entertainment
Features Guest Appearances from Moneybagg Yo, Carmelo Anthony, A’ja Wilson, and More
COS COB, Conn., May 05, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Screen Media, a Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, Inc. (Nasdaq: CSSE) company, announced today the acquisition of all North American and European rights to the new docu-series, Promiseland, which chronicles the rise of Memphis Grizzlies star and reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Ja Morant. The first three episodes will be available to watch for free on June 3, 2021 exclusively on Crackle as a Crackle Original series, before the final three episodes are released later in the month.
The six-part series, created and directed by Dexton Deboree, founder of Falkon and visionary behind the award-winning feature film, Unbanned: The Legend of AJ1, chronicles Morant’s rapid ascension from an unknown high-school prospect and overnight small college standout to the top tier of the NBA.
Through never-before-seen footage, audiences will witness Morant as he endures the turbulent and unprecedented 2019-20 season, battles against all odds, wins Rookie of the Year honors, and fights for a playoff berth. The series highlights the newcomer’s coming-of-age story during the most unusual season in NBA history, which includes navigating a global pandemic, a slew of doubters and disbelievers, and the explosion of the Black Lives Matter movement and outcry for racial injustice reform.
“I’m used to being doubted and to facing challenges,” said Morant. “There were a lot of ups and downs and unknowns in my rookie season, but I just did what I always do – kept my head down, kept training and stayed ready. In the end, I won Rookie of the Year, but I know this is just the beginning of my story. I’m thankful I could share what goes on behind the scenes and do it on my own terms. It’s been great working with Dexton and everyone involved. I’m excited about sharing this series with fans on Crackle.”
Production on the series began on the eve of Morant’s first regular season game, continued throughout the shutdown intimately at home with his family during quarantine, inside the NBA Bubble through the pandemic, and climaxes on their final game of the season and back home for the Rookie of the Year presentation. The series features a curated soundtrack from Interscope Records, an original hip-hop-inspired score from Steve “Swiff D” Thornton, a theme song written and performed exclusively for the series by Memphis’s own Moneybagg Yo, who currently has the No. 1 album in the country, A Gangsta’s Pain, and guest appearances by current NBA star Carmelo Anthony, WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson, Memphis Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins, Grizzlies stars Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke, as well as Morant’s entire family and coaches from throughout his life.
“We are constantly on the lookout for high-impact series and movies we can launch as Originals on Crackle,” said Screen Media in a statement. “Ja is one of those rare talents that simply defines ‘high-impact’ and we know fans will thoroughly enjoy riding shotgun with him throughout his incredible rookie year.”
“Promiseland is a fantastic show for both sports fans and families, as we see a promising young athlete embark upon superstardom through hard work and thanks to the support of his family,” said Crackle Plus President Philippe Guelton. “This Crackle Original epitomizes our collection of sport docu-series that not only inspire and entertain our viewers, but makes Crackle a desirable platform for advertisers.”
“My life’s purpose is to tell stories that truly inspire the world,” said Mr. Deboree, founder and CCO of Falkon. “This series does that and so much more. My initial inspiration really stemmed from this idea of intimately, authentically and viscerally experiencing what a young athlete actually goes through as their dreams unfold in real time. We’ve seen and heard so many biographies on legends of the past sharing a look back on their life, but never the actual manifestation of the dream truly unfolding before our eyes and getting under the hood, beneath the skin and inside the heart and soul of those who are actually experiencing it while it happens.”
Mr. Deboree continued, “In this series we really ride shotgun with Ja as his dream comes true and get to really feel what it’s like as a 19- turning 20-year-old young man watching life unfold in the most magical way. He is a man of faith, integrity, honesty, compassion, humility and all of these really incredible character traits really born from and fostered by his amazing parents and the larger supporting family around him. It’s this idea of positive love and light that is a message and a narrative we need more of in the world, and Ja and his family embodies that. This series celebrates that along with so much more. I’m eternally grateful for Ja and his family for participating and trusting me in the way they did and for being who they are for the sake of the world.”
The series is a joint project from the production teams of Deboree’s Falkon Entertainment, DLP Media Group, RTG Features, Interscope Films and Waffle Iron Entertainment.
The deal was negotiated by Seth Needle, SVP of Global Acquisitions and Co-Productions on behalf of Screen Media and Greg C. Lake of DLP on behalf of the filmmakers. Screen Media is the exclusive supplier of original content to Crackle Plus networks and has provided over 200 hours of original and exclusive programming in the past year.
ABOUT SCREEN MEDIA VENTURES, LLC
Screen Media Ventures, LLC, a Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, Inc. (Nasdaq: CSSE) company, acquires the rights to high quality, independent television series and feature films. Screen Media Ventures acquires worldwide rights for distribution through theatrical, home video, pay-per-view, free, cable and pay television, video-on-demand, and new digital media platforms. The company acquires AVOD rights for third party networks and is the main supplier of content for Crackle Plus and other Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, Inc. properties. With a library of over 1,500 television series and motion pictures, Screen Media Ventures is one of the largest independent suppliers of high-quality tv series and motion pictures to U.S. and international broadcast markets, cable networks, home video outlets and new media venues. For more information, visit www.screenmedia.net.
ABOUT CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL ENTERTAINMENT
Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, Inc. (Nasdaq: CSSE) operates streaming video-on-demand networks (VOD). The company owns Crackle Plus, which owns and operates a variety of ad-supported and subscription-based VOD networks including Crackle, Popcornflix, Popcornflix Kids, Truli, Pivotshare, Españolflix and FrightPix. The company also acquires and distributes video content through its Screen Media subsidiary and produces original long and short-form content through Landmark Studio Group, Chicken Soup for the Soul Unscripted, APlus.com, and Halcyon Television. Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment is a subsidiary of Chicken Soup for the Soul, LLC, which publishes the famous book series and produces super-premium pet food under the Chicken Soup for the Soul brand name.
ABOUT CRACKLE PLUS
Crackle Plus owns and operates ad-supported VOD networks Crackle, Popcornflix and Chicken Soup for the Soul, making it one of the largest AVOD streaming platforms in the U.S. Crackle Plus has AVOD rights to over 11,000 films and 22,000 episodes of television series. Crackle Plus networks premiere at least one original and one exclusive program each month, differentiating it from other AVODs. Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, Inc. (Nasdaq: CSSE) owns Crackle Plus and also acquires and distributes video content through its Screen Media subsidiary and produces original long and short-form content through Halcyon Television, Landmark Studio Group, its Chicken Soup for the Soul Unscripted division and APlus Productions. Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, Inc. is a subsidiary of Chicken Soup for the Soul, LLC, which publishes the famous book series and produces super-premium pet food under the Chicken Soup for the Soul brand name.
Dexton Deboree is the founder of Falkon, a creative company born at the intersection of advertising & entertainment. As a multi-dimensional creative hybrid, Dexton has worked on such multi-faceted projects as Grammy-nominated James Bond’s Quantum of Solace, Emmy-winning TV special Yes, Virginia, and award-winning brand campaigns for Jordan Brand, Nike Basketball, Football & Sportswear, ESPN, Major League Baseball, Sonos, Rémy Martin, Major League Soccer, Wilson and other select world-class brands pro sports leagues and top-tier athletes. He wrote, directed and produced the feature documentary film and now cult sneaker doc classic, Unbanned: The Legend of AJ1, which premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival and is currently available on Hulu, TIDAL and most digital platforms around the world. He’s currently in various stages of development and production on a range of high-profile projects, premium docu-series, scripted TV series and feature films including projects with Serena Williams, Carmelo Anthony and his Creative 7 banner, Michael Strahan and SMAC Entertainment, rising NFL star Juju Smith-Schuster and NHL great PK Subban, among others.
ABOUT DLP MEDIA GROUP
Dedicated to premium, visually-compelling story creation and production, and founded by 10-time Emmy Award-winning Executive Producer and media executive Michael Hughes, DLP Media Group brings a “sports mentality” to three distinct content categories: long form, branded entertainment, and live & event. The Peabody Award-winning content group’s credits include three films in ESPN’s “30 for 30” series, along with a team who has produced content for and with partners ESPN, FOX Sports, NBC Sports, Amazon, Netflix, A&E, NFL Media, VH1, and many more.
ABOUT RTG FEATURES
RTG, which stands for “Respect the Game,” is a film and TV production and financing studio. With basketball storytelling as its priority, RTG focuses on original development, along with adapting articles from SLAM’s 230-plus magazine issues into both scripted and unscripted multimedia projects ranging from feature films and television to documentaries and podcasts. RTG Features is part of JDS Sports’ investment portfolio which spans venture capital and private equity, and includes: SLAM, Five-Star Basketball, Streamwise, 1091 Pictures, 19nine, VidMob, Transmit, Dibbs, ReadyUp, Framework Ventures, and more.
ABOUT INTERSCOPE FILMS
Interscope Films, a division of Interscope Records, was established as an avenue for music artists to create and exist in the alternate medium of Film and Television. Interscope Films was reimagined in 2019 to produce and finance content, pair artists with award-winning storytellers, and bring their creative visions to life. Initial projects include Teen Spirit starring Elle Fanning, and the Billie Eilish documentary, The World’s A Little Blurry, which premiered on Apple TV+ in February.
ABOUT WAFFLE IRON ENTERTAINMENT
Waffle Iron Entertainment (WIE) is dedicated to developing, producing and distributing premium sports entertainment that inspires more athletes* (if you have a body, you are an athlete) to move every day. The focus of WIE is to tell stories that exemplify the values of sport. Told through diverse creatives in film, television and digital productions, content is designed for broad audiences and deep fandom communities.
This press release includes forward-looking statements within the meaning of the federal securities laws. Forward-looking statements are statements that are not historical facts. These statements are based on various assumptions, whether or not identified in this press release, and on the current expectations of management and are not predictions of actual performance. Forward-looking statements are subject to known and unknown risks and uncertainties, including but not limited to those risks set forth in the Company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2020. If any of these risks materialize or our assumptions prove incorrect, actual results could differ materially from the results implied by these forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements speak only as of the date hereof and the Company expressly disclaims any obligation or undertaking to release publicly any updates or revisions to any forward-looking statements contained herein to reflect any change in the Company’s expectations with respect thereto or any change in events, conditions or circumstances on which any statement is based.
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Refinery 29 UK
The Gender Critical Movement Used Us For Their War On Trans People
For Ky, taking testosterone wasn’t ever “a lifelong decision”. At the age of 20, she started to take the hormone to get more masculine features. While she liked the physical effects, she didn’t like all of the social changes. After a few years, Ky started to wish she could be seen less as a trans man and more as a genderqueer woman. In her mid 20s, she decided to stop the treatment. “I medically transitioned when I was 20 but I always had a more complicated experience of gender. I fell somewhere between the definitions of trans man and butch,” she says. Ky is now 35 and identifies as a transmasc butch dyke, and uses she and her pronouns. For seven years she was known as a ‘detransitioner’, someone who undergoes a social or medical transition to change gender and then decides to stop or reverse the transition. From 2012 to 2019, Ky publicly renounced her transition, telling people her decision to live as a man was a mistake. It was during those seven years that she joined a group of campaigners who used her decision to reverse her transition to spread hateful messages about transgender people. This group of campaigners is varied, with splinter groups and enmities within it. Those who are part of it often refer to themselves as ‘radical feminists’ and are commonly known as ‘gender critical campaigners’. Ky is US-based but the gender critical detrans movement is prevalent across the UK too. The movement plays a major part in accelerating transphobic rhetoric online and in the media. Ky left the gender critical movement and has chosen to share with Refinery29 her rare insight into the realities of the anti-trans groups to help others understand how the movement uses people who have detransitioned for personal gain. DashDividers_1_500x100 Ky is one of a small but known group of people who once considered herself detransitioned. No one is sure of how many detransitioned people live in the UK. A recent study scanned patient assessment reports created between August 2016 and August 2017 of more than 3,000 patients at a national gender identity clinic for words related to detransition. Around 0.47% of those patients expressed some desire to detransition, totalling 16 patients out of 3,398. Out of the 16 patients, three decided to detransition permanently. Like Ky, not everyone who detransitions regrets their decision to transition in the first place. Some people might detransition because they face a lot of stigma and abuse for living as a trans person in society, or because they do not feel like the binary genders ‘man’ and ‘woman’ describe who they are. Others might have complications with gender reassignment surgery or struggle to deal with the growing costs of transitioning and the administrative burden of changing their name on their birth certificate or other legal documents. It might be that they simply do not feel like it is the right time for them to continue with their transition. There’s little information out there for people who decide to reverse some or all of the effects of a transition. This meant few people could understand Ky’s decision and help her in her time of need, leaving her susceptible to the recruitment tactics of gender critical campaigners. There’s little information out there for people who decide to reverse some or all of the effects of a transition, and an even smaller number of people to turn to for support. This lack of space for nuance meant few people could understand Ky’s decision and help her in her time of need, leaving her susceptible to the recruitment tactics of gender critical campaigners. “I was looking for people who had had similar experiences, or had a more complicated transition story,” Ky tells R29. “I started looking online and then found some blogs by detrans women [which] were pretty much all written by radical feminists.” In her search, she landed on a Yahoo group for detransitioners. She wrote a couple of posts in the US-based group and waited to see if anyone would respond. It was when Devorah, a detransitioned woman, responded that Ky’s life started to shift. “We corresponded via email. She had a lot of transphobic views. She hid them from me at first and then slowly unveiled them over time. She was transphobic but she hadn’t connected with any radical feminists yet. “I’d see these theories about trans people slowly working their way into the messages, growing more and more apparent.” Ky and Devorah met in person for the first time at Michfest, a US all-women music festival known for its attempts to ban transgender women from attending before eventually shutting down in 2015. The pair also met up with four other detrans women who were speaking at a workshop there. Michfest attracted a lot of women who supported the festival’s anti-trans message. When a few of those women heard Ky and Deborah speak at a workshop, they formed a small but enthusiastic reception for them. Upon meeting Ky later on, the women said they were thrilled to hear that she and Devorah had decided to re-identify as women. Like other gender critical campaigners in the movement, the women believed the pair were proof that transgender identities are not real and that transitioning is imposed on traumatised and vulnerable young people who later end up regretting their transition. “I got bullied growing up because I was not what a girl was supposed to ‘be’. When I told some people in the movement that, they were like, ‘Oh yeah, internalised misogyny is why you transitioned,’” Ky says. “Some lesbian feminists at the festival said they were waiting for someone like us to show up so they could say ‘Yes!’ and prove they were right the entire time.” The fact of the matter is that Ky’s decision to transition was influenced by a wealth of factors. Namely, she says, living as a trans man allowed her to explore the masculine aspect of her gender with less scrutiny. It had little to do with internalised misogyny at all. Some of the people who greeted Ky referred to themselves as lesbian radical feminists and explained that transgender men ‘erase’ women and, in turn, lesbian culture. Ky says they perpetuated hateful beliefs that transgender women are ‘fake’ and ‘predators’ whereas transgender men are considered to be ‘sad and lost’, with a past trauma or misogyny they cannot reconcile as a woman. Detransitioners like Ky who are used by the gender critical movement are instructed to fixate on the idea that their transition is a mistake and may be encouraged to fully detransition, or even implore others to renounce their transition and live as a cisgender person again. What was really compelling was this idea that if I joined in, I could finally get over this pain I’ve been carrying. I could finally get over this trauma and feel better about myself. But like life, it didn’t work like that. Ky After speaking to the women she met at Michfest and reading some gender critical literature, Ky started to refer to herself as a ‘detransitioned woman’. “Detransitioned women are seen as ripe for recruitment. They saw us like they see ex-gays dealing with internalised homophobia,” says Ky. “You’re not supposed to call yourself trans, you’re a woman with gender dysphoria.” When Ky became an active member of the movement, she was in a vulnerable spot. “I had recently quit drugs and I was learning to function in a healthy way as an adult. I was embittered because I’d had a bad experience in a queer house share that went wrong. “I think feeling out of sorts in that space and feeling out of place made me easy pickings to be radicalised,” she added. “What was really compelling was this idea that if I joined in, I could finally get over this pain I’ve been carrying. I could finally get over this trauma and feel better about myself. But like life, it didn’t work like that.” DashDividers_1_500x100 Beau, a Cajun writer and director who lives in Seattle and uses he/him pronouns, understands the experience of detransitioners caught up in the movement better than most. Beau, assigned female at birth, was part of a network of UK and US organisations which worked to peddle transphobic views and recruited detransitioners to join the movement. In 2020, Beau became one of the first ex-gender critical campaigners to publicly renounce the movement. In a watershed Medium post, Beau detailed the tactics used by the “cult-like” ideology to radicalise him. “I’m not detrans but I’m in a unique place since I was a trans kid for several years, and I blocked out my experience due to trauma, and am now back to exploring my gender identity,” he says. Beau saw the coordinated social media and recruitment tactics up close during his two years in the movement. To bring detransitioners on board, gender critics “put them on a pedestal and love bomb them”. “The goal is to get trans people to detransition or to never medically transition. Detransitioners get praised and platformed, and they’re used until they’re no longer useful,” says Beau. “At ‘best’, I’ve seen a split among gender critics between wanting to use them as tokens for their cause and wanting them to totally disappear from the discourse.” “They really are just trying to draw vulnerable people in who are traumatised so they can use and abuse them. It’s pretty unfortunate and definitely a pattern,” Ky adds. Beau also says that the movement likes to keep its followers “in a state of trauma” to control them and ensure they won’t leave. He has sympathy for detransitioners who are swept up in the movement, even if they’re spouting anti-trans ideas themselves. “Even gender critical detransitioners in the movement are working out issues. Patience and an attempt to understand would go a long way with both groups,” Beau adds. DashDividers_1_500x100 Ky might have been an active and well-known member of the movement but it didn’t stop her experiencing abuse from other radical feminists. The gender critical movement converges on one important point: trans women are ‘really’ men, who are the ultimate oppressors of women. So while some gender critical campaigners branded detransitioned women as cowed men, others saw them as “representatives of the patriarchy”. Ky, who still presented with masculine characteristics because of her time on testosterone and her gender identity, was an easy target for a movement that didn’t know how to channel its misguided frustrations about the power of cisgender men. “Detransitioned women are not necessarily as physically threatening or dangerous as cis men, so they’re easier targets,” says Ky. “I once heard someone call me a caricature of a cisgender man and that was horrible. Gender critical detransitioners aren’t always supportive of each other because there’s a lot of insecurity.” When Beau decided he wanted to explore his gender identity and use he/they pronouns, he says he was met with a lot of hostility. One member tried to blackmail him, threatening to out him to the people he knew in the movement. “When I wrote about my experiences, one group made and sold a T-shirt to mock me for speaking out as a survivor,” he added. “One old gender critical friend even tried to prevent me from having surgery or medically transitioning. They still want to control you after you leave.” Even though he managed to escape, Beau realised his struggles wouldn’t be over when he severed ties with the group. “These people alienate you from your real life friends and make you a social pariah online, so when they warn that anyone outside the movement won’t accept you, there’s a lot of truth to that,” he added. DashDividers_1_500x100 For Ky, the illusion began to fade when the most powerful members of the movement joined forces with hardcore Christian right groups which supported eradicating transgender identities altogether. In a bid for freedom, she moved to a remote farm to disconnect from the detransition movement, and stayed offline. Even though she had physically distanced herself from the group meet-ups and group members, she struggled to cut off Devorah. “She was pretty abusive,” she says. “I had a lot of my doubts about the detrans movement in private because at that point I was dating Devorah. She turned really controlling and I had to keep a lot of things hidden.” By the time Ky moved to the farm, she and Devorah were just friends. Devorah persuaded Ky to host a detransitioner meet-up at her farm; it was then that Ky knew it was time to leave the movement. “I was with this group, and I did not feel comfortable sharing what I [was feeling] as I came to terms with being some kind of transgender person, and I realised transitioning actually didn’t mess my life up,” she says. “I felt more comfortable with my body but I was sitting with all of these people talking about how horrible transitioning is.” In 2019, Ky cut ties with Devorah and the gender critical detransitioners for good. “I think if I wouldn’t have been in a relationship with her, I would have left a lot earlier, but I take responsibility for my actions,” she says. DashDividers_1_500x100 As former detransitioners like Ky come forward to share their story, they give us a rare insight into how gender critical campaigners in the UK and US weaponise the transgender community to prop up the movement. Now, gender critical campaigners are part of the mainstream in ways a lot of people struggle to understand. Popular anti-trans columnists have gained clout in certain corners of the media, while Twitter is used by gender critical campaigners to recruit detransitioners and proliferate anti-trans messages. “The movement has morphed and mutated in ways none of us could have ever imagined. There’s a series of splinter groups, and enmities inside of those,” says Ky. Ky, who now writes regularly for her blog in support of the transgender community, found during her time in the movement that gender critical campaigners are just as obsessed with gender as the likes of men’s rights groups which use someone’s gender to designate the limits of their ability and their place in the world. As Ky shows, any outliers risk harm and manipulation if they stand in the way. “Detrans people are fed mixed messages. Having a female body is supposed to make you a woman but if you feel anything different than that, it’s a bad feeling and a problem to be solved,” she says. In one poignant post, she summarises what it’s like to be free of any gender binary, and reflects on her time as a vulnerable recruit. “I can finally speak my mind and say what I want without having to worry about detrans women disapproving of me. They can accept or reject me as I am. Every time I write out my truth, I feel myself heal a little bit more and find a bit more space to exist.” If you are an LGBTQ person and you are struggling with issues similar to those raised in this article, you can reach out to MindOut, the LGBTQ mental health service. Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?Trans Women On The Highs & Lows Of Modern DatingTrans People Self-Medicate Despite The RisksGender Policing Shames Those It Claims To Protect
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