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ViacomCBS Chief Bob Bakish Apologizes Over Return-to-Work Comments

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Bob Bakish

ViacomCBS chief Bob Bakish was forced to apologize to staff on Wednesday after statements he made during a company-wide town hall about return-to-work plans were seen as insensitive by some employees.

Bakish was hosting one of his “Bob Live” discussions with Chief Technology Officer Phil Wiser and Chief People Officer Nancy Phillips when he began musing that the move back into a combination of remote work and a return to offices was “the greatest social experiment” of recent history. Bakish also was discussing the past two years of working during the COVID-19 pandemic, one that has seen many employees transition to working from their homes. The theme of his comments, according to one knowledgable individual, was that the public health crisis has made it necessary for companies and their employees to become more adaptable.

However, some staffers believed that the ViacomCBS chief meant that the pandemic and not the shifts in workplace culture sparked by the crisis was the “social experiment” in question. That prompted a series of negative comments on ViacomCBS’s internal chat feature, which allows staffers to post questions and responses to speakers in real time. Bakish’s comments came roughly 40 minutes into an hour-long talk, according to three people with knowledge of his remarks.

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As part of the presentation, Bakish and other ViacomCBS executives yielded the stage to a taped bit in which “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert saluted essential workers. When he returned, Bakish quickly apologized to for using the phrase “social experiment” in the context of Covid.

“I didn’t mean to offend anyone who has lost loved ones or lost friends…what I meant was it’s a phenomenon that’s impacted everyone around the globe,” Bakish said. He went to apologize to “anyone offended by that characterization.”

ViacomCBS has set Jan. 10 as the date it wants staffers to return to the office for 50% of the time. However, given the recent surge in cases of COVID in states like New York where the company is headquartered, some employees felt that Bakish’s comments didn’t reflect the worsening situation. Bakish’s “Bob Live” discussions usually take place every four to six weeks.

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‘Utama’ Producers Reteam for Marcos Loayza’s ‘Los Abrazos’ (EXCLUSIVE)

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UTAMA 2

The producers of Sundance world dramatic competition entry “Utama,” Bolivia’s Alma Films and Uruguay’s LaMayorCine, have re-teamed for “Los Abrazos” (“The Embrace”), the sixth fiction feature of Marcos Loayza.

The father of “Utama” director Alejandro Loayza Grisi and a lauded filmmaker in Bolivia, Loayza’s credits include his career-launching 1995 drama “A Question of Faith” (“Cuestion de Fe),” adventure pic “Averno” and the docu series “Planet Bolivia” where his son served as DP.

“’Los Abrazos’ is in quite an advanced phase and we hope to shoot it by the end of this year or early next,” said Federico Moreira of LaMayorCine who is hoping to enlist an Argentine co-producer for the drama which they expect to film on location in Bolivia, Uruguay and Argentina. Alejandro Loayza Grisi will likely serve as DP. Alma Film’s Santiago Loayza Grisi is Alejandro’s brother.

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“There’s a good energy among the father and sons, they work well together,” said Moreira who is also a sound director on “Utama” and whose more than 30 years old award-winning post-production house also owns and operates Uruguay’s first and only Dolby-certified sound mixing room and four recording studios.

“In the past five years or so, since we launched the Dolby sound mixing room, we have participated in around 100 films,” said Moreira.

“Los Abrazos” pivots on an exile who, after some two decades away, sets out on a return journey to his homeland in a bid to recapture his memories of home. This prompts his son to travel from the capital to the border to meet up with his father. Both embark on their journeys for different reasons, one to recover his past and the other to find himself.

LaMayorCine has several other films in development. Among them is horror thriller “El Huraño,” which they hope to send to the work in progress sections of the film festivals of Sitges (Spain) and Busan (Korea). Written and to be directed by brothers Rafa and Bernardo Antonaccio (“In the Quarry”), “El Huraño” is also a cautionary tale about the environmental damage wrought by man, in this case, by a soybean agriculture business whose indiscriminate use of pesticides provokes a young man who suffers from a clinical lycanthropy disorder.

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Another fiction feature in development, set in the Andes and mostly in the Quechua indigenous language like “Utama,” is “La Hija” (“The Daughter”) by Alvaro Olmos Torrico, which counts on the support of the Ibermedia program and has Martin Boulocq’s CQ Films, Rodante Films and Londra Films as associate producers.

LaMayorCine has a slew of documentaries in the works. These include “El Sabalero,” to be helmed by Enrique Fernandez (“The Pope’s Toilet”), about the late Uruguayan singer, composer and guitarist José María Carbajal, otherwise known as El Sabalero.

Two of the docs are soccer-themed: “Roofing,” most of it already shot, about a group of Costa Ricans who pretended to be a soccer team in order to settle in the U.S., and “In the Crowd,” now in post, which follows the bereaved mothers of two soccer fans, one of whom killed the other in one of the worst cases of hooligan crimes in Argentina.

Doc delves into the underworld of rival hooligan gangs and examines the culture of violence that has caused hundreds of deaths in Argentina.

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LaMayorCine has two dramas currently shooting across Uruguay: “The Abandoned Paths” by Miguel Zeballos and “7 Balas” by Sebastian Perez.

Veronica Chen’s “Los Terrenos” is slated to shoot in May. Chen’s “High Tide (“Marea Alta”) where Moreira was a co-producer and sound director, screened at Sundance two years ago.

According to Moreira, production is booming in Uruguay because of several factors: first because Uruguay managed the Covid-19 pandemic well, vaccinating most of its population; second, it offers generous tax incentives; and third, because it is safe compared to Argentina and Brazil.

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Unique Beatles and John Lennon Items From Julian Lennon’s Collection Up for NFT Auction (EXCLUSIVE)

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John Lennon’s coat from the “Magical Mystery Tour” film, his cape from “Help!,” three guitars, and Paul McCartney’s handwritten arrangement notes for “Hey Jude” — all from John’s son Julian’s private collection — are going up for NFT auction on Feb. 7, the first in a series to be rolled out over the coming months. “Lennon Connection: The NFT Collection” is presented by NFT marketplace YellowHeart and Julien’s Auctions.

The auction, the first all-NFT effort mounted by Julien’s Auctions, will open for bidding January 24 and commence in real time and in lot order for live bidding at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time on February 7, 2022, live in Beverly Hills and online at juliensauctions.com.

Each item will be offered as an audio/visual collectible, with a personal narration from Julian. Descriptions and videos of the items appear below; the items themselves are not up for auction.

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“I’ve been collecting these personal items for about 30 years, and I was getting a bit fed up with them being locked away in a vault, where I’ve had to keep them because I didn’t want them to get damaged,” Lennon tells Variety. “We did a few exhibitions in Europe with the items, and my intention was to take the collection and tour it, and I still hope to at some point in time, but obviously the last few years have not been helpful.

“I actually felt very bad about keeping all that stuff locked away, and I just felt that this was a unique way to continue dad’s legacy and to show people the collections I have, and with the videos and narration, to give people a little more than they would normally get and hear some stories that they haven’t heard before in a new art form and a different medium,” he continues. “This is a slow rollout over the next year or so of quite a few items. I have a lot of projects happening this year, including a new album, and these [items] tie in to a few of them. I can’t really say much more — you’ll understand why when it happens. The first release will be April 8 and that will inform you of the campaign going forward.”

“Julian has these incredible items in the physical world and these are 1 of 1 offerings in the digital world,” says YellowHeart founder Josh Katz. “We’re going to see a lot more of these physical/digital pairings in the years to come — it’s already happening with sneakers, and here you have a 1 of 1 digital representation of this priceless item. It’s a pretty special thing that Julian is doing.”

According to the announcement, the NFT offerings are a unique and non-interchangeable unit of data stored on the blockchain. Each piece is a 1 of 1 edition; Lennon will continue to own the only physical counterpart.

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A portion of the sale proceeds from this NFT collection will benefit Lennon’s White Feather Foundation, which will use the funds to purchase carbon removal from Nori in the form of Nori Carbon Removal Tonnes (NRTs). According to the announcement, each NRT represents one tonne of CO2-equivalent heat-trapping gas that has been removed from our atmosphere and stored in a terrestrial, subsurface, industrial or aquatic reservoir. Nori currently achieves this by working with farmers across the United States to adapt regenerative practices that increase carbon removal and sequestration. Once the carbon removal purchases have been made, White Feather will make public the Nori certificate of carbon removal which provides all information regarding the carbon removal transaction.

In their shared commitment to minimize environmental impacts, YellowHeart’s NFT platform exists on what is called “Second Layer” and “proof of stake,” which does not have the energy consumption of first layer Ethereum networks used by many providers.

Highlights include (with estimates):

Afghan Coat from “Magical Mystery Tour” 1:1 NFT (starting at $6,000)

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Four-year-old Julian was present on the set of the film “Magical Mystery Tour,” where his father John Lennon often wore this coat sometimes paired with pinstripe trousers and jewelry. Though very young at the time, he remembers the experience as “a bit crazy.” John also wore the coat at the launch party for the iconic album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

Afghan coat

“Hey Jude” Notes written by Paul McCartney 1:1 NFT (starting at $30,000) The 1968 Beatles’ masterpiece is frequently included on music lists of the greatest songs of all time. The first song released on the Beatles’ own Apple Records label, “Hey Jude,” originally titled “Hey Jules,” was written for Julian Lennon by Paul McCartney to comfort him during the time of his parents John and Cynthia Lennon’s divorce. The classic was the Beatles’ biggest-selling single in the U.S., having sold five million copies in the first six months of its release and became the number one song in 12 countries. Paul separated how he thought the song should be structured into four sections, with voices and instruments. These are his original notes, which include his personal doodles and drawings.

Julian adds to Variety, “He wrote that on the way to visit my mum and I once he’d heard the news [about the divorce]. It was a rainy day and he was in the car and started humming ideas and singing ‘Hey Jules,’ but it didn’t ring as well as ‘Hey Jude’ — at least this was his story to me many years ago — and the rest is history. It was only later in life that I really appreciated what he was trying to say and do for us, and I’m forever thankful for it. I also have a love/hate relationship with hearing it — not a week goes by that I don’t hear it in some capacity!,” he laughs, “but I’m truly honored that he did it, and Uncle Paul will always be my Uncle Paul.”

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Hey Jude

Black Cape Worn by John Lennon from the movie “Help!” – 1:1 NFT (starting at $8,000)

Though Julian was too young to have memories of this time, his mother Cynthia recalled how she and John learned how to ski in Austria during the film shoot for Help! This black cape was worn by John in the movie’s scenes filmed in the Alps.

Black cape

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Gibson Les Paul 25/50 Guitar Gifted by John Lennon to Julian Lennon 1:1 NFT (starting at $4,000)

This special-order rare 25/50 model was launched to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Les Paul model guitar and the 50th anniversary of Les Paul’s career in music. A gift to Julian from John, this guitar was one that John used to teach Julian chords on and help improve his playing techniques when he would visit.

Gibson Les Paul 1

Gibson Les Paul Guitar Copy Gifted by John Lennon to Julian Lennon 1:1 NFT (starting at $4,000)

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A Christmas gift from his father, Julian has played this Gibson Les Paul copy guitar on many occasions, but never publicly because it is too precious to him. “I never used it on record, but I probably wrote a few tunes on it. In my eyes, it was, and still is, the most beautiful guitar,” said Lennon.

Gibson Les Paul 2

Gibson 1959 Guitar Gifted by John Lennon to Julian Lennon 1:1 NFT (starting at $4,000)

Used in some of Julian’s earliest performances at Kingsmead School in Hoylake, this was one of his favorite guitars because it had a short neck and was easier to play. A gift from his father, it holds a special place in his collection.

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1959 Gibson

Founded in 2017 by Katz, YellowHeart is an NFT marketplace for music NFTs, tickets, community tokens and more, working with artists such as the Kings of Leon, Maroon 5, the late XXXTentacion, Brandi Carlile, ZHU, Burnley F.C., and others.

Julien’s Auctions has previously sold such Beatles items as one of John Lennon’s acoustic guitars, which sold for a record $2.4 million, Ringo Starr’s drum kit ($2.2 million), the drum head Ringo used on the “Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964 ($2.1 million), Paul McCartney’s handwritten lyrics to “Hey Jude” ($910,000) and more.

“Julien’s Auctions is honored to build on our rich legacy of Beatles iconography auctions in our inaugural all NFT event with Julian Lennon. We are proud to partner with Julian who’s offering these one-of-a-kind NFT collectibles of his extraordinary personal collection of John Lennon’s artifacts used during his time as a Beatle and the special time they spent together as father and son,” said Darren Julien, President/Chief Executive Officer of Julien’s Auctions. “Added to our excitement is our collaboration with YellowHeart, whose leadership in this marketplace fully launches Julien’s exciting and bold new chapter into the blockchain and NFT stratosphere.”

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