Meet “One of TV’s Best Role Models”: Anne from ‘Annedroids’

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The series just launched a few months ago, but already Annedroids, a live action kids’ show that received high ratings and rave reviews during Amazon Studios first pilot season, has earned a major endorsement from one of the most trusted parent guides in the U.S..

Common Sense Media recently named Anne, the lead character in the show, one of TV’s Best Role Models of 2014, adding her to a list of legends that includes Dora (the Explorer), Arthur (from PBS’ long-running series), and Cosmo’s host Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

How did the newcomer get the attention of the esteemed media org?  Being a kid-genius scientist eager to share her knowledge is part of it, but the editors also liked Anne’s indomitable spirit: “When faced with a problem, she sees only possibilities, and no amount of failure ever dampens her spirit.”  Anne also stood out for them on another front:  “In a TV landscape filled with tween fashionistas, Anne is remarkably unfocused on clothes and appearance.”

Anne’s adventurous side and relatable qualities won over Tara Sorensen, Amazon Studios’ Head of Kids Series Development. “Anne is a wonderful role model for kids,” says Sorensen. “She’s bold, she’s determined and she’s not afraid of failure.  It’s what defines her.  By taking risks and experimenting, she’s able to gain valuable insight, which always leads to her growth.”

In this behind-the-scenes video, the young actors in the series talk about what they see as their characters’ strengths.  All-new episodes of Annedroids debut on October 30th only on Amazon Instant Video.

'Transparent' Breaks Records, Gets Renewed for a Second Season

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In just over a week since its debut, Transparent has climbed to #1 on Prime Instant Video and earned a near-perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes with a 98 percent critic rating.

With the overwhelming success of the show, Amazon Studios has greenlit a second season of Transparent, to air in 2015.

Viewers and media outlets from ET to the Today Show to NPR continue to buzz about Transparent, helping to turn the dramatic comedy into something of a water cooler hit.  Reviewers have embraced the show’s “transcendent empathy” and it’s ability to challenge expectations: 

  • "After I saw the pilot, I called this the best show of the fall. It turns out it’s the best show of the year.” – James Poniewozik, TIME
  • Transparent is a drama/comedy series that could, in theory, make the Emmy nominations next year in either of those categories. It’s that good.” –David Bianculli, NPR
  • “It’s the best new TV show debuting anywhere this fall, by a long stretch.” – Alan Sepinwall, Hitfix 
  • “All told, Transparent is a surprisingly poignant, funny and mature piece of work.” – Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter
  • “Centered on a career-redefining performance by Jeffrey Tambor as a retired professor finally allowing himself to live his true life as a woman, the half-hour, 10-episode series is, quite simply, astonishing to watch.” – Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times
  • “The characters are so multi-layered and their stories so thoroughly tied to each other that Transparent achieves a pleasing denseness, but one of its signal achievements is that it breathes. This is the kind of story that can be told by media companies who are unmoored from most traditional commercial constraints: They can make television that feels artisanal, specific and organic in all the best ways.” – Maureen Ryan, The Huffington Post
  • “Episodes might break your heart, but you’ll keep coming back for more. Take heed, Netflix: Two can play at the binge game.” – Diane Garrett, The Wrap
  • “In quality, Transparent easily rivals anything on HBO, Netflix or network television. Its cast of indie all-stars, playing out tender, beautifully-shot scenes over nostalgic ’70s tunes could be straight out of a film.”  - Kate Sommers-Dawes, Mashable
  • Transparent’s transcendent empathy and wry, raw realism make most of this fall season’s new batch of network sitcoms seem even emptier than usual.” - Matt Roush, TV Guide
  • "Transparent challenges me, shocks me, awes me, and makes me happy to be alive.” - Megan O’Keefe, Decider

Jim Croce, Bob Dylan and “Free to Be…You and Me”: The Music of ‘Transparent’

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How do you underscore the themes and punctuate the emotions in a story that is both comedic and dramatic, current and nostalgic?  This was the challenge facing Transparent’s music supervisor Bruce Gilbert, a veteran TV music supervisor who managed to line up songs from several musical legends for the groundbreaking new series. 

He spoke to Amazon Music about the role of music in storytelling, the significance of Jim Croce’s “Operator” in Transparent, and his process for coming up with the songs that fit the scripts. While many TV shows and films today use songs that are current hits or about to break, Gilbert focused on “timeless music” that speaks to the themes of family, longing, self-delusion and revelation.

Read the interview with AmazonMusicNotes, then listen to the music from Transparent

Thanks to You: Two New Amazon Original Series Get the Greenlight

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A dramatic psychological thriller set in a corrupt modern city and a sunny, coming-of-age comedy set in the 80s.  Introducing the two new Amazon Original Series headed into production: Red Oaks, from producer Steven Soderbergh (Traffic), and Hand of God, written by Ben Watkins (Burn Notice) and directed by Marc Forster (World War Z). 

Hand of God stars Golden Globe winner Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy) as Judge Pernell Harris, a hard-living, law-bending married man with a high-end call girl on the side, who suffers a mental breakdown and goes on a vigilante quest to find the rapist who tore his family apart. With no real evidence to go on, Pernell begins to rely on “visions” and “messages” he believes are being sent by God through his ventilator-bound son. 

What Hand of God viewers have been saying:  

  • “From the opening credits to the final scene, I was completely hooked and entertained. This may be Ron Perlman’s best role yet.”
  • “Perhaps the most thought-provoking series since Breaking Bad.”
  • “Brilliant pilot! It had me hooked from the first scene. I love the complexity of each of the main characters and the intensity of the storyline. Dana Delany and Ron Perlman both turn in wonderful performances. I hope we get to see more of this.”

Red Oaks stars Craig Roberts (Submarine) as David Myers, an assistant tennis pro at the Red Oaks Country Club in suburban New Jersey in 1985 who is reeling from his father’s heart attack and conflicted about what college major to declare in the fall.  Directed by Sundance award-winner David Gordon (Pineapple ExpressEastbound and Down) and written by Gregory Jacobs (The Knick), Red Oaks also stars Paul Reiser, Jennifer Grey and Richard Kind.

What Red Oaks viewers have been saying: 

  • “This show is like a piece of 80’s gold that found its way into the 21st century”
  • “I am really picky when it comes to good comedy, and this show had me in stitches by the 4th minute.”
  • “Excellent. Can’t wait to see more. This show is better than anything I am seeing coming from the networks.”

“We are excited to get working on full seasons of Hand of God and Red Oaks,” added Roy Price, Vice President of Amazon Studios. “These shows come from some of the most talented creators and actors in the business.  Customers loved the pilot episodes and we can’t wait to hear what they think of the entire series.”  

Stay tuned to Hollywonk for more on these two new series as they go into production.

Jill Soloway on Writing, ‘Transparent’, and What She Wishes She Knew Then

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Jill Soloway got her start at a scrappy theater company in her hometown of Chicago, where she and her older sister, Faith, put on shows like “Miss Vagina Pageant” and “The Real Life Brady Bunch.” 

Their Brady Bunch show became a cult hit in the 90s, expanding to NYC and LA, where Jill ended up breaking into TV writing with an episode of the Steve Harvey Show. A few years later, she was writing for another cult hit, Six Feet Under, which earned her three Emmy nominations.

But for many years, the story she’s wanted to tell is that of a family wrestling with the big topics of love, sex, gender and identity. It is the story that became Transparent, which has landed on the top of critics’ list for fall TV shows.

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Back in February, before the release of her pilot for Transparent, Hollywonk asked Soloway a few questions about what she envisioned for the series, how she approached writing and filmmaking, and what she wished she knew back when she first started.  Below are a few highlights of what she shared.    

Hollywonk: What excites you most about Transparent?

Jill Soloway: This cast (Jeffrey Tambor, Judith Light, Gaby Hoffmann, Amy Landecker and Jay Duplass), this family and the way they’re magnetized toward one another as they search for authenticity feels so real and alive to me. It’s definitely a salute to my childhood – that relationship with my sister where we were just so alive and in the moment creatively because all we wanted to do was satisfy one another.

HW:  What inspires you the most about filmmaking?

JS:  It’s a huge privilege for me to have an audience give me their brain space for however long I get. I get excited to provide a female voice, and I love inspiring other people to take their non-traditional ways of seeing and transform that into art.

HW:  Do you approach writing, directing and producing differently?

JS:  Those three jobs have all evolved into one big fat braid of creativity. I’ll write the script first, and then prep would be considered producing. As we prep I get new information about the script.

As a director, 95% of my work is casting. I absolutely have to cast people that I’m a little bit in love with. They have to be so funny that they make me laugh as hard as my sister does. The other 5% is showing up on the day and staying present in my body so I can get that little buzz that says, “Ooooh, this is WORKING. Go in this direction.”

HW:  When it comes to writing, how do you approach the blank page?

JS:  I never sit down and stare at a blank page. I get inspired to write or create a project because the world is revealing itself to me in my head. It happens while I’m driving or falling asleep or waking up. It’s as if the characters are ghosts out there in some vague semi-conscious land, and they’re borrowing me to have an audience with the public!  It’s a lot like playing or indulging in imaginary stories as a kid. So when I sit down at the computer, it’s usually because I’ve imagined a scene or heard some dialogue and I want to get it down.  Once the actors are cast, the voices evolve and I can get even more specific information.

HW: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started?

JS:  I was always waiting for people to say they didn’t like something, and I would pay more attention to that than the ten previous people who said it was good. It may be worse for women, who are so acculturated toward being told that they’re good or attractive or likable, but I think all artists deeply suspect that they suck and they really jump on the negative stuff.

A few years ago it really hit me that the only thing that makes a director is having the gumption to say it, to declare it, over and over again, and not really give a darn if people like you. Of course, that’s not to say I don’t crave and use creative feedback. I love test screenings and sharing my work with people so I can tell what’s working. Now I tell young artists, “You have to be open enough to allow other peoples’ creativity to power the machine of your content, but not so open that anyone can slow you down or stop you.”