Jokes, and selfies with Kobe Bryant, at Oscar nominees lunch

Oscar nominees including Steven Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro, Gary Oldman, Timothee Chalamet, Daniel Kaluuya, Sally Hawkins, Margot Robbie, Saoirse Ronan, Greta Gerwig, Meryl Streep, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Sam Rockwell, Kobe Bryant, Mary J. Blige, Allison Janney, Laurie Metcalf, Jordan Peele, and Octavia Spencer attend the 90th Annual Academy Awards Nominee Luncheon at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 5, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (AFP)
Updated 06 February 2018
0

Jokes, and selfies with Kobe Bryant, at Oscar nominees lunch

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif: The Oscar nominees’ luncheon is like an exclusive clubhouse where every member is an outstanding artist and film super-fan.
So the production designer of “The Shape of Water” is free to geek out over meeting Mary J. Blige, who herself shared a moment with Gary Oldman.
Actress Sally Hawkins embraced Margot Robbie while Greta Gerwig chatted with Meryl Streep. Jordan Peele talked shop with Willem Dafoe. First-time acting nominees Daniel Kaluuya and Timothee Chalamet high-fived every time they saw each other.
Even nominees who couldn’t attend were there in spirit, or at least in cardboard-cutout form. Street artist JR brought a life-sized cardboard portrait of “Faces Places” co-director Agnes Varda. He brought the Varda cutout on the red carpet and into the risers for the annual Oscars “class photo.”
But the person perhaps enjoying the Oscar luncheon the most was retired Lakers star Kobe Bryant. Nominated for his contributions to the animated short “Dear Basketball,” Bryant wore a beaming grin throughout the event, practically skipping his meal to pose for photos with his many fans in the room, including fellow nominees Allison Janney and “Logan” screenwriter James Mangold. Bryant said being in the Oscar mix is “better than all those championships put together.”
“I don’t know what’s going on!” the 39-year-old said, practically giggling. “I love this.”
An annual tradition since 1982, the Oscar nominees’ luncheon brings together the year’s nominated artists for a collegial meal, extended mingling and the group photo. This year’s event drew 170 of the 200 artists nominated.
Film academy president John Bailey explained the history of the film academy before telling nominees that they each embody “this 90-year academy history.” He dropped the words “envelope malfunction” in a passing reference to last year’s best picture flub, but more pointedly offered a new hashtag to replace #OscarsSoWhite, a criticism that inspired sweeping changes for greater inclusion in the film academy. Bailey’s new hashtag: “Oscars so 90th.”
He said the academy reinventing itself in “this era of greater awareness and responsibility in balancing gender, race, ethnicity and religion.”
Addressing those issues and perhaps the #MeToo movement, Bailey said, “I may be a 75-year-old white male, but I’m every bit as gratified as the youngest of you here that the fossilized bedrock of many of Hollywood’s worst abuses are being jackhammered into oblivion.”
Actress Laura Dern called for greater compassion and representation throughout the industry. She then announced every nominee’s name as each took their places on risers for a group photo.
“Radicals, subversives and wild ones,” Dern said, “Thank you for getting us through this last year with every one of your films somehow reflecting the wealth of emotions that we are all going through.”
Telecast producers Jennifer Todd and Michael De Luca briefly greeted the nominees, with Todd saying, “It’s our honor to produce the show in a year where the nominations are finally starting to reflect the world that we live in and the way it looks, speaks and tells stories.”
Then they brought actor-comedian Patton Oswalt out to give eventual Oscar winners tips for delivering memorable acceptance speeches.
“They’ve spared every expense bringing me here,” he quipped.
His first tip? Hustle to the stage. “If you need something to speed you up, think of the hot, murderous glares of your colleagues on your back as you’re moving up there. Let it fuel you.”
He also put the kibosh on “trips and falls” on the way to claim an Oscar. “We know it’s adorable,” Oswalt said. “Jennifer owns it. That’s her thing now.”
Jennifer Lawrence famously fell on her way to accept the best actress Oscar for “Silver Linings Playbook” in 2013.
Tip two? Be concise. And don’t say you didn’t expect to win.
“Yes you did,” he said. “You were nominated.”
He also cautioned against thanking managers and agents. “Just cover for yourself, all right?” he said. “You don’t want to explain to your grandkids why you thanked someone that Dateline just did a four-part series on.”
He told nominees they don’t need to hunch over at the microphone.
“Think Freddie Mercury, not Tom Waits,” Oswalt said. “Look up and project.”
Finally, he said, “be heartfelt and be meaningful.
“And when I say that,” he said, “I mean act that way.”


Egyptian start-up teaches artists ways to monetize their work

Updated 16 June 2019
0

Egyptian start-up teaches artists ways to monetize their work

  • More Of was started by Sara Seif and Hania Seif partly to change society's attitude towards a career as an artist
  • While the company is still at an early stage, the two founders have no plans of slowing down

Art is for the soul what food is for the body. Yet it’s a fact that artists all over the world struggle to make a living out of their creations.

This is especially so in the Middle East, where it’s rare to find a family willing to support their child’s artistic endeavors, since more academic careers tend to take priority.

But two sisters in Egypt are aiming to change that particular mindset. Enter More Of, a startup focusing on the arts, helping those in relevant fields make a living out of it.

“It all started three years ago. My sister and I used to study theater and marketing, so we both had artistic and entrepreneurial sides,” said Sara Seif, co-founder and CEO of the startup.

“We were always surrounded by artists, and we always saw the struggle they faced, with so many talents out there and so little revenue. The artists can’t monetize their art, and it’s not because they’re not good. It’s because they don’t have the business skill set.”

Sara and Hania Seif want to introduce a entrepreneurial mentality into the world of art. (Supplied)

It wasn’t until Sara stumbled on an Injaz Egypt startup competition — just 12 hours before the deadline — that the idea started to take shape. She scrambled to put her ideas into words and called her sister and business partner Hania to help.

Invited to attend a pre-incubation program, where they learned how to turn their idea into a business model, they ended up winning the competition, receiving EGP 100,000 ($6,000) in seed funding, as well as a trip to Silicon Valley.

For More Of, there was a very specific problem they were trying to solve, said Sara: “There was this gap between the talents and the marketplaces; people didn’t know where or how to look for opportunities.”

The company works in two ways; the first is geared towards people who have creative end products.

“Creative artists have something you can actually buy, like wall paintings, fashion, jewelry, and so on. We offer them a talent management platform; we’re like a talent incubator for them,” Sara said. “What we do in this incubator is try to build capacities on the business side.”

They started doing so by conducting a series of workshops with topics including how to turn art into a business, sales for creative artists, and personal branding.

“Our part is to teach you the business side. If you’ve got the talent, now let’s sell your art,” said fellow co-founder Hania, who serves as More Of’s chief creative officer.

The second area they are facilitating is the performing arts.

Sara elaborated: “We’re going to build an online platform for performing artists — theater, dance, and music — and it’s going to work like an online casting agency, where there’ll be a lot of opportunities posted for the artists.”

The two plan on making the platform free so that any artist could use it, but there will also be a premium option.

“Premium users will have an edge, where we’ll be their own consultants and manage their talent. We’ll basically be an agent for the artist,” Hania said.

“Our part is to teach you the business side. If you’ve got the talent, now let’s sell your art,”

Hania Seif

While the startup is still at an early stage, they have no intention of slowing down.

“We want to collaborate with as many people as possible, to create as many initiatives as possible, and pull all resources out there so that the artists and art community could come together and establish an ecosystem,” Sara said. “We see ourselves becoming the leading talent-management platform in the MENA region and then internationally.”

Their plans to expand on an international level mean they could potentially land local artists opportunities on the global stage.

“People want to reach talent in Egypt and they want figures to address, and we plan on becoming that figure,” Hania said.

Making money out of being an artist might have seemed like a long shot at some point, but with initiatives such as More Of, it is changing.

“It’s no longer a hopeless case for artists to turn their art into an everyday career,” Sara said.

Hania added: “We want to empower artists to do ‘more of’ what they love. And that’s how we (came up with) our name.”

 

•  This report is part of a series being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region