Posts Tagged hollywood

My Evening With Carol Burnett

CarolBurnettBeing a member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has its perks, however, living in Portland makes it rather difficult to take advantage of most of them. Members of the Academy often get free passes to movie screenings, plenty of DVD screeners for TV shows during Emmys voting season and countless invitations to evening events where networks parade their stars on panels for every TV show you can think of.

I have been telling myself for years, one of these days I’ll buy a plane ticket and actually attend an event where I don’t have to wear an uncomfortable floor-length gown and heels. That event showed up in my Inbox on July 1, at 10:56am. The subject line was:

“An Evening With Carol Burnett – July 22.”

I immediately clicked through because I have tried to attend these events before, and my experience has been if you snooze you lose. I signed up, me +1. Yes, I agree I will really show up and you won’t be sorry you gave me these two seats. Submit.

The confirmation came back immediately, and then I panicked. I needed a plane ticket and I needed a plus-one. Think, think, who would actually buy a plane ticket to go see Carol Burnett with me? Wait a minute, who lives in SoCal who might want to go? Hmmmm.

I ended up taking my sister Shannon who lives in Laguna Beach. She picked me up at the Burbank Airport on Monday at 2:20pm, and we made our way to NoHo (North Hollywood) to try to find a place to eat and drink. After all, we had three hours to kill before heading over to the Academy.

We parked the car near the Academy and started walking around looking for a place that served decent food and had a bar. I had no idea this would be so difficult! After passing several restaurants that served burgers, pizza and soft drinks we noticed a sign on the sidewalk just down the road that said “$4 Margaritas.”

“Who cares what kind of food they have,” I said. “They have $4 margaritas!”

We sat at that bar in Bow & Truss for the next two and a half hours eating Mahi Mahi tacos, shrimp ceviche and an odd kale salad while Bartender Ben looked on and occasionally interjected. Oh, and we had a few margaritas and they were well worth the $4.

At 6:25pm we walked across the street to the Academy and got in the back of a line that snaked its way back and forth across the courtyard in front of the building. I had been warned to arrive an hour early if I wanted to ensure I got a seat, because they had given out way more tickets than they had seats in the theater. They often do this because so many people sign up but don’t show up. Not tonight.

We did get in, and we did get good seats, but if we had come any later we would have ended up in the overflow room with the other 100 people who didn’t get into the theater.

The lights dimmed promptly at 7:30pm, and the evening started with a short reel of clips that chronicled Carol’s history in television. Then the lights came up and the President of the Academy introduced Carol Burnett and the moderator/interviewer for the evening, Kristin Chenowith.

There isn’t enough room in this blog to hold all of the stories Carol told, but I will tell you that she did talk about growing up poor with her grandmother, roller skating in the hallway and the day she met Julie Andrews. And of course there were stories about Tim Conway, Harvey Korman and Vicki Lawrence. Wow. What a comedic team they were.

After about 45 minutes of chit chat with Kristin, Carol finally called for questions from the audience. I had spent the entire plane ride thinking up what I would ask her if they actually called on me and handed me the microphone. I really wanted to know what the boundaries were for sketch comedy on the major networks back in the day of the Carol Burnett Show.

The first person raised his hand, then the second, then the fifth. I was wiggling in my seat, do I raise my hand? Is it a stupid question? I just knew if I didn’t ask a question I would regret it. I noticed an attendant with a mic just a few rows down from me, made eye contact with her and shot my hand in the air like a 5-year old who has to pee. Okay, here she comes, now I really have to do this. Shit.

There were three more questions from the other side of the room before the woman handed me the mic, motioned for me to stand up, whispered something into her headset mic and told me I was next. Then she pointed at me at me in that silent TV way and mouthed the word “go.”

I swallowed hard and hoped something intelligent would come out when I opened my mouth.

“Hi Carol,” I called from 20 rows back, waving so she would know where the voice was coming from. “Were there ever any characters you wanted to play or skits you wanted to include on the show where the network just said no?” The audience mumbled in approval of the question. Oh yes, it was indeed a good question.

Carol paused for just a second and then she said, “No.” Silence.

Crap. This can’t be happening to me right now. Are you kidding me right now? Nothing? Never? Nada?

Then she continued. “Oh wait, there was this one sketch…” And she proceeded to tell the story of the sketch she and Harvey Korman did about a nudist camp. Her character was positioned behind a fence with just her feet and her head showing, and Harvey was on the other side talking to her about what it was like in the nudist camp. His line was something like, “Well how do you dance in a nudist camp?” And she responded, “Very carefully,” to which the network responded, “You can’t say that on TV.”

She said the best part was that the line they finally agreed on seemed even more suggestive than the one the network nixed in the first place. During the live taping when Harvey asked, “How do you dance in a nudist colony?” she answered, “Cheek to cheek.” Yes, really.

The story got lots of laughs, and I stood there grinning from ear to ear, holding that microphone like it was a stolen Emmy. Because I knew that as soon as I let go of that microphone my moment with Carol would be over.

There were a handful of questions after mine and then Carol and Kristin were gone. But for a few brief minutes that evening I felt like I, Kelly Jo Horton, was having a personal conversation with the legendary Carol Burnett.

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Sitting with the Geeks at The Hunger Games World Premiere

Hunger Games SutherlandI am one of the few people on the planet who has already seen the Hunger Games movie. I have never had more people–men, women and children–ask to be my date until the day I found out I would be getting a ticket to the premiere. The key word in that sentence is “a” ticket. I got ONE.

It all started back in August of 2011 when I accepted a job at Crowd Factory, which is a company whose product is social media widgets. My boss is the one who divvies up the accounts, and I was privileged enough to end up with Lions Gate Films. So far I’ve been part of the social media teams for Abduction, One for the Money, Good Deeds, and now Hunger Games.

I spent most of last year eating, breathing and dreaming up ways to make the Hunger Games fans engage online. I worked diligently with some very creative people at Lions Gate and two external digital agencies. My tiny piece of the pie in all of the Hunger Games digital magic was the “Race for Mayor” campaign on the 13 District Pages (12 Districts and The Capitol) on Facebook.

At 4:30 am on Monday November 14, 2011, there was an open conference line for the incredible group of people with whom I had spent so much time building this amazing immersive experience with. When the Hunger Games movie trailer went live at 5am we simultaneously pushed 13 new Facebook tabs to the District pages on Facebook and held our breath, waiting to see if the fans would respond. The CTA (Call to Action) was simple: I Want to Run for Mayor!

Within a week there were thousands of fans running for mayor. They had created video campaigns on YouTube, and Facebook pages to get people to endorse them, because you see there was a hook. The fan who got the most endorsements would be elected mayor of their District on Facebook, and at the time what they didn’t know is that they would also be invited to attend the world premiere of the movie in Los Angeles.

On Monday March 12, 2012, I proudly sat in Row A of the Loge section at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles with a group of geeks I had spent countless hours on the phone with, but had never met in person. I was grinning from ear to ear when Joe Drake, the President of Lions Gate, came out on stage to introduce the movie and commented on how wildly successful the marketing effort had been for the film so far. According to Fandango, Hunger Games has outsold Twilight Eclipse in pre-sales, making it the most successful pre-sales movie on record.

Then the lights dimmed and adrenalin took over as some of us saw the film for the first time. After the credits rolled we all made our way to the after party. I watched the newly minted stars enjoy their exploding celebrity status, and the veterans like Donald Sutherland graciously pose for photos with everyone who asked, including me.

There were so many moments that evening that were once-in-a-lifetime type moments. The palpable anticipation in the theater before the first frame of the film appeared on screen, and the excitement when the final credits rolled and we all realized we helped create this phenomenon. But the moment that I will never forget was when someone who I really respect at Lions Gate introduced me to someone as a “social media genius.” That made the journey all worthwhile.

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Recent articles:

How ‘Hunger Games’ Built up Must-See Fever. – New York Times

‘Hunger Games’ Dominates Facebook, Online Ticket Sales – Mashable

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And the Primetime Emmy® winner for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media is…

The Interactive Media Peer Group is the fastest growing peer group in the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS), which is no surprise to those of us in the business of interactive. There are 450 active members of the Interactive Media Peer Group, and I am proud to say I am one of them.

Esther Lim (Social Media Consultant at  Altimeter Group), Rhett McLaughlin (Rhett & Link  Commercial Kings), Kelly Jo Horton (CrowdFactory), Link Neal (Rhett & Link  Commercial Kings), Howard Meltzer (CSA, Casting Director).This year I was privileged to be a part of the “Blue Ribbon Panel” that selected the 2011 Primetime Emmy® winner for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media. I brought Crowd Factory CEO Sanjay Dholakia along to be my +1 for the experience.

The event was hosted at ATAS in North Hollywood on Thursday August 25th, and MC’d by Rhett & Link, hosts of IFC’s “Commercial Kings” . The theme of this year’s event was “New Orleans,” and you would have thought the party planners had paid off Mother Nature to cooperate with the theme, because the thermometer topped 103 degrees that day. Sanjay and I arrived at the venue at 4pm and had a chance to do a little mingling with the rest of the attendees before heading into the auditorium to score this year’s top five contenders for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media. This year’s nominees:

  • ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy Sync; ABC.com, Nielsen, Gravity Mobile, Shondaland
  • Conan O’Brien Presents: Team Coco; TBS.com: Team Coco Digital
  • Fringe: Division; Fox.com: Warner Bros. Television, Bad Robot Productions
  • Late Night With Jimmy Fallon; NBC.com: Gavin Purcell, Producer; Sara Schaefer, Producer; Jimmy Fallon, Producer; Robert Angelo, Producer
  • Oscar Digital Experience; ABC.com: Disney ABC Television Group; Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Each team presented a narrated video showcasing their entry, and then Rhett & Link asked some hard-hitting questions like, “Does that high-pitched sync technology freak out all of the dogs in the neighborhood?”

When the presentations were over, those of us on the voting panel scored each entry in each of these five categories:

  • Creative Achievement
  • User Experience
  • Visual Design
  • Enhancing the Story
  • Advancing Interactive Media

And yes, there really were people from Ernst & Young in the back of the room with brief cases collecting our ballots when we finished scoring.

Brian Rodda (Brian Rodda Consulting), me, Howard Meltzer (CSA, Casting Director)Once the business portion of the evening was out of the way we were all invited to toast the nominees with a signature “Digitini” cocktail created by sponsor Grey Goose Vodka just for the occasion. I don’t know what was in it, but it was a cool and refreshing respite from the heat of the day. We then made our way through the crowd congratulating the nominees, and exchanging business cards as we went. Sanjay had to run to catch a plane back to San Francisco, but I stayed to enjoy the Cajun food and catch up with my ATAS buddies.

And who ended up winning the Emmy?  The Creative Arts Emmys were held on September 10, 2011, in Hollywood and the Primetime Emmy® for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media was awarded to the Oscar Digital Experience.

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How to Win an Emmy: Add it to your Bucket List

I have a pie-in-the-sky bucket list. My bucket list contains very specific items like:

  • Sing karaoke in Tokyo while wearing a pink wig like Scarlett Johnasson in Lost in Translation.
  • Hot air balloon ride over Napa with someone I’m madly in love with.
  • Win an Academy Award.
  • Win an Emmy® award.

Well, okay, those last two aren’t very specific at all when you think about it. I never specified what kind of Academy Award or what kind of Emmy® I wanted to win. I just put it out there for the universe to chew on.

I spent last weekend in Hollywood: at the 62nd Annual Primetime Engineering Emmy® Awards, as the recipient of an Emmy®. Yes, really.

There are three  types of Engineering Emmys, and these are the definitions:

The Engineering Emmy®: This award is presented to an individual, a company, or an organization for developments in engineering that are either so extensive an improvement on existing methods or so innovative in nature that they materially affect the transmission, recording or reception of television.

The Engineering Emmy® Plaque: This award is presented to those achievements that exhibit a high level of engineering and are important to the progress of the industry.

The Philo T. Farnsworth Award: This award honors an agency, company or institution whose contributions over a long period of time have significantly affected the state of television technology and engineering.

This year they awarded ONE Engineering Emmy®, TWO Farnsworth Awards (one went to Desilu Studios if that gives you an idea of how prestigious this award is), and FOUR Engineering Emmy® Plaques.

Ensequence and Showtime were awarded the Emmy® Plaque for Outstanding Achievement in Engineering Development for the Showtime Sports Interactive project, which I have been the technical operations lead on for the past 18 months.

I have submitted my application to become a member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. You either have to win an Emmy® or get signatures from two sponsors in your peer group (mine is Interactive Media) to get approved. I did both just to hedge my bets!

I am still on Cloud 9.

Engineering Emmy Awards 2010

Right before I walked in.

Engineering Emmy 2010

Accepting the award with Showtime.

Engineering Emmy Awards 2010 Stage

Standing on the stage after it was all over.

Big Bang Theory Emmy

Our hosts for the evening, Kunal Nayyar and Simon Helberg of Big Bang Theory.

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Dear Jesse James

bullock-oscar_1598983cDear Jesse James,

Let me just start by saying “Fuck you!” There, now that we have that out of the way, we can continue.

Your wife Sandra Bullock stood up on that Golden Globes stage a few weeks back and thanked you for having her back. Well apparently you also had Michelle McGee’s back, and front too I imagine, while your wife was off creating an Oscar-winning performance for The Blind Side.

There is nothing more humiliating than taking a woman’s trust and trashing it by having an affair. I know, because I’ve been there.

My Facebook status once said, “I want what Sandra Bullock has, a man who has her back.” Today my status says, “I do NOT want what Sandra Bullock has after all.”‘

You may not have Sandra’s back but I do.

Sincerely,

Kelly Jo Horton

Single mom, actress, geek

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