Clients and controversial films, many needing expert crisis or issues management, have included The Last Temptation of Christ, Race to Nowhere, The Apple Pushers, Kinsey, Blood Diamond, Do the Right Thing, Henry and June, The Accused, New Jack City, Basic Instinct, Kids, Angela’s Ashes, Sundance Film Institute, Motion Picture Association of America, Disney / Miramax Films, AMC Theaters...
Race to Nowhere: Exposing an Insidious Epidemic
Our high-pressure, high-stakes culture has invaded our schools and children’s lives, creating unhealthy, disengaged, unprepared and stressed-out youth. Race to Nowhere is a documentary that exposes the insidious silent epidemic in our education system, telling the stories of young people pushed to the brink, burned-out educators, and deeply frustrated parents.
Josh was hired by first-time filmmaker Vicki Abeles to create and manage both a national and regional communications plan in support of an extensive screening program beginning in the summer of 2010. The film was covered on the Today Show, MSNBC, CNN, NPR, and in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, etc. As of the end of June 2012, over one million people had attended over 5,000 screening at schools, colleges, libraries, and theaters. By 2015, nearly 7,000 screenings had taken place.
As far as we know, Race to Nowhere is the most successful grassroots campaign for a documentary film ever!
Apple Pushers: Vegetables to Food Deserts
The Apple Pushers, underwritten by the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, follows immigrant street vendors who are rolling fresh fruits and vegetables into the inner cities of New York — where finding a fresh red ripe apple can be a serious challenge. Through the lens of their powerful and deeply personal stories, this 2010 feature documentary examines such hot-button issues as food access, the obesity crisis, immigration, entrepreneurship, and what it really takes to achieve the American dream.
Josh and his film associate Juli-anne Whitney were engaged for over a year to promote the film to non-entertainment press and make The Apple Pushers a centerpiece for a much wider discussion. The film enjoyed a major screening program and aired on public television.
The Human Face of Big Data — book and film
Big Data is the real-time collection, analyses, and visualization of vast amounts of information. In the hands of data scientists, this raw information is fueling a revolution which may have as big an impact on humanity going forward as the Internet has over the past two decades. Both the book and the documentary film The Human Face of Big Data capture this extraordinary revolution sweeping through business, academia, government, healthcare, and everyday life. In addition to the potential positive aspects, there are also potential shadows and ethical and societal challenges with the use of Big Data. The film is based on the book by Rick Smolan.
Josh was part of the team that launched the book, including media outreach and a special kick-off global event that involved EMC, Federal Express and other tech companies.
Hard Times: Lost on Long Island
Starting in summer 2010, when many hoped an era of economic recovery would begin, and continuing through the holiday season six months later, the HBO documentary Hard Times: Lost On Long Island spotlights the challenges facing highly skilled, well-educated Long Islanders who lost their jobs. This film was the third in a series of HBO documentaries produced by Marc Levin and Daphne Pinkerson on the human impact of the economy.
Josh and his film associate Juli-anne Whitney focused on non-entertainment media. The film received a great deal of positive press and exposure.
the ringer - for special olympics
Josh was hired by the Special Olympics to garner enhanced media attention for The Ringer, a Fox Searchlight film starring Johnny Knoxville. Special Olympics wanted to make sure the public understood the organization’s special relationship to the making of the film and that they were happy with the content. In addition, the organization wanted some added attention for their current projects.
Kinsey: We are Sexual Beings
Sex researcher Alfred Kinsey remains one of the most controversial figures in modern science, mostly due to the constant attacks on his legacy by conservative Christian leaders and organizations. To many fundamentalists, Kinsey is the devil incarnate, directly and personally responsible for abortion, homosexuality, divorce, women’s liberation and the sexual revolution.
Even before the film Kinsey went into production, Fox Searchlight brought Josh in to plan a multi-level campaign. Evangelical groups began attacking the film early on, first trying to block the production from shooting in various locations in New Jersey, and when that failed, picketing the production itself. Josh monitored anti-film activities, even attending city council meetings to make sure film permits were issued.
As part of the campaign, Josh created and implemented a media outreach campaign focused on science, health, style and religion writers, presented the film at conferences, recruited academics and researchers, and promoted the film through various networks of organizations. An extensive screening program was implemented. Josh produced a special video press kit that was widely distributed to news media. And given the potential for attacks on the studio and theaters, Josh also drafted various plans for crisis response. Kinsey received a great deal of non-entertainment media attention. This film is a good example of campaigns that generate more non-entertainment press than film coverage -- read Benedict Carey's story in the Health Section of the New York Times, entitled, "Long After Kinsey, Only the Brave Study Sex." Josh also presented the stars of the film — Liam Neeson and Laura Linney — with talking points and tips on how to respond to challenging questions.
Starring Debra Winger and directed by Costa-Gavras, the 1988 film Betrayed centered on the activities of white extremist organizations. Hired by MGM / United Artists, Josh developed a special screening program, working with civil rights organizations, colleges, and churches. In addition, Josh’s team monitored extremist organizations to make sure they were not planning any violent attacks against the studio or local theaters.
During the late 80s, Josh’s company managed the personal publicity of some film celebrities including Kelly McGillis and Rosanna Arquette. Josh handed the media for Kelly McGillis during the release of the controversial 1988 film The Accused, co-starring Jodie Foster. It attracted major media attention because it was one of the first Hollywood films to tackle the issue of rape in a direct and honest manner. During the media effort, McGillis revealed that she had been raped as a teenager. Jodie Foster was awarded the 1988 Academy Award for Best Actress and the Golden Globe Award for her performance in this film.
Do the Right Thing
Directed by Spike Lee, Do the Right Thing highlighted racial tensions and discrimination in New York City. Josh was hired in 1989 by Universal Pictures to set up special screening programs and events around the release of the film as well as preparing for possible controversy or backlash against the film or studio. The film was very well received.
Henry and June and the Nc-17 Rating
Major film studios were not allowed by mutual agreement to release X-rated films. The 1990 film Henry and June, directed by Phillip Kaufman, was too sexually explicit to receive an R rating. Universal Pictures decided to use the release of this film to encourage the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to create a new rating.
Universal hired Josh to manage the communication side of this issue and the controversy that the film would generate. The MPAA established the NC-17 rating on October 5, 1990 and the film and the new rating attracted a great deal of controversy and media attention.
New Jack City
In 1991, Warner Brothers released the gang-themed New Jack City without considering the implications for the theaters and the communities where the film opened. Chaos ensued, including riots and gang violence in West Los Angeles during the opening weekend. Warners hired Josh after the fact to help mitigate the damage and develop an ongoing support plan for local theaters and communities.
Directed and produced by Edward James Olmos, the 1992 film American Me was one of the first movies to focus on Hispanic youth growing up in the barrio, facing poverty, gangs, and discrimination. Beginning with the film’s production, Josh was called in by Universal Pictures to create a special outreach and publicity campaign, working closely with Hispanic organizations and leaders, organizations working with youth-at-risk, and churches and religious groups. There was also concern that local theaters could become flashpoints for violence as members from different gangs came to see the film. Josh worked with the theater chains to manage this issue. A few years after the film's release, Olmos reflected on its effect in a front-page story in the Los Angeles Times.
Directed by Paul Verhoeven, the 1992 Sony film Basic Instinct was provocative, sexually explicit, and controversial — a perfect combination for a blockbuster, which it became. Sony / Tri-Star Pictures hired Josh to manage the communications around all these issues. Gay organizations were already attacking the film, sight unseen, because the Sharon Stone character was a murderous bisexual. In addition, the early versions of the film received the NC-17 rating which would have been problematic for the studio. The film received major media attention, theaters were picketed, GLAAD attracted significant press coverage — which resulted in even more tickets being sold — and a wonderful time was had by all.
The studio made a huge profit, Sharon Stone became a major star, and GLAAD used the film to enhance their position as the leading gay media advocacy organization. By today’s standards, this film would hardly be controversial, and truth to tell, Sharon Stone’s femme fatale character did not in any way slander bisexuals or lesbians, just created an exciting plot point.
Blood Diamond And Conflict Jewels
One of the main organizations speaking out about the illicit diamond trade is Global Witness, which was featured and praised in the 2006 feature film Blood Diamond starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Josh working with Fenton, made sure that the media knew about the current real issues that were only briefly addressed in the film. Also the film was set years ago, so it was important to provide a current assessment of the situation. Activities included a news conference with experts on the diamond
In June 2015, the Brooklyn Academy Music celebrated the 20th anniversary of the 1995 film Kids and IndieWire wrote a piece titled "20 Reasons Why 'Kids' is an American Masterpiece." The New York Times also wrote a 20th anniversary story entitled, "Kids, Then and Now. It was a controversial film about the culture of street kids in New York City.
Since the film had a strong message about AIDS, Miramax engaged Josh in 1995 to develop a campaign working closely with AIDS organizations that served inner city youth. Special screenings were held in most large cities and many AIDS groups and leaders endorsed the film. Josh also handled some controversy around the release of the film, including the fact that Miramax itself could not release an NC-17 rated film, but had to create a separate non-Disney linked film company.
Josh was hired by legendary film producer Scott Rudin to create and implement a special screening program for the 1999 Paramount film Angela’s Ashes. Josh’s efforts focused on the Catholic and Irish communities nationwide. He also approached media that covers religious issues.
Dirty Pictures: The Right to Artistic Expression
Dirty Pictures is a provocative retelling of the true story of the 1990 attempts to censor the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center's controversial Robert Mapplethorpe photography exhibit. This Showtime film blends stock footage of both sides of the Cincinnati debate with actors' reenactments. James Woods's performance as the art museum's director Dennis Barrie is particularly impressive. The juxtaposition of real and fictional footage presents a gripping look at the issues of right-wing censorship in the arts.
Showtime hired Josh to promote the controversial as well as constitutional issues the film addressed to non-entertainment media. The film received significant media attention as well as winning a Golden Globe award in 2000.
Broken Rainbow: Rights of Native Americans
The documentary Broken Rainbow tells the story about the “long walk,” the U.S. government-enforced relocation of thousands of Navajo Native Americans from their ancestral home in Arizona. The Navajo were relocated to aid mining speculation in a process began in 1864. The film was narrated by Martin Sheen with the title song written by Laura Nyro. Josh and his team was hired by the film’s producers to set up special screenings, promote the issues in the film to the media, and manage the Oscar campaign. The effort was successful. Broken Rainbow won the Academy Award for best feature documentary in 1985.
Legacy of the Hollywood Blacklist
The Legacy of the Hollywood Blacklist is a one-hour 1989 film, narrated by actor Burt Lancaster, explores the lingering effects of the infamous Hollywood blacklist, which occurred in the late forties and early fifties as part of the anti-Communist witch-hunts that terrorized the nation. This film is seen through the eyes of the wives and children of the now deceased Hollywood figures whose careers were destroyed when studio bosses, along with guild and union officials, capitulated to the demands of the House Un-American Activities Committee. The film was nominated for an Emmy.
Josh was hired by the film’s producers to both promote the film and the issue of political persecution through a media campaign, special screenings and events. He worked with many organizations concerned with human rights and artistic freedom. The film garnered major media attention.
Innocence Project and Conviction
Conviction, starring Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell, is a feature film based on the true story of Betty Anne Waters, who became a lawyer to prove that her brother was convicted of a crime he did not commit. Released by Fox Searchlight in October 2010, Josh was hired by Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld’s Innocence Project, prominently featured in the film, to create and implement a supplementary PR campaign using the film as a centerpiece to highlight the work of the Innocence Project. In addition, Josh provided the Innocence Project with strategic communications.
Jurassic Park and Michael Crichton
During the early 1990s, Josh represented Michael Crichton, the world’s best-selling author at the time. Crichton was very involved in the publicity and promotion for the film adaptation of his book Jurassic Park, getting more personal media coverage than the film’s stars. Josh managed Crichton’s media during the roll-out of the film. The film grossed nearly $1 billion worldwide, becoming the most successful movie released up to that time (and remained so until the release of Titanic four years later).
It's Elementary was the first documentary to address anti-LGBT prejudice in kids by providing adults with practical lessons on how to talk with kids about gays and lesbians. Hailed as "a model of intelligent directing," the film shows that children are eager and able to wrestle with stereotypes and absorb new facts about what it means to be gay.
Josh, while working with Fenton, publicized the PBS 1999 airing on more than 100 television stations and to assist with the community outreach to organizations and schools, as well as to defend the film against the attacks by conservative groups. It’s Elementary won numerous awards, has been acquired by nearly 3,000 educational institutions, and has received widespread acclaim from educators, policymakers, parents and religious leaders.
ricky jay: Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women
The great magician Ricky Jay authored the book, Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women, in 1986 and a CBS television variety hour of the same name was produced and broadcast in 1989. Ricky is an amazing card magician and also quite the magic historian. Josh helped Ricky promote this unique television special which featured Steve Martin performing for the first time on television his hysterical routine, the Great Flydini.
an early frost: first TV film on aids
An Early Frost was the first network television film that addressed the issue of AIDS. In 1985, this film was considered extremely controversial and brave. Conservative groups attacked NBC for making and airing the film. Working in collaboration with NBC, Josh created a national grassroots campaign, encouraging local gay and newly forming AIDS organizations to use the broadcast as a centerpiece for organizing and fundraising. House parties were held for group viewing of the film. In addition, Josh implemented a special publicity campaign around the issues portrayed in the film.
celebrate america: democratic party telethon
The Democratic Party purchased 17 hours of television time on NBC over Memorial Day weekend, 1983 to broadcast a fundraising telethon. The brainchild of Governor John Y. Brown of Kentucky in coordination with the Democratic National Committee, Celebrate America featured many celebrities including Paul Newman, Jane Fonda, and Mohammad Ali. Josh was hired by Rogers & Cowan, the entertainment PR firm, to create and manage the publicity effort for the telethon including placing advance stories and managing the media during the event. itself. Josh worked closely with Kathie Berlin who was then President of Rogers & Cowan's New York office.
FILM ORGANIZATIONS / PUBLIC AFFAIRS
The 1987 Entertainment Summit
Josh and his team managed the public relations for “The Entertainment Summit,” a groundbreaking and historic meeting of American and Soviet filmmakers in 1987. This gathering, held at the American Film Institute, was part of a week-long visit by a delegation of nine Soviet film makers headed by Elem Klimov, a leading director and then head of the major Soviet film union. Soviet and American writers and directors examined how they portrayed each other. At the time, this gathering was considered truly radical.
The Summit was sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Rockefeller Family Fund, New Fund for Peace and Ploughshares Fund. American participants included the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Directors Guild of America, Writers Guild of America, American Film Institute, Warner Brothers and Columbia Pictures. Journalists that covered film as well as international relations were invited to attend and cover. The Summit attracted huge media attention from entertainment, political and international journalists including an in-depth piece in the New York Times.
Sundance Film Institute
In 1991 – 1992, Robert Redford personally and as a film producer and the Sundance Film Institute hired Josh and his team to handle some confidential communications projects for the Institute, the film festival, and a few films that Redford was producing.
Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)
In the mid-1990s, Josh was hired to assist the Motion Picture Association of America - MPAA - with their public affairs and media campaign in support of the television financial and syndication (fin-syn) rules that were being reconsidered by the U.S. Congress. The rules were finally eliminated in 1996.
Disney / Miramax Films
Josh was hired by Miramax Films and Harvey Weinstein to assist in the preparation for the U.S. Senate Hearings on the MPAA film ratings. Every five years or so, for many decades, there would be a brouhaha around film ratings where right-wing members of congress could grandstand and attack Hollywood. Josh worked closely with Miramax and Disney executives, including directly with Disney CEO Robert Iger, in preparing for the hearings and managing the media.
The American Cinematheque is an independent, nonprofit cultural organization in Los Angeles dedicated exclusively to the public presentation of the moving image in all its forms. It is considered among the premier organizations of its kind in America. In was founded in 1981 as an offshoot of the annual Filmex film festival. Josh’s team in Los Angeles provided strategic communications support and handled the publicity for the 1987 Moving Picture Ball when Bette Midler was honored.
For some years, Josh’s team in Los Angeles represented AMC Theaters, one of the largest theater chains in America. Activities included corporate communications, special events produced in conjunction with various film studios, and philanthropic activities.
Political comedy - Showtime special
As a benefit for the politically progressive organization National Committee for an Effective Congress (NCEC), this Showtime special was a classic comedy variety show featuring top talent including Robin Williams, Chevy Chase, Ed Asner, and Hal Linden - broadcast in 1982. It was also the first national television appearance and likely first Los Angeles performance of the young comedian Whoopi Goldberg. Josh was hired to promote the event with a special focus on political journalists.