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‘Black Spartans’ Film Tackled By Michigan State University Over Depiction Of Iconic Football Team

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EXCLUSIVE: Michigan State University wants nothing to do with Ben Cory Jones’ film about the school’s legendary Black Spartans football team.

“Please be advised that the University will not partner with you or Black Spartans Productions on this project,” Brian Quinn, MSU VP of Legal Affairs and General Counsel, wrote to Black Spartans producer Rochelle Claerbaut on Monday. “Nor does the University consent to this project. Additionally, the University is hereby providing notice that you, Black Spartan Productions, and any other person or entity associated with the project must not infringe upon any of the University’s intellectual property.”

Quinn’s email correspondence, obtained by Deadline, was in reply to a September 14 email from Claerbaut seeking to link up with MSU on the project. The email from the producer and daughter of Duffy Daugherty: A Man Ahead of His Time author David Claerbaut was sent the day after various surviving members and relatives of the beloved 1966 college co-championship team sent a cease-and-desist letter to director-writer Jones, producer James Velissaris and his various aliases, as well as actors J. Alphonse Nicholson, Neal McDonough (who also is a producer) and others.

Oddly enough, Claerbuat’s September 14 email to MSU referred to Black Spartans being in pre-production, when in fact the film started filming in around Atlanta on September 12 — as Jones has made clear in several social media posts.

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Depicting the Daugherty-coached Michigan State Spartans of the mid-1960s, Black Spartans the movie is based in part on Claerbaut’s 2018 book. Led by quarterback Jimmy Raye and featuring Gene Washington, the late Bubba Smith and Bob Apisa, the Spartans were the nation’s first fully integrated college football team. With 20 Black players on the roster, and seen by millions on TV, the team won national championships in 1965 and 1966. The latter “Game of the Century” match-up against top-ranked Notre Dame ended in a 10-10 tie, and the two teams shared the national title.

The response earlier this week from the East Lansing-based school certainly scored a touchdown with the former Black Spartans and their families, says the lawyer who sent that barbed cease-and-desist earlier this month.

“The players and their families are deeply grateful to MSU for its support now and over the last six decades,” Early Sullivan Wright Gizer & McRae partner Devin McRae said Wednesday. “It is important to the players and their families that the email from MSU’s General Counsel to the producers of Black Spartans be shared with all of the persons who are working on the film so they know that, like the people who are falsely depicted in the film, the University, contrary to what the producers have been telling them, does not consent to this film and will enforce its rights against all responsible persons should the production continue in violation of those rights.”

“Based upon the three versions of the full script that have now been shared with the players and their families, the defamatory content is overwhelming, not only harmful and offensive to the individuals and the University as an institution, but also harmful to the Country’s interest in an accurate and truthful retelling of these significant cultural and racial historical events,” McRae went on to say. “The person ultimately behind this project is a hedge fund manager who was recently indicted for obstruction of justice and falsifying documents and faces a criminal trial on those charges in the Southern District of New York in November. The players and their families will fight his exploitative assertion of rights in, and falsification of, their life stories.”

Producers and representatives for Black Spartans the movie did not respond to request from Deadline on the MSU email. We will update if and when they do respond.

Here’s Quinn’s full email from Monday:

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Ms. Claerbaut:

Thank you for your email, and I apologize for the delay. The University has been contacted by former student-athletes and their families about this project. Further, some of the individuals depicted in the project have retained counsel and sent you a cease and desist letter. Please be advised that the University will not partner with you or Black Spartans Productions on this project. Nor does the University consent to this project. Additionally, the University is hereby providing notice that you, Black Spartan Productions, and any other person or entity associated with the project must not infringe upon any of the University’s intellectual property.

Brian Quinn
Vice President of Legal Affairs and General Counsel



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Netflix & Paramount+ To Profile ‘Strip Search Caller’ ; TVOKids Spotlights Down Syndrome With Toon Series; ‘One Piece Film Red’ London Takeover — Global Briefs

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Netflix & Paramount+ UK To Profile ‘Strip Search Caller’

Netflix and Paramount+ have struck a first of its kind-of-deal over a true crime documentary telling the story of the strip search caller in the U.S. Paramount+ has taken UK rights to Pervert: The Hunt for the Strip Search Caller and Netflix has rest of world on the doc, which it will be calling Don’t Pick Up the Phone. The deal is believed to be the first time two streamers have worked in such a way in the UK and rest of world. The doc tells the shocking story of a hoax caller who targeted fast food restaurants across the U.S. – posing as a police officer investigating a theft, the caller instructed managers to strip-search the young female employees he said were suspects. For many victims, what began as a humiliating strip search escalated into sexual abuse.

Canada’s TVOKids Spotlights Down Syndrome In Animated Series ‘Griffin And Turner’

EXCLUSIVE: Ontario, Canada’s TVOkids and Big Jump Entertainment are working on 2D-animated series Griffin and Turner. Based on real Canadian brothers who a significant online following, the show follows the supportive pair as they, their friends and family undertake personal challenges but focus on the journey rather than winning. Turner has Down syndrome, and TVOKids executive producer Kirsten Hurd noted the series has been developed in consultation with the Down syndrome community. Producer Big Jump is behind shows such as Shutterbug and Big Words, Small Stories.

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London Gets ‘One Piece Film Red’ Takeover After Record Haul

To celebrate the record-breaking haul of One Piece Film Red in the UK, the Straw Hat Pirates are set for a takeover of iconic London locations on November 26. Via local distributor Anime Limited and Toei Animation, the cast and memorable scenes from the series will be projected onto the County Hall of London, opposite the London Eye as well as other key locations. One Piece Film: Red has grossed over £800,000 in the UK and Ireland since it released earlier this month, making it the biggest of the long-running franchise. A phenomenon in Japan, One Piece Film Red has grossed $162M to date worldwide 



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‘All Quiet On The Western Front’, ‘Belfast’ Top 2022 EFA Arts & Crafts Awards

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Edward Berger’s All Quiet On The Western Front and Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast top the European Film Academy’s Excellence Awards honoring achievement in the arts and crafts categories, the winners of which were announced on Wednesday.

Belfast won best European Production Design for Jim Clay, whose credits include Children Of Men, for which he won a Bafta in 2006, and Murder On The Orient Express.

The drama, set against the backdrop of the beginnings of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland in 1969, also won best European Costume Design for Charlotte Walter (Blithe Spirit, Misbehaviour)

Netflix-backed German WWI drama All Quiet On The Western Front won best European Make-up & Hair for Heike Merker, and Best European Special Effects for Frank Petzold, Viktor Müller and Markus Frank.

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 In other categories, best European Cinematography was won by Kate McCullough for her work on Colm Bairéad’s Irish-language drama The Quiet Girl.

Best European Editing went to Özcan Vardar and Eytan İpeker for Turkish director Emin Alper’s drama Burning Days.

Polish composer Paweł Mykietyn won best European Original Score went for Jerzy Skolimowski’s EO.

Best European Sound went to Simone Paolo Olivero, Paolo Benvenuti, Benni Atria, Marco Saitta, Ansgar Frerich & Florian Holzner for Michelangelo Frammartino’s cave exploration drama The Hole.

The winners, which are decided by a special expert jury, will receive their awards at the European Film Awards ceremony on 10 December in Reykjavík.

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Jennifer Lopez’s Social Media Mysteriously Goes Dark

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EXCLUSIVE: The actress, producer and top-selling performing artist’s social media channels including Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok and Twitter have suddenly gone dark in their featured/cover images.

Reps for Jennifer Lopez were unavailable for comment, but we hear from others that The Hustlers and Marry Me actress is on the verge of announcing a new project.

Here’s a look at her Instagram tonight:

While Lopez’s Instagram had erased all posts, a trail of her previous postings remained on Facebook, Tik Tok and Twitter. Across all four social media portals, Lopez counts close to 347M followers, the majority of that coming from her Instagram.

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Lopez’s Nuyorican Productions in June 2021 signed a multi-year first-look deal with Netflix spanning feature films, TV series and unscripted content, with an emphasis on projects that support diverse female actors, writers and filmmakers. Lopez co-runs Nuyorican Productions with her producing partner Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas.

Lopez scored her best opening for a live-action movie at the domestic box office with STX’s 2019 stripper caper Hustlers which debuted to $33.1 million, and grossed $105M stateside, $157.6M worldwide.  As a recording artist, Lopez has sold over 70 million albums, with J.Lo became her bestselling album with 3.8M copies sold in the U.S. and 12M global. Her Netflix thriller The Mother from director Niki Caro is set to debut in May. Her romantic comedy Shotgun Wedding with Josh Duhamel will hit Prime Video on Jan. 27.

On Facebook, one of her followers, Steffany Merino wrote, “What’s happened? Hope you and your wonderful family are ok. I’ll pray for your health and safety.”

Again, we hear something special is in the works in the next few days.



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