Friday, December 7, 2007

Cass Warner Interviewed by

Not only did independent filmmaker Cass Warner grow up in a socially conscious family in Los Angeles, but she also grew up in and around movies her whole life. Her grandfather was Harry Warner, president and co-founder, along with his siblings Jack, Sam and Albert, of Warner Bros. Studio.

It wasn't unusual for Cass Warner to sit down next to Richard Burton or Natalie Wood, watching one of the recent WB films in her family's living room. And every Saturday, she would accompany her writer/producer father, Milton Sperling, to the studio lot, where she was allowed to roam.

It wasn't unusual for Cass Warner to sit down next to Richard Burton or Natalie Wood, watching one of the recent WB films in her family's living room. And every Saturday, she would accompany her writer/producer father, Milton Sperling, to the studio lot, where she was allowed to roam. Read the full interview...

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

GET INVOLVED! Find out how YOU can be a part of bringing Hollywood history to life!

Cass Warner is currently in postproduction on THE BROTHERS WARNER, her long-in-the-making feature documentary that puts a new and personal spin on the fascinating Hollywood legacies of her family. You can support this effort with a tax deductible donation through the 501c3 non-profit Fiscal Sponsorship of the International Documentary Association (IDA). Please know that Cass and her collaborators appreciate your help in getting the film finished in time for the 85th anniversary of the studio's founding in 2008 - so we're happy to include your name as a thank you in the credits of the film.

To make a donation please click here.

Monday, August 6, 2007

New Documentary About Warner Bros. Seeks Distributor

A new documentary about the founding of Warner Bros. has just been finished and now it needs a distributor. Any ideas? Funny, I would have figured the WB itself would be interested in something like this, at least via Warner Independent Pictures, but apparently it isn't that easy. Could it be the doc features negative info about the studio? I doubt this, considering the film was directed by Cass Warner, grand-daughter of Harry Warner (and mother of actor Cole Hauser; daughter of Oscar-nominated producer Milton Sperling). Also, Eliza Steel, grand-daughter of Albert Warner, was an associate producer on the project. Certainly neither would include bad stuff about their family and the movie studio they started. From the sound of it, the doc, titled The Brothers Warner, is simply about the legacy of Harry, Albert, Jack and Sam. Among its interviewees are Dennis Hopper, Norman Lear, Morgan Spurlock and surviving members of the Warner family; the film also features an exclusive audio interview with Ronald Reagan.

I guess there could be some negative things said about today's Warner Bros. or about today's Hollywood in general. The film's co-writer and producer is Eddie Schmidt, usual partner to Kirby Dick, with whom he made This Film is Not Yet Rated and the Oscar-nominated Twist of Faith. So, like the former film, this could offer a controversial look at the movie business. However, I still think the WB should put this out themselves rather than give people the impression the studio has problems with it. Cass Warner actually started a new production company called Warner Sisters for this film, and it would be neat to see the header "Warner Bros. and Warner Sisters Presents ... " Between the recent docs The Kid Stays in the Picture and The Last Mogul, there's obviously some interest in films about film moguls, and both whet my appetite for something just like The Brothers Warner. Hopefully, the WB will get smart soon and put this out.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Valley filmmaker keeps family flame lit with Warner Sisters

Cass Warner walks in the visionary footsteps of her grandfather
By Mark Krasn

"The legacy of the brothers are boots I like to wear," says studio city resident Cass Warner - author, producer and documentarian.

The brothers? Well, those would be Harry, Jack, Abe and Sam - the world-famous quartet who overcame tremendous odds time and again to establish the studio that went on to provide movie lovers everywhere with some of the alltime classics.

Warner, who is the granddaughter of Harry (the eldest of the Warner Bros. Studios four plucky founders, considers herself the "Keeper of the Flame" — as evidenced through a number of heartfelt projects.

Just one of these is the documentary about the Warner Bros. Studio being made in anticipation of its 85th anniversary. Clint Eastwood is Executive Producer of the history — slated to premier at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008.

"It's a pleasure and a duty to carry on my family's vision of films as tools for social awareness," says Warner, who founded Warner Sisters – a production company to bring many of her projects to fruition. One of these projects – already completed and in its sixth printing, is the book, Hollywood Be Thy Name, The Warner Brothers Story.

"It took me a long time to process my grandfather's final communication to me," says Warner, who saw him for the last time when she was ten years old. "I realized that there was a promise between us for me to carry on what the brothers began and believed in."

The privilege of fulfilling that promise, says Warner, includes encouraging filmmakers to product works that are both aesthetically pleasing, but which have an important message about the global issues of the day. To "educate, entertain and enlighten" was her grandfather's enduring motto.

Examples, says Warner, include the legendary Casablanca, where Humphrey Bogart sees his true love Ingrid Bergman fade into the sunset, in lieu of a more romantic ending. This, says Warner, was a message of self-sacrifice for the greater good. Sergeant York, starring Gary Cooper, was another Warner Bros./Howard koch production that, Warner says, was an "anti-war" film.

"Howard told me that, when he wrote, he felt he was just the conduit for a message that needed to be conveyed," says Warner. "And my grandfather was one of the first people to really understand the power of film to convey those messages artistically."

Warner, the daughter of screenwriter Milton Sperling, has fond memories of happy times spent on Harry Warner's 1100-acre ranch in Topanga Canyon where she says the humble man drove a tractor, fed chickens and lovingly tended to his family.

She had little awareness of the power he yielded until she saw the startled reaction of childhood friends who joined movie stars such as Natalie Wood and Richard Burton when the Warner-Sperlings held Saturday night home movie screenings.

"I wasn't really aware of my good fortune when I was younger," says Warner, whose father wrote The Court Martial of Billy Mitchell and a documentary, The Sands of Iwo Jima and was twice nominated for an Academy Award. "My family didn't desire the limelight."

Warner's preservation of her family's legacy includes participating in the revitalization of the New Castle, Pennsylvania theatre where the Harry, Sam, Abe and Jack Warner first displayed silent films, such as The Great Train Robbery.

Visionaries all, they eventually produced The Jazz Singer, the first successful "talkie", that starred Al Jolson. The theatre's revitalization will be accompanied by the development of storefronts and restaurants that warner says will bring new life to downtown New Castle.

Warner is also hard at work on The Promise, a feature documentary about the rags to riches tale of the four brothers who parents escaped Czarist Russia to pursue a better life. 1904 marked their first entertainment venture, when father Ben pawned his precious gold watch and a horse so that his sons could purchase a kinetoscope projector for nickel per ticket showings of The Great Train Robbery.

Warner says the documentary will focus on her beloved grandfather Harry, the studio's "strategic general" and financial whiz.

The "Dream Factory" is another way through which Warner hopes to preserve her grandfather's legacy. The nonprofit will make available to children interviews with "people at the top of their game" whatever their station in life.

"I want to start a library of these interviews to inspire and motivate children," says Warner. "Why do people love what they do, and how can they communicate their insights?"

Warner also is a founder of the International Youth for Human Rights Festival, dedicated to helping young people between the ages of 12 to 21 to use film as a medium for social betterment, and serves on the board of advisors for the Citizens Commission for Human Rights.

She sees this as part of her obligation to leave a better world for her own grown children: daughters Tao and Vanessa and sons Jesse and Cole (known as Cole Hauser — an actor whos credits include roles in Good Will Hunting, Tigerland and Paparazzi).

Warner Sisters has acquired the rights to all of the unproduced works of Howard Koch. Praising recent socially conscious movies, such as Good Night and Good Luck — a look at the McCarthy-era blacklisting of supposed Communist sympathizers — Warner says it's fitting that Clint Eastwood occupies her grandfather's studio bungalow as he helps Warner Bros. prepare to celebrate its 85th birthday.

"Hollywood has an ethical responsibility," says Warner. "As Frank Capra once said, we have the power to speak to millions of people two hours at a time in the dark."

About Cass Warner

Echoing the original motto set forth by her grandfather, Harry Warner president and co-founder of the Warner Bros. studio, Cass Warner founded Warner Sisters with the passion of carrying on a legacy to use film to "educate, entertain and enlighten.” (The original motto for the studio.)

Accompanying her father, twice Oscar-nominated writer/producer Milton Sperling to the Warner Bros. lot on Saturday was where her dedication to this art form was born.

Cass studied acting with Milton Katselas and others, while raising her children. She expanded into screenwriting under the mentorship of her father and Howard Koch of “Casablanca” fame. Her affiliation with and admiration for Koch grew into a close friendship which led to her landing his un-produced works: screenplays, plays, short stories and novels, which she is developing into a library.

In addition to writing and developing her own and others' screenplays, Cass authored a book documenting the actual accounts of her forefathers' rags-to-riches tale: HOLLYWOOD BE THY NAME: THE WARNER BROTHERS STORY now in its sixth printing.

In 2005, Cass became a founding supporter of the International Youth for Human Rights Film Festival, which encourages youth from ages 12-21 to use the medium of film to demonstrate their solutions regarding human rights issues -- the UN Declaration of Human Rights being the document used as the basis for the education of children and adults concerning their rights.

“Conversations With Cass” is a series of one-on-one conversations with some of today’s most recognized actors and other notable personalities. Moving away from the prepackaged Q&A sessions commonly seen, each dialogue shares a different perspective into the lives of these individuals. Comfortable in the intimate setting, the actors explain their journey to success, including the inspiration and obstacles they encountered along the way. Written, directed, and hosted by Cass, these interviews will form a large part in an inspirational film library for “The Dream Factory”—a place where dreams are discovered, renewed, rehabilitated, and made to come true. This library will not only host interviews from successful actors, but will also feature accomplished individuals from all walks of life. (The Starz Channel has aired clips from her interviews with Matthew McConaughey, Giovanni Ribisi and Cole Hauser.)

Cass collaborated with Kay McConaughey’s (Matthew's mother) on her book, I AMAZE MYSELF, a set of anecdotes and insights, each themed to inspire the reader to acknowledge their own amazing journey.

She is currently writing, directing and producing a feature length documentary, on her family THE BROTHERS WARNER with Oscar nominated, Eddie Schmidt (TWIST OF FAITH and THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED.) It will be released in 2008 for the 85th Anniversary of the studio.

She is the proud mother of four: Tao, Cole Hauser (actor), Vanessa and Jesse.

Warner Sisters website is:

New Warner Documentary Keeps Things “All In The Family”


Director Cass Warner – Granddaughter of Famed Harry Warner – Reveals
The Real Inside-Story Behind The Filming Of ‘Band of Brothers’

Los Angeles, CA (July 31, 2007) – “It’s a wrap” on principal photography for director Cass Warner’s intimate documentary on the legacy of her family – the family who gave the world everything from Bogart to Bugs Bunny – The Warner Bros.

Under the aegis of original brothers, Harry, Jack, Sam and Albert, the WB was also known for gritty, socially conscious themes that addressed the human condition in films like “I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang,” “Black Legion,” and “Confessions of a Nazi Spy.” And that’s where this Warner descendant lays claim for her filmmaking forefathers.

Cass, the President of the aptly named independent production company, Warner Sisters, is the granddaughter of Warner founder Harry. She’s also the author of the family’s definitive biography “Hollywood Be Thy Name.” The book – and now this film as well – mark the culmination of a promise Cass made to her grandfather on his deathbed.

Tentatively titled “The Brothers Warner,” the feature doc looks at the fascinating lives of these American icons filtered through the lens of contemporary Hollywood, and framed by the unique perspective of Warner herself. “I remember my father (Oscar nominated writer/producer Milton Sperling) being the referee between Harry and Jack, and telling wild stories about their relationship around the dinner table. Yet I’d go to the studio lot every Saturday and see this idyllic creative enclave. I started to wonder how these guys kept it together to make that magic happen?”

Warner credits digital video and the explosion of the documentary form with making the film possible. “I’ve wanted to tell the story of the Brothers on film for so long, and digital technology has finally made it feasible,” Cass said. “And since my grandfather was known for making gritty, socially conscious films, it seems only fitting to tell his and the other brothers’ story in a documentary where relevant films live today.”

Warner wanted to deliver her vision with a seasoned documentary team, and so is co-writing and producing the doc with Oscar-nominated filmmaker Eddie Schmidt – whose writing & producing credits include last year’s “This Film Is Not Yet Rated” and HBO’s Oscar-nominated “Twist Of Faith.” Schmidt felt a connection to Warner’s book and her rich archive – including letters, diaries, photos and exclusive audio interviews with the likes of Ronald Reagan – and began imaging a story that would resonate with contemporary audiences. “A lot of what the Brothers lived through parallels to the industry as it stands on the brink of major changes today,” said Schmidt, “both creatively and technologically.” He added that he hopes to bring humor and irreverence to telling of the Brothers’ saga.

Thus far, interviewees have lined up in droves for the film, with an impressively eclectic cast of past and present that includes such industry movers-and-shakers as Dennis Hopper, Angie Dickinson, Haskell Wexler, and Morgan Spurlock – to name a few. In total, the filmmakers have interviewed over 30 actors, filmmakers, moguls and cultural analysts.

Rounding out the team are director of photography Arlene Donnelly-Nelson (“A Mighty Wind”), herself a documentarian with HBO’s “Naked World” and “Naked States” films, as well as Grammy Award winning producer/arranger/composer David Campbell, as composer and music supervisor. Editor Stephen Malik, who so impressed Warner and Schmidt with his work on an in-progress trailer, was brought on to edit the feature, currently on track for fall-festival submissions.

Warner and Schmidt funded the film privately with help from the IDA’s (International Documentary Association) Fiscal Sponsorship Program. Currently in preliminary talks with potential distributors from the theatrical and premium cable world, Warner and Schmidt may opt to take the doc on the festival route before signing any deals.

“Since 2008 marks the 85th anniversary of Warner Brothers’ founding with Harry Warner at the helm, our timing is perfect,” noted Warner, who is also planning a companion book about the making of the film.

Media contact:
Publicist – Marlan Willardson (310) 701-3350

The Brothers Warner Documentary

Cass Warner/Warner Sisters Productions