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NEWS IN BRIEF

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The American Federation of Radio and Television Artists held a meeting with leaders of the video-game market in Beverly Hills last week to increase union members' participation in a business that earns billions of dollars each year. "There needs to be more growth," said AFTRA spokesperson John Hinrichs. "We're trying increase opportunities for members to earn a lot of money at stake." In 2005, sales for U.S. video and computer games reached $6.2 billion, according to one trade group's report. AFTRA's Mathis Dunn said in a statement that game makers can benefit from union participation: Eight of top-10-selling video games in 2005 were produced under AFTRA's Interactive Media Agreement.

More than a month after the broadcast networks made their series picks for next season, The Hollywood Reporter noted June 27 that several pilots are still in play. Subsequently the options for the actors on such projects as the ABC/Touchstone TV dramas Secrets of a Small Town, October Road, and A House Divided, and the Fox/20th Century Fox TV drama Beyond have been extended. All five projects had strong buzz during the final stage of the development season and were considered serious contenders for pickup.

Film Independent announced the winners of the Target Filmmaker Awards at the Los Angeles Film Festival's Spirit of Independence event honoring Charlize Theron June 28. Steve Collins won the Target Filmmaker Award (for best narrative feature) for his coming-of-age drama Gretchen, and the Target Documentary Award (for best documentary feature) went to Amy Berg for Deliver Us From Evil, which chronicles the life of priest and convicted pedophile Father Oliver O'Grady. Theron was the subject of a brief career retrospective at the event held at the W Hotel in Westwood. Film critic Elvis Mitchell conducted an onstage Q&A with the actor before Woody Harrelson awarded her with the Spirit of Independence trophy.

Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco, who won the original screenplay Oscar earlier this year for Crash, received the Humanitas Prize for feature films. The award honors work that helps "liberate, enrich, and unify society." Eleven writers collected awards and their share of $145,000 in prize money at a luncheon at the Hilton Universal Hotel June 28. Haggis and Moresco received $25,000. Other recipients included Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland for L.A. Film Fest centerpiece film Quinceañera, David Shore for the "Three Stories" episode of House, and Greg Garcia for the pilot episode of My Name Is Earl.

The highly anticipated mammoth stage production of The Lord of the Rings is closing in Toronto after being largely panned by critics. Producer Kevin Wallace said June 28 that the $24 million, three-and-a-half-hour show that premiered at the Princess of Wales Theatre in March will close Sept. 3. It was announced last week that a trimmed, tightened version of Rings, believed to be the most expensive show ever mounted, will open in London next year.

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