Thursday, August 30, 2012

Hallmark of Realness

A hallmark of realness is specificity. - Steph Hay

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Saturday, August 25, 2012

What Makes (Character) Life Possible

The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next.

- Ursula K. LeGuin

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

IMDB Starmeter Feels Good Means Little

It can feel very good when your starmeter gets low, and I know when mine went below 1000 it felt very nice. Keep in mind 2 things:

  1. It can be manipulated regardless of the popularity or momentum of a performer's career. It can be gamed.
  2. IMDB is owned by Amazon. There is no evidence that they manipulate IMDB starmeters to sell more movies, TV shows, and stuff. But, making any decision about your career based on IMDB starmeter is turning your business over to Amazon.

I'm not sure being in the top 5000 list on IMDB will do much for an actor professionally. I have heard a rumor that an actress once gamed her IMDB starmeter into the top 100 and got called for a meeting with one of the big agencies. That's all, a meeting. A meeting that did not lead to representation or work. Meeting people is usually a good thing: it can be the beginning of a relationship. But if the first impression an actor gives is of trying to cut corners and cheat the system, not a good first impression. Could be a CLAM: Career Limiting Amateur Move.

Working on the things that get one into that list organically, or worthy of being there is better. Booking notable films and TV, and building a fan base may be longer lasting and more valuable. Actually, the "lists" that casting directors and producers and eventually the audience have in their minds of the actors they love are the lists you want to be high on. Those lists can improve an actor's options, career, income and more. Spending money to game your IMDB starmeter may not be a perfect expense; every penny may do more for an actor's career spent on other things.

But if the lift feels worth it, just to see the number drop, and if that helps keep an actor's spirits and optimism high, then by all means do it. When spending money to game your IMDB starmeter, be careful not to expect it to change anything other than that number. And be sure you can pay your rent or mortgage first.

Casting for the projects you want to do likely won't be affected by your IMDB starmeter. I have seen a casting notice for a project I have never heard of since that wanted only actors with a IMDB starmeter below a certain number. Those producers and casting director decided to let Amazon's computers take many good casting options out of the mix. I have never heard of that project getting completed or released. You do the math.

If you want a numeric scale of popularity and likeability, than look at Q Score. Or stop focusing on numbers to make your decisions for you. As Wikipedia sums it up "Q Score is a measurement of the familiarity and appeal of a brand, company, celebrity, or television show used in the United States." Companies subscribe to get data that was made by a combination of surveys, statistical analysis and human input, not a machine number that can be so easily gamed. It was first developed in 1963, so has a longer track record than IMDB starmeter, and to use it you or your company must pay for access. Multi-million dollar decisions may be partly made using Q Score: if all the money goes away, the decision makers have a vaguely scientific justification for having made what turned out to be a money losing decision.

In all cases, using ones own mind is probably a better idea. Want to know how the popularity and likability of a major movie star compares to the actor you met at an audition who has been acting for 2 weeks? Safe guess the major movie star is more popular to most of the audience than the new actor, and that the new actor is bigger with most of their friends and family than the major movie star. Want to know 2 stars relative popularity with men 18-25 in Malaysia? A combination of asking any Malaysian contact you have and their Q Scores might be a starting point. A starting point.

The temptation to game one's own IMDB starmeter is real. Just like the temptation to spend a lot of money on many things that offer advancement and accomplish little. There is a huge number of actor products out there that are overpriced or flat worthless. They are selling the feeling of being productive, and are not actually productive. There is nothing wrong with wanting to feel like you are making progress. There is something not right about spending money and focus on feeling productive instead of being productive. Like most of life, there are no good short cuts.

Best to use IMDB starmeter as a rough gauge of how popular a performer might be on IMDB this week. Any other use is asking a set of computers owned by Amazon to do your thinking for you. It does feel good to have computers like you. If spending money to get that feeling is something you want to do, no worries. A dollar you spend today can be replaced. A good feeling is sometimes harder to come by.

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Keep Swinging

Every strike brings me closer to the next home run. - Babe Ruth, known for his 714 home runs during his career, for decades held the record for strikeouts: 1,330.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Press On

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful [people] with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

 - Calvin Coolidge (30th President of the United States)

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

For the young who want to

Talent is what they say
you have after the novel
is published and favorably
reviewed. Beforehand what
you have is a tedious
delusion, a hobby like knitting.
Work is what you have done
after the play is produced
and the audience claps.
Before that friends keep asking
when you are planning to go
out and get a job.
Genius is what they know you
had after the third volume
of remarkable poems. Earlier
they accuse you of withdrawing,
ask why you don't have a baby,
call you a bum.
The reason people want M.F.A.'s,
take workshops with fancy names
when all you can really
learn is a few techniques,
typing instructions and some-
body else's mannerisms
is that every artist lacks
a license to hang on the wall
like your optician, your vet
proving you may be a clumsy sadist
whose fillings fall into the stew
but you're certified a dentist.
The real writer is one
who really writes. Talent
is an invention like phlogiston
after the fact of fire.
Work is its own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved.

- 'For the young who want to' from Circles on the Water: Selected Poems of Marge Piercy by Marge Piercy

Thank you to Allison Wood for introducing me to this poem.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Beauty of Doing It Now

There is something wonderful about not delaying something creative. Before I'd written the rough draft of an action-adventure pilot script I'm working on, I found myself at a warehouse store, knowing I needed to just sit down and write it. I shopped telling myself I would do it that day.

Then, as I finished my purchases, I realized: there is no time like the present. I pulled the cart next to a table in their food court, surrounded by hungry shoppers eating, put my phone's headphones in my ears, put the music I am thinking of as the theme music on repeat, and wrote the entire first draft. There. On my phone's note pad app. I'd only written the rudiments of 2 scenes before then. And I only left after the whole rough draft existed on my phone. I emailed it to myself, to make sure it didn't go away if my phone got silly, and then went to my car and drove home.

The beauty of doing it now, is it becomes real, not just an idea. Whether it is writing, or preparing a role, learning lines, or anything, what ever it is, do it now.

If you find yourself encountering resistance to doing what you want to do, there are ways to get through that. To help fight the resistance to doing anything that moves you closer to being your best self, and reaching your potential, I suggest reading Steven Pressfield's book The War of Art. It is a good read, and applying some of its suggestions, and doing what needs doing, can be invaluable.

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