Friday, January 27, 2017

3D TV Is Not a Thing Anymore

There are no more major TV-makers that make 3D TVs anymore

(from 3d TV is dead). Seems our work will not be soon be seen in 3D at home, unless VR gets in-home traction. Movies may still be coming out in 3D for a while, whether they are shot natively that way or converted in post. The 3D up-charge has a real impact on box office returns, and some stories are well suited or work better in three dimensions. There are some people who like having the spectacle of 3D, and some who don't.

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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Be Happy Now

Do everything you can to be a happy person, NOW. If you think you can grouse today and then be happy someday in the future, I'm here to tell you, happiness just does not work that way. Putting off happiness until 'someday' ... lasts forever. If you can't be happy where you are, it's a cinch you can't be happy where you ain't.

-Bob Fraser

So please do something today, before you go to sleep, that will make you smile.


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James Cagney on Directors

Direction, I've always held, is implicit in the writing. One doesn't go to the post with a bad script if he can help it. If the script is right, the direction is all there, implicit in the writing. Consequently, whenever I hear much ranting and roaring about this, that, or the other great director, I will admit there are some directors who are imaginative, who can get the most out of their material. Hawks, Wellman, Walsh, Keighley, Curtiz, Del Ruth, Ford and others were all expert and did their job to the fullest. But many directors are just pedestrian workmen, mechanics. Ostensibly they choose camera angels and on occasion they do, but I've often seen cameramen take over when needed. The director would indicate where he wanted it, and quietly the cameraman would indicate to his assistant a spot one good foot off the director's mark. Then the cameraman would turn to me, wink, and walk away.

(from Cagney by Cagney).

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Director's Contract Improved

Members of the Directors Guild of America [DGA] have approved a three-year successor deal on the master contract with a major gain in streaming residuals

(from Directors Guild of America Members Ratify New Contract).

The DGA statement says they gained on SVOD (like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu) residuals, tripling some of them. They also gained on wages, though only rising slightly more than inflation in some cases, and got higher pension contributions.

This is a good thing for actors too: often the guilds end up making comparable gains; producers engage in pattern bargaining. A gain for directors, writers or actors is often possible for the other two guilds to make. Since streaming continues to grow and be a more common way for our work to be seen, there is cause for hope. The SAG-AFTRA negotiations have not yet been publicly announced for our master contract with the AMPTP, which expires June 30, 2017.

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Dessert First

You don't have a minute. You don't even really have a few seconds. Whatever work you're doing likely only has a moment of the-person-watching-it's attention before they stop paying attention, stop watching, stop listening. Maybe they change the channel, maybe they click their mouse on something else, maybe they start thinking what will they tell their assistant to order them for lunch or look at their notes from a different actor's audition earlier in the day. (And while it has been said that actors have won roles with their walk from the wings to center stage [I believe I read that somewhere in Joanna Merlin and Harold Prince's book Auditioning], confidence and the projection of it is probably best covered in another post. I am talking here about our performances themselves.)

Sure if the audience is in a theatre, watching a play or a movie, then they've probably signed up, committed, to seeing the whole thing, but even then:

Acting is merely the art of keeping a large group of people from coughing

(Sir Ralph Richardson quoted in New York Herald Tribune, May 19, 1946).

What are we to do then as actors? Well if you have any say over a script or an edit, when you can put the good stuff, the one part you'd want someone to see if they only saw one part, at the beginning. And don't save the part you love, the deeper part, the clearer work or whatever it is that excites you for some amorphous time near the climax of the story. You don't always have to make the climax happen, that's more the writer's task.

Instead, perhaps start knowing that it is coming. I'm not saving over act. I'm also not delving into a discussion of if the actor's job includes foreshadowing the story throughout act 1 in all cases (which may make for a good post at some point). I am saying don't save the good stuff for a later that may never come. If the audience leaves, or stops watching, your good work may as well have been rehearsal.

Don't assume you get 5 minutes for the YouTube sketch to get to its punchline/good part; an estimated 500 hours of new video is uploaded every minute to YouTube and will show up right next to your work. Don't guess people will watch past the first 4 minutes of the 20 episode Netflix series you're working on; win over the viewer fast or the viewer will choose something else like either what Netflix is spending $6 billion (with a 'b') this year to make themselves or spending additional money to license from other places and putting a mouse click away from your work.

Narratively you cannot, a likely should not, try to put the climax at the top if it doesn't fit. Yet even in Chekhov's Three Sisters, a play partly about stagnation, he opens with the line it's a year ago that Father died, May fifth, on your birthday, Irina. We know and can have feelings about much of what is going on: the speaker is one of the sisters, another one of her sisters is Irina and its her birthday which is a complicated anniversary since its shared with their dad's death. It took me more words to type than Olga uses and her words likely still engage an audience interested in experiencing a family drama, just as they have for over 115 years on stage and on screen. This script lets an audience immediately get family drama, the treat they want if they are interested in a family story. The performer speaking that line ideally will be speaking already as Olga, not waiting to warm up into it even if the audience already agreed to sit through the whole show; the performer serves dessert first.

Rob Long articulated this idea of Dessert First over 5 years ago and his words still ring true:

The audience won't wait. They're hungry now...when you're trying to get people to do something, or to pay attention to something, or to just sit still for a moment, don't serve them appetizers first. Serve them dessert; dessert first, fun stuff first, sweet stuff up front. Start passing out the treats the moment it starts. Ask yourself, if you're a writer [or an actor], "at the top of the show, the top of the scene, is the audience getting dessert first?" Because if they're not, someone, serving it up a thumb push away

(from Martini Shot: Dessert First on KCRW, November 9, 2011).

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