I plan on moving this blog to another in 2010 first quarter. It depends on whether or not the new site is up and running properly. There is a ton going on behind the scenes here at AOF, and in order for me to not give it completely away, I just want to say this blog will be less about blogging about an ideal or theme and more about what interests me that day. Which is kind of what it's always been, but at least I'll admit to it now. We will probably keep the name "Art of Function" but the URL and subsequent feed would change. So, there you go. Information!
Thursday, November 19, 2009
I am going to be putting AOF on an indefinite Hiatus. Obviously, I have not posted in a great while, and that trend has been standing for too long here on AOF. I am not "Quitting" this gig, or closing the site. I'm just taking the rest of 2009, to do a little soul searching and determine what I want the site to be about, and what I want a web presence for myself to look like. I will be back when my heart and my soul have an answer that my brain can execute.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
The article is blazing through the theater blogosphere, with most folks giving Landsbury a pass for her age (84), but Broderick who has seen his star fade since his "Producer" glory days is getting run on the rails.
It's difficult for me as a teaching artist, because I tell my students that line memorization is basically the bread and butter of their job. It should be like breathing. When I studied with Alfred Molina he often criticized not having your lines as a simple excuse. In his world, Lines should just "Fall out of your Mouth, You shouldn't have to think about them."
So, imagine my surprise when a paid AEA actor can't pull this simple of simplest tasks off. I don't care if you are getting re-writes during the preliminary runs. You have an obligation to that paid audience sitting out there to deliver a professional show.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
FOX started this feud by basically saying Michael Bay was an insecure tyrant on set. He is as she puts it, "Hitler". Bay has been rambling on and on about how he 'discovered' Megan Fox, which is probably true as well. Bay's crew wrote a scathing letter that painted Megan Fox as a dimwitted hack, whose attempts at acting were, "Painful to watch".
So, this was all pretty fun considering that deals for a sequel to Transformers 3 was in the works. Now, you may be reading this and saying, "Those Movies suck!" However, they are gold mines for the Above the Line talent. You are almost set for life if you get above the line or back end on any of those movies. So, the drama in the PR smears between the two was sure to play out in the behind closed doors meetings with the studios.
Bay has signed on to direct 3 and he is going to bring in Fox to reprise her roll as the bouncy breasted girl friend to Shia Lebouf's character. However, now nerd-dom is reporting he plans to kill her off in the first scene. Is this revenge? Probably. I'm sure Bay would love to kill her off, and then bring in some other hot piece of ass to take her place, and then that girl could be the next "It" girl.
Who suffers here? Really, no one. Fox is already booked for the next few years on projects. She'll be working until 2011 guaranteed. By then she'll have enough money to buy plenty of crayons and coloring books and pot to last her until 2036.
This is the product of EGO in Hollywood. A director desides to "Make a Star" in a movie, and then we're forced to stomach it. This is all gamesmanship over a movie that is a 90 minute commerical for toys. This thing in the grand scheme of things does not make humanity better for it being made. It makes humanity employed in a 1000 different ways. Money in this town creates egos so big they are staggering. I don't think Bay could line up his Transformers Franchises up to Peter Jackson's LOTR movies and say, "Mine are as good as his." He can't do it. Yet, when you can OPEN, you have done something in this business. And Bay's films OPEN every time they hit theaters. Thus the landscape of EGO we get to watch unfold.
Friday, October 9, 2009
NBC cancelled another Scripted show, "Southland". This was an edgy piece that painted cops in a negative fashion. Did you really think Middle America would love this? It should have been on FX or something. Also, rumored to go soon is the high price tag, TRAUMA. So, hey all you actors, NBC just keeps on screwing you over with their bad decisions.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Ah Ha! I was making this point about the 'safeness' of the NBC line up, and how it was pretty much doomed about two hours ago. Now, I just read this article on DHD!
"This is not a fun place to be right now. And we committed to Jay Leno on the air for 2 years because he was worried we'd have an itchy trigger finger. It's an embarrassment for all of us. Maybe he'll get fed up -- he's not right now -- and then we can re-negotiate." This is beyond sad. It's the destruction of a brand."NBC is in trouble, which is sad based on the fact that the brand was seemingly on the rise prior to the Writers Strike in 07'. I guess Ben Silverman really was an idiot when it came to handling the primetime schedule.
However, as time has worn on, Leno has failed to match his first night Rating Extravaganza. He's fallen somewhere between 30% - 40% on average, with the biggest plummet hitting 50% below the deput of a 14 share. I don't really like talking numbers. I'm just trying to point out, that Leno is on shakey ground. And in this era when ratings are tracked by the minute, and failure to perform gets you the hook faster than you can say, "Head Cases", Leno has to wonder if his good graces will run out much sooner than say, Jimmy Kimmel's good graces. (seriously, who watches that show?).
There is a large cadre of folks who want Leno to fail. And it's not because people hate Jay Leno. People in the industry generally think he's an okay guy. I met him once at a Panda Express. He was a fairly normal, dude. (folks really reserve private hate for Ellen Degeneres) Folks want Leno to fail because it would be a big blow to "Alternative and Reality" programming replacing scripted series.
Leno's show (which is super cheap to produce, especially in post) replaces nearly 5 scripted 1 hour long dramas. That's millions of dollars and revenue going to writers, actors, producers, crews and post production staff. The cost is well above what Leno is doing his show. NBC, which is currently swirling in rumors of financial crisis (Both major share holders, Vivendi and GE are rumored to be shopping their shares), is trying to do what is ultimately the biggest mistake all SUITS running networks and studios make when they are terrified of their bottom line. They are playing it safe.
You look at their line up. They've cut back on NEW shows by at least 4, and replaced bad shows with tried and true dramas formerly in their 10pm slot. They even spun off SNL into a weekly prime time half hour show, in hopes of getting their viewers to watch more often. Jay's show is just another example of this. This is a safe line-up. While entertaining, their Thursday night line up features shows that basically clones of themselves. Parks and Recreation is a clone of The Office, while one could also argue Community is a clone of 30 Rock. I don't want to run a critique of the schedule, but the reality is this is the 'safest most reliable' way to garner stable ratings and try to hit revenue forecast numbers. It is also a great way to fail miserably.
And Fail Miserably, is what many on the inside want. Production companies are licking their chops and waiting to pitch their "I told You So!" shows once the Jay experiment loses it's grant funding. Only time will tell, dear, readers.
This week it was announced that Gourmet Magazine, which has been an American Culinary Institution for 70 years will now shut it's doors. Since it was announced a furor of on-line articles and print articles have been wading into the collective consciousness discussing the ramifications of this action. Granted we are quickly watching PRINT media darlings falter in this new Internet Age of information and there is a fundamental problem that is being over-looked.
Here is a quote from Chris Kimbal's Op Ed piece in the New York Times:
"The shuttering of Gourmet reminds us that in a click-or-die advertising marketplace, one ruled by a million instant pundits, where an anonymous Twitter comment might be seen to pack more resonance and useful content than an article that reflects a lifetime of experience, experts are not created from the top down but from the bottom up. They can no longer be coronated; their voices have to be deemed essential to the lives of their customers. That leaves, I think, little room for the thoughtful, considered editorial with which Gourmet delighted its readers for almost seven decades. To survive, those of us who believe that inexperience rarely leads to wisdom need to swim against the tide, better define our brands, prove our worth, ask to be paid for what we do, and refuse to climb aboard this ship of fools, the one where everyone has an equal voice."There is an issue with what is happening in the world of print and online and this great transition and fundamentally, there is an economic problem. Blogs (like the one you are reading now) are usually started because someone has an idea, some time on their hands, and the need to voice an opinion. The second reason they are started is to make some money. However, Blogs are so ubiquitous right now, that no one is really making any money except the idiot withe pink website that we don't want to talk about anymore. A few are rising to prominence. In fact, I got my quote from Chris Kimble from Ed Levin's Serious Eats Blog.
Blogging is a speculative business. My own podcast project The Starting Zone is getting some nice number and great traffic, but we're not making a cent off that site. The best we see are a few donations tossed our way to cover server space.
So, there is no money in the internet, but there was money in Print, but Print is dying because no one is using print and just using the internet... where is that money going?
Who knows really, where the money is going. My guess, people are shoveling it more towards rainy day savings accounts these days. Sure, my wife used to keep a nice little subscription to a few magazines, but she's since abandonned them so we can save a few bucks, and now she's using free online resources.
We all know that the Print businesses haven't really successfully managed to transition over to the internet. Deadline Hollywod Daily is the premier entertainment source on the net, and it surpasses Variety and Hollywood Reporter. However, both of the former Entertainment blab mags, are wallowing in a contracting market. They are losing money in the print game, but can't seem to get their share back in internet game. Why? Because the only way to make money outside of selling a product on the internet is through advertising. And since they lose their ability to sell subscriptions on the internet, they are stuck with the issue of accepting lower ad returns. Print Media, gets' to 'sell' their writing as well as make money in advertising. However, on the internet that model doesn't work because some schmuck is willing to give their writing away for free cutting about 50% of the cost model out of your equation for print business.
So, what happens when all the Print has in essence, died off? Well, perhaps Internet sites not charging now, might start charging. Who knows? Rupert Murdoch claims his Fox New site is going to go to a subscription service soon. Will it work? Well, it kind of has to. There is going to be a lot of folks formerly employed in the Print game who will be out of work without a company that can pay them to do what they used to do.
Economically the world cannot afford to lose Publication without a viable industry there to replace it. It's an interesting concept when you really think about it. What if an industry goes away, and there is nothing to replace it? Moreover, does the quality of writing suffer, when folks are not able to devote a career or vocation to the art of the writing, especially criticism.
What do we do in a world without critics?
Friday, September 25, 2009
So, we spent a lot of time in the last year spewing vitriol at how Alan Rosenberg handled the SAG negotiations while in the position of President of the Union. Alan was perfectly incapable of doing a good job in his role and apparently the membership expressed that opinion in the latest SAG board and Leadership Elections.
Membership First, the very vocal and disruptive, faction that at one time held some prominence in the guild with one of their own as President, lost further seats on the National Board as well as saw their nominee for president, Anne Marie Johnson lose to Ken Howard of Unite for Strength.
In other words it's a bit of a new era in SAG headquarters. Hopefully Ken and his pals, don't screw it up worse than it already is.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Congressman Joe Wilson's, "You Lie!" out burst during President Obama's address to the joint Houses of Congress should have been a lesson to those in public office. No matter how much you disagree, public decorum is always best maintained. Passions can get the best of us, and then you can say the dumbest of things. What was ultimately sad about Wilson's outburst was he was wrong. While Obama discussed the point that illegal immigrants would not be eligible for health care coverage under the Public Option, Wilson responded with his, "You Lie!" Then the next day the actual document for the proposed reform bill showed that indeed Obama wasn't lying. Wilson's career seems over with his own party mates now shuffling away from him. His chief rival in the 2010 election for his seat in Congress raised over six figures in campaign funds since the outburst. It was apparent, we had a lesson on our hands. Keep your cool when you don't agree, when its' in front of the world.
Kanye West, who is probably one of the most insulated stars in the music industry, apparently failed to see this lesson. So, he went to the VMA's this weekend with bottle of cognac in hand and crashed an award presentation to Taylor Swift, citing that Beyonce Knowles should have won the award of Swift. The incredible public display of rudeness and idiocy has been plastered over the news and webosphere. There is even a new Meme developing to finally kill the keyboard cat.
Check out an example here: http://imgur.com/h9Guq.png
I find it odd that the press rarely gives the apology though, which is usually equally public as much face time as they do the incident. While, Kanye and Joe Wilson had bad reps to begin with, and deserve their bad press (or is it still good press?), it is odd that the incidents merit more attention than the apology. My question is, does this lack of 'forgiveness' in the media equate to a lack of forgiveness on the part of our society. It's a big question. I just ate a bacon panini... I usually have big questions hit my little head after a bacon panini.
Friday, September 4, 2009
|DVD - Exclusive Patton Oswalt - The Year 2009|
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
First, I do recommend it for those of you who can stomach some gore. The film has some definite gore points in it. So, if you can do that kind of thing, you should be fine. If you are squeamish, then unfortunately, you will have to miss the best movie to be released this summer.
District 9 is remarkable if you are a writer because of how the film takes the idea of the 'Hero' and completely turns it upside down. The lead character Vickers Van De Mere is quite possibly the most dynamic protagonist that has been created in cinema in the last 10 years. I have wracked my brain for a more conflicted hero who undergoes a similar transformation, but I can't come up with one.
What the film makers do is take a completely un-likable non-heroic character and completely transform him in every way, emotionally, idealistically and physically in the course of the 90 minute film. This transformation is at times almost unbelieveable. You at some points lose the ability to understand who you should be rooting for in this film. It's that crazy. You cannot understand how this dim-witted, happy go lucky, by the book, racist, cowardly knuckle head could be at any point likable, but they mange to do it. Even when the character completely abandons your ideals of heroism.
To say that Peter Jackson produced a land mark film is a bit of an understatement. Neil Blomkamp the director should be heavily praised for creating this Phoenix from the ashes of the lost Halo movie. As science fiction it's message of respect for life, and commentary on racism are not new, and in some ways very obvious. However, if one digs deeper they find this amazing selection of character studies ripe for discussion.
Lastly, the amazing part of D-9 is that it's already profitable in it's first weekend of release. Created for 30 million, it netted 34 million this weekend. So, this completely original idea is completely profitable, while 'established' intellectual property based films are not netting the 'sure thing' dollars they were supposed to. It will be interesting to see if this catches the eyes of the suits in Hollywood.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
GB: (Referring to Comicon) Certainly, it's a place to introduce the new and celebrate the past, but I suppose what I was suggesting is that these days it seems difficult to make a big special-effects film unless it's based on some pre-existing, known quantity in pop-culture, such as a novel, comic book, video game, TV show, toy line or previous movie."...
PJ: Personally I think that’s one of the most depressing things about the film industry generally today. The writers and directors should be blamed just as much as the studios because really everything seems to be a remake or adapting a 1970s TV show that was never particularly good. Why anyone thinks that it would be a good feature film now, you know, goodness knows why. And I guess it’s easy to say it's security that you know a studio is only prepared to put $150 million or $200 million into something if it’s a known quantity. But at the same time I’m also aware that audiences are getting fed up with the lack of original ideas and original stories. And if you look back to the great days of "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" and those sorts of movies, they weren’t based on TV shows, they weren’t based on comics. They were inspired by them and they had DNA in them which came from years of Flash Gordon and various things in the past but nonetheless they were original. And yet we seem to be incapable as a general industry, which includes not just the studios but the filmmakers and writers and directors, we seem to be incapable of doing that now for some reason. It’s a little bit depressing. But hopefully it’s a cycle. Everything in the film business tends to be cyclic and hopefully this all drains itself out in a couple years and we’ll be back into original stories again.
Now, of course you might say, "This is coming from a guy whose biggest success was a series of movies based off an established work of literature." My only argument was that LOTR is just that an established piece of celebrated literature. Scooby Doo the cartoon or The Transformers are not literature. They are pop culture programming designed to sell toys, just as their movie counter parts were designed to do.
Now whether or not Jackson's film which he produced (not directed) District 9 seems to be a collection of themes taken from various sources, but at the end of the day it is original I.P. that has never been seen before. There is never going to be discussion about 'who is cast as the lead' because there is no established fan base to care about a decision like that. You do not have to cater to fanboys, and you do not have to worry about your 'adaptation' of the property or which story to tell. (Good luck with that by the way to Sam Raimi, P.S. I can help with the script if you need it). You have a fresh story that requires you as a film-maker to push your imagination and the technology around you to the limit, just as Lucas and Spielberg did decades ago.
My only hope for the film-biz right now is Jackson's last statement: Everything in the film business tends to be cyclic and hopefully this all drains itself out in a couple years and we’ll be back into original stories again.
It's clear audiences lap up original ideas. In T.V. you look at the preliminary success of HEROES and the long term success of LOST, and you can point to that and say, "LOOK original ideas work in Hollywood."
"How do I decide who to sign with?"
BTW, I recently signed new representation recently. I had deliberately waited despite a several rep offers for the person not with the biggest address book, but the person with the most access for me personally. You may have the greatest most well connected agent on Planet Earth, but if you can never get ahold of them, and they never send you out, they are in fact fairly worthless to you despite their pedigree.
So, if you can 'swing by' the office or 'get them on the horn' or 'text 'em' or 'email 'em', and they are receptive to your little check ins, then that's the person you want to be with. Pretty simple.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
It is the most powerful acting exercise I have ever done and I have ever intergrated into my teaching philosphy outside of Improv. However, repetition is like beginner's improvisation. So, they're kind of one and the same. These relationships that are created in REPS are the perfect harmony of a philosphy, living truthfully in imaginary circumstances. Actors are forced to deal with how they actually behave in certain circumstances opposed to working with 'put on or dressed' character traits.
Inevitably in most sessions of repetitions that I do, lasting up to an hour or more, I'll see around 10 - 20 repetitions with the group. In these sessions, without fail, two people will kiss. It happens frequently. The expressions of the kiss range from gentle, friendly, appreciative, affectionate, passionate, loving and down right horny tongue lashing. The result is always the same. The audience goes very still and is completely enraptured.
I think THE KISS is an incredible expression of human behavior. It's completely captivating. I think that actors need to understand how they do it. So, it's always odd that people have such a hard time simply... doing it.
This gets back to my first point of order... when folks know the exercise and know I teach it, they often ask me two questions: First, how is class going? Second, anyone made out recently? I've had non-actors come to audit the class (directors or agents or producers) they are often struck by the 'making out' that takes place. Which is odd, because it's mostly designated to one or two reps. They often make it sound like it's every rep that occurs. However, what bothers me, is that it bothers them.
Now, I'm not saying all actors should just whore it up on stage and walk into class looking for a cheap grope on-stage, but actors do need to be THAT expressive with their bodies. The fact that a performer could call themselves an actor and place that kind of boundry with physicality in their mind is incredibly baffling to me. We're actors, our bodies are the instrument. Physical touching and affection is part of the game. When I direct pieces, especially for the stage, with relationships that are supposed to be intimate or close, like marriages or families, I often use physical touching the blocking to provide that level of intimacy we need to make the relationship believeable. However, I'm shocked that I have to TELL ACTORS to do this. They don't just do it on their own. I am baffled by this continually. I am shocked that the simple act of holding hands is foreign to people. I am shocked that people think that if they kiss a person on stage, that it might lead to indiscretion or that a simple staged kiss could be considered infidelity in their own off stage relationships.
I think it's a question all artists need to think about, because it goes back to the idea of sexuality and its place in the arts. I think that our puritanical viewpoints on sexuality that still exist in our Western Cultures that are born from the Victorian Age still hold some weight in the fact that simple affection is seen as an open door to sex, and that actors ride this interesting moral ground of how they are percieved based on their choices as they surround the idea of sex. We either forwardly or discreetly bemoan the issues of sex when seen on stage or on television or in film, but at the same time we can't look away, and our numbers and dollars seem to indicate people respond to the idea of affection and even the far ends of sexual expression in media and on stage. Hell, what is HAIR known for? Not the soundtrack. It's the nudity. Why do you think Sex and the City stayed so Provocative, when it was really four almost middle aged women talking about their issues. Well, maybe the title had a little to do with it... that and the actual sex.
Hmmm... I'd love to hear y'alls thoughts on this.
Friday, June 26, 2009
This is my letter to Perez Hilton:
You are no longer pushing boundries. You are just pushing your luck. This week should be a testament to the reality that your 15 minutes stretched out over a few years, is finally up.
Let's begin with the fiasco of lies and deceptions you perpetrated as truth on your website about an altercation with Will.i.am. You documented your attack was unprovoked and that he hit you for no reason. Then we found out, you called him a name and it was his manager who hit you, not Will.i.am. Then we saw video of you screaming in Will.i.am's face and calling him derogatory names. These names of course being the vulgar words against the GLBT community you say you have proclaimed you are an advocate for. I have to be honest, in the video I saw, you look like you were about to hit him. It's no wonder that Will.i.am's manager stepped in and hit you.
You chose the path of your life. You wanted to spread 'gossip'. Gossip is one of the most dangerous and destructive behaviors to engage in. We all kind of learned this in junior high. You took your junior high mentalities and made a career out of them. Guess, what? The consequences were that by saying dangerous things about people, you would receive dangerous repercussions. I am actually shocked that this has not happened to you before. It goes to show you that the celebrities you ridicule are classier acts than you are.
I know youwrote a very half hearted apology on your website. I know you pledged to file a lawsuit and donate money to the Matthew Shepherd Fund. It must have been a realy slap in the face when the fund publically issued a statement today that they were refusing your money, because you had such blatant disregard for calling another person that slur. If you didn't realize it, they just called you a hypocrite.
Then yesterday you went way too far again, this was your post prior to you editing it about Michael Jackson:
Michael Jackson was taken by ambulance from his Holmby Hills home to a nearby Los Angeles hospital on Thursday afternoon!!
Supposedly, the singer went into cardiac arrest and the paramedics had to administer CPR!!!
His mother is even on the way to visit him!!!
We are dubious!!
Jacko pulled a similar stunt when he was getting ready for his big HBO special in ‘95 when he “collapsed” at rehearsal!
He was dragging his heels on that just like his upcoming 50 date London residency at the 02 Arena, of which he already postponed the first few dates!!!
Either he’s lying or making himself sick, but we’re curious to see if he’s able to go on!!!
Get your money back, ticket holders!!!!”
You must have obviously felt very foolish when Mr. Jackson did end up dying. I noticed you edited your post to ease off you attack. I find it odd that you now have the audacity to actually publish story after story about Michael Jackson's death, a mere 24 hours after defaming him very publically at a what was a crisis moment in his life. It is just simply dis-tasteful.
Perez, you really helped put bloggers on the map. Your hit counts alone, made major media have to pay attention to the reality that Bloggers should be taken seriously as a source of information in this new age of communication. However, your actions this week set us all three steps backwards. As the most public member of the blogging community, you clearly did what so many traditional sources lambaste us for. You spoke without knowing or acknowledging the whole truth.
You, my friend, are as bad as Fox News.
I admit that I have been to your website. However, after this week. I can no longer support the effort of an individual who is doing more to disparage myself as an internet writer than they are to encourage and validate what I do. To the much smaller amount of folks who read my blog as opposed to Perez's.,You can continue to read his if you want. That is your choice. However, people who spew hate and negativity, especially at the expense of others are a real drain on us as a human collective.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Today Finke sold her blog. She sold it to the folks who run Mail.com, MMC. The folks at Mail.com had very nice things to say about Finke, even stating she "Raised the bar of entertainment journalism", which to be honest is very true.
However, she would soon be acused of "Selling Out". There was no way around it.
This was her response to that, "Know this: I did not sell out. I really meant it when I said that DeadlineHollywood Daily.com will continue to be an independent editorial voice – and I would retain complete control over everything reported on the website -- so that DHD’s credibility with its readers could remain intact."
I think that Finke is in a tough spot here. She created a fantastic product. A product that sooner or later was going to be bought and purchased by someone with a lot of money. She clearly worked very hard on this website and so she deserves to be paid for it. However, we all know that corporations cannot help but 'tweak' whatever it is that they buy. I think it will be harder for Finke to do what she wants on the site, when she has to answer to someone who has very high expectations. If she does not meet those expectations (let's hope she can) they will want to change things. It's that simple.
So, what do you think? Did she sell out?
P.S. (just to Nikki) Congratulations on being rewarded for your hard work.
P.P.S. Why didn't you post the Press Release I sent you on the NoHo Show? :P
Monday, June 22, 2009
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
So, a lot of folks have a 'role model' for taking the easy train to success. However, there is something to the grind up to success that is so important. I'm no mogul, but I appreciate where I am today more, because I know I earned where I am at through work both as a professional and as an artist. So, to all you out there getting coffee for someone today, who always seems to lose their cell phone or can't work their computer hang in there. Even Bruce Willis knows the value of starting over and starting at the bottom.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
I have never quite understood the Reality TV world, or why people want to do it, because in the end 99% of the people who go on these shows are made to look like a fool. I myself back in 2003 was almost on a Reality Show, but I was going to be playing some sort of charade, so I would be acting as a character, but the thought of walking around with cameras following me for 12 - 16 hours a day, just seemed so odd.
It seems to me there are a few types of people on these shows. A) The Truly Undiscovered Talent, B) The Not-So-Talented, who should remain Undiscovered, C) The person who fell ass backwards into an odd situation (like have six kids at once), D) The washed up Celebrity Has-Been trying to make a quick buck and somehow stay on our collective consciousness.
Group A has the best chance of actually making a career entertaining us, but if you look at the darts thrown at folks like Kelly Clarkson (and her growing and shrinking behind) it's still a rough road. The Other Groups are pretty much doomed for complete and utter degradation. Which to me is so odd. Sure, you are famous, but you're famous because of your failure or your general oddness. And it's not like that failure is celebrated by the producers of these shows. It's exploited.
Let's take Jon and Kate. They have 8 children who will have to through at a very young age the difficulty of a broken home. All because their parents chose to put them on television and exploit the circumstances that the children were the product of sextuplets. Now, a family is being torn appart, and while some are sympathetic, the majority of America is relishing the "Drama" and can't wait to see the fall out. That's just sick.
Susan Boyle was originally praised by the media for getting her desserts at an age most people would have settled for the state of their life as it was. Now that same media is picking her apart like vultures, preying upon the difficulties of a woman, who in all honesty, probably had no idea she'd be this well received, nor this lambasted only weeks later.
I undrestand why Reality Shows are made. People watch them, and they are cheap. Yet, I still hate them, and I think the medium has gone from something that could have been quite interesting (episodic documentary film making) to a complete farce of the human condition with zero redemptive qualities.
Here is the Link!
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
I have no words to describe whatever this is supposed to be. I don't know if it's patriotic. I don't know if it's a sad story about someone dying. I don't know what's happening. I do know that this is one amazing piece of crap. But that's just my opinion. Judge for yourself!
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Will it be ratified? Yes.
Should it be ratified? Not, if you are an actor with a career that precedes 1974 and 9171. For all the others, it's a toss up.
Why will it be ratified? Because everyone is broke. The WGA strike killed income for actors by default from late 2007 through the spring of 2008. A minor window of earning potential opened up between about March of 2008 and June of 2008. Then it closed when SAG failed to do anything about their contract until what will be June of 2009. So, that's (count it) 17 Months of decreased revenue earning potential for SAG working class actors. A year and a half where things have become so bad that A and B list actors are poaching guest starring roles from TV shows, Commericals, and co-starring roles on independent movies, that would have formerly gone to lesser known 'working class actors'.
To make matters worse, the economic downturn has forced Studios to pull back on their budgets and spending, which means that if you live in New York or Hollywood, you're watching potential shows you could have worked on, go out to Toronto, Utah, Michigan, North Carolina, etc. Local actors are being used sparingly in these productions, and you my L.A. friends are not getting these shows back.
The Los Angeles actor who is working today is facing a crisis. The crisis that nothing is shooting in town, and the projects being shot are being out-sourced to cheaper cities. So, to stop the bleeding SAG has to start working again on a new contract so Studios will start shooting in town again. However, you've already lost so much. Just when shows were returning to California after at trend in them leaving to go out state or out of the country, your Union's piss poor negotiating strategy is forcing productions back out of California. Guess what? Your paycheck is going right along with it.
If you had a career in the early seventies, and you have been fortunate to collect some residuals from that old work, you will never see a penny from New Media. As the new deal prevents the studio from having to pay you. So, all you Star Trek stars? You'll never see any money from those shows when they Air on Hulu.com (which by the way, they already are).
The sad part here is, now a deal has to be ratified or actors are going to starve. The bad part is that even after almost a year of negotiation. SAG could not get a better deal than the one they basically had in June of last year. One year of lost pay, for a deal you already had a year ago. That, my friends, is the definition of suck.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
In a “Jerry Maguire”-like moment of clarity, Mr. Kimmel said, “Everything you’re going to hear this week is” nonsense… “These new fall shows? We’re going to cancel about 90 percent of them. Maybe more.” To the ABC advertisers, Mr. Kimmel said, “Every year we lie to you and every year you come back for more. You don’t need an upfront. You need therapy. We completely lie to you, and then you pass those lies onto your clients.” [...]In closing, Mr. Kimmel said, “I think all our shows are going to work this year. I really do.” He paused. “I don’t, really.”Before departing the stage, he said: “The important thing to remember is: who cares, it’s not your money.” [NYT Arts Beat]
Um... what the hell, Jimmy? Talk about throwing egg in everyone's faces. This a P.R. night mare for ABC, because even if the comments were meant to be a joke, it's not the kind of joke I'd tell. This is like going to a birthday party for your boss, at his house, and getting up to give him a toast, and then you decide to make a joke about how he's cheating on his wife with the secretary. Sure, it may be true, but you just don't do it.
Now, then you look at a statement from NBC on why they were ordering more episodes on shows than last year. That statement basically said that repeats are now getting less and less ratings. The viewers are not tuning into to watch repeated content and that instead, they would just create more shows and move to a year round slate.
Now, of course, when I say repeates, mean current network primetime shows, not the syndicated stuff that comes on after the local news.
So, if this is true. If more content is going to be ordered and created, and the repeats will be out, how does this affect actors. Well, in the short run, it means more jobs for actors, but without that repeat bonus check, you lose a nice amount of pay for your appearance on a show. So, in the end it will mean less money for actors once again. However, this isn't due to the fact that the network is trying to 'stick it' to actors, and screw everyone over by putting content on the web. It just means that the audience doesn't want to watch repeats anymore. And these days with ratings being examined even more thoroughly, Networks will work quickly to stop the bleeding and keep advertising dollars in house.
So, I have a friend named Doug Clayton. I have not spoken with him in a while, but he and I have performed together and directed each other. He works for the LA Stage Alliance. He wrote an article that was his take on the "POST SHOW ROUND TABLE" I wrote about months ago. Here it is. He does a nice job summarizing a lot of parts that I left out. So, if you want another take on that incredibly frustrating night, go check it out.
Monday, May 18, 2009
THE NOHO SHOW! The internet series, I write, direct and co-produce aired the final three episodes and we are finally done with our first season. It was a completely rewarding experience to make this project happen and I am very proud of it. Go, check it out at thenohoshow.com !
THE STARTING ZONE! I make play world of warcraft. I enjoy it and I have a wonderful little batch of friends in a guild, and we are all enjoying it. Many of us (like me) are fairly new to the game and we noticed there was not a whole lot of advice or information for new players on the complexities of starting a new character, so my friend Jesse Kobayashi and I started a podcast called, The Starting Zone. It is now seven episodes in and already we have 15K listeners per podcast. That's pretty remarkable for two guys talking WoW over Skype. Feel free to check out the site at thestartingzone.com !
DIARY OF AN ANGRY LIFE COACH! As a screen writer and web content developer, I am always creating new ideas. I recently submerged my writing focus on a new web series I plan to shoot this Summer called, "Diary of an Angry Life Coach". We're getting crews and cast together. If you want to be involved and you life in Los Angeles, comment on this site and we'll get in touch. I hope to have a site up and running by this fall with the episodes releasing weekly.
Friday, May 1, 2009
"We will never know how close “American Idol’s” eighth season came to disaster Wednesday night. Had Adam Lambert been eliminated last night, a grieving nation would have spent all eternity shaking their heads in disbelief, haunted by the specter of what might have been.… In the annals of “Idol” tragedy – grim pages recounting the dark moments of Daughtry, of Hudson, of Grey — tonight could have marked the bleakest chapter yet for our republic. [...]
To take stock — first of all, while we pause, shaken by the almost cataclysm, let us not forget that to avert this disaster, we were forced to make a tragic Sophie’s choice, giving to Angel of Death Seacrest one of the most likable talents ever to grace the Idoldome. The judges’ use of the wild card and the save on Matt will go down, as Kara said, as the judges’ profiles in courage, bestowing a young man of grace, panache and good humor on our nation."
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Hey! We're doing a little contest for all you folks who love to design logos. ART OF FUNCTION would love a cool new logo to replace the template header for the Page. However, we want to show off our readers awesomeness as well. So, if you want to take a stab at a logo, leave a comment and we'll figure out how to get in touch!
Friday, April 24, 2009
I'll get to all the furor over wage earnings going due to the on-going on-line debate between Todd Collins and Mike Daisey in another post. However, standing back, I'm looking at both their points. Daisey contends that actors, designers, directors are suffering deteriorating wages. Collins contends that theater staff and administrators are seeing their wages deteriorating.
So, it seems we're all in the shit. And we can blame the economy, but I can tell you from experience money in Theater has been going backwards since 2000 (a year prior to 9/11).
So, why are we finger pointing at the family making theater happen? Shouldn't we be (for lack of a better term) be pointing the finger at our audience? Or to be even more specific, educating our audience about the need for theater in this country? I don't think that patrons are simply turning away, dying off, or giving us the finger for no good reason. I just think they don't know how great theater is, and to be honest... We're not giving them much of a reason to learn.
Seriously, we're barely ever discussed in the greater National Discussion. Our critics (our only voice in traditional print media) are being fired right and left from major news papers. Houses are closing right and left, and what are we doing around the country to compensate. We're playing it safe. That's what. We're so scared that everything will collapse, we're not even putting out the art that gets the audience excited about theater.
And what's even worse, we're making safe choices and trying to convince ourselves that they're risks. For example, Sorry, to bash any of you who are putting August Wilson on your seasons, but putting August Wilson on you season and calling that your 'big risk'. Are you fucking kidding me? August Wilson is one of the most well regarded play wrights in the history of American Theater. That's like putting Tennessee Williams or Neil Simon on your season of shows and saying, "That's a big risk." *sarcastically* Oh, we might have a cast of all African American actors on our stage and talk about racism. Look at the Risk we're taking this season." Please, what is this 1952?
We're not making theater that truly lights up the National Perspective and drives people back to the theater in a passionate way! What was the last show that did that? RENT? Way back in the 90's? (and before you bring up Spring Awakening, please, consider, that the only people who know about that show are theater nerds. The public at large has no idea what that show is or even about.)
We're trucking out the same old product across the board and expecting the audience to get excited about seeing Damn Yankees for the 300th time. We've got to take bigger risks with our theater. We need to really create (for lack of a better term) controversy with the Art on the stage.
Theater managers are so worried about putting off their audience in this 'turbulent economy' that they are playing it safe, and guess what? The audience is bored. And before someone like Todd responds to me saying, "But but but... we have to save the theater and keep the doors open or no one will have a job!"
That viewpoint is like the captain of a ship telling his crew to repair sails, when the bow of the ship is already submerged in the water.
We need big important, social commenting, wildly entertaining shows right now. This is why we're all seeing the money and the audience disappear. To be honest, right now, theater is fairly boring.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
World's Largest Cheeto and the Optimus Maximus from Gizmodo on Vimeo.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Monday, April 20, 2009
Now, a guy in Florida who runs an Equity Theater has decided it's his turn to throw a great big rock @ Daisey. Todd Olson is The Producing Artistic Director for a Theater in Florida called the American Stage Theater Company. I always cringe when I see some poor soul with the title Producing Artistic Director. Producing Director and Artistic Director are two separate jobs. So, when I see some person with the 'merged title', I immediately think to myself, they are either some poor schelp who has to do both jobs, because there isn't the budget to pay two people, OR they are in all regards a control freak. But I digress, Mr. Olson basically challenges Daisey to 'balance his budget' and do exactly what he claims should be done in his piece. Pay Actors a fair an equitable wage, while also getting the audience in the door. He 'challenges' Daisey to take up his offer, and if Daisey can do it, he will produce Mike's next show. And if he cannot, then Daisey has to stop railing against the state of regional American Theater. Theirback and forth can be read on MikeDaisey.com.
So, we may be in for another round of discussion about this topic. I, for one, am anxious to see if anyone has changed their model based on what Daisey started a year ago. I hope a new conversation pops up on the radar. Travis Bedard jumps in with his thoughts on this re-examination of the inferno known as "How Theater Failed America." It's a good read go check it out.
My issue in this exchange is the odd train of thought that Todd Collins seems to be riding. You see in my world, the theater is the Actors Medium. It's a place for actors, built by actors and the theater staff should be there to support them. However, in this country the actors are often times the last folks considered when it's time to hand out paychecks. I often hear theater managers talk about how they need all this staff to run a theater, and that of course drives up the budget. If you follow their logic, you need a full time staff person to, run the box office, market the shows, develop business relationships, manage and maintain the technical equipment, manage the facilities, and of course an office manager. So, if you look at that, and you say pay everyone 40K a year, that's a budget of 240K a year for the admin staff. That's a lot of dough. However, Producing Artistic Directors often claim they 'need this'. And without the staff the theater would crumble into oblivion. However, instead of employing multi talented artists to full fill these jobs, they often employe folks without any formal theater training. I remember working at a very well known regional theater, and one day at a company meeting the new 'development' person walked in the room. She had just been hired to drum up some funding for the company. She told us, she'd never really been into theater or studied it, but she knew how to glad hand business owners. She lasted all of a year I think before she ran screaming to another job.
Collins seems more quick to defend the need for his marketing staff and development staff, than to admit to the great white elephant no Producer of theater in this country really wants to admit. These days in theater, you pay everyone but the actors. This is the case in L.A., where I have often heard people say, "We got to pay the stage manager! But when it boils back to paying the actors, everyone will say, "Eh, they get to perform, that's payment in and of itself."
I think this concept of pay the actor last is what really fuels the angst in Daisey's piece. It's also the self indicting message that pisses folks like Todd Collis off, because ole Todd thinks he's doing the right thing. He is keeping the theater up and running. Hence the conflict, Daisey feels the actor is the whole reason the theater exists, and to be honest, he's right. Todd, sees the actor as a whiney baby who will never be satisfied with what they get. Todd has to have his staff so that the actor has a place to perform.
It's an interesting discussion, and I for one hope that Mike takes HTFA out every year so that every year theater producers both large and small get a good ole kick in the nutsackeroo, and have to look themselves in the mirror and think, "Hmmm without actors I have no product. If that's the case, why do I treat them like shit, and I lick the buttocks of my marketing guy, who got us 100 more subscribers this year." It's the theater equivolent of which came first? The chicken (the actor) or the egg (the theater staff).
What Daisey isn't pointing out here, and I think I'll be the one to talk about the Actors White Elephant... there are WAY TOO MANY ACTORS! With the market of 'product' available to producers (i.e. the actors) glutted the producers can continue to pay low wages or no wages to actors, who are willing to take them because it's all that they can get. I'm not calling for a UNION, because, Lord, knows we have several and they all suck. What I am calling for is a thinning of our acting herd. There needs to be less of us out there, because if we continue to offer up a smorgasborg of talent, there will never be enough pieces of pie to go around.
Oh, and this great deal SAG worked so hard to get? Looks almost exactly like the one on the table in January. Shocker!
So, I expected to go onto sites today and hear all kinds of Membership First Vitriol about the new deal, and blah blah blah. I am sure five 'hardliners' for membership first are 'protesting' their little hearts out somewhere in Hollywood today, wearing their 'I Heart Alan' t-shirts. I swear, I think the membership first people are more in love with creating drama and doing 'Uniony Stuff' like picketing than they are in love with making money and getting a shot to audition in more than 2 Feature Films this year. Back to the original point of the paragraph, I expected a lot of HATE today, and the reason there isn't a lot of hate, is because the ding bats in the 'moderate' group decided to let the Membership First yahoos deliver a 'CON Statement' to coincide with their 'PRO Statement' in favor of the contract.
However, some folks feel that despite a fight that still needs to be waged by the membership over the vote, the fatigue of this long... whatever the hell it was... (negotiation?) will result in a very narrow ratification.
The losses in revenue to SAG members personally is well documented. What isn't is the millions of dollars Alan Rosenberg and Doug Allen squandered in trying to control the message about the negotiations and de-rail the current negotiation task force's efforts to get a quick resolve done.
The damage to SAG financially and in spirt, is so vast, I doubt that SAG can ever recover from this botched contract negotiation. Hopefully this will all run it's course now, and end. Then we can all get back to work doing what we love.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Here is a quote from Variety's article, quoting a letter Big Dumb Al wrote in the official SAG magazine, "I truly believe we would have had a deal last summer if this faction had not undermined our efforts and de-leveraged us against our real opponent: management." The faction he is talking about is the Unite For Strength folks, and their 'efforts to de-leverage' are a reference to the anit-strike vote campaign they launched as well as the aggressive efforts that lead to Alan Rosenberg's own faction, Membership First, losing seats on the National Board.
Alan fails to realize that when going 'into battle' with the AMPTP over the new contract SAG had no leverage to begin with. Hollywood had endured a 100+ day WGAstrike that poked a lot of holes in the wallets of many actors in the guild. Those actors didn't want to strike, and everyone on the planet (except Big Al, and his partner Dumb Dumb Doug Allen) knew it. There was no way that strike vote would have ever passed. Guess who also knew it? AMPTP. So, they were quite comfortable to sit on their hands, do nothing and wait for SAG to rip itself apart internally, which, shocker of all shockers, has happened. NOTE TO ALAN: If you believe you have a strike vote in hand, you don't let your contract expire and tell the members to keep working. You strike when it expires, Dumb Ass! When you didn't do that, everyone with half a brain knew that strike would never come. So, you can blame UFS as much as you want, but the members (outside of Membership First) are not stupid. So, don't try to re-write history. Don't try to Crown yourself Emporer and walk down the street naked, thinking no one will notice.
He also shoots below the belt when calling out those who are sitting on the Board today, "A slim majority of members, most of whom have not worked much as professional actors, and do not live in Los Angeles, hold a slight majority and call the shots for those who are working and who rely on SAG wages and residuals to support their families," Rosenberg said. Wow, now he's calling out the careers of the people sitting on the board. Nice. (Full disclosure: Rosenberg has consistently worked throughout his career in television and film).
Rosenberg has now let his ego soar so high, he's rallied his 'troops' at Membership First, who blindly follow him as some Messianic Prophet to their own wage earning deaths, to vote no on any ratification of ANY DEAL proposed by the current leadership, no matter the details of the contract. The shear stupidity, stubborness, and ridiculousness of this type of maneuver rates so high an the retard scale, one would wonder if the Memebership First hardliners are simply a mass of mouth breathers, who need assistance each morning to tie their shoes.
Notice that Rosenberg has never ever discussed the amount of wages lost during this contract stalemate. Notice he hasn't said anything that for actor living in Los Angeles, it must be tough to make any money when all the productions are leaving town due to this freaking stalemate, and that in the fiscal 2009 year, only 2 feature films have been shot by studios. Notice he isn't talking about the millions of dollars of lost revenue that SAG members will never ever get back. Notice he isn't talking about the fact that more and more Primetime television shows are moving over to AFTRA contracts. He isn't talking about this, because it's on his watch. He will go down as the SAG President who completely bankrupted the Union, and he doesn't have the decency to admit that his term as SAG Prexy has been by all accounts a dismal failure.
What are Unions for? Are they not to protect the wage earning ability of the members in the best and worst of times? I site fellow entertainment Union IATSE as a somewhat fair comparison, as they are 'working class folks', whose only major wage earning difference is that below the line talent (grips, sound techs, set builders, etc.) are not eligible for residual income. IATSE has not been on strike nor have they blustered in the media about how terrible the AMPTP is, etc. etc. etc. They simply negotiate better rates for their members each and every term without having to make empty threats or striking.
So, if a successful Union keeps it's members earning more money at every contract even in hard economic times, what does that say about SAG and Alan Rosenberg? SAG is a Union who has operated on an expired contract for close to 9 months. A Union that has lost far more revenue than it could hope to gain by chasing the myth that there is tons of money 'on the internet'. It is a Union in financial trouble, and it is a Union about to lose it's premier status to it's sister Union AFTRA. This all happened while Alan Rosenberg was in the hot seat, while he was in charge. He can point the finges al he wants, but at some point doesn't the buck stop somewhere?
Monday, April 6, 2009
Friday, April 3, 2009
Mike Daisey himself picked up on the chatter my response in a post here last week about the post show round table discussion I just had to attend, following Daisey's performance of "How Theater Failed America." He was kind enough to repost on his website.
I did forget to share with you all my favorite quote from the Round Table that was somewhat inspiring. One of the audience members (very passionate, man) said this about the state of theater in Los Angeles, "This is our Fucking Church, People. We better start telling people about it." So, true. So, true.
So, Come on, folks! TELL ME WHAT YOU'RE UP TO!
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Your Friendly neighborhood Art Blogger actually does more in his spare time than rant and rave about the state of acting and the like in this country. I'm a bit of a gamer,as I'm sure long time readers know. It's one of my hobbies. I recently started playing World of Warcraft or "WoW" to the initiated. And, yes, I can confirm you can actually play the game casually and have a great time. No, need to devote your life to it.
Recently, I was asked to participate in a bi-monthly podcast about WoW called, "The Starting Zone". I recorded episode 1 and it is available via iTunes, or you can check it out at the website, www.thestartingzone.wordpress.com.
You're probably saying... How does your gaming Lifestyle jive with your whole approach to the arts and the like... my answer is... it just does. I think the word Artist and Nerd pretty much go hand in hand.
Monday, March 30, 2009
The Post from last week, "The Post Show Round Table" has provoked some dialogue, which is all I hope for with this blog.
We had a nice little bump from rising theater blogger Dennis Baker on his site. Dennis was the friend that clued me into Mike Daisey in the first place.
Scott Walters picked up on the post, I'm guessing from DB and he posted his response which I post below. It's a response to my response.
Then someone from Articles About Everything re-posted it on their website. If you don't want to do the clicky clicky deal on the links, I'll repost the text for you, Lazy Bone Jones. (But, please, do the clicky clicky, we all need the clicks, and these folks have some good thoughts in their noggins).
"As has been the case for the past two years, Mike Daisey continues to provoke long-overdue reflection and questioning on the part of artists. Theatre artists have a single kneejerk response to every problem: give us more money. Or, in lieu of that, the other knee jerks “we need better marketing.” When i reality, we need to do a Cartesian rethinking of the whole thing from the ground up. Peter Brook gave us a good starting point with the first lines of The Empty Space: “I can take any empty space and call it a bare stage. A man walks across this empty space whilst someone is watching him, and this is all that is needed for an act of theatre to be engaged.” Three elements: a place, an actor, and an audience. What Brook fails to mention is the relationship between the three, which is what we need to be doing right now. I would argue that the connection needs to be ongoing, committed, and interactive. As Wendell Berry says in an interview in Conversations with Wendell Berry, “”I think art comes about in answer to a need. At least, mine does. The community needs to talk about itself, needs to remember itself. It needs to recall significant things that have happened, and to mull them over and figure out what the significance is.” In this case, “itself” embraces the three points of Brook’s triangle: place, artist, audience. It is a three-way conversation that takes place over time. Berry sees the artist not as “an isolated, preeminent genius who materializes ideas from thin air, but as a person who has been in a community a long time, has been attentive to its voices…and who is prepared to pass on what has been heard. There are two things the artist must do: pass on all this is involved — the art, the memory, the knowledge. And take responsibility for his or her own work — that is the reason the work is signed, and that should be the only reason.” Responsibility, not credit; humility, not self-aggrandizement. Mick Montgomery made this realization, and it made him hang his head. That is the first step. The next step is to raise your head, look around, and start listening to the people around you."
Here is what I glean from this... and I may be way off base... but it's my blog so... here goes.
We're the artists. We're making the theater. If the theater is broken. It's our job to fix it. New models have to be introduced, they have to be born into this world. No government, no Artistic Director, No Donor is going to fix the problem, the hole, we have dug for ourselves. We let this happen. So, I guess we have the ability to take back the control.
I'm not a theater tycoon. I'm not lucky like Jeremy Piven, where I can throw away opportunites to walk along the great white way. I've performed for audiences of thousands and audiences of 2. My theater career has always been more about 'doing the work' and less about the big pay check. (Although, I'm not averse to big paychecks).
However, now that I can see my ability to 'do the work' is in jeopardy, I am thankful that more and more voices like Mike Daisey's, and Dennis Baker, and the folks at "Articles About Everything" are talking about this. I guess we need to stop talking and stop doing or it's just going to get worse.
Monday, March 23, 2009
You'll understand if you read on. If you have been paying attention, you know I went to see Mike Daisey on Friday. (Read Me and Mike Daisey Part 2). What I didn't tell you in that post was what happened afterwards. When I took my seat for the show one of the ushers addressed the crowd and informed us that a special round table discussion, hosted by Daisey, would take place following the show. The topic? The state of theater in Los Angeles. The participants? 10 illuminaries in Los Angeles Theater and anyone else who wanted to stay. I wish, I could tell you I paid really close attention to the names, but I didn't. Suffice to say, reps from Center Theater Group, Odyssey, Cornerstone, were on the stage as well as a critic from the L.A. Weekly and someone representing the LA Stage Alliance. These were some key figures in the Landscape of Los Angeles theater. Also, that night in attendence in the audience were some critics I recognized as well as some theater producers I knew. It was a pretty good cross section of personalities from our theater world.
A Little perspective before I write on... Los Angeles is a really unique 'theater town' in that despite having the largest concentration of actors in the United States, it's probably the fourth or fifth town on the list when it comes to Theater. New York, Chicago, and Washington D.C. have more successful and thriving theater communities with better developed audiences. Seattle, San Fransciso, Miami also routinely juxtapose L.A. for being true 'theater towns'. Our theater is divided into primarily two categories, super huge institutional and corportized theaters, or... really small ma and pa shops relegated to self described theater districts around town (i.e. NoHo, Santa Monica Blvd in Hollywood, Culver City??). Mid Level - regional houses are the rarity. The Colony and the Falcon being two that stand out. So, the pickings for making a living doing theater in this town is slim to none. Theater, culturally, for the actor in Los Angeles, is something to do to keep up your chops or challenge yourself artistically. It's something to do, when you're not doing anything in front of a camera. No one comes to Los Angeles as an actor to do theater. There just isn't enough money to be made here in it. We even have a 'showcase' clause in the equity contract that allows union actors to play for small houses of 99 seats our less. The idea of a sustained resident ensemble is rarely ever practiced, when you compare it to the over 100 plus 'companies in town' that are membership / dues driven. Yes, that's actors paying to play on stage. You throw in the wide real estate gaps in town, under developed audience and the incredible diverse and distinct cultures in the South and Eastern Regions of L.A. and you have a recipe for tremondous untapped potential that continues to remain... untapped.
Many years ago, I was asked to run for a position as Producing Director for a company in town called the Actors Co-Op. It was a company with two 99 seat equity waiver theaters. It was supported by an institution and further subsidized by membership dues. My dream was to try and figure out how to transistion the Co-Op into a company that paid a fair and competetive wage to the actors. I could only manage this, by coming to a special agreement with Equity on wages, having longer runs, and expanding 50% of the budget to education. This would have come at the cost of completely shifting the culture of the company from what it had been for almost 11 years. I realized that my dream of creating a theater that supported the community through education and entertainment, while supporting artists through fair wages was just that... it was a dream. So, I pushed my idea of education, but ultimately the job went to someone who was interested in maintaining status quo.
Thus this is the problem with theater in Los Angeles. It needs to change today, but no one wants to give up what is here now, despite how broken the model is.
The idea of a theater servicing the community through education and entertainment is the basis of what I feel is the regional theater model. A theater crops up in a town and locally invests in the citizens. The theater holds classes for youth and adults, while putting up shows. The education allows for grant money to be obtained, while also acting as an incredible marketing tool to children and their parents. Eventually the class transition to touring education shows and in house children's theater productions. This is how I feel you do theater right. The main stage provides the large adult oriented entertainment. The education provides the developed audience of subsribers. The last ingredient is heavy volunteer efforts from the local community to be ushers and ticket takers.
In Los Angeles, there are maybe three houses trying to do this model. They are succeeding. Everything else is not. And it's these houses, that constantly complain about not having enough money, not having enough press, and not having enough audience. Guess what, these were the 10 people sitting on the stage Friday night with Mike Daisey (with the exception of Cornerstone). I listened to someone from the Odyssey say the words that spell the down fall of all theaters in this country... "I don't want to do Children's Theater, I want to do the Art I want to do."
My message to those folks running theater in this town is... "Guess what? That's not your job." The job of the theater is to support it's audience and community, not exist soley for the purpose of indulging the creative proclivities of the artists entrusted with running the stage. Artistcally, I may want to do a season filled with "True West" and "End Game" and the like, where I could star in or direct them all, but that's not my job as the steward of the theater. My job is to embrace my community for who they are, and then go from there. I'm not saying this is soley doing Children's Theater, but it's about engaging your audience where they are at, not asking the audience to engage you where you are at. Theater is about people, audiences and artists sharing things together. Theater is not about a building or a 'great space' or subscriptions. The theater is the product of the people coming to it, not the other way around. We don't understand that here in Los Angeles.
We have an entity like Center Theater Group that has more money than it knows what to do with, and sucks all the focus of the media, so that it's hard for a regional theater to grow in an area like say, Culver City (one of the few towns in L.A. perfect for a regional theater model). It's like a great Black Hole sucking all the resources into it. Yet, if asked, who is your audience, I doubt the marketing team could tell you. It's because they pull everyone's audience into a mixed grab bag that is just enough to keep their subscriptions up and attract out of town productions to their stages.
I found it ironic that Mike Daisey railed against theaters trying to 'get more money' to solve all their problems with paying artists in his piece, and then comedically, 10 minutes after the show when he asked his panel, what would you need to make big changes to the theater culture in L.A. the first answer out of someone's mouth was... "We need more money."
I sat in my chair and hung my head. Did they not listen to the show?
It's not the money that is the issue. It's our model. Maybe theater needs to be less capitalized and more socialized. Maybe the City should figure out how to support the Theater Arts in L.A. like they support the visual arts. Maybe we do need $5 dollar theater Wednesdays. Maybe we need A Theater Alliance that truly correlates resources and marketing stragies. We have a city with a School District crying out for subsidized arts education, yet no one is there to help that process along. And here I sit asking myself, "What the Fuck is everyone doing? Why doesn't anyone understand how to make this work?" How come people in Portland or San Diego get it, but the place I live, where some of the most talented people in the world are living, can't figure it out?
Los Angeles Theater is the great disconnect. The Theater Community fails to understand the audience, and thus it fails to understand itself. Everyone is just scrambling for crumbs, no one is building relationships with each other through the art. The solutions are so simple. That's probably why I'm so frustrated.