Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Peter Jackson Said It Out Loud!

I'll post a little blog about Comic-con in a few moments. My general peripheral observations on that Pop Culture mash up may stir a hornets nest or two, and my thoughts are fairly wild. However, an interview was put out by the LA Times with Peter Jackson that took place in San Diego over the past weekend. Geoff Boucher put this little question to Jackson and his response was a fair but unrepentant indictment of business as usual in Hollywood today:

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."

Deciding on An Agent

I was asked recently a completely different question as it pertains to the thought of acting and of course agents / managers. Most new actors ask me, "How do I get one?" The answer and method is incredibly simple. I will save that for a later date. However, this question was even more important.

"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

The Sage Wisdome of Craig

A Blog on a Sunday? Yep. However, I hate to disappoint you, but this will be fairly short. I'm in the tail end of birthdays and vacations and I don't feel like being particularly clever, witty or observant right now. So, I'll leave that to Craig Ferguson who has this really underrated late night talk show on CBS. It comes on after Letterman. I've loved this guys since the DREW CAREY show, and he's only grown as a talent since then. So, since Craig doesn't have the viewership of other late night hosts, he gets to say whatever he wants. So, check out this gem.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Making Out On Stage

When you teach Meisner based techniques as I do, you will eventually be subjected to some odd conversations surrounding your chosen platform for training actors. Now, we all know that REPETITON is a big part of the training. This exercise simply requires actors to stand before each other, make an observation of the others behavior in a word or two and repeat that word or phrase until a beat in the relationship occurs and the word or phrase changes.

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.