Thursday, October 29, 2009

They Don't Know They're Lines?

Dennis Baker of posted this article via Twitter. You can read it here! The article features a write up on how some TOP Tier broadway actors are using line prompters and ear pieces for line cues during actual paid performances. Matthew Broderick is the most cited offender. He is currently using a 'helper' who sits in the front row with the script. How sad is that? Angela Landsbury (a theater icon) used an ear piece with a prompter during her Tony run with "Blythe Spirit last year."

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 vs Bay

The Megan Fox thing is fairly interesting. When I say the "Megan Fox Thing", I am referring to her feud with Director Michael Bay. Now, I know that both people have their fans and both people have their detractors. Fox has been likened to a younger Angelina Jolie. Sexy, controversial and box office gold. Bay is one of the best action sequence directors of all time, but his reputation for making good dialogue scenes is suspect. What am I saying? Well, they are box office hits in some ways, but they have yet to deliver anything that has inspired the illuminati of the Entertainment World who value both dollar signs and artistic integrity.

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

ABC Looks Smarter than NBC!

The news down the perverbial pipeline this morning is that ABC feels so good about their new Comedy Line-Up they've already picked up "The Middle", "Modern Family" and "Cougar Town". I managed to catch them all this week. The Middle is basically Malcom in the Middle, if you did the show from the Mom's perspective instead of the Middle Kid. Patricia Heaton is fairly average, but the rest of the cast picks up the pieces. Modern Family could be Arrested Development if it continues to keep taking big risks. Cougar Town will appeal to people other than me, but it's fine. And it shoots two blocks away from my house. Noticeably absent from the pick ups was the Kelsey Grammer DOA "Hank". This show is campy and awful. So, hopefully it dies. However, the good news from ABC is that they are proving that good writing and good acting can result in ratings.

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

People Want Leno To Fail: Part 2

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.

People Want Leno To Fail

I sat down a few weeks back and watched the premier of the Jay Leno show. My wife who is much more the expert in TV than I am (because she worked in it for 9 years and has a degree in it) thought the concept was a worth while experiment, but ultimately we found it a little flawed. However, NBC is pushing the show with both barrels. Jay Leno has been promoted as the bench mark for comedy today, and all kinds of big hollywood starts are lining up to appear on a show that is basically the same as Jay's old show, just on T.V. an hour and a half earlier.

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.

Print Vs Online

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?