Tag Archives: hollywood

The hard way and the harder way

I love the Internet for the opportunities it presents. An email I received:

On Fri, Jul 2, 2010 at 9:57 AM, Arkadiy Tumaykin wrote:

Hello! My name’s Arkadiy. I’m 19 and I’m very positive and creative
person. I have the huge wish
to take part in movies, advertising. Please answer me,
how can I get my aim without special actor education? Thank you.

My reply:

Hello Arkadiy,

Thank you for your email and thank you for giving me the opportunity to help you.

I can provide you with a Canadian perspective to your question; some of these points might not apply in all parts of the world.

There are two ways to take part in theater, TV or movies – the hard way, and the harder way.

The hard way is that of what is usually called an “insider”. It relies primarily on the structure of the entertainment industry that is already in place.

The hard way involves many of the following :

– going to film or theater school for 1 to 4 years,
– working on other people’s poorly executed artistic productions for free,
– working at a job that has little to do with your artistic passion but at least it puts food on your plate,
– struggling to find an agent who can provide access to employment opportunities,
– competing with other artists for the very few opportunities that are available,
– networking with other artists to create opportunities for expressing your passion,
– dealing with personal insecurities when you are faced with 100 rejections for every 1 acceptance,
– endorsing products that you yourself would not purchase,
– trusting other artists,
– eventually, working on artistic productions only because they pay well, not necessarily because they create an artistic playground
– being hired by someone else for the same kind of role or performance over and over and over and over again
– possibly making your artistic expression your sole means of income
– being boxed, packaged and labeled by someone else as a brand and commodity

The harder way is that of what is usually called an “outsider”. It relies primarily on the structure that the artist creates for themselves.

The harder way involved many of the following :

– reading as much as you can about the history of any kind of art or form of media
– listening to as many DVD director’s commentary tracks as you can – I recommend Robert Rodriguez and Steven Soderbergh
– practicing everything that you learn,
– creating your own poorly executed artistic productions,
– learning from your errors, recreating the circumstances that led to those errors and making a different choice before the same error reappears
– working at a job that has little to do with your artistic passion but at least it puts food on your plate,
– networking with other artists to create opportunities for expressing your passion,
– building or joining a community of others with similar artistic intentions,
– dealing with personal insecurities when the community you’ve built or joined begins to outgrow you,
– trusting other artists,
– eventually, working on artistic productions that create a playground for those artists involved, though these productions might pay little, if at all
– feeling the joy of hiring, engaging or inviting another artist to express their own passions
– being able to make your choices before anyone else makes their choices
– possibly making your artistic expression your sole means of income
– boxing, packaging and labeled yourself as a brand and commodity

Either way is valuable and legitimate and both provide opportunities for you to express yourself.

Personally, having tasted both ways, I prefer the harder way. And I am a fan of any who follow it. Following the harder way is what creates the opportunities for other artists to follow the hard way.

Ultimately, the choice is yours.

One more thing : nobody tries to be an artist. If you create art – any kind of art – you are an artist. The audience that experiences the art you create decides for themselves what value to take from it.


Why Piracy Will Eventually “Win”

Going after Pirate Bay for sharing BitTorrent files that refer users to copyright-infringing files is akin to going after the Yellow Pages for publishing the phone number to a restaurant owned by the mob. They are both nothing more than technologies that can be used either legally or illegally.

Everything any of us does online involves file-sharing. By sending an email, you’re creating a file and sharing it with the recipient. By surfing to a web page, the file that marks up that web page is being shared with you; the JPG and GIF files on that page are being shared with you. By viewing a video on YouTube, a Flash video file is being shared with you. The code of this web page now exists both on the computer that holds this website AND on your computer AND, unless they’ve all cleared their caches, on the computers of every other person who has read this web page.

The Internet was borne out of Arpanet, a Cold War system for information redundancy during the event of a nuclear attack. The Internet IS file-sharing.

Copyright is nothing more than a social agreement about who has control over the supply of an item. Because media conglomerates – studios, record labels, etc. – have in the past relied wholly upon supply control to achieve their goals (X copies going to Y outlets in Z territories) and are stuck in that archaic mindset, they are having difficulties with this new medium which exists solely through a lack of supply control.

The only thing media conglomerates have going for them is deep pockets, but all the cash in the world won’t make an iota of difference when you’re going up against the very essence of the medium itself.

As soon as the media conglomerates picked up their swords, they lost their battle. And somewhere Sun Tzu thought to himself, “Told you so.”

Q&A: Randal Kleiser

Q AND A with director Randal Kleiser on the death of film and the rise of digital format technology on the Internet and in other media, including its use in George Lucas’ “Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones” and virtual reality entertainment.

Since graduating from USC in 1968, Randal Kleiser has directed films for the such companies as ABC, Paramount, Columbia-Tristar, CBS, MGM-UA, Universal and Disney. His 1995 theme park film, “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience” is playing Disney pavillions on three continents. In 1999, he segued into made-for-Internet narrative, directing 7 webisodes for an early-blooming DEN (Digital Entertainment Network). In 2000, Kleiser began consulting for USC’s immersive training simulation (virtual reality) R&D shop, Institute for Creative Technologies. His first theatrically-released film was “Grease”.

This Q AND A was conducted on 06.09.01 by Simon Fraser.

Q: As a director who has primarily worked in a celluloid medium, how have digital formats altered your relationship with the camera?

A: Well, you can experiment a lot easier with digital formats. I just got this VX-1000 and I think differently; like in the car, I was driving along, thinking about doing a film, a short, like in a half-hour, where I would put the camera on a tripod and play both parts and do something about some twins who are thinking about killing someone. Just to see what that would be like. The idea that you could just — knowing everything I know about screen direction and acting and directing and photography — to be able to put it all together in a couple of hours, do a little short and do everything without anybody else and have it make sense.

You know, like the reason I’m interested in Flash is just being able to do something without having to ask anybody or get approvals or have them tell you how to do it. All the freedom that most directors would like to have is now becoming something that we can have.

Q: How has made-for-Internet and other forms of digital content affected how 24fps feature film content is produced?

A: The digital stuff has really made it possible for many people to do things they could never have gotten off the ground before. Such as “The Anniversary Party” which I’m going to see tonight. Jennifer Jason Leigh is an actress I’ve worked with and she’s very intense. She, I think, got the idea for this by doing “The King is Alive” by the Dogme people over there and witnessed how it’s done and said, “Well shit, I could do this myself.” And she did. I can’t wait to see it.

John Bailey shot it. I went to school with John and I visited the set when they were shooting. It reminded me very much of film school, especially with John shooting it. But everybody was kind of like — it was the size of a film school project and had that vibe of everybody just doing it cause they wanted to. Rather than, you know, “Where’s the catering truck and I can’t wait to go for the weekend in my Winnebago, water skiing.”

Q: What are some of the challenges you have faced in made-for-Internet filmmaking?

A: It’s really a primitive form of filmmaking. But I must say that AOL has a very good streaming system and that looks almost like regular television. When we did “The Royal Standard”, I think maybe we had three people out there who could see it. This was in ’99. And even today, there are very few people who get really good reception. Although I did see BMW’s films, with John Frankenheimer, who broke all the rules that are taught in terms of shooting for the Internet. You know, you’re not supposed to move the camera or have fast motion. He broke everything and it all worked, at least with my DSL.

It has to be like a commercial. It has to be short, sweet, fast, pack a lot of stuff into the frame in a short amount of time. I think that’s probably, you know, MTV started the short attention span, and commercials, and the Internet is perfect for it cause people don’t have a lot of time to sit around and watch the screen anyhow. I mean it’s not designed — you’re not comfortable when you’re sitting in front of a computer. Y’know, you don’t lay back and watch a three-hour movie.

Q: What cinematic differences exist between a digital format for a theatrical market and a celluloid format for a theatrical market?

A: I don’t think there’s a difference, when you’re working with HiDef 24. I’ve done some experiments in that and it’s just like a movie. I went up to ILM and saw some of “Star Wars 2” projected. And it looks just like a feature film. There’s no difference. The scene I saw was a couple standing in sunlight against a lake in Italy and the sun is bouncing off the lake and silhouetting them. And it looked totally like a 70mm film. It was just amazing; so I don’t think there’s a difference there.

In terms of the Internet, well, based on what I saw with John Frankenheimer’s work, I don’t think there’s a difference there either now.

Q: What are some of the pre-, during and post-production pitfalls of digital layering of subject matter?

A: You have to work with story boards so you know what the final result is that you need and you work in whichever layer you’re working on. It’s very very much like working in PhotoShop; you can work your layers there. I’m just learning that now and I’m fascinated by it.

In terms of shooting digitally, working with green-screen or blue-screen, you can do the same thing you can do in PhotoShop. I was up with George Lucas, watching him edit “Star Wars 2” and he’s done the whole movie that way. I’d say 80% of the all the shots in the movie are done with just a floor and actors and a blue-screen, with dots on the blue-screen for tracking purposes. And then he just layers, layers, layers, all of them together. He showed me how he did it; it was just amazing.

And it’s the type of shooting that will become more and more useful in the future. It’s perfect for a sci-fi movie but I just think those elements are going to be used more and more in the future.

Q: With the introduction of Sony’s HiDef 24p digital camera, the frame rate between film and video has been balanced. What is the next major challenge in the convergence of these two media?

A: It seems to me that celluloid is a doomed medium. There doesn’t seem to be enough reason to hang on to it when the end result is as good or better than using that expensive medium. Digital projection doesn’t have any weave, it doesn’t have any scratches, it doesn’t have any splices. And it looks rock steady and sharp. Digital shooting is very very inexpensive. You can get 80 minutes for $50 or something. I don’t remember the numbers, but even that will come down. You don’t have to wait for the developing. I mean, it’s all pointing towards the death of film and it just seems like it makes sense.

One would think that IMAX would be the savior of celluloid. However, I saw a demo at Universal’s IMAX of HiDef 24-frame projected on to an IMAX screen. And it wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad. And this is 2001. I can see in 2010 that it’ll be as good as 70mm or IMAX. Cause it’s just a matter of getting more information, more bytes, projected digitally on to the screen, it’ll look just like film. So I don’t think there’s a chance that film will continue.

Q: How does a virtual reality medium affect the film making process from conception to delivery?

A: Virtual reality. Basically, you’re trying to create an environment that seems real so you’re dealing with smells and sights and sounds and feelings and wind and all that stuff. Story is not usually the primary goal of that here at the early part of virtual reality. It’s more like trying to create something that’s real and believable, as the main thrust. And then figuring out ways to use it.

Because right now, the technical stuff is so complex to make that happen. The studies that are going on at USC’s Institute for Creative Technology are really in depth. They have people working on sound, where they can, with two speakers, they can place a sounds behind you or above you using all kinds of algorithms.

Picture-wise, they are working on Cinerama-type projections where there’s no peripheral. It’s all completely covering your eyes from all directions. And they’re working on some flat-screen kind of, projections on to flats so that you have a physical shape and then the texture is projected on to it.

So all these different ways are ways that are not headsets but they are — you walk around and see and feel and experience these environments. And then, the primary goal is for training soldiers so they don’t have to have giant sets, basically. They have those right now where they put on test exercises where the soldiers have to go in and take over a village. And they’ve built the village and they have guys playing one part and vice versa. And they set off live ammunition and they blow things up and they have helicopters coming in.

All those things are expensive and they can only do it once every so often. But with virtual reality, you could do it all the time or whenever you want. So that’s why they’re funding this research.

An interesting part about it is because they are funding the research, the research is being done. And then it can be adapted for educational use or entertainment use. Theme parks or education.

One of the things that I’ve done that’s sort of in this virtual reality field is the attraction that’s playing at all four Disney parks, called “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience” where the audience is seated in like, maybe 500 seats that are all on one platform that moves together in sync with the screen. There’s things that tickle the audience and spray them and winds that blow and all that kind of stuff. It’s kind of like George Orwell’s ‘Feelies’ from “1984”, the book. And that’s sort of like a primitive form of virtual reality. But all this technology is going to make it very very real now.

My brother, Jeff, just finished a ride film for Busch Gardens which is one of these virtual reality experiences for like 60 people at once. It feels like they are shrunken into a little box and these regular-size people are huge and everybody’s wearing 3D glasses. The motion base moves as they carry the box around and show it to people. These big giants come and look in and they’re carried up a hill on a horse. And then a griffin flies them around. It’s opening in a few weeks at Busch Gardens and it’s all digital, all done in the computer, no film, no actors, sort of like “Shrek” in 3D. And this is a really good example of trying to create that.

Also, at California Adventure, there’s a new thing that they’ve been working on which is where you sit in a chair and you fly — it feels like your hand gliding and you’re really in front of a big screen that envelopes you so you can’t see the sides. And they have things like when you fly over the orange groves, they pipe in the smell of oranges and things like that.

These are the beginnings of that whole field that will get more and more sophisticated.

Hollywood is Dead

When Friedrich Nietzsche declared that “God is dead”, in no way did he imply that humanity give up on its quest for the enigma that haunts us all, the indescribable feeling of reverberating viscera. Glory is glory. Grace is grace. Always.

Movies have a similar effect on most people on this planet as their feign of emotion, challenge and journey strike the common chords that drive humanity. The escapism of entertainment is debatably necessary to keep us sane (or insane depending on which side of the debate you would find yourself). The power of the voice, the stage, the screen, is second only to the power of the audience.

With great power, as the old saying goes, comes great responsibility.

As an artform, movie-making is unique in that it requires the talents and skills of a few artists to a few hundred artists. The process of making a movie requires thousands upon thousands of manhours of not only hard work and great effort but also of training (years and years of training and learning from one’s experiences) and a focus of one’s character. Actors are actors because they have no choice. Writers are writers because they have no choice. Animators and set designers and cinematographers are what they are because, as artists, THEY HAVE NO CHOICE. Anyone with a muse is a slave to it, whether they like it or not.

However, you now no longer need to be an artist at all to create art. The years of training spent by such remarkable actors as Meryl Streep, Marlon Brando, Julianne Moore, Warren Beatty, Jessica Lange, Gary Oldman, Vanessa Redgrave, Om Puri, Catherine Deneuve, Toshiro Mifune, Liv Ullman and Sean Penn was all for nought. Their talents are now pointless. It is truly a Brave New World – NOVELTY, CELEBRITY, COMMODITY.

How did this happen? When did it all go amiss?


Hollywood died today and with it, all our self-possessed dreams of captivating the hearts of humanity.

A new website has reared its oh-so-ugly and malignant head today – www.whowantstobeamoviestar.com. The retarded brainchild of a “winning combination of industry professionals and major entertainment companies,” Who Wants To Be A Movie Star? asks the most self-indulgent question ever posed to the movie-going public – what is the price of your dream?

Through an affiliation with Yahoo Auctions, you (Yes! You!) can bid on and win “lead and supporting roles in a feature-length motion picture with guaranteed distribution”.

A press release issued by the film’s P.R. firm states that “Thomas Edison once said that genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration, and now we’re giving you the chance to prove it.” BULLSHIT! You (Yes! You!) are being given the chance to DISPROVE Edison. You don’t need to spend years of hard work and effort and PERSPIRATION learning how to hone your talent and skills. TALENT AND EFFORT ARE NEGOTIABLE. All it takes is money and a mouse click.

What exactly is a “winning combination of filmmakers, web experts, entertainment executives and business professionals”? Since the site only premiered this week, what exactly is it that this particular combination has won? Other than my f*cking wrath.

The “About Us” section of the website claims that “We will also have the satisfaction of making history by blending together the power of the Internet with the magic of Hollywood and creating something new and exciting.”

Oh my, where do I start?

The satisfaction of making history?! I make history every morning I wake up! I make history with every trip to the bathroom! I make history with every step I make, every breathe I take, every orgasm I fake! So do you, so does everybody. At this very moment, every person on this planet is making history. Are you satisfied?!

Is that the same “magic of Hollywood” that had one of the finest screenwriters of our time, Robert Towne, writing MI:2, the most awful piece of drek that has been force-fed to the movie-going public in the past year? Is that the same “magic of Hollywood” that is running scared from the industry-wide effects of The Blair Witch Project? You bet your ass it is. Keep running, fothermuckers.

Yeah, I want to create “something new and exciting” too. Let’s put on a variety show. I’ll get the funny hats. Shit or get off the pot! Or simply get off the pot (i.e. grass, marijuana, weed, spliff).

In the website’s “Partners” section, it states that WWTBAMS “represents a paradigm of collaborations between new media powerhouses and entertainment entities.” Wow, that sounds like such an attractive creative cesspool. Facelessness never sounded so good.

Who will the “lucky winner” be? Whoever you are, they’re going to give you the job and YOU’RE going to pay THEM.

I would like to take this opportunity to urge every rich and highly untalented bastard on the planet Earth to hike the bids as high as they can so that this “film” can die the horrible death it so generously deserves – by being as financially successful as it possibly can. Straight to Hell, boys; do not pass Go.

Stanislavski is dead. Long live Stanislavski.

Addendum: shortly after this was published, the director of WWTBAMS Tony Markes invited me to view some of the post-production process. I replied, accepting his offer, but I never heard back from him. I’m not sure what happened to the movie. Or its “stars”.