Tuesday, January 25, 2011

On Acting: The Value of Acting

Question: What is the value added (to society) by an acting performance? What tangible value do actors give to an audience that the collective members of the audience spend billion of dollars every year on actors' services (which of course includes the services pf writers, directors, lighting personnel, etc.--all those others that aid in the transmission of acting performances to audiences.)

Answer: To learn about themselves, audiences need experience, which engenders emotion, which engenders intellectual analysis and self-knowledge. To learn is to translate personal experience into universal truth.

Real, everyday experience can be costly, however; especially deep emotional experience such as the kind that results when one experiences death, murder, intense sexuality, war.

On the other hand, theater, film and video allows an audience to experience intense life onstage or onscreen in a safe, less physically consequential way. No one--neither actor nor audience has to actually die, murder, have perhaps unsafe sex or go to war to have the EMOTIONAL experience of such events. All the actor has to do is have to really, honestly and excitingly have the EMOTIONAL experience of intense 'life-in-performance' first. And, thereby, by enabling a much safer audience experiencing--by the audience's process of audience identification and empathy with the performed characters s' life before them, theatrical, film and video acting allows the audience to get into deep empathetic emotional contact with themselves...and learn.

This valuable learning experience, offered to audiences at an audience's very low everyday existential costs (and at a time and place of theie own choosing as well) creates great profit for the audience---the monetized profit of which they readily share with the audience.

How much is a Broadway ticket cost now: $150; $10 or more a ticket at the movie theater? How much do some film stars make now: twenty million dollars a movie? Well worth it...for two collective hours of emotional experiencing, learning and growing...while having a coke and a box of popcorn, too. Such a deal.

Bad boy!!!! I took another vacation!!! But it was fun and I'm back.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

And So It Begins

"Why do you want to act?" I asked the young man sitting across the table from me sipping coffee.
"Fame," he said flippantly. "I want to be known."
"There are many ways of being known. Successful politicians; professional athletes; even local news reporters. They are all known. Why do you want to seek fame through acting?"
There was a pause in the conversation.
"Because it's easy." It was more a statement from me than a question.
He looked at me sheepishly, as if I had read his mind.
"Yea. I walk, I talk, I feel. I can do that," he said, "...act."
"You did it," he said. "Why can't I?" Touche.
Defensively I said: "No reason. In fact, there's more reason for you to succeed the way you look (a handsome young man) than the way I looked at your age."
"But," I challenged him," are you prepared not only to look good--walk and talk--but also to feel in such an exciting way that 5 million people in the audience, will stop in their tracks, cease in their daily activity, just to watch you? And watch you specifically as opposed to the hundreds of thousands of other would-be actors living in NY, LA and around the nation?"
"Yea. I'm willing to work at it."
That was the answer I was hoping for.
I paid for the coffee, patted him on the back and wished him well.
I smiled with confidence. A carrer was born.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

I'm happily back from vacation.

MOVIE REVIEW: "Black Swan"

I saw "Black Swan" over the holidays. Although an (overly) well-thought-out, beautifully mounted film, I grew strangely unattached emotionally as I watched it. In fact, rather than being mesmerized by the story and characters, I took notes during most of the film. Perhaps it was a feeling that the film was made to appreciate its art and artistry, its brilliant insights and industry, more than being an attempt to sweep an audience away emotionally. Perhaps it was my initial and early rejection of storytelling 'cleverness'--I could see what was coming plot-wise and character-wise from the very beginning; or perhaps it was because I felt I was being 'intellectualized' to death; or perhaps after a lifetime of immersion, practically and theoretically in the art and craft of acting, and with all due modesty, functioning albeit intermittently as an "artist", I rebelled at being TOLD what my artist's art was. I'm old fashioned. I heed a lesson Billy Wilder gave me on screenwriting: "Don't illustrate; dramatize." I like my thematic/artistic truth revealed in story and drama, not having it somewhat gratuitously illustrated for me as if in a pictorial essay.

Whatever the reason--or for all the above reasons--I took notes. I share them with you now in the sporadic form I wrote them down.

"Overwrought..." "Pretentious..." "Hyper meaningful..."
"Basic question: Why is the main character so driven (and please don't let it turn out to be that 'Mommy made her do it')...
"Too many close-ups..."
"A psychiatric case study in illness..."
"A study in masochism and obsession..."
"A fascination with sickness..."
"How a young girl lost her virginity and found the joy of sex!..."
"A tone poem of neuroses..." "A clinical study of artistic obsession..."
"The lesson of the film: Mamas: Don't send your daughters to ballet school!!!..."
"A real harsh case of opening-night jitters..." "A Freudian case study in opening night jitters..."
"How to 'lose yourself' into destruction..."
"Sex = sickness..."
"TITLE OF FILM: "An essay on the destructive possibilities of creativity; OR 'It's All Mama's Fault; OR 'The Life of Mickey Roarke on Point-Toe'..."
"Creativity is self-destruction without any nobler purpose..,OR The Story of Good Friday without Easter; OR Mel Gibson's 'The Passion' all over again..."
"Sex, Drugs and Tchaikovsky..."
"Creativity is self-mutilation..."
"The Life and Times of Marilyn Monroe..."
The Romantic vision of art (Verlaine, Rimbaud, etc.)..."
"Talk about narcissism: making love to (or killing) another woman turns out to be making love to (or killing) yourself..." What a disappointment...Interesting thought: I'm afraid I just don't like myself enough to do either one (at least to myself)!"

The acting was fine. The photography was fine. The editing was fine. The music was phenomenal. A predictable, obvious movie done very well. A film done by a precocious film grad student with an open-ended budget.