Friday, September 27, 2013

Average

Don't be average:
The safest thing you can do, it seems, is to fit in. Total deniability. Hey, I’m just doing what the masses do.

The masses are average. And by definition, we have a surplus of average.

Don’t be different just to be different. Be different to be better. 
Read the whole thing here.

So the goal is to be different, eh? To "Take the road less traveled by." Uh huh. Sure.

Aw shit, we about to get educated and shit:


"So the point of the poem is that everyone wants to look back and think that their choices matter. But in reality, shit just happens the way that it happens, and it doesn’t matter."

Shit will just happen, regardless of the path you choose. So just pick a path, already. Don't worry about which is the better path, the safer path, or the surer path to success. Just pick a damn path.

Or rather, start walking down the path you've already picked. Yeah, that's right. I'm in your head now, and I know you already know what you want to do. You're waiting for some sign or for someone to give you permission to do it. Divine Providence. Well, that ain't gonna come. It's entirely up to you.

FOLLOW. YOUR. BLISS.
If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are—if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.
So says Joseph Campbell, the guy who coined the phrase. 

In our art (and in our lives) we have to make the choices that perhaps only make sense to us. Choices that make intuitive sense. Fritz Lang once spoke of a "somnambulant certainty" that guided his art. We all have that. Religious folk speak of the "still, small voice." Poets speak of their muse. I'm convinced there is a preconscious consciousness that has already calculated the odds and helps us determine our next step.

Often -- especially for artists and others who live and create on the edge of traditional norms -- that somnambulant certainty comes into direct conflict with our fight or flight mechanism. When that happens, we have to cowboy up and push through millions of years of evolution to make things happen for ourselves. It's painful. It's worth it.

The alternative is "average" and a life of quiet desperation.

What fork are you standing at? What decision are you putting off?

You already know the answer.

Tighten your bootlaces and get to walking.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Red Snapper on Video Auditions and Festival Applications

[NOTE: I am reposting this from Red Snapper's blog, Snippets from Snapper:]

What I Learned Being a Festival Application Judge

My very first festival submission video was shot in my living room over five years ago, and it was terrible. I was told by a teacher to submit, so I whipped together an act that was well-costumed but the storyline was very incomplete. I shot it in my living room and was shot down by two festivals with that submission.

Of course I was looking at my submission subjectively.  I worked hard to make the costume and I busted ass at the eleventh hour to get music edited and put together some choreography. With my resume of instructors and my lifetime as a performer, how could they not see how much potential I had and put me in the festival already?

I'm older, wiser, and more experienced now. I've suffered through seeing bad shows (largely plays) where I was not entertained but I'm sure everyone involved in the show was trying really hard. I've also been part of productions that I thought would've been better off closing early, going on hiatus to spend the time becoming something better, or needing an honest opinion from someone who wasn't so close to the show and trying so hard. I've also been part of an amazing play didn't get bumped up to the next level of festival competition because of the discussions that went down in the selection room.

The entire screening committee for the Hollywood Burlesque Festival watched every video submission. Even if we'd seen the act before, we watched the entire video that was submitted and worked with that performance for scoring.  We had a number system to make things as fair as possible. There were no write-ins, no comments sections for us to say, "Yeah, this video doesn't really showcase the performer's best act but we really, really, really like them and think they should compete with a better number." We didn't compare one performer to another but scored each individual video we were watching against itself.

I'm sharing the "inside baseball" from this experience because it was so wonderfully educational. Here are some of the most valuable things I learned as a performer from being a judge:
  • Lighting is important. We want to see you looking great, to take in all the colors of your costume, to see what you're actually doing. If your costume is black, the backdrop is black, and you have the red and green lights of a dive bar, it's going to be hard to see your act on video.
  • Framing is important. We want to see what you're doing. If you have to set up your own camera to shoot footage of your act, talk with show producers to make it happen. We can't tell what you're doing when you drop out of frame, and we may be missing the most amazing floor work ever. And we don't have to see the entire venue in your video, just what's happening on stage.
  • Focus is important. It's so hard to see what someone is doing when the picture is blurry. Your makeup may be amazing and the title of the book you're reading may be key to the act, but we can't see it if it's out of focus.
  • Do something worth watching. This probably sounds mean, but this is how I feel about theatre as well.  If you're not an incredible dancer, fill the act with personality. Make the best of the assets you do have and let them fill in for the things you're lacking. Boldly be you. Embrace and demonstrate what you bring to the table.
  • If you have to shoot your video in your living room, your performance needs to be bigger than your living room. Treat it like it's a stage and like you have a real audience.  Even though you watch sitcom reruns on that television, you need to regard it as a paying customer in your submission video. The dog and the cat become VIPs who deserve to be truly entertained when you shoot at home.
  • Video your rehearsals and watch the video. It's therapeutic. You can become your own judge to determine what works and what doesn't, where you need to add or subtract from the number. It's so nice to cut things that don't work and replace them with things that do, especially before you show that act to other people.
  • Tell a story/make sure your act flows logically. If your act is all about falling in love for the first time, don't grab your crotch in the first five seconds because it gives you nowhere to go with the story. In a burlesque act, you have to have a final reveal. The final reveal tends to be pasties, but could be a skimpier garment or a prop or a special ability. To be blunt, don't orgasm until the act is over or you'll be that person who act-gasms prematurely. ;)
  • Sometimes it comes down to numbers. You might be the next person on the list after the tallies, but there are only so many slots that can be filled. Your act may have been incredible, but the performance slots were filled by the people who tallied more points.
Watch your video before you submit it. Check for these elements. Try to watch it objectively. Enlist a trusted friend.  (My husband and I review acts for one another because we can't always see what the audience sees. We trust each other so it's really easy to say "that doesn't read for the audience" or "you need to wiggle your ass more there.") Think about what you want to submit to festivals and hone those acts.  (I know we only gave you thirty days to submit for our festival. "Surprise! We're having a festival!")

As a friend, I wanted all of my friends to get into the festival because I love spending time with them and I love it when they succeed. As a Californian, I wanted all the folks I haven't met in the face to spend some time in Hollywood so they might get a little idea of why I get misty-eyed every time my flight home lowers through the smog and I see my city. As a judge, I watched the videos and submitted my numbers.

I hope this gives my fellow performers insight for their future festival submissions. I know that being a screener has changed my standard for what I will submit for other festivals.