July 30, 2006
Back to showbiz.
Yesterday I spent a long, dizzying and rewarding day of seminars at the Hollywood branch of the Directors Guild, catching up with other members on the sea-change taking place in the moviemaking business. The transformation of film recording and playing to digital recording and playing from experts in this new field, they sure proved that life has changed for all of us, actors too.
Trying to reinvent myself from theatre industry work in New York to film industry work in Hollywood, I attended the following seminars:
– Digital storyboarding.
– Independent film-making on a micro-budget.
– Choosing a format, HD, DVD, Mini DVD and HDTV.
– Digital editing systems.
– and the “Creative Impact” of working in digital.
This last really got my attention. On the panel was producer/director/actor Tony Bill (whose restaurant in Venice I often visit, and whose career history I envy a lot, especially his pilot license qualifications.)
Academy Award winning co-producer of “The Sting”, and director of his just completed World War I epic “Flyboys”, he knows a great deal and is certainly worth listening to.
He said shooting on digital had changed his way of working with actors, and he no longer feels that slating a take with the call to “Action” was either necessary or desirable. He said that replacing the time-limited reel of film with an almost endless tape meant that multi cameras could shoot continuously, no more “takes”, no more rehearsals, shoot the lot.
He then made the statement that unexposed film in a camera has always been a “gun” aimed at the actor, who has always felt threatened by it, making him feel self-conscious and not able to give his best. Now, he said, you can just shoot it all, editing and deleting as you go, and not even have to wait for dailies.
He then said that acting, throughout history, has gone through the following stages: THEATRE (legit) for thousands of years, then SILENT movies, then SOUND movies, then “METHOD” acting (presumably to achieve enhanced realism), and now ACTUAL REALISM, thanks to the magic of digital.
At the following Q & A, I just had to get up to the microphone. I asked him if, in his opinion, he thought that Humphrey Bogart or Ingrid Bergman, or Bette Davis, or Laurence Olivier would have benefited from the new technology.
He answered yes, that he truly believed they would, but that I was talking about old-fashioned actors, and old-fashioned technique (I hope I’m quoting him accurately).
I said that I viewed acting as a performance art, and that actors, far from feeling threatened by film inside a camera being pointed at them intimidatingly with a call to “action” when it’s rolling, saw it as the curtain going up, that “action!” served as a kind of switch which turns them on.
But I did confess that I was somewhat conflicted in this view, and that my currently favorite television was “Curb Your Enthusiasm” which is shot in exactly the way he describes, and put together sans actors in the producers’ offices.
Thinking more about this later, my conclusion is that with digital, everyone can be an actor, just catch them unawares. But they’re dealing with “behavior”, not “acting”. Which is different. Very different.
And with image cutting and pasting and inserting and switching and enhancing and reversing and morphing and animating and re-manufacturing, we may just not need professional actors/sets/costume/lighting designers any more, just creative computer engineers. It will certainly keep costs down.
I’m sure this debate will continue.
Meanwhile, I, and perhaps you, will continue to watch more of those black and white films from the thirties, forties and fifties.