Sunday, May 6, 2012

Secret Hollywood TV Techniques

When I watch selected shows on Hulu, some contemporary, some not, I often notice things in dialog or acting which must have been taught at the same school.

One technique used in drama, more by actresses than actors (is it ok to say actress rather than female actor?) is the the to and fro eye dart. This is used when the actor is "searching" the eyes of the other character who may be saying something like, "Of course I don't love you anymore."

They will focus on a face shot of the searching character who is staring into the eyes of the other character. Many actors have mastered the technique of making their eyes shift quickly back and forth, but only just a little bit each way off of center. They can do it rapidly, like maybe 5 times or so in a second. It is supposed to convey earnest bewilderment, I think.

Remember that in your next audition.

Dialog is different and I need to make mental notes of all the typical phrases. Of course, just like in politics and news commentary, the phrase "at the end of the day" has become common. It replaced the over use of the phrase, "the bottom line is...".

Fictional characters will likely never stop "playing a hunch". I'm grateful that "and your point is?" hasn't run as far as it could have. "having a lot on my plate" found its way into many scripts, sometimes on every page, but seems to have faded. Now I only hear that from my brother.

I suppose "you're (he/she/it's) going down" is often about the easiest way to say it so that cliche is not quite as pure hollywood.

It is clear that some actors and/or directors come from whichever school thinks reciting lines with a full mouth of food is great for adding a realistic touch. They clearly have been taught the technique and they all do the eat and talk delivery identically. To avoid actually grossing everyone out while doing this is an acquired skill, considering you have to utter your lines audibly and articulately.

I think it is a stupid device. In real life, my friends rarely attempt that, and if they do, I generally let them know I have time to wait until they swallow before hearing what they have to say. Michael Landon, RIP, was a great proponent of the talk-with-food-in-mouth acting school. That is quite clear. He was also a fan of the fake uncontrollable laughter scene. It was a good time killer if the script was a little short, I guess.

I go great lengths of time without catching current TV, and even on hulu I still avoid any show with canned laughter. It is my little protest. Some people won't buy foreign products or shop Walmart. I boycott laff track driven entertainment.

I'm going to keep an eye out for other techniques so we can employ every cliche and seemingly pointless acting and scripting device when we create our own show.

While I am at it, I hope to discover why Alec Baldwin thinks he's funny. He simply is not. I've yet to find any humor in his humor.

Beach Blanket Bingo

In an odd twist of fate strangers call me every once in awhile these days regarding playing some kind of music with them. The latest call was from a guy whose name rang no bells, and I could not recall ever playing with him at any of the open mic venues or other events I've attended.

He said I played with him and his wife, who plays paercussions. His plan has to do with another charity event, and the details are still a little vague. I think he wants me to sit in with him and/or others.

Not wanting to limit my horizons too much I agreed to meet down at the beach to jam a little with him and some other people he said were showing up. He gives detailed resumes of whoever else is supposed to play, and I tune out such things. If you say you know Joe Dokes and he's famous or played with Bach or whatever, it means zilch to me.

All I care about is if I can fit with the people and if what they play is not completely abhorrent to me. That is a little negative but many guitar player/singers of the acoustic world tend to play things which seem like they lack real melody, and which contain chord changes that have no purpose as far as what makes sense and sounds pleasing to me.

Often the songs are famous and made someone tons of money. Usually things that did not grab me when they were rising in the marketplace, and things which I couldn't imagine wanting to cover.

So, I showed at Ocean Beach and after a second did recognize the guy. I still don't recall playing with him and his wife. A mandolin player and violin payer showed up. The violin was tentative but I liked how she played. The mandolin was not bad either. He seemed to know what he was doing and be capable of fitting with others better than the other three. I guess it worked out, but I cannot recreate even a shred of any of the songs in my head because they just didn't have whatever it is that memorable tunes have. They seemed like those tuneless odd songs Mike Douglas used to sing on his show.

I'm sure it works and sounds different to others. Maybe because I did not know the songs and how they sounded originally, I found no attachment to them. A lot of that going around--someone covers a tune in such a way that you can't even recognize it even though you know how the original sounds.

Maybe I'll play his benefit. Just for the exposure. It is probably a decent service that proceeds help fund. But, I confess, I'm not there because I think I am "doing good" or "giving back". I could care less about giving back because I haven't taken that much. If I were to give back it would go to family and friends who really deserve it and who have sacrificed for or because of me. Not random charities. That is how I roll.

It was a strange session, and I guess I added to it, but it seemed the guy did not really know the songs he was doing, and he never knew what key he was in. I finally just asked him to name a chord or two that would be involved and guessed it from there. I can find it but it is a pain. If I paid enough attention I would be able to know immediately the key just by hearing it. I'm working on paying attention.

I'm often finding people thinking they are in A when they are in E minor or D or G or something. Today most often they thought it was in C but it was actually in G. Close enough. They were in tune, and that is good. I just don't get the idea that this angle is going to move my experience and education forward. I'm turning into a snob maybe. Maybe not.

There is just a limit to how much I am willing to play that I don't find engaging.

I think I want to get a giant hot air balloon and make it my home. Just float around on the wind, sometimes waving to the people below while I eat popcorn, watch movies on my computer and just be lazy in the clouds.

Back to the Better Way

So, I'm reading the Factotum blog, and, for once, I find information I can use. Generally it is like a foggy window into how the other half lives. Which other half, I am not sure. Probably the half that doesn't find it odd that people think it is odd when a retired football player offs himself. Or when anyone does, for that matter.

And, in the midst of all the wit and wisdom, I find out that you can return to the old and improved blogger interface thing. I had not even tried. That is how they get you--resign yourself to tyranny or political correctness or the ninety nine percent, and don't look any further.

Now, I wonder if being in the ninety ninth percentile would count with the people who love to speak in terms of "we"? I'm guessing it won't register with ninety nine percent what that means.

It is worth bragging if you are in the ninety ninth percentile on standardized tests and that sort of thing. It means you are in the one percent who did better than the other ninety nine percent. You are smarter as far as their tests go. But keep it to yourself or the ninety nine percent will rough you up and take your lunch money.

Actually it is odd how life turns. Nerds become gangster politicians or else they own them, and then it all goes askew.

I have angered more than one friend because I cannot say I think the occupy business is grassroots, sincere, and truthful. I do agree that it was crooked who got bailed out in the big American spend off, and all else about how that was handled. Who cares.

They think things get better through one approach and I do not like that approach. They are wrong, as usual, but they think I am wrong. That is why they are the ninety nine percent who don't get it, and I am the one percent who does.

Best of all I got rid of the abusive interface which harassed my browser and added clicks to the process.

Thanks Factotum. Class Factotum is in the one percent who figured out this escape route.

Twists and Turns

So now the guy calls me and I began practicing.  This is the one who is talking doing shows, recording and whatnot.  No big money anytime soon.  But, I'm working with him and a girl who is classically trained with some kind of opera experience.   I guess everyone like that plays piano.  She does.

It is clear that this guy knows what he is doing in the sense that professional musicians who can go to a studio with charts and such know what they are doing.  Lots of original stuff to learn.  This is not electric ladyland.  Maybe just one step removed from what I do with the mountain friends but a little more polished, and I am being told specific things they'd like me to do.  That is a first.

Everyone I ever played with seemed incapable of telling me what they wanted.  All they ever said was play a little more, usually.  This guy says, how about playing this riff at this point in time.  Old habits die hard.  So this is the biggest challenge to date, but should result in more playing.  Then what?

I only have five or six tunes to figure out and become comfortable enough with from varying standpoints by next Saturday.  Since I haven't heard but maybe one of them in terms of knowing what is desired, I need to be ready to play harmonic things as well as straight melody lines and guitar lines.  That way I can do any of it at any point as suits the guy who wrote the tune.

This plays on all my shortcomings, however it is not beyond my scope to pull it off.  It is a learning opportunity.  They think I've got a good ear, but I noticed this guy tuning his 12 string and never saw him use any base line reference--no tuner.  Nothing.  And he did it while carrying on a conversation.  It sounded in tune to me.  Every time I've heard him he is in tune.

Fortunately I remember bits and pieces of music training as a kid.  Mostly I forgot or blocked it all out.  It helps that I know the notes on a piano.  So I have a little intuition about minor 2nd and related keys.

You never know what curves you might be thrown.  I played a tune tonight at open mic with a guy who was pretty sure the song was in G.  I had a host of harps at the ready.  I could tell immediately that cross harp for G nor straight harp were the ticket.  It worked out well using an Eminor harp.   The other option would have been 3rd position in D, but notes would be limited.  Guitar players who don't play in combos can really be out there when it comes to knowing what's what or communicating it.

I've become pretty good at knowing when I can't count on the key they think is needed.  It is a little game to me.  Lots of times the nature of the piece is better suited to something which is not the typical harp for that key situation.  Of course, tonight, I can see no way that tune was in G.  Whatever it was, use Eminor.

The house guitar player really hates me.  He will make a big deal introducing everyone else up there and conspicuously pretends I'm not there.  I think I got the better of him by ignoring his sleights.  Most people there know me and feed my ego enough.

This new challenge will do the trick of bringing me back down to reality.  It is cool to be recruited by people who seem extremely skilled and professional, and who appear to have a realistic plan.   We'll see how it goes.  It will take a little time, but maybe not that much.  Should be recording in July I think, and shows probably sooner.

I just want to sleep and eat and travel and hope my belly sets a trend and becomes the thing that defines the desirable new man of the new century.

About Me

My photo
Ballistic Mountain, CA, United States
Like spring on a summer's day


Blog Archive