Friday, March 25, 2011

We are BACK

It's been a crazy year of making and looking at media, and at long last I have some guest bloggers lined up to help us keep up with and keep track of all the wonderful developments and reflections in the world of media.  Most recently I have been wrangling my own brood of emerging media actors on some student shorts, including a marathon overnighter last weekend.  This recently completed project was a family affair on a cold snowy morning. The actors worked for a nice lunch, but we were supporting a young film-maker and learning a lot about making movies. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mothers Day and the History of Dance

My daughter gave me a set of gift certificates as her gift, and I pulled the one where I get to force them to watch any movie I want.  We had just seen a live company class at the Joffrey Ballet, and I had a copy of the documentary about the Ballet Russe on DVD .  If you know anything about dance history (and most people don't) you know that this particular ballet company in the early 20th century was to profoundly affect everything about dance in the western world even until now.  The influence of the various incarnations of the Ballet Russe affected painting, theater, Broadway musicals, film and television and of course, the art of ballet and the birth of modern dance.   The thing about dance history, though, is that it is so much a history that lives in the bodies of the people that create it.  And film came into being at exactly the right time to capture and hold that history.  This documentary was made at exactly the right moment--many of the original performers were still alive and vibrant.  Well into their 80's, some in their 90's, we got the stories straight from their mouths.  I am a part of that history, having studied with some of the pillars of American Modern Dance, from Hanya Holm and Alwin Nikolais to Robert Ellis Dunne, the composition teacher who also taught the Judson Church choreographers.   I am not entirely certain my kids "got" the idea of oral history, or really enjoyed the film.  After seeing the generation on stage with the Joffrey Company class, I felt thrillingly a part of dance history.  I am hoping more documentary film makers capture the stories of dancers as we move into the future. My kids hope I don't have too many of those coupons!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The British have come

This week, Mama's media night kinda morphed into Mama Media Weekend as we did a British marathon--starting with Harry Potter and ending a day later with Dr. Who. We are all speaking with accents now, and if I see another CGI enhanced version of a bridge over the Thames again, I will scream. Yes, after seeing the same bridge in Sherlock Holmes, Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Life on Mars AND Dr. Who, we all were like, isn't there any other kind of bridge in London?
But enough of bridges (maybe its a universal metaphor trying to get through to our addlepated brains?). My kids wanted to know why so many American actors were playing Brits. I glibly stated that its payback time for all the Brits who come over here and take our best film roles (of course that lead to a big discussion on the training you get across the pond) My kids already love to play actor spotting--the star of Life on Mars is also the Master on Dr. Who. Its like there are about 20 actors in all of London and they are in every productions ever made. The conversation sort of backfired when one of my kids announced they were going to be a British Actor.

The older crowd also watched A Serious Man which is a strange little movie, and still has me thinking. And digging out my Torah......

Monday, April 19, 2010

You can be a Director at a Film Festival

For all you media mavens of the teen and under set: So you figured out IMovie, and you have created your first YouTube projects and you are feeling good about yourself. Well then, its time for you, young film maker, to get on the Festival Circuit and you are in luck. There are a huge number of no cost and low cost ways to submit your film to festivals all over the GLOBE. My nearest and dearest fest is the Chicago International Children's Film Festival, which is the only youth fest that is Academy Award eligible. The deadline for submissions is coming up FAST--May 1 if you want to be on time, May 31 if you enter late. Here is how you enter:

What are the benefits of participating in a festival? Your work is seen by an audience! And by an audience of people who loves films. Even if you are not accepted, get thee to film festivals, where you have an opportunity to see work you do not often get a chance to see. Many festivals feature films from other countries and you will find that people don't always look at the same world you do. You will also find that people are people no matter where they come from. Film festivals will inspire you and educate you.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Contest for Young Media Makers

As promised, news about a contest for kid film makers: The “Kids Take Charge” video campaign asks families across the country to post a video of their child explaining the mischief they can get into when the toys that keep them occupied run out of battery power. The top ten creative entries will receive a portion of the $10,000 donation – based on an online poll – for their charity. The first 250 people to enter a video will receive a free Energizer® Recharge Smart™ Charger. Energizer will select ten finalists based on originality, humor and alignment with the, “Kids Take Charge or Else” theme. Consumers can help determine the amount of money each charity receives by voting for their favorite at The funds will be allocated based on the percentage of views that each video receives. To enter, visit to review rules and submit a link to an online video posting with the hashtag #SmartCharge before May 17, 2010.

So make a great video and earn some money for your favorite charity.

Monday, April 12, 2010

So you wanna be in PICTURES

I get asked all the time, because my kids get film and theater roles, about how to get into "show business". You have been told your kids are gorgeous/talented/outta be in pictures and you are ready to sign up. If you are truly serious about it, the first thing I will ask you is: How do you feel about living in LA??? Because if you are successful at all, you will at least have to spend part of a year there. The vast majority of kids you see in film and tv live there and your odds of getting enough work to make it financially viable are that much greater if you are there. But lets say you live in one of the US' other major markets and you just want to get your feet wet. Well, your children can get work and make a bit of money as long as one parent is willing to make it their job. And thats the crux of it---if your kids are into it (and don't EVEN think about it if its not THEIR passion) carve out a space in your life to do this. Auditions come up suddenly, as do jobs, and you have to drop everything and get there

HEADSHOTS. You do not need professional headshots at first. A good natural portrait will do to get first theater jobs and student films. Once you have an agent, they will have photographers they like to work with and they can coach you on what looks book in.

AGENTS. Reputable agents DO NOT CHARGE YOU until you get work. While an agent may recommend coaches and photographers, be VERY wary of anyone who tries to sell you anything. Agents are supposed to be selling YOU, not making you BUY from them. Get a list of registered agents who handle kids and follow their submission requirements EXACTLY---it's usually a photo with a resume, but each agency will specify.

RESUME. Go ahead and start out in community theater and school productions. List that. Acting resumes list contact information, height, weight, clothing and shoe size and age. You can create a website with youTube video embedded--but make sure its excellent quality. Better to have no information than to have information that makes you look bad. If there are any film schools or community media centers near you, look for auditions there, and do as much as you can to learn.

REJECTION Being an actor is about constantly NOT being wanted. Even the most successful talen only books less than half the work they are considered for. If you or your child gets upset easily over NOT getting cast, then this is not a healthy activity for you. If you can enjoy the process of auditioning and not sweat being passed over, know that the more you audition, the more you will be cast. Of course, the more you audition the more you will NOT be cast too! But auditioning itself has to be the fun part. If you get the gig, that's gravy. You have to see your success in terms of how many auditions you go to and not how many gigs you get. That may sound insane, but every successful stage parent I know believes it.

The reasons you do not get cast are legion: you are the wrong size, wrong "look" (whatever THAT is), you have a conflict (never EVER lie about this when auditioning---kids get to have lives and you should be forthcoming about them) Sometimes they like your pigtails and sometimes they CANT STAND pigtails. It is never a reflection on your talent if you are not cast---it means someone else fit the director's vision more closely than you. Move on. It often seems as if there are "styles" of children that fall in and out of popularity. If you are a style that is popular you will see more bookings. But who wants to be a style.

SUCCESS What will you get out of this? Given the recent economy, not a whole lot of money. Many featured jobs are now going to non union or "real people" casting which pays LOW. But as I always say, its better that someone pay my kid to do something they love instead of me paying for activities, right? You will also find friends--people interested in acting and film and movies and theater so you develop a nice peer group. And for our family, being in shows and films is a way for us to spend a lot of time together. And what else could you ask for?

NEXT POST: Contests and deadlines for kids who create their OWN projects.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


After being distracted for several weeks by other media (a run with Mad Men's first season for example) we finally curled up on the couch for a look a Citizen Kane. I am not sure my children are in concurrence with AFI's assessment of its status
as the best American film made, but, after a heavy dose of 3D overkill, the black and white simplicity of Welles vision was refreshing and compelling.

I tried to encourage my wee film critics to see this vision in the context of its time--Welles' use of angles and cutting must have seemed revolutionary at the time.Nahh, they just wanted to understand the story.

The acting was superb and my theatrical children definitely saw the advantage of using your theater ensemble in your film work! I got a chance to talk about all the directors who have essentially built acting ensembles in order to do their work. And I could see little light bulbs going off on that one as we look forward to a summer of short film making.

In the end though, the story worked. It worked well enough that questions continued to be asked about the film even the next day. I think that Citizen Kane is the kind of movie you keep going back to--every time you see something new, and you come to it with fresh eyes, because your experience has altered the filter that you see it through. I don't feel the need to do that with a lot of movies, and maybe that is why this film is so great.

Speaking of movies to look at again, my entire clan says its time to see UP and Wild Things again. They are looking at movies repetitively now in a new way. When they were small, they would want things over and over again for the comfort of sameness. Now they go back to find new things. And great movies do not disappoint. I am hoping that this year does not dissapoint in terms of new releases, but so far, nothing is sticking out for me.