Are we Really the World? Making Sense of Yourself through History. The cultural appropriation or appreciation debate.
Religions and cultural ways of life determine the way an individual can be identified. Island nations such as The Carribean and some Asian nations, where historically there has been much ocean traffic, often enjoy a blend of influences from the various cultural visitors and colonialists who have left their impression.
In Western countries sharing food of the world is very much encouraged and a tried and true method for understanding differences between races and cultures. Fusion Australian cuisine involves a blend of the herbs, spices and vegetables of the major cultural influences to Australian shores . Is this bastardisation of culture where there is less of an obvious boundary between individual races or does it make sense to enjoy the influences that are present in our life-worlds?
Cultural appropriation seems heartless in regards to Indigenous races where their crafts and designs are being sold through the fasion industry in what seems an exploitative practice. In some cases people do not agree that cultural signifiers such as Indian Bindi's and Yoga should not be worn or taught by anyone other than Indian's.
Which leads to the debate of the difference between cultural appropriation or cultural appreciation. Should we be able to tell the stories of other cultures? I think it is important to build a dialogue between cultures and sharing food and music has been the way people have enjoyed eachothers traditions and festivities.
Philosophy helps us to understand who we are as people, how our mind effects our being and the deeper levels of our consciousness such as our pysche. There are many levels to a human being, some that even transcend the temporal dimensions that we primarily exist in and rationalise with. The German philosopher Nitzche influenced many great 20th century pychologists such as Jung and Adler. From his obsevations he concludes:
"Direct self observation is not nearly sufficient for us to know ourselves. We need history, for the past flows on within us in a hundred waves...The traditions and experiments of past cultures continues to live on within us. The past of every form and way of life, of cultures that formerly lay right next to or on top of eachother, now flow into us "modern souls" our drives now run back every where; we ourselves are a kind of chaos"
Beyond Good and Evil.
Proflific English theatre director Peter Brooks adaptation of the Indian fable The Mahabharata was heavily critiscised, however he was sharing it's beauty with a wider audience and integrating it into modern English culture, where there is a high population of Indian immigrants. This gave opportunity to some extent for Indian actors who may have resided in England to gain work within it.
In his own words on the subject:
“We're not trying to show, but to suggest. We are telling a story which, on the one hand, is universal, but on the other, would never have existed without India. To tell this story, we had to avoid allowing the suggestion of India to be so strong as to inhibit human identification to too great an extent, while, at the same time telling it as a story with its roots in the earth of India.” (Emphasis mine)
The first play I wrote which was produced involved an Indian Swami of the Hindu faith, Vivikananda. I'm not Hindu, I was raised a Christian and my family is from a Muslim country yet I was encouraged by an Australian playwright and festival organiser to produce my play as part of a the Vedanta Play Festival all about this sect of Hinduism. I tweaked my original play to fit within the bounds of the festival. We were rehearsing at the Vedanta Centre in Sydney and we met the religious leaders and learnt about the faith by being at this cultural centre seeing pictures statues, learning some customs and reading the texts that were available to us. The festival and the play were well received. Vivikananda was famous for taking Hinduism to the Western World in the 1800's, he was a student of Ramakrishna and Sarada Devi.
My current play is using the back drop of the centralised totalitarian leadership model of the Ottoman Empire to develop a deeper understanding of unviersal issues of human rights, mixed marriages, the power of love and the will to survive. The human spirit can be very strong when put to the test, the main character Asad in my play I LOVE YOU: A Story of Forbidden Love will be played by an Australian Armenian actor who loves the idea of raising awareness of the historial happenings of this time in Turkey and Armenia. I held a staged reading of the play in full last year, where a Muslim Australian actor played the leading female role, she did not find it offensive and loved playing the part she was well suited to. Cultural appreciation can lead to a more diverse arts scene, which allows the people to understand the differences they are faced with on a daily basis from new immigrants and people from exotic lands.
With the cycles of time come and go the various dominant ideas of cultural groups society is constantly evolving but with fear our instinctual response is naturally to close off and activate defense mechanisms. Fear occurs in the Limbic Nodes of the brain which is the part of the brain that was used predominantly in pre-historic humans. By learning more about what creates fears in the minds of individuals we are able to follow our instincts more and use this innate "divine animal" wisdom to build moderm systems of thought and rationality that will create a stronger and more harmonious society. The Ancient Greeks had a term called apophenia where associations are drawn between things that may not usually be connected.. this abstract process of finding the vestiges of cultural history through time to bear relevance to modern man might alleviate some strain and angst from being distracted by what is truly important on your life's journey.
When the Penny Drops - Arts Funding Theatre Think Tank
We all want a piece of the pie how can arts businesses and NGO's convince investors that their pie is worth sticking their fingers into. Securing funding for your arts company or NGO involves tactile strategy and market research. Attending investor think tanks for start up's can be daunting especially when most businesses that gain angel investors, accelerators or incubators, involve technological or eco ideas.
In this article I'll share my findings so far based on my production experience and network.
Going in head first following your gut can be seen as frivolous and an aggressive marketing strategy, however when you are a start up what have you got to lose? Not much. Just diving in there trying to find unique ways to connect the business community with your arts idea or practice can sometimes pay off.
When devising your strategy just think of your own habits as a consumer - what instigates you to click buy or line up for those sought after tickets? Attracting an audience and investor support is almost two parts of the same puzzle. Depending on the type of audience or investor you are trying to attract you will design marketing materials and messages to suit.
Good old fashioned cold calling and creating a mailing list for your project proposal with sponsorship manager's name and email is a good start and has often led me to gaining some sort of support. Although not always monetary, I have found that businesses have provided their product as an event sponsor at my previous shows. Namely Notemaker.com.au and Parkers Organic Juices.
Alternative Arts Festivals
The Anywhere Festival Parramatta accepted me into it's program for 2015 in Parramatta, this is an alternative arts festival that is a fantastic idea connecting local businesses to the arts community. Basically businesses open their doors to creatives to present theatrical shows and music within it's bounds attracting more clients to them through the festival and beyond. This works especially well in restaurants and bars. My show Burning Angel was shown at an underground arts venue SHH Hybrid for Arts in North Parramatta, which ran a bar and other arts events. Although producing a pop-up show where you have to set up and set down the props after each show is tiring, and I promise to myself I will never do another one again, it often involves sharing the stage with other productions and cuts down the theatre hire costs. Anywhere Festival Parramatta allowed me the chance as a first time producer to learn the parameters of what was involved with producing a show following their formulaic procedures. Festivals take charge of ticket booking sites, and have huge publication runs of festival guides and calendars. This gave me confidence in my ability each time I met a set deadline in regards to P.R, public liability insurance, print images etc. My show ended up being within the top 5 best sellers that season for Sydney. The Anywhere Festival is quite prominent in Brisbane and has been running for several years although has not been back to Sydney since. Shorter runs of 5 shows or less can sometimes actually be a more profitable venture than a full 3 week run of 12 shows in our current market.
Prizes and Grants
Attracting the eyes of the major players in any industry is quite a privilege and sometimes the only way to contact such head honchos and get passed copious amounts of red tape; is to to be head hunted yourself. So how do you get noticed amongst a sea of creative geniuses all amped and primed for success? Win an arts prize or earn a grant of course! Earning the respect of your peers and colleagues in this manner has to be seen in much esteem and you will find that most Australian artists who are being marketed on a world scale generally have gained accolades in this manner.
Sydney Theatre Co has the Patrick White annual playwrighting prize and PlayWriting Australia's Rodney Seaborne Playwriting prize runs bi-annually. There is now also the Mona Brand Screenwriting prize for women writers too held bi-annually by The State Library NSW. Victoria is also quite generous with it's art's funding and from my research I have found if you are clever enough to create your arts practice as an NGO then the Ian Potter Foundation may be able to assist you.
In 2016 for my play Reflections of a Cause which I produced as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival at The Depot Theatre, I was very impressed with the leading male Chris Mliler. I found him to be a very high caliber performer. I felt his effort and the way he portrayed my character seamlessly was remarkable and I nominated him for the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Fellowship, which is at the value of $60k. Patrons of the arts like Mike Walsh, who owns the Orpheum Cinema in Sydney and Her Majesty's Theatre in Melbourne, have been known to support young musical theatre artists who are of exceptional ability and the Rob Guest Fund is also an on-going sponsorship prize for talented musical theatre performers. The Independent Theatre awards, Heath Ledger Scholarship and the FBI Radio SMACK awards are also a massive step up on the scene.
Development and Support Programs
Playwriting programs are of great value as it offers you deeper understanding of your own work, the pitching process and allows you a brilliant opportunity to gain feedback from unbiased peers and academics. Playwriting Australia runs many programs where you can gain mentors whom you can begin on-going conversations with. The National Theatre of Parramatta and Sweatshop also run developmental programs for writers especially of diverse backgrounds. PACT, 505 Theatre and Shopfront are fantastic for devising new works. So too is First Draft and ArtSpace as well as MCA Artbar.
In October 2017 Lachlan Philpott and Tanika Gupta are running a fantastic playwrighting retreat which is held concurrently with the Ubud Writer's Festival in Bali. This I think would be a beautiful and inspiring experience.
Vivid this year had a plethora of ideas lectures and seminars many creative business support programs have been harnessed from this:
Further small business workshops...
Heytriangles.xyz is also a networking forum for new entrepreneurs and offers workshops too.
Local Councils often have arts prizes or commisions available and check out the ArtsHub call outs for National prizes and arts funding.
Arts Organizations and Arts Markets
All the major theatres run support programs for new writing such as Griffin and Ensemble theatre. Darlinghurst Theatre is open to discussions with producers with works for 5 or less actors usually and Belvoir Downstairs is keen to find new works to try out too. But again you will need some sort of a profile before you are acknowledged by these organisations as they have to provide proof to their investors that the work they are showing is of a economically viable standard.
Contact as many arts organizations as you can about your work including OzCo, Critical Stages, CAAP, Carriageworks, Keir Foundation, Performing Lines.
Look out for the upcoming Longhouses hosted by CAAP, this is an exciting new initiative celebrating diversity in the performing arts in Sydney.
Creative Partnerships Australia is holding the Culture Business event the Art of Fundraising in Melbourne this year. This event has some fantastic speakers and would be a fantastic forum to attend. They also run several other fundraising events which would be very worthwhile to attend.
Arts Markets are still a bit out of my league but there are a couple in Australia, APAM is the major one held annually in QLD and the Performing Arts Exchange is also held by the Australian Performing Arts Centres Association each year.
Australian Cultural Fund and Funding Networks are two arts specific crowd funding platforms for theatre and film in Australia. Broadly speaking and based on research from marketing agencies, Arts audiences are looking for transformation, regeneration or a therapeutic experience, a social outing or an intellectual stimulus to provoke thought and idea creation.
This same information has to be used when trying to connect your arts practice to the business community and the general public. These hooks are very important when pitching the project as if they are not streamlined your intentions can fall into grey areas that can easily be misinterpreted.
Fundraising Bodies for NGO's
For those that are lucky enough to be NGO's there are support company's that can implement fundraising programs for your project or initiative through businesses directly such as www.good2give.ngo and www.nammfoundation.org. However as a lot of corporate funds may already be dedciated to certain major charities as a smaller start up you could try aligning your pitch to fit in and synergise with a larger charity in the aim that they then share the funds with you in a mutally beneficial program. This is great for profile building.
Exposed: A Humanitarian Theatre
The facts, the hard word, the blurred lines of reality and the revelery make up the quadrants of truth and it is no falacy that one's pleasure is another's pain in many an instance. So how is it that ideas on constitutionalised democracies and equality between the sexes are still being fought for in our modern and developed world?
Since the dawn of philosphy and politics, the theatre has always had a purpose as a mode of entertainment and communication for the people and later developed into a vehicle as a voice of the people. Thespis is one of the first actor's of the Western World. He would sing songs and act out the stories of the myths. He was written about by Aristotle and other scholars showing to be the first actor to invent theatrical touring with costumes, masks and other props.
Our culture the way we treat eachother, the hierarchies, rules and regulation, social justice and conscience that has been decided upon is all based on the unravelling of the agreed natural laws. The formal context from which our inherant need to have a fair society is based on the writings of Kant (1724-1804) the right to freedom and John Locke (1632-1704) where natural laws and natural rights were digressed and interpreted to devise a political structure that held these human rights as central to human identity.
Although a democratic society's main aim is to have a fair and respected voice for the representation of the the people, there will always be some parties who are subject to oppression. Satirical theatre contributes to open our minds to the folly of the political state and those who run it. As although we are shown on the outside looking in to be a democracy there are many challenges to this argument, when the foibles of human nature, such as greed and corruption have an impact on the everyday managing of legislation and the execution of the law. Harold Pinter's notable Nobel Prize for Literature acceptance speech from 2005 Art, Truth and Politics is an interesting read and convey's Pinter's frustration with this wolf in sheep's clothing role of the U.S military state and the effect it has on the concept on democracy. He extends on this saying that their policy of "Full Spectrum Dominance" that is of land, sea, air space and all available resources is agrressive and it's this aspect of their foreign policy that creates smaller Nation states, namely in South America and the Middle East to have adverse reactions to this powerhouses dominating and authoritative influences.
Australia is a diverse melting pot of races amongst the majority of Europeans you will also find people who have been offered respite in Australia having fled the genocide of South Africa and Armenia, the political unfairness of Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Phillipines. There are also those who flee the fighting in Lebanon, Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. The vast differences of these races makes up this new evolving identity of modern Australia and coming from an immigrant family I am learning how modernity is prescriptive of development of social identity in this newfoundland.
Jane Harrison's Indigenous play Stolen about the stolen generation shares the stories of the young Aboriginal children who were taken from their families and raises awareness about the state of affairs and emotions they experienced. This then helps in developing more fair representation for Indigenous rights in legislation and for empathy and a clearer understanding on a cultural sense from society. The Bangarra Theatre Company were in Geneva March 2017 dancing for the right to have an Australian representative on the UN Human Rights Council.
Dictatorships and genocides of South America and the Middle East can be seen as social engineering, the thought frames and the culture of a people are manipulated and have an effect on future generations and the make up of the world. Yet they are often not spoken of. These people's minds filled with fear and self hatred are an unheard voice, their silence is deafening as the awkward repressed who have no place in society. Their stories too intense and heart-wrenching to have a quiet coffee and a biscuit over. So the theatre of Bertolt Brecth and Augusto Boal have emerged, that not only present the elite of society buttoned and bowed, where the underclass has their role to shine the shoes of the rich. But where the stories of the oppressed are told, sharing language, gesture and image. Celebrating, exploring, debriefing and raising awareness in a culturally appropriate way that enables long term change in attitudes and breaks down isolation.
The Arab Spring and the current Turkish referendum can be seen to be quite similar. Although women have been on the frontline fighting against oppressors in the Turkish forces, they are still treated as a sub-ordinate to men culturally in some cases. It may be that more awareness on these issues and forums for open discussion and thought provoking stories and images should be shared. The rignts of women in the Middle East is an important topic of discussion since the end of the World War 1 reforms have been made to the absolute rule of the Ottoman Empire by revolutionary groups such as the Young Turks to include the urban Turkish woman in society and not have her sit residual to her male counterparts. My play I LOVE YOU: A Story of Forbidden Love is an imagined story portraying how the strength of love can overcome even the boundaries of a facist government. When a Muslim woman and a Christian man fall in love in Post WW1 Turkey their journey to peace is played out in this 60 minute drama.
We aim to build a harmonious society where freedom of thought, speech and social conscience rule where people strive to live work and play together. Yet our histories, belief's and attitudes can be so different, a theatre that acts as a voice for the people such as the theatre of Augusto Boal who can be quoted saying, “The theater itself is not revolutionary: it is a rehearsal for the revolution.” is necessary as it does not have a decided outcome and is dynamic in it's abstractions and ability to break down the conventions this then effects real life, the life we live our need to connect and create and live as one microcosm.
Sydney's going Tooth and Nail with Festivals
It's definitely winter festival season in Sydney at the moment. I think it is worth quoting UNESCO's definition of culture: "In it's widest sense culture can be said to be the whole complex of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features that characterize a society or a group. It includes not only the arts and letters, but also modes of life, the fundamental rights of human beings, value systems, traditions and beliefs."
ER Satya Narayan Shah puts it very concisely in his document - THE IMPORTANCE OF CULTURAL FESTIVALS - that "culture is a form of identity...that plays a very important role in self-motivating people in social and development activities...it has been noted that a dynamic cultural sector is a prerequisite for a well-functioning public sphere with arenas for critical debate and the exchange of ideas."
I hope by developing a more diverse and solid cultural identity some political reforms can be made. The current design of taxation and social security systems do not function to promote a "pro-work" attitude. I don't believe people who work two jobs in order to save some money and get ahead should be taxed more, nor should shift workers who work weekends and late nights lose their penalty rates. Yet there is a never ending battle with the government about that legislation. I don't believe that people in remote regions where work is scarce should be targeted as dole cheats, yet people in the city with savings exceeding ten or twenty thousand dollars are eligible to receive a fortnightly payment of approximately $500 if their income does not exceed $350 per week. But this is just my opinion, with further research I might find that these legislations are in place for a good reason.
From where I stand it seems that I can benefit from creating original work as a citizen of Sydney stacking on the references of this time and the attitudes that have influenced me. If more attention is paid to the development of a countries laden cultural diaspora and more due recognition is offered to the artists creating more opportunity for cultural intervention and social democracy. We may be able to forge a stronger emblem of national pride and international relations. Strengthening our ability to create a feasible arts market nationally and internationally by attracting tourism.
It all started with the Sydney Writer's Festival, which then morphed graciously into Vivid. Semi-Permanent at Carriageworks happened over a weekend at the very beginning of Vivid and now on the verge of the Sydney Film Festival - I'm really getting excited.
We are being immersed in a culture soup and I'm diving deep without even coming up for a breath.
I didn't make it to Semi-Permanent, but managed to catch author's Ian Rankin, Colson Whitehead Roxanne Gay and George Saunders talk about their upcoming works at the Sydney Writers Festival. Ian Rankin was an inspiration, after not showing up to his scheduled talk at the Roslyn Packer Theatre Walsh Bay the night before was greeted by a full house at the City Recital Hall, where I saw him speak. He was real and shared his slow climb to fame truthfully. Having a generous wife who he depended on and even getting up close and personal with us opening up with secret insomnia fuelled screaming sessions at the helm of the steering wheel driving down the French countryside. That is what the uncertainty of your next pay check can induce in a person - temporary moments of insanity. Especially when you have mouths to feed. Ian is a crime writer, he demystifies the publisher author relationship and it is always a tough gig to convince a publisher that your story will sell. Ian sets his stories in Edinburgh Scotland, although he wasn't actually from Edinburgh himself. It took many novels before Ian actually sold one to the sound of a 6 figure pay cheque, he was so surprised to receive the cheque he called his publisher to tell them there had been a mistake. Roxanne Gay's novel Difficult Women, is aptly named as it is a feminist manifesto and it tackels the issue that a lot of people don't call themselves feminists as it causes trouble for them from the patriarch. It also raises a light onto the self hatred that a lot of women feel about themselves because of the effects of the patriarch. George Saunders talked about his new book The Singularity which discusses the dying of Abraham Lincolns 11 year old son. He talks about the ghost that may have been talking through people in a semi haunting manner. But a ghost that is loved and not one that frightens people perhaps enlightens them. Colson Whitehead talked about his Pulitzer Prize winning book the Underground Railroad, where the fears of the African American and prejudices of those times were discussed based on a novel that was similar to Gulliver Travels as the character moved from homestead to homestead on this underground railroad. He said having family members who had experienced the underground railroad in which slaves from the southern states may have escaped and made their way across the country to parts of America where African's were not tied into slavery, was a harrowing experience for him. I think it's worth the mention that Desi writer, Rupi Kaur from Canada, who became an internet sensation for posting a picture of her menstruation online was one of the special guests at the Sydney Writers Festival. This image was constantly being shared and it went viral which has created her to be an out spoken voice for women who should feel proud of their beings and their cycles.
Vivid Festival has sprawled out even bigger and better than the years gone by. There are more talks, workshops and events from music, cinema and family new media events. I'm loving the view from my gym where I can see the Sydney Harbour Bridge lit up and the Opera House sails cascading as an electric canvass. The controversial but lauded film director Oliver Stone was a special guest speaker for the Vivid Festival and he shed a lot of light on why the U.S has such a big military state. From his perspective America saw all the jobs taken by women on return of the military personnell from the tour of duty. Hence in order to continue to pay the men and offer them a sense of pupose they continued with their miliatary service in various methods after their return from deployment.
Music wise Vivid is always a blast, venues like the Opera House, Carriageworks, The Con and the City Recital Hall all have amazing gigs happening. I've only been able to catch a few in between my busy work schedule. DJ Dan Murphy combines an orchestra of instruments played live supporting an electronic base beat to create symphonic dance anthems from the early 2000's to a mesmerizing light and laser show. The crowd were given glow toys to play with during the concert and it was broadcasted live to European countries so this would have given an added effect. This was a loud show and no electronic base sound can top the tempany drum or the violins at their peak. Sydney band the Red Riders got back together to support their friends Dappled Cities also with a world class light show.
So are we biting and scratching our way through the mysteries of what develops a countries cultural identity? It certainly is all on and if we have to fight to express our thoughts and our right to speak freely amidst a fairly traditional political landscape and animorphed social mores than I guess that is what Sydney is doing at the moment.
Profanely Interesting - what creates a cult following.
Why is it that the recipe for the world's number one selling soft drink is kept in a safer and drier vault than the Svalbard Global seed vault? It seems the recent leak of permafrost into Norway's seed bank could instigate a cause for rapid change of location. Is it a government stunt to draw our attention to the melting glaciers and fjords, rising sea levels and tempremental weather systems that this all important seed vault has been built so treacherously close to the coastline in Norway? Yet in Atlanta, Georgia USA the Coca Cola recipe is securely locked in a vault that no unauthorised body or leak has ever entered. Have we got our priorities wrong then? Or are we just accepting the fact that if our natural environment is one that has a use by date which is approaching due to the rapid growth of industry and population depleting the Earth's resources. So we have accepted that we have to create a man made version of substance that we can survive on. Like Coca Cola and Mcdonalds that won't last as long as honey will but won't go entirely mouldy even after a month of being exposed to the elements. The last time the seed vault was opened was in 2015 to allow some seeds to be released for a type of wheat crop for growth in Syria. The original species was being destroyed due to the spoils of war. Svalbard is a small icy island in Norway and was chosen specifically for the placement of the vault, however the effects of global warming are causing permafrost to melt and leak into the enclosure. This is contrary to what is advertised on the Svalbard Global Seed Vault's own website: It is a fail-safe seed storage facility, built to stand the test of time — and the challenge of natural or man-made disasters. The Seed Vault represents the world’s largest collection of crop diversity.
Is this the reason why a whole lot of useless crap is placed up in the bowels of the internet and why we can't barely believe half of what we read on the internet? We are subliminally creating a paralell universe where the first world problems that persist in our lives are corroded out of our dulled senses.
This is the same world who has survived DDT, dictators and world wars and is filled with heart inspiring quotes like:
“We meet no ordinary people in our lives.” ~C.S. Lewis
“The last of human freedoms—the ability to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.” ~Viktor E. Frankl
“The soul is stronger than its surroundings.” ~William James
Is accepting that the end of the universe is drawing near allowing us to develop plans and create strategies for prolonging the end or surviving past it's bitter insurgence.
It seems that counterintuitivism is emerging more and more and seemingly making more profane sense to the masses. The most emailed lists amongst nine to fivers are the lists which make people angry a recent survey results presents. B Grade phantasms fill movies that get a cult following like Reefer Madness or John Water's Pink Flamingos. Or totally absurdist human movement like the Frog Dance EDM song of 2009 or pop culture dances such as Gang Nam Style or the Macarena take over as a sensation for months in certain cultural diasporas. Anger is an emotion that drains our energy in the long run, it may make you feel empowered, threatening and strong but is actually depleting all your energy sources. This then offers an excuse for being apathetic about issues that seem irksome in life.
This quasi-reactionary modular version of life is then "a reconstituted totality in a sublimated form" showing how through a divine marrying of opposites, plays a redemptive role, dissolving the problem of the approaching end. Oppositorium Coinunctious shows that the ..."role of the alchemist was root out original sin through the balsam of life, a mixture of natural heat and radical moisture."(Oppositorium Coinunctious..Carl Gustav Jung)
So why is there so much interest in films such as Clerks, Eraserhead, Rocky Horror Show, Clockwork Orange, Evil Dead, Natural Born Killers the list could go on. A cult of creating a paralell world that is different from ours saving us from the everpresent onslaught of doomsday.. padding out our impasse and rectifying our nostalgic rhetoric into the numinous. Films such as The Holy Mountain by Jodorowsky prevent the end of the universe, they create an altered state of mind through it's opposition of the mundane and everyday. They force us to create a miracle of thought each time we even present the idea to ourselves that the strange and unusual events in the film are actually happening. I think the Labyrinth by Jim Henson earnt it's label as a cult classic not only because of David Bowie's presence but because it is dedicated to it's message and doesn't try to inform or mediate our earthly needs and wants with it's agenda. It totally deprives us of realism maintaining our attention through it's total dedication to yet dislocation from it's subject.
We never believe what we see as going viral as we all know about the click farms and the content creators whose main aim is to build profiles and create sensationalism around brands and ideas that are short lived fads. We in turn don't believe ourselves or have respect for let alone our ideas but for another humans existence. So how do we cope with this Mysterium Tremendum that there is no hiding from? Read the "How to Survive the Apocalypse: Zombies, Cyclons, Faith and Politics by Robert Joustra and Alissa Wilkinson.
Teaching Your Craft: Lessons in Realism
When your energy is vibrating at an estimable level, when you feel elated, buoyant and full of life.. then you are doing what you love or travelling on your life's true path. Expressing your craft in an uncommon and remarkable way may not always involve a steady flow of income. As Tolkien says "All who wander are not lost". Self expression and sharing artistic knowledge where people exert their imaginations and think creatively, opens channels of communication and allows people to coagulate through formative thought and function on an ideological level.
So is teaching your craft instead of actually getting paid for "performing" your craft, just as rewarding? Believe it or not - not all acting teachers are there as a plan B. Some people are in their prime when they are sharing their knowledge and seeing people who want to learn gain benefits from their tuteledge, it can be a very fulfilling experience.
Teaching a craft such as acting or video making can be an exhortable method of paying the bills with a steady income which can often be more practical than having an insecure pay check and place to stay. "This home is where I lay my hat type lifestyle", is often synonomous with artistic careers as it lends itself to unusual experiences that offer a lens into the primordial and zero cool essences of life. Living a life less ordinary where you are connecting with the supernatural elements of your psyche is exciting and makes for an avid exploration into the pyschadelic realms of consciousness.
However it is a very grounding fact to observe in your own self that somewhere along the way that you yourself were taught and learnt your craft, whatever it may be; acting, writing, singing or dancing. It is an edification or fulcrum that can offer leverage to a higher skill set in the craft or a deeper understanding of it for yourself.
Maintaining a dynamic approach to offering your skills in a pedagogical methodology embraces the conventions of life without the emotionally altering effects of abstraction, drama or exaggeration. It allows you to focus on the aspect of discipline and encourages the propensity to be persuaded by virtue rather than vice.
If there must be a moral to the story of the craftsmen who gets paid from teaching his craft to others rather that practicing his craft himself, I guess it is one of balance or connection to the higher regions of the self. In an archaic sense the transmorgrification of the experiences or challenges from the journey through the lower regions causes different flexes and articulations, that inturn endow the being in it's totality. I see teaching your craft to be like an "'axis mundi" or tree of life, the connection to the heavenly sutras or astral dimensions of light and effervescent pleasures shared in the Hermeneutic sense by the laws of polarity with a journey through the dark night of the soul. I enjoy immersing myself in some of the writings of Giordano Bruno to be quite consoling when in doubt on this tempering artistic journey...Our … reduceth to a single origin and relateth to a single , and maketh contraries to coincide so that there is one primal foundation both of origin and of end. From this coincidence of contraries, we deduce that ultimately it is divinely true that contraries are within contraries; wherefore it is not difficult to compass the knowledge that each thing is within every other.
Living In a Parody - the search for original ideas
Spoof and parody films have been around since the beginnings of film. "The Great Train Robbery" 1903 by Edwin S Porter also had a parody version made of it called "The Little Train Robbery" where a cast of children hold up a mini train and steal it's contents of candy and toys. The point of satire is to expose and criticize foolishness and corruption of an individual or a society by using humor, irony, exaggeration or ridicule. It's characteristics activate an aspect of cognitive function that exemplifies comprehension of an idea or message. I was recently introduced to "The Big Short" a modern parody on the GFC financial crisis of 2008. The classic Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey has a parody version of it as well "2001: A Space Travesty" of course starring Leslie Nielsen from the famous 1990's Naked Gun parody series. Seeing a lampooning version of a film or idea allows at a second glance to gain a deeper understanding of it, going through the processes of what has already been done can be a useful way of learning how we can improve a style, process, product or idea. Hunter S Thompson who invented Gonzo journalism in the late 60's-70's used to type out the books of the writers he admired such as Ernest Hemmingway as he said he wanted to know what it felt like to write like them.
In a fast paced world where advertising campaigns are feeding us images and encouraging corelations between happiness and status of a good life to brands and products, we are processing this deluge of data in a way that has been programmed by mainstream attitudes and social systems. This is one of the reasons original ideas can be difficult to come by. It seems now more than ever that there are more and more re-makes of old films and pastiche or parody films being churned out.
In the independent scene parody can be a valuable way to get yourself noticed as your work would come up in search engines and if it is of good quality could offer you a lead with a big production house or studio.
Brits in LA is a Vimeo channel that has interesting spoof material:
https://vimeo.com/204835471 (Hacksaw Ridge Parody - Whacksaw Fridge)
Rick and Morty a children's animation also has a series of short claymation episodes that are parody's of famous films such as George Lucas' "Star Wars" or Stephen King's "The Fly".
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdAgXwR6pBI (Rick and Monty The Non-Canonical Adventures)
It seems being an original thinker is not totally encouraged in society and you really have to break away from the pack and spend time on your own to come up with original ideas and be able to express them effectively. Aldous Huxley said, The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude.
Allowing your brain to think creatively and be an independent thinker is actually of major benefit in a world where it can seem like almost everything is already done. The more study you do into a subject the deeper your understanding of it and this widens your perspective into how your understanding of it's characteristics fits into the world. This can then offer insight into innovations for products, new services and inventions.
Students in schools today are preparing for jobs that in fact may not yet exist, so it is our responsibility to examplify the positive aspects of independent and creative thinking in methods of innovation and solutions management systems. I read a story about a school group who were asked how they could solve the safety issue caused by the traffic problem at the front of their school. Most answered hi-vis jackets, over-passes, and other conventional answers. One student said, sell the school property and put the school on-line so the children wouldn't have to attend and risk being run over by traffic. This lateral thinking that does not necessarily make logical sense and is the stuff of genius apparent mainly before we reach our pre-teens in most humans. Just as you would train your memory with brain exercises Edward de Bono has devised a system of exercises and games that allow people to train their minds for lateral thinking. I encourage you to look them up!
Ridicule is one of the main reasons people won't share their original ideas but the philospher Schopenhauer states that All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
Don't be scared of failing or not being understood by the masses, people like Thomas Edison, Stephen King and Walt Disney didn't have it easy but they stuck by their guns and perservered through failed attempts at success. Einsten says "Try not to become a man of success; but rather a man of value". In Thomas Edison's story for example, he failed 1000 times at inventing the lightbulb and when people commented on this, he'd reply "I've discovered over a 1000 things that do not work".
Original ideas work the imagination in a way that accesses our memory or a priori in a unique way, these faculties of the mind function through the brain's hippocampus. Speaking up with an original idea is powerful and also can cause schims or clashes of opinions and also pertain to reactionary emotional paroxysms.
Little by Little the bird makes it's nest, in a society where Virtual Reality is progressing and becoming more and more technologically advanced and processes are simplified down to a single click or swipe I think it is more important than ever to maintain the ability to use your imagination and explore your sense memory in a number of situations so that we are able to tell our own thoughts apart from what we are being told to think in order to adapt to the advances in this technological revolution.
Dreaming is Believing.. How Do I Get the Life I Want?
There are so many unknown factors in our lives and absolutely no guide book or stochastics available to mediate our way through.
We have all wanted things from a young age that seemed out of reach or intangible. Why would anyone encourage the 6 year old who says he or she wants to be the President / Prime Minister when we know that it probably will never eventuate?
Because it sounds like the formation of a good attitude a want to be involved and show responsibility. Everyone knows good qualities such as these should be harnessed in an individual no matter what age.
I went through quite a spiritual phase in primary school, so much so, that I actually thought about a religious life but was soon turned away from that by a teacher who recommended he could see me as a high fashion model. It was all on from there...I wanted to be a model. Coming from Perth, there is quite a small market for models and actors, however I was encouraged by a photographer from London scouting me in a nightclub I worked at for a test shoot. I thought it was heaven sent, as this photographer had actually been doing some journalistic work with Mother Theresa prior to moving to Perth. The shoot went well, I was approached by top hair stylists and top tier model agencies in my late teens and early 20's but nothing ever really happened.
I was the model for the hairdresser at my university where I studied a BA in Media Studies and I got free hair cuts and extensions for exchange of my photos. I kept on following my heart's desire and ended up having a very influential boyfriend who part owned a major fashion line with several stores nationally. This was to me the next best thing to actually becoming a model. We attended fashion shows and I got free clothes from his store to wear to glamorous parties that we attended. But I never really made it myself in modelling, even though I was signed with agencies. Maybe this was because I didn't get enough photoshoots to build my portfolio effectively and gain the needed experience behind the camera? Or maybe it was because I wasn't quite tall enough being under 5'10", I'm 172cm / 5'8"', or having a look that was in demand. I think with modelling you either have it or you don't and for some reason I feel that my look was more suitable for the 80's/90's and not the naughties waif.
Now, when I think about it, maybe modelling isn't the only thing I want to do, being such a short lived career in many cases, I don't think it could offer the job satisfaction. But following that path of wanting to be a model has led me to the right network of people where acting, writing and other artistic endeavors are naturalised and I have found that I also have a potent interest in writing scripts and acting.
So how do you find your life's path or true purpose?
Create a value system:
Is money your purpose or doesn't it matter if you make money from what you love or not? Some people can't bear to think of having to work in any way they can to make ends meet in order to practice their passion or desire. I don't mind having a day job to supplement my income when not acting, it's almost expected in our small industry that you do have some other form or casual income. Because acting involves transient projects that come and go something flexible to tide you along can be useful. And puts less pressure on you so you can enjoy the audition process more. Making clearly sure your wants and needs are aligned for me is a helpful way to maintain my values.
Be Truthful To Yourself:
I see some people say they are actors, but in fact they actually hate acting, they are over the whole process and see changing career paths as failing. That is not true. We all go through phases, as we are constantly changing, what may have worked when we were 25 may not be what we are about at 40. This is true for many people. It is important to read the signs that your energy levels and zest for life is showing you. Maybe what you may see as your ultimate dream job, really isn't. Like me with modelling, I was always stressing about my height and shape and look in general that I was not enjoying putting myself out that way. You can't hide your true feelings from casting directors and clients. It's not going to do you good in the end to lie about what you love, just because you may have loved it when you were 12 years old. People change it's a fact.
What Makes You Feel Like Time Flies:
I know when I'm editing a short film, or writing a script, learning some lines, it feels like time has passed relatively quickly. I can lose myself in 4 hours or more quite easily practicing these crafts that make my cells work in an optimal fashion so that they are creating more energy instead of draining my energy reserves and tiring me out. Connecting with higher purpose, as above so below, you will create the life you are meant to have by practicing these activities often that make time fly, and make you forget you are hungry or even sleepy.
Be Proactive and Grateful for the Small Graces:
Train your mind to act on the positive, pro-actively only allow positive thoughts to enter your sub-conscious mind. This is not an overnight process and may take some times before you gain the benefits from this practice, but no matter what self-help book you read this topic will be mentioned. DO, DO, DO.. find different avenues to practice and preach about your heart's desire. If your true love is acting, find as many ways to talk about acting and network with other actors, learn parts and scenes and share them with people. Put on small shows and continue to build your portfolio and show reel so that your calling cards will set you aside as having a unique talent so that the right roles will find you.
Be thankful for the leads you get and the connections that you make. By having a grateful outlook you are creating opportunities for more positive energy to enter into your life. Simply by saying to yourself "I AM Positive / Grateful" everyday can actually have quite a significant effect.
Don't Compare Your Journey to Others:
Everyone's path is different, some people will achieve their goals and become millionaires by the time they are 30. Others may take a life time to gain a break. If you think about life as a competition it can really hurt and cause mental strain. Some people know what they want at an early age and have the right team and support network available to them. This leads to success at a startling pace. Others may take more time to determine who they are emotionally and mentally and may need to prioritize between family commitments and life /career goals. Life is about having a journey whether it is successful or not is up to the individual to decide. What others think may have an impact but it will only be of significance if you let it. We are in control of our own lives, and our emotions and our thoughts.
I try to practice all of the above items, I just wanted to share them, as it helps to solidify and affirm my ideology. Richard Feynmann the quantum physicist says the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else.
I'm an independent script writer and actor who works occasionally and enjoys a spot of modelling on the side, why do I keep on keeping on with this? Because I love the fact that so many other talented creatives are doing the same thing and I really appreciate others achievements and talents and enjoy being part of a cultural scene where people are respected for having an artistic interest. I have a vision for my life and through imagining this as a reality I aim to act in a manner that will allow my goals to come into fruition.
Sometimes miracles are needed to really forge your way though a molten mass but you won't know where to find these miracles if you never try and try again.
Starting on a Clean Slate - Ways to Shake Off a Character
Do we live to sleep or sleep to live? This question comes to mind when I think about having a rational thought process when in "character mode". Some philosophers believe that we are unable to think rationally whilst asleep and others think that we actually stop thinking whilst asleep. I think consciousness in sleep is fairly similar to consciousness when deep in a character. For me it is like a dreamless sleep. So I find my thoughts, if I am having any beyond my inner monologue of my character, tend to be based on how I'm inter-relating with my fellow cast and crew and play a lot on insecurities. In my opinion whilst on set and in between the life of my character and myself taking instructions and remembering lines, I should pay as little attention to my thoughts and emotions as they are clearly jumbled and not truly what I'm thinking in the situation. This is similar to what the philosopher Leibniz and Descartes believe about a dreamless sleep:
"Leibniz begins by agreeing with the Cartesians that the mind is always thinking, even
in dreamless sleep. Just as there is always motion, however imperceptible, in bodies,
so there are confused and indistinct thoughts continually passing through the mind of
the sleeper." (ref http://www.richmond-philosophy.net/rjp/back_issues/rjp6_hill.pdf)
For this reason it is really important to let go of the character and refresh yourself after the production season or filming has completed.
Drink plenty of water, replenish all your cells and allow them to rejuvenate and flush your system.
Sing or hum, chant a series of om's.. the reverbrations of this sound is quite therapeutic and is able to balance the bodies energy field and centres allowing the actor to be attuned to their own impulses and not the director's or the character that they have been developing and studying.
Go for a workout, or a good sweat out.. I love infra-red saunas they have many health benefits and I enjoying the infra-red sauna with a cardio-vascular or fat burning work out to detoxify my body and refresh ready for a new role.
Some people might even go to the extent of shaving their head or if they had facial hair to shave that off in order to re-establish the end of that role and the beginning again of the cycle.
A lot of acting coaches and professional actors will tell you that in order to play the character well you have to let go of the rehearsal practice and all the homework you did and work from the inner most motivations to capture the true life and humanity of the human being, present at hand with all their follies and foibles, nuances and idiosyncrasies.
In this sense in order to continue playing a variety of characters well after each role it is important to refresh and let go of all the work you did having grown as an actor and prepped ready to work once again as a permeable channel aweless and ungoverned yet officiously seeking the emotional truth in the behaviour of each situation in a way to reveal the mysterious secrets of our human nature.
10 Reasons Why I Love Independent Film
A quick one this week as I've been busy, but these are the thoughts that have been swishing through my mind as each day of the week leafed intricately through the labyrinthined calendar. My consciousness was filled with the wonders of the bush, lizards, kookaburras, giant spiders and their innate wisdom. Their ability to be so different yet communicate and elaborate their existence in their ecosystem.
They reminded me of the cast and crew of an independent film.
Independent Film is delightful, as it is put together on a shoe-string budget and held together with the right amounts of blood, sweat and tears from the director. Who in most cases is also the writer. And has to wear several hats in production and post production roles to get things done the way they want and maybe because they haven't found the right team to rely on based on the fact that they would be working for the pure love of film-making.
I've found from my experience that Independent Film crews and cast can be the most motley bunch of people who come from all walks of life and who may be at various stages of life in regards to careers, special interests, age groups and races.
Here are my top 10 reasons why I love Independent Film:
1. Scripts are unique / experimental and relate directly to the everyday person and not necessarily high flying, aristocrats or action heroes.
2. Director casts actors who may not be mainstream attractive but more interesting to look at.
3. We remember how important fresh fruit and VEGIES are when being served up pastries and non-perishables all week.
4. We learn about everything we NEED to set out in our professional contracts such as;
Nude Clauses, Blooper Clauses, Shooting Schedule Delay Clauses, Rehearsal Clauses, Sex Scene Clauses, Fight Scene Clauses, Working with Fire, Insects and Children Clauses etc
5. We get to work with people twice our age and be directed by people younger than ourselves and People try to work together and get along even when they are from completely different walks of life.
6. Just when you think it's going to fall apart at the seams, someone comes through with a generous donation or you make it happen some other way. Creative Ingenuity is at it's MAX on this type of venture.
7. We have to re-set our own props each take as there may not be an assistant director there EVERYDAY to do so. Also we train our focus on continuity with makeup, costume, and positioning / gesturing ourselves as there may not be someone specifically assigned to that task on a skeleton crew of DOP, Sound, Director, Actors and Clapper.
8. Conversations at lunch and tea breaks are always very interesting as everyone is fixated on the script.
9. Sets are LOW impact, yet interesting. I still believe a good set design and lighting makes a film. Props to you if you have a brilliant set designer with attention to detail and subtle flair.
10. IT DRIVES YOUR DESIRE and PASSION more than EVER to GET A PAID PROFESSIONAL ROLE on a HIGH IMPACT SET!!!
Creating in a Destructive Age....
I wouldn't want a play set in the times of World War 1 to open up a can of worms. I just want to question - why the diatribes of religion and politics, the same forces that build society and give it structure are also causing it so much harm?
Artists like Ai Weiwei say "Liberty is about our rights to question everything."
Capitalism is said to be a very destructive political system. It's based on the private ownership of a country's trade and industry for the making of profit of the owners of these corporations. One of the main reasons that propagate this is that capitalism damages the environment in ways that effect all people. Leading ultimately to the people of a nation who work to maintain the everyday operation of city's and towns, to be on a different plane of existence to the decision makers who are not really accountable to the people.
This creates defiant voices of the people who feel that they need to make a stance, usually through some art form or rally. Dispersing messages into the ether in abstract methods.
Nihilism and Individualism / objectivism can be two schools of modern thought that are directly linked to the reign of capitalism. Nihilism can often be quite abject and non-conformist, yet is quite readily accepted as a way of being in most cities.. Henry Rollins is one of America's most famous solipsists..
"I walk the streets, and I feel pretty good inside about my distinct isolation.They know who I am, I only myself. I hear them talk as I pass them. I listen to their words and try to imagine myself saying the same thing. I cannot. I have never felt farther away from humans now..."
Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" is still one of the most bought books especially now in the times of President Trump's administration, which can be seen to be hard-right in it's it's ethics and diversions. Atlas Shrugged is" a dystopian allegory in which captains of industry struggle against stifling regulations and an over-reaching government and one by one close down production, bringing the world economy to its knees."
Artists like Ayn Rand use their writing as a medium for the rationalization of greed and the ego - "Rand's philosophy, which she called objectivism, tapped directly into the American ideals of freedom, hard work and individualism. In novels like Atlas Shrugged, and her non-fiction like The Virtues of Selfishness, Rand argued for the removal of any religious or political controls that hindered the pursuit of self-interest." As Newton's third laws of motion presents every action has an equal and opposite reaction and this can be seen to penetrate through many different realms of society.
Ayn Rand: A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.
How does the business of ART cultivate in a dismal economic and volatile environmental backdrop?
From what I've noticed it either goes more underground and bears a jagged edge or becomes more sterile in the aim to stay afloat and be accepted in a futile mainstream.
Can ART change the world and is that it's purpose? I think art does aid in deconstructing common representations and further develops deeper understanding of situations and raises awareness on hidden or salient issues.
Theatre iterations on topics of political and social concern are important as it keeps discussions open about things that are difficult to talk. Without opening a can of worms I'd want to show how love between a man and woman can still prevail in hostile political and religious circumstances through mixed marriages and the effects of world wars. Almost everyone feels love at some stage of their life and I don't mean of the romantic sort, I refer to a deep comfort and assurance in yourself. The feeling of love helps to solve existential angst - " that values are not universal but instead that each person must create his or her own values as a result of living life." (The Ism Book - Peter Saint-Andre) Summed up simply by Jean-Paul Satre "existence precedes essence".
Ai Weiwei continues to philosphise -
"If a nation cannot face its past, it has no future."
"We need to get out of the old language."
"The world is a sphere, there is no East or West."
Each of these three phrases resonate strongly with with the sentiment of the work showing how the love of a Muslim woman for a Christian man in the times of World War 1 in Turkey is still so relevant to our life today.
Art is continuously being created in a way to anesthetize the pain of the people caused by the cruelty and unfairness of political systems / cycles that they have little say in. The artist may be removed but the message in the art will always be there.
Circus and alternative artists who use their diseases, quirky abilities and disabilities as a form of showcase for a very unusual chimera or spectacle. It clears the figment of thought that ostracizes these people into a sphere of malnourished spirits and of despair.
Transgression films of Kenneth Anger and Nick Zedd help to alleviate tensions about alternative forms of sexuality in regards to mixed-relationships, prostitutes and homosexuality.
Antonin Artaud who was the founder of the Theatre of Cruelty says "Written poetry is worth reading once, and then should be destroyed. Let the dead poets make way for others"
Gustav Metzger was a Polish-Jewish artist who was born in a Nuremberg a Nazi war camp. His voice spoke against privilege and the cultural cynicism that is created by the autocratic facets of the modern art world.
He was the creator or auto-destructive art which was not built to last - "whereby works made using machine-manufactured substances would automatically degrade, foregrounding the question of the reliability of these substances and society’s preoccupation with destruction." Sometimes it was even built in public locations (street art) on sheets that would dissolve in 30 minutes.
This type of art inspires younger artists and that is how a legacy is created - His auto-destructive art message was followed by the Who’s Pete Townshend, a student of Metzger’s, who put it in to practice by trashing guitars.
It can all be traced back to Metzger’s childhood: “When I saw the Nazis march, I saw machine-like people and the power of the Nazi state. Auto-destructive art is to do with rejecting power.”
Everyone has different methods of dealing with difficult times some people find comfort in each other, other prefer to shy away and find solace and others like to surround themselves with information and phenomena that distract them or stimulate thoughts so they can keep objective. The laws of perpetual motion state that two contrary opinions as long as they are not totally opposing can actually assist in the progression and propagate a constant motion. Think of two springs, such as in the workings of a clock, as one tightens it loosens the and vice versa they can't work without one another, this is a pretty lame effort at trying to rationalize pain, destruction and war. We have to find a way to have a voice no matter how abstract on all the effects of inertia especially the events that leave a scar.
Entertaining the Representation of Women
I remember a time when I really loved to hate "Sex in the City" the T.V series and this is when I was watching it with a boyfriend. The wonderful lives of the main characters who all but two, did little to show us how they actually earned their money to spend on free time, clothes namely, Manolo Blahnik's and fancy meals with friends. These paragons of civil society seemed to do more harm than justice to my tender and not fully developed brain. Their ability to seem quintessentially two dimensional and picture perfect seemed to have the ability to make my blood boil and bring out a fearful, cowering side of me that still got around on all fours. The risk-taking part of my mind was heavily effected by the illusion they created and YES in other words it got my back-up. I think the overt sexual attractiveness and impeccable fashion sense of these young, voracious and virile women living in New York City, a thriving social metropolis where we get the impression that life is served up on a silver platter and everyone has the chutzpah to go out there and get what they want, FRUSTRATED me. This was probably because at the time, I was just beginning to learn the ropes in life and break down dominant paradigms that may have influenced my thinking. However this is not the reality of life in New York City I was being influenced by entertaining myths that we choose to believe due to the representation of New York City and it's inhabitants in the shows we watch.
Not all entertainment is art and not all art is entertaining so it seems.
Light hearted chatter and superficial "small-talk" can be seen as more entertaining as it doesn't delve into people's deeper emotions and allows people to join in the surface level conversations creating for a more socially advantageous situation. This clearly presents an opportunity for us to see where the differences between entertainment and art transpires.
Having 1980's comic strip illustrator Alison Bechdel's feminist film theory emerge colloquially known as the Bechdel Test in order to dichotomize films into categories that pass the three point test or that fail it. We find that there is a long list of films that fail miserably. The three aspects that enable a film to pass this feminist frolic into methodology, include that a film needs to have at least 2 named female characters, that talk to each other about something other than a man.
Although in more recent years the films that do pass this "touchstone" indicator present themselves to be grossing more money at the box-office than those that don't. So have we evolved across humanity to want to see more multidimensional female characters representing the woman in film? It seems so. Alison Bechdel herself says although the T.V series "Sex in the City" may not have passed the Bechdel Test through and through she is still a big fan of the show. Saying this the Sex in the City 2 movie does pass the test and that must be because they made a conscious effort to ensure the script did tick all the relevant boxes.
It's obvious politically and socially that women's role in society has changed dramatically. They have jobs, vote, earn money, own houses, have bank accounts, sex changes and have alternative love relationships amongst other things. So it makes total sense that women should be viewed in a less erotic sense although the female body is very sensuous and entertaining to look at. We should also have respect for the unknown aspects of the mystery of life. I think in many cases we try to simplify complex phenomena in the world in the attempt to allow ourselves to have an understanding of it.
Encouraging more films to pass the Bechdel Test is great for creating more gender parity in films, this is through the creation of more interesting female roles.
It seems society was experiencing some sort of erotomania perceiving women's role as merely that of a sexual object. The concept of intense sexual obsessiveness is explored in Ian McKewan's best-seller "Enduring Love" where one of the characters suffers from a rare mental condition de Clerambault's syndrome. This is when someone believes a famous person who they may not even know of in person is in love with them and leads to stalking and other forms of disillusioned harassment. Men and society in general were awe-struck by females and were unable to express their hypersexual tendencies into their love for females that they wanted to be able to control it and compressed their emotions into an unhealthy objectification of the female form.
The aim of entertainment is usually to numb the senses and stimulate the nervous system in a manner that sedates the viewer. Films that are entertaining often presents us an skewed version of reality that is easy to digest and won't create any strong ideas or conjure up any strong emotions. This is apparently not always the purpose of art.. art can often shock and provoke thought in a way that the viewer feels elated or aggravated resulting in wanting to lambast the artist or needing to remove themselves from the vicinity of the artwork.
Art is more a vehicle of communication whereas entertainment is closer to a mode of communicating with members of society.
I believe the notion of women's ultimate purpose being sexual is a myth that is used in entertainment and rarely proliferates amongst modern social systems. Although with the rapid growth in plastic surgery and the porn industry boom there are certain pockets of society involving very young Gen Y women who may believe they exist for the sexual pleasures of men and choose to unwittingly live up to this expectation, this can be seen obviously as the failure of post-modern feminism. (http://www.wikigender.org/wiki/feminist-perspectives/)
However I don't believe a female wanting to explore her sexuality makes her a minion to the patriarch and in fact can be seen as a very brave and feminist move. So with so many changes presented in our iconoclast and insurgent form of society that maybe even the Bechdel Test could go through some reforms to allow it more accurately present a gauge to configure a fair representation of women in the cultural domain.
A revised and more thorough version created by writer Roxane Gay is pasted below.
1. A woman's story is being told. She is not relegated to the role of sidekick, romantic interest, or bit player.
2. Her world is populated with intelligent women who also have stories worth telling, even if their stories aren't the focus of the movie.
3. If she must engage in a romantic storyline, she doesn't have to compromise her sanity or common sense for love.
4. At least half the time, this woman needs to be a woman of color and/or a transgender woman and/or a queer woman because all these women exist! Though she is different, her story should not focus solely on this difference because she is a sum of her parts. She is not the token. She has friends who look like her so they need to show up once in a while.
5. She cannot live in an inexplicably perfect apartment in an expensive city with no visible means of affording said inexplicably perfect apartment.
6. She doesn't have to live up to an unrealistic feminist standard. She can and should be human. She just needs to be intelligent and witty and interesting in the way women, the world over are, if we ever got a chance to really know them on the silver screen.
And please see the full article for an interesting read:
Specializing in Generalization...the modern "specialist"..
Didn't take long for my blog to hit the much discussed debate topic of specialization versus generalization. I think it's an interesting conversation to traverse, but depending on who you are speaking to, you may be persuaded. In many cases family businesses and influences can have an impact on the career path of a young person. I come from a fairly big family with 6 paternal uncles and aunties and 3 maternal aunties. They have all had children and most people hold professional roles or have attended university and attained degrees or qualifications of some sort. There are specialists such as pathologists and surgeons, pilots and lawyers. There are even a couple of artists such as a graphic designer, theater critic and writer and a dessert chef..although I don't have much contact with my family due to geographical reasons I have still noticed that the artistic family members careers involve more generalization than that of the scientific careers.
I feel I've had to battle inner conflicts in regards to finding my feet as an actor, in regards to market demographic and viability of my product to be commercially lucrative. This led me to extend my skills to becoming an arts practitioner, writing theatre and film scripts and learning how to produce shows in order to develop and diversify the industry I was working in and also add dimension to my product. I'm nowhere near my desired position in the industry, but I feel that my current plan of action has been facilitating at the very least an active level of profile building and professional networking.
So I guess like quite a few other artists out there, I'm your regular "slashie" who tries their hand at a number of different mediums in the aim to achieve the ultimate goal of sustaining a career in film / theatre acting. And I find having a broad knowledge basis and speaking to a wide variety of people from diverse backgrounds can essentially help an actor to learn lessons that can't be taught in the classroom.
It seems specialization is a justifiable economic commodity in regards to ascertaining value for a good or service and offers opportunity for higher earning potential. However it has limitations as well especially in modern economic terms where there is less job security and more contractual positions and integrated systems management, specialization can leave you out of a job if your role becomes obsolete.
Historical trends and economic climate can also have an impact on whether specialization is better than generalization; for the current times honing in on all your transferable skills can be seen as necessary in order to maintain employment. Having a broad knowledge base on various topics and industries can make for a happier person, who is able to connect with many people on a variety of conversation topics with ease. However without solid qualifications or references this knowledge may not provide you with the earning potential than that of someone who specializes in that data and can be seen to be an expert in that field.
Field experts are very necessary in new industry development as we are noticing with the IT and technological boom and in film camera and post production as well as animation these are all trades that require specialization. I studied a general arts degree in the film studies stream at university - I then attained a receptionist role at an advertising agency whilst in my final year in the view to progress into an area of specialization either account management, copywriting, traffic management or similar after spending a year answering the phones and learning about the processes and organisation of a small advertising company in Perth. This career pathway was disrupted by an unexpected meeting with a successful Melbourne based artist and entrepreneur who suggested I hang out with him, in somewhat of a makeshift internship or sorts and learn about the workings of an independent arts business as well as network with luminaries in the Melbourne arts scene. This was a fantastic experience and has led me to have met and had conversations with people such as Tara Moss, Barry Humphries, Fred Schepisi and actor Tyriel Mora (The Castle) but instead of having the job security of holding a corporate creative position I have had the ability to learn about adapting to new situations quickly and enjoy the babble of social networking in the arts culture and most of all value the experiences and connections I have and savor the opportunity to be inspired by the talented people that I meet.
Because of this early initiation into the world of high art and fashion I feel comfortable browsing art in boutique galleries and learn from the strokes of brilliance from these amazing creatives. Just talking to the right people about your ideas implements a spark of creative ingenuity which can indirectly lead to the generation of new works. I remember attending a theatre show in my early twenties at La Mamma Melbourne and was offered a role in an upcoming cabaret just for being in the right place at the right time. La Mamma is a small theatre with a big reputation, some very prolific names have tread the boards in that space. Although my segment was not the most well devised, just reciting some beatnik poetry to instrumental electronica, with some simple acro namely the side - splits I find it delightful that my friends won the door prize on the night. That was my first attempt at devising theatre in a cabaret and well the only way was up from there. I can see that my ability to handle the technical basics in writing, producing, P.R, music, editing, lighting and design in film and theatre gives me the ability as the actor / director / producer to communicate to collaborators about the project / idea. I'd love to specialize one day in predominantly acting, but for now am really enjoying writing my scripts too and producing my shows. So from my perspective where I'm one to fund my projects from the money I earn doing totally unrelated work, I run the risk of coming across like a jack of all trades and a master of none, I can see that generalization is a necessary part of the process to creating a career as an actor.
When the Time Comes... Age is a State of Mind..
Sometimes I look at my life and feel that I should have accomplished more by now, this makes me feel frustrated and torn in various directions. I came to an epiphany a few years ago that if I let go of the "time" factor and just lived in the now that I would appreciate my abilities and experiences much more. Whether I like it or not for my life it seems that there is a certain time for everything to happen and if I stay true to my life's purpose or focus on finding what that is, that I might find myself in the right place at the right time for a brilliant opportunity for love or success in work or travel.
Trying to stay relaxed, calm and balanced on our journey is not easy, I find that sometimes I get caught up in my thoughts and stuck in my head, so much so, that I miss out on chances to really connect with the people around me and have a laugh or get to know them better. Being a creative type and around so many creative people there are constantly opportunities to express, create and utter our thoughts and feelings - what I would like to do is to be able to harness these moments to share without inhibitions.
Energy levels and health is a huge determining factor as to where you are with your life. If you feel healthy and energized you might feel more positive and motivated. However I have heard amazing stories about people overcoming health problems and pain in association with chemotherapy and cancer treatment to still continue living life to the best of their ability. Life is really about being grateful for what you have and appreciating all that has been done for you.
I love it when I see older people still active and enjoying themselves, even going to shows on their own and braving the crowds with walking sticks or hunched backs. They did not feel fear or exclusion and decided to accomplish what they set out to do.
There has been a small revolution in the fashion industry about plus size models and I think the same is happening with mature aged artists, actors and models too. I don't think it's ever too late. I've heard of a modelling agency that is specifically for models over 30 and the women and men represented go right through to the age of 70 and over, and they are still looking fabulous and feeling great. It is quite common these days to also have a career sea change, I've heard of doctors and people in finance switching to artistic careers later in life. For sportsmen/women and dancers a sea-change is almost a compulsory part of the journey, as sports is quite a short-lived career, either switching to another sport, investing your money to have it work for you or getting into coaching or counselling or something else completely different.
"Being a dancer, you understand that your career is at the mercy of so many things. For me, the physicality of the career became more difficult with age and the pressure to sustain the elite level of performance and fitness required, started to become more taxing physically and mentally,’ said Jacob Sofer, Company Director of Keto Dancewear.
Attitudes are definitely changing about working through retirement, with most people over 60 still attending their jobs daily. Having read an interesting article about which artistic professions were more susceptible to "aging well", I was quite surprised at the findings. Being in an artistic job may not necessarily make you immune to decline in later life.. it is your attitude and your ability to give and receive energy, more so than what you actually do. The data collated from the US centre for Retirement Research survey completed at a Boston college came up with these findings: art teachers, interior designers and copywriters were the most susceptible to aging well at the top of the list by far was an art manager or agent for performance. At the very bottom of the list were dancers with glass blowers and choreographers not too far behind them.
I'm enjoying my artistic journey more now that I've matured. I'm learning to find roles that suit my skills and abilities and not chase waterfalls so to speak. I've learnt who I am and where I can offer the most to the best of my ability. I've cultivated some emotional intelligence in a sense that I hope that I am able to enjoy being part of life instead of worrying about how I compare to other people, as everyone's journey is different. As successful periods tend to go in cyclical phases and every persons notion in relation to being in their prime or peak level of performance is different.
For theatre and acting jobs I feel more in my prime now than I was as a size 6 22 year old. However, some people are lucky enough to have the emotional balance and insight to know what they want at that tender age, I was still searching. My life was kind to me and showed me who I was in many ways but sometimes I was not ready for opportunities and may have even been a victim of the "too much too soon" syndrome, and I know I'm not the only one in that boat that's for sure. It's not that I had bitten off more than I could chew, it was more an example of two worlds colliding or me not being present all in one place, not at peace with myself. Age should not prevent us from making the most of the life that we have left.. Here is an interesting article about Peter Brook who is still a thriving force at 91..
As soon as I prepared myself to gain the knowledge that I required I started back on the journey that I am currently on and have been enjoying the progression that I notice. I don't really have any expectations and am happy with setting and achieving short term goals that are aligned with my values. I find working steadily, having a plan yet being adaptable are all important in achieving artistic goals. I'm really impressed when I see an artwork where the message being expressed is clear and concise, especially in theatre. The ideas that I write about are so big and larger than life that I find it a challenge to find a premise or clear statement as to what the script may be about. I'm working on this aspect.
A recent job application for a creative development for a theatre piece requested a personal statement into why I'd want to be part of the production. The play's premise revolves around the "one-world" concept to overcome the problems that are faced globally. I have proceeded to the next stage of the process and this is what I wrote:
"I enjoy story-telling that offers a window into a particular culture or racial group as it’s often informative. I’m finding the real pull of this production for me is that it seems to transcend race; it does this through integrating on a world level how our stewardship on the planet should be effective for the future generations in a wonderful story and entertaining production. I’m really impressed at how clear it is what the artist is trying to communicate to its audience and that is inspiring to me.
I find most systems are set up for collapse, everything in our life is disposable we live in a society that is constantly changing and most systems and procedures have an end by date where they stand as irrelevant to current societal requirements.
I’ve also noticed that people feel more and more apathetic in regards to elections and the co-ordination of corporations. I was shocked when I read recently that major corporation’s like JPMorgan put aside billions of dollars of funds so that they can pay fines set in place by adjourning bodies in relation to breaking environmental laws about carbon emissions and other health and tax regulations.
In such a modern world where technology is able to take us to other planets and explore space to the extent that it does, millions of people should not be living in starvation and scarcity. The sad truth is that greed and exploitation and environmental degradation eventuates to millions of people not having access to enough basic needs and natural resources for food production. It would take the collaboration of many countries in order to overcome this devastation. This is ridiculous to me as Western society is a society of mass consumption and excess and there is an unutterable amount of waste that is created through our food production and agricultural systems.
What does give me some hope is when countries in neighbouring regions assist each other with donating money for the building of hospitals and lend foreign aid for other catastrophic events such as disease and natural disaster."
I hope you enjoyed this entry best of luck with setting and achieving your short term goals.
Here is another article about embracing changes in your 30's and over:
Earth without ART is just Eh?
When we think about ART and artists what are the first words that spring to mind?
Creative, self-expression, talented, dreamers, imaginative.. YES
Hard working? Disciplined? Eloquent?... Hmmm... well they ARE - most of the time.
Often when you choose a life in art it is usually against the grain of everyday society, unless you come from a family of artists and that is all you know. Most times you have to find a way to fund your artistic endeavors and survive on a day to day basis until you are able to generate an income from your art, so you will work casually in other lines of work doing anything you can at peculiar hours of the day.
Documenting processes and procedures, laws and statutes is important so why shouldn't we have a catalogue of cultural stories, shifts and changes?
Is art necessary?
Why would people sacrifice a steady income and high status in a corporate job to develop an artistic career where they share their perspective and inquiry into life's platitudes and universal truths for little to no monetary return?
Because art nourishes in a sublime sense, it allows people to share their ideas in the symbolic realm and appreciate each others abilities and opinions.
An organisation that has a strong symbolic realm in the corporate world usually operates smoothly, as the morale is high as the employees feel appreciated and the lines of communication are open. Most corporations also have a logo which exemplifies their business objectives. The colours and shapes chosen are used to invoke emotions that are aligned to the brand and relate to their target demographic. Art is a primal instinct and happens from a very young age in humans. Art in it's most basic sense is a mode of communication. Sacred geometry such as the Flower of Life has roots in several different countries in the world and is called the same thing in their respective languages. Meditating on these sacred geometric symbols has been said to highly beneficial for optimizing mental activity and focus.
Art is a universal bonding apparatus. It excites and stimulates on a level of consciousness where sometimes language is a barrier. Some people have concerns that to achieve a solution to many of modern societal problems that we may need a new language in order to subvert degenerative thinking and instigate thought streams in a new direction.
Art reflects our decisions and our traditions and creates shifts and coagulates communities evolving into new generations.
Art can be seen to expose the paradoxes and parallels that help us to understand our human condition. It is thought provoking and is strewn throughout the world's religions. ART allows us to experience Calliope, whose epistemological roots stem from Ancient Greek mythology... it is to see beauty where there normally isn't. Also it encourages the practice of Apophenia, which is the drawing of associates between ideas or objects that may not be directly related.
From my interpretation of the Greek mythology I have interacted with, Calliope was one of the daughters of Zeus and as the Chief of the Muses, resides on eloquence and epic poetry. As the lover of Ares her story is intertwined with Persephone's in the underworld where she wanders alone never being able to see her family. Athena who is usually second to Venus, here can be seen to be proclaimed with the strength and courage.
It comforts and entertains so why would we want to live without it. Fritz Lang made a film called "Metropolis" which shows images of an industrial dystopia. Scenes showing hoards of faceless beings march into their factory to work and seem to have no inner being. They seemed drained of human spirit and the joie d'vivre which just leads to confusion and negativity.. the French use a phrase that resonates well with this unfortunate state of being "ame incomprise" (misunderstood soul)..
A world without ART exacerbates the issue of exploitation and disenfranchisement. In an egocentric world such as ours without art people would be less sympathetic and charitable, we would be desensitized to issues that did not effect us directly.
Capitalism may run the world in a broad sense governing international laws, taxation and trade policies but the way the brain and the mind have been created to operate present plain and simply that the world cannot exist effectively without art.
A beautiful quote that inspires me:
"The first steps towards imagining a world gone terribly wrong would be stop the annihilation of those who have a different imagination - an imagination that is outside capitalism or communism. An imagination which has an altogether different of what constitutes happiness and fulfillment. To gain this philosophical space, it is necessary to concede some physical space for the survival of those who may look like the keepers of our past, but who may really be the guides to the future" - Arundhati Roy 2010
For myself art allows me to fill the mind / body divide and use all the faculties of the mind in a way that energizes me and allows me to connect with the world. Abstractions allow me to understand concepts that may not be familiar to me and break down barriers that may be preventing myself or communities from developing further. Although people may argue that not all artistic output can be exalted, that is a matter of personal taste and may be influenced by a persons religion, attitudes and values, but that in itself is a journey of self-discovery.
In conclusion, I'm certain ART teaches us how to use our imaginations and deal with the fact that we are masters of own destiny. No one knows for sure what will happen from day to day but we are able to train our minds to believe in our goals by nourishing ourselves with positive affirmations, knowledge, images, music and films that inspire positive feelings and emotions.
A kiss is just a kiss... on screen kissing jitters
Ever been told you kiss like a "movie-star"? It sounds like a nice compliment that's for sure. I had a James Dean look-a-like as a boyfriend in my late teens and we were once told that we kissed like movie-stars. We were both rather impressed that an innocent passer by was a bit taken by our public display of affection in a nightclub. I wonder if that make us narcissistic?
So how does kissing in a public place differ from kissing on set? It seems much the same on paper..but in the physical life of the character there are many differences to "real life" and on-screen kissing is one of them.
Kissing on screen is usually quite choreographed right down to position of hands and shoulders and which way the head is to turn on contact etc. Also once it is done several times over and over again for each take can become quite a chore in regards to maintaining energy levels and intensity. In film and theatre, it is more the feeling that is invoked in a romantic on-screen kiss that has an impact on the audience rather than the kiss itself. Even more so the moments before the kiss or the "tension build-up" can be more breath-taking than the actual lip-smacking contact - of course this will vary from individual to individual.
It has been said that a certain level of narcissism is healthy aiding self-confidence, self-love and even gaining pace in an acting or entertainment career however too much of a narcissistic attitude can lead to having disregard for other people's feelings; this in acting can be a bad thing. As an actor you have to be very aware of your surroundings to avoid not getting hurt and preventing hurting others.
When it comes to close contact scenes like kissing and touching in general, it is important to know your own strength. You don't want to unintentionally hurt the other actor you are working with. When it comes to kissing scenes you may want to have chewing gum present or have gargled with mouth wash before hand. You may even want to make sure your nails aren't jagged so you don't scratch your scene partner in the midst of a highly emotional scene.
So what happens if you are really nervous about a kissing scene that you are preparing for,?
Here are a couple of techniques that can help you overcome the pre-love scene jitters and it does not involve alcohol, unless of course your director is aware of this activity.
Some people refer to actors as being masochistic exhibitionists, which means that enjoy being in painful situations in public. So meditating on this, and imagining yourself in the nude and feeling comfortable with every aspect of yourself inside and out can help to overcome the barriers you are facing in developing your kissing scene.
Another technique might be practicing with your scene partner before hand out of the directors sight so that you are both comfortable with each other as human beings - I'd imagine this to be one of the most common methods.
If the above is not possible, than you might have a friend who is willing to act as a scene partner so that you can practice kissing in an animated yet non-emotional fashion, all the while bringing truth to the scene through your posture and gestures, expressions, breath and vocal inflections.
Basically kissing on-screen should be like water off a ducks back and shouldn't create any emotional tension like kissing may do in "real life" or that is not scripted.
I like to link on-screen kissing to metaphysical poetry, for me it is like a metaphor. A vision being brought alive under the supervised eye of the director and in order with the guidelines of the script.
It is the one time that your "conceit" in a metaphysical sense will empower you in your advancement of the scene.
An onscreen kiss for me is like John Donne's poem from the 17th Century THE FLEA... where the blood of the two people in the poetry are mixed and mingled inside a separate entity THE FLEA. It is something that they no longer have control of yet have been pivotal to it's having occurred.
"Marke but this flea ,and marke in this,
Low little that which thou deny'st me is;
Mee it suck'd first, and now sucks thee,
And in this flea, our two bloods mingled bee;"
Here is a blurb on metaphysical conceits and how they are used to build a deeper emotional resonance with tautology, using a blending of visual devices invoking a window into the speakers mind in 17th century poetry from allrfree.blogspot.com.au posted by Md Rajibul Hassan 31/07/2009.
"A conceit can be defined as an extended, unconventional metaphor between objects that appear to be unrelated. Metaphysical conceit is a highly ingenious kind of conceit widely used by the metaphysical poets. It often exploits verbal logic to the point of the grotesque and sometimes creates such extravagant turns on meaning that they become absurd."
So kissing on-screen can be quite a mechanical act which is part-pertaining of no emotional stimulus other than that of the character's inner journey and motivations which are often quite separate to the actor's own in this time and place in the devised story line.
Please see below a link to some iconic movie kisses:
It is incredible to hear about the scenes where the actor's actually didn't get along and had to act out a love relationship that involved kissing, or when a female is playing a love scene with a homosexual male actor, now this would truly require some "acting" for all involved and is quite often the case in many representations.
Minor characters - playing in the shadow of a star..
It's not easy to shine in a penumbra of the main characters. A lot of the time minor characters in a story aren't meant to shine and serve a very perfunctory purpose, such as create a background of a scene, for example in a hotel lobby or on a bus. In this sense playing a minor character can be tricky as you need to work out whether the director requires you to fade out in the background or whether to use a quirk or obsession to make your small but necessary role interesting. The main point of focus for a minor character should be NOT TO DISTRACT from the main action. Getting your ego and psyche ready for playing a minor role is important. It certainly is true, that every character in the story is important otherwise it wouldn't have been written in. But it is important to know where you stand in the whole scheme of drama creation.
The writer has to ensure that it is made obvious who the main characters are, as those are the people the audience will associate themselves with and feel for. The minor characters often can add to the character traits or the plot lines of the main character and that's where it gets interesting. Minor characters still have compassion, feelings and emotions themselves, just as humans do, but it is harder to find out who you are when these feelings and emotions are not investigated.
Making a minor character interesting may involve the use of exaggeration, having certain quirks or an obsessive nature. Minor characters also need to have a strong "reason to be" or motivation that is played out. But this is usually pretty straightforward rather than being overly nuanced as there is no time to justify that character development in a couple of sentences of screen time. Backstory of a minor character is important but will never really be portrayed spelled out. It is mainly for the actor's purpose so that they are able to maintain a steady characterisation.
When creating your backstory think back to your own life, are you able to remember absolutely every event from birth through to the current time? Almost every one will be able to answer no to that, as most people don't have memories until early childhood from about 5 years of age. And even then the recollections of our life tend to be related to the current happenings or what we aim to achieve in our lives. As a defense mechanism some difficult situations with painful emotions from life may be pushed out of memory or distorted to be remembered in a more favourable sense.
Dr. Robert Firestone, in his comprehensive theory of human behavior, separation theory, contends that the core conflict for all human beings is whether to live a life of feeling or to attempt to suppress our feelings in an effort to block out pain, from both interpersonal relationships and from existential issues.
Further exploration of emotions by Dr. Firestone finds...Emotions can be healthy or unhealthy, adaptive or maladaptive, primary or secondary. Primary emotions are healthy, adaptive and function to help us survive and thrive. Secondary, non-adaptive, unhealthy emotions result from the judgments and internalized negative thoughts and beliefs we learn in the process of growing up. When we attempt to suppress or control our emotions rather than experience and work with them, they contribute significantly to our distress and maladaptive behaviors.
So a backstory for a minor character can be a series of recollections or memories that relate directly to how they effect the scene they are in, or how they effect the main character they are helping to embellish.
Good writing is often not literal, and involves the words of the characters to speak for themselves. This is so each character is not commenting relentlessly on everything the other says - see sawing backwards and forwards on the same insights and revelations. In this way the audience is free to create meaning whilst being directed by the narrative.
Minor characters are inserted into the story to help develop the traits of the main characters and can pique the interest of the audience to a certain degree. Some of the time this is because they are a unlikeable character and give cause to conflict and pain.
By creating problems and confusion the unlikeable characters are delivering reason for the re-establishment of the equilibrium. Creating this chaos makes for less fabled story-telling and plots that are filled with compelling complexities and opportunities to investigate existential questions and social standards. When the cracks in the blueprints are obvious you want to see how they are restored.
As an actor you can't judge your character, if you are playing an unlikeable character you must serve your purpose as a logical addition towards adding to the triteness of the dynamics of the main characters and also the central themes of the narrative. An actor in a minor role has to use their ability to convey their emotions in a way that it does not outsize their significance in the story, yet maintain their energy levels. They are the inadvertent required punctuation in the static flow of the narrative streams.
But, I think everything's funny! Finding Comedy in drama and narrative
Is there seriously such a thing as laughing too much? If a person finds everything in life "funny" will that person be taken seriously, or seen to be a 'blow-off'. I sometimes feel guilty when I laugh at "Funniest Home Videos" but why has it been around for so many years and such an institution for so many? They say that laughter itself increases the immune system and frowning or getting angry decreases it.. so how can too much laughing be a bad thing?
When I look into what I'm laughing at in "Funniest Home Videos" it's definitely not the pain that is involved with the accident or the stunt going wrong. It's more the shock, or stupidity of the scenario that has a nervous laughing reaction from myself. Actors have to be empathetic people or to the very least sympathetic people. To be an actor you have to be able to put yourself in someone else''s place and view life through their eyes. The National Lampoon film series is a prime example of "vacation mishaps" being funny through the eyes of the viewer and this is because of the educational aspect that can be gained from watching accidents, or learning from each other's mistakes. So why are these almost always painful and embarrassing mishap scenarios funny? I think it''s because we wouldn't want to see ourselves in these situations and in laughing we are hoping to prevent these situations from happening to us. But wouldn't it be a funny scene, to see someone laughing a mishap and then have the mishap happen to themselves as well. For example getting splashed by a car driving through a puddle on the curbside.
A lot of people don't think they are funny.. for actor's being funny is usually in the writing.. If there are good jokes written for your character then the audience will be laughing whilst you are playing out your lines in a scene. This can be a very uplifting experience. A lot of actor's get into the acting trade as they want to make people happy or they want to make people laugh and have fun. Can being funny be taught like any other skill or technique?
Finding the comedy in a scene, means finding the truth in the scene, just as it does in drama. In life what events do you find funny, create a list of these and also think about how you might make yourself stop laughing if you didn't want to. Also think about why you'd want to make yourself stop laughing?
To be funny - don't try to be someone else. Find how you, as your character, unless of course you are doing an impersonation.
There are various types of comedy:
Situational, dry, sarcastic, slapstick, behavioural , parody, screwball and even horror.
I think comedy acting is a very physical craft and even if you are being deadpan you may be imitating an animal so it's interesting to investigate this further so you can get the most out of your scenes and development various dynamics to your scene interpretation and delivery. Sometimes just being super observant and pointing out the obvious can be funny in a guffaw manner. Most of the time with this style of dry comedy it's in the delivery of the words contradicting the scenario being described.
Comedy releases our self consciousness and allows us to look at life objectively, this is because funny situations often always defy social mores and conventions. For example offending a whole country town by showing off your ability to speak a foreign language badly. I find extreme situations funny, like something being too slippery or too hot so that it is an obstacle they are able to overcome without too much self harm caused.
Michael Kostroff has compiled an interesting list of comedic escapades from Backstage blog:
Disproportion: an extreme reaction to a small problem; a small reaction to a huge problem; lots of effort for an easy task; little effort for a great task.
Lack of self-awareness: an unattractive character who thinks he’s irresistibly good-looking; a drunk who thinks he’s behaving normally.
Awkwardness created by obligations such as manners, customs, etiquette, social norms, restrictions, or assignments: trying to stay awake while a talkative dinner guest overstays his welcome; hiding an embarrassing stain at an important job interview; Lucy and Ethel at the chocolate factory…look it up!
Skewed status: a bossy secretary; a wimpy king; a snobby beggar.
Wrong person for the job: an insecure psychotherapist; a squeamish surgeon; a tone-deaf backup singer.
Recognizable human foibles: nervousness about asking someone out; dissolving at the sight of a baby; pining for food while on a diet; not making sense first thing in the morning.
For me comedic acting has a very physical aspect to it, and is the main way the actor interacts with the audience through the use of breath, stance and how a character moves around the room. Some people would even say that timing in the delivery of the words is what will instigate a phenomenological reaction such as falling off their chair in hysterics.
I find incorporating the techniques of Labans 8 Efforts can be a useful tool in developing your comedic role..
Laban's ideology is interesting as it encapsulates the space of worship and celebration and the physical laws that dictate space, weight and time. Also the basics of pop culture such as body sounds and onomatopoeia. The kinetic energy that is revealed through this type of exploration is imperative to finding truth in your experimenting. By truth I like to think of a wholeness or an absolute system or circuit that works in a symbiotic nature towards a common goal of mutual benefit.
Laban explores how flow and sustenance provokes response and adds direction he also looks at how the space is filled with more space once the space has been cleared. There is always happening in the space, it is almost a form of "synesthesia" when you can perpetuate the creative aspect of the empty space being alive and to your advantage. You can hear the lights and see the sounds so to speak. In this freedom to flow in the space or feel constricted in the space it is not a reckless abandonment yet an organised physicalization of thought processes involving obstacles and and the will to overcome them.
I find also using the primal urges of the behaviour of animals from the study of the Japanese sect of theatre known as NOH can be useful too in the creation of a comedic role.
Excerpt from Theatrefolk blog by Todd Espeland:
Who is Laban?
Laban is named after Rudolf Laban, who was a movement theorist, a choreographer and a dancer. He is considered a pioneer of modern dance. Laban categorized human movement into four component parts:
Each of those parts has two elements:
Direction is either direct or indirect.
Weight is either heavy or light.
Speed is either quick or sustained.
Flow is either bound or free.
So, for example, if you’re looking at Flow and the movement is bound, then it’s very tight. It’s very held in. Think uptight businessman or administrator. Whereas someone who moves freely is the opposite of bound. Think of children. They are always running, always free. And if you’re looking at direction, you’re either moving toward something directly or you’re meandering toward it.
Laban then combined these parts together to create The Eight Efforts:
For each effort, Laban identified which component parts were to be used. For example:
The Direction is Indirect
The Weight is Heavy
The Speed is Sustained
The Flow is Bound
To workshop or not to workshop, that is the question...
Being at the very beginning of any new endeavour can be daunting. Which classes or workshops do you do?
There are a plethora available, Meisner technique, Stanislavsky, NOH, Butoh, clowning, contact improv, Alexander technique, musical theatre, screen acting, scene study, improv classes etc...the list continues...
Even actors with bachelor degrees in acting and performance are continually fine tuning their skills. If you want to gain representation with a top tier agency you will need to graduate well from a major drama college like NIDA or WAPPA. Being trained in singing, dancing and acting (triple threat) makes you more economically viable as an actor. You will be able to attend auditions for big budget TV, film and musical theatre roles. Smaller agencies will take you without this training but the jobs you will have access too are mainly commercials and bit parts in TV Series and film.
Thinking of the beginning as a limitless absolute can help to offer power to this position. Setting your foundation stone is a very important part of the creative process and by envisioning the beginning as a limitless "0" and using our will power to develop our skills to a level that a career can be manifested. The symbol of the "0" with the use of imagination and infinite will can offer the wisdom necessary to know where to begin in the creative process.
There is some homework you can do to make absolutely sure acting is the path you want to follow. Most people are inspired by a script they may have read or watched or a favourite actor they may have so you have to be passionate find your favourite scenes in films and work on them with friends. Read scripts and learn a variety of monologues. By doing this you will start to learn your strong points and your weaknesses.
Actors also have to be very observant people. To be a good actor you have to be able to quietly observe without making judgements. By doing this you will be able to mimic and mirror some actions as the role requires. Method acting is similar to this, actors like Daniel Day Lewis in My Two Left Feet, spent several months as a paraplegic in a wheelchair and was even carried around on set in between scenes when the chair was not possible.
Actors should also put themselves out of their comfort zone as much as possible. Surround yourself with eccentric people with large personalities who may at times shock you - this is a powerful character building exercise.
Another good test to see if you are suited to acting involves leaving your "ego" at the door. In order to portray a character truthfully an actor has to be a pure channel, he has to be clear as glass and totally distilled of his / her own personal challenges. Although these can be useful for building a role when used as substitutions they can't hold you back when it comes to creative expression.
Also, If you find you are not one who is able to take direction or be told what to do without getting offended then maybe acting is not for you. An actor has to know how to share the directors vision, present the words the writer has written and embody the character all whilst leaving themselves at the door and following the direction given by the director.
Although casting workshops and intensives are a great way of meeting casting directors, it may not be useful to do one until your skill level is at an advanced level or you might shoot yourself in the foot.
I think starting out doing improv and physical theatre like clowning can be useful in breaking down inhibitors and learning acting as a craft. Screen acting training is also important so you can see the major differences between stage and screen acting and where the main elements of focus are for each. Also, attend as many auditions as you can. As each audition is like a mini workshop in a sense and it attuned you to listening to a director and knowing how to adjust your interpretation and delivery of a scene.
When you are first starting out, getting your marketing materials together is going to be a priority. This is headshots, showreel and CV. So whilst you are working on this attending workshops and classes is a great way to network and meet other like minded people who can help you on your path. You never really know where your next acting gig will emerge from. As you get more experienced you may find one on one training with a dialect coach or vocal tutor is more suitable to your needs. This can be expensive if they are not hired by the directors of a production.
Have fun, hope you enjoyed this entry.
Working on more than one character simultaneously
It doesn't happen often but sometimes actors get cast in two films at the same time. What could be so bad about being "in demand" right? Well, one thing is that you might not pay enough attention to each role or that you might confuse the intentions of the characters. Another thing is, you might fail to prepare enough on one scene, which could result in overcompensation through overacting or playing stereotypes. Getting cast in two productions filming simultaneously wouldn't happen if both roles were lead roles and the shoot had long demanding hours. However if you are a guest role actor or a supporting actor this could happen.
How do you still create and present each of these characters to the best of your ability?
I think it can be beneficial for an actor to be in this situation as they learn to breakdown the scene and character traits quickly. By learning how to create your role quickly you are learning to trust yourself and use your gut instinct, incorporating all you've been taught in training and in the job with what your inner sense is about the character.
I think it's important to actually do things as each of your characters. Like write a letter or card to your best friend or family and learn to see the differences and similarities between yourself and the character, and of course the differences between the characters themselves.
Another thing with playing more than one role simultaneously is that it increases your ability to ask more poignant questions from the director. You will find you need to know more specific things about each role and working on your questioning technique will allow you to pin point things that may be missing from the prep you've done already. Having two characters to think about can broaden your perspective of this purpose.
Another thing I find is that an actor with more than one role on their mind will want to work more as a team with the other actors in the scene in order to come up with their inflections and nuances. In some cases you will find actors can be quite singular about their character development as it comes from a place deeep within. So actors in this position can seem more like team players and more open and approachable to work with.
I personally like to use the Archetypes of Jung in the psychosomatic analysis of what motivates the psychological, behavioural and physical actions of a character.
As we have evolved over time it is said to be that we are always dreaming and our ego, souls and selfs are always interacting with our surroundings, physical and metaphysical. This means that although we are constantly having thoughts and ideas that may not be physicalised we are only presenting a part of this as ourself at any one specified time.
So I believe it can be possible to play more than one support or minor role in a production.
Which parts of the body are you communicating with more with one character?
Where are you presenting the scene, how does this differ between the two roles?
(This is important, like who else is around)
I think the most important things for differentiating between multiple characters would be:
Interpersonal relations of the character
Inner monologue - there are some great exercises that can help define this.
This is a link to a fantastic page on the Archetypes of Jung:
Developing a Villainous Character...
Tools of the trade...
When I'm good I'm very, very good, but when I'm bad, I'm better. Mae West
Building the psyche of a villainous character is for me about tapping into your emotional energy on a number of various levels and dimensions. Having a life that is filled with dramatic and emotional encounters that lead to screaming into your pillow or crying yourself to sleep isn’t always a bad thing when you are an actor. These situations from your life can be used as substitutions and harnessed as material in developing roles. I’m cast as a lead in a short film where I’m playing a villainous character. All I know is that she is a sociopath and I’m going to help build up a back story around her to develop enough of the character to shoot our crowd funding promo.
A character is a multidimensional entity just as most human beings are.. they have attitudes, behaviors and life-worlds that they commit to. They feel rage, love, hate confusion and lust just as we all do. It’s about realistically tapping into the motivation for your villainous character’s reactions and actions that will demonstrably make an impact on the level of believability or justification you can bring to the scene.
First and fore most the choices you will make as actor will be determined upon what the objectives or motivations are on a scene level and how this compares to the “super-objective” you have chosen for the character. The character’s inner monologue, obstacles and oppositions will determine how each of the different beats in the dialogue are portrayed.
How does an actor physicalize this technical jargon?
I like to use methods of free association and auto-hypnotic trance which allows a deeper manifestation of the characters motivations. So I am building the character from the inside out. Working with the mind / body psychotherapy theories of the 1920’s, practitioners such as William Reich introduced studies into emotional behavior. I find this very helpful when trying to build up a characters’ emotional landscape.
Reich coined the term “armoring” in regards to barriers of emotional energy or blockages that people have creating their emotional identity.
These blockages usually happen on an unconscious level and effect the ego and psyche which in turn will effect the physicality and decisions you make when playing the character.
One thing to remember with character traits is that they are easily changeable and can turn into it’s opposite. A literal example of this is a loud person can become soft, a happy person can become sad, a communist can turn into a fascist etc..
So when developing my villainous character I think about the shift that was made or the pivotal event that instigated the motivation of the villainous behavior and intentions.
For example if my character feels rage, I want to know what causes this rage. I will need a visual or aural stimulus, which can be either a word in the other actors lines or an inflection from the other actor that causes the rage and I would have justifications from the script or back story of why this happens.
The other aspect in developing my villainous role will be working with the aspect of the character’s ego. According to the book The Natural Mind written by Andrew Weil, “the craving for transcendence is the most powerful drive in the human psyche, stronger than sex”
Using this as pre-determining factor I’ll then work out how the character’s ego is effected by social encounters, sexual encounters and professional encounters.
A clichéd villain stereotype may have a big ego like we see in gangster movies, however I think finding the complexities and nuances of the character can make for a more interesting representation of the character if it fits in with the director’s vision.
How does my villainous character deal with the events that come their way? What are their strengths and weaknesses? How do they relate to money and the material world? How do they relate to the opposite sex?
I intentionally will make notes of whether a reaction or action is based on a motivation that comes from a sub-conscious, conscious or unconscious level.
Everybody is different and what works for one actor on one project may not work for the next but with a variation of some of the techniques talked about today, regular meditation and physical / vocal training I think I will be able to find some structure to work from for developing my villainous roles.
What extent would you go to?
Ukulele or Harmonica?
Finding the New in your strategy...
Ukulele or Harmonica? Why not both? I'm actually going to go to Cash Converters and buy one just to learn a cool party trick. I mean who doesn't have a ukulele to whip
Out just in time when the attention at the party or gathering points your way, right? Well it's these minor social graces, like being able to remember a high school cheer for a sporting team or sing supercalifragilisticxpialidocious backwards that's going to be the tool used to sift out the trash from the pearls on the road to Reaching your stars. Remember everyone is just making it up as they go along and you never know what is going to strike a chord with that big illustrious film director you want to work with. Anyone with any moral compass would know that in a world full of drudgery, misfortune, unfairness and greed that being able to spread a little sunshine and rainbows, even if it is only by playing a few notes on a harmonica as you walk down the street or strum a ukulele at the next Hawaiian luau you go to may pave the way to your next role.
This small act of magic opens up into a holotropic energy that frees our consciousness from the traps of our own minds. We are as one in the cosmos, all being made of the same carbon building blocks and protein enzymes. Whether we believe in creationism or the Big Bang we share many things in common and it's almost like an optical delusion that we have independent thoughts that make who we are. In the same way these thoughts help define our identity they are also the cause for many barriers to achieving what we want in our lives. Using your spirit of adventure to learn something new even if it is as basic as playing the Ukuleke, may set new gauges for your consciousness and open doors to inner realms, significantly transforming your behaviour and cognitive functioning. We are constantly effected by a duality in existence, that is how we view ourselves and how others view us. By breaking old tiresome patterns and reaching for the occasional new experience we are opening many new possibilities for ourselves. It's also possible to access this hyper-sensory energy through dancing, sleep deprivation, chanting and being out in nature alone. So whether or not you will be making embouchure adjustments to your mouth organ like Huey Lewis or entertaining the troops with your Ukulele like Marilyn Monroe.. finding a spark of the new like walking to work or getting a pedicure can brighten your way through the marshes.
If you had to pick one or the other of these two instruments which would you choose? Both make cool party tricks along with magic card games, lighter fart tricks and being able to pour champagne with your left breast. I'm starting a blog as I'm on a personal pilgrimage to reach my highest aspirations as an actor / writer (yes the world needs more actors, really) and some of the things I encounter along the way make for interesting subject matter for plays and film scripts, which I write. So I thought it would be a smart idea to start documenting this journey with anecdotes, reflections and meditations. If anything, it might make for better dinner conversation and offer some healing and insight on a trans-personal level.
I hope you enjoy sharing some of these entries with me.
Here is a simple holotropic breathing exercise to help get you started: