Archive for July, 2009

The three P method to Entertainment

July 13, 2009

For a friend’s 40th birthday his wife threw the Bash of a lifetime.  Eddie has been a KISS fan since he was knee high to a grasshopper.  His loving spouse found a KISS tribute band and booked them to play the common space on the first floor of the beach-side condo they share.  The space was two enormous rooms, and in one the band set up, and in the other was a cornucopia of food offerings.

I arrived early to help her set up the room.  Every kind of KISS paraphernalia from concert one-sheets to dolls and limited collectors items filled every possible space.  As we worked to ready the one room the band worked in the other to ready their equipment.  They checked their play list, went over sound checks, and played several songs.  From the other room they sounded awesome.  I went over to watch and saw the band in ordinary street clothes working through their sound check.  They were thorough, though, and took great effort to make certain nothing was left to chance on the technical side of things.

That night when Storme went upstairs to get Eddie (under the guise of going to a wedding), the tribute band finished last looks before making their appearance.

Eddie appeared to thunderous applause with a very surprised look on his face.  As soon as the camera flashes subsided the band appeared.  Already surprised by the party he was completely floored by the band.

We all were.  Myself especially.  The transformation was incredible.  These guys looked like KISS.  They sounded like KISS.  They had the mannerisms and affectations down.  We were watching Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss make their magic.

Between their two sets they made themselves available for photographs, autographs, and being present to add to an already electric atmosphere.  Gene Simmons stepped outside to do some fire eating which had people eating out of his hands.  And after their break they played their second set.

The band is called DESTROYER.  I believe they are based out of South Florida and they are absolutely dynamite all the way around.

The reason I mention this experience is they epitomized certain critical aspects of entertainment, aspects that are easily transferred to almost any other business model in the world.

Their focus on Preparation, Presentation, and Professionalism showed a consummate sense of effort to their final product.

Preparation:  they came in with their equipment and went to work immediately on identifying the show/concert space and the logistics of their performance.  They set up their equipment and made several adjustments as they worked alongside their technical crew.  They checked their instruments and gear, speakers and mics and made sure there were no surprises.  They played several songs to make sure sounds were crisp and feedbakc issues would be minimized.

Presentation:  They made their appearance striding into the room as if they owned the place.  They picked up their guitars and drumsticks and began to play.  And they had everyone entranced.  Eddie’s mouth was open for the first ten minutes as he watched like a kid locked inside a candy store with his favorite chocolate.  The band members acknowledged Eddie several times, and got the audience involved as well.  They had taken great care in their costumes, make-up, and musical ability to present something that was a turn-key package. Each member of the band had taken the time to study and understand the person whose work they were recreating.  It was truly a visual feast.

Professionalism:  The members of the band behaved like veteran performers who understood their obligations to themselves and others.  Like a well-oiled machine, they knew what needed to happen, and when it needed to happen.  Their timing was impeccable.  They were KISS, and left little doubt to the others who gathered to watch.

The lessons here are simple:

Whether one is preparing for an audition, a table read, or the first day on a set, whether a supernumerary or a principal player, the necessary demands on self should be the same.  Be prepared, be ready to present what you are arriving to present, do your research, and be totally professional with your finished product.

These apply to anyone, anywhere.  These can be applied to our personal as well as professional lives.  It requires time and effort, but the end result is worth it when we realize our goals.

It’s simple: We stand to benefit greatly when we are willing to give more than those around us expect.  Do the absolute best.  Be willing to listen and learn.  This applies across the board and is good to remember as we find our way down life’s river and encounter others doing the same.


The civic obligations of being an actor

July 11, 2009

I’ve mentioned in other venues the responsibility one has to one’s self when it comes to the path of pursuing entertainment as a career. Along with this sense of being and direction is the important culpability of always doing: -What feels right (morally, ethically, & professionally) – is the thing that defines you. I recall a friend in the industry once telling me, years ago, that “character is what defines our choices when the choices aren’t obvious.”

 When I first began to learn the stunt side of the business (and am, as actor, stuntman, coordinator, and director ALWAYS learning) I said to the person who had taken me under his wing that I had no idea what to do to thank him. He told me that in time I would be doing the same thing, offering people guidance and instructing people on how to approach a stunt or improve on something they were already doing. An old friend came to visit and brought his daughter to the show. Afterwards I brought them back stage and gave them a tour of the facility. The talk shifted to one of our loves, live shows and live and interactive performance. He reminded me of a stunt show we were both involved in and how I wound up teaching an impromptu high fall class. Two things happened: One – I helped people fine tune the skill they already had, or in other cases showed them the basic mechanics of what a high fall entailed. Two – I taught people.

I am not an expert, but believe in offering insight when approached. We all have the obligation to offer guidance to others who enter the realm of entertainment. To expand on this posit, it behooves us to offer guidance and insight to any person seeking to gain footing in our area of expertise.  This ought to not be confused with telling people how to do things.

For me, no matter how star struck or rooted in reality the person is, I always offer the same information, though often slightly tailored to their specific concerns or issues. I have also taken to writing letters, or emails, when issues concerning our industry come frothing to the surface. If we don’t offer contrasting, counterpoint insight to news reports or topical concerns, then at the end of the day we don’t deserve to say anything. This applies across the board to anything.

Example – I heard a report on the tax incentive program and how economists stated “states were lucky to break even,” and “the jobs were temporary.” I live in a state that offers a tax incentive to film production, and have worked in other states where those states offer tax incentives to film production.

The reality? For every dollar spent to bring a film project to a location that film project spends on average 5.50 to 6.00 dollars. That is a remarkable return. Those temporary jobs? A lot of your below the line folks move from project to project, making a great living while supporting both the industry and their families. But people don’t know unless you educate them.

My point to this is if you have to question the veritas of a statement, then by all means do the research. If the information is not correct, then become a voice and offer another perspective. This not only makes you more aware, it makes you more efficacious. And if you take the time to do the research, it makes you knowledgeable.

It makes you a responsible member of the community, no matter what that community is.

Knowledge is power only when properly wielded.

Ronald Fox Actor / Author / Stuntman

feed your mind; feed the world