Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Web TV Moving to Longer Original Shows.

Major transitions within industries happen in fits and starts, with many trying to hold on to what is familiar, and fortunes made and lost by those betting on the new.  

Web TV is presenting just such a transition.  The major networks have been indecisive about backing original programming for the Web, but those companies moving forward are seeing an "increased appetite for long-form content, which breeds higher quality shows."   Here's an interesting update from the Associated Press.  Read past the headline.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Looking for Headshot Photographers in New York?

I ran my current headshots by LA casting director Billy Damota a few weeks ago.  He said he thought they worked, but they were all of a type.  He thinks I need to also show something lighter and more appropriate for sitcoms, i.e me smiling and showing teeth.   So I've been casting about for a new photographer up in New York who can produce such a shot when I can finally work it into my budget.  Below is the list of those recommended by other actors.

Lev Gorn Photography
Melissa Hamburg Photography
Hornstein Studios
David Morgan Photography
Sabrina Reeves Photography
Hoeberman Studio
Peter Hurley
Taylor Hooper Photography
Meredith Zinner Photography

These all looked good and many showed recognizable actors from film and television.  I particularly liked Zinner's tagline "Be You."

Actress Jennifer Emmaline advised that I narrow down possible selections by considering the following:

1. Does the photographer have enough experience dealing with actors older than 25 -- particularly female actors - that it's in their comfort zone?
2. Do they vary their poses/looks or do they seemed to have 2-3 default poses/looks (and, if the latter, is that pose/look the one I'm looking for and does it work for me?)
3. Are they able to shoot people with my complexion and coloring?

She then suggested I google each photographer on YouTube to see if they've been interviewed on tape.  (Some may also have audio or video interviews on their website.)  Getting a good shot depends a lot of whether you "click" with the photographer.  As she put it, "I was going to consult with one guy who is pretty famous, but just listening to him for five seconds made my teeth hurt."
Sounded like good advice.

Update 11/20/2011

I ultimately ended up going with Lev Gorn.  He gets the issue about capturing the eyes and was one of few that showed examples of older actors.  Also, he insists on a consultation before you come for the actual photography session to get an idea of what you're looking for. Terrific shots, well lit. Wish I'd gone with him to begin with.  New headshots will be posted in December.  Whew.


Making Progress

Feels like things are finally moving after weeks of delay.  My demo reel is coming together and the clips look good. One delay is getting a high-res version of a clip from Clear and Sunny Skies, which I hope to use as the opener.  Anthony Greene did a nice job with the film so I want to include it.  Very excited about the demo and have lined up several industry pros to review it before we cut a final.  In the meantime I'm in talks on some film projects, which should gin up this fall, and I'm lining up interviews with people in the business for this blog.  Hoping to have the demo done by the end of the month.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What's Ahead for Web TV?

According to David Samuels, president and CEO of Koldcast TV, original programming created exclusively for online audiences has exploded, with record numbers of consumers cancelling costly cable "packaged" subscriptions in favor of Web TV, where they can get exactly what they want - and only what they want - for free.  There are still challenges ahead for the creative minds producing these new series, and also for those trying to make it profitable.  Check out Samuels' take on the trends, as it appeared a year ago in the Huffington Post.  And watch for an update soon.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

10 Best Westerns of All Time - In My View

Rented 3:10 to Yuma a few nights ago, the Russell Crowe remake of the 1957 original that had Glenn Ford playing against type as an outlaw.  After 10 minutes of blood spatter and no apparent story we put it back into its little red envelope to be mailed back to Netflix.  Maybe it got better, but I somehow doubt it.

The movie made me wonder why we get Westerns so wrong these days, and have since filmmakers decided you could make them in Europe, or with non-American actors, and they'd be just as good. They weren't. They aren't.  I like The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.  But it's not really a Western.

Which reminds me of a story from Star Trek that my husband likes to relate: in it Worf is telling heroic legends about Klingon history to a group of Klingon children who have grown up in an isolated colony that had been overtaken by the Romulans a generation earlier.  Their parents had refused to retell the stories out of shame at having surrendered.  So as Worf is relating one particular tale, a child interrupts to ask him if he believes the stories are true.  Worf replies "Yes" without hesitation, even though elements of the stories sound physically impossible.  When the child asks Worf why he believes they are true, Worf replies,"Because they tell us who we are."

Exactly.

Westerns tell us as Americans who we are.  So do films about World War II, films about the Civil Rights Movement, films about the Civil War.  The reason is that only in struggle can we define virtue - as a nation, as a culture, as an individual.  Only in pushing back against some threatening force - injustice, poverty, foreign invaders, the elements -  are we tested and learn  we are worthy.  No struggle, no virtue, no heroes.

Maybe that explains the lowbrow lineup of films this summer: Bridesmaids, The Hangover II, Bad Teacher, Horrible Bosses, Change Up and more.  (Sheesh, what stinkers!)

Anyway, here's my list of the 10 Best Westerns of all time: some that are on everyone's list, some that I think are often overlooked.

  1. The Big Country (1958).  William Wyler produced and directed this epic of a New England sea captain who arrives in town to marry a rancher's daughter and becomes embroiled in a feud between two families over cattle access to the Big Muddy.  Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, Jean Simmons, Carroll Baker, Burl Ives, Charles Bickford, and the best Western score ever.
  2. High Noon (1952).  On his wedding day, a retiring Marshall insists on facing down a gang of outlaws who have vowed to kill him and are due in town on the noon train -- but he stands alone as the cowardly townspeople flee.  Even his Quaker bride deserts, but for a different reason. Tense, psychological thriller directed by Fred Zinnemann.  Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Lloyd Bridges.
  3. The Searchers (1956).  After his brother’s family is massacred by Indians, a Civil War veteran spends years searching for a young niece taken captive.  John Wayne at his best. A cast of Wayne regulars.  John Ford directs.
  4. Westward the Women (1951).  California rancher goes back east to recruit women willing to become wives for his lonely ranch hands. From the candidates he selects 138 who seem morally straight and able to shoot a gun, drive a team of mules, and survive the dangerous journey across mountains and prairie and Indian territory.  Different from other “mail-order bride” Westerns in its realistic depiction of the hardships and social issues and the addition of fiery French actress Denise Darcel.  The ending is a charmer.  Also stars Robert Taylor and John McIntire. 
  5. The Hanging Tree (1959).  In a gold-mining camp full of hard, dangerous men, a doctor with a sinister past finds redemption by taking in a young boy and treating an injured (and temporarily blind) immigrant woman.  Montanan Gary Cooper again, with Austrian actress Maria Schell, Karl Malden, and George C. Scott.  
  6. The Man From Laramie (1955). A stranger looking for those who sold guns to the Apaches (resulting in his brother’s death) defies the local cattle baron and his sadistic son by working for one of his oldest rivals.  James Stewart was terrific as a cowboy and it was a toss-up between this and Winchester ’73.  Cathy O'Donnell never looked lovelier. Anthony Mann directs.
  7. Winchester 73 (1950). Cowhand Lin McAdam wins a valuable Winchester 1873 repeating rifle in a shooting contest, which his brother steals, leading to a series of adventures as McAdam tracks down the weapon. James Stewart, Shelley Winters, Tony Curtis, and Rock Hudson.  Anthony Mann directs.
  8. Red River  (1948).  Mutiny on a cattle drive when an ironfisted Texas rancher relentlessly brutalizes his cowhands, causing his adopted son to intercede and take over.  Vowing vengeance, the rancher gives chase, leading to the quintessential Western showdown.  John Wayne, Montgomery Clift in his first film role, Walter Brennan, Joanne Dru.  As with The Searchers, Wayne is at his best when he's not having such an obvious good time.
  9. Heartland (1979) Scottish rancher Clyde Stewart hires a widow named Elinore as housekeeper. She penetrates Stewart's heart with her determination as she scrapes by to support her young daughter. Award-winning character study is based on Elinore Randall Stewart's autobiography of life in frontier Wyoming. Rip Torn, Conchata Ferrell
  10. My Darling Clementine (1946).  Director John Ford gives a gritty, authentic feel to this retelling of the shootout at the OK Corral, with Henry Fonda as Wyatt Earp, Victor Mature as Doc Holliday, Linda Darnell, Ward Bond, Walter Brennan.

These are the films that tell us who we are, or at least who we were.  We were heroes.

p.s. To those who didn't see their favorite on this list, let me respond.  The Magnificent 7 - I really like this movie, but somehow I could never quite buy Yul Brynner as a cowboy.  The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance - great fun and a remarkable performance by Stewart's horse, but Stewart at this point was really too old for the role and the film doesn't feel very authentic.  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid - eh.  McCabe and Mrs. Miller - oh, please.  Unforgiven - I actually prefer the 1960 film The Unforgiven with Audrey Hepburn and Burt Lancaster and almost put it on the list.  Once Upon a Time in the West - the title gives it away; it's a fantasy.  The Wild Bunch - a lot of blood spatter and not much else.  Dances with Wolves - it scolds, but it's interesting in parts.  Blazing Saddles - I love this movie, but like Shanghai Noon it's a comedy set in some fantasy of the West, but it's not really a Western.

Call me a traditionalist.