Archive for September, 2014

The Truth about Bloopers, Outtakes, and Practical Jokes

Posted in Disentangling Thoughts on Theatre, Nuts & Bolts Stuff on September 29, 2014 by RobALott

I love a good gag reel. It’s the first thing I look for in the special features. I love the classic Carol Burnett Show with Tim Conway continuously breaking Harvey Korman. The outtake from Putting It Together. The old closing credits of Home Improvement. The hidden footage of The Fonz chasing Mrs. Cunningham with a can of whipped cream. This is what I grew up with.

Naturally, a lot of young artists grow up with an interest in how show business works, trying to see as much behind the scenes as possible. Hoping to see when things go wrong, and how it’s handled when it does. What they see are flubbed lines, practical jokes, and prop malfunctions. Then they see the cast laughing, the camera shaking, and the director kindly and calmly calling for a re-set.

No wonder a life in theatre, or film, or television looks so appealing. Just look at how much fun everyone is having!

I hate to break it to the young artist…

Here’s the truth.

Spoiler Alert.

Those outtakes, flubs, and mess-ups…in the professional community, they are rare at best.

Ever notice how a two-hour film only has two or three minutes worth of outtakes? There’s just too much at stake. The cast, the crew, the studio time, it all costs money. Therefore, the professionals get it done right, more often than not, on the first take. That’s why when it is wrong, everyone responds the way that they do.

In television, those live studio audiences are often sitting in the studio for hours while the tedious taping process rolls on and on. The novelty of being at a live taping can quickly wear off and the audience’s energy and laughter begins to dwindle. The best way to keep them engaged is to throw them a curve ball of a flubbed line or a practical joke. But again, the cast is rehearsed and prepared. The mess-ups happen at every taping. It’s all part of the show.

Audiences love to watch performers having fun. Letting the audience get a quick glimpse into the reality of the actors on stage when something goes wrong or a character breaks, the audience loves it. But these are all tools of the trade for keeping an audience engaged. Of this, I am well aware. Rarely, though, is it the truth.

Being a professional means getting it right the first time, every time. Laughing off mistakes is for amateurs. And do-overs are for kids playing kickball. The professionals don’t do do-overs. That’s the truth.

Art vs. Craft

Posted in Creativity, Quotes on September 26, 2014 by RobALott

“When filmmakers, industrial designers, software designers, or people in any other creative profession merely cut up and reassemble what has come before, it gives the illusion of creativity, but it is craft without art. Craft is what we are expected to know; art is the unexpected use of our craft.” -Ed Catmull, Creativity, Inc.

It’s Not Always About You…

Posted in Uncategorized on September 22, 2014 by RobALott

…most of the time, it’s about me.

Recently I received some feedback that some of my posts are overly ranty and opinionated and can come off as preachy.

I get that.

Really, I do.

Here’s the thing though:

When my name and picture appears next to a quote, or a link, or a thought, it’s not because I want you to share the same opinion, or that I’m suggesting how you should live your life, but rather it’s an integrity mechanism that keeps me personally honest and on track.

I’m an idealist. When given the option, I always want to choose trust, positivity, and improvement. But, there are moments, and days, and seasons, that my words and actions don’t reflect that. So, I share my values and beliefs regularly and publicly so that when my life does not add up and mirror all that I have said, those who are closest to me can call me on it.

Please understand, I am not asking you to agree with all that I post.

Typically, when I share something, it’s because I found it interesting, it’s an opinion with which I agree, it made me laugh, or it’s just how I feel.

It’s not always about you. Most of the time, it’s about me.

Are We There Yet?

Posted in A Note to Directors, Nuts & Bolts Stuff, Thoughts on Leadership on September 22, 2014 by RobALott

I finished a big project recently that required almost a year of preparation, months of rehearsal, but only two days of performance. It was a very long, but incredibly rewarding process.

On Monday evening, as we started into the home stretch of show week, I gathered the cast around me before we began our final rehearsals.

“I have good news and I have bad news. Which do you want to hear first?”

The cast and crew played right into my hand with a resounding, “The bad news.”

“Ok, the bad news is…we’ll have our final performance on Friday.”

A sad sigh spread across the rehearsal hall.

“But remember, there’s good news!”

I let the anticipation build.

“The good news is…we’ll have our final performance on Friday!”

A collective look of confusion took to everyone’s faces. While I may have expected the confusion, inducing confusion is rarely a good trait for a director. I explained.

“We have a lot of work to do this week. A lot of details need to come together for us to be successful. For many of us, there will be a lot of late nights and early mornings. Some of you have responsibilities outside of this rehearsal that still need your full attention in addition to the attention I’ll need from you here. There will be changes, quick fixes, and deviated plans that will call for flexibility, patience, and grace from all of us. We will do things quickly and simply where we can, but we will not avoid complexity when that’s what’s needed. We will work hard. And we will give everything we have, so that on Friday we will know we did all that we could to make this performance great. Because the good news is, we close our show on Friday.”

With that, we went to work.

People will give everything they have when they know there’s an end in place. It’s easy to generously ration resources when we know the replenishment supply will arrive on time.

Giving your people an obvious goal with a clear end makes the giving of their time and talent far easier.

You can do anything for a day.

You can do anything for a week.

Heck, you can do anything for a year!

It’s when the agreed upon end comes and everyone’s been giving their all, only to be asked to go for one more minute, one more push, this is when your team will most assuredly begin to fade fast.

How Surprised They’d Be

Posted in Got Me Thinkin', Nuts & Bolts Stuff, Thoughts on Leadership on September 19, 2014 by RobALott

O how surprised they’d be
When they’d realize the lives we lead
When we’re not
In the spotlight

Celebrate the Competition

Posted in Disentangling Thoughts on Theatre, Got Me Thinkin', Thoughts on Leadership on September 15, 2014 by RobALott

Coke needs Pepsi.

Honda needs Toyota.

Even Apple needs PC.

Competition is good. We need competition, not only to spur us to do better, be better, and deliver more, but also because of this one big branding and marketing principle:

What’s good for the competition is good for the brand*.

I’ve heard stories of the CEOs of competing products sending each other congratulatory messages and gifts when the other one hits it out of the park with a new product or marketing strategy.

Quality art is our brand. We are all working to keep it from becoming marginalized. It stands to reason, then, that when one of us has a success in our field, we can all benefit.

There are almost fifty* Broadway Houses in New York. The individual shows are the product, but Broadway is the brand. When Mel Brooks’ Musical, The Producers swept the Tonys, it didn’t put the other shows out of business. On the contrary, Broadway was revitalized and everyone’s ticket sales went up.

So, the next time you find yourself frustrated with the success of the theater down the street, keep in mind that while you may be competing for the same audience, that audience might have you both categorized as the same thing, and thus when one of you produces well, you’ll both get the bump in status.

Don’t bash the competition, celebrate them.

*The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding by Al Ries & Laura Ries

The Best Moments in Reading…

Posted in Creativity, Got Me Thinkin', Quotes on September 12, 2014 by RobALott

“The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – that you’d thought special, particular to you. And here it is, set down by someone else, a person you’ve never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it’s as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.” -Alan Bennett, The History Boys