Tuesday, 19 January 2010

I'll Follow You Until You Love Me, or at least as long as you do what I WANT.

Fans are a fickle group. They claim to like/love/obsess over their chosen film, musician etc. and yet they're usually the first the criticise when something happens they don't like, almost as though they have an ownership over their fandom of choice. When of course, that's not how it works at all, and not how it should work either. As Julie Gardner (BBC producer) puts it: "I make drama to support each author's vision. It's not a democracy. Whether people like it or not, it's storytelling." Imagine if storytelling was a democracy?! It'd be like one of those ridiculous games that you played as a child, involving a many-folded piece of paper on which each person wrote a line of a story, culminating in a nonsensical adventure featuring Gwendolyn the bear-fighting, world-saving, cross-dressing nun from Liverpool who is a rockstar in her spare time. Of course, I'm not saying that fans should automatically love everything that their idol creates without thought or critique, but the (often unnecessary) backlash is completely over the top. Sure, if you don't like it, great. Move on.

But some people, especially on the Internet, react with such pure, overzealous hate that I'm a little worried. Okay, the latest episode of Eastenders didn't thrill you beyond belief - but who cares enough to whine, whinge and moan about it? And don't even get me started on people who officially make complaints (we're looking at you, Daily Mail readers). They evidently have too much time on their hands and need a hobby. Maybe knitting.

So imagine my non-surprise when reading a rumour on film magazine Empire's website about Tim Burton's latest film project. Apparently, it is to be a Wicked-type tale, featuring Malificent, the evil witch from Disney's 'Sleeping Beauty' who curses the Princess Aurora and tries multiple times to kill her, before turning into an enormous dragon and generally being a bit of a badass. The film will be from her perspective and try to explain why she hates that baby so much. It actually sounds like a really interesting idea; sure, its not Burton-original material but if he makes a brilliant film, does anyone mind?

However, Empire then have the tenacity (read, sarcasm) to suggest that Burton could pull of the mix of fairy tale and gothic, and that perhaps 'his missus, Helena Bonham Carter, could be rather wonderful in the bad title role'. Another Tim Burton film with Helena Bonham Carter, some fans replied. What's next, casting Johnny Depp as Prince Charming? He's not creating an original idea? He's being all QUIRKY AND DARK AND MYSTERIOUS?! YEEGADZ!

I have no problem whatsoever with Burton tackling films in his favourite genre, with his favourite actors and with his favourite material, as long as he makes a good film. Which he generally does. There was a similar reaction when casting for 'Alice in Wonderland' revealed Depp as the Mad Hatter and Bonham Carter as the Red Queen; the same again for Sweeney Todd. Why do these fans care so much that the director is doing this? He's not repeating himself, of that I'm quite sure - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is as far from Sweeney Todd as Avatar is from Winnie the Pooh. The guy likes his gothic movies. Great. He hasn't come up with an original idea in a while. Fantastic. He re-uses actors who have proven themselves in the past and fit the parts. So sue him.

Now, if he cast Bonham Carter and Depp willy nilly through every film in roles they didn't suit, I would understand the reaction. If he tried to remake High School Musical with Depp as Troy Bolton, I'd probably question him too. But they are both two powerful character actors who invest in their roles and always impress - even in Sweeney Todd, where their vocal talents left something to be desired, they both acted beautifully. Sure, Burton could spread the love around, especially in the recession, but why risk valuable studio dollars on unknown or untested talent when he has two movie stars who are going to bring in the punters and act well? He doesn't always use the same actors; in Alice, we see Anne Hathaway, Matt Lucas and newcomer Mia Wasikowska, whilst we hear the vocal talents of Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen and Barbara Windsor, all of whom are, to my knowledge, Burton virgins (He also brings along favourites Timothy Spall and Christopher Lee, but lets keep that quiet in case the fans add that fuel to the fire).

With the advent of the Internet, fanboys and girls have become much more vocal and self-important. They will still go see the films, buy the music and play the games that they claim to love and yet seem to hate, and therefore they are eliminating any real power they have, the power of choice. Tim Burton is still going to produce gothic, trippy, glorious films with his favourite stars and I for one, am extremely happy about that fact.

Edit: Here's another example of stupendous fan hate, following the announcement as Marc Webb (director of (500) Days of Summer, one of my favourite films of 2009) as the director of the rebooted Spiderman franchise: WARNING, MAY CONTAIN ABUSIVE AND UNSAVOURY LANGUAGE

"FUCKING CUNTY BOLLOCKS!!!!!!!!! 500 DAYS OF SUMMER is one of the WORST pieces of celluloid shit I've ever endured! ah, to hell with this."

Well isn't that lovely? Not, 'I don't like his work but I'll give it a go and reserve judgement when I see the film.' No, 'He's only made one film and therefore I can't judge him'. Instead its, HATEHATEHAHTESWEARSWEARSWEAR. Completely rational and sensible.

Monday, 18 January 2010

'Restricted View' - I Can't See the Point

The likelihood of this post shaking off all vestiges of grammar, sense and semblance and descending into what is colloquially known as a 'rant' is quite high. This may be in part due to the fact that today was my first day back at college, and thus I am in equal amounts tired and in pain (mostly caused by five periods of dance and a body clock that refused to let me sleep until 3am). However, my anger and frustration were mainly caused when my frequent attempts to buy tickets for 'the Little Dog Laughed' at the Garrick Theatre where met with either obscenely high prices or seats of a slightly lower value being labeled 'restricted view'.

Now, I have to admit that I am a bargain hunter. I refuse to pay the sometimes extortionate prices that theatre owners and producers place on their shows and thus will trawl the Internet for any deal. Despite my eagerness for a deal or bargain, I also want a good seat. I see thirty pounds as a lot of money, and if I'm paying that much to see a show or play, I want to be in the stalls or at least the front of the dress circle. So far, my dedication hasn't steered me wrong - there's always a good deal out there if you're willing to find it, rather than just pay seventy pound to Ticketmaster.

However, LDL really seemed to thwart me and seriously tested my patience. Tickets in the stalls were ranging at about fifty pounds. This seemed quite normal to me. However, tickets in the dress and upper circles were also marketed at this price, despite a notice claiming that 'many of the seats in these areas have a restricted view'. Ah, the restricted view, the bane of the theatre goer.

Why, in any theatre commissioner, architect or builders mind, would anyone, anyone, build a theatre with some seats that do not have a complete view of the stage? I'm paying to see a play, therefore I want to see all of it, not whichever parts the directer chooses to block in my allocated square of the stage. I suppose that in some cases, the natural curve of the circle will place some disruption on the audience's view; however in my experience and opinion, this seats are always priced way below the surrounding, fully-viewed seats.

Sometimes, the theatre is built in what seems a sensible fashion, and the designer for the production decides, "Screw this, the audience are only paying their hard-earned cash, a percentage of which will end up in my pocket, to see this play, I'm going to design such an intricate and obnoxious set that only those able to pay upwards of seventy pounds to sit in the very centre of the stalls can see!" In a way, this annoys me even more; unfortunately I haven't seen the Little Dog Laughed yet and thus cannot comment on which of these two ailiments it falls under.

I must state, that I haven't got a personal vendetta against the show itself and am very much looking forward to seeing it. It has a few big names starring and this naturally leads to higher prices. Its more that the frustration of searching for tickets brought this matter to my mind. Who an earth came up with this ridiculous notion?

Rant over.

Oh, and in the end I managed to find stall seats, row R for twenty-five pounds. I told you I was relentless.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Impression Pressure

It's been almost a year since I started this blog and, just as that first post was about auditions, so this post is too. I have to admit, I haven't been particularly dedicated to keeping it up-to-date, and I think this is partly because my focus was so narrow - when nothing of note was going on in my career, I had nothing to write about. So, in the new year I think I want to widen the appeal - keep it theatrical based but maybe extend it to reviews, industry gossip and the like, rather than just my personal story.

So, in keeping with my new philosophy, I want to discuss auditions for drama school. Between October and June, drama schools begin their annual intake auditions and the numbers of auditionees seem to mount up ever higher each year, ranging from complete amateurs to those who could tap before they could walk. Naturally, the pressure is on for all candidates; for most, these will be their first auditions (which are nerve-wracking enough, standing infront of esteemed teachers and actors and performing) and for all they will decide their future, for the next year or so. Many see drama school as their only gateway into the industry. I myself am preparing monologues and songs for the long slog which will be the audition circuit. My auditions this year range from January to April, stretch across three countries and ask for a whole range of different material. I admit to being a tad stressed, a few butterflies tickling the stomach just before I fall asleep.

However, the pressure I was feeling was nothing compared to those writing in today's issue of industry paper 'The Stage'. Each week in the letters section, selections from a thread on the papers forums are featured and this issue had several lengthy posts about the pressures one puts upon themselves to impress the auditioning panel and to live up to their successes last year. One reader wrote, "Last year, I had recalls at Central for two strands (acting and musical theatre), GSA, Arts Ed (reserve list), RADA (three rounds). I now feel under pressure - what if applying to the same schools this year means I don't get recalls? Will that means I have regressed?

I can sort of understand their point, but why let themselves get so bogged under with all the stress? Last year at Mountview, I got to the final round of their acting auditions. Is this making me more worried than last year? No. I see it as an achievement last year, of course, but if I don't make it to the same stage this year, that's fine. Maybe they're looking for something different this year; maybe they already have somebody like me; maybe everyone else is just a lot better this year! But to put doubt upon your own talent and skill isn't going to help in an audition situation and will probably be noticeable to the panel.

Of course I'm a bit worried and of course I'll be nervous about it on the day. But I don't see the point in worrying unduly and to excess when its not going to help. Some nervous energy always helps but it seems these worriers have over-thought their situation so much that on audition day, they'll end up too petrified to speak! If you are prepared, have put in the effort and do your best on audition day, you can't ask for anything more. You will get in or you won't. But worrying won't change that. If you get in, fantastic! If not, okay, its upsetting, but it isn't the end of the world. You can try again next year, try and break the industry without training or, in extreme cases (and please don't think I'm telling you to do this!) try your hand at something else. Who knows, this may give you the 'life experience' so many drama schools ask for, or even lead you in unexpected ways into a job in the industry!

I start back at college next week and expect to be thrown back into the exhaustive but amazing routine of the training - and hopefully I'll keep this place a little more updated!

So get back to your ballet barre, sing your heart out and stop worrying!