Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Les Miserables movie as arts advocacy?

Hey there,

First, the term arts advocacy means many things, both what it actually is, as well as the call to action. I actually wrote my thesis at American University on how working performers in DC defined "arts advocacy", as well as "community", but that's definitely a subject for another post. For the purpose of this one, while there isn't necessarily a call to action, if the movie functions as incentive for audiences to see more theatre than they did before, then I'm using that as just one example of arts advocacy.

So, ever since I first heard about the Les Misérables movie, the arts manager in me immediately begun to wonder not only if people who saw this and don't normally see live theatre regularly would be motivated to do so...see more live theatre, particularly musical theatre, in this case.

Yes, this is also the first thing I wonder anytime I ever see any artistically driven movie, which is to say a movie where art, particularly the performing arts, are a major element and/or plot-device. I wondered this with other movie adaptations of musicals, with the Step Up series, if seeing it inspired more people to see and maybe even take dance, and I especially thought this with Pitch Perfect, in terms of individuals seeing more concerts or even joining a vocal ensemble.

But I digress. When I realized that this was partially a knee jerk reaction, my interest and excitement subsided for the most part.

And then I saw a Regal Cinemas first look at the movie:

Mind blown. I mean, maybe I heard about it and then dismissed it because I didn't really understand. But that the are recording their sound, their vocals LIVE as they're filming. Even for non-theater folk, the difference can be pretty obvious, to the detriment of the piece.

I can't even count how many times people have complained about how over-produced (sorry, I really don't know how else to describe it, maybe someone with more audio/music/studio experience?) the sound on Glee is, and the glaring disconnect between what is heard versus what is scene on screen.

So, will this production of Les Miserables not only introduce people to real-time singing/acting (as real as a movie can get), but get them to want more of that in real life?

I'm obviously not the only one wondering that, but this post was inspired after reading a friend's comment about it on his Facebook page today. Here is Billy Bustamante's comment in full:
Sooo... In place of a Les Miz movie review status I will affirm the lesson the movie taught me: 
For every person who hated it there will be someone who loved it. 
For every person raved about it to your face there is someone who trashed it behind your back. 
But in the grand balance of things, the scale's, for now anyway, tipped a bit more in our favor because we as musical theatre artists are a bit more visible in the world's eye. And if there were a few people who see the movie and decide to one day buy a ticket for the real, live thing, then bonus points for us.
No, he doesn't necessarily mention the bit regarding the recording methods. That's my own bit of value added. But he touches on the basic issue, in terms of the movie at least raising the visibility of musical theatre, both the art and the artists.

And as someone who certainly inspired me as a performer when I first started pursuing it professionally a decade ago at Montgomery College, who went on to study at the University of the Arts in Philly, and who's also currently an awesome photographer based up in New York City now, he is a person who's had his pulse on things, through his own work and those he works with, and as such, his insights are informed and thoughtful.

Fun fact: he took my first set of headshots YEARS ago about when he first started. And even though I thought they were great, he has certainly come a long way in continuing to refinie his style, look, and technique.  You should definitely check out his website, because his work is amazing.

Anyway...digressing, again. Regarding Les Miserables? Let's see what happens. I personally share Billy's sentiment. That if this movie even leads to one more person buying a ticket to a live show that might not have otherwise, it's a win for us. I certainly don't think that this movie will make anyone who normally sees shows stop seeing them, if they don't like it.

But if you disagree, please leave a comment about why. If you agree, or even if you're not sure, please leave a comment as well.

And did you see it? What'd you think? Do you normally see live shows? And if you don't, do you think you might start?

Curious mind wants to know :-)

- JR
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