‘Think what you will’ [Updated]

11th November 2013

This is the post I’m using to chronicle events up to Wednesday evening; you can also follow how things are unfolding via @livefromSuA, @TheRSC and @Illuminations.

Everyone is returning and we’re about to do a final check on the insert films and the top of the show. I think I’ll sign off now – and wish everyone a great show!

I’m almost alone in the OB truck. Everyone else is at the spicy chilli. How worried should I be with less than 45 minutes before we start transmitting? At some point I’m going to stop Tweeting and start “producing”, although I’m not entirely sure that I know the difference between the two activities.

And, gentle readers, this is me – in the latest production diary, filmed on Monday… many thanks to James Oprey and his RSC colleagues for this and all the other excellent diary pieces, as well as tonight’s two insert films.

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Links for the weekend

10th November 2013

If you see just one thing in the cinema this week, make sure it’s the RSC’s Live from Stratford-upon-Avon Richard II on Wednesday. But your second cinema visit has to be the astonishing Gravity, with Sandra Bullock (above). (Apologies to readers abroad; your chance to see Richard II will come soon, and in the States at least Gravity is so October.) Among the excellent reading available (but experience the film first, and in 3D) is the following:
Gravity – a review: a good introduction by Matt Zoller Seitz at RogerEbert.com.
Why Gravity director Alfonso Cuarón will never make a space movie again: a very good Wired interview by Caitlin Roper.
Gravity – Alfonso Cuarón talks creating space epic: another useful interview, with Anne Thompson at indiewire.
Drowning in the digital abyss: J. Hoberman hymns the film for The New York Review of Books.
• Gravity and the power of narrative limits: Jason Mittel at Just TV on just how unconventional a mainstream movie this is.
Two characters adrift in an experimental film, part one: Kristin Thompson on the film’s links with the avant-garde and its minimal plot (with a second blog post on the way).
The hero’s journey of Dr Ryan Stone – children, visual storytelling and miraculous rebirth in Gravity: Christopher Dole on just what the film shows us.
Gravity – vfx that’s anything down to earth: Mike Seymour with an article for fxguide that is full of great details about how it was all done.
Gravity – a 3D movie about 3D movies: Hsuan Hsu at Avidly offers a rich range of comparisons for the way the film treats 3D.
Satellite of love – Jonás Cuarón’s Aningaaq: at his Film Lounge Neil Young writes about the semi-unofficial ‘companion-piece’ made by Gravity’s co-writer (Alfonso and Jonás are father and son).
Managing Gravity’s workflow: … and this one, from Nick Dager at Digital Cinema Report, is for the techies, and is fascinating about file sizes.
Below the fold are further links about film, Shakespeare and more, with thanks to @mia_out@KeyframeDaily, @lukemckernan@TheBrowser and @petermarkadams. read more »

‘Lords, be ready all’ [Updated]

4th November 2013

Uncertain as I am about whether the details of the RSC Richard II Live from Stratford-upon-Avon production schedule are really of any interest, I took a stab at chronicling that on Sunday, and I’ll continue that today. Later today we will run a rehearsal of the full production in front of the cameras. This will allow us to test all of the equipment and the plans of screen director Robin Lough, as well to check how costumes and make-up look on screen. So let me see if I can continue to capture something of the process of getting a complex live broadcast production into (and out of) the Royal Shakespeare Theatre – and if this is your first visit, read from the bottom up.


5.50pm: One of our key concerns has been whether we have sufficient time to strike the camera equipment from the theatre and return all the removed seats before the show this evening. We had scheduled a 90-minute period for this after the rehearsal, and there had been much musing on whether this was sufficient. In fact, the crane was clear of the auditorium within 50 minutes and the whole operations was completed within 80. Job done, and we started our informal review process over a pint in the Dirty Duck. The company, however, has to play again this evening. read more »

Links for the weekend

3rd November 2013

Read of the week – if ‘read’ is the right word – has to be the Guardian’s remarkable round-up of the implications of the Snowden revelations in its digital presentation NSA Files: Decoded. You should also most definitely read editor Alan Rusbridger’s essay for the New York Review of Books, The Snowden leaks and the public. The above image comes from the Guardian’s online multiple media presentation, which features text, images, video and audio as well as inforgraphics and other interactive elements. The authors are Ewan Macaskill and Gabriel Dance, with producers Feilding Cage and Greg Chen. If you care about the future of serious journalism, take a look (although you almost certainly have), and click also on this week’s New York Times feature with a similar strategy, Forging an art market in China. In this fascinating and beautifully presented report David Barboza, Graham Bowley and Amanda Cox explore the problems of China’s auction houses, dealers and forgers. For other links across the jump, thanks go to @jeremy_millar_1, @lukemckernan, @RalphRivera@KnightLAT@annehelen and @alexismadrigal. read more »

Fifty years on

2nd November 2013

Far be it from me to rain on the National Theatre’s fiftieth birthday parade, but allow me to make a few slightly-less-than-gushing remarks about the recent two-part Arena documentary and tonight’s compilation album of extracts. (The two films are on BBC iPlayer for the next four days: The Dream here and War and Peace here – and you have a week to re-run the live gala 50 Years on Stage here.) It has been thrilling to see British theatre given such attention when by and large it remains one of the artforms that is less present than it might be on television. But I have to say that I have found all the self-congratulation just a touch too cloying. read more »

‘How near the tidings of our comfort is’

1st November 2013

First day of the new month, and just twelve to go until the Live from Stratford-upon-Avon broadcast to UK cinemas of the RSC’s Richard II (full details and links to ticket sales here). On Sunday the trucks arrive for our first camera rehearsal on Monday. On Tuesday the theatre and broadcast teams will review the tape and start to make adjustments, and then the trucks will return on the following Monday. I will blog the process further and also tweet it via @Illuminations. Meanwhile, there is last week’s production diary to catch up on – and following that I want to point you to some further reading and address Michael Kaiser’s recent alarmist remarks about cinema broadcasts of performance.

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Screens on stage

29th October 2013

Last week I saw on consecutive nights the National Theatre’s production of Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II and Headlong’s 1984 (above, in a production photograph by Tristram Kenton). The former, now closed, was directed by Joe Hill-Gibbins, the latter is adapted by Robert Icke and Duncan MacMillan – and it transfers to the Almeida Theatre from 8 February. Both productions made for truly stimulating evenings in the theatre, and I was particularly struck by the use in each of both live and recorded video. Two such deployments of large-scale moving images do not necessarily a trend make, but seeing the productions so close together made me muse yet more on the relationship between screens and stages – especially when playwright Simon Stephens (@stephenssimon) suggested the beginnings of an explanation in a passing comment on Twitter. read more »

Why we should all be more intermedial

28th October 2013

Earlier this month I was delighted to make a very modest contribution to a conference in Oxford about Louis MacNeice, radio writer and producer co-organised by my Screen Plays colleague Dr Amanda Wrigley. Amanda and Professor Stephen Harrison have just published an edited volume of a selection of MacNeice’s radio scripts, Louis MacNeice: The Classical Radio Plays (Oxford University Press, 2013), and the event was to mark that and also the fiftieth anniversary of MacNeice’s death.

Louis MacNeice (1907-1963, pictured above in 1955) was a mid-century poet who worked for more than twenty years as an imaginative and innovative writer and producer for radio, but who also had plays staged in the theatre and on television. For the conference I offered a paper about MacNeice and television (the subject of a parallel post at the Screen Plays website), and the day’s discussion prompted all sorts of new ideas. But above all, the papers reinforced my sense of how much richer our cultural history would be if it was written and studied far more than it is beyond and across disciplinary boundaries like ‘literature’, ‘film studies’ and ‘broadcasting history’. If, that is, we were all more ‘intermedial’. read more »

Links for the weekend

27th October 2013

Back in June I had more than a few sceptical words about the Royal Shakespeare Company’s collaboration with Google, Midsummer Night’s Dreaming. Truth to tell, I thought it was a misconceived mess, although with a glorious live event for a privileged few at its heart. Now at BBH Labs Google’s  Creative Director Tom Uglow has written An epilogue: 21 Things I learnt from Midsummer Night’s Dreaming with the RSC. It is an exemplary retrospect – thoughtful, positive, humble, not at all defensive and full of praise for his partners at the RSC. This should be required reading for anyone approaching a disruptive digital project in the cultural world. More links below, with thanks this week to @ruthmackenzie, @lessig@filmnickjames@matttrueman@alexismadrigal and @Coxy323. read more »

Mash to the future

25th October 2013

On Thursday evening Arena premiered the first of two films looking back at the history of the National Theatre. I am going to wait for the second to air before posting about them, but I do want to look today at significant developments on the Arena website. Initiatives there seem to me to be pointing towards the future of British television.

First off, there are two mash-ups of Shakespeare speeches, both of which I have embedded across the jump. (Yes, embedded – that I think is a first for BBC content.) And it’s worth musing on each of these for a moment. One, perhaps inevitably, is Hamlet’s ‘To be or not to be…’, the other is Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking scene. Both feature extracts from Illuminations productions, and part of why I am writing this post is to help me work out quite what I feel about that. read more »