Emma Dewing, Ballerina/Yoga Instructor/Singer, Soundcloud
Patrick Vest, Fight Choreographer, Shakespeare by the Sea
Meline Tovmasian, Choreographer, melinetovmasian.com
Robert Salas, Artistic Director, Movement Theatre CoLab
Scott Page, CEO, Ignited Networks
James DeRuvo, Film and Technology Reporter, DoddleNEWS
Larry Jordan: Tonight on The Buzz, we are talking about dance and choreography. We start with Emma Dewing, a former professional ballerina, and now choreographer, about the process and challenges of creating dances for aspiring dancers while still keeping them safe.
Larry Jordan: Next, Meline Tovmasian is a dancer, choreographer and teacher who talks about the art in choreography and her specialty, Bollywood and belly dancing.
Larry Jordan: Next, Robert Salas is the artistic director of the Movement Theater, who shares his thoughts on movement techniques and engaging the attention of the audience.
Larry Jordan: Next, rhythm and music underlies all dance, so musician Scott Page shares his thoughts on last week’s huge musical trade show, NAMM.
Larry Jordan: Next, fighting for stage and film is another form of dance, and fight choreographer Patrick Vest takes us behind the scenes of training actors for a stage fight.
Larry Jordan: All this, plus James DeRuvo with this week’s DoddleNEWS update. The Buzz starts now.
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Announcer: Since the dawn of digital filmmaking – authoritative – one show serves a worldwide network of media professionals – current – uniting industry experts – production – filmmakers – post production – and content creators around the planet – distribution. From the media capital of the world in Los Angeles, California, The Digital Production Buzz goes live now.
Larry Jordan: Welcome to The Digital Production Buzz, the world’s longest running podcast for the creative content industry, covering media production, post production and marketing around the world. Hi, my name is Larry Jordan. Tonight’s show is about dance, choreography and its corollary, music. As we were planning this week’s show, we went searching for choreographers to interview and we discovered that there are as many different styles of dance as there are different styles in music. So tonight’s show represents a variety of different approaches to dance.
Larry Jordan: We start with classical ballet, move into modern dance, and end with fight choreography. Like I said, dance covers a lot of territory.
Larry Jordan: By the way, in a bit of background on our first guest, Emma Dewing started dancing at the age of three and became a professional ballerina at the age of 16, only to suffer a career ending injury that same year. Rather than give up her love of dance, she changed focus and became a choreographer, dedicated to helping young dancers succeed. You’ll learn more about her in our lead interview this evening.
Larry Jordan: By the way, I want to invite you to subscribe to our free weekly show newsletter at digitalproductionbuzz.com . Every issue, every week, gives you an inside look at The Buzz, quick links to the different segments on the show, and curated articles of special interest to film makers. Best of all, every issue is free, and comes out on Friday.
Larry Jordan: Now it’s time for a DoddleNEWS update with James DeRuvo. Hello James.
James DeRuvo: Well hello Larry, how are you?
Larry Jordan: I am talking to you, I am doing great. What’s the news today?
James DeRuvo: Well we had a big merger this week as KitSplit bought CameraLends, creating one of the largest peer to peer camera rental portals in the world.
Larry Jordan: Where is KitSplit based? I have never heard of them before.
James DeRuvo: I’d never heard about them either, and they’re kind of all over. They have local warehouses in major cities like New York and LA. They’re known as the Airbnb of the camera rental market. It was a huge shakeup, but for CameraLends customers, if you’re really into renting your gear in CameraLends or you’re a gear rental person, you don’t have to worry about anything changing. All of your information has been migrated over to KitSplit. You’ll be able to log in with your old password, and the only problem you might have is that not every area has a KitSplit location. They’re beta testing how to work that out, so they’re going to be bringing those areas online over time.
Larry Jordan: What else have we got?
James DeRuvo: This one really stunned me. Only ten months ago, DJI had announced the Phantom 4 quadcopter, with its 4K live streaming, it was a really big splash. They did this big live stream over the web that was worldwide in four or five different locations. They killed it this week. The Phantom 4 is no longer being made. It’s being replaced by the Phantom 4 Pro, so it’s kind of just an upgrade, and so they’re not going to make the standard model any more. It kind of makes me wonder if the Phantom 5 is going to be coming really soon. They also discontinued the Phantom 3, and for those looking to buy a Phantom 4 Mavic Pro now, you’d better do it right now, because DJI is about to close down production for about three weeks in observance of Chinese New Year. Stock is going to be limited for a while, so there’s no time like the present to buy a DJI drone if you’re wanting to get into aerial cinematography.
Larry Jordan: Do you see this as streamlining or as simply upgrading from the 4 to the 4 Pro?
James DeRuvo: The answer is yes. I honestly think it’s both. The Phantom 3 was getting old anyway. The Phantom 4 Pro is a lot better, you get 4K 60 and a lot of better features, and DJI just bought Hasselblad, so I’m sure the Phantom 5 might have some of those micro four thirds features that might be able to come with it. So I think it’s a combination of streamlining and the fact that people have to decide between the Phantom 4 and the Phantom 4 Pro and the Mavic Pro. Let’s just weather it out, streamline it , get it down to our best drone and move forward, and I think that’s what they’re doing. Plus with the closing down of the production line for the next three weeks, they’re probably going to use that time to retool, and I think it’s a good idea. It just came out of nowhere, nobody was expecting it.
Larry Jordan: OK, what else have we got?
James DeRuvo: There’s this really cool new virtual reality camera called the TwoEyes and it calls itself the world’s first 4K, 3D virtual reality camera. Did you ever see the movie Wall-E?
Larry Jordan: Yes.
James DeRuvo: The cute little robot. Well the camera itself kind of looks like the head of Wall-E. It’s got four fisheye lenses, two in the front, two in the back, so that it can do a 360 binocular 3D virtual reality experience. Or, if you turn it to a vertical position, it can go as a single eye, 360 mode. So you can do a standard 360 that you can get with like the Ricoh Theta S, or the Samsung Gear VR, or you can turn it horizontally and you can do a 3D binocular 4K 360. It’s got a built in giro sensor, it switches the modes automatically, and it’s really cool. And it will also record in conventional 3D so you can get that red blue overlay kind of thing for regular 3D. So they just finished their Kickstarter campaign, and raised like five times the amount they were looking for, and it’s a really cool little 3D virtual reality camera for 360 video.
Larry Jordan: Very cool. James, for people that need more information, where can they go on the web to learn more?
James DeRuvo: All this and more can be found at doddlenews.com.
Larry Jordan: James DeRuvo is the senior writer for Doddlenews.com and returns with our weekly news update next week. We’ll talk to you in a week.
James DeRuvo: OK Larry.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
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Larry Jordan: Emma Dewing is a former ballerina, now she teaches and choreographs aspiring dancers. She teaches ballet, point, partnering, yoga and acro. She’s also a singer songwriter, and is working on her first album. Hello Emma, welcome.
Emma Dewing: Hi, thank you so much for having me.
Larry Jordan: Emma, I was looking at your resume. You began as a ballerina. Why did you make the transition to choreography?
Emma Dewing: I began as a ballerina pretty young, did it my whole life. I turned professional at 16, ended up getting an injury that was pretty fatal to my career to my shins, and all that strenuous training. So I decided at that moment to never give it up, and my way of continuing was to give back to the next generation by teaching and choreographing, and it was a great way for me to still be involved after that injury happened, because when I got injured, I was 16 and that was the first year I turned professional. So it was the most exciting time, and also the most crushing because I had just made pro, and then it just got taken away in a blink of an eye. So choreography was a great way to still be a part of that world and feel like I’m still able to dance in a way.
Larry Jordan: So what type of choreography do you do?
Emma Dewing: I mostly choreograph ballet, that’s my dance of choice. I choreograph modern ballet as well, but the majority I’m working with young girls and we’re choreographing for things like ballet competitions, recitals, showcases. So it’s usually to classical music which I grew up with because of ballet, so I’m a little biased and love it, but it’s also really fun to bring in modern ballet and have lyrics and words and really be able to create a story through our dance and our movement.
Larry Jordan: So the director says to you, “Emma, we need a dance right here.” How do you start the choreography process?
Emma Dewing: For me, because I am so musical, I really need to listen to the song first, and once I listen to the song, I can really grasp what is the story behind it. Everything needs to be a story because essentially dancers are actors without words. So, once I kind of get a feel for the song and the mood, I really like to discuss it with my dancers. “What does this song make you feel? What is your story, what do you want to say today?” Because when it’s coming from them, it’s so much more organic and real because they have something that they want to express, and you can really grasp that when they start to move. So I always like to start with the music and then always have an open discussion with my dancers.
Larry Jordan: How long does it take to create a dance, and how much time do you need for rehearsals?
Emma Dewing: Creating a dance could take anywhere from maybe an hour to months. It kind of depends on what we’re working on and who I’m working with. I’ve gone into the studio and we’ve jammed it out and totally had all these ideas, and it just works and flows. Other times it’s like a really slow process, and we have to come back to it every day, be really meticulous. So a lot of times for rehearsals, if it’s a show, we’ll start rehearsing as far back as a year ahead and do rehearsals weekly. As a dancer, you’re really preparing quite ahead of time before the actual shows.
Larry Jordan: Well that gets me into an interesting point. If you’re on a tight deadline, and a director says, “We need a dance here,” how do you get it done quickly, and more importantly, how do you get it done safely?
Emma Dewing: First of all, safely. It’s super important to always start warming up your dancers, and obviously our bodies are instruments, so making sure that my dancers’ bodies are in a condition to bust out intense choreography is my most important thing. So once I get them all warmed up, and we have to crank out a dance real fast, usually movement motivates other movement, so if I could just think of a peak point of my dance, a big leap, a lift or something with a bigger expression, and then I can build smaller movement down from there, and that peak movement is the motivation for the whole dance. That’s a great way for me to be able to categorize it, and just say, “OK, this is where we’re moving from,” and it allows me to get things done a little bit quicker. But it definitely is a task to bust out a dance. I feel like when you’re living in the dance studio though, it’s sort of natural and you’re used to constantly coming up with new movements, so it can be a process, but there’s definitely deadlines that you have to make being a dancer and it just comes with the territory of knowing, “OK, when do I say no? When do I say I need to stop and this is finished?” Like when you’re doing a painting. A painter keeps going over it a million times. There comes a point where you have to step back and see what you created, and realize it’s finished.
Larry Jordan: One of my favorite adages is “If it wasn’t for deadlines, nothing would ever get done.”
Emma Dewing: So true.
Larry Jordan: How do you keep a dance approachable for a general audience because it’s easy for dance to get really esoteric?
Emma Dewing: It is, and I think that’s a big thing for me because my love for dance was so young, and my peers never understood it. So I always wanted to create pieces that would touch people that maybe are not aware of dance, or they don’t understand it. So if we can create a dance that’s a little bit more mainstream, so maybe that means picking a song that’s more relatable, that people sing at home, so they come to the dance and they feel a sense of comfort and they can relate to that because they know that song. Or maybe the story is what’s relatable. Maybe it’s something emotional or romantic, and your story is so tangible for other people to understand that it doesn’t matter that the song’s complicated and unheard of, or the dancers so new and innovative. All that doesn’t matter because the story is what connects the audience to the dance.
Larry Jordan: So what advice do you have for directors who want to work with a choreographer?
Emma Dewing: I think a huge thing with dance is really communicating what the goal is and for directors working with choreographers, a lot of times you’ll have totally different visions of things. I think it’s super important to have that conversation where you’re both on the same page before you begin the process of choreographing and working with other dancers.
Larry Jordan: For people that want to hire you as the choreographer of their next project, where can they go on the web to learn more about you?
Emma Dewing: Right now, I really run all my social media through my Instagram, and that’s turned into like a little job for me because I’ve been getting work through that, so my name’s Emmadewing on Instagram and that’s where I promote anything upcoming with my dance and my music, and all that.
Larry Jordan: So that’s Instagram, Emmadewing, a ballerina, a yoga instructor and a choreographer. Emma Dewing, thanks for joining us today.
Emma Dewing: Thank you so much, I really do appreciate it.
Larry Jordan: Meline Tovmasian is an LA based dancer and artist who joined SAG-AFTRA in the late 1990s. In 2003, she received her certificate in choreography from Glendale Community College and she’s currently teaching ballet dancing. Hello Meline, welcome.
Meline Tovmasian: Hello, thank you for having me Larry.
Larry Jordan: It’s my pleasure. I’m looking forward to this conversation, and to start, what first got you interested in dancing?
Meline Tovmasian: I actually grew up listening to all different styles of music, and my mom loved belly dancing and Bollywood. That was the top two things that we’d watch on some of the old movies, growing up. There was something that was just so exciting about that movement that drew me into that world, and as a kid I would mimic all the Bollywood moves and all the belly dance moves, and it was just something that naturally I just loved. It’s funny because you’d think being Armenian I would be drawn to the Armenian dance, which I still did, it was part of you, but I don’t know, there was something about that style that I just loved and gave me energy and was very exciting and fun. There was something about the breathing, the isolation that belly dance did for me, and it’s such a feminine dance, a sensual dance, that I just felt stronger and beautiful and confident again. So now I’m teaching at different places, and it’s really exciting to get back my body again and feel strong. It’s an amazing art form that I think everybody should try out at least once.
Larry Jordan: You’ve been choreographing for almost 15 years. How do you approach creating a dance, and do you do the dance just for yourself or do you choreograph others as well?
Meline Tovmasian: Choreography would almost come to me in my dreams. I would see visions, I would see a picture, like a movie, like a string of events, beginning middle and end. It was a story for me. You know, with dance you tell a story with your body and there’s not a lot of talking or singing. But you have to communicate with your hands and your legs and your face and your body. For me it was like, “How do I express myself to others and to see the picture that I see in my head?” That’s always difficult sometimes because there’s some things that you have an idea of that maybe some people can’t execute. I would just throw it out there, and say “OK, I want you to do this, and I want you to do this, and I want you to do this, and let’s put it all together.” When really skilful dancers would come through and execute the movements, it would be so exciting to see it come to life. All my projects were like my babies, the way I would nurture it and begin it with small movements, and then add to it, and then it would grow into this piece. I was amazed and “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I just did that.” I choreographed this piece and it’s so beautiful now and I would just want to watch it over and over again. That’s when I knew that I loved to choreograph and it was almost like a director, you know? You’re directing a movie and you’re looking at your artists breathing this character and you’re guiding them and they bring it to life, and it becomes like your little baby growing up. So that alone has been such a rewarding part of choreography because it’s on a DVD, and they see it all over, at all of our parties and concerts. I’m always excited when they start doing my moves. Does that answer your question?
Larry Jordan: Have you done choreography for film and TV, or has it all been for the stage and live performance?
Meline Tovmasian: Yes, it’s been more for schools. I’ve worked for Montessori schools. I’ve worked for stage, theater, and I’ve only done the DVD that I’m part of with a children’s show. I haven’t branched out to the TV and film market. I just got busy, I love stage and live theater, so I’ve been in that world for a while. I’ve been in TV and films as an actor, and some dance stuff, but I haven’t really tapped into that market yet.
Larry Jordan: Are the dances that you do your own design, or are you working with a director? If so, how do you merge your vision with his or her vision?
Meline Tovmasian: We have to compromise our artistic vision, so sometimes I might want one way and they want a different way, but I like to be on the same page and make sure we both have the same ideas. Let’s say I want to end it a certain way and they don’t like that, I’ve had that happen for a piece, I always try to meet on middle ground. I don’t want it to lose what my meaning is behind, say the ending, so I will try to work it out with the director to make sure that we both understand what my intentions are, and to make sure that they understand it’s not against what they want. So I try to work well with others, and we all play in the playground and have fun, and as long as it’s creative and brings a point across. I do my best to make sure we both are on the same level, artistically.
Larry Jordan: What should a director keep in mind when they’re working with a choreographer? What information do you need?
Meline Tovmasian: That’s an interesting question because I would say you work with the dancer because originally choreographers are dancers, and we use our body to send a message and communicate with the audience. Sometimes it’s a little different than when using words. You work with a dancer, and you know how the dancers express themselves with their movement. Just to be a little bit more understanding that sometimes a movement to a dancer is internal, and there come emotions and dancers are sensitive and emotional people, and they tend to do moves that are not maybe the same as a pedestrian moves. Then there are some pieces that are more pedestrian and some directors will understand how to communicate with a dancer. So, I guess just getting to know the person, and knowing how to approach them, and talking to them.
Larry Jordan: If you were to give one suggestion to a new director who’s directing their very first dance scene, what would that suggestion be?
Meline Tovmasian: To be patient with choreographers because the process in their head is, for me, there’s so many images and visions that come with a dance that sometimes you can’t fully explain to an actor if you’re doing a musical or production. I feel sometimes the break down part of choreography’s a little different than if you were sitting with a monolog or a dialog with an actor because it’s all short themes. With choreography, it’s a bigger picture and sometimes it comes altogether, and sometimes you improve and freestyle and get ideas. If you see something when the dancer’s moving, and you think “Wait a minute, you know what? I really want to add that in here.” It doesn’t all come at once, sometimes it’s in waves. So to be patient, and to trust the process that it’s all going to look good in the end, and to know that there’s a different type of expressive execution to dancers and choreographers than with an actor, or even a singer. They’re all connected, they’re all creative, but I feel like when you choreograph something, it takes time and as dancers move constantly about repetition and then cleaning it up, and then changing it a little bit. Sometimes writing is like that. When you write, you keep working on it and you change it and then you don’t need it, and you start over. So I would say patience is the biggest one, and to be open and understanding that it’s not always going to be just the way it is when they start it off. It’s going to evolve and change.
Larry Jordan: For people that want to hire you to do the choreography on their next film, where can they go on the web to learn more about you?
Meline Tovmasian: They can go to melinetovmasian.com, and they can check out my YouTube channel at Meli Belli Show.
Larry Jordan: That website is all one word, melinetovmasian.com. Meline Tovmasian is an actor, a dancer, and an artist who’s been doing choreography for the last 15 years. Meline, thanks for joining us today.
Meline Tovmasian: Thank you so much Larry Jordan. You’re awesome. Great interviewer.
Larry Jordan: Robert Salas is a choreographer and dance instructor at Moorpark College, who specializes in Laban and Somatic techniques, as a means of teaching and choreographing expression. He’s also the artistic director of Movement Theater CoLab which is a contemporary dance company. Hello Robert, welcome.
Robert Salas: Hello, how are you?
Larry Jordan: Robert, this evening we are talking about dance and choreography. How do you design a dance to tell a story?
Robert Salas: Very interesting. My approach to dance making was heavily influenced by my experience as an actor. I was a theater major early on, and then switched over to dance shortly after entering college. My process again is inspired by character analysis, looking at the inner workings of the individual, a particular concept idea and building movement around that , and using improvisation for a portion of that to get to the crux of the situation or the narrative that I’m particularly working on.
Larry Jordan: Dance can sometimes be pretty esoteric. How do you keep dance approachable for a general audience?
Robert Salas: That’s a very interesting question, and a difficult one I think to understand and to comment on. One, obviously, is dealing with performance based techniques that are easily accessible to the audience like for example ballet techniques, certain earlier modern works that deal with expression that audiences can tap into. Some of the more current techniques, the improvisation contemporary techniques are used, utilize some somatics, where the emphasis is really on dancers’ experience with the movement. Some audience members appreciate the discovery, and view that, so again it depends on the individual’s personal likings. That would definitely, as a choreographer, look to create works that speak to me as a choreographer, with the idea and hopes that they would gather an audience as well. Or entertain an audience I should say.
Larry Jordan: Well, you mentioned the word technique a couple of times and in your intro I mentioned that you teach Laban and Somatic techniques. How would you define each of those?
Robert Salas: Somatics technique is, very simply put, a field and body work and movement studies which emphasize the internal physical perception and experience. Some techniques, non dance, are Alexander technique, … so the dance focuses on the dancer’s internal sensation, their exploration, and contrast to performance technique. It really is for the performer and their exploration of their body and their mind in a particular work.
Larry Jordan: You’re also a photographer. What advice would you give to someone who’s filming a dance? What angles should they look at?
Robert Salas: It’s very difficult. The photographer definitely should see a rehearsal of the work and look at the lines that are created by the work. Look through the piece for the moments that are exciting, explosive or focusing on the individual’s acting, their expression. The most important part is capturing that, and I would recommend using, for digital cameras, a high ISO, 3200, 6400 depends on the kind of camera you have, and finding a very fast lens. A 2.8, 80 to 100 if you’re Nikon, 80 to 70 if it’s Canon. So that allows more light and allows you to stop the action to find those spectacular moments where the dancer’s leaping in the air with his legs perfectly straight in a grand jete.
Larry Jordan: There’s so much that we can talk about, from specific techniques for dancers, to specific techniques for photography. For people that want to keep track of the work that you’re doing, where can they go on the web?
Robert Salas: A web page they can go to is actually connected to my Facebook. They can go to Facebook, Movement Theatre CoLab which will take them to our particular page and shows the photography of the movements, the workshops and intensives that we present there and so forth.
Larry Jordan: That’s on Facebook, and it’s Movement Theatre CoLab and Robert Salas is a choreographer and the artistic director of Movement Theatre CoLab. Robert, thanks for joining us today.
Robert Salas: Thank you so very much for this wonderful opportunity. You have a good one.
Larry Jordan: Take care, bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Scott Page is a musician, technologist and serial entrepreneur. He currently serves as CEO of Ignited Network, a mobile broadcast network focused on content creators. And he’s widely toured as a professional musician. Hello Scott, welcome back.
Scott Page: Hi Larry. Great to be back, I always love doing your show buddy.
Larry Jordan: We always love having you on.
Scott Page: Thanks.
Larry Jordan: Put your musician hat on. Forget this Network business, let’s talk about the fun stuff which is creating music.
Scott Page: Let’s do it.
Larry Jordan: I attended my first NAMM in a long long time last week. Now NAMM stands for the National Association of Music Merchants. The first room I walked into must have been 50,000 square feet crammed with thousands of musicians all playing electric guitars at full volume. It redefined cacophony. What is this show?
Scott Page: I know, it’s crazy. I actually took a few people for the first time this year too, and it has just grown into this monstrous thing. It’s really hard to see. People think “Oh, I’m going to show up in the afternoon, around noon, and walk around the show.” It literally takes you three to four days to walk around the whole thing, it is just monstrous, and it is loud like you said. You’re totally competing with everything that’s out there. Man you got drums going, guitars going, saxophones going, it’s crazy.
Larry Jordan: I have to admit that when I saw the saxes I instantly thought of you.
Scott Page: Oh thanks.
Larry Jordan: The saxes, the violins, and the brass were in the back, in a corner, in a dark, in a small itty bitty little room that actually you could hear yourself think. The rest of the place was beyond noisy.
Scott Page: Yeah, it’s a tough show. It’s fantastic to go to, but one of the things I recommend for everyone if you’re going to go to NAMM, make sure you focus on doing your research and figuring out what you want to go see, otherwise you’re just completely overwhelmed. There’s no trade show like that ever in the entire world that I’ve ever seen, it’s crazy.
Larry Jordan: Before we get carried away, you’ve been going to NAMM for a long time, and you wear a musician’s hat for all your life. What caught your eye as you walked the show?
Scott Page: I always look to try to find specific things. I was on the hunt. I’ve never used any in-ear monitors, so I was out looking for those, and there’s some incredible ones out there, and you can spend nearly $2,000 plus on those, and I ran into a company that’s called One More, and they have these little triple driver in-ear headphones, and they’re 99 bucks, and they are incredible. They are insane the way they sound. I love those. I saw those and I fell in love with them, had to get a pair. Also, there’s a couple of other things that were interesting. Aspen Pittman Designs, builds a very interesting little amp. It’s like a little stereo speaker in one cabinet, and it was amazing. It sounded like your stereo from all over the room, but it was actually coming out of one cabinet. Great little audio PA system for artists to be able to work the room and it sounded great. I love that thing.
Scott Page: The other thing was, as I was really looking for different types of microphones that I could run through USB into my phone, I ran into … at DDG 650, which is an incredible little mike package. Really set up for people to plug directly into either their cell phone or into any kind of USB and it was really cool. So those are the few things that I saw that I really liked, and there was a ton of stuff there, but those caught my ear.
Larry Jordan: You’re really focused on social media. What was the buzz on social media surrounding NAMM?
Scott Page: It’s like a circus right? Everybody’s posting, so there was a lot of noise going out there online in the social world. People are starting to see how that works a lot more, you know, tons of pictures, videos. Everybody out there’s a broadcaster so you can imagine, you’ve got how many people there, about 100,000? Is that what they say?
Larry Jordan: Yes.
Scott Page: So you got 100,000 broadcasters, posting content. It’s a pretty big deal. So it was pretty wild.
Larry Jordan: We had a chance around the first of the year to talk about your projections for 2017. It was revolving around a conversation of artificial intelligence generated music. Now that you’ve been to NAMM are there new trends you’re keeping an eye on?
Scott Page: I’m really focused on the AI space because I think that’s an incredible opportunity. At the same time it can be incredibly frightening for the music community, especially now that they’ve got these AI engines being able to completely create scores. There’s one in 15 minutes you can do a complete score to a movie. I think as it starts to get fed more data, they’re going to become more realistic. So probably the new trend, I would suggest to many artists, or composers and arrangers, is to really look at how to write algorithms that actually make this stuff. So these new types of music are going to be actually built by creating algorithms believe it or not. But there’s no question the buzz is out there. So it’s really important for composers, and I think arrangers, and anybody out there that this technology is moving things so quickly. As we spoke, they’re talking about jobs, 47 percent of all jobs are susceptible to this area, so my advice to anybody out there is to start getting educated as quick as possible and start learning how these things can be used and taken advantage of to move your career forward.
Larry Jordan: The only thing is Scott, if somebody was interested in mathematics, they wouldn’t be a composer in the first place. Where would you suggest somebody who’s been allergic to tech learn how to deal with this so that they can preserve their career? Where do they go?
Scott Page: It’s called Google. Virtually everything you need to find is online. This will connect you, and it sounds simple, but it really is. Just start asking Google questions, start learning and start following the people that are really in the know, because what’s nice is, everybody’s out there giving their information right now. There’s tons of blogs and thought leaders in these spaces, so just start typing that stuff in, start finding people and start finding those people talking and blogging about this particular subject. There’s going to be opportunities and at the same time you don’t want to be left out in the cold as this starts to happen.
Larry Jordan: For people who want to follow your thoughts, where can they go on the web?
Scott Page: They can go to either Iamscottpage.com and or Ignited.live which is our application for signing up for our network.
Larry Jordan: The last one is Ignited.live.
Scott Page: Dot live.
Larry Jordan: And the first one is…
Scott Page: Iamscottpage.com.
Larry Jordan: And Scott Page himself is the voice you’ve been listening to. Scott, thanks for joining us today.
Scott Page: Thanks Larry, great talking to you.
Larry Jordan: Here’s another website I want to introduce you to. Doddlenews.com. DoddleNEWS gives you a portal into the broadcast, video and film industries. It’s a leading online resource, presenting news, reviews and products for the film and video industry. DoddleNEWS also offers a resource guide and crew management platforms specifically designed for production. These digital call sheets, along with their app, directory and premium listings, provide in depth organizational tools for busy production professionals. DoddleNEWS is a part of the Thalo Arts Community, a worldwide community of artists, film makers and story tellers. From photography to film making, performing arts to fine arts, and everything in between, Thalo is filled with resources you need to succeed. Whether you want the latest industry news, need to network with other creative professionals or require state of the art online tools to manage your next project, there’s only one place to go. Doddlenews.com.
Larry Jordan: Patrick Vest is an actor, a director and a fight choreographer. He earned his MFA in acting from the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. He started choreographing fights when he moved to Los Angeles, and he’s currently a company member of Shakespeare By The Sea, Little Fish Theater and the New American Theater Company. Hello Patrick, welcome.
Patrick Vest: Hi Larry, thanks.
Larry Jordan: What first got you interested in acting?
Patrick Vest: I think I was 15 when I discovered I couldn’t hit a baseball, and I had nothing to do one summer, and my parents had a friend who was a teacher directing at a community theater, and he said, “Hey, we’re doing a play, you want to come do it?” I played Huckleberry Finn in Tom Sawyer, and that was it, I was hooked.
Larry Jordan: It’s amazing the impact high school drama has on so many actors.
Patrick Vest: Absolutely.
Larry Jordan: Acting is one thing, and standing on stage and getting all the applause is another. But why did you decide to get into fight work?
Patrick Vest: When I was 18 actually I played Romeo in Romeo and Juliet and that was the first time I got to fight on stage. That was when I was like, “This is really cool, this is what I want to do.” Not only fighting, but Shakespeare. So over the years I’ve done over 40 Shakespeare products, and a lot of those you get to fight which is cool. Then when I went to get my Masters degree as you mentioned at Alabama Shakes, we had intensive training with the Society of American Fight Directors, where it’s like months of intensive training to get certified in unarmed combat, and in broadsword, and in rapier and dagger. I really took to it, and I loved the nuts and bolts of it as well. I love fighting, and then adding that to it, I just really got excited about the storytelling aspects of fighting, and just the fun of it.
Larry Jordan: I want to talk about storytelling in a minute, but let’s go back to this training. What’s the training about? Is it like learning how to fight?
Patrick Vest: Yes, it’s learning everything. Soup to nuts. SAFD, the Society of American Fight Directors, they’re the top when it comes to fight choreography and certifying people and making sure it’s safe. When you get those three disciplines which I got, I became an acknowledged actor combatant in the Society of American Fight Directors. It’s a good six, seven hours a day where you take some time learning about how to take care of the sword, all the parts of a sword, that kind of thing. Learning different stretches, and then learning how to safely fight, how to parry, attack, pull hair and gauge eyes and everything you can think of with those disciplines. Then, at the end of it, you have a scene with a partner. What is great about it is any scene with conflict, you can add a fight. So you pick any scene from anything, movies, TV, plays, and you fight with your partner. It integrates the play into the actual fight as if it was on stage, and then you get certified or not.
Larry Jordan: Let’s talk about this safety. If you’re gauging eyes and pulling hair, I suspect the person whose hair is being pulled and eyes being gauged is not particularly happy about this? So how do you keep people safe?
Patrick Vest: First of all, the most fun is having that stuff done to you. I played Gloucester and had my eyes put out, and it was great. Getting hit is always more fun than hitting in stage combat, because it’s not real. It’s authentic but not real.
Larry Jordan: How do you differentiate?
Patrick Vest: I think in acting and in theater in general, we’re aiming for authenticity, and not reality because in reality a fight, it’s not very interesting to watch. It’s too fast, you can’t tell what’s going on. It’s sloppy, it doesn’t do much. What we’re trying to create is something that’s plausible and authentic without being real, without actually hurting anybody. And slow enough that the eye can see it.
Larry Jordan: Slow enough so the eye can see it?
Patrick Vest: Yes, you go see plays and if it’s going too fast, sometimes you’ll see a fight and it’s like, “Wow, that was hectic.” The goal is to have it read from the stage like anything, and if it’s too fast you can’t see it.
Larry Jordan: So how do you determine what’s safe?
Patrick Vest: If we’re having a sword fight say, I make sure that the sword never crosses the eyeline, the faceline at any point because that’s the most dangerous thing is a sword putting somebody’s eye out. So we make sure that that’s the first thing you tell them. Then you create a fight, and you do it very slowly and meticulously and you rehearse and you rehearse and you rehearse and you’re building up speed very slowly, throughout the process. You check in with each other, you check in with the actors and before each show you have a fight call so that they can just check in. You do it, you watch it, you do it a few times, and then they’re ready when they get on stage.
Larry Jordan: In tonight’s show, we’re talking about dance, and it sounds very much like choreographing a fight is very similar to choreographing a dance?
Patrick Vest: I think there are a lot of similarities, although I can’t dance at all, so I don’t know why that is. I think it may be there’s an automatic sort of binary construct in fighting, so it makes more sense to me, that this person is swinging here, so I have to block here. Whereas in dance, like trying to count numbers while music is happening, I’m lost.
Larry Jordan: So your actors aren’t actually counting? They’re really just acting and reacting?
Patrick Vest: Some actors like the numbered system. There are numbers of parries, one, two, three, four, five etcetera. So I’ll give them that. But in general, when I choreograph a fight, I’m saying, “Alright, you’re attacking his tricep here. You’re attacking to his thigh there.” And those are the targets in general. It’s overhead cuts, triceps and thighs. That’s what I’m thinking, so how we do we get there? For me it’s more visceral that way and it takes on a life of its own a little more than just, “Alright, four, three, five, two.”
Larry Jordan: What do you do if you have an actor who has to have a fight scene but has limited ability or hasn’t been trained in fighting? How do you deal with that?
Patrick Vest: Yes, and that happens. As a director I know you don’t cast people because they fight well, you cast them because they embody the character. The first thing I do when I am doing a fight, if I’m not directing, is I go to the director and ask what they want from it, so we create that. The second thing I do is get together with the actors and just find out how they move. It shows up pretty early that people can’t move or they can. If you have a Romeo that can’t fight, you’re in trouble. You shorten fights or whatever. I’ve been pretty lucky in that I’ve had to take a sword out of a couple of people’s hands in group fights, but I haven’t had to do that with any of my leads so far.
Larry Jordan: You mentioned earlier the idea of stories, so I’m setting up the answer to this. What makes a fight scene successful?
Patrick Vest: I believe that from the moment the lights go up, everything you see on stage should tell a story. Then maybe in intermission you give them a breather, but every other second tells a story. If you go and see a play and a fight is just happening, and it seems like “Oh well, this is just where they fight,” then the choreographer’s not doing his job in my opinion. What weapons are they using? How many people are involved? What’s the final outcome? How do we want to create the tension of the fight? and you’ve got to marry it to the super objective, just like all your character objectives.
Larry Jordan: You’ve talked a lot about choreographing fights for the stage where it’s a live event, and the audience is watching. How would you change your choreography if you were filming it?
Patrick Vest: It’s interesting, I was just thinking about that. I’ve never done any film or television fighting. What bothers me when I watch a fight on film or television is when it’s too close or too dark and you can’t see anything. You watch those Errol Flynn movies, or as you mentioned, the Princess Bride. These are grand fights that are fantastic to watch. Then you watch something like the original Batman where it’s so dark and there’s so many jump cuts, and so much stuff that you just can’t tell what’s going on. I would probably take what I know, which is a bigger sweeping arc and try to make that work.
Larry Jordan: But sometimes jump cuts and darkness hide flaws in the fight that maybe the director wants to hide?
Patrick Vest: That’s very true.
Larry Jordan: You’re getting ready to start a new show, and you’re meeting with the director. The director says, “We need to do a fight here.” What do you need to hear from the director, and what does the director need to hear from you?
Patrick Vest: I say, “Alright, who’s fighting? What’s the story?” I read the play, but I just want to know from them what’s the story they’re telling in the fight. Who needs to win? How do they need to win? What’s the tone of the fight? Is it funny, is it serious? Is it a set piece? Is it just something like a slap? So all those things. You figure out what kind of weapons do you want? Do you want disarmed? Are there other people who are coming into it? So you just figure out the logistics of that from the director and then you talk about it, and then you put together a fight and you show the director and they say, “Yeah, that’s kind of what I want,” or “Not what I want,” or “How about this?” and then you just work from there.
Larry Jordan: How much time would you want to choreograph a fight, assuming that the actors are competent but they’re principally actors, not fighters?
Patrick Vest: I work with Shakespeare by the Sea as you mentioned, and we have a fight day where it’s six hours where we put the fights in. Just one Saturday, early on in the rehearsal process. We put the fight in and we have four or five fights that day, or whatever, and that’s just the base. So we get a base there, and then we come back, they remember it. What they do remember, what they don’t remember. You build on it from there with as much time as you can get. But generally you get most of it done in that creation process, in that first day. Then things that work or don’t work you can sub out. You tweak it and make it safer and more fun as you go along.
Larry Jordan: If there was one thing you wanted a director to know about a fight scene, what would that be?
Patrick Vest: The first thing is, always to damper their expectations of it being done, because a lot of times they want to see what it’s going to look like immediately, so it’s a very gradual process. You’re going to see a very slow fight right now that’s not representative necessarily of what it’s going to be. It’s very important to lay that out there, because a lot of times directors just want it to be there. Let’s go, it’s got to be done, but that’s not how it works. It’s a slow process and it’s going to build over time and it’ll get faster, and sometimes directors get worried about the time a fight might take out of the time that they have, that kind of thing. It’s all going to pick up, so just kind of setting that expectation is important with first time directors of fights.
Larry Jordan: For people that have decided they need to hire you to be their next fight choreographer, where can they go on the web to see your work, and track you down?
Patrick Vest: The best place to do is my Facebook fan page. Do a search for Patrick Vest and you’ll find my actor director page there. You can also find me on Shakespearebythesea.org.
Larry Jordan: That’s all one word, Shakespearebythesea.org.
Patrick Vest: Correct.
Larry Jordan: Patrick Vest is an actor, a director and a fight choreographer. Patrick, thanks for joining us today.
Patrick Vest: Oh Larry it was a pleasure, thank you.
Larry Jordan: Dance is as fascinating, complex and deep as acting, or directing, or any of the creative arts. I was impressed with all the guests we met this week, and look forward to more segments on dance on The Buzz in the future. And as I promised at the beginning, all of our guests tonight truly represented a really wide range of skills.
Larry Jordan: I want to thank Emma Dewing, as a choreographer. Meline Tovmasian, dancer and choreographer. Robert Salas, choreographer. Scott Page, the CEO of Ignited Live and Patrick Vest, fight choreographer as well as the inimitable James DeRuvo.
Larry Jordan: There is a lot of history in our industry and it’s all posted to our website at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Here you’ll find thousands of interviews all online, and all available to you today. And remember to sign up for our free weekly show newsletter that comes out every Friday. Talk with us on Twitter @DPBuZZ and Facebook at digitalproductionbuzz.com.
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Larry Jordan: Our producer is Debbie Price. My name is Larry Jordan, and thanks for listening to The Digital Production Buzz.
Larry Jordan: The Digital Production Buzz is copyright 2017 by Thalo LLC.