Greetings from the suspiciously balmy Nutmeg State!
On Christmas, my dad, sister and I were watching The Dark Knight. I was playing with my phone during this blessed event, and decided to do some research on who the next Batman movie villain(s) would be. According to various bloggers, Johnny Depp and Eddie Murphy are both being considered for The Riddler, and Philip Seymour Hoffman will be asked to play The Penguin. Someone also mentioned Angelina Jolie as Cat Woman, meow, and one very eager lad is pushing Guy Pierce as The Black Mask on account of his – Pierce’s, not B. Mask’s, though who knows – history with director Christopher Nolan.
At what point do these things become self-fulfilling prophecies? That is, in 2008, how powerful is would-be, or potential will-be, audience participation? I’m not going to pretend I know anything about Hollywood beyond what Entourage teaches us, but one presumes casting directors, or at least interns in casting departments, read these blogs and are consequently aware of the casting buzz, true or completely false. And if casting teams learn from blog entries, blog comments and online discussion forums that there is an existing fan base for a certain casting choice, does that affect their decisions, even in the slightest? If Guy Pierce is cast in the next Batman movie, producers know x number of people who believe they are responsible for the decision are guaranteed to go see the movie. That’s worth something. Similarly, might a studio “leak” a few casting options and see how the blog-o-sphere reacts before making a final decision? I have no idea, but wouldn’t be surprised if that happened all the time.
There was a ridiculously interesting Jane Meyer New Yorker article in October about Sarah Palin’s rise to, let’s say “fame”, in which Meyer describes how Adam Brickley, a young, “self-described ‘obsessive’ political junkie” started searching for potential female Republican VP candidates:
He was running out of options, he recalled, when
he said to himself, “What about that lady who just got elected in
Alaska?” Online research revealed that she had a strong grassroots
following; as Brickley put it, “I hate to use the words ‘cult of
personality,’ but she reminded me of Obama.”
a Web site–palinforvp.blogspot.com–which began getting attention in the
conservative blogosphere. In the month before Palin was picked by
McCain, Brickley said, his Web site was receiving about three thousand
hits a day. Support for Palin had spread from one right-of-center
Internet site to the next. First, the popular conservative blogger
InstaPundit mentioned Brickley’s campaign. Then a site called the
American Scene said that Palin was “very appealing”; another, Stop the
A.C.L.U., described her as “a great choice.” The traditional
conservative media soon got in on the act: The American Spectator embraced Palin, and Rush Limbaugh, the radio host, praised her as “a babe.”
The rest, as they say, is noise. Incidentally, Brickley’s blog is being archived by the Library of Congress as a site of historical significance.
I’ve never asked my clients if they read their reviews. I’m sure they do, here and there, but I wonder if they ever take critics’…criticism…into consideration. And do critics, well, criticize, with the intention of change? If a critic comments on the way Eric Owens sings/plays a part on opening night, will Eric read the review and change his performance for the rest of a production’s run? (I use Eric as an example, because he is the one opera singer I work for, and thus has more opportunity in any given city to potentially change a performance than the others.) More interestingly, does the critic want Eric to actually change his performance for the remainder of the run based on his/her review, or is the critic offering his/her opinion for readers’ sakes, not the artist’s sake? It’s not so much the result – whether or not the artist will change his or her performances going forward based on reviews – that interests me, it’s the goal of the critic. Are performance reviews written with the purpose of actually changing an artist’s musicianship, presentation, or style?
Think about all the answer combinations to the question, and then consider the power dynamics, or, more accurately, the perceived power dynamics, that ensue: 1. Critic writes review intending to change an artist’s performance; artist reads and changes the way he or she performs. 2. Critic writes review intending to change an artist’s performance; artist never reads review, or would never change performance based on review. 3. Critic writes review to comment on, but not actually change, an artist’s performance; artist reads review anyway and changes the way he or she performs. 4. Critic writes review to comment on, but not actually change, an artist’s performance; artist never reads review, or would never change performance based on review.
That’s giving me a headache to think about, so back to which comes first, the buzz or the casting. If the success of American Idol has taught us anything, it’s that we-the-people like to be involved, or at least feel like we’re involved, in everything. “I voted for that person x-hundred times, therefore I will buy their CD when they win American Idol.” It’s a very simple formula: if I participated, in even the slightest way, in the casting of Danny and Sandy in Grease on Broadway by calling/texting into the TV show You’re The One that I Want (which I always found ree-donk-ulous, by the by, because that song was written for the movie version of the musical), I’m going to buy a ticket to the show. Even my church in New Canaan is running a poll on its website (“Which Gospel should be read in the coming lectionary year – Matthew, Mark, Luke, John”), I learned whilst trying to figure out what time the Christmas Pageant started last week.
Why haven’t classical music presenters and orchestras applied this model? It’s a bit tricky, because classical musicians are booked so far in advance, but not impossible. Could a presenter talk to managers – it might be best to work within the same management company – and say, “we’d like to consider three pianists from your roster to play x concerto two seasons from now. We’ll post a short bio, a photo, and a statement from the artist about the piece on our website, and our community members will vote.” To sweeten the pot for everyone involved, perhaps this could be for an organization’s gala. This would/could encourage the three artists’ fans to launch Brickley-esque campaigns for the artist they would like to see perform at the gala, consequently not only building an audience for the gala itself and the organization going forward, but generating grassroots support in a targeted community for the artists involved.
And speaking of which, don’t forget to get out there and VOTE for the Life’s a Pitch Best-Of Marketing and Publicity 2008 list.
Also, look for hahnforgrammy.blogspot.com and kingssingersforgrammy.blogspot.com.