Where Do I Sit?

Theater_Seats

The weekend has arrived and those dating are most likely headed out to dinner and a movie, but they don’t know where to sit in the theater. Most know to avoid the first few rows and some will make sure they don’t end up in the back of the theater unless they like being remote. But few know, for which seats the director designed the movie.

Theaters range in size and shape and follow the rudimentary formats prescribed by the National Association of Theater Owners and the Motion Picture Association of America. These formats are based on screen ratios and the projector’s “throw” of light based on lumens, curvature of the lens and the screens’ reflective material.

Let’s make it simple…

Without trying to figure out the complex formulas to determine seating placement, a well-designed theater will provide good seating about two thirds of the way back from the screen. Unfortunately that’s based on typical screens being about 20’ X 47’ and the theater having a total depth of… Nope, let’s keep it simple.

Have you ever attended the rehearsal of a stage show? Did you notice that the director always sits in a specific place? Or, how about at a concert venue, did you notice where the mixing board is located?

Microphone jacks are typically placed in the ideal location for the director to plug in his headset or microphone in professional, university and high school theaters. This gives him the closest view of the stage, while still being able to see the entire stage. If he moves closer, he can’t get the big picture. If he moves further back, he can’t focus on the detail.

In film, the same rule of thumb holds true. When a director is viewing his final mixed film, he is seated based on the screen location and surround sound speakers. Even in the mixing room the director is positioned in the ideal location and makes all the decisions based on that spot.

When the show releases to the silver screen the ideal location is about 2.5X the screen height back from the movie screen. If you select a seat in that location, you’ll notice surround speakers directly to the left and right of you. The entire movie was created based on those seats. Any other point of view changes the impact of the film.

For instance, if you don’t like horror films you can sit in the back to diminish the surprise factor and reduce the emotional pull on your heart. If you enjoy rollercoaster like action films you can move closer to the screen to keep your head moving and help your stomach churn your latest meal.

Regardless of the screening room size, you’re safe sitting 2.5X the screen height back from the screen in order to see the film as the director designed it.

© 2017 by CJ Powers

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Creatives Are Driven To Live

OklahomaBill Hybels, a legendary spiritual leader, once talked about a “holy discontentment” and how it drives the spiritual to continually look for ways to help others. Choreographer Martha Graham spoke of an artist’s “divine dissatisfaction” that drives all creative work.

Prose writer Rachel Carson also spoke of this unrest that leads to creative activity, “No writer can stand still. He continues to create or he perishes. Each task completed carries its own obligation to go on to something new.”

Dancer and choreographer Agnes De Mille, known for her original choreography in Oklahoma!, a musical that generated numerous awards including a record setting 2,212 performances, found herself struggling with her “fairly good work” when critics touted it as a “flamboyant success.”

De Mille received clarity concerning this disconnect in her life when she bumped into Graham and shared her sense of dissatisfaction. De Mille started the conversation with a confession that she had a burning desire to be excellent, but had no faith to achieve it.

Graham: “There is vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. As for you, Agnes, you have so far used about one-third of your talent.”

De Mille: “But, when I see my work, I take for granted what other people value in it. I see only its ineptitude, inorganic flaws, and crudities. I am not pleased or satisfied.”

Graham: “No artist is pleased.”

De Mille: “But then there is no satisfaction?”

Graham: “No satisfaction whatever at any time, there is only queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”

Graham and Hybels had hit on something fascinating. Both saw the activity rising from creative discontentment as divinely inspired for the good of others. While artists long for satisfaction with their work, the blessed only receive a drive to move on to another work.

Julia Cameron, known as a artist, poet, playwright, novelist, filmmaker, composer, journalist and teacher, learned through her studies of the human condition that, “Art is a spiritual transaction. Artists are visionaries. We routinely practice a form of faith, seeing clearly and moving toward a creative goal that shimmers in the distance—often visible to us, but invisible to those around us.”

When I meditate on what I’ve observed, whether information from life or scripture, and many times the combination of both, I receive a divine awareness that helps me to understand a perspective that most have never considered. The excitement contained within the moment drives me to share it with others. But they don’t get it.

The only way for people to understand what I’ve seen is to create art that can demonstrate it or move a person to consider something outside of their reality. It therefore compels me to create art, always hoping it reaches the people it was intended to reach.

This continual drive that most of my friends label as passion, breathes life into me daily. It forces me to try and try again so everyone gets the gift of understanding that I received, but my attempts always fall short. The cycle begins again and again. While I can’t complain because of the life that stirs within me, I am always dissatisfied in my feeble ability to communicate such an important understanding.

And there lies the truth of an artist’s dilemma. Filled with life overflowing, always driven, but never arriving with any form of satisfaction. I’ll call this curse a blessing for it is who I am.

© 2017 by CJ Powers

 

 

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Google’s PC Police Algorithm

Toxic_WordsThe PC police are expanding watch over the Internet. No longer will you have true freedom of speech, as Google and other search engines are working to block your toxic words from being published.

I tested Google’s new algorithm to see if my word choices would be blocked. Here is a sentence I wrote that was 2% likely to be perceived as toxic.

“Those who accept media bias without consideration find themselves following unhealthy trends.”

I then decided to make the comment more opinionated to grab the attention of the reader and found my words were 97% likely to be perceived as toxic.

“Those who accept media bias without consideration find themselves following idiots.”

Here is the winning version of my statement that was 0% likely to be perceived as toxic.

“Those who accept media bias without consideration find themselves following trends.”

I next tried a few religious comments. The following statement was 34% likely to be perceived as toxic.

“Shows about Jews should be banded from the media.”

After correcting the word “banded” to “band” the statement was 18% likely to be perceived as toxic.

“Shows about Jews should be band from the media.”

I then switched out the word “Jews” to “Muslim” and then “Christian,” which dropped the likeliness of the statement to be perceived as toxic to 1% for each.

It was apparent that the algorithm used was based on machine learning, which draws from biased news sources. The more sources stating that certain words are toxic, the greater the bias being policed becomes.

In other words, if you fill the Internet with documents, stories and news briefs stating how hateful the word “gismo” is, you’ll actually shift the algorithm to determine that the use of the word is toxic.

While its unlikely a group of caring people will produce 20 million articles using the word “gismo” as a hate word to change algorithm results, some might consider sidelining their competition by turning their important phrases into hate words.

I think we’re at a turning point and need to leave ethical and moral decisions to man, not machines. Then again, can you really trust them?

© 2017 by CJ Powers

Directors Pull in Summer Audiences

popcorn-movie-party-entertainmentDecades ago the major studios drew audiences to the silver screen with big extravagant pictures. A few decades later movie stars became the biggest drawing card to pack out film houses. But recently we’ve seen a shift to a new role that is drawing in millions to the box office—the director.

The audience is no longer willing to sit through a star driven movie just because their favorite actor plays a role in the film. Over the past few years, films that had Bruce Willis in its trailer or on the one sheet poster disappointed many. Why? Because the films weren’t really Bruce Willis type films. He was just in the movies for a paycheck.

This summer we saw a lot of film actors fail to deliver audiences to theaters like Scarlett Johansson’s Ghost in the Shell and Rough Night, Tom Cruise’s The Mummy, Charlie Hunnam’s King Arthur, and Johnny Depp’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.

But it was the directors that brought the solid draw as social media buzz surrounded the filmmakers, not the stars. The successful films used lesser-known actors in leading roles under the guidance of strongly directed vision. The box office successes included Jordan Peele’s Get Out, Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, Jon Watts’ Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman.

Tom Rothman, chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group told Variety, “To be theatrical, you need to be distinctive now. That’s what Spider-Man and Baby Driver have in common. Even though they are as different as night and day, the audience can feel both are distinctive, and so theater-worthy.”

Director Alex Kendrick, of the faith-based Kendrick Brothers, has carved out a niche for himself that draws in enough audience to generate about $60MM every time he releases a film. While Sony has rarely understood how he does it, they have acknowledged his distinctive films. In fact, there have been many who have tried to follow in Alex and Stephen’s footsteps, but all have failed to replicate their distinctive style.

One of the reasons I study a lot of film is to make sure I create something that hasn’t been done before. A director’s style coupled with his writer, DP and Production Designer choice makes for a uniqueness that is seldom replicated. The heart and soul of his vision must come through in order to create a successful title that will storm the box office.

There will never be another Christopher Nolan or Alex Kendrick, no matter how often a budding filmmaker suggests he offers a similar style.

I’ll never forget listening to an interview with Phil Vischer, of Veggie Tales fame, before he became famous. In the interview he was likened to Walt Disney, which surprised me since I was familiar with both artists. The two were highly creative and did the voices for their primary animated characters, but their styles and audiences were very different.

The thing I remember most about the interview was how quickly Phil’s distinctive style was getting lost behind the Disney name. Don Bluth, known for The Secret of NIMH, had the same problem differentiating himself from Disney. It takes a strong director to carve out a niche for his own style that is memorable and draws an audience to the box office.

So who’s your favorite director?

© 2017 by CJ Powers

Facebook Hackers Attack

FacebookBy now you’ve noticed that my personal Facebook profile no longer exists. That means I’m no longer able to communicate back and forth with you in Facebook. Why?—Because my profile was hacked and then deactivated.

My blog and books generated about 6-40 new “friends” a week, but suddenly jumped to 100-300 and then to 500 daily until I hit the 5,000 friend cap. The growing number of new friends attracted the unscrupulous who sneaked in. One person even figured out my password and removed me from managing my page.

But now, if you’re reading this post in Facebook, you found my professional page and either liked it or I transferred you as an initial like. The number of likes will drop in the first few days as some will unlike the page. And, some who wanted to communicate with me will have to hang in there for a bit before I reopen communications with “friends.”

If you want to like my new hack free page on Facebook you can search for me in Facebook with the following: @cjpowersppi

Or, you can use the URL: http://facebook.com/cjpowersppi/

I’ll get back to my postings in the near future, after resting up from the 48-hour hacker battle I endured.

 

 

Goodbye Fake News, Hello Selective News

The Media Can Filter Your Perception

Publishers decided what news the public got to read since the manual typeset presses created single page newspapers. There were always more stories than printed space available. But today, the selection process is changing based on technology and demographics.

Social_MediaBack in the 1980’s magazines released regional versions of their articles that were slanted toward its recipients to build more customers. People in the large cities received more liberal editions than the folks living in the Bible Belt. Advertisers could be more specific about who their audience was and create relevant messages.

Our printless society took selective publishing to another level. Millions of niche publications suddenly had a voice and was capable of attracting a very specific demographic. Advertising soon followed with a selection process that allowed you to determine who saw your ads.

Targeted Ads

I placed an ad recently for an automotive shop that was very specific. Since women make 80% of all car decisions, I targeted only women. Due to the average nationwide cost of keeping a car well maintained and what percentage the average person budgets, I selected a specific income window for each given household. My demographic profile then narrowed the focus of the ad campaign more precisely.

The end result was only women that fit the parameters saw the ad pop up on their computer screen or mobile device, while they searched or used a social media. There were 7,913 women that saw the ad, 23 that clicked on the ad, and 3 that responded to the ad—The selection process meant that it only cost the company about $23 to get three new ideal customers who spent $200-$600.

Can you imagine a world where you only get the specific ads you care about?

Now fast forward into the brains behind the largest social media firms. It suddenly dawns on them that they can save the country from a devastating blow to our national unity. They already own a solution that can bring peace across all social media platforms, reducing the controversies that divide families, communities and political parties.

What if the platform team filters who gets what?

Selective News

An article popped up this week about one company showing heavy support to the LGBT community on pro-LGBT pages, but not on pages that hold a more conservative perspective. Individuals known for supporting LGBT all saw the information, while conservatives never knew the company promoted the LGBT agenda publicly.

This technology has been used for years to focus advertising and is now positioned to focus “news.” Companies that support the left can now say it boldly to liberals and then turn around and support the right’s ideals to conservatives, convincing both sides that the company fully supports their ideologies. And, with the massive support people of faith bring to conservative organizations, liberal companies can now seek their support by angling their messages accordingly.

Consider the political candidate who can speak generally and moderately in public, but in detail to his or her liberal crowd, followed by speaking affirming words to his or her conservative crowd seconds later. The candidate will appear perfect to all voters and capture the election, while the non-savvy candidate won’t know what happened.

Then consider news companies only giving you the news that can specifically alter your perceptions and control your decisions, or how about presenting the stories that always make you comfortable and passive.

Can someone rise to power using social media that you believe, while pulling the wool over your eyes? In today’s technology focused profiling atmosphere, the answer is simply, “yes.”

A Simple Solution

The only way to avoid such a controlling society is to use face-to-face communications and gather together people where everyone wants to learn the real truth. Also important is creating an atmosphere where the sharing of ideas is more important than winning someone over to your perspective. Our survival from falling into the latest propaganda trap is merely to communicate truth, while exhibiting an open mind with our neighbors, friends and families.

How do you know that what you are reading and hearing from your favorite source is the real truth and not the one produced to keep you from taking some form of action against those in power?

© 2017 by CJ Powers

Mentors Breathe Inspiration into Creativity

Movie_Theatre

My Home Town Movie Theatre

When I mentor young filmmakers in how to develop their style and breathe life into their films, I often watch their eyes close me out from their thoughts. They are adamant about making sure the film is theirs and they don’t want anyone to give them a helping hand. This is problematic for a collaborative art form.

The idea of inspiring someone to a higher level of art can only come from words of encouragement, difficult moments of challenge, and the sharing of conceptual ideas. The word, “inspire,” means to “breathe into” or to “infuse with life by breathing.” That means someone has to do the breathing of new ideas to help the filmmaker get his mind cranking.

The creative process requires an environment of ideas, enthusiasm and energy. These are tools that help us gain experience from others and expose our minds to various styles and artistry. The shared wealth of history creates a powerful form of influence that brings the young filmmaker to a higher level of art than his or her counter parts ever achieve. Yet, Millennials seldom want to collaborate.

Inspiration of Mentors Stir Our Heartfelt Voice

The best thing that happens in a collaborative process is the deep sense that your own ideas demand to be heard. From deep within the gut comes this voice begging to resound. The inspiration of mentors draw out those deep ideas from within us and we suddenly find a way to express them. The inspiration brings our ideas to the surface so we can take action.

Unfortunately some people think that when you share a creative idea with the hopes of inspiring them, they think you want them to use your idea. But that is far from the truth. The mentor only wants to get the filmmaker thinking about something they never finished thinking about—that special something that resides deep within their heart.

I was mentoring one filmmaker who wanted to create a world that lacked water. The scarcity drove many to kill for a single cup of fresh water. The original script had a sign in it that made the idea of water scarce, but I suggested he find a way to demonstrate the rarity of water instead.

His latest cut of the film had the water sewn throughout the entire story as the key driver of all decisions made by every character. It became obvious that the liquid was such a rare commodity that everyone’s life changed in the presence of fresh water. Within that setting his protagonist could then mature and become a person who questioned his selfishness and chose to demonstrate love sacrificially.

While I gave him a handful of ideas that were plausible to demonstrate the scarcity of water, he was inspired enough to come up with his own unique ideas. Not one of my suggestions made it into the film, which was good, because my goal was to inspire his convictions and expressions. His choices worked.

The Journey of Understanding

Film is an emotional medium that comes from the heart. Those who hold to conservative standards make conservative films. Those who understand the liberal first and then make conservative films takes the audience on a journey that ends with a conservative view that makes sense to all, not just those with likeminded ideologies.

By finding inspiration from both sides of the political spectrum, a filmmaker becomes more powerful in the messages he can send to an audience that’s hungry for answers to the latest societal issues. But closed-minded conservatives who only focus on their views can present nothing of value to the liberal.

And what good is a film that only reaches the likeminded?

Film is not necessary when used as a tool of validation. It’s only necessary to help opposing viewpoints be understood. When film demonstrates the potential results of an idea, while touching the emotions of everyone watching, the audience is able to buy into the concepts and consider how they might apply within their own life.

For this reason I hangout with liberals and conservatives. I read both sides of every issue. And, I create paths through story that will take an audience to the life-breathing conclusion that cries out to be heard. These actions breathe creativity into each viewer so he or she is capable of altering their life with healthier choices.

© 2017 by CJ Powers