Sunday, October 31, 2010

Current State of Entertainment Industry: Production (Part 3)

By: Brian Mah

Putting the writer's words and the artist's vision together is the responsibility of production creators. Actors/Actresses give the writer's words a voice by bringing to life through their interpretation of what the writer wanted to say. Directors, Editors, and camera operators bring an artist's renderings to life.

(Photo by Brian Mah. Published with permission)

Yoshihiro Shimizu is the general manager for Tezuka Productions Co., Ltd. Mr. Shimizu has been a consultant for over 30 years. He has been working for Tezuka Productions for the past decade.

(Provided by Rahi Chun. Unauthorized publication is prohibited.)

Rahi Chun has been acting professionally since 1992. He has worked on film and TV, such as "Scrubs" and "Dumb and Dumber." He is currently a producer in the Los Angeles area.

(Provided by Amy Howard Wilson. "Space Battleship Yamato" created by Leiji Matsumoto. Unauthorized publication is prohibited.)

Amy Howard Wilson has been voice acting for nearly 3 decades. Born in 1955, and bit by the acting bug in High School, Amy then attended The American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and graduated in 1975. She was fortunate to have been cast to voice the character of Nova in Star Blazers, but to also has been chosen to voice Miranda, in the Irresponsible Captain Tyler OVA. Amy now lives in Virginia, with her husband, Dave, and their 5 fabulous felines! Amy now records audio books from her home studio and for her company, Studio V.O.I.C.E.

How long have you been a professional in your respected industry?
Yoshihiro Shimizu: I've been a professional in my industry for the past decade.

Rahi Chun: I joined the Screen Actors Guild, our professional union, in 1992 via a commercial for Buick, and have worked in film, television and commercials ever since.

Amy Howard Wilson
: Since 1979. Star Blazers was my first professional acting job.

Who were your influences when you were growing as a professional?
Yoshihiro Shimizu: Tezuka obviously.

Rahi Chun: When I was growing up, I had many influences, obviously my father and my mother and my sister being three. As far as influencing my draw to entertainment, my heroes growing up were all TV characters; the six million dollar man, Starsky and Hutch, etc. Once I began working, I was drawn to film actors such as Denzel Washington, Sean Penn, and Daniel Day Lewis.

Amy Howard Wilson: Lucille Ball and Angela Lansbury top the list. Not only because of their awesome talent, but also because of their career choices as actresses. I'm going to look back at the end of my career, and be equally proud!

Have you seen any changes (positive or negative) since you first started?
Yoshihiro Shimizu: The most positive changes is that anime has gained so much notoriety around the world. At the same time the negative changes are the mass merchandising of animated works. Many television broadcasters are trying to mass merchandise their products.

Rahi Chun: Since 1992, I'd say the playing field has been leveling, meaning today, no one blinks an eye when they see leading African American men or women playing lead roles on TV. In 1992, there was the token one minority in a cast of series regulars; today, there are many more shows that reflect reality as far as its diversity. We still have a long ways to go to really level the playing field; but there's been steady progress as more and more younger writers and producers and directors play key decision-making roles in story telling.

Amy Howard Wilson: Yes. Both. Anime has become big business in the US, and that has had mixed consequences. On the plus side, there has been work for many actors and actresses. On the minus side, very often there has been the sacrifice of quality in the quest for quantity, just to get the titles on the retail shelf.

Have you met anyone famous?
Yoshihiro Shimizu: Besides Tezuka, I got a chance to meet a wide variety of people. I had the pleasure to meet the Prime Minister of Japan. On the other hand I met some Yakuza when I was at a carnival. They were low level Yakuza in charge of organizing masks for vendors.

For industry people, I had the pleasure of meeting Osamu Dezaki and Rintaro. I briefly met the writer of Pluto, Naoki Urasawa.

Rahi Chun: When I was starting out, most of my scenes were with the leads of the movie or TV show I was shooting. In BHC III (Beverly Hills Cop 3), my scene was with Eddie Murphy, in Dumb and Dumber; it was with Jim Carrey, Ray Romano, Ellen Degeneres, Heather Locklear, Noah Wyle, etc. Today, some of my former acting classmates are well known celebrities; Heather Graham, Adam Scott, Poppy Montgomery, etc. And none of them are any different than you or me.

Amy Howard Wilson
: Yes. Going to conventions has not only been tremendous fun for me as a guest, but I also had the pleasure of meeting Ray Harryhausen, the amazing stop-motion animation master.

What kind of changes in technology have you seen over the years affect the way you did your work?
Yoshihiro Shimizu: Changing from film to digital production was a huge change. In the past much of the key animation and background painting was done by hand. Now much of the production is done by the use of the computer. The animating film process before took over 10 people. Now it only takes 2 people.

Rahi Chun: The changes in technology over the years have really affected directors in giving a wider array of tools to tell the story, and producers as far as saving money, or spending more money in getting their films made. For actors, unless you specialize in simulated acting for effects films like Avatar, acting is always acting and I suspect that human element will always be at the heart of human story telling.

Amy Howard Wilson: Surprisingly, the fundamentals haven't changed all that much. Everyone goes in to the studio and records individually, with the script on a music stand, a mic, and a monitor, so you can see the animation. The biggest change is that now it's all done on computer, so if you don't quite match the lip flap, it can be corrected very easily, with a few keystrokes. 30 years ago, if you flubbed a line, the sound engineer would have to stop, rewind, and re-take.

How has the invention of the Internet influenced the way you do business?
Yoshihiro Shimizu: It made me a lot busier.

Rahi Chun: As an actor, it really hasn't very much. It affects the work of my agent and manager in the ways they submit me for work. The actor's demo reel has somewhat replaced the headshot in being considered for auditions, and those can be emailed to anyone in a moment. I was cast in MI:3 for a scene with Tom Cruise based on the casting director (who knew my work already) sharing my demo reel with the director. (The scene unfortunately, was ultimately cut from the final film). Doing research has become much easier; any show can be viewed to get a sense of its style and tone online now through Hulu or Netflix.

As a producer, communication and networking is highly facilitated by the research we can do on possible collaborators via the net. This is the case for anyone though in any industry.

Amy Howard Wilson: Amazingly! Not having animation production being done where we live, I was fortunate to find a lucrative alternative, doing audio books from my home studio, for my clients here in the states, and in Australia and Japan. I record the text, format the files as MP3 and ftp them where they need to go. When I get final approval on the completed work, I burn and package the CDs, or make them available as downloads.

What kind of challenges has been the greatest impact on your industry?
Yoshihiro Shimizu: For Japanese animation for instance there is a decrease in the production team. Key animation and inbetweening used to done by hand, that process is changing with the introduction of more digital equipment.

Rahi Chun: Well, the last several years have affected actors and the amount of work available as a result of the writers' strike two years ago, and then a pending actors' strike which followed, and then Jay Leno moving to prime time. Every three years the producers union re-negotiates contracts with the writers' and actors' unions covering key items such as residuals and our health and pension plans. Because so much content viewing is moving to the internet, the creative unions want to negotiate a residuals system that is comparable to current tv and film. This was the sticking point causing these recent strikes and almost strikes. Jay Leno moving to prime time meant five fewer shows per week for writers, directors, and actors. We are all glad the idea tanked.

Amy Howard Wilson: Probably the biggest challenge that is dealt with today is piracy. Whether you're talking about anime, music, whatever.... There are people who think that simply because they want it, they are entitled to take it, free of charge. Where I grew up, that was called theft. The result of this rampant thievery is that many artists are not creating new stuff. The impact on the industry has been described as "catastrophic", thanks to these criminals.

Have the younger artists inspired you to strive to do better?
Yoshihiro Shimizu: I admire young people who are not just talented, but can work in a team. There are many talented young artists.

Rahi Chun: As an artist, I always strive to create and inspire my own realm of artistry and process.

Amy Howard Wilson: No. I have always given 100% to my work, and will continue to do so. This is a very competitive business, and there is no room for complacency. I respect many of my fellow artists, both younger and older, and I will always give my work my best, as I'm sure they will.

What kind of observations have you made with the current programs (TV, film, net, etc.) airing today?
Yoshihiro Shimizu: Since I have been busy, I don't have a chance to see anything current. I try to see the latest work by Hayao Miyazaki. To be honest I don't remember the last animated series I watched.

Rahi Chun: There's a lot of good television writing out there, particularly on the cable networks. That's inspiring. Unique stories told in unique ways. Creativity is always inspiring when it's given the freedom to really be explored and trusted.

Unfortunately, that has all but died in the realm of film today. All the studios are banking on formulaic comic hero movies, and they are predictable and formula driven to cater to the least common denominator in audiences. All of the human drama films have disappeared with the prestige mini studios that used to create them; Miramax, Paramount Vantage, Warner Independent Pictures. Except for during awards season, when a few get to squeak through like a Precious or Hurt Locker.

Amy Howard Wilson: With few exceptions, I find the majority of what I've seen in recent years to be absolute rubbish. So often, things like style, creativity, a good story, and good characterizations have been abandoned, in favor of the worn out, lame, smarmy tactic - just because "it sells". The whole concept makes me ill. My husband and I no longer have cable TV, for this very reason.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to go into your respected industries?
Yoshihiro Shimizu: Spread out your antennas out and always look for new ideas. Present yourself in a professional manor. Be courteous, basic things. Be aware of what you don't know. Don't be a "know-it all."

Most importantly, be curious about what you want to do. Don't be lazy when you research for a topic. Hard work pays off in the long run.

Rahi Chun: Follow your Heart. Make sure it's your Heart and not your Head or Ego. You have to love what you do in life. And do it fully.

Amy Howard Wilson: Keep your feet on the ground, and your head in the clouds. In other words, treat this as a business, with all that that entails, but never lose the passion and enthusiasm for your work. If you're in school, stay there. Do NOT quit, just to be a famous actress or actor.

If you can't necessarily audition and get cast in the role of a lifetime right off the bat, start from where you are. Get involved in your school drama club, Community Theater or perhaps your local radio station. When Star Blazers came along, I was doing clerical work at an acting school in New York. This business is unlike many others, because you'll find work in the most unlikely ways.

Most importantly, NEVER compromise your values, just because it'll mean a paycheck. More often than not, people who do, end up broke and forgotten about. Years from now, when you look back on your career, you want to be able to hold your head up and be proud. I wish you great success!

With an ever changing entertainment industry has many perils. Unfortunately the internet and media have a wide volume of people talking with inflated egos. It is good to know that there are still those still follow the old skill of observing, listening, and speaking something meaningful.

Check your ego out the door.

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