HOW MOVIES CHANGED THE PARTY PERFORMING SCENE- Letter from the trenches / by Bo Gerard

I will now point out two things you constantly see in films that, if you haven’t noticed already, will stand out to you from this day hence.

1)   Every nighttime street scene, especially New York streets, will have a freshly wet-down street and sidewalk – whether it has been raining in the movie or not.  I guess one day some cinematographer noticed how good the shot looked when the streets were wet.  It hides the dirt and irregularities, and gives the shot a crisper look.  So, ever since then almost every nighttime shot of a city street has wet pavement.  Look for it!

2)  Every moving shot of a street fair, marketplace or large outdoor party will move past a fire eater or juggler.  They are static and the camera moves past them, and although they are surrounded by extras, hardly anyone is standing and watching them.  Their time in the shot is so short that they could never to do their “act”.  They are simply displaying one or two seconds of the most visually exciting portion of their act.  This works great for filmmaking.  It livens up your moving shot and gives your viewer some eye-candy as the main characters move through the scene.

However, this has effected what gets booked at corporate parties and outdoor festivals.  Party planners started wanting a more cinematic look to their events and they thought, “Hey if it works in the movies, it will work for my live event”.  So, about 15 years ago, jugglers, stilt walkers, and other variety performers started getting hired to stand in specific locations at an event and demonstrate their skill.  This was “ideal” because it didn’t “interfere” with the guests and their partying.

I was actually asked by and agent once if I could perform strolling magic without “bothering or interacting with the guests in any way”.  (I told him that my strolling act involves hilarious interaction with my audience, and that I was probably the wrong performer for his client.)  These performers that were hired actually had an full act, but they couldn’t really do it at these parties, because their audience was constantly coming and going.  So, they just stood and demonstrated their individual skills.  This was well tolerated by the party-goers and thus it pleased the party planners, who continued booking these performers.  As the years went by performers with great skill, but no act, started getting hired instead.  And why not.

So now, fewer variety artists are encouraged to develop and act - one with a beginning, middle and end.  One that has a theatrical arc, and reveals the unique personality of the performer.

Now this is neither good nor bad.  I am simply documenting what I think are the reasons for the shift to the less audience-interactive entertainment that is in vogue at this time at large parties.  I promise to notify you immediately if any more changes occur ;-)