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Puppet Kaos - where Kelvin Kao plays with puppets and tell random stories

Why Being a Puppeteer Is Like Being A Director

Last time we talked about why being a puppeteer is like being an actor, but something I’ve realized is that being a puppeteer is a lot like being a director too! (Actually this is more related to video puppetry than live puppetry, because in video puppetry, the director can stop the camera any time to give directions.) Here’s why:

1. You Get to Watch the Performance

When actors perform, unless there is a giant mirror in front of them, they can only imagine what their performances look like. Even if there’s a mirror in front of him, he can’t looking in it if the script calls him to look at something else (remember those videos in which people seem to be looking at teleprompters?). In video puppetry, ideally you would have a monitor to look at. This monitor is either the camera’s LCD panel or some sort of TV screen sitting on a floor showing you exactly what’s being filmed. Looking at what exactly is being shot is something normally only the director can do (okay, and the cameraman and maybe the continuity supervisor and so on, but not the actors themselves). While the actors need the director to tell them what looked good and what they should change in the next take, puppeteers make their own observations and make some corrections as they go.

2. You Get to Frame the Shot

The director decides what’s visible within the rectangle and the relative positions of how the props and performers are going to appear. While this is the director’s decision, they can only give you the big picture (no pun intended) so there are some fine details that you might need to decide yourself. For example, when a puppet is walking across, he will bounce up and down. The director can tell you where to start, where to end, and which part of the frame to occupy, but something like how much to bounce up and down and how much of the puppet is visible at any given time is simply too many details to communicate sometimes. In that sense, since the puppeteer is able to see the whole frame, he can sometimes help with the composition of the picture too.

3. Sometimes, You ARE Directing Yourself

Sometimes, the director is simply not as familiar with puppetry as you are. When they want a cry to be bigger, they might be able to tell the actor how to do that, but they might not know what’s the equivalent for the puppet. In that case, a puppeteer will need to direct himself.

Of course, for every project to turn out well, you need everyone on the team to put in good work. I am definitely not saying that a director can be replaced with a puppeteer because they are still different jobs that require different skills. What I am pointing out, is that there are some aspect of a puppeteer’s work that are similar to that of the director’s, and by noticing that, we just might make the final product better. :-)

Related post:

Why Being a Puppeteer is like Being an Actor

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