subscribe to rss feed
subscribe by email

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

Patron me, maybe

Here’s a video we made about two weeks ago. I am the $5 sign, $10 sign in the beginning and the green puppet. Enjoy!

This is a little online commercial for the drama/theater program at a local high school. This kind of program, contrary to how it might have been portrayed on TV shows like Glee, actually has no fundings for their productions. Instead of having the kids sell necessary stuff like candies, the teacher, Leah, decided to start a patron program.

The shows are normally $5 per person at the show. But by joining the program at the $5 level, you get two tickets to the show instead. And for $10, you get a pair of tickets to every single one of the seven shows throughout the year. It was quite brilliant, I thought. It raises money, and at the same time brings more people into the theater. Subscriptions and the season pass model have worked well for many professional theaters and apparently it can work for school too.

So Leah, a fellow graduate of Puppet School, gathered several fellow alumni to put the video together. She’s the orange puppet, and we have Josh (purple), Jenn (pink), and Ray (gray) on this project as well. It was a fun collaboration. We all contributed ideas of what the shots should look like and how to accomplish them.

As puppeteers, we are all looking at a monitor to see what’s being filmed. Usually, looking at the monitor is what the director does, while the human actor doesn’t get to do so. So in puppeteering, it feels like you are half directing and giving the actor (your arm) notes while the filming is going on. So what a shot should look like becomes a collaborative effort, especially on a small project like this.

And I had never imagined that sticking signs into shot to give a puppet something to react to can be so much fun. 😀

Les Miserables: Can’t Wait!

The film, based on the musical based on Victor Hugo’s book (and probably my favorite musical of all time), is set to release this Christmas. They’ve just released an extended first look, and I have to say, I can’t wait to see the movie.

Same for any movie (or play), you want it to look right and sound right. It’s particularly important for Les Miserables to get these things right, visually because it’s a period piece where the sets and costumes need to put you in the correct time and place, and aurally because it’s a musical.

When I saw this clip, the first few shots immediately caught my eye. The cinematography simply looked fantastic. That’s when I thought this movie looked very promising. I am quite satisfied with how it looks. And it will be interesting to see how the director imagined the entire environment, since what I am familiar with is the stage version, where you can only have so many set pieces and scene/costume changes.

And now, the singing. This is very important for a musical, obviously. I agree with the decision to cast film/TV actors instead of actors that have been mostly doing stage. Performing in front of a camera is still different from performing on stage, after all. However, when Phantom of the Opera was made into a movie, which many people loved, I found the singing to be a little weak and underwhelming, especially considering it’s a story about an amazing soprano and her music teacher. I personally prefer watching the stage version featuring top-notch stage performers who sang this stuff day in and day out.

So yeah, I was just hoping that they would cast capable singers. This is especially important because this musical is more operatic than most. I was happy to hear that they cast Hugh Jackman as the lead. I believe Hugh Jackman can make any musical awesome. I was also glad to hear that they cast Samantha Barks as Eponine. I know she will be great since we’ve already heard her in the 25th Anniversary Concert. (It was at one point rumored that Taylor Swift was being considered for the role. That would just be… really strange.) There’s also this video where someone cut together clips of the actors of all the major characters singing. While I don’t know how well the singing style translates, they are all capable singers, and many of them have been classically trained at one point. So singing wise, I think this cast can delivery.

Another thing that really grabbed my interest was that they are singing every take live, instead of lip-syncing to something that they recorded in studio beforehand. This is an interesting thing to do, because it’s not something that’s normally done. I think it’s a great idea because the performances will be a lot more real and in the moment. It does mean that the actors need to be more capable singers though, since they can’t fix it as much as they do in studio. And the editing is going to be trickier because now you would have more variations among the different takes. Still, though, I think it’s a good thing to do. It’s what I like about the stage, that raw and immediate emotion that’s just happening at that time. Besides, doing lip-sync convincingly is actually harder than you might imagine. I am a puppeteer. I know.

In the interview, Anne Hathaway said, “There seems to be something selfish about trying to go for the pretty version.” When I heard that, the first thought that crossed my mind was “wait, is she talking about me?” At one point, I was thinking, how about we just find the best singers, have them record the songs, and just have the actors mime them? After all, many Disney animated features have two different voice actors for one character, one talking, and the other singing. But now I am buying into this singing everything live, no studio recording idea.

And a few more stray observations:
1) I have never seen such a clean-shaven Valjean. It’s probably because on stage, they don’t have enough time to put on and take off the beard. Probably the first time I see Javert having more facial hair than Valjean.
2) The idea that Eponine was singing “On My Own” in the rain never occurred to me, even though the lyrics did say “In the rain, the pavement shines like silver” and later she did sing “A Little Fall of Rain” with Marius. See? This is what a movie can do better than the stage version.
3) It looks like this pair of Marius and Cossette have great chemistry from the little ways they touch and look at each other. This will definitely add to the film.
4) Samantha Barks looked great as Eponine in this video! I have never seen an Eponine looking that good.

Did I mention that I can’t wait for this film to come out? 😀