Archive for December, 2011

The Wizard of Oz

Monday, December 26th, 2011

Never having seen the classic film, The Wizard of Oz I attempted to watch it the other day. The attempt failed. From the outset I was disappointed by what I saw. The film begins in a monochrome sepia tint, it’s shot in 4:3 aspect ratio and uses obvious studio sets in its scenes. The film image quality when compared to HD television is unacceptable and the sound quality recording of the film is only just acceptable. Admittedly, the film bursts into colour after twenty minutes or so but the effect is lurid rather than sensational. And, when all is said and done, it is a children’s film.

No doubt the film was sensational in its day and represented cutting edge technologically in film-making terms. Unfortunately, time is not kind to such boasts and they only carry weight when the film is considered as a historical artifact and not as a work of art in itself. Viewing the film becomes a history lesson then, rather than an enjoyable experience in itself.

The Wizard of Oz is supposed to be a compelling story though, a timeless classic. It might be in print but the improvement in the mechanics of film making over the decades has acted as a barrier to the enjoyment of the story. And such is the young age of the art form that camera techniques and editing styles are still being developed and therefore subject to fashion. And with new media competing for cinema audiences, how much of film-making technique is geared towards instant gratification rather than considered exploration of the subject matter? You only need to look at what is happening in the music industry to see the temptation.

The most successful children’s stories are as equally as compelling for adults. Indeed, the success of any story is determined by its relevance to as many demographics and to as many cultures as possible.

Some stories would be universal and timeless in film but the delivery of the story is not. Technical issues interfere with the connection between the storyteller and the recipient. This is why the written word (and by extension, theatre) is still the best medium for telling a story; the images remain as sharp and the voices as distinct as our own imagination (or eyesight) allows.

Those Bettakultcha story tellers, they just make it up as they go along…

Friday, December 23rd, 2011
Christmas BettaKultcha 2011. Quality.

Christmas BettaKultcha 2011. Quality.

In the colorful history of Bettakultcha, two pivotal moments have occurred  which have polarised the audience. The first happened a few months ago when a controversial film was shown during the interval. In that instance, Bettakultcha emerged bigger and stronger. The second moment has yet to reach a defining conclusion.

Here is the story of the second incident.

At the Christmas Bettakultcha event in the Corn Exchange, Martin Carter, a drag artist,  did a presentation which involved miming to a musical track about vegemite. Martin displayed images and lyrics on his slides and performed in flamboyant burlesque style. The result was hilariously entertaining. I remember thinking, ‘I wouldn’t like to follow that presentation’.

As it happened, the acts that followed Martin were more than capable of holding their own and the evening finished on a massive high.

So what’s the problem? Well, it appears that afterwards in various hostelries around the Corn Exchange, the audience discussed this performance and divided themselves into two distinct camps. On the one side was the traditionalists who argued that miming was, cheating and shouldn’t be allowed at the event. The other side argued that the event was more of a cabaret and shouldn’t be restricted by simple rules about speaking. It was also related to me in despatches (I was not present in the pub but unglamorously de-rigging and tidying up in the Corn Exchange despite my boast to the audience earlier in the evening that after the show I was going to go to a sex and cocaine party thrown by the Krankies) that some people actually thought that the Random Slide Challenge should be dropped!

Here are my thoughts on the matter.

When I started Bettakultcha with Richard Michie I used to joke to the audience that we were making it up as we went along. Except I wasn’t joking. We really were making it up. If something worked we kept it for the next event, if it didn’t, it was dropped. The fact that the concept was based on talking presentations didn’t limit the potential creativity; talking presentations was just the start. In fact the template of twenty slides lasting fifteen seconds each is just a good way of creating a start point for people who might otherwise be overwhelmed when faced with the entire world to explore. The possibilities for innovation with this format are endless, five minute plays could be written, rap songs performed, comedy sketches… we just needed the adventurous people to explore them.

Most people stick to the tried and tested formula of talking over twenty slides. I have no problem with this. If their idea or passion is strong enough, then the template works every time. However, when someone attempts an innovative variation on the template, I rejoice; creativity, originality and innovation is what will set Bettakultcha apart from all the other speaking events that currently exist—it should be encouraged.

So I was amazed that some people actually wanted to halt the development of Bettakultcha at a particular stage in its evolution (sure, we’re running strongly now but imagine if we could fly too). How could anyone imagine that Martin was cheating? Let’s look at the Bettakultcha rules again;

Did he use twenty slides?
Yes.

Did they last fifteen seconds each?
Yes.

Did he do a sales pitch?
Erm, he did mention vegemite but in a negative way, so, no.

No cheating there then.

But I can see the objection raised by the people in the pub. If you allow miming, what’s to stop someone from just playing their favourite music track, whilst showing pictures of their favourite band and they played air guitar for five minutes.

Nothing*.

We would allow that because anyone who imagines that such an act would entertain the audience is either genuinely good or comedically deluded. Either way, it would be interesting to watch and bound to get a reaction from the Bettakultcha audience.

Oh, I forgot to mention one caveat (which fortunately we haven’t had to exercise yet), if Richard or myself don’t like the way something is being presented, then we pull the plug on them. We’ll use our common sense and intuition for the benefit of all. This approach has worked well so far and as Bettakultcha is a story in the making, we’ll continue to employ the same strategy.

*We wouldn’t be able to post the video of the performance on any internet sites though, because of copyright infringement of the music. Martin’s performance therefore, will have to remain a memory for those who were there on the night.