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    Rockin the Boat
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Los Angeles CA
    I find it very strange that my very ordinary observations should engender any controversy. I thought most people who have been around filmmaking would agree with my assessment of the scarcity of talent, and I'm shocked to see any pushback here. I flatter myself in thinking that I'm an open-minded person and I certainly am happy to see talent in evidence when it's there. I don't think that I try to make it hard on myself by refusing to acknowledge talent - when I look for a talented actor, why wouldn't I wish to grab one as soon as I can, instead of searching and searching and searching. Doesn't make sense. I guess the idea is that I'm just no good at spotting talent and/or bringing it out.

    Malcolm Gladwell's observation about training needs to be seen in context though. Unless you have the inborn potential, no amount of training is going to get you there - don't take my word for it, look at the science:

    It takes more than practice to excel

    "Psychologists have overturned a 20-year-old theory that people who excel in their fields are those who practiced the most."

    "Author Malcolm Gladwell [..] proposing the 10,000-hour rule -- the notion that with 10,000 hours of practice one becomes an expert.

    But Macnamara and her colleagues found that practice explained 12 percent in mastering skills in various fields, from music, sports and games to education and professions. The importance of practice in various areas was: 26 percent for games, 21 percent for music, 18 percent for sports, 4 percent for education and less than 1 percent for other professions."

    I don't believe that I'm only calling the very top actors "talented". Yes, there are star peformers, extraordinarly talents, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about perfomance levels that are serviceable - that don't actively destroy the scenes they are in. Think of it as in an orchestra - almost every Sunday, I go to classical concert performances at LACMA here in LA (they're free). I get to hear the top students from the conservatory perform, as well as established professional stars. Clearly, the stars are outstanding - that's why they are world famous. But the top students often give respectable performances. Now, if you are picking players for a philharmonic orchestra, if you find someone fresh from the conservatory, it will usually be the top performers. The vast majority of music students at the consevatory are not going to cut it - they don't have it in them to perform at the professional level. The majority of the players in the orchestra are not *stars* - there's usually one or two stars, the rest are professionals who are serviceable. Yet even those are the cream of the crop - and rare.

    Same is true for any field. If you want to assemble a basketball - or any sports - team that can compete out there and get the networks to carry their games, you are going to have a bunch of pros who are serviceable and one or two stars at best. LeBron, Kobe, Durant - those are stars, but the rest of the team are not, they are just serviceable players. All I'm saying is that even so, NOT COUNTING THE STARS, talent is rare - it is very, very hard to get into the leagues, and very, very hard to turn pro and get drafted. The numbers of those who try, even training very hard, and those who reach that level - again NOT counting the stars - is very, very small. They are cream of the crop. Talent is rare. Extraordinary talent - the stars - is super rare.

    If you want to compete in the leagues, you cannot come up with a team you grabbed from a random pickup game downtown under the theory that talent is everywhere, you just need to know where and how to look for it. It's not everywhere. It's super rare. The pickup game guys you grabbed are not going to get shown on TV. The pros you assemble - even without the stars - are very rare, that's why it's hard and expensive to put together a major league team. Or an orchestra that can score record contracts and performance venues. Or actors who can work in your film and have that film be something that's marketable quality.

    Is the director important to the performance of an actor? Sure. But the best director is not going to get a performance out of someone who doesn't have a performance in them. A team needs a coach - sure, but even the greatest coach is not going to get a pro level performance out of a subpar player. An orchestra needs a conductor, but even the greatest conductor is not going to coax a serviceable performance out of a player who doesn't have the requisite talent. Talent is rare, and odds of finding it in a random acting, music, painting, writing, whatnot class or even the whole school - are remote... and I'm NOT talking about super rare star level talent. I'm talking about a writer who can get published and get returns for the publishing house, musician who can get recording contracts and get returns for the record company, an actor who can give a performance that allows the film to have market viability, a player who can be in a team that has commercial potential. NOT stars, just serviceable. Rare.

    If you don't agree, and think that talent is plentiful - again, I'm NOT talking about top stars, I'm talking about merely serviceable actors - and you think it's up to the director/producer to mould the talent, then I've got fantastic news for you! You can become a gigantic success in staffing pro sports leagues, orchestras, publishing houses - all can overflow with plentiful talent ready for the picking! We can dispense with drafts and all those painful winnowing processes that go through tens of thousands to pick just a few who can reach pro level (again, I'm NOT talking about stars!), and we'll just grab random kids in whatever class (music, acting, sports club etc.) and MOULD their talent into pro level performances! Whee! What a marvellous world - all our staffing problems everywhere solved!

    This reminds me of the time when I lived in France and used to go mushroom picking with friends. You have to have an instinct and experience to find the mushrooms in a forest, but just as importantly, you must be able to tell apart the edible mushrooms from the poisonous. Particularly prized is the bronze bolete, which is delicious, but hard to find - worse, it has an extremely poisonous cousing that looks virtually identical, and you have to have a good eye to tell them apart. Anyhow, after a full day of walking the forest we'd come back, each of us having just a few - sometimes none of the bronze bolete - except for one of our dear friends, a sunny fellow and an all around great guy. He had, unfortunately, no eye for mushrooms at all - no matter how much he was instructed and how often he accompanied us. He in contrast would come back with a basket full of "bolete" mushrooms. Except, they were all the poisonous cousins. We'd all have a good laugh, discard his huge haul of poisonous mushrooms and have a nice dinner with fresh mushrooms from our baskets. Fortunately, he never insisted that he can coax a delicious meal out of his poisonous mushrooms, because it's all down to the cook. If you can't tell a good performance by an actor, you may think you find talent everywhere. I find talent rare, but when it's there, I find it jumps out at you - it's hard to miss! But you have to have the eye. Some people can't peg a pitch in music, sing off key and can't tell, miss notes and can't tell. Some people can't tell good lighting from bad lighting. A good composition from a poor one. Poisonous mushrooms from edible ones. And so on. In compenstation, they live in a world where talent is everywhere for the picking and great music, food, writing, art, film, a cinch to make, and never a problem with scarcity. I envy them. I'm not so lucky.

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    Senior Member rsbush's Avatar
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    Apr 2004
    "Brevity is the soul of wit" - William Shakespeare

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    Hey, OldCorpse. You have been on this forum for several years. By your username and other posts, I am led to believe that you are "old." I like to hear from people over 50 (I'm in my 30s, so no bias). I would just encourage you, please start more threads.

    You've spoken a little about your industry experience: why not devote a thread to your biography? I would also be interested in a thread about your favorite films, and what you like about them.

    I'm not saying I would agree with everything you say, but don't worry about defending yourself. Just put what you've seen out there. See what replies you get (bear in mind, this is the Internet, so don't get your hopes up too high). I think your perspective, and the perspective of others with some experience, is valuable. Thank you for sharing what you know.
    Last edited by combatentropy; 12-04-2016 at 12:16 AM.

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    Senior Member
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    Oct 2014
    Quote Originally Posted by combatentropy View Post
    [LIST][*]If you have a decent script, a director can end up with a passable scene by just getting out of the way. Run through the scene and let the actors find an interpretation that feels natural, maybe encouraging them in what is good. They might not take chances, they might not be brilliant, but I don't think they would be remarkably bad. You shoot it with straightforward, simple, non-fancy camera coverage, and edit it together in a simple, obvious way. The audience might think this movie is kind of boring, but I don't think they will say, "Ugh, that is bad acting." Two quotes come to mind: Howard Hawks defined a good director as "someone who doesn't annoy you," and then someone else who said something like, "This script is so good it could only be ruined by a 'talented' director."*

    If anyone was a fan of "Married w/Children" and/or "Seinfeld" when they were originals, one can spot a huge difference in the both shows actor performances throughout the years. As many of the top writers left those sitcoms (a lot of the UTA clients on both) for big, big money, their replacements weren't as nearly as good. Actors were then placed under pressure to deliver a similar level of laughs as before and began to play more for the live rather than the TV audience (there's a long standing debate on that as well). In short, they began to overact like crazy, more in tune with live theater than with far more understated TV acting. I found those episodes worthless.

    Off my general observation, acting and directing are much easier than writing, especially writing comedy. These days, one can find plenty of "old" reruns on the various digital TV channels (I love the 1970's "Newhart") and see actors of that era without even knowing their names. Yet most performances are thoroughly professional and completely suitable for the Emmy winning productions.

    As to 'who can carry a film", the answer is anyone - depending on circumstances. I recall in the 1970's and 80's, Julie Kavner doing occasional guest spots on various sitcoms, with me thinking of her as a fairly annoying, albeit uniquely so, actress. Then she got a small voiceover part role on the Tracy Ullman Show and is still doing it thirty years later. As a star.

    PS. One can't compare sports, which are adversarial, with acting, which is collaborative. As a fun history trip, go look up some soaps from the 70's or 80's. Most of the actors from those years are no longer in the biz but there were a lot of them and most of them - especially, those who came off live theater in New York - were very good.

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    Senior Member
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    Mar 2011
    This has become so silly - if i took any of it seriously i couldn't take myself seriously.

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