Craveable - The Culture Craver Blog
Wednesday 25th of January 2012
In our ongoing quest to learn (1) what people are craving and (2) how to mold desire, Culture Craver’s co-founder, Julia Levy, spoke Wednesday with playwright Claire Kiechel. Claire is an MFA candidate at the New School for Drama, and her play, “Whale Song or: Learning to Live with Mobyphobia” was produced last year at the Fringe Festival. Claire discusses the power of guilt and warns about the dangers of considering the audience — or your mother’s theater sensibilities — too early in the creative process.
Julia: What are you craving right now?
Claire: The “Pina” movie, the new Pina Bausch movie. I also really want to see “Moneyball” since it got nominated for an Oscar. I want to see “The Ugly One,” and I want to see Young Jean Lee's, “Untitled Feminist Show.” I think that’s all I’m craving for this week.
Julia: You’re going to see all that before this time next Wednesday?
Julia: Is there anything you’ve seen recently that’s amazing?
Claire: Yeah, I saw "Gob Squad." I thought that was good.
Julia: What about it did you like?
Claire: The conceit of it is that they get the audience to play the roles, and they have the headsets, and they actually feed their lines in. But there was one section that wasn’t fed in — it was just a girl, sleeping, from the audience, very cute, probably a 22-year-old New York girl, who just has a conversation in bed with one of the actors. I thought it was really touching because she was trying to figure out her own path. When the actress asked, “Where do you see yourself in 23 years?” she was just like, “I don’t really know, maybe with a family and three children.” She had all these ideas about herself, and at the end, the other actress said, “We have to kiss.” And it was the most awkward kiss I have ever seen — ever. She couldn’t stop laughing. She was just like “I guess this is OK,” and she kept trying to get her nose in the way. It was just absurd, but it was so charming. I think that was my favorite moment in the show.
Julia: When we saw it, it was an older woman from the audience who was up there, so it was probably totally different.
Claire: How old was the woman?
Julia: Sixty, maybe?
Claire: Yes, that would have been totally different.
Julia: So, when you’re looking for something to see, what sorts of qualities are you hoping to find?
Claire: I think it’s hard. When you are an artist in the City, there are just so many things involving people you know, and you kind of have to resign yourself to the fact that you can’t see everything. I try really hard to support my friends and go to their things. Also, I am looking for things that people that I’m friends with like. If they’ve gone to something and say it’s really good, I will trust their opinion more than just a review online.
Julia: Well, we at Culture Craver support that! To the broader question about how desire is shaped, what strategies do you think are the most effective?
Claire: If it’s someone you know, guilt is incredibly effective. Whenever I get a personal note from someone — not a mass email but a personal note — I sort of feel like I have to go. That definitely works for me. I think what’s interesting about the day we live in is people can start creating support from the very beginning when they’re raising money for their projects. When they get you involved by saying “Donate $10 through Kickstarter,” you’re going to be a lot more inclined to go. I find that once you’ve had an active hand in making their project possible, you’re involved in it, and it makes you even more excited about it. Other than that, just word of mouth: I feel very guilty sending things out, so I don’t really send my own things out —
Julia: You feel guilt from all directions!
Claire: Yeah — I guess I just feel very guilty. I just know that I don’t want to get millions of emails. I just find it sort of overwhelming and a little bit obnoxious. I think it’s really about striking the right balance in sending out emails but not sending out too many.
Julia: If you’re thinking about going to a big Broadway show, how do you decide what to see?
Claire: It depends. It doesn’t hurt if it’s gotten a great review, somewhere like The Times. In previews, you can get cheaper tickets — before it’s actually been reviewed — and so a lot of times, I think about whether it sounds like something I might like. You kind of have to decide before the general consensus is formed on it. I’ve made wrong choices, and I’ve made right choices.
Julia: As a playwright, when you’re starting the process of writing something, when do you start thinking about the audience — who is going to come to this play?
Claire: I don’t think I can even start thinking about that until after I’ve done at least two or three drafts.
Claire: I’ve had this problem before. If I think, “I’m really going to cater to this kind of audience,” or “this is going to be really attractive from a marketing standpoint, and I know how to advertise it,” for me, it can just make it kind of condescending to that audience, or stilted. Of course, I want it to be amusing and thrilling and wonderful, but I also need it to be those things to me, so I have to look at myself as an audience first before I look outside.
Julia: Do you think that’s a typical attitude?
Claire: I think it’s hard because a lot of playwrights are told, “You can’t write more than four characters in a play,” or “You need to have a one-set play.” I think there are a lot of rules that people set out, and a lot of people I really respect are able to follow the rules. I think if you want to get produced at a particular theater, you should look at the work they’re doing, and if that’s important to you, try to do that kind of work or see if your work matches them. But I also think that a lot of the people who do what they want to do and don’t worry about those rules end up making better art.
Julia: After two or three drafts, when you start thinking about the audience, what sorts of thoughts go through your head?
Claire: I think for me the most important thing is collaborators: I can tell how it feels and how an audience will react to it when I see it in rehearsal or if I get people to do a reading. For me, you need to make that jump off the page to artificially create that environment in which you’re the audience, and you’re, all of a sudden, you are completely aware of its faults — the parts where it bores you, the parts that are interesting, the parts where the writing doesn’t feel true ... You can’t think about your mom, I’ve found. I can’t think about my parents when I write my plays. When I think about my parents, I just think, “Oh, they would hate this, or they would hate that.” I feel like you have to write plays as if you’re in a vacuum, as if your friends and your family are not there to witness it.”
Julia: Anything else you want to add on the subject of manipulating audiences?
Claire: I feel like you shouldn’t try. I feel like that’s my problem with a lot of Broadway shows: I’ll see something off-Broadway and it will be honest. And then I’ll see it on Broadway, and they’ve catered every joke to manipulate the audience into liking it. In that amplified space, the book will change, the moves will become less messy, but often, I find, the soul goes out of it. I have trouble manipulating the audience in that way because you risk taking out the juice.
Tuesday 24th of January 2012
This morning, the Academy announced this year's nominees. One thing is clear to us: we all have A LOT of movie watching to do before the winners are announced on Feb. 26. (Julia and Ari, the co-founders of Culture Craver, have each seen 5 of the 9 movies nominated for best picture.) The following is a list of the nominees with links to the event pages on Culture Craver. We recommend that you rate the ones you've seen, crave the ones you want to see, and see as many as possible in the next month! (That's what we are planning to do.)
Actor in a Leading Role
Actor in a Supporting Role
Actress in a Leading Role
Actress in a Supporting Role
Animated Feature Film
Foreign Language Film
Music (Original Score)
Music (Original Song)
Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Writing (Original Screenplay)
Saturday 21st of January 2012
In Culture Craver’s ongoing effort to (1) find out what people are craving and (2) learn different perspectives on how desire is cultivated in the arts/entertainment sphere, Julia Levy spoke with John Johnson at his Theater District office on Friday. In addition to being a star beta tester, John is associate producer at Joey Parnes Productions, and is currently producing “End of the Rainbow,” which starts previews on Broadway on March 19, 2012.
Julia: What are you craving right now?
John: I am craving all of the movies that I think I should be seeing that are up for every award ever. It’s a race to see them, because once the nominations come out on Tuesday I have a month — not even — to see every movie that I haven’t seen.
Julia: So what have you seen?
Julia: OK. So, you’re not doing too bad.
John: I’m not doing too bad, but there’s still so much!
Julia: Have you seen “The Artist” yet?
John: I have not seen “The Artist” yet, I have not seen “The Descendants” yet. I need to see all these things. But then people say you can watch “The Descendants” on a screener — but “The Artist” you have to see in the theater. “Hugo” you have to see in the theater. You have to kind of prioritize what you can get in the theater.
Julia: Any theater that you’d put on your list?
John: Yes. That reminds me, I need to review “Porgy & Bess” for Culture Craver. But I need to go see The TEAM show. There were all the things at Under the Radar that I missed. There’s a lot that’s about to come out.
Julia: “Gob Squad”?
Julia: So, switching gears, at what point in the planning process for a show do you start thinking about who the audience is and how do I get the word out about it?
John: I literally just pressed “send” on something before we started talking for this show at Galapogos, which is a musical exhibition…I just sent out the save the date because it’s only two nights. And then there will be a process of me emailing all of my friends. We’re hoping we get to a point where we don’t have to do any paid advertising. But in terms of how we get people’s interest, in these smaller events, where you only have 250 tickets a night to sell in back-to-back nights, you have to use the personal touch. Whereas with “End of the Rainbow,” which we’re working on, it’s more about early direct response email blasts, direct hard mail, and the only main advertising we’ve done is a New Yorker ad. So it’s on a much larger platform because you’re trying to reach a much larger base. It’s interesting working on both of those things at the same time.
Julia: How can you tell when people are responding?
John: Codes are connected to the email blasts or the direct mail pieces.
Julia: In your experience, what are the most effective ways to get through to a New York City audience?
John: In New York City, as in five boroughs or Manhattan, I would say it’s email blasts. But if you want to get to the suburban outer reaches, it’s a mixture of direct mail and email blasts, but it’s kind of a double-barreled approach. You can’t just say you’re doing one. You need both to kind of enforce the audience, especially for a Broadway show.
Julia: There are so many shows out there. Some are good, some are bad, some that are good for certain people, etc. Do you think that effective marketing can get people to go to shows they might not love, or do you think that marketing just builds on the innate qualities of the work?
John: I think it can get people’s attention, but I don’t know if it can get them to see it. Just think about what we were talking about — all those things at Under the Radar that I wanted to see. There were definitely people talking about them, and I was definitely reading people’s reviews on Facebook and Twitter, but with such short runs, there wasn’t a lot of time for any sort of word of mouth to spread. Even with something like The TEAM show, which I want to see both because I want to see it and because I want to support Nate, it’s kind of crazy to find time. It’s like that old advertising saying about “the sevens.” You need to be told a certain number of times. My buddy James saw the de Kooning exhibit about seven times. He kept saying, “You got to go see it; you got to go see it; you got to go see it,” and because it was happening in that November-December holiday point, we didn’t get to it until the Friday before it closed, but we were so happy that we went. I mean think about the McQueen exhibit at the Met. People were going crazy for that.
Julia: Are there any strategies that are new that could help to mold people’s desire to go to live arts? Email and direct mail are pretty standard issue.
John: You spend a certain amount of money on social networking for your show or having somebody to run your social networking, but there’s still never a way to know how much interest you get in direct response to it. It’s not a necessary evil. It’s something you need to be doing. There’s a lot of power in it, but we haven’t harnessed the power yet in terms of how to directly use people’s Tweets or Facebook reviews or whatever.
Julia: When you say “social networking,” you’re mostly talking about Twitter and Facebook?
John: Yeah. Because they’re verbal: it’s an outlet for people to talk about things. They are vehicles you need to be able to harness. You know, I think about “Once” at New York Theater Workshop. Almost every day, someone was raving about it on Facebook, and it wasn’t because New York Theater Workshop wasn’t doing social; they just produced a great show, and people responded and said, “Once is amazing, you have to go. Buy your tickets now, etc.” After I saw “Once,” I did the same, because when you see something that you love, regardless of all the things we see, you kind of are just like: “You must go see this.” And I feel like that’s happening a little bit with “The Artist” right now...When it’s in the awards season, it’s in the conversation, and people are much more excited. You need to be a part of that conversation. And that’s definitely what every show that’s coming out on Broadway this spring is going to be trying to do. That’s what we’re trying to do with “End of the Rainbow” — be a part of people’s conversations. Because that’s how it sort of gets implanted in people’s brains that they want to see it. We all have our lists, our Crave List, right?
Julia: I hope so.
John: Whether we know it’s a Crave List or not.
Friday 20th of January 2012
Culture Craver’s co-founder, Julia Levy, is starting a blog to (hopefully) gain and share insight on two topics:
1. What cultural events are people craving?
2. More broadly, how is desire shaped in the cultural sphere? In other words, what lures people to cultural events? How are tactics and strategies from other industries employed (or not employed) in arts and entertainment?
Rather than trying to paraphrase or draw conclusions, Julia has decided that the best format for the blog — at least for now — is simple Q&A. This way, people with interesting perspectives on the two core subjects of this investigation can talk directly and in their own words to readers.
For the debut, Julia chatted with Madeleine Sackler at a coffee shop on the Upper West Side. Madeleine is not only an active Culture Craver beta tester; she is also an up-and-coming filmmaker who created The Lottery in 2010. She is the co-director and co-producer of the upcoming film “Duke ’91 & ’92.” Another of Madeleine’s upcoming films, “Unstable Elements,” about the Belarus Free Theater Group, also promises to be amazing.
to see that or, total — candy’s not the right word, but just have a total break from reality. So a big budget action film, I love seeing those in theaters because you get the whole experience.
Julia: “Mission Impossible — Ghost Protocol”?
Madeleine: I saw the “Terminator” movies when they were coming out. “Avatar” and “Batman” are good examples — just films where they’re meant to be seen on large format.
Julia: Do you rush to see 3D?
Madeleine: I really want to see “Hugo.” Scorsese is another director I put on that list. He might be my favorite filmmaker.
Julia: So, when you’re going about making a movie yourself, are you thinking about creating things that other people will want to see, and how do you approach that?
Madeleine: That’s actually a hard question to answer. I’d say everybody walks their own line in the business between making things that are really near and dear to their heart, and making things where you can make a living. I feel like I’ve been really lucky because the projects I’ve been on overlap between those two things. But at the same time, I’m not that tied to issue-based filmmaking. I’m making this basketball film now, and absolutely adore it. I love this project, and I guess that was a good lesson for me. You don’t have to be trying to save the world all the time. It’s good to have a mix. So that’s kind of where I’m landing, although I’m sure it will change over time.
Madeleine: Most people who are making films want people to see them, so that’s part of the creative challenge for me. How do you take an issue or a small story and turn it into a big story or a big issue that’s exciting and fun, or heart warming. And it kind of doesn’t matter where on that spectrum between fun and funny or exciting and then heartwarming and touching and exhausting — it doesn’t matter to me, really, where it falls, as long as there’s a really good story. And I think it depends on the story what techniques you use to try to draw out those things that really attract people to it.Julia: Basketball is something that a lot of people obviously care very deeply about. I don’t, but other people do. Something about the subject matter attracted you, but then within the actual project, are there strategies you use to end up with an end product where people say, “That’s the movie I want to see this month or this year”?
Julia: Is this an age-old thing, or do you think there are new strategies now that weren’t available in the beginning?
Madeleine: Funny is funny, you know? There are obviously styles that change…The biggest change, I think is just the ease of film making. Anybody can pick up an iPhone and it looks quite good.
Julia: The new one, especially!
Madeleine: You can blow it up; it really looks good. In some ways, lowering the bar in terms of obstacles in making films makes it hard because there are so many people doing it. But people know when something touches them. That’s a real thing, I think. At the end of the day, that seems to be what matters…To me, the most important things and the biggest creative challenge for documentaries, is making characters and having a real narrative: having a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Julia: Like middle school English?
Madeleine: Yeah, kind of, but that’s hard in documentaries a lot of the time. It’s the same challenge as with a narrative film in that sense. Another challenge is just creating characters that people relate to and care about. That’s probably the thing we spend the most time talking about.
Julia: Are there any “bad actors” in this space? Anybody who is manipulating people into going to their bad movies?
Madeleine: So, bad-acting filmmakers and not bad actors?
Madeleine: Because I’m sure everybody has opinions about bad actors.
Julia: Right. I have plenty of opinions.
Madeleine: Something I’ve been talking about a lot recently is journalistic rigor in documentary filmmaking. I think there’s no requirement for fact checking. It seems to me that the big risk in not telling the truth in a film is that the press will catch wind of it — that seems to be the disincentive, which is too bad, because people watch these films, and assume the film maker has done due diligence. I would say I’ve seen some films where I really wonder if it’s just like an agenda and if they haven’t really crunched the numbers…It’s hard for the average viewer — or maybe any viewer — to distinguish between them. I think that’s the worst thing you can do, because it’s kind of a lot of power that you have. You’re shaping a story and a narrative in a certain direction that will lead people to make conclusions, real conclusions in their brain, and not just narrative conclusions about the way the world works and what’s real and what’s not real. For me, that’s a really important thing.
Julia: So if somebody watches it, it’s an hour, or an hour and a half, and that’s a lot longer than you’d spend reading a newspaper article.
See more of what you’ll love!
Culture Craver gives you the the information and tools you need to discover culture you’ll love — and to help you connect with your friends over art, theater, movies, and more.
Posts by type:
Posts by date: