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Deaths Perception: Why do people like horror movies? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Terry Smith   

(Note: Many of the notices on the Audition and Showtime calendars are reposted from the Neohiopal newsletter.)

Before getting into the Notes section, see the link to the Vimeo film below, done by Virginia Marti College of Design (Lakewood, OH) students where I play Dr. Taylor. This project was our team's entry in this year's Cleveland's 48 Hour Film Project competition (July, 2011). Each team is given a genre and a few other requirements and given 48 hours to make a complete movie. We didn't really want 'Horror', but we ran with it and made it more of a dark comedy.


After seeing the film, here are some comments from my tennis buddies. The names have been changed to protect the living:

You are scaring me. I must say you are either a good actor or one sick dude.
No bad line calls when we play....Jerry

Now I know where you got that wrist snap forehand from....Lars - from a hopefully safe distance in Sweden

Terry, you found your niche. I hope they don't type-cast you. I know you have soooooo much more in you. Good job. WTF here I thought you were normal....Frank

Terry….I think your tennis game just got a whole lot better…By the way, I will be out of town for the next 200 years…Hope we can get together and play some tennis when I get back…Are you in for PSYCHO parts 4,5,6 and 7? ....Ron

Great movie. Freddy Krueger might learn a few tricks from you. ....Dave

I need your autograph ....John You are awesome, Terry! ....Rick

Outstanding!! I think you're ready for my next movie. ....Dickie

Notes on Horror:

- What's the difference between deaths in a horror film and deaths in Shakespeare? Those in Shakespeare, at least those of the heroes, are deaths of persons of high estate - kings, emperors, etc., showing that even the highest achieving individuals are powerless and that Fate is omnipotent. But at least with these heroes and heroines, the reader sees that, although this hero dies under various circumstances, there is the possibility of achievement and glory if some things were changed slightly. Victims in horror films just portray powerlessness. So Shakespeare can be inspiring, seeing possibilities, while horror just breeds fear.

- Can horror be funny if you add absurdity, campiness? That's what we're hoping for with regard to 'Student Body Count'. I thought some scenes might be too much, but when you quickly add something funny, it reduces the creepiness. We all certainly had a lot of laughs during production, which I can't totally explain.

- The antics of Cleveland Friday night TV host Ghoulardi (Ernie Anderson) were funny in themselves but might have made us laugh more because of the context. As a pre-teen watching those scary movies with brothers and friends his shenanigans were comic relief in relation to the movies; knowing that he would have some wisecrack during the next commercial break would help us get over our fright.

- On the other hand, is laughing at death worse. "It's always something cruel that laughter drowns," (Roy Orbison). If we treat death as a joke, are we more inclined to think that "life is but a joke"? (Bob Dylan, All Along the Watchtower, speaking of other people)

- Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus is the most gory of his plays. Some think he didn't write it, but agree that he at least approved of it being performed. Was it simply because horror has always been a money-maker and his theater profited from it?

- Do people like horror because it make them feel that, although their life may be bad, at least it's not as bad as that victim's. Gives them a little more sense of power, that they have more control over their lives than the victims in movies. Again, not an inspiring message, but may explain the draw of horror shows.

- Do the perpetrators seem powerful to us? We envy their confidence in being so bold and exerting their will to the extreme? Unless they're insane, the criminal really is so afraid of using his mind, so afraid it won't work well, that he uses physical courage and the rush that physical risk provides to compensate. The inventor is not afraid to use his mind, he gives to the world; the criminal acts with an internal locus of control similar to the inventor, doing what he wants, not what everyone else is doing, not what others tell him to do, the difference being that the criminal takes by force, and gives nothing positive to the world.

- There may be degrees of horror and levels of value attributed. If Hitchcock was considered to be better than recent slasher films, it was due to his psychological element. Humans like to learn and if young, intelligent, or successful, people do bad things, we want to know more about them. When more pathetic people commit crime, we don't have as much interest, we don't think we can learn from their actions. We're not like them so we can't see ourselves committing such crimes, but when we see someone closer to our kind, we wonder if we could do what they did, we wonder if someone we know could do such things, and how can we stop it from happening.

- Film can be fun in that editing provides a means by which the filmmaker can be a magician. He can edit the film such that we only see part of the action and our imagination sees the rest. Is this why filmmakers like horror? They enjoy the cleverness it takes to cut a shot so you don't see everything (as you would, say, if it were on stage) which allows the imagination to kick in. For example, with film you can show a hand coming down with a knife, but not the actual stabbing, then show the bloody result, and your mind fills in the blanks.

- Regardless of their negative long-term effects on some viewers, perhaps people like horror shows because they long to feel something, anything, to watch a film that's not boring. The viewer knows he's safe in his comfortable chair, the movie will come to an end, and he will get up and walk out of the theater. But he can be fairly confident that he will be taken in, into an altered state of consciousness if the horror movie delivers on its promise to frighten. By experiencing the emotion due to fear, the viewer feels something, so he feels more alive. After the movie, this viewer feels more satisfied with his life as it is because it's better than life depicted in the movie.
Conversely, the same viewer may dislike movies that depict positive heroic figures because the lives of people in these movies seem better than his own. This lazy viewer now feels inferior when leaving the theater. A more courageous viewer will see an inspirational movie and want to move into action in a similar way, he will wan to do something difficult, something morally right, something productive or creative.

Cleveland 48 Hour Film Project - Student Body Count PDF Print E-mail
Written by Terry Smith   

Sunday: 7/31/2011 3pm

Movie title: Student Body Count

Sunday: 7/31/2011 2pm

Had a great time shooting yesterday at four locations. Not sure what name the director is giving it yet. Will be shown at Cedar-Lee on Wednesday 7 pm with group of other short films, 9 or 10 of them, $9. Don't really like horror genre but we all gave it our best. Crew kept saying I was creepy, imagine that.

Friday: 7/29/2011

Will be 'doing a film' this weekend as part of the 48Hour Film Project. Our team's leader, trained at Virginia Marti College of Design, had to pick out of a hat and selected 'Horror' genre. So we're off and rolling!

See the link to the Vimeo film below, done by Virginia Marti College of Design (Lakewood, OH) students where I play Dr. Taylor. This project was our team's entry in this year's Cleveland's 48 Hour Film Project competition. Each team is given a genre and a few other requirements and given 48 hours to make a complete movie. We didn't really want 'Horror', but we ran with it and made it more of a dark comedy.


Tap Ten - Count Shakespeare PDF Print E-mail
Written by Terry Smith   

I can count on one hand the great things about Shakespeare.

When I began to memorize lines for my first Shakespeare part I used two hands. With the iambic pentameter (IP) employed in most of his writing, there are usually ten syllables per line. So when working to memorize a few lines, I could pause from reading, set the book down, and tap out the syllables, one for each finger on the tabletop. Adding the sense of touch, as opposed to just moving your fingers in the air, assists in memorizing. Through touch the count is clear, well defined, and final, such that going from one count to the next is easy and accurate. This works if, like me, you have ten fingers; if you don’t, you probably already have your own system.

In general, if you get to the last finger and it’s in sync with the last syllable in your memory, you pretty much have it. You still must verify the order and content of the words, of course. For example, if you’re thinking, “Then I gave her, so tutored by my art,” the syllables tap out ok, but the correct order is, “Then gave I her, so tutored by my art.” Or, “thou shalt undertake” must be “thou wilt undertake.” And you have to allow for exceptions to the ten syllable rule. Sometimes, but surprisingly rarely, there are less than ten syllables, or you may have to fit a three-syllable word into two counts. To wit, “Romeo” is often a two-syllable guy, not unlike many men today.

When not sitting at a table or desk, when you may be reviewing verse you have already memorized, a variation of this two-hand method can be employed. I found that holding something, say a coffee cup from Speedway, can be used to tap out the ten. This allows an additional benefit. By holding the cup with both hands with your fingertips and alternating from one hand to the other as you count, the "IP current" predominant in Shakespeare, that energy that is carried from one beat to the next, flows more efficiently from a finger on one hand to a finger on the other. If you start reciting while tapping a finger on your left(L) hand, all syllables on your left will be unstressed while all those on the right(R) will be stressed.

“Away from light steals home my heavy son.”

If you find yourself without a coffee cup, you can retain the value touching adds to memorizing by just using your lower ribs, or someone else’s ribs for that matter.

For further discussion of text stress, content, and artistic use of text, see Cicely Berry's book, The Actor and the Text (Applause Acting Series).

OK, so using two hands to aid memory of verse is fine, but clearly something else is needed. You may not have access to a desk or table, you may be sauntering down Euclid Avenue at lunchtime, book in hand, going over your lines, dodging fellow pedestrians and such. A means of counting must be devised for times when you are holding the script in your hand. Either you are looking at the script for the first time and need to verify it has the normal ten syllables by tapping them out, or you are looking away from the script as part of the memorization process but you don’t want to keep putting the script down to tap. Thus the demand surfaces for the one-hand ten-counter.

A single hand can be used in many ways to count to ten. But I discovered a method which I find to be the most comfortable. Playing a one-handed air-piano just doesn’t do it for me, I need to have that added quality touch provides. And I certainly do not want to have to reach for my ribs or even an armrest when I need a ten-count. Even though I often need both hands when reading – one for main support and the other to flatten down the pages, etc. – I can easily take one hand away momentarily. But I want to keep my free hand as close to the book as I can, thereby not making my difficult life of reading even more strenuous than it already is.

To make a long story short (though it's too late for that) here is the remedy to the counting problem.

Terry’s Tap Ten – How to Count to Ten Clearly on One Hand

1. With your free hand, put your thumb and index finger together, count = 1

2. Using your thumb, proceed down to your little finger, counting 2,3,4

3. Reverse direction, counting ring finger as 5, middle=6, index=7

4. Reverse direction again for final lap, ending on little finger=10

With this method the five stressed syllables conveniently land on just the middle finger or the little finger. Sweet.

Chances are you have a method of counting that works for you. You possibly may even use this same method. Or you may be to the point that you don’t even need devices such as this any longer. After a quick search, I didn’t see anything written on this method, so I thought I would share it with those of you that may find it useful. It's just a tool we can use to memorize, to apply the stress in the way we think Shakespeare might have intended it, to develop understanding of ourselves and others through the joys and sorrows of Shakespeare's characters.

In any event, this is one way to count the great things about Shakespeare on one hand.


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