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Production Advice

Planning a class or school play—or wanting to videotape a student production? Here are some tips from the KET Liz’s Circus Story team.

On videotaping a performance:

“The most important thing is to know the play; know what’s coming. Go to rehearsals. Be part of the theatrical process as early as you can be a part of it. That way, if you’re limited to one camera position, you can at least know what’s coming, so you can zoom in on people at important moments; you can follow people instead of just having one wide shot.”

—Vince Spoelker, KET director

Advice for students interested in being directors:

“Learn as much as you can about all the different aspects of television production. Learn about lighting—learn about what lighting is good, bad, and why it’s that way. Learn about audio. Learn about shot selection. Learn about video cameras—what they can do and what they can’t do. One of the ways to do that is to watch TV—watch with the sound off. Go to movies and take yourself out of the story; sit and watch what they’re doing. Go to art galleries and sit and look at how some of the most incredible visually creative people lit stuff. Ask yourself: Where is the light in the painting coming from? How did they light that? How could I create that on a video? And then, if you’re interested in working on theatrical stuff, get some sort of background in theater. Take some theater courses to give you basics, the language. I’ve picked that up by talking to actors, watching programs about making movies. Anytime something like that comes on, I watch it. You learn about actors, what they think about directors, and about good direction. And remember, directing is about being aware—being aware of the material you’re shooting, the people you’re working with, and how it all goes together.”

—Vince Spoelker, KET director

Creating low-budget sets:

“There’s an old adage that two planks and a passion are all you need to present a theatrical piece. You don’t have to create a whole environment. Think about downplaying how much set you need, and use a few things to offer a suggestion of place and location. For example, signs are wonderful. You can have a brick wall and put up a sign that says ‘New York apartment’ or ‘Apartment 4’ on one side, and on the back the sign can say ‘Mercy Hospital.’ Signs help create a low-budget setting and can be very creative.”

—Robert Pickering, KET set designer

Tips on costumes:

“I think costumes should be a subtle insinuation of what the person is or is trying to be. A lot of times they are too much or too little. Think of costumes as being about good colors, fitting the character—and being a good fit for the actor. If the actor or actress is comfortable in the costume, it makes all the difference in the world. I have great luck at discount stores like Marshall’s, T.J. Maxx, and Fashion Shop. I do consignment store shopping. They don’t have a breadth of items, but you might find that one single little treasure that works really well.”

—Janet Whitaker, KET costume/makeup designer


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