August 10, 2015 at 5:42 am #435031
Benedict Cumberbatch, currently starring in Hamlet on stage in the UK, has publicly asked fans coming to the show not to film or photograph while watching. He has labelled such activities as distracting and mortifying. Some are fully with him, myself included. Others seem to think that he hasn’t got any right to say this.
So, at the theatre – To Film, Or Not To Film? That is the question now.August 10, 2015 at 6:52 am #435033
He’s totally in the right! It’s all about etiquette. Cumberbatch knows that his fans are crazy (he’s embarrassed that they call themselves Cumberbitches). When you enter the theatre, you have to have a modicum of respect for your fellow audience members and for the actors onstage. Recording at the theatre is just obnoxious.August 10, 2015 at 6:56 am #435034
Its a complex issue for sure.
For one, it is most certainly rude and distracting to film. People paid good money to see it, and performers get paid good money to do the show. It is distracting to both the audience and the performers, and Cumberbatch is certainly right to politely ask not to.
But there’s another side to the coin. When I went to see Spamalot, the opening, where there were announcements, said that we are more than welcome to take a photo or two if we want. Now I personally didn’t take any photos, but others did, and it was quick, without flash and harmless. It was a permanent little keepsake of the experience (I prefer the Playbill). So maybe a quick photo is fine, but filming it is just rude.August 10, 2015 at 7:18 am #435035
The way I see it is that if you were to do it at the cinema, then you’d be chucked out. So how is the theatre any different from the cinema?
If I were watching a play, and the person infront of me was taking constant photo’s or even filming it, it would drive me insane. It would distract me, and I’m only watching the play. God knows what the actors on stage must be thinking.
Some people have argued that people record at concerts, so why is it a big deal that people do it with theatre shows. My answer to that is the interactivity. In concert, many musicians interact with the audience, and encourage participation and the use of phones in one way or another.
At the theatre, that interactivity is rare. In Macbeth’s case with Spamalot, that is a much more interactive show than your typical theatre fare. But even they politely ask to limit it to one or two photos by the sounds of it. To photograph or film the whole thing seems ridiculous to me. If you wanted to watch the show through your phone, you might as well just not be there. Instead, your seat should be given to one of the thousands of people who couldn’t get tickets, and would watch the thing straight one with their eyes. Not their phones.August 10, 2015 at 7:20 am #435036
I’m totally with BC on this one. Filming a live performance is wrong, because it can be incredibly distrating to other audience members, and also because the artists involved in the production have a right to control how and on what venues their work is made available and represented.
You’ll find that some shows are fanatical about patrolling sites such as YouTube for bootlegs–you won’t find Hamilton, The Book of Mormon, Fun Home, etc. on there. On the other hand, Wicked doesn’t seem to care, because just about every performance ever given seems to be on YouTube in whole or in part. I saw it once in New York and was down the row from someone who sat in the aisle and recorded the entire second act on their smartphone. It was kind of annoying, and the house staff didn’t seem to care.August 10, 2015 at 9:01 am #435037
Every theatre I’ve been to has specifically stated to silence all electronic devices and that absolutely no filming or photos will be taken during any shows. This isn’t the norm everywhere? It should most definitely be that way, if not already.August 10, 2015 at 2:35 pm #435038
I agree and mostly for the fact that it is already being filmed and will be shown in some movie theaters. I think there are pros and cons to it, I do agree that there isn’t that same feeling of live theater so just come see it don’t watch it poorly filmed on a smart phone but then there are those cases of limited engagements that I wish they were professionally filmed so more people could see it after the fact. I think all the shows should be filmed for those who can’t afford to go up to NYC and hopefully that could lessen the bootlegs.August 11, 2015 at 1:42 pm #435039
Its odd to me that people even need to be told not to record a performance. For one, its illegal since the show is copyrighted. The producers have the right to distribute footage in the way they see fit, or not at all. Even if it wasnt illegal, its just plain rude to your fellow audience members and the cast on stage (you are a giant beacon of light in a dark space, EVERYONE can see you).
re: Wicked. I think the marketing team has learned to use the bootlegs as part of the whole craze. Literally EVERY woman who has ever gone on as Elphaba immediately garners a fan base. It is now customary for young theatre nerds to go online and compare “defying gravity”s. And people keep coming back for more to see what the new Elphaba will do.
As for professional recordings, most Broadway shows actually are recorded for posterity, and said recordings live at Lincoln Centers Performing Arts Library. For anyone in New York, its a pretty incredible resource because it has basically everything. You generally have to make an appointment to view something in advance though.