Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Hollywood Studios Sued for Recycling Film Soundtracks Too Much

-Hollywood Reporter (click here)

A new lawsuit from the American Federation of Musicians counts dozens of examples, from 'Bridesmaids' to 'Argo,' where music wasn't totally original.
'Tis the season for much discussion about the state of originality in Hollywood. In keeping with this theme, the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada accused the biggest film and television studios on Tuesday of violating the terms of a collective bargaining agreement by going beyond the allowance for the re-use of previously recorded film soundtracks.

Sony's Columbia Pictures, Viacom's Paramount Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal City Studios, Walt Disney Pictures and Warner Bros. Entertainments are all defendants in a lawsuit that offers some surprises about how old film music has been recycled in recent years.

For instance, 1 minute and 10 seconds of music from Titanic was allegedly used in This Means War; 47 seconds of music from Die Hard and 30 seconds of music from The Bourne Identity was allegedly used in episodes of The Office; 18 seconds of music from Jaws was allegedly used in Little Fockers; 33 seconds of music from Cast Away was used in Bridesmaids; 35 seconds of music from Battle for the Planet of the Apes was used in Argo ... and so forth. (The complaint below has more examples.)

According to the American Federation of Musicians, producers agree in guild agreements that "all music sound track already recorded ... will not be used at any time for any purpose whatsoever except to accompany the picture for which the music sound track was originally prepared.”

The 2010 Agreement permits limited exceptions, adds the lawsuit, such as up to two minutes of an "un-synced clip," provided payments are made under certain circumstances.

The complaint filed in California federal court details the alleged failings of each of the studios to live up the agreement. For example, Fox is charged with going above 2 minutes is use of music from The Taking of Pelham 123 for the film Knight & Day while failing to make appropriate payments for use of Titanic music in some of its other films. Fox also allegedly licensed music from Thin Red Line and Die Hard to non-signatories to the guild agreement. Fox says it hasn't reviewed the complaint yet and can't comment.

The plaintiff, represented by Lewis Levy, requests damages for breaches of contract.

The American Federation of Musicians has become more aggressive in court lately. In April, the guild sued the studios for allegedly breaching the guild agreement by recording film scores outside the United States and Canada.

Lawsuit copy available by clicking here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

7 Reasons Actors Should Be on Twitter

7 Reasons Actors Should Be on Twitter
Despite being around since 2006 and having 302 million monthly active users, I still hear so many people declare the reasons why they’re not on Twitter! 
Why should you make the effort? I’ve got seven reasons for you!
1. Instant access to VIPs. We’re living in the golden age of social media. Most VIPs, celebrities, and thought leaders are still representing themselves online. You can literally reach just about anyone and everyone. Want to share your thoughts with political leaders, create a bond with the top opportunity-makers, or even fast-track customer service? Twitter can help. Just start thinking and acting like an influencer. I know firsthand that you can skip the gatekeepers and #MakeThingsHappen!
2. Instant global reach. Facebook only displays your posts to a percentage of your friends, fans, and followers. Provided your Twitter followers visit their stream, your tweet is displayed to all of the eyes and ears that you’ve worked so hard to earn! That’s power, my friend. Use it wisely.
3. Twitter contests. Because Twitter has the potential to reach millions so effectively and economically, many brands run Twitter contests. I've won a Stagelighter consultation, Starbucks t-shirt and, best of all, a complimentary stay at the St. Regis on New Year’s Eve! Tune in. You may be missing your own #PricelessSurprises! Remember that luck is when preparation meets opportunity.
4. Say more. Because Twitter is such a quick stream, you can post more often. Now, I always teach quality over quantity. However, you can “spread the wealth” on Twitter. The easiest analogy would be to treat your Facebook posts as juicy entrées and Twitter as delicious nuggets. Think of tweets as treats! What are you serving today? Make it rich.
5. Characters count. Twitter counts characters…so you have to make the characters count! This is great, as specificity often yields the best creativity. The 140-character limit (usually) manifests rich, concise communication. Remember: Tweets are treats! Write wisely.
6. Interest-based. Facebook can be so dramatic. They’ve intentionally created a network based on personal relationships and display content based on emotional intelligence. Twitter takes out some of the drama. You can follow whatever or whomever interests you—and unfollow at your will (without the drama of “un-friending”). In general, Twitter is much less personal than Facebook. It’s a one-way connection based on shared interests. As such, don’t feel the need to follow everyone back. It’s your Twittersphere! Create the world you want to live in.
7. Listen only. I hear your inner critic saying that you don’t have anything interesting to say. Sorry, but I don’t buy it! Kindly tell him or her to shut it. Tune into your true inner voice and work on garnering the confidence to turn up the volume! 
Even if you have doubts and insecurities (we all do), 44 percent of registered Twitter users have never tweeted. Know what that means? Almost half of the party is just listening and grooving along—and that’s great! 
Like acting, social media should always start with and return to listening. Tune in. Twitter can be an instant RSS (or news feed) of people and brands that interest you. After listening, start engaging. Reply, favorite, or retweet others’ posts when authentically compelled. When you’re ready, I challenge you to say something yourself! 
Twitter can be a very powerful platform for you to be seen, heard, recognized, and remembered. Interested in starting an account? Click here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The ABC’s of Email Etiquette

The ABC’s of Email Etiquette
We’re moving to an age of constant notifications on our televisions, eye glasses, and watches, not to mention the mediation of our daily adventures through live video streams.
As things become more and more digital, the world is seemingly becoming more noisy and impersonal. Am I wrong? 
However, it’s never been easier to reach anyone and everyone! So how can one use these tools of instant global access for good? How can one effectively communicate in the digital age?
Well, first, here’s a K.I.S.S.S. Keep it short, simple, and sweet!
Social media rocks my world. However, sometimes an old-fashioned email (or even a handwritten letter) is the most effective way to reach someone and get results. Going back to basics can always help you grow. You’ll find innovation—the freedom within the form.
Follow these ABC’s of email and see what happens!
1. Always be courteous. Start with a warm greeting. 
  • Good morning and Happy Monday,  _______!
  • Hello,  _______! I hope you had an awesome weekend.
  • Hi _______, Ever since I saw/read _______, I’ve wanted to write you.
No need to be obsequious (fancy word for kissing @$$), but you do need to first establish a connection. Relationships come before opportunities! If you proceed with a request, be sure to prime the pump. However, remember that brevity and specificity are part of being courteous in the digital age.
2. Always be clear. In the same way I recommend returning to “why” to grow fans and followers, start your emails with purpose. What do you want this person to do? Try writing this sentence first and composing around it.
Dallas Travers taught me to ask “how” questions. The response will be more helpful feedback than just a plain “No.” These open-ended questions require a more thoughtful response. 
  • How open are you to a quick phone call?
  • How possible would it be to get an appointment?
  • How much would it cost to work with you?
Take it a step further and highlight any pertinent information (such as how questions or deadlines) with text treatment.
3. Always be concise. In business, emails are often sent like text messages. Yes. No. Got it. Thanks!
I was in the elevator last week with someone who said he doesn’t reply to any emails that are longer to than two or three sentences!
The truth is that we’re all busy. No one has time to read an epic email or write an equally crafted response.
Duncan Stewart taught me to write like a surgeon. Approaching the task (or the ask) might seem messy and scary! Still, you have to get in and get out as quickly, cleanly, and directly as possible. Go after what you want, but always take impeccable care!
4. Always be credible. If you’re using email as a way to network up, establish trust and credibility.
  • It’s amazing to me that with _______ mutual friends, we haven’t yet crossed paths!
  • _______ recommended I contact you.
  • After working on _______, I realized I had to reach out to you.
Trust and credibility can come from mutual friends, one common relationship, or even one of your credits. You’re not name dropping or “humble-bragging.” You’re simply being transparent and sharing common ground.
5. Always be courageous. You’ll never get what you want if you don’t have the courage to ask. Failure and rejection are better than regret. Go for it, my friend. (Just act like a surgeon!)
6. Always be centered. I’ll conclude by reminding you to write from a calm, collected, and centered place. Private emails are used in court all of the time. Never respond or write an email out of emotion. Save it as a draft and return to the email when you’re back down to zero. 
Watch this week’s #TellMeTony video to learn when, how, and why to create a new email account!
Like this advice? Check out more from our Backstage Experts!
Tony Howell is an actor, digital marketing strategist, founder of Creative Social Media, and Backstage Expert. For more information, check out Howell’s full bio!

Monday, May 11, 2015

A TED speaker coach shares 11 tips for right before you go on stage

Gina Barnett advises a speaker during TED2014. Below, her best last-minute public speaking tips. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED
Gina Barnett advises a speaker during TED2014. Below, her best last-minute public speaking tips. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED
The weekend before a TED conference, each speaker rehearses their talk in the TED theater. It’s a chance for the speakers to get to know the space, for our curators to give last-minute suggestions on talk content, and for our speaker coaches to give advice to help each speaker feel their absolute best the day of their talk. During this time, we overheard speaker coaches Gina Barnett, Michael Weitz and Abigail Tenenbaum give a few extraordinarily helpful tips that we’d never heard before.
We asked Gina Barnett, longtime TED speaker coach and author of the upcoming book Play the Part: Master Body Signals to Connect and Communicate for Business Success (to be released in June), to share some specifics:
  1. Start drinking water 15 minutes before you start talking. If you tend to get dry mouth — that scratchy feeling where it’s hard to swallow — start drinking water 15 minutes before you go onstage. Why? Because the microphone will pick up that sticky, clicky sound. “When you close your mouth, don’t let your tongue hit the roof of your mouth,” Barnett offers as a pro tip to avoid popping audio. “Imagine a half a plum on your tongue, which will keep a vacuum from forming.” .
  2. Psych yourself up, not out. Barnett warns that negative self-talk can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. So don’t stand backstage thinking, “What if I mess up?” Think more like an athlete before a big game, she says. Psych yourself up with phrases like, “I’m so excited!” “It’ll be great!” “I can’t wait to share this idea!” Basically, whatever key phrase makes you feel happy. “Even just thinking the word ‘YES!’ over and over — feel how the thought enters your body and boosts your confidence,” she says. .
  3. Use your body’s nervous energy for good. Don’t try to contain all your nervous energy. Let it move through you and energize you for your talk. Do isometrics while you waiting backstage if it helps. Shake your hands out. Barnett remembers one TED speaker who found a private corner backstage to put on headphones and dance — and that speaker walked onstage feeling like a rockstar. And, if nothing else, always remember TED star Amy Cuddy and how to power pose. .
  4. Focus on your breath when you feel the adrenaline. What should you do if you feel the panic of nerves? “Breeeeeathe,” says Barnett, extending the sound. “Weʼre often not aware of how shallow our breath becomes when weʼre nervous or stressed.” The exercise Barnett recommends: “Take three or four conscious, evenly-paced, smooth inhalations and exhalations. Let the belly go and let the breath go all the way down into your abdomen. This can center your energy and focus your thoughts.” .
  5. Beware of repetitive motion. On stage, people often deal with adrenaline by unconsciously swaying or shifting their weight from foot to foot. This is not good. “Repetitive movements are distracting and set up a lullaby pattern in the audience’s brain,” says Barnett. The best way to make sure you aren’t doing this? Rehearse in front of people, who can point it out to you. And also rehearse out loud in front of a mirror to self-diagnose. .
  6. Think about how to use movement wisely. “You can walk,” says Barnett, “but not pace. You can step forward and or back, but not rock.” These are just as bad as swaying — they create that lull. Barnett has a great tip for how to make sure that you move in a way that adds to your talk rather than detracts from it. “Practice moving to make a new point,” she says. “Try coming closer to the audience when the content of your talk calls for it.” One technique she likes for this — rehearse while standing on newspapers spread out on the floor. You’ll be able to hear your movement as the paper crunches so you can really move “with intention and purpose.” .
  7. Use your tone to strengthen your words. Merge your tone with the topic of your speech, says Barnett. Don’t deliver great news in a monotone voice or serious news too excitedly, as disjunctions like that will distract the audience. Barnett recommends going through your script and tagging what each piece of news means. By doing that, you can focus on how your tone can strengthen the message, rather than undermine what you are trying to get across. .
  8. Give people a chance to adjust to your accent. Everyone has an accent — at least, when someone else is listening. Luckily, TED has a global audience and is very comfortable with hearing different varieties of speech. That said, speakers can make their accents more accessible to listeners all over the world. Barnett’s advice: keep your opening sentences slow and over-enunciated, so the audience can adapt to the way you speak. “Our ears are trained to adjust to accents,” says Barnett. .
  9. Focus on something outside of yourself. Barnett has a favorite exercise for someone who is just about to go onstage: she calls it “focusing out.” She explains: “Pick anything — like the color green — and look all around you to see where you spot it in the room. Or pick an object to observe. Notice what shoes people are wearing, or whoʼs wearing a watch. Or try paying attention to how light reflects off surfaces.” Doing something like this will shift the focus from what’s going on in your body and mind to something outside. It can definitely help you relax. .
  10. Remember that the audience likes you. As Barnett says, “The TED audience — as big, scary and remote as they may seem — is totally on your side. They want you to have a good time up there, they want to hear your ideas, even if they don’t agree with them, and they want you to succeed.” Enough said.
  11. And finally, no matter how well you prepare — be okay with the unexpected. You may forget a word; someone may drop something backstage; there might be a technical difficulty. Take a moment, breathe deeply and just roll with it. As one TED speaker laughed today as her slides spiraled out of order in rehearsal: “It’s just about having fun, right?”