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It’s Steve Jobs’ World; You’re Just Acting in It

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In the short time since Steve Jobs passed away this week, there has been more written about how he changed the way we live than any one person could ever hope to read. Media oversaturation is the norm when a person of Jobs’ fame dies in our current, hyper-connected age. But Jobs’ death is the rare case in which the attention is warranted—because without the company that he created, was fired from, then reinvigorated upon his return, we would not have the hyper-connectivity that makes it possible for mourning him to be a national pastime.

Actors tend to think of themselves as artists first. They’re also media workers, and the revolution that Jobs helped bring about has changed the way that actors’ work is created and consumed. (Though as the stage performer Mike Daisey pointed out in the New York Times, Apple’s methods and goals have not always been humane and high-minded.) With software such as Final Cut Pro, Apple put professional-quality filmmaking tools into the hands of hobbyists, and helped give birth to the current generation of entrepreneurial performers. For actors creating their own content—whether it be a Funny or Die video, a Sundance-bound feature-length film, or even a television show—Apple hardware is king. Need proof? Emmy-nominated actor and notorious control freak Louis C.K. edits episodes of his FX series “Louie” on a MacBook.

Then there’s the consumer end. Apple didn’t create the smartphone or the tablet computer, but it created the rabid consumer demand that made them the platforms of the future. It did this through innovation in both technology and design (the latter being a noted obsession of Jobs’). There are a lot of non-Apple smartphones out there, but none that don’t feel like they’re trying to trick the owner into believing that he or she is holding an iPhone. And when the much vaunted Kindle Fire was unveiled last week, the talk that followed was less about Amazon’s new tablet than it was about whether an “iPad killer” had finally arrived. (The jury is still out, but so far Stephen Colbert has yet to beg on air for a Kindle Fire.)

It may sound like hyperbole, but Apple made the Internet mobile—and mobility is what made the Internet the future distribution method for filmed entertainment. Already, Netflix, Amazon, and Apple’s iTunes have ravaged the DVD market through which so many actors earn the residual payments they rely on. Television is next, and Hollywood is starting to take notice. The attempt to save the soap opera genre by moving it online, for instance, wouldn’t be happening if it were not now possible to access such content from virtually any couch, car, or airplane. “This is about movement,” soap actor turned Web series producer Crystal Chappell told Back Stage last week.  “People are moving around, and they don’t necessarily have time to sit in front of the TV. So make it mobile”

Jobs and Apple made everything mobile. They put the world (and now an HD camera) in your back pocket, and—among so many other achievements—made it possible for anyone to create or watch filmed entertainment anywhere. They built the stage on which future generations of actors will perform.

Image: Surian Soosay via Flickr Commons

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