« Jay Leno to Receive Harvard's Hasty Pudding Award | Main | NBC Greenlights Musical Pilot »

New York Times Acting School: Lessons From Sundance

NY Times
This year’s Sundance Film Festival, which ends Sunday, features plenty of dramatic films with strong performances. But the film here that may provide the best lesson for actors is an unlikely one: “Page One: A Year Inside The New York Times.” It’s a documentary about The New York Times. Maybe you guessed that from the title.

As a feature film, “Page One” is first and foremost entertaining, mostly thanks to media columnist David Carr, who gets more screen time than any other Times staffer and who smokes and curses his way through the film. (Carr, with his stooped posture, tales of addiction, and complete contempt for other people’s B.S. comes off like a 21st-century embodiment of the romantic newspaperman ideal.) As a piece of journalism, it’s not exactly “The Kingdom and the Power.” The film is less about the way the Times newsroom operates than it is about how the changes brought by the Web to news distribution and advertising are altering the way the Times newsroom operates. In the film, Atlantic writer Michael Hirschorn talks about how the Web has undermined print media’s traditional advertising bases while at the same time drawing away readers, providing a double-whammy effect that has already killed venerated daily newspapers in cities such as Denver, Seattle, and San Francisco.

The same thing is happening in television. In “Page One,” much is made of Hirschorn’s January 2009 Atlantic piece “End Times,” in which he wrote that it was “plausible” that the Gray Lady could go out of business within months. That, of course, did not happen, but it did remind us of the headlines that popped up that same year after the research firm Audit Integrity named the CBS Corp. as one of the 20 publicly traded U.S. companies worth more than $1 billion that were most likely to declare bankruptcy in the next year. Like the newspapers, CBS and the other broadcast networks stood by as new technologies devalued their advertising (viewers fast-forwarding through commercials on DVR) and stole their audiences (through streaming-video sites, often of their own creation, such as Hulu). A similar thing has happened in film, where advertising is less important but streaming video and cheap downloads are fast replacing DVDs.

The journalists whom director Andrew Rossi focuses on in “Page One” all claim not to be too worried about the future of their industry, but then they spend an awful lot of time talking about ways that the Times can and must adapt to the evolving landscape. Actors in general don’t do a great job of talking to each other this way. Meanwhile, here at Sundance, many of the actors who seem to be getting the most attention—folks like Amy Seimetz, Hamish Linklater, and Jenny Slate—are the few who appear to think critically about changes in media. They know that to gain exposure, it helps to not just act, but also to write, direct, and create their own content for the Web. They’re learning for themselves the same lessons that the staff of The New York Times has had to learn.

Dig This


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference New York Times Acting School: Lessons From Sundance:


The comments to this entry are closed.