Jon Kamen and Dave Sirulnick from RadicalMedia talked to IndieWire about how to "interpret film" favorite musicals.
What exactly is the filmed version of "Hamilton" from Disney +? Is it like a documentary where a film team watches the performance as much as their live audience? Or is it a narrative film in which the set happens to be the stage of the Richard Rodgers Theater on Broadway?
When it comes to carefully produced, filmed versions of such stage productions, co-executive producers Jon Kamen and Dave Sirulnick from RadicalMedia offer a new kind of terminology: filmic interpretation.
“Part of what makes a filmic interpretation is planning, preparation, attention to detail and treatment as an independent work. When we first met Lin (-Manuel Miranda) and Tommy (director Thomas Kail) and Jeffrey Seller, the producer, the first question was to understand their vision of what they were doing with a filmed version of this incredible work of art wanted to achieve, ”Sirulnick, RadicalMedia’s President for Entertainment, told IndieWire.
"It wasn't" Let's just put a few cameras in the house and point them on the stage, "because that wouldn't have done the incredible work they did."
While the genre is nothing new (Kamen produced "Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway" in 2008), executives suggest that audiences will see many more of these films. As Broadway will remain closed for the rest of the year due to the pandemic, they will feature filmed stage productions to help the industry get back on their feet – these films do not compete with live theater, but exist as an accompaniment shows both loved ones as well as new ones.
"We believe that this interpretation of" Hamilton "will make you see the show much more live," said Kamen, CEO of RadicalMedia. "We believe that our role in filming these shows will help bring Broadway and the West End back and rekindle everyone's love of live theater."
Far from the bad concert films of yesteryear, executives have described in detail how exactly the film team and the theater's creative teams worked together to create something that is equally fresh and celebrates the beloved musical – an approach that serves as a roadmap for could serve future productions.
A guiding principle for “Hamilton” was to give viewers perspectives that cannot be seen even from the best seats in the house. This meant that cameraman Declan Quinn ("Leaving Las Vegas", "Rent: Live filmed on Broadway") and his camera teams filmed three live appearances in 2016 in front of a sold-out audience from 13 positions in the house.
Then the crew filmed a ramp over some seats to track recordings, about 16 numbers with no audience. Some were filmed on stage with a steadicam that had two moveable turntables for actors.
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“There is so much going on on stage that the steadicam operator has to understand the choreography when he moves and follows Renée (Elise Goldsberry) or follows Lin. He also needs to know what's going on around him, ”said Sirulnick.
Then the sound sounded in the form of 104 sticks, recorded by an audio truck that was parked next to the video truck on 46th Street. Everything was mixed seamlessly by the sound department, while the work of film editor Jonah Moran helped establish a rhythm of the film and draw the viewer's attention to certain actions during his months of work. The result is that a song may contain recordings of live performances cut with the "inserts".
"The cast is so competent in its roles that you can hardly tell the difference between the side dishes," said Kamen. "It comes from their professionalism as cast, how rehearsed they were, how much Tommy knows his cast."
Hamilton was due to be released on Disney + on July 4 when Disney purchased the film earlier this year for $ 75 million. Although Disney has not reported any viewer numbers, all signs point to success: According to the analysis company Apptopia, the downloads of Disney + apps rose by 74 percent at this time compared to the previous weekends.
Indeed, the audience was offered a unique experience that offered new perspectives compared to the live view of the musical, such as Jonathan Groff's wet-lip and spitting performance as King George III. It was something that caught the attention of Miranda and his team when they first looked at the blocked image. "We said don't worry, we can clean it up – they said & # 39; no, don't do it!", Kamen recalled.
It turned out to be a wise call as Groff's wet announcement spawned media articles and social media posts. Not bad for a show that ended its Broadway run four years ago.
HBO will premiere RadicalMedia's latest filmed stage production "David Byrnes American Utopia" later this year. In Broadway's production, directed by Spike Lee, Byrne and his fellow musicians played songs from his 2018 album of the same name, as well as classics from the Talking Heads catalog and Byrne's solo career.
Kamen said he had heard of Broadway producers interested in interpreting their productions for films, and he saw the format as a kind of original 21st century cast album.