As early as 2010, I couldn’t see the tickets for the National Theatre Hamlet, starring Rory Kinnear, so I watched the screening of NT Live. The whole family went to our local cinema to see how the best actors in the country performed in one of the most famous plays. Another added benefit was not to use popcorn to disturb the actors.
It was nothing new to watch the stage performance when NT Live debuted, but it was a huge improvement in terms of quality and reach. Christmas ballet on the BBC is rarely better than a static camera focused on the foot, while the other is used for a wide field of vision, but the shooting and editing of the live performance is like a movie. Cinema audiences benefit from a close-up of the theater audience never seeing. Tracking footage and wide-angle lenses, including the audience, made the show immediately feel like movies and drama.
This is the creation of genius – it is so obvious now, but it was completely groundbreaking at the time. Since then, I have participated in two live NT Lives. The buzz and energy in the background are obvious. If a line is loosened or an error occurs in the background, viewers across the country and even the rest of the world will see it.
Despite these challenges, the back office staff immediately accepted the idea. Most of us who work in London realize that we are part of the bubble and like to extend our audience beyond the regular theater audience. Although we have questions about how to compensate for the extra work involved, we accept that this is just a performance that happens to have more viewers.
When the Encore show first appeared, I barely noticed it, let alone questioned it. The shared live experience may no longer be true, but the live version of the recording is still the original, so what is the difference?
Backstage cinema professionals, actors and producers have different incomes than filmmakers. The theater cannot compete with the potential revenue of the film. We accept this as our destiny: the daily rate of the costume team members in the movie is £350, and the cost of the clothing professional’s program may be only £45.
However, if the performance being filmed will continue to be freed from the live elements and can be displayed multiple times without additional back-end technical costs, then the line will begin to blur. Is it still fair to pay the drama fee to the technician who made the film? Equity quickly provided its members with a new guide to live theater production contracts, but the back-end technology theater world is slower.
There are still a lot of new genres, but as Netflix and Amazon show interest in live-recorded theater events, limited theater shows are filmed, then screened in cinemas, there is no synchronized live experience, and there are countless security Can it be screened, is it time to question the rates paid by these drama films to skilled workers? Are they not film crews now?