Posts Tagged ‘armando diaz’
Magnet Video Lab premieres its third season on Sunday at 6pm, so we thought we’d catch up with Annie Quick, one of the driving forces behind the entire operation (along with Jim Turner and everyone’s favorite friend, Armando Diaz). We asked her a few questions over email and she was kind enough to give her insights on what makes a great video, how MVL has grown, and how important deadlines are to the process (spoiler alert: very important). Check it out!
1. Why did you start the Magnet Video Lab?
I took Sketch Level 1 & 2 at Magnet and loved the structure of it—it’s a great way to get feedback and have writing deadlines. At some point I realized that’s what I needed for a few video projects I was working on—the self-generated films that were suffering from lack of a formal work structure.
Since Jim Turner and I both work in production and he’s also at Magnet, we thought it might make sense to start a group in the style of Magnet’s sketch writing classes. Our main goal was to have each participant come out of the ten-week session with a completed video.
2. What’s a Video Lab?
At one point, Jim had pointed out we were essentially creating a salon where creators come for mutual support, but in the end we decided that lab is a better handle—it involves assignments and deadlines and an expectation that you’re obliged to show up because your lab partners are counting on you.
Jim and I spent a lot of time talking about the roadblocks we encounter when we’re working on our own films. All steps of the process are challenging. At any stage a project can flounder from lack of labor, feedback, gear, time, etc. The thing that sinks most film projects, though, is the lack of a real deadline. That’s the main thing we wanted to give everyone.
We also thought about how a beginner might dip their toes into the water and gain knowledge and confidence in the process. The Video Lab is a place where beginners and experts help each other bring their projects to life. Everyone rolls up their sleeves and pitches in.
3. What’s your favorite thing about the Magnet Video Lab?
I love that we are all working on our own things. I know that other groups exist where everyone works on the same video together, and that’s cool too, but I think the Magnet’s program is unique because we support the individual filmmaker and help them to bring their own ideas into the world.
For me, that’s been educational because I’ve had to wear so many hats that wouldn’t if we were all working on one film. So, for instance, this session I helped one of my labmates with costuming and another session I was a DP, and for others I’ve helped out in audio.
I also take a lot away from watching other people go from blank page to done. Films are so time consuming to make, and so it’s really inspiring to be around a group of people who are finishing their stuff, and making great stuff!
4. How has MVL grown?
It’s been a trial and error process, taking a group of strangers and making them into a video-making team. At the beginning I thought of it as mostly a creative project, but it quickly turned into a lesson in group management. Jim and I have spent a lot of time tweaking the process and getting feedback from the Lab members so that each session is a bit smoother than the last. There are a crazy amount of details to handle when you have ten weeks and seven films to make.
In the first two sessions we kept it very small—only seven participants, so that we could beta test the process and figure out what we were doing. That first session Armando helped us to sort out a structure and also came to our table reads for feedback on our scripts.
In the third session our goal was to scale up a bit. We wanted to see if we could keep the level of engagement with a bigger group. We also wanted to add new people with different skill sets and experience levels. So far it’s been working great! It’s been both productive and friendly, and a great stretch for all of us.
The great thing about Magnet is that people come with comedy and story skills so even if someone doesn’t have any production knowledge, they still have a lot of useful feedback to give and a lot of talent to draw on.
5. What is your role?
I am part teacher, part student, part manager, part strategizer, part director, part production assistant. The first two sessions I did a lot of teaching about editing and post production, while Jim handled a lot of the shooting guidance. In our third session, people are more up to speed in those areas and we can be a little more hands off.
6. What’s the most important piece of advice you would give to comedians creating their own videos?
Is it okay if I have three? I can’t pick just one.
First, learn to edit. It’s the most time-consuming part of filmmaking and the hardest to get someone else to do well. If you learn to edit you can control the pacing and, essentially, how funny something is. It’s also the point where a lot of projects get derailed. If you’re controlling that step you can make sure it gets out there.
Second, I’d say pay attention to capturing good audio. If, as a beginner, you learn that well, your videos will be 30% more credible right out of the gate.
Third, remember film is different than live. It’s pretty hard to retrofit stage pieces or improv into a watchable video. So start from scratch and write for film, at least while you’re in the beginning stages.
7. What’s your favorite internet video of all time?
Maybe this is cliché, but I’m standing by Dramatic Chipmunk. Love that guy.
Once again, thanks to Annie for all this awesome info! Don’t miss the screening of Magnet Video Lab’s third season this Sunday at 6pm. Did we mention it’s free? Because it is. See you there!
We’re looking for eager improvisers (prerequisite: completion of Level 1) to participate in warm-ups and exercises run by the students in Armando’s coaching class. All the details are below—but keep in mind that space is limited. Hope to see you there!
When to be available: Saturdays, January 31st-February 14th from 1:00-3:00pm
How to sign up: Simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: “COACHING CLASS VOLUNTEER.” Please include your full name and phone number.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at (212) 244-2400.
We’ve got a brand-new training center! We’re so excited!
As of Saturday, Jan. 24, we’ll be beginning the process of moving classes, rehearsals, writing meetings, etc. over to our new space at 22 W. 32nd Street on the 10th floor. Things might be a little hectic for a while, so please bear with us, but we’ll do our best to make the transition as smooth as possible for everyone.
What does all this mean? We now have 10 classrooms, a studio theater, a dedicated writers’ room and more than two bathrooms (so luxurious!). Simply put, it’s a bigger, better space to keep up with our growing needs as a training ground for the best comedic minds in the world.
This is a new, exciting chapter for us and it wouldn’t be possible without your enthusiasm, hard work, and continued brilliance.
Thanks for being the best community around. Stop by and check out the new digs when you can!
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**Update** — Sketch Club now meets Sundays 3-5pm.
Sketch Club is a drop-in sketch writing workshop devoted to qualified sketch students and performers who are interested in developing and performing their own material. The drop-in will meet on Saturdays 3-6pm beginning February 7th. Members of Sketch Club will workshop original sketches every week at a table read run by Armando Diaz. Participants will be encouraged to try out their sketches at the soon-to-premiere “Generator” show on Sundays at 6pm. Interested in participating? Email SketchClub@magnettheater.com for more information!
On this episode of the Magnet Podcast, host Alex Marino chats it up with improviser and yogi Emily Shapiro about teaching yoga and doing improv in Costa Rica, Emily’s affection for Lord of the Rings, and people who look like Smeagol.
Enjoy Episode #21 on iTunes or below via SoundCloud.
Ally Kornfeld, (Baby Shoes), one of the Magnet’s sketch writers, got a chance to take her idea for a TV Show, Cracking Royalty, to Austin Texas. She was one of the ten finalists in the ATX Television Festival’s Pitch Competition this past weekend. What is the Pitch Competition? It’s a chance to pitch an idea for a TV show to not only a live audience but to a panel of industry judges including Paul Scheer, Bryan Seabury, Julie Plec, Kyle Killen, Katie Krentz, and David Semel. Oh and get this: SHE WON.
“This winner will receive a meeting with one of our judges (based on the show’s genre/judges’ availability) to explore the idea of his/her series and gain notes to better develop the series. After the pitch is honed, the winner will then get a pitch meeting in front of one of our studio/network partners (again, dependent on the show’s genre and style) to try and sell his or her pilot for production.”
Magnet Theater is excited to announce The Magnet Podcast! In Episode 1: Host Louis Kornfeld interviews Magnet Theater founders Ed Herbstman, Alex Marino and Armando Diaz about their past, present and future. They chat about their Chicago beginnings, the creation of The Armando Diaz Experience and the process of starting The Magnet Theater. Ed tries to explain why he became a cop while Armando makes fun of him. Don’t miss it.
Huge thanks to our wonderfully talented podcast engineer, Grant Goldberg.
Magnet Theater is excited to announce that it will be moving to a new location this coming fall.
In November, the Magnet will take over the Foxwoods Theater, most recently the home of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.
Armando Diaz, co-owner of Magnet, spoke on the need for a new space, saying “The Magnet community has been growing at an exponential rate, so we’re looking to plan not just for the immediate future, but also for what’s beyond the horizon, like in a couple hundred years. If you filled up our current space to capacity, it’d only take up the first row at the Foxwoods. So, the house might feel small in the beginning, but as the word gets out that there’s plenty of room, I’m confident that we’ll sell out all 1,932 seats, especially to non-English speaking tourists.”
Alex Marino, another of the Magnet’s owners added:
“One of the great things about moving into the Foxwoods Theater is we’ll have our office space, training center, and main stage and my apartment all in one central location. So often our new students would get lost when directed from the theater to the Training Center for student shows, and then to my apartment for banjo jam sessions. Now it’ll all take place in one space – a space with a lot of good energy because of all the great things that happened during the run of Spider Man.”
Of course, with a new, much larger space will be some inevitable changes. All shows will have a 35 intern team of stage hands. Performers will have access to four state of the art green rooms before their shows. And everyone must be an Actors Equity performer in order to appear on the stage.
The only planned renovation to this legendary theater is to immediately remove all bathrooms except one near the stage.
Another change will be the tickets prices, which will go up slightly from $5-$10 to $125 for balcony seating to $225 for orchestra seats (though Megawatt and Thursday Night Out admission will remain at $7 for the entire night).
Alan Fessenden, Magnet performer and instructor, noted his excitement about the move. “I love the monoscene, but when you ask for ‘a location that’ll fit on this stage’ you’re limited by the size of the stage. With the new theater, we can do a whole submarine instead of just the bridge of a submarine. It really opens up the possibilities for all shows, but especially for monoscenes about submarines.”
When Ed Herbstman, the third Magnet owner, was asked about the move, he said, “I own a theater?”
One concern was voiced by Louis Kornfeld, Artistic Director of Megawatt. “This new stage is massive compared to the old stage, so sweep edits are going to be problematic. Not only will the timing be off, but the editor may very well be winded after the edit, especially improvisors who are out of shape, which includes all of them.”
Magnet is immensely ready for the move and excited to announce that the first show in the new space will be Rick Andrew’s Level One Class Show! Stay tuned for more details!
Mint Condition is one of the two longest running teams a part of Musical Megawatt at the Magnet Theater. Their full roster is filled with incredible musical improv strength, passion, and a very strong bond making them a Giant of Tuesday night. I (Amanda Ariel Peggy Xeller!) got a chance to sit down with the whole team in an attempt to capture their relationship not only with their comedic art, but with each other. Mint Condition is Angela DeManti, Ryan Dunkin, Woody Fu, Melissa Gordon, Sarah Puls, Chris Simpson, and Douglas Widick.
What attracted you to the Magnet to begin with?
Sarah Puls (SP): I wanted to do musical improv and this was the only place that was offering classes and also being on house team.
Melissa Gordon (MG): Same. This was the only theater that had a specific Musical Improv Program.
Angela DeManti (AD): I think that the Magnet’s teaching style was something I could relate to and latch onto.
Ryan Dunkin (RD): I came here for musical improv. I also knew about Armando. I used to live in Chicago so I would go to see those shows and heard about him. That’s how I got interested.
Douglas Widick (DW): Musical improv. more
We are now accepting applications for The Spring 2014 Circuit! Circuit Teams are made up of Magnet Theater students, graduates of our Training program and veteran performers. We believe that in order to get better at improv, you need to do it.
The deadline to apply is March 10 at noon. Teams will be announced March 12. Shows will begin March 28. Teams will perform Friday nights at 10:30 for eight weeks. If you have any questions email Circuit@Magnettheater.com.
To Sign up, just click this link to fill out the form.