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What a fucking opening! What a fucking opening!
March 9, 2014 5:43 AM   Subscribe

Behind the scenes of Cuba Gooding's 1996 Oscar acceptance speech As the director calls the shots from inside the TV truck, Cuba corpses. Cue music. And then...
posted by sweet mister (59 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
1 - These people can't possibly live very long.

2 - I can't not think of this.
posted by efalk at 5:51 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]


For those who didn't know (like me), here's what corpses means.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:53 AM on March 9 [6 favorites]


I always thought it was a jerk move to play the music mid-speech but apparently they did it... to help Cuba? Really?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 6:11 AM on March 9


I didn't catch that in the audio, but I would say that Fallon would not have a career if it were not for corpsing.
posted by efalk at 6:15 AM on March 9 [2 favorites]


not sure if there they were doing it to help cuba or to just help the show go along, but the playoff music at awards ceremonies has definitely been used to help struggling (often older) entertainers save face (and it's also been used to cut off speeches that should have been given a bit more time).
posted by nadawi at 6:19 AM on March 9 [2 favorites]


So I was really waiting for some Thriller-esque corpses to come up and dance behind Cuba. Can the Jurassic Park cat people make that happen?
posted by Beardman at 6:32 AM on March 9


It must be nice to get that excited about your job.
posted by xingcat at 6:37 AM on March 9 [6 favorites]


This just got posted by someone on my Facebook feed with the comment "this is why Stage Managers should run the world."

Technically, for television, the guy calling the shots was the director - but damn straight.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:43 AM on March 9 [4 favorites]


Ahhh there goes my old live TV PTSD..

Around that era the music was definitely supposed to usher them off the stage. In this scenario Cuba said fuck it I'm just going to yell louder, and the crowd loved it, so while the original intention was move him along, it became wow this is becoming a moment capture it.

Great clip, thanks!
posted by cavalier at 6:50 AM on March 9 [3 favorites]


Why does the director keep snapping his fingers?
posted by grouse at 6:53 AM on March 9


I have a love/hate relationship with the music. On one hand, when the recipient is truly amazed and happy, I really enjoy hearing them express it, and hate when the music plays over them.

On the other hand, the documentary winners.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:54 AM on March 9 [3 favorites]


I think at least several times a week that the headset chatter + the show somehow simulcast online would be really great for the week or so it would last. And then we'd all get fired or stop shredding the shows, the talent, the audience and everything else, whichever came first. Some nights the headset stuff is better than the show.
posted by nevercalm at 6:55 AM on March 9 [3 favorites]


grouse, he is the director, but there is an actual TD or technical director operating the switcher console. This person has a pretty, um, star wars looking control panel of buttons, each button representing a camera or video source the director can switch to. So the director is watching the monitors and directing where he wants cameras to shoot, and which shot to cut to next.

In this way, cameras 10, 11, 12, are currently taking different shots of the show. When he says "Ready 11", he is doing a number of things, mainly:

1) Telling Camera #11 Operator -- Stop, do not change your shot, stop futzing with your setup, you're about to go live.
2) Telling Technical Director/switcher operator -- Get ready to switch to Camera #11.

When he snaps his fingers, this is signalling when he wants the button/lever actually pressed. In this way he's watching the result of his direction on a "main" monitor", while scanning the rest of the cameras on the periphery to figure out what he's going to go to next.

It's almost.. live editing. Make sense?
posted by cavalier at 7:06 AM on March 9 [29 favorites]


Yes, thanks. It seems like saying some thing like "now" would be more robust, but what do I know?
posted by grouse at 7:16 AM on March 9


grouse - it's my impression that everyone in that chair has their own preferred approach - but snapping or doing some other non-word alert makes sense because it won't get mistaken as anything else.
posted by nadawi at 7:21 AM on March 9 [4 favorites]


Snapping has always been what I've heard/seen.

Here's what a TD's life looks like on a smaller show --elements obfuscated for attempted privacy etc. Note the switcher sliders on the right of the person and the colorful buttons on the left.

http://imgur.com/wws8QPB
posted by cavalier at 7:24 AM on March 9 [6 favorites]


Actors read and learn lines and hopefully deliver them with conviction and some type of emotional impact. If they're able to do that to the extent that they win an Oscar, why can so few actors write an acceptance speech and deliver it without sounding like a person incapable of rational thought? Do they all think its a jinx, and it's better to wing it on the night when you're all excited and full of adrenalin so you cry and yell and thank the mailman and forget your spouse or agent or whatever? Every year I watch the Oscars and cringe at the babble. Newfound respect for the behind the scenes folk trying to get them offstage before they totally lose all dignity.
posted by billiebee at 7:30 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]


Yes, thanks. It seems like saying some thing like "now" would be more robust, but what do I know?

Vocalizing the order ("Now!") could possibly get lost in the stream of vocal camera directions. Snapping a finger cuts through the noise. It's an obvious sound that isn't likely to be confused with anything else.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:35 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]


Actors read and learn lines and hopefully deliver them with conviction and some type of emotional impact. If they're able to do that to the extent that they win an Oscar, why can so few actors write an acceptance speech and deliver it without sounding like a person incapable of rational thought?

Because 1) the lines they learn for performance were all written by someone else, and 2) they have a lot more of a chance to prepare for the performance.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:35 AM on March 9


2) they have a lot more of a chance to prepare for the performance

I take your point, except that surely they - like all of us - have practiced their Oscar speeches in front of the mirror since they were about 9, with yearly revisions to include/exclude friends, partners etc? No? just me? anyone?
posted by billiebee at 7:41 AM on March 9 [2 favorites]


It seemed to me that there was a natural break in Cuba's speaking, which was mistakenly understood as a cue to start the music. When he started speaking again, I'm sure they considered stopping the music (or at least bringing it way down), but he still appeared to be mostly done and just throwing in a name or two, which makes it easy to assume there's no need to cut the music. I think the music (and the moment) does actually move Cuba to speak more, because he really starts throwing things out there almost in rhythm with the orchestra. Any good director has enough of a sense of rhythm to pick up on that, and so they entered into an improvised dance routine together - Cuba, the director, and the musicians - serendipitously creating an exuberant spoken-word piece set to an uplifting score, merely flying by the seats of their pants. Nobody set out to make a memorable moment here, but as skilled performers, they all recognized a moment's potential when it came by, and they nurtured this one into existence out of nothing in a quick minute.
posted by scrowdid at 7:44 AM on March 9 [11 favorites]


Damn, that is intense.
posted by Fig at 7:47 AM on March 9


There is a scripted performance, and then there's, oh god this is the pinnacle of my aspirations and what I always dreamed about in the shower for 20 years.
posted by cavalier at 7:56 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]


Because of the Onion, I can't think of Cuba Gooding Jr. without the phrase world class shit magnet.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:07 AM on March 9


Actors read and learn lines and hopefully deliver them with conviction and some type of emotional impact. If they're able to do that to the extent that they win an Oscar, why can so few actors write an acceptance speech and deliver it without sounding like a person incapable of rational thought?

This is why Lupita Nyong'o was so outstanding this year. She seems to have actually worked on her speech.

(Aside from that, she's also a truly amazing human being.)
posted by hippybear at 8:19 AM on March 9


WOW.

There isn't a lot, these days, that makes me wish I'd gone into live television -- we did a "studio" unit in my video class, where we each had to direct short live three-camera setups, and it was one of the most stressful things I did in film school*.

But man. There's a part of me that misses that kind of energy.

What an amazing night that must have been for everyone in that room.

*Note that a part of me dies inside every time I say "in film school."
posted by Narrative Priorities at 8:20 AM on March 9 [3 favorites]


Just joined metafilter today as I stumbled across an incredibly interesting post. Saw the fantastic YouTube video, read the rules, and paid the 5 bucks. This is the first post I saw after signing in ... My first thought after reading "F" words in the title to the post is - oh, I guess I won't be touting this website to my son. Not to be prude but, using that word, I think is indeed offensive to some people - and especially to young people who will be learning the various meanings of that word going forward. Couldn't the same points, and 'punch' be made without those words?
posted by Keystone-G at 8:29 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]


Now there is a man who has fired a good number of his coworkers.
posted by Halogenhat at 8:31 AM on March 9 [3 favorites]


Keystone-G: Welcome to the site! First, this is probably a conversation better for MetaTalk, but the post title is an exact pull-quote from the video (at the very end), so being upset about it being written but not about it being in the video is a little odd. Also, not sure what age your son is, but while there's great discussion and a lot of interesting posts, there are plenty of posts that are probably not-appropriate-for-the-under-16 crowd for reasons other than language as well (though everyone's mileage may vary depending on cultural norms). So it very well may be best to curate links you find on the site and send to your son that way.
posted by jferg at 8:38 AM on March 9 [17 favorites]


I used to have a YouTube video saved to my bookmarks of the winner's song from a Eurovision broadcast from the 1970s? with the control room audio overlaid on top. It was glorious. That guy was SO ANGRY and now I can't find it and now I am also SO ANGRY.
posted by chrominance at 8:46 AM on March 9 [3 favorites]


That was amazing. I can only imagine how much experience and cool it takes to keep all that going, love no less. It seems like there are endless opportunities to screw up really big. Wow. Just wow.
posted by cccorlew at 8:47 AM on March 9


Hi Keystone-G. Welcome! Metafilter, in my experience, is a site firmly aimed at adults and not children; conversations often involve swearing, sex, kink, and other topics that might not be appropriate for a kiddo. A nice thing about MeFi is its longevity, so your kid can hang out and go to the other sites aimed at his demographic, then age into Metafilter as time passes!
posted by c'mon sea legs at 8:57 AM on March 9 [7 favorites]


[Hi Keystone-G, moderator here. You've gotten a little welcome and explanation, and as folks have said, this is a site where there's going to be some cursing. If you want to discuss that with the moderators you can drop a note to the contact form, but I'm going to ask everyone to drop the subject in this thread, and return to discussing the subject of the thread. Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:04 AM on March 9 [5 favorites]


Chrominance: Is this the video you're referring to? Certainly a different experience than the one in the OP's link. . . .
posted by muhonnin at 9:07 AM on March 9 [5 favorites]


In my early 20s I worked as the "technical director" at a tourist trap dinner show, a position I got with with almost zero experience or credentials. The pay was shit so I guess they got what they paid for. The owner was also extremely high strung and didn't hesitate to chew you out in front of your coworkers. And while the show was not nearly as fast paced as this, I was literally the only person at the controls and spent much of the time running like a headless chicken, operating lights, sound and other special effects.

I had many occupational nightmares during that time, characterized by an overwhelming sense of dread due to a missed cue or equipment malfunction. I can't even begin to imagine the emotional fortitude required to to make it to this level.
posted by triceryclops at 9:21 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]


I went to elementary school with Cuba. The way he was onstage at the Oscars is exactly the way he was in the 4th grade.....Aaron McGruder(Boondocks)has given him crap for being in a mixed race marriage, but he was dating a white girl then too.
posted by brujita at 10:03 AM on March 9 [4 favorites]


There is a huge difference in the type of stress between being the performer and being on coms in charge of a show. As a performer I am able or liable for my part in a show to do the best work to make good. As the guy behind the curtain, I am now liable for fucking up everyone's show. The tension is hugely different. I am a confident performer onstage and don't really worry about blowing it. Behind the curtain in charge of stuff, my blood pressure doubles as I make sure not to blow my own cues, but also how best to cover when something else goes awry.

TL;DR- Respect the artists, love the crew.
posted by lothar at 10:03 AM on March 9 [3 favorites]


I think it's fairly understandable Cuba Gooding wouldn't have prepared since he can't have expected to win.
Jerry Maguire was crap and Cuba Gooding was awful in it. A point backed up by the fact that everything he has been in since has also been crap and he has been crap in it.
posted by biffa at 10:19 AM on March 9 [4 favorites]


There's are reasons why the Oscars win so many Emmys, and I'm guessing this guy is one of the main ones.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:28 AM on March 9 [2 favorites]


grouse, to add another perspective to the discussion of how the director calls the show...what cavalier wrote was pretty spot on, especially about "live editing." In addition to the snap to trigger the switch of the cameras, I've also seen/heard used:

1) The "clicker" that trains dogs (pretty demeaning, but the crew gets it)
2) "Ready 1....take. Ready 2....take."
3) "Ready 1....1. Ready 3......3."
4) "1.....take 1. 3....take 3."
5) "Ready 1...go. Ready 3....go."

It depends on the speed of the show and what's happening on screen. The director and the TD generally have a working relationship where they understand each other and the TD will take what's happening into account and take his cues depending. I used to work on a chat show with 5 hosts (I'm sure you can guess) and the director would say "ready 3.....3. etc" but when there was an argument or something got heated, he'd just yell "2! 4! 3!" At that point, the TD understood to just take the cameras when the number was called, and the camera ops knew to frame their shots quickly. There might be a quick "3 shot on 2. Good. Take 2" (frame 3 people on camera 2), but it was just calling cameras for reference and the camera guys knew who they had to cover and they knew the show, so they tended to know the rhythm and what the director wanted.

This kind of tv is really exciting. It's why everyone always says that show business sucks, but it absolutely ruins you for anything else. The hours are crap, the people are crazy, the money isn't always great, you have to hustle for a living, but goddamn it's so much fun when it's showtime.
posted by nevercalm at 10:32 AM on March 9 [12 favorites]


For another prime example of why Directors/Stage Managers should run the world, read to the end of this fine story from Mark Evanier. Because if you can tap dance and call camera shots at the same time, you, my friend, are in control of a THING, and everyone else better hang on for dear life.

Oh, and while I'm thinking of it, here's Gene, The Dancing Machine!
posted by 1f2frfbf at 11:37 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]


Jerry Maguire was crap and Cuba Gooding was awful in it. A point backed up by the fact that everything he has been in since has also been crap and he has been crap in it.

I haven't seen Jerry Maguire as I'm allergic to Tom Cruise when he's playing nice guys, but everything I've heard about it suggests that Mr. Gooding was indeed very strong in his role and truly made it sing. That his subsequent career is full of crap is just one more example of an actor who, given a little success (and thus power), is revealed to be the worst possible navigator of their career.

RE: the actual behind-the-scenes control room stuff. In case it's not clear already. In live TV, the director sits behind all the screens and literally "calls all the shots".

My interpretation of what happens here is that Gooding had his thirty seconds and, as per the rules, they automatically hit him with the music cue that he'd gone on long enough and they were going to start fading out his audio. But at that exact moment, Gooding kicked into a fresh gear of excitement and passion. The director, being good at what he does, caught this and chose not to fade the audio on Gooding's mike, but he kept the music in the mix. And thus we have this prolonged moment that quickly got the whole world excited.

I mean, there's a reason why that particular director is in that particular control room -- the Oscars being the world's most watched TV show. The guy nailed it, broke the rules that were his to enforce, and thus ... history.

Even though I personally find the whole thing annoying (then and now). No adult should care that much about a little approval.
posted by philip-random at 12:18 PM on March 9 [1 favorite]


Real question: Why is it "commercial brake" and not "commercial break?"
posted by absalom at 12:34 PM on March 9 [1 favorite]


TL;DR- Respect the artists, love the crew.

Whenever I hear of someone in show biz who treats us techies well, my opinion of them goes WAY up.

And absalom: I think "brake" was a typo from the person who made this video.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:39 PM on March 9 [1 favorite]


There's are reasons why the Oscars win so many Emmys, and I'm guessing this guy is one of the main ones.

You know what would be great? If someone made a documentary film about the Emmys and it was nominated for an Oscar.
posted by grouse at 1:00 PM on March 9 [6 favorites]


Tom Cruise is NOT a nice guy in this movie.
posted by brujita at 1:04 PM on March 9 [1 favorite]


No adult should care that much about a little approval.

Yeah, man, visible peer recognition is bullshit. If you're a working professional in a difficult field, you don't need to give a shit whether your colleagues respect your work or not.
posted by Sokka shot first at 1:10 PM on March 9 [2 favorites]


Real question: Why is it "commercial brake" and not "commercial break?"

Because bad internet grammar and spelling.
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:13 PM on March 9 [1 favorite]


You know what would be great? If someone made a documentary film about the Emmys and it was nominated for an Oscar. Then the theme song from the documentary ("My name is Oscar! Call me Oscar! You're not the winner but I go ... to ... you ...")* would be a big hit and win a Grammy. That would lead to a musical based on the documentary that would play 643 performances on Broadway (Patrick Stewart would be the original cast Oscar) and win a Tony! Finally, NBC would run a live "event" adaptation of the musical....

* Yes, I know that the original source was a documenatry about the Emmys, but Oscar would be the character in the story-within-a-story about winning the Emmy, as well as a meta-character providing narrative framing and philosophical rumination.
posted by dhartung at 1:16 PM on March 9 [3 favorites]


muhonnin: YES THAT IS THE ONE. It's amazing. The director sounds like he's in the middle of having a heart attack.
posted by chrominance at 2:05 PM on March 9



No adult should care that much about a little approval.

Yeah, man, visible peer recognition is bullshit.


I did say that much. I didn't just say, shouldn't care.

Having tracked the Oscars for over forty years now, I'm pretty confident that they're hardly an accurate measure of anything. Oft times the best movies-actors-screenplays-directors do not win. Hell, they often don't even get nominated. So given this, a little humility on getting the nod feels essential.
posted by philip-random at 2:38 PM on March 9 [1 favorite]


i don't know if it was part of his excitement - but he was only the third black man to win in that category and the fifteenth black person to win an oscar period. he could have rightly believed that there was no way they would give him the statue and was wholly unprepared for the rush of adrenaline.
posted by nadawi at 3:08 PM on March 9 [2 favorites]


A friend of mine is an AD who has worked on multi-camera TV shows. I am almost pathologically punctual yet I've visited them in the control booth while they work and there probably isn't a single job in the universe I am less suited for. The best part is, they're a master at their job, which requires laser-like focus on timing, yet outside of work they are late for everything.

I mean, there's a reason why that particular director is in that particular control room -- the Oscars being the world's most watched TV show. The guy nailed it, broke the rules that were his to enforce, and thus ... history.

I've worked with an Oscars producer/director a few times (but not on the Oscars) and the one time I had to be on a headset there was an unforeseen technical glitch that I had to make a call on. It was this kind of scene and this kind of energy, except the director was yelling into the headset asking for direction from someone who had no idea what she was supposed to do. The stakes weren't Oscars-high, and the broadcast wasn't live, but it was probably the single most stressful moment in my career.

Working in live TV (or live to tape) obviously requires certain specific skills and knowledge, but it also requires a certain personality type and temperament. If you can work in this field you can fly a freaking spaceship to the moon. (But if you need a ride to the spaceport, I'll get you there 20 minutes early!)
posted by Room 641-A at 3:14 PM on March 9 [4 favorites]


An earlier comment in this thread mentioned the CBJr movie The Fighting Temptations. It required Google to remind me that not only I had seen this movie, but I actually worked on its publicity. 'Forgettable' not so much as 'suppressable'.
posted by Hogshead at 3:31 PM on March 9


i found a pretty good reddit conversation about the nuts and bolts of these sorts of jobs.

also, the full acceptance speech and a transcript of the speech.
posted by nadawi at 3:35 PM on March 9 [2 favorites]


There is a scripted performance, and then there's, oh god this is the pinnacle of my aspirations and what I always dreamed about in the shower for 20 years.

Also: Many actors are painfully shy, not all actors have experience in front of a live audience, and some actors genuinely believe they have no chance of winning and may not really prepare at all.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:25 PM on March 9


I have some experience of writing for awards shows, and for well-known actors it can end up being a perfect storm. Many (big name) actors are really not aware how dependent on the script they are. They give it lip service but in their hearts they come to believe they are as smart/sexy/witty as the character they play and the lines they are given. And then, when they are let off the least then end up twisting in the wind and horribly exposed. There are some really Big Names out there who are a lot less interesting than the characters they play in movies. Ironically directors are often much more interesting than their movies. Anyway, this is a way of explaining why so many actor speeches are fucking terrible -- because they wing it and they're really not capable (with very honourable exceptions) of winging it. Give them a script however (which I've written) and they're back in their groove and you probably don't even realize they're working from a script.
posted by sweet mister at 7:57 PM on March 9 [4 favorites]


some actors genuinely believe they have no chance of winning and may not really prepare at all

Some may not prepare because they don't want to jinx the outcome.

Others may not prepare because they don't want to overly involved themselves emotionally in what might not happen.
posted by dhartung at 1:06 AM on March 10 [1 favorite]


Give them a script however (which I've written) and they're back in their groove and you probably don't even realize they're working from a script.

Note to presenters: I know things can change at the last minute, but when you're given the opportunity to preview your four or five lines, take a quick glance so that you're not seeing the words for the first time in the prompter on live TV. (Unless you are Stephon.)

Note for handlers: Stick a spare pair of eye glasses in your client's pocket or purse.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:21 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


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