Thursday, August 27, 2009

Soundtrack CD Tips

This entry is aimed at the person that will be operating the sound when you use the Soundtrack CDs that are provided for the scripts at Christian Skit Scripts.

Using a soundtrack CD to accompany a skit is similar to running a song soundtrack for a singer, but there are some important differences.

Be On Time!

First, not only are there musical pieces designed to add some kind of emotional content to a particular scene, but there are individual sound effects as well. For this reason, rehearsal with the CD as the actors practice is mandatory. You can't simply hand the CD to the sound person when you go to do the skit like you might when singing a song to a soundtrack tape. The sound person must work with the performers to make it all flow smoothly.

The sound person must have a copy of the script, and must keep up with the dialog as it is delivered, so as not to miss any of his cues. The sound must be run proactively, not reactively. Sound engineer, you must anticipate, not react. Be ready with the next track cued up, follow the dialog, and play the track as it is called for. There should be no pauses while the actors wait for the sound to catch up to the action.

In some tracks there are music and effects mixed. It is important that the actors recognise the significance of the sounds in relation to what they are doing on stage, and work with the sound, where it dictates their timing. This is where practice, and familiarity with the soundtrack comes in.

Sound Levels

Never let the music dominate the scene, it must only complement it. Make sure your performers aren't drowned out by a too-loud musical cue. It is a background element, and as such, enhances the scene. Blasting it out without regard to proper levels will detract from the scene and distract the audience, as well as your actors. Likewise, tracks played at too low a volume will get lost in the action and become confusing. Have a person work with you when practicing by telling you from their vantage point near the stage when an element needs to be played louder or softer. Keep notes as to which tracks may need to be adjusted each time, by marking on the script at the place the track is called for.

Mixing Elements

Some soundtracks have tracks that are intended to be played at the same time. For example, a continuous background sound, such as traffic, that plays overall. The individual effects are played as the script calls for, over the already playing background sounds. To do this, you will need to record the continuous effects track to another source, such as a cassette tape. Play the background effects as the script dictates, at an appropriately lower level to provide ambience. Then play the individual tracks from the CD over them at a higher level as they are called for. Once again, practice is needed to pull it off smoothly.

I am always happy to answer any questions you may have, or to act as a consultant, when it comes to making your use of the CDs and scripts go more smoothly. Email me from the contact page, or call any evening at 912-557-8921 (home office) or 912-237-5636 (cell).

-Fred Passmore, Sheep Laughs Records

"FREEZE, TURKEY!"

I think you know what I mean. We've probably all seen it done. You may have even done it. "The Big Freeze." A skit has just been finished, and, as the script indicated, "The actors all FREEZE." I get chills just thinking about it.

The "freeze" is another pet peeve of mine. Excuse me... "freeze?" Why freeze? Was the skit being done in a refrigerator? Did the director push a "pause" button? Who came up with this silliness and why is it done? It's because, without a soundtrack that supplies an unmistakable musical end, the audience had no other way to know the skit was over! Or, the skit was written by someone relying too much on tradition to come up with a way to have the characters exit logically. Hence: "the characters all freeze." Lame, lame, lame.

Please, thaw out your poor frozen performers and simply have them exit the stage in a logically-written manner or to a musical closing theme. The Ice Age is over, folks... and the "freeze" method of ending a skit needs to go the way of the woolly mammoth... rapid extinction.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My Philosophy of Sketch Art

My Philosophy of Sketch Art

In many people's minds, the word "skit" brings to mind something that is not worth much; a short, quickly thrown-together bit of comedy fluff. (Most of this perception comes from the off-handed attitude of those that they have seen do them.) One proof of this that I see often, is the fact that so many wait till the last minute to look for a skit script online for an upcoming event or holiday. Many people put it off til the last minute, thinking that they can throw something together real fast, so there's no need to search early to give time to rehearse. This is not the way to do it, folks.

For me, a long-time sketch writer and performer, a skit is much more than a last-minute afterthought. It is something that begins with a good idea, which is then thoughtfully developed and written with the mind of being an enduring piece of art that may be enjoyed for many years. After being written, the soundtracks are carefully produced (if it needs one), mixing just the right effects and musical backgrounds from my large collection of paid-use effects and production music libraries.

And once posted on my site, "Let's Skit Crazy!" that skit script, when selected to be performed, is brought to life through the years by countless others who invest of their own time, talent, imagination and hard work to bring it's message to their audience. The success of the performance is directly related to the amount of each of those ingredients invested.

Although there are some skits posted here that are intentionally easy to do within a short preparatory time frame, that is not the overall consideration. Rather, I resist the "last-minute, quick-and-dirty" mindset of skit performance as a philosophy. The Lord Jesus gave equal consideration to the smallest details in the design of His universe as He did the infinitely large aspects. A truth known by many is that the hand of God is seen most in the details of His design. The submolecular physicist, exploring the tiniest bits of matter that his instruments will allow, is just as awed by the density and design, as the scientist peering through the most powerful space telescopes at the countless myriads of galaxies presently visible in the universe.

So, we should be as careful doing the small things in His kingdom, as the big things. For skits, though short, can be very powerful in their impact and effectiveness of bringing God and His plan into focus for the people in the audience. Therefore, we should make their presentation as professional and impressive as possible, to let the message shine through clearly, and not be obscured by sloppiness or carelessness.

The skits posted at "Let's Skit Crazy!" are intended to supply you, the director or performer, with some fun, inventive and message-meaty material to work with. (Did I succeed? That's left for you to decide.) With the script in hand, and the soundtrack to enhance your performance, you have the tools to make your skit efforts shine in a way that few have seen them done. You may find that they are so well received, that you will want to keep doing them for others, in other churches. This is a side-effect experienced by many that have used them!

So, although you may be initially forced to do some quickly, now that you have found the site I encourage you to come back often. Print out the scripts you wish to use, order the soundtrack if it has one available, and expose your team to your excitement at doing them in the best manner you can. It will catch on, and your team will become in demand in areas beyond your own church. In fact, I used to travel extensively as part of Prime Example, but due to the demand for quality scripts, decided to scale back that aspect and devote the time I had to making them available to others, such as yourself, to use. Their impact is now being felt far beyond the limited areas I could travel to.

I hope that my Sketch Art philosophy has inspired you to reconsider your approach to it, if you had -however unconsciously- viewed them as disposable elements of the church service. You are working toward an eternal goal and reward... don't you think your efforts should be the best they can be?

Welcome to my new blog!

Welcome to my blog, dedicated to helping church drama directors and teams. It's an offshoot of "Let's Skit Crazy" at www.ChristianSkitScripts.com, where you will find the free scripts for you to use, and soundtrack CDs created especially to help you present them with a greater impact. Visit the site for lots of free scripts you and your team will go crazy over!

On this blog page, you'll find an ever-increasing collection of my random musings, thoughts (and occasional rant) on skits, comedy, drama, performance, anything that pertains to the general topic of using these tools to communicate Biblical truths to the viewer. I'll add them as they occur to me, in whatever order they come, and perhaps as you visit occasionally to catch up on the latest, you'll find something useful to you.