Category Archives: Entertainment Industry Coverage

IR Exclusive Print Interview: Dennis Quaid For “The Dennissance” [Audio Up]

Dennis Quaid has played the diversity of the gamut throughout his career. From his early successes in “Breaking Away” & “The Right Stuff”, through commercial successes like “Innerspace” & “The Rookie” to his music tinged outings in “Great Balls Of Fire” & “The Big Easy” Quaid has always been interested in the human condition and how the journey progresses. This continues into his current outing with his new podcast series with Audio Up called “The Dennissance” where he brings his diverse experience in talking with those people that fascinate him. Whether it is talking to John Cash, son of Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash, Billy Ray Cyrus or even sports icon, Albert Pujols, Quaid’s easy going but relevant format paints a vivid and intriguing picture which is what all good storytellers Quaid spoke with The Inside Reel about research, perception and the life experiences that interest him.

You tend to get in deep to the core of the people you are talking to.

Dennis Quaid: That’s kind of the premise of my show, is I like to ask people [to be] on that don’t necessarily have something to sell, although here I am and I have something to sell on your show. (laughing) My favorite part of acting is the research that I do for a role, especially when I’m playing real people like Jimmy Morris of “The Rookie”, a real person, or Bill Clinton, or the astronaut Gordo Cooper, or Jerry Lee Lewis. My favorite part is the research and finding out what makes them tick as people. And I get a real inside view, [in that I] get to go through those doors that say, “Authorized Personnel Only,” and really learn about a different life that I would never get a chance to do if I had a regular job. I bring that process to the podcast.

I’ve had a very lucky life because of what I do as an actor and also just the diversity of people that I’ve been exposed to. And that’s what’s interesting to me about what makes people tick and different backgrounds, different things that they do, and really getting inside their heads [and finding out] what else are they interested in? If you hadn’t been an astronaut, what would you have been? Did you ever have any aspirations about anything else?

And also, like I said, [it is] just about talking about different aspects of their personality that you wouldn’t get by being on David Letterman or Tonight Show or whatever. That’s really what kind of interests me, and I think the audience would be interested in that too.

The thing about reading a script is that one always sees it in the mind’s eye and not necessarily what comes out on screen. Audio can work in the same way because your brain conjures the images to go with it.

DQ: That’s interesting that you brought that up because it hits it on the head with me too. It’s like reading a book and you visualize it in your head. The audio experience is a different experience than the audio-visual experience. You could project your own imagination onto it, I think, and it puts [it in] a different kind of focus and makes you focus in a different way which is interesting, I go back to the Nixon-Kennedy debate, which was the first television debate ever done. The people who listened to it on the radio thought Nixon won. And the people who saw it, of course, thought Kennedy had won. It’s also about different areas of the mind that you use.

How did you find your way into this podcast space? You are doing a lot of other stuff as well right now.

DQ: I’d never listened to a podcast up until about two years ago, to tell you the truth, and I got involved with a guy named Jared Gutstadt, who is my partner now, and Audio Up is the name of our platform. I was asked to do what turned out to be the number two music podcast last year with Bob Dylan and T Bone Burnett called “Bear & A Banjo” which is a fictional true story, seeing American music through two nefarious characters. And from that, we decided to do a podcast platform and just specialize in that. And “The Dennissance” kind of became a way in of getting an audience and the easiest thing to do at first. But I kind of like choose to do things at this point in my life, if I have have a tingle and chilling feeling of fear go up my spine. [If so, then] that’s probably the thing that I should do. Now, that gets me out of my comfort zone. And yes, it motivates. Fear is a great motivator. (laughing)

Your love of music and the process of acting reflects in your guests. Music, movies, television and event sports are all sides of the same coin in that they require talent, pace, rhythm and instinct.

DQ: They are the same, basically. I know so many sports figures that want to be actors or thespians and musicians that want to be sports figures. You know who I’m talking about. But music was my first love. And I got my first guitar at the age of 12. Back then that’s really what I wanted to do. And I found, luckily, when I was 19 years old — I’m from Houston, and at the University of Houston there was a teacher there named Cecil Pickett. I got in his acting class. And that very week, I went and auditioned at what they used to call coffee houses. Back then, [those places were about] music. And the lady told me, “Well, what you have is just for living rooms, but I don’t think you’ll really amount to much as a musician.” And I made the mistake of believing her (laughing). But at the same time, that same week I was in Mr. Pickett’s acting class and the way he talked about acting was really kind of – it was like psychology. It was about figuring out what makes people tick. And I found that profoundly interesting.

And that was a gift really, at that early age, to know what you want to do with your life. And music never went away because you got to have– in order to do either of these things, including sports as well, you have to have an immense capacity for rejection and the ability to ignore the word “no” and keep going with it. And that tenacity, I think, is probably the single most important ingredient into getting any kind of success at anything.

I was lucky enough through acting to be able to — I had music movies that I did and I was then be able to write music that went into songs in the films. It t always kept music alive throughout my life. I went out for football [back in high school], of course,[because] as a matter of [fact], that’s what you do in Texas. And I got laughed off the field basically, and that is how I ended up at the drama club in high school. (laughing)

But drama, sports or any skill, you get better the more experience you gain.

DQ: It’s all a learned skill. It really is. People can be good at talking or whatever, but then when you put them into the format, it can becomes a deer in the headlights. And then you go from there and get better and better at it. I remember the first interview that I ever did on television was The Merv Griffin show. And I remember Bo Derek was on and Anthony Newley, and I remember being so nervous. And I did Johnny Carson, back in the day. I remember being so nervous standing backstage during that. You just get better and better at it the more you do it, and the fear starts to recede into the background.

Does that confidence inform doing more of “The Dennissance”?

DQ: I thought that “The Dennissance” was [going to be] like a season. I thought it was going to be, what, 8, 10 episodes. And, of course, we’re going to do another season. I’ve been talking to people that I cultivated a relationship with already. They were those people where we’re friends or we’re, at least, acquaintances. The people that fascinate me [include] everybody I’ve had on the show. And then I also want to get them at a time when maybe they don’t have something to sell and just do that. You’ll find out something a little different than you would get, say, seeing them on a talk show. [Because] then you may get underneath personalities and share that with an audience.

“The Dennissance” is available on all podcast platforms includimg Spotify & iTunes as well as through the show website at https://www.audioup.com/thedennissance .

By Tim Wassberg

Sirk TV Print Feature: QUIBI (CES Highlights) [Las Vegas, Nevada]

The transformative power of consumer electronics and what they have to offer is always reflected in what the consumer wants but what is the next step in evolution. One would think going in that it would be reflected in the elements of the streaming revolution since the dirge of content only seems to be making the choices more dynamic but also more complicated for consumers. How does one piece through all the material. Only one company seemingly brought this ideal to CES.  The new structure of the show has the presentations spread out further across the city of Las Vegas with private demos becoming more the norm. Quibi hosted their presentation inside the Park MGM Theater, home to Lady Gaga’s Las Vegas residency.

Quibi was the most eye opening in a trade show mostly based on people having established resources but trying to make them their own. Here Quibi is taking the actual idea of the phone as a content resource and building an entire ecosystem around it. Many have been hearing about Quibi and the many intrinsic content deals it has been making with big name filmmakers and talent across town. The question became “How does it work”. David Katzenberg, best known from his animation days at the Walt Disney Company and as co-founder of Dreamworks with Steven Spielberg, could have rested on his laurels but is putting his name per se on the line. The result is a interesting library of material as he interrelated in his remarks, all original. To explain the content element, he used the comparison to Dan Brown’s “DaVinci Code” book which used small chapters to entice the reader into continuing on. But the chapters were short enough that they were effective morsels to engage the reader on. Katzenberg believes the same is true of mobile content. The key is making movies and TV content into miniature episodes that make up a bigger movie or story. For example a movie could be broke down into 20 episodes of 6-7 minutes each. This opens the door to many creative possibilities for the creators. Sam Raimi, Paul Feig, Steve Spielberg and Guillermo Del Toro are among the vast numbers of people creating new stories in this way for this company. Katzenberg even related that Spielberg was one of the first people to sign on asking if he could only make his content so people could watch it after the sun went down wherever they were. This became the show “After Dark”.

Another aspect of this entire creative process needs to reflect in the technical. Meg Whitman (who used to run Ebay) is David’s partner in the venture. She describes herself as very analytical while Katzenberg can reflect what the creatives want. But it is about creating the tools of the platform with the creative in mind. The first step on tackling this process was the on-the-go viewing capability and how that would undeniably work. The ratio couldn’t just switch from portrait to landscape or use a pan and scan method that many filmmakers have used for years. Quibi had to change the way they told and filmed their stories. Some take it to a literal point while others make it a different editing process all together. In essence what each filmmaker/creator does in all of the projects is build two complete edits and cuts of the material so that at any point the material can shift from portrait to landscape depending on the way the user is holding it. This is called Turnstyle and it is not just in the aspect of seeing it in the presentation. After the keynote, attendees went to a private ballroom in the Park MGM to physically hold a phone and see how it works. These were only test clips and not live on the service but it gave one the perception.

But bringing tech and creative partners on stage made this clearer. Even though some of the presentation was clunky, others were inspiring and seeing practical application makes a difference. Actor Tye Sheridan who had worked with Steven Spielberg on “Ready Player One” stars in “Wireless” which is a short form series taking place in a car during a blizzard or at least part of it. The director, who is already shooting another series for Quibi, showed the camera rig they used see for some of the portrait in-camera material which both records the screen, the forward camera and the rear facing camera. It looks like a giant oversized cell phone but with all new technology it is taking these first steps forward. The landscape pieces are shot more traditionally like normal film but in seeing the cuts back and forth, one again gets a sense of what the technology is trying to do.

The last part of the long ranging but undeniably comprehensive approach to Quibi was advertising integration. What Quibi has done is quite remarkable but again it is approach ingthe creatives, even on an advertising level, from the ground up. Again without large names like Whitman and Katzenberg as well as creators like Spielberg and Del Toro, this wouldn’t be possible. Whitman explained that they had already sold out their fist year of advertising for 150 million. The actual cost of the service in terms of the content outlay is not known but thought to be in the billions possibly. But the price point at launch, which is set to be April 6th is $7.99 Ad Free and $4.99 without ads, is an interesting gamble. Whitman brought out a high level executive from Pepsi Co who also has Mountain Dew, Doritos and Gatorade under their build. And, as shown with their outside-the-box thinking with filmmakers during Super Bowl over the last couple years, this seems the perfect company. The exec showed two ads. One interrelated with the portrait/landscape play of Turnstyle which perfectly encapsulates the Pepsi Brand and can be done in many different ways. The other was actually built into the identity of a driving show using one of the cars and Mountain Dew. Being brought in at the beginning and at such a high level is inspired. And the ad loads per hour of programming is 2.5 minutes which is unheard of and not random at all. Other advertisers including Anheuser Busch, Proctor & Gamble, Taco Bell and T-Mobile.

T-Mobile is the last part of the puzzle but an important part. Whitman last brought the new incoming CEO of T-Mobile onstage who I’ll be bundling Quibi in with their new plans, especially since they (increased by their merger with Sptint) are heading the pace into 5G. With a partner like this who is also an advertiser, the groundswell is stacked in Quibi’s favor. The gamble is the embrace of the technology and the storytelling but also the intuitive nature of what is new without getting lost. The learning technology sees what you watch. The amount of material approximately and growing with be 175 shows and 6500 episodes with 5 episodes of different shows every day, every week for the whole year. Quibi also has different tiers of programming including the movie/tv storytelling, episodic and docs and a third tier with news, talk shows and round ups including NBC, TMZ and BBC. Quibi seems to have spared no expense and is covering all the angles. Now just comes the launch. An exciting prospect for sure.

By Tim Wassberg

Sirk TV Print Feature: KLAXOON, DRONES & THE MIX (CES Highlights) [Las Vegas, Nevada]

While AI and Robotics were a texture at the trade show at CES [Fest Track did a on-camera segment with OMRON], the aspect of drones, especially the fluidity of underwater drones, seemed to make an impact. The question becomes the increased lack of discussion between the essence of reconnaissance and payload. People want drones to be able to be used for delivery or possibility emergency rescue which dynamically it is not cable at the current point.

Something like The Ranger from XDynamics is taking into account the more streamlined drones for fast speed and agility along with carbon fibrs framing but the possible placement of the engines might cause interesting progressions in weather. However its ability to do thermal, lidar and infrared gives it an undeniable application with research groups for higher altitude reconnaissance. And although landing is integrated, it doesn’t seem fully fit for jungle incursions.

The Autel Dragonfish is a little more heavy duty with a more military drone appearance but for the commercial and possible private inlay to perhaps help with farming or long range flying since it has an 18 mile range and 100 minute flight time. It has PPK and RTK mapping as well as dual thermal reading from the two sensors onboard. It does require an extra transmitting station so it is heavy duty. The element of hovering would seem to be more difficult yet the industrial applications her seem to work well.

On the other end of the spectrum Klaxoom, a French Start Up has created an interesting meeting workspace application that interrelates notes and other elements. It is seemingly very intrinsic but not as comprehensive as one would hope. Concurrently, which did not fully and seemingly interconnect, they introduced a base station called Team Player with 9 buttons that are inter-programmable. It comes off as a mix between a tic-tac-toe board and a more advanced version of Simple Simon. It is inherently supposed to show you through a base station connected to your TV via HDMI the ability to make people’s live simpler. However programming this device into those apps or folders that they use the most seems counter intuitive. This would seem to be a good possibility for older consumers but again the actual programming of it does not seem intuitive yet. It uses multiple input devices including a scroll wheel. While it has a good design it just doesn’t necessarily balance what it is trying to sell and despite a good presentation effect inside Cox Pavillion at UNLV, the continued R&D should yield more results.

Many events outside the convention center, which had its share of beauty (including LG’s beautiful wave screen presentation with mirrors leading into its booth), seemed to optimize an ideal but not a practical application. On the other side, Samsung showcased at its booth the new foldable phone which is seemingly done to give a bigger screen but a more compact storing possibility. And although the sensors seem very good, the boundary of making that transition seamless while still giving all the functionality of the phone might hinder its adoption though consumers were clamoring to see how it physically felt.

On a more basic fun and practical level, Zhiyun, whose gimbals Fest Track/Travel Trak have been using for years, continues to highlight its importance but also its functionality within the industry. The Crane 3 is a beautiful piece of equipment which allows both the mount of DSLR as well as a cell phone while optimizing a X and Y axis and still being able to give a sense of fluidity. The possible implications for full video assist are undeniable.

Various events attended in terms of promoting brands beyond Klaxoom had varying degrees of success. Among those to be mentioned…The India Pavilion had a dinner reception at Oyo held by the Motwani Jadja Foundation with various practical applications. One was a high velocity potscrubber to alleviate older users from arthritis when they are washing their dishes. The NPD Group held a reception at Mirage’s 1OAK Nightclub to encourage networking that integrated into their data and analytic reports. The event was dynamic and more integrated and organized while also encouraging discussion. Keating held its annual soirée in the Hangover Suite at Caesars Palace with a dynamic of music and the usual fanfare.

CryptoVirtual Lounge also held a private VIP suite at the Salon Bar in the Presidential Suite at the Wynn Las Vegas to highlight Virse, a dynamic real estate design technology that allows both real world and virtual integration. The event was also co-hosted by Tracy Hutson from ABC’s Extreme Home Makeover so the integration level made undeniable sense. A final mention integrated with the Uproar Suite which was held at The Palazzo for a collection of start ups. One specifically to mention because of its possible application for stroke victims as well as casual gamers is Pico Interactive and its Nu-Eyes technology which optimized eye track where the sensor inside can completely adjust to mirror your eye movement. Its possible applications in medical practice for the measuring of cognitive ability for those who may be paraplegic but have extremely limited range of motions is undeniable.

CES continues to show its participants thinking outside the box while moving on top of other technological advances to create many parallel elements. This is indicative too in many ways in the wearable and in the drone space. But in the continuing years as technology continues to develop, the transition of how it affects the consumer and lifestyle continue to change.

By Tim Wassberg

%d bloggers like this: