Thursday, February 22, 2007

Back to the camera

A quick note about the AWA inteviews that we watched today in class... I was amazed at how informal and poorly staged the tv interviews were. The wrestlers often had their backs to the camera , and walked out of frame, or stood directly in front of the announcer so that the poor guy had to reach around the jostling, extoling wrestler with the long skinny mic. The wrestlers also seemed to be in somewhat uncomfortable territory with the speaking on camera, often looking uncertain about how or whether to continue a rant or just start throwing things or beating on the interviewer.
All of this could certainly be accounted for by the shift in wrestling into tv formats and into more dramatic layouts and plotlines. The wrestlers were given a new criteria for success in pro wrestling: the ability to perform their characters verbally on camera. We saw the instance of Bockwinkel and Stevens taking on Bobby "The Brain" Heenan as a manager, since his speaking ability and verbal charisma far outshone the wrestlers'.
But the crazy interviews, with all their impromptu camera work and screwy positionings, add to an anarchic tone the is created because the wrestlers can't control their physical energy, their anger, their need for vengeance. When the interviewer ends up trembling in the corner, it adds to the credibility of the wrestler's character. The interview becomes an extension of the match, instead of a seperated response to it.


Sam Ford said...

Kate, you raise some interesting questions about the AWA interviews we watched in class. The aesthetics of the interview, the confusing and confused tirades of some of the wrestlers were colorful and explained some of the characters well, but it's hard to tell if some of the mayhem was planned or due to a lack of understanding about how to stage things.

I'm thinking in particular about the Stan Hansen segment, where he was barely talking into the mic. It seems actually planned to be poorly staged, in that case, and you are right that these high-energy promos almost add to the match. Think as well about the live interview after the Bockwinkel and Stevens match where they run off and Larry Hennig comes into the frame. The design seems to be a feeling of authenticity rather than a superior visual and audio product.

As far as the confusion on the wrestlers' faces, it seemed to work well for some of the particular charaactres. Maddog Vachon being confused or the Baron...both of these guys played the type of yelling and bellowing character that it made sense. I think the Crusher interview is one of the best as far as laying out a character and being a little bit more relaxed, but it still got it's point across and almost felt like you were getting to see Crusher in a little more of a relaxed setting, although he's still completely "in character."

The addition of Heenan, or Paul Ellering with the Road Warriors, is a key of this period of wrestling that we'll be seeing more instances of in the next few weeks, but the manager becomes an important part of it. In Bockwinkel's case, he could cut a promo, and the AWA documentary we started pointed out how articulate he is. Stevens was not as well-known for his promos, and Heenan is almost unmatched as far as performance when the camera's on.

Rob said...

The Hogan interview where he had his back to the camera throughout the entire interview seemed particularly unusual to me.

At first it seemed to me that they were going to have him turn around suddenly during the interview to reveal who he was, yet that never happened. At times he seemed to be turning towards the camera, yet never did, and sometimes it seemed almost as though the announcer was trying to angle him closer to the camera without success.

However, I can't imagine that it would have been that difficult to actually get him to face the camera if they really wanted! Were these interviews recorded live? Did they simply put that little money into filming them?

Someone brought up an interesting point that maybe they were intended to be that way... perhaps to sell tickets to the actual events?

I'm not sure I quite buy or understand that line of reasoning myself, though the fact that it was a total accident seems equally strange to me.

What does everyone else think?

Ismael said...

I think that wresting interviews have definitely become more important over the years. Rarely do you see interviews now that are performed in generic sets. It seemed as though wrestlers would just enter the interview area as soon as the ones before them left. In the documentary they pointed out that the interviews were prerecorded and then added into the show at a later time. Now, the interviews take place while the show is going on and adds more of an element of uncertainty. As a result, the interview has evolved to the point where the environment tells as much about the character as the actual interview. The only interview from the documentary that had a location that told a story was in Maddog Vachon's interview. I could imagine something like that appearing in modern interviews.

Sam Ford said...

I think the Gagnes told the story that made their wrestling important by emphasizing characters above all else, as well as a variety of wrestling styles. Certainly, there are few territories of the era who had consistent characters like Maddog, Crusher, The Baron, Nick Bockwinkel, Verne, etc.

As for the camera work, there's no way it was an accident, at least not blatant things like not having people face the camera, but it seems that they wanted to emphasize muscular body profiles in some cases. The Hogan interviews appeared to be some of his first ones, so there may have been some idea of not letting everyone have a full view of him to start with, to build some intrigue for who he is.

And there seems to be some emphasis at making it not too slickly produced, such as the Stan Hansen promo. Hansen as a character wouldn't care if he was talking into the microphone or looking into the camera correctly the whole time or not, so there was a sense of realism, even amidst the insanity...