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How do I get a job as a Muppeteer?

Discussion in 'Puppet Building and Performing' started by Fozzie Bear, Sep 26, 2004.

  1. spcglider

    spcglider Member

    I've discovered that its very hard to get anyone to pay you to be a puppeteer.

    And so, the next best solution is pay yourself. No really.

    We can't all be Muppets. That's just reality. So take your puppetry and make something out of it. Create a show and get it on tape. If you want to keep it as a "cottage industry", then make copies of your tape or DVD and sell them. If you want to go farther, then shop that tape around. Try video distributors, local television stations, public access, even local theatres!

    One of the last things that Jerry Juhl said to me was "You should do your own thing." My experience at the Los Angeles Muppet Auditions really cemented that for me. There ain't no room at The Muppets for me. Heck, there aint no room for many more experienced puppeteers. So it's time to move outside of the box. Even the Henson stable of puppeters are doing so.

    There is a market for puppet entertainment. Honestly! Don't let anyone tell you differently. It just needs to be of quality.

    Puppet Up!, Avenue Q, Crank Yankers, Greg The Bunny... all are excellent examples. Get out and make YOUR puppet offering. Then show it to us.

    -Gordon
    (Currently producing a late-night grown-up comedy show called Transylvania Television)
  2. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Active Member

    I think you're very right, doing your own thing is the best way to go. If nothing else, it may open other opportunities to you down the road. Even the Muppet people will tell you it's a mistake to pin all your puppetry hopes and dreams on working with them.

    I don't know about a market for "puppet entertainment". I think the number of people who watch something simply because it's puppetry is very small. There is a huge market for great entertainment though and I don't think people care whether it's puppetry or not...they only care if it's entertaining.
  3. spcglider

    spcglider Member

    Well, I've delved heavily into this recently. Considering that I'm making a pretty heavy gamble on my new TV show, I figured I'd better have some GOOD indications of what the market was like for what I intended to produce.

    In the 1970's we all grew up watching Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, and perhaps to a lesser degree things like the Krofft Saturday Morning fare or even re-runs of Kukla Fran & Ollie. Good times... good times.
    During the 1980's there was a famine of television puppet entertainment, especially for children, because of the opening of asian markets for massive amounts of low-grade animation. Imagine how cool TMNT would have been as a puppet vid instead of a poorly animated show.
    The kids of the 1990's grew up either watching anime or playing video games as entertainment. That gives them an appreciation for style, but not a lot to apply it to.
    And there ARE notable exceptions, but I'm talking broadly here.
    So what we have are two large markets: people who grew up in the 1970's who aren't getting their nostalgic tweak for puppet entertainment and people who grew up in the 1980's and 1990's who are (relatively) uninitiated to the joys of puppet entertainment. The latter group are now hip-deep in college or just past it. The former are out in the world... making thier way in dull jobs and trying to find a way back to their childhoods.;)

    We all keep yammering about how puppetry is a universal form of entertainment. Puppetry can appeal to any age. Yet all we can manage to make are puppet shows for kids or for family. (Notable exception, puppet ministry, which I am told, is presented to a broad spectrum of ages).

    For Transylvania Television, I am aiming DIRECTLY at a college aged audience. Sly humor, lots of ad-lib-like timing, darker comedic material. Characters based on movie monster archetypes. Classic and new. That aught to catch some of those "Buffy" and "Angel" fans. Very similar to the formula for Greg The Bunny, only without the annoying network interference.

    By heading for that middle-bracket (college age), I'm looking for a spill-over to the surrounding markets as well. As soon as college kids start tuning in, their younger siblings will too. Just because it's cool. On the other end, if the college kids are into it, that makes it "young" and "hip" so the post-college "I'm on my way to mid-life crisis" crowd will glom onto it as well.:cool:

    College is where all those market analysts head when they want to find out what the hottest new "thing" is going to be and exactly where they head when they are trying to "create" the next hottest thing by inserting it into a populace that has connection to even greater markets. Its stealth marketing. They draw information from the group and then turn it back and re-market it to the group.

    Anyway, enough of me blabbing. I'm sure you're all :sleep: by now!

    -Gordon
  4. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Active Member

    This is kind of an example of what I mean about "myths" about puppetry and it's appeal outside of the child/family audience though. There has always been popular adult oriented puppetry. Examples from the past decade alone are Crank Yankers, Puppets Who Kill, Ed The Sock, Triumph, Wonder Showzen, Mystery Science Theatre, The Pets.com Sock Puppet, Team America and Greg The Bunny (which you mentioned). Go back further and you find stuff like Spitting Image, Sifl and Olly, and Meet the Feebles, and Wayland Flowers and Madame.
  5. spcglider

    spcglider Member

    Allow me to edit my statement... I don't dis-agree with you one iota, but I could have been a little more clear about my point.

    We all keep yammering about how puppetry is a universal form of entertainment. Puppetry can appeal to any age. Yet all we can manage to find money for are puppet shows for kids or for family. And those shows that ARE for grown-ups seem to have a seriously short shelf-life. Possibly due to a lack of appropriate advertising investment. Ever wonder why they bother to keep advertising Desperate Housewives and CSI? They shouldn't HAVE to, but they do. Most likely because if they don't they see a noticable drop in ratings.

    America is on the cusp of accepting comic art as ART. Its taken a serious push by the industry to get it to that level. Its basically the same problem. Comics are a massively flexible medium and are capable of telling stories that no movie could ever attempt (see the manga works of Osama Tezuka or Hayao Miyazaki). But they are still carrying a stigma that will be hard to eliminate.

    I guess my real point is that America (broad sweeping generalization about the media consuming public) is ready for an all-out grown-up puppet series. Whether that's comedy or even drama. But the prevailing attitude needs to shift from the novelty of "Oh... isn't that cute! That puppet SWORE! Isn't that just naughty?" to an acceptance of puppetry as a valid entertainment medium. The notion held by most Americans is still that puppetry is for kiddies. And that notion devalues it as an art form. We've made inroads (and by "we" I mean ALL puppeteers who are trying this adult-oriented enertainment tack... I'm not trying to lay claim to it at all or include myself as a great contributor), but until we can hammer past the "novelty" phase of America's perception, we'll still be just little blips on a VERY large radar screen.

    I don't see it as a hopeless cause. I see it as a challenge.

    -Gordon
  6. Marky

    Marky Member

    People have been saying (North) America has been ready for this since The Muppet Show. It hasn't happened yet.

    I think it's not a matter of 'people being ready for the genre', but a matter of 'are productions companies ready to actually make something decent enough to last'.
  7. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Active Member

    To paraphrase Brad Bird, puppetry is an artform, not a genre. :)
  8. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Active Member

    Where puppetry is concerned, the gimmick-novelty of "bad puppetry" and "bad puppets" on TV has gotten WAY out of hand so that as a performance art it is valued less suddenly that it was prior. Basically, the whole Conan Insult Dog character and the PetCo (or whatever) the sock puppet was.

    Puppetry and Cartooning both, at least in this area of the country, still isn't well-regarded as art forms.

    The Mid-South Cartoonists Association (recently a sub-chapter of the Southeastern Chapter of the National Cartoonists Society, although it's been in existence since 1987) (and of which I'm Prez!) has classes to promote an education in cartooning which has students from teen to old-fogey. We also have a few art shows each year to show our cartoons alongside other art work (sculpture or fine art) to help promote cartoons as art.

    So, that's an easier promotion here.

    Puppetry is another story, though. We have a LOT of puppeteers in the churches, but as far as professional quality performers it doesn't exist. The church puppeteers here are all kids, really, so it's hard to try to get anything going where this is concerned.
  9. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Active Member

    John K. (the creator of Ren and Stimpy) has a great blog where he's constantly railing against the declining value of skill in the arts. One of his best posts on the subjects is here. This is a quote:

    Nowadays we have cartoons by people who can't draw (or write), "voice actors" by people who don't have distinct voices or acting ability, "songs" where people talk instead of sing and tell you how great they are without having to prove it to you with skill and talent.

    Imagine if the people who run entertainment today took over sports?

    We'd have basketball teams with short fat bald white men, Ultimate Fighting would pit skinny little emo cartoonists against each other, people who can't swim would be water sports heroes having female fans screaming at their drowning contests.

    Now John's a very opinionated guy and I don't personally agree with all of what he says, but his underlying point is a very good one. There is a bogus idea out there that anyone can pick up a puppet, or a pencil or a brush and just automatically be a good puppeteer, or cartoonist or painter. I think almost anyone can learn to be very good at these things, but it's not easy and it shouldn't be.
  10. Super Scooter

    Super Scooter New Member

    Puppetry has always come somewhat second nature to me, because I've worked on it pretty consistantly and constantly since I was five (maybe younger). Even at that early age, I took it pretty seriously. But, then I see other people, friends of mine, who may be very sincere in their desire to learn how, but it's very difficult for them. I can compare what I do now to ten years ago, and I see some big differences.

    It's sad to think that people with no real talent, who put little to no effort into their chosen field of art, become famous at it, when there are so many who do incredible work, and maybe even make a decent living, who remain annonymous and obscure.

    I've seen the craftsmanship and performances of many on this forum. Frankly, some of them surpass even some who work with the Muppets. It'd be awesome to see them lifted to that height with their puppetry.
  11. Marky

    Marky Member

    By genre I meant 'adult-oriented-humor-puppet-type-show".
  12. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Active Member

    I know, but some people do think of it as a genre rather than a unique art form.
  13. Marky

    Marky Member

    Well, they're obviously not puppeteers!

    ;)
  14. Brownie

    Brownie New Member

    I am a designer/builder of several kinds of puppets. I wish to hook-up with people working in the craft. I also have the facility to build stages and and other production needs and puppets. Thump Thump, .....anyone out there? Tens years as a Theatre Technical Director, master carpenter, properties designer/builder, etc. .....

    Lots of stuff on my web-site browns-custom.com.
  15. Meepsterboy

    Meepsterboy New Member

    It's sad how few get into Hollywood the old fashioned way, by skill. Now it seems it's all bribery and nepotism, just like ivy league colleges.
  16. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Active Member

    Forgive me, but when was Hollywood not about money and nepotism?
  17. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Active Member

  18. spcglider

    spcglider Member

    To get back to my point from earlier: You don't need to rely on Hollywood any more.

    Look at the buzz generated by goofy crud on You Tube and several other video websites. If one was generating truly unique and entertaining stuff, it wouldnt be long until Hollywood came to YOU.

    I know that's hard to do. In more ways than one. And it takes much more than simply plopping your vids on You Tube to catch people's attention. But really... can it be ANY harder than trying to sell your pitch to Hollywood when Hollywood isn't listening?

    So I say to you again... make your own way. That's what I'm trying to do.

    If I go out there and prove that I can do that sort of thing, who knows? Maybe it'll be The Muppets knocking on MY door.

    -Gordon
  19. Nick

    Nick New Member

    Huzzah! to Gordon! :) Well said!
  20. Marky

    Marky Member



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