In the five and a half years since London’s National Theatre launched its NT Live screening series, savvy audiences around the world have embraced the opportunity to see great stage performances and productions captured live in high definition for broadcast at more than 2,000 local cinemas.
Taking his cue from the Metropolitan Opera, National Theatre artistic director Nicholas Hytner led the way in establishing NT Live in 2009, driven by a desire to share his company’s productions with as many people as possible. “It started as an experiment,” says NT Live lead producer Emma Keith, “and we quickly discovered that live broadcasts allow us to engage an audience not just in the U.K. but internationally.”
A particularly starry season is under way at NT Live, which has expanded its reach to the West End, other London theater companies, and now Broadway. Recent premieres include A Streetcar Named Desire, starring Gillian Anderson and Ben Foster, and the Broadway-bound drama Skylight, starring Carey Mulligan and Bill Nighy. On November 6, the series crosses the Atlantic for the first time with the premiere of the sold-out 2014 revival of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, starring James Franco and Chris O’Dowd.
Meticulous planning and collaboration between the stage and screen teams set NT Live productions apart. One of Hytner’s smartest initial moves was to call in multicamera director Robin Lough, who has since helmed 15 NT Live broadcasts, from the very first (Phedre, starring Helen Mirren) to Of Mice and Men. Lough and Keith recently filled Broadway Direct in on the painstaking process behind this unique marriage of theater and film, “a new art form,” says Keith, “that preserves the integrity of what’s onstage and gives the cinema audience the best seats in the house.”
Lough laughingly shoots down the first misconception about NT Live broadcasts: that they’re filmed piecemeal over the course of several performances and then edited together. Even two-time Tony winner Stephen Daldry, director of two Broadway-bound hits captured by Lough (Skylight and The Audience, starring Helen Mirren), was taken aback when told that onstage costume changes couldn’t be shortened in the editing room. “We were chatting about the shots,” says Lough, “and he said, ‘You don’t mean this is live live?’ And I said, ‘When it’s happening in the theatre, it’s happening on the screen.’” U.K. cinema audiences see the show in real time, and nothing is changed for subsequent screenings in 40 countries. (Of Mice and Men is a rare exception to this rule: Because of a compressed time schedule, the show was recorded before an invited audience two days after it closed in late July.)
The process begins when the camera director watches a rehearsal or an early performance of the play. “I’m sitting and thinking about how many cameras I’ll need and where they should be placed,” Lough explains. “Normally the number is five or six. When I saw Of Mice and Men, I thought, This can be done with four cameras plus a tracking camera across the front of the stage to get lateral movement. Those two guys, James Franco and Chris O’Dowd, were so fantastic, they had done most of the work for me. Beyond that, the staging, the design, and the music made it a completely fresh experience.”
At that point, Lough consults with the stage director — Tony winner Anna D. Shapiro, in the case of Of Mice and Men — to discuss the overall plan for shooting the show, then spends three or four days studying the script and a crude tape of the performance in order to construct a camera script specifying every shot, line by line, and which camera will capture each moment.
“People often ask me how many shots there are, and I never have any idea until my assistant, who types the script onto cards for each cameraman, tells me,” Lough says. “With a long Shakespeare play, it can be more than 1,000.” A few days later, the cast comes in for an initial camera rehearsal, running through the play as Lough sits outside in a control center truck, flanked by an assistant who calls the shots to the camera operators and a technical director who cuts from camera to camera.
“The next step is crucial,” Lough says. “I sit with the stage director and we go through [the footage], because there are bound to be details that I’m missing. She might say we need a wide shot between scenes so you can see the set do a certain thing, or we might be missing an important reaction shot. All of these comments are really, really helpful.” After adjustments to the camera script, the cast returns for a dress rehearsal, followed by final tweaks, followed by the main event — the live performance. In London, Lough says, the stage director often heads to the local cinema to see his or her work on the big screen, surrounded by an audience that’s watching the theatrical audience enjoy the show.
Some might argue that this labor-intensive, three-part operation could be streamlined by eliminating the audience and staggering filming over several days. The NT Live pros respond that their method is the key to the series’ success. “Unlike an archive film, we’re capturing a single performance,” says Keith, “which encompasses the nature of theater itself. The cinema screening retains that sense of event: You buy your ticket and watch with an audience, and the artists on stage are engaging with their audience as well.”
Lough, who previously filmed opera productions in an empty theatre, adds, “It’s hugely helpful to hear the audience reacting. If someone on stage does something funny and nobody laughs, it’s deadening. We start with a shot establishing the fact that we’re in a theatre, and pull back to show the audience between scenes and before the interval. We always remind the cinema audience that they’re watching something in the theatre. We’re not pretending.”
Of course, any live performance involves risk, but Lough has only had one potentially ruinous experience, when high winds affected the satellite feed for several minutes during a performance of King Lear. When the problem was fixed, the actors backtracked to the beginning of the disrupted scene, to the delight of cinema audiences.
Thanks to social media, NT Live receives plenty of immediate feedback on each production, and the vast majority is warmly supportive. “It’s so gratifying to get an email from someone in a small town in Finland saying, ‘We don’t have theater here, but we love watching shows from your National Theatre at our local cinema,’” says Lough. Sifting through Facebook comments and tweets, Keith says, “teaches us that we’re giving the audience what it wants: the chance to engage with high-quality theater, filmed in a high-quality way, and accessible to everyone.”
Information We Collect
Information we collect directly from you: Your provision of your personal information to Us is completely voluntary; it is not a statutory or contractual requirement. Personally Identifiable Information (“PII”) is information that is uniquely identifiable to you, such as your name, address, email address, phone number, credit card number and other personal information that is not otherwise publicly available. Certain features of Our website may require that you provide Us with your personal information, including:
Mobile Alert Sign-Up (SMS)
Contact Us (email)
Public forums (e.g. message boards)
E-commerce (ticket purchases)
Your use of any of the features above;
New content on Our website;
News that We think may interest you about Us;
Responses to your questions/comments to us; and
Information relating to a ticket purchase.
We may use your demographic information for in house statistics, advertising and marketing target information. Our processing of your personal information is necessary for the performance and fulfillment of the contract between us and to provide you with Our services. We will also process, transfer, disclose and preserve personal information when We have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary, to resolve disputes, enforce our agreements and otherwise required by law. You can always opt-out of receiving future promotional communications from Us; see the Choice/Opt-out section below.Information We Collect Automatically: Even if you don’t use any of the features above, when you visit Our website, We may collect certain information about you.
From your Browser. For example, Our servers keep an activity log that tracks all visitors to the website. The information in the activity log does not identify you individually. The information collected may include among other data: your IP address, your registered domain or home server, time of access, date of access, web page(s) visited, number of clicks, software crash reports, type of browser used, session identification number, search terms, search results, access times and referring website’s address. We use your IP address to help diagnose problems with Our server and to administer Our website. Your IP address is also used to gather broad demographic information, such as country of origin and geographic location. We use such data in the aggregate to run internal analyses to improve upon your experience on Our website.
Tracking Tags (also known as “web beacons,” “action tags” or “single-pixel gifs”). Our website may also use tracking tags. Tracking tags are invisible graphics embedded in the pages of Our website that are programmed to collect non-personal information about your use of Our website. Like cookies, tracking tags provide overall usage patterns for Our website that We use for analysis and to provide personalized services and advertising content.
We comply with the Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising set forth by the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA). You can opt-out of targeted advertising from certain providers at www.aboutads.info/consumers.
How We Use Your Personal Information
The personal information We collect allows Us to keep you posted on updates to Broadway Direct. It also helps Us to improve Our services, content, and advertising. If you don’t want to be on Our email list, you can opt out anytime by clicking the “unsubscribe” button or sending an unsubscribe email to [email protected]. From time to time, We may use your personal information to send transactional emails, such as communications about purchases and changes to Our terms, conditions, and policies. Because this information is important to your interaction with Broadway Direct, you may not opt out of receiving these communications. We may also use personal information for internal purposes such as auditing, data analysis, and research to improve Broadway Direct’s services, and customer communications. If you enter into a sweepstakes, contest, or similar promotion We may use the information you provide to administer those programs.
Information Collected By/Shared With Third Parties
Third Parties Doing Work for Us. Third parties have no rights to use any data We have collected on your behalf. However, We may employ other companies or individuals to perform functions on Our behalf, such as sending postal mail, email, and text messages, conducting sweepstakes/contests, prize fulfillment and promotional activities, analyzing data, providing marketing assistance, processing credit card payments and providing customer service. These outside suppliers, agents and vendors have access to your personal information only as needed to perform their functions.
Third Parties with Links from Our Website. From our website, you may be able to click on links to third party sites to buy tickets and merchandise and for other purposes. These third party sites may collect information, including personal information. We are not responsible for, nor do we have access to the information they collect. The collection of this information is governed by the privacy policies on the applicable third party sites.
Social Networking Services. Our website may integrate with social networking services. We do not control such services and are not liable for the manner in which they operate. While we may provide you with the ability to use such services in connection with our website, we are doing so merely as an accommodation and, like you, are relying upon those third party services to operate properly and fairly.
When necessary. We may also release personal information when we believe, in good faith, that such release is reasonably necessary to protect the rights, property or safety of Ourselves, Our clients, Our users, or others. We may disclose personal information about you to law enforcement, other government officials, or other third parties, as We, in our sole discretion, believe necessary or appropriate, in connection with an investigation of fraud, intellectual property infringement, or other activity that is illegal or may expose Us to legal liability.
Transactions With Third Party E-commerce Partners, Vendors and Advertisers
Delivery of Advertising and Other Content
In addition to ads and content that We may serve you directly, We use third-party advertising companies and marketing services companies to serve ads and other content when you visit Broadway Direct and elsewhere on the internet and in other media. Both We and these companies may use information about your visits to Broadway Direct and elsewhere to serve ads and other content to you. In the course of doing so, a unique third-party cookie may be placed or recognized on your browser by such companies. In addition, We and these companies may use Web beacons to help manage Our online advertising and content. These Web beacons enable Us and the third-party companies to recognize a browser’s cookie when a browser visits this Site and to learn which banner ads bring users to our website and to serve you ads that you may find of interest elsewhere on the internet and in other media. Both Broadway Direct and these companies may use information obtained from your visits to Broadway Direct or other websites, and information received from you offline in order to provide advertisements about goods and services and other content of interest to you across the internet and in other media. If you would like more information about this practice and to know your choices about not having this information used in this manner by Our third party advertising companies, please visit http://www.networkadvertising.org/optout_nonppii.asp and/or www.aboutads.info/choices. European users may opt out of receiving targeted advertising by visiting http://www.youronlinechoices.eu/. In addition, we may provide PII and Anonymous Information to marketing services companies. This may include information we received from you offline or online. These companies may combine information we provide (including PII and Anonymous Information) with personal and anonymous information they may have about you, using cookies they place or that We place on their behalf, as described in the section regarding “Cookies and Tracking Tags”. We require these companies to delete the PII we provide them. These companies may use the resulting non-personal information and such cookies for their own marketing purposes, and they may provide the same to their customers for their customer’s marketing purposes. Some of Our emails may contain tags that allow Us and Our advertisers and other partners to determine the types of content that may be of interest to you. Those tags may contain PII and may be shared with others to the same extent indicated in the section regarding “Cookies and Tracking Tags”. Those tags may not be deleted but you can opt out of receiving the emails.
Use of This Site by Children
The Site is not directed to individuals under the age of thirteen (13), and We request that such individuals do not provide personal information through the Site. If a parent or guardian becomes aware that his or her child has provided Us with PII without the parent or guardian’s consent by, for example, misrepresenting his or her age, that parent or guardian should contact us at [email protected]. If Broadway Direct determines that it has collected personal information of children under the age of 13, Broadway Direct will immediately delete such information and any accounts believed to be held by children under 13. In addition, we may not collect or process information from a citizen of an EU member state under the age of sixteen (16) without such person’s parental consent. If you are a citizen of an EU member state under the age of 16, please tell your parents that you are using the Site and have your parents email Us at [email protected] so that We may delete any information We may have collected about you.
California Civil Code § 1798.83 permits California residents to request information about whether we have disclosed personal information to any third parties for the third parties’ direct marketing purposes. California residents have the right to request in writing: (a) a list of the categories of Personal Information, such as name, email address and mailing address and the type of services provided to the customer that a business has disclosed to third parties (including affiliates that are separate legal entities) during the immediately preceding calendar year for the third parties’ direct marketing purposes and (b) the names and addresses of all such third parties. To make a request, please contact Us at the following email address: [email protected].
Rights of EU Data Subjects
If you are a resident of the European Union, under the GDPR, European Union residents, as data subjects, have the following rights:
Right to access – This right allows individuals to obtain confirmation as to whether or not personal information concerning him or her is being processed and provide access to such personal information. It also allows individuals to request details of the processing of his or her personal information, including, without limitation, categories of recipients to whom the personal information have been or will be disclosed and purposes of processing.
Right to rectify – This right allows individuals to rectify any inaccurate personal information about him or her.
Right to restrict processing – This right allows individuals to block or suppress processing of personal data under certain circumstances.
Right to be forgotten – This right is also known as the “right to erasure”. It is an individual’s right to have personal data erased or to prevent processing in specific circumstances.
Right of data portability – This right allows individuals to move, copy or transfer personal data from one place to another in a secure manner without interrupting the integrity and usability of the information.
Right to object to processing – This right allows individuals to object to certain types of processing, including direct marketing, profiling and providing for purposes of scientific or historical research and statistics.
An EU resident has the right to access his or her personal data that We hold and to ask that their personal data be corrected or erased and to port their data. An EU resident may also have the right to object to, or request that We restrict certain processing or to withdraw consent previously provided. If you would like to exercise your rights under the GDPR, please contact us at [email protected]. If you are an EU resident and have a concern about our processing of your personal data that we are not able to resolve, you have the right to lodge a complaint with the Data Protection Authority where you reside. For contact details of your relevant local Data Protection Authority, please see http://ec.europa.eu/newsroom/article29/item-detail.cfm?item_id=612080
Security of Your Personal Information
Broadway Direct employs reasonable security measures consistent with standard industry practice, for personal information collected through this Site, including physical, electronic and operational measures to maintain security and prevent unauthorized access. While Broadway Direct takes all appropriate steps to safeguard personal information under Our control, unfortunately, no data transmission over the Internet or method of storing data can be guaranteed to be 100% secure. As such, We cannot guarantee that personal information supplied by users will not be accessed on Our servers, or intercepted while being transmitted to Us over the Internet. We assume no liability for any damages you may suffer as a result of interception, alteration or misuse of information during such transfers.
We will retain your information for as long as your account or inquiry is active and for a reasonable time thereafter in accordance with Our standard procedures or as necessary to comply with Our legal obligations, to resolve disputes, and to enforce Our agreements. Even if We delete some or all of your Personal Information, We may continue to retain and use aggregate or anonymous data previously collected and/or anonymize or aggregate your Personal Information. Please note that We will not be liable for disclosures of your data due to errors or unauthorized acts of third parties.
This Site provides users the opportunity to opt-out of receiving communications from Us, at any time, by email at [email protected], or by clicking the unsubscribe link in any email communication. The Site gives users the following options for removing their information from our database, to not receive future communications or to no longer receive our service, at any time.
Users can send mail to the following postal address: Broadway Direct 1501 Broadway 14th floor New York, NY 10036
Users can call the following telephone number: (800) 223-6715.
Users can opt-out of receiving future newsletter emails from Us by selecting the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of our email. However, We are not responsible for removing your information from the lists of any third party who has previously been provided with your information or is collecting your information through their cookies. You have the right to withdraw your consent for Our processing for your personal information by contacting us at [email protected].
This website gives users the following options for changing and modifying information previously provided, at any time.
Users can send mail to the following postal address: Broadway Direct 1501 Broadway 14th floor New York, NY 10036
Users can call the following telephone number: (800) 223-6715
In the event that We are, or any component of our operations is, merged with, or is acquired by, another entity, then any such successor or acquiring entity may become the successor to Our obligations with respect to the personal information that you have provided to Us, which would be necessary for the entity to effectively continue our business. By using this website, you consent to any transfer and use of such personal information by an entity assuming control of Our operations as a result of a merger, purchase of assets, or liquidation in bankruptcy or insolvency.