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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » I'm a real boy! » » New ventriloquist documentary 'Dumbstruck' receiving favorable reviews (1 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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stevezany
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The reviews are starting to come in for the new ventriloquist documentary 'Dumbstruck' which features a number of familiar faces:
http://www.dumbstruckthemovie.com/

The Hollywood Reporter gives it a 'thumbs up' saying this "quick-moving crowd-pleaser" is "destined for a well-received theatrical run."
http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/film......87.story


The Huffington Post says it was one of the best films shown at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, where it just made its world premiere.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brad-schre......235.html
Hedberg
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It sounds great. Hopefully I will get the chance to see it.
Bob Baker
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Hope it gets a distributor. And at least none of the subjects is trying to snuff it.

B
stevezany
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More insight on the film:

85 minute documentary, 2/1/2 years to make, $500,000 budget, some of the best "extra footage" will eventually surface as DVD bonus features

The movie begins at the Vent Haven convention and goes on to profile Kim Yeager, Dan Horn and Terry Fator among others.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/cont......2c530b65
stevezany
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Dan Horn's take on the film:

"An extraordinary film...Funny, sensitive, poignant, honest and above all, respectful...I am so proud to have been a part of it...I believe this film will do more for the whole of us than any other project I've seen."

http://ventdj.blogspot.com/2010/01/movie-dumbstruck.html
stevezany
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Just learned that Dylan Burdette, a 13-year-old from Kentucky, and Wilma Swartz are the two other ventriloquists profiled in the film.
KeithS
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I am revising this thread, because this film has opened in select theaters across the country. In addition, Clinton Detweiler recently posted his brief review.

I have yet to the see the film. However, having watched the trailer a few times, I am left wondering how the vents involved are portrayed. To me, it seems they may be portrayed negatively. The father of the young vent with the African American figure comes across slightly racist, and the mother of the pageant vent seems to think her daughter is odd. Thus, I am concerned that this film will only reinforce stereotypes about vents being "off" in the mind of the general public. Again, I haven't seen the film, just the trailer.

Like others, I am excited to see a mainstream film deal with our art, but not at all costs.
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Well, you know...the trailer has to sell a film to a more general public than just vents...so I figure the doubting parents are put there to get non-vent folks into the tent. I can hardly wait for this to be on DVD or Blue Ray!

-Philip
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They showed the film at VentHaven last year - it was an interesting look at ventriloquism and the humanity of people who perform the art. It makes you feel for some and cringe for others - but above all, I felt it was an extremely honest film.

Funny this came up today. I just got a call from a cousin of the producers. They are trying to arrange a screening in Baltimore and asked me to attend and comment.

Tom
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Vegasvent
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I like the idea of the film. I honestly and regretably can not see a large number of patrons that would go to a theater and pay to see a documentary about a subject that most are not interested in. It would probably do better in the video rental system. $1 at Redbox for someone bored, and with nothing else to do. We are only talking about it because of our investment in the Art.
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Servante
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Probably true. I figure to buy the thing, though.

-Philip
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It will no doubt be a treasure for any Vent to have in their own film library.
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I don't know Duane. Five years ago I might have thought exactly the same thing. But Jeff Dunham and Terry Fator have substantially changed the landscape. I think there might be as much interest for this as any other documentary film right now.
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Vegasvent
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No offense to anyone here, but let's be real!
As previously stated, we are only mentioning this documentary because of our vested interest. Wishful thinking would prompt us to want more recognition for this strange art. Dunham and Fator have only changed a very small portion of the landscape. I am proud of being a vent and throw their names out all the time. But, I run into people in Las Vegas everyday that have never heard of Jeff Dunham or Terry Fator. Or, have ever seen a ventriloquist. It's a big world, and the percentage of the population interested in vent as anything but a short-lived novelty, is quite small. Perfect example is this website. Specifically designed for Magicians and Magic. A "little tiny" corner of the Magic universe has been allotted for those of us interested in Ventriloquism. The Blackpool Magician's Convention is attended by over 3,500 magicians each year, VentHaven 450? This has become our only active Vent-related forum. Mainly because of lack of support from ventriloquists' themselves, and lack of genuine interest in the art.
Terry has always been billed in Vegas as a "Singing Impressionist and Ventriloquist". He has a contract at the Mirage because they needed to replace another singing impressionist that was leaving.(Danny Gans) The timing was just right as he was in town at the Hilton after winning "Americas Got Talent". His being a Vent with puppets was the "catch", the "gimmick". It is a musical show(concert as they call it in advertisements)with bits of interactive comedy thrown in to keep the pace. He is not there just for his ventriloquism. How long is he going to be introduced as a guest on shows, or interviews as the AGT Winner? Jeff lists as a "Ventriloquist and Stand-up Comedian, Actor". I've known Jeff for many years and I am proud of everything that he has done for the art.
The BBC's Planet Earth Documentary series cost over $25 million dollars to create. Disney's recent "Disney Earth" series has become a number one favorite in the video rental business. Lets not even mention any of Michael Moore's Academy Award winning documentaries. Do you really think that "Dumbstruck" will match-up? What have you heard lately about "I'm No Dummy!", or "BellyTalkers". I personally can't wait to see it. There are over 5,928 theaters in the US, with over 38,794 screens for viewing. However, it is only opening in eight(8) theaters across the country.
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KeithS
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Duane,

I think you make some excellent points here about the general public's knowledge and interest (or lack thereof) of ventriloquism. You write, "It's a big world, and the percentage of the population interested in vent as anything but a short-lived novelty, is quite small." You make cogent comparisons with the popularity of the art of magic and other documentaries. I teach middle school and in my classroom I have a small picture of Ray Alan and one of Edgar Bergen. My students have no clue of who these guys are (not that I would ever expect 11 and 12 year-old kids to know - although one student's father recognized Ray Alan, but that was because he grew up in England). However, inevitably after viewing the pics, a student will ask, "Do you know Jeff Dunham? He's great!" Most of my students know Jeff and love him. But that's as far as their knowledge of vent goes. They have no idea who Terry Fator is. Again, I really wouldn't expect them to know. So, I agree with all your points here.

However, I still maintain that the general public, even with its limited knowledge and interest in it (or maybe even as a result of this) does not have a wonderful impression or opinion of ventriloquism. Over the past few years, in my classroom and around the community, I have used a simple, cheap fish puppet to perform (it can be seen in my avatar). My mother-in-law bought it in Argentina for about $10. I didn't think much of it when she gave it to me, but it has become a local celebrity. Middle schoolers mind you, those pre-adolescents who are so concerned about what's cool and not looking foolish in front of their peers, love him and constantly ask to see this puppet. Using it actually re-ignited my interest in vent, and prompted me to get a professional figure. Some of you have seen the figure I had made by Scott Bryte on Ventriloquist Central. It is a very cute, unique looking figure. And yet, when I showed him to both children and adults, inevitably, many comments were how "creepy" and "scary" he looked. I took an informal survey of my 125 students and they overwhelmingly wanted to see me use the $10 fish puppet instead of the expensive, custom-made, hand-carved figure. I am sometimes amazed, but ultimately not surprised, by the general public's views on ventriloquism.

There are countless examples of this: the stereotypical insane vent that has been portrayed in movies and on TV ad nauseum, and the parodies of it on hugely popular shows like "Seinfeld" and "The Simpsons." We can come up with a huge list of examples of these types of things, and I think vents themselves need to shoulder at least some of the blame. The other day, Clinton Detweiler posted links to some YouTube clips of Conan O'Brien's show with his Ventriloquism Dummy Choir. I read some of the comments that others wrote in response to the clips, and I have to say I agreed with some of them. My first thought was, "Why would a vent participate in this? Don't they realize they are being made fun of." This type of stuff does nothing to advance the general public's opinion and knowledge of ventriloquism.

My point in all this is that I am concerned, again based on my multiple viewings of the trailer, that "Dumbstruck" will simply reinforce in the public's mind that ventriloquists are a very odd, and perhaps slightly insane, bunch. While it may be true that it won't be viewed by millions of people and win the Academy Award, those outside of vent that actually view it the 8 theaters around the country or via Redbox on a boring evening, will come away with a negative impression. So, while I agree that the public has limited knowledge and/or interest in vent, it's all the more important that the few vents that they ever see, will represent the art in it's absolute best possible light.
tacrowl
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Keith,

I highly doubt anyone will walk away from the film with a negative impression of the art. A realistic view, yes, but not a negative one. 'Dumbstruck' is an honest look at five people who do ventriloquism, good and bad.

Duane is right, it will never be a widely distributed film, but those who have seen it at film festivals have given it high praise. People who enjoy art/documentary movies and aren't swayed by general popularity will probably watch it - regardless of their knowledge of vent. I wouldn't look to it as a vehicle to make the art more popular.

Tom
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kidshowvent
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Duane, Keith Tom, and other vent friends ...I've sat back and read these reports about "Dumbstruck" and haven't commented, but I am about ready to burst!! Duane and Keith..you nailed it! While I really like the producer Mark Goffman and his crew (they were extremely pleasant to work with.), the film is not going to do anything to promote ventriloquism. Personally, I was less than thrilled with the product. Although it was well done cinamatically, the outcome was negative and we don't need any more negative press! Contrary to what some might think, portraying vents as "losers" doesn't make one want to join up to become a vent. I know each person in this film and I can tell you they are far from losers. They had many difficulties that, I feel, shouldn't have been paraded around in front of the general public.

Ken Groves and I both viewed the film before it was shown last year at the ConVENTion and we both thought it was depressing. I felt bad for everyone of them and embarassed for them as well. I contacted each of the people in the film, asking if they wanted me to not show it, but they unanimously said "Yes, show the film!". Can't to this day figure out why. I even asked Dylan Burdette, the kid in the film, if his dad was really negative about his vent work and he said "The people doing the filming asked him to act that way", so I am not sure about this as being totally legitimate.

Why can't we break out of the mold of vent being weird..why can't we have something positive about our art? The answer is, negativity sells. It makes you (in general) temporarily feel good that someone else is having a tougher time than you are. That's the secret to all this "reality show" crap on television. When you feed people a steady stream of negativity, they clamor for more!

Sorry about this rant, but I have been keeping this bottled up inside for quite a while. True, vents are not going to be a household name, with the exception of maybe Jeff Dunham, but even he doesn't have super great name recognition. He does a fantastic job and has helped us, like Terry Fator, but still the general public have a fleeting memory of who they are. Only when we can convince vents that all press or publicity isn't good publicity, then we can start to turn this thing around. I'm trying to do my part with the Vent Haven ConVENTion. I have advised my Media Coordinator to tell all film companies and press that we want and require GOOD publicity...if they are out to make us look weird, don't show up!

Sorry to take everyone's time with this. I am not saying not to see the film. That's up to you. I want each of us to think what CAN be if we work at vent from a positive viewpoint. Sorry to be so long..

Mark
markwade@kidshowvent.com
Neale Bacon
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I do know that there is a growing audience for documents of all kinds. We even have a channel in Canada dedicated to documentaries. Sundance even has a channel, so it will give the film some exposure.

I know it is a (more or less) honest look at the art but I agree with Mark they did seem to focus (maybe even create) some of the more negative aspects, and that IS a shame.

I have to agree too that negativity sells. As Mark said, look at all the reality TV shows. How many of those are positive about anything?
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Servante
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The worst thing you can do, though, is tell a media person that you REQUIRE good publicity. Nothing will make a reporter go negative quicker than that (I used to be in the advertising and PR business!).
However, if your media coordinator can get with these people and chat them up, with some humor and a wry chuckle about how dense some media outlets have been about vent...using some statistics about Fator and Dunham...about Jay Johnson's Tony and Paul Winchell's ground-breaking television work AS WELL as his work on artificial hearts (which could only have been backgrounded by his knowledge of the inner workings of a figure...just a different kind of puppet), Sheri Lewis's influence on a couple of generations of kids and Sesame Street's Muppets (Yeah, I know...but they will equate puppetry with vent and won't notice the fact that lip movement isn't a big deal with Muppets!)you might be able to nip some of it in the bud. Edgar Bergen they probably won't know.

"Of course there are odd ducks in all forms of entertainment, I suppose. After all, look at Charlie Sheen! But, heck, folks, there are odd ducks in all forms of pretty much everything: sports, science...heck, even journalism (insert loud laugh here)!"

Have printed news release information about the convention and its history and some of the people you'd like 'em to concentrate on. Write 'em like news stories. Provide several different ones. Newsfolks are on deadlines, and there are some of 'em who will often copy huge chunks out of your news releases in their stories. Provide photos where you can so they might use THOSE in some cases rather than the shot they got with the guy sitting alone in the corner talking to his figure.

Hm. NOW who's taking long here? Sorry. I got a little carried away, too!

-Philip
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Philip, you certainly did not get carried away; and neither was your response too long, Mark! We obviously care deeply about these issues, and I think that's positive.

Mark, I am very happy to read your comments. As I was writing my long-winded post above, I kept thinking, "I hope I don't offend Mark Wade!" I realized that as ConVENTion Chair, you played a key role in the filming of the piece. So, I appreciate your honesty, and of course, I agree. You wrote: "... negativity sells. It makes you (in general) temporarily feel good that someone else is having a tougher time than you are. That's the secret to all this 'reality show' crap on television. When you feed people a steady stream of negativity, they clamor for more!" Very true!

During the last ConVENTion that I attended, 1990, I clearly remember Jeff and Jay speak about how important it is for each vent to take responsibility for portraying ventriloquism in the most positive and professional manner possible. Each of us must be completely honest about our abilities (or lack thereof) and objectively reflect on how we are representing the art. This impressed me so much at the time that I wrote a brief article for "Dialogue" magazine mentioning this.

So, proper decorum dictates that we need to be respectful of our art and with other vents, but at the same time, for the sake of properly promoting and preserving ventriloquism, we must be honest and objective with ourselves and others in order to continue to improve.

Thanks guys!
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