atrautman's profile

7 Messages

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130 Points

Sat, Feb 12, 2022 2:31 AM

No Status

14

Puppeteer status

Hello! We are officers and members of the SAG-AFTRA National Puppeteers Committee. Currently, credits for puppeteers in IMDB are listed in the Additional Crew section of our respective Filmographies. The only time a puppeteer is listed as an Actor is when the puppeteer performs the voice of the character. We believe this is wrong.

SAG-AFTRA covers puppeteers as principal performers, just as it covers all actors, whether or not they perform the voice. The rules are the same for us as for any other on-camera union talent. All the same payment schedules, residual rights, and on-set and off-set working conditions that are provided to SAG-AFTRA principal actors apply to SAG-AFTRA puppeteers, too. (The same equivalency applies to non-union productions, too, for that matter.)

A puppeteer is an actor with an additional skill—the ability to send energy and the illusion of life into an inanimate figure. We give dramatic performances. We take dramatic direction from the director, just like other actors. We make puppets act, not just move.

A puppeteer, like an actor, brings a character to life on screen. Successful on-camera puppeteering requires solid theatrical instincts, a high level of acting skills, a flexible voice capable of producing a wide range of characters, a gift for improvisation, and the ability to bring life to an inanimate object.

Regarding the specific issue of voice performance—during production, the on-set puppeteer usually performs the character in full, voice and all, for the entirety of a project (series, film, etc.), making all performance decisions while working with the director to craft the character. (Some characters require the addition of assistant puppeteers, or teams of puppeteers.) Occasionally, producers will choose to replace the performer's voice in the finished product with that of another actor. This should not take away from the performance contribution of the puppeteer—i.e., this should not "demote" the performer from Actor to Additional Crew.

We request that IMDB re-characterize puppeteers as Actors and not Additional Crew, whether or not their voices are heard in the finished product.

Thank you,
SAG-AFTRA National Puppeteers Committee
Kevin Carlson, Co-chair
Kristin Charney, Co-chair
Tyler Bunch, Vice-chair
Allan Trautman, Member

 

1 Message

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62 Points

Il y a 5 m

Bump!

1 Message

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62 Points

Il y a 5 m

Signed up for IMDB just to like and bump this!

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64 Points

Il y a 5 m

Agreed!

17 Messages

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272 Points

Il y a 5 m

I'm nothing official, but happened to see this request. I understand this as an optinon of the guild Committee, but it's probably more effective to present it as a workable problem if you want change.

For context, refer to the Trautman page and Men in Black example.

https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0871209/
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119654/fullcredita

The credits guidelines mentions "voice" and "motion capture" cast specifically. Maybe that can help you clarify your situation.
https://help.imdb.com/article/contribution/filmography-credits/cast-acting-credits-guidelines/GH3JZC74FVYKKFMD#

If you're proposing a change to these guidelines, please propose another cast specification.

> puppeteers in IMDB are listed in the Additional Crew section of our respective Filmographies

The filmographies are merely views of the database content. The credits are added per movie and if the movie lists you as crew, your page will show crew.
There is actually no actor section, they are added as "cast". 

As a first step you could argue that there should be a "Puppet department" that moves you out of the "other crew" section. As you mentioned, the puppeteer work is often quite different from that of the actor, so having a well named section should be more descriptive than trying to make everyone cast.
To be "cast" you'll need to be a specific character in the movie. This is clearly true for voice actors. If you can show puppeteer credits for a specific character, you should have the same possibility to make cast. 

> SAG-AFTRA covers puppeteers as principal performers

Each national guild opinion is hopefully reflected in the in-movie credits of the movies made under that contract. IMDb is of course not limited to US movies.

> We request that IMDB re-characterize puppeteers as Actors and not Additional Crew, whether or not their voices are heard in the finished product.

The IMDb policy is to list the credits as they are presented in the movie. If you provide proof that the pupeeteer is credited as an actor, that should be no problem.
If, on the other hand, the actual movie credits did make a distinction you'll need to take the discussion with the movie management first. 
Consider focusing on your next contracts and appearances, rather than trying to change history.

I think it's best that IMDb doesn't try to change the credits based on general requests. You may however report errors to a specific movie, e.g. list uncredited appearances.

> The only time a puppeteer is listed as an Actor is when the puppeteer performs the voice of the character. We believe this is wrong.

Again, take that with the movie management.

> should not "demote" the performer from Actor to Additional Crew.

An IMBb listing are just words. What makes you think IMDb is an authority?
It seems as if you're the one that "demote" based on it. Why do you think "puppeteer" is something less valued than "actor"?
Is it the Actors Guild that promote the belief that being an actor is better, more wothy, than any other movie participant?

> A puppeteer, like an actor, brings a character to life on screen. 

I don't dispute that claim. I would however argue that the camera crew also fits that description. And the puppet designer and builder would be as important, right?
In an animated movie where the charaters are hand drawn or computer generated, who should be getting the "role of the actor" credit?

> Occasionally, producers will choose to replace the performer's voice in the finished product with that of another actor. 

Occationally actors are cut from movies before release. They're still actors, but are they actors in *that* movie?
The policy says "no" in general and it sounds fair to me.

If you want to motivate that on-screen puppetteering is enough to be part of cast, focus on the on-screen work that isn't cut from production.

---

Hope this helps the discussion.

Champion

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10.7K Messages

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290.1K Points

The IMDb policy is to list the credits as they are presented in the movie. If you provide proof that the pupeeteer is credited as an actor, that should be no problem.

This leaves a question of what it means to be credited as an actor.

But I find that IMDb's guidelines make distinctions based on types of work, not just based based on how credits are presented in a specific credit roll.

The cast guidelines state that the section includes "people not 'acting' in the traditional sense" and continues, "If the person is in-front of the camera or providing their voice, then they are considered Cast". Sounds promising for puppeteers.

However, a few different help pages include a statement like this: "We list only acting roles in the Cast section of a film, so other types of performances need to be added under the proper data section. For example: voiceovers, looping, adr work, stand-ins, photo doubles and puppeteers belong to the Additional Crew; stunt performers and stunt doubles belong to the Stunts section, etc." (from Update Status FAQ)

17 Messages

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272 Points

@Peter_pbn​ 

> This leaves a question of what it means to be credited as an actor.

I was deliberately vague on that (but maybe I should have said "cast" rather than "actor" to make it more so).
The reason for that vagueness was that it makes the decision *per name* or *per title*, rather than *what's morally right*. IMDb reviewers and contributors already have an understanding of what makes "cast" credits and when proof is consistent with that, the answer is clear. 

IMHO the cast is usually quite clear from the credit roll, naming their role figure (although some movies don't), early in the credits and not under another section, like camera or audio. 

> I find that IMDb's guidelines make distinctions based on types of work, not just based based on how credits are presented in a specific credit roll.

True, I suppose it's because the discussions have been tedious, when fans and actors are determined to get a certain name to appear as cast. 
I may be wrong, but I'd think that if a name is clearly among the cast in the credit roll, the guideline would not prevent inclusion as cast.
"Woman passing by" could be a named role among the cast, but if not she would be a walk-on/extra and IMDb needs guidelines to decide to include it as "uncredited" or to exclude.
If stunt performance is credited among the cast, I'd submit it as cast, but I think the guidelines cover the majority of titles.

> The cast guidelines state that the section includes "people not 'acting' in the traditional sense" and continues, 
> "If the person is in-front of the camera or providing their voice, then they are considered Cast". Sounds promising for puppeteers.

I think this is mostly to widen the scope to handle uncredited or non-fictional cases and separate cast from the claims of "I'm an actor, I should be in actor section".
Maybe a better wording would be "they *may be* considered Cast", because there are plenty of exceptions listed. 
As for "in-front of the camera" I'd interpret that as "on screen". I don't know how much modern day puppeteers themselves stand in-front of the camera, but the performance is still as on-screen as any motion caption is. 
However, if not credited in the movie, the guideline probably is right to not keep it outside the cast section.

> "We list only acting roles in the Cast section of a film, so other types of performances need to be added under the proper data section. For example: voiceovers, looping, adr work, stand-ins, photo doubles and puppeteers belong to the Additional Crew; stunt performers and stunt doubles belong to the Stunts section, etc." (from Update Status FAQ)

I wasn't aware of this specific mention of puppeteers. The guidelines are inconsistent and I can't tell which is the most recent or more accurate statement. 
In general pupeteers seem to be stored under "additional crew", but I don't think the guideline prevents listing as cast if there is proof of cast credits. 

1 Message

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60 Points

@JAG

I'm nothing official, but happened to see this request. I understand this as an optinon of the guild Committee, but it's probably more effective to present it as a workable problem if you want change.

For context, refer to the Trautman page and Men in Black example.

https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0871209/
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119654/fullcredita

The credits guidelines mentions "voice" and "motion capture" cast specifically. Maybe that can help you clarify your situation.
https://help.imdb.com/article/contribution/filmography-credits/cast-acting-credits-guidelines/GH3JZC74FVYKKFMD#

If you're proposing a change to these guidelines, please propose another cast specification.

> puppeteers in IMDB are listed in the Additional Crew section of our respective Filmographies

The filmographies are merely views of the database content. The credits are added per movie and if the movie lists you as crew, your page will show crew.
There is actually no actor section, they are added as "cast". 

As a first step you could argue that there should be a "Puppet department" that moves you out of the "other crew" section. As you mentioned, the puppeteer work is often quite different from that of the actor, so having a well named section should be more descriptive than trying to make everyone cast.
To be "cast" you'll need to be a specific character in the movie. This is clearly true for voice actors. If you can show puppeteer credits for a specific character, you should have the same possibility to make cast. 

> SAG-AFTRA covers puppeteers as principal performers

Each national guild opinion is hopefully reflected in the in-movie credits of the movies made under that contract. IMDb is of course not limited to US movies.

> We request that IMDB re-characterize puppeteers as Actors and not Additional Crew, whether or not their voices are heard in the finished product.

The IMDb policy is to list the credits as they are presented in the movie. If you provide proof that the pupeeteer is credited as an actor, that should be no problem.
If, on the other hand, the actual movie credits did make a distinction you'll need to take the discussion with the movie management first. 
Consider focusing on your next contracts and appearances, rather than trying to change history.

I think it's best that IMDb doesn't try to change the credits based on general requests. You may however report errors to a specific movie, e.g. list uncredited appearances.

> The only time a puppeteer is listed as an Actor is when the puppeteer performs the voice of the character. We believe this is wrong.

Again, take that with the movie management.

> should not "demote" the performer from Actor to Additional Crew.

An IMBb listing are just words. What makes you think IMDb is an authority?
It seems as if you're the one that "demote" based on it. Why do you think "puppeteer" is something less valued than "actor"?
Is it the Actors Guild that promote the belief that being an actor is better, more wothy, than any other movie participant?

> A puppeteer, like an actor, brings a character to life on screen. 

I don't dispute that claim. I would however argue that the camera crew also fits that description. And the puppet designer and builder would be as important, right?
In an animated movie where the charaters are hand drawn or computer generated, who should be getting the "role of the actor" credit?

> Occasionally, producers will choose to replace the performer's voice in the finished product with that of another actor. 

Occationally actors are cut from movies before release. They're still actors, but are they actors in *that* movie?
The policy says "no" in general and it sounds fair to me.

If you want to motivate that on-screen puppetteering is enough to be part of cast, focus on the on-screen work that isn't cut from production.

---

Hope this helps the discussion.

The cast guidelines state that the section includes "people not 'acting' in the traditional sense" and continues, "If the person is in-front of the camera or providing their voice, then they are considered Cast". Sounds promising for puppeteers.

(edited)

1 Message

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64 Points

Il y a 5 m

Yes, please!

2 Messages

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72 Points

Il y a 5 m

Well said. 👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽

Bethanny

Employee

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149 Messages

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1.7K Points

Il y a 4 m

Hi atrautman-

 

Thanks for your feedback regarding the current placement of puppeteer credit listings on the site.  We are aware that credits are grouped in categories that sometimes don't accurately reflect how they are displayed and organized in the on-screen credits.  While we try to follow standard industry conventions, our organization is also based on internal technical requirements, which in some cases necessitate grouping together credits for unrelated jobs.  Concerning your request to modify the credit category placement of puppeteer roles, I have modified this request to an "Idea" so other community members can vote on this policy change and IMDb staff can track the interest for future credit category improvements.

 

 

7 Messages

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130 Points

@Bethanny​ Thanks for your attention to this matter. I now see more than one potential solution that may work for most puppeteers (assuming their names actually appear somewhere in the credits). 

  1. My original idea, which is to simply treat all credited puppeteers as cast members, and have such credits display in the Acting section of their filmographies. 
  2. I have had success adding my name to the Acting section of a project by naming the Character and adding "puppeteer" in parentheses. For example, see this one listing of an episode of Unhappily Ever After, in which I listed myself as "Mr. Floppy (puppeteer)":
    https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0736923/?ref_=ttep_ep1
    The benefit of this solution is that it requires no change on the part of IMDB. Performers can go in and edit the project listing themselves. (Note: this is exactly how the credit appears on screen, so I'm not sure how it would work in other cases.)
  3. Create a new attribute, much like "voice" and "motion capture," for characters. The downside of this is that attributes aren't visible on the credit when viewed on the website.

I invite my fellow puppeteers to comment on these alternate solutions and provide any other comments they see fit.

(edited)

17 Messages

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272 Points

@atrautman​ 

> Performers can go in and edit the project listing themselves. 

This should be true regardless of how it's implemented. Audience, performers and production can usually contribute freely. Note however that some titles are locked (because they are considered complete) and contributions without enough "proof" provided might be rejected (regardless of what's true).

> I listed myself as "Mr. Floppy (puppeteer)": (Note: this is exactly how the credit appears on screen [...])

I see that the parentheses is currently not showing. Were they disputed? I think it makes most sense to get that part into the "attribute" instead, and it would present the parentheses.

> Create a new attribute, much like "voice" and "motion capture," for characters. 

Did you try to write "puppeteer" in the attribute field? It might work already, and then guidelines could be adapted later.
There seems to be a lot of attributes in use that are not among the ones "valid" in the guidelines.
https://help.imdb.com/article/contribution/filmography-credits/cast-acting-credits-guidelines/GH3JZC74FVYKKFMD?ref_=helpsrall#attribute

> The downside of this is that attributes aren't visible on the credit when viewed on the website.

Not sure what you mean. I can see "Bobcat Goldthwait as Mr. Floppy(voice)" both the in the title you mention and in his personal list. 
https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001281/#actor

Maybe the "valid" attributes show, but anything not considered valid is hidden?

7 Messages

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130 Points

@JAG​ 

>attributes aren't visible on the credit when viewed on the website.

I quoted this from one of IMDB's help pages. I do see, however, the "(voice)" parenthetical, so I'm not sure what the status of this is.

>Did you try to write "puppeteer" in the attribute field?

Yes. It was not accepted.

7 Messages

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130 Points

@Bethanny​ 

I have noticed, since writing my original post, that I am able to go to the page of a project in which I am listed as Additional Crew and list myself in the cast with—for example—the credit "Mr. Floppy puppeteer," which is how I appear in the end credits of that project. This might be an acceptable solution that most puppeteers can do themselves. 

However, I am not able, in IMDBPro, to list my Profession as "puppeteer," because it's not on the list. Would it be possible for IMDB to add "puppeteer" to the list of professions? I think most puppeteers would find this a dandy way to indicate what they really do in front of the camera.

Thanks!

Allan

(edited)

7 Messages

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130 Points

Il y a 4 m

Please see my updated comments below Bethanny's post.

(edited)

2 Messages

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72 Points

Il y a 4 m

👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽

1 Message

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60 Points

Il y a 4 m

I agree with this 100 percent!

1 Message

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62 Points

Il y a 4 m

SAG-AFTRA union member here.  This is an important issue.  Please take note IMDB.

913 Messages

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18.5K Points

Il y a 4 m

Yes.  And, also, extras/background players, musicians, dancers seen or heard ON SCREEN, including loop group/voice actors, are ALL "actors" and eligible for SAG/AFTRA membership.  ALL should be listed as Cast members.  They are certainly NOT "crew."

And, yes, I am also a SAG/AFTRA member.

(edited)

1 Message

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62 Points

Il y a 4 m

I agree 100% with your request.  This has been a point of contention throughout my own thirty years plus of experience.  Remember, Ronald Reagan, as president of SAG, agreed that puppeteers should be categorized as actors and he was not one for unreasoned statements.  Kudos to you for continuing the struggle.  Micha Sisti.

(edited)

7 Messages

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130 Points

Il y a 4 m

@Bethanny

In support of my suggestion that "puppeteer" be added to the list of Professions that IMDBPro members may choose for themselves, I would like to point out the language that SAG-AFTRA uses when asked what they consider as a SAG-AFTRA PRINCIPAL Performer:

GENERAL PROVISIONS
1. RECOGNITION AND SCOPE OF AGREEMENT
A. Recognition
The Union is recognized by Producer as the exclusive
collective bargaining agent for performers in the production of motion
pictures in the motion picture industry within the territorial limits of the
United States of America. The term "performer" means those persons
covered by the terms of this Agreement and includes performers,
professional singers, stunt performers, airplane and helicopter pilots,
dancers covered under Schedule J of this Agreement, stunt coordinators,
puppeteers and body doubles.

Background actors are not considered"performers."

52 Messages

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882 Points

Il y a 4 m

Something that I think is worth reading for anyone contributing to this thread, and it hasn't been linked to yet, is this paragraph in the submission guide for the "Other Crew" department:

We are aware that every department is important, and the presence of a job in this list should not in any way be seen as an attempt to trivialize it. Over time, we have split a number of job categories out of this list, and we intend to split even more out in the future as time permits.

That a job has to be entered and displayed under "Other Crew" does not mean that IMDb considers it less important than cast, or any other job in any other department. It only means that it's not a common enough job for IMDb to have a dedicated department for it.

Among what IMDb covers as a whole, works that prominently feature live-action pupperty are a relative minority, which is why it doesn't have a dedicated "Puppetry Department", not because it doesn't consider puppetry important. (At least, that's their ostensible policy, but I'll get to why they do seem to disregard it in another way.)

On a dance-focused work, for another example, the choreographer is maybe the most important creative of the whole project, but they have to be listed in Other Crew, because there isn't a dedicated Dance Department, let alone a specific Choreographers section. This isn't because they're not important, but because works with a choreographer and dancers are relatively rare, compared to those with camera operators, lighting technicians, and other jobs which are more essential to movies in general.

The other thing I want to mention is that IMDb already has a (to my mind) perfectly adequate, well-explained policy for entering puppeteering credits. It's just that they currently limit this policy to motion capture credits, because motion capture is considered hi-tech and therefore cool and mainstream and grown-up and commercial.

Exactly the same policy would be perfect for other ways in which a person's performance can be seen on the screen in the finished work but in an indirect way, whether through puppetry, suit performance (such as several performances by Doug Jones in Guillermo del Toro's films), rotoscoping (as in Waking Life and Loving Vincent), reference footage, or still photographs taken specifically for the production.

It is patently ridiculous that the cast members of Loving Vincent are entered with the "(voice)" attribute, considering that they are clearly visible and recognizable on the screen in rotoscoped form, while the actors who performed the captured motions and voices for non-human characters in Avatar (2009) are credited as actors without attributes. But that's the only way of entering these credits that IMDb's policies currently allow.

I can only presume that it's because rotoscoping, puppetry, etc. are all considered has-been, minority interests, used for kid's TV and not grown-up, big-boy movies like Avatar that they're aren't afforded specific guidance like motion capture is.

All IMDb's staff would need to do to sort this out is to keep the current policy but expand on it to include attributes for motion capture's lower-tech ancestors: at the least, (puppeteer), (suit performer), (rotoscoped), and (reference footage). Other people may have other, maybe better, ideas for which specific words to use, but those are what I can come up with for now.

7 Messages

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130 Points

@English_pedantic_grammarian​ Thanks for the thoughtful response. Just to be clear, I don't believe IMDB intends to demean the professions collected under the Additional Crew heading. But for many of us puppeteers, and I imagine professionals in other careers as well, it is not unreasonable to feel slighted nonetheless.

And, yes, I agree with you that a simple breaking-out of puppeteers as a separate profession would do the trick—even the addition of a "puppeteer" attribute would work for most of us. That's exactly the basis for my request in the original post.