Why Are You Carrying That Empty Cup?…

I’ve kept tight-lipped about this for far too long so the time is finally here. Regular readers may remember this post about how movie and tv makers use stand-ins for the backs of actors’ heads in the infamous over-the-shoulder shots. I have since trained myself with limited success to not dwell on the foreground blur that’s supposed to be the actual actor in the scene only to transfer my observational skills to the most bothersome of all movie and tv nonsense… the EMPTY to-go coffee cup…


First off, we’ve all come to know the manner in which a cardboard cup acts when it either has a liquid in it or is empty. I, personally, have 55 years of this experience. Now that I’ve started noticing more and am completely unable to ignore it anymore, I don’t think I’ve ever seen movie of tv show that has the to-go cup with any liquid in it. Consequently, the scene breaks down because even the best actors can’t make the empty cup they hold to their mouth or set on the table look like it has liquid in it. I’ve even seen scenes where the actor takes the “last” swig and finishes the drink only to later pick the “now empty EMPTY cup” up and take a sip as though it were full again… continuity problems. I don’t really understand this problem as putting a couple ounces of water in the cup would not mean any more expense, would not present a hazard on the set if spilled and wouldn’t be something with alcohol or caffeine in it that would alter the performance. Last but not least, it’s disposable and it would be nice if every now and then the cup was handmade. Enough of that, how about the weather… please please please stop with the polar vortex. If I hear it called that again my head’s gonna explode… reminds me of weapons of mass destruction or trickle down economics. I know it’s not sexy but it’s just cold weather and it is nothing compared to what Shackleton and his crew endured. On the up side, we had enough snow in Kentucky that was packy enough to make a snowman…


This is one of the few occasions where Sofia allows me to take her picture anymore. The cold weather is hindering some progress in other areas, namely delivery of things from distant locations and as far as clay work is concerned I cannot use my garden hose to rinse clay from my sieve. Meanwhile, I’m making a bunch of cups. Here’s some shots…



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6 Responses to “Why Are You Carrying That Empty Cup?…”

  1. carole epp Says:

    loving those cups

  2. meredith@whynot Says:

    the empty cup, the half eaten sandwich, the hair out of place, the good dental work has been getting me. Let see the earth ended so to speak, you have perfect teeth and your clothes and hair are always clean, and perfect. Good thing that your dentist make it through and you have kept up with your visits. Here is my last one; it is cold, the men are all wearing suit jackets or sweaters along with their shirts, long paints and all. You the female are wearing a little tiny ,sleeveless number. Baby it’s cold out there- put something on, really.
    yep cold, it is cold. I would tell you to come south but we are getting ready for some of the white stuff. Yummy cups. I hope they are never empty..

  3. barbaradonovan Says:

    I’d like to go on record as saying the weather channel’s new habit of naming snowstorms makes me want to stab something.

  4. soubriquet Says:

    “I survived Winter Storm Kronos” That is going to be my bumper stcker.

    Winter Storm Kronos! It brought chaos to Houston, Texas, stern-faced newsreaders looking earnestly into the camera, warning about disaster planning, schools and all manner of businesses closed, temperatures dipped below freezing for a few hours, and a teaspoonful of snow fell.

    If I get caught shaking my head in bemused wonderment once more, the sherrif’s department willl probably arrest me for ‘Mocking Texas’. I’m sure they’ll have a law of that kind.
    Schools closed again, yesterday, for ‘Winter Storm Leon’. No snow fell around here, but the tough guys of Texas cowered indoors. Ice is for inside a drink, or to skate on in a nice heated hall, when it gets out in the wild, they don’t know what to make of it.

    I have bought two kilns, at auction….. The place I was due to ppick them up from was closed, due to the terrifying weather, or what much of the northern hemisphere would regard as an unremarkable late-january day.

  5. soubriquet Says:

    Furtrhermore, on the movie front, I was reminded of the subject of infinitely self-refilling glasses, by a spoof of Star Trek, where someone pointed out that at some point, there’s a statement “We’re carrying 36 photon torpedoes” at the start of the voyage…
    Over the ensuing episodes, the geeks then proceed to count, as the starship shoots off many, many more, without ever being resupplied.
    Just like them thar westerns, where a feller would be holed up in the hills, shooting and shooting, yet he didn’t have a great big ammo box by his side. Was he picking bullets off the cactuses? Or making them out of rabbits ears?

  6. Ronald Kipp Says:

    Fill the coffee cup

    It seems as if TV shows and films are going for gritty realism where the actors aren’t beauty queens, or Adonosis and not every scene is filmed from the best angles to accentuate attributes, or cover up flaws. And at times they get dirty and greasy, and haggard. Casting directors have skewed to casting those whose bodies, faces and physical quirks are as much part of the charachter as is what the writer has in the script. Also it seems that directors and writers are taking into account that during normal interactions between people, they will talk over, though or past each other, especially in heated arguments, and not wait for contrived breaks letting the other actor finish their lines. To highlighting the everyday mundane acts that we all do while talking to others such as fluidly picking up keys, emptying the trash etc. Those mundane elements can even drive the story line, not just standing there looking at each other delivering the lines, and then reacting to what has been said. Reactions can be delivered not just with dialogue, but looks, gestures and even objects. Some of the best scenes can be of one actor in a room by themselves making a sandwich or doing an a sundry of banal tasks. And if the actor and the blocking and driection is good enough you can garner alot about the character, their frame of mind from that minimalist window on the person.
    Realism seems to be the order of the day in Hollywood, yet the empty coffee cup seems to be a relic of the past that won’t go gently into that good night. At long last give up the ghost on this one. It is annoying as hell to hear a hallow cup hit a table, it pulls the audience out of the scene. It is trivial yes, but if it is realism you are going for, then anything that retards the belief that the audience member is voyeuristically observing people going about their lives, then you break that bond and it throws everything else into question. It then takes a few minutes for the viewer to submerge back into that mindset, and alters the pacing, at times I look to see how the cup is behaving in the hands of the actor, and how they drink from it, or the sound it makes when set down.The hollow sound distracts from the escape into that world, you are no longer a passive observer into a world but a critic of the choices made during the filming. I recently saw a show where a character was eating and during which he spoke lines. He delivered some with a bite in his mouth, paused to swallow then continued to speak. Bravo, far from being distracting, {you couldn’t see the food in his mouth} but I knew he was using the food as much of a prop as any gun, knife or anything else the prop master might supply. So why not fill the coffee cups with real liquids, wine glasses have liquid in them, and the occasional continuity is broken, but easily forgiven by most. Disposable coffee cups are opaque and one may only glimpse a shadow of where the liquid might be in the cup, even that could be altered by padding the interior of the cup, much as they do when an actor wears tighty whities so you can’t tell what religion they are. When an actor interacts with their surroundings effectively it affects the realism and the performance, and makes for a much better scene. I’m sure you have noticed those that do this adroitly, and those that seem to fumble their way through. When people drink they swallow, when they swallow they make facial expressions, and may speak at the end of a drink… all of these things alter how we interact with others, and are percieved. Even a simple cough when swallowing lends itself to realism, did it simply go down wrong or was there an element of supreme oor astonishment? Which is why the shows and movies out now that de-emphasize perfection and highlight realism in characters, dialogue and the blocking of their show/film are the most popular. Audiences are looking for things that they can relate to, not over idealized representations of reality, bUT reality, even in shows that can’t be real. So fill the coffee cup. Don’t make us have to endure the awkward way actors interact with empty coffee cups (for that matter empty boxes as well ) No actor, no matter how well trained can pull off lifting, setting down or drinking from something empty. They appear foolish, and you appear lazy, take a few extra takes to get the best shot. That little moment of someone on film doing an act we all do, with all its possibilities may just give you the best scene.

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