Image credit: behance.net
Thought for the Week
One of my most important life experiences was also one of the most educational. And by “educational” I mean painfully humbling. Healing River was my first feature film as a writer-director. I thought I knew everything I needed to know: I had an MFA in directing and four years of post-graduate training; I’d taught filmmaking at three universities, produced and directed dozens of short films. What else was there to know?
At the end of week one my Producer said he was hearing complaints, “only no one’s telling you to your face because they don’t want to hurt your feelings.” Hey, at least I was a likeable loser. Oy!
So, I prayed. Because God has no problem telling me things to my face. And he gave me his prize recipe for Humble Pie:
- Step One: Gather ingredients (call a meeting).
- Step Two: Mix ingredients (admit you’ve screwed up and ask for help).
- Step Three: Bake at extreme high temperature (listen to their complaints, write down their suggestions, and earnestly thank them—they’re giving you one of the most important lessons of your life)!
- Step Four: Remove from oven and allow to cool (send team home with promise to apply their suggestions).
- Step Five: Serve warm, topped with a generous layer of fresh whipped humility (diligently review and apply their suggestions—over and over again)!
Some specs: Much of what I learned at that fatal meeting is applicable to any leadership environment—corporate, education, volunteering, even parenting. Here are some of the specifics I came away with:
- Give clear, concise directions, and then trust your team to do their jobs (whether lighting a movie set or designing digital widgets).
- Give immediate “Yes” or “No” answers (“Well, yes and no…” Oops).
- Don’t think out loud – It comes off as indecision, and leaves people feeling uncertain.
- Don’t talk “big picture,” talk their picture, i.e. talk about the part they’re tasked with. (Vision is a beautiful thing, but don’t rattle on about it!)
- Be specific (Not “She’s depressed, so she drinks and wanders around,” but “she enters here, pours herself a drink here, then goes and stands here.” My lighting crew didn’t need to know why she was drinking, they needed to know where!).
- Affirm people—and be specific about that too (“Perfect! I love how the camera moved into the close-up just as she started to cry!”)
- Save notes from your team members in a “Read This!” folder — and review and apply those notes daily!
I’d like to say I performed brilliantly after that. I didn’t, but I did improve. So, no, I’m not a perfect director, but when it comes to eating humble pie, I take the cake. Oops, mixed metaphor.
I’ll try to be more specific next time.
Healing River has won over 20 movie awards and nominations, and been one of the top-rated inspirational films on Amazon Prime for over a year. It’s also available on TubiTV, Roku, and other streaming platforms, as well as DVD at most retail sellers.