A Director’s Influence

When it comes to storytelling, a great director can influence his team to bring their best game. A director’s collaborative vision can bring out the best in their team — creating an amazing final product. A director also has the power to destroy the energy for crafting a unique and memorable story.

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Both the good and the bad get shared through the director’s ability to influence his team. Every director can ensure their influence is productive by following these three steps.

1. Inspire Your Team to Contribute to the Creative Process

Inspiration starts the moment someone joins the film. The director’s attitude and demeanor set the tone for the entire production. And it’s not by chance. The director must plan ahead so he can show his intent in the proper light.

I remember watching footage of Tom Cruise speaking to his cast and crew. The first words out of his mouth were enthusiastic, “We get to make a film today!” His team was grateful based on the tone he set for an incredible day of shooting.

When I share my first words on set, I like to motivate the team with a sense of purpose. I tend to share a brief story that reminds everyone why we’re there. The goal is to jump-start their artistic superpowers.

It’s my hope that my story is one that inspires the team to give 1% more than the day before. This empowers many to level up and extend their skills beyond what they thought was possible. The added effort always shows up on screen in a miraculous way.

2. Mine the Treasure from within Your Team

The skill of observation is the most important tool of a director. He uses it to gather real-world content and gain the intent of the screenwriter. The director also uses observation to discover the qualities of his team members.

I’m humbled when I’m told by a team member that I drew more talent out of them than they thought was possible. While some credit me for their actions, I know that all I did was see the treasures that were within them. And yes, I drew those talents to the surface to take advantage of what the story needed.

Mining someone’s talent is about empowering them to shine. But, sometimes a director must get the person out of their own way so their talents can surface. That often takes a jolt of inspiration.

I was working with a kid actor on a sci-fi set who needed to get mad in the scene. The kid was a peacemaker that rarely raised his voice at anyone. But his character had to get in an adult’s face while spewing intense dialog.

After the kid’s performance suffered through many takes, I got in his face with an intense voice. Before tears formed in his eyes, I rolled the camera. The team gave his five-star performance a standing ovation.

I had observed his internal fear of failure and I brought it to the surface. He was fast to shroud his fear in anger out of self-preservation. He produced the exact emotional moment the film required.

I sometimes wonder if what I did was necessary.

The producer shared strong words with me for going about it in the wrong way. I’ve made it my life’s goal to continue searching for better techniques ever since.

But that doesn’t mean I chose a bad technique. You see, every time I received an award for the film, the presenter mentioned the kid’s performance in that scene. He loved the accolades. He also forgave me. And his performance landed him an audition at Nickelodeon.

I’m not suggesting that the ends justify the means. I’m saying that I did the best I could at the time. That action drove the kid to do his best too. The end results were awards and more film and TV projects for the kid.

3. Shape Your Team’s Passion for the Project

The key to good storytelling is to realize that a like-minded group can do more together than apart. To that end, the director must find a way to draw the most out of every person on set. The best place to start is to learn about the passion within each person when possible.

Some think the director is only responsible for what’s on-screen. But he is also responsible for guiding the team to achieve the desired results.

The director is not a powerless figure who must work within the strict confines of the script. In reality, the director has a tremendous amount of power to shape the team and the story. The on-set tone has a lot to do with how the team works together to tell the story.

Leading the Team to Success

To succeed is to fan the flame of passion within the entire team. Strong directors remind the team about the core elements of the story. They also point out how it will impact the audience.

The director will help the cast and crew see how the project will push them to their next level of expertise.

A director’s job is not simple. But he can influence his team to succeed by inspiring them to contribute. He can also mine the treasures from within his team and put them at the forefront of their actions.

And finally, the director can shape the entire team. Turning up the passion meter will energize the cast and crew. This gives the director a front-row seat as everyone embraces their newfound power.

Copyright © 2022 by CJ Powers

Directors Embrace Adaptability

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Newbie directors ask what are the most important elements needed to be a great director. Most hope that the answer has something to do with technology or watching a lot of movies. They rarely expect the answer to be a character trait.

Thanks to my festival judging opportunities, I’ve talked with hundreds of directors. They’ve had a vast range of skills.

The director’s passionate stories always include a turning point in their film project. It included a moment when they breathed life into a scene that was about to turn bland or die on the vine.

The director saved the project’s near-death experience by choosing to be adaptable.

All directors can protect their stories by embracing three basic forms of adaptability.

Go with the Flow

In an ever-changing landscape, directors who go with the flow are more likely to thrive. No matter how well planned, there are opportunities for a director to take a creative risk.

I directed one of two promotional pieces at an old firehouse. I had time to scout the area in advance and determine the perfect set-up for speed and artistry. I asked the production manager to have 1-2 12X12 butterfly scrims available for the shoot.

On the day of production, the producer wanted my team to shoot first. I asked the production manager for the scrims to diffuse the sun. He had decided not to rent any scrims. That put the lead actors looking into the sun.

I had to adapt by moving the talent from the sidewalk onto the shaded porch and re-block the entire scene. This forced my director of photography to adapt. He had to adjust his settings to cover the 2 – 3 stop lighting difference between the shaded area and the bright sun.

Be Resilient

Directors plan out their rehearsals and production. But sometimes an outside influence causes a major setback. The director has to bounce back and show resilience to get the team back on course.

I directed a musical for the stage. The venue forced us to hold auditions the night before rehearsals started. Since the show required a large cast of kids, the auditions went long—which everyone expected.

The unexpected moment showed up in the form of the venue’s manager who decided it was time for everyone to go home. He gave us a 20-minute warning. The producer managed interference, hoping I’d finish before he lost the argument.

The manager shouted for me to stop until they could square things away. While the two argued, I went up to each nervous kid and help them understand that they were not in trouble. After 45-minutes of heated debate, he gave us 30-minutes to finish.

At that moment, I had to come across to the kids as the leader of fun. I needed to bounce back and show that it was time to play. My sole goal was to turn their concerned faces into smiles. I had to help the kids let go of the intensity and embrace playfulness.

Innovate

The key ingredient to adaptability is innovation. Directors have a team of experts with various life experiences. Directors that are innovation-oriented are on the lookout for the next best thing.

I was shooting a spring day in a YA film in October. The scene required a goose to attack a new foster child, but the goose and its wrangler didn’t show up on set. Thankfully the attack-goose puppet and the puppeteer did show up.

I worked with the stunt coordinator, puppeteer, and the director of photography. We determined the best angles and moves to reduce the number of live goose shots needed. I figured that a second unit would shoot the live goose to match our principal photography.

Three weeks later, the second unit started to film. But the deep green grass was now a light shade of November brown.

The second unit director researched solutions. He bought a type of green paint that could match the footage. The paint was unique in allowing sunlight to pass through—keeping the grass alive.

Adaptability empowers a director to succeed when plans get blocked. Directors can practice the above characteristics until it becomes a part of who they are. Then they’ll be ready to protect their next project from surprises.

© 2022 by CJ Powers

Cold Shower Bandwagon

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Motivational speakers convince thousands to take cold showers every year. Many articles speak to the mental health and physical benefits of cold showers. Studies even support how cold showers help participants feel more energetic and ward off severe illness symptoms.

But how cold is cold?

Didn’t Know

A highly experienced health coach told me to start taking cold showers to strengthen my muscles. I had heard similar comments since high school but always wondered how cold the showers needed to be. So, I asked.

The coach looked at me in wonderment. No one had ever asked her that question before. Nor did the coach have any idea what the answer was.

The coach admitted that all of her clients just started taking cold showers. No one had ever questioned it. She then suggested I just turn the knob all the way to cold and shower.

Nooooo!

Water temperatures are very different in every location. The temperature of cold water in Phoenix is nowhere near Chicago’s temperature.

Calculating Cold Water

Groundwater is different from lake water. The location of the groundwater determines its temperature. Here is a formula for well water to determine the temperature of the water in your shower.

In wells that are 30-60 feet deep, the water temperature is 2-3° above the annual mean temperature of that location. Deeper wells are colder and more shallow wells warmer.

Where I live, the well water is 44°F (6.7°C). But, our area uses Lake Michigan water which is 33°F (0.5°C). Either way, no one in their right mind is going to take a cold shower with the lever turned all the way to the cold. Those who attempt it are playing games with hypothermia.

The Right Temperature

Selecting the correct temperature results in our bodies becoming more resistant to stress. We see an increase in endorphins that can help prevent many diseases. The mental benefits of hydrotherapy include reducing depression.

The cold water temperature used by those in the medical community is often 70°F (21°C).

This temperature increases metabolism, improves circulation, and fights common illnesses. I found many documents and studies giving testimony to these benefits. The better news is that you only need to take a cold shower 2-3 days a week for 2-5 minutes to gain the benefits.

Your Responsibility

I talked with several people who try to gain benefits from cold showers. Every one of them took showers that were colder than necessary. They described how they would shake and moan through the process, knowing the benefits would make the daily experience valuable to them.

While 70°F (21°C) feels very cold, it’s far better than the 33°F (0.5°C) water that some foolishly take because they never asked how cold is cold enough.

When we consider new experiences, crowds of people will push their plausible solutions on us with vigor. We saw this happen with the experimental COVID vaccinations. Many forgot that the drugs were experimental with no documented significant human outcomes prior to the rollout.

Regardless of the pressure from others, consider how cold your water is compared to theirs. If they live in Texas and are not making sure their water is at 70°F (21°C), they may be taking a warmer shower compared to the 33°F (0.5°C) shower a person in Chicago might experience.

Respect Our Differences

We all face different circumstances with different perspectives. No one understands what others face without a fully open conversation. Unfortunately, most people that pressure others to consider their solution rarely listen to learn if the other person’s circumstances match ours.

We need to respect the thinking process of others. We also need to give them the respect to make their own best decision. After all, it’s their life.

Each person has the right to take a warm or cold shower when given the opportunity.

So, if you’re game, try taking a 70°F (21°C) shower and see if you feel great about the results. But avoid accidentally taking a 33°F (0.5°C) shower, or you might think the cold shower recommendation is only for the insane.

By the way, as a gauge, if you stick your wrist in the shower and it feels very warm, but not too hot, it’s probably about 105°F (40°C).

Let me know how your cold shower goes.

Copyright © 2022 by CJ Powers