Beauty in Motion Speaks Louder than Words

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Yesterday I found myself photographing beauty in motion. The picturesque quality of my surroundings revealed an underlying splendor that only surfaced in the heat of the moment. The cycling races I shot revealed much about the character and determination of each competitor.

The motion also revealed the desperation and sadness of those lagging behind. Whether they were bent on being more competitive or were rookies realizing the strain of their first heat, each cyclist faced internal struggles on top of the external ones provided by the terrain.

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I shot over 1,000 pictures in my attempt to capture this beauty. My passion for capturing a segment of life was amplified as my skills were reenergized. I found myself secluded in a closed course where fans cheered and racers exerted everything they had for the win. The focus was intense.

When I snapped off an array of pictures at the finish line I recalled a phrase from the Apostle Paul, “…Let us throw off everything that hinders … And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…” My mind spun to another one of his quotes, “…I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race…”

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I finally understood that it was all about the movement. There was a level of beauty in life that couldn’t be seen without some form of action taking place. Being passive or reserved hid the treasures of beauty that can only resound when turned into a deed.

Van Gogh wrote a letter to his brother about talking versus doing. He wrote:

“Principles are good and worth the effort only when they develop into deeds.”

When my father passed away a couple thousand people came out to pay him tribute. I saw a sea of faces and heard hundreds of stories that dissipated within my sorrows. Years later, the only people I remembered were those who took some form of loving action on my family’s behalf. All the rest were forgotten.

A friend of mine took it upon himself to help any family that suffered loss. He would go to the family’s house two days before the funeral and collect up the shoes they planned to wear. A few hours later, he’d return with every shoe polished and looking brand new. It was his way of demonstrating what love looked like in action.

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Seeing victory smiles on the winners of yesterday’s races were energizing. Not because of the win, but because of their inner beauty being released through the actions they took. That intangible quality that becomes apparent was more powerful than what any of them tried to put into words during their after race interviews.

Only their actions would be remembered and cherished for years to come.

© 2017 by CJ Powers

Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017

© Andril Pokaz and Isaxar - Fotolia.com

Last year was filled with personal loss, crazy politics and the courting of China’s Wanda in Hollywood. It was a year that most people wanted to exit before they incurred too many losses. The only thing everyone seemed to agree on was that 2017 had to be better.

For 2017 to be better for me, at least from the perspective of the world of entertainment, I’d like to see some changes in the motion picture industry. I’ve decided to consolidate my thoughts by genre.

ROM-COMS
I’m tired of romantic comedies being too dramatic and short on comedy. This might be due to the slow pace all Rom-Coms have fallen into, which likely destroyed comedic timing. This year I’d like to see a fast paced Rom-Com that takes 10 minutes for the audience to figure out how the show ends instead of the standard three minutes.

HORROR
I’ve had enough with the screaming beauties. How about the first horrifying attack being against a buff man instead of a high-pitched screamer. I mean does every horror film have to start with a blond scream? Not in 2017.

FAITH-BASED
I beg you to stop preaching in an emotion-based demonstrative medium (show don’t tell). Learn how to show the human condition so your redemptive moment at the end makes God look majestic instead of trite. Take time to rewrite your scripts two dozen more times before shooting your ultra-low budget film and make sure at least one scene uses subtext instead of Evangelical jargon.

ACTION
Please consider shortening your action sequences enough to add a subplot into your movie that helps us to actually care about the protagonist. I’m tired of comic book stereotypes in an age when diversity makes us stronger.

ADVENTURE
Yes, thinning out your plotlines has increased your box office success, but when you thin it out too much no one wants to watch the story a second time—That’s why box office dollars started to shrink. Give us something to chew on that transcends the action plotline.

MUSICALS
Making a few more every year would put lots of smiles on the faces in the reclining theatre seats. Maybe its time for a new franchise of musicals like the old Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney stories.

BUDDY COP
These films are made all too far away from the previous one. Everyone likes camaraderie intermixed with thrills and spills. Use your creativity and come up with a few scenes we haven’t seen before and we’ll let you toss in a few scenes that play like an old romantic rerun of happy days gone by.

DRAMA
This genre has turned dark and can’t seem to come back into the light without turning cheeky in the process. I challenge you to write a smart drama that carries a happy tone with sporadic nightmares that are quickly sorted by the protagonist. We want the star to step up with an amazing demonstration of unconditional love coated in self-deprecating humor and a touch of chivalry. And while you’re at it, stick it in a courtroom that is rendered with respect, instead of the bitter views of those abused by attorneys.

I suppose that’s enough dreaming to kick off this year. How about you? I’d love to see your comments on what changes you’d like to see this on the silver screen.

Copyright © 2017 by CJ Powers

The 3 A’s of Story Movement

When I was a child, my dad told me that a motion picture was about movement. I said, “dah!” But later I realized he was profoundly right. I’ve seen too many films that were not about movement. I’m not talking about the physical motion you see on screen where either the camera is moving or the actor moves, although that is present in film.

I’m speaking about story movement.

Every great story has the triple A’s of story movement: Anticipation, Action, and Aftermath. It is no different than the beginning, middle and end, except for one small factor: It’s about building a question in the mind of a viewer that must be quenched by watching more of the show.

ANTICIPATION

The “what” of a story is typically known by the audience before watching the film. The key is to make sure the audience doesn’t presume the “how” of the story before it unfolds. However, to create story movement the director must build anticipation in the audience to see if things play out in the expected way. While the ending might turn out close to expectations, how the story unfolds must be new and unique.

Blog_AAA-1My picture of a character reaching for a flower is symbolic of anticipation. It causes the audience to wonder if the character will caress the flower and smell it, or pick it. Both possibilities have been seen before, so how it’s done tells a new story worth watching. Not knowing how things will play out causes the audience to anticipate several possibilities. The audience is compelled to continue watching to see the outcome.

ACTION

Blog_AAA-2The flower being picked confirms the anticipated event to be new or what was expected, but done in a fresh way. It also raises another question. The audience now wants to know what will happen to the flower. The action drives the viewer to seek the end of the scene. They need to know if the character will hand the flower to someone, put it in a vase, toss it over the neighbors fence, or maybe realize that picking it killed the poor thing and grieve. The possibilities are endless.

AFTERMATH

Blog_AAA-3The aftermath isn’t always negative, but many times it is, except for the midpoint and climax of the film. But it’s always emotional so the audience shares the experience and desires to know more about what will happen in the next scene. Many writers speak about this moment being critical to moving a story forward using a consequence or conflict.

Every scene must have the three A’s to drive the audience’s desire for more story. Without it, the film falls apart. The magic of the three A’s is that it works every time, keeping the story moving and raises questions in the audience’s mind about what comes next. Great stories compel the audience to watch every subsequent scene until the film’s resolving climax and epilog.

© 2016 by CJ Powers

Creating a Two-Minute Persuasive Story

The vice president of Sales and Marketing approached me a week before the big trade show. He said he’d be joining me for dinner to meet one of my clients on the first night of the conference. He also made sure I understood the severe consequences if I didn’t set up the meet-and-greet.

Just before we sat down for dinner, I introduced my client to the VP. I was surprised to learn that the president of my division was also invited, along with two other executives and their guests. The dinner for three barely fit at the table now set for eight.

Then came another surprise. The president suggested that I start my presentation before the food arrived. Presentation? What happened to the meet-and-greet? The VP instructed me to begin. I wanted to confront him, but didn’t know how, so I dove into an off-the-cuff presentation.

The client, who agreed to a meet-and-greet, not a presentation, quickly interrupted and clarified what I already knew; He couldn’t do anything until he received his next budget in six months.

It was no surprise that I returned to a pink slip back at the office and was promptly escorted out of the building. I never learned if the dinner was a set-up, but I did wonder how things might have been different had I confronted the VP. What would’ve happened if I took two minutes at the table to persuade the executives to understand that the dinner was scheduled as a meet-and-greet, and nothing more?

The most difficult situations I’ve experienced always came down to a defining moment that was either won or lost during a two minute conversation. Being able to present a persuasive viewpoint in two minutes can separate those who are embraced in business from those who are rejected.

Everyone in business can present a persuasive argument by following four simple steps that can be formulated in the moment.

  1. Define a Specific Problem. The more specific the focus, the more plausible it is to correct or improve the stated problem. General comments allow the mind to wander into various avenues of possibilities and it dilutes the prospects of an actual fix. By establishing a focused issue, the train of thought is easily followed and considered – creating a mental or emotional buy-in on the specific problem being discussed.
  1. Share a Similar Experience. By sharing a similar experience that was methodically fixed, associates can easily extrapolate the same information as a probable fix, or at least agree to a certain line of thinking that has the potential of delivering a similar result. This connection positions the associate to consider a new outcome.
  1. Share the Positive Outcome/Benefit. All ideas must be field tested to determine its potential level of success. When positive results occurred consistently using a similar model or approach, associates are more likely to vote for similar trials within the area of problematic concern. Listing the benefits received from a similar experience helps the associates paint a vision for their own testing in order to speed the possible solution and its estimated benefits.
  1. Suggest Similar Action with Specific Problem. Buy-in is typically reached during a two-minute persuasive talk that matches a similar benefit to a known problem, however, without the actual “ask” to take action, the idea will dissolve into a sea of arbitrary comments that preceded the moment. It’s critical to state the needed action and ask for a consensus to move forward on implementation.

The above steps can be shared in two minutes. Defining the problem and getting a quick buy-in will take about 45 seconds. Sharing a similar experience can take 30 – 45 seconds. The benefits achieved will take 15 – 30 seconds and the call to action only takes 15 seconds.

Using these steps during an unexpected meeting with executives will clearly demonstrate great leadership skills, an understanding of the business, and insights worthy of consideration. It may also get you promoted to the task force for follow through – A chance to demonstrate additional leadership skills.

Copyright © 2015 by CJ Powers