Direct And To The Point: Play The Cards You Have

I’m a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell, and specifically his book David and Goliath. David and Goliath is a case study about playing the cards you’re dealt to the best advantage possible. It explores the possibility that the thing everyone else views as your weakness may in fact be the root of your competitive edge. I love this concept on many levels, but I think it’s a great thing to remember in the realm of directing.

There will always be limitations and things you don’t have – not enough time, not enough money, no say over who gets cast in certain roles. Very rarely will we ever have carte blanche. And I think that’s a great thing. Embracing our limitations can really help us get clear on what is most important in our story and get creative with how we accomplish that. Dream your dreams about who you would cast or what kind of crazy effects and costumes you would have in your ideal world. Then take a step back and look at the essence of that ideal. Get creative with how you can manifest that essence. Talk to you team in terms of those essences.

Playing Cards

If your ideal set would be a magnificent castle, what is the importance of that castle? Is it to convey the cold, stark environment of being surrounded by stone? If so, can you convey that in a stripped down space and a desolate color choice? Or maybe a looming throne made of cinder blocks? Or maybe even harsh florescent lighting? Is it to convey the grandeur of being a royal? Could that be conveyed through some choice costuming and one really luxurious element, like an enormous stained glass window?

If your ideal leading lady is sexy, what are the ways the woman who’s in that role is sexy? And how can that integrate with the character? On some people, it’s their intelligence that makes them sexy. On others, it’s their sense of humor. On still other people, it’s their drive. Comedians talk about how the material that one comedian can kill with can fall completely flat with someone else. Both comedians are funny, but they’re only funny in their own style of humor.

If your show calls for a big dance number and you don’t have a single dancer in your cast, choreograph to the level that your cast can do. There are dance moves that look easy which are actually very hard and dance moves that look hard that are actually pretty easy. The best ones will always be the ones your dances can do. And a lot can be done to make arm movements and moving within certain patterns look impressive. If George Balanchine can choreograph for elephants, surely something can be done for those that happen to have two left feet.

Look at what you have at your disposal and work from there. As artists, we’re always looking to see how we can tell our stories in new and compelling ways.We’re always asking what unique interpretation we can bring to the mix. What you can’t do (or what you don’t have) is a great way to force yourself to think of other solutions. The core of creativity is being able to generate an array of strategies and perspectives. Any time we become fixated on solving the question in only one way, we’re selling ourselves short. Knowing what is essential in order for the pieces of your story to click, and being able to talk to your team in those terms will help everyone have a clear picture of the end goal is and help you get there in a way that’s unique to your production.

Thoughts? Questions? Comments? Post them below. The more the merrier.

2 thoughts on “Direct And To The Point: Play The Cards You Have

  1. Pingback: Direct And To The Point: Taking The Leap to Kill Off Your Darlings | Cotton Wright

  2. Pingback: Direct And To The Point: Slice and Dice | Cotton Wright

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