Overproduction – The Left Brain and What’s Right

The Perils of TMI

Tell ‘em everything, show ‘em everything, lay it all out and your audience will leave with less than you might otherwise have given them had the experience been better crafted to engage rather than, in a sense, spell-out.

Less truly is More … more often than not, and to articulate every moment, point and beat of a story does, I believe, a disservice to our audience.

In conversations with clients, it is not unusual to hear arguments in favor of spelling things out “…in case someone doesn’t get it…” Well, we can do that; but giving it all away like that, spelling it all out, makes it a Show, while offering a well-crafted, creative “Less” can elevate said Show into an Experience that is deeper and more resonant…and more personal.

Let the audience do some of the work. (We’ve talked about this! <g>)

It sometimes seems that many producers and directors strive to eradicate any doubt in the minds of an audience as to what is intended or meant, what may be every thought of the main characters, the Why that motivates each action or word… This Leading of the audience, step-by-step, through a story may seem thorough and complete, in theory – and, in a sense, it is both thorough and complete; but such completeness isn’t necessarily a foundation for powerful storytelling.

Sometimes, allowing the audience to draw their own conclusions based on their experience of what you presented can result in deeply-felt convictions as to motive and eventuality, differing widely from seat to seat in your theatre.

Harking back to earlier conversations around Subliminal Engagement and the Liberation of Preconception; filling-in all the blanks and wrapping it all in a pretty, no-loose-ends bow isn’t necessarily the most effective approach to an audience recalling and re-experiencing what was given them long after Curtain and often into the days and weeks that follow.

This relates to the theory and methodologies that apply to communication with an audience through the left and right lobes of the brain. This division of mental labor is, I think, often discussed or referenced yet not so often actually examined and applied in the context of creating event or ride experience, producing theatre, even making film and video for the occasional capital campaign.

As you likely know, the left brain leans toward the analytical while the right holds most of the feelings and emotions: the cerebral versus the visceral.

That being the general case (it’s more complicated than that; but for purposes of our discussion, today…), there are some general rules I tend to follow as much as possible when creating film or video or theatre in order to keep the left brain quiet (if not dormant) and the right brain engaged and active.

When making film, the banning of print or titles from the screen is worthy of exploration and adherence. A line must often be walked, especially when on-camera interviews are a part of the piece, with deciding how and when to identify a given speaker. If you can get away without identifying a person, then by all means do it!

Depending on one’s audience and familiarity with the speaker, identification may not even be necessary… Or, list speakers and faces at the end of the video, or at the beginning; however your storytelling can support it without obstruction.

Truly adept would be finding a way for a previous speaker to reference the next, or the light-handed use of a narrator from segment-to-segment. There isn’t always a way, though there very often is at least one…

Frankly, imho, there is rarely, rarely a situation where it serves the delivery of information to put data onscreen, anyway. More often than not, it is that very data that can “date” a video piece sooner than anything else. One can refer to data, fact and figure and send the audience to Google (if they haven’t already been there).

We did this for a non-profit capital campaign in Southern California a few years back; with Jane Seymour as the Ambassador, describing the experience, engaging the audience with her description of the programs, referencing the “…reams of facts and figures…” and sending ‘em to Google. Worked like a charm…

“Don’t worry,” she says to the camera, “I’m not going to show you all those facts and figures; that’s why we have Google! What I am going to do…”

Feel free to check it out on my YouTube Channel:

I have experienced another example of overproduction that, from my point of view, epitomizes the worst in what can happen when a writer or director or designer (or, yes, a producer) goes overboard in complicated articulation.

Some years back, a Famous Event Designer in a Huge Eastern City created as a component of one of his signature events some fantastic centerpieces composed entirely of red and yellow roses. He took apart one color of rose and, petal-by-petal, tucked those alternate colors into the contrasting bloom. It was very impressive; clearly a detailed, intricate, laborious and expensive augmentation of the evening.

My sense of this, though, is that that sort of thing ultimately distracts from unrestrained enjoyment of the experience through the senses of the right brain. Such overtly complex and complicated presentation can become a subject of conversation and, through that, ignite the left brain to further analyze the How’s of what is happening rather than simply becoming immersed in the Experience.

Once awakened, ‘tis difficult to put that rascally left brain back to sleep.

Truly. Keep presentation simple. Save the complexity for the timing; for reveals, for a Moment of Exhilaration, for a Finale or Shock or Surprise; but keep the experience simple to appreciate and enjoy.

Make sense?

Thanks for reading.

I’m replacing my Robert Browning quote with something more relevant to this particular post…

We can lead a horticulture but we can’t make her think…

(Perhaps we shouldn’t try…!)

9 thoughts on “Overproduction – The Left Brain and What’s Right

  1. I love this post!! Those who tell a story “eradicating any doubt,” as you put it, are herding cattle with electric prods. As you advise, spellbinding and tantalizing is LURING our audience down a general path in an enchanted forest of our collective making–we, as storytellers, and our audience. It’s interactive, to a certain extent. Coaxing is different than telling…wooing is deliciously different than leaving nothing to doubt and wonder.
    As always, your writing gives me new language for expressing fresh ideas–some of which I only knew before because I worked with and learned from YOU.

  2. This is very true– and just as much so in many other fields. It happens in movies all the time: something inexplicable happens, and then somebody explics it. A great example is George Lucas explaining in one of his prequels that ‘the Force’ is produced by minichlorination or whatever it was. Did anybody need to know this? No. Did it diminish the entire series? Insofar as it could, yes.

    Politicians do this, too. A Republican (for example) will say “oppressing minorities creates jobs,” and leave it at that. A Democrat will go on for ten minutes about why this isn’t true, and nobody is listening after the ten-second mark. Score one for the Republican.

    But to the topic here, people come to an experience with expectations of spectacle, inspiration, discovery, or just an emotional charge. Show them an elephant by all means. But don’t waste any time telling them how an elephant works. If they’re inspired enough they’ll find out themselves, and then they’re invested in the subject. Score one for everybody!

  3. Kile … LOVED this article … it is TRULY all about the experience coming from a less is more (leave the details in the rehearsal room) … thank you for posting. ENJOYING reading your thoughts!!!!


  4. There is an adage in writing that the best communications are those in which the audience does the most work. The approach is to understand what’s already in the brain that can be richly evoked from your message, theme, or experience: our entire culture is on tap at any given moment, especially for the right brain. Technocrats, the left-brained, love to organize and detail the message. The truth is that our brains are not good at words; much better at images, and very tuned into what things sound like. That’s the Human Brief for experience design.

    • …and, I agree with that adage, wholeheartedly – this correlates to the “subliminal engagement” part of the methodologies I attempt to articulate – letting the audience do the work; which renders even experiences of great magnitude deeply personal and individual… I’m complimented that you are reading and participating in this, Dr. King…thank you.

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