This Patience Thing

Pearl

It may be a virtue, but that doesn’t make it all bad…

Patience.

This has become one of my most valuable tools: that, combined with the realization and knowledge that there is always time for Patience. Always.

I just said goodbye to a brilliant young man. He’s worked at my side for just over a year, and is so well-suited to this work – these industries of entertainment – that he is now on his way to Abu Dhabi to take on a mid-level management position at a fantastic, huge, new, destination Waterpark. I’m proud of this guy; he is learning lessons, rapidly, by necessity and rising to new challenges every day. Through these tests, as his self-awareness is being expanded, he is growing into a man and Producer who will meet, exceed and set standards in expected levels of competence by example, for those around him.

My last words of advice to him were, “…don’t be the first person to speak at a meeting…”

What do I mean by that?

Literally, I do mean the exercise of patience in any context; especially meetings. First: listen. Listen to everyone. Learn the lay of the land, discern how the subject on the table is perceived by and affects each of everyone in the room.

As conversation and debate continue and said subject is discussed, the Listener may find his own opinion or point of view changing and growing into more comprehensive a scope; incorporating points of view and appreciating ramifications as they reveal themselves through the discussion. This gives the Listener the opportunity to, when s/he finally does speak, incorporate all that has been expressed in an encapsulation of the situation and possibly articulate the best course of action toward a most fully supportable and valuable result.

Eyebrows rise, words of acclamation are uttered, phrases such as, “…wow, you really nailed it…such clarity from one so young…” result and the seeds of peer and superior respect are planted and nurtured. This, because listening was happening and, along with that, learning.

This does not mean enter the room, knowing what one wants to say and and simply waiting to say it, last. We’ve all been in conversations / arguments with others where we can see, as we are making a point, that our “adversary” is simply waiting for the sound to cease coming from our mouths so that s/he can rebut what s/he assumes we are saying…

No: It means entering the room knowing one’s point of view and also knowing that there may be some unseen assumptions in one’s own POV that can come to light in the ensuing conversation that can affect anything from nuance to critical component. Thus, exercising this Patience allows the conversation to inform and evolve one’s own position before that position is stated.

More than in Meetings

This Patience Thing applies far beyond the walls of the Meeting Room, however. It applies to virtually every step in the creative and production process and, as I posit above, applies no matter how much or how little time is at one’s disposal to create and deliver.

As I was being driven to the airport by my Producer (Adam Proto – profiled a few weeks ago in this space), after the WaterWorld opening show, he mentioned how much he had “learned” from me.

Usually, when I hear that; I offer a heartfelt thanks for someone even listening to me. I do appreciate that! But this gent is one of the best producers with whom I’ve worked; a brilliant man. So, I asked him what, in fact, he could possibly have learned from me. His response was to cite my Process over the extremely tightly-scheduled rehearsal time in the run-up to the Show.

What he was referencing was this…

  • The Show was to be up and ready by 10:00am on Saturday.
  • On Wednesday, my partner in Direction arrived from London.
  • Thirty disparate (not desperate; though, some of them…) acrobats and street performers were to arrive on Wednesday night.
  • Blocking, rehearsal, costume fitting, tech were all to take place on Thursday, with
  • Rehearsals and Dress Rehearsal on Friday
  • Show on Saturday. No extensions.

So. On Wednesday evening, Steven Grindle (also known as Dingle Fingle; this Wacko Creativo descends from a long line of Court Jesters, Minstrels and Magicians. He is virtual royalty and a Legend, not only in his own mind but for anyone with whom he’s worked) and I met to synch ourselves on the Beats of the Show.

We had not met, prior to this evening, but had corresponded with script ideas and possibilities and both came highly recommended by Mr. Proto; so were inclined to expect good chemistry. We were not disappointed.

Still, one never knows what another might mean by virtually any word, term or phrase. My “blue” might be Cobalt while your’s might be Azure…or something. So, even though we went gangbusters on the paper script we built; we really didn’t yet know how the other man worked.

But, we knew what we wanted to create.

Thursday morning, we gathered at the site; touring the newly-formed corps de fantasy through the park, then talking through the script, then beginning the blocking of these artists for the show.

Mind you, most of these performers had not previously worked together. This was not a corps until we all became such through these two days of rehearsals.

Between we two, Steven speaks far better acrobat than I can even pretend. [Another Rule of Production: never pretend.] So, for most of Thursday, I pretty much stood back – watching, listening, observing, supporting Steven, making suggestions and keeping us as close to schedule as possible.

What I did not do is impose my Vision on this group of performers who are skilled, talented and creative in their own rights, nor on Mr. Grindle, who works very differently than do I. My focus on Thursday was to learn how Grindle works, learn who we had in our cast and how they fit or played together and – in being passive and observant – communicating that I trusted Grindle and the Corps to do their best work.

This is what Adam was referencing as my Process. This is my Process.

It is common for Directors to step in, assert themselves, get all alpha on the project and take the reins from the beginning. Though common, probably not always the best approach for full realization of an evolved vision and maximum value drawn from each and every artist.

[…and, this is something to which attention ought be paid, as well. When a producer or director genuinely respects the heretofore unknown depths of talent in the individuals that make up a cast and communicates said trust by practical exhibition; the wealth of creative collaboration that becomes available between all concerned is immeasurable. Our cast was brilliant beyond expectation; working together and offering suggestions as we built the show, and we realized far more than could have reasonably been hoped in the minuscule, two-day rehearsal period that we had. Note this.]

So, on Thursday, I trusted and learned…nudged a little when necessary…and kept working over where we wanted to take this show, as I watched. Writing and re-writing in my head.

Friday, adding 40 local performers to the mix, I took a stronger position in directing rehearsals, working through difficult or cumbersome scenes with Dingle and partnering with him in making key decisions.

The two of us have very, very different management styles, and the revelation was how great we could toss the ball from one to the other without conflict. It was pretty fantastic.

Trust. Respect. Patience.

I would say that this was due in no small part to Patience. Taking the time, no matter what, no matter how short the time seemed, to learn what lay before me, what tools were in our box and to massage a show out of this bounty of talent and energy. (Which isn’t to say that Dingle’s trust in and patience with me didn’t contribute just as greatly to our mutual success. I can only speak for myself, and I’m sure he did his own share of watching and patience.)

Thus, I leave you with this: “Don’t be the first to speak at a meeting” applies, across the board, to any context in which one find oneself. Look and Listen first, no matter how pressured one might feel to take action.

Taking action without full knowledge will almost inevitably result in delay, difficulty, cost overruns and wasted time. Take it, up front; the investment pays off.

Imho.

 

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5 thoughts on “This Patience Thing

  1. You had me at ‘It may be a virtue, but that doesn’t make it all bad…’

    I can’t believe you folks pulled that show off. Interesting that you used a deadline like that to illustrate patience, but I get it.

  2. Great article Kile. Purpose and practicality of patience perfectly put! You sure did have patience with me and my wacko ideas. You are correct in your writings, I watched and learnt patiently from a master and it was from lessons learned from your blog before I went, that I saw you put into practice that aided my patience in the job it self. Great Team. When is the next one?

  3. Wonderful stuff, as always. All a producer has to build with are the talents and experience of the people around him, and it only makes sense to shut up, listen and learn what they bring to the table. Only then can you make optimal use of their assets while providing the best creative outlet for your team and the best show for the client. As I’ve often said, “The key to success isn’t in having all the answers, but in knowing what questions to ask.”

  4. I like this theme because it speaks to the common preassumption that creativity is instant and facile, when in fact it is a time-intensive process like that of writing and composing. Not enough attention is paid to the incubation and up-front process of sizing up and framing the creative problem and its larger system.

    • You articulate the frustration of Creatives, the world over, Dr. King…clients, including a massive number of creative agencies, often expect immediate response to a brief, at download. I tell ’em, “guys, this isn’t toothpaste; it can’t be simply squeezed out of a tube.” Often, to deaf ears… Thank you for this.

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