Thursday, August 16, 2007

"In all theatres where the playwright, scene designer or director is paramount, the actor is auxilliary. He is limited to counterfeit characterisation in accordance with the creativeness of others. This leads to cliche acting. With such violent pressure on an actor there can be no question of his truly living his part." (sic)

Those are the words of the brilliant Constantin Stanislavski. His impact on the process of acting was nothing less than profound. Legendary actor, director and coach, his collaborators included Tolstoy and Chekov. The gentleman changed the entire world of performance art by his invention, so-called method acting.

While a young assistant program director, one of my mentors, the great Paul Drew, taught me..."the program director must pay serious attention to the second word in his job title."

Decades ago, it was the gifted radio star Fred Winston who first turned me on to Stanislavski's writing.

Recently I am again reading Stanislavski as part of our research in creating a coaching program commissioned by a leading media company. The goal of this program is to provide practical productivity tools, teaching managers how to better coach creative people. We are creating learning materials for program directors, sales managers and general managers. It's a fun project.

Please allow me to share more Stanislavski found on the way to finding other things. On critics:

"When I asked a they produced such remarkable [drama] critics I was told about a very clever and purposeful method used in Germany. They let a young critic write an article full of praise...Anyone could blame...but it took a specialist to praise.

The art [of a critic] requires him to have exceptional talent, emotion memory, knowledge and personal qualities...These are rarely united in one person, that is why good critics are so few.

In the first place a critic must be a poet and an artist in order to judge...the literary accomplishment of the playwright, and the imaginative creative form given to it by the actor...A critic must be absolutely that he may inspire confidence in his opinion."

Do you inspire confidence in your opinion?

Actors, performers, talent need directors.

It is popular for managers to say "there is no talent out there." Nonsense. There are too few directors out there. Too few creative collaborators.

One issue I have with the majority of consultants, researchers, program directors, corporate staff and others with the power to say no - they lack any real empathy with talent, lack a true working understanding and in some cases any appreciation of the creative process. What they lack most is the much needed respect of creative people. Equally, they lack a genuine respect for the gifted creative class. The freaks just ain't feeling the love and it's the freaks that always make the difference in the ball game. This is especially true in the case of rising stars, the freaks in training wheels. To steal from Scott Shannon, those baby djs with the greatest promise. Those folks require, need and deserve special handling.

Any person of average intelligence can master selector. This we know to be a proven fact. What we need here are not more secret F key shortcuts to cooking a perfect log, what we need here is a far larger, and growing, class of those serious about effective creative leadership.

We have a leadership problem. As has been written here earlier...

"Let's agree to stop describing our programming as compelling unless something actually happens on the radio station after the morning show that is not a liner, a sweeper, a promo, that day's music log, or one exceptionally good phone bit with a contest winner." More here.

It is well known that my air work, on radio and television was nothing deserving of praise but it did give me valuable perspective. Having Fred Winston cross-plug me, derisively, as "The Perry Como of Chicago radio" certainly kept what, if any, ego I had in check and served to promote my desire to get off the air and into management. Winston was and is a star, I was a journeyman (using the most generous of definition). Nonetheless, cracking the mic, being on camera, filing a story on deadline, being held accountable for my ratings, being one of the troupe, each and all taught important lessons. Each and all made me a better news director, a better program director, a better general manager and a far better group guy.

It is the responsibility of management to find, recruit, develop and retain talent. It is the responsibility of management to bring out the best in others. It is the responsibility of leadership to enable, encourage, incite, abet, foment, instigate, recognize and reward great performances. It's about the discipline of going to work each and every day to commit great radio, to commit great television or to commit great journalism.

"Readers are leaders" so said Johnny Martin. Read more, learn more. Come on, do it, make something happen, get the Amazon info here.

Bonus: VRM


Anonymous said...

David, you say the things we all know are right but are not in a position to say without putting our jobs on the line. Wall Street is king and no one wants to hear about creativity or anything about talent. Making it happen on the air is about sales and not about programming. Our sales team is getting a daily beating, pushed, pressed to make it happen. Programming is an after thought if even a thought at all. You deserve major credit for telling it like it is, keep it up and thank you for speaking the truth.