Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Um, "The Heart Break Way" is not about being "nice" ....

It's about respecting and appreciating everyone with whom we work.

I realized recently that the Heart Break Productionz philosophy (we call our philosophy "The Heart Break way") of not allowing abusive language or behavior to others on our productions has been misinterpreted to mean that, essentially, because my business partner Gary Allen Tucci and I are "nice," we expect everyone else to be as well.

Um, no.

Here's the deal. Gary is about the most macho person I know. Seriously, he does the Kona Iron Man for fun. He leads massive groups of Teamsters and members of 30 other unions normally known for their tough, strong and protective work and behavior to do extremely dangerous work.

And you'll never hear an abusive word from his mouth.

Likewise, when I'm directing, you won't hear a derisive or abusive word from my mouth.

Because it's not about "nice."

It's about safety.

Gary runs industries that employ thousands of people to work in dangerous life and death environments - repairing, replacing and rebuilding utilities after disasters - electricity, communications, etc.

If one of these people, in the heat of working in downpours, snowstorms, explosions and other threats from human and nature, is verbally abusive to another worker - everyone's life in that vicinity is immediately endangered. They've no longer made their focus the work at hand, but their inappropriate personal biases or uncontrolled anger, which only impedes and intercedes with the high-risk job they are doing.

So somebody says, "Hey, you son of a bitch, move that line over!"

The immediate response is not to move the line, but to respond to the name-caller personally, detracting everyone's focus from where it should be.

The line wasn't moved, it was crossed.

It's all about safety.

In developing a professional, creative environment, actors, technicians, service people, key crew and everyone else involved with making a film need to feel safe in order to do their best work.

So by making people on the production feel safe to go about and do their best work, we are protecting the creative process, which is most vital to me.

The moment an actor feels unsafe because of the way he or she is spoken to or treated? The best performance from him or her is lost unless they have an extraordinary relationship with their director. So in most cases a decent performance might be delivered, but nothing like the person is capable of turning in if they felt safe in the work environment.

To me, that doesn't mean you "spoil" the person. It means treating them professionally, respectfully. Appreciating them and their work, expecting the best from them (behavior and performance) and protecting them from any abuse on the set they might receive from people who might think they can "joke" with them or give them "advice" on how to play a scene or worse, "feedback" about a performance.

Likewise, actors cannot abuse others. There's no reason or excuse for abuse, period.

A creative environment allows for fresh ideas. People feel free to speak up if they see an immediate or potential problem or experience a problem themselves without being on the other end of any retribution.

We can innovate, change things up and improvise to get a better scene without wreaking havoc or pushing anyone's nose out of joint. We're in it together. We make it happen together.

Filmmaking is probably the most collaborative work in the world if it's done properly.

In a safe working environment, people feel free to admit making an error straight away so it can be fixed quickly. Disappointment might be expressed but abuse? Never.

More - a film set is a physically dangerous place. You've read about people being injured and even killed in the news. In addition to possibly injurious sets and props, there are many, many thousands of volts of electricity searing through fat cables; crane shots in windy, rainy weather can be unstable.

Because her director, against the advice of those who knew better, made her look at hyper bright lights, Helen Hunt lost her eyesight for nearly two days during the shooting of TWISTER. What if her eyes had been injured beyond repair?

I've been "accused" of being overly protective of my cast and crew, but really, it's all about creating a professional attitude. No gossip. Respect and appreciate each other so we can create and maintain an environment of safety - protecting not only our physical, emotional and mental well-being, but the creative process and the film itself - which is, or should be, our primary focus.

Make no mistake - there are clear, insightful and sometimes tough love statements made to take care of any issue or problem immediately and properly. Including between Gary and myself. But there's never a doubt of our respect, appreciation, admiration and focus.

We give a great deal of thought to the folks we hire and cast. We've made a few mistakes, and learned from them during the filming of THE WHOLE TRUTH so we're totally on track personnel-wise for the production of THE LONELY GOATHERD.

Respect. Appreciation. They are integral to the definition of being a professional.

They equal not just a great environment in which to work, but a safe place to do what we all love to do most without putting our careers, lives or co-workers in danger. Qualified professionals who understand this work on Heart Break Productionz films.

And we at HBPz think that's really nice.

Labels: , ,


  • At 1:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thanks for posting this Colleen. It's a good principle.


  • At 9:35 PM, Blogger The Entertainment Corner said…

    I am guessing there was a particular situation or series of events that motivated you to make this clear and decisive post stating the philosophy of HBPz.

    Whatever it may have been that spurred on the post ... I think safety for all is a very good philosophy!!

  • At 11:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Wow. This was deep and true and nice to hear as an actor. Not all directors remember to have that kind of respect for those who are working 'under' him or her. I could feel the respect and the collaborative spirit on the set of THE WHOLE TRUTH and I can only hope to get to work with you again. I know that I'm not the only person who worked on that set who appreciates such an inviting environment to come to work to.

    Thanks Colleen!


Post a Comment

<< Home