Communicating leadership principals with metaphors

Making a movie or TV series can often times feel overwhelming. You might have too little time or not enough money to solve all the myriad of problems that lie in front of you and your team.

One thing I like to do early on in production is to communicate ideas about work or the work process via metaphors. I love to use metaphors because they help turn the seemingly difficult problem into a visible solution that gets people thinking.

Below I have listed a few metaphors and how I use them.

Metaphor #1

Do you know how to eat an elephant?

Of course you are NOT really going to eat an elephant…that would be horrible. The metaphor is meant to evoke the sublime. Elephants are so huge it would be impossible to eat them, however if you did have to eat them you would eat them one bite at a time.

Occasionally I will explain this metaphor to my office staff when we are faced with 100 to-dos and I can see the look of of defeat on their faces. I try to explain that if you can focus on one thing at a time and slowly make your way through all that has to be done you will be successful!

I typically share this metaphor with Office PAs, Coordinators etc when working as a UPM/Line Producer.

Metaphor #2

Why should you not eat desert before the meal?

Of course we all know that eating desert before any meal is not a good idea. It’s something we have to educate children on when they are young. The metaphor does apply to filmmaking however and it is one of my favorite to use.

In the filmmaking metaphor the DESERT is often 1/8 of a page (CU of the man holding the phone). The MEAL is simply the meat of the day and hopefully a 3 page scene with dialogue. Now this does not always mean that starting with 1/8 of a page is a bad idea, however it can slow you down and be problematic if you do have a high page count and want Actors to be at their best.

Choosing to start with a big meaty scene first will not only give actors the energy they deserve, but allow you to focus on what’s really important.

I typically share this metaphor with Directors and DPs while working as a 1st AD.

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