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Cast the characters

The great Italian director Federico Fellini incessantly teased his audience through his combination of cinematic collage and bacchanalian montage glued together into a cohesive ensemble of freak show faces and idiosyncratic incidences. What makes his work memorable is that it feels like our own experiences of life – bits and pieces of film edited together into something that is almost nonsensical. Though we spend our days in the screening room re-cutting the film in search of our better story we still project the awkward timing and out of character responses. The plot shifts and the lost footage is found when our cast and chorus comes and goes “a bene placito” – as they please. So it is with us. To assume our full range of character we must summon our troupe of players and translate our person narrative into an epic feature.
Movies are made multiple times through generation, recording, arrangement, revision and addendum. They require the integration of the fantastic with the realistic. This means that we must audition a cast of thousand if we are to bring our fable or parable to the world. Success in playing our own part will largely be determined by our ability to find and select the right people to compliment our act – The curious sage, the tender caregiver and the puckish prankster. Each must be different and remarkable in their own way. However, this means that we must forego our natural inclination to surround ourselves with people who are easy to get along with primarily because they resemble us in temperament and preference. Greater range is required than any one person can portray if our production will really play in Peoria or Roma.
Consider what types of people (Collaborate, Create, Compete and Control) need our help to grow and in turn who might advance our own development. Reciprocity is important. We do not want to take advantage of others or vice versa. Look for individuals that are part of diverse and well functioning groups for they have already produced a generous and energized environment:

  • What types of people can we best help grow?
  • What types of people are needed for us to grow?
  • What is the current strength of a given community? Weaknesses?
  • How can we best address these needs?

Of course no one is purely one type or another but we all have a tendency to embrace one type more than another. Observing someone under duress will make this clear. Also type is not a predicator of competency. A person can have a particular disposition and temperament and lack needed behaviors and skills to be successful. Give a person time to rehearse and look to see how the entire troupe performs together. Remember that one bad actor can ruin any company so chose mindfully.
Working with a sundry group of individuals and teams requires that we interact and manage each according to their preferences. What inspires one will undoubtedly insult another. So we must be conscious that we are not alone in this movie and each other is looking for some way to make their part more meaningful and memorable:

  • What do they seek?
  • How do they seek it?
  • How do they want to interact?
  • What motivates them? Discourages?

While we can change many things in this world other people are not among them. It’s best to observe happily married couples or old friends who have long abandoned this notion and opted for acceptance and encouragement. It may seem like the cast is never really quite right. Just when someone gets their part down they exit before someone even more peculiar enters – The love interest, the tragic addict, the invisible man. We all play through the baroque and beautiful experiences but remain largely unaware of the characters around us or their role in making the whole scene work. The fecundity of the moment heralds a jubilee and in the next cautions “memento mori” – Remember, you must die. But that is why we remember the remarkable Fellini because his characters, like those in our own film, play on.
Jeff DeGraff
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