You come home from a hard day’s work, exhausted. You hang up your coat, kick off your shoes, toss your keys to their designated spot, and greet your people and/or animals in customary fashion. It’s time for the evening’s activities: eat, read, Netflix, whatever things you do to unwind. You think to yourself; “I fancy a beverage!” (I assume your inner voice is that of a young British boy).
You shuffle your way to the kitchen, and as you round the corner you see it…
And once you’ve seen it you can’t unsee it…pure chaos. The sink is overflowing with dirty dishes. Pots and pans cover the stove top. Food detritus and stained coffee mugs spread out on the counter. You walk to the dishwasher. “Please God” you pray as you pull open the door…and it’s completely full. “Damnit!”
What do you do? Do you pretend the mess isn’t there? Do you promise yourself that you’ll take care of it in the morning? After all, you just want to relax. Or do you roll up your sleeves and get to work right then and there? You see, I think there are two types of people when it comes to chaos; those who can ignore it and those who cannot. I happen to be one of the latter.
I often hear people say things like “I enjoy when things are clean but I just hate cleaning.” To me that’s a little bit like saying “I love money but I just hate earning it.” or “I’d be in great shape if only I enjoyed exercising.” I’m sorry, but life just doesn’t work that way. If you truly value something, you will put in the necessary work whether you want to or not.
Whether it be dishes in the sink, a cluttered email inbox or disorganized film equipment, there is something inside of me that demands order. I can’t walk away. I can’t not clean it up. It’s not the process of cleaning and organizing that I enjoy, but rather the end result: that feeling you get when everything is in its place, the chaos subdued.
This low-level neurosis follows me into my role as Director of Operations at Votary Films. My primary job is to make everyone else’s jobs easier. Remove obstacles, create processes, maintain order. I have no doubt that my fellow employees can grow tired of my insistence that we be evermore organized in everything we do. However I also know that deep down we all appreciate the end result; less confusion, more efficiency, everything in its place.
Now I want to be careful here. Too much emphasis on order can be limiting, especially when it comes to creativity. As filmmakers, we exist in the creative process and the creative process is inherently chaotic (creative people tend to be a little chaotic as well). You need some chaos for new ideas to reveal themselves, and yet without structure those ideas will never come to fruition. Instead, they will die on the pile of abandoned projects past. It’s when you strike the balance between chaos and order that the magic happens and you get real traction.
As Jordan Peterson writes in his book “12 Rules For Life”,
“Order is not enough. You can’t just be stable, and secure, and unchanging, because there are still vital and important new things to be learned. Nonetheless, chaos can be too much. You can’t long tolerate being swamped and overwhelmed beyond your capacity to cope while you are learning what you still need to know.”
And so it is with our work as filmmakers. Everyday we have clients come to us with their own chaos: usually in the form of half-developed ideas invariably on tight deadlines. The temptation is always to jump right into the chaos with them, “Tell us what you want and we’ll make it happen.” That sort of thing.
Sometimes the end result would be great with this “wing it” approach, but more often than not we would find ourselves regretting not having more time and more development up front. We’d say “This could have been amazing if only we just had more (fill in the blank). Next time, next time.”
Then the next time would roll around and it would be another half-developed idea on a tight deadline and round and round we’d go. Too much chaos, not enough order. We never felt like we were bringing as much value to our clients as we were capable of. We wanted to truly understand their goals, their challenges and what made their stories unique.
We needed a process. After all, aren’t we supposed to be the storytelling professionals? Shouldn’t we be guiding our clients along a path that will lead to the best results? Why were we letting ourselves be swept up into the chaos of our clients, rather than bringing them into the serenity of our own methodology? It was from this tension that the Story Acceleration™ process was born.
If you follow Votary at all you probably know by now that our founder, Jed Burdick, wrote a book called FLY: Take your Business to New Heights using the 7 Powerful Steps of Story Acceleration.
It provides a framework by which entrepreneurs can leverage storytelling in their businesses. On the heels of that book Jed launched a podcast called “The Story Acceleration Podcast” where he interviews other entrepreneurs about their stories. It’s safe to say we’re pretty into this whole storytelling philosophy. The Story Acceleration™ process takes that philosophy and applies it to our work with our partners, and the results have been amazing.
The process is simple: We start with “discovery”. We bring our clients through a proprietary workshop to identify the most valuable story opportunities they have within their organization. Then we enter a period of “development” to flesh out the who, what, where, when, how and why of each deliverable. Finally we “deliver” on the project, aka make the films.
It all begins with the workshop. I’m surprised at how much I’ve come to enjoy bringing our clients through the discovery process. I won’t get into the step-by-step details of the workshop here, but there are 3 major outcomes:
- It allows us to get to know our clients much more deeply, and vice versa
- We create a prioritized list of storytelling opportunities with our clients
- Our clients walk away with fresh vision and team alignment
The Story Acceleration™ Workshop provides a context and a common language for us to truly understand what our clients’ goals are, and why. We then identify the most valuable storytelling opportunities they have within their organization to help them reach those goals. It sets the stage for a mutually beneficial partnership, guided by a simple and effective process. It brings order to the chaos.