THE FIGHTER is a film which we find has helpful lessons for lawyers that occurred in the making of the film.
Alan and I had the pleasure of watching a screening of THE FIGHTER in which the director, David O. Russell was there for a “talk back”. A talk back is when the audience has the chance to talk with someone who is involved with the film after the screening. Russell had with him the real man on whom the film is based (and for whom there were tons of fans there), fighter Micky Ward. This low (for Hollywood) budget movie was shot in 31 days. And here is where the lawyer lesson starts. Russell said that if there had been money, he would have told “the whole story”. The whole beginning of Micky’s life he found interesting and intrinsic to the story. And, of course, everything that happened after the “big fight” which is the climax of this film. However, because of these constraints, he was forced to tell a better story.
I immediately thought of attorneys. I thought of all the rooms I am in where the length of an opening is talked about. Or the need to go through and figure out “do we need this to win – or will it just bore them like it did in the focus group?” is discussed. It is hard to cut out large chunks of information when you try a case. But…isn’t your job to tell a better story than that for your client?
Katherine’s Tip: How short, complete, and impactful can you make your trial story?
David O Russell’s brilliant and focused adaptation of the true story THE FIGHTER is a great film on so many levels. I want to focus here on Mark Walberg.
There are two pertinent things that trial lawyers should learn from Mr. Walberg. Having begun as a young singer and part of the boy band era, he has grown into a powerhouse producer. Both at HBO and in feature films. However, when you watch his specific, passionate and articulated performance as the lead character in THE FIGHTER, you are not aware, even for an instant, that this is the man who initiated and carried this project over the course of many years, through changes in studio, financing, director and cast. All you see is his moving work as an actor.
A trial lawyer is, as we have often pointed out, producer, writer, director and performer during a trial. And while wearing many hats is certainly demanding and can be distracting, it is essential that once the trial begins, all you see is the ACTOR—the storyteller and performer. All the work behind the scenes and all the worry and detail MUST be kept from the audience—judge and jury. It is not their concern. And it must never distract from the storytelling.
During this awards season, Walberg’s work as an actor has been overlooked. His role in the film is in many ways the most difficult. He is the quiet center of a swirling story. Similarly, during trial the lawyer must be the quiet center. He is not the star, he is the channel through which the story flows to the listeners. He may not get all the glory and focus and attention….he should not. The flash and sparkle belong to the witnesses, the client, the story itself. But, like Mark Walberg, the attorney is essential. Charming, honest, believable and compelling. He is the center post we return to and around which the story unfolds.
So, the lesson is to learn to relinquish the “star turn” to everyone around you. Only you, and we, will know that you are the hidden star of the event.
Alan’s Tip: It is essential that once the trial begins, all you see is the ACTOR—the storyteller and performer. All the work behind the scenes and all the worry and detail MUST be kept from the audience—judge and jury. It is not their concern. And it must never distract from the storytelling.
Subscribe to Legal Stage by Email