We loved TRUE GRIT and highly recommend it as not only a great ride, but as a great learning tool for attorneys.
Joel and Ethan Coen are wonderful filmmakers. In addition to directing, they are also writers and adapters. TRUE GRIT is a spectacular achievement and offers us many lessons for both actors and attorneys.
Again, here is a situation that calls for wearing many hats. When directing, the writer is aware of what is being done, and when writing the director must be aware of what will be done. However, for each task the focus must be complete.
And with TRUE GRIT, there is another important lesson for the attorney. Here is a story that we all thought we knew. John Wayne won an Academy Award for this film, didn’t he? Didn’t this story already get told, several decades ago?
The Coen brothers surprise us all. By returning to the original material and by seeing the story through the prism of contemporary times, TRUE GRIT is a story we thought we knew, but which we are seeing for the first time. How does the attorney learn from this?
You have a case that is a story like many cases you have tried before. You have a case where the story has been told or is known from the media or from the life experience of the audience, the jurors to the point where you believe everyone is “immune” to the impact. What do you do? You must reexamine the facts. Find the story from the point of view of your particular client. Perhaps you will find it in the specific and unique circumstances of his life. Go back to the original source, the facts. Find what is new, find what is surprising, re-discover what captivated YOU about the case. And tell THAT story. Find a new point of view, a unique perspective. Surprise yourself and us with this retelling.
Now you are ready to tell a new story where once you had an old one.
Alan’s Tip: Find what is new, find what is surprising, re-discover what captivated YOU about the case. And tell THAT story. Find a new point of view, a unique perspective. Surprise yourself and us with this retelling.
I am a sucker for anything that shows us what it used to be like to be in court. TRUE GRIT offers us a wonderful courtroom scene from the Old West. The room is not just crowded, it feels like it is stuffed wall to wall with men. No women – just men. Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn is the sitting on the witness stand, appearing to be larger than anything or anyone in the room. When Mattie Ross, played by Hallee Steinfeld steps into that “Man’s World” of the courtroom, all the import and impact of every woman who has ever done that echoes through the decades.
I was reminded of another favorite historic courtroom scene of recent television history – the scene from the first episode of the mini series on the life of JOHN ADAMS. If you have not yet seen it, imagine what it was like to be a witness at the time of the Revolution in America. Pushing his way through the crowd comes the witness. He does not come into the well and to any kind of a witness stand – oh, no – he stands at the very thin rail to give his testimony. He is surrounded by angry fellow citizens. I kept thinking, “Can you imagine having the guts to stand up with no protection and tell the truth about what you know?” I often recommend this episode to witnesses who are terrified to stand up in court – I say, “Hey, it could be worse!” They all agree they’d rather take that shaky walk up to the stand than to stand amongst the enemy.
On the other hand, look at Jeff Bridge’s Rooster on the stand. This is how a confident star witness always appears, in my opinion – like the person who is going to give the jurors the information that they need to decide this case. Of course, now I use Bridges’ Rooster as a great example of what confidence feels like. Can you imagine how HE took the stand that day?
Both TRUE GRIT and JOHN ADAMS give us a peek into what it was like “then” – and offer great lessons on how it still feels “now” to be a witness.
Katherine’s Tip: Does your client look confident on the stand?