Monthly Archives: November 2011

My Week With Marilyn — Movies for Lawyers — The Act Of Communication Point Of View

30 November 2011

From Katherine:

Of course Alan and I loved MY WEEK WITH MARILYN. What is not to love by two actors in the telling of this wonderful bit of show biz lore – the infamous filming of “The Prince And The Showgirl” which starred Marilyn Monroe and Lawrence Olivier? (By the way, looking at Larry Olivier’s profile picture on IMBD makes me want to only allow shots of myself before 1975 to ever see the light of day). This is a loving screen adaptation of Colin Clark’s memoir of the same title, it is beautifully shot, magnificently acted and a definite “must see.”

Alan loved the amazing performances by a who’s who of British acting royalty. If you go on the movie site right now and look at the cast list, and you are any kind of a fan of Britsh actors, you are going be drooling immediately. This is in addition to the simply ravishing performance of Michelle Williams as Marilyn. Yep, from Dawson’s Creek. If you enjoy the history of modern acting, you will truly enjoy the faithfully executed difference between the “methodical” Brits and the “method” American…and you’ll see why American actors learn stage technique from Brits and Brits learn subtle interior work from American film actors.

Now – what can lawyers glean from this piece other than learning more about acting styles?

Because the film is told from one point of view, that of the “go-fer” kid Colin Clark, the impressions of many of the cast of characters might be criticized as being two dimensional and flat. At first I was a little taken aback that, for example, Dame Judi Dench’s Sybil Thorndike was like everyone’s vision of what a kindly old granny might be. Or that Julia Ormond’s Vivien Leigh seemed to be so…well…down to earth and, frankly, sane.

Then I started to see the characters as “Archtypes.” As in “the good mother” or “the hero” or “the villan.” I was recently speaking at a conference of the National Association Of Criminal Defense Lawyers. One of the topics was “Archtypes and Persuasion”. The speaker highly praised one of my fellow trial consultants from The American Society of Trial Consultants, Joseph Guastaferro for his unique work in this area. I highly recommend that you get in touch with Joe to find out more about how he uses “Archtypes” in his trial consulting practice. And, if you want to experience some very clear Archtypes first hand, you can do so by watching this highly entertaining and wonderful film.

TIP: Look at the cast of characters in your trial. See any Archtypes?

The Ides Of March – Movies for Lawyers – The Act Of Communication Point Of View

10 November 2011

From Katherine:

Oh, dear. And I wanted to love this movie SO MUCH. Political movies where someone learns about “the system” – I remember how much I loved and love Mr. Smith Goes To Washington and The Candidate, etc., etc., etc. I love innovation – a new twist on an old story. I was totally psyched with this one touted as “An idealistic staffer for a newbie presidential candidate gets a crash course on dirty politics during his stint on the campaign trail.” I am a sucker for almost anything George Clooney. And he is not only in it, he directed and produced it – so my hopes were high. The cast is amazing – from Ryan Gosling to Paul Giamatti etc., etc., etc. Just go to the official website and drool over this dream of a cast.

Everyone is brilliant. BUT – the story – NOT. It’s the same story we’ve seen a million times. And maybe that’s the point for the filmmakers. However – there are wonderful opportunities NOT to make this the same story. If you promise to see it and THEN email me, I’ll tell you where the first place I went, “Oh, no – missed opportunity.”

What can lawyers learn from this? I think there is a fine line from telling a tried and true mythic tale in the courtroom and telling a unique story that needs help from this group of jurors right now. THE IDES OF MARCH made me think about the number of times I’ve been in the room with an attorney who says, “I always tell the story this exact same way” or “I always tell this part of the story identically in every case like this.”

Really? Because this case is unique. So is the story.

TIP: Find the uniqueness in the story you are telling in this case.

Margin Call – Movies for Lawyers – The Act Of Communication Point Of View

2 November 2011

From Katherine:

Snatched from the day before yesterday’s headlines, MARGIN CALL is a brilliantly disturbing film by J.C. Chandor. This film traces a fictitious Wall Street firm’s “selling out” the rest of the marketplace in one day…and the decisions that lead up to it. Told mostly through two person scenes we learn how the characters each make his or her decision to join their CEO and sell, sell, sell – knowing that they are going to bring their colleagues and friends down with them. And that there is a good chance their own careers are going down with these choices, too.

The cast is filled with stars giving fabulous performances – Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Simon Baker, Mary McDonnell, Demi Moore, and Stanley Tucci. The story unfolds not in big scenes of what happened next…but in little scenes between. Scenes between two people. Each one of those scenes is a moment of decision for either or both characters.

Attorneys need to watch these scenes with care. One of the principles that we believe in at ACT of Communication is that a trial lawyer needs to tell his or her trial story from the point of view not of the client – but from the point of view of the “other” guy. The other guy’s client. In our workshops and casework I refer to a story of “the other team’s bad crappy choices.” This film is literally a gift to attorneys/storytellers who are looking to tell the story of bad crappy choices. One by one. About halfway through the film you realize that this disaster, like the disasters that lead to many lawsuits, are made not of one crappy choice, but a series of crappy choices.

After seeing the film, I know you will want to re-examine your cases for the storytelling scenes of the bad, crappy choices. I know I did.

TIP: What bad, crappy choices did your client’s opponent make that led to this lawsuit?