When we went to the movies on my birthday, I asked Alan which one on the marquee in front of the small theater in Claremont, California was the best. He said, “Salmon Fishing In The Yemen is going to be a real movie.” That is our code for…well…a real movie. Not only is this romantic comedy a “real movie” with a wonderful message – it is a fabulous movie for one and all to see – especially lawyers.
The brilliance of this amazing cast which is chock full of wonderful British actors offers attorneys who try cases great role models for courtroom demeanor. Pick an actor, any actor from the amazing Emily Blunt to the hilarious Kristin Scott Thomas to the extraordinary Ewan McGregor. Every performance is full, rich, nuanced…and all the emotion is on the inside rather than on the outside of the actor. I am not saying that you don’t know what they are feeling…but…what they are doing IS ALWAYS more important than what they are feeling. The result? The audience is free to relate, emote – and do the majority of feeling. This allows the audience to be moved. Much more important than the actors being moved.
When we teach attorneys, Alan and I often refer to the fact that we were taught by teachers who embraced the Stella Adler interpretation of The Stanislavski System. The question asked is always “what is the actor doing?” In other interpretations of Stanislavski’s work the question asked is “what is the actor feeling?” On stage and on screen this results in lots of hearts on the sleeve kind of indulgence that often does what a great teacher of ours once called “wallowing in the dilemma.”
What can lawyers learn from this? The “show” in the courtroom is not about you and your feelings. We like to think of your role as “the best friend” in a show rather than as “the lead.” The jurors (or whoever else is deciding the case you are trying, mediating or arbitrating) is “the lead.” THEY ARE THE ONES WHO NEED TO BE MOVED. NOT YOU. Lawyers who rant, rave, are the first to cry in the room, etc. put their own need to feel above that of anyone else. If the emotion in the room is all taken up…then whoever is trying your case will step back and turn off their emotions. In other words – NOT BE MOVED.
As you watch this film, imagine it not only with American actors – but with real self indulgent ones. Better yet, imagine it being played by the most outrageous over-the-top lawyers you have ever been in a room with.
TIP: Are you paying more attention to what you are doing than what you are feeling?