I recently watched Matt Damon on ‘Inside The Actors’ Studio’.
He’s smarter than I was expecting.
The interviewer asked him what it had been like working on the film ‘The Good Shepherd’.
Matt Damon said he’d learned a lot from Robert De Niro.
The interviewer asked how.
Matt Damon said it was because De Niro was an actor, but also the director.
This meant he had two totally different jobs, each with a totally different focus.
The job of a director was to explain what was going on to the audience.
But that wasn’t the actor’s job.
The actor’s job was to give a great performance, and leave any explaining to the director.
Matt Damon said that advice had been great for him because it had jarred him out the rut he was getting into.
Matt Damon is an award winning screenwriter, as well as an actor.
He said he‘d never had the difference explained to him before.
As a screenwriter he’d be thinking about post-production.
Explaining the story.
Making sure the audience knew what was going on.
The problem was, he began doing that as an actor.
Trying to use his performance to explain what was happening.
And that isn’t an actor’s job.
When an actor begins to explain what’s happening, he modifies his performance to telegraph what he wants the audience to feel.
And that doesn’t look like real life.
It looks like hamming it up.
In real life, people often disguise what’s going on inside them.
The actor’s job is just to be the character.
To give a great and accurate performance.
The director’s (or screenwriter’s) job is to explain what’s happening to the audience.
They don’t need the actor to do their job for them.
When Matt Damon heard this, it freed him up to concentrate on giving the best performance.
Let the director and screenwriter worry about telling the story.
He should just worry about his performance.
Previously no one had told him there was a difference in the roles.
That they were totally different jobs.
But once De Niro explained it to him, it was obvious.
That’s how any great team works.
Everyone does a different job.
That’s how any great team wins.
In football, you don’t get all 11 players running everywhere together all over the pitch, constantly following the ball.
Everyone looks after their own job.
Everyone stays in position.
And the ball gets passed between them.
And everyone is where they’re expected to be, doing their own job.
That’s how a team works.
No one person does it all.
That’s why we all work better with people we trust.
We don’t try to do their job.
We concentrate on our job.
Matt Damon could concentrate on doing a better job of acting if he let Robert De Niro concentrate on directing.
That’s why it seems critical to me to realise there are different kinds of thinking.
And different jobs require different thinking.
The lesson for me, is that we need to appreciate the differences.
We don’t want to end up with people who think it’s their job to do everyone’s job.
We need people who know what their own job is.
And do it brilliantly.

And instead of doing two jobs at 50%, or four jobs at 25%, just do one job at 100%.

  • Grilla Login

    Dave, once an idea is approved, does the job of the creatives (Copywriter/Art director/Creative Director) become not unlike that of a film director; in that they become responsible for seeing that the end product is well told/on message before the audience sees it –  Custard-onians, of it, if u like? 

  • Dave Trott

    IMHO it’s always a team game.
    So sometimes the AD has to be brilliant and the CW has to make sure it communicates.
    Sometimes the creative team has to be brilliant and the CD has to make sure it communicates.
    Or a film set the DP has to be brilliant and the director has to make sure it communicates.
    Or often (for me) the director has to be brilliant and I have to make sure it communicates.
    It breaks down differently according to personalities.
    I’m pretty good at communicating, so I like to work with people who can concentrate on just being brilliant.
    i think it’s important to know that and work out who does what.
    So you haven’t got two people being brilliant and no one communicating, or vice versa.

  • Grilla Login

    2 Grilla’s can be brilliant @ once – but 2 people, Dave? – The chances of that r so slim u can’t see them @ all if they stand sideways.

  • Steve Jones

    Nice one, Dave. I love the idea of teamwork bringing out 100% in each member of the team. Too often we think of working with others as involving compromise and having to accept giving less than we’re capable of. But it needn’t be like that at all. I guess the secret is to have someone enlightened and selfless calling the shots–someone who completely understands and truly values the talents and uniqueness of each member of the team and is determined to bring out the very best in everyone.

    Your post got me thinking about my first experience of teamwork. It must have been when I was in the first form at junior school. In the school assembly hall was a display of impressively large pictures drawn by some of the kids, each picture occupying two sheets of paper joined together. My friend and I thought this double-sheet approach was very clever and wanted to do the same thing ourselves. So we decided to create an oversized picture of a red double-decker bus, one of us drawing the front half of the bus on one sheet, the other drawing the rear half on the other sheet, and then putting the two sheets together.

    It seemed like a great opportunity to collaborate on something fun. Unfortunately, having conceived this brilliant plan, we then went away and worked seperately on our individual half-pictures without any attempt at planning or coordination. As you can imagine, when the time came to marry the two halves up, the result was a disaster. We’d each used a different shade of red, our bus designs were different, and–worst of all–the sizes were different. Despite our best intentions, we’d created a disjointed, mismatched bus-wreck. We were crestfallen!

    The moral of this? Well, I suppose it’s that with creativity, enthusiasm and collaboration, anything is possible–so long as you don’t forget the more down-to-earth stuff, like making certain the left hand knows what the right hand is doing!

    Or, more simply: put your heart into everything you do; just be sure to engage your brain first.

  • Dave Trott

    I think that’s the lesson about teamwork.
    Everyone doesn’t do everyone else’s job, but they do co-ordinate.
    They need to know they can depend on each other.

  • Jaynemarar
  • Dave Trott

    terrific film, no argument.

  • Grilla Login


    I never like 2 start the week with an argument as it’s bad 4 the digestion so, no arguments from me, neever – Maybe later in the week we can have an minor disagreement/slight difference of opinion or gale force argument. [That way we have the perfect escoos 2 kiss + make up. Can’t touch the make up if it’s been tested on harmless little hanimals tho – I would redilly or even blueilly accept a 2nd helping of kiss 2 compensate… if there’s any going]. G

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