The Making Of
How Did This Film Come Into Being Anyway?
Actually, that’s quite an interesting story. It involves sex, crime and nonviol… – oh, wait, no.
It all began at an innocent Youth Hostel in a windy and rainy, seldomly sunny Lake District in the UK. It was early August 2011 and 140 people from all over Europe had gathered there to spend one week together.
Doing what exactly?…
Just imagine this: There’s a space with 140 people who realized how much deeper and more fun their lives are when they are integrating things of a consciousness called “Compassionate Communication”* – which extends to much more than communication, obviously.
They’ve all come to experience how it is, when you are together with 139 other people who also want to live in this consciousness – instead of feeling sometimes quite alone being in a day-to-day-world where people evade conflicts, are not connected to themselves and cling to strategies for meeting their needs that create suffering for themselves and the people around them.
They’re wondering: ‘How does a community made of people like this work?’ And they just want to have fun, be in real, deep connection with other people and
support each other in going through their ‘stuff’ – the things (habits, beliefs, wounds, fears) that keep them from living a full live, from tackling conflicts and solving them in a way that meets the needs of everyone involved, from showing up as fully human in every situation.
So it’s about a big group of people wanting to become and live real community. Live authenticity, honesty, compassion, connection and flexibility. It’s like a big experiment on “how can community where everybody has full autonomy work so that it’s still an awesome community?”. You know?
Awesome, right? Yeah. So, now that we’ve got that one clear, back to the film. 😉
The one who set the spark for it was Georg. This 22-year-old, boyish, rather tall, beardy German-Austrian offered a session in the middle of the week. It was called “Skyrocket Social Change Leverage with/of Nonviolent Communication”. If you see what’s in the Peace Skills Potion you might very well agree with Georg that this stuff “definitely has some potential to radically change the world for the better”. He saw a lot of untapped potential though. So he offered the session, wanting to exchange with exactly those NVC-folks on how to make a bigger impact with it.
The session took place – I won’t bore you with the details of it here – and serendipity happened. As the session came to identifying “Media” as one of three “high leverage points” in the world and as it went on to finding the next possible action steps, one of the participants said something along the lines of: “Well, actually we have two ladies from the BBC here. And I am a film maker. I have my 4.000€ camera and my microphones here so I’m offering this material for the production of a 10-minute short film about NVC.”
Pretty neat, huh? Of course, everyone was excited and went to bed. No, that’s not true. The bed bit, I mean. Bad habits kind of make creative, so Georg and Kathleen and a lot of other people stayed up, chatting and blabbering nonsense.
Well, enter Kathleen. Flemish-teacher living in Antwerpen, Belgium. A NVC-Summerfestival veteran, having been to most of the 7 that took place so far, together with her son Tuur. Passionate amateur (as in “not-for-a-living”)-musician, -actor, -director, -film-maker.
It must have been short before midnight when Georg told Kathleen about this idea he had had spinning in his head for the last one and a half years. It had something to do with retelling the story of Kill Bill with one important difference: The main character (the one played by Uma Thurman, you know) doesn’t go to a Martial Arts trainer to prepare for revenge but instead to a Nonviolent Communication trainer, who helps her heal her wounds, grieve her loss and find new ways of getting that which she is looking for in her urge for revenge** and so on and so on.
Of course, none of them had any viable idea how to re-shoot an action movie of this caliber. But as it turned out, Kathleen is somewhat of an expert on Romeo and Juliet – at least if you call being involved in productions of the piece several times and having seen the Baz Luhrmann’s movie version with Leo DiCaprio about 500 times being somewhat of an expert. So on this very night Georg and Kathleen made a holy vow to produce this movie, no matter the cost. They even swore on the bible! Really!
Well, no, but they committed to making this movie together. Because it was just so much fun! Developing the ideas together. And also just the time spent together, sharing laughs, stories and connection.
So with the support of Katrien, a good friend of Kathleen’s, they started writing a rough screenplay, getting clear on “what’s the essential of what we want to create here”, find the cast, find a mediator (there were several who could have played this role at this festival – what a great place to be in, isn’t it? =)), find a support team and so on and so on.
So that finally, at the day before the end of the festival, in the afternoon session of the Open Space, they gathered everyone involved and shot the damn thing!
So that’s nice.
But what are lessons to be drawn out of this? Every good story has something you can learn from!
Here is what I see as two of the main lessons in this story.
Lesson 1: The environment is crucial.
You know, sometimes when you want to create something in this world, you think very outcome-oriented. Very linear. “How can I make exactly this thing happen?” When that happens you tend to forget how the environment influences you.
There are two main ways it influences you. It affects you via the opportunities and resources you have to make happen what you wish to make happen. And it influences you in which outcomes you actually want to achieve. You get feedback by certain people which sometimes makes you reflect on and subsequently change the outcomes you aim for.
The idea of a short film like this had been in Georg’s head for a long time before he went to England. But there for the first time the environment he was in made shooting a movie like this easily possible. The shooting equipment was there. Experienced camerapeople were also around. There were a lot of people who were enjoying acting and contributing to the purpose and fun of the movie because they a) knew what it was about and what mediation and Nonviolent Communication are and b) enjoyed contributing to something that spreads this.
Georg had a creative counterpart who balanced his weaknesses – and the other way round. Georg had a strong vision and a clear analytical mind but didn’t know the Romeo and Juliet story very well. He had virtually no experience directing and staging scenes as well. Kathleen was experienced in setting up theater productions and had been involved in several productions of Romeo and Juliet – so she knew the story very well as well as the process of staging theater productions. But she had not had an idea like this and had not spent hours yet pondering different ways of setting up, creating and developing stories like this – which Georg had.
And it’s just this basic thing: In creativity, sometimes 1+1 = 3. When you have someone to bounce off your ideas on you both get somewhere neither of you could have gotten alone. Imagine … Lennon without McCartney (pun intended, actually).
Kathleen and Georg also had NVC. This meant that when one of them or both got overwhelmed, frustrated or was losing hope that they were able to make this, the other one was giving space for that emotion, empathizing with it. That helped the other person to go through it quicker and then to be able to really focus again. Not having to suppress an emotion. Being able to really focus, nearly effortlessly.
Kathleen, are you frustrated now that your son wants you to help him, cause you really want to focus on what we are doing right now and at the same time you also want to take care of your son? So you’re frustrated and trying to integrate those two things?”
“[exhales] Yeah. It’s good to feel that this also can be here. Okay, just a minute. [Talks to her son]. Okay. Phew. Now, let’s continue.
And they had the experienced mediators – which are obviously crucial for a film like this – at hand. There were actually several people who could have taken the role of Friar Laurence because they train mediators as part of their living. You’re not in a setting like this very often, I can tell you ;).
If the environment with all those aspects hadn’t been there, this film wouldn’t have happened. If even just one of those aspects ahd been missing it wouldn’t have worked. So having the right environment is crucial to making your dreams come true.
That’s the first lesson.
But what is a good soil without seeds? That’s the second lesson.
Lesson 2: Developing ideas even without the proper environment is crucial.
You know the old saying “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity”?
Imagine Georg hadn’t spent some part of his last 1,5 years developing the ideas he had for making entertaining NVC short films. There would have been no seed to plant in this very fertile environment. He had not been comfortable in the “I’m actually gonna make a movie and those are the things I need to consider for this”-mindset. He wouldn’t have had the practice in thinking stuff like this through quickly. This practice proved pretty helpful when confronted with the task of figuring out what to do with professional film equipment and the people skilled in handling it under time pressure.
Now imagine Georg 1,5 years before that. Having lots of ideas but no contacts to movie-makers, no environment to make those ideas happen. Living in a town he had moved to just half a year before. Not having the resources to build up this network next to his other projects because he was also wanting to earn money to pay the bills. Or at least not seeing ways how to integrate all that then.
Had he in that situation not still developed his ideas and en passant practiced creating concepts and thinking them through quickly, he wouldn’t have been able to create what he wanted to created when the environment was there. In other words, he wouldn’t have been prepared when he met opportunity.
So there’s a lesson: If you have ideas and concepts of what you would LOVE to do, develop it, think them through, refine them! So that when the environment is ready, your idea is ready as well.
You never know when opportunity presents itself.
And there’s a flip side to that lesson: Dare to let an idea, a project rest when the environment isn’t ready yet. You find yourself being much more effective and relaxed when you allow yourself to also just wait for the necessary change. That doesn’t mean that it’s not useful to actively build your environment. But that it sometimes just also works differently, effortlessly.
Wow, that’s actually pretty inspirational, isn’t it?
What are lessons you see in the “genesis” of this movie? What conclusions have you drawn for yourself? From the movie? From how it came into being?
We’d love to hear! 🙂
* Also called “Nonviolent Communication” (NVC). For now, if you don’t know it, don’t think too much of the name and take a look at “What’s in the Peace Skills Potion“. You know, “what’s in a name?”. “A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet!”, obviously.
NVC is a rose by another name.
** Short digression: What’s behind the urge for revenge?
When you empathize with it it’s very often something like:
The need for being heard and understood in your pain
Revenge-way for getting this: “letting the others feel this pain”
Effective way for getting this: a bit more complex, but something along the lines of “a) expressing your pain in a way that touches the other person’s heart and letting the other person reflect back what they have heard so that you can be sure they’ve got it. b) actively empathizing with them if they’re not ready to hear this pain, until their heart is open (again) to hearing it and letting it touch them”
The wish to get some sense of balance and restoration
Revenge-way for getting this: “We restore justice.”
Effective, sustainable way for getting this: “We restore connection between the human beings involved.”
What could she do then?
Well, we’re not gonna tell you here. You gotta have something to look forward to, haven’t you?
PS: Actually, Georg wrote this page. So naturally, there’s a bit of focus on Georg’s perspective. So if you want to add something Kathleen – feel free to go ahead! 🙂