What’s scriptwriting got to do with facilitation?
While some people express themselves through music, or painting, or sculpture, or dance, my preferred form has always been writing.
Way back in 2000 I was sick of facilitating. It had become a bit boring, same-same and didn’t provide the challenge I craved any more. So I decided to pursue scriptwriting as an alternative career. I did a summer school and then a comprehensive on-line program at the Australian Film & Television School. The fact that I’m still a facilitator indicates how successful that choice was! But it’s the very fact that I’m a failure as a scriptwriter that intrigues me.
Learning about scriptwriting had many unexpected consequences. It re-ignited a passion for story, I learnt how to learn with others on the internet (pre skype even!) and some of the things I wrote then are just as relevant now.
What fascinates me the most is how people relate to each other and the environment they find themselves in, either through design, luck (good or bad) or serendipity. The way people shift and grow according to circumstance, and how they develop into complex human beings with multiple pasts. Confidence and self-esteem are also of great interest: normal people who discover the exceptional person within.
Through scriptwriting, I wanted to explore taking risks, doing things out of character, and going against the common paradigm.
And here’s a few things I wrote down about scriptwriting that now very much influence how I facilitate:
People are hungry for stories – they bring meaning to people’s lives.
People want to share their own stories and experiences.
What you remember from films is images – not dialogue, not plot
What people remember from workshops is also images, especially if it is associated with action. They remember the doing rather than the thinking.
We learn about characters by their actions – not by what goes on in their minds
We learn about ourselves and about others from what we do. Many improv games illuminate our actions in a safe way and shine a light on how we act and re-act in workplace situations.
You become a writer by writing
You become a facilitator by facilitating. This is my best piece of advice for anyone who wants to become a facilitator.
The premise is the motivating power behind everything that is done
This can help you decide what to do, and not do, when facilitating too. If it helps, change premise to intention.
There must be something at stake
Nothing is more demoralising (to a facilitator) or annoying to participants, to facilitate when there is no need.
We don’t know how we will act until we are in that situation
We don’t know what we need to do until we are in that situation, and have experienced whatever has happened immediately before. This can be one of the hardest concepts to explain. It requires trust – especially in yourself.
Location can be a character in the story
Or context. Or social objects. Facilitation can be built around more than just the people in the room.
Humour is a good way to change pace and gets people on your side
True on film. True in life. True when facilitating.
Subtext: people don’t talk about what they mean
Or the *real* issue. Difficult conversations are difficult. That’s why we avoid them. Time and relationships enable deeper conversations that can unearth the subtext.
Don’t describe how something looks, but how it feels (attitudes/moods)
Externalising and projecting are common in workshops, describing how something looks and feels to others. Explore how it feels to you.
Don’t be clever
Put down your clever and pick up your ordinary – because what’s ordinary to you is extraordinary to others. No need to try and be clever. You already are.
If it doesn’t support the story, or if the story can be understood without it, cut it out
If some is good, then more must be better? In facilitating, do only what is needed then get out of the way. The tendency is to want to help, rescue or fix. Don’t.
There are likes and dislikes – some will like your work and some won’t. Get used to it.
Good advice. Get used to it. If everyone likes what you’re doing maybe you’re making them a bit too comfortable. Take yourself and others to the learning edge.
Avoid predicatibility and boredom – people like to be surprised
Believe in yourself
Fast-forward to 2004. Improvisation. Then 2007. Started this blog. Now 2010. Many of the themes I explored through scriptwriting, and are now integral to my facilitation, are realised through using improv, storytelling, movement, taking risks and collaborating with others.
Who knew that scriptwriting was really a course in facilitation?