From The Why Hasn’t This Been Standard Practice For Decades File

I recently wrote a piece for ArtsHacker about the emerging role of intimacy direction for productions on stage and screen.  When I first read about intimacy direction a few years ago, it was at a time when there were revelations about people exploiting their position or opportunities without the full consent of others.  The role of intimacy director seemed to be about ensuring a level of protection and security.

However, the more I have read about the role, the more I realized it is really addressing a long neglected part of the creative process. In every instance when performers are exerting themselves in close quarters with each other, whether it is dance or stage combat, movements are rehearsed and scrutinized in detail until it is right. Then someone is assigned to make sure everyone warms-up and rehearses those motions prior to every performance.

When it comes to intimate moments, performers are often told to go off and figure it out themselves or given vague direction. This lack of proper attention can result in a very awkward moment or an all too authentic moment, both of which jar the audience out of the established reality.

The customary practices surrounding dance and fight choreography may be tedious and boring, but they have a goal of providing audiences with a consistent quality experience while ensuring no one gets hurt in the process. In this context intimacy direction is about addressing a long standing lack of attention that has risked these objectives.

When you think about it, you can almost credit the problem as an extension the oft observed phenomenon where people are unfazed by scenes of massive death and destruction but recoil at hints of nudity or intimacy. Perhaps people have been more comfortable micromanaging fights, but prefer to distance themselves from intimacy.

While intimacy directors are increasingly becoming part of the production process, demand far outstrips supply so if you are interested in getting trained, check out Intimacy Directors International to find out more.

Also check out the ArtsHacker post for additional links, videos and examples.

Preparing For A Kiss Like An Eviscerating Slash – As Boringly As Possible

If You Were Really Passionate You Would Let Me Exploit You

Big tip of the hat to Sarah Carleton for tweeting about research that proves what we long suspected — people are more likely to exploit the labor of those viewed as pursuing their passions.

Even the biggest companies try to leverage “do it for exposure” or pressure people to accept goods as compensation rather than cash.

As KQED first reported in March, despite reaching a valuation of $1 trillion last year, tech giant Apple doesn’t pay the artists performing in its stores, compensating them with low-end merchandise such as AirPods and AppleTVs instead.

A recent study at Duke University provides some research to support all the anecdotes shared among the creative community.

Through eight different studies with over 2,400 participants, researchers discovered that people find it more acceptable for managers to ask passionate workers to work extra hours without additional pay, sacrifice sleep and family time, and take on demeaning tasks outside of their job descriptions


Furthermore, when reading about a graduate student subjected to verbal abuse and unreasonable deadlines, participants rated him as more passionate than someone who didn’t experience mistreatment.

“When people read about the exact same job but learned that the person enjoyed their work, they think it’s more fair, or less illegitimate, to have them do things that would objectively be considered approaching exploitation,” says Kay.

Pay attention to those last two paragraphs. When someone was subjected to abuse and unreasonable deadlines, they were perceived to be passionate. When people were told that someone enjoyed their work, exploitative treatment was perceived as “more fair, or less illegitimate.”

I think you could probably hold a day long conference just discussing the implications of those two sentences.

The fact that people think your suffering is okay if you are smiling is enough to diminish that smile, if not transform it to a pained grimace.

It is one thing to feel like the time and effort you invested in developing a skill is being undervalued or dismissed. Having some confirmation that they feel their exploitation is validated by your enjoyment of the work you do is pretty damn depressing.

So yes, apparently the whole world does want you to be miserable at work.

More Creative Expression That Touches The Divine

This is turning into a video heavy week with my posts. With all my talk about helping people recognize their capacity for creative expression, this seemed to be a ready made example.

The BBC website hosted a short documentary video of women in southern India drawing kolam. (Unfortunately, the video doesn’t embed well so you will have to follow the link.)

Every morning they will create intricate designs with rice flour near the thresholds of their homes. Foot/car traffic, weather, animals and birds wear it down/consume it over the day and they start again the next morning. (Though the materials seem remarkably resistant to smudging and dissipation as vehicles drive over it.)

There is a belief that the practice will bring protection on the household. One of the women interviewed says it is a great stress reliever for her. The women also see the designs they create as an expression of their inner selves.

The two women who are the primary focus of the video participate in a competition so you will definitely want to watch to video to get a sample of the broad array of designs the dozens of competitors have developed.

I Probably Don’t Really Know What My Audience Values Even Though I Am In The Lobby Before, After, And At Intermission

I bookmarked a guest post on Museum 2.0 a month ago. Now I feel guilty for not circling back to it sooner. Nina Simon invited Martin Brandt Djupdræt, a manager at Danish museum,  to write about how his organization has all the decision makers interact with visitors as part of their audience research effort.

Their approach is super simple, though a little time consuming. A member of management approaches a random visitor and asks if they can follow the visitor around to observe where they go in the museum and what they interact with. Three weeks later they give the visitor a call and ask:

• why they chose this museum,
• what they noticed especially during the visit,
• whether they interacted with anyone, and
• whether they had talked to anyone about the museum after the visit, and what about

Every decision maker in the organization seems to be required to participate, from management to curators. Djupdræt says the goal is to get managers up and away from their desks interacting with people with whom they wouldn’t normally come in contact.

As you might imagine, what the managers and curators were sure people valued about the museum wasn’t quite accurate. Even those with more direct contact with visitors were surprised by what they learned.

The curators were surprised by how important other parts of the museum besides the historical content were for the visitor. The F&B manager and the head of HR were surprised by how many objects and stories the visitors were absorbed in. This has also given us insights into the work of our colleagues and made us appreciate their work to a larger extent. Now we all have useful and inspiring stories about visitors’ choices and the impact the museum had on them.

Another observation was the importance of food and drink. In our trackings we could see how much time the visitors spent on the museum’s eating places and the great social importance these breaks had. Something we learned about food through the interviews was that the guests consider the food at the museum as part of the museum’s storytelling. This insight has encouraged us to focus on food and food history as a priority topic at the museum, and a colleague is going to work particularly with that subject.


Visitors have always been a focus for the management, but the research have personalized our audience and they are discussed differently now. As the head of finance described it: “I normally look at whether a task is well done, financially possible and efficient, but now I also consider more seriously how a visitor would feel and react to the changes we plan.”

I especially wanted to include that last section as a reminder that measuring success by efficiency and expense doesn’t necessarily equate to providing a fulfilling experience.

One thing Djupdræt didn’t cover that I was curious about was why they waited three weeks to follow up. I didn’t know if that was a social practice in Denmark where it was rude to immediately survey people about their experience or if it was calculated to see how much of the visitor experience still made an impression three week later.

The whole article is a reminder not to depend entirely on surveys as an evaluation tool. Yes, it is an important practice to have people in the back office interacting directly in a focused manner with the people the organization serves, but there is also the shift of perspective this practice brings. You would assume a food and beverage manager would have fairly extensive interactions with visitors and would be paying close attention to trends.  That person at the Djupdræt’s museum still found themselves surprised by some of the insights they gained.

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