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Have you ever felt starved for encouragement–hungry for even a solitary kind word to gnaw on? How important is encouragement?
Recently, I watched the documentary CASTING BY (by Tom Donahue), an examination of the extraordinary skills employed by casting director Marion Dougherty. She was the first to suggest cast members for new films based on the experience, skills, and personal resources of specific trained actors instead of simply basing casting choices on the availability or physical appearance of celebrities. Although Dougherty and the female casting directors she trained were rarely given screen credit and have never been honored with Oscar mentions, the actors she promoted had plenty to say about what made her valuable. (The Directors Guild still does not choose to share credit with those who provide casting suggestions.)
Dougherty used insight into the “essence” of prospective actors as she matched each part with actors who could bring something special to the portrayal. Her talent was hailed by insiders (including several directors) as key to many films we now think of as classic. The resultant performances were layered and engaging. Of course, numerous actors such as Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Glenn Close, and Jon Voight readily acknowledge the debt their careers owe to opportunities provided by Dougherty, but access to great parts wasn’t the contribution they valued most. What was? Encouragement.
These days when many occupations, businesses, and institutions (including education) depend on chastisement for motivation (“you’re never as good as you could be”), the power of encouragement is often overlooked. I remember when I was directing high school plays and musicals, I was often asked how I managed to convince my teenage cast and crew members to work so hard, so long, and for so little immediately apparent reward. The answer was encouragement. “You can do this!”
As I’ve mentioned, sometimes we think encouragement is merely praise. It isn’t. It’s honestly believing that someone is capable of being really good and saying so. It’s not letting that person despair, give up, or be overwhelmed until the job is done. How many times have you wished someone would notice and appreciate your effort? How many times has someone believed in you more than you believed in yourself? I can tell you I have several comments from different people to thank for the fact that I have a book about to be published. “You write so beautifully.” “She should write more novels. She has the touch.” “Your dialogue is brilliant.”
I hope I never neglect to pay these lifelines forward: “Yes, you can!”