November 4, 2009


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The Michael Jackson movie "This is It" is one of my favorites -- for the music, for the dance, and for the public speaking lessons! There are so many messages that seem relevant to pass along. Here are a few of my thoughts.


When MJ wants to make his ideas clear to the musicians, he uses evocative words like "simmer" and "sizzle." At one point, he tells the music supervisor to slow down the beat like "you're dragging yourself out of bed." He also suggests not rushing the music in order to "nourish" the audience.

He always tries to find a way to describe his experience or the experience he's looking for in a way that is understandable to those listening. His communication is minimalist but efficient.


There's a sense that, no matter how big and complex this show, MJ will never lose his cool. He has a sense of calm about him that seems to make others relaxed -- no one seems stressed out in this film!

It's all about the audience

In a pep talk to his cast and crew at the end of the movie, he says, "There's no need to be nervous." He describes the show as "an adventure, a great adventure." Of the audience, he says, "We want to take them places they've never been before. We want to show them talent like they've never seen before."

Director Kenny Ortega said in an interview with MTV, "The fans meant everything to Michael. They were his food, his fuel, his life source, his energy, and he was energized by them and he appreciated their loyalty more than I can ever say. This film is for the fans."

Throughout the movie, MJ pays attention to every detail of the show, partly because he has a vision that he's trying to achieve, but also because he wants the audience to get it. He wants the audience to have the best possible experience.


He is thankful for each person involved in the production. He's thankful for his audience. When he gives direction to his crew, his response is always, "God bless you." There is a constant sense of gratitude on the set.


When his colleagues applaud him, he "throws" it back to them. When Orianthi Panagaris, a sensational young Australian guitarist, comes downstage for her solo, he reminds her to go for it: "It's your time to shine." (Check out video of her playing below.) He personally meets with the dancers and singers to go over rehearsal pieces instead of leaving it up to choreographers and music directors.

While he is obviously the star of the show and the man in charge, he never forgets that he is not alone and that he is relying on the talents of others to make this production the best it can be. He is a collaborator and a coach as well as the star.

The best of the best

MJ knows to surround himself with the best people in the industry. The dancers, the musicians, the singers, the crew: these people are the best at what they do. When he explains how a piece of music should sound or how to cue a sound effect, he doesn't have to say it twice. These people get things done.


"It's all for love. L.O.V.E."

This may sound corny, but there's a lot of love in this movie. You can't miss MJ's love for his art and his music. You can't miss his love for his fans and his colleagues. When you love what you do, your audience can't help but absorb that positive energy.

This movie shows what it takes to be a creative visionary and a top performer. You can see the blend of talent and skill that goes into being an artist like Michael Jackson. You can also see how putting the audience first has made Michael Jackson millions of fans around the world, including the people hired to work with him on this production.

There are some valuable lessons we can all learn as speakers and performers from watching this movie. Doesn't hurt that it's also as entertaining as heck!

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2 comments. Please add yours! :

Beth Andrus said...

I loved this movie for all of the reasons you listed. I was looking forward to it, and it turned out to be so much more than I expected. You summarized the movie beautifully.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thanks, Beth! It was also much more than I expected!

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