Don’t Confuse Life on Mars with Clear Feedback

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It's All Martian to Me

There are few things that baffle script writers more often than feedback from clients.

Whether this comes from a Hollywood studio or corporate marketing department, interpreting a client’s thought process requires a unique combination of skills.

In the 1960s, the writer of a sci-fi movie featuring aliens on a neighbouring planet was bemused to receive a feedback memo from the studio executive simply reading, “a Martian wouldn’t say that.”

Quite how he knew what an extra-terrestrial would think was never explained…

Sometimes it’s simple cultural differences which create confusion.

Whilst producing a programme for an American broadcaster, one of my British writers couldn’t make sense of a request to insert a seemingly nonsensical line of dialogue. “It’s a reference to the world famous radio show, The Shadow, said the executives. The writer quickly discovered that not only was the reference from the 1930s, but from a programme which was unknown to international audiences – a fact he diplomatically pointed out to the client. “Well, it’s ‘world famous’ in America,” they replied.

Recognising the needs and intentions of others is often described as “theory of mind” by child psychologists, many of whom believe it develops by around the age of 4. But life has shown many of us that it can take a lot longer to master the nuances of understanding what others mean and want.

Here at Mendip Media our team has the benefit of decades of experience in communications and feedback, from the rigours of journalism to the cross-cultural challenges of international co-production and the ever-changing etiquette of modern social media.

We believe in clarity, in listening, and in responding to our clients’ needs in order to deliver a clear message at all times for whomever the audience may be – Martian or otherwise.

And if you fancy delving a little further into the curious world of film and television production why not try this gem of a book called A Martian Wouldn’t Say That compiled by Leonard B. Stern. It’s a humorous collection of real life memos and script notes from executives – essential for anyone who’s ever worked in production or had an unintelligible email from their boss…

Also of interest is a fascinating TED Talk, How We Read Each Other’s Minds by Rebecca Saxe, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at MIT

By Michael Lekes, Producer