By Kevin Sullivan
Over the years in media coaching I have run into executives who tell me they don’t want to prepare too much for fear of losing their authenticity. In fact, the opposite is true. Sound preparation relaxes us to the point where we can be ourselves – and we’ll also remember what we want to say.
I recently read Matthew McConaughey’s terrific new memoir, Greenlights. He tells a cringe-worthy story of overconfidence and lack of preparation while shooting the 1995 film, Scorpion Spring. It was his seventh film and he had become extremely confident in his abilities. So confident, he decided he didn’t need to read the script for his one scene in advance. He believed he was talented enough and experienced enough to wing it and be naturally great. Besides, he knewthe character, he knew his man. That’s what mattered most.
When he pulled out the script right before shooting began, he was horrified to learn that his scene was longer than he had been led to believe – and it was in Spanish. He made everyone wait while he tried to quickly memorize his lines in a language he didn’t know. The outcome was not good. McConnaughey was embarrassed.
“I have never watched Scorpion Spring,” he wrote. “I did learn a good lesson that day, though. We have to prepare to have freedom. We have to do the work to then do the job. We have to prepare for the job so we can be free to do the work. Knowing my man does not mean I know Spanish.”