Category Archives: The Art of Success

Diversity, Professionalism, and Inclusion

By Moira Cue

Does your organization practice diversity, professionalism, and inclusion? I would argue that each of these values represents a level of commitment to the same core principal, in ascending order of ethical strength and subtlety. While each value has its place in the contemporary work world, I believe that inclusion is the most important goal to strive for.

Diversity and professionalism can be stepping stairs on the upward path to inclusion, but only if leadership is self-motivated to engage in constant questioning of the status quo. The danger in the “step-by-step” approach is that each step can become a plateau, wherein the organization becomes comfortable at one level and doesn’t go any farther.

Title: "Sojourner Truth," Other Title, "I sell the shadow to support the substance" Summary: Photograph shows Sojourner Truth, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing slightly left. Created / Published c1864. Subject Headings - Truth, Sojourner,-- 1799-1883. Format Headings, Albumen prints--1860-1870. Cartes de visite-- 1860-1870. Portrait photographs--1860-1870. - Copyright 1864 by Sojourner Truth. - Purchase;--William A. Gladstone;--1995;--(PR 13 CN 1995:113)
Title: “Sojourner Truth,” Other Title, “I sell the shadow to support the substance.”  Summary: Photograph shows Sojourner Truth, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing slightly left. Created / Published c1864. Subject Headings – Truth, Sojourner,–1799-1883. Format Headings, Albumen prints–1860-1870. Cartes de visite–1860-1870. Portrait photographs–1860-1870. – Copyright 1864 by Sojourner Truth.-Purchase;–William A. Gladstone;–1995;–(PR 13 CN 1995:113)

An organizational commitment to diversity often focuses on hiring and retention statistics and avoiding legal liability. Adopting policies such as mandatory sexual harassment training for managers, hiring targets for minorities, participation in surveys, and official diversity committees out of fear reduces diverse people, including women, to statistical targets at best; and potential fires to be handled with caution, at worst. It seems true that you can’t improve what you don’t measure. It is also true that quantifiable results, such as the number of African-Americans on your Board of Directors, or the presence or absence of discrimination lawsuits, are the fruits of a particular work culture, leadership attitude, and environment. The root of the problem is deeply held, even subconscious, beliefs of not only the people “in charge,” but the people who come to work for your organization with prior experiences of victimization or discrimination based on their identity. If the main reason you or your leadership engage in a particular course of action is to not get sued, or to decrease future financial loss after a successful suit, than that action is reactive rather than proactive, and your organization should consider moving up the ethics ladder to review and address matters of professionalism from a more holistic vantage point.

On the other hand, there are cases wherein a formal investment in diversity programs signifies progress. Is if your organization refuses to review its own diversity metrics (at least internally); has been the subject of an EEOC disciplinary action or investigation; or has problems retaining women and diverse people at upper levels or with retention in general, then looking at the metrics is a good place to start. If there is no prominent member of your organization who is not white and male and/or from an Ivy League school, certainly you might want to bring in a consultant to ask why that is, and keep an open mind. Don’t assume there is a lack of qualified people applying for jobs with your organization. Upper management or HR may not realize that compared to other organizations of your same size and industry, you have a higher or lower percentage of various ethnicities, so when you analyze the numbers you might see patterns that lead to more important questions. Is diversity not only a product of the organization, but of the industry itself? If so, what factors favor parity in one industry and not another?

There are entire industries that need to start with diversity: Look at the overall numbers in engineering (http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/wmpd/2013/tables.cfm). Or, closer to home for this author: Look at the numbers of contemporary (i.e. living) female artists exhibiting solo shows in major museums globally compared to the number of women who go through art schools (http://www.artnews.com/2015/05/26/taking-the-measure-of-sexism-facts-figures-and-fixes/). Worse yet, look at a historical list of the highest sales prices for paintings. There are no women artists represented in the top 65 individual sales, and only two men who are not European or American descent (both are Chinese). The most obvious answer to this question could be that one of these industries (engineering) enculturates its own with so called “left-brain,” solutions-based, rational thinking that tends to emphasize the calculating areas of our brains over the care and connectivity centers—so “leveling the playing field” is an alien concept when participants are less aware of the “field” as a sphere of human interaction and more aware of direct, concrete objectives. But art, which traditionally engages the “human story,” is simply a field (much like Hollywood) wherein there is no traditional employer-employee relationship for the makers of individual works of art (or music or entertainment), hence a field wherein threat of litigation plays little to no deterring role for exploitation, and individual personalities battle for “celebrity” status.

A culture that thrives on professionalism (or civility, if you prefer) would exclude cultural appropriation at the expense of the minority. It isn’t professional to boost yourself over others while trampling them under your feet. It isn’t professional to take credit for others accomplishments, pay a person less than she is worth because she lets you get away with it, use racial or sexual slurs, or make someone so uncomfortable that she drops out of your school or company. I’ve had the pleasure of working in organizations led by men, who happened to be white and well compensated, who had this kind of class. Because these leaders saw their subordinates as professionals first, it was easier to do my best work than in other environments where unprofessional and gendered comments were the norm.

But there’s still a higher plane of organizational virtue: inclusion. I often hear the words “diversity and inclusion” brandied about as painter Hedda Sterne famously heard the phrase “great artist,” as if one word. To me this is a pity, as I feel we lose so much of the value of inclusion when we look for diversity reductively or mechanistically. When we strive for diverse work forces, or to give diverse voices cinematic exploration, rather than inclusive work forces or works of art, we only go skin deep. There is an assumption that if a person isn’t a member of a protected class, he or she has never experienced discrimination. There’s an assumption that you can take a snapshot or run your metrics, and know if you are certifiably diverse. There’s an assumption that traditionally excluded people are being “let in” that smacks of paternalism. An inclusive approach throws all assumptions about identity out the window. It’s not management that defines the beingness of their employees by checking off boxes. An inclusive approach is one where real differences, as experienced by the Self, rather than culturally or politically constructed sociology of difference, are given room to be. A progressively inclusive workplace, for example, might create dim, quiet spaces for employees who are disturbed by bright lights or too much noise or accept an introvert’s desire to avoid the company picnic (regardless of disclosure or existence of a formal autism diagnosis). A progressively inclusive workplace would hire art school graduates or creative consultants and ask “how can we be more creative” during Board meetings. You would see not just different skin colors or sexual orientations, but different personalities, different politics, different religions, working together.

My personal working hypothesis regarding inclusion, perhaps due to indoctrination in, first, empiricism, and secondly, a “post-” everything ethos, is that the differences we don’t see—arbitrary epistemological boundaries—are more individualistic and profound than differences attributed to diverse variables. Though there is so much overlap that diverse variables become the simplest way of pre-judging others. By “arbitrary epistemological boundaries” I mean the invisible hierarchy of values which are unique to every field of knowledge as historically defined, without elimination of Western or ‘civilized’ bias. (Two excellent books exploring gender and nature, Carolyn Anne Merchant’s The Death of Nature, and Leonard Shlain’s The Goddess Versus the Alphabet, were key to my early inspiration in this regard as well.) Historical divisions between commercial activity and the academy, art and science, ethics and all other fields of endeavor, have created poly-fragmentated dissociation en masse. We go to work exclusively to make money. We go to school exclusively to learn. We make art exclusively to express ourselves. If we question the impact of any of these activities on non-human life, we have stepped outside of all -ologies other than ecology. Competition and cooperation have prescripted dominant-subordinate relationships in various settings.

Both in your individual success and the success of the organizations you influence, identifying the “invisible walls” more clearly and including ideas, modalities, and people “outside” those boundaries can yield adventure, discovery, and original ideas and combinations.

This story is ©2016, The Hollywood Sentinel, Moira Cue, all world rights reserved.

Top 10 Greatest Filmmakers of All Time: Jean Luc Godard

Godard-Godet-Hollywood Sentinel

One of the most important filmmakers of all time, Jean Luc Godard has made over 40 feature films, in addition to numerous film shorts, written screenplays, produced, and published his own and others film criticism world wide. He has had a wider influence on audiences and filmmaking than most any other living filmmaker of our time, despite most audiences not even knowing it. The reason for his profound, and often unknown influence, is that he has remained deliberately obscure, independent, and unique, for over 50 years as a filmmaker, yet cinefiles such as known influential directors including Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman, and many more have studied his work, citing him as a major influence.

Hollywood-Sentinel-April-2015

One who knows Godard, could easily write a book on Godard, as many have done. I have seen only 30 of his motion pictures. Jean Luc Godard’s greatness is manifold. One of his most powerful contributions to cinema is his daring uses of sound as art, such as having sounds from former scenes cut and overlap into present scenes, having sounds blend together, or having sound disappear entirely for stronger cinematic effect. His infusion of politics and philosophy into cinema is also unique; often having characters discourse or debate politics or philosophy on screen, and at times even reading out of a book of poetry or philosophy right on camera, inter-weaving the message throughout the film. Godard’s reference to and use of fine art in his films are also unique, using artwork not only as a set design piece or a prop, but literally referencing painters within the duologue, or showing characters creating a painting, as they discuss the colors, hues, tones, or feelings that they evoke, blending this too within the film.

Godard’s occasional use of nudity is portrayed as a work of art itself, not gratuitous, but simply there, as a part of life as art for arts sake. Violence in his films are treated as a reality of life, but one that should be avoided yet not ignored. Beauty, art, life, philosophy, women, and love are revered in Godard’s work, while chaos, destruction, government, warfare, and politics are derided as evils to fight or shun. As a former film critic, films are referenced within many Godard films, either blatantly with a poster of a film on the wall or a mention of it, or as an homage to a scene re-created. Light and the camera lens are used artistically as a painting in a Godard film. He may have the cinematographer point the lens directly at the sky as some birds pass by, or simply gaze upon some clouds, trees, or rolling water. Godard puts the emphasis on the aesthetic beauty and power of the object in front of the camera, rather than subverting aesthetics to action or dialogue.

Katia Vaz-Hollywood Sentinel

Dialogue itself rolls out in a Godard film like a play, or often times like poetry, with stream of consciousness or nuanced fashion punctuated by a musical score or unique editing technique. Music in a Godard film often is classical; form Mozart to Beethoven or more, providing sweeping waves of emotion as a foreground or background to the scene or dialogue. Editing techniques by Godard are classic New Wave style, cutting long after the end of an action, a shot may linger on a subject no longer doing anything plot related, simply being or doing something ordinary, observing them as Andy Warhol may have done in one of his screen tests, simply letting the subject ‘be there’ and not imposing the time or space of a film on the subject with an ordinary edit. Godard popularized this technique, as well as the jump cut, cutting from one scene to an entirely different one, arguing that the viewer was smart enough to follow the change. This Godardian effect alone revolutionized cinema, with his landmark, groundbreaking debut feature film ‘Breathless,’ which also widely influenced the music video to come years later.

elite connections revised

Lastly, Godard revolutionized cinema further still by his use of camera technique. While Hollywood cinema follows a traditional ‘blocking’ technique of focusing on the primary character in either a long shot (LS), medium shot (MS), close up (CU), or extreme close up (ECU), normally at eye level and following the so called Golden Meane; at the upper middle left of the picture plane where the viewers eyesight allegedly first goes, Godard throws this out the window, and may mix up a variety of shots in blended, reverse, or broken sequence that deliberately shock the viewer, or may focus on a secondary character when the primary character is talking, or he may focus on another part of a persons body instead of their face when their mouth is moving, for example. In other words, Godard throws the so called rules of filmmaking away, often doing everything possible a different way, in order to shake up the medium, transgress the art, and enliven the viewer. Poetic, philosophical, and anarchistic with the creation of his motion pictures, Jean Luc Godard is, without debate, one of the most revered and important filmmakers of all time. The Hollywood Sentinel ranks him among the Top 10 Greatest Filmmakers of All Time.

Camellia Steele Final

Jean Luc Godard’s feature films include: 1960 Breathless, 1960 Le Petit soldat, 1961 A Woman Is a Woman, 1962 My Life to Live, 1963 Les Carabiniers, 1963 Contempt, 1964 Band of Outsiders, 1964 A Married Woman, 1964 Alphaville, 1965 Pierrot le fou, 1966 Masculin Féminin, 1966 Made in U.S.A., 1967 Two or Three Things I Know About Her, 1967 La Chinoise, 1967 Week End, 1968 Le Gai savoir, 1968 A Film Like the Others, 1968 One Plus One, 1969 Wind from the East, 1969 Struggles in Italy, 1971 Vladimir et Rosa, 1972 Tout va bien, 1974 Here and Elsewhere, 1975 Number Two, 1976 How’s It Going?, 1980 Every Man for Himself, 1982 Passion, 1983 First Name: Carmen, 1985 Hail Mary, 1985 Détective, 1987 King Lear, 1987 Keep Your Right Up, 1990 New Wave, 1991 Germany Year 90 Nine Zero, 1993 The Kids Play Russian, 1993 Oh Woe Is Me, 1994 JLG/JLG – Self-Portrait in December, 1996 For Ever Mozart, 2001 In Praise of Love, 2004 Notre musique, 2010 Film Socialisme, and 2014 Goodbye to Language, his first in 3D.

– Bruce Edwin

Goodbye to Language

Goodbye to Language is a deconstructed film. I have read the filmmaker’s comments about the plot (which were tweeted) and also some of the critical discussion, but I wanted to review the film before being contaminated by those influences in order to have a genuine experience and express it from a blank starting place, taking it on its own as best I could.

Goodbye to Language is the 21st century equivalent of what Guernica was to painting: a film created by a man who loves film so much he wants to destroy it. Vision competes with narrative. The luxury of seeing destroys meaning. It’s a 3-D movie made by an artist of the highest caliber; which is sort of like having a twinkie made by Gordon Ramsey. There was a particular moment of the interior of a room with a window overlooking a summer field that is one of the most singularly striking images I have ever seen in film and reminded me in its ethos of Marcel Duchamp’s enigmatic assemblage Étant donnés: 1. La chute d’eau, 2. Le gaz d’éclairage.

I concluded, sometime after the last credits had rolled, that this was the story of an adulterous couple and jealous murder told through the eyes of the couple’s adopted dog (the dog jumps into their car, they decide to keep him). The dog was played by Godard’s own dog. I believed the dog was the observer because of the non-chronology and the presentation of dialogue, as well as a reference to Jack London and Call of the Wild (which, coincidentally, I had just finished reading).

Godard’s own statements in this regard also include a subplot relating to a second couple, the relation of which to the main couple I don’t think anyone would have understood as fully as Godard’s description, but the film is so experimental that it doesn’t really matter what it is about, and each audience will make sense of it somewhat differently.

– Moira Cue

This content is ©2015, The Hollywood Sentinel.