Mentoring: The Movie Director Approach

  • Roger Cauthon
  • Dec 12, 2007

There are numerous images and metaphors that help us understand what mentors do: coach and supporter, teacher of skills and the leader of an apprentice, advocate and encourager. A mentor may open doors, making a way for a more novice person, or be a listener and friend in both professional and personal or spiritual matters. All of these are appropriate roles for a mentor to play in a given situation.

For another image of mentoring, consider the power of an imaginative role: the mentor as "movie director." The director of a film makes sure the whole scene is being expressed. That involves making sure the actor or actress says the appropriate lines; that  the lead character is able to express the emotion of the words from the script and communicate them in tone, facial mannerism, intonation and body language. The director also has to make sure that the background scenery is consistent with what the actors are saying and doing. The director, conducts various ways of communication to the audience at one time. The overall impact of the film depends on how well all this works together. 

Actors do not see the whole scene. They are focused on the camera or the audience and must trust that what is going on behind them is appropriate. This calls for actors to place a great deal of trust in the director. They trust that the role being played is supported by the other elements of the stage. They trust that the director is working for their greater development as the character needed in the production. 

We can imagine the movie director sitting in one of those "director chairs" watching all these elements; bringing them into harmony so the communication is as clear and powerful as possible. That role of observation and informing is vital to the ability of the actor to be the character in full bloom. 

Mentors are like that movie director. As we sit and listen to the stories of our "mentorees" we have the chance to observe and inform the "mentoree" actor about what is happening on the rest of the stage of his or her life. We can take the time to see the scenery and pass that on to the "actor" so that he or she may be able to perform well with what is really happening. That scenery is what God is doing; where God is showing up and supporting the life of the actor. Our mentorees need to know that God is really there. They need to know when the scenery is changing. They need to have the confidence that they are moving in the right direction on stage.

The focus of our lives is so intense that we often cannot see the larger picture of the stage on which we live and move. Having a mentor share this perspective is a grounding experience. Mentors affirm that we are not alone on stage. To have a mentor who is at times a "movie director" is to know that someone else is assisting me to be consistent with what God is doing. We all need mentors who are "directors" to help us be fully present to live our lives.