Interventions, Life, Art and Storyboards

Does life imitate art or does art imitate life?

In the news of late, many articles dealt with the word intervention. Intervention is a powerful word, it grabs our attention and we are never quite sure if the storyline will be about war, drugs, climate change, a new television show, a family in crisis…the list is long. For example:
  • Following the horrific deliberate downing of Germanwings flight 9525, many specialists are observing “what if” the co-pilot’s employer, doctors or family members would have combined their efforts and intervened to insist that he get treatment for his mental illness(es).
  • This past week a few “rich and/or famous” families are in the news because family members are organizing interventions to help their loved ones who are struggling with addiction and more.
  • Some communities around the country have issued press releases to announce the establishment of crisis intervention specialists who will work with “at-risk” youth and young adult populations in an effort to prevent long term and perhaps irreversible damage resulting from exposure to drugs, alcohol and crime.
  • On March 22, 2015, television fans were pleased to see A & E bring back the series Intervention.

So the aged old question remains; does life imitate art or does art imitate life?  It is true that real life events take place and artists, writers and producers are inspired to create paintings, sculptures, novels, movies, television shows…and suddenly we have art. Then again, more than a century ago Oscar Wilde opined that “life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” This philosophical discussion will go on.

Mad Men returns for its final episodes…

It was last May when we published a blog about Don Draper’s intervention. While Don’s partners insisted that he take some time off, a leave of absence to deal with his alcoholism (albeit they avoided saying the word), they never insisted that he needed to go to treatment. Don, the character, knew he had a problem and his co-workers, among others, knew it, too. Interestingly, in the first episode of Season 7, (which aired April 2014) Don meets a woman on a flight from Los Angeles to New York. The stranger speaks of being a widow and when Don observes that she looks too young to be a widow, she offers that her husband died at age 50. Don asks what could have happened to a man so young. She answers: “He was thirsty, and he died of thirst.”

Last month it was reported that Jon Hamm (Don Draper) recently sought treatment for alcoholism. It was also reported that many fans were shocked and Mr. Hamm shared that he had the support of his family and asked for consideration and privacy.  At least one news outlet referenced “life imitating art.”

The power of storyboards

While Don Draper is a fictional character who works for a Madison Avenue advertising firm, there is a lot we can learn from the process of building an ad campaign. Storyboards! Do you recognize the term? Storyboarding dates back before the 1930s, but the use of storyboards in business has taken on a role of its own in Mad Men, not unlike alcoholism. You will always hear Don Draper asking his team “what story are we telling?” And from that simple question the creative team draws the storyboards to present to the client. It is important to remember there are multiple boards and they can be shuffled to create a whole new story!

The intervention process is similar…the interventionist works to determine the real story and where to go from there. The process begins by having a conversation with the interventionist about the loved one you would like to help. Imagine each family member arriving with their storyboards. Because of professional experience in the field of addiction and recovery, the interventionist has heard it all – there are no stories or situations that haven’t already been heard and no story or situation will be judged, it will all be kept with the utmost level of confidentiality. Although it seems trifling to tell personal details to someone you don’t know, upon sharing your situation your reservation will be met with warmth and understanding and the weight you feel will begin to lift as solutions are proposed.

One last thought from the fictional Don Draper: “Everyone has their own story to tell. It can only go in one direction. Forward!”

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