I used to believe that production value was detrimental to presenting authenticity in performance. I thought a stripped down street performance as more real than a Hollywood movie. I was afraid to make things too polished as to avoid pushing my audience away.
Entertainment is fake
A painter uses paints (pigments that block light) to represent light. In entertainment, we artificially recreate a truth that resonates. If we show up and entertain people, we are not being completely true, but we’re connecting with truth. Any tools can be used to connect with that truth.
Nobody that cares thinks a bathroom wall writing is more real than a New York Times best seller.
This kind of thinking leads us to questions like “Which magician do you trust, the one with the nice suit or the one with the tshirt?” The answer is “Neither, they’re both freaking magicians!”
Higher value is higher risk
The waste sticks out to me when I experience an expensive production that falls flat. I wonder, “How could all this energy go into something without a story. Something that seems so meaningless.”
This is the real issue with big stuff. When things go bad, we notice. We know that these people really tried and they failed. When a street show goes bad, who even knows what the intentions are?
My suggestion is always try. Higher production value is trying. Give more. Make a bigger promise and fulfill it. This is generous. This is what an audience deserves. Taking responsibility for a commitment is one of the greatest gifts we can give to anyone.
We’re sending signals here
If we’re afraid to add to production value, a good first step is to identify what’s important for us to convey. Then, we use production value (and everything else we do and have) to push that importance forward to our audience.
We could add in fancy makeup and lights and sound effects to try to cover up our insecurities.
It’s a simple question. “Am I using production value to distract from the important thing, or am I using it to clarify it?” The question is not “Do I improve production value?”