Anatomy of a Work in Progress Part V: Stealth Genius
Steven Stauffer sneaks up on you. It’s not just that he is innately quiet, the third child in a family of 6, and a natural peacemaker. No it’s something else…something else. Hmmm.
If you have been following along in this series, Steven has been mentioned many times. AND If you haven’t been following along, why not?! (Go check out the previous posts, starting here, for the whole story.) The series moves from Steven’s idea to shoot in a “really cool theater,” to Michelle’s description of him:
“I’m there too, watching both the screen … and Steven’s dance. It’s a beautiful dance to behold… up then down, tilting to one side, leaning in, backing up. Ted leads, Steven follows.”
We feel Steven’s presence.
He has a lanky athletic grace, could be a poster child for skinny jeans, and moves a bit like a small forward looking for the crevices in a zone defense; never bullying his way through a crowd, but slipping along the seams, lurking on the baseline until he spins in a reverse layup.
He also has a sneaky sense of humor in person and translates that sense to a brilliant editing style. I see it when he shows me an edit of a monologue that makes me laugh out loud, not because I’m so freaking funny, but because his edits are so spot on, milking every bit of possible laughter, you are holding back so you don’t miss the next laugh.
I remember “Steven, the high school student,” that my wife Sue and I taught and directed in Senior Play and acting class, then I wonder, “When did he learn how to do that?” Sneaky.
And he’s still doing it. From the early conversations of shooting in a barn, to working in concert with Michelle, Jacob and Jerry, Steven was seemingly inexhaustible and unfailingly positive. He always makes the job easier and comes to each project with a calm confidence, without bravado, and large amounts of humility.
I count on his level, calming influence in the room, or the basement, or in a goat field, or the woods (Valentine’s Day), or a sidewalk (The Banana Explains the World), or a warehouse (7 years of Food), or a historic house even when he was not feeling well during the shoot and spent a good amount of time sitting between takes, followed soon after by an emergency appendectomy (The Mustard Seed).
I know I am susceptible to mood swings related to stress, fear, and quite frankly the prospect of unintentionally appearing stupid, or even worse, out of touch. Steven is open to almost any suggestion, and that wicked, sneaky sense of humor keeps the shoot days light and the creative juices flowing.
Inner conceit is a term I first heard from Joe Torre, longtime baseball manager. It is holding your confidence close to the vest, not blowing your own horn…but knowing just how good you are. Steven just might have this inner conceit.
When Valerie, Steven and I began formulating a plan to publish the book, Portraits Of The Human Faces Tour, Steven said he’d like to “have a go at ” the design and layout–again something new approached with quiet confidence. The understated elegance of the book is another testament to his artistic sense.
I‘ve come up with a word for Steven–I think he’s a Stealth Genius.
And I’m fortunate I get to work with him