05 Jul Learn from the best (What I learned from the Muppets)
When I was seventeen I got in my 1974 Super Beetle and left home. I was alone on my journey to who-knows-where save for a pile of worldly possessions in the back seat and a few beloved items in the front. Directly beside me were a few diaries, my giant ghetto blaster, and my massive Kermit the Frog.
The diaries got quickly filled with the angsty musings of a girl trying to find the right roads, the ghetto blaster got too expensive to run (Love and Rockets ate batteries like crazy)… and that loyal frog just stuck by my side.
Kermit was with me to chase a crazy dream in L.A. where I lived for a while in a Redondo Beach backyard shed. A while later, the frog also followed me home, both of us a bit more torn up than when we’d arrived (after I found out the fairy tales got it all wrong, and that a person can’t actually live on love). Following that escapade, he watched (with such a lovely, non-judge-y fixed stare) as I struggled for a few years and finally decided to attend University.
Fast-forward A LOT of years and roads. Kermit had long since been replaced by “real-life, grown-up, not-so-silly” items (we all make mistakes), and I found myself on the set with the Muppets for a work project. Kermit! That day was profound on a number of levels. I’d come full circle. Best of all, somehow in between my awe and gratitude for the opportunity to be with the Muppets and their extraordinary puppeteers, I managed to absorb an assortment of truths I’ll always keep with me.
Have immense respect for your role and for the roles of others. On set, everyone had a part. From Animal to the lighting dude to the Director, a sincere admiration flew around. In any group, if you play (and adore) your part and others play (and adore) theirs, and if you all share respect for those roles, together you’ll find a way to be more than the sum of the parts.
Commit to the worthy stuff. Watching Steve Whitmire with Kermit—well, I actually teared up. It made me realize what kind of commitment we can have to the things we love to do. It’s worth finding worthy things to bestow passion upon!
Begin with a kickass plan – then improvise. That day, we worked with a script and stuck pretty close to it… but when the puppeteers asked the Director to try different things, the results were amazing. A good foundation mixed with freedom, trust, and creativity can make outstanding things.
The magic is in the details. There were plenty of times when the shots were stopped to make something perfect. (My favorite was Miss Piggy’s stylist who was often smoothing out her fabulous hair. And also, who knew there was a job as Miss Piggy’s stylist!?) But everyone expected things to stop and restart. Because it was important to get it right, not just get it done.
Be filled with grace and gratitude. Take after take, although the puppeteers (and Muppets) were in the spotlight, they ALL stopped to say thank you, to ask how everyone was, to show a quiet kind of grace to one another. It was a beautiful balance of brand integrity and a commitment to the understanding there was a team to be nurtured and an audience to be served.
There are many roads I’ve not yet traveled… I hope to find Kermit (and Kermit-like-souls) on more of them.