Develop Talent Like Quentin Tarantino

by Emily Jasper on April 10, 2009

Because I gave a buildup of this to HR Renegade Chris Ferdinandi, I hope this fits the movement…

I’m sure you’re saying, “What!? How could I possibly apply talent development suggestions from Quentin Tarantino to my own people?”

Well, you actually can. I’ll even do the leg work for you to tell you what I’m talking about.

In 2007, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino brought to us Grindhouse: The sleaze-filled saga of an exploitation double feature. One of the features is Death Proof, featuring Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike, an over-the-hill stunt driver who has a fascination with creeping girls out (and then some).

While what happens in the movie isn’t actually that important for this discussion, it’s the commentary that came during one of the DVD features. Below are some of the comments about finding a someone to fulfill a pivotal role for the movie:

Quentin: I didn’t want Tracy Dashnaw to do everything. I wanted us to have a young, female, black, stunt driver in there. And then it comes back to me, that well you know, there’s not really that many female black stunt drivers. And the ones that are there are very, very, very green because they haven’t had a lot of experience because there’s not a lot of call for them…

…So, somebody could have a facility, but it’s never been tested. Then it’s important to me that we have a black woman be the double for the black actress, and her only thing against her is that she doesn’t have enough experience? Well, we’re going to give her that experience. That’s what this is about. We’re not penalizing her for the movies she didn’t do, she’s going to do this movie. And she’s going to learn on this movie, and I’m going to use her in shots. And Jeff took her out, and did everything he could to give her experience before the chase started happening.

And the whole idea is: Look, the way this world is right now before we start Death Proof, maybe there aren’t black, female, stunt drivers out there with this wealth of experience that can do this, but whoever we cast to be the black, female, stunt driver on this movie, she’ll be able to do it when this movie’s over. And she will go out, and she will be the new girl. And then if you’re doing another chase movie and you need a black girl to be driver, she’s going to be the Go-to Girl.

I have no doubt, that we cut to five years from now, Chrissy (Weathersby) is going to be one of the biggest female stunt drivers in America.

So Quentin identified a pivotal role for his movie, knew the talent wasn’t readily available, and developed the talent to fit the need. He invested the time and resources for the betterment of the industry, as well. This talent will be readily available in the future.

If you listen to the other commentary from Death Proof, some of the highest compliments Quentin receives have to do with how he knows what he wants. He’s particular, and might even be a little OCD about it, but knowing what he want s makes his movies the cult phenomena that they are.

Blending what you want and what you need on the job can make developing your talent not only easier, but more effective. Imagine, if you know you need someone with a particular skill set, see potential in someone, and then you know what gaps to fill.

If Quentin Tarantino (who dropped out of high school, mind you), can do this, why do other leaders have issues with developing the talent they need?

The views expressed in my blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.

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