Jenna Johnson: A Yellow Thread

Bill Plaschke doesn’t know a damn thing about sports, but he’s got the art of the tear jerker down pat. His latest is the inspiring story of Jenna Johnson, a 22-year old production assistant for the George Lopez Show, who collapsed and died while training for the L.A. Marathon.    (KD5)

Here’s what Plaschke says about Jenna:    (KD6)

On the set of ABC’s top-rated situation comedy, she was the 22-year-old kid with the lowly job and the heavenly spirit.    (KD7)

She was a cheerleader to the camera guys, the “Hello” to the dolly grips, a “Boom” for the mike operators, a direction for the directors, a joyous energy that even awed George Lopez himself.    (KD8)

“Her job was as low as you could get, but nobody ever saw her like that,” he said. “She had a presence. I’ve seen studio executives who didn’t have that presence.”    (KD9)

…    (KDA)

In Sunday’s L.A. Marathon, nearly half of the 100-member cast and crew of “The George Lopez Show” is going to run the marathon, relay style, in her memory.    (KDB)

“She started it,” said Frank Pace, the show’s producer. “We have to finish it for her.”    (KDC)

One mile per person.    (KDD)

…    (KDE)

Black, white, Latino, directors, script coordinators, a dialogue coach, everyone speaking the same language, in a dialect rarely heard amid the often petty hierarchy that is the entertainment industry.    (KDF)

The last shall be first.    (KDG)

All of this for someone who made $575 a week and made the runs to the studio-lot Starbucks.    (KDH)

“Most of the time, the people running around getting coffee, nobody knows who they are,” said Hope Erickson, an assistant production coordinator who coordinated the run. “But everyone knew Jenna. She was so happy, so positive, it rubbed off on everybody.”    (KDI)

…    (KDJ)

Her framed University of Miami jersey, No. 6, will be in the background in future episodes.    (KDK)

She is receiving the producer credit for her last episode.    (KDL)

And she should receive a director credit for bringing so many industry types together for something that does not involve a camera.    (KDM)

Do they give an Emmy for Best Family?    (KDN)

“Jenna Johnson moved people in ways that are hard to define,” producer Pace said. “And now she’s doing it again.”    (KDO)

Jenna is a classic example of a Yellow Thread, someone who makes those around him or her much, much brighter. It’s sad that it takes a tragedy like this for Yellow Threads to take center stage. My deepest sympathy goes to Jenna’s family and friends.    (KDP)

Designing for Minimal Facilitation

Gail Taylor once explained to me her philosophy of designing large-scale events. If you have a large enough group, you will generally have all types of people, from obnoxious type-A personalities who dominate the conversation to thoughtful facilitator-types (whom she would call Yellow Threads).    (JV0)

If you’re designing an event for such a group, facilitation is more a result of your design than of designated facilitators. The trick is to mix people up and create an environment where folks facilitate themselves. Active facilitation of a large, diverse group is a pretty good indication that you’ve failed in your design. It’s not that it can’t work, it’s just that you’re not maximizing group potential.    (JV1)

Gail told me a story about an event she facilitated for a large company, where several of the higher-level executives were being uncooperative and impeding the entire process. Her solution? She didn’t admonish them or intervene with their breakout groups. She simply assigned them to their own breakout group and let them go. By the end of the event, everyone had achieved their objectives successfully except for that small group of executives. More importantly, these folks realized and acknowledged first-hand their failures and failings.    (JV2)

Red and Yellow Threads

Gail Taylor likes to talk about the need for The Red Thread and Yellow Threads in groups. The Red Thread is a concept from filmmaking. It’s the tie that binds, an element found in every aspect of a project that helps create a unified whole. Alicia Bramlett, an artist and filmmaker who often works with MGTaylor, has written a beautiful description of The Red Thread and its role in filmmaking.    (GFZ)

Gail first described Yellow Threads to me a few weeks ago as we were discussing the participants of an upcoming Blue Oxen Associates event. If you look carefully, you will find Yellow Threads woven throughout oriental carpets. They themselves are not apparent, but their presence makes the surrounding colors more vivid.    (GG0)