Monday, November 7, 2011

*It* or not *It*

The other night we had a discussion about *it*. You know, the quality that some people have that makes them so appealing on television and in the movies. My writer friend with his extensive background in film and I have discussed the topic before. His claim is that no one has been able to quantify what constitutes having *it*, but almost everyone can agree when they see someone with *it* on camera. *It* seems to be a major topic of discussion and debate in film school.

The discussion the other night was engendered by the following thought chain: we all agree that there are some people with *it* and that *it* cannot be taught, but is the opposite true? Are there people that just naturally have the opposite of *it*, such that when you see them on camera you immediately react the opposite of how you react to someone with *it*. Can they be trained so that they can escape the "not *it*" label even if they cannot be trained to have *it*?

I think this is an amusing question for many reasons. I have always been struck by the fact there are people who exhibit *it* on camera but who do not exhibit the least amount of *it* in person. When we lived in LA and hung out with some Hollywood people, I was often surprised at how little *it* showed up off camera. Likewise there are people who seem to have *it* in person, but who do not show the same on camera. My claim would be that there are people who have the opposite of *it* and they exhibit "not *it*" the same way.

So what do you think? Are *it*ness and "not *it*ness" qualities that just exist and cannot be changed? Or are they learned/trained quantities that anyone can attain? Inquiring minds want to know.

While you are pondering that question, you can enjoy this cartoon from The Math Plane:


  1. I think "it" is a combination (how about that for fence-riding).

    Since most folks are so visual, a person's appearance plays a big role in "it." Other folks can develop "it" through speaking and inspiring.

  2. I think you're correct that some people have "it" on-screen, but "not it" off.

    When I first fell in love with Harrison Ford, I stayed up to watch him on one of the late shows --and he definitely was suffering from "not it." He seemed to have nothing of interest to say, didn't smile, answered questions with one or two words if he could get away with it. He seemed like he had a bad case of gas and just wanted to run to the bathroom.

    I have since seen him with more "it" in interviews. I'm not sure if he was just having a bad night back then or if after that night his publicist insisted on a crash course in "it" ---or maybe now he uses a script, since he seems to be able to pull "it" off on-screen.

    I also think the opposite is true. I can be lively, witty, and charming privately with my husband or friends, but on-stage I am stiff and nervous ---definitely "not it" in public.


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