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‘Majestic Cinematography’, ‘Magnificent Directing’, ‘Masterful Production’. These are just some of the common terms we often see splashed on magazine reviews and movie posters when a film is out. Sometimes, we will catch that film just because so-and-so said the movie was ‘Brilliantly Directed’. But, the truth is, how many of us actually understand and truly appreciate the art of cinematography and directing amongst others? When someone picks up a ‘Best Director’ award, do we really know what he was acknowledged for?


This ignorance is the reason why I pick up the book ‘Quintessential Tarantino’. The book provides an in-depth analysis of all Quentin Tarantino works. For those who have no idea who he is, Quentin Tarantino is a director/producer, fame for genre breaking films like ‘Pulp Fiction’ and ‘Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2’.


While seeking to understand the art of movie making, I discovered a number of similarities between FOCUS programmes and Tarantino’s films. Some of the elements that made his films such a standout share very similar traits with several aspect of our program. In this write-up, I will attempt to draw the connections I discovered while reading the book and the limited field time I have running programs. If you have not watch any of the film I will be referencing from in this article, you will have to use a little of your imagination.




In Pulp Fiction, the movie begun with a robbery in a diner and it ended with the same scene. Kill Bill Vol. 1 started with the scene of a smashed-up Beatrix (Uma Thurman) and Bill shooting her in the head. Vol. 2 ended with Beatrix taking her revenge on Bill. The element of circularity in both films is very similar to our program’s Expectation Setting. When the expectations are checked out at the end of the program, the feeling of fulfilment is very similar to the feeling one gets after watching Beatrix kills Bill. You can say the same about Pulp Fiction when audiences get to finally find out the fate of the robbers.



Reusing Element from other Works – Scene, Actors, Film Structure…


Any avid Tarantino fan can easily identify repeated elements in all of his films. Ranging from the obvious (casting: Uma Thurman, Michael Madsen) to the subtle (Uma Thurman suddenly waking up from a coma  in Kill Bill echoes her waking up from a overdose in Pulp Fiction). The rationale is to arouse the interest of the audience, giving them something to think about and discuss.


In our program, we do not reuse, instead we reinforce. For example, using Whale-Watch and referencing it to the Tuckman’s Model. On the topic of change, we can draw similarities between Key Punch and the ‘Yellow Ball’ from Trolley. We can also do the same with Helium Hula and Trolley on the topic of cooperation Vs competition. When we are able to draw out linkages between different activities, I believe it will present a stronger point for discussions.



Implied Action and Off Screen Violence


The ear cutting scene in Reservoir Dogs, Marvin’s head exploding behind the car in Pulp Fiction and the fate of Elle in the trailer in Kill Bill Vol. 2. The use of implied action allows audience participation in a film to a greater extent than if they actually see the events. By ensuring that certain elements have to be played out in viewers’ minds rather than on screen, Tarantino is able to play with audience imagination. Sometimes, the images audience conjure up are far more realistic and disturbing than any special effect.


In FOCUS, the room between the instructions and final objectives is almost the same as implied actions. It brings about greater involvement and sometimes, the ideas participants conjure up are far more imaginative than we could ever think of.


The same applies to debriefing. Ending a topic or subject with an open ended statement, rather than painting them the entire ideal situation will allow participants to draw personal linkages to their work experience. Something which they might not want to share, or, we are not able to relate to.


Music to Augment Scenes


This technique is used in every film. In Kill Bill, it was used very consistently. Every time Kiddo comes eye to eye with someone on her revenge list, the same music will be played. It changes the tempo and raises the excitement level before the fight begins.


Similarly, in FOCUS, music has always been a great assistant to the program. Just like how it changes the tempo in the movies, it adds excitement to our activity. And at times, it sure helps to amplify certain behaviours which we planned to bring out (Helium Hula). The same relation can be drawn in the use of lightings.


Nicknames and Alias


In Reservoir Dogs, all the main characters are named after colours (Mr Pink, Mr White, Mr Brown…). In Kill Bill everyone in the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad has a snake related alias as well. The use of nicknames and alias provides effective character definition. It creates more interest and the name stays longer in the mind of the audiences.


These reasoning are pretty much the same in FOCUS. A team name provides stronger definition and more importantly, tighter association compared to numbers. Similarly, it creates more interest and compared to numbers, a name definitely stays in the mind longer.


It seems attending a FOCUS programme is not very different from a cinematic experience. Through the relations I drew, we can see many similarities. Perhaps, there are many more which I have yet to discover. So the question is: how can we all relate to this? As a learning organization, continuous improvement is just one of the many directions we are heading. We seek not only self-progress, but progress as an organization and improvement in our programmes is something we look for amongst other. The common angles we often look at are ‘what do we think the participants want’ and ‘what do we think will benefit the participants’.   Here, I am suggesting another angle – let’s view our programme as a cinematic experience.


So, what can we do? Pick our favourite film, any film for that matter, and ask ourselves why we love it so much. Break the reasons down to elements and consider how they can be incorporated to improve our programme.  The improvement or change need not be wholesale. If it is able to better a programme or an activity just that little bit, I guess it is worth the effort.


Each team will be tasked to build a robot together. After which they will be going through the learning session on manual controls and how to control them. This will allow their robots to be unique as compared to the rest. Their final objective will be to pit the robot that they built against man-made obstacles such as to carry items and moving from point A to point B or to going through a maze or to dance! The possibilities is endless! They will then customise a message for the children using the robots built and have it delivered to the beneficiaries.


Learning Objectives


  • To understand that it is not always the results that matter but also the process
  • Engage participant’s imagination and problem solving skills
  • Increase confidence and commitment levels
    Allows greater meaning to giving and helping those in need
  • To tap on each other’s strengths and weaknesses

If you are looking for an exciting challenge with a meaningful element, The Supermarket Race Challenge! will be the program for you! Teams will get to earn cash by attempting a series of challenges along the race, in a bid to earn enough money to purchase essential items for the selected beneficiary. Given a limited time and facing multiple challenges, teams will have to plan carefully and make strategic decisions to optimize their resources, and purchase as many items as possible for a good cause.