The Director’s “CUT!!”

Feb 18, 2023

The Director’s “CUT!!”

Jimmy Leo

Balloon Convention Recovery – Noun 1) The process of coping with no longer being the “entertaining one.” Returning to everyday life. 2) The act of returning to normal while still fending off feelings of Euphoria. 3) The size of Jimmy Leo’s ego after the “swelling” has gone down!

For those who had a hand in making me feel really special at Twist & Shout 2004, I can’t thank you enough. This return to everyday life is a bit more stinging than most convention returns for reasons I won’t go into, but you all understand just the same. Once or twice a year we return to the gathering of individuals that illuminates our souls for a triumphant return, if only temporarily, to that euphoric state. A state where the problems of everyday life go on the back burner, and we become free to embrace that which we love the most – the balloons, the fun, the entertainment – and if you’re lucky, any special bonds that form along the way.

I wasn’t planning on rattling on about the “post balloon-convention blues” (Smells like a Dave Bartlett song if you ask me!). Instead, I was hoping to share something with our collective community that I touched upon in my lectures. It’s called The Director’s “CUT!!”

If you were in my regular classes, you may have heard a little about this. Those who took my private lecture heard me go into it with a bit more detail. So raise your hand if you were in my private class on fairy tales. Anyone? I’m sure there were a few of you there. You know who you are – thanks for the warmth you gave me in a private lecture where I was CLEARLY flying by the seat of my pants! Also, to those of you who were so busy with sculpture competition pieces that you could attend only one lecture, thanks for making it mine – again, you know who you are. So enough pandering. Let’s get on with it.

The Director’s CUT!!

Sometimes during balloon performance, a person needs to step back and look at the complete psychology of what’s going on in the show. There is a great deal more psychology taking place than anyone is aware of. It’s important for an entertainer to know just how bright to make that spotlight that rests on him or her, as well as when to share it with others, and how to dim it altogether. If a performer isn’t careful, it’s quite easy to lose that spotlight, and unfortunately regaining control of it is a great deal more difficult.

So how does a performer go about maintaining the control of the figurative spotlight? More importantly, if that spotlight is lost how does one go about regaining it in a manner subtle enough to not be noticed while still being brash enough to seize it with both hands? Enter “The director’s CUT!”

I came across this little “bit” one day when I was in the middle of a performance and just felt a desire to “stray” a bit from the typical routine. This “bit” is actually great for that as well. As an entertainer it is unbelievably important to have as much fun within your performance as the audience does. If routines start to become too much of a “routine” this idea will benefit the entertainer as well.

Have characters in the show being represented by audience members. For those of you who don’t know my performances I tend to dress everyone up in some degree of balloon-masks, hats, and costumes, whatever the case may be. For those who failed to attend that private lecture, you missed a wonderful opportunity to see Don Caldwell dressed up as little red riding hood. Words couldn’t describe how precious he looked!

Once the characters for the story are set and the story is in motion, cue someone to do some kind of task. It doesn’t matter what the task is. It could be walking across a floor, speaking a certain monologue, or for that matter, “sweating to the oldies” like a particular frizzy-haired fitness guru. Whatever the task being cued, the idea is for the performer to NOT let the audience member complete it. In a big bold voice scream, “CUT!” Then, slip into the role of being a director.

Without a doubt this is one of my favorite bits to do. The versatility that it allows the entertainer is STAGGERING! I’ve portrayed the director as angry, as calm but perplexed over the “actor’s” inability to handle a simple cued task, as a Frenchman who gets deeply insulted at the task failure, and as an English director searching endlessly to find the motivation of the “actor” who can’t handle the simplicity of the task placed before him.

Why throw an accent in? In the beginning, I just thought it was a really great thing to do – a change of pace. It adds a new character into the story without the need to take time from the presentation. Oh yeah, and it’s FUN!!

Always remember how important it is to have fun when doing performances. This is one of the many ways that I challenge my performances while still enjoying myself in the process.

The director screams “CUT!” and then proceeds to give the “actor” (audience participant) a bit of a ribbing for not completing the task to the best of his or her abilities. Take a step back, look to the entire audience again, and become another alternate character. “Three little Pigs – take two!”. Motion one arm down from a vertical position to the other which is horizontal, miming the “clapboard” that this person normally uses while giving this direction.

The wonderful thing is that now the “actor’s” primary focus is completely on accomplishing this task, so much so that he or she will begin to do it without waiting for the director to yell, “ACTION!!.” The end result is that of the director screaming “CUT!” a second time, and so the “loop” begins. Which loop is that? The loop that becomes a vicious downward spiral for the actor now caught in the middle of it.

And so it continues. With each attempt to get things right, the “actor” continues failing to complete the simple task placed before him/her. Now please keep in mind that the task is usually a simple task that takes five seconds to complete under normal circumstances, and requires little thought. But with each passing scream from the director, the “actor” gets the idea that this once simple task has become so complicated that he or she stands little chance of completing it correctly. Mind you, this is occurring in front of an audience, so typically this audience member is just looking to get through it for the purposes of avoiding continued discomfort.

This discomfort has a great effect for the purpose of the show. Without fail, the audience participant will become more and more nervous with each passing “Take.” Now the entertainer, as the director, has brought control of the show back to his or her hands. Just to keep things fun for the audience, cue them to say the words, “Ready..AND..” with the director screaming “action” for the next take to start. Most entertainers will find that the audience will usually love to scream action as well. After all, just let them do it. Once the mess up occurs (or the “mock” mess up – sometimes the “actor” gets it right, but by this point, it becomes irrelevant as long as the director keeps yelling “cut!”) the “director” can merely turn suddenly to the audience – THEY will start screaming CUT!!!

The idea here is to provide a quick psychological bit that can put a break in the repetition of the routine, help to reestablish control of the show for the performer, or simply for the purpose of having fun! Roll with this routine! Let the AUDIENCE become a part of it. Keep it going as long as they are having fun with it. Don’t end it until this break in the repetition of the routine starts to become a bit monotonous itself. Then let the actor/audience participant FINALLY complete the simple task! Want to see a grown adult get excited over doing the simplest of things? Look at the expression on that participant’s face as they FINALLY get through this uncomfortable scenario – it is priceless! The best part is that with a simple “LADIES and GENTLEMEN, Please give a round of applause for this great actor!” all is suddenly right with the world again.

I encourage every entertainer to keep this little gem in the back of his or her heads – one never knows when the right opportunity presents itself to be of use. It can help to bail out a troublesome performance, make a good performance even better, or just add a dash of fun for the entertainer.

Thanks again for letting me share. I look forward to any feedback you care to send my way. Actually, I would LOVE to hear what you think of this bit as well. E-mail me at or feel free to give a call – (631) 376-6053. Until next month, folks, thanks again.

In NY… it’s pronounced “KAWFEE!”

Jimmy Leo – Cloud 9 Balloons
Long Island NY