The moment the lights go down

Today is the first time in months that you go to the movies. You’ve decided that this is a movie that just has to be watched on the big screen of a cinema. You’ve taken your seat. Ads are over. The lights go down. And the film begins. How do you feel?

In his 2007 TED talk, J.J. Abrams, the famous film director, framed it like this:

The moment the lights go down is often the best part.

And he’s totally right. When you start to read a book or go to the movies, the moment before you read the first sentence, the moment before the movie actually starts is a moment of excitement. You’ve decided to invest time and emotion in this. You’re willing to expect that this investment will be worthwhile. Maybe you even visualise how the drama will unfold and anticipate your feelings.

In any case, it’s a moment of excitement. It’s tension. The tension of a great experience we’re about to have. The tension of something profound we’re about to learn. The tension of deep emotions that we’re going to feel. Or at least we hope so – that’s why it’s tension and not certainty.

The thing with most movies and with most books, though, is that they don’t actually deliver on this excitement – which was Abrams’ point. This initial moment of excitement is indeed often the best part, as Abrams rightly observed.

But of course, those fascinating exceptions do exist. Those movies which do surpass that initial tension. By far. These are the movies we come back to. These are the books we admire. Which change our lives. And trigger even bigger tension when we read about the follow-up.

When you consistently deliver on this initial tension of the moment the lights go down, you build trust. And with trust you can build even greater tension the next time.

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Dr. Michael Gerharz

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