In early 2013, I was asked by Brian Beck of the mediation group OvalOptions to be the mediator in a workplace training video. Since I knew that there was a great need for good quality videos in this area, I was immediately intrigued. Brian told me that he wanted to make a new kind of training video. In the past, such videos had been done with low quality equipment with mediators and/or mediation students playing the parts of the mediators and the parties. Resolution was almost always reached quickly, and the “actors” were not convincing. It was hard to learn much from such an unrealistic scenario. Brian intended for this video to be different.
The entire effort would be professional. A realistic office set was constructed in a vacant office building. A professional production crew was hired (including, video, audio, make-up and direction). Two professional actors were hired to play the parties to the case. An outline of a dispute between an older, male home office manager and a young, female field manager was developed, and brief notes for each party and the mediator were produced based on the conflict outline. Finally, I was asked to mediate between the two parties/actors, just as I would in a real workplace case. So, I did.
After all of the introductory filming activities were completed (make-up, sound check, camera positioning, arrangement of participants in the room, etc.), we started to talk, and the crew started to film. After a surprisingly short time, I simply forgot the crew was there and the parties were actors. For me, it became mediation between two employees of a company, with the goal of reaching an agreement to resolve their differences. I think this is the magic of the video. It feels real. That wasn’t just because I treated it that way – the two actors also got emotionally involved in their characters. I think this was because they weren’t just saying lines – each was each given an outline of his/her character and what that character brought to the conflict, and then they were asked to “live in” the role and work with the mediator. It worked. Both actors told me that they got caught up in the action and were invested in the issues and needs of their characters. When we reached an agreement, it really was an agreement that reached the needs of the parties involved. I felt the same satisfaction I would have felt at the successful end of a real mediation. And, the process took not ten minutes or so, but from one to two hours – more like the time a real mediation might take.
The post production work on the video makes it a real learning tool for conflict resolution students. Brian sent the raw video to a professional film editor in New York. He worked with Brian to make sure the final video had a realistic look and flow. Brian and I sat down with a couple of his colleagues at OvalOptions and critically examined every minute of the draft video. We found the appropriate break points for insertion of the segment headings (“Mediator Opening” all the way to “Writing the Agreement”) and our comments and questions became the first framework for the workbook that now accompanies the video. My notes taken during the video were compiled, and I used them to produce a written version of the final agreement (which also went into the workbook).
I have real pride in the completed workplace mediation video training package. I volunteered to be the mediator for this video (I wasn’t paid and will not receive any royalties from the sale of the finished product) because I wanted to help OvalOptions produce a quality product on a limited budget. I knew that the mediation field could use such a product. Besides, it’s cool to be the mediator in a video that will hopefully be used by a lot of students of our field. If they think what I did as the mediator was appropriate and effective, that’s great. If they are critical and think that I (and maybe they) could have done better in that situation, that’s fine, too. I know that I can always do better. I hope I get their feedback and grow from the process. I demonstrated for anyone who views the video one way, not the only way, to conduct a workplace mediation session.