Your Repertoire: What It Is and Why It’s Cool

By | Begun 07/14/2004 | Updated Aug 2010 and expanded to workbook Feb 2014
Posted in Cross Cuts | ,
DVDs on Shelf

If you seriously love movies (and if you’re reading this I’ll bet you do), you definitely have a Repertoire. Here we’ll discuss what it is, why it’s cool, and how to develop it.


Repertoire n. 1. The stock of songs, plays, operas, readings, or other pieces that a player or company is prepared to perform.

3. The range or number of skills, aptitudes, or special accomplishments of a particular person or group. * 

When one loves cinema the way we do, we tuck each movie we see away, fold it into a larger collection ~ a collection that we revisit, reflect upon, add to, carry with us, and enjoy over time.  Each element is deliberately selected for some special reason, and we are well able to discuss both the element and the reason at the drop of hat.

Your Repertoire isn’t accidental, and it can even become purposeful.

What Is Your Repertoire, Anyway?

In its most basic form, your Repertoire is simply a list of films you’ve seen.  However, upon some reflection, it proves itself to be much more than that.

Your Repertoire is living collection, special and unique to you. It evolves as you grow and mature as a person, becoming richer as you gain life experience (The Break-Up is very different at 35 than it is at 20); it reflects your life as you reach senior adulthood, affording opportunities for maintaining mental agility as well as remembrance of times past (the first movie you saw with your grandchild).

Why Your Repertoire is Cool

Your Repertoire is cool because it’s a reflection of you.  It contains your interests, things you’re curious about, representations of things that have happened in your own life, skills and talents you appreciate and may want to develop yourself, elements that bring you entertainment, and much more.

It’s also cool because you can actually use it to improve your life.  Your Repertoire can help make you smarter, expand your horizons, enlighten you to world events and leaders, enhance your self-awareness, and make you look good in front of your friends and that hottie in the coffee shop (always good).

How to Articulate Your Repertoire

Begin by taking a look at what’s already there.  This will show you where your attention is naturally drawn (perhaps, like in my own case, you never realized it was drawn in quite that way before). Ask yourself:

  • What kind of subject matter draws you?  Coming of age, romantic relationships, battles?
  • Is there a particular genre you favor?  Sci-fi, comedy?
  • What strikes you about a film ~ the story itself, the special effects, the performances, etc.?
  • Are they period pieces?  Victorian, WWII, Hollywood’s Golden Age?
  • Are they internally or externally driven (character studies vs. action films)?

Ask around what does your Repertoire organize ~ a particular technical aspect (special effects), perhaps, or the work of a particular director (Woody Allen)?  My own organizes around people; when I hear of a film my reflexive question isn’t, “What’s it about?” but rather, “Who’s in it?”   There are many reasons to see a given film, but look closely and you’ll find some organizing principle.  Look for patterns in genre, topic, actor/filmmaker, production company (start watching those boring logos at the beginning of a film, lol).

Consider also how certain movies make you feel physically.  If you like it, find the common denominator(s).  I recently saw The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Inception on the same day, and it was a blissful ten-hour endorphin rush;  cerebral, multi-leveled, intellectually challenging material involving deep, even dark traits of human behavior, spectaculary executed in every way ~ doesn’t get any better than that for me.  You have your own killer combo, I’m certain of it.

How to Develop Your Repertoire

So where to go from here?  Myriad options await.  Just start with the first angle that occurs to you, and follow that path until another one catches your interest ~ then repeat until you go to the big theater in the sky.  Your repertoire will become a tapestry that gets richer and more colorful every year (I’m a bit over two deliberate decades now, and a whole new level has started revealing itself just in the past year or two.)  Following are a few approaches to stimulate your thinking.

Pin down your own perspective well enough to be able to share it:

  • If someone asks you about a topic of general interest to you ~ what makes an actor or director great, major award races of the past few years, etc. ~ can you respond thoughtfully?
  • Do you know your own opinions on certain things?  For example, if you’re familiar with the work of a particular controversial director, do you know your own position?
  • Is there a particular area on which you can speak knowledgeably and at length? Not a monologue, of course, but enough to demonstrate special knowledge and awareness in that area? (Remember that hottie…)

Identify an element you enjoy, and then see everything similar that also overlaps another element.  For example:

  • Follow the genre.  If you liked Jarhead (contemporary-era military action), try The Messenger (contemporary-era military character study), Platoon (Vietnam-era military action), and Coming Home (Vietnam-era military character study).
  • Follow the milieu.  If you enjoy cooking (and/or chefs) and saw Julie & Julia (comedy), try Big Night (drama), No Reservations (romantic drama), and Dinner Rush (crime drama).
  • Follow the people (my personal approach).  I saw Down in the Valley in the course of Roller Research on Edward Norton.  Beautifully written and directed by David Jacobson, which led to seeing his Dahmer, which starred Jeremy Renner, which led to The Hurt Locker.

When you strongly like or dislike a theme, try various iterations.  For example, if you enjoyed Pride and Prejudice, take a look at Bridget Jones’ Diary; if you enjoyed Emma, take a look at Clueless.  If you were bored by The Taming of the Shrew, give it another try with Deliver Us from Eva or 10 Things I Hate About You (both starring Gabrielle Union, by the way…).  I saw Dangerous Liaisons by accident (my roommate rented it), but in loving Cruel Intentions (recommended by a different friend, whom I originally thought was nuts), with Valmont I came to realize that I just love that story in any form.  Ah, sweet justice… but I digress.

Fill the gaps ~ titles well-respected by both critics and fans that you haven’t run across or yet made time for.  This will keep your Repertoire varied enough to A) give you a broad foundation, B) keep the neural pathways burning, and C) give your specialized interests extra weight in a discussion.

Finally, keep your mind open to titles you may not incline toward (I have an “If They Say It” list ~ if S., B., T., or H. suggest something, I just go see it, no questions asked).    Develop “expertise” in areas meaningful to you, but do stretch and see others in the interest of being well-rounded.  Makes you smarter (and look it) and keeps the channels open for new interests to emerge.

Your Repertoire is a very cool, utterly subjective, and highly personal part of who you are.  Know it, develop it, enjoy it, and share it!
Curious how? Pop over to Reel Happiness and grab the workbook! »