Steve Marzolf [editorial/content/strategy/copywriting]

work I've done, who I've done it with and what's happening now…

Posts Tagged ‘Hollywood

Spin Your Success

Leadership lessons from a top Hollywood mover and shaker


Best Life

It doesn’t matter if you’re directing a tiny start-up business or Hollywood’s next blockbuster: Success hinges on your ability to tell (and sell) a compelling story. That’s not to say that Bear Stearns chairman Jimmy Cayne would still have a job if he had spun the occasional yarn with his staff. Rather, “You have to nurture an emotional connection between your audience and your mission, regardless of whether that audience is filled with VPs, employees or investors,” says Peter Guber, the CEO of Mandalay Entertainment, in Los Angeles, and the producer of such films as “Batman” and “Seven Years in Tibet.” “The better you are at tapping into that natural storytelling ability – and weaving a tale of drama, action and risk – the more likely you are to get people to buy your product, support your brand and pledge loyalty to your vision.” Here’s how to become a master narrator and a true leading man.


Best Life: Why is skillful storytelling so important to professional success?

Peter Guber: People aren’t moved by numbers. They can’t identify with facts and figures. Data is soulless. You have to narrate your products, your mission and your company into a story that resonates with people’s hearts before their minds. Ten years ago, while I was chairman of Sony, I took a group of our Japanese executives to a Los Angeles Kings game. I knew that getting Sony to buy the Kings, not to mention the Lakers and Prime Ticket, was a sound business move, but I also knew that I couldn’t convince them of that with flowcharts. Having great seats, meeting Wayne Gretsky and seeing the cheering crowds provided the context for my story. I convinced them to buy the team by eliciting their emotional response.

BL: Which leaders best employ this technique?

PG: Nelson Mandela is a master storyteller. I once heard him talk to a group of very influential folks about investing in South Africa. Not once did he mention rates of return, gross profits or tax benefits. He simply told the story of his country. Sure, the investors would pat their pockets, but that’s not what they were talking about when they left the room. They were abuzz with the impact their investments would have on future generations. That’s another key to effective storytelling: Make your listeners feel not only generous but also like the heroes of a great story.

BL: What, besides storytelling, can inspire success?

PG: I always try to give my staff an early victory so that they’ll be motivated to achieve even greater goals. Back in the 1980s, when we were making “Gorillas in the Mist,” there was a point when the film was on the cusp of not being made. Instead of pleading with the studio, I sent an Oscar-nominated cinematographer, Alan Root, to Africa to film the primates. It was a risky move, but I needed to give the studio and my staff a tangible success – a taste for how great the film could be – and that’s what Alan gave me. It narrated why I was so passionate about the film. It gave them a reason to believe in it – and in me – and I channeled their excitement into a box-office hit.

BL: What other qualities must a leader possess?

PG: Unflinching flexibility and the ability to delegate intelligently. If I didn’t nurture those qualities, “Seven Years in Tibet” might never have hit theaters. We were filming this $70 million Brad Pitt film in India when the Indian government heeded China’s “request” to throw us out. Some might have fought the decision, but rather than waste limited resources on a losing battle, we asked Argentina if we could film there. They welcomed us with open arms, especially after we told them that the story would be their “Out of Africa.” Things go bump in the night. They rarely work out according to the script. And if you want to survive, you have to be nimble. The more willing you are to embrace change as part of the process, the more likely you are to succeed.

Written by Steve

November 9, 2008 at 2:03 pm

Posted in Best Life

Tagged with , , ,