Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Leadership Lessons From Films: What Will Be Your Line?

I love films.

I spent my childhood watching films. In my formative years as a pre-teenager, my Mom was generous to ensure that my brother and I saw our fair share of films. I recall, watching back-to-back James Bond films almost everyday. We lived across the Hoover theatre/cinema, and student-priced tickets made it gladly affordable.

My most memorable film was, probably, Cecil B. DeMille’s grand spectacle ‘The Ten Commandments’. It was about 220 minutes long (I clocked it at 3:36), and my Mom brought lunch in for my brother and I during the intermission. That was a film that influenced me about religion and movie magic.

Every decade secures itself vividly with iconic films, music, special effects and directors. In the 1970’s, films like ‘ET-The Extra-Terrestrial’, ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’, ‘Grease’, ‘Saturday Night Fever’, Jaws’ and ‘Star Wars’ ushered in a new era of filmmakers.

When I secured a job as a feature-writer, I recalled replacing my colleague (a UCLA film and music graduate) as the resident reviewer. I was mildly ‘lost’ until I found the language to describe film. I honed my reviewer’s eye through monthly reviews of videotaped films of the latest Hollywood releases.

I still love films.

The art and business of filmmaking has progressed from ‘silver-screen’ to ‘talkies’ to ‘digital film’. Cinemas have been transformed into ‘sensory environments’ where the filmgoer experience is strongly enhanced with Dolby-Surround audio and CGI-enhanced visuals. 3-D and IMAX Experience continue to be important, and supplemented with Virtual Reality (VR) mobile devices. I fear the day I ‘awake’ and find a paler shade of me plugged into a connector cable, and discover my life was one major ‘download’ from the Matrix.

Cinemas cost more, however they are cleaner, have more comfortable seats, and exquisite audio-visual systems. From $0.50 to $12.50 per ticket is a reflection of the times, as an average Hollywood blockbuster costs upwards of US$100 million. Film studios struggle to keep above water (even for a film about a sinking ship), as they face competition from other studios, a discerning film audience and piracy (even Captain Sparrow got ripped off).

As long as films and television (as this medium is growing rapidly in interest in the past decade) continue to entertain, educate, engage (and, occasionally, misinform us), we will still flock to the ‘big-screen’ to partake in the next installment of Star Wars, trilogies, and Marvel Studios/DC Universe franchises. After all, who doesn’t like a good storyline? Stories matter, and so writers will spin their latest yarn, and filmmakers will weave their web of fantasies to send us off on our own flights of fancy.

As biopics and docudramas feed our need to be skeptical and feed the distrusting conspiracy theorists, so we, too, indulge in our coffee chatter to, hopefully question the status quo, choose to be educated and informed, and get involved in humankind. Nothing is more persuasive than human thought – mild, militant or mesmerizing – for that is the flame that sustains the torch of progress and purpose.

Start the collective voice of reason by writing your first line of intent. As Walt Whitman wrote:

Oh me! Oh life! Of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! So sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.’

What will be your line?

Meanwhile, write your script, produce your film, direct it well, and ensure a stunning performance!

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