Every emotion should not be followed. Be intelligent about your emotional makeup by understanding what your feelings are, manage them and deploy them constructively
Film festivals are places to see movies, meet colleagues and plan future business. They are also something more – a place to purchase movies. All the big festivals, like Cannes, Goa, Sundance, Berlin and Toronto, provide the opportunity for international film distributors to buy distribution rights to movies that are already made and screening at the festival. The frenzied pace of a festival, amplified by camaraderie, parties and celebrities, makes it a place where your heart can race fast. Sometimes faster than your head.
At every film festival I have attended as a motion picture distributor, there’s a moment when this happens: You’re sitting in the cinema, the lights go down, the movie starts, and you feel magic. You get swept away by the film’s emotion, or empowered by its message, or elevated by its comedy.
When this happens, you’ll immediately start thinking about purchasing the movie. Who wouldn’t want to buy something they have just fallen in love with? If you buy it, you’ll own the distribution rights in some parts of the world, or, if you pay enough, in the whole world; you’ll be able to design the marketing campaign and share this special treat with audiences. You’re sure audiences will feel like you do: they’ll tell their friends, and ticket sales will soar.
You’re an experienced executive and you trust your gut instinct. You’re positive you’re right. Then you look around, see your competitors sitting in some of the other seats, your competitive juices kick in. You not only want to buy this movie – you don’t want any of them to have it!
This is a challenge managers face every day, it’s just more concentrated, and perhaps more glamorous, in the movie industry. You see something that you would love to use-such as a new restaurant concept, a useful personal service, or an enticing software application. You feel acquisitive, because you’d like to control it, manage it, and share it with customers. You get excited by the potential, and, as your heart races in passionate enthusiasm, you may rush to judgment.
This is the time to take a breath. It’s also the time you’ll be grateful for the other members of your team who will tell you the truth, and run some financial scenarios to help you discern if your heart has gotten away from your head.
A few years ago I was in the situation I just described, sitting in a screening at the Sundance Film Festival when a movie swept me off my feet. The film was the most emotionally moving documentary I had ever seen and, as I left the theatre, I resolved to myself, “We have to buy this movie!”
We did. As good as the film was – I’m ferociously proud of it – we lost money. I wish I’d had a savvy CFO on hand to pull me aside and tell me, “You know, maybe you should just wait till someone else distributes the movie, buy yourself a ticket, and go see it again.” I needed a reality check, someone holding up the warning signs, which, in this case, was that the film, good as it was, concerned a subject American audiences didn’t care much about. When we released the film, the few people who saw it loved it. Our problem was that we couldn’t market it successfully – we couldn’t get audiences into the cinema so they’d have the opportunity to like it.
I’m a great believer in passion, in the emotional component of business dealings. I believe that if you don’t execute your vision in congruence with your emotions and your values you won’t succeed in the long term. At the same time, I have also learned that every emotion should not be followed, that we have to be intelligent about our emotional makeup by understanding what our feelings really are, managing them, and knowing how to deploy them constructively. Sometimes you shouldn’t buy the thing you lust after. Sometimes you should let someone else buy it, so they’ll take all the risk of developing it and marketing it. You should just buy one ticket, go to the movies and enjoy it like everybody else.
Adam Leipzig is the CEO of Entertainment Media Partners, an international firm that advises its clients how to get exceptional financial and creative returns and maximise the value and visibility of entertainment content. Adam has produced, supervised and distributed more than 25 movies, which have earned more than US $2 billion in revenue on US $300 million in production investment. He is the publisher of Cultural Weekly, and former president of National Geographic Films and senior executive at Walt Disney Studios.