Organizational Culture drives great movies and TV

February 9, 2015


At my 20-year high school reunion I ran into a friend who is now a director. When I told him about my work he said culture means everything for a great production. I was surprised. I thought the industry was driven by great individual talents. I thought great culture would be a “nice to have” but not a total necessity to create great movies and TV.

But no…

“People don’t know this but when you watch a scene and you’re not feeling it, there’s often a breakdown on the set. Cast are fighting with each other or the crew is upset, and they bring all of that with them to the scene.”

I started to notice the TV shows I like and realized that I can feel it. The distinction for me is I can tell when the actors really love each other. It’s easy to see it in a show like Orange is the New Black. You can tell they’re at the top of their game and they love working with each other.

I noticed that Ed Catmull confirmed the importance of culture in his book about the Pixar creative process. He was asked when he decides to let the director and crew run with a project and when they intervene. He answered saying it’s simple: They are completely hands off, letting the creative team do their thing, unless… the crew is not getting along. That’s when it goes off the rails. And that’s when they step in.

I’m sure they have ways to get back on track. For me, it’s the Obstacle Breakthrough process I describe in The Culture Blueprint. It’s a process of airing out all of the bad in a safe way, then acknowledging what’s really working well and then creating a shared future.

What do you do when your team or project goes off the rails?