Our Observations

What Creating Walter Mitty Teaches Us About Collaboration

Typically, movie trailers generate intensity, from graphic-enhanced shots to high-throttled music to deeper-than-the-ocean-floor narration. Director Ben Stiller and his team have produced movie trailers for the holiday release of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” that highlight the value of team and collaboration. And it’s not just me that finds this a great pitch for the movie. More than 2.5 million have watched it on YouTube.

Using a song, “Dirty Paws” by Of Monsters and Men, and imagery from the movie that highlights its high production value and stellar cast, the trailer takes us on a moving journey in the life of a man who plays out incredible fantasies in his head.

Stiller, who last directed the hilarious “Tropic Thunder,” relies on the incredible skills and talents of the people he selects to work with. In a panel discussion at the 51st New York Film Festival, Stiller (around the 12:43 mark) discusses why he thinks his current film succeeds.

“For me, I felt very fortunate that I had this incredible group of actors, and creative collaborators and people that I could trust. And I think it comes down to trust, honestly. And you talk about it and you prep as much as possible and you try to have a plan going in but then, at the end of the day, when you get there, it’s just about having the environment there that you can create the moments with everybody. And you trust the actors.…. And then you just hire really great, talented people, because that is really a huge part of it."

Stiller does not use the traditional narrator. He uses unique music and images with precise editing to reveal character depth and provide enough of a storyline to make us want to see more. By foregoing traditional movie trailer production, and finding the right sources to merge, Stiller's team engages our senses and piques our interest.

The lesson for organizations and associations is that collaboration is critical to success. Having trust in your staff and letting people do their jobs and giving them the room to be creative and push their craft to new limits benefits the entire organization, or in this case, production. It’s absolute that someone needs to be in charge, but a successful leader is one who allows the team to work together and to create something that is unique and, in some cases, even magical.

Whether the movie resonates with audiences remains to be seen. But if his teaser is any indication, it appears Mr. Stiller has taken all the right steps and allowed for creative collaboration.

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