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What leaders can learn from filmmakers

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by Anoar Ahmed



Have you ever sat through endless scrolling credits after a film, speechless, while you processed your thought and feelings? Hundreds, if not thousands, of those disappearing names contributed towards these profound moments of transformative experiences. Timeless films are excellent examples of deep collaboration between multidisciplinary teams of highly skilled craftspeople, working to create moments that transcend the audience to the story world and subtly move them through the journey of films’ protagonist/s.

Filmmakers are master collaborators that literally bring together teams of multidisciplinary casts and crews on the same page of the scrip. Great filmmakers challenge and inspire technicians to become artists and actors, to become immortals through the “power of the story”.

Many years ago, my screenwriting lecturer famously told us during our very first day at the film school, “One thing is certain about filmmaking, that everything you have planned will need to change because it will rain tomorrow”. Filmmakers mastered the art of embracing uncertainty many decades ago, when there were no weather apps, by being truly agile.

In this talk, I will draw from my lifetime of study and exploration of the art and craft of filmmaking. I will demonstrate, using examples from classic films, how motivated and inspired multidisciplinary teams collaborate to bring the vision of a cinematic project to life and transcend audiences around the globe to the story world. I will share what leaders can learn from masters of the ultimate collaborative art of filmmaking.

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What leaders can learn from filmmakers

  1. 1. What Scrum practitioners can learn from filmmakers Anoar Ahmed
  2. 2. Anoar Ahmed https://www.linkedin.com/in/anoarahmed/ Game Producer Broadcast & Transmission Director Amateur Filmmaker & Lifelong Film Student Documentary Producer Past: Recent & Current: Scrum Master Agile Coach Delivery Manager Active Scrum Community Member
  3. 3. Examples of past/present clients & projects Multiplayer Game BIG DATA Documentary Children’s ProjectLOTR Trilogy
  4. 4. Why this talk? Another perspective.
  5. 5. Over the 120 years, since the first film by the Lumière brothers, filmmakers mastered the art of embracing uncertainty many decades ago, when there were no weather apps, by being truly agile. In this talk, I will share ideas that leaders and scrum practitioners can learn from masters of the ultimate collaborative art of filmmaking.
  6. 6. Using example, I will discuss ideas and mindset that are synonymous within the filmmaking world and explain how the same concepts are also equally relevant for Scrum teams to be inspired and become high-performance teams.
  7. 7. Inner Scrum I will also discuss how using technics and ideas, that filmmakers perfected, can help leaders & Scrum Masters to inspire teams, engage deeply and raise to the next level.
  8. 8. Have you ever sat through endless scrolling credits after a film, speechless, while you processed your thought and feelings? Hundreds if not thousands of those disappearing names contributed towards these profound moments of transformative experiences. Timeless films are great examples of deep collaboration between multidisciplinary teams of highly skilled crafts people working to create moments that transcendence audience to the story world and subtly move them through the journey of film’s protagonist/s.
  9. 9. …It will rain tomorrow Many years ago my screenwriting lecturer famously told us during our very first day at the film school, “One thing is constant about filmmaking is that everything you have planned will need to change because it will rain tomorrow”. Filmmakers are hard-wired to embrace uncertainty and respond to change on their feet.
  10. 10. Due to time limitation, today I will only focus on directors. Usually most film productions have 8-12 departments and department heads
  11. 11. Films by Mike Figgis
  12. 12. “There’s nothing quite like the idea of failing spectacularly to excite a film maker” – Mike Figgis
  13. 13. The Water World (1995)
  14. 14. The Water World film set built entirely on water (1995)
  15. 15. $100 Million > $175 Million > $235 Million 28th June, 1995 Storm sank the floating Atoll set, was rebuilt. Kevin Costner nearly died. A great example of a filmmaker's mindset, an appetite for risk (challenge), extreme planning required to minimise risks and resilience to bounce back when things do go wrong. Producers did recoupe investment.
  16. 16. Multi disciplinary teams: • Script department • Producing department • Casting department • Cinematography department • Grips department • Sparkies (lighting) • Art department • Production design team • Costume & Makeup department • Location management team • Catering • CGI department • 2nd & 3rd unit • Location sound team • Stunts team • Post-production teams • And many more
  17. 17. Timeless films are about simple themes played by complex characters living in an uncertain world. It’s the story, stupid!
  18. 18. Filmmakers are master collaborators that literally bring together teams of multidisciplinary casts and crews on the same page of the scrip. Great filmmakers challenge and inspire technicians to become artists and actors to become immortals through the "power of the story”. What is the human impact of your project on the end users? Why should the team care about the project? Invest in alignment and developing a positive human purpose/narrative (the story) for every project. Collaborate with team to develop the human impact story. It is not always easy or obvious but usually there.
  19. 19. – Alan Parker
  20. 20. PINK FLOYD THE WALL (1982)
  21. 21. – Alan Parker. “A great movie evolves when everybody has the same vision in their heads”
  22. 22. – Stanley Kubrick “A film is – or should be – more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what’s behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later”
  23. 23. Moods and feelings are much more powerful drivers for engagement and motivation than reasons or logic alone.
  24. 24. – Martin Scorsese “Cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out”
  25. 25. “90% of my setup scenes end up being unnecessary…ends up on the cutting room floor” - Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy & Scandal) Kill Your Darlings “Minimise Interference of Perfection”
  26. 26. Keep It Simple Stupid Powerful and timeless films are also in its core about simple and universal human condition. Simplify the purpose of the project to it’s essence.
  27. 27. Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free. #1: “The Shawshank Redemption” Source: Highest Rated IMDb "Top 250" Titles.
  28. 28. An offer you can't refuse. #2: “The Godfather” Source: Highest Rated IMDb "Top 250" Titles.
  29. 29. Out of the darkness...comes the Knight. #4: “The Dark Knight” Source: Highest Rated IMDb "Top 250" Titles.
  30. 30. Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire. #6: “Schindler's List” Source: Highest Rated IMDb "Top 250" Titles.
  31. 31. Value + Purpose Business value is great for alignment and prioritisation. Adding human impact narrative (the story) to business value can be a very powerful combination to fuel high-performing self-organised team.
  32. 32. Importance of relationship & collaboration: John Ford - John Wayne (21 films) Akira Kurosawa - Toshiro Mifune (16 films) Werner Herzog - Klaus Kinski (7 films) Ingmar Bergman - Max von Sydow (13 films) Tim Burton - Johnny Depp (8 films) Federico Fellini - Marcello Mastroianni (6 films) Martin Scorsese & Robert De Niro (8 collaborations)
  33. 33. Preserve relationships and well-functioning teams where possible. Relationships are costly and time-consuming but critical for deeper and productive collaboration.
  34. 34. – Mike Nichols
  35. 35. – Mike Nichols “The only safe thing is to take a chance.
  36. 36. JANET LEIGH - (PSYCHO)
  37. 37. MICHAEL FASSBENDER - BOBBY SANDS (HUNGER)
  38. 38. ROONEY MARA - LISBETH SALANDER (THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO)
  39. 39. ADRIEN BRODY - WLADYSLAW SZPILMAN (THE PIANIST)
  40. 40. SHELLEY DUVALL - WENDY TORRANCE (THE SHINING)
  41. 41. Psychologically Safety Total physiological safety on set and trust are the foundation for a courageous, timeless and authentic performance. Filmmakers go to a great length to make the film set a safe place for casts to experiment, fail and be vulnerable. physiological safety is also critical for high-functioning teams and culture.
  42. 42. Q: What does a director do? A: I help. – Krzysztof Kieslowski
  43. 43. Directing is above all connecting. A conductor don’t direct but funnels the timing of the music.
  44. 44. Inner Scrum If you are working with a team that is doing scrum well but want to inspire them to rise to the next level, then it is time to add "Inner Scrum" to your Scrum vocabulary and toolkit. Create above all a safe place to fail, learn and be vulnerable. It’s the story, stupid! Connect the project's purpose to its human impact story for deeper engagement and drive. Take a chance and delve into the inner world of moods, inspirations and feelings, things that make us all tick as human beings.
  45. 45. Thank you.

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