Predator is the greatest creative business seminar I’ve ever seen.
Oh, shit, I’m back with the newsletter, by the way. Took some time off for the holidays and to get my sister acclimated to Seattle (she moved in with us until she finds her own place), but was gone longer than I intended. I’ll probably write a post on balancing personal and business goals just as soon as it’s been long enough for everyone to forget how hypocritical it would be for me to do that.
What was I talking about? Oh, yeah, aliens, sweaty beef boys and hot jungle nights, like usual.
The other day, I was thinking about the fact that Jessie Ventura ran my home state of Minnesota for a while. No, not “ran across” it, like he’d just gotten new trainers and really wanted to break them in. Ran it. The guy who somehow managed to perfectly annunciate the phrase “sexual tyrannosaurus” through a glob of chewing tobacco the size of a Big Mac was in charge of making sure people got their pensions and shit. It got us on the national news for something other than the record number of heart attacks our state fair produced every year, so for the most part, I was down with it.
Later, my wife and I moved to California, where Arnold was already running things. His first act in charge was to knock out all the walls of the capital building with his bare hands, and then hold the entire ceiling aloft over his head wherever he went because “I am de guhvunah, so de guhvunment goes whayuh I go.” At least that’s how I remember it. It was great.
Anyway, that whole train of thought lead me to two realizations:
- I live in Seattle now, so either Carl Weathers or the Predator needs to become the next governor of Washington. I’d be fine with either.
- Arnold Scharzenegger movies are a perfect lesson for creative professionals on how to create a “supporting cast” that can elevate your work to a level of awesome that will explode peoples’ balls.
We begin, indeed, we must, with a weird hypermasculine mid-air arm-wrestling handshake thingy.
This is a movie where a crab-faced alien with dreadlocks and neon blood blows a grapefruit sized hole in a man’s chest, but if someone yelled “Hey! Predator!” at me, this is the scene I would think of first. The veins in Arnold’s arm have an executive producer credit on this film. I recently started weightlifting, and it’s exclusively so that every time I go to Starbucks I can say “Barista! You son of a bitch” and challenge them to a contest of strength to see if maybe I can get 10% off my frap.
But now imagine if Dillon was played by someone who wasn’t as equally committed to that handshake as Carl Weathers, someone who wasn’t as into male posturing and pumping up them guns real nice. Tom Hiddelston, Jude Law. Andy Dick, maybe. Giants of the silver screen, all of them, but Arnold probably would’ve ripped their arm out of the socket on the first take and swallowed it in front of them, as is the Austrian custom.
In fact, while the whole team is just as committed to being a jacked-out ‘roid monster as he is, they all have unique and varied skills, which is part of why the Predator ends up biting it in the end. You got Jessie the Body rocking that minigun, a CIA agent, a guy who can speak the local language, a demolitions expert, and, in a master-stroke of 80s political correctness, a Native American guy who can, sigh, talk to the jungle. They wind up taking on an invisible intergalactic hunter who’s been wrecking fools for decades, but in the end, Arnold crushes him with a big-ass counterweight, Ewok style.
Do you see what I’m getting at? The only reason Arnold lives long enough to scream “GET TOAH DE CHOPPAH” is because his team was every bit as committed as he was, but they all had different specialties. Sure, like, all of them died, mostly, but the good news for you creatives is that rarely happens when you’re doing game audio or blowing artisanal glass or whatever.
Want another example? How about a movie where Danny DeVito gets Arnold Scharzenegger pregnant?
First off, Danny DeVito and Arnold Scharzenegger look like the end examples you’d see on a chart labeled “Extremes of Human Physical Anatomy.” They look like what would happen if an already ripped dude from a high gravity planet and a toll booth worker from a low gravity planet suddenly switched places. If a mad scientist did an experiment where he took one, perfect human being and rendered all his component parts into two bodies, probably while screaming “What was once ONE, shall be ripped in TWAIN!!!!!!” these two would be what slid out of the tube at the end.
They’re not just different physically, either; nearly everything about the way they perform, deliver dialogue, and their comedic timing is different. Their skill sets don’t overlap very much, but they compliment each other great. More than that, though, they were both equally committed to the 90 minute dumpster fire that is this movie. Akash Thakkar (my friend, sound designer extraordinaire, and resident Junior expert, apparently) told me that, before production started, DeVito and Scharz-dog made an agreement that they’d be in the film for essentially no money up front, but for profit-share on the back end. The producers knew they were making the movie-equivalent of kombucha (in that nobody likes it or really asked for it to exist), they said “sure,” figuring they’d barely have to pay.
The kicker? Because these two actors were talented in different ways, but equally committed, they made a SHIT TON of money off of this train wreck and are still collecting checks to this day.
Ok, one more short one. Jingle All The Way is the greatest Christmas movie that has or will ever be made. That is a statement, moving on.
In this holiday romp about an irresponsible dad waiting until the last minute to get his kid the perfect toy for Christmas, Arnold acts like a cartoon, endangers countless lives, and wins back his son’s love by ruining the Minneapolis Holidazzle parade. And if that was all it was, this movie wouldn’t be the cinematic masterpiece that it is don’t argue with me about that I swear I’ll fight you.
See, everyone in this movie fully commits to being a complete goofball, but all of them do it in ways that Scharzenegger doesn’t. Phil Hartman (RIP) plays the perfect smug asshole in a way Arnold never could. Robert Conrad makes a great straight man as the cop chasing Arnold down, but responds to every crazy situation with the quintessential “bwah bwah bwah bwhaaaaaat?” face. And Sinbad fills this children’s holiday tale with rants about homicidal postal workers and race relations that would just sound weird coming out of a seven foot tall white European.
If even one character had screamed out “but there’s a child in mortal danger and also that human jar of Muscle Milk just knocked a man to his apparent death with a child’s toy” this scene would have a real bummer vibe to it. But it works because the whole cast fills their own niche while being equally gung-ho about making the smartest-dumbest thing that’s ever been filmed.
As creative professionals, we often need to work with other creatives to get things done. If we’re lucky, we get to choose some of those people ourselves. When that happens, choose collaborators who are just as enthusiastic about the project as you, but are amazing at things you aren’t.
In short, remember the Arnold Rule: Assemble a team that shares your vision, not your skill set.
I’m working on a game called Where the Water Tastes Like Wine. We released a trailer a few months back that, I’m proud to say, got a great response, including a lot of positive feedback about the music. I know for a fact that the reason the score worked is because I hired performers who were every bit as psyched as me about the game and understood the direction I was going for, but were amazing at all the things I wasn’t. I can’t sing, play guitar or fiddle a fiddle for jack, but boy, they can. Here, check it out:
So the next time you get a chance to collaborate with people on a project, follow the Arnold Rule. Go out of your way to find those who really “get” what you’re trying to do, but can do things you absolutely can’t. Consider letting them have some creative freedom to put their own spin on parts of it. Chat with them extensively before, during, and even after everything’s done. I guarantee that, once you start collaborating this way and seeing what comes out of it, you’ll never go back.
That’s it for this week, so let me hear from you! Want to share a great team you’ve been on, or plans to put one together? Favorite Arnold quote?
Reply back here, and until next time, I leave you with this precious (NSFW) gift: