Monday, July 7, 2008

The Tao of Will Smith

I've always been a moderate fan of Will Smith. Definitely dug him during his Fresh Prince (of Bel Air) days and I've seen a good number of his feature films since he's become a major movie star. Went to see "Hancock" this weekend - I give it a C. Entertaining, but too many "logic holes" that kept me picking the story apart a full day after I saw it.

After seeing the movie (not because of its quality), I started to think how has this black man become an INTERNATIONAL movie star. That's what he is considered. Any article or interview done on him, the fact that he "translates" all over the world will be discussed. So how does that happen? I've heard on more than a few occasions that films starring black folks just don't do that great beyond North America. The quest for the answer led me through this extensive information portal that landed me on youtube. I came across a few interviews with the international movie star himself, where he specifically talks about the translation issue.

His success formula come down to two things: research and hard work. When he started his transition to film, Will and his manager looked at the top ten all time grossing films and they discovered they were all action films. Action films with special effects. Action films with special effects and monsters. Action films with special effects and a love story. So Will decided that is what he would specialize in - action films (with any of those variations). This twelve year specialization now allows him to do any film that he wants (Hitch, Ali, Pursuit of Happyness) and because of his film choices he is by far the most bankable star on the planet. He says in Hollywood it is all about can you make the powers-that-be money. They don't care about your race as long as they get a return on their investment.

Will's stance on hard work is equally straightforward. For him, if he wants something he simply goes after it. He puts all his energy, focus and time on achieving his desired goal. He acknowledges that it seems like a pretty simple premise, but he says a lot of folks that he has seen come up short in his business is because they stopped short of giving it all they had. In the end someone else swoops in and takes that plum role or project. In being clear about his work ethic he says he never spends time "getting ready" because he is "always ready." He is always doing his homework and he is watching the trends as it pertains to his business. He freely admits he is a workaholic and more than has something to show for it.

After spending a couple hours on this informal research project I couldn't help but reflect on where I stood as it relates to Will's success formula. The hard work was definitely in place. I know how to log in the hours necessary to pull off a myriad of miracle projects. But the research piece has to get stronger. I need to feel more comfortable about knowing what I know. Where I come up short is not giving myself enough time to do the exhaustive research (not counting this pop culture moment)and applying it.

Hmmm, all this from a two hour, relatively okay movie. I guess lessons can come from all kinds of unexpected places.


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