There are some days when I dream about being a big time Hollywood Studio Movie Producer.
Yesterday was not one of them.
Like most of the world, I’ve been watching this The Interview crisis like it was an act of terrorism . . . oh wait . . . it was. And like I do with just about everything that involves a leader faced with a big decision (but especially those that affect the entertainment industry), I asked myself, ‘What would I have done?’ (It’s a great game, by the way – and this exercise helps you define your leadership style so you’re more prepared when you have to make a whopper of a call.)
That said, it’s also important to remember that quarterbacking on a Monday morning is nothing like being in a giant stadium, with 50 people on your team, 50,000 watching live and screaming your name (sometimes with nasty epithets attached), and another 5 million watching from home.
Making a decision under those circumstances ain’t nothing like making a decision after the fact, when you don’t have skin in the game.
That said, I couldn’t help but question whether I would have canceled the premier of The Interview, the Seth Rogen/James Franco movie about an assassination attempt on Kim Jong-un, after threats of violence at movie theaters scheduled to show the flick.
It’s a massively complicated issue.
My first thought, “Screw ‘em. Release the movie. We don’t negotiate with terrorists. And to back down now just opens up our entire way of life, in-and-out of the entertainment world, to threats by people who disagree with how we live our lives.”
But then I couldn’t help but think . . . wait a minute. This is a movie. A silly movie. And we’re talking about lives. Innocent lives. How would I feel if people were injured or worse because of a movie that’s just supposed to make people laugh? Yes, we don’t negotiate with terrorists. But we’re dealing with mad men here. Mad men who don’t play by any rules.
And then I’d have to look at the economic impact. Sure, this crisis and the cancellation has taken a lot of money out of the economy. It has already cost people jobs. But an incident at a theater? That could cripple an industry’s economy . . . and maybe a country’s. It could put thousands and thousands of people out of work. And a violent act on our soil that could be attributed to another country would be an act of war . . . which would mean we’d have to respond . . . which could throw the entire globe spinning off its already unstable axis.
Is it worth that risk for a movie?
And this is when that Monday morning quarterbacking is hard to do, because the fact is we don’t know what is really going on inside the huddle. There could be a whole lot more to this story than what is on CNN. Beyond the threat, is there something else that Sony is protecting from getting out? And if they drop the release they are protecting themselves from something else entirely? Does the government and Sony know something about these threats that they aren’t revealing to us that could help inform this decision?
The bottom line is that we don’t know the whole story. We don’t even know half of it. So whatever your opinion on this story (or any story you read in the press), just remember that there is more to it, that might change your mind if you knew it.
But I asked a question at the top of this blog about what I’d do. And I’m not going to sidestep it.
Would I release it?
Yes. I would.
BUT, not like you think.
I’d release it in one single theater.
I’d rent the biggest theater just outside of Los Angeles. I’d have more security than an inauguration. I mean serious. My invited audience would include all the biggest free-speech stumpers in the world, including those artists like Judd Apatow, Aaron Sorkin, and Mia Farrow that have taken to Twitter to say that they support the release.
Would it be the release that I wanted as the head of Sony? Nope.
Would it be the killing of the movie like the hackers wanted? Nope.
It would be a compromise . . . even without a negotiation.
That’s what I’d do . . . which is find another solution that allows you to stand tall on the principles you believe in, and also says to future bullies, we may bend to pressure, but we’ll never break.
Now. What would you do?
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