Advice That Jeffrey Katzenberg Gave To Me That Changed My Life by Larry Wilson

Watch the video interview on Youtube here

Film Courage: You know we talked about this earlier and I hope you’re okay talking about this again?

Larry Wilson: Yes.

Film Courage: Okay…about not going to college or going to junior college and not finishing [a 2-year degree] and still having confidence and being able to believe in yourself even if somebody in an executive’s suit sitting on the other side of this really nice Mahogany desk with their arms folded tells you you’re not okay. But also knowing that you are [okay]. Where does that come from, because I don’t think that is something innate. You probably develop it over time, wouldn’t you say?

Larry Wilson: Yeah…and it was an issue for me…there is no doubt about it. When I became a studio executive at Paramount working most closely with Jeff Katzenberg.

All of the sudden there was this (as these bizarre trends happened and you don’t quite understand where they come from and then would go away), but all of the sudden it became very important to hire people in development positions who had a Harvard education and I was working with a couple of them and they also went to the school of Machiavelli I guess and had read and reread The Art of War and strategically on that level they could kill me dead [TAKE OUT] okay.

But I thought about it and I thought I’ve loved movies since I can remember. And while I was terrible in school (I was a terrible student), my mom loved reading. She taught me the love of reading, so I had that on my side. But what I really had on my side was if I loved a movie, I LOVED a movie, I loved it! And I realized pretty quickly that “the movies,” the movie business, it was not a business meant for Harvard grads. And I could read a script and say “This is a movie” and say it with as much confidence as possible and mean it and believe it.

But I was up against this…and my own inferiority complex sometimes…about not having been a good student and having barely gotten out of high school. It would work on me sometimes.

But one day after I had been completely creamed in a development war with one of these Harvard grads, Jeff Katzenberg took me aside and he said “Larry, you need to learn to be a straight player in a crooked game. I’m not here for you to out-manipulate anyone. You’re sitting with me and you’re sitting beside me here because when you love something, you love it. And when you read a script and you love it, you’re going to make sure that everyone else loves it, too. And that’s what I like in you. And that’s why you’re valuable to me. Stop trying to be a studio executive. Be a guy who can read a script or watch a movie and get excited the way you get excited.”

And that was a huge shot in the arm of confidence that I took away. I owe Jeff Katzenberg for a lot of things that he wouldn’t even be aware of. But that was a big one because he told me “Just be yourself and use this passion for movies and this love for movies and make that your calling card. Don’t try to be ‘A Player.’ You’re not good at it. You’re horrible at it.” Which I am, because I wear everything on my sleeve. Ask my wife, yeah…

Question for the Viewers: Were you a good student in high school and college?

Watch the full video interview here on Youtube

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