A Work Of Cinematic Proportions

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How often do you really (and truly) push yourself?

On my flight home from the Media Bistro Socialize event in New York City yesterday, I watched an in-flight documentary on the making of the album, The Joshua Tree, by U2. I’m a fan of U2, but I’ll also readily admit that when The Joshua Tree came out in 1987, I was much more interested in Metallica‘s Master Of Puppets than I was in U2 (and, when you’re younger, you pick sides… it was hard to be a true fan of both bands). Hindsight is another story. The Joshua Tree sounds as fresh today as it did when it came out. It is as close to a modern rock masterpiece as you can get. As each day passes, I gain more and more respect for U2 – not just as a rock band but as artists.

Have you created your own The Joshua Tree yet?

What struck me most about the documentary was the commentary by The Joshua Tree’s producers, Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno. While the band was tinkering away in the songwriting process and jamming on new song ideas, they were very clear about what the vision for the album should be: they wanted the music to be "cinematic." They wanted the music to put the listener in a specific place and then take them somewhere by creating a real story. The kind of story that emotes deep feelings and sets a strong mood.

Imagine trying to write songs that act/feel more like cinema than music.

And while you can blame a vision like that on the drugs or the booze (and I can’t comment whether or not either of those played a factor in the creation of the vision for The Joshua Tree), it gave me immediate pause to stop and think about the work we put out into the world as marketers. In this documentary, there is a lot of behind-the-scenes footage of Lanois and Bono at a mixing board listening to the original tracks and reminiscing about where the ideas came from and how the songs came together as Lanois twists knobs to bring up specific instruments from individual tracks. There are scenes of The Edge in his own studio playing guitar riffs from the album that stood out in his memory. Other scenes have The Edge playing four-track cassette demos of the songs. You can hear Brian Eno explain the sonic approach to his work on the album.

All hands on deck. 

As inspiring and creative as all of these individuals are, nothing happens unless they roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. Be it playing a guitar riff, mixing a track on a mixing board, creating sounds on a computer or writing lyrics with a pencil. I soon realized that us Marketers use a keyboard to initiate our creativity, and the canvass of a blank screen prior to having words, creative or code on it is – in and of itself – a powerful blank canvass for the art we create. Just as Daniel Lanois has a mixing board and The Edge has a guitar, you, me and we have a keyboard to create and the tools to collaborate and share.

In the spirit of a moment… 

The next great idea can emerge from between your two ears, down into your fingertips and out into the world. It’s an amazing thing to think about. We can all now share our art with the world. The trick is in making yourself comfortable enough to be vulnerable enough to let it happen. You also have to believe that what you do – every day – for a living is your art… that it matters and that it is important (if you’re grappling with this, please read both Linchpin and Poke The Box by Seth Godin). While you may never create your own version of The Joshua Tree, be very cognizant of the fact that you have the tools to do it, but you have to expand your thinking beyond your own self-imposed limitations. Perhaps a new vision statement around the work you output is needed?

What if you thought of your marketing in terms of creating a cinematic experience?


  1. What has always struck me about U2 is their ability to put aside ego. During the creation process they do not expect to be treated as ‘right’. There is a lot of creative tension in that they allow their band mates and their producers to push them to be better or to create something better. (I noticed it in the videos of the making of Vertigo).
    Taking this to the business world (not just marketing), my observation is that there are many senior people who expect to be treated with “respect’ and part of that respect is never being challenged. They fully believe that they know ‘better’ than the people who work with them and for them. In my opinion, those are the most vulnerable organizations because there is no one challenging the status quo. There is no one thinking in new ways.
    You are completely right – the way to brillance is to put your ideas out there and then allow them to be bettered. And that involves vulnerability. Because we don’t want to be wrong. To your line “nothing happens unless they roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty’ I would add, and allow their ideas to be challenged. From challenge, collaboration, and creative tension comes greatness.

  2. In my humble opinion, when we point to the lack of dirty hands and hard work it is often because we’re simply not dreaming big enough. I used to think it was a fear of failure but perhaps it’s more often a fear of success.
    U2 did not set out to make a seminal album or become one of the youngest bands to make it into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. They set out to work hard and make great music and the body of work over 30 years is a testament to the constant effort that is required. Enjoy the victories along the way, don’t be too hard on yourself but focus on the journey not the prize and the finish line will no longer be your objective.

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