In the late 80’s there was a teenage actor who was doing well finding movie roles. But as quick as his career started, it stuttered. So he fell back to Plan B, and went to college. But he couldn’t let the acting bug go away. He kept looking for and landing parts. Then in his final year of college, he landed the best role of his life – a starring role in a movie filled with A-list actors and a great director. This was an Oscar-worthy movie.
So he quit school and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a professional acting career full-time.
Except, the movie bombed. Critically, it did well. But it was a box office dud. And his hope that this was his stepping stone to stardom was squashed. He was back to being a largely unknown actor, sleeping on friends floors in LA, with endless competition. He’d get an occasional minor role, but was making less than when he was a teenager.
He needed a breakout role. But no one was giving it to him.
So, he decided to do it himself.
He dusted off a script he had started in college, and with a friend, put serious time into turning the half written document into an actual screenplay. When they thought they finally had something, they started shopping it around. And, it wasn’t half bad. They got some interest from a big name studio, and made a deal.
Just one problem. The studio decided they didn’t want either of these guys to act in it. They wanted A-list celebs to star in the movie. The whole point of writing the screenplay was to give them big parts to help launch their careers, and now the plan was falling apart.
But another friend of theirs with some clout at a movie studio was able to step in and find a new buyer for the script. The new buyer green-lit the movie, and put the friends back in charge. They gave themselves the parts they wanted, and the rest of the story is very well known.
Confuse on what story I’m talking about?
For those of you who actually watched the movie “Good Will Hunting” are probably confuse what story I am telling you. Yes, this isn’t the plot of the movie, but this is the story behind it. How it all started, how it was produced, how this movie gave a name for then-unknown two young actors and cemented another actor as a legend.
In 1997, on Christmas day, the movie premiered. Its story was about a 20-year-old South Boston laborer Will Hunting, an unrecognized genius who, as part of a deferred prosecution agreement after assaulting a police officer, becomes a patient of a therapist and studies advanced mathematics with a renowned professor. Through his therapy sessions, Will re-evaluates his relationships with his best friend, his girlfriend, and himself, facing the significant task of thinking about his future.
It made over $225 million in theaters, was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and won two of those awards, Best Supporting Actor for the late Robin Williams, and most importantly… The script Matt Damon had started while attending Harvard won Best Original Screenplay for Matt and his good friend, Ben Affleck.
Robin Williams’ character Dr. Sean Maguire was a role that cemented him as a great actor and a legend.
Matt and Ben’s careers also soared, catapulted by the success of that movie and their roles in it. All because they worked hard to become what it is they tried so hard to find – someone to put them in starring roles in a great movie.
So what were the lessons from Good Will Hunting?
1. Base on the story I told you that I learned from Nathan Kontny, the lesson would be: become that which you seek. Twenty-something people who are in the starting phase of their careers (or well on their way) are usually looking for people or opportunities to give them the big break. But Matt Damon learned it’s not working out for him, so instead of looking for some executive producer or another audition for a potential box office movie to give him a starring role, he was just going to do it for himself.
According to Kontny, if you’re looking for people or opportunities to give you the big break, do the Matt Damon Method. If you’re doing a start-up company and can’t find a technical co-founder: go become a technical co-founder. Go to some classes, conferences, meetups. Read and use the same blogs and forums. Do what you think a technical co-founder would do. If you’re a blogger looking for someone to help you with the business side of blogging such as advertising, be that person. Read marketing books or take a crash course on marketing and advertising. You’ll be surprised that the action of trying to accomplish this actually puts you into the company of a great deal of people who would make really great.
Matt Damon had a chance to meet Steven Spielberg while looking for a director to film Good Will Hunting, who then cast him for a role in Saving Private Ryan.
2. Base on the actual story of Good Will Hunting, the lessons would be:
- Education can come from everywhere. In the exact words of Will Hunting
“See, the sad thing about a guy like you is in fifty years, you’re gonna start doing some thinking on your own, and you’re gonna come up with the fact that there are two certainties in life: one, don’t do that. And two, you dropped a hundred and fifty grand on a f***ing education you could have got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library.“
- But… a classroom can also teach you many things life can’t. So long as you’re willing to learn from everything and everyone around you.
- We are all trying to find our purpose in life. Some take longer than others.
- We spend so much time thinking what others perceive us as that we eventually lose track of who we really are.
- We all need genuine friends and catalysts to help us find our journey.
And the last, and probably the most memorable of all,
Rest in peace Mr. Robin Williams, make God laugh.