The Art of the Pitch: How James Cameron sold Aliens

A beautiful anecdote from Hollywood about one of the most effective pitches ever. Gordon Carroll, Exec Producer of Aliens recalls in the book “Hello, He Lied” by Linda Obst how James Cameron sold the project:

“Cameron was young. He had just directed Terminator. Cameron had called a meeting to discuss his “next project.” Everyone knew Cameron had written a treatment for Alien 2 that nobody would touch because Alien was not a massive financial success. Alien 2 was not on the table. We expected a professional pitch from Cameron, an outline and a treatment of what he had in mind with a cursory budget; perhaps a couple assistants to run a slide show. Instead Cameron walked in the room without so much as a piece of paper. He went to the chalk board in the room and simply wrote the word ALIEN. Then he added an ‘S’ to make ALIENS. Dramatically, he drew two vertical lines through the ‘S’, ALIEN$. He turned around and grinned. We greenlit the project that day for $18 million.”

Far from arrogant James Cameron saved everyone a lot of time by cutting straight to the point:
Without words he made clear he understood what the execs were interested in. Not another slow-paced, critically acclaimed, but effectively unprofitable movie. They wanted cash.
Cameron would deliver by transforming the franchise into a fast-paced, exiting action movie. How? Because there would not be just one, but MANY MORE of Giger’s terrifying creatures.

An action movie with a horde of Aliens, directed by the guy who made Terminator?

Obviously everybody in the room could see how that could work.
And Cameron had not even mentioned Space Marines or the Alien Queen…

via: Go Into The Story Blog

Links for Week #12, 2015

Week #11 in links: How We Got To Now, 900 Seconds of Insights, Paul Feldwick, Tough Mudder CEO and Bill Watterson

How we got to now – six part documentary on PBS
Author Steven Johnson shows the innovations that laid the foundations of modern life. Interesting, lots of background, connecting many dots. A bit too US-centric, but very worthwhile documentary. Link goes to Youtube-Playlist:

The Four Horsemen: Amazon/Apple/Facebook & Google – Who Wins/Loses talk by Scott Galloway @ DLD15
I don’t even know where to start. The amount of insights, of perspectives, new connection of data points in this 900 second talk is massive and demand much more time to digest. Highly recommended presentation.

Paul Feldwick: Six Models of Advertising
Appetitizer for his book, The Anatomy of Humbug, which is on my wishlist already. This article summarizes 6 main theories of advertising and how they can help produce better work. In the same instance it warns to take them with a grain of salt, as they are not universal truths and answers.
Article on WARC

Toughing it Out, Interview with Tough Mudder CEO Will Dean
Interview with the founder of Tough Mudder runs: Will Dean. The most interesting bit was the initial staring point of the idea: as a triathelte Dean got stuck stuck inhis wetsuit, but no other athlete would help him because they worried about their times. So he starting thinking about a race that would not be about time, but reaching an achievement, possibly together.

Bill Watterson gives an Interview (after who-knows-how-long?)
For his upcoming retrospective at Ohio State University, Calvin & Hobbes creator Bill Watterson gave of his first interviews in decades and it is well worth reading. Watterson is such an interesting character. not only is Calvin and Hobbes oustanding in terms of content and artistic proficiency, but Watterson also valued artistic integrity over the easy millions he could have made with merchandising licenses. Sadly the links contain only excerpts, the full interview is included in: Exploring Calvin and Hobbes: An Exhibition Catalogue, which is now on my wishlist, too.
Interview Excerpts:


Links for Week #11, 2015

Week #11 in links: Grant Morrison, Your Brain on Brands, AMV BBDO on agency standards and a (visual) Taste of Austria

Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods
Great documentary about the Scottish comic author Grant Morrison

Brands on the Brain
Short TEDx talk at the London Business School by Amelia Torode on the effects of brands. The more appropriate term would have been “Your Brain on Brands”, because she gives some great examples how brands change the actuals perception of products.

The Only Thing we can control are our Standards
Rob Campbell shares a aged memo from AMV BBDO that demonstrates how to maintain your culture in a advertising – all these problems occur a agecies daily and it takes strong conviction and will to hold up against them.

A Taste of Austria
Timelapse video of Austrian highlights. Beautiful, made me shed a homesick tear.


Links for Week #10, 2015

Week #10 in links: Joni Ive & Apple, Leonard Nimoy & Prejudice, the Next Generation of Users & Hyper Island Tools.

The Shape of Things to Come.
The New Yorker about Jonathan Ive and how he became the centerpiece of Apple’s strategy. Very insightful reading into the person Jonathan Ive and the importance of product at Apple.

So Human.
Interesting piece to surfaced after his death: Leonard Nimoy’s personal account of his prejudices and reservations towards post-WWII Germans and how they changed – at a fan convention in Germany.

Major qualitative study into the future generation of users in Germany, the next generation. By German online agency SinnerSchrader and research tank rheingold Institut. Required Reading.

HI Toolbox
A massive toolbox curated by Hyper Island: brainstorming energizers, innovation and insight tools, and man more. Instant bookmark.


Links for Week #2, 2015

Week #2 in links: Strategy tools, misperceptions, improvised invention, surveillance, space, dreams and antarctica.

Open Strategy
A toolbox and resource archive for planners, strategists and consultants. Created by @jshmc @MrJonath @mattbutler07 @Adrienlaurent.

Today’s key fact: you are probably wrong about almost everything
This is a bit older, but relevant in the face of #Pegida and #CharlieHebdo: perception of the public and actual numbers are two different things. In fact, people grossly overestimate muslim population, unemployment rates, immigrants. This is important to take note and respond to in public discourse and policymaking.

How communism turned Cuba into an island of hackers and DIY engineers
Improvisation is the mother of invention. Check out the photo essay:

Wehrhaft gegen Twitter, wehrlos gegen Kugeln
Surveillance works against Twitter, not bullets. German commentary in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung which sums up coherently that all indiscriminate surveillance failed to catch the culprits of last week’s attacks and – even worse – despite they were known extremists. Surveillance will not make us safe – all evidence points to the contrary.

If the moon were one pixel..
Great website illustrating the vastness and emptiness of space.

Documentary: The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness
After watching Myazaki’s final movie “The Wind Rises” over the holidays I look forward to this: a glimpse behind the doors of Studio Ghibli. Interestingly, it shows more of disciplined hard work than creative mischief. Trailer:

Welcome to Union Glacier
Neat, little documentary in Wes-Anderson-style about the temporary Union Glacier Base in Antarctica.

Happy New 2015!

Say hello to 2015 by waltzing into the new year Austrian Style:

*if the embed does not show, please go here:

“An der schönen blauen Donau” is the Austrian equivalent to “Auld Lang Syne”. This classic waltz plays on virtually all radios after midnight on New Year’s Eve, while people, wish each other all the best and dance together. It’s probably the only ten minutes all of Austria is content and optimistic.

Monthly Reads: September 2014

These are the books I have read in the last month:

Predatory Thinking, by Dave Trott

Pick this one if you think about a book to give your juniors at your ad agency. Dave Trott’s book is filled to the brim with great ideas and smart thinking told in a collection of random knowledge, anecdotes that all lead to the bottom line (at least for me): There is more wisdom and convincing argument in the reality of human interaction than in powerpoint slides and at the bottom of spreadsheets.
I will surely pick it again and again up as a reminder. This not your average advertising book like Lovemarks or Disruption. It is better, clearer and more inspiring. Because it does elaborate about one and the same thought for page after page. Predatory thinking gives you lots of new perspective can can build on yourself.


WE3, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely

What a wonderful graphic novel. It tells the fictional background story of the world’s first cosmonaut, the stray Kudryavka better known as Laika.
Abadzis draws from many sources to tell, respectively draw, a tale of the unconditional love of an animal and its betrayal. On the one side there is Kudryavka, that friendly dog who trusts everyone, deals with everything and never gets angry about all the tests thrown at her. On the other side there are humans who fall in love with her friendly being, but all, on by one, ultimately will have to betray her trust precisely for all the reasons that won their heart in the first place.
My litmus test for a good graphic novel is whether the tale could not be told better in another format. I find Abadzis’ imprecise, organic pen stroke and his scenario deliver best. Recommendation.


WE3, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely

WE3 is a unit of three militarized pets in exoskeletons. Dog, cat and bunny escape when they are supposed to be put down. Their flight turns into a bloodbath. Which is a euphemism for what happens when military types make their killer machines fight for their survival.While WE3 picks up the same general theme as Laika – the controversy of genuine trust of animals and utilizing (or should I say: abusing) it in technology – it comes in stark contrast. It is technological, polished, fast and brutal.  Think Hardboiled meets Watership Down.
But there is warmth. Underneath their armor these animals become very lovable for their specific character traits and you can’t help but root for them.
The 4-issue run feels too short and the end hasty. I would have loved to read more about the characters and animals, especially the dialogues between cat and dog.


Der lange Weg zur Freiheit: Autobiographie, Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela’s autobiography recalls his life from his upbringing in the fields of Qunu to his inauguration as South Africa president in 1994. Mandela thoroughly remembers the many events, persons, names, places and key moments of his life and as such the book is interesting. But is not the right book if you wish to find out about the development of character of one of the world’s most remarkable democratic leader of the last centuries. You get the facts and the politics, but hardly grasp the man who was able to reconcile a nation after being a victim for over 30 years. You find some hints between the lines, for instance when Mandela remembers the surprisingly friendly interactions with guards. I would have preferred to learn more about Mandela’s inner workings that to lead to his decisions, but this book is rather intended to be an historic document than a psychogram.

Connecting dots: Snowpiercer is a Pale Blue Dot

I recently watched Snowpiercer and you should too. It’s the most visionary and visually stunning movie I have seen since Inception. I found the concept of this crammed train, although rather a fantasy than science fiction concept, agreat idea to dramatize current conflicts.

But it was a reminder of Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot” that made me connect the dots of the mind-blowing scope of Snowpiercer’s vision. “Pale Blue Dot” is a text Sagan wrote commenting on a photo the Voyager robot took of Earth looking back from beyond Neptune. It is a simple, beautiful and humbling. Here it is: (transcript here)

Here is how you have to understand Snowpiercer and it’s allegories: Snowpiercer is real.

It exists. There is a vehicle that is racing through an ice-cold, inhabitable environment making a cycle once a year. It’s called Earth.

We are on it, crammed together and we cannot leave this planet. Our ressources are limited and we have structures in place that put people in the back and up the front. And we also believe and do so many things we know to be wrong, because we are told it is necessary to keep the train running. Snowpiercer thematizes everything from child labor to numbing drugs, leaders who see no alternative etc.

Snowpiercer is not a fantasy vehicle to create a situation for drama, it is a focused view at the human condition today on this planet.

Winter decoration is coming


Oh the things you find while researching patterns for cutting paper stars with the kids. There are many great ideas but this year Krystal Higgins’ designs for Game of Thrones themed paper stars took the cake. How awesome is that?
Needless to say and as attached photo proves this turned into a project for Dad. The houses of Westeros now on our window (top left to bottom right): Tully, Stark, Baratheon, Greyjoy, Thargaryen and Lannister.

If you are into the same sort of thing, you can find all patterns to download at Krystal Higgins’ website:

Ira Glass on the key to great creative work

Very nice animation of Ira Glass’ insightful thoughts on the key to success in creative work:

I couldn’t agree more. Of course it is no new knowledge that practice is essential, but I like Glass’ observation of this tension between one’s good taste (which I understand as being able to recognize great work and bad) and their work which is not quite there yet.

The video is based on an excerpt of a 4 part series on storytelling, which is available on Open Culture.

Via Brainpickings.