Every year in (usually) March, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences holds the annual Academy Awards(R)...the Oscars. This year, it's our turn: here are four feature films from the last few years (okay, last twelve) that every networker ought to see. Each has something powerful to say--for better and, in some cases, for worse--about the human condition and (at least obliquely) our noble profession.
Best Leading Character
Door to Door (2002), written by William H. Macy and Steven Schachter, directed by Steven Schachter. William H. Macy won an Emmy for his achingly beautiful Bill Porter, the now-famous Watkins top salesman with cerebral palsy. An amazing story, beautifully done, and magnificently demonstrates that your real business is who you are, not what you sell. Door to Door won a raft of awards (including six Emmys) and was nominated for as many more (including six more Emmys!).
Best Sales Nightmare
Boiler Room (2000), written and directed by Ben Younger. Other side of the spectrum: an object lesson in how the slick, fast-lane guys operate. Giovanni Ribisi runs with the wrong crowd and gets wrapped up in a high-stakes stock-selling operation that teeters on (and topples off) the edge of illegality. Ben Affleck's frightening "Are you man enough for this business?" rap reminds me chillingly of real-life talks I've heard given by throw-em-up-against-the-wall-and-see-who-sticks guys. One heavy hitter told me excitedly about how he modeled a recruiting meeting script directly on this scene. Spooky.
Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), written by David Mamet, directed by James Foley. What an astonishing film; in its original form as a stage play, this script won a Pulitzer. Mamet spent time in his youth as a salesman and has the shuck-'n'-jive, cold-calling salesman patter down cold. Extraordinary acting--and what a cast: Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris and Alan Arkin all work for a sleazy real estate operation, with Kevin Spacy as the sulking office manager and Alex Baldwin (in a scene Mamet wrote specifically for him) as the hot dog from down town who humiliates them all with his "pep talk."
Mumford (1999), written and directed by Lawrence Kasdan. This one has nothing to do with network marketing per se--but it is the most deliciously spot-on film I've ever seen about listening. The central character is just like the psychologist on the airplane in the famous study: everyone finds him fascinating because he listens to them. It turns out he really is interesting...but that's ancillary to the story; even after you find out the details of his bizarre past, it's still the fact that he listens to people that carries him.
JOHN DAVID MANN is Editor in Chief of Networking Times.