Lotusphere: Dan Akroyd on collaboration

By Jeff Jedras

Orlando – Canadian content abounded on the first day of IBM’s Lotusphere conference on Monday, from a keynote appearance by Research in Motion CEO Jim Balsillie to the special guest comedian, Canada’s own and Saturday Night Live alumnus Dan Akroyd.

In a brief set where Akroyd came to the stage as his well-known Beldar the Conehead character, although sadly without the costume or the conehead, Akroyd also talked about collaboration. Any veteran of the IT keynote circuit will know it can often be painful when the celebrity speaker tries to relate to the world of IT, but Akroyd gave it an interesting shot.

To make a point about the importance of collaboration, Akroyd related an antecdote from one of his experiences on a movie set. The Panavision camera used to film most movies, he said, is a complicated piece of technology that takes three specialists to operate – four, if the camera is on a track.

Akroyd was shooting a movie with an actor that had extensive stage experience, but was new to motion pictures. The actor was shooting a simple scene where he had to step into frame, and turn. One of the Panavision operators asked the actor where his mark would be, and if he would hit the mark, pause, and turn, or turn as he hits it, so he could frame the shot properly. Another specialist asked the actor to follow a specific track to the mark, so the camera could track him properly.

The actor, feeling his performance was much more confined than he was used to on the stage, complained to the director and asked that any future requests from the crew come through the director and not directly to him, “the star.” The director, not wanting to rock the boat, readily agreed.

Seeing trouble brewing already on the first day of shooting, Akroyd asked for a break and he pulled the actor aside for a chat. You seem to have things mixed-up, said Akroyd. The crew doesn’t work for you. You work for the crew. If he’d taken the time to talk to them, he’d know that these guys are experts in their field. They’ve worked on some of the biggest movies of recent years; one has won an Oscar. And their job is to make the actors look good, to capture their best performance. Work with them and they’ll work hard to make you look good. Work against them, and they just won’t care.

The point, Akroyd told Lotusphere, is that to be successful you need to work collaboratively as a team, and you need to respect the specialized skills of those around you. An interesting analogy for the channel and the world of IT, even if Akroyd wouldn’t name the movie or the finicky actor.

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