Principles for an unconventional approach: A lesson from film

Throughout our research with Creative Business Transformation Lion winners, we found that the most creative companies pushed back on the conventional way of doing business. The most successful applications of creativity showed a willingness to take a new direction and use an unconventional approach. To help frame these ideas, we can take inspiration from the Hollywood blockbuster action film “Mad Max: Fury Road”. Director George Miller’s radical approach to making the film provides some interesting parallels to help marketers understand key creative principles that support successful business transformation.

In 2015 George Miller decided to set a new standard for the action-film genre with his film Mad Max: Fury Road. He created an avant-garde film in a genre typically known for its reliance on classic comic-book characters, and a typical array of fighting and stunt scenes. Miller’s risk was rewarded. Mad Max: Fury Road won six Academy Awards (across 10 nominations) and appeared on more “Best of the decade top 10” lists than any other film throughout the 2010s.3 Hundreds of interviews from Kyle Buchanan’s book, Blood, Sweat & Chrome: The Wild and True Story of Mad Max: Fury Road, recount Miller’s unconventional path to make the film.

From these, three core principles for creative thinking stand out:

1

Creativity comes from an unlikely source.

The original idea for the Mad Max franchise didn’t come from a traditional “creative”. George Miller, the creator and director, originally envisioned the idea for a post-apocalyptic world with intense car chases from his time as an ER doctor who witnessed the brutality of car accidents first-hand.

2

Curate creative excellence, patiently.

Miller cultivated an environment that required everyone to think differently. Stuntmen had to undergo extensive theatre training normally only asked of actors so their performances could elevate from simple acrobatic stunts to real characters “living” in a world. And to continue that thread of building an “authentic” world, designers were paired with mechanics to ensure every prop was both visually interesting and functional. Cast and crew were continually stretched to think in new ways; they continually acknowledged these exercises brought out the best in their work.

3

Progress is executed—and measured—in more holistic ways.

The conventional ways of assessing quality were regularly put aside for more holistic methods. For instance, rather than relying on a script, Miller worked with a comic book artist to convey the entire story through thousands of illustrated panels. This helped to provide a more holistic picture of what the end product would look like. And, instead of interviewing potential camera operators and looking at their previous work, Miller took a different tact. He made them spend hours in the simulated, hot, dusty, windy, and cramped environment in which the movie would be filmed to see how they would handle it.

As we dig into lessons from the Creative Business Transformation Lion-winning work, we see themes such as these resurface on multiple occasions. When applied consistently and confidently, these principles can help lay the foundations on which marketers and creatives can spread creativity throughout the entire organisation.

3Jason Dietz, “Best movies of the decade,” Metacritic, November 18, 2019.